Thursday, April 28, 2016

Your most underappreciated body part

If I were to ask you what your circulatory system does, I bet you’d say pump blood through your body.

And if I asked about your digestive system, you’d say to digest foods and eliminate wastes.

But what if I asked you what your lymphatic system does?

<Insert sounds of crickets chirping.>

Most people have no earthly clue what their lymphatic system does, but trust me, if yours isn’t working right, it’s only a matter of time before you get seriously sick.

Here’s why.

Your internal cleaning crew
Your lymphatic system works with your circulatory system, but the main fluid is lymph—not blood.

Lymph is a milky liquid made up of white blood cells, nutrients and chyle (a fluid created in your intestines when you digest fats).

Here’s what happens:

After you eat, chyle and nutrients from your foods are absorbed into your bloodstream.

Your blood cruises through your blood vessels—from the main arteries, then eventually to your tiny capillaries.

Then lymph trickles out of your bloodstream through the ends of the capillaries.  From there it gets to work washing your cells, delivering nutrients and mopping up wastes.

Then the lymph heads to your lymph vessels (you have just as many lymph vessels as blood vessels!).  When it reaches one of your lymph nodes, the node filters out the wastes and destroys any viruses, bacteria or cancer cells picked up along the way.

Once the filtering is done, then the “clean” lymph rejoins your blood.
Note that when there are a lot of wastes or a virus in your lymph, the lymph nodes get overloaded and swell up.  That’s when many people say they have “swollen glands” but they’re really swollen lymph nodes.

A big price to pay
If this cycle isn’t working right, you are susceptible to a number of health problems including:
  • Lacking nutrients/deficiency diseases
  • Cancer
  • Low energy
  • Repeated viruses or infections
  • Fluid swelling in your limbs or other areas of the body (edema)
The other partnership—your immune system
Your lymphatic system also partners up with your immune system, and the main lymphatic players here are your bone marrow, your thymus gland, and your spleen.

Your bone marrow is where the vast majority of your immune cells are produced from specialized cells called stem cells.

Your thymus gland produces hormones that trigger immune responses when you need them, such as when you get stung by a bee.

Your spleen also produces immune cells, plus it helps filter and cleanse your blood.

So without these players working like they should, you run the risk of having impaired immune functioning and heaven help you at that point—any sickness or disease is fair game for you.

Take care of YOUR lymphatic system!
Here are ways to make sure your lymphatic system is working in tip-top shape to cleanse and protect you:

Get regular exercise
Unlike your circulatory system which has your heart to pump blood through your body, your lymphatic system doesn’t have a pump to move lymph around.

So YOU have been the pump—by engaging in regular exercise!

No more excuses.  Pick an activity, get your doc’s OK and GET MOVING.

Drink enough water

Water is essential for having proper blood levels and to flush wastes out of your cells.  Eight 8-oz. glasses a day should be your minimum.

Nutritional support

A great way to help your lymphatic system’s cleaning efforts is to create less garbage to begin with!

That means avoiding processed and fast foods and instead having a diet of real foods.  Especially good choices for lymphatic health are leafy greens, citrus fruits and healthy fats (especially nuts, seeds and avocado).

Give those immune cells a good home
Although your bone marrow and spleen produce most of your immune cells, the majority of those cells (about 70 percent) take up residence in your gut.

So it’s crucial to make sure that you provide a healthy intestinal environment to house these life-saving protectors—and the key to that is a real foods diet and probiotic supplementation.

Practice deep breathing
Proper movement of air through your lungs also helps pump fluid through the lymphatic system:

1- Get comfortable in a sitting or lying position and put your hands on your chest and stomach.
2- Focus on breathing from your abdomen instead of your chest. 
3- Breathe in through your nose, hold the breath for a few seconds and then exhale through your mouth. The time it takes to exhale should be about twice what it is to inhale.
4- Try to do four 8-breath cycles one to three times every day.

Consider possible iodine deficiency
Most people associate iodine deficiency with thyroid goiter, but it can also cause congestion of the lymphatic system.

If you suspect you may be deficient, ask your doctor to do a test.
And if you want some (non-salt) dietary sources of iodine, fish and shellfish are your best bets.

