Sunday, March 22, 2020

Meditation is Key to Stress Reduction During Coronavirus

Most people know that meditation can help with stress but get stressed by the thought of it because they think meditation is complicated.    The great news is that you cannot do meditation wrong!   There is no judge or jury and anyone can do it!  
Read on to learn the benefits of meditation along with a simple how to guide that is easy to follow!
How Does Meditation Work?
A big part of meditation is just simply sitting quietly (typically with eyes closed), and just taking this simple step has been shown to result in significant and immediate changes in the brain! In fact, MRI images show a complete change in the brain’s different departments, which results in a relaxation response in the rest of the body.
During meditation, beta waves, which are associated with information processing, are replaced by alpha waves, which are associated with brain coherence. The frontal and parietal lobes, which deal with reasoning, planning, and processing sensory information, slow down. And through the significant reduction in incoming sensory stimuli, the nervous system shifts to relation mode with improved functioning throughout the body.
The autonomic nervous system (which is essentially the automatic control system for the body) consists of two branches: the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS).
The Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) is associated with preparing the body for physical or mental activity. In response to a stressor, the SNS initiates the "fight-or-flight response" to prepare for action. It increases muscle blood flow and tension, dilates pupils, accelerates heart rate and respiration, and increases perspiration and arterial blood pressure. To conserve and concentrate energy, it slows down digestive activity.
The counterpart to the SNS is the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) which is essential for rest and recovery.   It is responsible for the "rest-and-digest" or "feed and breed" activities that occur when the body is at rest, especially after eating, including sexual arousal, salivation, lacrimation, urination, digestion and defecation.    The PNS puts the brakes on the flight or fight response.   
Particularly in these times it is easy to have your Sympathetic Nervous System turned on all the time.    This is what being “Stressed Out” is all about.  This is where meditation and exercise can become critical for reducing this response.  
On a physical level, meditation:
·       Lowers high blood pressure
·       Lowers the levels of blood lactate, reducing anxiety attacks
·       Decreases tension-related pain, such as, tension headaches, ulcers, insomnia, muscle and joint problems
·       Increases serotonin production that improves mood and behavior
·       Improves the immune system
·       Increases the energy level, as you gain an inner source of energy

Mental Benefits of Meditation
Meditation relaxes the body as well as the mind. Without constant stimuli entering the sensory pathways, the mind is able to relax and enter a state of deep rest. Meditation also allows for a deeper connection with the inner self. In doing so, self-esteem increases and people find that they get in touch their authentic feelings and desires which allows for better self-regulation. With regular practice of meditation:
·       Anxiety decreases
·       Emotional stability improves
·       Creativity increases
·       Happiness increases
·       Intuition develops
·       Gain clarity and Peace of Mind
·       Problems become smaller
·       Meditation sharpens the mind by increasing focus and expands through relaxation
·       A sharp mind without expansion causes tension, anger and frustration
·       An expanded consciousness without sharpness can lead to lack of action/progress
·       The balance of a sharp mind and an expanded consciousness brings perfection
·       Increases emotional steadiness and balance

How To Meditate
There are many different ways to meditate, and many people never get started because some of these methods can seem very complicated and challenging.  People try to meditate and think they are “doing it wrong” because they do not know what to expect.
The fact is that meditation is simply sitting quietly and comfortably (usually with your eyes closed) while letting thoughts and feelings come and go!  Sitting in a chair is fine – you do not need to sit in cross-legged position on the floor unless this is comfortable.  The key is being able to relax, and for some people, kneeling with pillows or pads under the hips or using a kneeling chair allows them to relax while keeping the spine in alignment.  
It is natural and normal for the mind to wander and generate all sorts of thoughts and feelings – the key is to learn to watch them come and go because thoughts and feelings never last!  We are not our thoughts or our feelings.  It is helpful to try to pay attention to your breathing – do not try to control it – just pay attention to it.  Thoughts and feelings will intrude and this is NOT a problem – it is normal.  
When your mind inevitably drifts and you become aware of it return your attention to your breathing.   This process of drifting in thoughts and feelings and coming back to your breathing IS meditation.  There is no “doing it wrong.”  Think of it like house cleaning for your brain.  This is why dreaming is so essential – your brain is cleaning house when you dream and to some extent meditation is just wakeful dreaming.
Try to set a timer and sit for 10 minutes a day and gradually increase the time to 20 or 30 minutes per day.  It is crucial NOT to judge yourself – remember thoughts and feelings are normal – just watch the show!    If you stick with this overtime the “noise” in your mind will slow down.
There are many apps available to help you meditate and many people find them helpful – the key is to use them daily and NOT judge yourself – just sit and be with yourself.
At first this can be challenging, but over time it gets easier and easier – good luck!

