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Gratitude and Resilience: Being Thankful Builds Our Resources

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“Finding gratitude and appreciation is key to resilience. People who take the time to list things they are grateful for are happier and healthier.” – Sheryl Sandberg 

If you want to build your resources, become mentally stronger, and dedicate yourself to self-improvement, science is precise: practice gratitude. 

When we practice gratitude regularly, it changes our approach to the world around us. We can better see the positive in life. We start looking for the positive instead of being distracted or overwhelmed by the negative. And when we start looking for the positive, we find it—along with other helpful resources. 

Researchers from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore found a significant link between gratitude, resilience, and well-being.1 Not only did gratitude improve students’ resilience and well-being, it also helped them relate to others better, which further contributed to higher resilience and well-being. 

Noticing and being thankful for what we have makes us more open to learning experiences and relationships with others, which are powerful resources for us to draw from. If you want to be more resilient when life gets tough, give gratitude a try 

Gratitude Action Step 

Practice noting what you are grateful for daily. Set a goal to express gratitude to at least one person a day. A gratitude attitude will boost your resilience and make it easier to weather the storm when it inevitably comes.  

   

1https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.2020.628937/full

Gratitude and Team Dynamics

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You probably know that expressing gratitude to others can improve your well-being and your relationships, but did you know that it can also improve your productivity and effectiveness at work or school? Showing gratitude to others is not just about making us feel good—it affects how we work together. 

A study published in the Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes journal[1] tested the differences in team performance with a neutral condition, a gratitude condition, and a positive emotion condition. Those in the neutral condition received a prompt to spend 5 minutes writing about a typical day. Those in the gratitude condition received a prompt and spent 5 minutes thinking and writing about why they were grateful for their team members. In comparison, those in the positive emotion condition wrote for 5 minutes about things that made them happy.  

The researchers found that those in the gratitude condition elaborated on their ideas more, valued different perspectives, and ultimately showed significantly more team creativity than the other groups. Priming the teams with gratitude made members more open to each other’s ideas and improved information processing. 

These results show that gratitude is not only a good way to improve our mood and relationships; it can also help us improve our performance. 

Gratitude Action Step 

The next time you meet with a team to work on a project, take a few moments in the beginning to share a little gratitude for one another. It will get your meeting off on the right foot and improve your final product! 

[1] https://media.terry.uga.edu/socrates/publications/2013/06/LePineHollenbeckIlgenColquittEllis2002.pdf

Gratitude and Relationship Satisfaction

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Thousands of coaches, therapists, courses, and programs focus on improving relationships and strengthening marriages. These sources allow you to learn many different ideas, techniques, and approaches. Still, one thing you are sure to find in all the places worth visiting is this: having gratitude for one another leads to better relationships. 

When we actively practice gratitude for the good things in our life, our significant others generally find their way onto the list sooner rather than later (if not, perhaps the relationship needs to be reexamined). People bring our lives meaning and happiness and add to our day-to-day in ways that delight and comfort us. It is easy to be grateful for those we love, contributing to an even better relationship. 

Research from the Family Institute at Florida State University [1] showed that gratitude prayers significantly impacted relationship satisfaction. A further study from Hong Kong Polytechnic University and the J&L Research and Consultancy Group found evidence that practicing gratitude alone can boost relationship satisfaction but that expressing it to one another authentically improved satisfaction beyond practicing gratitude alone.​​​​​​ 

The bottom line? When we are more positive and thankful for our loved ones, we both benefit. 

Gratitude Action Step 

Take a few minutes today to consider why you are grateful for your spouse or significant other. List the things that you are grateful to them for, and share that list with them. 

If you do not have a significant other right now, think about a dear friend or family member instead—gratitude can help strengthen all kinds of relationships! 

_________________  

[1]https://familyinstitute.chs.fsu.edu/research-action/impact-prayer-relationships 

Submitted by Courtney E. Ackerman,

Positive psychologist, Researcher, and Author   

https://www.simonandschuster.com/authors/Courtney-E-Ackerman/145060763

Top Things to Know About Recreational Marijuana Legalization in Maryland

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Last month, voters in Maryland and Missouri approved legalizing recreational marijuana in a constitutional amendment. In all, 21 states, including DC, have now approved the recreational use of marijuana. 

