The Five Pillars of Wellness

Wellness is an active process of becoming aware of and making guided choices toward a healthy and fulfilling life. It is a dynamic process of self awareness, change and growth. It is the integration of mind, body and soul – a complete state of physical, mental and social well-being. Achieving wellness requires an individual to embrace the following components. I refer to these as the Five Pillars of Wellness:  mind-body connection, exercise, nutrition, sleep and stress.

I founded  MindBody Fitness in 1985. My company focuses on what is commonly referred to as a whole-person approach which helps individuals discover and implement a life balance by optimizing performance in life, work and sports.

As I developed a better understanding of how I can really impact people one thing became very clear: conventional medicine was limited because it really focuses on treating symptoms not examining the root causes of disease. Learning about and practicing preventive or functional medicine was really the approach that was going to change people’s lives.

After many years in the health and fitness profession I started to embrace a different approach –  to educating and empowering the client so that he/she can take responsibility for his/her health and well-being. It is about teaching people that wellness is more than the just absence of disease – it is the optimal balance between mind, body and spirit. It is about taking control of, and, responsibility for your thoughts, beliefs action and behaviors. It is the view that the body is a complex ecosystem that’s influenced by environment, diet, mindset and much more.

I have always been interested in human potential. What are the drivers behind building success and maintaining passion and joy in work, sports and life? What are the positive and negative factors that impact our longevity and quality of life? One thing was very clear – human potential cannot be reached without self- awareness and self-responsibility – they are, in fact, the building blocks of our existence.

About 15 years ago, I realized I needed a personal challenge. I had been spending so much of my time helping and motivating others. So, I started training for and racing triathlon and soon became very involved in both racing and coaching. Then in 2007, I helped organize and coach a team of combat injured vets who had returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. They competed in both triathlon and adventure racing. This experience was a turning point in my life for it taught me so much about human challenges and struggle and the ability to overcome great odds, as many of the team had suffered limb loss, traumatic brain injury and PTSD. This helped launch a rejuvenated understanding and enthusiasm for attaining optimal health and wellness and the belief in 4 constructs:
1. Human potential is unlimited!

2. The mind is the driver and the body is the vehicle and the health and synergy of both is what gets you through life.

3. I believe if you have a clear vision of who you are and what you can become and have a greater passion for living your life to your true potential, then you can achieve greater success in attaining optimal health.

4. Self-awareness and self-responsibility are essential to creating work-life balance.

I believe that there are 5 main pillars to achieving a strong foundation in overall wellness. And that regardless of one’s age or state of health- IT IS NEVER TOO LATE TO CHANGE!

A. The mind-body connection – the mind and the body are not separate entities. They are interconnected. Understanding the integration between the two is key to good health and longevity. It is the foundation of the 4 other pillars. Get to know and understand your whole person.

B. The body was designed to move. We will examine types, frequency, intensity and duration. What is important to understand is there is something for everyone.
C. We need to nourish our bodies and brains with healthy foods. We will also examine the role of supplements and vitamins, as they have a very important supporting role.

D. Besides exercise and diet, sleep is one of the most important and critical factors in achieving optimal health and wellness. I will explore why it is so important and how to optimize it.
E. Understanding and managing stress is key to maximizing optimal performance in your work and personal life. We will discuss some effective stress reduction techniques. In addition, we will examine techniques and suggestions for improving wellness in the workplace (ergonomics, postural issues that lead to shoulder, neck and back problems, effects of prolonged sitting, and the importance of hydration and healthy eating in job performance).

So let’s take a more detailed look at these 5 pillars with the understanding that much like the structure of a house, the human body needs a strong foundation.

– Like any structure, humans are only as strong as their weakest link!!
– The beauty of the human body is we can modify and improve its structure if it has been weakened or compromised, much like we can redesign and rebuild a house. One major difference – we cannot buy or rent another body.
– We must all learn that this body that we were given, and thus we are personally responsible for its care and longevity. Later we will discuss how our genes really only impact 10% our health and the other 90% is affected by lifestyle choices we make.

Bottom line: Your health is most important investment you will ever make.

