What would it be like if we were rewarded everywhere we went for making healthy choices?
Imagine with me for a moment. You walk into your workplace, an environment that gives you a little bit of stress because of the deadlines you are under, or the relationships that are not happy making. Your boss calls a meeting. As you sit there he/she goes on, ‘I want to offer an incentive to each of you. Each time you use our workout room I am going to give you a bonus of 50.00 on the paycheck for that period.’
Would that motivate you?
What about this scenario? Your insurance agency calls, ‘We are giving incentives now for healthy eating. If you will submit a journal of what you are eating to us and we can see you eat 5 servings of vegetables a day and no more than 3 servings of processed bread a week, we will lower your rates by 25%.’
Would that motivate you?
What would motivate you to take care of yourself?
What would our country be like if we rewarded good behavior?
And how imperative do we find it to make changes in our country’s paradigm for health care?
What would it be like if YOU created a gap between your chronological and biological age. This would reap the benefit of energy to spend with those you love, clearer thinking in all the decisions on your plate every day, our elder generation remaining self sufficient for a longer portion of their life span, meaning less time for caregiving, less money for medical attention and more time and money to simply enjoy the beauty of life.
This all sounds great, right?
So why are the cases of organizations and groups employing this strategy so few and far between? Why is it the exception and not the rule?
Perhaps the futility of old patterns is not yet causing enough discomfort to evoke change. Growing diseases like Alzheimer’s WILL take a toll on our economy and resources if we do not do something about our attitudes around health care, including the care of our senior population.
I would like to suggest we start NOW and not wait until things are bad and force us in a new direction.
This is not to undermine the value of any of the forms, practices and ideologies around medicine only to emphasize that we NEED to focus on the simple and potent building blocks of health. If we do, this alone could turn things in a positive direction for our society. While there are many for me to share with you, here are three fundamental ones.
Number One: Choose a nutrition rich diet.
Processed foods cause inflammation, inflammation causes stress throughout the body, and stress throughout the body is going to lead to LESS health. It is simple and logical.
But are consumption of food is not based on reason, it is largely based on emotion. So the question is not how to produce the research that shows this is so, we have that don’t we? The question is how do we create the environment where it feels GOOD to eat healthy? Where it is not so much a sacrifice but a luxury because of the quality and the way we make it affordable and available?
Number Two: Make a commitment to steady exercise.
This is the same series of challenges. We have plenty of proof of the benefits of exercise and if you have a bit of a steady practice you can attest to it as well.
But exercise is still sometimes framed as ‘work,’ or ‘sacrifice,’ what can we do to alter that attitude? What sorts of structures need to be in place to make it accessible and attractive to our culture that is often over worked and under paid?
Number Three: Sleep.
Sleep is when our brain releases toxins. Sleep is when our body repairs and re-energizes. Sleep is not an option it is a necessity.
What can we do as a culture to increase the awareness around sleep and its importance? And what changes can we make to support it as an attractive choice for a world where lights and stimulation go on through the dark hours all around the world?
These are big questions, and from a large view, difficult ones to answer. However, we can begin where we are to make choices for our selves and our loved ones that put a new paradigm in motion.
From this one point we can begin to look locally, state wide and globally.
Health is not optional it is a necessity.
If we take these building blocks seriously we can even shift senior health issues like the debilitating cases of Alzheimer’s and dementia spreading like wild fire. The advantages would be our senior population moving into the role of mentor and support rather than feeling at the end of their lives they have to become dependent to the point of total care.
THIS would be life giving at its finest.
Join me in asking these questions that could change the horizon of health care for all ages and all time.
When it comes to health of the brain, you might be surprised to hear that the gut and the immune system are major players! Yes, even though the gut resides far away from the brain, and the immune system seems to be in its own league of influence they are important to talk about when we talk about the health of the brain.
In fact, the entire craniosacral system is in dynamic relationship with the gut and the immune system. Understanding these relationships can help us understand how to promote longevity and go so far as to reverse debilitating conditions such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.
But before we go that far, let me start simply by talking to you about the brain, the gut and the immune system.
As we all know, advanace in anatomy do not come at a very fast rate, at least not typically. In the last few years, however, there has been some exciting developments worth sharing here. Researchers at the University of Virginia found that there is evidence of a nerve tract which extends from the meningeal system in the brain all the way to the gut! The meningeal system lines the inside of the bones protecting the brain a bit like a shower cap and closely relates and works with the craniosacral system.
For quite a long time it had been thought there must be some correlation between the information and communication between these two but up until now solid scientific support has not existed, you can only imagine the excitement in the discovery.
Are you wondering why noting this connection is important? Before I connect these dots, let me introduce the immune system.
Just as the meningeal system acts like a shower cap for the brain, so there are protective barriers that exist inside to gut to protect the food we intake and keep it isolated so it doesn’t flow inappropriately into other parts of the body. A common condition occurring when the barrier fails is called leaky gut syndrome. But how could it fail?
