A Different Approach To Spring Allergies

One of the most important aspects of addressing any health issue is to understand the cause and effect of how and why you are experiencing your symptoms and what they represent. Seasonal allergies are, for many, the down side to the beauty of spring and summer. Itchy, runny eyes and nose, sneezing, coughing, and even wheezing can dictate an individual’s activity choices, where they can go, and even what they can eat.

None of this is desirable, and much of it has been shown to be preventable. To understand how you can take control of your seasonal allergies, let’s explore where they come from. Foreign proteins are found in many airborne substances, such as pollen, dust mites, and ragweed. When mucous membranes that come in contact with these foreign proteins are not immunologically competent enough to break down the proteins, the membraneS secrete mucous, fluids, and histamine. This causes the itching, swelling, irritation, and watery excretions that make seasonal allergies so challenging.

To improve allergy symptoms, steroid or steroid-like medications are often prescribed. These are anti-inflammatory chemicals that reduce the allergic immune reaction to the foreign proteins.

By building up our immune and adrenal system, we can enable our bodies to be better able to handle these allergens, which cause the allergy reactions. Our adrenals are located either on top of or within the kidneys and produce cortico-steroids and other natural anti-inflammatory as part of our “national guard” system. Hans Selye, MD, PhD, who spent over 50 years researching the adrenals and immune system, discovered the important nutrition and lifestyle components to keeping this important body system working well: 

  • A diet rich in B, C, E, and A vitamins (or supplementation)
  • Unsaturated fatty acids, such as fish oils
  • Adequate protein intake
  • Minerals to aid the production of natural allergy fighting anti-inflammatories 
  • Adequate sleep and rest
  • Elimination of infections
  • Reduction of emotional stress
  • Moderate exercise
  • Avoidance of over exertion
  • Avoidance of traumas as well as dental and medical surgery
  • Elimination of extreme temperatures indoors and out

Seyle’s research demonstrated that by taking good care of our adrenal and immune system, allergies may be greatly reduced and, in some cases, eliminated. Applying some of these principles may allow you to enjoy this spring more while experiencing fewer symptoms.

10 Tips For Sustainable Love

It is not a coincidence that happy couples share many of the same behavioral patterns. Often, we think that being happy means we have fun sharing the same hobbies or doing everything as a couple. While sharing activities enhances relationships, the most important components to successful relationships are found in how individuals within a relationship treat each other. In large part, it relies on communication and behavior.

Some of the most important aspects of having a successful relationship with your significant other include:

Friendship: Being friends and genuinely liking your partner is one of the most important components of a happy and successful relationship. If you don’t like the other person, how can you truly love them?

Enjoying your partner’s company: Laughter is not only good medicine, but it is also the glue that binds relationships and creates memories. Laughing together and even crying together are meaningful in good relationships.

Being spontaneous: All of us have preferences, likes and dislikes. When you’re spontaneous about trying new food, travel plans, places to visit and other novel experiences, you expand your personal horizons and show respect for your partner’s preferences as well. Life is more interesting if we can be spontaneous together.

Having your own life: Developing a healthy relationship is about two independent and emotionally mature individuals joining company to share their lives together. Sometimes our needs can become interjected into our relationship in a way that creates a co-dependent dynamic. This can derail happiness in an intimate relationship.

Being fully, purely present to your partner: It has been said that there is no greater gift than our full, complete presence to another. Being authentically interested and attentive to the other person is a hallmark of a healthy, happy relationship.

Showing and expressing affection: Physical touch is an important part of happiness and fulfillment in relationships. Couples can often express that just by holding hands or sharing affection with their partner. This is a very important part of feeling loved and cared for.

Being caring and kind: Kindness is one of the most attractive things about another person. When we are kind, not only do we feel good about our behavior, but our significant other feels good about our behavior as well.

Being honest: If we give our partners a sense that we are devoted and loyal to them and they provide that for us, we create the foundation of a truly lasting and loving relationship. Marriages or relationships often break up because of trust issues. Trust is the foundation of all good interactions.

Being committed: When we are committed to someone, it means that we are there for them and can be counted on to support them in times of need. This is what we all want from our relationships. In order to depend on this benefit, we need to provide it as well.

