3 Tips for Healthy Travel this Year

Healthy travel may be on your radar this year

…and rightfully so!  After over a year of global shutdowns, lifestyle shifts, and the hyper-emphasis on “how to stay healthy,” many of us are ready to think ahead.  The idea of staying well and traveling may be on many people’s minds.

Travel wellness is not a brand new concept but is one that has been increasing in popularity.  According to the Global Wellness Institute, a diverse group of people looks for ways to incorporate healthy lifestyles into their travel priorities.  Meanwhile, wellness integrations are expected to increase in hotel spaces, vacation destinations, and the food and hospitality segments.

In the past, people may have thought of vacations as times to blow of steam, indulge, and temporarily abandon health priorities.  However, many people are finding that travel and wellness can effectively go hand in hand.

Wellness tourism is expected to continue to grow.  Before the pandemic, it was estimated to increase just under 7% per year.  Considering how the pandemic has led many people to re-center on the fundamentals of health and wellness, it is plausible that this estimate will shift higher in the coming years.

Lonely Planet recently published a blog article on what to expect for health and wellness travel in 2021.

So, what are some ways to travel healthy and well this year?

Travel wellness tips may be substantial and vast.  However, a few concepts that are specifically relevant this year include the following:

Focus on a recharge – One of the main benefits of wellness travel is re-positioning the mind to center on rejuvenation while traveling.  Many wellness tourism websites emphasize “finding your balance” as an overarching theme.  The integration of this mind-body approach in travel could help you focus on stress reduction, rest & restoration, self-care, and overall mental well-being.

Re-envision your definition of travel – Similar to the examples of summer of 2020, “travel” or “vacation” doesn’t necessarily need to be far from home.  Active, low-impact travel options could be in your backyard (so to speak).  Cross-state or region travel restrictions have significantly eased, which opens up a range of possibilities.  These options may also keep your pocketbook most healthy.

Keep in line with eco- and sustainability – Minimizing environmental impact has become top of mind for many people, including the tourist destinations targeting would be wellness travelers.  One of the most salient trends from the 2020-2021 pandemic was the emphasis on spending time in nature.  As a result, taking on outdoor activities that leave little to no trace has taken many adventure seekers and wellness travelers by an even greater hold.

Bonus tip(s):  Remember your summer reading list, which may entail classic staple options or books centered on health, happiness, and overall well-being.

Also, keeping a travel journal could be a way to both record your experience and nurture your well-being.  The health benefits from journaling have been long supported and gained a boost in attention from the pandemic.

What are other popular wellness travel trends worth considering?

You may find that traveling specifically for wellness is of interest.  If so, there are definitely a few options for this.

Wellness in the wilderness is an age-old staple that has become even more popular in recent years.  The desire to unplug and reduce excessive stimulation from the typical modern, hectic lifestyle could make prioritizing time spent in nature even more attractive.

Garden wellness & farm retreats can be a great way to both unwind and keep nutrition top of mind while traveling.  Similar to the wilderness wellness option, engaging with natural elements has certain inherent benefits.

Adventure tours stimulate the mind through new learning, excitement, and challenges.  Many of these options also tend to be physical activity driven, which will please the fitness-seeking tourist.

Facilitated wellness trips are typically focused on building a sense of community and sparking new connections and experiences through group travel.  Some of these options may still be resuming in the aftermath of the peak of the pandemic.  Yet, they are still a popular idea in wellness travel.

Pick your adventure.  Consistent, daily wellness can easily be a part of the journey!

Photo credit(s):  Javier Allegue Barros on Unsplash

Ashley L Arnold, MBA, MPH is a lifestyle health educator and coach who supports clients to channel authority over their health, well-being, and overall vitality.  Offering health education approaches and 1-on-1 coaching modules, she gets them out of excess weeds of information and inconsistent practices that don’t get desired results.  Through helping people focus on the right applications paired with appropriate consideration for bio-individual facets, they become stronger, more confident self-advocates for their health.  Bottom line, they will surpass challenges, embrace healthful living with ease, and, best of all, feel a greater sense of empowerment and more energy!

In need of formalized support to make healthful lifestyle changes?  Contact me through my business site.

Gardening Therapy: Is This a Thing and What Should You Know?

A little “garden therapy” may be just what you need!

Gardening as a way to obtain therapeutic health benefits is nothing new.  Ideas that garden environments provide therapeutic benefits have been held across the globe for centuries.

A more formal application is “horticultural therapy,” which originated as a mental health-focused approach and has since been used across settings and applications.  Health benefits from horticultural therapy may include improved mental well-being, boosted cognitive skills, and even perks to physical health, such as improved balance and coordination.  Gardens that have been designed for therapy will include sensory considerations and may be structured for specific disabilities.

Furthermore, a 2017 multi-country meta-analysis on the potential health benefits from gardening suggested that a “significant, positive” effect on health could result from engaging in gardening practices.  The study evaluated health outcomes such as depression, anxiety, and BMI.  It also reported on life satisfaction, sense of community, and other quality of life variables.

As observed during the 2020 global pandemic, many people turned to gardening practices to help cope with various challenges.  While the trend was recognized globally, in the U.S. “pandemic gardens” started being referred to as “victory gardens,” which was a bit of a repurposed term from the World War II era.  Only this modern take was not just to grow food.  The gardens also serve as a catalyst for people to experience a sense of purpose and meaningful connection.

Gardening may help to elicit joy and feelings of accomplishment.  While community gardening could encourage social inclusion.  Starting a garden is also a great way to learn new skills and gain more connection to nature.

It is well supported that the healing elements of nature are vast.

Natural environments can elicit positive feelings that boost a sense of happiness and positive well-being.

In stressful times, simply viewing natural elements like trees or gardens from a window is thought to boost well-being.  There has also been a trend to include indoor gardens in various healthcare settings.

Furthermore, gardens could support those living in urban areas with less direct access to nature.

Having your own garden may also improve your clinical health.

One thing health science professionals agree on is plant-based food supports overall health.

Picking directly from the garden at peak ripeness helps ensure the best nutritional value.  It also avoids the nutrient loss that may occur during transport and storage phases with commercial produce.  Locally grown food in gardens or smaller regional farms may also support a greater variety of plants with unique nutrition profiles compared to commercial channels.

There is also a relationship between outdoor gardening and Vitamin D, which may help your body in multiple ways!

Growing your own food can also provide greater control over what is being applied to your plants and soil.  More research has emerged on the collective health burden from numerous small-dose exposures to chemicals in the man-made environment.  Leading public health agencies have begun to monitor related health outcomes, but the surveillance is more recent in our history.  Regardless, having a personal garden could be a way to reduce chemicals or the possibility of cross-contaminants on food.

One of the most significant potential clinical health benefits is reduced stress!  Excessive stress loads leading to chronically elevated stress hormones can wreak havoc on the body.  Studies have suggested that gardening practices could provide relief to acute stress, which could help control overall stress levels and avoid a build-up of negative effects.

Gardening may help keep us healthy while we age.

Studies have shown that engaging in gardening may lower the risk of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.  Furthermore, studies on horticultural therapy with elderly populations have observed improved quality of life, including reduced stress and better moods.

The Blue Zones Project observed lifestyle patterns in populations around the globe that had strikingly more favorable health outcomes.  One theme from this observational project has been an emphasis on gardening.

So, what are some of the best ways to get started gardening?

Many seasoned gardeners will provide a variation of this simple advice; “grow what you can grow well!

Most plants can be started 4-6 weeks before transplanting into an outdoor garden.  The use of heat pads, grow lights, and possibly even aeroponic systems can help ensure that plants start (or germinate) directly from seed.

Then, the plants will likely benefit from a hardening phase before being planted into the garden.  Some plants, such as peas and beans, may be best directly sowed according to the frost timelines in the area in which they will be planted.

If purchasing seedlings, mid-late spring will be the peak time.

For outdoor growing, using plants best for the geographic zone can help ensure success.  Most seed packets will also advise peak planting times.

