At this point, we are all aware that mask wearing, hand washing and social distancing help to protect us against contracting and spreading the Covid 19 virus.1 Taking this a step further, let’s ask ourselves: “What else can I do to prevent a viral infection? Does my diet and lifestyle really matter?
The answer is YES!!! The foundations of a healthy immune system start with a healthy diet and lifestyle. We are not powerless- Let’s discuss actionable steps we can take to protect our physical and mental health during this pandemic.
What we know: Scientists hypothesize that excessive inflammation, oxidative stress, depressed immune system, and an activate cytokine storm substantially contribute to the pathogenesis of COVID-192. So lets become a robust host!
4 CONSIDERATIONS TO BECOMING A ROBUST HOST
- Optimize Quality Sleep
- Reduce inflammation
- Eat a Whole Foods Diet
- Limit stress
Get Quality sleep
Sleep actually increases the ability and number of your white blood cells to fight viral infections more efficiently.3 On the other hand, sleep disturbance is associated with increases in markers of systemic inflammation.4
- Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
- Keep your bedroom cool & dark
- Avoid screen time and blue light exposure 2 hours before bed
- Wear blue light blocking glasses when using screens
Inflammation is a major feature in COVID-19 patients.2 Anti-inflammatory diets and melatonin causes a reduction in the pro-inflammatory cytokines.2 On the other hand, foods that are highly processed and/or contain chemical additives, trans-fats, oxidized fats and added sugars contribute to inflammation. 5
- Address blood sugar control
- Lower omega 6 fatty acid intake and increase omega 3 fatty acids.
- Eat melatonin rich foods like eggs, walnuts, oats, pistachios, pomegranates, and broccoli
- Avoid inflammatory oils: trans-fats, omega 6 vegetable oils like safflower, cottonseed, soybean, corn, canola
Eat a Whole Foods diet
80% of your immune system is in your gut. A high quality nutrient dense diet that focuses on eating whole plant-based foods that are rich in healthy fats and phytonutrients (multicolored fruits and vegetables) is foundational to decreasing overall inflammation.5 Nutrients found in whole foods plays a dual role in immunology, supporting immune surveillance while also reducing inflammation.5
- Eat a variety of color in your diet
- Incorporate herbs and spices like Turmeric, ginger, honey
- Focus on vitamin A, D, C, zinc, Quercetin (plant flavonol)
- Avoid processed foods and foods made with artificial chemicals
- Avoid sugar and alcohol
- Use targeted supplements suggested for you by your healthcare provider
Stress chemistry is inherently inflammatory.5 Physical activity helps to decrease inflammation at the right intensity (moderate levels effective at lowering inflammatory markers while intense exercise does not)5
- Do enjoyable physical activity (walking, yoga, dancing to music)
- Practice mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques (MBSR)
- Connect with others via phone calls and video chats.
- Take Epsom salt baths
- Diffuse essential oils like lavender
- Zhang R, Wang X, Ni L, Di X, Ma B, Niu S, Liu C, Reiter RJ. COVID-19: Melatonin as a potential adjuvant treatment. Life Sci. 2020 Jun 1;250:117583. doi: 10.1016/j.lfs.2020.117583. Epub 2020 Mar 23. PMID: 32217117; PMCID: PMC7102583.
- Dimitrov, S., Lange, T., Gouttefangeas, C., Jensen, A., Szczepanski, M., Lehnnolz, J., . . . Besedovsky, L. (2019, March 04). Gαs-coupled receptor signaling and sleep regulate integrin activation of human antigen-specific T cells. Retrieved November 24, 2020, from https://rupress.org/jem/article/216/3/517/120367/G-s-coupled-receptor-signaling-and-sleep-regulate
- Zhang R, Wang X, Ni L, Di X, Ma B, Niu S, Liu C, Reiter RJ. COVID-19: Melatonin as a potential adjuvant treatment. Life Sci. 2020 Jun 1;250:117583. doi: 10.1016/j.lfs.2020.117583. Epub 2020 Mar 23. PMID: 32217117; PMCID: PMC7102583.