Communicating: By actively communicating with your partner on an ongoing basis, you can avoid many of the problems that arise in relationships before they even get started. Being proactive and checking in with each other on a regular basis to see how things are for the other person goes a long way in preventing difficulties with conflicts and unmet needs.

Sustaining A Relationship

Creating and sustaining a loving, trusting and lasting relationship is one of the most fulfilling experiences a person can long for and look forward to. While this is not a complicated process, it does require awareness and cultivation similar to what you need in raising a child or growing a garden.

If you keep disruptive weeds from infiltrating the flower beds of your relationships, you can enjoy the uninterrupted beauty of longed-for interactions and reduce the work, wear and tear that neglect can produce. Relationships take time, caring and commitment, but they are truly worth it.

For a free download on communication skills for enhanced relationships, visit http://www.changingbehavior.org/

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5 Ways To Protect Your Health And Save The Environment

We can all make small behavioral changes that can lead to a big difference to our personal health and the health of our planet. There are many easy and convenient ways to "go green." Several of these suggestions can even save us money and time. Here is a brief list of ways you can immediately start to protect your health and help keep the planet healthier at the same time:

> Taking shorter showers will not only help to keep your skin better hydrated by not having all the natural oils removed from your skin, but each individual who limits their shower to five (5) minutes can save almost 4,000 gallons of water per year.

> Avoid the dry cleaner and you avoid exposing your skin to perchloroethylene. Also known as perc, this toxic solvent is used to dry clean clothing. Headaches, nausea, dizziness, fatigue, and skin irritation have all been linked to this solvent. It may also deplete the ozone layer in addition to contributing toxic and carcinogenic by-products as it breaks down.

> Stop using air freshners to avoid phthalates, chemicals linked to hormone abnormalities, birth defects, and reproductive problems. In addition, they may also contain other harmful, cancer-causing volatile organic compounds that are not good for you or the earth. You can use mixtures like orange peel or sage in pretty containers or small bowls to freshen the rooms of your home or office.

> Buy organic coffee that is grown without pesticides that can harm the soil and seep into the water supply. This makes a better "brew" for you as it does not contain synthetic chemicals, and it decreases damage to the earth.

> Avoid using flea collars on your pets as the chemicals in the flea collars contain toxic chemicals that can contaminate water supplies. The pesticides used in the flea collars work by harming the nervous system of the insect. The same pesticides can harm your pet and yourself as they are absorbed through the skin.

These are a few simple and convenient ways you can immediately start to make yourself and the planet healthier!

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What Your Sleep Position Says About You

In a BBC report linking certain sleeping positions with health risks, British scientists revealed that the sleeping position of an individual may provide clues to their true personality in addition to revealing health clues. It is an interesting theory and I became interested to learn whether a person's usual sleeping position could really hint toward character flaws or health symptoms. Here's what I learned through further study.

Professor Chris Idzikowski, director of the Sleep Assessment and Advisory Service, analyzed six common sleeping positions that he believes are linked to specific personality types. "We are all aware of our body language when we are awake but this is the first time we have been able to see what our subconscious posture says about us" Professor Idzikowski noted.

The sleep study identified that most people are unlikely to change their sleeping position during the night. We are also creatures of habit. Most people sleep the same way every night. Only 5% of the study participants were reported to have slept in a different position on different evenings. Another interesting reveal of the study was that only one in ten individuals cover themselves completely with a blanket. Most people expose a leg, an arm, or both feet.

Professor Idzikowski also examined the effect of various sleeping positions on health. You may have read that some positions are believed to help aid digestion, while other positions are believed to promote snoring and restlessness.

Here are the six common positions studied by Professor Idzikowski. The study's findings related each position to certain personality traits and health implications. See if you agree with the findings based on your own sleep patterns.

