Know Your A1C: What This Blood Test Can Tell You About Your Risk for Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease

Know Your A1C: What This Blood Test Can Tell You About Your Risk for Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease

The higher the A1C level, the greater the risk of developing diabetes-related complications.

By Martin Tibuakuu, M.D., M.P.H. and Erin Michos, M.D., M.H.S. | Aug. 24, 2016, at 6:00 a.m.

Know Your A1C: What This Blood Test Can Tell You About Your Risk for Diabetes and Cardiovascular Disease
Man performing blood test on himself.

After a diabetes diagnosis, A1C is also used for gauging how well treatment controls blood sugar levels. MIKE WATSON IMAGES

A simple blood test can diagnose diabetes, but it also can tell you so much more, including your risk for heart attack and stroke.

Type 2 Diabetes: Who Is at Risk?

Diabetes, which causes chronically high blood sugar levels, is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It can also result in serious health complications, including heart disease, blindness, kidney failure and lower-extremity amputations. The CDC reports that close to 29.1 million people are currently living with diabetes in America, meaning about 1 of every 11 people has it. There are different types of diabetes, but Type 2 diabetes accounts for about 90 to 95 percent of all diagnosed diabetes cases.

Risk factors for Type 2 diabetes include older age, obesity, a family history of diabetes, prior history of gestational (pregnancy) diabetes, impaired glucose tolerance, physical inactivity and race/ethnicity. African-Americans, Latinos, American Indians and some Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders are at particularly high risk for Type 2 diabetes.

What Is Prediabetes?

People with prediabetes have glucose (i.e., blood sugar) levels that do not meet the criteria for diabetes but are too high to be considered normal. These individuals have an increased risk for the development of diabetes and other serious health problems, including heart disease and stroke. According to the CDC, 86 million American adults, or more than 1 of 3 people, have prediabetes. Without lifestyle changes, such as eating healthy foods, getting regular physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight, 15 to 30 percent of these individuals will develop Type 2 diabetes within five years.

What Is the A1C Blood Test?

The term A1C is short for HbA1c, or hemoglobin A1C. It refers to glycated hemoglobin, which develops when hemoglobin – a protein within red blood cells that carries oxygen – becomes coated with glucose or sugar in the blood. The amount of glucose that combines with this protein is directly proportional to the total amount of sugar in a person’s system, and so the higher blood glucose levels are, the higher the A1C level. Red blood cells have a life span of 120 days; by measuring A1C, clinicians are able to determine average blood sugar levels over approximately two to three months. A1C is particularly important in people with diabetes because the higher the A1C level, the greater the risk of developing diabetes-related complications. After a diabetes diagnosis, A1C is also used for gauging how well treatment controls blood sugar levels. In the U.S., A1C results are given as a percentage of hemoglobin that is glycated.

How Does an A1C Test Differ From a Blood Glucose Level?

An A1C measurement is a marker of average blood sugar levels over a period of two to three months, so it is a more stable test assessing longer-term blood sugar control. This means less day-to-day fluctuations to A1C levels due to stress and illness. A1C is often tested using blood samples from the arm, but samples can also be taken from a finger prick. Fasting is not required before A1C testing like it is for the blood glucose test.

On the other hand, the blood glucose level gives us the concentration of glucose in the blood only at the time of the test.

Health care providers measure both A1C and blood glucose to ensure good diabetes control, which informs them of the long-term and day-to-day control of blood sugar levels.

How Do We Diagnose Diabetes and Prediabetes?

Both diabetes and prediabetes may be diagnosed based on either A1C or blood glucose criteria. Blood glucose criteria could either be a blood glucose level measured after an overnight fast or a two-hour blood glucose value after eating 75 grams of sugar.

An international committee of experts from the American Diabetes Association, the European Association for the Study of Diabetes and the International Diabetes Federation recommends that the A1C test be the primary test used to diagnose prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes.

What Are the A1C Criteria for Diabetes and Prediabetes Diagnosis?

A1C can indicate if people have prediabetes or diabetes based on the following:

A1C Percentage
Normal Below 5.7%
Prediabetes 5.7%–6.4%
Diabetes 6.5% or greater

An A1C level of 6.5 percent or more measured on two separate occasions indicates you have diabetes.

If your A1C test returns a reading of 5.7 to 6.4 percent, this indicates you have prediabetes and are at an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes. At this point, you need to talk to your doctor about appropriate lifestyle changes that could reduce your risk of developing full-blown Type 2 diabetes in the future.

It is important to note that normal ranges for A1C levels may vary from one lab to another, so patients who may wish to interpret their own A1C results need to keep this in mind, especially when using a lab that is different from the one used for previous testing.

What Is the Target A1C Level?

For most people with previous diagnoses of diabetes, a target A1C level of 7 percent or less is a common treatment target. However, this is a general target, and health care teams do tailor targets to meet individual goals. A1C values are not indicators of specific diabetes complications, meaning any complications could arise with any A1C value. However, the closer someone’s value is to the normal A1C range, the better. A person’s recommended A1C target should take into account his or her ability to achieve the target without any risk of serious health complications caused by blood sugar levels that are too low (called hypoglycemia).

What Are the Benefits of Lowering A1C?

Studies have shown that reducing A1C by 1 percent in people with diabetes reduces the risk of serious health complications involving small vessels of the eyes and kidneys, as well as nerves by almost 25 percent.

Also, a study published in the journal BMJ revealed that people with Type 2 diabetes who reduce their A1C level by 1 percent are:

  • 19 percent less likely to suffer cataracts
  • 16 percent less likely to suffer heart failure
  • 43 percent less likely to suffer amputation or death due to blood vessel diseases

A lower A1C level in the blood means a lower amount of sugar in the blood on average, which reduces the risk of developing complications caused by high blood sugar levels.

Who Should Get an A1C Test?

  • Everyone with Type 2 diabetes should be offered an A1C test at least once a year.
  • Some may require an A1C test more often. This is especially true for patients who had a recent change in medication(s) or if a health care team wishes to more frequently monitor a patient’s diabetes status to get it under control.
  • For those without diabetes, experts recommend that anyone 45 or older should consider getting tested for A1C, especially if they are overweight. If they are younger than 45 but are overweight and have one or more additional risk factors for diabetes, they should consider getting tested.

What Are the Limitations to A1C Testing for Diabetes?

While A1C tests are usually reliable and widely used, it’s important to acknowledge that the test may not be accurate in people who:

• Have insufficient hemoglobin due excessive bleeding (may have a falsely low A1C reading).