Maryland’s new legislation states that recreational marijuana will be legal after July 2023 for people 21 years of age and over.  The General Assembly, however, left matters of licensing and taxes for lawmakers to decide next year.

In a recent live interview, Dr. Bhodi Tims, Program Director of Cannabis Science Programs at MUIH, reviews the recently approved ballot measure to legalize marijuana in Maryland and the unique aspects of our Cannabis Science Certificate. 

What the new legislation does: 

  1. Collects data on poison control calls to prepare for potential adverse side effects to increased recreational use.
  1. Provides cannabis assistance funds to provide grants, loans, license application, access, and assistance with gaining capital to historically black colleges, and female-owned owned companies around cannabis programs.
  1. Defines legal limits of possession. Those 21 and older can possess 1 ½ ounces of cannabis or 12 grams of a cannabis concentrate.
  1. Creates usage parameters with corresponding fines and penalties. For example, you can’t smoke in public.
  1. Forms public health advisory councils  if there are united health concerns.
  1. Earmarks funding to benefit low-income communities, and that have been disproportionality harmed by cannabis prohibition.
  1. Researches home cultivation options for medical use.

Currently, laws do not regulate dispensaries or the actual product development. How it will be grown, manufactured, and distributed has yet to be determined.  

There is a large amount of job growth in this industry, and it will increase even more when federal legislation takes place. MUIH is currently preparing its students for new opportunities in the growing fields of dietary and medical use of cannabis by training them to meet the continually growing demand. 

According to Dr. Tims, the range of products, from traditional products (tinctures, flower buds, pre-rolls) to high-end artisanal consumer products (solventless extracts, edibles, beverages) to pharmaceutical products, provide a variety of entry points into the industry. The level of innovation, he says, is exciting and will have a lasting impact on the herbal supplement field.

Current growing and manufacturing practices produce end products that require extensive testing for heavy metals, residual solvents, pesticides, and adulterants. The growing process also creates unsustainable environmental waste. As the industry matures, consumers and producers will find success in demanding a high-level commitment to the quality of the product and how it’s produced, which is what MUIH programs are committed to.  

Click here to watch the interview and learn more. 

Moment of Gratitude: Gratitude and the Witnessing Effect

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Gratitude and the “Witnessing Effect”

“Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.” – Voltaire

When people hang out in groups (as people tend to do), they start behaving similarly. Different groups will form different norms and expectations for behavior, which is why we have distinct cultures, cliques, and tribes.

One powerful phenomenon that influences behavior in groups is called the ‘witnessing effect’. Essentially, people watch how others within their group interact and have an emotional reaction to what they see, impacting how they think and feel about themselves. This is a powerful tool for shaping behavior, and it can be used for good.

When we express gratitude to others, it doesn’t happen in a vacuum; other people are watching. They’re watching how we show our gratitude to others and how the recipients of our gratitude respond to us. Research from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has shown that when a person expresses gratitude towards someone[1], third-party observers feel more positively about that person and are more likely to be kind and helpful toward them.

This means that sharing our gratitude with others is not only good for us and good for them, it is also good for our group. It turns out that everyone benefits from expressions of gratitude!

Gratitude Action Step

This week, be sure to share your gratitude with a friend, family member, or peer, and don’t be afraid to do it in a virtual group setting. Make showing gratitude the norm in your group, one “thank you” at a time.

_________________________________________________

The Power of Gratitude Meditation

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“It is through gratitude for the present moment that the spiritual dimension of life opens up.” – Eckhart Tolle

Meditation is a powerful tool for enhancing our well-being and helping us create a sense of peace in the mind. It’s a great tool for anyone looking to boost their mindfulness and feel more calm and collected. But you might not know that you can also use meditation to feel more gratitude.

Gratitude and meditation go hand in hand. Some say that meditation and mindfulness are inherently grateful acts; when we are present in the current moment, we can’t help but be grateful for that moment.

