Your Brain LOVES the Gym

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Sleep Disorders- Facts and Exercise/Techniques

In this article, we are talking about sleep. Facts and a new sleep exercise. REMINDER: This article is not a substitute for the sound medical advice of your primary care provider. Did you know that at least 25% of all American adults suffer from insomnia? The true cost of the lack of sleep is as follows (according to The Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center):

  • Direct costs of sleepiness and lost productivity on the job is estimated between $16-$20 BN (USD) annually.
  • Drowsy drivers account for at least 125,000 to 150,000 crash incidents reported by police annually in the U.S. alone.
  • At least 45-50 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders- and at least 75% of these go undiagnosed.

 

Sleep is very important. Though the body and mind have monitoring and defense mechanisms to keep the body aware of surroundings during sleep, the true purpose of sleep is to reboot the brain and heal from tiredness, stress or even small injuries. If you’re anxious, overcaffeinated, stressed out it can and is very difficult to get the sleep you need and deserve, especially when you are dead tired.

There is a sleep exercise that has been reported to help. The 4-7-8 Method, formulated by one Andrew Weil M.D.. Dr. Weil is a pioneer in integrated medicine using holistic healing methods. The 4-7-8 Method is as follows:

  • Breathe out. Assume a comfortable position in your bed (or anywhere), Breathe out slowly, puckering your lips as if you’re about to whistle, making a soft “whoosh” sound.
  • Inhale and count to four. After exhaling, close your mouth, inhale and count to four (a slow count- thousand-one, thousand-two, and so on)
  • Hold your breath and count to seven. As much as possible, hold your breath until you reach a seven count. If you can’t reach that… try a four or five-count- but build it up to the seven count.
  • Exhale and count to eight. Exhale. Pucker up and exhale again, this time to an eight-count.

 

 

NOTE: Remember to use your nose to inhale and exhale out of the mouth. Keep the ratio at 4-7-8 while doing this exercise. Don’t worry if you can’t get 4-7-8 the first few times. Keep at it until you achieve 4-7-8. This relaxes the body and makes it much easier to fall asleep.

This technique and others like it are “natural tranquilizers”.

As always, consult your primary care provider before starting this or any other health maintainence regimen.

 

 

REFERENCES

About Dr. Andrew Weil M.D. http:// www.drweil.com/drw/u/ART2043/AbcAndrew-Weil-MD.html

Breathing: Three Exercises. http://drweil.com/drw/u/ART00521/three-breathing-exercises.html

https://lungcenter.osu.edu/specialtyprograms/s;eepmedicine/factsaboutsleepdisorders

Depression in Humans: What are the differences and HOW to defeat it

 

 

Is depression different amongst humans, whether they be male, female or nonbinary? In so many words, yes. As far as symptom patterns tend to play out, they will usually fall in line with the two major genders. For women, the symptoms are more readily visible (i.e. crying, overeating) as for men, the symptoms are more subdued (i.e. working to excess, drinking/abusing drugs, working out to excess). In any case, the symptoms of depression may in fact hit men harder due to lifestyle choices and extracurricular activities.

Here are the top 5 signs of depression for men:

  • Self-medication (abuse of controlled substances, abuse of alcohol and abuse of medications)
  • Escapism (working more, working out to excess, retreating into more ‘childlike’ pastimes such as video gaming, LARP, etc)
  • Irritability
  • Risk-taking becoming a regular part of life (reckless driving, driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol)
  • Becoming controlling, violent and/or abusive

 

 

Studies show that women are 3X as likely than men to be diagnosed with depression than men are and are at least 2X as likely to seek treatment for it. Here is a list of the top 7 causes/triggers for depression in women:

 

  • Puberty (biological and social fallout from it- not fitting in, body image, etc)
  • Premenstrual difficulty
  • Pregnancy
  • Postpartum depression
  • Perimenopause/menopause
  • Trials and tribulations of life itself
  • Accompanying conditions of depression (anxiety, substance abuse and/or eating disorders)

 

Why the differences?

