New Perspectives on Stress and Protecting Your Immune System

Woman meditating

Your immune system is your body’s way to protect you from infections, whether those infections are old, or new, like COVID-19. Your immune system is built to take care of you. A few changes will help you take care of your immune system.

Stress, whether infection, emotions, pain, or poor nutrition, decreases your immune system’s ability to function well. Let’s expand that thought.

Your body reacts to stress as a threat to its survival and causes your body to quickly use its energy for survival. Your blood vessels constrict, so you bleed less if the proverbial tiger bites you. Your blood clots more easily, in case that bite happens. Your heart beats faster, so you can run faster than the tiger.

We don’t have to worry about tigers, but we still experience stress. Most any stress causes your body to respond. Responding to stress today doesn’t require fast running, or faster clotting, and those responses may not be the best for maintaining health.

Maintaining your immune system requires a great deal of energy. Your body, under stress, may send less energy to the immune system as it sends more energy to combat stress. But your body responds in the same way, whether a tiger is near, or with the emotional stress of learning that Covid-19 is spreading. Decreasing the amount of stress may help us.

Mental stress and anxiety may be effectively dealt with by meditation. One simple way to meditate is to sit quietly and focus on your breathing. You may find this 20-minute body scan meditation helpful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OS_iqfGjL78

Decreasing stress helps decrease the body’s responses to stress, which then helps the immune system stay at its best. Decreasing stress may also help you sleep better, which is another critical step to optimal health.

Please check in tomorrow for more ideas on how to optimize sleep.

Disclaimer: This information is being provided to you for educational and informational purposes only. It is being provided to you to educate you about healthy eating and lifestyles and as a self-help tool for your own use. It is not medical or psychological advice. This information is to be used at your own risk, based on your own judgment. For my full disclaimer, please go to donnakkelly.com\disclaimer

Resources for Understanding Covid-19 and How to Protect Yourself

We are experiencing a virus outbreak that is new in humans. The outbreak is challenging our lives. We may become more aware of how connected we are to each other and earth. We may learn the need to focus on protecting society (reduce collective risk) in order to protect ourselves (reduce individual risk).

Alanna Shaikh has a Master’s in public health and specializes in global health and health systems. She helps public health systems deal with severe shocks, such as Ebola and now, Covid-19. Here is a link to her recent Ted talk on Covid-19. She explains how the virus came to infect humans and how to protect ourselves. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fqw-9yMV0sI (16:46)

And here’s the reason why washing your hands is so important. Washing your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water is better than hand sanitizer. National Public Radio’s Science Friday’s podcast this past Friday offered some new perspectives on hand washing benefits, our health care system, and viral infections. The information on hand washing starts at 14:30. https://www.sciencefriday.com/episodes/march-13-2020/

New Perspectives on Joy

Joy is a pillar for good health. Do you allow yourself to experience joy every day? Do you know what brings you joy or happiness?

Is it true that joy and happiness help us to stay healthy?  Yes, joy and happiness help us.

Our nervous system has two pathways. The sympathetic pathway is our fight or flight system. It is important when we are under stress or danger. The sympathetic pathway helps clot our blood quickly so that if we are injured, we won’t bleed too much. It raises our heart rate and constricts our blood vessels, helping us respond quickly to stress and threats.

When we are under stress or threats, our immune system activity decreases. When our bodies sense danger, it uses energy to help us survive. If we are facing a tiger, our body doesn’t need to put energy for our immune system to fight a cold next week, or we may be the tiger’s meal now.  

The other is our parasympathetic system. It is our rest, digest and repair system. We would be well served if we lived most of our day in this state. Here, our body may digest food more easily and absorb the life supporting nutrients in that food. Our heart is at rest and pumping more slowly. Our blood vessels are not constricted. This may allow us to fall asleep more easily. We may even think more clearly.

Both paths of our nervous system are important for health. We want to easily shift from one system into the other. In our hectic world, we rarely allow ourselves to be at rest. People may experience mental and emotional stressors. We also face environmental stressors, like water and air pollution. Our body may struggle with injury, infection or nutrient deficiencies.  

