Your Body Is Designed to Heal Itself

July 28, 2014

   I recently cut my finger. It was deep and I had trouble stopping the bleeding. So, I began to wonder about the body's ability to heal. Guess what? New blog topic…

   We often take the body's ability to heal for granted. In the course of 70+ years, billions of physical functions go right and it's only the rare event the body can't repair. Without the healing process our bodies would not be able to endure all the damage we expose them to throughout our lifetime. A simple paper cut could be deadly. Larger wounds often need outside medical attention to stop the bleeding or prevent infection. Modern medicine can set the body up to heal a major issue, but it's ultimately the body at the cellular level that actually does it.

The Healing Process

   Wound healing is normal biological process that includes four precise phases: hemostasis, inflammation, proliferation, and remodeling. For a wound to heal successfully all four phases must occur in sequence although these steps crossfade into each other.

   The skin, the largest organ in our bodies, acts as a protective barrier from the outside environment. Two layers of the skin, the epidermis and dermis, contain blood vessels that transport blood throughout the body. This protective barrier is broken after an injury, exposing blood vessels and causing bleeding. Instinctively the body attempts to stop the bleeding. This first stage of the healing process is known as hemostasis. Chemicals are released by muscle tissue around the damage to constrict the damaged blood vessels. This reduces the amount of blood flow to the area limiting blood loss.

   Tissue that makes up the skin underneath is made up of proteins called collagen. After an injury, platelets interact with collagen and cause the blood to coagulate forming a scab that temporarily seals the break in the blood vessel. As the bleeding is controlled, the body begins the inflammatory phase of healing that is often associated with pain.

   About two or three days after the wound occurs, fibroblasts begin to enter the wound site. These are cells that secrete substances to make connective tissue, among other things. This marks the onset of the proliferative phase.

   Over the next few days, white blood cells continue to digest bacteria and dead tissue cells. Once bleeding has subsided and the wound is free from infection, the rebuilding of cells begins and fibroblasts continue creating new collagen to the wound.

   The final stage of wound healing is where the myofibroblasts pull the wound edges together. Over time, more collagen is deposited to protect the wound from reopening, creating scar tissue. Our bodies contain a tight running organization of cells necessary to rebuild damaged tissue.

 Does the body go through a similar process when it is healing from a surgical wound?

   Yes it does and taking care of a surgical wound is similar to taking care of cuts and scrapes. You'll probably have to protect the incision with a bandage for a few days and change the dressing daily. Follow your doctor's instructions for caring for your stitches or staples. You'll also want to keep the area dry and report any increase in bleeding or redness to your doctor. Proper hydration, rest and nutrition can help to boost your immune system so your body can resist infection better. 

Foods That Help During the Healing

   Some foods (let's call them immune boosters) help the healing process along like berries and leafy greens. Tumeric is a natural anti-inflammatory and has antibiotic properties. Vitamin C, zinc, and vitamin A are especially important in preventing infections.

   Minerals also known as the building blocks of health are essential to providing benefits for fighting disease and infection. Here is a list of seven important macrominerals your body needs everyday.

 Calcium (sesame seeds, broccoli)
 Chloride (sea salt)
 Magnesium (dark chocolate, almonds)
 Phosphorus (meats, eggs)
 Potassium (bananas)
 Sodium (sea salt)
 Sulphur (garlic, lemon)

  We will have numerous injuries throughout our lifetime, many so small we aren't even aware of them. Taking care of our body each day will help with any recovery it may have to face even if it is a simple cut on the finger. 

What's Gluten?

 July 21, 2014

   Gluten is a protein composite found in wheat, barley, rye and related grains and used in cosmetics, hair products, and other dermatological preparations.  It's a combination of two proteins, gliadin and glutenin. Gluten's binding quality enables it to stretch to form long elastic strands and gives dough an elastic quality with it's ability to rebound shape and keep it under pressure. 

