Bodies in Motion: Embodying Empowerment by Becoming More Active in Life, Crystal Cooper

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We are in a pivotal time for actively reclaiming our power.

At this decisive point in human history, we have the opportunity to change our direction for the benefit of all. As our current circumstances require, we (at the time of this writing) stay inside our homes and are likely pondering the future. Within this time, we may find a new, ironic sense of liberation. By embracing the need to live more self-reliantly and sustainably, we naturally become more active. By becoming more present in our bodies, rather than trapped in our minds, we can empower ourselves to relieve stress, find calm, restore vitality, and regain our sovereignty.

Though our minds may be full of uncertainty and confusion in these changing times, our bodies know very well what we genuinely need—to live in a comfortable and safe place, eat nourishing food, drink clean water, breathe fresh air, exercise regularly, and get adequate deep rest. The possibilities for revolutionizing our lives may be infinite; however, they all have something in common—action. The action required may vary from meditation on emotional health to intense physical training and more, as everyone’s story will be different. Our authority comes through deciding to make beneficial moves in our lives. By focusing on what we can take action on, energy moves and frustrations neutralize.

By merging creativity, mindfulness, and curiosity, adaptations on movement are vast.

Experimenting with different modalities, as well as developing one, are both admirable approaches for getting mobile. One ancient, well-loved physical practice is hatha yoga. This physical branch of yoga unites the mind and breath with the body through a flow of poses. Both restorative and strengthening, it can prevent injury and support longevity. There are many styles of yoga, making it accessible for all. Another traditional system of coordinated body postures is qi gong, which also focuses on the harmony of meditation, breathing, and movement. Its central tenet is the balancing of energy. It is also a basis for martial arts training. Deep healing can be found within these methods, supporting many other areas of life.

When sheltering in place, or maintaining some restrictions, the significance of moving what we can may become more apparent. Deep breathing, getting the blood flowing, and heating up the body cleanses energy and provides grounding. Fast, exciting activities such as running, bouncing on a trampoline, juggling, and dancing can shake up sluggish outlooks. Strength training, working the whole body, and building muscle can help maintain focus when reality appears chaotic. Physical restrictions can inspire us to focus on what we can do and to creatively employ those abilities. Using our bodies for enjoyment, as simply or indulgently as desired, cultivates peace and exercises our freedom.

We can continue to expand our ingenuity to other, more outward necessities of life. For example, reinventing our transportation can be as simple as walking with a backpack, or as inspired as an electric-assisted bicycle equipped with a solar charging battery and storage racks or luggage cart. By returning to more manual forms of labor, we can supersede convenience by reconnecting with quality skill-building. As we reconsider tasks-at-hand during this time, a plethora of creative problem-solving abilities may be unleashed. To regain the impetus to chop wood and carry water, symbolically or literally, is good work. In mastering one’s actions, the lines between training, work, and play may blur.

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Actions such as cultivating our own energy and entertainment, growing our food, and riding bicycles run counter to the practices of the ever-consuming capitalistic economy our society has relied upon, thereby becoming acts of empowerment that resist the old status quo. By focusing inward and nurturing our connection with our bodies, opportunities abound for finding the clarity we need to move forward in harmony and inner sovereignty. Mindful activity is medicinal for our well-being and can also be more sustainable for Earth. And because we are nature and are not separate from it, healing our connection with ourselves simultaneously heals a part of human relationship with Earth.

Regaining control and becoming strong in one area of life can often translate to others.

When you can hold your own on the mat, the trail, or simply within a stressful situation, confidence is built that can be utilized in trying times. By moving through life with a more mindful focus on the body, rather than the mind, toxic stress has less of a chance to build up and create long-term negative effects. This is great for the immune system, and helps foster a more positive mood. Working with this perspective one day at a time can build momentum toward a more instinctual, spirited way of existing.

Each person’s movement will look different; however, the magic is in the sum of the parts, in people coming together. The cornucopia of abilities and resources of a united community creates a powerful, ever-evolving entity. The mightiest feats we can accomplish in the world begin with the work we do individually to dream and create and act from an inspired place. In solidarity with our communities and on massive scales, this intention could help humanity move in a healthier, more harmonious, and unified direction.

Crystal Cooper has called Marquette and the northwoods home for over a decade. An NMU graduate in biology ecology, she enjoys studying plants and writing. Passionate about natural healing modalities as well as personal and global sustainability, Crystal advocates yoga and other resiliency-promoting actions within the community.

Excerpted with permission from the Summer 2020 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2020, Empowering Lightworks, LLC.