Awareness of soil characteristics of the natural environment and what soil composition is best for the plants is also critical.  The use of compost, fertilizers and other soil nutrients could be imperative.

Other methods of gardening may include greenhouses or aero- and aquaponics.  Growing salad greens year-round has become a goal of many gardeners.

In spring, popular options include lettuces, spinach, and other leafy green options.  Carrots, broccoli, radishes, beets, and peas are also preferred in spring.  Some of these foods can be planted again in the fall.

Late summer and fall gardens are great for broccoli, onions, beans, carrots, kale, leeks, beets, collards, brussels sprouts, and, of course, pumpkins.  Cooling weather enhances the flavor of many crops, making the plant foods sweeter.

No one is saying a garden will not take a little investment and work.  However, considering the potential health benefits, it may be well worth the while!

Photo credit(s):  John Bogna on Unsplash

Ashley L Arnold, MBA, MPH is a lifestyle health educator and coach who supports clients to channel authority over their health, well-being, and overall vitality.  Offering health education approaches and 1-on-1 coaching modules, she gets them out of excess weeds of information and inconsistent practices that don’t get desired results.  Through helping people focus on the right applications paired with appropriate consideration for bio-individual facets, they become stronger, more confident self-advocates for their health.  Bottom line, they will surpass challenges, embrace healthful living with ease, and, best of all, feel a greater sense of empowerment and more energy!

In need of formalized support to make healthful lifestyle changes?  Contact me through my business site.

References:

American Horticultural Therapy Association (n.d.).  What is Horticultural Therapy.  Retrieved from https://www.ahta.org/what-is-horticultural-therapy.

Detweiler, M. B., et al. (2012, Jun).  What is the Evidence to Support the Use of Therapeutic Gardens for the Elderly?.  Psychiatry Investigation9(2), 100–110.

Feldmar, J. (2018, Dec 10).  Gardening Could Be the Hobby that Helps You Live to 100.  BBC.  Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20181210-gardening-could-be-the-hobby-that-helps-you-live-to-100.

Fix.com (2014, May 5.).  9 Steps to Harden Off Seedlings.  Retrieved from https://www.fix.com/blog/steps-to-harden-seedlings/.

Gerber, C. (2020, Mar 6).  The Benefits of Therapeutic Gardens.  Verywell Health.  Retrieved from https://www.verywellhealth.com/therapeutic-gardens-1094682.

Healthline Editorial Team (2020, Apr 7).  3 Surprising Benefits of Vitamin D.  Healthline Media.  Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/benefits-vitamin-d.

Ketcham, C. (2020, May 20).  The Pandemic Has Turned Us All into Gardeners.  Outside.  Retrieved from  https://www.outsideonline.com/2412782/coronavirus-victory-gardens.

LaLiberte, K. (2021, Jan 24).  How to Grow Salad Greens All Year.  Gardener’s Supply Company.  Retrieved from https://www.gardeners.com/how-to/how-to-grow-salad-greens-all-year/7272.html.

Legg, T.J. (2020, Mar 29).  The Effects of Stress on Your Body.  Healthline Media.  Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/stress/effects-on-body.

Mayer, P. (2020, May 9).  Pandemic Gardens Satisfy a Hunger for More Than Just Good Tomatoes.  NPR.  Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2020/05/09/852441460/pandemic-gardens-satisfy-a-hunger-for-more-than-just-good-tomatoes.

Mayo Clinic Staff (2021, Feb 9).  Vitamin D.  Mayo Clinic.  Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-vitamin-d/art-20363792.

Mead, R. (2020, Aug 17).  The Therapeutic Power of Gardening.  The New Yorker, Annals of Horticulture, August 24, 2020 Issue.  Retrieved from https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/08/24/the-therapeutic-power-of-gardening.

Mesenberg, M. (2013, Oct 17).  Why Local Food is Better for You.  Rodale Institute.  Retrieved from https://rodaleinstitute.org/blog/why-local-food-is-better-for-you/.

Salomon, S.H. (2020, May 7).  What Are the Possible Health Benefits of Vitamin D?  Everyday Health.  Retrieved from https://www.everydayhealth.com/vitamin-d/vitamin-d-health-benefits-what-it-can-cant-your-body/.

Schmutz, Lennartsson, Williams, Devereaux, & Davies (2014, Apr).  The Benefits of Gardening and Food Growing for Health and Wellbeing.  Garden Organic and Sustain.

Simons, L. A., Simons, J., McCallum, J., & Friedlander, Y. (2006, Jan 16).  Lifestyle Factors and Risk of Dementia:  Dubbo Study of the Elderly.  The Medical Journal of Australia184(2), 68–70.

Soga, M., Gaston, K. J., & Yamaura, Y. (2016, Nov 14).  Gardening is Beneficial for Health: A Meta-analysis.  Preventive Medicine Reports, 5, 92–99.

Thompson R. (2018, Jun).  Gardening for Health: a Regular Dose of Gardening.  Clinical Medicine (London, England)18(3), 201–205.

USDA Agricultural Research Service (n.d.).  Plant Hardiness Zone Map.  Retrieved from https://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/.

Van Den Berg, A. E., & Custers, M. H. (2011, Jan).  Gardening Promotes Neuroendocrine and Affective Restoration from Stress.  Journal of Health Psychology16(1), 3–11.

Your Cellular Health: 5 Ways to Nurture from the Inside and Out

The terms cellular health and healthy aging more or less go hand in hand.

Cellular health includes the cells of the body and their respective processes.  The cells in the human body are the foundation for tissues in the body, including muscles, bones, and organs.  They also trigger mechanisms within our internal physiology.

Internal processes at the cellular level are connected to long-term health, including aging and the etiology of diseases.  Cellular processes also play a role in circadian rhythms and mitochondrial activity, which influence the production and regulation of energy in the body.  (Learn more about cellular metabolism from this Mind Body Green article).

Signs of aging start in the cells.  Furthermore, other signals of your cellular health could be energy levels, skin quality, and whether or not you are prone to illnesses or infections.  Cellular damage can stem from factors such as excess adverse oxidative stress, which is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body.  

Cellular health is a building block for all other health and human physiological-related topics.  Therefore, it can be an effective strategy to nurture and nourish for longer-term health planning. 

So, what makes up a healthy human cell?

The cells in our bodies work together.  At a basic level, the cells in the body form tissues, which make up structural components of the body, such as our organs.  Biochemical reactions from the cells play a role in how parts of the body work together in a system.  (Learn more about cells in the human body from this Healthline article).

Healthy cells can effectively carry out the cellular function and processes they are designed to complete.  When the cell is healthy, it will work to keep the body in optimal health.  Cells continue to replicate to replace worn-out cells.  However, if cellular damage is accelerated, then challenges may arise.

The cells in the body need the appropriate nourishment and environment to do their jobs well.  This is part of why both nutrition and avoiding toxic substances are so significant to an overall health plan.

How can you stay healthy at a cellular level?

Factors such as nutrition, hydration, physical activity, and environmental factors play a role in cellular health.  Paying mind to what we put into and onto our bodies will influence our cellular health as we age.  

Five things to include in your healthy aging routine are as follows:

Nourishing the body with an antioxidant-rich diet can help prevent free radical damage, i.e. adverse oxidative stress levels.  

Consumption of a colorful variety of whole vegetables, fruits, and herbs is one of the most scientifically supported options for overall health.  This approach can also support the body’s natural detoxification pathways and processes that help protect the body against oxidative damage.

Other healthy eating, such as the consumption and balance of beneficial fats in the diet, also play a role.

Limiting exposures to adverse environmental agents may further your prevention efforts against free radical damage.  

Potential toxins extend beyond what we may traditionally think of when we hear the term “environment,” such as air or water pollution.  The skin is an important organ for the body and absorbs things it comes in contact with.  

Emphasis on non-toxic products in our living environments can help support a reduction in daily toxic burden.  Also, the awareness for ingredients in skincare and personal hygiene products has become more relevant.  Comparable to healthy dietary intake, herbal, plant-based treatments for the skin may provide more nourishment for cellular health.

Keeping the body well hydrated through water intake and hydrating foods is also critical for cellular health.

