How to Let Stress Roll Off Your Back — Literally!

stress
It’s no surprise that so many people feel stressed out. We’re living in a hyper-connected world where we’re always “on,” and multi-tasking is the new normal.  Add in the constant fear-mongering by our ratings-driven news media and the fact that paying the bills is an increasingly difficult goal for many, and it’s little wonder that stress is on the rise.

According to the American Institute of Stress (who knew we had one?!) some 44 percent of Americans feel more stressed than they did five years ago, and 1 in 5 experience extreme stress.  In fact, the AIS estimates that stress causes 60% of all human illness and disease and that 3 out of 4 doctor’s visits are for stress-related ailments. (Stress also costs the nation about $300 billion in medical bills and lost productivity every year.)

Called ‘the silent killer’, stress is increasingly recognized by Western medicine as a major contributor to some of the most persistent and chronic diseases of our time — think heart disease, cancer, obesity, and depression.

In my private practice, I see the results of stress on a daily basis.  Many of my clients literally ‘trap’ stress in their bodies, and it manifests itself as poor posture, persistent pain, tension, thickness, bloating, and even excess weight.  But there is a solution. I’ve developed techniques based on my one-on-one work with clients that help them to get their bodies back in alignment and reduce these symptoms — and the good news is you can do this at home with just a foam roller. What I’ve seen is that once the physical symptoms are alleviated, people often are able to reduce the stress that caused those symptoms in the first place.  

As I like to say, when you align your body, you also align your mind and heart. (more…)

Posted by on Jul 29, 2016 | 0 Comments
28
Jul

It’s Time To Wind Back The Harms Of Too Much Medicine And, Instead, Prescribe Food.

The Big Fat Fix
It may be hard to believe, but poor diet now contributes to more disease and death than physical inactivity, smoking and alcohol combined. We have been consuming sugar, refined carbohydrates and industrial vegetable oils as never before, with devastating consequences for public health. In the UK alone, type 2 diabetes and obesity have cost the National Health Service (NHS) more than £20 billion.

The good news, though, is that relatively simple changes in diet can rapidly reduce your risk of disease. As I tell my heart patients, adopting a Mediterranean diet after a heart attack is a more powerful life-saving tool than taking aspirin or statins or even having a stent inserted.

It’s time to wind back the harms of too much medicine and, instead, prescribe food. Four tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil daily, a handful of nuts, lots of vegetables and quitting sugar are just some of the daily prescriptions I outline in The Big Fat Fix, a documentary film I just made. The film shows how simple lifestyle changes can have a dramatic impact.

Dr. David Unwin, for instance, has managed to save £45,000 in diabetes medications through a simple message to patients: Cut out the sugar and other refined carbohydrates from your diet, and your blood glucose levels will improve. If this was adopted across all GP practices in England, it could save £423 million in diabetes medications alone.

The brutal fact is that the increasing burden of chronic disease will not be solved by even more conventional medicine. Sir Bruce Keogh, the medical director of NHS England, has pointed out that one in seven NHS treatments (including operations) should never have been carried out in the first place. A “more medicine is better” culture lies at the heart of this, exacerbated by financial incentives within the system to prescribe more drugs and carry out more procedures.

The harms of over-medication are now colossal. According to Peter Gotzsche, the co-founder of the Cochrane Collaboration, a highly regarded network of independent researchers, prescription drugs are actually the third most common cause of death across the world after heart disease and cancer.

In other words, the 1 billion NHS prescriptions that are handed out every year are an appalling waste. But what should concern us most is the considerable harm to the public.

A version of this article was previously published in The Times on Friday, July 22nd.

Download The Big Fat Fix here.

There will be a screening in NYC on Tuesday, August 2nd, 6-8PM, at MagnoSound Theater, 729 7th Ave., at 49th St.

Posted by on Jul 28, 2016 | 0 Comments

Over-Medicated Me

Over-Medicated

By Be Well Health Coach Anne Markt

Whenever I tell people I used to be on eight different types of medication, they immediately look shocked.  I think it comes from the fact that I’m 5 feet tall and petite. From the outside, I don’t look like I’d be a candidate for that many meds.

A couple years after college, I started the Institute for Integrative Nutrition’s Health Coach Training Program.  I loved wellness and planned to use it as a skill outside of performance to help others achieve greater wellbeing.  Little did I know, it was the start of my own journey through self-healing.  

