Laughter Your New Prescription

Laughter: Your New Prescription

When was the last time you laughed? Do you remember the way it made you feel? Many people note that laughter can heal the soul, but what about other aspects of our health? From boosting your mood to enhancing social connectedness, laughter is one of nature’s feel-good remedies, and it has a positive clinical relevance in the treatment of mental, physical, and physiological conditions.

Recent reviews of randomized-controlled trials report reduced levels of stress, anxiety, depression, and fatigue when patients underwent laughter and humor-based interventions. Certain studies have even found humor to be beneficial in improving people’s ability to focus and remember different aspects of lectures, conversations, etc. Furthermore, the opportunity to share a laugh with other people helps to build stronger bonds and deeper connections, fostering a greater sense of belonging and helping crush feelings of social isolation and loneliness.

When our team reflected on how laughter could be used as a tool for a healthy lifestyle, it was agreed that laughter is much more than just a sound. Sometimes even just thinking of a time that you let out a big belly laugh is enough to brighten your mood and ease some of the stress from your body. Seeking opportunities to laugh and engage with others in such a lighthearted fashion may just be the tool many of us should embrace to lead happier and healthier lives. So, we encourage you to take a moment to relive the last moment you left out a laugh and reflect on the different ways it helped you at the time.

“Let laughter be our song. Listen for laughter. Enjoy. Chuckle. Smile. Laugh. Try it sometime, and see for yourself. “

– Dr. Bruce Feldstein, MD, BCC, Head of Gratitude & Reflection Pillar


By: Carly Smith, BS, MPH(c)


  1. Stiwi K, Rosendahl J. Efficacy of laughter-inducing interventions in patients with somatic or mental health problems: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized-controlled trials. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2022 May
The Colorful Defenders

The Colorful Defenders: Plant Based Whole-foods and Phytochemicals

What Are Phytochemicals?

Underlying the all-time saying “Don’t forget to eat your vegetables” and the joy that many of us find in marketplace aisles of vibrant colors is a common understanding: regular consumption of whole foods is associated with reduced health risk.

However, why exactly are fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and plant-based foods such capable defenders of our health?

These food groups contain chemicals called phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are commonly found in plants that are actually protective mechanisms for the plants themselves against bacteria, viruses, and fungi. They are found in brightly colored fruits and vegetables (yellow, orange, red, green, white, blue, purple), intact grains, and beans all contain phytochemicals. And when phytochemicals are taken up by us, they may decrease the risk of developing certain cancers as well as diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.

Availability in Whole Foods vs Supplements

Moreover, these phytochemicals often work in synergy to prevent or reduce the risk of health risks. That means that the same health benefits may not be conferred when people turn to supplements for nutrients, since supplements provide nutrients in isolation. Thus, the benefits of phytochemicals and nutrients are best acquired through eating plant-based whole foods.

Benefits of Various Phytochemicals

While the action of phytochemicals varies by color and type of the food, many have antioxidant abilities that can prevent oxidative stress related diseases – from cancer and diabetes to cardiovascular diseases. Let’s get into a few examples of plant-based whole foods and the phytochemicals they contain:

Phytochemical Type Sources Possible Benefits
Allicin Onions and garlic Lowers blood pressure in hypertensive individuals and stimulates the immune system
Anthocyanins Red and blue fruits (raspberries, blueberries, and vegetables) Helps to prevent cardiovascular diseases and possess antidiabetic, anticancer, anti-inflammatory effects
Indoles Broccoli, bok choy, cabbage, kale, brussel sprouts, and turnips Prevents certain types of cancers, such as breast, prostate, and colon cancer
Lutein Leafy green vegetables Improves eye health
Lycopene Tomatoes Slows the growth of cancers, such as breast and prostate cancer
Phenolics Citrus fruits, fruit juices, legumes, and oilseeds Fights inflammation and neurodegeneration, slowing the aging process

In addition to the list above, soy nuts, soybeans, pears, celery, carrots, olives, lentils, cantaloupe, apricots, seeds, green tea, and apples are also high in phytochemicals!

With every meal of phytochemicals being an opportunity to improve your body’s health defenses, only one question remains: isn’t that a revolution worth biting into?

By: Helena Zhang, BS 


  1. Ried K. Garlic Lowers Blood Pressure in Hypertensive Individuals, Regulates Serum Cholesterol, and Stimulates Immunity: An Updated Meta-analysis and Review. The Journal of Nutrition. 2016 Feb
  2. Khoo HE, Azlan A, Tang ST, Lim SM. Anthocyanidins and anthocyanins: colored pigments as food, pharmaceutical ingredients, and the potential health benefits. Food &  Nutrition Research. 2017 Aug 13
  3. Buscemi S, Corleo D, Di Pace F, Petroni ML, Satriano A, Marchesini G. The Effect of Lutein on Eye and Extra-Eye Health. Nutrients. 2018 Sep
  4. Assar EA, Vidalle MC, Chopra M, Hafizi S. Lycopene acts through inhibition of IκB kinase to suppress NF-κB signaling in human prostate and breast cancer cells. Tumour Biol. 2016 Jul
  5. Singh N, Yadav SS. A review on health benefits of phenolics derived from dietary spices. Curr Res Food Sci. 2022 Sep 10
Aerobic & Resistance

Aerobic & Resistance Exercise Improves Sleep

Sleep, a fundamental element of human biology, plays a crucial role in various physiological processes. A good night’s sleep is essential for immune function, cognitive performance, emotional well-being, and overall physical health. Exercise is another critical lifestyle factor with tremendous potential to improve your health. Regular physical activity has numerous benefits, from reducing the risk of chronic diseases to improving mental health. However, could exercise improve your sleep?

