Study Shows Vitamin D Prevents Major Pregnancy Complications

sun in trees

An important 2009 study shows that Vitamin D plays a very important role in preventing pregnancy complications. This is in addition to other studies that demonstrate the importance of getting enough of the sunshine vitamin while pregnant.

This particular study, carried out by Dr. Bruce Hollis and Dr. Carol Wagner of the Medical University of South Carolina, gave 600  women of various races, 4000 IU of Vitamin D per day, and followed them throughout their pregnancies and beyond (for 2.5 years). The control group received 400 IU per day, the official recommended amount of Vitamin D.

In the group receiving 4000 IU of Vitamin D, there were half the premature births as the c0ntrol group. Fewer babies who were “small for date” were born in the 4000 IU group. The treatment group also had 25% fewer infections. The “core morbidities” of pregnancy were reduced by 30%; these include diabetes, preeclampsia, and high blood pressure. Additionally, babies getting extra Vitamin D also suffered from fewer colds and less eczema after birth. In other words, consuming 4000 IU of Vitamin D per day, 10 times the RDA, was associated with better health of mother and child. And, during the course of the study, there were no adverse effects reported from taking that much Vitamin D.

Sadly, many Americans have now lost the ability to make Vitamin D because we are in the autumn, and the sun’s rays are not strong enough to cause our skins to produce Vitamin D. This means many mothers (and babies) will be at risk of preventable pregnancy complications, unless they take Vitamin D supplements.

Sun and Speed: Why Sunshine And Movement Are Essential To Your Health

fall landscape

No, I am not talking about doing drugs outdoors, but I’m referring to what ancient man (and woman) often experienced. They got a lot of sun, and they probably moved a lot, and it is safe to say that this is what we are probably the life we are meant to experience. While most of us may enjoy sitting down in a temperature-controlled room, we really aren’t physiologically wired to have this sort of experience every day of the year.

Think about it. When, in the history of humankind, until very recently, did people stay inside so much, and do such little activity?  The upper classes, few in number, perhaps had such an experience, but most did not. In fact, most people throughout human history have spent long hours outside and have been, whether as wandering nomads, hunter-gatherers, or simply working the fields, on the move.

You can’t take a human body, designed to be outside, and on the move, and stick it at an desk inside for 10 hours a day, and/or on a couch for 5 hours a day inside, and expect health and happiness. And this could be why many Americans are unhealthy and feel so darn unhappy.

There are many good reasons to actually be out in the sun, and one is Vitamin D production.  Studies show that many diseases are tied to low Vitamin D levels, including autism, cancer, depression, and multiple sclerosis, diseases becoming more common as Americans spend less-and-less time in the sun. While it is true too much sun exposure can increase the risk of easily treatable forms of skin cancer, and increase the rate that your skin will look “ridden hard and put away wet,” as local good-ol boys describe it, sun exposure likely helps prevent difficult-to-treat cancers like breast and colon cancer.

Ok, we need some sun, but do we need speed? Likely. One example is a study that shows that runners live significantly longer than non-runners, in part because running encourages new nerve growth.  And combining the two for some sun and speed, has some benefits as well.  For example, one study found that while exercising indoors reduced depression by 45% , exercising outdoors decreased depression by 71%, almost double the indoor rate. So basically, moving outside is much more effective at treating depression than exercising indoors. This could explain that while exercising at the Y can sometimes be a chore, I rarely have to be prodded to run outside, over the hills outside my old high school.

I often ponder these things while I am running outside, for example, yesterday in the blistering heat, which limited my time outside. One thing I thought of is that in the last 20+ years, we have been taught to value being inside, and honestly, to fear the outside. It seems as if parents are so worried about what may possibly happen to a child, that a lot of the stuff I did growing up outside (that kids had done for years earlier) is now off-limits. So, since a child can’t go outside and play at noon (the sun is too hot and a weird looking redneck just walked by), he sits inside glued to the computer, not that he would even want to go outside anyway, because he can just “go outside” on his video game.  Then when he does go outside for real, the sun has a kind of “it burns, it burns” feel, and being weighed down by too  many bags of snack-size Cheetos, he runs (not literally, of course) for cover for the nearest air-conditioned building. I am basically describing myself as a middle-schooler, except that my mom was never hysterical, and did encourage us to play outside, although since the Nintendo was inside, I often stayed there.