Cellular hydration refers to an appropriate balance of our water and electrolytes throughout the body, including the cells that need it for certain processes.  Although we don’t always think of it this way, water is also an essential nutrient for the body and its cells.  Hydration also supports the body to detoxify.

Limiting dehydrating foods and beverages, such as alcohol, is another way to support healthy hydration.

Remaining consistent with physical fitness and exercise helps produce more energy within the cells.  Consistent exercise is also associated with better metabolic health, including improved insulin sensitivity, and reduced inflammation.  In addition, it can boost circulation and immune system health.

Focusing on a better balance of physiological systems, such as gut health and immune system health, is an overarching approach that could help pull it all together.  

Strategies to reduce oxidative stress, maintain mitochondrial health, and support the body’s natural repair mechanisms have current scientific support.  Focus on natural methodologies as the first line of defense may be preferred by the scientific community.  

Natural methods could include adjustments in the diet, a healthy relationship with psychological stress, and positive sleep habits.  Also, maintaining the awareness of what factors lead to better gut or immune health could be critical in a plan for overall health and wellness.

It shouldn’t be any surprise that these tips are also influential for overall health and wellness.

Photo by Robert Anasch on Unsplash

Ashley L Arnold, MBA, MPH is a lifestyle health educator and coach who supports clients to channel authority over their health, well-being, and overall vitality.  Offering health education approaches and 1-on-1 coaching modules, she gets them out of excess weeds of information and inconsistent practices that don’t get desired results.  Through helping people focus on the right applications paired with appropriate consideration for bio-individual facets, they become stronger, more confident self-advocates for their health.  Bottom line, they will surpass challenges, embrace healthful living with ease, and, best of all, feel a greater sense of empowerment and more energy!

In need of formalized support to make healthful lifestyle changes?  Contact me through my business site.

References:

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  (2020, Mar 3).  Antioxidants – Protecting Healthy Cells.  Eat Right.  Retrieved from https://www.eatright.org/food/vitamins-and-supplements/types-of-vitamins-and-nutrients/antioxidants-protecting-healthy-cells.

Cafasso, J.  (2018, July 18).  How Many Cells Are in the Human Body?  Fast Facts.  Healthline Media.  Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/number-of-cells-in-body.

DiLoreto, R., & Murphy, C. T. (2015, Dec 15). The Cell Biology of Aging. Molecular Biology of the Cell, 26(25), 4524–4531.

Garner, J.  (2014, Apr 7).  Healthy Cells Are Key to a Healthy Body.  Healthy Cells Magazine.  Retrieved from http://www.healthycellsmagazine.com/articles/healthy-cells-are-key-to-a-healthy-body.

Liguori, I., et al. (2018, Apr 26). Oxidative Stress, Aging, and Diseases. Clinical Interventions in Aging, 13, 757–772.

Nature Education (n.d.).  Cell Metabolism.  Scitable, Essentials of Cell Biology, unit 1.5.  Retrieved from https://www.nature.com/scitable/ebooks/essentials-of-cell-biology-14749010/118238537/.

Ormsbee, M.  (2020, Mar 20).  Food for the Cell Factory:  How Fat Maintains Cellular Health.  The Great Courses Daily.  Retrieved from https://www.thegreatcoursesdaily.com/food-for-the-cell-factory-how-fat-maintains-cellular-health/.

Poljsak, B.  (2011, Dec 10).  Strategies for Reducing or Preventing the Generation of Oxidative Stress.  Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, article ID 194586.  

Schneider, J.  (2019, Dec 26).  What is Our “Cellular Metabolism” and How Does it Affect Aging?  Mind Body Green.  Retrieved from https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/what-is-our-cellular-metabolism-and-how-does-it-affect-aging.

Successful People: What are the Common Themes?

Successful people behave in certain ways.

One surefire thing that has been illuminated in 2020 is the fact that life, as we know it, has changed. This is true whether we were ready for it to do so or not. Furthermore, this has led to questions such as who and what will survive beyond the #COVID-19 pandemic.

This sheds a little light on facets such as what does it take to make it!

Scour the internet to learn more about the habits and behaviors of successful people and lengthy lists will result. These traits and behavioral tendencies can more or less be categorized under the following:

  1. health and wellness
  2. professional conduct
  3. organizational systems
  4. mindset

The most consistent traits of successful people include the following:

Growth Mindset & Positive Outlook

As Mind Body Green points out in their article 25 Habits of People Who Are Happy, Healthy, and Successful, the focus on overcoming obstacles and viewing challenges as opportunities for personal growth could be a critical factor for longer-term and more frequent successes throughout life.

Having a growth mindset can help successful people to actively practice resilience. The positive outlook will help to keep a focus on learning from mistakes and brushing the dust off to move forward. Also, they avoid dwelling on setbacks or failures and things outside of their realm of control.

Cultivating gratitude for both positive and negative experiences along the way seems to be imperative to maintaining this perspective.

People with a growth mindset have optimism that good work and strategies can help to catapult them through life and various achievements. In doing so, they make continuous improvements (no matter how small). They also tend to surround themselves with motivating people to learn from (i.e. furthering the growth).

Also, successful people become tenacious to push forward and get things done. Sometimes this is referred to as grit! A growth-oriented mindset could be one of the key factors contributing to their ability to do this.

Proactive Self-care

Prioritizing physical and mental health is a key characteristic of successful people. Physical and mental wellness behaviors around movement and fitness-related activities, stress-management, nutrition, and sleep allow people to feel better while remaining clear-headed and focused.

Making time for breath work and meditation can enhance both physical and mental health.

Structured While Remaining Both Realistic & Flexible

Successful people set high standards for themselves and have a structure that allows them to finish things they start and maximize daily productivity. Yet, they are not overly perfectionistic and driven by constant approval.

Essentially, this means they develop strengths in streamlining and setting realistic priorities as well as mastery of their strengths in general. They will have a clear head to make decisions, including if and when to move on from something. Mastering these skills becomes much about striking the fine balance between the roles of planner and unrestrained action-taker.

People who find a good balance between structure and flexibility also seem to be good at building great teams through delegating, keeping faith in other people’s abilities, and celebrating the success of others around them.

Setting Boundaries

The practice of setting fair boundaries could easily apply across various facets of life. In social relationships, this could be emphasizing the positive, motivating ones while setting limits on those that have a toxic effect (or removing those entirely). With professional relationships and commitments, it is much about establishing a balance that supports productivity while allowing time for personal relationships and priorities.

This can also apply to setting checks and balances for oneself. Remaining humble and respectful of others’ strengths and weaknesses may prove beneficial for successful people to relate best to others along the way. Furthermore, avoiding spending time and energy on negative behaviors such as complaining or holding grudges is another way to self-check.

This overarching area could also lead to a discussion about a healthy relationship with money and the principles of the abundance vs scarcity mindsets will undoubtedly emerge. However, this direction can be saved for a future post. As you can see in the previously linked post, habits of “highly effective people” may entwine into the conversation here as well.

Vision

Successful people have gained clarity for what they want out of life, including awareness of their core motivators. They are typically lifelong-learners and have been adaptive to changing external circumstances. Also, successful people typically have a track record of taking calculated risks and taking actions before they have to.

Furthermore, people of this nature become great communicators and consistently work on their relationship skills.

In closing…

We know that the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the best of us in unexpected ways. Over the past several months, I have checked in with myself on many occasions while also observing other people around me (from a safe physical distance).

The word pivot has become mainstream while I latched on to recalibrate after hearing a small business owner use the term. Meanwhile, the pure tenacity that many people have exhibited has been ahh-inspiring.

Over time, the greatest success stories have often resulted from finding opportunities where others see problems and not allowing fears or self-consciousness to impede moving forward.

Some of the best modern success stories started brewing during the last economic recession (around 2008). I have no doubt 10 or so years down the road, we will look back at the time between 2020 and 2021 and be able to say the same.