  • Fetus position – A majority (41%) of the study participants, with 200% more females than males, sleep in this curled-up position. The personality appointed to this position is that the sleeper has a tough exterior and is shy and sensitive but warms up quickly.
  • Log position – This study identified that 15% of people sleep in this position. Sleeping on your side with both arms down suggests that you are a social, easy-going person who is trusting and possibly gullible.
  • Yearner position– The third most popular position, utilized by 13% of the participants, is the side-lying position with both arms out in front of the body. This position is considered to be open-minded and yet cynical. They can be suspicious and stubborn.
  • Soldier position – 8% of the sleepers in this study lie on their back with their arms down and close to the body. This position is paired with people who are reserved, quiet, not fussy, and hold themselves and others to a high standard. This position also has a higher rate of snoring due to the back position.
  • Free fall position – Only 7% of the sleepers lie on their bellies with arms under or wrapped around a pillow and their head turned to the side. These individuals were considered brash, outgoing, and uncomfortable with criticism.
  • Starfish position – Those who lie on their backs with arms near their head or pillow make up the smallest group of sleepers, with only 5% utilizing this position. Starfish sleepers are considered good listeners, helpful, and  uncomfortable being the center of attention. Sleeping in the starfish position is likely to lead to a poor night's sleep due to snoring.

It will be interesting to see how future studies add to the knowledge revealed by Professor Idzikowski. In the meantime, take some time to ponder whether the associated personality traits are accurate for your style of sleeping. Consider ways to remedy any undesirable traits or health consequences.  

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A Healthier Relationship With Food

 

Our mood and our food are intimately connected. It's interesting that the emphasis is usually on how things from outside our bodies affect our insides when in reality so much of what is going on inside affects our outsides. This is really evident in terms of weight loss and weight gain. The way we feel about ourselves, our work, or our life, whether we are fulfilled or dissatisfied, has more to do with what or how much we choose to eat than eating a certain food affects how we feel.

One of the reasons diets don't work is because the "work" is being done on the outside of the problem instead of the inside. I have been a nutritionist for over 30 years and have seen thousands of patients who want to change the way they look or the way they eat.

When we start to "work" on the goal, within a relatively short period of time, they become aware of underlying feelings and emotions associated with not eating foods that "medicate" or mask their feelings. They often become discouraged because the feelings are uncomfortable and sometimes painful. It is our human nature to avoid pain and move towards pleasure. It takes courage to truly tackle and confront the underlying issues of "food and mood." Rather than focusing on the outside of the problem, we need to focus on the inside instead.

Here is an exercise you may find to be of value. If you are dealing with mood or food issues, keep a journal for 10 days. Write down everything you eat. Also write about how you feel when you don't eat what you want and how you feel when you do eat what you want.

Just becoming more aware of what you are putting in your mouth, and how it translates to how you feel after you eat a particular food, can be the start of a healthier and happier relationship with food and your mood.

 

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The Heart: More Than Just A Pump

There is little question that the heart is a muscular pump that transports nutrient-rich blood throughout the body. This function is, however, just a physical aspect of what the heart does and what influences its function. As with all of our organs and systems, the heart is affected by five specific components: (1) physical (2) emotional (3) nutritional-biochemical (4) environmental and (5) worldview (spiritual).

Beyond The Pump

The first popular books to explore these aspects of the heart’s function include:  Heart and Soul by Bruno Cortis, M.D. and The Heart’s Code by Paul Pearsall, Ph.D. These two highly recommended books offer varying perspectives and insightful information on the heart beyond its role as a pump.

Pearsall’s book explores in depth the emotional function of the heart and its “L” energy. Pearsall describes and clearly explains the impact loving has on a heart that loves. He also explores the effect this love exerts on the recipient of the heart’s “L” energy.  His presentation on the human heart’s independent electrical system (also known as the atrioventricular bundle) gives us an understanding of how the individual heart muscle has an emotional life of its own.

Cardiovascular Research

The current research on cardiovascular disease contains a surprising body of information. It shows that the single greatest factor affecting your chances of having a heart attack or dying of heart disease is not high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, a diet high in sodium or fat, a type A personality, anger, or rage.

Instead, as reported in the Science News Journal, the statically-documented, single most predictive factor of death by heart malfunction is: hopelessness. And it has been shown that stroke risk in women is also significantly linked to hopelessness.

What About The Broken Heart?

Broken heartedness occurs when the heart’s desire has been thwarted or eliminated and the heart is left without hope of fulfilling its desire. It’s been said: “Where there is life there is hope.” But without hope, our dreams perish and our heart breaks.