Basically, the point is my post is that a lot of our modern problems, including depression and chronic diseases (like cancer) could be related to the fact that our modern way of living is just contrary to our wiring. Instead of immediately reaching for expensive drugs, long courses of therapy, or self-medicating with drugs, alcohol, or partying, we may just need a little more sun and a little more speed*. Of course, I say this while I type inside with the AC turned up…

* – Obviously depression is a real condition, and it is important to seek a doctor’s advice before going on or off depression medication, or before beginning an exercise program.

My Healthy Christmas List

A lot of us think of the temptations at Christmas (like endless cookies at work and parties in the evenings, with even more cookies, drinks, etc). One way to counter this is to shift your focus to healthy living, and one way to do this is to let your friends and family know that you want gifts that will help you maintain health, as opposed to lose it.

So, what do you get for someone who is really into health and fitness, who is really hard to buy for?

Rather than post this article in two locations, you can finish reading the article here. This is a slightly tongue in cheek article that contains plenty of gifts I actually use.

Should Guys Shave Their Body?

shirtless shaved man

Image courtesy of photostock/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’ll admit, I’m not a huge fan of hair on the body, for either men or women. It’s not a romantic issue because I’m not gay. But, I still feel that even men should shave. I have an aversion of sorts to hair.

But, it’s not just my opinion. If you look around you’ll see that in ads, on television, in the movies, etc. all the good looking guys lack chest and back hair. I’m not going to get into the more intimate spots, but it’s definitely clear that shaving chest hair (as well as back) is becoming the norm.

If you decide on shaving your chest and back hair, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, you may not even want to shave. You can also wax and sugar. You can look those up for more information, but be aware that they are fairly painful.

However, waxing and sugaring do have some benefits. The hair grows back much more slowly than with shaving. You’ll probably have a week without hair and then it’ll be more like stubble for a couple weeks. You likely won’t need to wax again for another month. Also, waxing kills the hair follicles over time, so the hair will become thinner and less healthy.

Second, if you do shave, then you might need a little help. While shaving your chest is easy, it takes some flexibility to shave your back. I typically shave as much of my back as possible, then get help for the remaining parts.

If you’re going to be shaving, it’ll help to also improve your body. After all, if you’re removing the hair, you might as well reveal more of your body and make that body worth revealing.

So, should guys shave their body? For me, the answer is yes. It also seems to be the consensus of popular culture as well.

The Value Of Youth

young girl playingWe live in a very youth oriented culture. Whether this is a good or bad thing can be debated, but you can’t deny that it’s true. Just have a look at all the different products and gimmicks out there for creating a younger look.

The market is saturated with facial creams, miracle supplements, and weight loss products, all of which are aimed at making people look younger. In addition, there are various books and other products that have the sole purpose of teaching people how to look younger at a supposedly reasonable price.

It’s evolutionary in many ways since the valued attraction traits for humans mostly occur when we’re young: six pack abs, raw beauty, athleticism and strength.

So, if you are getting up there in age, you can take comfort in the fact that, at least with attitude, sixty is supposedly the new forty (and I guess that makes forty the new twenty). But, even if you have the best attitude in the entire world, if you look seventy when you’re sixty, it’s not a good thing!

So, when thinking about your eating habits, fitness goals, and overall health, it’s always important to consider the value society places on youth. While looking younger shouldn’t be your main concern (and neither should conforming to society), if you want to be considered beautiful and popular, you’ll at least have to keep in mind the youthfulness connection.

So, we hope you enjoy your Friday! Don’t be depressed about being older. Knowing how to look younger isn’t necessarily that difficult. We have lots of tips on this blog and on some of our companion blog. Live and think young and best of luck in doing it!

Spring is Coming – Get Busy

White spring blossomsSpring is coming, in a few days in fact (this year it is Wednesday, March 20th). Here in Ohio it has seemed pretty cold for the time of year. Admittedly I am a little frustrated that things have been so cold, since I love getting out.

Nonetheless, the weather will be getting better, and the opportunity for outdoor activities will increase. Unfortunately, a lot of people get really excited (and buy all kinds of crazy fitness accessories) during the New Year. In the Northern Hemisphere, this also happens to be a very cold time of the year. Nothing saps your motivation like below freezing temperatures! So, people give up, and their brand new clothes sit in the closet until the next garage sale.