Photo credit(s): Guille Álvarez on Unsplash

Ashley L Arnold, MBA, MPH is a lifestyle health educator and coach who supports clients to channel authority over their health, well-being, and overall vitality.  Offering health education approaches and 1-on-1 coaching modules, she gets them out of excess weeds of information and inconsistent practices that don’t get desired results.  Through helping people focus on the right applications paired with appropriate consideration for bio-individual facets, they become stronger, more confident self-advocates for their health.  Bottom line, they will surpass challenges, embrace healthful living with ease, and, best of all, feel a greater sense of empowerment and more energy!

In need of formalized support to make healthful lifestyle changes?  Contact me through my business site.

Skin and Health of the Body: What is the meaningful connection?

Good skin health is something many people aspire for.  Yet, factors leading to better skin health are entangled.  The quality of our skin health relies on the delicate balance between external components and internal health.

When it comes to the skin, it can be easy to forget that it is also an organ within our bodies (in fact, the largest).  The skin serves as a barrier against disease and infection as well as a protector of internal organs.  There are also many relationships between the health of the skin and other areas of internal health mechanisms and human physiology.

When addressing skin health, both lifestyle and environmental factors play a role.  Areas that may influence the health of our skin include the following:

  • foods and nutrients in the diet
  • moisture and hydration
  • the quality and consistency of your sleep
  • stress levels
  • environmental factors (including man-made)
  • whether or not you smoke

Concerning internal health, hormonal balance, digestion and detoxification, inflammation, and cellular mechanisms can influence the health of our skin.

One of the most significant areas is the overarching area of digestive health and detoxification.  It is common for the skin to provide indicators for health conditions that lead to digestive problems.  Some experts feel the skin will be one of the first places to observe indicators of imbalance in gut health.

Impaired digestion will result in interference in the absorption of key nutrients and the proper elimination of waste.  When this occurs, your skin can be impacted along with internal physiology.

Also, digestive problems and irregularities in hormonal balance often go hand-in-hand.  Lifestyle factors, such as poor sleep or excess, chronic stress, are also contributing factors to dysregulation of hormonal activity.

Prolonged imbalances within internal health, such as the gut, may contribute to chronic skin conditions, including persistent acne, rosacea, or eczema.  The gut-skin axis, an emerging concept in health science, has been assessed in many studies related to chronic skin conditions.  Much like the gut, the skin has its own microbiota as well.

Healthy digestion is also critical for the body’s natural ability to detoxify.  Optimized detoxification can help our cells perform the way they should, including energy production, which also plays a role in skin repair.  At the cellular level, it is also relevant to factor in the possibility of mitochondrial dysfunction and oxidative stress.

These concepts lead to some of the other internal health areas that may influence skin health, such as inflammation and impairments at the cellular level.  Many of the same approaches, collectively, can target improved internal health mechanisms, while the skin can reap further rewards.

What are the best health practices for your skin?

As alluded to above, lifestyle behaviors positive for overall health.  This includes nutrition, sleep, stress management, and reducing environmental-related burden where possible.  Healthy lifestyle behaviors can pay off big time concerning skin health.  Certain natural remedies may boost skin health even further.

Exercise may influence important cellular level changes with the skin, as detailed by this article in Everyday Health.  Furthermore, detoxification is enhanced through sweating, which can support good internal health.  Sweating may also boost the infection prevention aspect of the skin through the production of antimicrobial peptides.

Buffering chronic lifestyle-related stress will further support better skin health.  Some research has indicated that meditation practice may support cellular level healing as well.

When cleaning the skin, mild approaches can remove dirt and debris without stripping the skin from natural moisture.  More advanced approaches (usually more abrasive) may be necessary to help remove excess dead skin cells, but likely do not need to be an everyday affair.  This will vary from person to person.

The quality of what you put on your skin matters.  This applies to topical treatments as well as clothing.  The American Academy of Dermatology recommends ointments, creams, or natural oils over lotions and ensuring that these topical treatments are synthetic fragrance-free.  Botanical skincare lines, such as Annmarie Skin Care, provide simple, natural formulations for serums and oils.

Natural fabrics and laundry detergents are also preferred by this professional group.  The heat of the water in and duration of showers or baths also plays a role.  The same goes for the moisture balance in the air in which you live and spend time.

Finally, irregularities to internal health could be some of the root causes of imbalances in the skin.  Working to improve and balance internal health problems or best manage chronic conditions could have a positive impact on the skin.

Emphasizing cellular level health (which includes your mitochondria) through targeted, bio-individual nutrition inclusive of antioxidant-rich foods, focus on healthful sleep patterns, managing stress, reducing chemical load, hydration, and appropriate physical activity can support both internal health and skin quality.

Photo credit(s):  Chelsea shapouri on Unsplash

*This post has used affiliate links.

Ashley L Arnold, MBA, MPH is a lifestyle health educator and coach who supports clients to channel authority over their health, well-being, and overall vitality.  Offering health education approaches and 1-on-1 coaching modules, she gets them out of excess weeds of information and inconsistent practices that don’t get desired results.  Through helping people focus on the right applications paired with appropriate consideration for bio-individual facets, they become stronger, more confident self-advocates for their health.  Bottom line, they will surpass challenges, embrace healthful living with ease, and, best of all, feel a greater sense of empowerment and more energy!

In need of formalized support to make healthful lifestyle changes?  Contact me through my business site.

References & Resources:

Ali, I.A., Foolad, N., & Sivamani, R.K.  (2014).  Considering the Gut-Skin Axis for Dermatological Diseases.  Austin Journal of Dermatology, 1(5), 1024.

American Academy of Dermatology Association.  (n.d.).  Dermatologists’ Top Tips for Relieving Dry Skin.  Retrieved from https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/skin-care-basics/dry/dermatologists-tips-relieve-dry-skin.

Annmarie Skin Care.  (2020).  Retrieved from https://www.annmariegianni.com/.

Brannon, H.L.  (2020, Apr 16).  The Basics of Healthy Skin Care.  Very Well Health.  Retrieved from https://www.verywellhealth.com/skin-care-101-1069529.

Chen, Y. & Lyga, J.  (2014, Jun).  Brain-Skin Connection:  Stress, Inflammation and Skin Aging.  Inflammation & Allergy Drug Targets, 13(3), 177-190.

Csősz, É., Emri, G., Kalló, G., Tsaprailis, G., & Tőzsér, J. (2015, Oct). Highly abundant defense proteins in human sweat as revealed by targeted proteomics and label-free quantification mass spectrometry. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology: JEADV29(10), 2024–2031.

Dancer, R.  (2020, Oct 16).  25 Natural Ways to Maintain Youthful, Glowing Skin.  Mind Body Green.  Retrieved from https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-8355/15-natural-ways-to-maintain-beautiful-youthful-skin.html.

Frothingham, S.  (2019, Apr 25).  The Health Benefits of Sweating.  Healthline Media.  Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/sweating-benefits#takeaway.

Grice, E. & Segre, J.A.  (2011, Apr).  The Skin Microbiome.  Nature Reviews.  Microbiology, 9(4), 244-253.

Kresser, C.  (2020, Oct 2).  Gut Health and Skin:  5 Skin Conditions Related to Your Gut.  Retrieved from https://chriskresser.com/gut-health-and-skin-connection/.

Lapidos, R.  (2019, Mar 21).  Your Skin and Stools Are the First Responders When Something’s Up With Your Gut.  Well + Good.  Retrieved from https://www.wellandgood.com/skin-microbiome-connection/.

Migala, J.  (2019, Nov 4).  The Scientific Reason That Exercise Can Give You Better-Looking Skin.  Everyday Health.  Retrieved from https://www.everydayhealth.com/skin-beauty/the-scientific-reasons-why-exercise-can-give-you-better-looking-skin/.

Pino, D.  (2010, Nov 5).  Meditation Training Improves Markers of Cellular Health and Psychological Well-being.  KQED.  Retrieved from https://www.kqed.org/quest/10162/meditation-training-improves-markers-of-cellular-health-and-psychological-well-being.

Stout, R. & Birch-Machin, M.  (2019, Jun).  Mitochondria’s Role in Skin Ageing.  Biology, 8(2), 29.