They are Not the Same Grains Our Ancestors Ate

   Our basic diet evolved over the course of two million years. That original diet consisted primarily of wild plants, fruits, animal protein, and fats. The grains we consumed were wild grasses and their seeds. But humans ate them minimally due to the processing needed to make the seeds edible and because of a limited caloric return. That was in the beginning. But over time these wild grasses were developed though cultivation and farming. This transitioned hunter gatherers to an agricultural lifestyle, and led to ever increasing technology, rapid population growth, and the evolution of modern societies as we know them today.

   Grains offer some wonderful benefits as a food. Their caloric value is inexpensive, they provide the ability to feed a large number of people, and they can be stored for long periods of time. Grains play a significant role in the diet of most of the world's population and in most instances they are eaten without noticeable health effects. 

   We have been around for almost two million years but we have only been eating grains for a few thousand. As such, our bodies have not had the time to fully adapt to this relatively new food in our diet. Also, modern farming, harvesting, and processing methods strip grains of their nutritional integrity, decreasing their digestibility, often making them highly toxic and inflammatory for our bodies. Today’s grains are proving to be one of the major underlying contributors to the development of  the degenerative diseases of today.

What is Gluten Intolerance?

   Gluten intolerance occurs when the body cannot process the protein composite and the body's response can damage a person's intestines, preventing them from absorbing vital nutrients. If someone has a gluten intolerance, doctors typically recommend a gluten-free diet. Patients must avoid eating any foods and ingredients that contains gluten, including bread, beer, french fries, pasta, salad dressing, soy sauce and even some soups (unless otherwise marked as "gluten-free"). Recently, many people who don't suffer from gluten intolerance have taken up gluten-free diets.

   Those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity can't tolerate gluten and they experience symptoms similar to those with celiac disease. These individuals, however, don't have the same antibodies and intestinal damage as those with celiac disease. Diarrehea, fatigue, joint pain, headaches, fogginess are a few of the reactions. 
Is Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity the Same as Wheat Allergy? 

   No. Wheat allergy is a rare type of gluten intolerance — a classic food allergy marked by skin, respiratory or gastrointestinal reactions to wheat. Diagnosis is done with skin prick tests, wheat-specific IgE blood testing and a food challenge. Individuals who have gluten related symptoms but test negative for a wheat allergy might have non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

Celiac disease 

   Also known as coeliac disease, celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that can occur in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. It affects 1 in every 141 people in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health and about 2.5 million Americans are undiagnosed, at risk for long-term health complications. Celiac disease can develop at any age after people start eating foods or medicines that contain gluten. Left untreated, celiac disease can lead to additional serious health problems such as Type I diabetes, multiple sclerosis, dermatitis herpetiformis (an itchy skin rash), anemia, osteoporosis, infertility and miscarriage, neurological conditions like epilepsy and migraines, short stature, and intestinal cancers.

Can I Lose Weight if I Go Gluten Free?

   Yes and no. People who go off gluten to lose weight sometimes end up gaining weight instead. When you consume gluten-free packaged products they are usually high in saturated fat, sugar and sodium just like other processed foods. These products often contain high-glycemic ingredients like white rice flour or fillers like potato starch that can affect your blood sugar and trigger cravings. Going gluten free unnecessarily will affect how your body takes in nutrients. Nutritional deficiency is another form of malnutrition effecting the body's ability to function properly.

   As in all situations talk with your physician before making any changes to eliminate gluten from your diet.


Hydration: Important to Your Health

July 14, 2014

  Your body depends on water for survival. Every cell, tissue and organ needs water to function correctly. Your body uses water to maintain its temperature, remove waste and lubricate joints. It makes up a large percentage of blood, the life giving red liquid that brings oxygen and nutrients. Vital processes, such as one’s immune system, depend on it. Every day we lose water when we sweat, urinate and even breathe. When the weather is hot we lose water even faster. Other conditions such as vomiting or diarrhea hasten the water loss.

  I checked out the Mayo clinic site to get my percentages right and they go like this: we're made up of about 60 percent water. The lungs are 90 percent water, the brain is 70 percent and our blood is more than 80 percent. Thirst begins after we are mildly dehydrated. That means we shouldn't wait until we're thirsty to begin hydrating. Studies on dehydration and the  body indicate that deficits in coordination, work capacity and mental sharpness begin when we are at least 1 percent dehydrated.  

