Tag Archives: chronic illness

Oxidative Stress Leading to Inflammation

Oxidative Stress Leading to Inflammation

Oxidative stress leading to Inflammation, next stop, disease.

Going bigger, is not necessarily better.

Many of us have the very best intentions with our health. We try to eat right, exercise, take supplements,  make choices we deem to be healthy. However, we frequently think more is better:  more restrictive with our food choices,  more intense workouts, more supplements. Let’s all examine our choices from the perspective of inflammation. First a background to

Genetics vs. Epigenetics 

Genetics: The genes within our DNA we get from Mamma and Papa. These do not change.

Enter a BIG However:

Oxidative stress leading to inflammationEpigenetics: Tags on our DNA – which dramatically influences the way our DNA function, for better or for worse. This is where lifestyle exposures affect our gene expression, our health. This explains why identical twins, born with the same genetic material, can age very differently, based on their environment and lifestyle. 

Our epigenome comprises all of the tags (epigenetic changes)  that have been added to our genome regulating the expression of the genes within our genome. 

Epigenetic modifications remain as cells divide and can be inherited through the generations

Point to ponder…The role of epigenetics in our evolution as a species?

Epigenetics influences which genes are switched-on, or expressed, passing on the way the genes are used. 

Lifestyle can modify epigenetics;  diet, obesity, physical activity, smoking, alcohol consumption, environmental pollutants, EMF, psychological stress, shift work, chemicals in diet……

Let’s look at the BRCA genes. These genes, associated with breast and other cancers, are genes that produce a tumor suppressing protein. This protein protects the cell by repairing any damages to the DNA. When there is a mutation in the BRCA genes, this protein does not function properly. The cell is now more susceptible to alterations that may lead to cancer. Epigenetics is a strong determinant over the development of cancer. The good news here: Epigenetic modifications are a central focus in researching  prevention, diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer. “Epi-drugs” are now be researched. 

Oxidative Stress

Oxidative stress has been my field of research for 30 years. Shortly after I got into fitness, I was intrigued on why exercise and nutrition influence our health so greatly. I knew it wasn’t just in the size jeans we wear, but in our genes. I have been blessed to work with a number of researchers over the years in the field of oxidative stress and the development of disease. Many years ago I evolved my fitness business into medical fitness and encompassed lifestyle habits to lower oxidative stress leading to inflammation. 

Oxidative stress is an imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants in the body. Simply summarized, oxidative stress is electron thievery. Electrons are stable when coupled. oxidative stress leading to inflammationSingle electrons, called free radicals, scavenge the body to seek out other electrons so they can couple. Really is a wicked dating scene inside our cells!  The electron thievery causes damage to cells, proteins and DNA. Oxidative stress happens when our redox state, is tipped with free radicals outnumbering available antioxidants. 

Learn more on Pubmed about oxidative stress leading to inflammation and disease.

Sources of Oxidative Stress (OS): 

OS has both endogenous (from within) and exogenous (from our world) sources.

Endogenous: Cellular metabolism. Now start thinking carefully here for the rest of the article. Energy production happens in the mitochondria of our cells. Our currency or energy is ATP. OS is a natural by-product of ATP. ……When do we produce more ATP?

The body’s natural immune response can also trigger oxidative stress temporarily.


Exogenous: No coincidence, the same list we have above for lifestyle influences on epigenetics. 

Long-term oxidative stress damages the body’s cells, proteins, and DNA. OS strongly  contributes to aging and is accepted to be at the root of many of our chronic conditions including diabetes, cancers, heart and vascular disease, depression, neurodegenerative disease,  arthritis, Alzheimer’s, insulin resistance, IBD……More and more of our chronic issues are being linked to oxidative stress as it can lead to chronic inflammation. 

Inflammation – Chronic Inflammation

Inflammation is the body’s means of fighting against invaders, such as infections, injuries, and toxins, to self repair. Chronic inflammation puts the body in a constant state of alert.

Inflammation triggered by oxidative stress is the cause of many chronic diseases, as summarized above. 

CRP is an inflammatory marker. It is valued as the most clinically useful and the best marker of inflammation and is respected as a valuable tool in the prediction of cardiovascular risk.

Chronic Diseases continues to be on the Rise

Our bodies inner antioxidant system was not designed “back in the day” to manage our current barrage of OS fire from our environment and lifestyle choices. We evolved with an inner antioxidant system to manage our endogenous OS, which weakens with age and exhaustion!

According to the WHO, chronic disease is on the rise worldwide. An aging population, obesity-induced oxidative stress and changes in our environment and our lifestyle choices are contributing to this steady increase.

Digging Deeper…..We talk about obesity being an issue in disease. At the cellular level, adipocytes produce ROS. But we have a chicken or the egg issue. There are many researchers suggesting that oxidative stress causes obesity……the plot thickens……

Suffice it to say, controlling oxidative stress is paramount to a “healthy lifestyle.”  What we need to do, is discover the many hidden cause of oxidative stress and extinguish the fires of chronic inflammation, best we can. 

NRF2 Activation  to lower oxidative stress

Oxidative stress leading to inflammation,  perhaps the most unknown cause of chronic illness outside the research world. Yes, many people know to eat their rainbow of fruits and vegetables. Fabulous!  How many people know about the NRF2 pathway inside the body?  The NRF2 pathway produces our own homegrown antioxidants, which lower oxidative stress at a 1,000,000:1 ratio relative to eating antioxidants. Taking antioxidant supplements  can have dangerous side effects. We are far safer to activate our NRF2 pathway.

Contact me to take our oxidative stress assessment, and learn how to activate your NRF2 pathway.

“Nrf2 may well become the most extraordinary therapeutic and most extraordinary preventative breakthrough in the history of medicine.” Washington State University


Healthy Lifestyle?

Exercise: This section is difficult, but needs to be discussed.  I am NOT the Grinch that maligned exercise.  I am a major exercise and physical activity enthusiast. The gym is my play ground, I have a gym in my home, and yes, we do not need a gym to get exercise, the world is our gym. Especially in the current times of social distancing, we can get physical activity in a number of fun, invigorating ways. 

Bottom line:

Bottom line: Too much exercise in terms of intensity and duration is proven to increase oxidative stress. Yes, exercise and physical activity are a necessity for every aspect of health. Exercise has been proven to lower oxidative stress, cardio vascular risk, but the mechanisms of this are still being studied. 

  • It has been proven that starting “on an exercise program”, then quitting abruptly increases OS. Slow and steady wins the race. 
  • Diet plus exercise is far more effective in lowering OS, than exercise alone. 
  • Exercise has better control on lowering oxidative stress in people who have higher levels of CRP (inflammatory marker). 
  • Exhaustive and prolonged exercise promotes the generation of ROS, depletion of antioxidants and vitamins,  induces oxidative stress, renal impairment and inflammation.
  • Prolonged aerobic exercise is linked to dramatic increases in oxidative stress
  • Less studied thus far, intense hypertrophy training (heavy weight lifting) has been shown to increase oxidative stress….
  • Muscle mass is imperative for healthy aging, balanced training is key.  

More exercise in terms of duration and intensity could lose the beneficial effects of exercise. It is very important for those engaging in stressful exercise to support their antioxidant supply to combat OS. 


Pedantic Diets: 

There are many examples here.

Our body needs  a variety of amino acids to function efficiently. Bioavailability of these amino acids varies amongst food sources.

There are a number of benefits to particularly picked on foods such as dairy and red meat. We need to feed out bodies the nutrients, amino acids it needs.   Let’s look at some research on a few popular diets. 

  • Keto diet: Ketogenic diets have shown to increase inflammatory markers.
  • Paleo diet: can be good in some respects by eliminating sugar, alcohol, but if not done carefully Paleo-ers have been shown to be deficient in fiber and certain minerals and vitamins which is hurtful to gut health, and yes pro inflammatory.
  • Vegan diets: Again, proceed with intense caution. Vegan diets tend to be very carb heavy. Our grains are not what they used to be. Genetic modification and toxins abound, and our soil is not what it used to be as a source of minerals.  Very sorry: The digestibility and bioavailability of protein in plant foods is inferior to meat, fish and dairy products.  What no omega 3s in fish????
  • A 2018 study showed that long term diets excessively low, or high in carbohydrates are both linked with a shorter lifespan.
  • Orthorexia: Very few orthorexic people will admit to this disorder. Orthorexia is the obsessive fixation on healthy food and healthy eating, excessive exercise.  People with orthorexia are often on a restrictive diet. There are many chronic conditions associated with orthorexia, yes, including being pro inflammatory. 