Whether meditation is inherently an act of gratitude or not, it’s certainly connected. A 2016 study from Ohio State University found that people who meditate regularly enjoy greater well-being, self-compassion, and—you guessed it—gratitude. It turns out that being present in the moment and present in our bodies is key to enjoying all of life’s little pleasures.Gratitude Action Step  Give gratitude meditation a try to boost your mindfulness and your gratitude. Here are the basic steps:

  1. Sit in an upright position with your eyes closed and your hands resting on your legs or knees.
  2. Take a deep breath in through your nose and out through your nose as you settle into the present moment.
  3. Think about all the things you have to be grateful for in your life. If you have trouble thinking of things to be grateful for, start with this list: life itself, your five senses, shelter to protect you each night, food and water to sustain you, and people who love you.
  4. Focus on the feelings of gratitude that arise, and build on them by adding to the list.
  5. Sit with these feelings of gratitude and let them wash over and through you.

Treating Anxiety Through Nutrition

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Treating Anxiety through Nutrition

Written by By Dr. Ann Ije, ND

What is anxiety? 

According to NIH, anxiety is an ordinary phenomenon that most people go through during difficult periods in their life. There are many life altering situations that can bring about anxiety on any given day for people. Some situations that often bring about anxious feelings are standing in front of a large crowd to recite a speech, driving a highway, taking a very important exam, a job interview, moving to a new location, meeting new people, or making an important decision. The examples of anxiety mentioned above normally occur transiently and the feelings soon disappear. However, the inability to stop worrying or being anxious in the face of fear may point towards a more serious problem. People who suffer from anxiety disorder feel anxious or worried all the time, and that feeling tends to worsen over time. Symptoms relating to anxiety disorder can interfere with daily activities such as schoolwork, job performance, and home life. Keep reading to learn how you can be treating anxiety through nutrition. 

What role do neurotransmitters play in anxiety disorder?

Neurotransmitters play a very important role in the manifestation of anxiety. The three neurotransmitters that are linked to anxiety disorder are serotonin, epinephrine/norepinephrine, and GABA. Low levels of serotonin, which can occur due to heightened emotions can lead to anxiety. When there is too much norepinephrine/epinephrine or “adrenal rush” it can cause symptoms like increased heartbeat and sweating causing one to become increasingly anxious or stressed. Finally, GABA is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, which means it down regulates anxiety and associated symptoms, causing one to be less anxious and in a calmer state.   

Nutrition and Anxiety Support 

Now that we discussed what anxiety is and the neurotransmitters involved in anxiety and its regulation, we should discuss how nutrition affects anxiety and how you can be treating anxiety through nutrition. Did you know that 95% of serotonin is found in the gut lining? There seems to be an intimate connection between mood, nutrition, and our digestive tract. An anti-anxiety diet consists of foods containing high amounts of magnesium, zinc, omega 3 fatty acids, probiotics, and B vitamins. Magnesium is a mineral that produces calming effect and can be found in leafy greens such as Swiss chard, spinach, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Oysters, cashews, and egg yolks are some examples of zinc containing foods. Omega 3 fatty acids found in fatty fish, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and other nuts and seeds may provide an anxiety reducing effect. Probiotics in kefir, yogurt, and miso, and kimchi help feed the gut microbiome which supports overall gut health. Lastly, avocados and almonds are a great source of B vitamins.

These food recommendations are not meant to deter anxiety sufferers from using medications as treatments, but only serve as a great addition to any anti-anxiety protocol. Talk to your healthcare provider about including a great nutrition plan in your treatment of anxiety for increased chances of success in overcoming challenges relating to anxiety disorder and treating your anxiety through nutrition.

Natural Care Center (NCC)

Looking to see a Nutritionist at the Natural Care Center to meet your nutritional needs? Integrative nutritionists use science-based diet and nutrition therapies to support your personal health and well-being. They recognize that individualized nutrition is essential to health and their integrative approach is not limited to one dietary theory. And for more than 40 years, the Natural Care Center at Maryland University of Integrative Health, which includes our student teaching clinic and professional practitioners, has provided powerful, meaningful, and effective healing experiences for patients and clients that arrive with a wide array of health challenges.

During your first visit at the NCC, your practitioner will gather information about your health and personal history, review your dietary preferences and health concerns, and assess your nutritional status. Together with your nutritionist, you will craft a personalized nutrition plan to start you on your path to greater health and vitality.To talk with someone about making an appointment, call 443-906-5794 or email .