Impact of Resistance Exercise on Sleep

A 2017 review found that “chronic resistance exercise improves all aspects of sleep, with the greatest benefit for sleep quality” in individuals with sleep problems. In this study, Kovacevic et al. employed a systematic review methodology by conducting an electronic database search of randomized controlled trials. Many studies fit the criteria, but three acute resistance exercise studies, seven chronic resistance exercise studies, and three combined aerobic and resistance exercise studies met the researcher’s inclusion criteria and were analyzed for sleep outcomes. The primary finding from this review was improvements in sleep from chronic exercise; these improvements were “moderate-to-large, and commonly affected overall sleep quality, sleep latency, sleep efficiency, mid-sleep disturbance, and daytime dysfunction”. In comparison, the primary medications prescribed to improve sleep quality had “only small-to-moderate effects on sleep quality” and instead have “adverse effects such as rebound insomnia, depression and anxiety, cognitive impairment, and an increased risk of falls, cancer, and overall mortality” if used in the long-term. Kovacevic et al. call for further research and more data on aerobic exercise but cites an earlier paper that noted how aerobic exercise could improve sleep quality.

Furthermore, their work highlighted how “higher intensity and greater frequency of training offer greater sleep benefits”. More specifically, the chronic resistance exercises studied that had the most benefits included machine-based resistance exercise, circuit training, and resistance bands for an average duration of 14 weeks total with approximately 60 minutes per session. Studies with high exercise intensity as compared to low-to-moderate intensity, and with a frequency of 3 days/week as compared to 1-2 days/week, had a larger beneficial effect on sleep quality.

The review presented another pathway by which exercise could improve sleep; exercise improves levels of anxiety and depression, both of which deeply affect sleep — “notably, exercise has been shown to be an effective treatment for major depression and sleep disturbance is one of the core symptoms of depressive illness” and “the majority of chronic studies included in this review reported significant improvements in neuropsychological outcomes”.

Impact of Aerobic Exercise on Sleep

Additional research has also shown the further benefits of aerobic exercise for people with established sleep disorders. One study showcased how “4 months of aerobic exercise training in a sample of older adults with insomnia significantly improved sleep quality while also reducing daytime sleepiness and depressive symptoms”. Another study found that “12 weeks of moderate-intensity aerobic and resistance exercise resulted in a 25% reduction in OSA [obstructive sleep apnea] severity”. Lastly, studies have even shown that the circadian rhythms disrupted in neurodegenerative disease can be improved with exercise — “exercise has proven to be a low risk and beneficial intervention to improve overall health and sleep disorders in AD [Alzheimer’s disease] and PD [Parkinson’s Disease]”. In particular, “physical activity, even at low intensities, has been reported to improve sleep quality, reduce time to fall asleep, and increase the duration of sleep in the elderly… evidence indicates that exercise increases total sleep time and slow-wave sleep”.

We all strive for better sleep even if we do not have a known sleep disorder, and it could be within our grasp through a novel route. Exercising for an hour three times a week at high intensity with machine-based resistance exercise, circuit training, or resistance bands can improve your sleep quality and decrease issues in the day. Even once a week at a lesser intensity for 40 minutes showed beneficial effects! Sleep and exercise are significant pillars in lifestyle medicine, and it is fascinating how one affects the other. Rather than relying on medications that can have adverse effects, research suggest exercise is a natural way we can improve our sleep. While further research is needed, recognizing the interconnectedness of exercise and sleep as critical components of a healthy lifestyle is crucial.

By: Keshav Saigal, BS(c)


  1. Kline, Christopher E. The bidirectional relationship between exercise and sleep: Implications for exercise adherence and sleep improvement.” American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. 2014 August
  2. Kline, Christopher E et al. “The effect of exercise training on obstructive sleep apnea and sleep quality: a randomized controlled trial.” Sleep. 2011 December
  3. Kovacevic, Ana et al. “The effect of resistance exercise on sleep: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials.” Sleep Medicine Reviews. 2018 June
  4. Memon, Adeel A et al. “Effects of exercise on sleep in neurodegenerative disease.” Neurobiology of Disease. 2020 July
  5. Reid, Kathryn J et al. “Aerobic exercise improves self-reported sleep and quality of life in older adults with insomnia.” Sleep Medicine. 2010 October
  6. Yang, Pei-Yu et al. “Exercise training improves sleep quality in middle-aged and older adults with sleep problems: a systematic review.” Journal of physiotherapy. 2012 September
Strength Training During Perimenopause

Strength Training During Perimenopause

Perimenopause is the 3-5 years of a woman’s life, leading into menopause, marking many changes in female body composition. Recent research has determined that the loss of lean, quality muscle, and fat gain are two common physical changes that many women face during this time. Our team highlights the importance of integrating regular strength and resistance training exercises to offset some of the physiologic changes of menopause. This is based on the vast body of research suggesting that maintaining muscle is critical for successful aging of the body and reducing the risk of injury as we get older.

