Monday, May 25, 2009

You are My Sunshine!!

Through the ages we have looked to it for comfort, support, growth, and even worship. The amazing awe and precision of the sun!! 93 million miles away, with rays traveling at 186,000 miles a second, and part of the earths life- support system.... what is not to be in awe of?! Yet, what is even more amazing is that if the sun was any closer, or any further away, life as we know it would not exist. Talk about absolute precision,and definately not an  accident!!
Sunlight provides the energy required to produce our basic food requirements. Carbohydrates (Whole grains, fruits, vegetables) would not be possible without the sun. 'Carbohydrate, mainly glucose, is made by photosynthesis. The sun's energy becomes part of the glucose molecule- its calories, in a sense. Carbohydrates contain the sun's radiant energy, captured in a form  that living things can use to drive the processes of life. Thus they form the first link in the food chain that supports all life on earth." (Nutrition,Eighth Edition, Concepts and Controversies, Francis Sizer) As we all know, green plants make carbohydrates through the process of photosynthesis. Through this process, plants use the sun, carbon dioxide, and water to form glucose. As we may recall from a previous post, glucose is the human bodies preferred source of energy.
The sun also has a huge impact on our physical bodies.  Our skeletal systems needs the vibrant sunlight, which convert into vitamin D in our bodies, in order to absorb calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. Calcium is a major player in muscle contraction, heart health ( your heart is a muscle), brain activity- pretty much all electrical activity in the body requires calcium. Calcium, as we all know, is also a major factor in bone health.  Sunlight and weight bearing exercise is critical for good bone health. There are many individuals today suffering from Osteoporosis and Osteomalacia due to vitamin D deficiency. Osteomalacia is muscle weakness, bone sensitivity and pain due to lack of vitamin D and the absorption of calcium in the intestines. When you are deficient in Vitamin D only 10-15% of dietary calcium is absorbed. The sun is considered to be a "super nutrient!" Studies have also shown that Vitamin D has been linked to various other diseases such as breast, colon, lung and prostate cancers. "Vitamin D is one of the most potent hormones to inhibit cell proliferation." (Ibid) Not to mention that a small amount of sunbathing has a positive influence on cholesterol levels (
Today many of us are fearful of the sun's bright rays, slathering ourselves with sunscreen.  While sunscreen is wise, many physicians are recommending 10-20 minutes of sunlight in order to maintain optimum health. Even our mental acuity and moods are influences by the sun. Hormones in  the body are regulates by light exposure. As little as 10 minutes of sun exposure can promote mental well being. Many people suffer from depression in the winter months. Many also wind up on pills that are hard to get off of. Feelings of hopelessness take over. Seattle, WA has a higher suicide rate in the winter months. No sunlight.  This disorder has been called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  If you tend to get down in the dumps during gloomy weather, you may have this disorder. "Relaxing in a room lit at 80% times the brightness of regular indoor lighting for two hours per day can help make your hormonal rythyms more pronounced, decreasing your daytime melatonin secretion. You can gain very quick relief with light therapy if you have SAD" (Prescription Drugs and Their Natural Alternative, Earl Mindell, RPh, PhD and Virgina Hopkins, MA)
Our sun is such an integral part of our total well being. It is important to take the time to enjoy what has been termed, "mellow yellow time." Sunshine on your shoulder can make you very happy, not to mention happy and healthy!! Now- that is no accident!!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Out of the Well of Wellness Comes Water