My thought is that a better time to begin an exercise program is the spring.

First, there is the whole spring/renewal connection. Spring is the time that nature renews herself; even animals come out of hibernation as the days get longer.

Second, spring is when the weather gets better. The sun is shining more, and the weather is warmer. It is much easier to get out. There are all kinds of activities available for you: biking, running, hiking, golf, and even more!

So, I suggest making spring 2013 a time to re-boot your exercise and fitness program. Did you abandon your new year’s resolutions? Well, that’s ok, because the spring is here and it’s time to start again. And, if you work hard now, you may fit into your swimsuit too!

It’s About the Inside, Not the Outside

I have been reading a lot about Neurolinguistic Programming lately. In fact, I absolutely love the subject. Some of the insights are changing the way I view life. Among other books, I have been reading Get the Life You Want, by Richard Bandler.

NLP has changed my view on the causes of my emotions. I used to think the world outside determined my view of life. If I got angry, or discouraged, or whatever, it was because stimulus A or B, in the outside world, made me that way. I also viewed my lack of opportunities the same way. If I wasn’t successful, it was either the government’s fault, corporate America, etc. I even blamed my graduate school for my lack of opportunities. However, I missed one key factor in all of this: me. (I should note I still don’t trust the government, the Academy, or big business; however I no longer believe they have any noticeable effect on my future).

Nobody has to react a certain way. Granted we will all face pain (something author Rick Hanson, in Buddha’s Brain, calls ” first darts”), but how we react to, and deal with that pain, depends on how we respond internally. Hanson mentions that we often throw “second darts” at ourselves, self-inflicted pain that is caused by continually reliving past pain, or, in some cases, inventing pain (for example, when there is no actual pain involved, like when we enter a messy room and explode on our kids for making it that way). In other words, our response to just about anything is really an internal issue, not an external one. It is easy to say “I have to be angry, because look at how I have been treated,” but do we really have to be anything?

This is why you can line 100 people up, and an annoying guy can walk up to them, and 40 will get angry, 50 will remain calm, and 10 will just laugh it off and maybe even make friends with the guy. This is very good news really. It means that the big, bad evil world out there doesn’t control us. We can change our perceptions and change our life. Related to this, one maxim I now live by is “there is no failure, just feedback.” Think about it. Successful people take failure, learn from it, and get back up. They may “fail” multiple times, but they know that by coupling determination with a desire to learn from mistakes, they will be successful eventually. People who view their mistakes as “failures” rarely learn, and are so drowned in self-pity that it creates a downward spiral of even more failure. I used to feel this way, and was kind of proud of how “beaten down” by the system I could be.

Again, this is great news. The power to succeed is inside, not outside. It is great news because I can’t control outside forces. If I believe I am a victim (as many in education want us to believe), then I’ll be a victim. Do you know how many times in grad school I was told how awesome it was to be a victim (even if they preferred terms like “oppressed”). Sadly, for many years I pretty much agreed with them and took jobs that didn’t pay me enough, etc. The funny thing is that the tenured professors who told us how great it was to be victims were making great money and living in the best neighborhoods with great security systems.

I am not saying it is easy to feel a different way than you are used to. Most of us have spent a lot of time feeling ways that don’t work for us (if your head is sore from beating it against the same brick wall, it might be an indication an approach isn’t working!). We have literally built careers and lives based on fear, anxiety, etc.  I now believe it doesn’t have to be that way.

Berries and Parkinson’s

I just read about an interesting study that shows that eating berries can reduce your risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. Berries are very high in antioxidants, plant pigments, etc, and are very healthy foods. Coffee also lowers the risk. Apparently the solution to prevent Parkinson’s is to go to a Panera, and enjoy a Wild Berry Smoothie and a coffee. I actually did that last week.

Raising a Millionaire?

I recently bought the book Young Bucks: How to Raise a Future Millionaire for a great price. Since my wife is expecting, I thought it looked interesting. The book, from what I can tell, is about raising a kid with an entrepreneurial attitude. A few years ago, I would have been horrified at such a book, and my visceral reaction would have been negative, but I  have been evaluating my view of work and education lately, as I am aware of my own prospects for job advancement, and the general work situation in America.