Congratulations!  You are now an expert in your lymphatic system and hopefully have an appreciation for how it is keeping you healthy and, well, alive.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Two growing dangers you can’t ignore

In honor of Earth Day tomorrow, I’d like to talk about two growing dangers in our environment that you cannot ignore any longer because they could eventually cost you your health or your life.

Genetically modified foods and glyphosate (Roundup®) use.

Here is what you must know about these two “grim reapers” and how you can help minimize their harmful effects on you.

GMO foods—not just pollen experiments
To create genetically modified foods, scientists are playing Mother Nature and not in a good way.

To create a genetically modified food, they alter the genetic code (DNA) of plants by splicing in DNA from a completely unrelated species, crossing different kingdoms of organisms.

For example, chicken genes have been spliced into potatoes and fish genes into strawberries.

Rodent genes have been inserted into tobacco, and bacteria and viruses are spliced into cucumbers and tomatoes.

What has resulted is a series of "alien foods” that we know nothing about.  That includes knowing zero about their safety because only a few very limited studies have been done by the biotech industry…so you can guess how objective those were.

Plus time will tell what the long-term health effects of these “Franken-foods” will be.

I predict that we will see increased immune reactions (like allergies and sensitivities) as well as eventually even chronic diseases like cancer.

Neither the FDA nor the US Department of Agriculture requires biotech companies to prove that GMO foods are safe for human consumption before new modified crops are put on the market.

Currently, the most widely-produced GMO crops in the US are sugar, corn, soy, and wheat—foods which the average American eats in abundance.

Here’s the icing on the cake—glyphosate is typically used in the farming of GMO crops and glyphosate residue has been found in GMO food items!

Glyphosate—kills weeds (and maybe you)
Roundup® is a very popular product that is used in landscaping to kill weeds.
While Monsanto claims that Roundup® is safe, a peer-reviewed report out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), revealed how glyphosate can, in fact, harm human health.

Monsanto has claimed that Roundup® is harmless to animals and humans because it uses what is called the shikimate acid pathway to kill weeds, and this metabolic pathway is absent in people and pets.  However, this pathway is present in BACTERIA, and that’s how it can cause bodily harm in both humans and animals—through your gut bacteria.

Glyphosate disrupts bacteria’s ability to function.  What makes this worse is that glyphosate prefers to attack your beneficial bacteria, thereby allowing dangerous organisms to flourish and overcome your friendly flora.  At that point, you become a candidate for any number of viruses, infections, and diseases.

Plus glyphosate has been linked to certain cancers (including lymphoma), and to DNA damage, premature births, birth defects and ADHD.

In addition, glyphosate can also destroy the villi in your intestinal wall, and reduce your body’s ability to absorb nutrients.  This can increase your risk for deficiency diseases as well as obesity.

Minimize your exposure!
Here’s how you can help minimize your exposure to GMO and glyphosate dangers:

Read labels
When buying fresh produce look at the codes on the little stickers on the items:
  • 4-digit code:  Traditionally grown (non-GMO) produce
  • 5-digit code:  Look at the first number: 
  • If it starts with a 9, it's organic
  • If it starts with an 8, it's a GMO
Avoid processed foods
GMO crops are used extensively in packaged/processed foods, and the labels don't need to disclose that.  As a matter of fact, unless a packaged food is 100 percent organic, you should assume it has GMO ingredients.

The answer here is easy—stick to real foods and avoid the packaged junk as much as possible.

Buy organic whenever you can
Organic foods by definition do not contain GMO ingredients, so if you want snack chips, cereals or other packaged foods, at least opt for organic brands.

Try to buy as much organic meat, milk and produce as possible. 

If you're on a tight budget and can't afford to go 100 percent organic, here are the produce items which are the most tainted and are important to buy organic:
  • Celery
  • Peaches
  • Strawberries
  • Apples
  • Blueberries
  • Nectarines
  • Bell Peppers
  • Spinach
  • Cherries
  • Kale/Collard
  • Greens
  • Potatoes
  • Grapes
Help your gut bacteria recover
Unless you’ve been diligent about eating 100 percent organic, chances are excellent your gut bacteria may have already taken a harmful hit from GMOs and glyphosate.

In addition to a healthy diet of real foods, supplementation with a top-quality probiotic can help your gut bacteria bounce back and provide their sickness and disease-fighting protection. 

Remember YOU alone are responsible for your health--not biotech companies and food companies.

