How To Take Care Of Your Lungs

We expose our lungs to constant strain, especially if we live in big cities. I remember in med school how I looked at lungs of people living in congested parts of the city (such as London when the air was filled with smog), and was horrified by the amount of soot accumulated in the tissue of the lungs. If you think about it, this is a natural consequence, as the lungs work as a filtration system. Optimally, only clean air is allowed to pass from the lungs and into the bloodstream, where oxygen is then transported to all the cells of the body. Furthermore, carbon monoxide is taken up into the blood stream, and expelled through the lungs. We know that the lungs are affected by the amount of toxins they are exposed to, and may eventually lead to inflammation and damage to the lung tissue. It is therefore advisable to know how to best take care of these precious organs.

Through digging deep into the ground and analyzing the different eras we now know that around 100 million years ago (when dinosaurs wandered the earth) the oxygen concentration in the atmosphere was around 35 %. Around 10 million years ago there was an enormous forest fire, that may be partly responsible for the reduction of oxygen concentration in the air. But chances are that the biggest change occurred during the industrial revolution, as the air quality decreased in the cities as a consequence of fossil fuel emission into the atmosphere. Since then we have had a poorer quality in the air we breathe, with oxygen concentrations usually around 20%. The lack of oxygen in the air is particularly evident in big cities, and has been measured as low as 10% in densely populated cities like Mexico City. Even so, there are ways to compensate for this, such as creating big parks in the middle of densely populated cities. This morning I strolled along Central Park in New York City, and thought to myself how mindful the architects of this big metropole had been in creating such a green lung smack in the middle of it all.

So, back to how to take care of your lungs. One sign that the lungs are inflamed is the production of mucus buildup, with coughing up of thicker mucus. If this is to happen, it is time to cleanse the lungs. Here are my recommendations on how to take care of your lungs:

  • Start the day with fresh lemon water, preferably with honey. This will not only detoxify the body, but also treat a buildup of mucus in the lungs.
  • Ingest turmeric root. For optimal effect for the lungs, it is advisable to ingest a small part of the fresh turmeric root, either by chewing it, or having it in a juice.
  • To expel mucus, eat a few pieces of pineapple or drink pineapple juice on an empty stomach. If this is done consistently over a course of two weeks, it usually relieves symptoms of excess mucus.
  • Drink chamomile tea. This has a general effect to soothe inflammation, and works particularly well for the lungs. Besides, it has a soothing effect on the nervous system, which in turn lower the blood pressure, and allow you to breathe with more ease.
  • Other herbs that may have a curative effect for the lungs are garlic, horseradish and ginger.
    • Garlic has a wide range of medicinal properties, the main effect for the lungs is the ability to cleanse and detoxify free radicals, toxins and other irritants, in addition to work as an antibacterial and antifungal therapy.
    • If you look at Chinese medicine, horseradish is a good herbal tonic for the lungs, just be careful not to overconsume this herb, due to its pungency.
    • Ginger is also an excellent herb, especially in cases of too much coldness in the body. Making a ginger tea, by steeping freshly cut ginger in hot water for 10 minutes, and then adding a small portion of raw honey to it is a very good way to expel some bacterial infections.
  • Some supplements that work very good for the lungs are zinc, vitamin c and Echinacea. In cases of lung problems, taking a regular supplement of 25 mg zinc, 1000 mg vitamin C and a few shots of Echinacea can work wonders.
  • Drink plenty of fresh water. This has a cleansing effect for the lungs, thinning out the mucus, and makes it easier to expel toxins from the lungs.
  • An occasional fast (while drinking plenty of fluids) is usually very curative for the lungs.
  • Using plants can potentially cleanse the air and produce more oxygen. I challenge you to try this out for a few months, and see If you notice any change. If you go to a botanist, you can ask for particularly cleansing plants, such as ferns and peace lilies.
  • Last, but definitely not least, is the healing effect of deep breathing. Even spending 10 minutes each day actively breathing deeply, filling up your lungs, will be very beneficial for the lungs oxygen exchange, and hence leave you more relaxed and energized. Even better is to do this while being out in nature. Also, a brisk walk, or other forms of exercise will make it easier to fill up the lungs with fresh air.Little girl on a swing in the mountain landscape

The Benefits Of Exercise On The Brain

You may know that a regular workout improves the body. What is less clear has been the effect of physical exercise on the brain. The brain is considered to be a muscle (although 60-70 percent is really fat), and as with the body, if you don´t use it enough, it may start to deteriorate. The good news is that there are a range of precautions to boost a healthy mind.

