LOOKING AFTER YOUR NOGGIN, KNEES, AND GUTS #496 02/29/12
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Ten 10-Second Stress Busters

By Sarah Stevenson

Have you ever pulled up for a first date or super-important business meeting with just seconds to pull yourself together for a good first impression? Traffic was awful, you spilled coffee on your shirt, your kid's Barney CD is stuck on a permanent loop in your stereo. You. Are. Stressed. And you need to decompress, pronto! If moments like these can make you look more like an anxious fool rather than "oh so cool," here are 10 super quick easy ways to help you de-stress when all you have is 10 seconds.

Man Walking Away From a Ball and Chain

  1. Deep breaths. Sometimes all you have time for is a deep breath—sometimes that's all you need. Inhale for five seconds, filling up your lungs to full capacity. As you take your breath in, tempt the breath to reach the deepest part of your lungs, allowing your belly to expand outward. To exhale, open up your mouth and empty your lungs. You can even add a little mantra to enhance the breath. On your inhale, recite internally a word that reminds you of calmness or peace, and as you exhale, release the word "stress" or "worry."
  2. Woman LaughingLaugh out loud. Have you ever had a really good laugh that brought tears to your eyes? Afterwards it feels like you have taken 20 deep breaths of fresh, pure mountain air. That's because laughter is known to release the "happy chemicals" dopamine and endorphins in your system. In March 2003, a survey of rural Midwestern cancer patients revealed that humor was one of the most frequently used, successful forms of therapy to reduce stress and increase immunity. People who attend the guru Yogi Ramash's Laughing Yoga classes are said to be significantly happier than before entering the class.
  3. Put a smile on your face. The simple act of smiling releases chemicals that not only reduce stress but also promote a healthy immune system. Thich Nhat Hanh, author of Peace is Every Step, says, "Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy." And guess what? When you smile at someone they typically smile back—also a great stress reliever and positive reinforcement for you to smile more.
  4. Lavender Oil and LavenderAromatherapy. The Department of Health Science at Osaka Kyoiku University conducted a study in December 2001 testing the effectiveness of aromatherapy on stress. Lavender odorants were associated with significant levels of reduced stress. You can purchase a little jar of lavender oils or a little sachet at most health food stores. It's easy to keep in your purse, car, office, or home. Bring it close to your nose, take a deep breath in, and breathe out the tension and stress in your body.
  5. Give someone a compliment. March 1st is World Compliment Day. But you don't have to wait until spring to receive all the benefits of making another person's day. It doesn't take very long to find something good in another. It takes your mind off of your stresses. The great thing about this is the more often you do it, the easier it gets. Who knows, you may be able to throw out two compliments in 10 seconds if you keep it up.
  6. Imagine the person you're with in their underwear. This can either be incredibly stimulated or absolutely hilarious. If it worked for Marcia Brady, it'll work for you.
  7. Five jumping jacks. The Mayo Clinic's Stress Management team says, "One way to take control of the stress in your life is through physical activity. Being active can boost your feel-good endorphins and distract you from daily worries." Research proves time and time again that one of the best behavioral techniques to combat stress and anxiety is to engage in physical activity. If you only have 10 seconds, jumping jacks are the perfect full-body movement to sneak in. Jump away.
  8. Woman and Man KissingKiss someone. (Preferably someone who would like to be kissed.) Kissing a stranger may get you a slap in the face—which would be counter-productive in relieving stress. American psychologist Harry Harlow conducted some very famous controversial studies in the late 1950's with monkeys to determine the efficacy of touch and the symptoms of a lack there of. Although these studies perhaps lacked ethical wisdom, he found out some amazing information regarding touch. Monkeys who were unable to connect to another with touch showed not only insurmountable levels of anxiety and stress but they also had a failure to thrive. Kissing and touching loved ones help you feel connected, safe, and less stressed.
  9. Man Telling a JokeTell a quick joke. You're multi-tasking here by covering tips two and three while you're at it. The only better thing than laughing by yourself is laughing with someone else. As Victor Borge, the American entertainer, once wrote, "Laughter is the shortest distance between two people." Even dumb jokes can get a chuckle. Here's a quick 10-second joke you can try out.
    You: Want to hear a clean joke?
    Them: Sure.
    You: Tommy took a bath with bubbles . . . Want to hear a dirty one?
    Them: Sure.
    You: Bubbles is a girl.
  10. Woman ScreamingSCREAM!!!! Yup that's right. YELL your loudest. Imagine, if you will, a teapot. The water gets warmer and warmer until eventually it starts to boil. That poor little kettle can't hold it in any longer and it has to scream!!!! Once it screams you turn off the heat and viola! You get to enjoy a nice hot cup of chamomile. See yourself as that teapot. When you feel like you just can't take it any longer let out a loud SCREAM! Rachel Gray Safyurtlu, Grief Counselor (MFT), Yoga instructor, and mother of two, suffered a devastating loss of her son Dylan, six months into her pregnancy. One of the ways she dealt with the anger, frustration, and emotional pain was to drive to a parking lot under a freeway overpass (where no one could hear) and scream her lungs out until she felt a release. Rachel states, "We all experience stress and loss in some form. Whether we are conscious of our own stress or not, screaming is a great way to release tension." So get out there and SCREAM!

