Reciprocal Inhibition

I can still vividly remember a yoga class, years ago, where the teacher was talking about reciprocal inhibition: the concept of one muscle flexing so its opposite can extend. For example, if I am standing, and I want to lift my right leg straight out in front of me, my hip flexors (the fronts of my hips) have to engage, and in response to that, my lower back and glutes need to release a little to give some slack to allow for that engagement in the front. Conversely if I want to send that leg back, the front of my hip needs to be the thing to do the releasing, so the glutes and low back can take up the slack, providing lift.

One might not expect a brand new word combo like “reciprocal inhibition” to roll around in a person’s head for days afterward, but it did… the concept really resonated with me. Not just that, it brought me a bit deeper into anatomical understanding, the inner workings. I like to be in that space of deep understanding, because that’s where it goes from knowledge to practice, and from practice to real strength and leverage. 

She was introducing this concept to teach us how to get a deeper stretch out of our hamstrings in a forward fold. The trick is to fire the quads, the fronts of the legs, using all the strength of this huge muscle group, to coax a deeper stretch out of the backs of the legs. By focusing your attention in the direction of your strength, the weaker parts, the parts that need some love, will receive it in kind as a matter of course because that’s how reciprocal inhibition works. It’s the law. 

Reciprocal inhibition is a concept that is not only related to anatomy. It’s found in psychology too, and if you think about it, it’s actually everywhere in life. 

Harness the Wind

My sailing partner used to say that one reason he loved sailing so much is that it’s basically a microcosm of life. Every lesson there is to know in sailing, has a practical purpose in real life, and vice-versa. They say that sailing takes a day to learn, but a lifetime to master… and I think the same could be said about life. Honestly it’s relatively simple, there are not a lot of rules to life. But what rules there are, are strict. They are law.

When sailing, you’re using the wind as well as the water to work with the concept of reciprocal inhibition. The sail goes up into the air, and the keel hangs down below the boat. They balance each other. The sails are set relative to the wind such that the wind travels over the sail and collects in the “belly” of the sail. To the untrained eye it may seem as if the wind is pushing the boat, but it’s actually pulling it. The keel below, acting as a sail of sorts too, counterbalances what’s happening above, allowing the boat to go straight where you’re pointing it. It’s all in perfect balance.

Ebb and Flow

Adjusting your sails is really just a matter of keeping up with what the wind is doing. Paying attention to, and being present with, what is actually happening right now. Tweaking things ever so slightly so that you keep moving forward. Making big changes when those are needed too. Sometimes your wind just dies. Sometimes a boat goes by and takes the wind out of your sails. It’s actually not the end of the world; as soon as they get out of the way, your sail will fill again. 

The ocean has her own ways of teaching us to ebb and flow. She does it herself all the time. Tides come in and they go out, and each of these states are necessary to give balance to Earth as a whole. They are sort of like the longest, slowest waves you’ve ever seen, nearly imperceptible, covering more shore and less shore, as the gravitational force from the moon herself ebbs and flows. The tidal swings get bigger and bigger the further from the equator you go, and that too is exactly how it should be, relative to conditions. 

Yin and Yang

The moon exerts her gravitational force on Earth, and creates these huge shifts in the great bodies of water that cover more than 70 percent of our planet. And though to a lesser extent the sun affects the tide too, he’s got bigger fish to fry. The sun is a great ball of fire in the sky, and without the sun there would be no light. No food. The sun and the moon, they are their own reciprocal inhibitionists, providing the light and the dark, the hot and the cold. We need them both, and we need them in balance, in order to thrive. Too much sun, too much heat, too much fire… causes drought, starvation, and destruction. Too much darkness, and nothing grows either. Death and destruction happen but in a different way due to a different set of circumstances. But it happens exactly as it should, given the conditions.

Balance in all things, is what that simple yin/yang symbol is showing us. Ebb and flow.

Male and Female

Yin, in Eastern philosophies and practices, traditionally is associated with female qualities, and yang with male. Yin is cool and dark, yang is hot and bright. A yin yoga practice will have you holding stretches and sinking into them for a long time, 3-5 minutes sometimes in one pose. A hot yoga class is a great example of one with a more “yang flair”: they tend to be fiery, hot and sweaty, in some cases the instructor literally barks commands at you. It’s not relaxing. But it can be energizing. It really comes down to what you need for your body today. The trick for many of us is asking our bodies what they need, listening honestly, and then actually doing what they asked. 

Oftentimes a breakdown happens here. We want to power through that spin class, or keep with our training schedule. Meanwhile, perhaps our bodies are injured. Or our hormones are ebbing and/or flowing, which can be a female or male thing, and we zig but we should have zagged because we didn’t listen. Now we’ve deepened that disconnect, we’ve caused a greater imbalance.  

Be The Change

It’s likely that at some point in your life you have heard the phrase “be the change you wish to see in the world”, which is basically another way of saying what all of these principles are saying: pay attention to what’s happening, and use your powers to tweak it. If you want to. Where you see oppression, be a liberator. When your friends are down, support them. Where you encounter darkness in your day, shine a light. A smile counts as a light. In fact it doesn’t just count, it has the potential to brighten someone’s entire day. Shine that shit everywhere.

You can be the change in the world out there, and you can be the change in your own world too. “When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite ones should be thought of”. In yoga, this concept is known as “pratipaksha bhavana”: cultivating a positive thought every time a negative one pops up. You yin to its yang, ebb to its flow. In the excellent book The Upward Spiral, by Alex Korb, this concept involves redirecting your energy from a downward spiral to an upward one. Thoughts become things, that’s a fact. The average person has more than 6,000 thoughts every day. So make ‘em good. 

You take care of me and I’ll take care of you? 

That internal connection and conversation… the constant observation of where your head is at, and how you’re feeling, what kind of person you woke up as today, is crucial. You can’t adjust your sails if you haven’t taken account of the direction the wind is coming from. You can’t possibly hope to be the change, or to cultivate the opposite feeling, if you don’t know what is needed to begin with, if you aren’t listening and observing honestly what is happening. And if you’re not doing that observing, the asking, the connecting, you’re putting that imbalance out into the world and it does no one any favors.

So we have to take care of ourselves, honestly, and with love. We can’t give the responsibility to others. We can’t ask them to be our source of strength without knowing how to flex our own muscles. But we certainly can ask them to support us, when our strength is used up… to lend us some strength when we need to let go. To help balance us.

Other people aren’t a part of our being… they are part of our world, but they aren’t us. With their own “stuff” to keep track of, they are their own. Other people have their own selves to make better, to bring to the world, to be the light and the change and the wind.

It has to be “I’ll take care of me for you, if you take care of you for me”. In that way we are bringing our whole selves to the game, complete in ourselves, ready to contribute in meaningful ways. Because we have been contributed to, cared for, nurtured and loved, the right way. We know this to be true because we did it ourselves. We became the change, and now we’re in the game the way we want to be.

Make The Rules. Make It Easy.

In many ways our brains are the driver’s seat of our being, so it’s important that we learn its nuances. Thoughts do become things. Every single action you take, began with a thought about doing it. So when our actions are borne of thoughts that are out of alignment with who we want to be, the change we wish to see, the balance we need to feel, in order to be the best people we can be, for each other… that’s a recipe for disaster. That’s you, not in the flow of life. Going against the grain, working harder, not smarter. But so many of us do it all the time, just like we beat our bodies up in spin class. 

Finding a connection and an understanding of our brain and how it’s working is crucial to a life well-lived, no matter who you are. There isn’t anything “wrong” with your brain as it is. It is functioning exactly as it should be, given the conditions it finds itself in. Your job is mostly to decide if that’s working for you, and if it’s not, tweak it. Whether that involves tools and techniques like meditation, exercise, and diet changes, or the best thing for your brain is in fact some kind of pharmaceutical intervention, the point is to know you. Understand how and why it’s working like it is, then flex… or extend. Yin, or yang. Make adjustments as needed. Drive this thing. It’s yours, and you’re worth it.

“You are perfect just as you are, but you could use a little improvement.” – Shunryū Suzuki

*****

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The Essential List Of Best Foods & Dietary Supplements For Women Over 40

As we age, things start to… shift… 

I’m not just referring to physical changes, although that definitely comes with the territory. I’m talking about pretty much everything. Hormones change, brains change, perspective changes, relationships too. It all shifts. It’s important to support our bodies in the aging process by giving them what they need to be their best. 

In my mid-40s now, I feel this deeply. But I have also never been in a happier or healthier place than I am now, and I know a lot of that has to do with really listening, finally, to what my body has to say. And of course, responding with love to those messages. Doing something about the feedback.

When Kidneys Attack

When I turned 45, things started to change a bit for me. I had 3 kidney infections, back to back, each about 2 months apart. I still don’t know exactly what the issue was, but I did learn one interesting thing about the aging bodies of women: an uptick in general issues involving UTIs, bladder and kidney infections, etc. is relatively common because everything inside us becomes thinner and more permeable. 

I was having kidney infections with no warning at all, which actually is a thing, and a pretty annoying one too. So I added a couple of things to my diet specifically to support my kidney, bladder, and urinary tract health: bananas and moringa. Bananas have a lot of potassium and are easy to make a smoothie with, making them a great vehicle for moringa oleifera, which is extremely beneficial to humans and well worth adding to your diet. Its medicinal properties and health benefits are well-known; moringa has been used therapeutically for hundreds of years. It has antifungal, antiviral, antidepressant, and anti-inflammatory properties, and that’s probably why this beauty is also known as “the miracle tree”. (1)

Intermittent fasting is a way of eating that I adopted after I turned 40. There is significant evidence to support the idea that eating with less frequency helps your body make more efficient use of the fuel you give it. At a certain point towards the end of your fasting window, the body will literally start to snack on cells that aren’t doing their job, or causing problems, like pre-cancerous cells. In this way, intermittent fasting is thought to be a great anti-aging, anti-cancer factor.

So every day I break my fast at about 11:30am with a banana smoothie:

  • 2-3 bananas
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of moringa
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of spirulina (tons of antioxidants, really good for you)
  • 3 tablespoons of chia seeds
  • Water

Sometimes I add a little yogurt, or some berries. Whatever I have laying around. Papaya is really good for gut health and makes a nice addition to a smoothie, it blends really well.

Know Thyself

I love supplementing with foods. Our bodies work best with fuel they recognize, so anytime I can add a certain food to my diet to support my specific body, I do it. But it is important to know your body too… a person with kidney disease, or kidney failure, would not want to add a bunch of bananas to their diet. A low-functioning kidney allows potassium to build up in your body, and you certainly don’t want to add fuel to that fire.

So, the question of how to supplement as your body ages will always be a personal one to some degree. 