1. Mind- Body Connection: as mentioned above wellness is the balance between the mind, body and spirit. It forms an equal sided triangle. All sides need the strength and support of the other sides. We are not just a body and brain. We are the product of our thoughts and beliefs, our attitudes, perceptions and actions. Much research has proven that our thinking can affect not only our attitudes but our physiology. Positive thinking translates in to not only a healthy mindset but also a healthy body. A variety of illness and diseases from heart disease, cancer and many autoimmune disorders are impacted by our thoughts and beliefs. We become what we think we are. As a wellness coach, I have seen over many years how fear and negativity can lead to higher stress levels, and in turn, depression, chronic fatigue, insomnia, and a variety of illnesses. On the other hand, I have seen how a positive outlook and approach can become a powerful motivator in changing and improving people’s lives.

– Mounting research reveals that you cannot separate your health from your emotions.
– Having an optimistic perspective (“the glass half full versus the glass half empty”) can translate into living a longer and healthier life.
– Studies show that a significant reduction in the risk of developing heart disease is correlated with higher levels of satisfaction in one’s life and work.
– The emerging field of psychoneuroimmunology has proven the brain and immune system are indeed wired together, and portions of the nervous system directly connect with immune-related organs.

Working in the wellness industry for 30 years, I have discovered how resistant to change people can be. I used to think that those people were in fact “hard –wired”, blaming their genetics and life circumstances. Once I realized that resistance to change was a mindset, I set out to educate my clients on 3 important tools they needed to develop in order to change and strive for their full potential:
1. Self -awareness.
2. Self- motivation.
3. Self-responsibility.

The beauty of the mind is it can change, and as such, have a profound effect on one’s health and well being.
One must first understand the self-limiting mindset and be willing to look honestly at oneself, be open to new possibilities and realize that although change can be uncomfortable, it is possible and can be a life changing gift. All you need is the will and the way. Remember – how you choose to live your life is your choice!!!

Happiness: Is the ultimate expression of an optimistic approach to life.
– Manifesting positive emotions and happiness is one the greatest and most powerful gifts.
– Being happy is a choice you must make.
– Looking towards others for affirmation is very limiting.
– It must come from within (self –acceptance ).

From 10 Keys to Happier Living
• Giving: doing for others
• Relating: connecting with people
• Exercising: self care of body
• Appreciating: open to the world around you
• Trying out: learning new things
• Direction: setting goals
• Resilience: not settling
• Emotion: being positive
• Acceptance: being comfortable with oneself
• Meaning: being part of something bigger

2. Exercise: When I first started in the fitness industry, people engaged in exercise to get fit, reduce stress, lose weight and better prepare a recreational or competitive athlete for sports. Today we have a better understanding how exercise is really the cornerstone of overall health and longevity. It improves our energy, moods, cognitive function, bolsters our immune and neurological function, balances our hormones, reduces stress, improves sleep, lowers our risk of cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, diabetes (insulin resistance and glucose tolerance), stroke and dementia. In essence it is essential to our survival and quality of life. It is the most powerful anti-aging medicine known to mankind.

The biggest obstacles to working out I hear from my clients are: “I don’t have the time.” I am not a morning person and I cannot make time at the end of the day.” I simply am not motivated to workout”
So let’s address these.
– Building new healthy habits takes time.
– Make fitness fun and challenging but most of all make it enjoyable.
– Give it enough time to see and feel some results!
– Everyone can make time; it is simply making it a priority. 10-20 minutes of exercise has been proven to be very beneficial to produce health and fitness gains. If you re-structure your schedule you can find the time.
– Get to bed earlier. Lay out your workout gear besides your bed.
– Write down your workout goals and schedule them into your smartphones and tablets.
– Hire a trainer or find a friend who will help keep you motivated and accountable.
– Workout at home. You don’t need a fully equipped home gym. You just need a space, proper flooring, a few weights, resistance tubing and a medicine ball. In fact, body weight training alone can render great results!! Email me at or visit my website at and I will walk you through what you need and can forward you some DVD workout suggestions to get you started.
– If you need the gym environment, join a fitness club. Try a yoga or indoor cycling studio.
– Working out is the single best way to bolster your health and wellness.
– Studies have proven that mixing up your training ( type, intensity and duration) leads to more optimal results.
Take Away: Making time for fitness is the gift that keeps giving. Your body will thank you and serve you for years to come. It is the best investment you will make in your lifetime.

