Health and Fitness

Recreation and Your Health

This past week I returned home from a long-awaited beach vacation. After a trying and lonely 2020, I felt that I really needed a vacation. My physical and emotional tank was running low and I was becoming much less productive. The COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s associated isolation, really reinforced the point that human contact, vacation and recreation are essential.

Recreation is necessary for your overall wellness. It is more than just entertainment. Recreation improves both your physical and emotional well-being. It recharges your body and makes you more productive at work and improves family and social relationships.

Obesity has become an epidemic in the United States. This is due in large part to our decrease in physical activity and sedentary lifestyles. With modern conveniences, we really don’t have to move much at all or exert much energy to complete our work and self-care tasks.

Recreation is a fun way to reintroduce essential movement and physical activity into our lives.The obvious by product is that we will be healthier, more physically fit and be more likely to achieve an ideal body weight. The concomitant benefits that occur however should not be underestimated. Recreation also promotes social bonds and community interest and a subsequent desire to volunteer and perform public service. This leads to more empathy, better mental health and overall well-being.

Here in the United States, a workaholic attitude is often applauded. But each year, more than half of Americans leave vacation time on the table. Vacation time is down to 17 days a year in the United States. This is approximately half of the vacation taken in European countries.

The US Travel Association states that “Vacation is essential for strong bonds, a productive workforce and fulfilled life.“

I couldn’t say it better.

Stay well!

Health and Fitness

Serotonin and Your Well-being

Serotonin, pictured above, is a substance known to increase feelings of contentment, health, ease, good welfare and overall well-being. So much so that pharmaceutical industries developed a class of medication is called SSRIs that have resulted in billions of dollars of profits. Serotonin reuptake inhibitor‘s are a widely used class of antidepressants that increases our serotonin levels. This may result in feelings of increased happiness, emotional health and welfare and contentment.

Little do most people realize however, is that approximately 90% of the human bodies total serotonin is located in the enterochromaffin cells in the G.I. tract, where it regulates intestinal movements. About 8% is found in platelets and only 1 to 2% in the central nervous system.

If you eat healthy, you will not only feel better physically, you will feel better emotionally. About the only time that donut or sweetened soda makes you feel good is the instant is in your mouth. If you want to feel better for the other 99.9% of the day, eat a healthy diet.

Most of the serotonin in your body is found in your gut, not your brain. Serotonin is required there to promote healthy digestion. It’s also essential regulator of mood, sleep and bone health.

Nonmedical ways to increase the level of serotonin in your system and realize the multitude of benefits on your mood, brain function and gut health include diet and exercise. Most beneficial are probiotic or fermented type foods such as yogurt or tofu. Oily fatty fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon or tuna and leafy greens such as spinach and kale are very beneficial. Hi omega-3 free range eggs, nuts and seeds are essential as well.

Exercise is also well-known to increase our sense of well-being as well as our serotonin levels. This is accomplished by increasing your endurance and overall fitness, and by controlling your weight and making you stronger.

Time and again, it is shown that good physical and mental health are strongly related to a healthy diet and exercise.

Stay well!

Health and Fitness

Be a Vegephile!

Earthly Delights Farm has a motto “Grow Your Own!” It’s a great motto. They sell veggie boxes they can easily fit 10 different vegetable varieties in a 4 x 4 box. What a great way to have nutrient rich, delicious vegetables at your finger tips!

These past couple weeks have been great for us gardeners in Northeast Ohio. With a combination of hot weather and a great deal of rain, I feel I can literally watch my vegetables grow. Non-gardeners will joke to me that “You know you can buy those things at the grocery store.“ They just don’t get it. Homegrown, organic vegetables are much better for you. Further, nothing replaces the satisfaction you get from hoeing your garden, planting it, watching it grow, picking it and then getting to enjoy the healthy taste.

Because of the many different broad classifications of diet habits, people get confused what is the most healthy. Should I be a carnivore like the Atkins diet? How about vegetarian or even take it to the extreme and be vegan? none of these diets provide all the answers. Even if you are a vegan, you may well be eating a very unhealthy diet if you eat a great deal of sugar or processed carbohydrates.

The healthiest, and lucky for all of us, the most delicious and satisfying, is a vegephile, or a vegetable loving diet. You can still enjoy meat or fish in moderation. Try hard though to only eat grass fed beef, free range chicken and fish in moderation. These high omega-3 proteins will provide a delicious addition to your vegetable diet.

Flip your plate and make the vegetable be the main dish. Fill your plate with dark leafy green vegetables and multicolored raw or only briefly braised type vegetables. Use your protein only for some added flavor to your vegephile diet. A good rule of thumb is try to eat at least 7 to 10 different vegetables a day. The darker or more densely colored the better!

Stay well!

Health and Fitness

Hedonic Eating

Eons ago, our ancestors learned that bitter, unappealing plants were simultaneously, frequently harmful to eat. Conversely, early humans quickly learned that naturally sweet foods were virtually never poisonous and therefore safe to eat. When they found one of these treats, The hedonic reward system encouraged them to keep eating. It continues to do the same thing to us today.

Wikipedia defines hedonic eating as “the drive to eat to obtain pleasure in the absence of an energy deficit.“ Basically, it is living to eat and not eating to live. It is not directly correlated with the need to provide our bodies with high quality fuel for its functions.

Certain foods are given a high hedonic rating based on there susceptibility to being over consumed. Humans are more likely to be sensitive to environmental cues to over consume foods that have a high hedonic rating.

Most people will fall into the trap of unhealthy hedonic eating if calorie dense, hyper palatable treats are to easily available. It takes a Herculean effort to avoid candy, donuts and other treats if they are within arms reach throughout your day.

The secret is to proactively plan to eat healthy. Don’t think of it as dieting. It starts at the grocery store or when you plant your garden in the spring. Fill your house and lunchbox with healthy foods. Emphasize raw vegetables and multiple organic, multicolored foods.

Even better, stop and ask yourself if you are truly hungry or if something is triggering emotional eating. If so, walk past your refrigerator and out the door and take an enjoyable walk instead.

Stay well!

Health and Fitness

Happy Nurses Week

This past week, we observed national nurses week. It begins each year on May 6 and ends on May 12, Florence Nightingale‘s birthday. It is an opportunity for us to pause and and say thank you for all the hard work and caring that nurses provide on the front lines of healthcare.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, nurses are more in the spotlight, and their tireless efforts as healthcare heroes have been spotlighted. This is recognition that is long overdue. Nurses provide the majority of the bedside care which is the backbone of our healthcare system. This explains why the theme for this year‘s nurses week is “Frontline Warrior“

Trusted Health wrote that “Nurses Week is an annual celebration of all that nurses around the world to do for our communities. It is time to recognize, appreciate, and invest in the nurses we know or work with every day as well as the entire nursing industry as a whole.“

With all that is expected today of nurses, it is important to know that they are appreciated. They get pulled in a million different directions throughout their day, doing what needs to be done for their patients, while trying to adhere to extensive documentation requirements.

Dr. Patch Adams once said “You treat a disease, you win, you lose. You treat a person, I guarantee you, you’ll win, no matter what the outcome.“ Because of this truth, nurses win every day.

Stay well!