Often times it's hard to know how you feel. People survive their busy lives by living on autopilot, zoned out, not even remembering how they got home from work. Consumed with this stressful life, we sometimes go days without realizing that our shoulders are big rocks sitting next to our ears. The key to combating stress is to be aware of your body and how it feels. Check in with yourself several times throughout the day—even more on high stress level days. Integrate these simple 10-second stress busters and you're on your way to a calmer, happier, and healthier you.

Sources

  • Bennett MP, Zeller JM, Rosenberg L, McCann J. The Effect of Mirthful Laughter on Stress and Natural Killer Cell Activity. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, March-April 2003.
  • Laughing Yogi: http://laughingyogi.org/home.html
  • http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=smile-it-could-make-you-happier
  • Motomura N, Sakurai A, Yotsuya Y. Reduction of mental stress with lavender odorant. Percept Mot Skills. 2001 Dec;93(3):713-8.
  • http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/exercise-and-stress/SR00036
  • Freud, S. The development of the sexual function. In, S. Freud (Ed.) An Outline of Psychoanalysis, New York: Norton, 1949.
  • Harlow, H.F. The nature of love. American Psychologist, 1958, 13, 673-685.
  • Harlow, H.F. Lust, latency, and love: simian secrets of successful sex. The Journal of Sex Research, 1975, 11, 2, 79-90.
  • Harlow, H.F. & Harlow, M.K. The effects of rearing conditions on behavior. Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic, 1962, 26, 213-224.
  • Rachel Safyurtlu: www.theprojectlotus.com

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Questions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Check the Team Beachbody Chat Room for the next impromptu video chat. Or, if you just can't wait, log onto the Information & Education section of the Team Beachbody Message Boards for questions, answers, and scintillating conversation.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com. We may even answer your question right here, for all the world to see!

And if you'd like to know more about Beachbody Director of Results Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope, named one of the Top 50 blogs covering the sports industry by the Masters in Sports Administration. You can also read a more scientific (not to mention snarky) take on many of the topics we discuss here at The Real Fitness Nerd blog.

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What's Going Wrong With These Aching Knees? Cheng on Knee Pain—Part 2

By Dr. Mark Cheng, L.Ac., Ph.D, Sr RKC. FMS faculty

In this second, three-part series on knee pain, I'm going to talk about some possible causes for knee pain. We'll go over a couple which are relatively benign, and which should make you call your doctor for an appointment immediately.

A Man Grabbing His Leg

More than ever before, we as a human species are locked into a supported seated position with our hips and knees flexed to only 90 degrees thanks to chairs and raised beds. Most adults lose the ability to control their descent all the way to the point at which the hips meet the level of the knees, let alone past the knees into a full, deep squat. Yet, almost any child anywhere in the world up to the age of five has the ability to hit a full deep squat—feet flat, without the knees buckling inward, and without strain or pain.

Why do we lose those ranges of motion?

Men ExercisingIt's simple. Movement is a neurological process that requires practice for the brain to retain it. Put simply, "use it or lose it" is the essence of good mobility. Additionally, our bodies can change over time. Nutrients for tissue growth are allocated according to need and use. The less a range of motion is used under load, the less the muscle tissues that support those ranges of motion are nourished. Over time, with decreasing nourishment and mechanical stimulation, those tissues atrophy.

What this means for your knees is that the elastic connective tissues that span the knees need to be used through as full a range of motion as possible as consistently and naturally as possible for them to retain health. That also means that the joints neighboring the knees also need to be functioning properly. If your ankles have grown stiff and immobile from repeated injuries, from lack of movement, or from improper shoes, then guess what's making up for that lost range of motion—the knees.

