Massage and Nutrition can be tough to tackle. One of the big parts of nutrition that is relatively easy (for most) is water. It doesn't sound like nutrition on the surface, but I think it is a big part of our nutrition. Our bodies are comprised of water, some 60-70% of our body!!! Now, these percentages aren't written in stone, and we know that everyone's bodies vary from person to person, but, it's a good average to think about when we consider water and nutrition. From this, what can we glean? Well, for starters, water is good for us!!! Our body needs water in a way to be a catalyst for many different functions of our body and one of those is that water helps us with digestion. It helps keep things hydrated in our gut, so that the chemicals that are in there can break down our food easier, and deliver it to where it needs to go. It also helps keep our muscles hydrated so that we can contract them and use them when we need to, without being overly tight. It helps lubricate our joints as well. There are so many benefits to water when we use it as nutrition for our whole body!
Another thing to think about when it comes to nutrition, is how our bodies feel after we have eaten something. Are there things that make you feel sluggish, or slow, or ready for a nap (hello Carbs!)? Are there things that you eat that give you energy, or perhaps a snack that helps you not be as hungry when it comes time to eat dinner? Do you find some things you eat seem to "last longer" in your system than others? We all have probably had these different foods at some point, but what have we done with that information, and what does that have to do with massage? For some folks, eating a lot of carbs can lead to bloating, or retaining water, which even though it's water, doesn't necessarily mean that it's a good thing to hold on to. How does massage help this? Well, massage can help swelling, or edema, by flushing it out, and making our bodies refilter it, so to speak, and send that extra fluid where it needs to go. It's similar to putting your feet up at the end of the day, if they have become swollen a bit around the ankles. That elevation can help give the body signal to start pumping that water out of the ankles, and back into the body to be refiltered. You may sometimes notice your ankles are a bit swollen at the end of the day, particularly if you've been on your feet all day, or stuck at a desk all day, and maybe wonder what you can do about it? There are a couple of things that help. One is definitely massage. We can massage the legs and push up toward the hips, and force the fluid out of the joints (this is typically where we see the swelling/edema), so that there is better movement in the joint, and less fluid around it. The other you may notice already, is sleep. When we get to sleep, we rest with our heart roughly at the same level as the legs, and because we are resting, the rest of our body doesn't consciously have to work, so the circulatory system can kick in and work a little easier, which can help take the fluids away from where they have collected. Massage can affect multiple systems of the body, and this is only one small example of how.
Perhaps moving forward, when you think about what to eat, you end up thinking about how it makes you feel, and what effect could that have on your massage? If you aren't hydrated enough, do you become more sore the day after massage? If you ate something heavy before a massage, was the massage as good as the last time when you had a lighter meal beforehand? Our bodies process things in different ways, and no one person has exactly the same response as another--they may be similar, but they could also be polar opposite responses. All this to say that massage and nutrition can be fun to play with, and see how your body responds to what you give it.
In the Ayurvedic approach to living, it is suggested that we subtly modify our diet in response to the changing seasons. As the weather shifts, so does our digestive fire.
Moving into cooler weather, our bodies are more inclined to happily digest warm, cooked foods. Intuitively, we tend to make this shift by cooking more soups and casseroles with warming spices.
Something to be mindful of is that we are able to access almost all foods all the time at our grocery stores with little regard for the season. We sometimes forget that maybe salads and raw foods aren’t what is called for in the cooler seasons.
The simplest approach is to look at what is closest to local and in season. Then cook that. Generally, think warm and cozy foods.
There are, of course exceptions and individual considerations, as we are all unique. That said, these general guidelines can help us keep happy digestion in the transition of seasons.
Let us know what questions you have.
There is no one right diet for everyone, we are all different. Click here to download your personalized diet plan that is designed especially for you. Did you do it? Did you try to click? I know it is crazy, but I have seen this very thing on diet and fitness sites (with fitness it is specific to download your exercise program tailored for your body). I even recently sat through a continuing education webinar where the “educator” basically said that everyone was unique and needed to determine what was right for them but that we should all be eating a plant-based low fat and mostly carbohydrate diet. I seriously don’t even think she recognized anything wrong with what she was saying.
