Gardening a Healthy Hobby

Gardening-a-Healthy-Hobby

As a lifelong and passionate gardener, it pleases me that my hobby provides not only joy, but substantial health benefits.

My love of gardening started when I was young and continues today. I have fond memories of my father taking me to the garden store as a child and letting me choose plants for our yard. Throughout my college years and medical school, when I began studying the benefits of herbs, I always kept a garden and even extended it to the roof of my apartment when I ran out of room! I thought I would share with you some of the many ways gardening affects our health and connects to the brain, heart, and gut.

Brain

Gardening can improve our mood and reduce the risk of dementia. In fact, a study in the Netherlands cited by CNN suggests that gardening is more effective at reducing stress than other hobbies. Participants completed a stressful task and were then told to either read indoors or go outside and garden. After 30 minutes, the gardening group reported better moods, and their blood tests showed lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. In addition, the microbiome in soil has been shown to act as an antidepressant and its effects have been used to study cancer patients, resulting in heightened happiness, vitality and “significantly improved quality of life.”

Heart/Cardiometabolic

While most gardening falls under the category of moderate physical exercise, studies show that the activity can cause reductions in cardiovascular disease and cancer mortality rates. And, when in addition to regular exercise, gardening or DIY activities can cut the risk of a heart attack or stroke and prolong life by as much as 30% among those ages 60+, according to a study of almost 4,000 participants in Stockholm.

Gut

Research shows that the human gut and soil contain about the same number of active microorganisms and that there is a connection between microbes in the soil and the environment and our own microbiome. Exposure to these microbes affects our health in a number of ways, including balancing our microbes and even improving our mood. We’ve learned through studies that growing up in a microbe-rich environment, such as a farm, can have positive health effects on children. However, these effects may change due to urbanization and conventional foods.

Additional Benefits of Healthy Gardening

Gardening offers a bounty of additional benefits as well, including spending time in nature, exposure to the sun and Vitamin D, exercise, the opportunity to grow and eat organic, nutritious food and herbs, and an ongoing hobby that requires attention. It has also been shown to lower the risk of dementia, boost mood and combat loneliness.

Also, digging in and breathing in dirt not only nourishes and protects plants and plays a role in stabilizing the climate, but some research suggests a relationship between increased autoimmune disease and a disruption in the symbiotic relationships of soil microorganisms, so caring for a garden can be a conduit to increased microbial interactions.

For me, planning and tending to my garden has always been a source of healing and rejuvenation. I encourage you to explore this healthy hobby or, at the very least, take the time to begin composting your kitchen scraps.


Worth Reading

Allyn, Bruce, Amaranthus, Mike, Healthy Soil Microbes, Healthy People: The microbial community in the ground is as important as the one in our guts, The Atlantic/2013

Blum, Winfried E.H., Keiblinger, Katharina M., Zechmeister-Boltenstern, Sophie, Does Soil Contribute to the Human Gut Microbiome?, NCBI/2019

Donner, Nina C., Fox, James H., Fuchsl, Andrea M., et al., Immunization with a heat-killed preparation of the environmental bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae promotes stress resilience in mice, PNAS/2016

Gaston, Kevin J., Soga, Masashi, Yamaurac, Yuichi, Gardening is beneficial for health: A meta-analysis, ScienceDirect/March 2017

Goldman, Bruce, Gut bust: Intestinal microbes in peril, Stanford Magazine/2016 Hayes, Kim, 5 Secret Health Benefits of Gardening, AARP/2017

Ochoa-Hueso, Raul, Global Change and the Soil Microbiome: A Human-Health Perspective, Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution/2017

Staff, Three Ways Gardening is Good for Your Gut, Hyperbiotics.com

7 Ways to Make Seasonal Allergies Less Annoying

Stinging Nettle

Ah-choo!

Many of us will be spending time outdoors with our families this summer, but the beautiful blooming flowers and trees producing airborne pollen may put a damper on our plans, as they cause sniffing and sneezing. While seasonal allergies are a reality and affect about 35 million Americans, there are proactive and integrative approaches you can take to lessen your symptoms and fully appreciate summer’s splendor.

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Racism, Public Health, and My Commitment

Systemic racism and oppression are public health crises

I would like to begin this message by apologizing for the delay in formulating my thoughts and words for my patients, colleagues and the community. It was never my intention to appear uncaring by remaining silent during this monumental time in our lives and our history, and I assure you that I continue listening, learning and taking action to serve the community as a whole.

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Considering Running? Now’s the Time!

The Rewards Of Running

If you’re considering a new exercise regimen during this time of sheltering, I’d like to put in a plug for running. In completing research recently on longevity and healthy aging, I came across “The Runner’s Study,” which prompted me to want to convey the rewards of running, something I started in elementary school, continued throughout college and medical school and today still find beneficial for both the body and mind.

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Integrative Medicine is Not Alternative Medicine

Integrative Medicine is Not Alternative Medicine

Over the years I have been approached by patients who seek my care in an effort to bypass conventional medicine. It’s understandable, as many are dissatisfied by the tendency of conventional medicine to focus on high-tech interventions and pharmaceutical management of established disease. There are beneficial aspects of conventional care, most notably acute and surgical care, but I am concerned about those forgoing the preventive aspects of conventional medicine, such as cancer screenings, immunizations and medications that can prevent complications or progression of disease. In addition, I have also seen those declining curative cancer therapy.

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Maintaining a Healthy Immune System During the Ongoing Threat of COVID-19

Maintaining a Healthy Immune System

With the recent and ongoing threat of COVID-19, we are reading more than ever about the immune system, its function, and its failures. And while it would be a hopeful prospect to improve upon a normal and/or healthy immune system, there is little to no evidence that we can take supplements or drink juices to make it work more efficiently. In short, “immune-boosting” is not a possibility.

The good news is that we can make changes in our daily lives to maintain a normal immune response. Here are a few ways that we can keep our system strong.

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24-Hour Blood Pressure Monitoring for Prevention, Wellness

When I meet a new patient I spend 90 minutes with them, piecing together an extensive timeline, working decade by decade to create a thorough personal history, both generational and environmental. It’s the first step in developing a holistic view of the patient. The next step is testing – looking for the normal, the abnormal, and the path toward prolonged health and vital aging.

This year, I expanded my offerings to include new methods of health assessment, bringing in tools that screen for and monitor biomarkers of health and risk of disease. In the weeks to come, I will be sharing information on the office’s new technology. I hope that you, too, will recognize the importance of wellness through prevention and not wait until you are “sick enough” to take steps toward living optimally.

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Surgical Success: How “Prehab” Exercise Affected My Recovery

Studies show that a contributor to successful rehabilitation is prehabilitation or prehab, an exercise program started prior to surgery. Formerly affiliated with orthopedic operations such as knee and hip replacements, prehab has become more mainstream in the treatment of cancer patients, as early research reveals that becoming fit prior to cancer surgery may reduce the risk of cancer recurrence and progression, improve the effectiveness of treatment, reduce the side effects of chemotherapy and improve energy, self-image, confidence, and quality of life.

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