• Have iron-deficiency anemia (may have a falsely high A1C test).

• Have hemoglobin genetic variations or uncommon forms of hemoglobin, commonly found in African-Americans and people of Mediterranean or Southeast Asian heritage.

• Have had a recent blood transfusion or have other forms of hemolytic anemia (may have falsely low A1C results)

• Are pregnant.

What Can You Do to Protect Yourself From Diabetes?

Anyone can benefit from a reduction of long-term diabetes complications, such as heart attack, stroke, kidney failure and diabetic nerve pain, by controlling their A1C levels through adopting healthy lifestyle practices. The benefit of reducing A1C should not be underestimated. To reduce A1C levels, you can:

Eat healthy. By keeping your post-meal blood glucose low, A1C can gradually be reduced in patients with diabetes and prediabetes. Those with diabetes and prediabetes need to eat foods that are high in nutrition and avoid excess calories. A healthy diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, fiber, lean protein and “good” monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in moderation. Saturated fats, refined “simple” carbohydrates and processed foods should be limited. For instance, switching white bread and white rice for whole-grain and brown rice will help reduce blood glucose spikes after a meal. Understanding what to eat and what to avoid can be challenging. Talk to a registered dietitian if you need help with food choices and meal planning. Tracking daily food intake using a diet diary or calorie-counter app can help keep things in check.

Be physically active. By keeping physically active, blood glucose is moved from the blood into cells to produce energy for the body, which lowers blood glucose levels. Also, physical activity improves our body’s sensitivity to insulin, a hormone needed to transport glucose into cells. This means that less insulin is needed to transport large amounts of glucose. Everyone should incorporate physical activity into their daily routine. For those without diabetes, being physically active will help to prevent the onset of prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes. For those with diabetes, it will help them maintain good blood sugar levels. The American Diabetes Association recommends aiming for 30 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise at least five days a week, or a total of 150 minutes per week. Moderate intensity means that you are working hard enough that you can talk but not sing during the activity, while vigorous intensity means you can’t say more than a few words without pausing for a breath during the activity.

Maintain a healthy weight. Losing weight through diet and exercise if you are overweight will significantly improve blood sugar levels, meaning a good A1C measurement.

Monitor your numbers. Carefully monitor both blood sugar and A1C levels if you have diabetes. Your medical team will most likely recommend regular A1C testing to monitor your overall diabetes control over a period of two to three months. However, A1C should never replace blood sugar level monitoring. For instance, people on insulin and other medications that cause hypoglycemia need regular blood glucose monitoring to ensure blood glucose doesn’t get too low.

http://health.usnews.com/health-news/patient-advice/articles/2016-08-24/know-your-a1c-what-this-blood-test-can-tell-you-about-your-risk-for-diabetes-and-cardiovascular-disease

Cognitive trajectories in prediabetes and diabetes: a population-based cohort study

Cognitive trajectories in prediabetes and diabetes: a population-based cohort study

Abstract

Background:

Diabetes has been linked to dementia risk; however, the cognitive trajectories in older adults with diabetes remain unclear. We aimed to investigate the effect of prediabetes and diabetes on cognitive trajectories among cognitively intact older adults in a long-term follow-up study.

 

Methods:

Within the Swedish Adoption/Twin Study of Aging, 793 cognitively intact older adults aged ≥50 were identified at baseline and followed for up to 23 years. Based on standardized scores from 11 cognitive tests, administered at baseline and up to seven follow-ups, four cognitive domains (verbal abilities, spatial/fluid, memory, perceptual speed) were identified by principal-component analysis. Prediabetes was defined according to blood glucose levels in diabetes-free participants. Diabetes was ascertained based on self-report, hypoglycemic medication use and blood glucose levels. Data were analyzed with linear mixed-effect models adjusting for potential confounders.

 

Results:

At baseline, 68 participants (8.6%) had prediabetes and 45 (5.7%) had diabetes. Compared to diabetes-free individuals, people with diabetes had a steeper decline over time in perceptual speed and verbal abilities. The annual declines in these domains were greater than the annual decline in memory. Prediabetes was associated with lower performance in memory in middle-age, but also associated with a less steep memory decline over the follow-up.

 

Conclusions:

Diabetes is associated with a faster decline in perceptual speed and verbal abilities, while prediabetes is associated with lower memory performance in middle-age. However, the detrimental effects of hyperglycemia seem to not affect memory over time.

Stomach ulcers root causes

Myth Ulcers: Spicy Food and Stress Cause Stomach Ulcers

False. Most stomach ulcers are caused by Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), a type of bacteria, or the use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as naproxen, ibuprofen, or aspirin. In the case of H. pylori infection, antibiotics can treat the infection. Ulcers caused by NSAIDs are healed by stopping the pain medication and taking antacids and medications that reduce stomach acid. It’s a myth that spicy foods and stress cause ulcers, but it is true that they can worsen ulcer symptoms. Cancer can cause stomach ulcers, too.

Signs and symptoms of a peptic ulcer can include one or more of the following:

  • abdominal pain, classically epigastric strongly correlated to mealtimes. In case of duodenal ulcers the pain appears about three hours after taking a meal;
  • bloating and abdominal fullness;
  • waterbrash (rush of saliva after an episode of regurgitation to dilute the acid in esophagus – although this is more associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease);
  • nausea, and copious vomiting;
  • loss of appetite and weight loss;
  • hematemesis (vomiting of blood); this can occur due to bleeding directly from a gastric ulcer, or from damage to the esophagus from severe/continuing vomiting.
  • melena (tarry, foul-smelling feces due to presence of oxidized iron from hemoglobin);
  • rarely, an ulcer can lead to a gastric or duodenal perforation, which leads to acute peritonitis, extreme, stabbing pain,[13] and requires immediate surgery.

A history of heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and use of certain forms of medication can raise the suspicion for peptic ulcer. Medicines associated with peptic ulcer include NSAIDs (non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs) that inhibit cyclooxygenase, and most glucocorticoids (e.g. dexamethasone and prednisolone).

In patients over 45 with more than two weeks of the above symptoms, the odds for peptic ulceration are high enough to warrant rapid investigation by esophagogastroduodenoscopy.

The timing of the symptoms in relation to the meal may differentiate between gastric and duodenal ulcers: A gastric ulcer would give epigastric pain during the meal, as gastric acid production is increased as food enters the stomach. Symptoms of duodenal ulcers would initially be relieved by a meal, as the pyloric sphincter closes to concentrate the stomach contents, therefore acid is not reaching the duodenum. Duodenal ulcer pain would manifest mostly 2–3 hours after the meal, when the stomach begins to release digested food and acid into the duodenum.