A. Type: I tell my clients to find something you enjoy and will commit to. Ideally cross-training which basically means using a multi exercise approach seems to be most effective. Any program should include the following:
– Flexibility ( stretching)
– Core training ( Yoga, Pilates, core-specific training)
– Full body conditioning ( Cross-fit, Circuit training, P90X)
– Aerobic conditioning ( walking, cycling, swimming, running, triathlon)
B. Frequency: Ideally 5-7 days per week. Alternating any of the above is the best approach. Too much of one thing creates over training injuries and leads to boredom.
C. Intensity: This really depends on your level of fitness. New research indicates that high intensity training yields the best results in terms of building strength, lowering body fat and increasing cardiovascular fitness. High intensity and interval training usually involves shorter bouts of exercise with appropriate rest intervals. It is the best bang for your buck!
D. Duration: this really depends on your intensity level and your training objective. The minimum if you are time-constricted should be 20 minutes. Cross Fit or conditioning classes ( circuit training, cycle classes usually last 45 min).

3. Nutrition: This has become the hottest topic in the health and wellness field. I cannot stress enough – YOU ARE NOT JUST WHAT YOU EAT BUT WHAT YOU DIGEST!
So what is healthy eating?
A. It is a commitment that requires discipline and planning.
B. It is the willingness to break old habits and create healthier ones.
C. Social support is crucial to making and upholding new eating habits.
D. Knowing and dealing with internal and external obstacles to change.
E. Learn to prepare and cook healthy meals and snacks.

F. The body and brain need fuel to work properly. Food is energy and as such it needs to be clean and wholesome.
Foods To Eat:
– Organic vegetables and fruits
– Grass fed beef ( much healthier than grain fed )
– Wild fish ( much better than farm raised)
– Nuts ( almonds, cashews, walnuts)
– Seeds ( pumpkin, sunflower)
– Low- glycemic carbs ( quinoa, steel cut oats, beans, legumes, sweet potatoes, yams, brown rice)
– Sea salt
– Healthy Fats (Kefir, full fat yogurt, avocado, nuts, organic butter, organic whole milk, coconut oil)
– Complete proteins ( cage free eggs, free range chicken)
– If you are going to eat pasta ( spinach or rice)
– If you are going to eat bread ( sprouted wheat or gluten free)
One of my favorite energy meals or snack:
– Green smoothie ( ½ cup kale and spinach, 1 tbs flax seed, ½ banana, ½ avocado, ½ cup berries, 1 cup vanilla almond milk, 2 tbs complete whey protein)

Foods To Avoid:
– Any processed foods and trans fats
– Refined carbohydrates: cereals, crackers cookies, etc
– Farmed salmon: crammed into pens and fed soy, lower in VitD and higher in contaminants, PCB’s and pesticides such as dioxin and DDT
– Non- organic milk: high in growth hormones ( rBGH) leads to higher IGF-1 which has been linked to breast, prostate and colon cancer.
– High glycemic carbs: which elevate blood sugar quickly causing the release of insulin. Ex: potatoes, cereals, breads ( white and whole wheat), white rice
– Canned tomatoes: contain BPA ( toxic chemical)
– Processed meats: loaded with growth hormones and antibiotics, sodium nitrate ( which can convert to nitosamines which is a potential cancer-causing chemical)
– Margarine: loaded with trans fat, free radicals, emulsifiers, and preservatives
– Vegetable oils: highly processed. They oxidize good cholesterol into bad cholesterol.
– Microwave popcorn: loaded with toxic carcinogenic chemicals ( PFC’s) can lead to thyroid disease, infertility, immune system problems, cancer, elevated LDL cholesterol.
– Table salt: 95% processed sodium chloride
– Soy protein: almost 100% of soybeans are genetically modified which are also designed to withstand large doses of herbicides.