Senior Viewpoint: Nutrition Essential to Fighting Infection, Dr. Conway McLean, DABFAS, FAPWHc, FAMIFAS

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The attention devoted to sickness and health is omnipresent these days, and with good reason. The pandemic is filling the airwaves and prompting fear in the hearts of many. What we need is accurate information, smart practices. This is where the knowledge of the physician specializing in infectious disease, one who knows the immune system intimately, can be invaluable.

So what specifically is the immune system? It’s the part of the body devoted to fighting off invading micro-organisms that are a part of our world. The complexity and effectiveness of our immune system is nothing short of staggering.

What are the functions of the immune system? This system is critical for survival. Our immune system is constantly alert, monitoring for signs of an invading organism. The immune system functions to keep us free of infection, be it through the skin, a skin structure, or our intestinal lining. Cells of the immune system must be able to distinguish self from something else, i.e. “non-self.”

By now it is well-recognized the COVID-19 virus is more dangerous in the elderly.

A decline in immune function is consistently observed among older adults. Aging is also associated with increased inflammation in the absence of infection and has been found to predict infirmity. The result is seniors are more susceptible to infections and have more serious complications when they get one.

The term for this decline in immune function is immunosenescence. It reflects the deterioration of both components of the immune system—the acquired and the innate. The innate system is the ‘first responder’ to an alien invasion (of a microbe). The cells of the innate system act quickly, but are not specialized. The innate system is generally less effective than the adaptive immune response. The adaptive response is able to recognize a specific invading organism and remember it later, if exposed again.

Scientists specializing in the role of macronutrients, micronutrients, and the gut microbiome are convinced they all play a critical role in the functioning of our immune system. It turns out to be an incredibly complex system, with a multitude of factors and variables. Up until recently, we knew next to nothing about our gut bacteria and its complex interaction with our health and immunity. We do know one crucial part of gut health, not surprising, is our diet. But there are many ways to optimize the effectiveness of our immunity.

Your nutrition can affect the microbes residing in your guts, directly altering your immune response.

The  microbial community in the mammalian gut is a complex and dynamic system, crucial for the development and maturation of every facet of our immune response. The complex interaction between available nutrients, the microbiota, and the immune system seems to be the most important ‘player’ in the fight against invading pathogens.

What does it take to have a healthy immune system?

We know well many micronutrient deficiencies have been identified as contributors to declining immunity. It is believed these could provide opportunities for directed therapies for potentially restoring immune function, creating better health through improved nutrition.

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Some proffered recommendations: eat yogurt for breakfast! Apparently, the probiotics strengthen the immune system, as revealed by a study on athletes and their colds and GI infections. Yogurt is also rich in vitamin D, which also boosts your immune system.

Vitamin C is well-recognized as an extremely important part of an effective immune system, and a deficit can make you more prone to getting sick. Because your body cannot store it, daily intake is essential for good health. Foods rich in vitamin C include oranges, grapefruits, strawberries, bell peppers, spinach, kale, and broccoli.

Vitamin B6 supports many of the reactions that are integral to immune function. Foods high in B6 include chicken and cold water fish (e.g. salmon and tuna), and green vegetables. Another important vitamin for fighting infection is E, which is a powerful antioxidant. Foods rich in vitamin E include nuts, seeds, and spinach.

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Some people think of tea as something consumed in the movies, yet studies reveal alkylamine, a naturally occurring chemical in tea, strengthens the immune system, again, helping it fight off infection more effectively. Honey has centuries of use because of its medicinal properties. Numerous reviews find honey, an antioxidant, acts as a natural immunity booster. So you might want to add it to your tea for both flavor and health benefits.

Another suggestion made by researchers is to eat more garlic, since it seems to stimulate many different cell types essential to the immune system. Ginger, another powerful antioxidant, has antiviral properties, probably a good idea these days. Consume more lemon. Lemon juice is high in vitamin C, and can be used for its antioxidant properties and to prevent the common cold.

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How about a bowl of chicken soup? Thought by some to simply be a comfort food, the dish has a mild anti-inflammatory effect. Ingredients in the classic recipe (chicken, garlic, onion, celery, etc.) have been found to slow the migration of white blood cells into the upper respiratory tract, helping to relieve the symptoms of a cold. Additionally, a compound found in chicken soup called carnosine seems to prevent colds. How about a nice bowl of curcumin? This is a component in the spice called turmeric. Studies have shown curcumin helps to regulate the immune system.

Zinc is known to be an important micronutrient for the immune system. Even a mild deficiency in zinc has been associated with widespread defects in the immune response. Look to fish, seeds, nuts, and broccoli as good food sources. Selenium is a trace element that also has critical functional, structural, and enzymatic roles. Inadequate selenium is associated with a higher risk for a variety of chronic diseases since it is critical to immune function. Foods containing higher levels of this mineral include spinach, lentils, eggs, and fish.

