TOPIC: Integrative Medicine & You
Monday, April 30, 2012
Catherine Stallworth, MD
news notes via www.webmd.com
Dr. Stallworth is one of the featured physician's in the upcoming Revive Her Health: Summer Soiree, part of Baptist Hospital's Revive Series.
DATE: Tuesday, May 8, 2012 @ The Hutton Hotel beginning @ 6p
A ladies-only event, hosted by NC5 anchor, Kristin Priesol—focused on helping women gain the health information they need and have fun at the same time! The event feature hors d'oeuvres, wine, chocolate, health screenings and a chance to ask your personal health questions to the area's leading health experts!
To learn more www.ReviveHerHealth.com
EATING FOR OPTIMAL HEALTH
Antioxidants and Your Immune System: Super Foods for Optimal Health
One of the best ways to keep your immune system strong and prevent colds and flu might surprise you: Shop your supermarket's produce aisle.
Experts say a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help you ward off infections like colds and flu. That's because these super foods contain immune-boosting antioxidants.
What are antioxidants? They are vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that protect and repair cells from damage caused by free radicals. Many experts believe this damage plays a part in a number of chronic diseases, including hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), cancer, and arthritis. Free radicals can also interfere with your immune system. So fighting off damage with antioxidants helps keep your immune system strong, making you better able to ward off colds, flu, and other infections.
Antioxidants for Immunity: Where to Find Them
Adding more fruit and vegetables of any kind to your diet will improve your health. But some foods are higher in antioxidants than others. The three major antioxidant vitamins are beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E. You'll find them in colorful fruits and vegetables – especially those with purple, blue, red, orange, and yellow hues. To get the biggest benefits of antioxidants, eat these foods raw or lightly steamed; don't overcook or boil.
Beta-carotene and other carotenoids: Apricots, asparagus, beets, broccoli, cantaloupe, carrots, corn, green peppers, kale, mangoes, turnip and collard greens, nectarines, peaches, pink grapefruit, pumpkin, squash, spinach, sweet potato, tangerines, tomatoes, and watermelon.
Vitamin C: Berries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cantaloupe, cauliflower, grapefruit, honeydew, kale, kiwi, mangoes, nectarines, orange, papaya, red, green or yellow peppers, snow peas, sweet potato, strawberries, and tomatoes.
Vitamin E: Broccoli, carrots, chard, mustard and turnip greens, mangoes, nuts, papaya, pumpkin, red peppers, spinach, and sunflower seeds.
Other super foods that are rich in antioxidants include:
- All berries
- Red grapes
- Alfalfa sprouts
Vitamins aren't the only antioxidants in food. Other antioxidants that may help boost immunity include
- Zinc: Found in oysters, red meat, poultry, beans, nuts, seafood, whole grains, fortified cereals, and dairy products
- Selenium: Found in Brazil nuts, tuna, beef, poultry and fortified breads, and other grain products
Antioxidant Super Foods: How Much Do You Need?
For optimal health and immune functioning, you should eat the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of the antioxidant vitamins and minerals. That's the amount of a vitamin or nutrient that you need to stay healthy and avoid a deficiency.
Here are the RDAs for some antioxidants:
Zinc: 11 milligrams for men, 8 milligrams for women. If you are a strict vegetarian, you may require as much as 50% more dietary zinc. That's because your body absorbs less zinc when you have a diet rich in plant-based foods.
Selenium: 55 micrograms for men or women.
Beta-carotene: There is no RDA for beta-carotene. But the Institute of Medicine says that if you get 3 milligrams to 6 milligrams of beta-carotene daily, your body will have the levels that may lower risk of chronic diseases.
Vitamin C: 90 milligrams for men, 75 milligrams for women. Smokers should get extra vitamin C: 125 milligrams for men and 110 milligrams for women.
Vitamin E: 15 milligrams for men and women.
How Foods Boost Immunity
Can't you get antioxidants from taking a vitamin or a supplement? Yes, but you may be missing out on other nutrients that could strengthen the immune system. Foods contain many different nutrients that work together to promote health. For example, researchers delving into the mysteries of fruits and vegetables and the complex antioxidants they contain have discovered benefits of:
- Quercetin: a plant-based chemical (phytochemical) found in apples, onions, teas, red wines, and other foods. It fights inflammation and may help reduce allergies.
- Luteolin: a flavonoid found in abundance in celery and green peppers. It also fights inflammation and one study showed it may help protect against inflammatory brain conditions like Alzheimer's.
- Catechins: a type of flavonoid found in tea. Catechins in tea may help reduce risk of heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer's disease.
If you can't get enough antioxidants in your diet by eating fresh produce, some experts recommend taking a multivitamin that contains minerals, too. But be cautious about taking individual immune system supplements to boost immunity. With antioxidants, as with most anything, moderation is key. Vitamins A and E, for example, are stored in the body and eliminated slowly. Getting too much can be toxic.
Tips for Reducing Stress
If you are one of the millions of stressed-out Americans, there's good news. People can learn to manage stress. Start with these stress management tips:
- Keep a positive attitude.
- Accept that there are events that you cannot control.
- Be assertive instead of aggressive. "Assert" your feelings, opinions, or beliefs instead of becoming angry, defensive, or passive.
- Learn and practice relaxation techniques.
- Exercise regularly. Your body can fight stress better when it is fit.
- Eat healthy, well-balanced meals.