Don't offer yourself up as a guinea pig, jeopardizing your health while you help to grow their bottom lines.

When it comes to real health, natural is always best.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Study: Eating fast food is OK if you do this

I won’t be shocking you today by saying that a fast food diet combined with being a couch potato is a sure path to aging and disease.

But you may be surprised to learn that recent research has shown regular exercise may undo the effects of an unhealthy diet on the cellular level!

A study of mice conducted at the Mayo Clinic showed that exercise helped to prevent diabetes-like symptoms by decreasing the effects of an unhealthy diet.

In addition, exercise appeared to help prevent the accumulation of senescent cells in the mice, which are cells that can increase the risk of age-related disease and conditions.

Plus once the mice started exercising, they stopped accumulating belly fat--which is particularly dangerous and can increase the risk of heart disease, kidney disease, and dementia.

Whoa, Nelly!
If your four food groups are Taco Bell, McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and Dunkin’ Donuts you may be shaking with delight right now thinking all you need to do is take a stroll around the block and you’re golden.

Not so fast.

First of all, “exercise” typically means something more than a casual walk.

Generally speaking, you should do something for at least 30 minutes a day that raises your heart rate and makes you sweat.

And if you’d rather stick needles in your eyeballs than to exercise, here are my top five tips for success:
  • Pick an activity you like or will tolerate.  You’ll be more likely to stick with exercise if you don’t loathe what you’re doing.
  • Get an exercise buddy.  You’re far less likely to skip a workout if someone is counting on you to show up, plus you can have fun talking and the time will fly by faster.  (This is my friend Liana and I running across the finish line at the Empire State Marathon in 2012—we’ve been exercise buddies for years.)
  • Make your goals reasonable.  For example, don't expect to run five miles when the farthest you’ve ever run is from the couch to the refrigerator and back during a commercial.  Even though I’ve run 26.2, I started with a mile or two way back when.
  • Celebrate your little victories along the way.  It’s easier to stay motivated when you can look back and see how far you’ve come.
  • Remember you’ll rarely ever regret working out, but you’ll almost always regret not working out. 

Just be sure to get your doctor’s OK.

A glaring omission from the study
In addition to not specifying exactly what “regular exercise” is, there was also a glaring omission in the study I quoted above.

The health price of eating nutrient-poor foods!

I don’t care what you do—you can run a marathon every week, but if you’re not nourishing your body with real foods, it’s not a matter of if but merely when will you suffer the consequences.

Here are some examples of what lacking nutrients can do to you:

Heart disease is directly connected to deficiencies in zinc, magnesium, vitamins B6, B12, D, C and E, and folic acid.

Depression can be triggered by low levels of vitamins B3, B6, and B12 as well as vitamin D.

Autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis, lupus, Crohn’s disease, psoriasis and Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism are linked to vitamin D deficiency.

Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are associated with inadequate levels of vitamin B12, magnesium, and vitamin D.

Cancer can result from numerous possible deficiencies including vitamins A, D, E and K, folic acid, selenium, and zinc.

Type 2 diabetes is commonly seen with deficiencies in biotin, chromium, vanadium, magnesium and vitamin C.

Face the music
Now it’s time to face the music, all you fast food fanatics. You’d better start getting properly nourished or else you’ll be pushing up daisies long before your time.

I know this seem challenging, so I’ll share a personal confession about unhealthy choices:

I used to be a Diet Pepsi-a-holic in my early 20’s but one day the soda machine at work was out of Diet Pepsi so I just got a bottle of water. 

I felt SO GOOD and refreshed after that water it was astonishing…so needless to say that was the end of Diet Pepsi (and all soda) for me.

Even small steps in the right direction can make a big difference.

I tell my clients to start by making just one healthy change or substitution each day.  That could be things like:
  • Swapping out a soda for water
  • Cooking a meal at home instead of ordering pizza
  • Opting for a side salad with your dinner in a restaurant instead of French fries
  • Offering a crudité platter and/or shrimp with cocktail sauce instead of chips as appetizers
  • Choosing scrambled eggs, yogurt or oatmeal instead of a donut for breakfast
As you’re making strides toward healthier choices, you can ensure your nutritional bases are covered with a high-quality multi-vitamin formula, and promote sound digestion and absorption of those precious nutrients with a good probiotic supplement.