References: 

Uma Naidoo, M. D. (2019, August 28). Nutritional strategies to ease anxiety. Harvard Health. Retrieved March 18, 2022, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/nutritional-strategies-to-ease-anxiety-201604139441 

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Anxiety disorders. National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved March 18, 2022, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders  

The Benefits of Massage for TMJ

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Written by Missy Steger, LMT

How Does TMJ Develop? 

The most common cause of Temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ) pain is from grinding and clenching the teeth. This occurs mostly when sleeping or during stressful moments in the day. Other causes can be from arthritis, overuse, injury, and structural issues.  One of the most popular treatments is a mouth guard from the dentist that protects the enamel of your teeth. With constant grinding and clenching, the tooth itself can wear quickly leading to tooth loss and nerve damage. As for clenching our teeth when stressed, our brain gets a feeling of satisfaction from feeling the two layers of teeth together. This is a self-soothing behavior that unfortunately damages our teeth. The mouth guard places a layer of material between the teeth so that brain cannot get that stress relief it is looking for. Over time, our brain will find another outlet. Other forms of treatment may involve antidepressants, physical therapy, anti-inflammatories or anti-depressants. (Dimitroulis, 2018)   

Symptoms of TMJ 

If you suffer from this, you know about the headaches, neck pain, and loss of function. TMJ Syndrome effects muscles of the skull and neck such as the temporalis, masseters, pterygoid group, sternocleidomastoid, scalene, splenius group and the occipitals. The referral pain from these muscles can lead to various types of headaches, neck pain, muscle stiffness, clicking and popping of the jaw, tinnitus (ear ringing), mock sinus infections, dizziness, and blurred vision. (National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research).  

How Massage Helps  

As a licensed massage therapist, I will work with the muscles related to the jaw from multiple angles to address the pain and dysfunction from the tight muscles related to the temporomandibular joint. I may even put on gloves and go inside the mouth to address tight bands of fiber and trigger points in the smaller muscles directly related to the movement of the jaw. This 30–60-minute massage may also entail working on local muscles of the face and scalp, as well as the neck and shoulders to address all associated musculature and referral pain patterns. (Flagg, 2009). Massage can also support various treatments by communicating with your medical team for an integrative approach.  In my treatment room I treat the patient, not just the symptom, so each appointment will begin with a thorough intake to provide an individualized treatment plan.   

I Feel Your Pain 

Patients are always asking me “Can you feel it?”. My answer is usually “If you are feeling it, so am I”.  This is because I feel with my hands, and then react to what is under them and what a patient’s body is communicating from a particular technique.  In this case, I also have a particular empathy as I understand what this type of pain syndrome feels like.  Not only am I prone to clenching and have been wearing a mouth guard for years, but I also suffered from a traumatic injury to the jaw dislocating it from the joint.  Being a patient myself, I have a deeper compassion and understanding as I work with those seeking relief.   

Natural Care Center (NCC)

Looking to see a Massage Therapist at the Natural Care Center? Therapeutic or medical massage employs a variety of modalities in order to address underlying conditions, injuries, pain, or stress. Techniques such as lymphatic drainage, shiatsu, deep tissue, and other focused treatments are used to achieve specific goals set by the patient and massage therapist.

During your first visit at the NCC, your massage therapist will review relevant information and formulate massage sessions that target to your specific needs. To talk with someone about making an appointment, call 443-906-5794 or email .

References

Dimitroulis, G. Management of temporomandibular joint disorders: A surgeon’s perspective. (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/adj.12593) Australian Dental Journal. 2018;63 Suppl 1:S79-S90. 

National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint & Muscle Disorders. (https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/health-info/tmj) Accessed 4/23/22. 

Flagg, Retta. (2009). Massage for TMJ Syndrome (live). 

The Practice of Mindful Eating – Exploring the Research

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By Keegan Abernathy MS, CNS, LDN

Nutritional science typically explores the effect nutrients, foods, and eating patterns have on human biochemistry and health. But what about how we eat? In this post, I will explore the practice of mindful eating and its researched effects on health and psychology. 