Healthy Fats:
– New research is shifting our understanding on the consumption of fat. In fact, virtually all fats in their natural state including saturated fat found in butter, eggs, and red meat can help facilitate a healthy metabolism and support essential biochemical processes, including optimal cell, nerve and brain function.
– Full fat dairy ( milk, yogurt, cheese) is in fact inversely associated with obesity and metabolic disease. Studies prove that people who eat high fat dairy foods had a lower risk for obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
– So, what’s in high fat dairy? Butyrate – which inhibits inflammation and Phytanic acid –which helps reduce trigylcerides and improves insulin sensitivity.
– Take Away: Add more healthy fats, lower glycemic carbs and complete proteins
Gluten Avoidance:
– Gluten is a protein found in many grains, including wheat, rye, barley, spelt and Kamut.
– One in 100 individuals has an autoimmune disorder called celiac disease, whereby gluten attacks the small intestine. Researchers now believe that another 40-50% of Americans may have developed a non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
– In this case, gluten sets off a chain of inflammatory events that can lead to an array of disorders – acid reflux, arthritis, chronic fatigue, migraines and brain fog to name a few.
– New research is looking at the role gluten may play in the aging of the brain and the onset of neurodegenerative disease.

Paleo Diet:
– The fast growing trend towards Paleo, or as some call it the “caveman diet,” is gaining a lot of traction these days. This approach emphasizes grass-fed meats, wild fish, edible greens, vegetables, roots, nuts, seeds and some seasonal fruits, while minimizing reliance on processed sugars and gluten containing grains. It is in fact a low carb diet (not a no-carb!!) with higher percentage of fats and proteins. Recent studies indicate that the Paleo diet may reduce the incidence or risk of developing heart disease, metabolic syndrome (type 2 diabetes and obesity), autoimmune and neurodegenerative disease.
– Another interesting fact: after you get used to this new way of eating you will really benefit from the removal of gluten, processed sugars and foods and will experience higher and more sustainable energy, greater alertness, clearer thinking, improved sleep and less mood swings)
– The widespread use of sweeteners ( aspartame) found in both drinks and foods can have a profound effect on your gut microbiota or flora. They in fact may induce certain gut bacteria to induce glucose intolerance and metabolic disease, which are strongly associated with promoting inflammation based diseases such as obesity and diabetes.

– Once promoted as aiding in weight loss and preventing diabetes, artificial sweeteners interfere with the body’s ability to utilize glucose by disrupting the function of essential gut microorganisms.
– Gut microbes are essential and must be in the right balance for optimal health. They provide us with critical nutrients, help fight off pathogens and keep our immune system in balance.
Take Away: Do not use sugar substitutes. Stay away from Splenda, Equal, Sweet’N Low, Agave Nectar, Xylitol and Erythritol.
Ok to use- small amounts of Stevia and Raw Honey.
Supplements and Vitamins:
– Ideally we should get our nutrients from our foods. However, it requires much work and preparation to provide these necessary nutrients that our bodies need. If you eat a wholesome and balanced diet you can get most of these.
– Unfortunately, due to the stressful and time-crunched lives most of us lead, I recommend supplementing with the following. The lists below help with lowering your risk of developing autoimmune, metabolic and cardiovascular disease. Additionally, they help regulate hormones, stabilize and strengthen gut flora, and help reduce risk of neurodegenerative disease and cancer.
Take with Breakfast:
– Omega 3’s 1500 mg/ day
– Magnesium 500 mg/ day
– Calcium 100 mg/ day
– Vitamin C 1-500-100mg/day
– Vit D 1000 IU / day
– Vitamin B complex 100mg/ day
If you have digestive issues or GERD
– Take 2 DGL and 2 HCL tablets 15 min before eating.
Other Nutrition Tips:
– Do not skip breakfast – it lowers metabolism by up to 40% (need to turn on the metabolic engine!!)
– It is best to eat the bulk of your calories during the daytime – Your stomach actually has a bedtime! Its muscle contractions are tied to the light-dark cycle (aka circadian rhythm). Contractility is greatest during the day and as such is best to consume the majority of your calories.
– Eating small meals throughout the day helps stabilize glucose levels, enhances metabolic and cognitive function and stabilizes mood and energy levels.
– Going for a walk after meals – encourages peristalsis and hastens stomach emptying.
– Never go right to bed after eating a late dinner.
– Drink 4-8 glasses of filtered water each day.
– Drink your water or beverage of choice after your meal ( promotes better digestion
– Eat a balance of foods at each meal ( Healthy fats, complete protein, low-glycemic carbs)
– Don’t go to a party or social function hungry!
– Plan your meals and keep healthy snacks with you during the day ( nuts, fruits, etc)
– Remember the old adage: Failing to plan is planning to fail
– 1-2 cups per day ( no caffeine after 2 pm)
– To reduce acids, oils and any impurities do the following:
A. Use organic beans ( course grind)
B. Cold brewing method ( use Toddy ) – use coarse grind
C. Chemex method – use coarse grind.
D. Bullet proof Coffee: Blend together coffee, 1tbsp organic butter, 1 tbsp coconut oil. This way you can introduce some healthy fats and allows for better absorption of the caffeine and less stress to the digestive tract.
4. Sleep:
– This is one of the hottest topics in the health and wellness field.