Dehydration and Its Effects

   July, August and September are the hottest months of the year in California. If you’re not properly hydrated you may experience fatigue, muscle cramps, dizziness or more serious symptoms. Many of us remember to drink water only after our bodies are already dehydrated. One clue the color of our urine. Dark yellow or amber color is a sign of dehydration.

   Our kidneys function more efficiently when there is plenty of water in our bodies. If the kidneys have to economize on water, more energy is needed for the kidneys to function and that results in wear and tear on their tissues. This occurs when the kidneys are under stress, for example when the diet contains excessive amounts of salt or toxic substances that need to be eliminated.  

   Also, dehydration inhibits the effectiveness of our lymphatic system and allows cellular waste products to linger and create inflammation issues. It reduces the overall volume of blood and lymphatic fluids that are integral in a healthy immune system response. 

   Prolonged dehydration can cause central nervous system diseases such as vascular disorders, Parkinson's, muscular sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Huntington's disease, periphrial neuropathy, Alzheimer's and urinary tract infection. In extreme cases this can create confusion sometime misinterpreted as dementia.

Fruits and vegetables are full of water: iceberg and romaine lettuce, kale, mustard greens, cabbage, spinach, carrots and red tomatoes; melons, coconut, grapefruit, cucumbers, pears, strawberries, apples, blueberries and mangoes are just a few.

How Much Should You Drink?

   The Institute of Medicine determined that an adequate intake for men is roughly 13 cups of total beverages a day. For women it is about 9 cups. This includes fruit juices. Another option is herbal tea. You can steep leaves from plants like mint, verbena or linden to make them flavorful. Avoid coffee, caffeinated tea, and cocoa if you are dehydrated.

   When thinking about exercising and water intake there are no set guidelines. Heat, humidity, intensity and duration are all factors to be considered. However, The American Council on Fitness has suggested the following basic water intake guidelines for people doing moderate-to-high intensity exercise:

17 to 20 ounces of water 2 to 3 hours before you start exercising

8 ounces of water 20 to 30 minutes before you start exercising or during your warm-up

7 to 10 ounces of water every 10 to 20 minutes during exercise

8 ounces of water no more than 30 minutes after you exercise

My advice:  enjoy your summer and stay well hydrated!

July is National Park and Recreation Month

July 7, 2014

   The great thing about living in Cambria is you need no directions to one of the greatest national parks on earth. Take 46 east, veer left on 41. About 3 ½ hours later you arrive at the south gate to Yosemite.

   Yosemite has been a cherished place for family vacations since I was a kid, and last year I backpacked there for the first time. It wasn’t a long expedition by any means, just far enough out from the valley to camp for a couple of nights. But I saw the park in a different way and it was just incredible. It reminded me of what truly special places our parks are and why we need to preserve them.

Here's a view of Yosemite landmarks, looking north from the trail near Buena Vista Lake. The dome on the left is Half Dome. The pointy dark one is Mt. Starr King.
   It was all wilderness once from Manhattan Island to Iowa to SLO County. By the late 1800s people like John Muir started putting 2 and 2 together, realizing that uncontrolled growth threatened our wild lands. In 1864 President Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant (which just celebrated it’s 150th anniversary). And in 1890 Yosemite, except for its famous valley, became a national park – Yellowstone was the world’s first national park 18 years earlier.
   But Yosemite Valley was still in the hands of California. Thanks to John Muir he tirelessly lobbied to put the valley under the authority of the park which happened by 1916 and helped lead the way to a U.S. national park system. Here’s a short history for further reading.

   July is Park and Recreation Month in the United States, and we’re reminded to appreciate and support our public spaces from city parks to national ones. Remember the scare a few years ago when California contemplated selling off some park land to private developers? It makes me appreciate what a treasure the Fiscalini Ranch Preserve is in Cambria. Just down the coast, the Pismo Preserve is a vital open space that needs support if it is to become reality this summer. Another treasure on the central coast.

