The Courage to Step into the Great Outdoors

Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

There are plenty of good reasons to be outdoors this summer, and now we can add ‘safe haven’ to the list. As we all know, strict isolation strategies have been employed since mid-March to curb the spread of the pandemic. The resulting isolation, combined with fear of contagion and misinformation overload (“infodemic”) is creating a great deal of confusion and stress.[1]

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There is no question that reducing the contact rate of latent individuals, and interventions such as quarantine and isolation, can effectively reduce the potential peak number of infections and delay the time of peak infection. However, as much as I believe this to be true as it applies to being indoors, I question whether being outdoors—even in groups—poses much risk at all. While there is still so much we don’t know about the virus transmission, we have yet to see proof or a strong likelihood that the outdoors poses a significant risk.  In fact, research suggests it may be safer compared to indoors.

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Thoughts on Jazz and Healing

music-health

The Greek lyrical poet Archilochus said, “We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.”

This quote suggests that the ability to succeed is not based on chance, nor can someone expect to succeed based solely on his or her innate abilities. Success instead is the result of training in a focused manner, so that when faced with a critical situation, a reaction occurs without conscious thought—essentially, it has become an instinctual response born of dedicated practice.

The saying can also be interpreted in a broader fashion, reflecting one’s ability to change and to “push the envelope,” as great jazz musicians do. Basketball, my favorite sport, shares some similarities in approach. The combination of talent and training, with some scripted aspects of play and the freedom for spontaneous improvisation is the ultimate in team synergy. When played in this way, basketball is beautiful. The unscripted nature of the game is similar to the improvisational nature of jazz, in which the notes are often unknown in advance, and rely on the combination of thought (intelligence) and feeling response (heart). Continue reading “Thoughts on Jazz and Healing”

The Health Benefits of Whole-grain Bread

Whole Grain, Stone Ground, Organic Bread: It’s Good For You!

 If you’ve been reading my blog, you already know that I’m a big proponent of including grains in our daily diet. Not just any grains, though. Grains that are healthful for us are organic, whole grains, enjoyed either in their whole form or as freshly milled flour.

Despite the current dietary fad of shunning all grains, a growing body of evidence shows that increased intake of less-refined, whole-grain foods has numerous positive health benefits. People who consume greater amounts of whole grains are consistently shown to have a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2-diabetes, and many cancers. People who eat whole grains also appear to have better digestive health and are likely to have a lower BMI and gain less weight over time. The bulk of the evidence for the advantages of whole-grains comes from observational studies, but researchers are discovering the same benefits in intervention studies, and are identifying the mechanisms behind the protective properties of whole grains.1

 Whole Grains Protect Against Cardiovascular Disease

 Here’s an example of the health protective benefits of whole grains: A meta-analysis of seven major studies showed that cardiovascular disease (heart attack, stroke, or the need for a procedure to bypass or open a clogged artery) was 21% less likely in people who ate 2.5 or more servings of whole-grain foods per day compared with those who ate less than 2 servings per week.2

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Enhancing Cellular Defense Mechanisms with Adaptogens

Enhancing Cellular Defense Mechanisms with Adaptogens

Aging is associated with a decrease in adaptive abilities along with increased vulnerability to stress. At the same time, aging is a complex process involving a persistent activation of some stress response systems, often involving transcriptional reprogramming, and the activation of vitagenes, which can be consider a ‘geroprotective’ adaptation.13   Environmental stressors induce specific and predictable epigenetic changes that can eventually result in an adaptive response to the stimulus. It seems likely that mild stress-induced hormetic response involves mechanisms similar to those that underlie developmental epigenetic adaptations.

The illustration below shows the involvement of hormesis in the epigenetic processes that determine age-related disorders and longevity.14

adaptogens

Dose–response curve depicting the quantitative features of hormesis

Hormesis is a biological phenomenon whereby a beneficial effect (improved health, stress tolerance, growth or longevity) results from exposure to low doses of an agent that is otherwise toxic or lethal when given at higher doses. Continue reading “Enhancing Cellular Defense Mechanisms with Adaptogens”

Nettles: A Nutritious Spring Treat

Nettles

I look forward every spring to harvesting and eating stinging nettles (Urtica dioica), an herbaceous wild plant native to Europe, Africa, Asia, and North America. If you’ve ever encountered nettles and suffered their sting, you may be doubtful as to their edibility. Nettle leaves are armed with tiny needle-like hairs filled with irritating compounds, including formic acid (the same compound secreted by red ants). But a simple quick sauté neutralizes the irritants, allowing us to enjoy a tasty, nutritious vegetable with a flavor similar to spinach.

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Nutrigenomics: Beyond Basic Nutrition

With the advent of a growing scientific field of study called nutrigenomics, the old adage “you are what you eat” is proving to be much more than folk wisdom. Nutrigenomics takes into consideration the relationship between diet and genetics, and identifies the beneficial or detrimental health effects of various dietary components. What researchers have discovered is that there is far more to dietary health than proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, and that simply meeting the minimum daily requirements for vitamins and minerals isn’t enough for optimal health and disease prevention.

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