Taylor, J.  (2020, Feb 27).  The 12 Best Foods for Healthy Skin.  Healthline Media.  Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/12-foods-for-healthy-skin.

Vaughn, A.R., Notay, M., Clark, A.K., & Sivamani, R.K.  (2017, Nov 2).  Skin-gut Axis:  The Relationship Between Intestinal Bacteria and Skin Health.  World Journal of Dermatology, 6(4), 52-58.

Immune Health:  Important things to know (pandemic or not)

Immune health has become more relevant this year.  Perhaps more so than ever before!

No matter how you look at it, there are a few core principles to optimizing immune health.  There are also a few specific science-backed nutrients and nutritional compounds worth considering.  Scroll down to learn more.

First of all, our body is a system and should be treated as so.  One size fits all solutions and quick fixes are rarely the answers for good, life-long health and well-being.  Consistent practices that are realistic and strike a balance across all influencing factors can help to support your success and overall happiness.

Within our internal ecosystem, various checks and balances are continuously at play.  Facets of our lifestyle and environments can make or break the health of these systems.  Let’s explore this a little further.

Inflammation & Oxidative Stress Wreak Havoc on Health

Chances are that you have heard about inflammation, but oxidative stress may be less familiar.  Oxidative stress is a tricky thing that happens within our bodies.  This natural chemical reaction can result from environmental, physical, and mental or emotional stressors within our daily lives.  It also triggers inflammation in the body!

Scientists go back and forth, but generally believe that low levels of oxidative stress (oxidative eustress) could help the body to build internal resilience.  Also, this may be a mechanism to treat diseases like certain types of cancer.

However, when oxidation becomes excessive and chronic, the imbalance is too much.  As a result, the body goes into a bit of an overload and can’t handle it.  This is when oxidative stress can contribute to damage to the cells and tissues within our bodies.  It also reduces the body’s ability to defend itself!

Chronic oxidative stress contributes to the onset of diseases and increases the risk of infections.

Agents in our environment and lifestyles, such as pesticides and air pollution, cigarette smoking, and processed foods are known contributors to oxidative stress.  Antagonistic substances, such as high-fructose corn syrup in food or chemicals in consumer products, may contribute further to the havoc.  Also, our body’s response to overloads of psychological and emotional stressors may induce oxidative stress.

In the modern world, it is pretty safe to assume that excessive levels of oxidative stress will be likely and that measures to combat this threat should be taken.  Also, if you have already developed a chronic condition such as diabetes or autoimmune diseases, then paying attention to sources of oxidative stress will be of utmost importance.

Nutrient-rich, healthy eating could be one of the best approaches for minimizing oxidative stress.  Including anti-inflammatory foods and supplements provide the body the antioxidant boost it craves.  Even better to know, the mitochondria in our cells (our little energy creators) are sensitive to environmental factors and oxidative stress yet respond well to good nutrition.

Other behaviors, such as consistent, moderate-impact exercise, managing psychological and emotional stress, prioritizing sleep, and taking precautions with chemicals, may also support the body to combat the negative effects of oxidative stress.

A Healthy Gut and Immune Health are Linked

Gut health more or less equates to immune health.  An estimated 70% of our immune cells reside in the gastrointestinal tract (aka gut), making it integral to our immune system. 

Our digestive organs and gut bacteria play critical roles in our body’s natural detoxification, hormone regulation, and overall internal defense.  Essentially, when functioning properly, the gut helps us to get rid of what we don’t want and keep what we do. 

Furthermore, research on the human gut microbiome, the bacteria residing in the gastrointestinal tract, has led to critical findings on human health and diseases, including the impact on immune health

Gut bacteria and health outcomes are intricately linked.  In a nutshell, if you fail to nurture the health of the gut, you will also be setting yourself up for poorer immune health. 

Poor food choices and chronic exposure to chemicals and pollutants will burden the gut and contribute to dysfunction in the body.  These factors may also lead to a “leaky gut” where the composition of the gut lining becomes compromised allowing parts of food to escape.  Imbalanced nutrition can also compromise the immune system and leave it more vulnerable to infections.

Intestinal permeability (aka leaky gut) could be indicative of impaired nutrient absorption and may trigger food sensitivities.  Also, particles that pass through the gut lining may rev up your body’s immune response in an unintended fashion.  When this happens, a range of health problems may result.

Lifestyles that are sedentary or imbalanced may lead to further disruption of a healthy microbiome.  Microbiome disruption contributes to an imbalance within the composition of gut microbiota.  This may lead to a weaker immune system.  This cascade, so to speak, can set you up for the higher likelihood of infections and the manifestation of chronic health conditions.

Essentially, cultivating an environment where your gut and body can effectively operate, then rest and restore itself is the aim.  This can be supported through a consistent, daily focus on enhancing good gut health.

The same measures you would take to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in the body will help to improve gut health.  A few other things to help boost the health of your gut microbiome include the following:

  • determining if you have any food sensitivities
  • increasing intake of pre- and probiotic foods
  • reducing sugar in your diet
  • increasing fiber intake
  • reducing chemical exposures from products in your day-to-day (skincare, food storage, etc.)

Sleep, Sleep, and More Sleep for Better Health

Sleep deprivation is commonly underlooked.  When life gets busy or hectic, it’s often the first thing that people slough off.  However, based on what we know from sleep science, there is no reason to make such excuses.  Doing so will only short-change yourself and could have significant implications on the health of your immune system.

Sleep is the time within our circadian rhythms that our bodies restore themselves.  Adequate sleep is critical to immune functionality, hormone regulation, and healthy digestion.  (Notice a theme?)

Sleep and immune system health are also intricately linked.  Lack of sleep may lead to the suppression of the immune system and weaken its ability to function. It can also lead to higher inflammation and greater susceptibility to infections.  If sleep deprivation continues over prolonged periods, the body’s defense system will get confused.  This dysregulation may contribute to the onset of chronic health conditions and diseases.

The importance of sleep should not be overlooked.  Good health and sleep habits often go hand in hand.

No one is saying to set up a bear cave for prolonged sleep.  Generally speaking, experts suggest 7-9 hours consistently across your days with the encouragement to keep bed and rise times the same.  People with chronic health conditions, such as autoimmune diseases, may find that 8-10 hours is more conducive for their health and wellness.

Sleep experts support establishing a sleep schedule and supplementation when needed.  Also, reducing the use of technology at least an hour (or more) before your bedtime may prove relevant.  This is due to the blue-toned lighting used in technological devices and the mental stimulation that engaging in certain digital activities may provide.  Finally, keeping social stressors in check may also lead to a better, more effective wind-down process before bedtimes.

The Meaningful Impact of A Healthy Relationship with Stress

Psychological and emotional stress, like oxidative stress, is much about finding a balance.  Some stress in our lives can help challenge us both mentally and physiologically.  However, persistent and enduring stress is what should present some concern.  Long-term mental or emotional stress may result from aspects within our lifestyle or as a result of a traumatic event.

The effects of stress on the immune system have been studied for some time.  Although acute psychological stress, (meaning circumstantial events that challenge us mentally), may provide boosts to the immune system and body’s overall resilience, chronically stressful lifestyles can cause trouble.

Over firing of stress hormones can reduce the effectiveness of the immune system.  Furthermore, researchers believe that chronic stressors may dysregulate the immune system.  This type of stress may contribute to weaker immune systems and a greater likelihood of developing illnesses.  Also, as we age, this risk may become higher.

As one expert describes it, the chronic, less-predictable stress is what throws our bodies out of balance.

Stress hormones and hormone-producing glands naturally spring into action when stress is experienced.  To the body, stressors are like threats to our livelihood that require an immediate response.  It is a natural way for the body to defend itself from what it perceives as threats.  However, this mechanism can also down-regulate some immune functions.  (It’s a little like putting them in reserves so the body can respond to the threat).

With short-term bursts of the body’s natural stress response, a healthy body will rebound.  However, if hormone levels like cortisol stay elevated for prolonged periods then, negative effects within the body will begin to initiate.  This cascade could set the stage for longer-term health consequences.