   The ranch in Cambria brings so much joy for it’s wonderful views of the ocean, fresh air and the wild flowers, birds and other animals that live there. But also, the ranch is so key to the fitness of many Cambrians whether it’s to walk, run or take a short bike ride. As I see it, getting outside is one of the essentials of personal fitness. Sure, you can walk on a treadmill or ride a stationary bike, and that’s all fine, but you actually work a little harder outside than you do indoors. But even more, being outdoors is more inspiring. Don’t believe me? Here’s just one of a number of studies on the matter.

   So, this year the theme for Park and Recreation Month is “Out is In.” Get outside and in a park. The sponsor, the National Recreation and Park Association, is giving away daily prizes for photos of people’s activities in parks posted to Instagram or Twitter (@NRPA_News) using the hashtag #JulyOUTisIN!

   This year I'm looking forward to backpacking Yosemite again on a different trail and next year I plan to see more than 10 national parks over the summer I've never been to like the Grand Canyon, Zion and Great Sands. We'll do some day hikes, bike rides, and an overnight backpack or two... and plenty of chillaxing!

Heart Rate Maximum and BMI: Why Are They Important to Physical Fitness?

June 30, 2014

   Have you ever wondered why it's important to know your maximum heart rate (MHR)? Let's say you walk 4 days a week and lift weights 2-3 days a week. You eat healthy food and feel good. Knowing your MHR can enhance your fitness level and help you to stay within a healthy range cardiovascularly when you exercise. And after a heart attack and/or surgery, when the heart is weaker, knowing your numbers can keep you in a safe zone during exercise.

   Maximum heart rate is the highest number of beats per minute (bpm) your heart can reach during maximum physical exertion. Using you MHR you can then find your target heart rate. There are three ways to calculate it. The simplest method is to use an age-based formula of 220 minus your age. This is the most commonly used one on many kinds of cardio exercise machines.

   A second method is the the Karvonen Formula, which uses your age and fitness level to determine your target heart rate zones. It's a more personalized number and recommended for people who are experienced exercisers.

   And the third one is VO2 max, which stands for maximal oxygen uptake and refers to the amount of oxygen your body is capable of utilizing in one minute. It's a measurement of your capacity for aerobic work and can be a predictor of your potential as an endurance athlete.

   If you're training for an event it's important to have a reliable measurement of the intensity of your training as well as how hard your heart can work when it's pumping at its maximum capacity. This will help make you stronger and recover faster. Heart rate training zones are calculated by taking into consideration your maximum heart rate and your resting heart rate.

  There also are devices such as heart rate monitors that are easy to use and very effective when training for an endurance event or working toward strengthening your heart.

The Aerobic Zone - 70% to 80%

   Training in this zone will develop your cardiovascular system.The body's ability to transport oxygen to, and carbon dioxide away from, the working muscles can be developed and improved. As you become fitter and stronger in this zone it will be possible to run some of your long weekend runs at up to 75%, You will also be burning fat and improving your aerobic capacity.

The Anaerobic Zone - 80% to 90%

   When you are exercising hard, your body builds up lactic acid. During these durations, the amount of fat being utilized as the main source of energy is greatly reduced and glycogen stored in the muscle is predominantly used. One of the by-products of burning this glycogen is lactic acid. Lactic acid is a very fast fuel that can be an advantage to athletes'  during exercise. The body uses lactic acid as a biochemical middleman for metabolizing carbohydrates. There is a point at which the body can no longer remove the lactic acid from the working muscles quickly enough. By exercising within 80 to 90 percent of your MHR as a training method, you can stay longer within that Anaerobic Zone and your body becomes better able to deal with lactic acid.

The Red Line Zone 90% to 100%

   Training in this zone is possible for only short periods of time. It helps to develop speed. This zone is reserved for interval training and only the very fit are able to train effectively within this zone.

How do I measure my resting heart rate?

   Determining your resting heart rate (HRrest) is very easy. Find somewhere nice and quiet, lie down and relax. Position a watch or clock where you can clearly see it while lying down. After 20 minutes determine your resting pulse rate (beats/min). Use this value as your (HRrest).

How do I measure my HR zones?

