3 Ways To Stay Healthy While Traveling

Greetings from San Diego!  I am in southern California for the American Board of Integrative and Holistic Medicine annual conference and board certification exam.  This means I’m studying my butt off and networking and learning like crazy!  Please pencil in a to-do on Halloween to send me a prayer, good thoughts and other mojo for my exam!

Earlier this week I had asked myself what I should write about this weekend and, since I’m traveling I thought I would write about ways to stay healthy while traveling.  It’s not easy to keep your routines up while on the road!  Getting OUT of your normal routine is a stressor, and as you know stress lowers your immune system and makes you more prone to pick up germs.

So how do you keep your immune system strong while traveling?  There are 3 major ways to stay healthy while traveling.

1. Get enough rest

Yep.  We tend to burn the candle at both ends while traveling.  Isn’t it funny how we go on vacation to rest and rejuvenate, then cram our schedules full of activities and must-do lists!  This is normal and natural, but you have to make sure to leave enough time for healthy rest.

You should ideally try to stay on your normal sleep schedule while traveling.  For those with kids, that means doing your best to stick to their normal wake-up times, naptimes and bedtimes.  You know your kids, and you know how flexible they are.  My own kids can sleep anywhere, anytime.  (They are related to their Aunt Becky who once slept through the whole car ride from Cincinnati to Hilton Head, only emerging for meals and rest stops.)

Traveling to the West Coast made me think a little about jetlag.  I’ll be here for over a week, so I won’t be able to avoid shifting my sleep cycle.  If it were just for a few days I’d do my best to stay on East Coast time, but for this length of trip it’s just too hard to fight my brain’s response to daylight and dark.  When I get home I’ll have to just be extra careful about my sleep so I don’t let myself get run down.

2.  Eat and drink healthy

When you’re traveling it’s easy to eat crap.  Fast food, junk food and unhealthy restaurant fare are quick and convenient.  Some of us overindulge in alcohol if we don’t have to drive or get up for work the next day.  And often if you’re going to be trapped in an airplane seat you don’t want to drink as much water as you should.  Trust me, I get it!  Airplane lavatories are NOT where I want to spend my whole plane flight.

If you’re honest with yourself, you have to admit that you don’t FEEL well when you don’t EAT well.  And it’s not hard nowadays to find healthy alternatives.  Even at O’Hare I was able to find a grilled portabello mushroom sandwich (without cheese!) at a little Mediterranean place.  Salads, whole-grain breads, and unprocessed foods are not hard to find.

Depending on where you’re going and what you’re doing, adjust your water intake accordingly.  The climate is pretty dry here in San Diego and I’m thirstier than usual, which of course means I need to pay more attention to my fluid intake.  If I were going on a hike or doing something physically challenging I would be sure to get advice from a local about how much water I would need.  Dehydration contributes to fatigue, can make motion sickness (like seasickness on cruise ships) worse, and can make you prone to mistakes.

3.  Take supplements

This is not nearly as important as the other two!  However, even though it is a distant third I felt I should mention it because it can definitely contribute to feeling well and keeping your immune system strong.

You should pack and take your high-quality multivitamins, of course.  Just like you wouldn’t leave home without your prescription medication, you should bring along your normal supplement regimen.  Vitamin C and echinacea are two supplements that help to support the immune system.

Here are some examples of immune-support supplements you might consider.  I brought my Vitalized Immunity with me, along with all the other supplements I take daily!

It’s easy to get out of your routine when traveling.  Burning the candle at both ends with fun activities, not sleeping enough, eating the wrong foods, overindulging in alcohol, skimping on water, and forgetting your supplements are common enough and can put you and your family at risk of getting sick.  With a little discipline and foresight, though, you can arrive back home after your trip with only great memories and WITHOUT any unwanted souvenirs!

Share

Caution! Thoughts Create Reality

Many people believe that outside factors are in control of their life.  Their boss, their spouse, their parents, even their kids!  This week I am here to tell you that this is NOT true.  YOU are in control, even if you don’t believe it.  Your focus, your intention, your thoughts create your reality.

Before you decide Dr. Jen has gone around the bend, I should tell you that there is really fascinating research that proves that thought and intention really do influence reality.  Self, others, pets and even plants can be influenced by thought.