Also, the symptoms of peptic ulcers may vary with the location of the ulcer and the patient’s age. Furthermore, typical ulcers tend to heal and recur and as a result the pain may occur for few days and weeks and then wane or disappear.[14] Usually, children and the elderly do not develop any symptoms unless complications have arisen.

Burning or gnawing feeling in the stomach area lasting between 30 minutes and 3 hours commonly accompanies ulcers. This pain can be misinterpreted as hunger, indigestion or heartburn. Pain is usually caused by the ulcer but it may be aggravated by the stomach acid when it comes into contact with the ulcerated area. The pain caused by peptic ulcers can be felt anywhere from the navel up to the sternum, it may last from few minutes to several hours and it may be worse when the stomach is empty. Also, sometimes the pain may flare at night and it can commonly be temporarily relieved by eating foods that buffer stomach acid or by taking anti-acid medication.[15] However, peptic ulcer disease symptoms may be different for every sufferer.[16]

Complications

  • Gastrointestinal bleeding is the most common complication. Sudden large bleeding can be life-threatening.[17] It occurs when the ulcer erodes one of the blood vessels, such as the gastroduodenal artery.
  • Perforation (a hole in the wall of the gastrointestinal tract) often leads to catastrophic consequences if left untreated. Erosion of the gastro-intestinal wall by the ulcer leads to spillage of the stomach or intestinal content into the abdominal cavity. Perforation at the anterior surface of the stomach leads to acute peritonitis, initially chemical and later bacterial peritonitis. The first sign is often sudden intense abdominal pain; an example is Valentino’s syndrome, named after the silent-film actor who experienced this pain before his death. Posterior wall perforation leads to bleeding due to the involvement of gastroduodenal artery that lies posterior to the first part of the duodenum.
  • Penetration is a form of perforation in which the hole leads to and the ulcer continues into adjacent organs such as the liver and pancreas.[14]
  • Gastric outlet obstruction is a narrowing of the pyloric canal by scarring and swelling of the gastric antrum and duodenum due to peptic ulcers. The person often presents with severe vomiting without bile.
  • Cancer is included in the differential diagnosis (elucidated by biopsy), Helicobacter pylori as the etiological factor making it 3 to 6 times more likely to develop stomach cancer from the ulcer.[14]

Cause

H. pylori

A major causative factor (60% of gastric and up to 50–75%[18] of duodenal ulcers) is chronic inflammation due to Helicobacter pylori that colonizes the antralmucosa.[19] The immune system is unable to clear the infection, despite the appearance of antibodies. Thus, the bacterium can cause a chronic active gastritis (type B gastritis). Gastrin stimulates the production of gastric acid by parietal cells. In H. pylori colonization responses to increased gastrin, the increase in acid can contribute to the erosion of the mucosa and therefore ulcer formation.

NSAIDs

Another major cause is the use of NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen and aspirin.[20] The gastric mucosa protects itself from gastric acid with a layer of mucus, the secretion of which is stimulated by certain prostaglandins. NSAIDs block the function of cyclooxygenase 1 (COX-1), which is essential for the production of these prostaglandins. COX-2 selective anti-inflammatories (such as celecoxib or the since withdrawn rofecoxib) preferentially inhibit COX-2, which is less essential in the gastric mucosa, and roughly halve the risk of NSAID-related gastric ulceration.

Stress

Stress due to serious health problems such as those requiring treatment in an intensive care unit is well described as a cause of peptic ulcers, which are termed stress ulcers.[3]

While chronic life stress was once believed to be the main cause of ulcers, this is no longer the case.[21] It is, however, still occasionally believed to play a role.[21] This may be by increasing the risk in those with other causes such as H. pylori or NSAID use.[22]

Diet

Dietary factors such as spice consumption, were hypothesized to cause ulcers until late in the 20th century, but have been shown to be of relatively minor importance.[23] Caffeine and coffee, also commonly thought to cause or exacerbate ulcers, appear to have little effect.[24][25] Similarly, while studies have found that alcohol consumption increases risk when associated with H. pylori infection, it does not seem to independently increase risk. Even when coupled with H. pylori infection, the increase is modest in comparison to the primary risk factor.[26][27][nb 1]

Other

As of 2017 whether or not smoking increases the risk of ulcers was unclear.[28]

Gastrinomas (Zollinger–Ellison syndrome), rare gastrin-secreting tumors, also cause multiple and difficult-to-heal ulcers.


A more rational and effective approach is necessary.  The natural approach to healing ulcers is to first identify and then eliminate or reduce all factors that can contribute to their development:  food allergies, a low-fiber diet, cigarette smoking, stress, and drugs such as aspirin and other nonsteroidal analgesics.  Once these factors have been controlled or eliminated, the focus is directed at healing the ulcers and promoting tissue resistance.  This includes drinking cabbage juice, eating a healthful diet high in fiber and low in allergenic foods, and incorporating an effective stress reduction plan.

The natural approach may also involve herbs, especially a unique licorice extract known as deglycyrrhizinated licorice.  Like cabbage, deglycyrrhizinated licorice helps re-establish a healthy intestinal lining.  All of these important approaches are discussed in this article.

  • Eliminate food allergies.  Strange as it may seem, clinical and experimental evidence points to food allergy as a primary cause of ulcers.  The link between allergy and ulcers has been investigated in several studies.  In one study, 98 percent of patients with radiographic evidence of ulcers had coexisting lower and upper respiratory tract allergic disease.  In another, 25 of 43 allergic children had X-ray-diagnosed ulcers.  A diet that eliminates food allergies has been used with great success in treating and preventing recurrent ulcers.

    Food allergy is also consistent with the high recurrence rate of ulcers.  If food allergy is the cause, the ulcers will continue to recur until the offending food or foods are eliminated from the diet.  Ironically, many people with ulcers soothe themselves by drinking a lot of milk, a highly allergenic food.  (See the Allergies section of the NaturoDoc Library for information on how to control or even eliminate allergies.)

  • Increase fiber intake.  A high-fiber diet is associated with a reduced rate of duodenal ulcers.  The therapeutic use of a high-fiber diet in patients with recently healed duodenal ulcers can reduce the recurrence rate by half.  This is probably a result of fiber’s ability to promote a healthy protective layer of mucin in the stomach and intestines.

  • Stop smoking.  Another factor strongly linked to ulcers is smoking.  Increased frequency of ulcers, decreased response to therapy, and an increased mortality due to ulcers are all related to smoking.