- Yanuck SF, Pizzorno J, Messier H, Fitzgerald KN. Evidence Supporting a Phased Immuno-physiological Approach to COVID-19 From Prevention Through Recovery. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2020;19(Suppl 1):8-35.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghApril 20, 2019 essential oils for wellness, health benefits of essential oils, lemon essential oil uses0 comments
Each month in our quest for the best wellness tips that can be offered, we are sharing an oil and it’s health benefits as well as common uses. Lemon oil should not be rubbed in the eyes or delicate parts of the skin as it will burn and if placing it anywhere other than the soles of the feet or fingers/palms it should be diluted.
Essential oils contain active compounds which interact immediately with the body by entering into the blood stream and activating various parts of the brain. This month, for spring, we are featuring lemon oil. Like the season of spring time, it is known to be revitalizing and has uplifting benefits on mood. It can also help to aid focused attention and accelerate energy and motivation when used for deep breathing meditation! This oil also has a whole team of added benefits.
An added bonus to lemon essential oil is that it is very helpful during a cold or with allergies, with just a small drop on the finger and then placed just on the rim of the inside of your nostril, nasal congestion is instantaneously diminished. It’s pretty miraculous and works faster than any decongestant that we know of. Overall, it fights bacteria and for a very delicious way to sooth a sore throat, you can add some to your tea with honey for a time-tested healing drink. Other sources site that by placing a few drops of medical grade lemon oil in water, the immune system is boosted and it has even further benefits during cold and flu season.
When diluted as a cleaning solution, it is very cleansing for kitchen surfaces and makes a great substitute for those other artificial lemon scents. It also can take tarnish from silver and nourishes cracked leather goods. It also removes scuffs from hardwood floors.
For your beauty regimen, sources indicate that lemon oil can be added to your nighttime beauty cremes, placing just a few drops in your favorite crème will brighten your skin. It is also recommended that it can be added to oatmeal for a fresh and natural skin exfoliant. If your nails have a problem with fungus, try lemon essential oil to rid yourself of the pesky fungi. It also can be diluted and used on rough patches of skin on the foot to smooth out dry spots.
When diffusing lemon oil, it is best to add it to other scents like grapefruit, pine, and even peppermint which will further enhance you with a serious jolt of feel good energy!
The physical health, wellness, and household benefits aren’t the end of the goodness that lemon oil has to offer your foods. We can also consume cooking grade oils by adding them to sauces, pancakes, whipped crème, fish and just about any dish that you want to have a very bright flavor.
It is an all natural way to remove tree sap from the hands! Just try it and see!
A word of caution and this can be applied to your use of all essential oils, they must be high quality and always read the label of your favorite brand before consuming it as some are not meant to be eaten. Finally, be sure to dilute them before putting them on the face or body but generally a drop or two on your hands can be a pleasant way to inhale them deeply on the run. Lemon oil should not be rubbed in the eyes or delicate parts of the skin as it will burn.
For A Counseling or Wellness Consultation, Please call our office to schedule with one of our licensed therapists or wellness providers!Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghSeptember 6, 2018 blue cross blue shield, high fat diet, highmark nutrition counseling, insulin, integrative medicine, Nutrition Counseling, upmc, Wijkstrom0 comments
Open a women’s magazine or examine the back of a food label, you will find the ‘evidence’ there. It’s easy to find ready sources that say dietary fat is bad news for your waist line, cholesterol, skin, mood, you name it. Many clinicians still hold that saturated fats like coconut oil, butter and beef cause weight gain, clogged arteries, high cholesterol and heart disease. But, according to Certified Nutritionist Liz Mckinney, there is much to learn when it comes to the Big Fat Myth, read on to re-evaluate fat’s bad reputation. This blog will fill you in on the facts and research in order to assist your physical health, emotional health, and wellness goals by consuming fat and nourishing yourself with this well known macro-nutrient.