Some recommendations for immune health are related more to lifestyle modifications.

Make workouts a part of your weekly regimen since regular exercise increases the activity of immune cells. Exercise also seems to flush bacteria out of your lungs, reducing the likelihood of an airborne illness. Experts suggest moderate levels of intensity, performed 4 to 5 times a week for 30-40 minutes.

Staying hydrated is required for immune health. Water helps your body produce lymph, which carries white blood cells and other immune cells. Sun exposure is important (although difficult in certain climes) since it is the most efficient way to stock up on vitamin D, an immune system supercharger. Surprisingly little is needed, just 15 to 20 minutes a day, to get the recommended dosage.

Getting the flu shot can improve your immune profile, and has been approved for all adults. Smoking suppresses the immune system generally, so quitting helps lower the risk of infectious disease. Smoking also damages the lining of our “windpipes,” explaining why smokers are much more likely to catch a cold virus.

Because of their effectiveness, nutritional therapies should be getting prescribed in the typical medical practice, though this has been rarely and inconsistently recommended. This therapeutic approach should be utilized more consistently in those demonstrating poor immune function, as well as healthy populations.

Our understanding of the risk factors for immune system dysregulation is far from complete.

We can say definitively that adopting these and related strategies will optimize your chances of reducing or delaying the onset of immune-mediated acute and chronic diseases. In summary, I would say, you have a road map. Your course of action, a plan for better health, can now be laid. Perhaps it is time for positive changes in your routine, and thereby your health. Though giant steps are hard to take, small ones require only a step, and if taken in the right direction, lead to the larger changes you choose.

Dr. Conway McLean is a physician practicing foot and ankle medicine and surgery in the Upper Peninsula (Marquette and Escanaba). McLean is triple board certified in surgery, wound care, and orthotic therapy. He has lectured internationally on many topics. Dr. McLean welcomes questions at drcmclean@outlook.com.

Excerpted with permission from the Summer 2020 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2020, Empowering Lightworks, LLC.

Community Improvement: All is Possible, Garee Zellmer

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At the very beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak (already a lifetime ago, it seems), I was participating in a world-wide live, online, interactive, professional development presentation. Four insights came to mind during and after the session. I jotted them down to memorialize these thoughts.

Insight #1 – Every single person (or almost) on this planet is affected by this virus in one way or another.

Joining the session were attendees from all over the world – Australia, Korea, Nicaragua, Israel, U.S., Canada, England, South Africa, Norway… everywhere. During the check- in of the session, the presenter asked us to write a word or two about how we were feeling in that moment, especially in light of the world-wide COVID-19 situation. In the feed visible on the screen, words describing every emotion popped up, from one end of the spectrum to the other.

Insight #2 – We all have different circumstances, and our particular, unique, situation influences how this virus impacts us.

Everyone around the world is being asked to “turn on a dime” to accommodate the change and/or adjust to the circumstances, but to differing degrees.

I thought of my own situation. For the most part, nothing has changed dramatically in my life. My private life coaching practice continues (with a few adjustments), my “retirement” resources are stable, my shopping needs are met by generous friends.

And yet, all I need do is look out the window or zip in and out of the news to see that there are others whose lives have been turned completely upside-down, some losing jobs, some having to make quick changes (such as the grocery industry) to accommodate customers and regulations. It is true around the world.

Insight #3 – Everyone on the globe agrees we have a problem.

I cannot think of another time in history where ONE ISSUE–world-wide–exists that everyone agrees is a problem and requires a cooperative effort to secure a solution.

Insight #4 – ANYTHING is Possible

While it didn’t take long before the bickering and blaming started about where fault lies for the pandemic, in that brief instant, for one tiny slice of time, as a world we felt as ONE, with a shared purpose and objective. Political and geographic boundaries and differences in ideologies, theologies, and affiliations were set aside in favor of finding a solution that benefits all.

Arguments for “we can’t,” “impossible,” “never can happen,” just don’t hold water anymore. No matter the size of the disagreement–from a neighbor dispute over barking dogs to a hundred-year war somewhere in the world–we stand witness that working together toward resolution is possible.

The only question remaining is “Are we willing?”

Garee Zellmer is a professional co-active coach, graduate of the California-based Coaches Training Institute and their internationally acclaimed Leadership Program, and a member of the International Coach Federation.

Excerpted with permission from the Summer 2020 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2020, Empowering Lightworks, LLC.