Mindful Eating vs. Mindless Eating

To understand what mindful eating is and how it works, it is helpful to understand its opposite behavior. We can categorize a very common way of eating as mindless eating. This occurs when we are not aware of our experience of eating. There are many factors that can induce mindless eating such as stress, difficulty regulating emotions, being distracted while eating, or eating too quickly. Social situations, culture, and familial conditioning also play a role in how mindfully we eat (Wansink, 2010). Food choices can become more challenging when we haven’t eaten all day which means it is easier to eat mindlessly. 

What Is Mindful Eating?

Mindful eating happens when we are fully aware of the experience of eating. It includes noticing the flavor, satisfaction, smell and feel of food being eaten. When eating mindfully, one can notice internal states such as hunger level, satiety, and physical fullness (Kristeller et al., 2014). There tends to be self-reports of increased pleasure and satisfaction from food with the practice of mindful eating (Kristeller et al., 2014). Mindful eating can happen naturally, but its occurrence can be limited by learned eating habits, emotional states, and distractions (Wansink, 2010). Cultivating mindful eating as a new habit can occur with the support of training and practice. The Mindfulness-Based Eating Awareness Training (MB-EAT) is a studied approach to eating mindfully. This training is a non-dieting approach to eating that teaches participants to become aware of the complexity, choices, and experiences that occur while eating (Kristeller et al., 2014). 

Researched Effects of MB-EAT

Several studies have been conducted exploring the effects of MB-EAT. Kristeller & Hallett (1999) performed a single-group, extended baseline follow-up design that included 18 participants, most of whom were obese middle-aged women with binge-eating disorder (BED). After MB-EAT intervention, binge episodes decreased from 4 per week to 1.5. Measures of depression and binge severity also decreased. In a randomized clinical trial, 194 adults with obesity were randomly placed into a 5.5 month program that either included MB-EAT or did not include MB-EAT (Daubenmier et al., 2016). While there were no substantial differences in weight loss between the groups, cardiometabolic markers such as fasting glucose and lipids were improved in the treatment group receiving MB-EAT.

Please note that this post is for educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional care by a physician or other qualified medical professionals. It is provided on the understanding that it does not constitute medical or other professional advice or services. If you are interested in nutritional support, consider reaching out to the Natural Care Center for consultations by calling 443-906-9754 or emailing  

Natural Care Center (NCC)

Looking to see a Nutritionist at the Natural Care Center to meet your nutritional needs? Integrative nutritionists use science-based diet and nutrition therapies to support your personal health and well-being. They recognize that individualized nutrition is essential to health and their integrative approach is not limited to one dietary theory. And for more than 40 years, the Natural Care Center at Maryland University of Integrative Health, which includes our student teaching clinic and professional practitioners, has provided powerful, meaningful, and effective healing experiences for patients and clients that arrive with a wide array of health challenges.

During your first visit at the NCC, your practitioner will gather information about your health and personal history, review your dietary preferences and health concerns, and assess your nutritional status. Together with your nutritionist, you will craft a personalized nutrition plan to start you on your path to greater health and vitality.To talk with someone about making an appointment, call 443-906-5794 or email .

References:

Daubenmier, J., Moran, P. J., Kristeller, J., Acree, M., Bacchetti, P., Kemeny, M. E., … & Hecht, F. M. (2016). Effects of a mindfulness‐based weight loss intervention in adults with obesity: A randomized clinical trial. Obesity24(4), 794-804.

Kristeller, J. L., & Hallett, C. B. (1999). An exploratory study of a meditation-based intervention for binge eating disorder. Journal of Health Psychology. 4(3), 357-363.

Kristeller, J., Wolever, R. Q., & Sheets, V. (2014). Mindfulness-based eating awareness training (MB-EAT) for binge eating: A randomized clinical trial. Mindfulness5(3), 282-297.

Wansink, B. (2010). From mindless eating to mindlessly eating better. Physiology & behavior100(5), 454-463.