There is NO utopian diet.   Our diet, exercise & lifestyle choices need to be reassessed and evolve as we age.  Examine lifestyle decisions from the perspective of inflammation. The scale, a ripped physique, skinny jeans  are not the omnipotent indicator of health.  We need to examine what we are identifying as our markers of health.  Maybe our good intentions  are weakening our inner defences. Be healthy and balanced. Balance is strength!

 Book a consult, provide employees with our OS assessment!

Shira Litwack, Corporate Program Designer
Shira Litwack, BSc, Corporate Wellness Specialist, Chronic Care recovery, medical exercise, holistic nutrition, addiction recovery

Shira Litwack

Shira has been in chronic care management and prevention for 30 years, specializing in lifestyle habits including holistic nutrition, medical fitness and oxidative stress reduction. She is frequently called upon by the media, has her own podcast bringing current research to the public. 

She has created and provided oxidative stress assessments, to help clients identify potential health risks. From these, she designs appropriate exercise and physical activity protocols, nutrition ideas for lowering inflammation and to fall in love with fitness. 

Articles featured in:  Corporate Wellness Association, European Registry of Exercise Professionals, The National Post, Investment Executive Magazine, Directory of Greater Toronto, Canadian Leukemia & Lymphoma Association, Prostate Cancer Canada, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, Anytime Fitness, Today’s Black Woman, Today’s Seniors, Medical Fitness Network, FORCE (Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered), Willow (Breast & Hereditary Cancer Support),Myeloma Canada, Cancer Exercise Training Institute, Urban Poling for Breast Cancer, ROW – Recovery on Water for Breast Cancer, Sirius XM Doctor Radio


Cancer – A Virus to Our Cellular HTML

Cancer – Think of it as a Virus to the HTML Programming our Cells

Cancer - Virus to our cellular HTML Best In Corporate HealthI sometimes get annoyed when people say/think “Everything causes cancer”. This thought often engrains a sense of helplessness within.The truth is, if we understand what cancer is, it helps us a deeper appreciation of prevention – we are certainly not helpless…A life to prevent cancer is a life to prevent all of our chronic illnesses,  infusing us with energy & power.  Let’s think of cancer as a virus that has reprogrammed and is spreading malicious coding to the  HTML of our cell’s genetic code.

Take a look at a beautiful website. Behind every beautiful site is HTML HyperText Markup Language, the “mother tongue” of our web browsers. Behind our being, is genetic code that dictates every cell of who we are, how we think and feel.  If we have one wrong little character in the HTML of our website it can completely destroy the function of that website. Well, the same is true for our genetic code.

Now, what is cancer? Cancer is a genetic mutation, something has reprogrammed the HTML of that cell. That cell is now reproducing incorrectly and potentially very dangerously, destroying healthy cellular function.  If our ecosystem is unable to shut that cell down, there is trouble. If our ecosystem is not optimized, the genetic saboteur is allowed to reproduce, and that deadly coding is reproduced.

Our bodies are a wonderland. Wonderland has an inner ecosystem that like any ecosystem needs to be kept in balance.  Chinese medicine describes our flow of Qi. Without the flow of Qi, our life’s force, the ecosystem is jolted out of balance.

We live in a world that is constantly bombarding our ecosystem.  Many times we are responsible for that attack: smoking, poor food choices, lack of physical activity…. And many times we do not know we are exposed to attacks on that biochemical terrain. Enter illness and disease.

Cancer is thought to be only 5-10% genetic. The rest is lifestyle, however, as mentioned above, our lifestyles consist of unknown as well as known carcinogens…..exposures that cause a cell to mutate.

