Our guest blogger this month is Jamé Heskett M.D., the founder of The Wellpath anti-aging clinic on Madison Ave in NYC and Author of The Well Path lose 20lbs, reverse the aging process, change your life. Dr. Heskett has spent her 24-year career focused on women's health and longevity issues. As a mother of three, she intimately understands the needs of women in their pursuit of well-being and preservation of youthful vitality. Today's woman is looking for health and beauty solutions that are gentle, highly effective, and holistic. Dr. Heskett's goal with each patient is "to know them so well that I can understand what will make them most vital and thrive."
Circulation is the crux of our existence. Heart pumps, we live. Heart stops pumping, we don't. Pretty simple. Thank goodness pumping our heart is not a conscious process like doing a bicep curl, otherwise we would never be able to keep it up.
Our body is really just a bunch of individual cells that make up our organs. Our cells thrive with optimal delivery of oxygen and nutrients via blood. But that is only half of the circulation equation.
Our cells also rely on a lesser-known component of the circulatory system, the lymphatic system, for removal of the waste created by the cells once they process oxygen and nutrients. If either component of the circulatory system isn't functioning properly, our cells, our organs, and our total being suffers.
The result of a poorly functioning circulatory system can lead to build up of chronic inflammation, a premature dying off of cells, and a less than robust production of new cells, all of which contribute to decreasing wellness and quality of life. Increased pain, fatigue, fat gain, susceptibility to disease, decline in cognitive function, and sub-optimal mood are all consequences of poor circulation.
Keeping your circulation robust and strong is the cornerstone to optimal health. But how do you improve your circulation?
Here are my favorite, practical, simple ways to boost circulation. To read more about the connection between our lymphatic system and sleep, check out this guide.
Drinking a Full Glass of Warm Water with Lemon First Thing in the Morning
Eight ounces of warm water with half a lemon (people under 150 lbs) to a whole lemon (more than 150 lbs) can boost circulation. When we wake up we are dehydrated. The water is hydrating and gets fluids moving faster through the body. Picture a trickle through a drainpipe versus an overflowing gutter. A big glass of water in the morning instead of (or before) your dehydrating coffee will make your circulation more robust.
Heat causes a blood vessel to open and expand. Drinking warm water before your first bite of food increases blood flow to your gastrointestinal system, preparing it to better absorb the nutrients.
Deep breathing can deliver up to ten times more oxygen into your bloodstream than normal, shallow breathing. The rhythmic contraction and compression of your diaphragm acts as a pump to move lymph along and opens up valves to enhance flow. We tend to breath very shallowly so it takes practice to learn how to breathe deeply.
I start with 5 minutes before I get out of bed in the morning to boost my circulation right from the get go, which is very energizing for the body. Lying on your back, inhale deeply through the nose while pushing your belly out. When you can't take in any more air, hold it briefly and then exhale through the mouth, drawing your abdomen in.
You brush your teeth and hair daily. But did you know you should also brush your skin every day? Skin brushing stimulates the lymphatic system and increases blood circulation, which can aid in digestion and the elimination processes.
The proper brush is one with natural bristles. Short repetitive strokes starting at the feet and working upwards to the navel and then downwards from the clavicles, arms and abdomen will promote the movement of the lymph towards the heart. The short strokes should go from joint to joint, for example, the toes to the ankle, and ankle to knee, and so on. The process should take no longer than 5 minutes and can be done just prior to a shower for exfoliation benefits.
Hot / Cold Immersion
This is one tip that often makes people uneasy. The thought of turning the hot water to cold in the shower literally sends shivers up the spine. But this is an excellent practice that has been around forever, in many cultures.
The benefits are many. Warm or hot water opens up blood vessels promoting circulation and increased blood flow. Moving from heat to cold causes those same blood vessels to constrict. Repeating this process exercises your blood vessels just like lifting dumbbells. You can obviously practice this in your shower. An ideal place to incorporate this technique is your hot tub. Simply move from the warm water of the spa to a cold pool or shower.
Once you get over the initial hesitation, you will be hard pressed to give it up because of how good it makes you feel. Always end with the cold water as that will pump the blood back to your heart and actually prevents shivers. Start with a small difference in temperature and work you way up. If you have any cardiovascular disease you should always confirm this practice with your doctor before you start.
Using these simple techniques on a regular basis can actively stimulate circulation. When used regularly, the body can register the increased circulation and start producing new youthful blood vessels to handle the flow. Picture your cells thriving with this boost in oxygen and nutrients while all that garbage is no longer hanging around. Vitality and energy can be yours to enjoy.
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