Myth: Saturated Fat and Cholesterol Increases Risk of Heart Disease
Today, a common scenario occurs when a patient walks in for a checkup or health screening and they learn that their cholesterol is high. The patient is then told to limit saturated fat and cholesterol intake. Cut down on foods such as red meats, butter, eggs, and oils like palm and coconut) and often a prescription for a statin drug follows when their cholesterol is over 200 mg/dL. This is probably due in part to misleading evidence that suggested that cholesterol levels are directly correlated to risk of heart disease. One such study was performed by a researcher by the name of Ancel Keys in the 1980’s that looked at 22 countries and found that dietary fat intake was related to increased risk of heart disease. However, data on only 7 of those 22 countries was published – those that fit his hypothesis. Since then, many researchers and physicians have refuted this study, and yet, the recommendations that come down the pipe from the American Heart Association and the USDA continue to perpetuate that dietary fat and cholesterol are bad for us.
Research continues to show that high quality animal fats and eggs aren’t the real culprit in heart disease. One of the most notable studies that shows this was called the Women’s Health Initiative, which studied over 48,000 postmenopausal women and the connection between a low fat diet and the risk of heart disease. Participants were followed for an average of 8 years and then assessed for heart disease. The group that reduced overall fat intake and increased intake of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables did not experience reduced risk of Coronary Heart Disease (CDC), stroke or CVD, over the control group. There are other studies that have found similar results, indicating that low fat diets don’t really have much impact on heart disease risk. A report published in 2010 by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition stated that there was no substantiated link between saturated fat intake and outcomes of obesity, CVD, cancer or osteoporosis. And, if you need even more proof, a meta-analysis of 21 medical reports and studies also published in 2010 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that, “the intake of saturated fat was not associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, or CVD.”
If not fat, then what?
So, if saturated fats aren’t the culprit in CVD and atherosclerosis, then what is? Enter carbohydrates. Most grains and sugars are highly inflammatory. As a society, our diets are high in processed and packaged foods like pastries, fast food, crackers, cookies and cakes. Eating these foods causes surges in blood sugar and taxes the pancreas, whose job it is to produce insulin to shuttle the sugar into our cells to be used for energy or stored for later. Over time, the cells become resistant to insulin and sugar remains in the bloodstream instead of being transported into the cells. Sugar in the blood stream sticks to protein molecules like LDL cholesterol (called “bad cholesterol”). This changes the structure of the LDL and causes an inflammatory cascade which leads to plaques in the arteries and the inability of LDL to carry cholesterol where it’s needed,especially to the brain. So, now we have a simple equation. Too many carbohydrates cause inflammation, which leads to oxidized or damaged LDL and atherosclerosis. This is what leads to heart disease, not eating too much dietary saturated fat and cholesterol.
Read on and look for next weeks post, Liz will share more details about how your health and wellness can be bolstered with fat as she shares all of the well researched benefits to Fat. She will also share a sample meal plan to help you take advantage of the most nourishing food options available.
Liz Mckinney, LDN, CNS
Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
830 Western Avenue Pittsburgh, PA 15233
2539 Monroeville Blvd Monroeville PA 15146
Edited By, Stephanie Wijkstrom, MS, LPC, NCCLearn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghMay 10, 2018 addiction, anxiety, cell phone addiction, cell phone anxiety, counseling for addiction, help for cell phone addiction, social media addiction, therapy for addiction, video gaming addiction0 comments
The Dangerous New Addiction that you use Everyday, Hint-It is not a drug!
In a world of highly demanding home lives and work lives, where performance is prized above peace and calm, there is one object which is the focal point of so much of our attention. TO maintain peace, balance, and calm, our human bodies require us to at least sometimes, think without disruption, to look around at the leaves on the trees and to see and be with everyone contained in the horizon around us. To love and care for our spouse and families we need to supply them with attention by unplugging from everything that is not directly in front of us. If we are going to live a life of contentment, balance, and enhance our mindfulness, we must examine the culprit that stands in our way. One very intrusive companion to our feeling of alertness and attention is our cell phones. While they are a way for us to communicate plans and conversations, to manage our work, to find true love and date, as well as find out information about anything in the world that we want to know via the internet, they are also a major problem. There is so much focused awareness placed upon our cell phones that medical community is examining it as an object that can absorb our attention so much, even black out what is around us causing distress and impairment in our physical bodies and relationships. The research community has decided that yes, cell phone use does qualify as a form of addiction and at minimum for most of us, it contributes to our growing levels of stress and anxiety (Desola et al).