Mother Nature’s Supplement Store

With that said, generally speaking, here are some things our bodies need plenty of as we age:

  • Calcium and vitamin D – these things work together and should be taken together whenever possible.
  • B12 – a tricky one if you follow a plant-based diet, but is found in fortified breakfast cereals.
  • B6 – chickpeas are a great source of this vitamin.
  • Magnesium – found in nuts, seeds, and leafy greens, and you probably need more than you’re getting… research magnesium supplements carefully to make sure you get the right one for your needs… they don’t all function the same way.
  • Probiotics – found in fermented foods like sauerkraut.
  • Omega 3s – get this important vitamin from fatty fish, walnuts, canola oil, chia and flaxseed.
  • Zinc – another one that can be tough to find in food, but zinc is found in oysters and our friend the fortified breakfast cereal.
  • Selenium – found in brazil nuts, but don’t overdo it! 
  • Potassium – add some dried apricots, bananas, spinach, milk, or yogurt to your diet.
  • Folate – this natural form of vitamin B9 is found in leafy greens, nuts, beans, and plenty of other foods.
  • Fiber – as we get older, we need about 8-10 servings daily of vegetables… most people don’t get nearly enough fiber.

Supplementing for Joint Health

One strange effect of shifting estrogen levels in our 40+ bodies is in the joints. They get sore. Fun stuff. So I added a glucosamine and chondroitin supplement, that I take in pill form. This is another dynamic duo like calcium and vitamin D, they go together. I walk at least 6 miles daily and since I added this to my life I have no knee pain. I do still have minor discomfort in a few finger joints, so I don’t think I have 100% solved that problem, but it’s absolutely manageable and doesn’t interfere with my life at all.

Though it’s not a “supplement”, it’s so important to move your joints. Walking, yoga, just literally purposely moving your joints, is going to get more and more important as your body ages. The joints don’t have any way of flushing themselves out. So metabolic waste can accumulate and cause stiffness. The way our joints stay running smooth is by moving… lubricated by synovial fluid that helps keep them free of gunk. You gotta move your body, buddy.

Brain Health

I have already begun to notice changes in my brain and will do everything I can to support it as it ages. It’s really just no fun when you lose your train of thought or otherwise experience a “brain blip”. At the moment I take ginkgo biloba for my brain function and memory, and will continue to revisit it as I get older. I want to remain as high-functioning as possible for as long as possible, and that means always remembering where you put your keys.

Don’t Be Afraid Of Aging

I do believe that age is nothing but a number, but I also believe that knowledge is power. By paying attention to the signals your body is sending, you can partner up with it, and do some real good for it.

As you age, you’re going to change. It doesn’t have to be a bad thing at all, in fact so far I am finding it a lot more interesting and empowering than I thought it would be. And fascinating. Our bodies are incredible. What’s yours telling you?

*****

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Sources:

  1. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319916#_noHeaderPrefixedContent 
  2. https://www.healthline.com/health/menopause/pain#changes 

Hormone Imbalance: What To Look Out For, What It Means, And What To Do

I have said it before, and I’ll say it again: you, my friend, are a miracle. Your body is a wonderland. Though on paper we humans may appear almost identical from person to person, every one of us is a unique work of art. No two are alike.

Each of us is a special blend of flesh, bones, muscle, and organs, finished with one of a few blood types, and sprinkled with a variety of hormones, the levels of which are unique to us only, to add a final flourish… like a signature, a fingerprint.

What Are Hormones?

Hormones are chemicals that are constantly on the move throughout the body, delivering messages here and there. They can balance mood, let us know when we’re hungry, give us zits, and even help us make a baby. 

You simply would not be you without your hormones. 

The endocrine system is responsible for deploying hormones throughout the body, by way of several different glands that secrete them into the bloodstream. They drive everything from early growth and brain development, hunger and mood, to sexual function and pregnancy. 

Our hormone levels play a huge role for each of us, so it’s important to not only be aware of that simple fact, but to also understand some of the ways that an imbalance can show up, and what the signs could mean. (1)

What Do Hormones Do?

Directed by the brain, hormones travel through the bloodstream, influencing processes and orchestrating bodily functions. They affect literally every part of the body, right down to the length of your arms and legs. Hormones break your dinner down into chemical components that nourish you on a cellular level, and they even dictate what components go where.

When everything is going according to plan, you don’t notice a thing. Life is good, digestion is good, it’s all good. Your body knows exactly how much of this, and of that, to send where and when. It knows when you have too much, and when you need more. 

Your hormones could be thought of as a factory of sorts. Lots of switches, and moving parts. When everything is working, and it all works together, it’s harmony. But when something’s off, it can go downhill quickly. One little error can wreak havoc, even cause severe damage. 

Hormones act as messengers, most often to each other. But when an imbalance exists, when something is off in the factory, that message is meant for you. (2)

Signs Of Hormone Imbalance

How do you know if you have a hormone imbalance? If you suspect that you might, it’s important to get a medical professional in your corner… preferably someone who understands the endocrine system inside and out. 

Hormones sometimes tend to be looked at as a “woman’s issue”, but since we all have an endocrine system, men can and do have hormone imbalances too. Symptoms of a hormone imbalance often present differently from person to person, and from male to female. They can be severe or subtle, and affect a wide variety of bodily functions. 

Possible clues that you might have a hormone imbalance include:

  • unexplained weight changes
  • excessive sweating
  • trouble sleeping
  • sensitivity to cold and heat
  • dry skin or rashes
  • changes in blood pressure or heart rate
  • brittle or weak bones (osteoporosis)
  • changes in blood sugar 
  • irritability and anxiety
  • unexplained fatigue
  • increased thirst
  • depression
  • headaches
  • needing to go to the bathroom more or less than usual
  • bloating
  • changes in appetite
  • reduced sex drive
  • thinning, brittle hair or male pattern baldness
  • Infertility (male or female)
  • puffy face
  • blurred vision
  • a bulge in the neck
  • breast tenderness
  • deepening of the voice in females

What Does A Hormone Imbalance Mean? 

This list can seem a little scary, but if you have any of the symptoms on it, you might already be feeling a little nervous. But it’s good that you’re becoming aware, and even better that you can arm yourself with some knowledge and maybe a plan.

A hormone imbalance can mean any number of things. It could mean that you’re pregnant. It could also mean you’re now entering menopause, so there’s no way you’re pregnant. Hot flashes are typically thought of as another one of those “woman things”, but surprise! Men can get them too. Sometimes hormone imbalances are totally normal. Menstruation, menopause and pregnancy are a few times when, by definition, hormones are imbalanced. (3)

Bottom line: a hormone imbalance means that this gland is not producing enough of, or too much of, that hormone. It just means you need some balance. It’s a message from your body to you. 

What Can I Do About A Hormone Imbalance? 

First things first: understand why it is happening. There’s a breakdown somewhere in the factory. Where is the breakdown, and what is the nature of it? 

Sometimes there is nothing that needs to be done, or something very minor. For example, a headache caused by the hormonal fluctuations of your monthly cycle probably just needs some aspirin. If you’re feeling pukey in the early stages of pregnancy, well, congratulations. The system works.

It’s when the symptoms get to you, that it’s time to get to the why.

Some of the more common conditions that cause hormone imbalances are:

  • chronic stress
  • diabetes
  • hyper or hypo glycemia 
  • underactive or overactive thyroid 
  • poor diet and nutrition
  • being overweight
  • hormonal replacement or birth control medications
  • abuse of anabolic steroid medications
  • Cushing’s syndrome (high levels of the hormone cortisol)
  • Addison’s disease (low levels of cortisol and aldosterone)
  • gland injury
  • chronic infections
  • chemotherapy and radiation therapy
  • anorexia
  • exposure to toxins, pollutants, and endocrine disrupting chemicals, including pesticides and herbicides

As you can see by looking at this list, some of these things are avoidable.

So it’s really important to go straight for the “why”, and provide support for your body there.

Balance Your Hormones, Balance Your Life

Every body is different. But many issues are caused by, or made worse by, underlying conditions like obesity. For example, women of childbearing age often run up against a condition known as polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS. It is extremely common. PCOS is caused by any number of things, one of which is excess insulin. 

If the patient presenting with symptoms of PCOS is overweight, the right course of action for her would probably be a focus on weight control. A healthy weight would also stop her cells from becoming less insulin-reactive, thereby stopping another imbalance from forming down the road.

Another treatment option for PCOS is to go on hormonal contraceptives, which would be the exact wrong thing to do for someone who is trying to conceive. (5)

So, it matters if the balance is right in your own body. Suitable conditions in your own ecosystem are different than in mine, or theirs, which is wonderful. That means anything is possible, and the most important thing is to just listen. Your body is telling you what it’s going through, and what it needs. The message may not be as clear as the low grumble of hunger pangs, but it’s just as important. And with a little help, you can decipher it.

*****

Sponsor my work for just $4.99! Your monthly sponsorship allows The Changing Room to be a resource for people who are making big changes in their lives. With your donation I can make more inspiring videos, write more meaningful blogs, and learn more about self-care so I can share with you in kind. Together we can do great things, and your presence here matters. Thank you.Become a Patron!

Sources:

  1. https://medlineplus.gov/hormones.html 
  2. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/nature/etc/hormones.html 
  3. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321486 
  4. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pcos/symptoms-causes/syc-20353439 
  5. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/pcos/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20353443 

The Immune System, Autoimmune Disease, And You

What is it like to be healthy? As with many things, we can more easily answer that question when we have experience on both ends of the spectrum. Once we have had a cold or two, we can “feel it coming”. We know the signs that our immune system is fighting something off.

Our bodies are such an incredibly intricate network of moving parts, that to call it a “miracle” somehow doesn’t seem to do it justice at all. Every single thing about us, right down to the cellular level, has a purpose. Not only does it have a purpose, but it relates to some other part of you, to some other system, in some other way. This thing is not just necessary for this, it’s also necessary for that. And through these connections there’s this web, of sorts, that’s created… that web is us. The sum of all those moving parts, processes, hormones, and cells, is us. 

Though we are nearly identical in almost every way, from person to person… with genetic differences so minute as to almost be imperceptible… those nearly imperceptible differences can change the outcomes of whole processes, balances of hormones, and the health of cells. 

The way our bodies respond to pathogens, potential threats to our health, is somewhat a cut and dried process: see the threat, eliminate the threat. But the response itself, the body’s plan of attack, varies from person to person. 

Because, though even under a microscope it’s hard to see the differences between us, the way those differences manifest is actually quite great. What one body perceives as a threat, another may not at all, and still another might simply deploy a quick defense campaign and call it a day. And all of this happens with us never even noticing a thing, because our bodies are an incredible miracle, plus some.

Any of these answers to a bacterial or viral invader may be the right answer for our own unique bodies, and a healthy immune system can claim some latitude in its response, because again: Miracle. Plus some. 

