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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Using Peppermint Oil for Irritable Bowel Syndrome

GettyImages-1030882342Peppermint oil is a commonly used nutrition remedy for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), other digestive problems (abdominal pain), the common cold, and headaches. We will focus on gut health in this blog. This remedy has been mentioned in records from ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt and is becoming more popular in the modern age.

It is suggested that peppermint oil in enteric-coated capsules may improve IBS-related symptoms, such as abdominal pain. A meta-analysis evaluated 726 patients across nine studies, all of which were assessing the use of peppermint oil for treatment of IBS. All the studies showed a significant improvement in IBS symptoms and abdominal pain. The only adverse effect commonly noted was heartburn. Furthermore, another study was done where 65 IBS patients completed the study. There was a placebo group and a group treated with peppermint oil. Over the course of six weeks, those taking peppermint oil said abdominal pain (upset stomach, bloating, and gas) markedly improved, whereas the placebo group saw no significant changes. No other IBS symptoms improved. Two weeks after trials ended, the pain score increased back to the normal (same report as prior to treatment).

Drug Interactions and Additive Effects

According to the literature, the most common drug interaction is enteric-coated peppermint oil capsules taken at the same time as antacids. It is suggested that the two not be taken together, because the enteric coating will be broken down too quickly, which can result in heartburn.

Side Effects

Peppermint oil has been recognized as safe. Possible side effects associated with peppermint oil include allergic reaction and heartburn. The most common side effect associated with peppermint oil supplementation is heartburn, especially among those with IBS.

The Clinical Bottom Line

A significant amount of research shows that peppermint oil supplementation in those with IBS helps reduce abdominal pain. Additionally, it is safe. I would suggest someone struggling with IBS take peppermint oil. However, if they begin to experience excessive heartburn, I would suggest not taking peppermint oil or making sure they are not taking it with an antacid. Furthermore, it is important to remember that peppermint leaf is NOT the same thing as peppermint oil. Peppermint oil is going to be more concentrated and has the research to back up the benefits. On the contrary, peppermint leaf will be less toxic and does not have the research to support usage. 

Further Research

Much of the research done to prove peppermint oil helps with IBS was short term. Not many studies have looked into the long-term effects and safety of supplementing peppermint oil. Thus, I believe future research should look into that.

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This blog was written by Sabrina Goshen, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: digestion supplements illness prevention dietary supplements IBS irritable bowel syndrome

“We’re Not in Kansas Anymore”: Take a Breath to Relieve Stress

GettyImages-544661136In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy woke up after a terrible storm in a world she didn’t recognize. The normal that she had known no longer existed. We are “not in Kansas” (or Indiana, for that matter) anymore after COVID-19 erupted around the world. Normal is gone for the time being. Some people have lost jobs and incomes, or are forced to work from home. Some have had or are fighting the disease, and some unfortunately have lost their lives.

We Are All Experiencing Stress

We have one thing in common. We are all experiencing stress. The level of that stress can vary greatly from one individual to another, but it is chronic “fight or flight” that takes a serious toll on mental and physical health. It distorts your moment-to-moment perceptions and experiences and your relationships, and clouds the bright light of hope. But we have tools to reground ourselves and loosen the constricting pressure of the stress anaconda.

Formal exercise and physical exertion (such as gardening and dog walking) release endorphins, your body’s own pain reliever and mood elevator. With the gym currently closed, we have posted workout ideas (blogs and videos). Knowing that the refrigerator is just too inviting, we have nutritional support as well. But now I want to focus on a different strategy for reducing stress: breathwork.

Breathwork

Your breathing is both automatic and self-regulated. But it is the controlling of your breath that can have an amazing impact on your quality of life. Yes, I know you have been breathing all your life, but that doesn’t mean you have been doing it correctly, especially when we live in a culture that worships flat stomachs and six-pack abs. Most people don’t use the diaphragm properly in breathing, and they don’t get incoming air deep into the largest area of the lungs. Let’s fix that.

The Complete Breath, Part 1

Try this breathing exercise for a few minutes with your focus on two places: the air passing in through the tip of your nose and the upward movement of your abdomen as air fills the lower lungs, slow and gentle as the air moves in and out.

  • Lie on the floor face up.
  • Bend your knees upward with the soles of your feet flat on the ground.
  • Place your right hand on your lower abdominals about 2 inches below your navel and put your left hand on the center of your chest.
  • Breathe out (don’t strain) and slowly breathe in through your nose.
  • Keep your attention on your hands. Which moved first, the right hand on your lower abdomen or your left hand on your chest? If you’re using your diaphragm correctly, your right hand should have moved first.
  • Key: Slow breaths, this slow movement calms the sympathetic nervous system and allows the parasympathetic nerve system to relax the body and mind. Stress can affect organs and tissue adversely, so calming the mind by slowing and controlling the breath can positively affect your body as well.