  • An effective training to boost the neuronal connections in the deeper parts of the brain such as the brain stem is neuromuscular training. This basically constitutes doing slow (the slower the better) movements, diagonal movements (ie. right arm and left leg) and rotational movements (ie. moving the thumbs in opposite directions).
  • Recent discovery of a protein called BNDF has led to an increased understanding of the link between the body and mind. After a workout, we see a general buildup of BNDF in the brain, primarily the hippocampus. BNDF has crucial effects on the neurons. Generally it encourages the growth of neurons (and thicker myelin sheaths), by building stronger links, and at the same time protects against cell death. In fact, in 2007 a German researcher discovered that people learn  20 times faster following physical exercise than before they worked out. These findings correlated with the levels of BDNF in the brain.
  • The Human Growth Hormone (“HGH”) can be considered the fountain of youth, due to its age reviving effects on cells. Ways to boost the HGH production from the pituitary gland is by either having spurts of a high intensity workout and/or muscle training. What is interesting is that this increase of HGH in the circulation lasts many hours after you exercise. Conversely, a high intensity workout leaves higher amounts of BDNF in the brain as compared to a lower intensity workout. I would point out here that it is better with shorter burst of high intensity, as this will have better effect on the generation of HGH than longer stretches of high intensity. In a comparative study, Doing a series of squats doubled the HGH levels compared with running at high intensity for thirty minutes.
  • Exercise boosts the amount of dopamine, which sparks motivation. Sticking to an exercise regimen will boost the reward centers in the brain, and make it easier to stick with the workout schedule.

Overall, exercise improves learning in three ways:

  1. Increases alertness, attention and motivation
  2. Encourages nerve cells to bind to one another, an essential aspect of learning new tasks
  3. Boosts the production of nerve cells in the hippocampus (from stem cells)

So get to it and start exercising today!

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Tips To Improve Your Eating Habbits

Here are some simple tips I generally advice patients so that they have a better and healthier diet:

  • Start the day with a fresh lemon/limewater. Simply squeeze 1/2 a lemon/lime in a glass of cold to lukewarm water, and drink this on an empty stomach. For those suffering from lack of energy, adding 1/2-1 teaspoon of raw, unprocessed honey is also good.
  • Drink some fresh juice on an empty stomach for an extra cleanse and energy boost. Any fresh vegetables will do, including cucumber, celery, wheatgrass.
  • Drink plenty of clean water, about 2 liters daily. Try to substitute some of the coffee/tea and other beverages with drinking clean water. Your body will thank you for it!

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  • Chew your food thoroughly, and do not stress when you are eating.
  • For a poor digestion it is wise to add some bitter herbs/vegetables in the beginning of a meal. Simply eat a fresh salad, with the additions of herbs such as rucola, dandelion, watercress and many more.

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  • In between meal snack I would advice eating nuts and seeds. For even better effect it is best to soak the nuts in water overnight. Then digestion of the nuts will be far better, and you get more out of eating them. Also, cutting up some vegetables and have it with a nice dip is a good snack in the middle of the day.
  • Skip the snacks that are overtly processed, salty, greasy such as chips and cookies. Focus on less processed foods. Rule of thumb is that what is fresh or home made is much better that what has been pre-packaged.
  • Limit intake of refined sugar since ingestion of pure white sugar have shown detrimental effects on peoples health, primarily linked to increased inflammation. Rather substitute refined sugar with some honey, maple syrup, stevia, yacon syrup, lucuma or dried fruits such as dates and figs. Remember, less is more in terms of these sugars!
  • If you really want to boost you gut functioning I would recommend adding fermented foods such as sauerkraut to your diet. This is great to help assimilate and absorb the food you eat even better.

Bon apetit!

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The Benefits Of Fasting

Fasting is an ancient way to restore one’s health, from the Ezekiel’s 40 days’ fasts, to the Muslims 30 days Ramadan. Aristotle used to demand that his potential students embark on a fasting period before commencing his teachings.

If we go back in time several thousands of years (a speck in time for the history of the world), humans naturally fasted in times when there were scarce amounts of food. Hence, when we consider evolution, most of the human existence we were forced to have intermittent fasting. It is only in the modern time that we have a surplus amount of food available at all times. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a negative thing in its self. It is great that we are able to have a more varied and rich diet than our forefathers. The only problem is that in this time and age, where we tend to think more on efficiency and how to get food fast, food also tend to lack a lot of the essential nutrients that we have available, virtually at all times.  The diet tend to be too rich in fast sugars and starches, and nutrients lacking in enzymes that will leave a more sluggish digestive system. Studies have shown that in the west we typically carry many kilograms of partially undigested food in the colon. Fasting is therefore a way to restore health in the body by sweeping clean the gastrointestinal system of the excess food particles.

The concept of fasting is also a time where you focus not on what you ingest. This has the potential to relieve addictive behaviors.  It is also a good way to clear ones mind, as less energy goes to the digestive system. This is the reason why Aristotle demanded that his students fast before studying, as this increased the efficiency of their learning capacity.