  • Avoid aspirin.  Aspirin is a gastric irritant that damages the lining of the stomach and predisposes individuals to ulcer development when taken regularly.  The combination of aspirin and smoking is particularly harmful to the ulcer patient.

  • Reduce stress and emotional factors.  Many people consider stress an important factor in ulcer development.  However, this belief is based on uncontrolled observations.  In medical literature, the role of stress is controversial.  Men and women with ulcers seem to have distinctly different psychological profiles.  In addition, several studies show the number of stressful, life events is not significantly different between ulcer patients and ulcer-free controls.  This data suggests the individual’s response to stress, rather than the amount of stress, is the significant factor.

  • Emphasize specific nutrients.  Vitamins A and E have been shown to inhibit the development of stress ulcers in animals and are recognized as important factors in maintaining the integrity of the digestive tract lining.  According to clinical studies in humans, zinc also has a protective effect against ulcers.

A Special Licorice Extract

Glycyrrhizinic acid, a constituent of licorice, was the first compound proven to promote healing of gastric and duodenal ulcers in a clinical setting.  However, due to the known side effects of glycyrrhizinic acid (it can raise blood pressure in susceptible individuals), a procedure was developed to remove it from the plant, thereby creating deglycyrrhizinated licorice.  The result is a beneficial compound with no known side effects.

Instead of blocking stomach acid, deglycyrrhizinated licorice stimulates the body’s natural defense mechanisms that protect against ulcer formation.  This includes increasing the quantity and quality of mucosal cells in the protective lining of the gut;  increasing the life span of surface intestinal cells;  and enhancing the blood flow to the gastrointestinal tract lining.

Numerous studies indicate deglycyrrhizinated licorice is effective only when chewed and mixed with saliva.  It is generally ineffective in capsule form.  Deglycyrrhizinated licorice may promote the release of salivary compounds such as urogastrone or epithelial cell growth factors which stimulate the growth and regeneration of stomach and intestinal cells.

The recommended daily dosage for deglycyrrhizinated licorice is two to four 380 mg. tablets — chewed thoroughly — between meals or 20 minutes before eating.  This dosage should continue 8 to 16 weeks for optimum benefit.

Other herbs that may help soothe intestinal distress include American cranesbill (Geranium maculatum), marshmallow (Althaea officinalis), slippery elm (Ulmus fulva), okra (Hibiscus esculentus), echinacea or purple coneflower (Echinacea angustifolia), and goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis).  Many of these plants have a high content of mucilage, which is very soothing to the mucous membranes, including those lining the gastrointestinal tract.

Note:  Patients with symptoms of an ulcer need competent medical care.  Ulcers are usually associated with upper abdominal pain 45 to 60 minutes after meals or during the night.  The pain is typically described as gnawing, burning, aching or cramp-like, and is relieved by food, antacids, or vomiting.  Ulcer complications such as hemorrhage, perforation, and obstruction are medical emergencies that require immediate hospitalization and care.  Patients with ulcers should be monitored by a physician even when following the natural approaches discussed here.

Therapy that’s less expensive, more effective, and safer than over-the-counter drugs

Current medical treatment of ulcers is far from ideal.  The natural approach is safer, less expensive, and just as effective as traditional drugs.  The first step is to identify and reduce or eliminate all factors implicated in the development of ulcers.  The next step is to heal the ulcers and promote tissue resistance by reducing stress and by eating a diet high in fiber and low in allergenic foods.  It’s also wise to drink fresh cabbage juice (up to one liter daily), use deglycyrrhizinated licorice preparations, and supplement the diet with nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin E, and zinc.

Michael T. Murray, ND


Connie’s comments: Add aloe vera juice, coconut juice, goat’s milk, ginger and sulfur rich foods ( garlic,onions, yellow colored ones) in your diet.

Degenerative Joint Disease by Dr Axe

DJD 2DJDThe primary goals of all degenerative tissue disease/osteoarthritis or arthritis treatments are to lower inflammation/swelling, control pain, improve mobility and joint function, help maintain a healthy weight so you put less pressure on fragile joints, and to improve your mood — so you’re better able to handle the stress of battling a degenerative disease.

1. Stay Active

While most people with osteoarthritis usually have joint pain and some movement limitations, many find that they feel better and experience less symptoms overall when they keep moving. In fact, exercise is considered one of the most important treatments for degenerative joint disease. Like the old saying goes, “Move it or lose it.” In other words, the more you strengthen and stretch your body parts, the better intact they’ll stay into older age.

Exercise is important for lowering inflammation, increasing flexibility, strengthening muscles (including the heart), boosting circulation and supporting a healthy body weight. It helps keep joints and bones strong and limber, improve heart health/cardiovascular fitness, extend the range of motion of joints, and move synovial fluid throughout the body better. Plus, let’s not forget about the mental benefits of exercise. Getting regular exercise is a powerful way to lower stress, improve your mood, control stress hormones like cortisol and help you sleep better.

Because every DJD patient is different in terms of physical abilities and pain level, the amount and form of exercise prescribed depends on each person’s specific condition and how stable the joints are. You want to ideally do a combination of three types of exercises for osteoarthritis: (5)

  • strengthening exercises targeted at improving strength in muscles that support effected joints — such as knee strengthening exercises
  • aerobic activities to improve blood pressure, circulation and inflammation
  • range-of-motion activities to keep joints flexible and help you become more comfortable with daily movements

Some of the most beneficial, and least painful, types of exercise include walking, swimming and water aerobics. If exercise is painful at first or you’re just beginning to become more active, your doctor and/or physical therapist can recommend specific types of exercise that would be safest and most helpful. Start slowly and find ways to sneak more fitness into your day while you build up resilience and strength.

2. Lower Inflammation and Support Cartilage with a Nutrient-Dense Diet

Research suggests that a poor diet increases inflammation and might increase enzymes that destroy collagen and other proteins important for maintaining healthy tissue. Cartilage is about 65 percent to 80 percent water, and the remainder is made up of three components: collagen, proteoglycans and chondrocytes.

Collagen is a type of fibrous protein that acts as the body’s natural “building blocks” for skin, tendons, bone and other connective tissues. Proteoglycans interweave with collagen to form mesh-like tissue that allows cartilage to absorb shocks and vibrations, while chondrocytes mostly produce cartilage and help it stay intact as we get older.