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Strengthening Your Immune System for Coronavirus

Although there is no vaccine or known way to guarantee that someone does not contract coronavirus there are practices which do improve immunity and help your body to deal with the virus if you do contract it.

First – follow all recommendations of the CDC relative to social distancing and hygiene:

Wash your hands

If sick stay at home

Cough and sneeze into your elbow

Keep your distance from other people whenever possible


Proper nutrition is essential to keep your immune system in tip top shape.    This means adequate intake of high-quality protein (minimum of 50 grams per day for a female and 60 grams for a male.

At least five servings of fruits and vegetables

Minimize sugar intake which diminishes immune response

Stay hydrated with water – still the best!

Ensure adequate intake of omega 3 fatty acids from cold water fish or supplements – see below.

Minimize intake of omega 6 fatty acids like soybean oil (mayonnaise and many other vegetable oils with the exception of Olive Oil and Avocado oil)

Stick with naturally occurring healthy fats like Olive Oil, Avocado, nuts, seeds, whole eggs, cold water fatty fish like Salmon, etc.

Nutrition Supplements

Although it is ideal to get all your micronutrients from food – it is almost impossible to get optimal levels of these important nutrition factors from food alone.

Key supplements to consider:

High-quality multiple vitamin and mineral – will cover MANY bases and help ensure that your cells have key micronutrients like all B-Vitamins, Selenium, etc.

Zinc – is VERY important for immunity and supplementation is particularly important for vegetarians and vegans because there are few good sources of zinc in these diets other than things like Pumpkin Seeds.   If you eat animal foods regularly this is less important.      The RDA for zinc is 11mg for adults and most high-quality multiples have 15mg.      30mg per day is even more effective but higher doses can actually cause problems if prolonged.     Look for Zinc Acetate, Zinc Glycinate, Zinc Picolinate or Zinc Gluconate.     If you want to focus on optimizing zinc intake through food (ideal!) great food choices include:


Other Shellfish

Pumpkin Seeds


Dark Meat Chicken


Vitamin D – is HUGELY important from overall health in general and proper immune function in particular.    If you do nothing else with supplement get your D levels tested and optimize them through supplementation!     High normal Vitamin D levels are directly linked to lower viral infection rates and less severe symptoms and shorter duration of illness if you do contract a virus.    See this previous blog post to learn how to optimize your Vitamin D levels:

Vitamin C – adequate vitamin C intake is crucial for immune cell function.       If you eat high levels of fruits and vegetables it is easy to get plenty of C.    But if you contract any type of respiratory illness it is wise to dramatically increase your Vitamin C intake to what is known as bowel tolerance (see this link for more information on what this means and how to do it: The best form or oral C is Liposomal Vitamin C.

Exercise to Optimize Immune Function

Exercise is crucial for your health for many reasons, but one of the most important reasons is its ability to help with mental stress which can become debilitating.     We all know that excessive worry and stress are bad for us, prevent adequate high-quality sleep, and ruin our quality of life overall.   Exercise is amazingly effective for reducing mental stress and worry and it produces these benefits almost immediately!    Most people immediately feel better after any type of exercise.
Science shows a clear inverse relationship between moderate exercise and illness risk.

Exercise has an anti-inflammatory effect through multiple pathways.

Exercise is a proven anti-depressant.

Like all good things too much exercise can be counter-productive, and there is an inverse relationship between exercise intensity and duration.    So if doing Higher Intensity Exercise keep the exercise sessions short (under a half hour and twenty minutes is plenty!).     Extremely long duration exercise can also blunt immune response so keep low intensity exercise under an hour to insure you do not reduce immune function.

Also ideal to eat a meal of carbs and protein immediately after exercise which has proven to dramatically boost recovery and accelerate the benefits of exercise.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

The Dumbbell Snatch – a Safer Power Exercise!

The Barbell Snatch is unquestionably one of the most amazing exercises you can do to develop power – the ability to produce lots of force quickly!   Power is king in athletic performance and it helps us mere mortals in many situations as well.      There are several popular power exercises but the barbell snatch is thought by many professional conditioning coaches to the best way to develop total body power.   Unfortunately it is not an easy exercise to learn, and it can take months of work with an experienced Olympic Lifting Coach to master the movement.    More importantly if you do not do it correctly or if you have issues with shoulder, hip or ankle mobility you can hurt yourself trying to do this lift!

Enter the dumbbell snatch!  Start with feet apart and feet rotated out slightly from your hips.  Feet should be slightly wider than shoulder width.   Hold a dumbbell with one hand in front of your thighs with your knuckles facing forward.   Squat down keeping torso upright and maintaining a slight arch in your lower back.   Arm holding dumbbell is kept straight with dumbbell between the legs knuckles still facing forward.   Do not let the shoulder slouch forward or down!   