I have started questioning the way work “works” in America right now. With a majority of Americans unhappy with their jobs, corporate greed, non-profits squeezing every last drop from their employees, and increased government hassles and regulations, a lot of people just plain aren’t happy with their current job or job prospects. Incomes and benefits are dropping. Our first inclination is usually to blame the individual job or company, so we change  jobs, but then find there isn’t much difference between faceless company A or faceless company B. The same is true of Non-Profit A and Non-Profit B. No matter where we work, it seems like we end up giving the best ideas and time we have so that somebody else benefits (whether the stockholders or institution), and we hope and pray that they give us our fair share (such as raises, benefits, etc), and don’t lay us off when the economy gets a little bad. Basically, we don’t have simple human autonomy. We move far from friends and family just to find that one perfect job, only to find it isn’t really that perfect.

Most of my friends are very frustrated with work. Perhaps it is just a little Facebook over-dramatization, but most aren’t looking for riches, but instead a job that pays fairly and gives them the autonomy to live their lives (e.g. having time with their kids, etc).

One answer to this problem is to resent business, schools, non-profits, etc, and this is the solution many people take (and that I used to take). However, I am convinced now that the answer is not resentment (which only hurts you, not the company), but starting new systems. Instead of working for a bad system, or even changing the system from within, the solution to me is to start something better and compete with the bad: Plant a new tree*. Instead of resenting the financial services sector, start a financial business that does things right and ethically. Instead of lamenting the way stores treat their employees, start a store selling something great and treat your employees right! Instead of complaining that non-profits are inefficient and always begging for money, find a creative way to increase efficiency and get more money.  One of my long-term dreams is to start an energy company that takes advantage of the “crack” in gasoline refining costs, and passes savings onto the consumer so that all the local gas stations aren’t charging the same price (how is that for real competition??). I would love to be the local supplier and station that is always 10 cents or more a gallon lower than the competition.

Ultimately, I don’t care if my child is a millionaire. I want him or her to be happy and have autonomy in life. Research shows that small-business owners are happier than average workers, even though on average, they make less money. I don’t want my child thinking that work=scraping by giving her best for somebody else. If that is what she wants to do (work quietly and happily for somebody else), then I will support that. However, I don’t want this to be the only option. He shouldn’t have to look around at adults hating their jobs and job prospects and think “that will be me someday, beaten down by the very system I am supposed to look forward to.” Whenever someone asks her what she will do when she grows up, good answers will be “in charge” and “happy.”

* – note that for some institutions, I think fixing things from inside is best, as opposed to starting something new. Religions and governments are an example where constant splitting has caused problems. There is value to unity, however not the point of virtual enslavement.

A Fiesta, Not a Feast

As I continue with my exploration of Mindful Eating, I am  now reading a new book, Eating the Moment by Pavel Somov. I am enjoying it so far. Somov recommends 141 tips to be more mindful at meals. I am only finished with 1/3 of the book, but I have already gleaned some interesting tips. One is to have a fiesta instead of a feast. Somov tells us that the word “fiesta” comes from the Latin word for “joy.” His point is to take a holiday, and instead of revolving the whole thing around food, make a non-food activity the “main event” of a holiday.

As I pondered this tip, I realized how many of our holidays revolve around food. I don’t think we would know how to celebrate a holiday without food at the center. However, there are millions of joyful activities out there, it is just a matter of finding them. After our huge meal, Jonathan and I always take an annual Thanksgiving Day hike, if the weather permits. We have done this for years, and often the weather is so nice it is kind of like an Indian Summer. The muted browns and reds of nature from those hikes are deeply burned in my consciousness. The conversation is great, and it is a time to catch up. Looking back, while I appreciate the Thanksgiving meal my mother and grandmother prepare, the hike stands out more than just about anything. The reason is that I typically overeat at the Thanksgiving meal, and end up feeling tired and foggy-minded. Granted, this is my own fault, but my point is that while the meal is good, the hike is invigorating, and not weighed down by the side effects of eating too much.

My point is that who says we couldn’t have an annual Thanksgiving picnic and hike? It always gives me joy. We wouldn’t get rid of the Thanksgiving meal; it just wouldn’t be “about” the meal. The meaning I experience hiking could be the source of joy, rather than the meal that often gets the best of us. More joy and less bloat, mind-fog, and body fat? Sounds like a winning tradition.