– Some of the top researchers believe that sleep is also very critical to the pursuit of optimal health and longevity.

– Adults need 7-9 hours per night.
– Unmanaged stress leads to elevated cortisol ( stress hormone) which disrupts sleep.

– Sleep is where our bodies and brain repair and re-balance themselves.

– Sleep deficit or prolonged deprivation can directly impact our immune systems, create inflammation, hormonal imbalances, metabolic and cognitive impairment and even alter our genetic physiology. We will discuss epigenetics later – which looks at how our lifestyle choices and behaviors can turn on or off certain genes.

– Sleep problems can lead to a surge in pro-inflammatory molecules throughout the body which in turn creates problems such as cognitive impairment
( decision making, reaction time, situational awareness and communication can be reduced by up to 50%), memory loss, sexual dysfunction, cardiovascular disease, cancer and even Alzheimer’s.

Sleep and Alzheimer’s:

– It turns out much of our brain health is impacted by not what happens when we are awake, but rather when we are asleep and allowing for the brain to recover and heal from all the stresses that are imposed upon it.

– When we are asleep our brains do not actually go to sleep.

– Several parts of the brain are significantly more active at night than during the daytime.

– One of them is the glymphatic system – which behaves like a recycling or sewage system by clearing away all of the brain’s toxins.
– Tau protein, which is the crucial component of amyloid plaque ( the hallmark of Alzheimer’s) is very actively recycled during sleep.

– Acetylcholine is a chemical involved in both creating memories and sleep and dreaming. Apparently, the brain cells that produce acetylcholine are destroyed in the early development of Alzheimer’s, which contributes to a reduction of dreaming.

– Glucose Intolerance – Prominent in diabetes, glucose intolerance has been potentially linked to the elevated risk and onset of Alzheimer’s. In fact, many researchers are now calling Alzheimer’s “type 3 diabetes”. Poor sleep leads to more carbohydrate cravings and imbalances in cortisol levels. The result – more inflammation and higher blood glucose levels.

Other Facts:
– Further studies show that extended wakefulness can permanently damage neurons that are essential for alertness and cognition.

– Reduced sleep may also be linked to shrinking of brain volume which promotes faster aging.

– Additionally, there are certain chemicals that are secreted during REM sleep ( deepest stage of sleep) that are critical for repairing both the body and brain.

– During the daytime we are bombarded with thousands of stimuli- auditory, visual and neurosensory. The brain cannot process all of this stimuli and information as it comes in.
It turns out much of the tagging and archiving of memories takes place at night while you are sleeping. If you do not get good sleep you simply don’t process this information and store it in memory.
Take Away and Tips:
– Get 7-9 hours of sleep.

– Your brain is very active when you sleep, especially during REM sleep.

– If you are sleep deprived it is harder to get into REM sleep due to elevated cortisol

– Sleep helps to recycle brain toxins, specifically Tau proteins, which are the building blocks of amyloid plaque.

– Extended wakefulness can permanently damage neurons essential for alertness and cognition.

– Try to get to sleep and wake at a regular time. Consistent sleep helps with biological and hormonal rhythms.
– Reduce use of electromagnetic devices before bedtime (TV, smartphone,etc.) Blue light emissions disrupt melatonin levels which are vital for sleep.

– A dark and cooler room will provide the best conditions to promote healthy sleep.

– Regular exercise and a healthy diet help promote good restorative sleep.

– Preferably get your exercise in during the daytime – not too close to bedtime.

– Stop caffeine intake by 2 pm.

– Alcohol before bedtime is very disruptive to REM sleep.

– If you cannot sleep- DO NOT USE SLEEP DRUGS!

– Natural sleep aids include: 5-HTP, Melatonin, Magnesium, Vitamin D and Valerian root.