The presence of addictive behavior that takes place on our cell phones spans so much more than just compulsive shopping or video gaming. The anxiety that we feel surrounding our cell phone has resulted in new bodies of language, some of our favorite pop terms devoted to describing our responses to not having our most favored objects by our side are; “Nomophobia” meaning that we fear no having our phones, there is also “FOMO” commonly known as the Fear Of Missing Out i.e the fear of being without our cell phone or even disconnected from the Internet, “Textaphrenia” and “Ringxiety” – the false sensation of having received a text message or call that leads to constantly checking the device some of us are so tuned into our cell phones that we hear phantom ringing, imagining that the phones are ringing when they are in fact not. “Phubbing”, meaning to inadvertently ignore someone we are with to check our phone. “Textiety” – the anxiety of receiving and feeling the compulsive urge to then respond immediately to ours texts (De Sola 2016).
Our attachment to our cell phones is so strong that we legitimately feel “separation anxiety” when we are away from them for too long. Bring your awareness to the last time that you lost or misplaced your phone, how did that feel for you in the moment? If you are like many people you felt the typical markers of anxiety including, excessive thoughts and worry, even elevated heart rate and fear that you may be missing something very important out there in our cloud based cyber world. Here are some very good signs that you may have a problem.
9 signs that you or our loved one may be struggling with anxiety or addiction with cell phone use;
- Using cell phones in a dangerous context such as while driving or biking.
- Having had an accident or other incident due to using a cell phone in a dangerous context
- Having problems in relationships, ie your partner or loved one annoys you by criticizing your cell phone use.
- Having problems at work or school because of cell phone use.
- Preferring online, texting, or social media world to real life contact.
- Inability or difficulty sleeping due to cell phone use.
- An inability or difficulty refraining from using cell phones even though attempts have been made to cut back.
- Urgency to respond to messages immediately and having a marked irritability if access to phone is delayed.
- High degrees of anxiety and loneliness and changes in mood due to need to send, respond, or receive messages.
While it is nearly impossible to function in the world without a cell phone, as with all things that are addictive, there are ways to enjoy them and their many functions without being addicted. Whether we are using our phones to be productive or to purchased extra lives on candy crush, what we do is less important than how we do it, and whether or not we meet the diagnostic criteria for problematic use. If you think that you may be experiencing a problem with how you are using your cell phone, or if others suggest that they think you have a problem, spend some time really thinking about whether you do feel balanced or does your attention often get derailed to be plugged into the digital world. The solution may be as easy as trying to cut back or even trying a digital detox. Yet the fact is that if you are experiencing a true addiction or dependence on your cell phone or have developed another anxiety disorder surrounding it, cutting back may be very difficult to do without the support of a therapist or counselor.
The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
830 Western Avenue Pittsburgh Pa 15233
2539 Monroeville BLVD Monroeville Pa 15146
Proudly bringing Wellness Counseling to Western Pennsylvania
De-Sola Gutiérrez, J., Rodríguez de Fonseca, F., & Rubio, G. (2016). Cell-Phone Addiction: A Review. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 7, 175. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyt.2016.00175Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghFebruary 1, 2018 acupuncture, acupuncture monroeville, cupping, gua sha, moxibustion, qi gong pittsburgh, traditional chinese medicine, wellness center monroeville0 comments
Dr. Zach Truncali, D.C., L.Ac, believes that mental/emotional, physical and spiritual health are integrally connected, and that health and wellness is best achieved through an holistic approach. Dr. Truncali utilizes acupuncture, Chinese bodywork, moxibustion, and Qi Gong to correct the body’s imbalances that lead to disease. These treatments facilitate enhanced healing, and promote a greater sense of well-being. Dr. Truncali has a clinical focus in mental-emotional disorders ranging from PTSD, anxiety, depression, insomnia and stress, as well as an in-depth understanding of physical injuries including, neck and back pain, sports injuries, knee pain and neuropathy. Dr. Truncali approaches the mind-body as a whole – recognizing that imbalanced emotions can cause physical pain to develop, and that physical pain impacts mental health. He works to internally harmonize each patient both physically and mentally.