The easiest is the age-based formula.  220 minus your age (A) = estimated max heart rate (MHR) 

MHR X .60=( ) 60% 
MHR X .70=( ) 70%
MHR X .80=( ) 80%
Body Mass Index

   Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of body fat based on height and weight that applies to adult men and women. BMI is used as a screening tool to identify possible weight problems for adults. If your BMI is high, you may have an increased risk of developing certain diseases including: high blood pressure, heart disease, high cholesterol and blood lipids (LDL) -Type 2 Diabetes, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, female infertility, gastroesophageal reflux (GERD)  and urinary stress incontinence. To determine if excess weight is a health risk, a healthcare provider would need to perform further assessments.

Try this BMI calculator from the Center for Disease Control.

  I hope this information can help make your workouts more interesting and let you know how you have progressed in your efforts to be a healthier you. I firmly believe that quality of life far outweighs quantity of life.

Best in Health and Fitness

Stress and How It Effects Your Health

June 23, 2014

   Recently I had my kitchen remodeled and was surprised to find out how much stress was related to this project. Even though I am a person who works out regularly and maintains a healthy lifestyle, the big "S" affected me significantly.  Anxiety, feeling overwhelmed, sleepless nights, fatigue, exhaustion, stomach issues, excitement and pleasure were many of the emotions I experienced during this 2 month process.  Stress obviously can be triggered by an event that makes you feel frustrated or nervous.  

   Let's face it most of us are busy people. Work, families and caretaking responsibilities can make daily living seem overwhelming. Life-changes and circumstances are a part of life but at times they can create unusual demands on us. When we're stressed, high levels of cortisol, a natural hormone in the body, increases. This extra cortisol can lead to memory loss or weathering of the brain as a person ages. Researchers have linked high amounts of cortisol to the gradual loss of synapses in the prefrontal cortex, the region of the brain that houses short-term memory. Synapses are the connections that help us process, store and recall information. And when we get older, repeated and long-term exposure to cortisol can cause them to shrink and disappear. 

   When you perceive a threat, your nervous system responds by releasing a flood of stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones prepare the body for an emergency situation. Your heart pounds faster, muscles tighten, blood pressure rises, breath quickens, and your senses become sharper. These physical changes increase your strength and stamina, speed your reaction time, and enhance your focus — preparing you to either fight or flee from the immediate danger. But chronic stress can be detrimental to your health and well being.

Health Issues Associated with Chronic Stress.

Asthma - Many studies have shown that stress can worsen asthma. Parent's who are chronically stressed have the potential of increasing the risk of developing asthma in their children. 

Heart Disease - It's a well known fact that type A personalities are at a greater risk of developing heart disease or high blood pressure.

Obesity - Excess belly fat increases risk for other health issues. That is where fat is often stored when one is stressed.

Gastrointestinal problems - Stress doesn't cause ulcers but it certainly can make them worse. Heartburn, acid reflux, GERD, irritable bowl syndrome(IBS) are all things that can be stress induced.

Alzheimer's - Animal studies have found that stress might worsen Alzheimer's disease, causing brain lesions to form more quickly.

Premature death - Caregivers looking after their spouses have a 63% higher rate of death than people their age who were not caregiving.

Effect on Body, Emotions, and Behaviors

Stress effects your body - Headaches, memory problems, poor judgement, tension, digestions problems, fatigue, sexual problems, and sleep problems.

Stress effects your emotions - Sadness, depression, anxiety, lack of motivation, anger, moodiness and restlessness.

With stress these behaviors may transpire: smoking, over eating under eating, alcohol, anger, isolation.

Simple Stress Relief Tips

   Terri Harrington, yoga instructor at Gym One says: The benefits of yoga, meditation and the practice of breathwork all help in combating stress.

Yoga improves your digestion, it helps with sleep, improves the health of the heart and reduces blood pressure.   Emotionally, yoga gives you that feel-good response and wards off mental stress and stimulates the brain in positive ways for optimal brain functioning. If you want to get really technical yoga releases GABA in the brain. People with anxiety disorders have reduced GABA. Yoga increases GABA. GABA curbs all the ill effects that come from excessive anxiety worry and fear. 