5. Stress Management:
– Stress exists in many forms.

– Stress can be negative or it can be positive. It can be harmful if it is not managed and understood. It can be beneficial if it ignites a change in our thinking and behavior.

– It is our response to the stress that really affects our health and well being.
– Stress first needs to be identified.

– What is the source? Is it a person? Is it a situation? Is it our own actions and behaviors that are responsible?

– Once it is identified then you need to come up with a strategy to manage it?

Stress Reduction:
– Getting adequate and restorative sleep.

– As previously discussed getting proper exercise and a healthy diet helps to reduce and stabilize our stress hormones by improving our moods, cognitive function and mental clarity, reducing the risk of cardiovascular and metabolic disease, autoimmune and neurodegenerative disease.

– Due to the mind-body connection our thoughts and beliefs directly impact our physiology. A stressed out mindset yields a stressed body and vise versa.

Time management is a powerful tool in the battle against stress.
A. Making time for fitness or trying a new activity or sport.
B. Explore new hobbies and taking time away from work.
C. Learn to cook and prepare healthy foods.
D. Learn to slow down and realize that you need to live in the moment.
E. Let go of what you cannot control!
F. You cannot change the past, but you can shape the future!

Workplace Stress:
– Getting proper nutrition before, during and after work reduces mental and physical fatigue and stress at work. It is especially important to hydrate throughout the day
(preferably filtered water – avoid too much caffeine and sweetened beverages)

– Working out before work helps to better prepare you for the work day.

– Mid-day workout or a walk can help give you a much needed break and re-energize you for the rest of the day.

– Ergonomics profoundly affect your health and performance.

A. Sitting properly with good posture in a supportive ergonomic chair.

B. Adjusting your desk and computer to facilitate and reinforce your good position.

C. Taking work breaks – stretch and move which reduces neck, shoulder, back and eye strain problems.

D. Hydrate throughout the day.
E. Try to use better lighting (CFL lighting) if you cannot have access to natural lighting. Reducing harsh and/or dim lighting has been proven to improve employee moods, reduce absenteeism and illnesses.
Adrenal Fatigue:
– When the body is exposed to stress, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis ( HPA axis) is activated – triggering a variety of hormonal changes that leads to cortisol release from the adrenal gland.
– When the stress is removed a negative feedback cycle kicks in and reduces the cortisol release.
– If we are exposed to chronic stress this negative feedback cycle gets turned off and our adrenals keep pumping more and more cortisol until we become resistant to its effects.
– Eventually, the HPA axis cannot keep up with demand for cortisol and the cortisol levels get too low, and we are left with adrenal fatigue syndrome.

Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue:
– Trouble getting up in the morning
– Inability to manage stress
– Brain fog
– Dizziness when standing from a sitting /lying down position.
– Vulnerable to allergies
– Low blood pressure
– Low sex drive
– Low blood sugar

Triggers of Adrenal fatigue:
– Unmanaged/ chronic stress
– Poor sleep
– Too much television or computer work right before bedtime ( Blue light reduces melatonin – a vital sleep hormone)
– Pumping your body with too much caffeine to get you started and skipping a healthy breakfast.
– SAD ( Standard American Diet) – high refined carbs, processed foods which trigger blood sugar problems forcing adrenals to release cortisol and epinephrine.
– Skipping meals
– Lack of exercise or too much high intensity exercise (especially if you are not eating healthy carbs – fruit or starchy tubers such as sweet potato, celery, beets, yams).

Preventing Adrenal Fatigue:
– Get 8 hrs of sleep each night.
– Try to get to bed and wake at the same time.
– Limit exposure to blue light before bedtime or install an app like F. lux on your computer.
– Don’t skip meals –especially breakfast.
– High protein breakfast is best ( helps to stabilize blood sugar)
– Eat some healthy carbs – especially if you engage in high intensity exercise.
– Practice mindful meditation or yoga to reduce mental/emotional stress.


– Cortisol is a stress hormone that is both essential to our health and in too large quantities, can be very damaging.

– As mentioned earlier, unmanaged stress elevates cortisol.
– Poor sleep leads to higher cortisol levels

– Exercise and healthy eating ( healthy fats, complete proteins, and avoiding refined sugars and processed foods) help to regulate cortisol.