The largest cause seems to be the types of food we eat or when inflammation occurs. Processed foods and sugars are one such food. Both causes leave more acid in the mucosal lining of the gut. This acid creates microtears, or holes. And these holes cause a leaky gut.
But wait! The plot thickens. Food particles move through the holes, or pores, and enter the body cavity. Since the food is not where it is supposed to be, it is spotted by the immune system and believed to be an invader. In a way, the food is an invader so the response of our bodies is appropriate. In order to protect the body, the immune system turns its attention to gobbling up the food particles. Resources are drained from the immune system and the resilience of the one suffering declines.
So here the immune system is strained, the gut is experiencing trauma and the brain is in the loop because of the connection through the hard wire tract providing connection.
This set the stage for our next article when I connect the dots, not only on how the connection of these three can increase stress in the person but even better, how the powerful technique, Craniosacral Therapy has a way to reach all three at once.
With Alzheimer’s and dementia on the rise it can be empowering for us to understand what is actually happening in the brain when it deteriorates. Why?
Because there are choices we can make to help increase brain health for ourselves or our loved ones even in the presence of decline or diagnosis.
The key players here are neurons, synapses, glial cells or the glymphatic system, cerebral spinal fluid and plaques such as amyloid beta. What is the relationship of all these pieces? Let me first define each one separately, then we can put the puzzle pieces together.
The most obvious or known to most of us are the neurons and synapses. The brain functions by way of firing electrical information across synapses from neuron to neuron. When the brain is healthy, the firing is healthy and contributes it’s part to the health of the entire person.
Cerebral spinal fluid, or extracellular fluid, sits like a thin membrane right inside the skull and around the brain. It both protects the brain as a whole and nourishes the neurons and neurotransmitters as it washes around and through all the cells.
This brings us to the glial cells, or glymphatic system.
Cutting edge research is shining a light upon the newly defined (and Nobel Prize winning) research identifying this system that runs through the body and brain.
The glial cells surround all the cells in the body to provide a way for waste to move out. In the brain they work a little differently. Billions, about a hundred billion to be a bit more exact, of glial cells form tendrils as fine as a web that extend from the periphery of the brain down deep into every single tiny space inside the brain. The tendrils are sometimes called astrocytes.
This vast network provides a way for the cerebral spinal fluid to move through the brain to do its nourishing job and to remove toxins. When the flow is steady the brain maintains greater health. When the flow is constricted, the neurons cannot do their job and sometimes even die. Inflammation is named as the chief cause. Inflammation comes from many causes but one to mention here is the last player in our series of definitions.
Amyloid beta. It is a protein toxin that clogs the brain. It is called a plaque, so you can think of plaque that collects on objects like our teeth, or on a mored boat. When this plaque increases, inflammation increases and the astrocytes become constricted.
Which means the cerebral spinal fluid cannot wash through all the places of the brain to refresh and renew.
One chief result is memory loss, from simple decline all the way to Alzheimer’s and dementia.
So now knowing the players we can change our choices to increase the flow of the cerebral spinal fluid, to decrease inflammation through diet, exercise and the focus of the next article, sleep.
Have you ever felt there is a little truth to the statement, cranky old man? While no one wants to generalize in a negative way there oftentimes is some reason the phrase has come about in the first place. The statement leads us to wonder, ‘Why did it come about anyway?’
A plausible explanation could be quite simple. When someone older is cranky it could be that their health is compromised. Waking up with aches and pains (another one of those statements;) dealing with the inability to physically perform; feeling stressed over finances shrinking and health care expenses rising are all factors that can show up as crankiness.
But crankiness does not have to be one of the defining qualities of aging. What if crankiness could be turned to happiness?
With all the research devoted to longevity, with all the professionals (like me,) giving their entire lives to create a new paradigm we have reason to believe there is hope.Hope is not just an airy sentiment, it is the realization that our health can be influenced by our choices.
This is the time I get on my soap box, in a gracious way of course. What we put into our bodies will influence how we feel. If we are set on the quick fixes of simple sugars and processed foods we will have the high that leads to a low. But there is more to this than meets the eye. Putting these foods into our bodies is ultimately toxic. YES, toxic. Our body is put into a mode of having to handle the stress of processing these simple carbohydrates and unhealthy fats. And stress is what takes a toll. Stress breaks down our ability to think clearly. Literally. Stress and pour nutrition are the leading contributors to cognitive decline.
The downwards spiral starts here. As cognitive decline sets in, our choices become weaker and weaker and we fall into a pattern, a habit, of giving ourselves a quick fix. The quick fix causes inflammation. The inflammation causes unhappiness. The unhappiness decreases our quality of life.