   Exercise of any kind would be my recommendation. So if you don't have the energy to do a run, then walk. If an hour work out just isn't possible, then try a 30 minute walk. Get your heart pumping. Use that negative energy to move your body in a positive way. Remember anything is better than nothing.

   Laurie Moyer-Mileur PHD RD, a nutritional researcher and dietician in Cambria, gave me these helpful ideas. Plan ahead to make sure you have healthful snacks available - fresh or dried fruits, raw almonds or other nuts.

Identify restaurants or even fast food establishments that offer healthful (low-fat and nutrient dense) snacks or meal options. Stick to those menu items when ordering. By planning ahead you can maintain some control over your eating habits.

   Stress is something we all deal with but we do have some control over how it will effect us!

June is National Fruit & Vegetable Month

June 16, 2014

   Vegetables truly are one of the best sources of vitamins, minerals, and disease-fighting phytochemicals. You should be getting at least three servings of vegetables daily, but I encourage you to eat even more than that, since they’re so good for you.

   Remember: starchy veggies like corn, peas, potatoes (white and sweet), and winter squash contain more calories than water-rich, nonstarchy vegetables.

   One of the great things about eating your daily servings of vegetables is they come with an array of nutrients, including the B vitamins folate, riboflavin, niacin, and vitamin B6; antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, lutein, lycopene, quercetin, and anthocyanins; and countless other phytonutrients.

   Most fruits are naturally low in fat, sodium, and calories. They don't have cholesterol either. You should be getting 2 servings of fruit daily and that does include juices. Fruits are sources of many essential nutrients which are underconsumed, including potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin C, and folate (folic acid). Diets rich in potassium may help to maintain healthy blood pressure. Fruit sources of potassium include bananas, prunes and prune juice, dried peaches and apricots, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, and orange juice.

   Dietary fiber from fruits, as part of an overall healthy diet, helps reduce blood cholesterol levels and may lower risk of heart disease. Fiber is important for proper bowel function. It helps reduce constipation and diverticulosis. Fiber-containing foods such as fruits help provide a feeling of fullness with fewer calories. Fruit juice however doesn't contain the same fiber.
   Where can you get fresh vegetables? Local farmers markets are a great place to get fresh fruits and vegetables.
Here are some tips to try this summer:
  • Add fruit, such as bananas, strawberries, or blueberries, to your cereal or oatmeal in the morning.
  • Add extra vegetables to your sandwich at lunch, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, or avocado.
  • Instead of dipping pretzels or crackers in hummus, use carrot or celery sticks.
  • Sneak vegetables into your favorite dishes. For example, add mashed cauliflower to your macaroni and cheese for more nutrition and fewer calories.

   After a recent visit to the Cambria farmer's market, a friend sent me this delicious recipe. Consuelo Macedo writes for the Cambrian's Culinary Corner. 

Oven Roasted Vegetables w Frozen Yogurt & Strawberries
Large purple beets: scrubbed well, tops reserved, wrapped in foil

Golden beets: scrubbed, tops reserved

Fingerling potatoes: Tossed with chopped onions, olive oil, salt and pepper

Cauliflower: center sliced into 1-inch “steaks”, large flowerlets separated, all slathered in olive oil and seasoned

To make maximum use of the oven while preheating to 400 degrees, pop the large wrapped beets in first, then put the other veggies on baking sheets to place on both racks. Roast up to one hour, turning over when necessary, and removing each type as it cooks to golden. Leave the large beets to finish cooking as the oven cools. When cooled, slip the skins off all the beets and cut into chunks.

Meanwhile, scrub the greens well, pat dry, chop, and sauté about three minutes in one tablespoon each of butter and olive oil. Serve everything on a large platter with your choice of bread for dipping in any drippings Small reserved cauliflower flowerlets make a nice fresh garnish. (All of these are fine to refrigerate and reheat during the week).

Bathe smaller berries in marshmallow vodka. It will also provided a colorful liqueur for bedtime. dip larger strawberries in melted chocolate. Serve with frozen yogurt.