There are many ways to fast. I do not suggest you start with a long fast if you are not used to fasting, as this may be too big of a shock to the body. Therefore, it is better to start with intermittent fasting’s, lasting a day or two. If you look at Anthony Weils recommendations to a healthier lifestyle, fasting one day a week is a good way to go.

Now, how does one fast. There are many ways to do this:

  • Water fast. This is the most common way to fast, where one only consume water for the entire fasting period.
  • Juice fasting. Drinking solely vegetable juice, alternatively with some fruits such as lemon and apple.
  • Absolute fast. This is where you ingest nothing for a period of time. An example of this is the days of Ramadan.
  • Fasting could also be just being conscious of eating/drinking more simply. Whole grain rice fast is a good fast, and could be particularly beneficial with parasitic infestations.

Once one gets more in the habbit of fasting one can try the 7 days fast. This commonly is a water fast, done once a year, preferably in the spring or autumn. Here it is advisable to do this in a time of less stress, as it turns out to be a contemplative period. Here it is advisable to consult a physician before the fast to make sure the liver and kidney values are up for the task. It is also advisable to consume lots of leafy green vegetables and herbal teas a few days prior and after the fast, to ease in and out of the fast.

Fasting is a way to reset the body and mind, where one can spend more time on doing other hearty things, such as being more out in nature, and bring the nature in to your home by buying plants or flowers. Fasting could also include fasting from media and news for a day, so as to relieve more of ones collective stress. Remember, fasting is about enjoying more of what life has to offer, while regaining more energy and clarity by doing so.

Happy fasting!

The Health Benefits Of Sleeping

Do you remember last time you woke up feeling refreshed and fully awake. No? Well, don’t despair. You are in good company. Sleep deprivation is more common now than it has ever been before. This is the reason why many health experts, bloggers, journalist and many more are starting to write about the importance of sleep. Just look at the thrive movement generated by Arianna Huffington.

Now, why do we commonly lack proper sleep? One of the main reason is stress. While a normal amount of stress may be healthy, chronic sleep may cause a detrimental effect on the body. Too much stress (aka adrenaline) in the body makes it difficult for the mind to shut down for sleep, and may also stress the body even during sleep. Do you crave that pick me up coffee in the morning, so that you can function properly. Then this might be a sign that the body need more restful sleep.

You may ask, do we really need those eight hours of sleep every night. Well, while you might train the body to function with less sleep, it is my opinion that over a course of time, this is not advisable. Studies have linked higher risk of diseases such as cancer with the chronic lack of sleep. The reason for this is that less sleep over a course of time stress the body, and influence the various hormones and immune system, and may eventually lead to a range of ailments in down the line. The challenge is linking the lack of sleep with the development of disease.

In my clinic I have many patients suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome. Some sleep eight, nine, ten, or even twelve hours each day, but they don’t get fully rested, and wake up feeling more tired than when they went to bed. Here the reasons are multifocal. Investigation to reveal the true reasons for this, we have to reflect on many aspects of pathogenesis (development of disease). How is the nutrient value, as for instance a lack of vitamin B12, folate, iron, iodine to name a few will potentially lead to fatigue. Thyroid and adrenal issues are a common problem. As I have covered in previous articles, the gut flora may also play its part here.

In this years annual conference at Institute for Functional Medicine in the US the main theme was about sleep – how sleep deprivation affect our health, and what to do about it. Here is a list of general advice to have a more peaceful sleep:

  • No blue light one hour before bedtime. You may not realize it, but daylight contains a lot of blue color. This blocks our own melatonin production, leaving us more awake during the day. Normally, in the evening blue light fades away. Due to our modern technology, TV, computers, tablets, mobiles and so on usually have blue light. This has the effect to block our own healthy melatonin production, leaving us with less melatonin for that good nights sleep. What is interesting is that now many of the computers and mobiles have a function where blue light (aka night mode) can be turned on.
  • Do something relaxing before going to bed. Deep breathing is a very effective way to calm the body and mind. Meditation before bed is also a good way to calm that mental chatter, commonly called monkey mind. Doing some peaceful activity such as a nice walk in nature, intimate conversation, or drinking some sleep tea is also beneficial.
  • The bed is only for sleep (++). Don’t bring laptops, mobiles, TV, newspapers, books and so on into the bed before going to bed.
  • Go to bed before midnight. If you manage to go to bed at 10-11 pm on a regular basis, this will leave you with more energy in the long run.

Haukeland University Hospital have done a lot of research on sleep, and found that one effective way to aid sleep is by taking 1 mg of Melatonin 3-4 hours before going to bed. The theory behind this is that this small dosage does not interfere with our own melatonin production, while larger dosages might. I have used 1 mg Melatonin on many patients, and who have noticed a great improvement in sleep.

I truly believe that sleeping better will truly make one thrive, and enable one to live more to ones full potential.

Sleep well

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