But what happens when the immune system itself gives the wrong answer to the invader, offers the wrong plan of attack? What happens when your body decides on a Hail Mary play when all that’s needed here is a little hand-off? Autoimmune disease is still a huge mystery in a lot of ways, partly because of the complexity. Though almost any autoimmune disease could be put under the umbrella of “inappropriate immune system response”, it’s a lot more than that. To make matters worse, this immune response is exactly as unique as any healthy immune response. So how on Earth are you supposed to function with autoimmune disease? That’s the million-dollar question.

Autoimmune disease: fast facts

What Is The Immune System? 

The main job of the immune system is to keep you healthy and free from infection. Your immune system is constantly trolling for two sets of information: whatever irregular or unhealthy cells you have roaming your corridors, and whatever bacteria and viruses are being introduced from the environment. Unhealthy cells have certain markers about them, just like things have distinct smells. Viruses too, have a distinct “smell” about them… some of which your body has encountered before. When your immune system comes across something a little different, it decides what to do: nothing, or something.

Sometimes, it needs to do something but there isn’t enough power for some reason. The immune system is either too weak, or the threat is too great. Illness or infection is the result in that case. Other times, it doesn’t need to do anything but it does anyway. Allergic reactions, sneezing fits, are an immune overreaction we’re all familiar with. Autoimmune disease is another example of this unnecessary overreaction.

What Is Autoimmune Disease? 

An “unnecessary immune reaction” is probably the closest one can get to describing and encompassing all the autoimmune diseases out there. The immune system is attacking healthy tissue… it is seeing its own self as a threat… but how it goes about attacking is totally unique and can manifest in any number of disorders: rheumatoid arthritis, type I diabetes, psoriasis, alopecia, lupus, thyroid disease, Addison’s disease, pernicious anemia, celiac disease, multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis, Guillain-Barre syndrome — these are just a few of them. Other strong suspects are chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia.

Autoimmune Disease And Women 

Approximately 80% of all autoimmune disease diagnoses are women, with many of the disorders manifesting during times of great physical stress or hormonal imbalance, such as pregnancy. While the exact mechanism that causes autoimmune disorders to be so prevalent in women is still unknown, it seems to come down to that one little extra “X”. 

Essentially, most humans are born with 23 pairs of chromosomes, and the only differentiating factor between males and females is the sex chromosomes. Females possess XX, males have XY. The X chromosomes are bigger and are packed with up to 60 different genes coded for all kinds of things including immune functions. Because women have 2 X chromosomes, they have double the chances of improper gene mutations, and since a lot of those genes involve immune function, the issue(s) from improper gene mutation stand a greater chance of manifesting around immune response and function.

How (And Why) The Immune System Attacks Itself 

Obviously, there is a clear connection between genetics and autoimmune disease, but in spite of this, a large part that’s missing is the “how”, and a bit of the “why” too. For example, there is no clear indication that a person will end up with lupus just because their aunt has it. In fact, that person can even test positive for markers of lupus, and still not have any manifestations of the illness. It seems the old adage is true here in some way: “genetics loads the gun but environment pulls the trigger.”

But why?

Apart from the clear genetic connection, which is not actually all that clear, researchers have been able to pinpoint that some autoimmune diseases manifest after fighting a tough infection. And since we know that autoimmune disease is basically just our body attacking its own self, the question arises of whether, in some cases, the body’s just tired. It’s done fighting, running on fumes. This can happen after a viral infection or a host of other events.

For example, after a serious bout with strep throat, it’s fairly common for people to develop psoriasis. This is an autoimmune disorder that manifests as rough patches of dry, scaly skin. Scleroderma, which affects the skin and connective tissue, is common in areas where the body has fought (and won) against cancer. The theory is the scleroderma is the body’s way of fighting residual inflammation.

So, how do we create the right environment for autoimmune disease NOT to flourish, for that trigger not to be pulled?

Prevention Of Autoimmune Disease 

Well, back to what a complete and utter miracle our bodies are, not only are we running on what amount to complex networks, relays passing cellular batons from process to process, but some of those cells can act… choose… what the situation calls for: an inflammatory response or an INflammatory response. CD8+ T effectors are one such incredible little cell. These t-cells can promote or prevent autoimmune disease through their ability to act as suppressor cells, or as cytotoxic effectors.

CD8+ effectors may promote disease when they begin to secrete inflammatory cytokines, or when they cause apoptosis (destruction) of cells at inappropriate times. Apoptosis is a natural part of the life cycle of a cell, but one of the neat things about it is that the cell “decides” when it’s time to die. CD8+ effectors that “aren’t right in the head”, will induce apoptosis when the time isn’t right.

The flip side is that CD8+ effectors can (and should) work to discourage autoimmune disease through their own natural elimination of self-reactive cells, and self-antigen sources. A bit like trimming one’s hair, a healthy cell will know when it needs to take a little off the top. Perhaps it is too reactive, and it’s being too inflammatory. Our incredible cells, many of them… not just these CD8+ t-cells… possess enough “consciousness” to know when they are harming the greater good, and to die off instead of cause more harm.

CD4+ T regulatory cells (Tregs) have been described as the most potent immunosuppressive cells in the human body. Though the what/why/how of understanding and preventing autoimmune disorders is still in the future somewhere, it’s clear that regulatory t-cells play a role. 

They seem to be a promising tool for the future treatment of, and ultimately the cure for, autoimmune diseases of all stripes. No matter what the impetus, whether a virus or something much more sinister, it’s wonderful to think that total understanding (and therefore a solid, meaningful cure) is somewhere on the not-too-distant horizon. And that we likely already know the root: t-cells.

Living With Autoimmune Disease 

The picture around autoimmune disease seems bleak, but I think part of the reason why, is that “autoimmune disease” is a huge umbrella to stuff a whole lot of things under. And because there are so many disorders, which present with such a wide variety of conditions, there isn’t any way to speak to (for example) both lupus and multiple sclerosis in any other way apart from high level. They’re too different. They are both autoimmune diseases, but that’s the extent of many of their similarities. 

If you break them apart and look at their numbers individually, MS and lupus patient numbers pale in comparison to, say, heart disease patients. 

As of 2018, 30.3 million U.S. adults were diagnosed with heart disease. Multiple sclerosis affects about 400,000. Lupus is estimated to affect around 1.5 million Americans. When looking at it this way, it’s easy to understand the urgency of helping 30 million people over 2 million. But those 400,000 people with MS and the 1.5 million with lupus are experiencing real and sometimes devastating effects from their diseases. They matter too. 

Further, when you add up all the people under the “autoimmune disease umbrella”, the numbers become staggering. Estimates range from 24 million to more than 50 million Americans affected by some form of autoimmune disease. The National Institute of Health put out some research in early 2020, suggesting that autoimmune diseases are on the rise, thanks to the prevalence of a particular biomarker for autoimmunity. “The reasons for the increases in ANA are not clear, but they are concerning and may suggest a possible increase in future autoimmune disease,” said corresponding and senior author Frederick Miller, M.D., Ph.D., deputy chief of the Clinical Research Branch at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of NIH.

Things You Can Do To Improve The Immune System And Prevent Autoimmune Disease 

In a perfect world, it all just runs well. We are miracles, plus some. Threats to our immune system come and go, but everything is working as it should to ensure the right response to the right things in the right place at the right time. But we know that there are, literally, billions of ways that things can go wrong. Every cell has to do the job it was created to do… think about that for a moment. Every single individual cell in your body, billions of them, have a purpose. Brilliantly, incredibly, they “know” their purpose. They are aware of their job, and they do it. In a perfect world, no one ever strays. But sometimes cells do. They choose a different path, they don’t do their job, don’t fulfill their purpose. The fact that a cell doesn’t go through apoptosis at the prescribed time, suggests a consciousness that is hard to ignore. To me it’s almost like a cry for help, a body’s way of getting your attention.

Something about the environment the cell is living in, is causing discontent.

Diet For Immune Health

Though the treatment of a particular autoimmune disease will look different depending on the ailment and the individual, there is no denying that a healthy diet is one key to a healthy everything. A plant-based diet is much easier on our bodies and is anti-inflammatory, while a diet that is heavy on animal products is exactly the opposite. Sugars and processed foods are not things our bodies recognize as fuel for them, so we can expect to feel malnourished when our diet is heavy on those things. Headaches, body aches, poor sleep, you-name-it can result from a poor diet. 

This isn’t to say you can never have your cake and eat it too. You actually can, especially if it’s good for your soul, and you really believe that it is. A fascinating study from 2013 looked at dieters, guilt, and traditionally “forbidden” foods, and found that dieters who felt no guilt around treating themselves to a piece of cake, also didn’t experience the wild swings in blood sugar and other physical effects that the “guilty dieters” exhibited. The point? Eat well, always, and treat yourself well too. Your body is listening to what you think about the things you do.

While it can’t necessarily prevent an autoimmune disease, a healthy diet that is appropriate for your body will certainly help make living with it easier. Why make it harder on your body than it has to be? Why make it fight off your lunch when you can love your body every time you sit down at the table? Our bodies are listening, all the time. When you send goodness in, magic is made. Garbage in, garbage out is another way that one can go. It doesn’t seem like it matters, but how you fuel your body matters a whole lot.

Speaking of garbage in garbage out, these days there is a lot of study coming out around glyphosate (the most widely used pesticide worldwide), and the role it plays in the development of autoimmune disease. It’s not looking good at all… in fact, in July of 2020, New York State banned the use of glyphosate on state land. That should say a lot.

Meditation For Immune Health

Not only is your body listening all the time, but so is your brain. Your brain, like your body, is incredibly plastic… malleable. And you are the Captain of the whole ship. You can build your brain with meditation in the same way you build your body through diet and exercise. Meditation, in a nutshell, is simply training your brain to focus on a specific thing. Guided imagery, repeating mantras, walking a labyrinth: these are varying examples of meditation. It doesn’t have to involve sitting on a cushion and chanting “Om”, although it could. Meditation is watching your thoughts, and bringing them back to the intention at hand, when they wander. 

How and why would meditation matter for your immune health?

Because every cell in your body is listening. It hears your thoughts and it knows your deepest fears. It knows if you believe the cake is bad for you, that you’re “cheating” and should be punished. And if you keep focusing on those things, you’ll end up making them happen on some level. It’s the law of attraction, and you are one powerful being, baby. So train your brain on goodness. Train it in the direction of love… love for you and your body and the whole crazy toxic mess of an environment we live in. Love it all. 

Bodywork & Exercise For Immune Health

I put bodywork and exercise together in one category because to me in a lot of regards they are one and the same. Yoga and Pilates are typically thought of as “bodywork”, alongside massage and acupuncture, etc. Exercise is often thought of as hitting the gym, lifting weights, going for a run, or a fitness walk, and that’s all true too. 