There are also compelling connections between sleep quality and the effects of psychological and emotional stress.  It’s nearly impossible to discuss one area without addressing the other.  The dynamic between stress and sleep is codependent.  In a nutshell, sleep deprivation may impair the regulation of stress hormones.  While the dysregulation of hormones that stress can trigger may impair sleep.  Needless to say, it’s an unproductive cycle.

Other stress-related effects on the immune system include increased inflammation, poor wound healing, a change in how the body responds to infectious agents, and impairments to digestion and, including the microbiome.  (Wow, can you see how all these factors are interrelated?!?)

Keeping stressors at bay through stress management, relaxation, and other techniques to calm the body should promote a healthier immune system.  A few options include the following:

  • Meditation and Deep-breathing exercises
  • Mindfulness therapies and/or Mind-body approaches
  • Daily movement, Coordinated exercise, and Yoga
  • Hormonal regulation therapies or supplements
  • Calming techniques such as EFT (tapping)
  • Remaining connected socially (with positive social connections)
  • Having a little fun or Laughter
  • Spending time in nature
  • Snuggling or playing with pets

Final Tips to Boost Immune Health

The areas detailed above are entangled.  Other things we know about keeping the immune system healthy include the following:

Immune system health has a lot of components.

It can be best to take a realistic and measurable approach.  First, do what you can to avoid unnecessary havoc on the immune system (i.e. clean up the junk).

Identifying a few realistic “start small” areas to gradually integrate into your daily life can be an effective strategy.  While other people may find the most success in identifying their most critical area of need and, then, starting to make changes related to it before moving on to other priorities.

Reducing burden or overload on the body while simultaneously boosting its processes and systems will help to support your body for overall health and well-being.

In terms of immune health, this can contribute to the lower risk of infection or improve the body’s ability to better manage infections that occur.  There are no guarantees, but factoring in the facets above and staying on track can increase the likelihood of favorable outcomes.

The good news is that much of the lifestyle measures and behaviors most supportive of good immune health have benefits that extend well beyond the health of the immune system.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.  This resource is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Photo credit(s):  Corinne Kutz on Unsplash

Ashley L Arnold, MBA, MPH is a lifestyle health educator and coach who supports clients to channel authority over their health, well-being, and overall vitality.  Offering health education approaches and 1-on-1 coaching modules, she gets them out of excess weeds of information and inconsistent practices that don’t get desired results.  Through helping people focus on the right applications paired with appropriate consideration for bio-individual facets, they become stronger, more confident self-advocates for their health.  Bottom line, they will surpass challenges, embrace healthful living with ease, and, best of all, feel a greater sense of empowerment and more energy!

In need of formalized support to make healthful lifestyle changes?  Contact me through my business site.

Sources:

Alberts B, Johnson A, Lewis J, et al. Molecular Biology of the Cell. 4th edition. New York: Garland Science; 2002. Introduction to Pathogens. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK26917/.

American Psychological Association.  (2020, Sep 21).  What’s the Difference Between Stress and Anxiety?  Retrieved from https://www.apa.org/topics/stress-anxiety-difference.

Anthony, K.  (2018, Sep 18).  EFT Tapping.  Healthline Media.  Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/eft-tapping.

Ask the Scientists.  (n.d.). Learn How Stress Impacts Your Immune Function.  Retrieved from https://askthescientists.com/stress-immunity/#toggle-id-1.

Bell, B.  (2017, Feb 2).  Is Leaky Gut Syndrome a Real Condition?  An Unbiased Look.  Healthline Media.  Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/is-leaky-gut-real.

Berkheiser, K.  (2018, Apr 25).  10 Natural Ways to Increase Your Glutathione Levels.

Besedovsky, L., Lange, T., & Haack, M.  (2019, Jul 1).  The Sleep-Immune Crosstalk in Health and Disease.  Physiological Reviews, 99(3), 1325-1380.

Campos, M.  (2019, Oct 22).  Leaky Gut:  What Is It, and What Does It Mean for You?  Harvard Health Publishing.  Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/leaky-gut-what-is-it-and-what-does-it-mean-for-you-2017092212451.

Dix, M.  (2018, Sep 29).  Everything You Should Know About Oxidative Stress.  Healthline Media.  Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/oxidative-stress.

Edermaniger, L.  (2019, Dec 31).  16 Hacks to Enhance Your Gut Health Every Day in 2020.  Atlas Biomed Blog.  Retrieved from https://atlasbiomed.com/blog/16-easy-hacks-to-enhance-your-gut-health-every-day-in-2020/.

Eisenstein, M.  (2020, Jan 29).  The Hunt for a Healthy Microbiome.  Nature, 577, S6-S8.  Retrieved from https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-00193-3.

Gunnars, K.  (2018, Jul 13).  10 Proven Health Benefits of Turmeric and Curcumin.  Healthline Media.  Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/top-10-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-turmeric.

Gunville, C. F., Mourani, P. M., & Ginde, A. A.  (2013, Jul 11).  The Role of Vitamin D in Prevention and Treatment of Infection.  Inflammation & Allergy Drug Targets12(4), 239–245.

Hartford HealthCare.  (2019, Mar 24).  Stress, Anxiety and Your Immune System:  How to Avoid Getting Sick.  Retrieved from https://hartfordhealthcare.org/about-us/news-press/news-detail?articleId=18853&publicid=395.

Harvard Health Letter.  (2020, Jul 7).  Blue Light has a Dark Side.  What is Blue Light?  The Effect Blue Light Has on Your Sleep and More.  Harvard Health Publishing.  Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side.

Hsin-Jun, W. & Wu, E.  (2012, Jan 1).  The Role of Gut Microbiota in Immune Homeostasis and Autoimmunity.  Gut Microbes, 3(1), 4-14.

Hyman, M.  (n.d.). What is Glutathione and How Do I Get More of It?  Dr. Hyman.  Retrieved from https://drhyman.com/blog/2010/05/12/what-is-glutathione-and-how-do-i-get-more-of-it/.

Institute for Functional Medicine, The.  (n.d.). The Microbiome, Stress Hormones, & Gut Function.  Retrieved from https://www.ifm.org/news-insights/gut-stress-changes-gut-function/.

Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Military Nutrition Research. Military Strategies for Sustainment of Nutrition and Immune Function in the Field. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 1999. 16, Trace Minerals, Immune Function, and Viral Evolution. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK230971/.

Khader, D.  (2018, Oct 23).  The Many Benefits of Melatonin.  Thrive Global.  Retrieved from https://thriveglobal.com/stories/the-many-benefits-of-melatonin-2/.

Kubala, J.  (2020, Jul 15).  16 Foods Rich in Minerals.  Healthline Media.  Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods-with-minerals.

Lawler, M.  (2020, Apr 10).  10 Best Food Sources of Zinc.  Everyday Health.  Retrieved from https://www.everydayhealth.com/pictures/best-food-sources-zinc/.

Leech, J.  (2018, Jul 5).  10 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Cinnamon.  Healthline Media.  Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-proven-benefits-of-cinnamon.

Legg, T.  (2018, Sep 29).  Everything You Should Know About Oxidative Stress.  Healthline Media.  Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/oxidative-stress.

Maggini, S., Pierre, A., & Calder, P.C.  (2018, Oct).  Immune Function and Micronutrient Requirements Change Over the Life Course.  Nutrients, 10(10), 1531.

Mayo Clinic Staff.  (2019, Mar 19).  Chronic Stress Puts Your Health at Risk.  Mayo Clinic Healthy Living.  Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20046037.

Monday, H.  (2020, Apr 28).  Getting Quality Sleep is More Important Than Ever for Your Immune System.  Mind Body Green.  Retrieved from https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/sleep-and-immune-system.

Morey, J.N., Boggero, I.A., Scott, A.B., & Segerstrom, S.C.  (2015, Oct 1).  Current Directions in Stress and Human Immune Function.  Current Opinion in Psychology, 5, 13-17.