I would contend that more disturbing is that when you start down the path of research to find out where our diet recommendations originate, you can quickly find yourself stymied. Dietary fat was considered bad for a long time and only now does it seem that people are realizing that story was fabricated. The story came from research studies like those that demonstrated that feeding rabbits animal fat increases the fat they have in their blood and concluding that must be the same in humans and, thus, dietary fat must be the cause of heart disease. Who even thinks this is research that is applicable?
Or, how about the experts who we only recently found out were secretly paid by the sugar industry to do a comprehensive literature review and conclude that dietary fat is a negative in the 1960s. In the Journal of the American Medical Association! https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/13/well/eat/how-the-sugar-industry-shifted-blame-to-fat.htm
Seriously, when you start down this path it can be very mind-blowing. Even those with the best of intentions can bring their implicit bias and openly worry about the health of people who eat too much protein or fat or not enough fiber, without even considering the beliefs that their concern is founded upon.
What we know is that there are essential fats and essential proteins, but no essential carbohydrates. What we know is that at least some of the microbiome living in our gut feed on fiber, but in the absence of fiber can feed on the mucosal lining. What we know is that we are genetically different. We have different life experiences and so our epigenetics are different. And our microbiome is unique to each of us. All of these, and perhaps other things we don’t know yet, play a role in how we process food. Without taking those things into consideration, how could one possibly determine the ideal diet for an individual?
In my work I try to work with the body rather than on the body. For example, rather than determining a diet and forcing adherence to it, this approach begins with your body. Start by paying attention and recording when you eat, what you eat, how much you eat and how you feel. As you consistently track these variables you may start to see patterns and it is very important that you pay attention to those patterns, because they can be insights into how to best change your diet for you.
I know that this can sound like too much work and you may not be an elite athlete trying to determine how to maximize your body’s performance, but the results of even a few days can sometimes be enough to illuminate assumptions based on your own biases that it might be time to change.
As always, let me know how I can help.
Quick reviews and considerations to help you understand the common recommendations of a flu recovery plan!
I took some time to brush up on the immune system, and our bodies immune response this September for both the reasons that nationally we are working our way through a Pandemic (our first), and living in the state of Ohio, in the United States of America located in the Northern Hemisphere... our highest periods of influenza and cold contraction are December to March.
Lots of good news to report here!
The immune response in the body is separated into 2 types, the innate immune response and the adaptive immune response. Some talk about them as the front line of defense (always in the background of our bodies dutifully defending us from pathogens) and the other is the "special forces" (coming up fast and furious to squash a pathogen coup d'état). I limited my focus on nourishment found in supplements and a few behaviors, I did not engage the emotional properties of immune support. As you will find in Katherine’s article, there is much to be considered in the mental fasting nourishment of the immune system. The oral support of both of these systems has a lot of overlap, which I find relaxing--just pull together one-considered-plan and provide yourself sweeping immune support, whether you are maintaining the innate immune system of your body or boosting your adaptive immune response. Table 1.1 below, Immune support at a glance, illustrates how both innate and the adaptive immune system Need many of the same elements.
Table 1.2 shows the primary organs involved in the human immune system that work together to defend your robust health! Cells of the immune system include white blood cells, such as macrophages, as well as T and B lymphocytes. The main lymphoid tissues of the immune system are the thymus and the bone marrow.
Mucus membranes, skin and tonsils create barriers against pathogens. Lymph nodes, the Thymus gland and the bone marrow generate cells of defense that ingest and destroy pathogens and limit their spread. Then you have the filter organs that take the pathogen waste matter and dispose of it.
Table 1.2 Parts of the Immune System
Source: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG).
Below is a quick run through of common aspects of a speedy and robust flu recovery--ie...things that I have heard for many years that I took some time to investigate. This mini-dive into long discussed aspects of the flu gave me a greater appreciation for some of the proclamations of recovery.
● Fever, while commonly treated as an illness itself, can be helpful. They are largely
self-limiting (so they won’t boil you to death), likewise it would seem the fever exerts an overall adverse effect on the growth of bacteria and on replication of viruses.
● Hydration plays many roles on the path of recovery. Plenty of water will offset the
fluid pulled from the body by the fever, it helps regulate core body temperature, it helps
circulate immune cells throughout your body and helps time-release drugs work to their
greatest efficacy. Simple test: watch your urine: dark yellow = dehydrated; pale yellow = hydrated. Easy place to start.