As for what people should be doing during this period of life, there may be more benefits specifically for muscle composition from strength training than long, endurance exercise. One way to begin integrating this change is to prioritize lifting heavy – whatever heavy means to you! You should always remember to do what feels safe for you while still challenging your body and trying exercises that spread force throughout your body. To maximize the benefits for your muscles, research indicates that individuals that lift weights heavy enough to near failure in 4-6 reps see the largest gains in muscle strength when the exercise is maintained for 3-5 sets. For women new to strength training, this type of training regimen may require some getting used to, so it is okay to gradually work toward this goal over time, and prioritize safety at first. Dr. Stacy Sims, a member of our movement & exercise and nutrition pillars, advocates for this change and encourages women to emphasize lifting heavy to reap the most benefits throughout the menopause transition.Perimenopause is the 3-5 years of a woman’s life, leading into menopause, marking many changes in female body composition. Recent research has determined that the loss of lean, quality muscle, and fat gain are two common physical changes that many women face during this time.

“Overall, [we are] breaking the stigma that women need to prioritize long, endurance exercises and exclusively body weight work because they offer little benefits for body composition or lean mass during this time. Instead, lifting heavy (whatever that means to you) will help most during this transitional period!” – Dr. Stacy Sims

By: Carly Smith, BS & Stacy Sims, MSc, PhD


  1. Greendale et al. Changes in body composition and weight during the menopause transition. JCI Insight. 2019 March
  2. Schoenfeld et al. Strength and Hypertrophy Adaptations Between Low- vs. High-Load Resistance Training: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.  2017 December
Fasting May Benefit Our Gut Health

Fasting May Benefit Our Gut Health

There is a lot of talk about intermittent fasting.  While the claims of health benefits to intermittent fasting span a wide range – from slowing aging and disease processes to improving brain health, there are many discussions that center around the efficacy and potential risks of fasting. Here, we hope to approach one of the benefits to intermittent fasting through a scientific lens.

Fasting is defined as abstinence from calorie intake over an extended period of time. With a focus on the intestinal microbiome, emerging studies that primarily use animal models have underscored the possible advantages of fasting for our gut health, which include the reduction of inflammation within the intestines, a boost in the presence of intestinal stem cells, and the proliferation of gut bacteria.

Recently, a controlled clinical trial of 51 participants was designed to investigate the impact of periodic routine fasting on gut microbiota composition and longevity-related genes. Periodic routine fasting is a type of fasting that involves longer time intervals between fasts; for example, a 48-hour fast once per month.

In the study, participants were either assigned to a fasting group or a non-fasting control group. Samples were first collected from all participants. Then, the fasting group underwent five consecutive days of fasting, which involved a daily energy intake of 250 kcal maximum. After five days, samples were collected again.

After analyzing the results, researchers reported that the fasting group showed changes in intestinal microbiota: 1. An expansion of diversity at the phylum and species levels; 2. differences in signaling proteins for metabolism; and 3. An increase in ketone bodies.

To dive in further: after the fasting treatment, researchers noted a significant increase for Christensenella, a longevity-relevant gut microbiota which is strongly correlated with healthy levels of triglycerides and good cholesterol. In addition, Christensenella has previously been associated with the gut microbial make-up of populations who live to be over 100 years old.

The researchers also noted that fasting significantly increased blood levels of SIRT1, SIRT3, FoxO1, and miRlet7b-5pis proteins. SIRT proteins are signaling proteins that are involved in metabolic function and cellular health, including DNA repair, cell survival, and stress resistance. Animal studies have even proposed that SIRT1 is associated with longevity, promoting mitochondrial biogenesis and functioning, and that SIRT3 can regulate mitochondrial metabolism and homeostasis.

Lastly, researchers found significantly higher levels of beta-hydroxybutyrate, a ketone body that is associated with the reduction of age-related neurological impairments, in the blood samples of the fasting group.

All in all, the results from this clinical study suggest that periodic fasting can impact on the composition of the intestinal microbiota, creating more diversity at the species level, while also increasing the expression of microbiota, genes, and metabolites that are relevant to aging and longevity.

By: Helena Zhang, BS & Sean Spencer, MD


  1. Five Days Periodic Fasting Elevates Levels of Longevity Related Christensenella and Sirtuin Expression in Humans
  2. Effects of Intermittent Fasting on Health, Aging, and Disease