Some of the ways you can help the body hold on to precious cartilage and lower inflammation is to load up on all sorts of natural anti-inflammatory foods. These provide essential fatty acids, antioxidants, minerals and vitamins that support the immune system, lower pain, and help with healthy tissue and bone formation.

Focus your diet around these foods as much as possible:

  • fresh vegetables (all kinds): Aim for variety and a minimum of four to five servings per day
  • whole pieces of fruit (not juice): three to four servings per day is a good amount for most people
  • herbs, spices and teas: turmeric, ginger, basil, oregano, thyme, etc., plus green tea and organic coffee in moderation
  • probiotic foods: yogurt, kombucha, kvass, kefir or cultured veggies
  • wild-caught fish, cage-free eggs and grass-fed/pasture-raised meat: higher in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D than farm-raised varieties and great sources of protein, healthy fats, and essential nutrients like zinc, selenium and B vitamins. Vitamin D has been shown to help support arthritis patients, so consider adding in more raw dairy if possible too. (6)
  • healthy fats: grass-fed butter, coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, nuts/seeds
  • ancient grains and legumes/beans: best when sprouted and 100 percent unrefined/whole
  • Bone broth: contains collagen and helps maintain healthy joints

Limit or eliminate these foods that promote inflammation:

  • Refined vegetable oils (like canola, corn and soybean oils, which are high in pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids)
  • Pasteurized dairy products (common allergens) and conventional meat, poultry and eggs, which contain added hormones, antibiotics and omega-6s that contribute to inflammation
  • Refined carbohydrates and processed grain products and added sugars (found in the majority of packaged snacks, breads, condiments, canned items, cereals, etc.)
  • Trans fats/hydrogenated fats (used in packaged/processed products and often to fry foods)

 

Degenerative joint disease stats - Dr. Axe

 

3. Maintain a Healthy Body Weight

Carrying excess body weight puts strain on joints that are already delicate. (7) Osteoarthritis patients who are overweight should try to reach a healthy body weight in a realistic way, using a well-balanced diet and adding in more movement. This should be viewed as a long-term lifestyle change, not a quick-fix diet that’s very low in calories and will likely result in nutrient deficiencies that are needed to limit further injuries.

4. Get Enough Rest/Relaxation

When you don’t get enough sleep, downtime and relaxation in your life, your joints and muscles have a harder time repairing themselves, while your stress hormones, body weight and inflammation all tend to rise. You need to get enough sleep every night (seven to nine hours usually) in order to relieve joints from stress, keep stress hormone levels balanced, regulate your appetite and repair damaged tissue. Learn to recognize your body’s signals, and know when to stop or slow down and take a break, so you avoid becoming anxious, overexerted and run-down.

5. Control Pain Naturally

Dealing with pain can be one of the hardest things about battling degenerative joint disease, since it takes away from your quality of life, ability to do your job well and independence. Many doctors prescribe anti-inflammatory medications (like NSAIDs) or even surgery to dull pain if the situation becomes bad enough, but you can also use non-drug pain-relief techniques that are just as effective. Some popular complementary and alternative therapies that help fight pain include:

  • Acupuncture: Studies show that patients receiving acupuncture normally have less pain than patients in placebo control groups. Acupuncture is proven to help lower symptoms of back and neck pain, muscle aches and joint stiffness, osteoarthritis, and chronic headaches. (8)
  • Massage therapy: A professional massage can help improve circulation, bring blood to sensitive areas, relax the mind and lower stress.
  • Reflexology: Reflexology has been used for hundreds of years to stimulate the nervous system and help the body handle stress, fatigue, pain and emotional problems.
  • Infrared sauna treatments: Both heat and cold (or both together, used at different times) can be useful for loosening up joints and muscles and lowering swelling or pain. (9) At home you can use warm towels, ice packs, hot packs or a hot shower to reduce pain. Also consider trying infrared saunas, which are a type of sauna that uses heat and light to help relax the body by creating heat and causing you to sweat and release stored toxins. They’ve been shown to lower pain and are believed to have a parasympathetic healing effect, which means they help the body handle stress better.

What Causes Osteoarthritis/DJD?

People with DJD don’t maintain enough healthy cartilage as they age, which means movement becomes more painful as bones rub closer to one another, instead of being blocked by the slippery substance that’s supposed to act as a buffer between the bones. We need cartilage to help bones “glide” and also to absorb vibrations or shocks we experience when we move around, which is why most people with degenerative joint disease find it hard to go about normal day-to-day activities.

When the disease progresses enough, bones rub together in a way that causes inflammation, swelling, pain, loss of mobility and sometimes changes to the shapes of joints.

Here’s a quick overview of how joints work. Joints are the point where two or more bones are connected, and they’re made up (in most cases) of the following parts: cartilage, joint capsule (tough membrane sacs that enclose all the bones), synovium (located inside the joint capsules and responsible for secreting lubricating synovial fluid) and synovial fluid (buffers and lubricates the joints and cartilage). (10)

In people who don’t suffer from DJD or other forms of joint damage (like rheumatoid arthritis), their joints are encased in smooth cartilage and lined with synovial fluid that helps with the “sliding” of cartilage against bones, bones against muscles and muscles against connective tissues.

In severe cases of degenerative joint disease, joints start to become smaller and also to change shape while small deposits of bone (osteophytes, which are sometimes also called bone spurs) can also form around the edges of the joints where they shouldn’t be. The main problem with bone spurs is that at any time they can break off from the cartilage they grow on and make their way into the space where the joints are, further causing pain and complications.


Connie’s comments: My 82 yr old mother has DJD and is taking the following: supplement with turmeric and ginger, omega 3 oils, Vitamin B complex and Vitamin C, exercise, destress, massage oil with ginger, coconut and other essential oils of rosemary, eucalypytus and tea tree and whole foods of greens and yellow colored foods.

Probiotics help the liver, brain, and inflammation/stress

Patients with inflammatory diseases involving peripheral organs or tissues commonly experience altered brain function giving rise to symptoms that adversely affect their quality of life (QOL) (D’Mello and Swain, 2014). How peripheral inflammation leads to remote changes in brain function remains unclear and, as a result, there are limited therapeutic options available clinically to address this issue. A number of general pathways have been described that link systemic inflammation to changes occurring in the brain, which in turn give rise to altered behavior (Dantzer et al., 2014).

These pathways traditionally have included signaling via neural pathways (mainly vagal nerve afferents) and immune signaling (mainly via circulating cytokines, which either enter the brain directly or activate cerebral endothelium; Capuron and Miller, 2011). Recently, we described a novel peripheral signaling pathway occurring in the setting of liver inflammation, which involves increased peripheral TNF-α production driving increased microglial activation, followed by monocyte recruitment into brain vasculature and brain parenchyma, which in turn drives the development of sickness behaviors (D’Mello et al., 2013).