The same can be said for the hips. When the muscles that control the hip don't have total ownership over the full range of motion, the closest neighbors (your knees and lower back) have to pay the price. So if your knees and lower back are aching after a workout, that may very well signify that you're not using your hips properly with safe technique.

Close-up of Inflamed KneeIn cases of traumatic injury directly to the knee, however, the body will shut down your ranges of motion to prevent the joint from being further compromised. So in the event of a jarring injury resulting in a meniscal tear, the knee may lock painfully. In the case of a torn ligament, such as the ACL or PCL, the knee may be unstable, causing the muscles around the knee to tighten abnormally to make up for the lost stability from the torn ligament. These sorts of situations require prompt professional medical attention. Even in the event of a malfunctioning knee mechanism that isn't structurally compromised, there may be pain in the system.

Generally speaking, any sharp pain or loss of passive range of motion means that something serious is going on with your knee, and it's a good idea to schedule an appointment with your doctor or a sports medicine specialist. Aching pains are a sign that things are already going wrong, but may very well be able to be arrested before things get to the point of injury with proper care and correction.

In the next article in this series, I'll cover some of the exercises and practices you can use to start restoring and optimizing your knees if they fall into some of the categories that do not require immediate medical attention. Remember, when in doubt, consult a medical professional to err on the side of caution. A good medical professional will explain your options and the reasons for his/her recommended course of treatment.


About the author: Dr. Mark Cheng holds a Ph.D. in Chinese medicine and acupuncture and is a California-licensed acupuncturist (L.Ac.). He blends ancient medical knowledge with modern sports rehabilitation science in his private practice. With an extensive background in martial arts, Dr. Cheng is also a Senior RKC kettlebell instructor, a faculty member for Functional Movement Systems, and a TRX Suspension Training Sports Medicine certified instructor. He has taught, lectured, and demonstrated around the world to fitness professionals, physicians, professional fighters, and military personnel. No other Beachbody® instructor has ever brought the depth of credentials to the table like Dr. Cheng does. Look out for his upcoming program—Tai Chengby going to http://www.facebook.com/taichengworkout

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"Knee Pain—Part 1"
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Questions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Check the Team Beachbody Chat Room for the next impromptu video chat. Or, if you just can't wait, log onto the Information & Education section of the Team Beachbody Message Boards for questions, answers, and scintillating conversation.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com. We may even answer your question right here, for all the world to see!

And if you'd like to know more about Beachbody Director of Results Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope, named one of the Top 50 blogs covering the sports industry by the Masters in Sports Administration. You can also read a more scientific (not to mention snarky) take on many of the topics we discuss here at The Real Fitness Nerd blog.

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10 Foods to Make Your Intestines Happy

By Kim Kash

The small and large intestines never seem to make it into the spotlight, but they are a pair of hardworking organs. Collectively, they are responsible for completing the digestive process and absorbing the good stuff in food for the benefit of the body, and for absorbing water and eliminating waste. It's a pretty important job description, but the hot lights of stardom don't come easy to, well, the rear end of the digestive system.

Intestines

There are a couple of categories of foods that the intestines really groove on. Broadly speaking, they love pro- and prebiotics, and fiber. Probiotic foods have beneficial bacteria that feed your intestinal flora—the healthy bacteria inside your gut—and prevent harmful microorganisms from disrupting the digestive tract and making you sick. Prebiotics basically feed the probiotics, making this healthy bacterial colony even healthier. Finally, fiber acts like a big scrubber for the whole system.

Intestinal flora and fiber: see? Not so sexy. But before you allow your attention to be diverted by the more glamorous cardiovascular system, or the spotlight-grabbing immune system, remember that it's the intestines that provide food and water to the whole body. Without them, the other systems wouldn't be able to do their thing. So let's take a look at what you can do for the lowly gastrointestinal system. Give your intestines a little love with the following foods.

  1. YogurtYogurt. Let's get one thing out of the way first: when we talk about yogurt, we mean real, unadulterated yogurt with live, active cultures. Skip the sugary, flavored yogurts, and go for plain. If you like yogurt with fruit in it, you can throw some fresh or frozen fruit into your cup of healthy, plain yogurt.

    A Tufts University review found that yogurt with active cultures can help with lots of gastrointestinal woes, including lactose intolerance, constipation, diarrhea, colon cancer, and inflammatory bowel disease.