Although lifestyle elements like exercise, a healthy diet, weight control and having a purpose in life are all part of being heart healthy, it now appears that the primary, most important factor is keeping hopes alive and not giving up on our dreams. Without them, we lose our purpose and the joy for living.

The Power of Hope

A healthy heart is a hopeful heart. When you smile, you cannot be sad or hopeless. Prove this to yourself. Think a horrible thought, then really smile and see if you can think that same thought while you are smiling. You can’t.

When we smile, we tell the heart and brain that life is good and worth living. As the saying goes: “Be happmy be healthy.” When we have fulfilling and successful relationships, our hearts experience the “L” energy we all desire.

Our relationships provide us the L-energy we require; we need to nurture and cultivate the best relationships we can.

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The Connection Between Brain Function, Behavior, And Your Emotions

There are three parts of the human brain, referred to as the "triune brain." Paul D.MacLean, an early research director for the National Institute of Mental Health, postulated the Triune Brain Theory. It states that the human brain is a product of three stages of evolution and is actually three separate brains that have evolved into one brain over long periods of time.

Three Parts

The first section [the lowest portion of the brain] is comprised of the top part of the spinal cord, the medulla oblongata, the pons, and the cerebellum. MacClean calls this “the reptilian brain.” As he stated, “at its base [the human brain] was a variation in the elaboration of the reptilian brain."

The limbic system [located in the mid-portion of the brain] states MacClean, "was an elaboration of the new mammalian brain from the Jurassic period". He termed it the "mid-brain" or the neo-mammalian brain (new mammal).

The upper most and largest part of the human brain, the cerebral cortex, encompasses our logic centers, our "intellect." MacClean termed this portion "the neo-cortex" (new cortex).

Fundamental Behavior

The Reptilian or "vegetable brain" [recall the autonomic nervous system functions], is fundamentally concerned with homeostasis, which is involved in regulating all of the body functions that allow each of us to be human, get up every day, and live our lives. If you do not have a well-functioning lower brain, if you have a tumor, if you have a trauma, if you’re in an accident, if something happens to your brainstem, you may no longer have the capacity to control the day to day homeostatic functions to maintain your life.

Interpreting Information

Embedded inside the Limbic System is a structure identified as the Reticular Activating System, which has pathways as well as neurons traveling throughout the lower brain, up through the medulla oblongata, across the Limbic System, and into the Neo-Cortex or the "thinking brain".

The Limbic System and Reticular Activating System interpret sensory motor messages that are "incoming" from the person's environment. It is in this portion of the brain that we not only interpret the "incoming stimuli and information," but we also select methods for survival and adaptation.

Here is where it gets exciting to put the anatomy and physiology of brain function and the psychology of personality together!

Putting It All Together To Survive

We know the neo-cortex is our thinking, intellectual brain – our "smart brain" – and most of us know individuals who are brilliant academically or intellectually yet they are emotionally dysfunctional in the extreme. Our thinking brain would presume that being "smart" or intellectually capable would exercise dominion over one's emotions, however, the missing piece of information here is that our emotions actually are a survival adaptation mechanism that each of us individually develops as we process our early environment and social conditioning. Nothing is more powerful in the human being than its drive to survive! Hence, our emotions win the day in the battle between thinking and feeling.

It is critically important for each of us to understand that our emotions represent how we learned to adapt in our surroundings and environment, especially during the first 0-5 years of our development. Our familial "input" taught us, as did Pavlov with his dogs, how to respond to the stimuli we received as infants and toddlers.

Your Brain And Relationships

This embedded neurological conditioning is not overcome by the thought process, as the thought process for humans is the "newest" component to our primordial brain. It is in the adaptive portion of our brain where we form our "personality" and where we become conditioned to create and interact within relationships.

When we understand the possibility that the interpersonal issues that frustrate us may come not from "being difficult" or having "bad intent" but rather from our drive to survive and our interpretation of the stimulation and environment we were conditioned by, then we can begin to be "kinder and gentler" towards ourselves and others.

