In a turbulent world and in response to our frenzied lifestyles, Americans continue to reach for ways to calm the mind, and nourish and strengthen body and spirit. Whether you’re committed to simply stepping outside for a few deep breaths of fresh air amidst your busy day or you’re signing up for the next cardio craze at the gym, you may find a few of these wellness trends worth a try.
Remember, as with any new treatment, regimen, or eating lifestyle, it’s important to talk with your doctor first. Wellness trends mentioned here are for informational purposes only and are not intended to diagnose, cure or treat existing conditions, nor are they necessarily endorsed by Main Line Health.
Adaptogenic is a term referring to herbs and spices that have been shown to minimize the body’s stress response and have an overall effect on well-being. Long used in Asian medicine and other parts of the world, adaptogenic herbs and spices are still catching on here in the West but are making their way to mainstream. Familiar examples of adaptogenic herbs include:
- Asian ginseng – an herb that helps with physical endurance, mental clarity, immune function, and fatigue associated with menopause, among other benefits.
- Rosemary – an herb known to support digestive, heart, and liver health, and also to provide stress relief.
- Aloe vera – a plant used not just for burns and skin conditioning, but as a superfood that supports immune function and adrenal health.
- Milk thistle – known for detoxification properties and support of liver function and metabolism as well as its ability to manage stress hormones.
- Maca – often in the form of a powder, a root vegetable from Peru thought to help with libido and hormonal health as well as have energy-boosting properties.
Who knew you could actually freeze your butt—and other “ailments”—off? Developed in 1978 by a Japanese doctor for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, cryotherapy (such as is used to freeze off warts, for example) involves stepping into a cryosauna with only your head exposed outside of the sauna. Liquid nitrogen cools the air in the sauna, producing a drastic drop in skin temperature, in a treatment that lasts for approximately three minutes. People who get whole-body cryotherapy treatments swear by its benefits, including pain relief such as from fibromyalgia or sports injury, boost in metabolism and numerous skin benefits, not to mention overall feeling of well-being as blood flows back to the body’s internal organs after stepping out of the cryosauna.
Says Sean Wright, MD, FACS, plastic surgeon at Riddle Hospital, part of Main Line Health, “Proponents of cryotherapy have claimed that it delivers better skin, improves your mood, helps you sleep better and aids weight loss, among other things. However, research has yet to provide conclusive evidence that this is the case.”
As with any new treatment, regimen, or eating lifestyle, it’s important to talk with your doctor first. Wellness trends mentioned here are for informational purposes only and are not intended to diagnose, cure or treat existing conditions, nor are they necessarily endorsed by Main Line Health.
The standing desk
It’s been shown that sitting for long periods of time negatively affects numerous body functions, including the body’s ability to regulate glucose in the blood. Without healthy blood glucose levels, we are at greater risk for type 2 diabetes. Sitting is also associated with greater risk of heart health problems, including cardiovascular disease and heart failure. Standing desks are starting to catch on in office environments though they haven’t become the norm yet. Try asking for one and seeing if your employer is willing to accommodate you. If not, you may have success if you have an existing back or neck injury that can be validated by your doctor. A doctor’s request for adaptive equipment (e.g., a standing desk) may help. Some workers have taken it upon themselves to produce makeshift standing desks by stacking their computers up on books or shelving. Even standing intermittently, rather than sitting throughout the day, can help keep the circulation moving and improve body function. Make standing desks the new norm—keep pushing for them.
Being in the moment
Not a new concept by any means, but people are increasingly drawn to meditation and mindfulness as ways not only to cope with but also to thrive in a busy, noisy world. You may be attracted to meditation, the practice of sitting quietly focused on breath and allowing thoughts to come and go, or you may find that mindfulness or awareness in the present moment, whether you’re tying your shoes or brushing your teeth, is what brings peace to your day. Both practices invite us to allow thoughts, but not “become” them. Thoughts of fear, worry and concern over past or future events can exist, but they do not have to impact how we think and feel in the present moment. You can practice mindfulness from your desk at work or in your car or at home while you’re with your family. It’s free, and it feels good.
Soy, almond, rice and flax milk have gotten much of the glory as delicious and nutritious substitutes to cow’s milk. Getting new attention on the non-dairy scene is oat milk, made from mixing and straining of steel cut oats. Rich in nutrients such as fiber, calcium, vitamin A and iron, it’s also cholesterol free and has very little fat (though higher in calories than other non-dairy milks). You can always make it yourself but brands like Pure Harvest, Pacific and Vitasoy sell it by the carton.