Legal Tips for Integrative Health Professionals: Why it Pays to be Legally Covered

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Legal Tips for Integrative Health Professionals: Why to Pays to Be Legally Covered

By: Lisa Fraley, MUIH Professional and Continuing Education (PCE) Guest Faculty, JD, CHHC, AADP, Legal Coach®, Attorney, Speaker & #1 Best Selling Author

If you’re like most holistic health entrepreneurs, you’re probably thinking:

The last thing I want to do is deal with the legal stuff in my business.
Why are lawyers so expensive anyway?
Do I REALLY need to have legal documents on my website and for use with clients?

Can’t I just grab something cheaply off of the internet? Or better yet, can’t I just copy my friend’s legal document?

I know, I know. It’s not everyone’s idea of fun to get your legal documents in place. (Especially if you’re getting them without any Legal Love™ coming your way.)

You just want to:

  • focus on what you do best – working with clients and changing the world.
  • get what legal doc is fastest, easiest and cheapest, so you don’t have to spend too much money (or really ANY money).
  • buy some really cheap legal doc from an online service or use someone else’s document in your field.

Aren’t all legal docs essentially the same anyway?

Nope! They aren’t all the same.

Like with most things, when you’re trying to take a shortcut or the easy way out, you get what you pay for. The cheap version breaks. It gives out. It ends up being flimsy. It doesn’t hold up.

The same is true when it comes to legal documents.

Legal Love Tip™: Copying your friend’s legal document could make it worse. 

Here are 3 reasons why:

  1. It may not even fully cover you.

If your friend cut and pasted the wrong language from the internet or used someone else’s document, you could be exposed.

You could be getting a chopped up, piecemeal document (that neither you nor they know is piecemeal).

You could use a document that doesn’t even apply to you.

You could copy someone else’s legal document and make it worse than not having one at all.

One health coach client came to me to have me review her Client Agreement… only it was a template she got off the internet for a CONSTRUCTION company. She had no idea it was full of language that made no sense for a health coach and that could hurt her. I kid you not.

Even if a document was initially prepared by a lawyer, I can’t tell you how many times people try to edit their own legal documents and make mistakes.

Both of you could end up using legal language that doesn’t sufficiently cover either of you which can leave you open to giving refunds or dealing with conflicts and confrontation from clients or other people.

  1. It could be a violation.

Unbeknownst to you, copying a friend’s document is actually taking (some might say “stealing”) work that someone else paid for.

You might be violating their copyright rights. You might be using the document without permission.

Even if they say “it’s okay” to copy their document, it might not be okay. They could be violating copyright laws by giving it to you. Don’t put them or yourself in that position.

  1. It can be bad karma.

Copying someone else’s work probably isn’t truly in alignment with your core values and the type of person you want to be.

It can be bad juju. It can be low-vibe.

It’s not showing respect for your work or business or for other people’s work or business.

Did you know that when you put legit contracts and terms in place, you support your sacral chakra?

Your sacral chakra is your 2nd chakra down in your hip region “where all of the good stuff lives”, as I like to say. When you use high vibe (not copied!) legal documents, you’re aligning yourself with expansiveness, abundance, and boundaries associated with the sacral chakra.

You’re showing respect for your business – and as you do so, other people will tend to show your business trust and respect too.

Here’s to taking the time to get the right legal documents and legal tips for integrative health professionals for YOUR business by doing it right and honoring yourself and your biz – and not copying others’ docs.

As a MUIH PCE Partner*, we’re excited to extend a special 10% discount to the MUIH Community on all Legal Love trusted DIY Legal Templates with the promo code MUIH at checkout! 

With Legal Love™,

P.S. Hear more about these reasons and also receive 3 tips for choosing the right documents for you in this previously-aired Legally Enlightened Podcast Episode HERE. And if you need help with getting legal docs for your biz, just hit reply and let us know. We’re always happy to help or to refer you to another attorney who can help you.

Easy legal steps for entrepreneurs and small business owners – with lots of Legal Love™.
Get free legal tips, DIY legal templates and online legal courses at lisafraley.com

Legal Tips for Integrative Health Professionals

Legal Tips for Integrative Health Professionals

*Affiliate Disclosure:  MUIH receives a referral commission on all purchases made through the MUIH partner link with the exclusive MUIH partner discount.  There is no additional cost to you by using this link, and your generous support allows us to offer more Professional and Continuing Education (PCE) programming in the future.