One day, while having a practice session with a fellow coach, she looked over my health history and asked, “Why are you taking so many medications at your age?”  All it took was that one question from a fresh perspective to wake me up. The thought hadn’t even crossed my mind before. My doctors told me to take them, so I took them. Or I had convinced myself that I needed to continue them or else chaos would ensue. But in that moment, I realized there was no actual “need” for the meds. They had simply become a psychological comfort and crutch over time.

It was in that moment that I decided to make it my goal to be off all the medications within the year I was taking the program. I became instantly curious to know what my body would be like without them. I never knew my baseline since I was always taking something.  And in the process of cutting them out, I would see if they were actually assisting me or not.

Some meds were easier to cut out then others, like the medicated face creams I used to ward off acne. Since I was 11 years old, I had been applying each morning and night.  That’s when I experienced my first transformation.

In college, I started going through facial oil-blotting sheets like packs of chewing gum. I could fill two to three sheets in one sitting, and you could see the light reflecting off my greasy forehead in most photos. I had always assumed I had oily skin by nature.  Turns out I had abused those face creams and dried my skin out so much that my body overcompensated by producing more oil to protect me. Once I cut the creams, my skin returned to normal and I’ve never had to “blot my face” for a picture since. (more…)

Posted by on Jul 26, 2016 | 1 Comments
25
Jul

4 Foods That Stress You Out—and 12 Foods to Tame Stress

Stress Foods
Stress. We’ve all got it, and most of us would love to have a lot less of it. While there are many healthy ways to combat it—starting with meditation and regular exercise—how you eat plays a big role in how well you manage stress. For example, those times when life is crazy busy or things are tough at work or home, are you feeding your body or are you feeding the release of more stress hormones?

When we’re stressed, both adrenaline and cortisol go to work, signaling your body to restock energy supplies regardless of whether you’re depleted or not. The result? You tend to feel hungry more frequently and answer the call with more food than you may actually need. Add to that cortisol’s ability to encourage fat storage, not enough exercise, and some poor food choices—like the ones outlined below—and you’ve got a recipe for rapid weight gain and a host of serious health problems down the road.

What follows is a list of stress-boosting foods to avoid and the stress-tamers you should always have within easy reach, particularly when times are tough:

The Stress Stimulators

1. Sidestep anything that calls itself an energy or coffee drink. When you’re stressed out, the last thing your body and brain needs is a dose of caffeine, with or without a side of high fructose corn syrup. While a grande latte or Red Bull may give you the initial lift you’re looking for, you also get the inevitable crash, which leaves you feeling agitated and down. Drink more throughout the day to help you push through, and by the time bedtime rolls around, you’ll be exhausted, irritable, struggling to fall asleep—and even more stressed.  

2. Lay off sweet stuff and baked goods. Tempting as it may be to hit the cookie jar, sweets will give you a quick energy surge at the cost of insulin resistance and weight gain. When you’re stressed, the overproduction of stress hormones, combined with unhealthy food choices, helps pile on pounds by feeding the bad bacteria in your gut at the expense of the good. This gut imbalance can help trigger a vicious cycle of weight-boosting cravings and belly troubles that should make you think twice before “rewarding” yourself with a visit to the local cupcake shop.

3. Skip the processed foods. While there are numerous familiar reasons to drop processed foods, here’s one more: They’re very good at increasing stress hormone levels. In addition to bad fats, chemicals, and factory-farmed, virtually nutrient-free ingredients, processed foods are loaded with cortisol-boosting sodium and sugar, which, as outlined above, is not what you should be feeding your brain and belly when stressed. Much as you may crave them when you’re stressed-out, processed foods and simple carbs, like chips or pretzels, push cortisol levels up and mood down.

4. Hold the highballs. After a long, hard, stressed-out day, a cold beer or fancy cocktail may be high on your let’s-unwind-quick menu. Granted, a light buzz may be exactly what you think you need, but, in reality, drinking alcohol is counterproductive for stress-management, as it stimulates the release of more stress hormones, putting your system under additional strain. Alcohol also has a depressive effect on mood, which can further exacerbate the stress pile-on.

The Stress Soothers

Trade your coffee and energy drinks for:

  • Tea: Hot or cold, a cup or two of black, white, green, or red tea will give you a light caffeine lift, minus the crash, plus a healthy serving of good-for-you antioxidants. Drink your tea straight, without milk, which can reduce absorption of tea’s antioxidants.
  • Green juice: To revive, re-energize, and replenish your energy reserves, mix a high-quality greens powder with water for a jitter-free, nutrient-rich energy boost.