Says Judy Matusky, a registered dietitian with Main Line Health, “If you’re lactose intolerant, these milks are lactose-free. If you’re vegan, they provide an alternative to animal-based milk. Most are similar to cow’s milk in the amount of vitamin D, A and calcium because these vitamins and minerals have been added.” Also gaining traction in the non-dairy category are nut milk yogurts, offering all the probiotic benefits without the dairy, in products such as CashewGert made by Forager, and almond-based yogurts by brands such as Almond Dream, SO DELICIOUS, Silk and Daiya. Matusky cautions, however, that non-dairy milks and yogurts can be high in sugar and most (except soy) are lower in protein than dairy. Be sure to get your protein in other ways and choose unsweetened or low-sugar varieties.
Smarter ways to sleep
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) more than one-third of us are not getting enough sleep at night. Yet Americans are eager for good quality shut-eye, which may be why manufacturers are coming out with smarter beds that not only adjust to pressure points but monitor how well you sleep each night. The Sleep Number® bed with SleepIQ®, for example, tells you how many hours you slept and what your best sleep hours are. 360 Smart Beds can sense your movements and make real-time adjustments to your body’s contours. The bed will even raise your head slightly if you start to snore. A smart bed syncs up with an app on your phone so you can review your sleep data and share with your health care provider. Also keep an eye out for smart pajamas—where technology meets textiles. Adaptive fabrics can heat and cool to your own body temperature needs while some specialized jammies can give you feedback on heart and breath rate.
Keep in mind, advises Rochelle Goldberg, MD, director of sleep medicine services at Main Line Health, that “technology can help us with goals for better sleep, but it does not replace basic sleep needs (proper hours), routines and habits.” You can create your own well-being trend by practicing better sleep.
Plants that “purify” the air
The idea that certain houseplants can improve indoor air quality has gained widespread acceptance since a NASA study back in 1989. The study was designed to address “sick building syndrome” caused by toxins from carpets and building materials being trapped in closed quarters and causing people to feel sick. The study indicated that some plants are able to remove chemicals such as benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene, given off by objects in our homes and offices, including furniture, rugs, clothing and plastics. These benefits, in addition to plants’ abilities to produce oxygen, absorb carbon dioxide, and naturally add moisture (humidification) to our environment, may in fact help improve indoor air quality. Or—you might just like having plants around because they make you feel good. If you’re looking for plants that presumably have the best air-filtering abilities, consider:
- Spider plants
- Snake plants or mother-in-law’s tongue
- Ficus or weeping fig
- Chinese evergreen
- Peace lily
Keep in mind that some plants are toxic to pets and children. Do your research if you have concerns about toxicity.
Unplugging from digital devices
Now that we know we’re so easily lured by the dings on our devices indicating a new text or email, or a social media comment—we know we have to do something about it. People are more intentionally putting down their devices, or putting them away, or setting up apps that encourage and reward non-screen time. A couple of apps worth mentioning including Moment, an iOS app that tracks how much you use your phone every day. Once you download the app and set your own phone limits, you never need to open it again. It just runs in the background and sends you notifications when you’re approaching or have used more than your daily limits. There’s also a Moment Family option that can help you manage screen time for your entire family. Another app with an interesting twist is called Forest (for iPhone and Android), which rewards you for 30-minute increments away from your phone. While you’re not using your phone, a seedling begins to grow into a tree. If you check your phone, it starts to wither and die. The incentive is to plant trees and have them grow into a forest. The app maker partners with Trees for the Future to plant real trees with the coins you earn from growing a forest.
Going to the ZUU
Still catching on in the United States but well established in Australia and the UK, ZUU is a bodyweight training program that imitates the way our ancestors moved, without the use of bells, balls, weights and machines. Thinking pushing, pulling, squatting, bending, crawling, and short sprints. A good 20-minute ZUU workout can help you burn up to 300 calories—plus it can be done anywhere, with or without anyone else. Check online for interactive training videos or get involved in the ZUU movement by becoming a fully trained ZUU guru.
As we age and particularly after menopause, our skin structure begins to break down due to loss of collagen. Collagen is what gives the skin plumpness and suppleness. Numerous skin care products, as well as skin-stimulating devices, have been shown to help rebuild collagen in the skin, and some believe that collagen supplements can do the same trick. Studies have shown that consuming collagen—whether from animal sources such as cow, pig, fish and poultry—or from a pill, does have skin benefits. While ingestible collagen is a mainstay in the anti-aging industry in Asia and a bit more popular in Los Angeles than in Philadelphia, the trend is catching on and people are seeking out reliable, safe sources of collagen. Of course the best cure for loss of collagen is prevention so while you’re looking for the fountain of youth be sure to use sunblock, avoid cigarette smoke, and nourish your skin with a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Know of a wellness trend not mentioned here? Share it with us! Tell us what you’re doing and why you like or don’t like it.