Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Winter Wellness

Wellness: Having the resources (physical, mental, spiritual) to meet ordinary life challenges every day; and having the resources to recover and heal from extraordinary challenges like injury, illness, and loss. To be well, we need to support our body’s innate drive for balance (homeostasis). Whether it is biochemical, nutritional, emotional, social, environmental or spiritual.

How do we do this? Through self-awareness, prevention, and self-responsibility.

Awareness: learning to listen to my body’s needs. To rest when I need rest, to eat (wholesome foods) when I need to eat. To be social and active at times and seek solitude at times. To learn to listen to the feeling state, which often makes itself known through sensations in our heart and our gut.

Prevention: how I live my life today provides the building blocks for my body 7-10 years from now. The old saying an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure holds true more than ever. We can no longer depend on job-sponsored health insurance to pay for that pound of cure. We are feeling it directly in our own back pocket, and it is costing more and more. Wellness means planning for my future, and not taking my health for granted.

Responsibility: We must put ourselves back in the driver’s seat and take control of our own health. It is no longer good enough to assign our health to doctors and other health professionals. We alone are the experts of our bodies. Who knows your body better than you? Turning over the controls to others’ leads to depression, the state we sink to when we feel we no longer have any control over our own life.

Winter Wellness: Each season brings its own special health needs. We want to hunker down in the winter, and sleep more with the darker nights. It is certainly a season to get more rest, support the immune system, and not stretch our health dollars too far out of reach. Colder days discourage thirst, but we really need to stay hydrated to protect ourselves from colds and opportunistic viruses. The body will stay strong with hearty warm soups and stews, rich with winter vegetables like roots and squash.

The solitude of Winter gives us time to dream and create the coming year’s projects, letting new ideas emerge from last year’s activities, failures and successes; however, we also need to reach out and maintain social connection for mental health. Lack of sunlight at this latitude leads to chronic Vitamin D depletion. Oral supplementation is practically mandatory, as Dr. Tom Archie demonstrated in a meta-study he performed here. Low Vitamin D levels in the body compromises the immune system in many ways and has links to heart disease, depression, and many cancers.

The dark cold days of winter often discourage us from getting enough time in Nature and taking in fresh air, instead inhaling the concentrated stale air in our highly sealed homes and offices. Making the commitment to get outside for a short 15 minute walk will bring fresh oxygen into the lungs, heart and body. It helps us stay connected to the seasons which helps keep our spirits up. Walking (or any active exercise) boosts our metabolism and keeps us from adding unwanted pounds over the winter months. Find a winter sport to embrace that supports your fitness level, and experience the beauty of our wondrous lake and mountain environment.

Each moment of our lives we are making choices. What to do, what to think, whether to take action or inaction. We always have the power to choose something that is better for us, or worse, whether it is our relationships, our job, our diet, or our attitude.

The Winter Wellness Festival returns to Lake Almanor this year with activities slated for March 12-15, 2009. Marking the 4th year of the event, this year’s Festival theme is Health & Hope: Simplicity, Sustainability and Gratitude.

Contact: Chester-Lake Almanor Chamber of Commerce at info@LakeAlmanorArea.com, 530-258-2426

c. 2009, Jan Davies, CWHE All Rights Reseserved.

Low Vitamin D Levels Linked to Colds

Study Shows Vitamin D May Have a Role to Play in Preventing Colds and Flu
By Jennifer Warner
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Feb. 23, 2009 -- A walk in the sun may be better than popping a vitamin C tablet for boosting your chances of preventing the common cold or flu.

A new study adds to mounting evidence that vitamin C may have been stealing the spotlight all these years from the real cold fighter, vitamin D.

The study, the largest to date on the link between vitamin D and common respiratory infections, shows that people with the lowest vitamin D levels report having significantly more cases of cold and flu than those with higher levels. Vitamin D is produced by the body in response to sunlight and is also found in fortified foods such as milk.