In summary, our emotions are the way we learn to live and survive in our world. We cannot "think them" into changing, but we can step back and appreciate the service and challenge they offer us in our daily lives.

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Mastering New Beginnings

"Happy New Year" is a greeting that fills us with anticipation, excitement and hope. The anticipation is for the new beginning we feel as the ball drops and we say good-bye to the past and look forward to the future. Our excitement is for the many possibilities that may lay ahead in the coming year and the hope is for a better twelve months than those that came before.

What are some simple, positive and productive actions we can take in this New Year that will support our optimistic January resolutions?

Clean The Slate

Cleaning and organizing your home space is one of the most positive ways to start the New Year. It has been shown in numerous studies that a clean, organized environment provides a sense of relaxation and calm and also helps us to be more productive because we are more organized. This results in a more efficient work or study outcome.

Spend Less

Commit to spending less and saving what you don't spend. Setting a goal of saving a realistic amount of money each month and achieving that goal by spending that much less is an empowering and satisfying way to take more control over your finances. It also reinforces the idea that you can transform your saving/spending patterns without much stress and strain.

Eat Better

Eat less processed foods and more living foods – this is not only a healthy resolution but also a cost saving one as well. We as Americans enjoy an abundant lifestyle and have the highest obesity rate in the world to prove it. By focusing on life-giving, plant-based foods, we nourish our bodies. And, we save a lot of money by not buying high priced processed and often non-nourishing "foods."

Give Back

Identify an organization, charity or cause that you can either provide a small but heartfelt donation or voluteer time to. Participating in meaningful assistance to others is rewarding on many levels and is good for our health as well as our sense of contribution.

Each New Year is an opportunity for a new beginning…and life, it is often said, is a series of new beginnings.

 

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Fulfill Your New Year’s Resolution With Mindful Eating

Three studies provide an interesting, proven tool to help you fulfill your health-related New Year's resolutions. Not unknown in other parts of the world is the idea of addressing the first step to food digestion. This is an important factor in reducing excess body weight. Mastication, or simply put – chewing, has a significant effect on the hormones of our gut; which in turn affects energy intake, metabolic caloric use, and overall body weight.

Mindful, Conscious Eating

The studies support the practice of mindful, conscious eating and the physiological and biochemical improvements to nutrition and wellbeing, when a moderate rather than a “grab and go” eating lifestyle is followed.

The various studies focused on the following objectives: one being to compare the differences in how chewing was different between lean and obese subjects. Another was to evaluate if eating the same meal at varying speeds of mastication would result in different postprandial (after eating) gut peptide responses. The third study’s objective focused on how staggered, compared to non-staggered, meals affected hormone and appetite dynamics, food pleasure, and the resulting energy intake.

Manipulating Eating Habits

The three studies utilized volunteer subjects and were conducted at clinical research facilities. The first study was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, January 1, 2010. The study subjects were 17 healthy adult males who were evaluated on the varying lengths of time they took to consume a meal. The first meal was consumed in 5 minutes and the second meal in 30 minutes. After each meal, the levels of gut hormones were assessed in the subjects, measuring the results for each of the meal durations. The conclusion of this study was that eating at a moderate rate, compared to a rapid rate, produces an increased anorexigenic gut peptide response, which resulted in a loss or decrease of appetite compared to the subjects who ate more quickly.

This is probably not a surprise to mindful eaters who, in many ways, eat their food as a form of meditation, chewing much slower than the majority of us do. They not only tend to enjoy their food more but also decrease their appetites and moderate their bodyweight. The second study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, September, 2011. This study contained 16 lean and 14 obese young men who were the subjects of the study. There were two components to this particular study. The first component observed and investigated whether the obese subjects displayed different chewing patterns and factors than the lean subjects. The second component explored how the number of chews per each mouthful of a meal affected the subject’s energy intake. Two sittings of the same meals were consumed by each of the study subjects throughout the course of the day. The study used two specific amounts of chews per swallow. Each subject chewed one mouthful of food 15 times before swallowing, and then during the second meal of the same food, each subject chewed one mouthful of food 40 times before swallowing.

