Our Sickly, Separated Culture

So last night my wife, Silvia, and I sat out on our driveway enjoying some wine as we often do on Friday evenings.  It’s kind of a ritual/tradition for us when the weather is cooperative.  Usually, even in summer, it’s breezy and comfortable around then, even if we are in hot humid Houston (or Humble more specifically).  We enjoy those evenings chatting, sometimes listening to music, waving at people as they drive by, listening to the cicadas singing their summer song and just spending time together.  Occasionally, we are blessed by the presence of a neighbor or two that stop by and we share wine together and visit.  Last night was no exception as our neighbor Kevin, and his parents, Wayne and Linnye, who are also friends of ours came over to hang out with us at what we lovingly call “Driveway Du Guillory”.  (It’s a happening little spot with great owners and service haha)

This morning, my wife and I went on an early morning walk (not quite as early as I’d have liked since the sun was peaking over the trees already and making it a bit more uncomfortable temp-wise than I wish for on my walkabouts).  I was thinking about last night, and noticed a walker/runner going by us with earphones on as she exercised.  I totally get having music playing in our ears when we walk/run on our own.  I like to do that too.  The music inspires and energizes me (and, truth be told, distracts me from any of the discomfort of exercise).  But I commented on how often I see people in grocery stores wearing their earbuds, or kids wearing them as they walk around with their friends.  My wife (a high school educator) often sees kids wearing them in the hallways for the 7 minutes of changeover in between classes.  I know how frustrating it can be when my now grown kids want to wear earbuds in the car on the ever rarer occasion when we’re going somewhere together.  I admit we allowed probably too much of that as they grew up.

It brought to mind last night and how awesome it was to just sit outside and visit with friends at Driveway Du Guillory and have great fellowship.  I remember how my parents would sit on their driveway in the evenings in Galena Park and how several of our neighbors (Mr. Jack, Ms. Bea, the Flynns, Ms. Etta Mae…..man the memories are flooding back of those special times and people) would gather with them in community.  Now in our current culture, it’s much more common to see people pull up to their homes in their cars, punch a button to open the garage, pull in and close the door behind them, rarely to be seen again.  We have so many things to entertain ourselves inside our castles now that we don’t have to venture out for simple neighborly conversations.  How many of us don’t even know our neighbor’s names?  All of that easily accessed entertainment is nice to some degree.  I admit I love being able to see EVERY Astros game if I want to.  But I posit that it’s detrimental to our health in many ways.

The most commonly thought of way it’s detrimental to us is the lack of movement that it causes. That’s a whole other topic unto itself.  We’re all aware of that.  What I am focusing on here is the lack of healthy, regular interaction we get with others because of these habits we’ve developed, and how that impacts our health.  Did you know that mice that are kept isolated and are injected with cancerous tumors have a significantly higher chance of dying of cancer than those mice that live in a more natural, innate habitat socializing with other mice?  Animals that are kept in cages, with less interaction with their species, are generally sicker and less able to fight off illness.  In other words, isolation contributes to a breeding ground for illness.

Even if we’re not the “party animal” type of personality, we still need, and are genetically wired to have social interaction.  When we close ourselves off from society with all the distractions available to us, we’re kept from being the healthiest version of ourselves.  We also limit the amount of joy and fulfillment we could experience in life.  We feel less of a sense of community and belonging.  In short, we’re ill, even if we aren’t currently expressing symptoms of that sickness.

Friends, never before has a super species (the human species) become so ill in such a short amount of time.  There are many contributing factors to this issue of our sick culture, but lack of community is one of them.  To live congruently with our genome, we need to shut off the distractions around us and focus on people more, the relationships we can develop with them, and the life that can be creating along side them.

So today, decide to do something counter cultural.  Take off your earbuds (yes I know the wireless bluetooth ones are so cool and trendy), shut off your TV, call a neighbor and visit with them.  Set up a time to do a bbq together or go out to eat.  Turn off the TV with all it’s channels and netflix, put down your phones, and have a real conversation with them.  They need you, and believe it or not, you need them.