NCCIH Clinical Digest.  (2020, Apr).  Mind and Body Approaches for Stress and Anxiety.  National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.  Retrieved from https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/providers/digest/mind-and-body-approaches-for-stress.

Oliveira de Almeida, C.M. & Malheiro, A.  (2016, Jul-Sep).  Sleep, Immunity and Shift Workers:  A Review.  Sleep Science, 9(3), 164-168.

Phaniendra, A., Jestadi, D. B., & Periyasamy, L. (2015, Jan). Free Radicals: Properties, Sources, Targets, and Their Implication in Various Diseases. Indian Journal of Clinical Biochemistry, 30(1), 11–26.

Raman, R.  (2020, Jul 1).  What is Quercetin?  Benefits, Foods, Dosage, and Side Effects.  Healthline Media.  Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/quercetin#:~:text=Quercetin%20is%20the%20most%20abundant,%2C%20and%20capers%20(%205%20).

Reiter, R.J., Tan, D.X., Osuna, C. & Gitto, E.  (2000, Nov-Dec).  Actions of Melatonin in the Reduction of Oxidative Stress.  A Review.  Journal of Biomedical Science, 7(6), 444–458.

Salim, S.  (2014, Mar).  Oxidative Stress and Psychological Disorders.  Current Neuropharmacology, 12(2), 140-147.

Segerstrom, S.C. & Miller, G.E.  (2004, Jul).  Psychological Stress and the Human Immune System:  A Meta-Analytic Study of 30 Years of Inquiry.  Psychological Bulletin, 130(4), 601-630.

Seiler, A., Fagundes, C.P., & Christian, L.M.  (2020).  The Impact of Everyday Stressors on the Immune System and Health.  Stress Challenges and Immunity in Space.  In: Choukèr A. (eds) Stress Challenges and Immunity in Space. Springer, Cham.

Shoemaker, S.  (2020, Apr 2).  Can Vitamin C Protect You from COVID-19?  Healthline Media.  Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/vitamin-c-coronavirus#bottom-line.

Shreiner, A.B., Kao, J.Y., & Young, V.B.  (2015, Jan).  The Gut Microbiome in Health and in Disease.  Current Opinion in Gastroenterology, 31(1), 69-75.

Sies, H., Berndt, C. & Jones, D.P.  (2017, Jun).  Oxidative Stress.  Annual Review of Biochemistry, 86, 715-748.

Suni, E.  (2020, Sep 25).  Circadian Rhythm, SleepFoundation.org.  Retrieved from https://www.sleepfoundation.org/circadian-rhythm.

Teixeira, K.R.C., et al.  (2019, Mar 14).  Night Workers Have Lower Levels of Antioxidant Defenses and Higher Levels of Oxidative Stress Damage When Compared to Day Workers. Scientific Reports, 9(4455).

Tweed, V.  (2017, Feb 1).  Gut Health 101:  Top Prebiotic and Probiotic Foods.  Better Nutrition.  Retrieved from https://www.betternutrition.com/check-out/prebiotic-probiotic-foods-lists/.

University of Washington Health Sciences/UW Medicine.  (2017, Jan 27).  Chronic Sleep Deprivation Suppresses Immune System: Study One of First Conducted Outside of Sleep Lab.  ScienceDaily.  Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/01/170127113010.htm.

Zeratsky, K.  (2020, Apr 17).  What is Vitamin D Toxicity?  Should I Be Worried About Taking Supplements?  Mayo Clinic Healthy Living.  Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/vitamin-d-toxicity/faq-20058108.

How to Pick a Stellar Fitness Professional

Summer can be significant to fitness goals. 

When I started drafting this blog post early in the year, I never dreamed just how relevant it would become at the time it would publish.  Fitness is one of the aspects of life that was completely turned on its head for many people due to the various changes in lifestyle required in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Finding personal connections with reliable fitness professionals was likely something that helped to support many people.  This could have positively influenced overall stress and peace of mind through the various unexpected interruptions and changes.  I’m glad we were able to connect with an ambitious entrepreneur in the fitness field who had launched a unique virtual model last year.

So, what matters most when picking a fitness professional?

As Kira, co-founder of Comfy Fitness reminds, it can be easy to spend more time with your personal trainer than your best friend.  So, make sure you like them.

Furthermore, this Huffington Post article reminds us to look for knowledge and expertise, but also a natural fit.  Also, to prioritize individual goals and working with someone who will provide the best motivation, inspiration, and comfort levels throughout the process.   An optimal location or schedule to match your daily habits and priorities can also be important.

Meanwhile, the American Council on Exercise (ACE), which is one of the leading training institutes for fitness professionals, suggests asking for references, consider specialties, and check for liability insurance.

Many gyms and trainers also offer a trial period.  If this isn’t clear in the business policies, be sure to ask.

It can also be great to vet them out on knowledge of medical conditions, particularly if you have one!  Although this may take a little time and trial and error to find, it could bridge the gap between mediocre or marginal and great success.

Finally, cost considerations are often relevant.  Although this shouldn’t be the final straw.  A good fitness coach that is a true fit for you may not come that easily.  However, avoiding overpayment without achieving the desired results should be the perspective here.

To wrap it up, some “quick and dirty tips” to choose a personal trainer are recorded and embedded within this blog post.

Bottomline; trust your gut for the final choice.

Photo credit(s):  Wellness Stock Shop

Ashley L Arnold, MBA, MPH is a lifestyle health educator and coach who supports clients to channel authority over their health, well-being, and overall vitality.  Offering health education approaches and 1-on-1 coaching modules, she gets them out of excess weeds of information and inconsistent practices that don’t get desired results.  Through helping people focus on the right applications paired with appropriate consideration for bio-individual facets, they become stronger, more confident self-advocates for their health.  Bottom line, they will surpass challenges, embrace healthful living with ease, and, best of all, feel a greater sense of empowerment and more energy!

In need of formalized support to make healthful lifestyle changes?  Contact me through my business site.

5 Things That Lead to Greater Happiness

A happy, healthy life is something to aspire to.  There are a few things that can help to achieve one.

The first thing to keep on the radar is that happiness and health are interrelated as this article from Healthline elaborates on.  Therefore, working on either area as an overarching aim will also influence the other.  Pretty neat! 

Furthermore, setting specific, clear goals that contribute to each area will help ensure attainability.

The simple act of placing focus on the things that provide positive emotion can also play a role in achieving a greater sense of happiness.  Pursuing things that are enjoyable, positive thinking and visualization techniques, and having a sense of purpose are all supportive of finding this focus.

Lowering stress levels can have compelling results that can range from boosting the mood to reducing inflammation in the body.  Interconnected with this is getting sufficient and good quality sleep.  This includes both nightly sleep and other facets of rest such as naps or meditation.

Bursts of physical activity will release endorphins which will then trigger a cascade of biological functions in the body and lead to more uplifting feelings.  Much of this is associated with hormonal related activity in the body which is significant to mental health.  The great news is it doesn’t necessarily need to be higher-level athletic activity.  Although keeping up a motivating fitness regime is fantastic in many ways, even daily walking will get the “happy” hormone cascade going within the body.

Finally, a focus on good, quality nutrition could one of the best things to help achieve a happier, healthier life.  Even business-focused magazines such as Forbes have highlighted the connections between maintaining a healthy diet and positive mental well-being!  Although a specific, individualized dietary structure is a rather specialized area, the focus on a rich variety of vegetables and fruits is the one theme that is salient across all nutritional research. 

To recap, 5 things that lead to greater happiness are:

  • Set specific, clear goals
  • Do things that lead to positive emotion
  • Lower stress & Sleep well
  • Stay physically active
  • Eat well

It is important for overall happiness to strike a balance and not scrutinize over various ebbs and flows, for example, the occasional pleasure food that isn’t necessarily 100% nutritionally optimized, a missed fitness day, or other monkey wrenches that may come into the mix of a good, healthy routine.