(more…)

Posted by on Jul 25, 2016 | 0 Comments

How Acupuncture Works

Acupuncture
Have you ever wanted to try acupuncture but weren’t sure how it worked? Acupuncture is a type of Eastern holistic medicine that was developed over 2,000 years ago. It uses a unique system to diagnose any imbalance the body may have and uses specific points on the body in order to restore and regain balance. By using this method of therapeutic intervention, acupuncture allows us to treat a wide variety of illnesses.

Studies have shown many benefits from acupuncture:

  • It stimulates the release of powerful pain-killing and anti-inflammatory substances from the brain.
  • It changes the way your brain responds to pain and can modify internal organ function to treat many complex diseases.
  • Its local effects include relaxation of contracted muscles and increase in blood flow.

Many people are turning to alternative medicine like acupuncture, but not all acupuncture is the same. There are different types for different needs:

  • Traditional Chinese Acupuncture is a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). TCM uses very fine disposable needles that are inserted in specific areas of the body. In TCM, there are 12 primary meridians (energy pathways). Energy can be blocked or stagnated, which can result in injury, sickness, or disease; with TCM,  needles are placed on specific pathways to allow the energy to flow freely throughout the body.
  • Dry Needling or Trigger Point Therapy is a Western medical technique of acupuncture. This is the use of fine disposable needles or hollow-core hypodermic needles. The needle is inserted directly into the myofascial trigger points to help reduce muscular tension or pain and reduce restricted range of motion in muscles.
  • Contemporary Medical Acupuncture, also known as Neurofunctional Acupuncture, is a precise peripheral nerve stimulation technique in which fine solid needles (acupuncture needles) are inserted into the anatomically defined neurofunctional site and stimulated manually or with electricity for the therapeutic purpose of modulating abnormal activity of the nervous system and/or of its associated effectors. This technique is usually performed on the endocrine, exocrine, and immune systems and in the pain areas, functional problems, and any diseases in which these modulatory mechanism are available.

The physiological goals are to restore normal muscle and nerve function, which results in increased strength; improve and/or normalize sensory motor integration (how your body receives messages through feeling, touching, hearing, etc. and how our body reacts to it by movement), which results in normal recruitment patterns and increased articular function, muscle control, and movement efficiency; normalize tissue structure, which results in increased tissue healing, increased tissue remodeling, and decreased adhesions; and stimulates nerves by modulating abnormal neural pathway , which results in decreased pain.

While there are a few different styles of acupuncture, they all use many healing mechanisms in your body to treat a wide variety of pain conditions and internal diseases. The most common conditions treated with acupuncture include:

  •   Digestive/gastrointestinal issues
  •   Musculoskeletal pain
  •   Chronic degenerative diseases
  •   Neurological problems
  •   Inflammation
  •   Immunity
  •   Stress
  •   Fatigue
  •   Anxiety
  •   Sleep problems
  •   Allergies
  •   Skin conditions
  •   Fertility
Posted by on Jul 22, 2016 | 0 Comments
21
Jul

How to Stop Overcommitting Your Time

Overscheduling
Reprinted with permission from Experience Life Magazine.
Veronica Arreola’s schedule seemed to sneak up on her. Her job at the University of Illinois at Chicago required long hours, and she did some pro bono freelance writing for a local nonprofit. Weekday mornings, she drove her 6-year-old daughter to school and picked her up after work. She also fit in errands, housework, and social obligations. It felt manageable—but just barely. She was constantly running behind schedule.

Then things got out of control. Commitments and tasks seemed to fill every moment of her day. Arreola started cramming work and chores into her evening hours, cutting into her sleep. She wasn’t eating well, and self-care fell off her list, even after she started experiencing severe migraines.

“I was always wishing I had time to get a massage—and, really, I probably did have time,” she recalls. “I was always putting off things that would be good for me.”

Eventually, her mood and her relationships began to suffer, and her depleted vitality affected her work. “I was working hard to keep up,” she says. “But I wore myself out, got sick, and fell behind because of missed time from work.”

Arreola’s plight is familiar. Too many of us pack our calendars full. We commit to more than we can handle, assuming that we’ll squeeze it all in somehow. Often, we ignore the consequences until, like Arreola, we become so exhausted we can’t keep up, sometimes to the detriment of our health and relationships.

So once you’re committed to all these commitments, how do you stop overscheduling? Admitting you’re overloaded is the first step. Then, breaking the addiction to overscheduling requires three things: acknowledging your limits, observing your patterns, and clarifying the values that make your life worth living in the first place.

Boundary Issues

The world of work has changed dramatically in the past 25 years. People do business across far-flung time zones 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Instant communication with smartphones and email has dissolved the built-in boundaries that once surrounded the workday. We’re awash in electronic interruptions, which can make it hard to complete even simple tasks.

Meanwhile, many of us aren’t good at estimating how long activities are going to take before we commit to them—and then we overcommit because we can’t accurately take stock of how busy we are.

“People overcommit simply because they don’t know everything they’ve committed to,” says time-management guru David Allen, author of Getting Things Done. “Their self-regulating mechanism has blown a fuse.” (more…)

Posted by on Jul 21, 2016 | 0 Comments

Your World, Your Microbiome

Microbiome
Buzz around the microbiome is growing louder.

You may have read in the news: Our bodies are home to a vast community of microbes, forming “the human microbiome.” Research at this point is centered largely around the gut microbiome, and studies have been done on such diverse topics as obesity and the gut microbiome, fecal transplants to combat c. diff infections, and which bacteria can be returned to the gut via various foods and probiotics. We’re beginning to get comfortable with the idea that there are small, essential organisms living in us that keep us healthy, so much so that the microbiome is being recognized by the academic and research community as a new field of potential in human health. It’s so big that even the White House is putting force behind it, with the National Microbiome Initiative!

But the microbiome isn’t static; it changes and grows as much as its hosts do.

Bacteria at Birth

At birth, a baby’s microbiome is made up largely of bacteria from the mother’s body. As babies grow, begin to eat solid food, and crawl around, they come into more and more contact with bacteria in the outside world and develop a more robust microbiome, packed with bacteria from food, the outdoors, and the people in the baby’s life. Some researchers even believe the reason babies like to put everything in their mouth has to do with an innate knowledge that they need to expose themselves to as many bacteria as possible in order to build their immune system.

The World’s Effect on Your Microbiome

It’s not just people who harbor unique microbiomes; every little nook of our outside world has a specific community of bacteria too. The forest is different from the beach, the country from the city, and even those differ by region. In cities and towns, different neighborhoods actually have different microbiomes. It all depends on who lives there, what the plant and animal life is like, what the local industry is made up of, the climate, and the density of the population.

Families Share More Than Genes

As children grow up and become more independent, eating different foods from their parents and going different places, families living together maintain similar microbiomes. Couples in particular develop similar microbiomes. A hug isn’t just a symbol of affection—it’s also a friendly exchange of bacteria! (more…)

Posted by on Jul 19, 2016 | 0 Comments
18
Jul

5 Ways to Instantly Cut Chemical Exposure and Endocrine Disruption

Endocrine disruption
Endocrine disruptors—they’re everywhere. And they mess with your hormones. They block or promote estrogen as well as other hormones, throwing off the balance. In some cases, they affect the levels of your hormones. In other cases, they affect the function of your hormones. If we encountered them only once in a while, there’d be little cause for concern, but because they’re so ubiquitous, most of us are receiving constant low-grade exposure, and that’s no good for hormonal health. And while it’s tough to completely purge all toxins from your life, you can significantly cut your exposure by making smarter choices. With a few simple swaps you can give your endocrine system the toxic vacation it needs to support your hormonal health along with the rest of you. Here’s how to clean up your late night and early morning routine—or about a third of your day:

1. Sleep Cleaner

The bedding you nuzzle all night long isn’t as fresh and clean as you think it is. Your sheets and comforters, particularly if they’re synthetics or synthetic blends, have been manufactured with an array of toxic ingredients, including endocrine-disrupting chemical solvents, flame-retardants, and even formaldehyde. Switching to bedding made of organic, untreated fibers that have been organically processed is an excellent way to instantly reduce seven to eight hours of nightly exposure. Ideally, bedding should be Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified. If switching bedding to organic items all at once isn’t feasible, then transition a piece at a time, replacing worn-out items with cleaner, greener alternatives. In the meantime, you can start the switchover (and add a bit of a physical barrier) by covering old blankets and comforters with organic, untreated duvet covers.   

2. Clean Up Your Mattress

They say we spend up to a third of our lives in bed, so the mattress you’re sleeping on matters. As with bedding, traditional mattresses can contain a veritable witches’ brew of dangerous chemicals, which waft and off-gas while we breathe ’em in all night long. My advice? Get a new mattress as soon as you can, and upgrade to the cleanest, greenest one you can afford. Take a look at eco-friendly suppliers like KeestaLifekindOmimattress, Naturepedic, and Dax Stores—or consider an organic futon as an economical stopgap measure if you’re not yet ready to invest in a higher-end model.

3. Curl Up With a Healthier Pillow

Trade those petroleum-based foam and synthetic pillows for cleaner, more natural options. You might want to do the same with down pillows, which, though comfortable, often feature feathers that have been treated with bleach, formaldehyde, and chemical antiallergens. Instead, try resting your head on pillows made of buckwheat, organic cotton, organic wool, kapok fibers, or natural rubber. Cover your greener pillow with organic cotton pillowcases, and you’ll snooze cleaner, breathing in the night air rather than a toxic cloud. (more…)

Posted by on Jul 18, 2016 | 2 Comments

8 Health Documentaries to Watch This Weekend

Health Documentaries
Summer reading is great for the beach, but for those times when you need some respite from the sun, there are plenty of educational health documentaries to binge on. Here are a few of our favorites:

1. Dr. Lipman Recommends Unacceptable Levels

Unacceptable Levels examines the results of the chemical revolution of the 1940s through the eyes of a father seeking to understand the world in which he and his wife are raising their children.

Over 80,000 chemicals flow through our system of commerce, and many are going straight into our bodies. Even our unborn children are affected. Due to this constant exposure, we have approximately 200 synthetic industrial chemicals interacting with our cells every single day. Until recently, modern science really didn’t understand what that could mean for all of us in the long run, but that is changing.

Unacceptable Levels opens the door to conversations about the chemical burden our bodies carry so that we can make informed decisions now and in the future. The film poses challenges to our companies, our government, and our society to do something about a nearly unseen threat with the inspired knowledge that small changes can generate a massive impact.

2. Laura Kraber Recommends Fed Up

Produced by Laurie David (An Inconvenient Truth) and journalist Katie Couric, Fed Up reveals the disastrous consequences of U.S. food policy and the food industry’s role in creating obesity, diabetes, and other health issues related to diet. Heartbreaking and eye-opening, this film is essential viewing for all Americans.

3. Jackie Damboragian Recommends Food, Inc

This documentary by Robert Kenner was a game changer for me—it really brought to light just how messed up our food industry is. I like that it’s not preaching one diet, but rather giving a fair and honest portrait about how the food industry is failing us and what we can do about it as consumers. (more…)

Posted by on Jul 15, 2016 | 0 Comments
14
Jul

Is a “Clean” Bar of Soap Too Much to Ask?

Bar of Soap
As United States citizens, we are considered innocent until proven guilty. This is a comfort we are guaranteed, and as a country we value our rights. Is this right something that should be given across the board—not just for citizens, but for industries as well? When it comes to consumer goods and ingredients, should suppliers enjoy the same luxury? Currently, suppliers and manufacturers of cosmetic ingredients in the U.S. do; this is in contrast with other countries that have more stringent premarket regulations. Since these manufacturers of ingredients and products do not have to prove their safety, the burden falls on consumers to determine toxic from safe, right from wrong, good from bad. Without sufficient information and education, we have to be our own advocates for our health and well-being.

This is evidenced in recent cases brought against Johnson & Johnson for failing to warn consumers about the known health risks, namely cancers, associated with talc, which used in its products. More than 1,000 women are suing Johnson & Johnson and its talc supplier, Imery, claiming that the companies knew for years that talc was linked to ovarian cancer—yet failed to warn consumers. Furthermore, Bloomberg Businessweek reported that the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for the talc read, “Perineal use of the powder is a possible risk of ovarian cancer.”

Some talc contains asbestos, a known carcinogen, in its natural form. And while Johnson & Johnson claims to have been using asbestos-free talc in its products since the 1970s and asserts its purity and safety, this may not be the case. Studies by the National Toxicology Program demonstrated that even cosmetic-grade talc that is free of asbestos could be toxic and carcinogenic.

This is not the first time Johnson & Johnson has been in the press for “chemicals of concern.” In 2012 the company announced that it would be removing all these chemicals from its adult products by 2015 and from baby products by the end of 2013. It removed the ingredients that released formaldehyde from its No More Tears shampoo and other chemicals from the rest of their baby care products. While I’m happy to see such a big player in the industry pay heed and remove “chemicals of concern,” I’m confused by the definition. Was talc an oversight? Did Johnson & Johnson just expect consumers to continue slathering themselves in chemicals until the company could remove them? (more…)

Posted by on Jul 14, 2016 | 0 Comments