But these days I’m coming to think of everything as bodywork. It’s all fine-tuning my own body, and sometimes that looks like a yoga practice three times a week but a 6-mile fitness walk every single day, for a while, until my back is tired and I realize I need to pump up my Pilates routine again. To me it’s all a balance, and some days I have a lot of energy while other days I don’t. I think it’s important to honor it all, and if you can honestly say “today I just need to book a massage and drink some tea”, then that’s the bodywork for you today. That’s you having an honest conversation with your body… your cells… the ones that never stop listening to what your thoughts and energy are doing.

I used to work with a private yoga client who had MS. As is often the case with MS patients, he experienced tremors in his legs. They would get really bad as soon as he bent his legs, which you pretty much have to do if you want to strengthen them, so he was in this awful downward spiral of losing strength but not being able to build any because of the tremors that would start up as soon as he tried to do any exercise. So I did a little research and figured out that the signals, which were already having trouble making it from his brain to his feet, would not/could not make it when the signal was further hindered by bending the knees. By placing a block between his thighs and having him focus on grounding the feet and adduction of the legs, we were able to turn the tide on the downward spiral and build some strength and muscular intelligence, and memory back into those fabulous gams of his. 

That was his work, his exercise and his bodywork. For his more able-bodied husband, to keep him challenged as we all worked together, we changed his relationship to gravity and just made him do the same blockwork in a plank position, thereby ratcheting up the intensity without changing much of anything. And that became his bodywork: the mission specific to his particular body.

Just as it’s important to honor your ever-listening body with a quality diet and a relationship with your brain, it’s important to honor it with bodywork that actually matters to it. We don’t train a puppy by beating it with a newspaper. We train them with love, and with firm correction where it matters. Ask your body what it needs, and it will tell you.

Rest & Relaxation For Immune Health

There is nothing like a good night’s sleep, am I right? When it comes to keeping yourself healthy, quality rest is huge. This too, like diet, bodywork, and even meditation, is a personal thing. Most humans need somewhere between 7 and 9 hours of sleep every night, and the more regular the hours you keep, the better. 

Contrary to what some have suggested, you can’t “bank” sleep. If you don’t get enough, you start showing signs. The longer it goes on, the stronger the signs get. In fact, even if you got a great night of sleep, your brain will start showing signs of fatigue after you have been awake for more than 12 hours. 

So, it’s crucial to get good sleep. 

But it’s also important to just chill out, man. You don’t have to be “doing something” every moment that you’re awake. It’s OK to just take a break and enjoy the scenery, close your eyes and bask in the sun, or just have a quick chat with your neighbor. It feels good, and it’s good for you too.

Improving The Pain And Fatigue That Comes With Autoimmune Disease

We’ve talked about supporting your immune system and good health through all the basic ways that we know the proper care and feeding of a human to be. And you’re doing all of that, but still living with an autoimmune disorder. What else is there to be done? 

It’s time for personalization, targeted therapies that mean something to you individually: the person living with this particular thing, whatever it happens to be.

As discussed, there could be upwards of 50 million Americans living with some kind of autoimmune disease. That is a lot of people, a lot of symptoms, and frankly, a lot of mystery. There’s no such thing as an autoimmunity specialist, and with the wide variety of ways that a wide variety of disorders can manifest, it’s just hard to wrangle no matter how you look at it. 

We can do all the right things diet, exercise, and brain-wise, but if there are symptoms, there are symptoms… and those should involve their own unique set of protocols, specific to the person. For example perhaps there is muscle soreness… stretching might be one way to alleviate that, or massage might be another. Adding a supplement to your diet could be an option. What about Thai massage? Or learning how to use a foam roller?

Some autoimmune diseases have symptoms that present all throughout the body, and for those in particular, a multi-pronged approach is likely the best and most approachable course of action. I’m thinking of how we have a gut microbiome and an oral microbiome too. We have two different “sets” of microbes, with totally different constitutions, and to compound things further, the microbes in the front of your mouth (for example) are not the same as in the back of your mouth. The bugs at the top of your digestive tract are not the same as in your colon. My point is that just because you are encased in this one body, does not mean even remotely that your various parts are composed of the same thing(s). Remember, you are a miracle, plus some. Your big toe possesses a whole different kind of magic than your guts or your brain. So to my mind they need to be addressed differently.

In the past when researchers and doctors were learning about autoimmune diseases and exploring ways to combat them, bone marrow transplants became a hot topic. At first blush it makes a lot of sense: since those t-cells all get their start in the bone marrow, the idea was to flush that… give it a whole new start, and hopefully the immune system would do better with it the second time around. 

This isn’t what ultimately happened though. Similar to how a blood transfusion, replacing your own blood with that of another, doesn’t actually change your DNA, marrow transplants don’t do that either. Neither do organ transplants. It’s incredible, but sad too. It would be so great if it were that easy. And it seems like it should be. But our own DNA, in spite of being so changeable, eclipses whatever DNA you introduce. 

What is the ultimate answer going to be?

The Future Of Immune Disease And Immunotherapy

Down the road, it seems likely that gene therapy is going to be a key factor in wrangling autoimmune diseases. As we understand it now, genes are at the root of the issue, so it makes sense to head this direction. In the future, CRISPR gene editing technology may be a real boon for some people. Can you imagine just being able to edit that debilitating pain with a shot or two?

Currently, there are studies which show a lot of promise around the therapeutic potential of regulatory t-cells… that’s introducing healthy t-cells at regular intervals to help a patient’s body get some traction on the disease.

As you are no doubt aware, these days the fields of science and technology are practically moving at the speed of light, so it’s only a matter of time before the healing science is truly understood and can be applied. Until then, it’s important to remember that spark of magic that we really are. There is a balance to be found in each of us, and I think one of the keys to finding it is addressing that uniqueness. 

Identifying what your unique body, and physical makeup, require in this moment to find balance. 

With autoimmune diseases, it seems that science may eventually take care of the what, why, and how… maybe we are best served by really getting into the who… the one in need of healing… the immune system that requires protecting, and how to nourish and support that.

*****

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Sources:

What is the immune system?

https://www.niaid.nih.gov/research/immune-system-overview

Autoimmune diseases

Symptoms of autoimmune disease

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/what-are-common-symptoms-of-autoimmune-disease
https://www.webmd.com/rheumatoid-arthritis/default.htm

https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/type-1-diabetes-guide/default.htm

https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/psoriasis/default.htm

https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/guide/alopecia-areata

https://www.webmd.com/lupus/default.htm

https://www.webmd.com/women/picture-of-the-thyroid

https://www.webmd.com/digestive-disorders/celiac-disease/default.htm

https://www.webmd.com/multiple-sclerosis/default.htm

Heavy suspects but not confirmed:

https://www.webmd.com/chronic-fatigue-syndrome/default.htm

https://www.webmd.com/fibromyalgia/default.htm

Autoimmune disease and women

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3328995/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7292717/

How (and why) the immune system attacks itself

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/autoimmune-disease-why-is-my-immune-system-attacking-itself

Prevention of autoimmune disease

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0896841113000784

New York bans glyphosate https://childrenshealthdefense.org/defender/new-york-state-bans-roundup-weedkiller-state-land/ 

CD8+ T Cells

T-cells and autoimmune inflammation https://arthritis-research.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/ar1703 

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10837060/

Living with autoimmune disease

https://www.webmd.com/women/features/life-with-autoimmune-disease

https://www.healthline.com/health/heart-disease/statistics#:~:text=As%20of%202018%2C%2030.3%20million,out%20of%20every%204%20deaths%20.

https://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/autoimmunity-may-be-rising-united-states

Cake study: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24275670/ 

Improving the pain and fatigue that come with these diseases

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6691096/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4593220/

The future of immune disease and immunotherapy

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31104510/

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25881491/

Melting Wax Meditation

Today I used my brain to intentionally calm my body and it was pretty cool.
There is a meditation practice you can do where basically you just envision parts of your body as melting wax… thereby eliciting a calming reaction throughout your muscles.

I had an appointment today for a pedicure and leg massage; I try to do them as regularly as possible because the tension I hold in my muscles is no joke, to the point that over the last TWO YEARS I have never had an appointment that didn’t result in some kind of painful (and also embarrassing) muscle cramp… like the kind that makes toes go in unnatural directions.

Two years. But about a year ago I started getting into meditation, and I had long ago noticed that the muscle cramps definitely have a mental component that’s tough to explain.

Anyway today I decided to use that technique, and though it took all my baby meditating brain powers, I not only experienced no muscle cramps, but I had a different experience totally, because the meditative state took away the anxiety about the cramps.

Couldn’t do math afterward, but that’s a different thing.

Today I was able to see tangible results from my work, and I proved to myself that we are 100% programmable (ie we can take charge of our programming, for real) and that’s really neato.

I think it’s so neato, in fact, that I recorded the meditation I used today, for you. Honestly it’s not just neat though. It’s important work. Here’s to waxin’ and relaxin’.

Melting Wax Meditation – 10 minutes

*****

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Square Breath: How To Do It, Plus A Quick 6-Minute Practice

“You are the magic thing that makes me breathe. I. NEVER. BREATHE. when I do it is in the wrong direction. After an hour or so with you I at least got a good 5 mins of deep clean breaths.”

That was a chat message from a dear friend of mine, and a regular at the Tuesday stretch class. (Shameless plug: register here) This message was so profound to me because it’s one of the simple ways a teacher can help you, be of value… just to remind you to breathe…

Just Plain Yoga

I’ll never forget being on my way to teach my very first public yoga class back in early 2008, just dying of nerves, and running into my teacher who I really admired. I told her I was freaking out and she told me to “teach them about everything in yoga that’s not exercise”. This couldn’t have been better advice for me, and she must have known this on some level, having been a newbie herself at some point. We get so caught up in making sure you get a “good workout”, so you can “feel like you did something” so you’ll come back to our class. 

But if people just wanted to “feel like they did something”, that’s what literally every single other square foot of the gym is for. 

So, give them all the other stuff. It makes so much sense.

I haven’t ever forgotten that, though I don’t always give myself a well-rounded practice either. (Do as I say, not as I do… as they say.) One time I hired that same teacher for a private session; I was just feeling uninspired and needed a shot of her energy. During our time together she commented on how I had obviously been teaching a lot because I had gotten really good at holding a pose and not breathing. And, true to form, our session was mostly about breathing, but I still got a killer workout.

… because the workout part is built right in. It’s all the other stuff that makes it not exercise. 

So I love it when someone comments on the “not exercise” parts. That’s the yoga. Or in this case, the Pranayama… the breath work. That’s the stuff we need, that’s really why we come here.