The beneficial effect of probiotic consumption on behavior and brain function is now becoming increasingly appreciated in a variety of inflammatory diseases. Specifically, probiotic administration improves QOL in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (O’Mahony et al., 2005) and was associated with significant improvements in cognitive function and the restoration of impaired hippocampal long-term potentiation in a model of diabetes (Davari et al., 2013).

Potential peripheral pathways that link probiotic ingestion to changes in brain function have primarily focused on the role of vagal afferent nerve signaling and changes in cerebral levels of neuromodulators such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (Bercik et al., 2010).

We now define an alternate signaling pathway established in the setting of liver inflammation, which links probiotic consumption to changes within the brain and alterations in behavior.

In patients with inflammatory disease and in animal models of systemic inflammation, probiotic ingestion has been previously shown by others to reduce circulating TNF-α levels (Loguercio et al., 2005; Dhiman et al., 2014; Sánchez et al., 2015; Vaghef-Mehrabany et al., 2014). In addition, probiotic treatment-induced reductions in circulating TNF-α levels were associated with improved neuropsychiatric outcomes, as seen in patients with chronic liver disease (Dhiman et al., 2014).

Our current findings in BDL mice parallel these clinical observations and are consistent with our previous studies demonstrating a critical role for elevated levels of TNF-α in the circulation of BDL mice driving sickness behavior development (D’Mello et al., 2009; D’Mello et al., 2013).

TNF-α-associated sickness behaviors in BDL mice are linked directly to cerebral microglial activation and recruitment of monocytes into the brain vasculature and brain parenchyma (D’Mello et al., 2009; D’Mello et al., 2013).

Observations of increased leukocyte recruitment to brain vasculature in a model of inflammatory bowel disease (D’Mello et al., 2009) was noted.

Our current findings are consistent with a role of probiotic ingestion in disrupting this signaling pathway in BDL mice.

TNF-α blockade using etanercept in probiotic-treated BDL mice did not further improve sickness behavior development, microglial activation, or cerebral monocyte infiltration in probiotic-treated BDL mice, consistent with the probiotic effects in BDL mice being TNF-α related. Interestingly, although probiotic treatment reduced circulating TNF-α levels in BDL mice to sham levels, sickness behavior development was not completely abrogated by probiotic treatment.

This finding suggests that alternative signaling pathways must also exist in BDL mice to cause sickness behaviors, possibly those driven by vagal afferent signaling to the brain (Capuron and Miller, 2011).

Changes in cross-talk among the intestinal epithelium, the intestinal immune system, and gut microbes has increasingly been recognized for its capacity to modulate systemic immunity (Belkaid and Naik, 2013). As a result, probiotics have been administered in an attempt to beneficially alter systemic immunity.

Consistent with this paradigm, administration of Bifidobacterium infantis to patients with irritable bowel syndrome was associated with an improvement in symptoms and a normalization of the IL-10 to IL-12 cytokine ratio in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (O’Mahony et al., 2005).

Probiotic treatment has been shown to reduce circulating levels of systemic proinflammatory biomarkers, including TNF-α levels, in patients with a range of systemic inflammatory conditions including psoriasis (Groeger et al., 2013), rheumatoid arthritis (Vaghef-Mehrabany et al., 2014), chronic fatigue syndrome, and liver disease (Loguercio et al., 2005; Dhiman et al., 2014); all findings replicated in our study.

Probiotic administration has been reported previously to induce increased intestinal production of the cytokine G-CSF (Martins et al., 2009). In our current study, consistent with this previous report, we found a striking increase in plasma G-CSF levels in probiotic-treated BDL mice compared with placebo-treated BDL and sham mice.

G-CSF can affect a wide variety of biological functions that are potentially relevant to our current experimental observations in probiotic-treated BDL mice. Specifically, G-CSF significantly attenuates monocyte/macrophage production of TNF-α (Nishiki et al., 2004).

G-CSF can mediate a reduction in cerebral inflammation (Nishiki et al., 2004). In BDL mice, monocyte/macrophage production of TNF-α is significantly enhanced compared with sham controls (Kerfoot et al., 2006; D’Mello et al., 2009). Therefore, increased plasma G-CSF levels in BDL mice treated with probiotic3 may contribute to the reduced circulating TNF-α levels observed in these mice and warrants future investigation.

Together, our data define a novel pathway whereby probiotic ingestion prevents peripheral inflammation-associated increases in circulating TNF-α levels, cerebral microglial activation, and recruitment of activated monocytes into the brain, ultimately attenuating BDL-associated sickness behavior development. Therefore, probiotic therapy may have a therapeutic role in regulating peripheral inflammation-associated brain dysfunction and behavioral alterations that often significantly affect patient quality of life (QOL).


Stress and Inflammation

During the last five years, it has been established that pro-inflammatory cytokines induce not only symptoms of sickness, but also true major depressive disorders in physically ill patients with no previous history of mental disorders. Some of the mechanisms that might be responsible for inflammation-mediated sickness and depression have now been elucidated. These findings suggest that the brain–cytokine system, which is in essence a diffuse system, is the unsuspected conductor of the ensemble of neuronal circuits and neurotrans-mitters that organize physiological and pathological behaviour. In this Review we discuss how the brain engenders sickness behaviour in response to peripheral infections. We then review the evidence that pro-inflammatory cytokines can also trigger the development of depression in vulnerable individuals, and the possible underlying mechanisms. Finally, we discuss how these actions of cytokines in the brain might have a role in at least part of the increased prevalence of depression in people with physical illness.


 

Probiotic Foods to Add to Your Diet

1. Yogurt

One of the best probiotic foods is live-cultured yogurt, especially handmade. Look for brands made from goat’s milk and infused with extra forms of probiotics like lactobacillus or acidophilus. Goat’s milk is a rich source of proteins, vitamins, and minerals while having better digestibility and lower allergenicity than cow’s milk.[1] Goat milk yogurt is particularly high in probiotics like thermophillus, bifudus, and bulgaricus, and can be infused with extra forms of probiotics like lactobacillus or acidophilus.

Be sure to read the ingredients list, as not all yogurt is made equally. Many popular brands are filled with high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, and artificial flavors and are way too close to being a nutritional equivalent of sugary, fatty ice cream.