Why Sports Nutrition is Changing and Becoming a Required Subspeciality

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by Dr. Oscar Coetzee – Associate Professor/Clinician/Researcher

What is Sports Nutrition?

Nutrition is one of the fastest growing professions in the world according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics. It will grow as a profession between 15% – 22% in the next five years, and it is estimated due to the chronic illness in the USA, the demand will outweigh the supply. The integration of the Functional Medical Paradigm all over the world in education, is setting nutritional professionals apart from any other medical specialty, as the true success of functional medicine lies in the nutritional intervention and lifestyle modifications. Thus, many subspecialities are forming in nutrition, and the one still on the outside looking in, is sports nutrition. 

The Importance of Sports Nutrition

Every aspect of sport performance enhancement today is at the highest level through the evolution of computer science and high-level biomedical research. Yet, in sports nutrition it is still about macros and calories, and pretty much a one size fits all approach. Some diets like Carbohydrate loading, Ketogenic or Paleolithic and certain nutraceuticals are highly touted for sports performance, but none of these have been truly investigated through proper research in the scientific literature. Bio-individuality seems to be left out when it comes to sports nutrition specifically. Various electrolytes, antioxidants, fatty acids and branched chain amino acids are frequently promoted as the all-encompassing nutrients for top athletes. But are they? Is it possible that for one athlete a specific amino acid or antioxidant can be a friend and for another a foe? As a part of my practice, I have worked with professional athletes for more than 15 years. I have sculpted my assessments and interventions through trial and error and created a new area of sports performance that I term Psychonutrigenomics. In collaboration with Diagnostic Lab Solutions, my team and I have been able to take sports performance, sports nutrition and sports immunity to a level of total athletic individuality. Through the implementation of this approach, we have had various international victories and successes, taking our athletes to the peak of individual achievement. 

It is time that we march to a different drummer, time to truly evolve the field of sports nutrition and performance by integrating the individual assessments of metabolic, physical, genetic, biochemical and psychological markers. As an example, mental clarity and anxiety control can come from proper nutrient absorption through the conversion of amino acids like tryptophan and tyrosine. They convert into neurotransmitters (NT) serotonin and dopamine, which in turn convert into some catecholamines like epinephrine and norepinephrine. These NT and catecholamines have everything to do with focus, motivation, concentration and athletic performance and they require iron, vit. C and B6, and SAMe.  These micronutrients can only be obtained through food and supplementation, of which most humans in the USA are deficient. In addition to this, some people have issues genetically in converting these, and others are just in a state of malabsorption due to overtraining or intestinal permeability, thus they cannot have these intermediates convert properly. The science of nutritional assessment has come very far, and today we can determine if you have a genetic shortcoming, if you are immunocompromised, if you are malnourished, if you have an energy conversion deficit or all the above. 

In order to evolve athletes to optimal performance from a bio-individual perspective; the athlete needs to be assessed at 5 levels:

  1. Psychology of performance – assessing personality performance profiling. 
  2. Proteomicsthe large-scale study of proteins, and their involvement in human performance. 
  3. Metabolomicsthe scientific study of chemical processes involving metabolites, the small molecule substrates, intermediates and products of metabolism, as it relates to energy and athletic performance. 
  4. Nutrigenomicsthe scientific study of the interaction of nutrition and genes, especially with regard to the optimizing performance.
  5. Microbiomesthe study of the totality of microorganisms and their collective genetic material present in or on the human body and the effect on human performance, recovery and immunity. 

In partnering with Diagnostic Solutions Lab, we incorporate various functional tests, to determine the origin and baseline of each athlete, in order to design the appropriate intervention strategy not only for performance but also recovery, something that is very often overlooked in professional athletes. 