Joy may be a path to allow us to tip our body back toward the rest, digest and repair mode. Repair helps us to overcome sickness and injuries, but also helps us to age more successfully. Joy and happiness help us to be more optimistic.

There are measurable changes in the body when we allow ourselves to experience joy. We have a decrease in cortisol, the stress hormone, and an increase in endorphins, which help us to feel less pain. Our mood is lighter because serotonin increases (the happiness neurotransmitter) and oxytocin (the connection hormone). There is an increase in Brain Derived Neurotropic Factor (BDNF), which helps us to grow new neurons in our brain to protect our memory. We dilate our blood vessels and increase our lung capacity which helps to send more oxygen throughout our body. Laughter may force us to breathe deeper. Just breathing deeply stimulates the vagus nerve, which helps us to rest, digest, and repair our bodies. 

How can we bring more joy into our lives?  There are comedy clubs, funny movies and books, and even laughter yoga. Our bodies will react the same even if we are faking the laughter or smile. When was the last time you experienced a good belly laugh?  It might be helpful to have a good laugh every day.

Disclaimer: This information is being provided to you for educational and informational purposes only.  It is being provided to you to educate you about healthy eating and lifestyles and as a self-help tool for your own use.  It is not medical or psychological advice.  This information is to be used at your own risk, based on your own judgment.  For my full disclaimer, please go to donnakkelly.com\disclaimer.

New Perspectives on Daylight Savings Time

Sunday, March 8th, at 3:00 AM, we will spring forward and be on Daylight Savings Time (DST) in most of the United States, Europe and Canada. This abrupt change in time in relation to daylight may be the cause of a variety of negative health and safety effects. Many people struggle for a week to overcome the time change. People experience lost productivity, lower quality of life, increased illness and complain of just feeling tired.  

Focusing on self-care before the time change may help alleviate some of the impact. You might:

  • Try to go to bed 15-20 minutes earlier each night for 2-3 nights before the time change. This may allow your body to adjust more easily.
  • Begin to adjust the timing of your meals a little earlier each day for 2-3 days. This may be especially important with dinner.
  • Get some early morning sunlight, especially on the first day of the time change, Sunday. The bright light helps to set your body’s clock to the new daytime hours and become fully awake.
  • Be careful driving and operating machinery if you feel drowsy. Your reaction times may be delayed, and accidents may happen.
  • Stick with your normal bedtime on Sunday to get plenty of sleep for your Monday normal waking routine.
  • Avoid using phones and computers in the evening to decrease the blue light wavelengths which decrease melatonin, your sleep hormone.
  • Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol for several hours before bedtime. Caffeine is best consumed before noon.

Studies show the negative health consequences of DST.

Monday is routinely associated with more heart attacks than any other day of the week. It is known as the “Monday cardiac phenomenon.” After DST, there is an additional 24% increase in heart attacks on Monday. Conversely, there is also a 21% drop in heart attacks on Tuesday following the end of DST.

There is an increase in traffic accidents and workplace injuries on Monday after DST.

There is lost productivity after DST. Cyberloafing, surfing the web for unrelated content to work, increases after the time change.

Judgement may be impaired. There are studies showing increase in spending on the Monday after the time change. A study of federal courts found 5% longer sentences handed down on “sleep Monday.” Managers may find themselves doling out harsher criticisms.

Students taking tests on the Monday after DST may see lower test scores.

Europe has plans to phase out DST in 2021. The European Union has noticed these negative consequences to their population’s health and economy and are acting. Russia stopped their time changes in 2011. Asia and Africa do not change their times during the year.  

Disclaimer: This information is being provided to you for educational and informational purposes only.  It is being provided to you to educate you about healthy eating and lifestyles and as a self-help tool for your own use.  It is not medical or psychological advice.  This information is to be used at your own risk, based on your own judgment.  For my full disclaimer, please go to donnakkelly.com\disclaimer

New Perspective on Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is a day of giving gifts and expressing our affection for our loved ones. Social relationships and support are beginning to be understood to be key to our health. They are as important to our health as the food we eat.