2. Kefir

Similar to yogurt, this fermented dairy product is a unique combination of goat’s milk and fermented kefir grains. High in lactobacilli and bifidus bacteria, kefir is also rich in antioxidants. Look for a good, organic version at your local health food shop.

Similar to yogurt, this fermented dairy product is a unique combination of goat’s milk and fermented kefir grains. High in lactobacilli and bifidus bacteria, kefir is also rich in antioxidants.[2] Look for a good, organic version at your local health food shop.

3. Sauerkraut

Made from fermented cabbage (and sometimes other vegetables), sauerkraut is not only extremely rich in healthy live cultures, but might also help with reducing allergy symptoms. Sauerkraut is also rich in vitamins A, B, C, and K.[3]

4. Dark Chocolate

Chocolate itself doesn’t contain probiotics, but it was found to be a very effective carrier for probiotics. Chocolate helps them survive the extreme pHs of the digestive tract to make it to the colon.[4] Because of this protective ability probiotics can be added to high-quality dark chocolate. This is only one of the many health benefits of chocolate.

5. Microalgae

This refers to super-food ocean-based plants such as spirulina, chlorella, and blue-green algae. While not a probiotic itself, microalgae can act as a prebiotic, which means that it feeds and nourishes the probiotics already in your gut. These prebiotic foods have been shown to increase beneficial bacteria and improve gastrointestinal health.[5] They also offer the most amount of energetic return, per ounce, for the human system.

6. Miso Soup

Probiotic Foods - Miso

Miso is one the mainstays of traditional Japanese medicine and is commonly used in macrobiotic cooking as a digestive regulator. Made from fermented rye, beans, rice or barley, adding a tablespoon of miso to some hot water makes an excellent, quick, probiotic-rich soup, full of lactobacilli and bifidus bacteria.[6]

Beyond its important live cultures, miso is extremely nutrient-dense and believed to help neutralize the effects of environmental pollution, alkalinize the body and stop the effects of carcinogens in the system.[7]

7. Pickles

Believe it or not, the provincial pickle packs a punch of prime probiotics.[8] In the U.S., the term “pickle” usually refers to pickled cucumbers specifically, but most vegetables can be pickled. All of them boast the same briny goodness and probiotic potential.

8. Tempeh

A great substitute for meat or tofu, tempeh is a fermented, probiotic-rich grain made from soybeans.[9] A great source of vitamin B12,[10] this vegetarian food can be sauteed, baked or eaten crumbled on salads. If prepared correctly, tempeh is also very low in salt, which makes it an ideal choice for those on a low-sodium diet.

9. Kimchi

An Asian form of pickled sauerkraut, kimchi is an extremely spicy and sour fermented cabbage, typically served alongside meals in Korea. Besides beneficial bacteria, Kimchi is also a great source of vitamin C, B vitamins, beta-carotene, calcium, iron, potassium, and dietary fiber.[11] Kimchi is one of the best probiotic foods you can add to your diet, assuming you can handle the spice, of course.

10. Kombucha Tea

Kombucha is a form of fermented tea that contains a high amount of healthy gut bacteria.[12] This probiotic drink has been used for centuries and is believed to help increase your energy, enhance your well-being and maybe even help you lose weight.[13] However, kombucha tea may not be the best fit for everyone, especially those that have had problems with candida.

Probiotic Supplements

For excellent digestive health, fill your diet with as many prebiotic and probiotic foods as possible. I additionally recommend taking a good probiotic supplement. I recommend Floratrex™, a unique formula of 23 probiotic strains that helps support your digestive tract and boosts your immune system.

Vagus nerve stimulation thru breathing, laughs and yoga

 

The benefits of vagus nerve stimulation (other than relaxing the body, mind, and soul – and really, isn’t that enough of a reason?):

  • It reduces the inflammatory response throughout our system.
  • It helps the brain emit new cells.
  • It decreases depression and anxiety and lifts our mood. Forty million Americans are affected by mood disorders. Enough said!
  • It assists in developing razor-sharp memory, and there are so many applications for increased memory capacity in our culture like Alzheimer’s work, traumatic brain injuries, and plain-and-simple everyday life.
  • It raises your immunity. How about staying healthy and taking vacations to beautiful faraway places instead of lying on the couch suffering through yet another bout of bronchitis?
  • It raises the level of endorphins, which bring about positive feelings in the body and reduce the sensation of pain.

Kundalini serpent tail whips the immune system into action

Have you ever seen the list “100 Benefits of Meditation“?  Of course, many of these benefits are psychological. You know, things like: helps control own thoughts (#39) and helps with focus & concentration (#40).  But many of the 100 benefits are rather physical, bodily, physiological, immunological and even biochemical benefits (such as #16- reduction of free radicals, less tissue damage).

These are awesome claims, and I’ve certainly found that mediation helps me feel more emotionally balanced and physically relaxed,  but I’m wondering – from a hard science point of view – how legit some of these claims might be.  For example, “#12 Enhances the immune system – REALLY?  How might yoga and mediation enhance my immune system?

In a previous post on the amazing vagus nerve – the only nerve in your body that, like the ancient Kundalini serpent, rises from the root of your gut to the brain – AND – a nerve that is a key to the cure of treatment resistant depression– it was suggested that much of the alleviation of suffering that comes from yoga comes from the stimulation of this amazing nerve during postures and breathing.

Somehow, the ancient yogis really got it right when they came up with the notion of Kundalini serpent – so strange, but so cool!

I happened to stumble on a paper that explored the possibility that the vagus nerve might also play a role in mediating communication of the immune system and the brain – and thus provide a mechanism for “#12- Enhances the immune system” Here’s a quote from the article entitled, “Neural concomitants of immunity—Focus on the vagus nerve” [doi:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2009.05.058] by Drs. Julian F. Thayer and Esther M. Sternberg (Ohio State University and National Institute of Mental Health).

By the nature of its “wandering” route through the body the vagus nerve may be uniquely structured to provide an effective early warning system for the detection of pathogens as well as a source of negative feedback to the immune system after the pathogens have been cleared. … Taken together these parasympathetic pathways form what has been termed “the cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway

The scientists then investigate the evidence and possible mechanisms by which the vagus nerve sends immunological signals from the body to the brain and also back out to the immune system.  Its not a topic that is well understood, but the article describes several lines of evidence implicating the vagus nerve in immunological health.

So bend, twist, inhale and exhale deeply.  Stimulate your vagus nerve and, as cold and flu season arrives, awaken the serpent within!