Various tests we use from DSL to assess the above criteria: 

  1. The GI-MAP’s accuracy and reliability allows practitioners to create personalized treatment protocols to address gut dysfunction. Although qPCR is becoming more commonplace in in-vitro diagnostics (IVD), DSL is the only laboratory in the United States exclusively using qPCR technology for advanced comprehensive stool testing. This technology is used routinely in clinical and academic research because it provides highly-accurate quantification, as well as high levels of sensitivity and specificity. Standard PCR technology doesn’t offer the same level of sensitivity, or the ability to express precise numerical results.
  2. GenomicInsight provides a global view of the interconnectedness of SNPs and offers access to information that reveal lifestyle and therapeutic recommendations that may influence a gene’s expression and function. The role of genomics and epigenetics is recognized as an important tool in monitoring, preventing, and treating dysfunction. Furthermore, medical literature supports that epigenetics (the impact of the environment on gene expression) plays a critical role in human health. GenomicInsight with Opus23 Explorer identifies how the function or dysfunction of one gene impacts the expression and function of a separately-related gene or SNP. 
  3. Labrix introduced neurotransmitter testing in 2012, meeting the need for non-invasive solutions for practitioners who wanted a more comprehensive view of the body’s functional neuroendocrine status. Doctor’s Data neurotransmitter testing utilizes HPLC Triple Quadrupole MS/MS technology which is proving to be the most sensitive and accurate methodology for measuring urinary neurotransmitters. This testing has higher sensitivity and has stronger results reproducibility than has been available through other methodologies; this gives you far greater confidence in the reported results.
  4. Functional Blood work overview. All our athletes are also screened through their CBC and CMP panels from a functional perspective to review any underlying, or early-stage chronic inflammation or metabolic issues that can inhibit performance. Looking at conventional blood markers and assessing them based on optimal levels.  Too often people fall into “normal” ranges on their blood work performed by their doctors, and although they feel sick, they are told everything is normal.  By taking a deeper look, and combining regular blood work with additional functional markers, a more comprehensive assessment can be made regarding one’s current performance and in the future. In a 2019 review article by Pedlar et al. they found that serial blood test data can be used to monitor athletes and make inferences about the efficacy of training interventions, nutritional strategies or indeed the capacity to tolerate training load. Via a profiling and monitoring approach, blood biomarker measurement combined with contextual data has the potential to help athletes avoid injury and illness via adjustments to diet, training load and recovery strategies. Since wide inter-individual variability exists in many biomarkers, clinical population-based reference data can be of limited value in athletes, and statistical methods for longitudinal data are required to identify meaningful changes within an athlete. 
  5. Organic acids are chemical compounds excreted in the urine of mammals that are products of metabolism. Metabolism is the sum of chemical reactions in living beings by which the body builds new molecules and breaks down molecules to eliminate waste products and produce energy – understanding energy is vital in athletes. Organic acids are most commonly analyzed in urine because they are not extensively reabsorbed in the kidney tubules after glomerular filtration.  Thus, organic acids in urine are often present at 100 times their concentration in the blood serum and thus are more readily detected in urine.  

How to Use Sports Nutrition in Practice

Once we have reviewed all the above information, we can build a nutritional protocol for athletes, around their genetic makeup, assisting in the weaker areas of the genetics, through a strong nutritional prevention strategy. We can assess inflammation, metabolic energy status, and the levels of immune suppression by looking at the other markers, and design intervention strategies to address those issues. 

This level of scientific precision and assessment on an individual nutritional level, is not going to be the exception but the rule for future professional athlete intervention. The change of a higher level in the standard of care has already begun for competitive athletes and weekend warriors. Using these tools at our disposal will help us in the future better understand the different needs of different kinds of athletes, and the level of stress and depletions these sports put on our bodies. 

Maryland University of Integrative Health is one educational institution that is taking the lead in enhancing this new subspeciality.It’s Masters of Nutrition and Integrative Health also trains the future nutritionist at a level of superior functional assessment by investigating all the above biochemical assessments in some of their core courses. The best way to become a good sports nutritionist is to have a very good base education in the overall nutritional sciences. 

In conclusion as biochemist Dr. Roger J. Williams states in his book “Biochemical Individuality”: There is no such thing as an average person, we are all genetically and biologically unique. But when sperm meets egg, our characteristics are not locked in stone, bad genes do not necessarily cause disease by themselves, and nutrition and environment can alter the outcome.

Resources

Pedlar, C.R., Newell, J. & Lewis, N.A. Blood Biomarker Profiling and Monitoring for High-Performance Physiology and Nutrition: Current Perspectives, Limitations and Recommendations. Sports Med 49, 185–198 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40279-019-01158-x