The Complete Breath, Part 2

  • Now place your hands on your bottom two ribs at the 10 and 2 o’clock positions and repeat the preceding exercise.
  • Instead of just feeling your abdomen raise straight up, with your hands more toward your sides, you should now feel the abdomen movement moving outward as well.
  • The entire area should be relaxing, and more air should be moving in and out with each inhalation and exhalation.
  • The next step is to gently inhale more to the point where the upper rib cage starts to fill and the ribs start to rise. As you exhale, the upper ribs will sink before the air is released from the lower abdomen.
  • Do not force the volume of the inhalation. This can do more harm than good and introduces stress into the breathing process, which is what you’re trying to release.

Graduate-level Breath

  • Consider the low back/mid-abdomen as a clock face. The navel is 12 o’clock and the lumbar spine is 6 o’clock. Left side is 9 o’clock and the right side is 3 o’clock.
  • The challenge now is to see if you can breathe just into each part of the clock face.
  • Stomach up and down first then hold the stomach flat and breathe by moving the low back up and down.
  • Next hold the stomach and low back in place and breathe by allowing just the sides to move in and out.
  • Now sit up with your back straight and breathe into all sections at the same time.
  • Key: It is not easy, but it is certainly an interesting challenge and you will learn how much of your body can be involved in the act of moving air in and out.

Another Benefit: Stronger Lungs

COVID-19 is the elephant in the room. Whatever you can do to maintain your physical and emotional/mental health will help you get through this. Besides the stress-reduction benefits of breathwork, remember that COVID-19 is a respiratory virus, highjacking cells and through protein synthesis spreading through surrounding tissue. Deep-breathing exercises can wake up lung tissue that has had little use and bring more flexibility into the lungs. Healthier lungs support a healthier you.

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This blog was written by Rick Huse, CSCS, WKC Competition Coach. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: stress relief illness prevention covid-19 coronavirus breathwork breathing exercises

Staying on Track with Your Healthy Routine During Quarantine

GettyImages-1215666910Take these next few weeks or so and use them to your advantage. We know this is an extremely challenging time, and we want to make sure you feel like you are taken care of. Circumstances are tricky right now, so even if you adopt one new technique, consider that a win! Don’t expect yourself to “eat the rainbow” every day, feel like you fall asleep easily at night from a relaxing day working at home in your pajamas, or get in a 10-mile run each morning. While you shelter at home and stay healthy, keep these tips in mind.

Create balanced meals with shelf-stable products.

Use fresh produce first, and if you feel like you won’t finish your fresh produce before it spoils, freeze it. Try to make half of your plate produce such as spinach, tomatoes, green beans, peppers, or cauliflower. Add some protein like beans (canned or dried) or tofu, and quality carbohydrates like sweet potatoes, butternut squash, potatoes, or quinoa. Remember, beans and grains will get you all of the essential amino acids you need, so don’t shy away from trying shelf-stable beans in place of your usual fresh meat. (Here are some meatless meal staples to look for.)

Have a plan for your meals.

Think “first-in, first-out” and make sure to use your fresh produce and proteins first in order to prevent spoilage. Create a meal plan list for the week and utilize one meal’s leftovers to create the next night’s meal to avoid wasting food. For example, if you had plain white rice to add to a veggie-stir-fry on Monday, consider keeping some white rice on the side to make rice and bean burritos for dinner the next night!

Keep food fun!

Get the family together and have fun experimenting during the week to see who can come up with the most creative meals. It’s like an episode of “Chopped” in your kitchen! You never know what some instant mashed potato flakes mixed with some flour and spices could turn into—potato pancakes perhaps. And make sure to not only keep healthy snacks in the house like nuts, carrot sticks, or apples for nourishment, but some of your favorite comfort foods will go a long way in lifting everyone’s spirits. We have had a lot of fun making popcorn in a pan and homemade bread this week.

Line up activities to do.

Plan a play date for the kids via FaceTime or Zoom. Schedule a remote “girls’ night out” and chat in the basement while watching the same TV show. Don’t go more than a few days without checking in on your friends.

Try meditation and stress-reducing activities.

There are several apps on the market that aim to help you meditate and fall asleep at night. It’s worth a try just to download one and listen while you are in bed at night. Coloring, doing puzzles, going for walks, and virtual therapy sessions with a counselor are other ways to put your mind at ease.

Stay healthy, stay calm—we’ve got this!

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This blog was written by Lindsey Hehman, MA, RD, CD. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition stress attitude wellness meditation illness prevention meal planning quarantine covid-19

7 Things You Can Do to Avoid Cabin Fever

GettyImages-1185186125It goes without saying; we’re living through some pretty odd times. With the onset of COVID-19, many of our lives have been flipped on their heads. For some, there has been less structure, and maybe a little more downtime, and that has the potential to make even the sanest of them all go a little stir-crazy.

Here are a few things that you can do today to help break the monotony (or break that Netflix binge) and add some flavor to your day.

Learn to play a new card or board game.

Remember that time your friends from Michigan asked if you wanted to play Euchre, and you responded with a shrug and said, “I’ve never played, can you teach me?” But they were too competitive to have the patience to do so? Is this oddly specific? Yes. But now is a perfect time to pick up a new game to play around the kitchen table. Whether its Euchre (I’m still working on it), Catan, or even perfecting your Poker face, take a break from professional development and instead work on learning a new game.

Play a round of Chopped: Home Pantry Edition.

For those of you who don’t frequent the Food Network, Chopped is a show in which four chefs compete against each other. In each round there are four “basket ingredients.” These basket ingredients must be used in some way, shape, or form, and typically end up being some off-the-wall, unexpected item that must then be used to create an appetizer, entrée, or dessert. After you’ve reorganized your pantry (because goodness knows there’s time now), take that flavored olive oil, an overly ripe banana, a packet of oatmeal, and a can of tuna and see what you come up with! Okay, maybe use some more tasty items, but you get the idea. Now, grab that apron and get cooking!

Reorganize your living room furniture.

This has the built-in benefit of killing two birds with one stone. Not only do you try your hand at being Joanna Gaines (you know, from Fixer Upper), but you also engineer a little extra movement into your day. Sometimes just a quick rearrangement can make that space you’ve been spending a lot more time in feel brand new. Just make sure you don’t take it a step too far and channel your inner Chip Gaines for a demo-day. (Jokes!)

Make a scrapbook of that awesome vacation from 3 years ago.

We all know you probably took a bajillion pictures when you were out West on that road trip, many of which didn’t make the Instagram cut. So break out the scissors, cardboard, stickers from all the places you explored, and of course all the goofy photos you snapped, and get down to business!

Finally finish that book that’s been sitting on your bedside table.

We’ve all seen those articles, right? Something along the lines of “How CEOs Read 247 Books a Week.” Well now’s a great chance to pick up that half-read book and finish the darn thing! Even if you’re not a bonafide bookworm, maybe check out something like a history of your favorite sports team, a biography from a standup comedian you love, or the book version of one of your favorite movies or shows to see how they compare.

Call a loved one or a friend you want to reconnect with.

While we’re adjusting to this new normal and practicing social distancing, that doesn’t mean that social isolation has to be part of the equation. As humans, we are social creatures by nature. So, that quick phone call to check in on your mom or dad, your good friend from college, or that coworker you really miss can go a long way in lifting your spirits, as well as theirs.

If you’re restless, get up and move!

As a blog writer for a fitness center, this one may seem like “duh, Lauren, we get it.” And I know most of us have probably had our Facebook page, Instagram timeline, and Twitter feed bombarded with versions of at-home workouts. But I think there is a lot of truth behind the notion that movement is medicine. If you’re restless, do a one-minute workout. If the weather’s nice where you are, get outside for a breath of literal fresh air. If you have a makeshift garage gym, blast some “Eye of the Tiger” and duplicate a Rocky training montage. However you choose to move, chances are you’ll come out in a better mood on the other side.

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This blog was written by Lauren Zakrajsek, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor, Personal Trainer, and Internship Coordinator. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: attitude mindset illness prevention mental health quarantine covid-19 coronavirus

Pivot: Ways to Adjust Your Mindset and Grow During Quarantine

GettyImages-637192394During these unprecedented times of self- and mandated quarantines and stay-at-home orders, it can be easy to slip into a negative mindset accompanied by fear of the unknown and worry about how you are going to get through this. Self-quarantine does not have to be void of self-improvement. Social media is drenched with ideas and strategies to keep up your physical fitness at home with a million bodyweight workouts and DIY fitness equipment ideas. I’m partial to the elite content that the NIFS pros are providing daily, obviously, but there is no shortage of methods out there to keep moving at home. But what about emotional and mental fitness, and how to continue the work on YOU that makes us strong individuals inside and out?

A motto that I live by daily is to focus on how you choose to react to an unavoidable situation and not let the situation itself dictate your response. Many things are out of our control, but we can control the way we react. I’m sure you’ve seen that poster sometime in your life, and I think it is the only way you can actually control a situation you find yourself in. This fight against COVID-19 is no different; the situation itself is out of our control, but the way we choose to react and manage the situation is.

Strategies for Mindset Pivot

So how can we PIVOT our mindset and continue our self-growth through this crazy situation? I have a few strategies that you can put in place right away, starting with the mindset PIVOT.

Be Grateful

List and define the things that you are grateful for right now. Obviously, this is not an ideal situation we are all going through, but what are the things that you have or that are going on in your life that you are so thankful for? Here are a few of mine:

  • I’m healthy.
  • My loved ones are healthy.
  • I’m still able to remain employed and help others.
  • I have a safe and comfortable home.
  • I have ample food.

I’ll bet as soon as you put pen to paper and write out those things you are grateful for, you will begin to pivot to a more positive mindset.

Laugh

Find ways to laugh daily. Maybe it’s listening to your favorite comedian or catching a comedy on Netflix. Laughter can change a mindset pretty quickly and will focus attention away from the troubling news we face these days.

Connect

Spend time with your family that is with you and reach out to those who are not. You have some time now to really connect with the people you care about the most. Play a game with the kids, call someone you haven’t talked to in a while, send an email, or Skype. There are so many ways you can connect with others. Stay connected; you have the time now.

Move

There are a number of ways you can remain active at home. As I stated before, there is no shortage of drills and workouts you can do with little and no equipment online and on social media. Follow your NIFS Pros on IG and Facebook and be sure to check out our blogs for a ton of fitness strategies you can do at home:

Be sure to PLAY as well, an aspect of fitness that often gets overlooked. Play and smile!

Strategies for Self-Growth

Even though you may be a homebody these days, it doesn’t mean you have to stop the growth of who you are as an individual, professional, parent, sibling, and other identities that you carry with you. The list of things you can do to grow and not slow down during this time is long. Here are just a few to wet your whistle:

  • Read a book(or books) covering a topic you want to learn more about.
  • Listen to a podcast.
  • Watch a documentary, take a break from the world of fiction to gain knowledge of an interesting topic.
  • Help the kids with their e-learning.
  • Evaluate and adjust those New Year’s goals you wrote down a few months ago.
  • Plan a future vacation and determine the steps needed to get you there.
  • Journal daily thoughts, kind of like a “captain’s log” type of thing.
  • Take a nap.
  • Keep moving (see above).
  • Hop on a webinar.
  • Declutter the house and give it a deep clean.

We are going to get through this and return to our lives outside of the house. A challenge to you is to be a better YOU than you were at the beginning of this pandemic. Taking action during this time to maintain a positive mindset and to continue to grow mentally and emotionally will set you up for success when you reenter the world. Control your reaction, take action, and we will come out of this situation better than ever!

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This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: exercise at home resolutions attitude mental videos mindset illness prevention positive attitude viruses COVID-10 quarantine

A Spoonful of Fitness: Should You Work Out When You’re Sick?

GettyImages-674772578-1Have you ever woken up feeling like a truck ran you over? This might be due to an underlying illness; whether it be a cold, flu, bronchitis, or some other bug, it seems to happen to everyone at least once per year. When it comes to fitness, we sometimes have to make a choice: “Should I work out or should I rest?” The answer to this is not as cut and dried as it might seem. We’ll look at when it’s a good idea to stay home and chill and when you can just “sweat it out.”

Making the Call: Should I Cancel My Workout?

Sometimes just keeping up with your daily routines can help you feel better, especially as you move through the day. You might even pick up energy from exercise and activity instead of staying idle at home. A few guidelines dictate whether you should green-light a workout. According to experts, a major factor to consider is body temperature. Having any kind of fever is an immediate red flag, especially at more than 101 degrees. Another obvious red flag is if you are unable to keep fluids down. Anytime you are dehydrated, your body does not function at peak capacity. Here are some additional ideas to help make the decision.

Going Back to Working Out After Being Sick

When you feel like you are ready to go back to the gym, try to ease into your workout. Your body (namely your T-cells) has been fighting a battle. A quick assessment of your symptoms should give you a good indication of whether you are good to go. Temperature, fluids, and blood pressure are all surefire ways to draw that line in the sand.

How to Keep from Getting Sick Again

Finally, you should hopefully, at this point in your life, understand the importance of illness prevention—not only for you, but also for those around you. The routine of washing hands wasn’t widely practiced until about 150 years ago when a Hungarian doctor named Ignaz Semmelweis discovered that when his crew washed their hands between patients, the number of diseased and dying patients dropped off immediately. The long forgotten disease, puerperal fever (sometimes known as childbed fever) was nearly eradicated by simply implementing a hand-washing regimen. Today’s world allows almost endless opportunities to not only transmit illness, but also prevent them. Enough history lessons, though. You get the point: wash your hands often, please.

Ask for Help from the NIFS Staff

NIFS staff can help you in a number of ways, especially when deciding whether exercise is right for you when you are not feeling well. Blood pressure monitors, both electronic and manual, as well as an oxygen sensor are available to all members. A well-stocked first aid kit and a staff well versed in first aid and safety are also on your side. Always remember, your workout is important, but your health is priceless.

Muscleheads evolve (and rejoice)

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To read more about the other NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: fitness center Thomas' Corner nifs staff workout illness oxygen illness prevention handwashing