Until next time…Be Well!

Dr. Bruce

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The Weekend Is Here!

It’s Friday.

Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay!

Most people feel that way.  They look forward to the weekend to rest up from their 9-5 gig.  They crave that break.

There’s nothing wrong with that either.  It’s normal.  Everyone needs rest.  It’s essential to a healthy lifestyle.  You probably know you can’t perform at your best when you’re not rested.  Did you know that your immune system also suffers when you lack rest?  Yep.  It’s been shown that one bad night’s sleep reduces your immune response.  That’s not good.  People that work rotating shiftwork, tend to be less rested, and tend to get sick more often than those on a regular schedule.  But why?

Well, did you ever wonder what the purpose of feeling sleepy actually is?  Why do we get that sensation?  It’s part of the innate process, hardwired into us by the One who created us.  It’s our body’s way of saying it’s time to power down and let repair from the day’s activities.  It is essential and vital to our health.  That’s why when you are sick with the flu, or other infection, all your body wants to do is sleep.  It’s telling you exactly what to do!

So, this weekend, make time to rest, really rest.  I don’t mean sleep all day.  That actually impacts your health negatively by disrupting your routine.  It is suggested that you keep your same sleep schedule on weekends as you do for the work week as much as possible.  Our bodies work best when in a rhythm.  But you can take time to relax and watch some TV, read a book, do some gardening, socialize with friends.  Those are all things that help you rejuvenate your body.

I know, I know.  I can hear you now.  But there’s so many projects I need to get done on the weekend.  I get it.  I have those too.  My suggestion is to do your best to knock them out on the first part of the weekend, so that you can get a good bit of down time on the last 1/2 of the weekend.

Look at your weekend and schedule it out.  Make sure you do get to do your projects, but take time to have some fun, do some resting and enjoy your down time.

Rest, it’s vital for your health.

Until next time….Be Well!

Dr. G

Are You Exercising? Or Are You Moving Well?

What?  Isn’t moving well exercising?  Or vice versa?  What does this question mean?

I hope you really ARE wondering that right now, because there IS a difference!  Really.  Let me explain.

The fact is we all need to exercise.  No one would deny that fact.  We all hear how important it is to exercise for our heart, our weight etc.  But does exercising, even if it’s one solid hour 5x weekly, constitute moving well?  (Remember that move well is part of our “Eat Well Move Well Think Well Rest Well” mantra for wellness)

I contend that it (exercising as described above) isn’t enough.  Now you’re just mad at me.  After all, don’t I understand how hard it is to get 5 hours a week in?

The short answer is yes, I do understand.  But stay with me here.  If you drive 30 minutes or so to work as most people do (some in the Houston area WISH they only drove for 30 minutes to work), and you work at a job that has you sitting 8-10 hours, and you spend 30 minutes heading home, only to sit on your couch watching the TV or staring at phone/computer screens the rest of the evening, then NO.  You are NOT moving well.  You are sedentary, with the exception of that 5 hours/week.

How do you solve this?  Well you can’t usually change up your drive time much.  I guess you could stop every now and then on the side of the road and exercise, but I wouldn’t recommend that.  I do recommend that you find ways to move throughout the day.  Set a timer on your phone.  Use a fitness band that can tell when you’ve been sedentary (Fitbit lets you know if you’ve not gotten at least 250 steps in an hour).  Get up and bust out a few steps.  Head to the water fountain and bathroom.  Get up and do a set of jumping jacks. I know one person who works from home in front of a computer all day, and every hour he does 10 burpees (that’s pretty radical, but he’s very fit).

At home, because I like to watch some sports on TV, I use the commercials for movement.  I get up and walk to the kitchen, clean up a few things (my wife loves that), or walk to the bathroom and back etc.  There are many ways to get your body moving more.  You just have to get a bit creative.

By the way, I highly recommend fitness bands like the Fitbit.  They are a motivator and great at tracking how much movement you get  on a day in day out basis.  Set goals and see if you can hit them.  Have fun with it.  Do what it takes to move well!