What if you had magic fingers and could touch a place on a person’s body and make all their pain and anguish disappear?  This would be the stuff of legends, myths and miracles! Here’s a research review by Kerry J Ressler  and Helen S Mayberg on the modern ability to electrically “touch” the Vagus Nerve.

The article,  Targeting abnormal neural circuits in mood and anxiety disorders: from the laboratory to the clinic discusses a number of “nerve stimulation therapies” wherein specific nerve fibers are electrically stimulated to relieve mental anguish associated with (drug) treatment-resistant depression.

Vagus nerve stimulation therapy (VNS) is approved by the FDA for treatment of medication-resistant depression and was approved earlier for the treatment of epilepsy20.  …  The initial reasoning behind the use of VNS followed from its apparent effects of elevating mood in patients with epilepsy20, combined with evidence that VNS affects limbic activity in neuroimaging studies21. Furthermore, VNS alters concentrations of serotonin, norepinephrine, GABA and glutamate within the brain2224, suggesting that VNS may help correct dysfunctional neurotransmitter modulatory circuits in patients with depression.

This stuff is miraculous in every sense of the word – to be able to reach in and “touch” the body and bring relief – if not bliss – to individuals who suffer with immense emotional pain.  So who is this Vagus nerve anyway?  Why does stimulating it impart so many emotional benefits?  How can I touch my own Vagus nerve?

The wikipedia page is a great place to explore – suggesting that this nerve fiber is central to the “rest and digest” functions of the parasympathetic nervous system.  As evidenced by the relief its stimulation brings from emotional pain, the Vagus nerve is central to mind-body connections and mental peace.

YOGA is a practice that also brings mental peace.  YOGA,  in so many ways (I hope to elaborate on in future posts),  aims to engage the parasympathetic nervous system (slowing down and resting responses) and disengage the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight responses).  Since we all can’t have our very own (ahem) lululemon (ahem) vagal nerve stimulation device, we must rely on other ways to stimulate the Vagus nerve fiber.  Luckily, many such ways are actually known – so-called “Vagal maneuvers” – such as  holding your breath and bearing down (Valsalva maneuver), immersing your face in ice-cold water (diving reflex), putting pressure on your eyelids, & massage of the carotid sinus area – that have been shown to facilitate parasympathetic (relaxation & slowing down) responses.

But these “Vagal maneuvers” are not incorporated into yoga.  How might yoga engage and stimulate the Vagal nerve bundle? Check out these great resources on breathing and Vagal tone (here, here, here).  I’m not an expert by any means but I think the take home message is that when we breathe deep and exhale, Vagal tone increases.  So, any technique that allows us to increase the duration of our exhalation will increase Vagal tone. Now THAT sounds like yoga!

Even more yogic is the way the Vagus nerve is the only nerve in the parasympathetic system that reaches all the way from the colon to the brain.  The fiber is composed mainly of upward (to the brain) pulsing neurons – which sounds a lot like the mystical Kundalini Serpent that arises upwards from within (starting at the root – colon) and ending in the brain.  The picture above – of the Vagus nerve (bright green fiber) – might be what the ancient yogis had in mind?

 

  • Tips to stimulate the vagus nerve

  • Humming: The vagus nerve passes through by the vocal cords and the inner ear and the vibrations of humming is a free and easy way to influence your nervous system states. Simply pick your favorite tune and you’re ready to go. Or if yoga fits your lifestyle you can “OM” your way to wellbeing. Notice and enjoy the sensations in your chest, throat, and head.
  • Conscious Breathing: The breath is one of the fastest ways to influence our nervous system states. The aim is to move the belly and diaphragm with the breath and to slow down your breathing. Vagus nerve stimulation occurs when the breath is slowed from our typical 10-14 breaths per minute to 5-7 breaths per minute. You can achieve this by counting the inhalation to 5, hold briefly, and exhale to a count of 10. You can further stimulate the vagus nerve by creating a slight constriction at the back of the throat and creating an “hhh”. Breathe like you are trying to fog a mirror to create the feeling in the throat but inhale and exhale out of the nose sound (in yoga this is called Ujjayi pranayam).
  • Valsalva Maneuver: This complicated name refers to a process of attempting to exhale against a closed airway. You can do this by keeping your mouth closed and pinching your nose while trying to breathe out. This increases the pressure inside of your chest cavity increasing vagal tone.
  • Diving Reflex: Considered a first rate vagus nerve stimulation technique, splashing cold water on your face from your lips to your scalp line stimulates the diving reflex. You can also achieve the nervous system cooling effects by placing ice cubes in a ziplock and holding the ice against your face and a brief hold of your breath. The diving reflex slows your heart rate, increases blood flow to your brain, reduces anger and relaxes your body. An additional technique that stimulates the diving reflex is to submerge your tongue in liquid. Drink and hold lukewarm water in your mouth sensing the water with your tongue.
  • Connection: Reach out for relationship. Healthy connections to others, whether this occurs in person, over the phone, or even via texts or social media in our modern world, can initiate regulation of our body and mind. Relationships can evoke the spirit of playfulness and creativity or can relax us into a trusting bond into another. Perhaps you engage in a lighthearted texting exchange with a friend. If you are in proximity with another you can try relationship expert, David Snarch’s simple, yet powerful exercise called “hugging until relaxed.” The instructions are to simply “stand on your own two feet, place your arms around your partner, focus on yourself, and to quiet yourself down, way down.”


Because of the pathway of the vagus nerve, long deep breathing is the number one key to activating the vagus nerve.
Breathing can be involuntary (something the vagus nerve does for us when we aren’t paying attention), but it can also be something we do consciously. By bringing awareness to the breath, lengthening and deepening it, you turn on the vagus nerve, giving your body the opportunity to rejuvenate.

So, let’s stop and breathe with awareness for ten minutes:

As you inhale, lift your collarbone.

As you exhale, soften and relax.

As you inhale, expand your ribs out under your arms.

As you exhale, soften and relax.

As you inhale, expand your ribs across your back

As you exhale, soften and relax.

When you sit, close your eyes, and utilize your system’s own action, you enhance your health and wellness.

Here are a number of pathways to the vagus nerve. Choose your favorite:

  • Immerse your face (especially the forehead, eyes, and two-thirds of your cheeks) in cold water for three minutes.
  • Practice restorative yoga and include gentle backbends, forward bends, and twists.
  • Include inversions in your practice like downward dog or legs up the wall.
  • Chant and sing in low resonant tones.
  • Immerse your tongue in saliva while doing long deep breathing.
  • Practice Qigong.
  • Laugh with deep diaphragmatic laughs.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

%d bloggers like this: