Get Moving Monday: 5 Cold-Weather Workout Tips

If cold weather is derailing your fitness activities, personal trainer Kevin Gianni, author of The Busy Person’s Fitness Solution, offers these 5 winter weather workout tips:

  • Lace up your skates. During the winter it’s often too cold, too dark, or too slippery to walk or run outside. To get in a great workout, try ice skating — whether you go to a local pond for a pickup game of hockey, or to the local ice rink (which also offers the advantage of no wind chill).
  • Don’t push it. On days when the air feels too cold to even breathe in, heed your body’s signals and stay indoors. Cold air can trigger exercise-induced asthma (EIA). Symptoms include wheezing, chest tightness, coughing, chest pain, and shortness of breath.
  • Try a new home routine. Bodyweight routines are exercises that need no equipment and can be done in your own home. There are many types of bodyweight routines, such as yoga, Pilates, and aerobics. Pop in a fitness DVD or download a workout on your MP3 player to get you going.
  • Set up your own gym. Now’s the time to think about getting a treadmill, elliptical machine, or stationary bike. Having your own equipment and knowing how to use it will keep you motivated and help you stay on track.

When all’s said and done, says Tom Weede, a certified health and fitness instructor and author of the forthcoming book, The Entrepreneur Diet, it’s important to be realistic.

“Give yourself a little slack during the holidays,” he advises. “After all, it’s a time to have fun and be with family and friends, and if you have a rigid attitude toward your diet and exercise, you may end up just giving up because you’ve set the standard too high.”

So allow yourself some “cheat” days, Weede suggests. “In reality, what matters is the overall total calories you consume and the overall total you expend through physical activity over the entire holiday period. One or two splurges aren’t going to derail your efforts,” he says.

Remember, though, even if you find yourself simply too bogged down to exercise at all during the holidays, that’s no excuse to stay inactive once the season is over, Ray says.

“If you do fall off the exercise wagon, there’s no reason not to climb back aboard once your post-holiday routine is established,” Ray says. “You’ll find your stride again before you know it.”

Source: http://www.webmd.com/diet/healthy-holidays-8/holiday-fitness?page=4

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TGIF: The 10 Most Important Blood Tests

Annual blood testing is the most important step aging adults can take to prevent life-threatening disease. With blood test results in hand, you can catch critical changes in your body before they manifest as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, or worse. Having the proper blood tests can empower you to enact a science-based disease-prevention program that could add decades of healthy life.

Sadly, most annual medical check-ups involve the physician ordering only routine blood tests, if blood tests are ordered at all. Far too often, this blood work does not even test for important markers of disease risk. The consequences of failing to analyze blood for proven markers of disease risk are needless disability and death.

Blood tests have benefits that go far beyond disease prevention. For example, by monitoring levels of sex hormones, you can take decisive steps to enhance your quality of life, perhaps by correcting a depressive mental state, erectile dysfunction, abdominal obesity, or by improving your memory and energy levels.

In this article, we discuss the 10 most important blood tests that people over the age of 40 should have each year. Armed with the results of these tests, aging adults can work together with their physicians to avert serious health problems and achieve optimal health.

Chemistry Panel and Complete Blood Count

The Chemistry Panel and Complete Blood Count (CBC) is the best place to begin your disease-prevention program. This low-cost panel will give you and your physician a quick snapshot of your overall health. This test provides a broad range of diagnostic information to assess your vascular, liver, kidney, and blood cell status. The Complete Blood Count measures the number, variety, percentage, concentration, and quality of platelets, red blood cells, and white blood cells, and thus is useful in screening for infections, anemias, and other hematological abnormalities.

The Chemistry Panel provides information on the status of your cardiovascular system by testing for total cholesterol, HDL (high-density lipoprotein), LDL (low-density lipo-protein), triglycerides, and the total cholesterol/HDL ratio.1

The Chemistry Panel also measures blood glucose, which is critically important for detecting early-stage metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and coronary artery disease. In light of the rapidly growing epidemic of diabetes and other related metabolic syndromes, monitoring your fasting glucose levels is as important as knowing your cholesterol.