Practicing meditation:
– Helps moderate and re-train the body’s fight or flight stress response (the Sympathetic Nervous System). This response triggers a release of pro-inflammatory chemicals including cortisol and adrenaline. Furthermore, it disrupts digestive and immune processes and can also lead to joint and tissue inflammation, altering brain chemistry – promoting depression, bi-polar and anxiety disorders, mood swings and elevated food cravings.
– Mindful meditation combined with deep breathing helps to quiet the above response and activate the Parasympathetic Nervous system – lowering our stress hormones and quieting and resetting the brain and body.

The last 2 areas I want to discuss are Epigenetics and The Brain-Gut Connection

– Epigenetics refers to the change in gene expression without involving any changes to the underlying DNA sequence.

– In essence you can turn on or turn off certain genes that can have a profound effect on your health and longevity. These changes are influenced by age, internal and external environmental factors and the onset of disease or inflammation.

– Research has proven that we all can positively or negatively influence our genetic makeup.
– So even though you have inherited a predisposition towards a disease (family history) you can greatly reduce or reverse its effect on you.

– Researchers have investigated the genetic effects of various mental states on our immune system.

– One study revealed how chronic loneliness was associated with up and down regulation of specific genes. Genes involved in the regulation of inflammatory response were up-regulated, while genes involved with antiviral control were down-regulated. The outcome was decreased immune function. In socially active people, the opposite was true.

– As we get older our lifestyle choices have greater impact on our health and longevity than our genetics.

Let’s look at the factors that impact epigenetics:

A. Healthy diet – avoiding refined and processed foods, GMO’s.
B. Managing stress – which profoundly affects our mental and physical well being.
C. Exercise – strengthens the immune, hormonal and neurological systems.
D. Adequate sleep – allowing the body and brain to recover and remove any toxins.
E. Positive Mindset- our thoughts and beliefs drive our actions and behavior.

The Exposome:
– It refers to the sum of all non-genetic exposures in an individual lifetime, starting from the moment of conception. It encompasses everything from the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, the lifestyle choices we make, to the health of our parents at time of our conception. Essentially, the full spectrum of environmental exposures that impact our health.
A. Specific external environment: diet, physical activity, water consumption, exposure to chemical and toxic pollutants and agents, and health of parents at our conception.
B. General external environment: climate, economic, psychological and social, influences, stress.
C. Internal environment: biology, metabolism, microbiome, inflammation, hormones and oxidative stress.

– The exposome is the primary driver of human health and disease. It influences about 90% of our health while the genes influence 10%.

– The exposome is what alters our genetic biology by up- or- down regulating our genes.

– Similar to a film production – the genes are the script and the exposome is the production and performance. The script doesn’t change from production to production and the best script in the world means nothing if it is not produced well.

– Dr. Francis Collins of NIH summarized it best: “Genes load the gun, but the environment pulls the trigger.”


– Telomeres (more specifically, telomere length) are DNA biomarkers that might hold the key to understanding and measuring life expectancy. Simply, the greater the length the greater the longevity.

– They are the end sequence of chromosomes that house our DNA.

– Their job is to protect the threadlike structure of the chromosome from unraveling.

– Oxidative stress (harmful free radicals) and chronic inflammation decrease the strength and protectiveness of telomeres. In addition, our dietary patterns and lifestyle decisions impact telomere length and integrity.

– Research indicates that aerobic exercise which activates specific anti-inflammatory processes, can help prevent or inhibit telomere shortening.

– It is also noted that high intensity training mixed in with aerobic conditioning has the greatest effect.
Bottom Line:
Our genetic makeup is important, but it is the internal and external environment
that shape our health and longevity. Thus, it becomes each individual’s responsibility for
understanding and managing the 5 pillars of wellness.
– Mind Body Connection
– Exercise
– Diet
– Sleep
– Stress Management

Brain-Gut Health:
Hippocrates said 2000 yrs ago : “ All disease begins in the gut”.

– Well, here we are in 2015 and all the research supports that claim.

– In fact, an unhealthy gut is a precursor to a broad range of diseases that include: obesity, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, depression, some cancers, and neurodegenerative disease.

– The gut is comprised of over 100 trillion microorganisms.