 

Obviously with traditional gender roles for the main two genders being as they are, women are afforded more avenues to get help and to communicate their feelings. Men are taught to “man up”, to be “strong” and to shun help. For men, them seeking help is often a result of not being able to function correctly (in some cases not at all) as the symptoms of depression interfere with life itself.

 

What to do about it

 

Whether you’re male, female, nonbinary or anywhere within the gender spectrum, the treatment for depression is a combination of psychotherapy and medication. Please know that it will take some research, patience and working with your mental health provider to develop the action plan to defeat depression. You and your mental health provider will have to figure out what works and what doesn’t work moving forward. As for the side effects of the medication(s), most of the side effects will go away on their own, usually within the first 3-6 weeks of taking them. As always, listen to your body and alert your mental health provider in lieu of any complications.

 

 

SOURCES

Gorman, J.M. “Gender Differences in depression and response to psychotropic medication”. Gender medicine 3.2 (2006): 93-109

Winkler, Dietmar et al. “Gender-specific symptoms of depression and anger attacks”. The Journal of Men’s Health & Gender 3.1 (March 2006): 19-24

“Male Depression: Understanding the Issues”. Mayo Clinic (2013)

“Depression In Women: Understanding the Gender Gap”. Mayo Clinic (2016

15 Ways for Success with Your Fitness Regimen

It’s now June… how many of you have kept with your New Year’s pledge to lose weight, perhaps turn your life around? If you’ve fallen off track, that’s no big deal (over 85% of Americans break their New Year’s pledges in under 45 days). In case any of you all need a refresher, or a plan to get over the hump (or just to stay the course), here is my list of 15 ways to have success with any fitness regimen. This is by no means a comprehensive list… but hopefully it will work for you. Now, the list.
There is no shortcut to ideal health (whatever that is for you), no magic pill that lets you hit your five-a-day target and no single exercise that gives you a shredded physique in minutes. It takes time, hard work and an educated approach to get in shape and stay in shape. Following these tips will make your fitness quest (and life) a whole lot easier.

1. Prepping for Success
The better path to a sound diet is found by using your weekends wisely. Use the extra time you have on your weekends to make large batches of healthy meals that you can portion up to cover at least a couple of midweek lunches and dinners, avoiding the certain death of your fitness goals via fast food.

2. Mix Up Your Exercise

Variety is – cliché alert! – the spice of life, and many sports and activities support each other in ways you won’t realise until you try it. For example, strength training for your legs and core will make you a better runner, while those addicted to dumbbells will find Pilates works muscles they’d never even considered.

3. Calibrate Your Fitness Technology
If you invest in a fitness tracker, don’t just sit back and assume that following the preset targets will lead you to glory. Adjust the steps, active minutes and calorie targets regularly to build on your progress, or make them more realistic if you never get close and have started to ignore them. If you don’t engage with your fitness tech, you’ll quickly discard it.

4. Add In Extra Activity
This one of the oldest tricks in the book: take the stairs not the escalator, or get off the bus a stop early and walk. Any activity is better than none, and will only encourage you to do more. And if you really want to up the ante, try sprinting up the stairs (safely) each time you take them – clinical studies found that short bursts of high-intensity stair-climbing can make a significant difference to your cardiorespiratory fitness.

5. Keep Tabs On Your Visceral Fat

You can be skinny on the outside (at least your arms and legs), but fat on the inside. Visceral fat is the type that builds up around your organs and often results in a pot belly. It’s linked with heart disease, several types of cancer and type 2 diabetes. Check your waist-to-height ratio (WtHR) to see if you’re at risk. Grab a piece of string and use it to measure your height, then halve it. If it doesn’t fit around your waist, get exercising – visceral fat is the first type to go when you start a health regimen.

6. Value Your Rest Days
When you start on a fitness kick, it’s tempting to exercise every day while motivation is high. This is a bad move, and one that may see your motivation flame out within weeks, because you’re always exhausted and won’t see the massive improvements you expect for your efforts. Why? You’re not giving your muscles the time and rest they need to recover and grow.