    A daily serving of yogurt is a huge thank you gift to your intestines.
  2. Miso SoupMiso. Miso paste creates the cloudy part of miso soup, that little bowl of tasty broth with a bit of tofu and seaweed that you get at the beginning of your meal at a Japanese restaurant.

    Miso is made by fermenting grains or soybeans with salt and a specific type of fungus. That fermentation process yields a helping of the probiotics that your intestines love.

    There are several types of miso, either brown, reddish, or white. Generally, darker miso has a richer, slightly sharper flavor. It's a salty, silky paste that you find in little tubs in the refrigerated section of a good grocery store.

    You can use miso to make soup simply by dropping a spoonful of it in hot water along with a few vegetables, tofu, and/or seaweed. You can also use it as an addictive, salty spread. Try a little bit smeared on freshly cooked, plain vegetables. You won't need butter or salt. When you're using miso, add it at the end of the heating process, so that you don't wipe out all that active culture goodness.
  3. SauerkrautSauerkraut. In a case of what's old becoming new again, natural sauerkraut is enjoying a comeback as of late. We're talking about real sauerkraut: cabbage that has been fermented with real bacteria, not cabbage that has been marinated in vinegar. It comes with the goodness of cabbage plus the probiotic boost of the bacteria from the fermentation process.

    It is important to get the right kind of sauerkraut. Avoid the shelved brands that use vinegar to simulate that sour, fermented flavor. Instead, you can try to make your own. There are plenty of recipes online, and the whole process is really interesting! Or, look for a natural brand in the refrigerated section of your grocery store.

    Sauerkraut has got some serious history. According to Natural News, "The Roman army traveled with barrels of sauerkraut, using it to prevent intestinal infections among the troops during long excursions."

    The colony of lactic acid bacteria that results from sauerkraut's pickling process is another healthy bacteria source for the gut.
  4. Raw GarlicRaw garlic, leeks, and onions. Moving from probiotics to prebiotics, we come to the onion and his cousins. These are great on the family dinner table as long as everyone partakes! These pungent ingredients provide nutrition for the beneficial bacteria in your gut. They do their work by altering the colon's pH level, which your intestinal flora loves, and which helps the body to better absorb minerals. These three stinkers can also help to prevent constipation.

    True, raw onions and garlic can be off-putting for some people. If you're one of those, then give leeks a try. They are much milder, and are a good substitute for raw onions in most recipes. But don't try to go the other way and add onions where leeks are called for. Onions may overpower a recipe designed for leeks. Leeks look like gigantic spring onions.

    Leeks make a nice addition sprinkled on top of salads or even soups. However you prepare them, first slice leeks in half and soak them for several minutes in a bowl of cool water. This loosens the sandy soil that can collect where its strap-like leaves come together tightly near the bottom.
  5. Artichokes. Artichokes pack a one-two punch for the intestinal team, being not only an important prebiotics source, but also a great source of dietary fiber, with 10.3 grams in one cooked artichoke. At around 25 calories, a whole, steamed artichoke seems almost too good to be true, intestinally speaking.

    The potential downfall is the fact that each succulent artichoke leaf is a perfect little scoop for untold hundreds of calories of butter, hollandaise sauce, or other dietary hazards. They're the whole food answer to dip-shaped tortilla chips, and potentially just as dangerous. If you can talk yourself out of melted butter, you might try a simple, light vinaigrette as a dip instead.
  6. RaspberriesRaspberries. One cup of raspberries has 8 grams of soluble fiber, which is almost twice as much as a typical apple. (Not that we're suggesting you shouldn't also eat apples.) As an added bonus, they are rich in vitamin C, and contain the potential cancer-fighting ellagic acid. According to the University of Illinois Extension, they may lower blood cholesterol levels and slow the release of carbohydrates into the blood stream of diabetics. Add fiber-rich raspberries to your list of intestine-friendly foods. Remember, though, that your body needs a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. If you wanted to get all your fiber from raspberries today, you'd have to sit down and eat about a pound of them.
  7. Split PeasSplit peas. Split peas and other legumes are loaded with soluble fiber, which helps in the process that removes cholesterol from the body. A cup of cooked dried peas is crazy with fiber, plus a good helping of protein. Interestingly, split peas are also a very good source of tryptophan, the essential amino acid in turkey that people point to as the reason for post-Thanksgiving dinner drowsiness. (That Turkey Day drowsiness is more likely associated with the giant mounds of stuffing, mashed potatoes, and gravy that sit alongside the turkey on the Thanksgiving plate. But we digress.)
  8. Avocados. Yes, it's true that avocados are high in fat. But it's mostly monounsaturated fat, which is important to the health of your digestive tract for a variety of reasons. One reason is that it helps provide the right environment for converting beta-carotene into vitamin A, which is critical for the health of your gastrointestinal tract's lining. One medium-size avocado contains 15 grams of fiber. Fifteen grams! So whip up a batch of guacamole (with plenty of raw onions, of course) and dig in.
  9. PastaWhole wheat pasta. With more total fiber (5 to 6 grams per cup, depending on the brand) than even brown rice (4 grams), whole wheat pasta is one of those dietary switches that you can make without much thought or hassle. Regular pasta has just 2 grams of fiber, so if you eat a lot of pasta, you can see how this would make a difference.