Power the power of nutrition and regular exercise to work in creating the healthiest you that you can be!

To your health,

Sherry Brescia

Thursday, April 7, 2016

This disease is exploding—will you be its next victim?

According to a study recently published in The Lancet, the number of adults with diabetes worldwide quadrupled from 108 million in 1980 to 422 million in 2014.

The study didn’t differentiate between Type 1 and Type 2, but most (90-95 percent) cases of diabetes are Type 2, so that’s the monster we’re looking at.

Plus diabetes is no longer just affecting adults.  According to a 2014 JAMA study, the rate of Type 2 diabetes in children rose 30 percent from 2001 to 2009!

Why is this happening?
Although there are many factors causing the mass explosion in diabetes, a few emerge as the leaders of the pack:

Our typical modern diets
Our typical diets which are heavy in refined carbs, sugars and soda create repeated influxes of glucose which pave the way for a stressed pancreas, insulin resistance and ultimately Type 2 diabetes.

Stress causes secretions of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol, which in turn trigger a surge of glucose into your bloodstream.  Plus when your stress is chronic and ongoing, your stress hormone levels remain high, and therefore so does the glucose level in your blood.

Lack of exercise
Exercise not only helps reduce stress and helps you maintain your weight, but it also increases the ratio of muscle to fat in your body.  The more muscle you have, the higher your metabolism, which in turn helps you burn more glucose.

Statin use
A recent Finnish study found that men who were treated with statins had a 46 percent higher risk of diabetes than men who were not treated with statins.  This is because your liver works very closely with your pancreas in controlling your blood sugar, and statins impair the proper functioning of your liver (shutting down its ability to make cholesterol).

Don’t be a statistic!
Type 2 diabetes is very preventable, and even if you do have it, there is a whole lot you can do to help keep it under control and even turn it around!

Eat for blood sugar control
Avoid refined carbs and sugars as much as possible.  Instead, concentrate on these foods that naturally help control blood sugar:

Legumes Legumes are packed with fiber and protein and help regulate blood sugar.

Onions:  Onions are rich in chromium, which is an important mineral to regulate blood sugar.

Tomatoes: Tomatoes are also a good source of chromium, plus they are loaded with antioxidant nutrients.

Red and purple fruits: The anthocyanins (phytonutrients) found in cranberries, cherries, blueberries and similar fruits may help lower blood sugar levels.

Leafy greens and sweet potatoes: Loaded with antioxidant nutrients, leafy green vegetables, and sweet potatoes contain special compounds beneficial for blood sugar balance.

Cinnamon: This spice is a potent antioxidant and helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels.

Walnuts: A great source of Omega-3 fatty acids, they help to encourage proper insulin levels and help lower heart disease risk.

Extra-virgin olive oil: Studies show that extra-virgin olive oil has beneficial effects on blood sugar levels.

Whole grains: Whole grains contain fiber which supports regular bowel movements and blood sugar control.

Limit the booze
Alcohol can cause your blood sugar to drop through the floor (hypoglycemia).  Eventually, this can lead to spikes and drops—blood sugar that’s out of control.
Don’t drink to excess—limit yourself to one or two drinks in a day, preferably with meals.

There are many ways to help diffuse stress: Meditation, yoga, journal writing, exercise, massage, counseling, deep breathing, prayer, and seminars.  Do whatever works for you.

Supplement with Omega-3 essential fatty acids
Omega-3 EFAs provide crucial support to your metabolism including maintaining proper insulin levels and are also Nature’s anti-inflammatory.

A top-quality fish oil formula can help ensure your body has a proper supply of this crucial nutrient.

Get regular exercise
No need to get fancy here--even brisk walking is helpful.  Pick an activity you like or can at least tolerate, get your doctor’s OK and do it for at least 30 minutes a day, 4-5 days a week.

Beef up your immune system
Colds, flu, and other infections can send your blood glucose soaring through the roof, and your best protection against illnesses like these is to have a strong and sharp immune system.

When it comes to supporting strong immune health, nothing beats probiotic supplementation.  Your friendly gut flora (which houses 70 percent of your immune system) is constantly under assault from things like stress, medications, pollutants and sugars, so it’s crucial to give your body a daily boost of helpful bacteria.

Take the bull by the horns and reduce YOUR risk of Type 2 diabetes now.