There's nothing like it on a hot day, it is indispensable to all life forms, and it covers 71% of the earths surface (Wikipedia). You can freeze it, boil it, pour it, change it into something else through mixing it.... Water is wonderful!
Water is something that all living beings require. Without adequate water intake our bodies do not function optimally. We are composed of approximately 55-60% water. It is inorganic and forms the majority of almost all body tissue. Water participates in endless functions every that we take for granted. From your ability to see, to digestion, to a cleanser for pollutants, to a hydraulic system for your spine, and other joints, and it can help relieve constipation. Almost all metabolic reactions take place in the presence of water, it is the medium for transporting molecules in, and out, of cells. 
A mere 2% water loss can create memory problems, balance problems and lower your energy level. Our brain is mostly composed of water, and it is essential for it to function and maintain bodily functions. Unfortunately, by the time we "register" thirst ,we are already dehydrated. 
According to research most of us function at a level of mild dehydration. This dehydration doesn't only affect us physically and mentally, but cellularly. According to Medical Exercise Specialist Ty Tims, "If fluid levels aren't up to par in a cell, it's not going to be able to carry out it's function, whether it's a neuron or a musculoskeletal cell. Each cell has a special function and its efficiency level will increase, or decrease, depending on hydration levels."
According to Eldon Askew, PhD, professor of the Division of Foods and Nutrition at the University of Utah College of Health, body cells shrink, or expand, depending on fluid levels in the body, this changes the "spacial relationship of the organelles (structures  within the cells that assume specific roles)," Askew continues to say, "We think these changes in cellular size act as a signal for the regulation of cellular metabolism."
Dr. Askew's research suggests that drinking eight glasses of water each day may actually increase metabolic rates, and help the body burn calories more effectively. Additionally,  according to Jane Penz, PhD of Tuft's University, "Over weight persons need more water since larger persons have a larger metabolic load. An additional glass of water for every 25 pounds of excess weight is recommended." Dr Jane goes on to say, "Water helps to maintain proper muscle tone by giving muscles their natural ability to contract. Water also helps sagging skin that usually follows weight loss. Shrinking cells are buoyed by water, which plumps the skin and leaves it clear, healthy and resilient."
Not only is water essential for metabolism and weight loss, but heart health. According to Jacqueline Chan, PhD, and also Synnove Knutsen, MD PhD , "drinking high amounts of plain water is as important as exercise, diet and not smoking to prevent coronary heart disease." (Save Your Life With Water," American Journal of Epidemiology) They went on to say, "Basically not drinking enough water can be as harmful to your heart as smoking." Their study discovered individuals that consumed 5 or more glasses per day of PLAIN water had a much power risk of developing coronary heart disease. "People need to be made aware that there is a difference , at least for heart health, whether they get their fluids from plain water or from soda," says Chan. We sometimes think that fluid is fluid. This can be very counterproductive, as some fluids act as catabalists to the system. There is no substitute for water!!
Water before, during , and after exercise  is also recommended. While there are varying opinions on the exact amount of water required, under average environmental conditions, 1.0 to 1.5 ml (1 ml=.03 ounces) of water per calorie expended is a good estimate for proper
We all need to satisfy our thirst for survival. Often we allow our thirst to get "out of control" to a dangerous level. We have needs that must be met for optimal health.  As we have more than a physical level, and we are multi- level and function, it is critical to achieve satisfaction in all levels of wellness. We have a physical need for water, an emotional need for water and a spiritual need for living water. Wouldn't it be wise to heed all of these needs for total wellness?
This is article three for the NEWSTART program. 
Let's drink deep from the well of life!!

Monday, May 11, 2009

E is for Exceptional, E is for Energy, E is for Exercise- BE All You Can BE!!

This is part two of an 8 part series on total wellness. The program is called newstart, and it is a free gift to those who choose to follow it. For a quick review the 8 principals are N- nutrition, E- exercise, W-water, S-sunshine, T-temperance, A-attitude, R-rest and, last but not least, T is for trust in God. These 8 principals you will find will find you on the road to a happier, healthier life.
This is a love letter for me...the letter E and I have been having a relationship for some time now. Exercise is part of the spirit of freedom, through discipline. ( A bit of an oxymoron, I know- but so true!)  It is a way to enjoy your abilities, and challenge them, creating a possitive energy within your soul. Something that I find so infectious, I want everyone to experience the magnificence of movement, and challenging that movement to higher levels. The range of abilities the human body is capable of is something that absolutely amazes, and astounds, me!! I study endlessly to understand more and more of this remarkable "machine" and what is does and is capable of doing. Don't we all love a good game, or race....Awesome abilities our bodies have been given!!
To loose this ability is something we need to fight. And, yes you can.... It is mind over matter. Your mind controls your body!!! You have the power. It is illustrated time and time again through some remarkable human feats!! Lance Armstrong, cancer survivor...7 tours won- REMARKABLE!  I know we all can think of examples- the list in itself is remarkable. So what is stopping YOU from being remarkable?  We must learn that it is good to push our comfort zones. Of course, it is smart to make sure your doctor can approve this. However, most "modern time" diseases are totally controllable by regular cardiovascular exercise, muscle strengthening, and flexiblity and motor learning for balance and proprioception. Yes, like any athlete you can pick up the torch, and defeat diabetes, hypertension, depression, asthma, just to name a few!!! There are specific ACSM programs that have been approved by physicians in human performance labs for most modern day ailments. In fact 30 agencies that represent fitness recently presented our new president with a letter informing him of the vast difference healthy lifestyles, including the dreaded word "exercise" can make upon this countries epidemic health crisis. The president is very concerned about the BILLLIONS of dollars our sedentary lifestyle is going to be costing us!  Exercise folks, is medicine!!
Exercise can reverse the aging process, Reduce cancer rates, reduce metabolic diseases, reduce cardiovascular complications. The list is never ending. It appears human beings were created to move a lot more than we are moving. The price of exercising now versus your health later- there really is no contest to this!
Plato once said,"Lack of activity destroys the good condition of EVERY human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise saves it and preserves it." WOW!!! What he knew back then. If we could heed his advise now, think of the joy we could have. Go ahead, challenge yourselves. Get to that first step- even a small walk, stretch, and a long glass of water- no one needs to come out of the gate running!!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Tired of Dieting...?! What you NEED to know!!