● Rest, yep you got to! Once the body enters an adaptive immune response mode, it’s
working hard on a microscopic battle to overpower pathogens and restore balance to the
kingdom. That’s hefty work.
● Movement--it’s a funny line, this one. At EQUIVITA, we often say, if you have an obvious fever, you should not exercise. Let your fever be your workout. Then there’s a tipping point. When does an easy going walk in the sunshine flex the lungs, lubricate the joints, and stimulate the pumping systems around the lymph nodes? Things to consider. Plus it makes that afternoon flu nap feel great.
● Bundling up. I think this one is about creature comfort. The muscle aches you feel
during the flu are just your body’s announcement that it has flooded your system with
white blood cells that came to do BUSINESS! General consensus is that muscle aches
are the result of cytokines and interleukins, chemicals released when the white blood cells
are taking down the intruders. Since being cold will cause your muscles to tighten up and
hold the heat in, increasing the pull through the painful muscle, I’d just stay warm quite
● Vitamin C. Wondrous supplement, which cannot be sythesized by humans. It seems to be found in most styles of defense issued by your immune system--barrier, antibody generation and propagation, cell cleansing and regulation, damage control. PERVASIVE! You need it to be healthy in your innate immune system and you definitely benefit from it once you are working on recovery in your adaptive immune system.
● Vitamin D. Seems like Vitamin D is a big player in the maintenance of a strong front line of defense in your immune system, the innate system. Vitamin D receptors are found in nearly all the cells in the body, which is why it adds such value to helping the cells function. It also looks like adequate levels of Vitamin D help regulate the inflammatory response of the adaptive immune system.
● Zinc. Zinc holds value in the "first responder" portion of the adaptive response of your
immune system, It’s role in recovery is to help regulate/balance the inflammation
response mounted in defense against pathogens that are trying to overthrow your
immune system. As we see in other emergency response systems (bruising/swelling),
when the tissues are under attack, chemically they call out for the calvary and swelling
comes to the rescue. We haven’t figured out why the inflammation response of the body
can give the impression of being "over the top" and in that the repair becomes an
additional painful part of injury or illness. Thus, the body seems to benefit from a gentle
selection of regulatory assistance (like icing a joint swell, or taking non-steroidal
anti-inflammatory drugs, or using zinc lozenges in the early stages of your body's flu
● Sunlight exposure to the skin is believed to be a very effective way to synthesize Vitamin
D in the body. Of course we also receive this powerhouse nutrient in our foods and via
supplements. Hey, it’s the sun, it feels good for a reason!
The human immune system, like the human reproductive system, reminds me of how the human has developed in amazing ways to thrive in this world. Keep thriving, and "take care of your body, it’s the only place you have to live". (Jim Rohn)
I’ve written in the past about how our diet is more than what we eat. By definition it’s a “regular occupation or series of activities in which one participates”. Taking this into consideration, what does your mental diet consist of? What are the things we watch, listen to, read, mental tasks, worries/concerns, thoughts…? Essentially, what are the things that take up our mental space and capacity each day?
Just like with physical nutrition, we want to ensure that we are getting good, healthy mental nutrition. When we make adjustments to our eating habits we usually add healthy foods, eliminate bad foods, become mindful of portions and implement eating when hungry, stopping when full. While these are all great things to do to keep the body in balance physically, we also need to apply these adjustments to our mental health.
One of the things a lot of people do at the start of making lifestyle adjustments with their physical nutrition is they fast. There are many health benefits of fasting, with more being discovered as science studies it closer. People have been fasting for hundreds of years, and for good reason. Fasting helps us do a sort of “restart” on our physical body. It gives our digestive system a rest, allowing the stomach and intestines a chance to heal and repair. It provides an opportunity for our blood to do bit of “clean up”, removing LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, and balance blood sugar levels. It’s been shown to aid the body in fighting inflammation as well. Fasting gives us time to be able to tune-in to our body, becoming aware of the subtle signals that may otherwise get overlooked. Now that’s not a complete list by any means, but you get the idea!
So what happens when we start doing mental fasting? Similar to meditation practices that help clear the mind, mental fasting is an active pause. This may sound like an oxymoron, but hear me out!