– The microbiome ( gut flora) helps with gastrointestinal function, regulates metabolism, protects us from infection and makes up about 75% of our immune system.

– Research shows that an imbalance in gut flora is directly responsible for diseases such as depression, autoimmune disease, autism, IBS, leaky gut syndrome and type 1 diabetes.

Factors that lead to an unhealthful gut:
A. Over use of NSAID’s ( ibuprofen, naproxen)
B. Antibiotics.
C. Chronic and untreated stress.
D. Intake of refined sugars, carbs, GMO’s and processed foods.
E. Dietary toxins (wheat).
F. Sedentary lifestyle.
G. Poor sleep.
Leaky Gut Syndrome:
– One of the most important functions of the gut is to create a barrier to prevent foreign and toxic substances from entering the body.

– When the intestinal barrier weakens and becomes permeable (leaky gut syndrome) large proteins can enter the bloodstream, which are not supposed to exist outside the gut. This forces the body to create an immune response to destroy them.

– It is the process of destruction that plays a major role in the development of autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes, celiac disease and Hashimoto’s (thyroid disease).

– The breach of the intestinal barrier by food toxin like gluten and chemicals like BPA or arsenic causes an immune response that also affects other organs (pancreas, liver kidneys and brain).

– Leaky gut can also show up in many other ways, not just in the gut (brain fog, heart failure, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, allergies, skin problems like eczema and psoriasis and depression.

Bottom Line: if you have a leaky gut you probably have compromised gut flora and vise versa. When your gut flora and gut barrier are impaired you will have inflammation. The systematic inflammatory response then triggers an autoimmune condition.
Restoring and Maintaining a Healthy Gut:

A. Remove all food toxins.
B. Eat fermented foods (kefir, yogurt, sauerkraut, etc).
C. Get plenty of fermentable fibers (sweet potato, yam, yucca, etc).
D. Take a high quality probiotic.
E. Get tested for and treat any intestinal pathogens (parasites).
F. Manage your stress levels.
G. Get restorative sleep.
H. Exercise regularly (sedentary lifestyle slows down gut motility).

The Gut- Brain Connection:
– A very powerful interrelated and bi-directional axis exists between the gut and brain.
– Gut health (gut biome) may play a significant role in the onset and proliferation of many autoimmune and neurodegenerative diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome , Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
– Recent studies indicate that Parkinson’s patients that displayed symptoms of leaky gut syndrome and SIBO (small intestine bacterial overgrowth) also manifested weak motor function. When the SIBO improved so did the motor function!
– It is believed that leaky gut impacts inflammation, oxygen delivery and blood sugar regulation.
– Gluten intolerance or sensitivity: Research has shown patients with neurodegenerative disease have tested positive for gluten antibodies (tTG6). People who are gluten intolerant and eat gluten – their body attacks a vital enzyme in the brain that can lead to neurodegneration. Gluten therefore, can contribute or exacerbate Parkinson’s if a person is gluten intolerant.
Potential Therapy for patients with Neurodegnerative Disease:

A. Low-dose naltrexone ( LDN) – increases intestinal motility and and promotes T regulatory cell function which helps regulate immune function
B. Curcumin – found in turmeric seems to provide neuro protection for the brain. The best source is liposomal curcumin ( available at Seeking Health).
C. Excess Iron – It is important to check your iron levels ( serum and ferratin). Elevated iron levels can act as a catalyst for oxidative damage. The best way to lower iron levels ( if needed) is to give blood or lower your consumption of organ meat and shellfish, avoid high doses of vitamin C and reduce alcohol intake.
D. Glutathione – a very powerful anti-oxidant that serves as anti-inflammatory for the gut and brain. Our bodies do produce it but it can be quickly depleted with high levels of stress, poor sleep, inadequate exercise and the onset of autoimmune disease. The best source is liposomal glutathione or alpha-lipoic acid.
Food sources: Red meat, organic fruits and vegetables ( note cooking vegetables reduces their content by up to 60%)
Food for the Brain:
A. Omega 3’s ( DHA)
B. B12 and B6 ( meat and dark veggies)
C. Choline ( eggs)
D. Heme Iron ( meat)
E. Vitamin D ( 1000 IU)
F. Curcumin ( 400-500mg)
G. Acetyl L Carnitine ( 1000-200mg)  The Five Pila