7. Up The Intensity If You’re Short On Time
Health and wellness experts still promote the 150 minutes of moderate activity a week minimum, but now offer an alternative option of 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week. That’s running or singles tennis, for example, rather than cycling or walking, which count as moderate. You can also mix the two, so 60 minutes of vigorous cardio plus 30 of moderate will do the trick also. Bear in mind the guidelines also demand strength exercises on two or more days a week alongside your aerobic activity.

8. Treat Your Body Right
Nothing derails a health kick as quickly as injury, as many serious injuries will start out as small ones- you may think it’s OK to push through. Scaling back the intensity for a few days is better than having to shut it down for a few months. If you have an urgent desire to hit the gym, target a different part of the body from the one that’s bothering you.

9. The Drive for Five
Eating at least five portions of fruit and veg a day should be at the cornerstone of your healthy diet plan. What’s not wise is getting in a rut and eating the same five every day, because different types of fruit and veg contain different vitamins and minerals. A good way to vary your five-a-day is to eat different colors, as the hue is a decent indication of the nutrients they contain.

10. Don’t Undervalue Your Sleep
There is tendency for people who sleep very little to brag about it, as if it’s an indication of their commitment to life. However, getting the full seven to eight hours is vital to a healthy lifestyle, as it provides the energy for your exercise and even influences dietary choices – a 2016 study found that in the day following a night of limited sleep, people ate an extra 385 calories on average. You don’t snooze, you lose.

11. Increase Your Cadence On Your Runs
If you are consistently picking up injuries when running, one change it’s definitely worth trying is to up your rate of strides per minute (your cadence). If you overstrike, thus taking fewer steps, you put extra pressure on your knee and hip joints. Try and take more steps, which means your feet will land more beneath your body, reducing the impact on your joints.

12. Give It Your All or Turn It Loose
The first time you try an exercise it’s very hard, but at least quite novel. The second time the novelty is gone, and it’s still hard, leading to the temptation to quit. Try it at least once more, as the third time is often the charm – when a sport or workout starts to become as enjoyable as it is tough.

13. Count Reps Backwards
This is a mental trick that might make resistance workouts a little easier. Counting down the reps means by the time it’s really hurting you’re at the 3,2,1 stage, which feels closer to the end than 8,9,10 or whatever target you’re going for. It won’t work for everyone, but it’s worth a try.

14. Make Full Use Of Your Street Furniture
Exercising outdoors is a great way to ensure you get your hit of vitamin D (if it’s sunny) as well as a good workout, and it doesn’t have to be all cardio. As well as the exercise machines that litter many parks, you can nearly always finds a bar or ledge for pull-ups, or a bench or wall to do dips on. Rarer treats can even include chains to use as ersatz TRX ropes.

15. Record Stats and Progress

Nothing builds motivation as efficiently as seeing signs of improvement, so make sure you keep some kind of record of your activity. It can be as simple as noting your record five-rep max or fastest 5K time, using either one of the many excellent fitness apps available or old-fashioned pen and paper.
In closing, these tips and tricks will help in your fitness goals. Knowledge is power. Knowledge is a fundamental building block in fitness and in life. Knowledge (alongside hard work and dedication) is the most essential of the basics. THE BASICS ALWAYS WIN!!

MIND-BODY CONNECTION

We have read stories about people recovering all due to the power of the mind. The mind-body connection is something to behold. The mind-body connection- means that our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and attitudes can positively or negatively affect our biological functioning. In other words, our minds can affect how healthy our bodies are. The Mind-Body Connection is very real. Do you understand how it affects your health? From everything to “butterflies” in your stomach to the “fight or flight” reflex, the mind-body connection plays an important role in our lives. What we do with our bodies (work, exercise) often impacts our mental state. This is a very interesting relationship between body and mind.
To understand the mind-body connection, we must have the knowledge of what it is, and how it works. Here is some background information:

Awareness of the mind-body connection is by no means new. Until approximately 300 years ago, virtually every system of medicine throughout the world treated the mind and body as a whole. But during the 17th century, the Western world started to see the mind and body as two distinct entities. In this view, the body was kind of like a machine, complete with replaceable, independent parts, with no connection whatsoever to the mind.

This Western viewpoint had definite benefits, acting as the foundation for advances in surgery, trauma care, pharmaceuticals, and other areas of allopathic medicine. However, it also greatly reduced scientific inquiry into humans’ emotional and spiritual life, and downplayed their innate ability to heal.