Relationships impact our mental and emotional health, which affects overall health and well-being. With depression and anxiety rising world-wide, these mental health issues may increase the risk for physical disorders, especially heart disease. Our bodies experience distress when we are stressed due to hormone imbalances. These imbalances may make it more difficult to choose to eat healthier foods, refrain from drinking alcohol excessively, smoking, or even inappropriate drug use. Imbalances in our body may even make it difficult for us to obtain a restful night’s sleep.

Some people may deal with mental health issues by isolating themselves. People are becoming more Isolated because of the rise of social software like Facebook. Loneliness, however you define it, increases inflammation in the body, which leads to further health issues. The UK has instituted programs to help people feel more connected to help increase their wellness. This intervention saves the government money in health care costs.

There are ways to improve social connections for better emotional and physical health.

Face-to-face interactions with family, friends, and loved ones is important. Social media has a place, but it should not be a replacement for face-to-face conversations. Even small micro-conversations with strangers, like the barista at the coffee shop, or the cashier at the grocery, can help make you feel more socially connected.

Surround yourself with people who live healthier lifestyles. The habits of your friends greatly influence your habits. Our health habits may account up to 40% of our health. People who engage in eating well, or moving often, offer you a supportive environment.

Practice gratitude and compassion. People who think positively about their relationships may experience a more positive health outcome. Research has shown that a four-step practice of sitting quietly each day to send compassion and loving kindness to yourself, to a loved one, to a difficult person in your life, and to our earth and all its creatures, large and small, increases positive emotions.

This Valentine’s Day, give yourself and others the gift of connection.

Disclaimer: This information is being provided to you for educational and informational purposes only.  It is being provided to you to educate you about healthy eating and lifestyles and as a self-help tool for your own use.  It is not medical or psychological advice.  This information is to be used at your own risk, based on your own judgment.  For my full disclaimer, please go to donnakkelly.com\disclaimer.

New Perspectives on Massage

Two-handed back massage

Massage can be a great tool to decrease pain, improve mental health, lower inflammation, increase immune function, decrease muscle spasms and increase flexibility. If you have tried massage and did get relief, you may want to consider increasing the time and frequency. Other variables that may impact massage effectiveness may be the technique used as well as the skill of the therapist.

Massage may be one of the oldest and simplest forms of medical intervention. Your skin is your largest organ and has special receptors that react to heat, cold and pressure. Sending message through your nervous system to your brain stimulates the release of endorphins.

Endorphins help increase relaxation and promote a general sense of well-being. They also relieve pain and reduce levels of cortisol and noradrenaline, which are stress hormones. Our environment may lead to higher stress levels than is optimal. Lowering stress may help us live healthier.

Pain is a common problem and may contribute to the opioid addition problem. Massage is one of the alternative pain treatments which may be helpful. Massage can help alleviate muscle and bone pain, headaches, deep internal pain, fibromyalgia and spinal cord pain.

Mitochondria are the powerhouses of your cells. Massage may increase the number of mitochondria in the skeletal muscle. The more active tissues, such as heart and brain, have thousands of mitochondria per cell. If you want more energy, you may need to increase the efficiency or number of mitochondria in your cells.

The immune system helps us fight infections and stay healthy. Lymphatic massage may help to increase the flow of lymph through the body and help remove toxins.

Some people may experience immense pain relief while other people report no improvement with massage. Relief from pain may improve by increasing the time and frequency of massage. There was a study comparing a no-massage group, with people who received 30-minute massages two or three times a week, or 60-minute massages one, two or three times per week. The group receiving 60-minute massage two to three times per week reported nearly five times more function and decreased pain than the other groups. The best approach for pain may be 60-minute massage 2-3 times a week for the first four weeks. Changing the type of massage may have an effect on your pain level as well.

Looking for direction to improve your health? Write to donna@donnakkelly.com or schedule an appointment.

Disclaimer: This information is being provided to you for educational and informational purposes only. It is being provided to you to educate you about healthy eating and lifestyles and as a self-help tool for your own use. It is not medical or psychological advice. This information is to be used at your own risk, based on your own judgment. For my full disclaimer, please go to donnakkelly.com\disclaimer.

