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Published On: Thu, Oct 20th, 2011

Exercise Is a Privilege!


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By Mark Becker

As I try to formulate my thoughts for this article, I sit here at my computer recovering from my 95th marathon. I’m sore and in recovery mode.  However, I’m thinking how lucky I am to be able to participate in marathons, triathlons and other endurance-related events. I am often guilty of taking these events and the associated training for granted. After all, at 50 years of age, with preparation, I am physically able to complete these events — and I have done so for almost 30 years. What’s my secret? Well, it’s twofold: First, I have access to the very best nutrition and supplements. And second, if I need health information, I have access to Nutricula’s brilliant Editor-in-Chief, Bob Berger, Ph.D, or any number of world-class Nutricula contributors. I’d say things couldn’t be better in Mark Becker’s world.

There are many who aren’t as lucky as I — especially those who suffer from Autoimmune Diseases, such as:

•    rheumatoid arthritis,
•    lupus,
•    multiple sclerosis,
•    inflammatory bowel disease,
•    type-1 diabetes,
•    hypothyroidism,
•    and psoriasis.
 
 My heart goes out to those who suffer from potentially dangerous and even fatal conditions in which the body’s immune system fails to recognize healthy body systems and begins to attack them. This can happen for any number of reasons, though it’s believed that there are genetic links to Autoimmune Disease. In addition, there may be some ties to overall fitnessand immune system health. However, simply put, with autoimmune diseases, your body wages war against itself. According to www.womenshealth.gov, there are more than 80 known types of Autoimmune Diseases that affect more than 23.5 million Americans. They are a leading cause of death and disability.

Unfortunately, people with autoimmune disease have a very difficult time exercising. As the body exerts itself, it temporarily stresses many body systems. This leaves them vulnerable to attack or undermining by the immune system. Additionally, as you exercise, your body will create different sets of hormones and other chemicals that can help to trigger immune system responses as well, particularly in certain people and in particular cases. Nevertheless, it is important to understand that exercise is something the body was designed to do. Your body has a remarkable capacity to withstand stressors of all kinds, resulting in very positive and beneficial physiological adaptations that increase the body’s efficiency on several levels.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I am often guilty of taking the ability to exercise for granted.  Exercise should be viewed as a privilege, one that can be taken away from any one of us at any given time. For me, exercise is therapy, required for emotional and physical stress management, a necessity to promote the betterment of my physicality and greater efficiency in an active and physical life. Furthermore, exercise is insurance for disease prevention and optimal health. For people with Autoimmune Disease, I encourage you to continue to exercise. Even at a compromised capacity, you can work  with your health professional as the benefits are profound.

Dietary supplements are an essential part of any autoimmune disease healing protocol. However, it is important to note that research in this area is in its infancy.  In a healthy person, dietary supplements are used to (1) correct nutrient deficiencies, (2) enhance healing and immune function, (3) reduce inflammation, (4) relieve joint pain, and (5) promote general health. It is no different with a person afflicted with an Autoimmune Disease. After all, in any assessment of prognosis or disease outcome, the patient’s general health status is a primary consideration. Understand that caution must be exercised when implementing dietary supplements into your routine. Always understand that if you are diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, it’s vitally important that you work closely with your doctor when initiating a new supplement and exercise routine. With that said, and with your doctor’s blessing, the following supplements may prove beneficial in the fight against many autoimmune diseases:

Vitamin D:  As mentioned earlier, much more research needs to be done to better understand both autoimmune diseases and the impact of vitamin D on autoimmune disease. But, we already know that not getting enough vitamin D can be devastating to bones, leading to bone density problems. For overall good health, it’s essential to meet daily vitamin D requirements as determined by a health professional. If your vitamin D blood level is low your doctor may prescribe higher dosages.

Essential Fatty Acids (omega 3 fats): The essential fatty acids (called essential because the body cannot make them on their  own) are omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. When the ratio of the essential fatty acids becomes imbalanced (more  omega 6s than omega 3s or vice versa) the body experiences inflammation which can result in serious chronic inflammatory conditions.  It is this imbalance between the essential fats that negatively impacts health. Today, Americans get substantially more omega 6s than omega 3s in their diet. And the more omega 6 fats that are consumed, the more the body is unable to utilize the profound health benefits of  omega 3 fats. With that said, autoimmune disorders have responded favorably to increased levels of omega 3 fats. In fact, according to www.jigsawhealth.com, more than 13 studies of rheumatoid arthritis sufferers have shown that increasing the consumption of omega 3 fats or fish oil supplements significantly improved joint pain and stiffness. Therefore, including more omega 3 fats and decreasing the level of omega 6s can help those with autoimmune disorders better manage their conditions.

Green Tea: Drinking green tea has been associated with several health benefits and may even help prevent cancer, improve heart health, fight gum disease, and improve bone health. Now research from the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University suggests that a compound found in green tea can help suppress autoimmune disease. The compound, EGCG, improves immune function by increasing the number of immune system cells known as regulatory T cells. Regulatory T cells help to keep the immune system in check by preventing the destruction of normal healthy cells. Again, more research is needed, but, when fully understood, Green Tea supplements may provide an easy and safe way to help control autoimmune problems.

Probiotics: These healthy bacteria may be a big help to people suffering from an Autoimmune Disease. Your immune system’s cells (T cells) develop into one of 2 types — a Helper T cell or a Regulatory T cell and can be described as follows:

•    Helper T cells: They patrol the body like a police officer, looking for dangerous invaders. Once they detect a real or perceived threat, they quickly multiply themselves and attack.

•    Regulatory T cells: As mentioned earlier, Regulatory T cells stop inflammation and keep harmless tissues safe.
Most often the decision of whether a T cell becomes Helper or Regulatory takes place in the gut. Probiotics will promote more Regulatory T cell formation, which means more cells for your body to naturally fight inflammation. Plus, probiotics help other cells in the intestinal tract to see normal molecules to be healthy rather than dangerous. This is great news for people with autoimmune diseases. Unlike dangerous drugs, probiotics can help address the immune system’s mixed-up response to normal tissues and cells. There are many probiotic supplements on the market. These probiotic supplements contain a different balance of good bacteria for both the large and small intestines. They include probiotics such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. However, you should consult your health professional on the different strains that are available, potency, etc., as all probiotics are not created equal.

For those that have no physical limitations, ALWAYS consider yourself lucky. You are blessed and don’t ever forget that. I completely understand the tendency to take this gift for granted. I am all too often guilty of this. However, when you have time, understand the challenges people with Autoimmune Diseases encounter every day.  It’s definitely tough and has to be dealt with strategically and in concert with your health professional. However, for those with Autoimmune Disease, you can improve your quality of life with the right exercise routine, diet and supplement regimen. Do your research and talk to the experts in this area. You can overcome many of the challenges armed with knowledge and a “never surrender” attitude.

Mark Becker has worked in the natural products industry as a marketing and communications executive for almost 15 years. He has written more than 250 articles and has either hosted or been a guest on more than 500 radio shows. He obtained a BA in Journalism from Long Beach State University and did his Master’s work in Communications at Cal State Fullerton. For almost 30 years he has participated in numerous endurance events, including more than 150 triathlons of Olympic distance or longer, 90 marathons and numerous other events including ultra marathons and rough water swims from Alcatraz to the mainland. He has relied on a comprehensive supplement regimen to support his athletic, professional and personal endeavors.

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