Dr. Zachary Truncali holds a Doctorate of Chiropractic from New York Chiropractic College as well as a Master’s of Science in Acupuncture from the Finger Lakes School of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.Dr. Truncali was consecutively named to the Dean’s List in both the chiropractic and acupuncture programs, was named a member of the Phi Chi Omega Chiropractic Scholastic Honor society, and is certified in Clean Needle Technique by the Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Dr. Truncali has worked extensively with a variety of patients during his clinical rotations at locations such as Canandaigua VA Medical Center, Rochester VA Hospital, Monroe Community Hospital, Seneca Falls Health Center, and NYCC Campus Health Center. Additionally, he has worked with athletes including baseball teams, marathoners, triathlon competitors, CrossFitters, and weekend warriors. In April 2016, Dr. Truncali studied at Zhejiang Hospital in Hangzhou, China. There he completed a 100 hour clinical internship program under the supervision of the Zhejiang Provincial Hospital and learned contemporary acupuncture and tui na techniques, the latest acupuncture theories and approaches in the integration of Traditional Chinese Medicine with Western Medical models.Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJanuary 22, 2018 Certified Nutritionist, counseling, Emotional Health, integrative health, integrative medicine, mindfulness, Nutrition Counseling, Nutritionist, wellness0 comments
What is Nutrition Counseling? Liz Mckinney, Certified Nutrition Counselor in Pittsburgh and Monroeville explains a little bit about how this works to enhance your health and wellness.
What to expect:
- One on one individualized nutrition counseling based on your goals and health complaints
- Detailed analysis
- Goal setting, coaching and working through barriers to change
- A clear cut program including diet, lifestyle and supplement therapy specific to your needs
- Existing lab report analysis and/or future recommended lab work either through a third party lab or through your primary health care provider
- Email support as needed between sessions
In your first session, we will:
- Go over your client intake form and three day diet diary
- Discuss your primary goals and current barriers to change
- Complete a nutrition focused physical exam
- Analyze any existing lab work you’ve had completed within the last year
- Set a program for you consisting of dietary, lifestyle and supplement therapy
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJanuary 22, 2018 counseling, meditation, mindfulness, wellness, wellness pittsburgh, yoga0 comments
Be Your Own Beloved: Cultivating Self Care
Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh, 830 Western ave, Pittsburgh 15233
Saturday Feb 10, 10am
Being your own beloved means treating yourself with the same love and kindness as you would to a dear friend. Just like you cannot fill from an empty cup, you cannot fully love someone else until you love yourself. This Valentines Day, give yourself (and your partner) the gift of self-care.
Join Kayla Hersberger, yoga instructor, essential oil lover, and advocate for natural living in this seminar which will include;
A guided heart-opening meditation
A writing exercise (bring your journal!)
Tips for starting and maintaining a self-care practice
Instruction to self-massage with essential oils
We kindly ask for a $5 love donation to cover the cost of oils, but no one will be turned away due to lack of funds.Learn More
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJanuary 22, 2018 clinical herbalist, kinesiology, psychology, resolutions, wellness0 comments
Get in Motion: Move Through Life with Us
Integrative Wellness Group & Cardio for the Soul
Seeking individuals who have been wanting to utilize the effects of fitness to achieve greater physical and emotional health but have been feeling stuck in the process. Melissa Taylor is a licensed therapist and kinesiologist – trained and dedicated to help you to overcome the barriers that have prevented you from implementing your wellness and fitness regime. Collaborate with us to learn the principles of fun and fitness and get unstuck and on to a healthy, whole, and more well you!
Location: Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh (830 Western Ave., 15233)
Group Sessions: Sunday’s, 9-11am
Start Date: February 25th, 2018
Services: Traditional Group Therapy paired with Physical Fitness
50 min. Cardio Session
50 min. Group Therapy Session
Wellness Group: Positive Psychology focuses on what makes your life valuable and worth living. These evidence-based techniques are offered in a group session by learning to utilize behavioral activation. These techniques will equip you to become motivated, carrying you beyond psychological and imagined barriers to achieving your goals.