Until next time, be well! (by moving well)

Dr. Bruce

You Can’t Out-Exercise “Sitting Disease”

So you like to exercise?  And you think you’re pretty active right?  You run/walk/exercise 1 hour or so/day, 5 days a week.  That’s good right?

Yes it is.  And if you do this, kudos to you.  You are ahead of the game….if the game means moving more than the average Joe.  The problem is…..the average Joe is sick and dying.  And you’re comparing yourself to them.  Not a good idea.

Why do I say this?  I’m so glad you asked.

You cannot out-exercise a bad diet. That’s pretty common knowledge.  But did you know you can’t out-exercise the culture of sitting we’ve developed in our country?

Think about this.  Let’s say you get up and go work out for an hour early in the morning.  You shower and hop in your vehicle and drive 30 minutes to work.  You then sit all day, 6-8 hours, maybe more.  Then you hop in your vehicle and drive another 30 minutes home.  Now you sit down and eat dinner, then finish the evening up with sitting down to watch TV, or work some more via computer etc.  You’ve now spent 12 or more hours sitting.  Your measly 1 hour of exercise will not offset that.  After all, your exercise only makes up around 5 percent or so of your day.  The other 95% is sedentary.  That’s a losing recipe in the world of wellness.

Instead of thinking about designated exercise time, think about movement.  Movement includes your time exercising, but it also transcends it.  We are genetically designed to move throughout our day.  We need to set up reminders to move.  Using an alarm on your watch or phone is good.  The new fitbits remind with a vibration when you’ve not moved enough in the last hour.  Use those tools to get up and do 10 jumping jacks. Walk around the office.  Take a restroom break.  Walk to the water cooler.  Even taking a stroll around the building or inside your office breaks up the monotony of your sedentary  time.  It’s been shown that two minutes of light activity per hour can lower your risk of dying by 1/3 according to the Journal of Nephrology.

If you’re unfamiliar with the risks associated with too much sitting and being sedentary,  Here is a great link to check out.  I promise you’ll be surprised how sitting affects us physically and physiologically.

And for more ideas on how to combat this insidious illness causing habit, click here.  Please just start moving more.  In my time walking planet earth I’ve seen the huge decrease in activity levels.  A generation or so ago, none of  us had all of the things we have now to entertain us from a seated position.  Heck, even our blue collar jobs have become more sedentary with the ability to use computers to monitor so much in our workplace. It’s a trend and a tragedy.

We are designed to move.  Decide to do something today to improve/increase your movement patterns.  Move well and move often!

Until next time….Be well!

The Perfect Storm For Illness

Look around.

You’re in it right now as we speak.

The perfect storm for getting sick.

Scared yet?

Don’t be.

This time of year begins to set us all up for increased odds of illness.  You know it as the “cold and flu season”.  Newsflash:  There’s no “season” for colds and flu.  Do you honestly think that the cold and flu viruses are like the birds that fly south for the winter?  Do they have an innate timer that says it’s time to go to North America for the next 3-4 months?  Then where do they go after that?

What’s more likely is that we are in that perfect storm of illness, or more correctly, the perfect storm of lowered immune response.  Why?  Good question.  Read on for that and how to beat it.

  1.  Vitamin D.  This time of year we get exposed to less and less sunshine, which equates to lower and lower vitamin D levels.  Vitamin D levels are directly related to immune response.  Supplement with a solid Vitamin D3 to combat it.  I personally take about 4000 IU a day.
  2. Stress.  Especially this month, during the Christmas season, we are exposed to more stress.  Holiday parties, shopping, extra cooking, hosting gatherings, dealing with family members that rub you wrong etc.  All of this adds to your stress levels, releasing more cortisone in your body, thus reducing your immune systems ability to recognize and fight off bacteria and viruses.  Take time to slow down, sit back and enjoy the season.  Watch a good Christmas movie with the family.  Maybe go to the mall just to watch the people and enjoy the decorations.  Take time to relax
  3. Exercise.  The less than ideal weather for being outside tends to make us less active.  Sitting on our backsides leads to decreased immune response and exercise has been shown to improve immunity.  And, linking back to the stress issue, exercise reduces the effects of stress on your body.  So move it regularly!
  4. Sugar.  Sugar.  Sugar.  There’s just so much more of it available during the holidays.  There’s definitive links between sugar and the immune system..  Unfortunately, every time we turn around this season there’s more chance to consume more sugar.  So, when NOT at a holiday event, be sure to fuel yourself smartly!  Eat plenty of raw fruits and veggies, drink hot teas, plain coffees, lots of water (yes we can be well underhydrated in the winter) and avoid too many sugar or processed treats!  Focus on planning out your meals to reduces unhealthy binging!

