Choosing Well for Wellness

Last week I had the privilege of discussing the importance of mind/body/spirit balance during a presentation at the Pawling Library. A number of attendees asked about inflammation, herbs, white rice, and garlic; others were interested in learning more about the impact of certain teas and supplements on sleep. Below are a few highlights, together with some clarifications and a few corrections.

Lifestyle choices may enhance or distract from inner peace, healing, and wellness. The lifestyle choices we are in control of include: food, sleep, and exercise.


Certain foods have anti-inflammatory properties. Examples of these are those rich in omega-3 fatty acids (such as wild-caught salmon), dark leafy greens (such as kale, collard greens, Swiss chard, and spinach), and certain spices (including turmeric and cayenne).

Caution: Before changing your current lifestyle routine, discuss any and all ideas regarding health and wellness with your healthcare provider.

Garlic has many properties. A point about allicin (the active antimicrobial substance in garlic) was made at the library presentation. The main point: chop up garlic and expose it to light and air before using. This is a complex topic that deserves more detailed exploration. Alliin and allinase need to be considered. If you are interested in learning more about the properties and possible health benefits, please consult your trusted health practitioner. There are pros and cons – as documented by recent evidence-based research that may bring the value (health benefits) of allicin into question. Note: There are mixed reviews, including a few from the National Institutes of Health, regarding the question of purity/occasional contamination, as well as medicinal uses of processed (possibly including granulated and powdered) garlic.

Feel free to omit from your diet: white flour, foods labeled partially hydrogenated, and modified, processed, and high-fructose corn syrup. Regarding white rice vs. brown rice, this is an extraordinarily hot and complex topic that often does not receive the attention it deserves. Note: The current thinking (National Institutes of Health) focuses on two points: nutritional benefit (pros) and levels of arsenic (cons). White rice tends to spike blood sugar more than does brown rice (important information for diabetics). While brown rice has more nutritional value, it has more (small) traces of arsenic than white rice. Pouring off any extra water after boiling (rather than permitting the rice to absorb carefully measured water used to boil it) serves to reduce the level of arsenic in the brown rice by 60%, but also reduces the nutritional value to some degree, as well.


Know your own body. The goal is to awaken refreshed and ready to tackle the day with energy and a positive attitude. Physical energy and mood reflect the balance of mind, body and spirit.

Waking up exhausted and possibly in a bad mood is an important signal from your brain, the “CEO” of the body. This communication may represent any of the following: (1) Your body may be fighting infection; (2) an argument remains unresolved and/or you are experiencing emotional / psychological / spiritual discomfort for another reason; (3) a particular food or liquid consumed the day or night before doesn’t agree with your system; and/or (4) you did not have enough hours of restful sleep to recharge your mind and body.

The brain needs to go through stages of restful sleep, including REM, light, and deep sleep. The “Beta” waves (associated with waking hours – erroneously stated during the presentation in place of “Delta” waves which are associated with stages of deep sleep) are necessary for quality sleep. The brain requires full cycles of a straight run to help the body heal and repair – and these may vary from person to person (60 – 90 minutes).

Specifically, one person may do well after a night of interrupted sleep; another might not. For you, several 90-minute cycles before any interruption may work well – and yet, for your friend, anything less than five or seven straight hours of uninterrupted sleep may be necessary in order to feel ready to face a new day. These individual needs are to be honored and respected.


It is essential to know what works well for your body. Walking or jogging may be perfect for you, while yoga or lifting weights might be best for another. How can you tell what’s right for you? The best exercise for your body (1) will make you happy before, during, and after you do it; (2) will create a feeling of total wellness – mind/body/spirit; and (3) won’t cause injuries; will permit you to take it at your own pace/rate. Choose what puts you in a good mood, what “feels” right, and whatever you can look forward to. Trust your gut. Consult a licensed, certified personal trainer if you need assistance deciding.

The key to balance of mind, body, and spirit is to know what makes you feel peaceful inside. Bottom line: Surround yourself with people who let you feel emotionally and physically safe, and make lifestyle choices that are healing for your body.

Dr. Nancy Iankowitz is a board certified family nurse practitioner and Director of Holistic and Integrative Healing LLC. She is also host of “Marcy’s World”on Pawling Public Radio, offering tools to help parents communicate effectively with 2nd and 3rd grade children. Email your questions and comments to:

For more information, call (917) 716-6802, or visit www.driankowitz.comonline.