Sunday, April 24, 2011

Anti Rust

Like when you squeeze lemon juice over a cut apple to keep it from turning brown, that is an antioxidant. Fruits and vegetables contain many compounds, which are antioxidants. These molecules bind with "free radicals," which are extra oxygen molecules floating around your blood stream. These free radicals are thought to damage cells, damage their DNA, accelerate aging, are responsible for brown age spots and wrinkles. Populations that eat more fresh fruits and vegetables generally have lower rates of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes. So eat your fruits and veggies!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sedentary+Stress vs Movement+Mindfullness

The cells of your body are constantly responding to your inner environment. Mitochondria are firing up in your muscle cells in response to movement. Your digestive tract is interacting with the foods you eat. Your nervous system is responding to the threats you perceive. Your endocrine system is reacting to the way you feel.
Neurotransmitters, the molecules of emotion, like serotonin are found in the brain, but also in the gut. How you feel affects your physiology. You can affect your physiology by changing how you feel through movement, different food choices, and how you think about things. Constant worry wears down your immune system. You can set aside a time to worry and then stop it. You can pay attention to the content of your thoughts and change them. Instead of worrying, you can picture yourself lying on a on a beautiful warm white sands beach, listening to the sounds of the gentle surf, slowing your breathing, relaxing. Your body will appreciate the change of scenery.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Finding Balance

Imagine yourself poised in a kayak, ready to dip your double tipped oars in the water. If you push too hard on one side, you'll veer off to one side, and you may even capsize. If you pull too hard on the other side, you may head right back to shore. The trick is to dip each oar in lightly, evenly, to stay on an even course. Steering a healthy course in life can be like that, seeking balance, without going overboard. Sometimes we have to indulge, and then use the other oar to get us back on track. We don't want to run aground too soon, we want to enjoy the journey.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The "Hygiene Hypothesis"

I'm taking a mini-med school course at UCSF on the Immune System. The "hygiene hypothesis" is a new way of thinking about allergies and asthma. We are essentially an ecosystem for bacteria, we have more "bacterial" cells, than "human" cells. The right kinds of bacteria can help regulate the immune system. Allergies and asthma are examples of the immune system overreacting to harmless substances like pet dander or pollen.We need to be exposed to a wide range of pathogens as young children to "educate" our immune system. Studies show that children living on farms, close to animals, have a lower rate of allergies and asthma, than children living in inner city environments. Short of living on a farm, growing up with pets, especially dogs (that sleep on your bed!) can lessen the chance of developing allergies or asthma. Another strategy for ingesting beneficial bacteria, is eating yogurt with live cultures or fermented foods like sauerkraut. We want a balanced immune system, one that can fight off dangerous viruses and bacteria, but not so overactive that it produces autoimmune conditions like eczema or allergies.