Chew More, Eat Less

The outcomes of this study were as follows: regardless of their body mass being either lean or obese, the subjects had ingested almost 12% less food (11.9%) intake after the 40 chews per mouthful meal than after the 15 chews per mouthful meal. This registered trial study concluded that using improved meal chewing interventions could prove to be a useful tool in reducing and combating obesity.

Much has been written about lower body weight and the French diet, as well as the eating habits of other countries and cultures compared to our American grad and go fast food lifestyle. These studies confirm something that has been apparent to other cultures, and even in earlier decades in the U.S.

Decreasing Hunger

The third study, published in the Journal of Nutrition, March 1, 2011, goes on to confirm that: staggered meals, where there were pauses in between the total consumption of the entire meal, resulted in a decrease of hunger, an increase in food reward, and greater satiety than in meals that were consumed without pause and at a faster rate of speed.

Our focus today in the U.S. is on reducing obesity in both children and adults, as well as addressing the growing epidemic of type II diabetes and metabolic syndromes, with their resultant increase in adult pathologies. Each of these conditions is directly linked to the over consumption of food. These studies are an invitation to our national culture to re-assess our fast-paced lifestyle as a means to reducing the leading health issues of our day.

If simply by slowing down how quickly we put food into our bodies we can save ourselves from individual and collective suffering, it would make sense for someone to start a campaign to ensure more time for kids and adults to eat a good breakfast, take a longer lunch and enjoy a more leisurely dinner.

Rewarding Success

It is usually the simple things in life that bring the greatest rewards. Rather than worrying about the number of calories we are putting into our bodies, it might be refreshing to shift our attention to our chewing habits, which have proven in these studies to reduce food intake by 11.9%, decrease caloric uptake, improve one’s food satisfaction, and enhance greater satiety.  A lot of reward – for not a lot of effort.

Journal of Nutrition, March 1, 2011; vol. 141; no. 3, 482-488
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, September, 2011; vol.94; no. 3, 709-716
Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, January 1,2010; vol.95; no. 1, 333-337

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Is Social Media Damaging Your Work Environment?

pexels-photo-218536

When most of us think of an unhealthy work environment, we visualize “sick building syndrome,” difficult staff members, or the classic “boss from hell.”

After attending a conference populated by a number of staffing agency directors, I recently received an insight into the latest unhealthy work issue that is getting the attention of a lot of organizations: obsessive social media use while on the clock.

Resulting Social Issues

It is becoming such a concern that more and more companies are having their computer networks re-tooled to block Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites on office computers.

How much of a problem is it that a significant number of younger-generation workers, who were raised on personal electronics, cannot stop checking their Facebook and text messages while they are on the job and being paid to spend their time attending to the tasks at hand?

That employees are noticing and becoming concerned that this trend is affecting their productivity and even their bottom line. This says something important about the current immediate communication impulse and what is being called “the narcissistic tendency” we are developing as a culture.

Staying Focused On The Job

The focus and integrity to attend to the job we are expected to be doing and the ability or willingness to not pay attention to ourselves when we are getting paid to be working seems to be lacking today more than ever before.

Cellphones, emails, text messages, social networking and other electronic forms of communication have begun to hold our attention prisoner–even when we are on the job. Not only is this unfair to the individual or organization paying our salary, but it also sends up a red flag. We are growing more and more self-absorbed.

Can someone be healthy when overly concerned about the moment-to-moment activities of life? There are (most commonly in humor columns) reported Facebook posts by individuals who record practically every minor act and event of their day, posting them publicly for all their friends and fans to read.

Infalated Narcissism

Is it true that we are becoming a narcissistic society, so unable to pull ourselves away from the details of our lives that we no longer put in an honest day’s work?

Health is made up of many things. Being productive, making a contribution, working hard and enjoying what you do are all part of a healthy lifestyle. If social networking and electronic communication are pulling you further away from a balanced and healthy work life, it may be time to unplug and unlink.

Finding fulfillment and feeling commited to what we do in our work as well as how we do the work are important parts of being a productive, contributory, healthy, happy individual. Not only is excessive electronic communication often overly self-centered, but it can also distract from other essential aspects of a balanced life. That’s something to consider.

For a free download of the bestselling, award-winning book Changing Behavior, visit changingbehavior.org.