Now……how magical are the powers of the right exercise? Exercise and nutrition are our body guards. When carcinogens attack, by empowering our body with the strongest possible biochemical terrain, one that is totally inhospitable to mutagens, we are able to fight the attacker and win.

Cellular Malware   (aka carcinogens and pathogens):

Certain chemicals (in our food, in our air, in our meds, in our soils……..)

Viruses and bacteria

Geophysical exposures, radiation…….anyone use a cell phone?

Hormonal imbalances…..including our big wide world of phytoestrogens endocrine disrupters…

Oxidative Stress & Inflammation…..at the root of all disease

Some nasty lifestyle choices: smoking, sitting, poor food choices, stress, alcohol….

Our body depends on us to supply it with sustenance to empower the ecosystem.  This not only includes our immune system, but our digestive function as well. Think of our digestive tract as the first step of our immune system. A great deal of our mood and “happy functions” come from that mysterious land called our enteric nervous system……Unfortunately – even if we eat “the right” foods, our digestive tract can be impeded by that same cellular malware. Keeping our digestive tract a “united front” against the cellular malware includes a healthy balance in our gut microbiome, and assuring we maintain healthy levels of stomach acid. Unfortunately, there is a detrimental abuse of antacids – as low stomach acid is frequently mistaken for high stomach acid. And of course our digestive health is jeopardized by all the usual saboteurs….poor sleep, alcohol, sugar, processed foods, and of course people who don’t listen to grandma – and don’t get their roughage. Cellular malware thrives without an optimized digestive tract.

Preventing Cancer: Building Our Cellular Anti-Malware: (Our Fab 4)
  1. Nutrition..
  2. Exercise & Physical Activity
  3. Sleep
  4. Minimize exposure to carcinogens, mutagens, pathogens……reducing oxidative stress & chronic inflammation

When the body is unable to fight intruders, our biochemical terrain allows mutated cells, aka cancer cells, to reproduce…and reproduce……until “we have cancer”. It is believed that everyone of us have cancerous cells lurking within, our goal is that we have the defences to shut down those cells, or force what is called apoptosis – cell suicide.

Front and center to the body’s defences are our immune and circulatory systems.

Our immune system is a pumpless system.  In other words, it can produce all of the wonderful superheroes in the world (lymphocytes, macrophages, neutrophils, immunoglobins….) but if there is no pumping action from our muscles, or no muscles, the immune system can’t do its job.

Exercise is imperative for optimizing our body’s performance. Every study shows us that exercise and physical activity are an absolute necessity for every organ system of the body, and a necessity, the “managing partner” to chronic disease prevention…all of them…

Our vigilance to proactive health, by honoring  the 4 components of Anti-malware is vital to the destruction of cancer, and all chronic illnesses at every level:

Prevention: enabling the body to kill those intrusions, to build a strong inner ecosystem

Management: make it through treatment, minimizing risks of side effects of treatment, fighting fatigue, getting our immune system to work in our favor, and  studies show us –  help better response to treatment, including protecting the body from potential side effects of medication

Prevention of recurrence. Rebuilding and equipping the immune system

Cancer occurs because their has been a genetic mutation, a change to the genetic code. The body has been attacked..the body needs to fight the attacker. By honoring our Fab 4, understanding their power, the many layers and complexities of each……we will fight cancer & chronic illness. We are NOT helpless, at all.


Corporate health programs…what a wonderful way to affordably  make the world a happier, healthier place. Educate people to Prevent cancer 

Help control workforce oxidative stress:  Oxidative Stress is at the root of all of our chronic illnesses including cancers, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, diabetes, depression…..inflammation ages us and leaves us susceptible to disease. 7 patents, 24 peer reviewed studies on pubmed, accolades from American Heart Association, Mayo Clinic, National Institute on Aging….Washington State: “may well become the most extraordinary therapeutic and most extraordinary preventative breakthrough in the history of medicine.”