Take a look at the pioneering contributions of Dr. David Perlmutter, author of The Grain Brain and Dr. William Davis, author of The Fat Belly, and you will see clearly that much of the power of our health and happiness lies within our choices. My own life’s work is to this end. To help people move from crankiness to happiness; yes, to be a source of hope. My book, The BodyEnergy Longevity Prescription gives the recipe for this hope which includes nutrition.
Many cultures have a custom of honoring those older in community as elders. And elder has a connotation to it that leaves a sense in the mouth of wisdom, life experience, and worthiness of respect because they have made the journey for many years. In this connotation is a belief the persons have a value meant to be passed on. It is as though they have reconnoitered the land we are just beginning to tread.
In America the place of our seniors has been challenged. We are a free market society where each individual is honored for having control over their future, their success and what constitutes their personal stability. Working hard and working smart for what we want is esteemed highly, and considered the way success is achieved.
This is not unilaterally true, but there is truth in the observation. For years and years people of other nations have seen America as the place of ‘freedom and democracy,’ a place where one can achieve their dreams. These are qualities worth preserving as a way we can mature as a nation. The downside of this personal agency is the relative dismissal of the community as a collection of people all having something valuable to bring to the table. And when someone loses their ability to perform in the ways society sees as valuable, that very someone may be considered a burden or even one in need.
The middle ground is the constant invitation. To preserve free market and to preserve the value of each person based on another set of criteria instead of only one set of social norms.
Could we possibly create a new way to look at the seniors in our midst? Even if they may not be able, or want to, run a corporation to make multi-million dollar profits, they do have unique gifts to share to remind us of what life is about.
As the American dream breaks down before our eyes we have the chance to let the shakeup lead us to a new paradigm. One factor would be to redefine our relationship to those aging among us.
Elders. We could begin to see seniors as elders. The very word differs from the latter. Senior denotes a chronological fact. Elder connotes a relationship to those around them.
Beginning to shift this term leads to practical implications. It leads us to ask different questions. Instead of asking, ‘What nursing home will take care of our seniors?’ We could ask, ‘What type of medical care would preserve the health of our elders so we can continue to have them and their gifts among us?’
This new question leads down a very new road, already paved with alternative modalities for health, new research in the field of gerontology, and even options of social paradigms offering a quality of life for our elders happening in our very midst.
Let’s ask new questions, therein we find answers to a new paradigm to honor our elders.
This article poses a simple question. But is the question really that simple? How would you answer it- ‘What is normal aging, anyway?’
It seems that one of the advantages of the globalization effects of the internet and technology is the shake up to our ideas of what is normal. We are exposed to all sorts of cultures and individuals telling their stories of getting older, or belying the aging process. We hear how people in China age differently based on their diet and culture. We hear how some live to be over a hundred and others die in their sixties. And even though formulas are created to tell us if we do what ‘they’ do we too will live longer, is it so?
While this could be debatable what is within our personal power is to challenge our assumptions around what it means to age. So first, let’s start with your definition. Before reading further, if you will entertain me on this one, write down your own definition to the question, ‘What is normal aging?’
Okay. Now you have that to hold up to the concepts and research offering new ideas to describe and even redefine the aging process. Is aging an inevitable downward spiral? Are we bound to the genetics of our past? Perhaps not, especially if we frame aging in a completely new way.
A prevailing definition of what it means to age normally is to assume that our cells are programmed to degradate, which means to simply wear out. We can accept this as the inevitable case or we can ask why our cells would have that programming. If we ask why, we can discover that the belief itself sets up the programming. This kind of pattern is so entrenched in the collective of humanity we may not be able to completely dismantle it in our cells, but we can certainly approach our health that way in small steps.
Let’s take a practical example. What if 90% of your family has a history of diabetes. Would you assume that you too will probably end up suffering diabetes? Would your language begin to mirror this belief because research has shown that we are affected by our genetic line? You could walk down that road.
Or you could consider the research in other fields, such as epigenetics that contributes our response to our environment to have a larger percentage of influence upon our health. This would take us deeper out of the strangling idea that we have no power since it runs in our genes. But it does push us into a realm of greater responsibility. It could lead us to take a look at our family line and see that everyone has grown up with, and eaten a diet heavy in the very foods that cause trauma to the pancreas, liver and digestive system. We could see that the normal aging of cellular decline happened because the diet was rich in high processed foods and poor in nutrition and balance. And we could observe that our relatives that have diabetes are eating poorly. Then we step out of the system and choose.
If we are courageous we could take on a personal challenge to see if we function more effectively if we make a small change to our diet. And if we function more effectively it is fair to say that it is happening on a cellular level. Hence, we are helping our cells shift from a pattern of degradation to regeneration.
In the next articles I wish to get into other concepts tied to normal aging such as random damage, cross linkage and allostatic load (or homeostatic imbalance.) And then of course we can move into a deeper understanding of the ways our personal choices can directly influence our personal normal aging.