Small Choices That Lead to Healthier Habits for Life

 

You know there is a saying now that 100 is the new 80, that people are expecting to live to 100 years of age. Of course, we want to live a long life, but we want to live a life of health. We want to be healthy physically, mentally and emotionally. We also want to be healthy spiritually and have a strong sense of meaning and purpose in life. We want to wake up each morning and know why the day matters.

Believing You Can Change

A couple of things are important to remember. One is, to have that life, the first step is to believe that your life can be that way. You need to believe. If you can believe that, then you can begin to plan for that healthy life, one day at a time.  There are no guarantees for how long we are going to live. For some people they have already developed certain conditions, others are concerned about preventing the development of conditions in the future. Whether you have diabetes or heart disease or you are overweight or you are concerned about developing those conditions it’s never too late to begin to try to reverse the conditions that you may be suffering from and its certainly never too late to begin to put into place the habits, the lifestyle needed to both prevent or treat the chronic diseases that have become epidemics in our society and that sometimes keep people from living longer. On the flip side, living longer with these chronic diseases will zap our quality of life, including our energy, ability to connect with people and have the meaning and fulfillment in our lives that we want.

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It starts with making choices, small choices, one day at a time.

This includes choices around the foods you may eat. Choices around how or when you might exercise or be physically active. Choices around how you might choose to connect with others in your life.  When you look at some of the research on longevity, like the research around the Blue Zones, these areas in the world where people tend to live longest, there are some commonalities there. They don’t necessarily go to gyms or take a lot of medications or supplements, but what they do –  is eat a healthy diet (sometimes there is a little more meat than others) but their diet typically consists of fresh vegetables and fruit, they remain physically active throughout their entire lives,  they connect with their community and loved ones on a regular basis and finally, they have a sense of purpose in their lives. Purpose around their work and family.

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Finding the Time

Social connections and relationships are so critical to having a life that we want but it need not feel overwhelming. Sometimes the things that hold us back from the life that we want are subtle things that we over miss.

For example, I was talking to someone the other day and overall they were feeling pretty good. They were exercising, eating well and they felt well mentally. The one issue he was having was a lot of stomach upset. He just couldn’t figure out where it was coming from and had spoken to his physician and after talking it through it turns out that one of the habits he had was chewing a lot of gum. Well, guess what? Gum can have Sorbitol in it and that Sorbitol can affect the stomach. Just look at the label.   That Sorbitol can cause stomach upset. So this seemingly innocent habit that he had was the issue. He since switched to a gum that has Xylitol in it which is just a different type of additive. If you weren’t aware, Xylitol and sorbitol are sugar substitutes commonly found in foods labeled “sugar-free” or “no sugar added. Once he started chewing this sugar-free gum with Xylitol his GI issues got better. It was such a “small” thing with such a profound impact on him.

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We don’t need to think in terms of what overwhelming life shift that we have to take, but what are some small, new or revolved habits you can make to make sure the trajectory of your life is headed in the direction you want along with the quality of your life. Ask yourself, Is the quality of your life where you want it to be today? Are you doing what you need to in order to assure that the quality of your life will be what you want it to be tomorrow?

Cryotherapy Benefits and Results

I tried cryotherapy for the first time at CryoEvolution in Mt. Pleasant, SC, near Charleston.  There have been a number of interesting studies that have found that cryotherapy is therapeutic for reducing muscle soreness.

The Cryotherapy market can be split into liquid nitrogen therapy, dry ice, and electric.  A description with claims on the company’s website explains their approach and benefits.

Whole Body Cryotherapy (WBC) is the process of exposing the body to ultra-low temperatures (-200 to -250F) in a controlled environment for a limited amount of time. The individual enters a Nitrogen-cooled cryogenic sauna or chamber for 1-3 minutes, which lowers the skin surface temperature significantly. This action stimulates receptors, activating a Central Nervous System response and causing a release of endorphins. After the session, the body immediately begins to reheat itself, increase circulation, and decrease inflammation by clearing toxins, lactic acid, and metabolic waste. The new supply of oxygenated blood stimulates cellular regeneration. Many notice an after-burn effect in which they metabolize additional calories. WBC treatments have been adopted by elite athletes and professional sports teams for muscle recovery and injury prevention.

In my mind, it is probably as effective as an ice water bath but a lot less brutal. Although Cryotherapy does get kinda cold, it’s a fast three minutes and you’re done.

Developed over 40 years ago by a Japanese doctor to alleviate the symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis, it wasn’t until European rugby and football teams started freezing themselves in the past ten years that it became more popular. There is suppose to be at least 400 cryotherapy spas in America and the technology has been used in the US for the last 8+ years. It has become popular in non-clinical settings by sufferers of a variety of disorders, those looking for relief from inflammation and a competitive edge in training. Not just for athletes, it supposedly reduces inflammation throughout the entire body and can help those with arthritis, joint disorders, improve post-operative recovery, manage pain, improve mood, boost metabolism and improve sleep.