One very powerful form of thought and intention is prayer.  Religious people around the world believe that personal prayers can affect reality through the power of God or other divine beings.  There is proof that third-party prayer works to influence patients’ health.  AIDS patients and cardiac patients had better results when they were prayed for by people who didn’t know them.  The volunteers who prayed for the cardiac patients were ordinary people with no specific training beyond their personal religious background (the AIDS study used trained healers).  Neither group of patients knew they were being prayed for.

So what if you’re not religious?  That’s OK, there’s plenty of research that shows that non-religious thought and intention are effective too.  The people who developed the random number generator (basically a machine that simulated a coin toss using binary numbers) found that ordinary people could affect the RNG with their minds. This experiment (among others) is discussed in a book called The Field: The Quest For The Secret Force Of The Universe, by Lynne McTaggart which is available on Amazon.com.

All right, so maybe people can use their minds to make a computer come up with more zeroes than ones.  What about living things?  Can you affect living things with your mind?

Sure.  There are numerous studies that show healing touch (which is basically the laying on of hands with benevolent intention – the intention to heal or make people feel better) is beneficial for premature infants, those in military service suffering from PTSD, cancer patients, those with high blood pressure, headaches, chronic pain, depression, anxiety, arthritis.  (Too many articles to cite, if you want them let me know and I’ll forward the list.)

Now that you know how powerful your thoughts are, and how your thoughts create reality, you are responsible.  This is the part that is going to make some of you mad.

You have to control your thoughts.  For those who are more comfortable with a passive, victim mentality, you just lost your excuse.

Because I’ve got news for you.  You don’t have to believe it for it to be true.  Just like you don’t have to understand or believe in gravity for it to keep you on the skin of the world, you don’t have to BELIEVE in the power of your thoughts for them to shape your life.

There is no one to blame.  Your life is YOURS to shape however you choose.

So what do you do?

Look at your life.  Is it everything you want?  No?  What DO you want?  The first step to getting the life that you want is DECIDING what you want.

I don’t know about you, but when I want to learn something new I go read about it.  If you are the same way, you can start to learn about your power to shape your life by reading Rhonda Byrne’s book The Secret.  This one is also available from Amazon.com.

Be ready.  You just might find your world will never be the same again.

QUESTION:  Have you had something happen that seemed to be a lucky coincidence but in retrospect might have happened just because you wanted it so badly?

Share

Meditation For Stress Relief

Would it be fair to say that all of my readers are under some stress?  Yep, pretty much.  Stress is a way of life nowadays.  Stress has lots of bad effects on the body, which I’ll cover in a minute.

For those of us who are parents, stress makes our tempers short and tolerance low.  It makes us snap at our kids and keeps us from enjoying our time with them.  It also can lead us to overeat and indulge in other activities that aren’t good for us OR our families.

There are many ways to reduce stress.  Learning time and task management skills, decreasing commitments, and practicing gratitude are some ways.  Some people resort to medication.

There is also good evidence that meditation for stress relief is effective.

What happens when you’re under stress?

First I want to review a little physiology.  Bear with me, it will help you understand why meditation is helpful.  There is a component of your nervous system that is called the autonomic nervous system.  Its job is to control all of the things that happen in your body without you thinking about them.

Your central nervous system pretty much takes care of your body’s voluntary activities, like movement and speech.  The autonomic nervous system controls breathing, heart rate, circulation, digestion, sweating, bowel and bladder function and sexual activity (once triggered by conscious thought).

The autonomic nervous system also is divided into two components: the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system.  The sympathetic nervous system is activated with stress, and brings out the “fight or flight” response.  Blood pressure, respiratory rate and heart rate go up, pupils dilate, circulation is directed away from the digestive tract and towards the brain and muscles (preparing to fight or flee from a threat).  The adrenal glands dump adrenaline into the blood stream.  If stress lasts awhile the adrenals also make cortisol to increase blood sugar production by the liver.

Can you see why chronic sympthetic activation is a bad thing?  Having the blood pressure and heart rate high is really hard on the circulatory system.  Adrenaline itself seems over time to be poisonous to the heart.  Chronic stress is hard on the digestive tract, leading to irritable bowel syndrome.  High cortisol levels can lead to weight gain and diabetes.

So how do you calm down the sympathetic nervous system?