In the 20th century, this view gradually started to change. Researchers began to study the mind-body connection and scientifically demonstrate complex links between the body and mind. Integrative psychiatrist James Lake, MD, of Stanford University, writes that “extensive research has confirmed the medical and mental benefits of meditation, mindfulness training, yoga, and other mind-body practices”.
Here are a few mind-body therapies that will help you:
1) Support groups
2) Cognitive-behavioral therapy
3) Meditation
4) Prayer
5) Creative arts therapies (art, music, or dance)
6) Yoga
7) Biofeedback
8) Tai chi
9) Qigong
10) Relaxation
11) Hypnosis
12) Guided imagery
What is the mind?
The mind is NOT the brain. Instead, in this definition, the mind consists of mental states such as thoughts, emotions, beliefs, attitudes, and images. The brain is the hardware that allows us to experience these mental states.

Mental states can be fully conscious or unconscious. We can have emotional reactions to situations without being aware of why we are reacting. Every mental state has a physiology associated with it—a positive or negative effect that is felt in the physical body. For example, the mental state of anxiety causes you to produce stress hormones.

Many mind-body therapies focus on becoming more conscious of mental states and using this increased awareness to guide our mental states in a better, less destructive direction.

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In closing, the mind-body connection is pretty strong. Understanding the WHY of how your body works is foundational. A strong foundation is the definition of the basics. Remember, Tthe basics always win.

Controlling Anxiety Without Meds

Anxiety is real. In America today, according to the National Institutes of Health, anxiety disorders affect 18.1 percent of adults in the United States (approximately 40 million adults between the ages of 18 to 54). Anxiety is a contributing factor of many health disorders (high blood pressure, obesity, heart attacks, mental fatigue). Many Americans are on medications for these disorders (that is/can be a case of the cure being worse than the disease). A viable alternative to risky prescription medication is a natural or holistic approach to treating anxiety.

Here are 6 tips for managing anxiety naturally:

1. Maintain Stable Blood Sugar
“It isn’t disrespectful to the complexity of existence to point out that despair is, often, just low blood sugar and exhaustion.” – Alain de Botton
The American diet promotes a blood sugar roller coaster, and every time we’re on the ride down, we can feel anxious.
When our blood sugar crashes, our body responds with a stress response. We secrete stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, which tell our liver to make more blood sugar to keep us alive. The good news: We stay alive. The bad news: This hormonal stress response feels identical to anxiety.
By stabilizing blood sugar, you can avoid this stress response and decrease your anxiety.
Here’s how to maintain stable blood sugar:

Eat more protein and healthy fats (e.g., olive oil, coconut oil, butter and ghee from pasture-raised animals).
Avoid sugar and refined carbohydrates.
Eat 3 meals and 2 snacks daily; don’t skip meals.
Take a spoonful of coconut oil upon waking, in the afternoon and right before bed; this will serve as a blood sugar safety net throughout the day.
Always have a snack handy (e.g., nuts, hard-boiled egg, dark chocolate, almond butter or jerky).

2. Get Off Caffeine (for a while)

Don’t underestimate the relationship between caffeine and anxiety.
Think of it like this: When we’re caffeinated, our nervous system is ready for a fight. Introduce a stressor- you are on Defcon 5 regarding anxiety.
If you suffer from anxiety, do yourself a favor and get off caffeine!!!!
I know, I know, the idea of going off caffeine might be giving you anxiety right now. If you reduce your intake gradually (coffee -> half-caf -> black tea -> green tea -> herbal tea) over the course of a week or two, you’ll avoid withdrawal symptoms. After a few weeks, you may be surprised to see that your anxiety has decreased, your sleep has improved, your energy is stabilized, and you even tolerate stress better.
If you had a successful trial off caffeine, but you want to go back to having that morning ritual, consider making green tea your go-to beverage, rather than a “Venti Skinny Vanilla Latte.”
3. Sleep

Getting a good night’s rest is your best bet against anxiety.
There’s a 2-way street between anxiety and sleep–anxiety causes insomnia and sleep deprivation makes us vulnerable to anxiety.
The best way to address this is to set ourselves up for better sleep. Conveniently, the way to do this overlaps with the overall approach to anxiety.