Square Breath – A Quick Practice

I want you to have a chance to experience the “not exercise” too, so I made an audio tutorial of Samavrtti, or Square Breath (sometimes called Box Breath). The beauty of it is that you can do it anywhere, any time, in any outfit at all. Because it’s not even exercise, but I promise you’ll feel like you did something.

Got 6 minutes to breathe with me? Click here.

*****

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How To Work Out, Eat Right & Love Yourself, At Any Age

As you’re probably already aware, our bodies change as we age. If you’re still in your 20s and relatively healthy, the concept of your body changing may be a little abstract for you right now – a distant thing. Whereas if you’re in your 40s like me, you are not just “probably” aware of the changes… you are definitely, acutely, aware. OMG so aware. For example, you now know that it is possible to wake up from a great night’s sleep with a tweaked neck. And if you’re in your 50s and beyond, you may be laughing as you read this, thinking “just you wait, young’n”.

Our bodies, our selves

As we age, and our bodies change, our nutritional needs change too. And as you might be thinking, it’s all connected of course. The better you care for and fuel your body, the easier it is likely to weather the aging process, including whatever randomness that your own unique life throws at it. Generally speaking, the proper care and feeding of a human at 23 years of age is different than that of a 43 year old. That’s true for how we exercise and how we nurture ourselves too. While a bubble bath might sound amazing to a 43 year old, a foam party might be more like what a 23 year old would consider “amazing”. 

And what of the 23 year old who has already had a major life event, like a hysterectomy or cancer? The proper care for that body, and the soul who resides there, will be completely different. 

Aging isn’t something we can escape, and while the 24 year old me would throw a fit when faced with this knowledge, honestly the 45 year old me is not too concerned anymore. Not in the way I used to be, anyway. Where the 24 year old me was occupied with trying to find her groove in life, afraid of even turning 30, and the 37 year old me was less concerned with turning 40 than she was with these crow’s feet (what the hell), the 45 year old me is in better shape mentally and physically than ever before. I figured out some things for myself, and I’m hoping this guide can help you move the needle in a favorable direction for you too.

Of course the approach to feeling great, no matter what your age, is multi-pronged. It’s diet and exercise, the quality of your environment, mental clarity, your thoughts and what they are comprised of. Feeling great is partly your social circle, and it’s your online connections too. If you spend most of your time thinking thoughts like “man I’m really looking forward to…” or “wow, this meal is delicious”, then your approach to feeling great is probably working for you. 

If on the other hand you are often feeling stretched too thin, or dissatisfied with that to-go meal you didn’t want anyway, it might be time for you to take some power back. Take a closer look at your habits… what you eat, where you eat it and even how you eat it… the people you hang out with… the quality of your thoughts and the inspiration you find in life. Then assess, honestly, how you feel. How does your body feel with these habits you have created? And your heart, your soul? Is there a song in there, or is it stormy a lot of the time? There aren’t right or wrong answers to these questions, there is only you. Only how you feel inside your body, your mind, and your life that matters. And whatever the path is to get to where you’re going next, is what this business is all about.

Food Is Fuel

Your body takes what you give it, and makes magic with it. It converts that salad into energy for your body to burn, nutrients to shore up your health. Your body breaks down each chemical component of this tomato and that avocado, and it distributes it to the parts of your body that need it. Tired muscles are restored with the bromelain from the pineapple on your Hawaiian burger, It nourishes your brain with the omega-3 fatty acids found in the salmon, and uses the fiber from the bun to facilitate smooth digestion. Your body attempts to utilize every single bit of nourishment you stuff into that gorgeous face of yours, and that’s why you want to give it mostly good stuff. It doesn’t know what to do with soda and Funyons. Unfortunately they don’t speak your body’s language.

Yes, soda and Funyons are bad for anyone, no matter what their age is. But just as these things DON’T speak your body’s language, there are certain foods that your body will absolutely groove to. And depending on what stage of life you’re in, you can fuel your sweet self with foods that are loaded with specifically-good-for-you stuff. Which is pretty cool. Good for you in your 20s is different than good for you in your 40s. So we’re looking at some ways that your body evolves through the decades, and how you can compliment those moves with purposeful choices in diet, exercise, and self-care. 

It’s worth noting that your journey through life is not like mine, or his, or anyone else’s. I have friends who had hysterectomies in their 30s. Cancer, in their 20s. I’m in my 40s now and have never given birth. So my body isn’t the same as my high school friend(s) who have had kids. Though we are the same age chronologically, in reality our bodies are at different places in life. Which is 100% OK. I mention this because I have knowledge about self-care, which I love to share, but my overarching message is always that you are in charge of your body… what you put into it, what you take out of it, what feels good and what doesn’t. I’m not you. And the best way each of us can love ourselves, is by acknowledging where we are in life, what we are working with now, and supporting ourselves with wellness practices that suit our bodies, and nutrition that does the same. 

Just like you would never eat something you’re allergic to just because someone told you to, this guide is just that: a guide. It’s full of ideas, and ways you can live your best life at any age, but it’s always your call. This is your journey, I’m just here walking alongside you for a while. And while I’m on the topic, thanks for having me.

The Roaring 20s

For many of us, our 20s are all about clubs, cocktails, and careers. We’re learning how to be adults, taking on more responsibilities, and yet we can (and sometimes do!) party all night long. For many people, this decade means discovering boundaries, how to live true to our own morals… just generally growing up. 

Though you are a full-fledged adult at this point (you have the credit cards to prove it), your body is actually not quite done yet. You’re not fully cooked. It’s a well-documented fact that our brains aren’t completely developed until age 25, which means that honestly no part of you is fully formed yet. This is one reason that building healthy habits is crucial right now. Getting great nutrition and quality rest should be at the top of any twenty-somethings to-do list. 

I know, I know. Boring. 

Well, go on and mix a rave or two in there. See if I care.

But really, we all know it’s important to have a nice balance in life. Work and play, effort and ease, these concepts are running themes for most of us. The foundation you set in your 20s can be a pattern that serves you well throughout your life. And when you take great care of yourself when you’re still young and fresh, that will serve you well as time slides into your 30s and beyond. 

Important nutrients for the 20-something body 

Now is the time you are laying the groundwork for the rest of your life. You’re learning how to work with your body; how to keep it fueled, how to rest it, and how to work it out. In a perfect world, your health is strong and your energy is high. You can stay up all night and still function the next day. Junk food doesn’t really cause any major issues. Enjoy this time! Make a serious push toward developing healthy habits and keeping your strength up. Learning how to work with your body also means appreciating it… loving it. Value your vivaciousness, I mean it. I really wish I had. 

High quality sources of protein are so important for the 20 something body. Salmon and beans are two perfect options. If you eat meat, a steak is great here and there, but if you have a meat-heavy diet it’s not likely to help you age well. Diets that are heavy on the red meat tend to invite heart problems later in life. Does heart disease run in your family? What other kinds of health issues have your family members experienced? Building a diet that will counter these potential health issues down the road, will serve you well.

Nuts and seeds are another great thing for our bodies to consume a lot of. In your 20s these things can really help to put the final touches on the masterpiece that is you, as your body wraps up production. Skip the rice and go for quinoa whenever possible… it happens to have all nine essential amino acids, making it a perfect choice to get in the habit of eating. Almonds, pistachios, walnuts, and sunflower seeds are all great options. Sometimes our food looks like the body part it nourishes best, and walnuts, which happen to look like little brains, are great for that still-forming motherboard of yours.

Calcium-rich foods are another thing to build into your eating habits. Calcium is necessary in your 20s as you’re still building up, and it serves you well to keep it in your diet as you get older because your bones will want to deteriorate as you age. Spinach is packed with good-for-you stuff, including a lot of calcium, and kale is another great one. Of course you can get calcium from dairy, but that may not be something your body (or your soul) wants. So calcium is available to you in non-animal sources. 

This is really sad, but collagen production starts to decline at about age 25, right about the time you’re all done growing up. Collagen is the main structural protein found in healthy, youthful, hair, skin, and nails. You probably won’t notice anything until you are closer to 40, but this is another reason that taking good care of yourself (and your skin) will pay dividends later. Bone broth, chicken and egg whites are all great choices for facilitating collagen production. If you’re meat-free then you’ll be pleased to know that citrus fruits and berries, particularly red ones, are also great choices for supporting your body in making collagen.

In general, what you need a lot of in your 20s is foods that are nutritionally dense. Foods that build strong healthy bodies because every component of them is valuable in nurturing our health. The opposite of “nutritionally dense foods” would be heavily processed junk food, fried foods, and the like. Generally speaking, if you stick to the outside edges of the grocery store, you’ll be in “real food” territory. High quality veggies and sources of protein are what your body really needs, and by treating it right, you’re setting yourself up for a long and happy life in a healthy, happy body.

Supplements to consider in your 20s

If your diet is well-balanced, it’s unlikely that you need to supplement it at this stage of your life. With that said, there is also a decent chance that you are in fact deficient in one or more areas. Take vitamin D for example. Your body makes it by itself, thanks to a reaction that happens in your skin when the sun touches it. But if you live at a higher latitude, you may hardly see the sun at all (particularly in the wintertime), let alone feel its warm embrace. 

When in his 20s, a friend of mine got a complete workup from a physician. This was a perk of working where he did; an in-depth assessment of his blood, vital statistics, family history, the whole enchilada. He literally has a manual for himself, and I know he has found it important in his own journey through life. The workup revealed a vitamin D deficiency (unsurprising given that he lives in Seattle), so he has taken a supplement for the last 20 years, and will presumably continue doing so.  

So, true though it may be that one’s diet can theoretically furnish all the nourishment we need, as always, we have to take our unique life and habits into account. Perhaps you could benefit from vitamin D supplementation, or something else.

How To Exercise You, Love You, And Care For You In Your 20s

Run, fly and be free! Just as with your diet, setting good habits that will age well, will help you age well too. This means exercise, and self-care too. 

At this point it’s unlikely that you have a lot of physical issues weighing you down. So where exercise is concerned, it’s a really great time in life to try a lot of things and figure out what you like to do. Running, swimming, and biking are great options, but with those young and bouncy knees of yours, perhaps volleyball or squash may be fun. What about pole dancing? Or Crossfit? Maybe you want to love yoga, but it’s just too boring or slow for you… acro yoga may help alleviate that if you’re into partner work, or aerial yoga is a fun option if you like to defy gravity.

In your 20s, you’re learning what makes you tick as a person. How you like to spend your time, what your talents are, and who you want to be in this world. How do you want to contribute in this life? This world needs the light that only you can give it… what is that light, and how do you shine it? You may be finishing college, or perhaps you are trying to decide if college or a trade school is the best option for you. Look in your heart. 

Looking back, I see now that our 20s are a time of becoming our own person, sure, but it’s also about becoming your own friend too. Get really interested in you, and how you can be supported… by you.