Tired of diets? Tired of restriction, to no avail? Tired of exercise programs that do not work?  Tired of simply being tired?! Here is some information that could change how you approach your next meal, or "diet" plan!! If you are serious about change, please read the following science-based facts that can help revitalize your approach to health and weight -based issues. This is the NEWSTART approach. N is for nutrition. E is for exercise. W is for water. S is for sunshine. T is for temperance. A is for attitude. R is for rest. T is for trust in God. This is the newstart approach to total wellness. Today we will focus on N.
The diet industry is a 54 billion dollar industry, with a 95 percent failure rate ( Dr. Jane Penz, Nutrition for Professionals, 2008) Failure meaning the ability to maintain the apparent weight loss over a long period of time. Shocking information!! More shocking yet is what this diet really does to your metabolism- not to mention your ability to loose weight again down the road.
According to the current information, dieting can cost you muscle tissue...precious, metabolic muscle tissue. Muscle is the key to a "fast" metabolism. Simply put, the more muscle you have the more calories you expend, even at rest. The only way to preserve this muscle tissue, and prevent "crashing"your metabolism, is exercise. Cardiovascular exercise, AND strength/resistance training exercise- with still yet the appropriate nutrients.
The fitness industry also is experiencing a low success rate in long term results. As mentioned before without the right nutrients, and the appropriate amount of calories you will not have any long term success here, either. It seems there are many misconceptions on what exactly a healthy diet is! Different views on calorie consumption, nutrient timing, carbs, proteins...enough  to make your head spin!! I  have also seen, time and time again, after a great workout an individual either overdoing it, or vastly under doing it in the dining room. 
Here is a classic example of self sabotage of a great exercise plan. Let's say you had dinner at 6pm. You were "good"- no desert, no frills. You ad the immediate result of glucose that your body makes for energy in your system. You felt great, energized and went to bed planning a great workout in the morning.
You woke up the next morning, grabbed a coffee and water ( for your workout) and ran out the door. Somehow your workout was not all that it could wondered why and continued along picking up a fast food breakfast,  and more coffee. What happened?! 
Well, while you were sleeping your body recivered from the days stressors (walking, work, shopping your daily workout...)It used calories. If you are exercising the rest stage is when you gain your strengths. Calories are used all night long to keep your body alive and to recover and repair. When you wake up your "stores" are low. You only have 12-16 hours of available energy in your system to maintain homeostasis, or balance for all your cells.  For all your cells to be healthy it is important to maintain a blood glucose of between 80-120 to maintain balance.  If there is no glucose available certain cells die, cells like brain cells and nerve cells. The body will not allow this to happen, it will then convert to burning muscle for energy...your hard earned lean muscle becomes glucose for these cells. So, as you can see nutrient timing is very important, and skipping breakfast is a big mistake!! 
So what can you do to prevent sabotaging that morning workout? Eat!! That's right, even a small amount to get your blood sugar into that safe zone, between 80-120. A carbohydrate with a small amount of protein is the way to go before that workout, You will have more stamina for better performance, and better results! Good food choices are critical to good performance!!
Another sabotager is a low calorie, low carbohydrate diet. Carbs are our friends. Whole food carbs, though. Whole foods.
Low calorie diets, particularly while working out can cause serious problems. If you are eating less than your basal metabolism, what your body needs to run effectively, you are sabotaging your efforts, and risking your health. "A nutrient deficiency can result from extreme restriction in which the same few foods are eaten every day. This is especially true of diets high in protein with minimal amounts of vegetables and thus receive less than optimal amounts of vitamins and minerals. (Dr. Ken Kinakin, Optimal Muscle Training, Human Kinetic,2009) Nutrition is key to any strength gains, as is water consumption, rest, and peace and tranquility.
Unfortunately, restrictive diets do not lessen your stress, either. On the contrary, they increase it. They trigger hormones, messengers, in your body for stress. Cortisol being a key hormone in the flight of fight type of situation. Small amounts of cortisol are good. remember the grandma  that lifted the car off her small grandchild.. Flight or fight, life or death. Stressful situations. A steady "flow" of cortisol in your veins form a lack of proper food and nutrients leads to a flight or fight response, also. You get cranky, and your belly fat increases. THis is not he picture of wellness!! 
Proper nutrition is critical to all around wellness. This is a very brief outline on some of our common blunders in the world of nutrition. It is suggested that you visit for a more complete picture of what you should be eating!!!