Here’s how:
Reduce or eliminate caffeine
Even if you have no trouble falling asleep, caffeine decreases sleep quality.
Maintain stable blood sugar
Blood sugar fluctuations disrupt your sleep, causing middle of the night awakening.
Be strategic about light:
Let your eyes see bright light in the morning and dim light at night.
If your room isn’t completely dark when you sleep, wear an eye mask or get blackout curtains.
Wind down and unplug before bed

4. Treat the Gut

Perhaps you’ve seen some of the recent articles about the relationship between gut flora and mood.
The bugs in our digestive tract have a profound impact on how we feel and play an integral role in anxiety disorders.
Here’s how to promote healthy gut flora and heal the gut:
Avoid what irritates the gut:
Food: Gluten, sugar, industrial vegetable oils, artificial sweeteners, alcohol.
Certain medications: Antacids, antibiotics, oral contraceptives (only make changes under close supervision from your doctor).
Add in what soothes the gut:
Fermented foods: Sauerkraut, kimchi, beet kvass, miso paste, apple cider vinegar, kombucha, kefir (if you tolerate dairy).
Starchy tubers: Sweet potatoes, white potatoes, plantain, taro, yucca.
Bone broth:
Purchase Wise Choice Market Bone Broth.
Make your own bone broth.
Supplements:
Take a probiotic.

Consider supplementing with glutamine and collagen.
Create the conditions for the gut to heal:
Squatty Potty can be life-changing.
Get enough sleep.
Manage stress with yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, unplugging, acupuncture, being in nature.
Treat gut infections. If you suspect you may have a chronic gut infection, get evaluated by an integrative or functional medicine practitioner.
5. Exercise
Exercise is the best anti-anxiety medicine.
If you struggle to exercise regularly, forget the boot camps and triathlons. Get in the habit of mini workouts. Do small amounts of exercise in your living room or take a brief walk outside. Sustainability is key.
In general, stand more, sit less, walk whenever possible, and treat your body right with exercise.
Yoga and Tai Qi are particularly beneficial for anxiety, but the most important thing is to find something you enjoy.
6. Magnesium

Magnesium: Nature’s Xanax
Many of us are deficient in magnesium, since our food is grown in magnesium-depleted soil.
You can supplement with magnesium in a few different ways:
Take an Epsom salt bath.
Take a chelated magnesium supplement (e.g., magnesium glycinate).
Try a topical magnesium gel.

Anxiety has a significant impact on quality of life. Maintaining stable blood sugar, reducing caffeine, getting enough sleep, healing the gut, getting some exercise and filling the body with magnesium are safe tactics that go a long way toward reducing anxiety. If your anxiety does not respond to these lifestyle hacks, go see your healthcare provider.
In closing, you only have one life. Life is too short to let it slip away in anxiety and fear.
Living life free from anxiety is another way THE BASICS ALWAYS WIN.

8 Foods That Have More Iron Than Beef

It’s no secret when one reduces the intake of beef, one reduces one’s intake of iron, an extremely vital mineral that plays a pivotal role in providing body cells with oxygen, and keeping the body energetic. Now, beef is a very rich source of iron, and you can obtain 2.5 mg iron with just one 4 oz serving of lean beef, which makes up 14% of your daily iron intake.

But the good news is that, you can make up for this lack of iron in far better and greater ways because there are several other animal and plant based sources of iron that will give you a far more powerful dose. Moreover, plant based iron sources tend to pack a great deal more iron than beef.

You must also understand that that iron consumed from animal-sources absorbs much quicker as opposed to iron obtained from plant-based sources. Therefore, vegetarians must consume more iron in order to energize their bodies. For women between the ages of 31 to 50, 32mg iron is the daily requirement, while women above 50 should limit their daily intake to 14mg iron. And if you’re worried about the absorption, drink up some lemon juice to stock up some vitamin C, which will help speed up the absorption process of plant-based iron.