Now, it should be noted that scientific studies on whole body cryotherapy are inconclusive at best.

So, let’s start with the Cryo Commandments which include –

  • making sure to rotate during your session
  • the feeling of pins, needles, numbness, and tingling along with shivering and shaking are normal
  • expect a 30-50 degree skin temperature drop

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Judd Baker, the founder of CryoEvolution explains, “You are entering a chamber that contains liquid nitrogen turning it into nitrogen gas and cooling it to about negative 250 degrees Fahrenheit.  Cold air will help reduce inflammation, as well as stiffness, pain and soreness. The reason you wear a robe, socks, slippers and gloves is that we want the maximum exposure to that cold, but we also want to protect the extremities.”

Cryotherapy isn’t for everyone. Those who are pregnant or have a heart condition are not candidates for therapy.  According to Baker your body will go into a little bit of a state of shock and will boost endorphin production, melatonin, serotonin, norepinephrine, and it should make you sleep better and increase your mood for the rest of the day.

Three minutes in the chill chamber wasn’t the most comfortable for me but it wasn’t terrible. I certainly prefer it to lying in an tub of ice water for 20 minutes.

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If you have muscle aches and soreness from working out, you certainly can do local treatments like an ice pack or bag of peas and CryoEvolution even offers localized cryotherapy which can be used to target specific areas. Their clients frequently combine this treatment with whole-body cryotherapy, to treat problem areas. The local area treatment usually only needs to be conducted for 5-10 minutes.

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I also tried their Normatec Compression Therapy Boots, which are suppose to be great for relieving sore & stiff legs, especially combined with a cryo session. The NormaTec Recovery System is an air pressure massage indicated to temporarily relieve minor muscle aches and/or pains and to temporarily increase circulation to the treated areas.

The results of this study did show that intermittent pneumatic compression systems, stockings, and multilayer bandaging are useful and effective in venous leg ulcer treatment.

More information can be found here, on how compression boots work.

Join Me on a Journey of True Health & Well-Being

Hi, I’m Dr. Adam Perlman. I am the former Associate Vice President of Health & Wellness for The Duke University Health System as well as Executive Director of Duke Integrative Medicine.  I currently hold the position of Director of the Leadership Program in Integrative Healthcare.  As a practitioner of functional medicine, I have spent my entire career trying to help people take a more comprehensive, holistic approach as they address their health concerns while optimizing their vitality and living their best life.

You see, the world of medicine and the healthcare system, in general, is moving from a disease-centric approach to a systems biology that addresses the individual as a whole.

I believe, like many, that the healthcare model of tomorrow will be very different. It will be equally predictive, preventative, personalized and participatory. 

  • Predictive meaning medicine will incorporate genomics to determine the probability of disease.
  • Preventative allowing people to know their individual risk profile, which will motivate them to make changes before they get sick.
  • They will receive personalized recommendations, namely targeted and specific interventions and treatment.
  • Finally, people will feel empowered and encouraged to engage in personal choices that are participatory, meaning patients will finally team up with the physicians to get to the root of their health problems. 

In the meantime, I urge all of us to become experts about our own health and wellness.

Why?

I think you will agree that there’s a lot of confusing information out there about how to care for your health and well-being. What are we confused about? Well, some of the things I find confusing are simple, like what kind of eggs do I need to buy nowadays? There are at least ten choices out there.

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What about probiotics and the microbiota? What about all of this bacteria in my gut? Should I take a probiotic? If so, what kind? How many strains? How many colony forming units?

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All of the information out there can be very confusing and very misleading.

So what do I personally do? Well, I use my medical training and knowledge try to sift through the information while looking for the evidence. This enables me to make the best decisions for myself while helping inform my family and friends and frankly, I want to do the same for you, and help you become an expert on you.

Information Empowers You with Freedom of Choice

Ultimately, it is about our freedom of choice, because if we’re operating with incomplete information or misinformation, perhaps because it was put on the internet by the company that makes the product, then we don’t truly have freedom of choice.

I believe that with reliable information, we can make reasonable decisions about our health and well being and as I have said earlier, live our best life, while optimizing our vitality.

I am curious about anything that makes us look and feel great, including complementary and alternative treatments like cryotherapy, acupuncture, isolation float tanks, elimination diets and more.

I intend to report about my experiences here and invite you to join me on this health and well-being journey.

If you’re interested, follow me for some Perlz of Healthy Wisdom.

Pura Vida,

Adam