Get clear on your personal boundaries. Learn to listen to your gut… notice when things don’t feel right, and don’t apologize for taking action to correct that feeling. 

Oh, and stop calling them dreams. They’re plans. You’re taking the steps to realize your plans. You are becoming you, and it looks really good on you by the way.

Your 30s: Extreme Adulting

It’s an interesting time, your 30s. Where your 20s had you focused on yourself… what you want to do, who you want to be, where you want to go… the 30s are a little more “bigger picture”. It’s about building on the career you started, or having children, or buying a house. Whatever it’s about for you, one thing is for sure: it’s a lot of adulting. It can be stressful, and you may be feeling some effects of stress. It’s important that you expand upon that friendship you began building with yourself in your 20s, and if that’s not something you have had an opportunity to do yet, start now. Right now, wrap your arms around yourself and give yourself a hug. I’ll wait. I’m serious.

Your body is going to change a lot in this decade. Having children will absolutely change everything about you as a human being, and the skinsuit you’re living in too. Your body is not going to be the same. Working with that, and accepting it as a new reality can be hard. Self-love is so important here, Mama. 

Even if you don’t give birth, your body is going to change a lot in its 30s. That’s just a fact. Statistically speaking, the largest jump in weight over the average lifespan, takes place in the late 20s and early 30s. Plus, aging is already beginning to take place on a cellular level. What’s not helping? The late nights clubbing, the 2am Taco Bell runs, early morning alarms for work, that annoying commute every dang day, defending your dissertation, passing the bar exam, whatever stress your body and mind experienced in your 20s will try to catch up with you as you cruise into your 30s. There is a very real physical and emotional impact from stress, and it’s important to honor the role it plays in your life, because it’s not going to get any easier. In fact, life is going to continue throwing curveballs your way, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be a struggle. You can do this. Believe you can. Be on your own side.

Important nutrients for the right stuff?

This decade of important changes will require a lot from you. Just as a solid friendship with yourself is going to become more and more useful, a solid diet is becoming more and more important. If your diet doesn’t already look Funyon-free, now is the time to clean it up. It’s never too late. All of the foods mentioned above are things you should keep in your diet, and in your 30s it’s time to expand into foods that repair and prepare… that help undo the damage from late nights clubbing, and prepare you for the impact of late nights nursing, or meeting deadlines, or general adulting.

Your body wants antioxidants, like those found in brightly colored fruits and vegetables. The brighter the color, the more nutrients your body can glean from it. Berries are a wonderful source of antioxidants, and are pretty wonderful sprinkled on a big bed of greens. Your friendly neighborhood fatty fish is even better for you now than it was in your 20s. Salmon has what your heart and brain are craving: omega 3 fatty acids, quality protein, and selenium, a mineral that your body needs to function properly. Selenium plays a critical role in your healthy metabolism and thyroid function, and helps protect against damage caused by oxidative stress.

It’s important to be sure your 30 something body is getting enough vitamin E, which, if you’re following a relatively healthy diet you likely already are. Beet greens and collard greens are two foods that you can add to the spinach you’re already eating. Nuts may already be a part of your diet but peanuts (and peanut butter) have a little more oomph in the vitamin E department. Thanks to their bright red color, we already know that red bell peppers are good to eat on the regular, but this bright veggie also has vitamin E, making it a multi-tasker you can munch for lunch. 

If you are planning on doing some babymaking in your 30s, women need lots of folic acid and iron. The spinach, other leafy greens and salmon you’re already eating are great to keep in your diet. The citrus fruits you already added for the antioxidants are helpful for you too, but oranges in particular are a good choice. This is true for men who are preparing to conceive as well. Dark chocolate is another great one for men, and so are oysters and pumpkin seeds. These two foods are loaded with zinc, which may increase sperm count and motility

Supplement your sweet self

Not only might the shape of your body change in your 30s, but what’s going on inside is also changing. Specifically I’m referring to hormonal changes. Men and women all have them, and cortisol is the one that’s tied to stress. Too much cortisol can lead to too much fat around your midsection.

If you have had a baby, your hormone levels are definitely not the same as they were before your pregnancy. 

Can diet help regulate hormones? Absolutely! Can diet affect hormone production, or the effectiveness of them? Also a hearty “yes”. If you know that your diet is solid, filled with the good for you foods that we have been talking about… and you’re still experiencing lethargy, unexplained weight gain, or brain fog, it may be time to look at hormone levels. Your body is doing a lot in these years, no doubt, but that doesn’t mean you should feel wiped out or depleted. These are signals your body is trying to send to you. If this is happening, talk to a healthcare professional.

B vitamins, calcium, and vitamin D are all important for your 30 something body, as is collagen. Your body has begun winding down production of that essential protein, but it’s a building block for strong muscles, bones, joints, and ligaments. It’s also important for healthy hair, skin and nails. So lots of berries, the redder the better, and bone broth is another option that many people swear by.

How To Exercise You, Love You, And Care For You In Your 30s

Take those healthy habits you’ve been cultivating and build on them even more. For a lot of people their 30s are a time of stepping out of the role of #1 in their own lives. They are having children, getting married, and sometimes losing track of themselves in the process. 

Focus on asking yourself at least once a day, what you require in this moment. Then do what needs to be done, even if it’s just staring at a wall for 5 minutes.

Building exercise into your daily routine, like walking the kids to school or doing a workout in the park while the little one plays, might be more realistic in your 30s than a gym membership. On the other hand, the thing you’re going to need the most in this time is probably balance, and to maintain a grip on yourself, a relationship with yourself. So maybe the best thing you can do is get a gym membership and set aside the time. 

You do you. I think the most important thing is exactly that: in the midst of making babies and bonuses, and climbing corporate ladders and shattering glass ceilings, remember who you are. Remember those habits you set in your 20s. Or should have set in your 20s. Revisit them, and keep revisiting them. Or build them now. Keep doing what feels right to you in the quiet moments when you’re alone… keep listening to your gut. 

40 Is The New 20.

Your 40s are a special time. Perhaps you have been raising a family, or building a career… maybe you’re even doing both. Whatever you’ve been up to, something magical happens after 40. You definitely arrive at some conclusions for yourself and the way you want to live. Maybe you’ve had enough. Maybe you’re just getting started. 

Whatever conclusions you have come to, congratulations. You may have been a fully-formed adult since you were 25, but many of us don’t really feel strong and capable, like we’re really driving this thing, until right about now. So it’s important to make the most of this decade.

While your brain has been stepping into its executive role and really coming into its own, you may have started to notice that you are more sore after workouts, or that you don’t heal quickly from that bizarre neck tweak that you manage to give yourself on a weekly basis. While sleeping.

You may also notice things like mental clarity and physical energy levels waning… As you learned in your 30s, it may be hormonal or it may simply be diet. It’s important for your still-young body to stay active, and for you to stay (or become) engaged with your health, so you’re more aware of abnormalities. Periodic aches and pains are one thing, but chronic discomfort is not a part of growing older. Again: these are signals. The more you can tune into your body and what it’s telling you, the more every part of you will benefit as you age.

Fuel your powerhouse so you can really thrive

In your 40s, all the same healthy-eating rules apply. And because your diet is already packed with goodness, it’s a great time to give your body some direct support. Fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi are a great addition to your diet at any age. But these are known to help aid digestion and balance your gut health, both of which can be a challenge in your 40s. 

Thanks to the huge bang for their caloric buck, superfoods are a fun thing to add to your diet. Though there are no standard criteria or legal definitions for “superfoods”, they all have a high volume of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and general goodness that your body wants, but not a lot of calories. Chia seeds (yup… those ones: ch-ch-ch chia!) have a ton of fiber, omega 3s if you’re sick of salmon by now, and antioxidants too, yet they only have 138 calories per ounce. By weight, chia seeds are 6% water, 46% carbohydrates (of which 83% is fiber), 34% fat (mostly omega 3s), and 19% protein. Chia seeds are an eensy weensy powerhouse of nutrition, and can be added to almost anything… even water.

Though you’re already eating lots of veggies, look to cruciferous veggies to support heart health. Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, bok choy, and the cabbage in your sauerkraut are all great options.

Supplements to consider in your 40s

Everything that was important in your 20s and 30s still applies, like B vitamins, calcium, omega 3s and good old vitamin D. Magnesium is one to start keeping your eye on as well. It’s starting to look as though many people have shortages of magnesium in their bodies, but it’s also a tough one to diagnose as being deficient. This is because magnesium is so important to so many processes, that our bodies will actually steal it from places it’s stashed, so there’s always a “balance in the magnesium bank”, so to speak. Physical clues that may suggest you have a magnesium deficiency are muscle cramps and spasms. Heart palpitations are another common symptom that magnesium levels may not be where they should be. If you drink alcohol, even moderately, your body uses more magnesium than it otherwise would. So by the time you’re in your 40s, magnesium is a good one to have on your radar. 

Yes, you should be able to glean all the magnesium you need just from the foods you eat, but alarmingly, foods that are being tested are not showing expected levels of magnesium. This can be traced to agricultural practices that leech important minerals from the soil and don’t replace them. While I’m a big proponent of getting your vitamins and minerals from the food you eat, there are times when a supplement may be best. If you’re experiencing physical symptoms of magnesium deficiency, look into supplementation of this important mineral.

Inflammation may be another thing you’ve had show up in your world as of late. Arthritis starts to make an appearance in our 40s, sometimes even earlier. Your diet is already anti-inflammatory… dark leafy greens and our friend the salmon are still working hard to keep you running smoothly… but if your joints are beginning to bother you, turmeric is a yummy way to work some anti-inflammatory magic. Ginger too. I had oral surgery in my early 40s and my dentist was shocked at how little swelling I experienced. It was the ginger carrot soup my friend made for me… I could literally feel my skin deflating after eating it.

How To Exercise You, Love You, And Care For You In Your 40s

You’re confident, competent, and you’re going places. You’re not adulting so hard now… you’re still feeling young and good (like you should) and the future looks bright. 

This is the hope, of course, but it may not be a reality for you. The reality may be much darker.

I’m referring to ye olde midlife crisis, of course. That black hole of existential questions that sucks some of us in. Next thing we know we’re dating a 20 year old, buying a Maserati or a vacation home in Vail, or more likely, just really blue. Down in the dumps. Wondering what it all means. It sucks, even if it doesn’t suck you all the way in. Our reasons for experiencing a midlife crisis are as unique and varied as we ourselves are. It may be diet-related. If you’re new to the concept of self-care, and holistic nutrition, welcome. I’m so glad you’re here, and that I can help you on your journey. 

  • First things first, eliminate the possibility that this awful feeling is just the result of a bad diet. See a nutritionist if you need to. Start eating clean, quit alcohol at least for a while. 
  • If your sleep is poor, that’s going to affect everything about you from the top down. Your mood, which if sustained long enough becomes your disposition, is absolutely affected by your sleep.
  • A sedentary lifestyle can lead to depression. Regular exercise keeps you flush with the feel-good hormones that keep people smiling. Walking is wonderful exercise, and it’s an activity that’s available to almost everyone. 