The movement is initiated by driving up quickly by extending the knees and hips.    Picture yourself jumping up in the air holding a dumbbell.  As you come up shrug your shoulders and pull the dumbbell upward allowing your elbow to pull up and to the side of your head.   Keep the elbow over the dumbbell as long as possible.     Then pull your body under the dumbbell catching it at arm’s length while moving into the squat position.    Once you catch the dumbbell over your head stand up with dumbbell overhead.   Lower dumbbell to your shoulder then down to the original position in front of your thigh and repeat!

Simply put think: jump, shrug, drive elbow, and catch the dumbbell overhead!

Here is a great video of the dumbbell snatch from Michael Boyle: and another view here:

Start with a relatively light weight – 20 – 25lbs men – 15 – 20lbs woman.    However once you get a little feel for the movement you need to go up in weight – you want to use enough load that you have to use the power of your legs and hips to generate the power to throw the weight up – your upper body just guides the dumbbell – it does not do the heavy lifting!

After a dynamic warm-up do sets of 3 – 5 reps on each side starting with 2 – 3 sets each side to 5 sets each side with sufficient recovery between sets so that you can focus on doing each repetition with good form!

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Tips for Preventing Viral Infections

It is that time year again when viral illnesses typically proliferate.      This happens for several reasons, but the good news is that there are steps you can take to help protect you and your family from viruses.   Dry air and cold temperatures are known to promote the spread of the flu and other viral illnesses.     At the same time people spend more time cooped up inside and this creates a fertile environment for the spread of viral illness.   In addition, lack of sunlight results in drops in vitamin D levels in the body and this is directly linked to decreased immunity.

Here are some steps you can take to help protect you and your family:

Use a humidifier in your bedroom will help reduce the survival of many viruses including most strains of the flu.   Not only does increased humidity lower the survival of viruses in the air – it also influences your response to viral infection.   However, it is also important to keep the humidifier clean to prevent mold.  You can also add a few drops of essential oil like eucalyptus to help prevent any mold growth.

Wash your hands – yes, this simple step can prevent many infections!      We contract viruses through our mouth, eyes, and nose, and the most common transmissions occur when we touch our unwashed hands to one or more of these areas.      Frequent hand washing with soap for at least 20 seconds is the single best protection to avoid viral infection.     Always have alcohol sanitizer in your car and on your person and use whenever you are not able to wash your hands with soap and water. 

Maintain a Healthy Diet – with adequate protein and high in fruits and vegetables – at least 1 gram of protein per kilogram of bodyweight (about 56 grams for a man and 46 for a woman).    
Stay Hydrated – particularly during plane travel.     Dehydration lowers immunity and during dry winter months dehydration is common.

Vitamin C and Zinc – while there are many nutrients that support optimal immune function two that are critical are vitamin C and Zinc.      Vitamin C can be obtained by a good diet high in fruits and vegetables.   Zinc is highest red meat.     If you are not a meat eater other good sources of zinc include oysters and pumpkin seeds.    Supplementation is also an option and can quickly boost levels of both nutrients.     Either liposomal or buffered C with bioflavonoids are the most effective types of supplement for C.      For zinc choose a high-quality chelated zinc supplement like zinc glycinate, picolinate, or acetate.   For Zinc 30 mg per day is plenty and should be taken with food while for C 500 – 1,000 mg or more than enough on a daily basis.
During onset of sickness the body can tolerate much higher doses of C and this is beneficial in shortening the duration of viral illness.

Optimize Vitamin D Levels - Absolutely crucial for prevention of illness and optimizing immune function.     Each person is unique in terms of how much supplemental D is required to optimize blood levels so blood testing is essential to optimize results.     See this previous blogpost to learn how to optimize your levels of this crucial nutrient:

Elderberry Extract – elderberry has long been recognized as a potent anti-viral compound in folk medicine, but the good news is that science has proven this designation is on target and how elderberry extract can be used to prevent and treat viral illnesses.  One example is a recent 2019 study where the researchers concluded:   “What our study has shown is that common elderberry has a potent direct antiviral effect against the flu virus.   It inhibits the early stages of an infection by blocking key viral proteins responsible for both the viral attachment and entry into the host cells.”

In another study using the leading brand of elderberry called “Sambucol” was shown to reduce the duration of flu symptoms to 3-4 days which is amazing!   Sambucol was also shown to directly boost key immune chemicals and activate the immune system so it works directly to help prevent viral infection and replication while at the same time boosting your immune system.

The great news is that Sambucol is completely safe for all ages and has no known contraindication and is available in vitamin stores and pharmacies everywhere for a very low price!     It comes as a sweet tasting syrup liquid or as gummy chews (delicious).  For more information on Sambucol go to