Researchers say that although vitamin C has been used for the prevention of common colds and other respiratory infections for decades, there is little scientific evidence to support its effectiveness. However, several recent studies have suggested that vitamin D, better known for its role in building strong bones, may also play a critical role in immune system function.

"The findings of our study support an important role for vitamin D in prevention of common respiratory infections, such as colds and the flu," says researcher Adit Ginde, MD, MPH, of the University of Colorado, Denver, Division of Emergency Medicine, in a news release. "Individuals with common lung diseases, such as asthma or emphysema, may be particularly susceptible to respiratory infections from vitamin D deficiency."
Vitamin D vs. Colds

Although circumstantial evidence has implicated wintertime low levels of vitamin D to the seasonal increases in colds and flu, some smaller studies have also hinted at a link between low vitamin D level and a higher risk of respiratory infections.

In this study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers analyzed information on vitamin D levels and respiratory infections from nearly 19,000 adults and adolescents who participated in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) from October 1988 to October 1994.

The results showed those with the lowest vitamin D levels (less than 10 nanograms per milliliter of blood) were 36% more likely to report having a recent upper respiratory tract infection than those with higher levels (30 ng/mL or higher).

This association persisted during all four seasons and was even stronger among those with a history or asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease ( COPD).

For example, people with asthma with the lowest vitamin D levels were five times more likely to have had a recent respiratory infection. Among those with COPD, recent respiratory infections were twice as common among those with lowest vitamin D levels.

"We are planning clinical trials to test the effectiveness of vitamin D to boost immunity and fight respiratory infection, with a focus on individuals with asthma and COPD, as well as children and older adults -- groups that are at higher risk for more severe illness," Ginde says. "While it's too early to make any definitive recommendations, many Americans also need more vitamin D for its bone and general health benefits."

Ginde, A. Archives of Internal Medicine, Feb. 23, 2008; vol 169: pp 384-390.

News release, American Medical Association.
© 2009 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Childhood Stress and Autoimmune Disease

Cumulative Childhood Stress and Autoimmune Diseases in Adults
Shanta R. Dube , PhD, MPH, DeLisa Fairweather , PhD, William S. Pearson , PhD, MHA, Vincent J. Felitti , MD, Robert F. Anda , MD, MS, Janet B. Croft , PhD


Objective: To examine whether childhood traumatic stress increased the risk of developing autoimmune diseases as an adult. Methods: Retrospective cohort study of 15,357 adult health maintenance organization members enrolled in the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Study from 1995 to 1997 in San Diego, California, and eligible for follow-up through 2005. ACEs included childhood physical, emotional, or sexual abuse; witnessing domestic violence; growing up with household substance abuse, mental illness, parental divorce, and/or an incarcerated household member. The total number of ACEs (ACE Score range = 0–8) was used as a measure of cumulative childhood stress. The outcome was hospitalizations for any of 21 selected autoimmune diseases and 4 immunopathology groupings: T- helper 1 (Th1) (e.g., idiopathic myocarditis); T-helper 2 (Th2) (e.g., myasthenia gravis); Th2 rheumatic (e.g., rheumatoid arthritis); and mixed Th1/Th2 (e.g., autoimmune hemolytic anemia).

Sixty-four percent reported at least one ACE. The event rate (per 10,000 person-years) for a first hospitalization with any autoimmune disease was 31.4 in women and 34.4 in men. First hospitalizations for any autoimmune disease increased with increasing number of ACEs (p < .05). Compared with persons with no ACEs, persons with ?2 ACEs were at a 70% increased risk for hospitalizations with Th1, 80% increased risk for Th2, and 100% increased risk for rheumatic diseases (p < .05).

Conclusions: Childhood traumatic stress increased the likelihood of hospitalization with a diagnosed autoimmune disease decades into adulthood. These findings are consistent with recent biological studies on the impact of early life stress on subsequent inflammatory responses.