When we pause, we are temporarily “interrupting” something. Just like when we’re listening to music and we hit the pause button, we’re not abandoning the song or stopping it completely, we’re simply taking a break for a brief moment. When we engage in this process of pausing, putting our energy and attention towards it, we are then taking an active role in the action. By doing this, we can move into the conductor seat and direct this pause; gently easing into it, having control during, and gradually hitting the play button when we’re ready.
Sometimes our mind can seem rather overwhelming. We have roughly 60,000 thoughts per day (that’s over 40 a minute!), and an estimated 50,000 of those are negative in nature. WOW! That’s over 80 percent of the things going through our mind being negative, low-vibrational chatter. If you’re like me, most of those negative thoughts I didn’t even notice I was having, let alone begin to know how to change. Subsequently, I didn’t realize how my thoughts, and all that noise, was effecting my daily life. When I started adding mental fasting into my daily practice, I learned way more than I ever expected to about how my mind operated, what it was “feeding” off of, and how that nutrition (or lack thereof) was playing out through my actions.
Mental fasting works similar to “normal” fasting, but the way in which we arrive there is different.
How to take an active pause:
- Find a calm, quiet environment where you’re able to focus and not be distracted by your exterior/surroundings. Come to a comfortable position that you can be in for an extended period of time.
- Now we can begin to tune-in to our mind. For the first few minutes, simply observe the phrases, words, thoughts, memories, etc. that come up. Let things flow while you become the observer.
- Next, start to assess each one without judgement. See how a particular thought feels and what kind of emotion it’s attached to. Is it warm, relaxing, uplifting? Or maybe stressful, painful, depressing? They may even feel neutral, indifferent. All of these are okay! Avoid labeling any as “bad” or “good”, just notice how they feel.
- With focus and attention, pick out one or two that you don’t like the way they feel. You might also pick those revolving thoughts about that trip you’re taking soon and all the things you still need to do. These will be what we fast!
- Still in your active pause, practice noticing when this/these thought(s) move into the mind. We need to be able to identify them — the sooner the better. For me, it was like a reel on repeat in the beginning, playing over and over.
- When the thought(s) come up, mentally tell them stop! Sometimes I would even go as far as to say in my head, “Nope! You’re not welcome today, go away!”. Whatever it is that helps you break that thought the moment you notice it.
- Then actively move your attention! Whether it’s to a more calm, happier, relaxing thought, or to something physical like concentrating on taking full breaths. The point is that you’ve stopped the thought, and redirected it.
Physically fasting from food can seem easier in the sense that you just stop, don’t eat. With the mind, telling someone to stop thinking can sound like telling them to stop breathing! Well, it’s not that extreme, but it can feel that way. The workings of the mind can be rather autonomous at times — the mind having a mind of its own! But with practice, and mental fasting, we can rein it in.
This can be practiced intermittently, like food fasting is, and will gradually integrate into your life daily. The more you practice, the easier it becomes, and eventually we reprogram our thoughts. It’s amazing how many changes happen from mental fasting: decrease in mental burnouts, boost in confidence, better mental energy and focus, better self-esteem, and so many other wonderful benefits!
A mental fasting anecdote:
When I mentioned that mental fasting had trickled down into effecting my daily actions, I mean little things that made a BIG difference. These effects end up being non-linear and more like a web. When I first started, it became annoying how many times I had to tell myself “stop” when a thought of insecurity came up. It showed up in so many forms: I don’t have the right clothes to fit in for that event; I don’t like the way my hair looks today; I’m not well travelled like they are; I don’t know as much about that as they do; what if I they don’t like me; what if I say the wrong thing and sound stupid… You get the point! I would avoid going to public events, even when they sounded really fun, because of all these negativities I had swirling in my head. And, of course, I would be harsh on myself the next day for missing it, and constantly feeling left out — by my own doing!
Every day it felt like I was constantly redirecting my mind. Then, slowly, I had to do it less and less. It wasn’t like feeling a “click”, or an “I finally got it” moment. It was actually me talking about it to a friend before I realized I hadn’t consciously noticed having to redirect myself in a while. It was that very same week when I went to an art event — yes, all by myself! — and had great conversations with new people, learned some new things, and had an enjoyable time. Hooray! That next morning I felt more confident, proud of myself, and then picked a few more self-deprecating thoughts to fast!
All the best,