- Get enough rest and sleep. Your body needs time to recover from stressful events.
- Don't rely on alcohol or drugs to reduce stress.
- Seek out social support.
- Learn to manage your time more effectively
PHYSICAL ACTIVITY & OVERALL HEALTH
The Sweat Boost
Exercise, like personality, has a nuanced impact on immunity. And moderate exercise is the best bet.
We've known for years that moderate exercise boosts the immune system: Those who exercise just 30 minutes a day are more resistant to colds and recover more rapidly from the colds they get. But exercise, like personality, has a nuanced impact on immunity:
- When exercise is prolonged and too intense, immunity weakens and you are more likely to get sick. Marathoners are always fighting colds, and their defenses may stay down for weeks or months after a race.
- Sweat really is youth serum. It's no secret that the immune system weakens as we age, but an Iowa State study shows that exercising elderly mice get a boost in immune health so that they are more like the young. For anyone hoping to slow the aging of their immune system, moderate exercise helps.
- Tai Chi, originally developed by Taoist monks to promote healing, can prime our immunity. Combining movement, meditation and special breathing, the practice has been linked to lower risk of heart disease, fewer falls in the elderly, even changes in neurotransmitters and improvement in mood.
- While marathoners typically suffer lowered immunity, cyclers are exempt from the long-distance rule. A recent study has determined that one can ride a bicycle for long distances at moderate intensity without weakening the immune system or becoming more vulnerable to flu and colds.
HEALTH BENEFITS of MEDITATION
Meditation Balances the Body's Systems
The mind, heart, and body can improve with regular meditation.
- Most Americans aren't raised to sit and say "Om." But meditation has gained millions of converts, helping them ease chronic pain, anxiety, stress, improve heart health, boost mood and immunity, and resolve pregnancy problems.
- Any condition that's caused or worsened by stress can be alleviated through meditation, says cardiologist Herbert Benson, MD, well known for three decades of research into the health effects of meditation. He is the founder of the Mind/Body Institute at Harvard Medical School's Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
- The relaxation response [from meditation] helps decrease metabolism, lowers blood pressure, and improves heart rate, breathing, and brain waves," Benson says. Tension and tightness seep from muscles as the body receives a quiet message to relax.
- There's scientific evidence showing how meditation works. In people who are meditating, brain scans called MRI have shown an increase in activity in areas that control metabolism and heart rate. Other studies on Buddhist monks have shown that meditation produces long-lasting changes in the brain activity in areas involved in attention, working memory, learning, and conscious perception.
- The soothing power of repetition is at the heart of meditation. Focusing on the breath, ignoring thoughts, and repeating a word or phrase - a mantra - creates the biological response of relaxation.
- Meditation is not difficult to learn. You don't need to see a therapist 40 times to learn it. But like tennis, it's a skill. You need to practice. In time, people develop the ability to produce these meditative, very relaxed states very quickly. When they meditate several times during the day, they become more relaxed during the entire day.
- Some research on meditation's benefits:
- Heart Health: Countless studies have looked at meditation and heart health. Regular practice has been shown to significantly help high blood pressure over the long term, according to government-sponsored studies conducted at the College of Maharishi Vedic Medicine in Fairfield, Iowa. Among those studies, one showed significant lowering of blood pressure and heart rate in black adults.
- Also, a study in the American Journal of Hypertension showed that teenagers who meditated for 15 minutes twice a day for four months were able to lower their blood pressure a few points.
- Immune Booster: Meditation also helps ward off illness and infections. In one study testing immune function, flu shots were given to volunteers who had meditated for eight weeks and to people who didn't meditate. Blood tests taken later showed the meditation group had higher levels of antibodies produced against the flu virus, according to the study in Psychosomatic Medicine.
- Women's Health:Premenstrual syndrome (PMS), infertility problems, and even breastfeeding can be improved when women meditate regularly. In one study, PMS symptoms subsided by 58% when women meditated. Another study found that hot flashes were less intense among meditating women.
- Women struggling with infertility had much less anxiety, depression, and fatigue following a 10-week meditation program (along with exercise and nutrition changes); 34% became pregnant within six months. Also, new mothers who meditated on images of milk flowing from their breasts were able to more than double their production of milk.
Meditation Changes Brain in Good Ways
- Monks who practiced Buddhist meditation had evidence of significantly greater brain activity, called gamma wave activity, in areas associated with learning and happiness compared with those who didn't practice meditation, according to a recent study. Gamma waves involve mental processes including attention, memory, learning, and conscious perception. The monks also showed higher activity in areas associated with positive emotions, like happiness.
- "There's no doubt from the standpoint of research and my own clinical experience that meditation can reduce both the experience of pain and help people manage stress resulting from having pain,"
- Meditation is a therapy offered in all comprehensive pain centers, he says.
- How do you know if meditation is "working" - if your body is actually getting that relaxation response? If you get feelings of warmth, heaviness, and calm when you meditate, it mean that you've gone deep enough. If you just can't reach that level, enroll in a class, sometimes it helps to have someone guide you, to help you know when you're making progress.
- If meditation just doesn't seem to work, move on to another relaxation method, Any practice that can evoke the relaxation response is of benefit, be it meditation, yoga, breathing, or repetitive prayer. There is no reason to believe that one is better than the other. The key is repetition, but the repetition can be a word, sound, mantra, prayer, breathing, or movement.