Now, take a look at these incredibly tasty foods that will pack your body with a lot more iron than beef:

1. EDAMAME

Edamame is a powerful source of protein, and it contains even more potassium than a banana. It can also help you shed some extra pounds as it makes one of the healthiest, protein-rich snacks. All you need is 1 cup of frozen Edamame to enrich your body with 3.5mg of iron, which happens to be 19% of your daily iron requirement.

Edamame Allergy Symptoms

2. SPINACH

Spinach is one of the most nutritious leafy green veggies, and it provides nearly one-third of your daily calcium requirement.

Remember Popeye the Sailor man? Well, he certainly knew how to build up his strength, because one cup of cooked spinach fills up your body with a whopping 6mg of iron, which makes up 36% of your daily intake of iron. And the best part is, spinach also provides your body your entire daily requirement of vitamin A.

Spinach Calcium

3. LENTILS

Lentils are the best ingredients for soups, gravies, salads, rice and casseroles, and with every cup of cooked lentils, you enrich your body with a massively powerful dose of 7mg iron, which makes up a whopping 39% of your daily iron requirement, isn’t that incredible?

Lentils Weight Loss

4. QUINOA

Quinoa is literally one of the most special gifts of nature, and a powerful superfood that contains all the nine essential amino acids that your body requires but cannot generate on its own. Moreover, quinoa is your richest vegetable source of protein, and just one cup will also nourish your body with a whopping 3mg of iron, which happens to be 17% of your daily requirement of iron.

Does quinoa lower cholesterol

5. OYSTERS

Oysters are packed with heaps of iron, and all you need is six oysters to enrich your body with 4mg of iron.

And the best part is, oysters are not only a delicious slurp, but they also provide your daily intake of zinc, which happens to be an extremely hard to find dietary nutrient.

Raw Oysters Cholesterol

6. KIDNEY BEANS

Kidney beans are your best non-meat source to obtain a powerful dose of protein and fiber. And just one cup of kidney beans fills you up with 4mg of iron, which makes up 22% of your daily iron requirements.

Kidneys beans can be added to any and every recipe, and they are literally the star ingredient for all kinds of healthy salads.

7. OATS

Oats are your healthiest pick for a wholesome and nutritious breakfast, and all you need is half a cup of oats to nourish your body with a powerful dose of 4mg iron, which makes up 22% of your daily iron requirement.

And the best part is, oatmeal is a delicious crunch that can be enjoyed with milk, and added to countless easy 2-minute breakfast and snack recipes.

Does oatmeal have protein in it

8. SWISS CHARD

For those who can’t bear the sight of leafy green veggies like spinach, Swiss chard is a tastier option.

It’s a great addition to all Italian vegetable dishes, like pasta and lasagne, and all you need is one cup of Swiss chard to enrich your body with 4mg of iron, which makes up 22% of your daily iron requirement.

Swiss Chard Health Benefits

Top 5 Energy/Attitude Killers

This article is about my Top 5 Attitude/Energy killers. It’s the little things that oftentimes end up being the difference in whether you have a successful day or not. You see, everything matters and everything counts. Bottom line, I am hoping you take this article to heart.

 

  1. Eating like a pig. Sumo wrestlers, for example eat once a day to maximize fat gain. This in turn wreaks havoc on blood sugar levels, causing mood swings.
  2. Noshing in your car or at your workstation.  This will kill a preprogrammed break in your day. Studies show that taking a regenerative break in your day increases productivity 40%.
  3. Dehydration/Underconsumption of water. Waking up, most people are 1-10% dehydrated (that equals at least a 10-15% reduction of mental drive, focus and physical strength). Add to that, the lack of water leads to a deficit of creativity, short-term memory, and even arithmetic scores.
  4. Too much water after 8PM. This is a no-no, particularly if you value your sleep. Drinking a ton of water (to catch up on a water deficit during the day) almost guarantees time spent during the night in the bathroom- time that could be better used, sleeping.
  5. Lack of Exercise. Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, is very hard to get rid of without exercise. An overabundance of cortisol will generally mean you are cranky and tired. Thankfully, there are two ways to rid yourself of cortisol: Laughter and/or exercise.