Photo by Caju Gomes on Unsplash

Ashley L Arnold, MBA, MPH is a lifestyle health educator and coach who supports clients to channel authority over their health, well-being, and overall vitality.  Offering health education approaches and 1-on-1 coaching modules, she gets them out of excess weeds of information and inconsistent practices that don’t get desired results.  Through helping people focus on the right applications paired with appropriate consideration for bio-individual facets, they become stronger, more confident self-advocates for their health.  Bottom line, they will surpass challenges, embrace healthful living with ease, and, best of all, feel a greater sense of empowerment and more energy!

In need of formalized support to make healthful lifestyle changes?  Contact me through my business site.

Sources:

Arab, A., Mehrabani, S., Moradi, S., & Amani, R. (2019, Jan). The association between diet and mood: A systematic review of current literature. Psychiatry research271, 428–437.

Blaszczak-Boxe, A.  (2016, Jul 14).  Eating More Fruits & Veggies May Make You Happier.  LiveScience.  Retrieved from https://www.livescience.com/55407-eating-more-fruits-veggies-linked-with-life-satisfaction.html.

Bradt, G.  (2015, May 27).  The Secret of Happiness Revealed by Harvard Study.  Forbes.  Retreived from https://www.forbes.com/sites/georgebradt/2015/05/27/the-secret-of-happiness-revealed-by-harvard-study/#25a4c2e26786.

Bridges, F.  (2019, Jan 26).  Healthy Food Makes You Happy:  Research Shows A Healthy Diet Improves Your Mental Health.  Forbes.  Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/francesbridges/2019/01/26/food-makes-you-happy-a-healthy-diet-improves-mental-health/#5ae265f326f8.

Coyle, D.  (2017, Aug 27).  How Being Happier Makes You Healthier.  Healthline.  Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/happiness-and-health.

Głąbska, D., Guzek, D., Groele, B., & Gutkowska, K. (2020, Jan 1). Fruit and Vegetable Intake and Mental Health in Adults: A Systematic Review. Nutrients12(1), 115.

Grohol, J.M.  (2018, Jul 8).  The Connection Between Mental & Physical Health.  PsychCentral.  Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/blog/the-connection-between-mental-physical-health/.

Harvard Medical School (n.d.).  The Happiness-Health Connection.  Harvard Health Publishing.  Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/the-happiness-health-connection.

Mead, E.  (2019, Nov 21).  6 Benefits of Happiness According to the Research.  PositivePsychology.com.  Retrieved from https://positivepsychology.com/benefits-of-happiness/.

Siahpush, M, Spittal M, Singh, G.J. (2008, Sep-Oct).  Happiness and Life Satisfaction Prospectively Predict Self-Rated Health, Physical Health, and the Presence of Limiting, Long-Term Health Conditions.  American Journal of Health Promotion, 23(1), 18-26.

Veenhoven, R.  (2019, Aug 14).  Will Healthy Eating Make You Happier?  Research Synthesis Using an Online Findings Archive.  Applied Research in Quality of Life.

How to Boost Your Health as a Busy Working Mom

Do you struggle as a busy working mom?  It may seem hard to maintain balance and keep health a priority.

According to the Pew Research Center, mothers are spending more time in the labor force, as compared to prior generations, and many of them report feeling a lot of pressure to find an appropriate balance between their roles as a professional and a parent (2019).

This study summary, published in the Journal of Happiness Studies, honed in on psychological factors related to working mothers.  The researchers concluded that the mother’s sense of well-being dropped when feelings of inadequacy, pressures, or less social connectedness were present (2017).

Some of these feelings could easily arise when a sense of balance is challenged and schedules feel hectic or erratic.  Furthermore, this could lead to overwhelm and be emotional taxing which can increase adverse stress levels.  Also, it could inadvertently put positive self-care and health on the back-burner.

Three ways to bring about a little calm to the chaos and, therefore, recenter focus on balance and good health could include the following;

Establish an iterative routine – Routines can help to keep various facets on the priority list.  They are great when they are realistic.  However, chances are pretty high that, as a busy working mom, there will be the need to incorporate a little flexibility.  Therefore, planning various buffer time or blocking off a few extra time slots in the calendar can help to plan for unexpected interruptions.

Create a personal wellness zone – This is a tactic used in workplace wellness and some may be the lucky ones with access to these companies that provide wellness zones.  However, others may be working from home or amid of work-related travel.  Therefore, a little creativity to set up a tailored wellness zone may be necessary.  This could include designating a place for meditation, finding a quiet area for napping, or structuring a space for a workout.

Leave time to wind down – Sleep is one of the most significant factors in human health.  Yet, it can be easily disrupted as a person’s anxiety levels increase.  Similar to elevated and adverse stress levels, inadequate sleep can wreak havoc on the human body and lead to feeling pretty crumby.  Also, depending on the age of children, there may be uncontrollable disruptions.  Emphasizing good quality sleep when possible can be well-worth the priority.  Finding ways to wind down can help ensure that sleep and times of rest are both adequate and more relevant in quality.

Other tips and tricks to find greater balance and boost health include the following:

  • Prioritize family communication
  • Carefully delegate tasks and to do’s
  • Spend time in nature
  • Leave time for creative thought
  • Use a journal
  • Incorporate mindfulness approaches

Finally, this Thrive Global article, 21 Productivity Hacks for Working Moms, provided a pretty fantastic list of suggestions to help simplify while also getting a lot of things done.

Sense of accomplishment from and contributions made to work can be significant intrinsic motivators as well.  Finding a good balance between this role and other responsibilities, such as that of a parent, can be supportive of good overall health and well-being.

Photo credit(s):  Sue Zeng on Unsplash

Ashley L Arnold, MBA, MPH is a lifestyle health educator and coach who supports clients to channel authority over their health, well-being, and overall vitality.  Offering health education approaches and 1-on-1 coaching modules, she gets them out of excess weeds of information and inconsistent practices that don’t get desired results.  Through helping people focus on the right applications paired with appropriate consideration for bio-individual facets, they become stronger, more confident self-advocates for their health.  Bottom line, they will surpass challenges, embrace healthful living with ease, and, best of all, feel a greater sense of empowerment and more energy!

In need of formalized support to make healthful lifestyle changes?  Contact me through my business site.

Stress and Well-being are Top of Mind in 2020 {ironically, April is Stress Awareness Month}

Are you concerned about your stress and well-being?

Stress and the sense of worry have catapulted.  The various unexpected circumstances and interruptions this year (2020) have led to significant changes in many people’s lives including daily routines.

All of this sheds further light on stress health.  Times that are riddled with unexpected circumstances can present a great opportunity as well.

It is not uncommon for people, in their busy day-to-day, to put stress health on the back burner.  Yet, excess elevated stress levels that are not appropriately dealt with can cause a cascade of other health-related impairments.

…furthermore, making it more challenging to stay healthy.

This includes interference to our immune health, sleep, physical health, mood, and emotional well-being.  More details can be found from sources such as The American Institute of Stress.

An important concept to understand is that not all stress is bad.  Stressors can help to build resilience and, in a sense, make us stronger.  The New York Times recently published a nice write-up on this facet.

Finding ways to focus on how you respond to stressors in the day-to-day can be well worth the while.  Often, it is just about getting started…  pressing that imaginary “begin” button.

Developing a healthy relationship with stress can catalyze improvements in health and well-being as a whole.

If you are one of those people who have put stress health on the back burner OR need a simple format to get started, I have something for you.

In my service business, I have unlocked a 3-day workshop focused on a “keep it simple” approach to addressing stress in your daily lives.

Visit the blog on my health education and coaching site to learn more.

Photo credit(s): Hello I’m Nik 🎞 on Unsplash

Ashley L Arnold, MBA, MPH is a lifestyle health educator and coach who supports clients to channel authority over their health, well-being, and overall vitality.  Offering health education approaches and 1-on-1 coaching modules, she gets them out of excess weeds of information and inconsistent practices that don’t get desired results.  Through helping people focus on the right applications paired with appropriate consideration for bio-individual facets, they become stronger, more confident self-advocates for their health.  Bottom line, they will surpass challenges, embrace healthful living with ease, and, best of all, feel a greater sense of empowerment and more energy!

In need of formalized support to make healthful lifestyle changes?  Contact me through my business site.