Photo credit: Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

New Perspectives on the Importance of Darkness

The importance of the correct quality and quantity of high-quality sleep cannot be overstated. During sleep we renew and repair our body and cleanse toxins from our brain. Sleep is when we lay down new short-term memories into long-term memory. For those of us wanting to perform better, getting a good night’s sleep is critical, especially before an event where we want to do our best. Is there a day where we don’t want to do our best?

Sleep may help us optimize the use of our prefrontal cortex, the part of our brain that helps us to make good decisions. This can be important in everything we do from choosing better foods, to having more patience with our family, fellow workers, and even other drivers on the road.

Optimizing sleep may allow us to have more energy and not be tired. With more energy, we may decide to move more in our day. Better sleep may calm your desire to eat to get more energy.

Total darkness helps improve the quality of sleep. Melatonin, the sleep hormone, is maintained better in total darkness. This is darkness to the point you can not see your hand in front of your face. This can be difficult to attain if you live in the city and have streetlights nearby. Blackout shades on the windows can help. These should also not allow light in around the edges. Using a sleep mask is another inexpensive way to eliminate light reaching your eyes while sleeping.

In a study done in Tel Aviv, researchers measured the amount of light from streetlights. Then they overlaid this on breast cancer incidence in the city. The two areas matched. Just because they matched does not mean that the light caused the breast cancer. Correlation is not causation. However, it may be prudent for one to increase sleep quality so one can repair and heal optimally each night.    

Walking safely in the dark is imperative. It is critical to avoid slips, trips and falls. Clear the paths of trip hazards. For lighting, there are red-light motion sensor night lights. Plug those into an outlet in your bedroom, hallway, and bathroom. You should be able to see appropriately to navigate the area safely in the dark. The red light will not decrease your melatonin production; therefore, you may be able to drop back to sleep more easily.

If you find this helpful, please share!

Radiate Healthy Longevity Interview with Christi Clemons Hoffman

I was honored to be interviewed by Christi Clemons Hoffman on her Radiate podcast. We discuss the steps that may allow you to achieve healthier aging. I’ve included the steps below.

Incorporating 4 of the following 16 qualities into your life may add 14 healthy years to your life.

Incorporating 5 of the following 16 qualities increases the likelihood of living past 90, with fewer diseases, and possibly a lower risk of contracting Alzheimer’s.

  • Have low blood sugar (fasting less than 100mg/ml).
  • Have low blood pressure (target: 115/75 in midlife).
  • Have low total cholesterol (less than 200) and low LDL cholesterol (less than 100).
  • Keep weight low and steady (BMI 18.5-25).
    • (A better indicator could be a waist circumference of < 35 inches for women and < 40 inches for men. This may indicate less toxic visceral fat around the organs)
  • Eat fewer calories—stop eating when 80% full.
  • Eat a mostly plant-based “Mediterranean diet” with coffee and tea.
    • Making the coffee and tea decaffeinated would optimize that approach.
  • Avoid nutritional deficiencies—eat a rainbow of colors each day.
  • Move regularly, be active, and stay busy after retirement.
  • Don’t smoke, and stop smoking if you do. This includes vaping.
  • Drink less alcohol.
    • It is not a health food and is harmful to your liver.
  • Get regular and restful sleep—aim for 7-8 hours each night.
  • Have healthy gums.
  • Challenge your mind.
  • Have a positive mindset; address anxiety and depression.
  • Shed stressors, have structure in day-to-day living, and be resilient.
  • Stay socially connected.

Immunity Summit Online, February 18 to 24

The Immunity summit, February 18 to 24, explores what the immune system needs to be strong. The immune system needs to be balanced. We want to be protected from infections and superbugs, but we do not want to experience autoimmune diseases either. In addition, a healthy immune system protects us from cancer as well. This summit will present 36 experts speaking on this important topic.
This online summit is free. You can register at:
http:// http://immunedefensesummit.com/?idev_id=23043