Physical Fitness Description: A combination of cardio, dance, and strength-based exercises to improve overall health and wellness. Exercise has been shown to decrease negative mental health symptoms while rebuilding self-esteem and improving overall happiness. No prior experience needed.
The benefits of wellness peer groups coupled with group exercise are innumerable. There is power within numbers, enjoy the benefit of enhanced support networks and trusted sounding boards. Exercising with others builds motivation, accountability, and positive support. Wellness Group Members will offer specific ideas for improving difficult situations or life challenges, as well as help put problems into perspective. Members share how they overcame certain issues or relate to the stress of current issues. It increases motivation and courage when you can achieve fitness goals with others and knowing that you’re not alone.
10 sessions-$425.00 (packages must be used in 6 months)
Intake Required for each participant (60 mins/$85.00)
Medical Release Form Required to start group
Please call to set up an Intake Session with Melissa Taylor, LMFT, MS
As a separate service, we also have a nutritionist on staff to offer health assessments, meal planning, to help you to achieve your nutrition and dietary goals.
*All services are Out of Pocket, using cash, credit, debit card, or HSA, No Insurance Accepted at this time
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJanuary 6, 2018 meditation, mental health, mindfulness, personal growth, Uncategorized, wellness, wisdom, yoga0 comments
We love wellness and always are committed to bringing to you all the latest and often times most historically revered practices to sustain and support emotional, physical and spiritual health. This month we are highlighting Frankincense. Some of you may be familiar with the giving of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh, in ancient times, these were gifts offered to kings and royalty, they even mention them in the Christian Bible as offerings brought to baby Jesus Christ by The Three Wise Men. Why all of the spotlight on Frankincense? Well in indigenous cultures, Frankincense was treated as medicine to reduce symptoms and even cure diseases of inflammation.
Modern Science is exploring the many benefits of Frankincense, some studies offering evidence that this can be used to cure everything depression, anxiety, and even certain forms of cancer. While we can not conclude the effectiveness of these treatments because it has not been supported of verified by the food and drug administration plant oils and herbs offer a wonderful route to healing and treating our bodies holistically.
by Counseling and Wellness Center of PittsburghJune 13, 2016 counseling, educational, mindfulness, popular culture, psychology, wellness0 comments
The Psychology of a Win!
There are many reasons that the city of Pittsburgh and Penguins fans afar are basking in the glory of last night’s Stanley Cup win! If you are like many of the fans, last night’s win may have left you reeling in the energy, perhaps noticing a burst of confidence, optimism, and even sexual energy. Of course psychology has a way of understanding just what happens for us as fans, when our victorious team landed the winning goal into the net, bringing home yet another Stanley cup victory for our city.
According to a research study conducted by the National Institute of Health (NIH), the main reason that fans enjoy that rush of endorphins comes down to heightened testosterone levels when their favorite sports team wins. The study was able to measure testosterone levels in self-identified sports fans as they watched their teams win and at others times watching them lose. The study concluded that those watching their favorite team win had a surge in testosterone and those watching their team lose had a significant dip in testosterone.
Testosterone is more than a “male” hormone. It is a key player in the health and mood of both men and women, and according to the National Institute of Health, Testosterone plays a role in:
- Mood and wellbeing
- Sex drive/libido
So Pittsburgh, enjoy the win and all of the feel good energy that goes along with it! While we revel in The Stanley Cup today, there may be an opportunity for mindfulness, when we think about those San Jose Sharks fans. The laws of balance that govern all things dictate that what goes up shall to come down, and all of the positive mood, confidence, and energy of the win becomes just the opposite when we feel the effects of a loss, resulting in lower mood, lower energy, pessimism, and even at times aggressiveness. That however, is certainly not where our great city is today, and on that note, let us enjoy the sweet rush of victory!
In celebration and optimism,
The Counseling and Wellness Center of Pittsburgh
830 Western Avenue
Pittsburgh Pa 15233
For more reading on testosterone and the mentioned study, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9811365