It’s the time of year when I like to drop a few nuggets in your laps to build as much resilience as possible. I’ve got a lot to offer here and I hope you all absorb it like sponges.
But the key is comprehension vs embodiment.
Those that have worked with me hear me talk about the time we spend consuming information vs the time we spend integrating that information. This is key. You can have a big brain full of important health info that rolls around in your head that’s utterly useless, unless you’re putting it into action. It may feel daunting, but I also like to point out that repetition is mother of skill. So let’s get to it…
Winter Wellness Tips
The holidays are over and hopefully we managed to balance merriment vs mayhem. The human body is brilliant. And with the right information and action, it’s never too late to strive for your best health. Our health builds or declines in micromoment decisions. The key is awareness and mindfulness about our daily decisions around several important factors. There are 4 supportive legs to the table of health – diet, exercise, sleep and stress.
I’ll start with sleep because it’s the easiest. Focus on 8 hours of good, uninterrupted sleep for maximum health benefits. Most experts in sleep recommend going to bed at 10 pm – it’s when our bodies are primed for sleep based on circadian rhythms. And silly as it may sound – focus on breathing through your nose. When we take air in via our nostrils, a biochemical air exchange happens and our cells produce nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a molecule important for many aspects of your health. One important function is vasodialation, meaning it relaxes the inner muscles of the blood vessels, causing them to widen and increase circulation. Nitric oxide production is essential for overall health because it allows blood, nutrients, and oxygen to travel to every part of your body effectively and efficiently. So how do I make sure I’m breathing through my nose all night long? I literally tape my mouth shut at night. Not only do I no longer snore, but I wake feeling more refreshed and can feel that I’ve slept deeper. Try it!
Exercise is fairly straight forward – sit less, move more. Get your steps in. Get your heart rate up every day. Focus on strength training because we’re all atrophying if we don’t pay attention to building muscle. And don’t forget about stretching daily for flexibility and mobility. Walking for 10 – 15 minutes after a meal really helps with insulin resistance and blood sugar control. Did I mention sit less, move more? Yep, you got it.
And we can’t talk about the holidays without addressing stress! Good stress, bad stress – it’s all stress and it takes a REAL toll on our physical and mental health. And unless you take steps to reduce your stress levels, the body doesn’t have the chance to return to it’s normal, calm state. Chronic high stress leads to chronically high cortisol levels. Cortisol is essential in a healthy body but only when it’s in balance. It’s a catabolic hormone – meaning it breaks things down in the body. Yes, even the necessary mucosal lining of your gut is degraded and affected by cortisol. Quite often we can’t change situations that create stress for us – BUT, we can change how we respond to or approach these situations. And employing stress reduction practices is essential. Find what feels right for YOU. Go for a walk, do some breath work, listen to music, meditate, take a bath, yoga, laughter, or ideally -- all of the above!
Now diet. Nutrition and lifestyle are more important than ever. There are over 25,000 (and counting) naturally occurring, health supporting, plant-based chemicals in fruits, vegetables and spices (FVS). The key to taking full advantage of all this greatness is VARIETY. Eat all the colors, every day. FVS are filled with flavonoids, antioxidants and polyphenols. These are compounds in plants that the human body uses to combat oxidative stress, strengthen your immune system and reduce inflammation.
There are many different flavonoids like quercetin found in green tea/matcha, apples and onions. It is a powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and can also help zinc get inside of our cells to help your immune system.
Some foods highest in polyphenols include berries, cocoa powder, chestnuts (Happy Thanksgiving!), olives, ground flaxseed, onions, spinach, artichoke and coffee and tea. The healthy gut bacteria in our microbiome loves polyphenols – they gobble it up as fuel.
And if the science bores you, then here is some easy, practical advice:
Focus on whole foods, eating as close to the earth as possible. Real, whole food offers fiber to improve our gut health with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to nourish our bodies. Try to stay away from sugar and highly processed and refined carbs that don’t provide any healthy benefits. Remember, we’re trying to put good information into action. So when the pies get served, have a couple bites, not full slice.
And last but certainly not least, I want to share an important concept with you that I learned recently from biologist Dr. David Sinclair, who is a professor of genetics at Harvard, but is most notably one of the biggest names in aging and longevity research. His research is focused on reversing the age of cells and therefore reversing the aging process.
The highlights: Disease is not inevitable. Only part of our destiny is tied to genetics. What part? Roughly 20%. Only about 20% of our health and longevity is tied to our parents. The rest – meaning 80% - is how we live our lives. (Remember the four legs to the table?) Eighty percent of how we live and how our health progresses is lifestyle. YOUR choices and decisions. Disease is not inevitable! That’s pretty damn empowering don’t you think?
And it’s not rocket science. Sinclair says:
He says more, and it’s truly fascinating in his recent book, Lifespan – Why We Age and Why We Don’t Have To. If you're interested in learning more about his research, pick up a copy.
Take care of yourselves, pay attention to all your choices and decisions throughout the day and enjoy your friends and family. Hugs, laughter, joy and peace are all really good for your microbiome!
Written by: Jocelyn Kester, MS, CHHC