Perhaps it’s not your diet, activity level, or quality of rest. If all of those things check out, but the negative feelings and self-talk are still there, it might be time to talk to someone other than yourself. Being able to express your thoughts and feelings to an impartial party is a healthy outlet worth looking into. This is particularly true if you don’t have a strong social network. 

If you are experiencing feelings of chronic sadness, what I really hope you take from this is that it’s completely normal. There is a science to happiness, to some degree it can be manufactured. Happiness, for many of us, is something that needs to be cultivated mindfully… worked toward, and worked with. On a lot of levels finding happiness is like a conversation between you, the programming in your head, and the potential you possess in life. Balancing those things, and massaging the right parts, is what happiness is all about. 

Where exercise is concerned, this is a great time to incorporate a practice such as yoga if you haven’t already. On a physical level yoga provides the stretching, strengthening and balance portions of a well-rounded fitness routine, but it’s also got a mental component that is very nourishing for this time in life. 

Meditation is a great practice to pick up at any stage of life, but in your 40s it may really help to calm your thoughts and bring balance to your emotions. Spending some time each day on your yoga mat, working the physical kinks out, breathing deeply, and guiding the mind gently into focus and alignment, is a beautiful way to care for yourself and keep your body healthy. 

Walking, as I already mentioned, is a wonderful aerobic workout, as is running. Running has a certain meditative quality to it that is being looked at in a new light. Seems it does have the same effect on the brain as meditation does, so if you don’t think you can sit still for 5 minutes, maybe give a jog around the block a whirl.

To The 50s, And Beyond!

Statistics show that on average, people tend to get happier, or more content at least, as they age. Perhaps your 40s treated you well, or maybe they were a little stormier than you would have wanted. 

Well, that was then, and this is now. Now is the time to focus on keeping your brain, heart and body healthy, and experiencing contentment… cultivating gratitude to carry you into the future. A gratitude practice alone will keep you healthier and thriving, but there are important diet and nutritional factors to consider too.

The same great diet we’ve been talking about all along, still applies in middle age. All those foods that were good for you likely still are, but your body is changing again… or perhaps it already has. 

Menopause may have begun, or is about to. A hysterectomy may have already happened, or is on the horizon. Cancer treatments may have become a part of your life, or even a surprise pregnancy may have snuck in there, so it’s important to take into account that your body is different, once again, than it was just a few years ago. And there’s nothing wrong with that. The whole point is to continually meet your body where it’s at. 

Your mental health may still be a factor, or maybe it is just now becoming a factor. Sometimes it’s a midlife crisis that gets us, and sometimes it’s the vacuum that’s left when retirement comes. When you’ve spent the last 30 years of your life building a career… working 10 hour days on your team, your projects and your goals… to suddenly retire from that and wake up each morning with literally nothing to do and no one to do it for, may bring up some feelings. 

You may find it hard to know what to do with yourself, or you may experience feelings of guilt over no longer being as productive as you once were. Please try to find a way to forgive yourself, sooner rather than later. You have just spent 30 years of your life being someone else’s definition of “productive”… probably the same definition that most of us are familiar with. Show us a different definition. Show us yours.

Nutrition for maturing bodies

Everything that has always been good for you, is probably still good for you. It’s a likely bet that by now you have begun to notice digestion changes, so look to add even more high-fiber veggies, like the heart-healthy cruciferous veggies for example. Sweet potatoes are another one to purposely add to your 50+ diet plan. Not only are they high in fiber, they are loaded with beta-carotene, an antioxidant which converts to vitamins A and C, potassium. It is also notable for its cancer-fighting properties.

You’ve had your eye on your hormones for the last decade plus, so you already know how great B vitamins are for supporting healthy hormone levels. 

Plant-based proteins are easier to digest than animal proteins. They are also filled with healthy minerals and other good stuff that keep adding fuel to your healthy fire. There is evidence that animal protein can slow your metabolism, so regardless of your feelings regarding eating meat, it might be a good time to consider how much of it you eat, and switch to a plant-based diet. 

Supplementing in your 50s

Though your diet is healthy and your nutrition knowledge is growing by the day, a multivitamin is probably a wise idea if you haven’t incorporated it into your diet by now. In a perfect world, all your systems are still strong and running smoothly, but it never hurts to shore things up either. There are a lot of moving parts in that miracle you call a body, and offering a little assistance here and there is a wonderful way to continue partnering with yourself as you walk through life.

How To Exercise You, Love You, And Care For You In Your 50s

Reducing inflammation has likely become important to you, if it hasn’t already, so be sure and add a powerful anti-inflammatory like turmeric to your diet. Golden milk, also known as turmeric milk, is a perfect(ly delicious) way to send some love to your joints and your tummy, all at the same time:

Pour some milk into a small pot on medium heat (almond milk, cow’s milk, whatever is part of your diet)

Add some ground turmeric and a pinch of black pepper. The pepper “activates” the turmeric, making your body absorb it easier. Sprinkle a little cinnamon on top, another yummy anti-inflammatory, and simmer for 10 minutes or so. Sweeten if desired, and enjoy! 

Your bone and joint health is really important now, so it’s time to add weight bearing exercises to your repertoire. Yoga is a great choice here, as it’s proven to help stave off bone loss and arthritis too. Other body weight exercises that are not yoga will still have the desired effect, so if burpees are your thing, go on with your bad self. Stretching is more important than ever now too. Keeping your muscles strong yet supple is how you avoid injuries in the first place, but this also helps you heal better when life decides to trip you up.

You, as much as anyone, are worthy of your own love and affection

This journey through life is yours alone. 

In a way it’s wonderful, but also tragic at the same time, how short our time in our body really is. On one level it may feel like a cruel joke that our bodies begin to break down almost immediately following maturation. But on another level, there’s a certain poetic beauty to it. 

You really are never going to be as young as you are right now, but at the same time you’re the oldest you’ve ever been, right now. That puts you squarely right here, right now, all the time. 

The space between the youngest you’ll be and the oldest you’ve been, is the field on which you’re playing the game of life, and so am I, and so is everyone else. In spite of the stage of life we are individually in, we all have that one thing in common… we really are all just walking each other home, as Ram Dass so eloquently put it.

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Magnesium: it’s so important, but Are You getting enough?

Magnesium is one of the minerals humans need the most. Responsible for more than 300 important biological functions in the body, a lot of magnesium’s to-do list relates to muscle and nerve function. Other important functions include energy production and regulating heartbeat. But what happens when you aren’t getting enough?

Magnesium And Agriculture

Magnesium is a mineral that naturally occurs in plants and in the soil, so it should be present in a whole lot of different foods we eat. However, it’s not. Testing of foods is revealing lower than expected levels of magnesium, and that means grandma was right: food really was more nutritious back in her day. Evidence points to lowered levels of magnesium in the soil, thanks to agricultural farming methods that deplete this valuable natural resource and don’t replace it properly.

According to PubMed, a respected database run by the National Institutes of Health, a mere 2% of Americans have a diagnosed magnesium deficiency, but up to 75% are not meeting their recommended daily intake either. What’s going on here? It makes sense that people are no longer meeting their recommended daily intake of magnesium through their diet, but how can only 2% of people have a deficiency?

It is difficult to get a read on a person’s true magnesium levels, and the short answer for why is that our bodies are an incredible miracle. 

The longer answer is that magnesium is so important to your body’s overall function that it will rob Peter to pay Paul, so to speak. Your body will always keep enough magnesium within easy reach for all the functions it needs to perform, but behind the scenes it’s emptying the coffers. It’s tapping into your bones, muscles and anywhere else it has some magnesium stashed. So, testing for a magnesium deficiency might turn up negative, but meanwhile the structure of your bones, muscles and soft tissue is weakening every day. 

Are You Magnesium Deficient?

So, now we have a decent understanding as to what those numbers from PubMed are really saying. But what does this mean for you specifically? 

It’s good to be aware that your body needs magnesium for many things, so it taps that resource a lot. Since testing would likely turn up an “all clear” result, you’ll want to look at the symptoms, the canaries in the coal mine. But there are different lifestyle factors too, that may be doing your levels no favors at all. The most common of these is drinking alcohol. Alcohol really hits the magnesium stores hard, and over time, even moderate drinkers may show signs of magnesium deficiency. If you’re a type 2 diabetic, experience any of a host of gastrointestinal issues, or are simply getting older, these are also important factors to be aware of where potential magnesium deficiency is concerned. 

Muscle cramps and spasms

If you get a lot of muscle twitches and random cramps, this may be a sign of magnesium deficiency. In their worst states this can even mean convulsions and seizures. Of course, there are a lot of reasons for twitches and cramps, so if magnesium supplements don’t help alleviate the problem, it could be something else.

Mental and emotional challenges

Magnesium deficiency has been linked to depression in some individuals, and more commonly, a feeling of general apathy and emotional numbness. Many scientists believe magnesium deficiency contributes to anxiety disorders too.

Osteoporosis

This one makes a lot of sense in light of what we now know about the way magnesium deficiencies “hide”… it can rob from the long-term strength of your bones in order to serve a more immediate function, and that may later manifest in a disease like osteoporosis.

Irregular heartbeat

Also known as heart arrhythmia, this is a condition that puts a pause in heartbeats at random intervals. It’s often present with no symptoms but it can increase risk of stroke and other more serious events. Though many people experience no notable symptoms, arrhythmia may also cause chest pains and shortness of breath.

High blood pressure

Magnesium deficiency may increase blood pressure, putting you at greater risk for a host of heart complications. Supplementing with magnesium has been shown to lower blood pressure, which is great because some patients with heart issues have been shown to have lower magnesium levels than their peers with no heart issues. 

How To Get More Magnesium In Your Diet

It’s safe to say that healthy magnesium levels are important to an all-around healthy individual. With such responsibilities as keeping your heart beating and muscles strong, it’s important to get enough magnesium. 

For some, this requirement may be best served with a supplement. There are different types of magnesium, and each of them serves a different purpose. Ask your healthcare provider or do a little research on your own to decide which one is best for you. The most important factor to look for is that it is bioavailable… that your body will understand it and be able to make use of it.

If supplements aren’t really your thing, great news! It’s not really necessary for most people. Just start by eating more foods that are known to be rich in magnesium. Here’s a short list of magnesium-rich foods to get you started:

Dark chocolate 

Is it candy, or is it health food? It’s all of the above, friend. You’ll be pleased to learn that a 1-ounce (28-gram) serving of dark chocolate gives you 16% of the recommended daily intake for magnesium. It’s also loaded with antioxidants, and benefits gut and heart health too.