One way is to activate the parasympathetic nervous system.  If sympathetic is “fight or flight,” parasympathetic is “rest and digest.”  One of the most effective ways to purposely activate the parasympathetic nervous system is to meditate.

Meditation has been shown to produce improvement in mood disorders, epilepsy, autoimmune symptoms, menopause symptoms and PMS symptoms.

There are many ways to meditate.  Some well-known techniques include Transcendental Meditation, mindfulness-based stress reduction, various types of Buddhist meditation, and Metta meditation.  All forms of meditation seek to calm the mind and enhance concentration.

Like many other areas of life, to get the most out of meditation you need a good teacher.  I’d like to recommend to you that, if you’re in the Cleveland area, you should consider MY teacher.

Dr. Vincent Gentiluomo is a skilled martial artist and spiritual teacher.  You can learn more about him and his background at this link.  He offers both group classes and individual teaching.  If you would like more information, you can contact him via email at docvg1@gmail.com or by phone at 440–773–4004.  He can help you choose the program that’s right for you.

If you’re finding yourself struggling with stress and its effects on your body, meditation is one way to reduce your stress and bring your body back into balance.

For more information about the biology of stress, check this link.

QUESTION:  Do you meditate?  How has it helped you?

Share

Why Integrative Medicine?

Later this month I will be traveling to San Diego to go to the American Board of Integrative and Holistic Medicine’s annual conference.  The day after the conference ends (which happens to be Halloween) I will sit for the ABIHM board certification exam.  The opportunity to earn knowledge about integrative medicine is something that has me very excited!

So why integrative medicine?

Oddly enough, my application for the board certification exam requires me to write an essay about this very topic.  Well, one woman’s essay is another woman’s blog post 🙂

I’ve been practicing family medicine for 11 years (after residency, 14 years since medical school).  I’ve had a growing sense for the last few years something is missing from the way I’ve been practicing medicine.

Nowadays in the US, medicine is very focused on INTERVENTION.  If you can’t drug it away or cut it out, American medicine doesn’t really know what to do with it.  American patients tend to be very passive, for the most part.  They want a quick fix.  Something or someone outside themselves to fix all their problems.

For the last few years, I’ve had a growing feeling that we’ve got it backwards.

Let me give you an example.  If you or your child came to see me with a broken leg, what would you expect?

You would expect me to ask questions, order Xrays, and tell you what’s wrong with your leg.  Once I did those things, suppose I told you your leg is broken, gave you a prescription for pain medicine, and sent you on your way.  Would you think I was a good doctor?

Of course not!  You would expect me to put a splint or a cast on the leg and give you crutches.  You would ask me about work or school or home duties, what would be safe and unsafe for you to do.  You would expect me to keep you out of gym class or sports until it was healed.  You would expect me to see you back to evaluate the healing process.  I might even send you for physical therapy, depending on what was broken and how it was healing.

These are all things that a good doctor would do for a serious illness or injury.  We would try to identify things in your lifestyle that can cause, exacerbate or prolong illness or injury.  We want to keep the patient safe from further harm and help healing happen as quickly and easily as possible.

Too many of my patients who have serious illnesses (like anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, etc.) do NOT want to explore how their lifestyle has caused or contributed to their illness.  They do NOT want to be told they need to change their diet, start exercising, quit smoking, lose weight, manage their stress, see a counselor to work on communication skills or old life traumas, or anything else that is more difficult than taking pills.

And believe me, these things ARE more difficult than taking pills.  I am the first one to tell you that taking pills is the easy part.  Changing your lifestyle?  That’s super-tough.  It takes a very strong person to look hard at his or her diet, activity and other habits and make a plan to change.  Think about the last person you knew who quit smoking!

To use a house-building analogy, I’ve felt for a long time that I needed a bigger toolbox.  My integrative-medicine training has given me LOTS of new tools!  I know more about medical nutrition therapy, acupuncture, hypnotherapy, manual therapy like massage and chiropractic, herbs and supplements, homeopathy, biofeedback, counseling, religion and spirituality and the health effects of LOTS of other modalities.

I am not foolish enough to think that, after taking (and hopefully passing!) my integrative-medicine board examination, I will know everything I need to know about treating patients from a holistic perspective.  I will continue to read, research, and build my skills.

As a wise man named Michaelangelo said at age 87, “Ancora imparo.”

“I am still learning.”

Share