So, that’s why we have this “season”, and how to battle it out while it’s here. Pick two of these to work on, then once those are part of your lifestyle, work on some more!

Until next time….Be well!

Dr. Bruce

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Open Note Of Thanks…

…from Dr. Bruce.

I have so much that I am grateful for, daily.  Not just today on Thanksgiving, though it is a bigger focus this time of year.

Today I want to say thank you to my patients.

You have no clue how fun it has been for 26 years to be able to care for the thousands of people that have wandered into my life through my office.

You have no clue how much I LOVE seeing YOUR names on the list for any given day in the office.

You have no clue how energized I feel after taking care of my patients at the end of the day, even if my “white collar job” requires “blue collar effort”.

You have no clue how much it pains me to see some of you hurting physically, and sometimes emotionally in your lives.

You have no clue how excited I get to share new information with you that can impact your health (ok some of you know how excited I get about that, when I won’t shut up…much to your chagrin)

You have no clue how many of you have become part of the fabric of my life over these last couple of decades.

You have no clue how much I look forward to seeing you guys again this coming Monday.

Thank you for letting me be part of your life, and for becoming so vital a part of mine.

As a baseball fan, I love hearing Lou Gehrig’s words to the fans:  “Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth.” I quite often feel that way in my office because of you.

Happy Thanksgiving.

“Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God.”  Philippians 1:3

Thanksgiving: The Other 1/2 Of The Word

Well, here it is again.

Yep.  The holidays.  They’re upon us.

I’m a holiday fanatic.  I love, LOVE the holiday season.  I love the time off.  I love the time spent with family and friends.  I love the food. I love the festiveness.  As a Christian I love the focus on the birth of our savior Christ Jesus.

And I love that it all starts with Thanksgiving.  I’ve written often about gratitude and posted many articles on social media relating to how beneficial gratitude is for our health. (For a recent article on how gratitude affects the brain, click HERE ).  Then there’s the 30 day Thankfulness challenge we always see on social media every year.  The truth is, if we all focused on being grateful all year long (not just for 30 days), it would have amazing, and infinitely positive effects on our brain, in our relationships, in our day to day living, and on our souls.

But today, let’s focus briefly on the other 1/2 of the word.  Thanks-GIVING.  Sure, the easy out is to say well it’s about GIVING thanks.  But I think there’s more there, there.  I want to challenge us as a people to focus on the GIVING .  Not just in the weeks heading up to Thanksgiving, but as a lifestyle. What would happen if instead of just giving thanks….we instead would just GIVE?

I’m willing to bet that we’d find that the rewards go far beyond just giving thanks.  If all of us would take time every day to ask, “Where can I be a giver today?”, we would change our immediate circle of influence, meaning our family and closest friends.  Think of the example that would set for our closest associations.  What if just a small percentage of those folks, impacted by your giving, took the torch and ran with it because of what you did?  Do you see the power in that?  Especially if it’s not just as season in your life that happens every November?

I promise you, if you focus on giving, you’ll have even more to be thankful for all around you. But don’t do it for that reason.  Do it because you can.  Because it’s right.

So give it a whirl in your life.  Focus on the “other” 1/2 of ThanksGIVING!

Enjoy your holidays friends.  I wish you peace.

Dr. Bruce