Nuts

Not just high in magnesium, nuts and seeds are some of the most nutritious foods a person can eat. All varieties of nuts can play a part in your healthy diet, but nuts that are particularly high in magnesium include almonds, cashews and Brazil nuts. A one ounce serving of cashews offers a whopping 82 milligrams of magnesium, 20% of your recommended daily intake. 

Fatty fish

Fish is another one of those universally good-for-you foods, and if it’s something you like, the fattier the fish the better for magnesium. Salmon fits the bill perfectly, as does halibut and mackerel. If you’re a vegetarian, legumes can do the trick. Look to lentils, beans, chickpeas, peas and soybeans for your magnesium fix.

Avocados

I know, this list is amazing. You’re welcome. Just one medium avocado gives you 58 milligrams of magnesium, around 15% of the recommended daily intake. Avocados fight inflammation, help cholesterol levels, increase satiety after meals and are just generally packed with all kinds of good-for-you nutrients.

Being aware of things like muscle cramps and weakness in your body – and what these symptoms can mean – is one of the most important ways that you can care for your body on a daily basis. It’s a small way you can stay on top of your health now, and possibly have a huge impact later.

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Sponsor my work for just $4.99! Your monthly sponsorship allows The Changing Room to be a resource for people who are making big changes in their lives. With your donation I can make more inspiring videos, write more meaningful blogs, and learn more about self-care so I can share with you in kind. Together we can do great things, and your presence here matters. Thank you.Become a Patron!

5 Amazing Health Benefits Of Legs Up The Wall Pose

Legs Up The Wall Pose: What Is It, And How Can It Help You?

It’s a funny looking yoga pose, and it may not exactly be the kind of thing you can do on the fly, but that’s not what Legs Up The Wall, also known as Viparita Karani, is really about. So what is it about? It’s about letting go… letting gravity have you… and finding a sweet release in your hips and low back that many people merely dream of. But it’s available to you any time you have a moment (and space) for it.

Do you drive a desk for a living? Or maybe a truck? Perhaps you’re a chauffeur… for your 7 year old. Maybe, like several of my friends, you are a flight attendant. Jetting off here, there and everywhere… visiting exotic locales because you can, and helping passengers have a safe and comfortable trip along the way. Problem is, all that comfort-creating is doing a number on the old legs and back, as is all the driving… whatever you’re carting around. 

I like to say that “yoga is the counter pose to life”. Whatever you do with your body all day long, is going to have an effect. Being on your feet for 8-10 hours will likely produce sore feet. Holding your toddler on your hip on the right side most of the time because you’re stronger on that side, will create an even greater imbalance in your body, if you don’t do something to counter it. That’s exactly where yoga comes in! Yoga is the perfect compliment to whatever your activity of choice is, because it evens things back out. It’s a bunch of poses that are really counter poses to your life’s poses. Ta dah! 

5 Health Benefits Of Viparita Karani

Relieves Lower Back Tension

For many people, this pose feels like coming home. It instantly makes gravity your friend, and actually makes it work FOR you, for once. As you send your legs up and lie back, it’s such a supported place to be that your back can’t help but relax.

Promotes Serious Relaxation

In fact, your whole body can’t help but relax in Legs Up The Wall. It’s a great place to practice deep breathing too, which only heightens the relaxation factor. This is a great thing to do right before bed.

Better Blood Circulation

Thanks to the gravitational assist, your heart has a really easy time gobbling up all the blood on its way back from touring your body. It doesn’t have to do much at all, which is great, because that little ticker is going to beat literally billions of times during your lifespan. Help it out a bit when you can.

Relieves Pain + Swelling In Feet + Ankles

This is an immediate and tangible effect of Viparita Karani, and the inspiration for this whole blog. While you’ve been on your feet all day, or driving your _____ all day, your poor dogs have been holding your whole world up. For a variety of reasons it is extremely common to experience foot and ankle swelling at the end of a long day, and I’m here to tell you that this pose can (and likely will) become your BFF.

Assists Digestion

Viparita Karani is great for digestion because it delivers a little poke to your whole system. Getting into the pose provides gentle but targeted movement for the organs of digestion, followed by deep and nourishing relaxation. The increased blood circulation encourages the natural flow of digestion.

How To Get Into Legs Up The Wall Pose

To come into the pose, sit next to the wall so that your right or left shoulder is near the wall. It doesn’t have to touch the wall but maybe it does. From this position, lie down on your back as you simultaneously send your legs up the wall. You’ll end up “L” shaped, but you don’t have to be at a perfect right angle. In fact, your booty should be a little bit away from the wall so your hamstrings don’t receive too much stretch, unless you have a lot of openness in the hamstrings, like this lady.

Viparita Karani is a wonderful way to unwind, so take some care in setting up a nice space. A yoga mat isn’t necessary but something soft underneath you would be nice. You may want a blanket. Some people like to put a bolster or a block under their hips, but others prefer to have the whole back and hips on the floor. An eye pillow might be nice, and music is always a great option when you’re looking to unwind.

Once you’ve got your legs up, take a moment to adjust yourself and get comfortable. Put your eye pillow on, start your podcast, or your deep breathing, and just “be” for the next 5 minutes or so. Stay longer if you like, but if your feet and legs start to feel tingly or fall asleep, come out of the pose.

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The Secret Of The Sauce: Building The Person You Want To Be, Bit By Bit

The start of a new year always seems like a great time to make some changes in our life. A fresh, unmarked calendar awaits, and for many of us, January 1st brings the intention to fill it with good stuff. Whether we’re eating healthier, exercising more, swearing less, or generally communicating better, we’ve got every intention of doing The Thing, whatever it is. 

But after a certain amount of time, it seems like The Thing, whatever it was, didn’t stick. 

It turns out there’s a lot more to forming a new habit than just doing it. But wait… it’s actually nothing more than just doing it. Because the change that sticks, where the change is really cemented into habit, happens in your brain… in your physiology. 

It’s pretty much up to you to just hang on while it happens.

Your Own Signature Cocktail

Your secret sauce is found in the things you do every day, quite literally.

You may have heard it said that your body will take the shape of whatever you do to it most often. So if you exercise a lot, you probably look fit. If you skip leg day all the time, that too is probably apparent. Smokers look like smokers. Sun worshipers, they look exactly like that. Michael Phelps has a swimmer’s body, and Christiano Ronaldo has the signature body of a footballer, because these are the things their bodies do most often.

Your brain is exactly the same way, and though your body may be doing the things, it’s your brain that actually generates the secret sauce. Your body runs the mile, but your brain releases the endorphins. And a body that runs, versus one that doesn’t, will have different levels of endorphins running through it. Different chemical levels entirely, across the board. It literally feels different to be me versus you. None of us are having the same experience as another person, ever. 

Many different ingredients go into this secret sauce… the chemical cocktail that your brain creates, that makes your experience uniquely yours: the quality (and quantity) of food you eat, the health of your relationships, the satisfaction level that you experience with your work, etc. All of these things, and plenty more, contribute to your brain’s chemical response to your body’s lived experience. 

What does this have to do with forming new habits, and making changes? 

When you upset the brain’s chemical response by doing something different, there will be blowback. It will feel wrong to you, because your secret sauce levels are being messed with. The recipe is changing. 

An accessible way for many people to look at this is with alcohol. It is a fact that when you consume alcohol you are changing the chemical cocktail flowing through your brain. I mean, that’s precisely why we do it. If you go out for Happy Hour at 5pm every day after work, your brain is going to start craving that cocktail at 5. If you don’t go out one day, it’s going to feel weird to you. At 6pm, your secret sauce is not going to be what it usually is, and you are definitely going to register that. It will make an impact. 

If you have ever had a hangover, this is your brain literally experiencing withdrawals, because the secret sauce recipe you used last night was sooooooo strong that your brain is having a tough time reaching equilibrium again.

So, if you want to make a meaningful change in your life, one that’s going to actually stick, you have to let your brain create a new sauce for it. Give it time. You have to let yourself be uncomfortable while the change takes place.

“You” Are In There With Your Brain

Who are you? 

You may have heard the phrase “you are not your thoughts”. Perhaps you even thought it was kind of cheesy (it is), but what if you knew that it was true? 

I’m here to tell you that you are not your thoughts. You are the observer of your thoughts. 

Think about it: who is hearing you read these words right now? It’s you. Your brain is processing the information, and broadcasting it, to you. So, you aren’t your thoughts. You are the observer of your thoughts, and this is where literally all of your power resides: the ability to decide who and what you are going to be. The understanding that you’re watching the change happen; it is not happening to you.

By understanding that your brain mixes up the cocktail that your body experiences, and that none of this has a thing in the world to do with “you”, there is leverage. At any point in time, you can choose to be someone and do something different. Literally right now, you can make a change. The sooner you do it, the sooner your brain can get started on the new formula, and the sooner that change is integrated into your physiology.

Step 1: Just Do It

Am I basically telling you that fake it til you make it is a thing? I am.

Thoughts become things, very real things in all kinds of different ways, but first the thought has to move to action. You just have to do it. Decide you’re going to get in shape, and then start taking steps to get there. Resolve to go back to school, and then take the first step. 

Decide the thing, then do the thing. 

Of course I am simplifying this a lot. There are all kinds of things you must do to help ensure your success when making changes in your life, not the least of which is assess all the potential roadblocks you’ll come across on the way. It’s a fact that we can boost our happiness and satisfaction with our performance where attaining goals is concerned, if we can be aware of and plan for all the things that will try to hamstring us. 

For purposes of this conversation, the one big roadblock to your success is the time it will take, and the discomfort involved, in the reformulation of your sauce. Understanding that changes are made on an outward level first… I go running now, or I follow a vegetarian diet now… but it takes a bit for your biology to catch up with you. It takes a little while for your body to take the shape of whatever you’re doing to it, and for the new sauce to begin flowing. 

When making changes and forming new habits, it takes a little while for it to stop feeling wrong. You have to resist the urge to make the discomfort of change go away. The way out of the discomfort, is straight through it.

Step 2: Just Keep Doing It

When you look at it this way, making any change in your life is basically just about getting really good at doing the same thing, a new something, over and over again. This is how you make the new secret sauce. The recipe is in the repetition.

Your body takes the shape of whatever you do to it most often, and so does your brain. When making changes in your life, you are literally building the brain of the person you want to be, but are not yet. 

To make a good change in your life is to make a tastier sauce, but first you must get in the kitchen and start putting the new ingredients together.

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Sponsor my work for just $4.99! Your monthly sponsorship allows The Changing Room to be a resource for people who are making big changes in their lives. With your donation I can make more inspiring videos, write more meaningful blogs, and learn more about self-care so I can share with you in kind. Together we can do great things, and your presence here matters. Thank you. Become a Patron! 

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