    There may be an adjustment period when you make the switch from white pasta to wheat. Certainly you need to cook the whole wheat pasta longer than white, and even so it is not quite as soft and neutral-flavored. But you can learn to love it topped with rich, thick sauces.

    That said, the best switch you can make on pasta night at your house is to decrease the amount of pasta you eat altogether, and instead up the quantity of veggies in the sauce on top of that spaghetti.

    Also, if you have gluten sensitivities, pasta won't work for you.
  10. Oats With BlueberriesWhole oats. Whole oats are famously fiber-rich, as well as a great source of several minerals and vitamins. Here's another slippery slope at the grocery store: you want to get steel-cut oats, not rolled, and definitely not quick oats. Steel-cut oats are whole oats that have just been cut up into little pieces with no processing involving heat or dehydration, which can wreck the nutritive value.

    As with whole wheat pasta, oats are great for some but not for others. People with Crohn's disease very often cannot tolerate foods containing gluten, which means many grains, including wheat and oats, are out.

There you have it: 10 ways to give your intestines a big round of applause. Though they may not get the press coverage of their fellow body parts, it's important to roll out the red carpet for the intestines, giving them the care and attention they so richly deserve every day.

Sources

  • http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/fiber/NU00033
  • http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/high-fiber-foods/NU00582
  • http://urbanext.illinois.edu/raspberries/nutrition.cfm
  • http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/fiber/NU00033
  • http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/benefits-of-yogurt
  • http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=49#nutritionalprofile
  • http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=56
  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/sn/humanbody/truthaboutfood/healthy/prebiotics.shtml
  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001295/
  • Anatomy & Physiology Made Incredibly Easy. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, 2009.

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Questions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Check the Team Beachbody Chat Room for the next impromptu video chat. Or, if you just can't wait, log onto the Information & Education section of the Team Beachbody Message Boards for questions, answers, and scintillating conversation.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com. We may even answer your question right here, for all the world to see!

And if you'd like to know more about Beachbody Director of Results Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope, named one of the Top 50 blogs covering the sports industry by the Masters in Sports Administration. You can also read a more scientific (not to mention snarky) take on many of the topics we discuss here at The Real Fitness Nerd blog.

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Recipe: Greek Yogurt Dip (Tzatziki)

(Makes 8 servings.)

Greek Yogurt Dip (Tzatziki)
While the Greek empire may be a shadow of what it once was, this Mediterranean country still has plenty of things going for it, including a pantheon of deities that translates well into Hollywood blockbusters, several beautiful islands, and awesome intestinal health, thanks to a cuisine that is rich in pro- and prebiotics.

Take tzatziki, for example. This yummy yogurt dip is packed with probiotics (provided you use live-culture yogurt!) along with prebiotic garlic. It may not help your breath, but further on down the line, it'll have your digestive tract singin'.

  • 2 cups plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 small cucumbers, peeled and diced
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
  1. Combine yogurt, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl; mix well.
  2. Add garlic, cucumbers, dill, and mint; mix well.
  3. Chill for 1 hour.
  4. Serve with fresh vegetables or cooked fresh artichoke for dipping.

Tip: To cook fresh artichokes, cut about 3/4 inch off the tip of the artichoke. Rinse artichoke and cook covered in simmering water for 25 to 35 minutes or until outer leaves are easily pulled off.

Nutritional Information (per serving):

Calories Fat Saturated Fat Cholesterol Sodium Carbs Fiber Sugar Protein
37 <1 g <1 g <1g 157 mg 3 g <1 g 3 g 6 g

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.


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