Shira Litwack, Corporate Program Designer
Shira Litwack – The Corporate Happy Place medical fitness professional, Cancer Exercise Specialist , Medical Exercise Specialist, Holistic Nutritionist

Articles featured in: ezines, ArticlesInk, European Registry of Exercise Professionals, The National Post, Investment Executive Magazine, Directory of Greater Toronto, Canadian Leukemia & Lymphoma Association, Prostate Cancer Canada, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, Anytime Fitness, Today’s Black Woman, Today’s Seniors, Medical Fitness Network, FORCE (Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered), Willow (Breast & Hereditary Cancer Support),Myeloma Canada, Cancer Exercise Training Institute, Urban Poling for Breast Cancer, ROW – Recovery on Water for Breast Cancer, Sirius XM Doctor Radio



Frailty – A Leading Cause of Death and Disease

Frailty…The Need for Muscle Nurturance

Frailty, sadly because usually so unnecessary, is a leading cause of death. Frailty is usually referred to as a comorbidity…but if we start looking at it as a cause of disease and death, maybe prevention of frailty will explicitly be addressed and valued just as prevention of heart disease, cancer, obesity, diabetes and all of our other chronic illnesses.

The first answer that comes to mind when asked the #1 cause of death is always cancer, heart disease, some kind of chronic illness.

I am asking you to dig a little deeper understanding frailty as a cause of disease and death.

What leads to a number of the causes of cancer and heart disease……..If we focus on prevention of frailty, how many other illnesses could we prevent?

We have to connect dots here.  Remember, according to the CDC 80% of chronic illness is lifestyle – not genetic.

A 2014 study by the Japanese Geriatric Society concluded:

“Frailty is strongly associated with higher mortality, especially among women. Among men, the association was explained by baseline functional capacity, comorbidity and lifestyle factors. Changes in frailty status should also be taken into consideration when planning geriatric care, as such changes could indicate a more rapid decline in health.”

Prevention of Frailty Best In Corporate HealthWe all know what frailty looks like and have an idea of what it is – but from a systemic perspective, frailty is a consequence of cumulative decline in multiple physiological systems over a lifespan.

According to Johns Hopkins, frailty increases the risk of infections, illnesses that have to be treated in the hospital, falls and  disabilities, doubles the risk of surgical complications, lengthens hospital stays, and increases the odds of leaving forfeiting independence (moving to a nursing home or assisted-living facility) after a surgical procedure twentyfold.

So then, the next logical step is to ask ourselves, what caused the multiple physiological systems to break down. Please don’t say “old age”.

The brain, endocrine system, immune system and skeletal muscle are intrinsically inter-Frailty - workplace wellness programsrelated and are currently the organ systems best studied in the development of frailty. While frailty is most often associated with the elderly, some old people never get frail. Experts now regard it as a medical syndrome.

Diagnosing frailty:

  • unintentional weight loss (10 or more pounds within the past year, muscle loss)
  • muscle loss and weakness
  • a feeling of fatigue
  • slow walking speed
  • low levels of physical activity

Imagine if we lived in a world where people nurtured their muscle mass as much as they nurtured other aspects of their life: finances, cars, wardrobes……

Muscle is the ultimate example in life of use it or lose it.  At the ripe old age of 30 we start losing muscle mass if it is not worked…age related loss of muscle is called sarcopenia. However, many studies prove to us, and many people I personally know, we can build muscles at any age. People over 90 can build muscle.

Muscles deserve far more respect than they receive. For that reason, in every wellness program I include what I call “muscle nurturance”. Muscles are to be cherished through

  • food choices
  • exercise (yes we can destroy muscle tissue with incorrect exercise or overtraining)
  • Getting quality sleep
  • alcohol control
  • smoking – stop
  • certain medications

The misconceptions, lack of appreciation for our muscles is rampant, causing an avalanche of psychological and  physiological demise. Just naming a few consequences of muscle loss, and yes, please excuse my brevity here!

  • Our metabolism:  muscle  burns more calories — even at rest — than body fat. Average: 10 pounds of muscle  burns 50 calories in a day spent at rest, while 10 pounds of fat would burn 20 calories
  • Imperative for diabetes control: Muscle pulls sugar out of the blood to be used as fuel, lowering blood glucose levels.
  • For each 10% increase in the ratio of muscle mass to total body weight, there is an 11% reduction in insulin resistance and a 12% reduction in prediabetes. Prediabetes is a condition in which a person’s blood sugar is higher than normal, but not high enough to be diabetes. Ultimately, our muscles can help prevent diabetes.
  • Glucose control is imperative in prevention of all of our chronic diseases, including cancer and obesity
  • Control of oxidative stress
  • Uncontrolled blood glucose levels can cause us to make poor food choices
  • Lowering sugar intake, muscles will burn fat as a source of fuel
  • Strength training muscle does not have to be in a gym – it can be done in home or office, even with a desk job
  • There are numerous forms of activity that build muscle, not just weight liftingBest In Corporate Health Corporate Health Programs
  • Numerous studies prove strength training is critical in prevention and recovery from depression. Studies from Harvard & Duke concurred depressed people who follow a structured strength training protocol were able to overcome depression without medication, and for every 50 minutes of exercise per week the rate of depression decreased by half. This has been attributed to many physiological mechanisms triggered by strength training.
  • Strength training provides better quality sleep, and quality sleep is vital for muscle mass
  • Our lymphatic system (immune) is dependent on our pumping muscles to move the lymph throughout the body
  • Our heart is a muscle that needs to be trained, through exercise
  • strength training strengthens bones as well – drastic reduction in osteoporosis
  • studies from numerous institutions concur our focus and productivity our greatly improved with strength training and a higher lean mass ratio. This is attributed again to many benefits including glucose metabolism and hormonal balance, reduction of stress responses…….
  • Hundreds of studies on strength training and physiologically reducing stress
  • Muscles are one of our greatest regulators of hormonal balance…..this itself has hundreds of health benefits….
  • Of course the obvious: our physical strength, mobility…all dependent on muscle
  • Musculoskeletal injuries and depression cost millions in workplace absenteeism. Muscle work has a very strong role in the prevention and recovery of both
  • Alcohol can destroy muscle mass, in a number of ways
  • Harvard School of Public Health study: followed 10,500 US men aged over 40 for 12 years and found that of all the activities they did, weight training for 20 minutes three times a week had the greatest effect on preventing age-related abdominal fat.
  • Strong muscles help us breathe, oxygenate our body.

frailty - muscle nurturance in corporate health

Muscle is far more than looking good. Going for walks is great – however, it does not replace muscle work. Muscle training is often called the “new running for the over 40s.

Frailty occurs with loss of muscle. When we look at this partial list, no wonder frailty is associated with cumulative decline of physiological & psychological systems, and death. Our muscles are front and center to every aspect of our health and wellness.

Corporate Health Programs – What an Incredible Way to Make the World A Healthier Happier Place…..so we make them affordable to EVERYONE……

Chief Health Enthusiast – Best In Corporate Health

Shira Litwack, Corporate Program Designer
Shira Litwack – The Corporate Happy Place medical fitness professional, Cancer Exercise Specialist , Medical Exercise Specialist, Holistic Nutritionist

Employee Wellness Toronto, Ontario – But offered worldwide!

  • Shira is regularly consulted by Naturopaths, oncologists, health coaches on cancer exercise and exercise adherence.
  • Has assembled over 20 health and fitness professionals with varying specialties to bring to corporate wellness programs
  • Platforms include: Speaking, One-one/group health coaching, Retreats, Course development for in house delivery, Metrics to measure success available, Partners always included
  • Now offering live interactive webinars, just as if each participant has a personal health coach – making corporate wellness programs affordable to all.
  • Shira has been interviewed & published in hundreds of resources over the last 12 years:

Articles featured in: ezines, ArticlesInk, European Registry of Exercise Professionals, The National Post, Investment Executive Magazine, Directory of Greater Toronto, Canadian Leukemia & Lymphoma Association, Prostate Cancer Canada, Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, Anytime Fitness, Today’s Black Woman, Today’s Seniors, Medical Fitness Network, FORCE (Facing Our Risk of Cancer Empowered), Willow (Breast & Hereditary Cancer Support),Myeloma Canada, Cancer Exercise Training Institute, Urban Poling for Breast Cancer, ROW – Recovery on Water for Breast Cancer, Sirius XM Doctor Radio