Also included in the Chemistry Panel is an assessment of critical minerals such as calcium, potassium, and iron.

Fibrinogen

An important contributor to blood clotting, fibrinogen levels increase in response to tissue inflammation. Since the development of atherosclerosis and heart disease are essentially inflammatory processes, increased fibrinogen levels can help predict the risk of heart disease and stroke.

High fibrinogen levels not only are associated with an increased risk of heart attack, but also are seen in other inflammatory disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and glomerulonephritis (inflammation of the kidney).

Hemoglobin A1C

One of the best ways to assess your glucose status is testing for hemoglobin A1C (HbA1c).5 This test measures a person’s blood sugar control over the last two to three months and is an independent predictor of heart disease risk in persons with or without diabetes. Maintaining healthy hemoglobin A1C levels may also help patients with diabetes to prevent some of the complications of the disease.

The American Diabetes Association recommends testing HbA1c levels every three to six months to monitor blood sugar levels in insulin-treated patients, in patients who are changing therapy, and in patients with elevated blood glucose levels. Since HbA1c is not subject to the same fluctuations that normally occur with daily glucose monitoring, it represents a more accurate picture of blood sugar control.

DHEA

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), a hormone produced by the adrenal glands, is a precursor to the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone. Blood levels of DHEA peak in one’s twenties and then decline dramatically with age, decreasing to 20-30% of peak youthful levels between the ages of 70 and 80. DHEA is frequently referred to as an “anti-aging” hormone.

Recently, researchers in Turkey found that DHEA levels were significantly lower in men with symptoms associated with aging, including erectile dysfunction. Healthy levels of DHEA may support immune function, bone density, mood, libido, and healthy body composition.

Supplementation with DHEA increases immunological function, improves bone mineral density, increases sexual libido in women, reduces abdominal fat, protects the brain following nerve injury, and helps prevent depression, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.

Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) (Men Only)

Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is a protein manufactured by the prostate gland in men. Elevated levels may suggest an enlarged prostate, prostate inflammation, or prostate cancer. PSA levels may also be used to monitor the efficacy of therapeutic regimens for prostate conditions.

The American Cancer Society recommends annual PSA testing for men beginning at age 50. Men who are at high risk should begin PSA testing at age 40-45. PSA levels increase with age, even in the absence of prostate abnormalities.

Homocysteine

The amino acid homocysteine is formed in the body during the metabolism of methionine. High homocysteine levels have been associated with increased risk of heart attack, bone fracture, and poor cognitive function.

C-Reactive Protein

Increasingly, medical science is discovering that inflammation within the body can lead to a range of life-threatening degenerative diseases such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, macular degeneration, and cognitive decline. By measuring your body’s level of inflammation through regular C-reactive protein testing, you can devise a strategy of diet, exercise, and supplementation to halt many of these conditions.

 

Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH)

Secreted by the pituitary gland, thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) controls thyroid hormone secretion in the thyroid. When blood levels fall below normal, this indicates hyperthyroidism (increased thyroid activity, also called thyrotoxicosis), and when values are above normal, this suggests hypothyroidism (low thyroid activity).

Testosterone (Free)

Testosterone is produced in the testes in men, in the ovaries in women, and in the adrenal glands of both men and women. Men and women alike can be dramatically affected by the decline in testosterone levelsthat occurs with aging.

In the serum of both men and women, less than 2% of testosterone typically is found in the free (uncomplexed) state. Unlike bound testosterone, the free form of the hormone can circulate in the brain and affect nerve cells. Testosterone plays different roles in men and women, including the regulation of fertility, libido, and muscle mass. In men, free testosterone levels may be used to evaluate whether sufficient bioactive testosterone is available to protect against abdominal obesity, mental depression, osteoporosis, and heart disease. In women, low levels of testosterone have been associated with decreased libido and well-being, while high levels of free testosterone may indicate hirsuitism (a condition of excessive hair growth on the face and chest) or polycystic ovarian syndrome. Increased testosterone in women may also indicate low estrogen levels.

Estradiol

Like testosterone, both men and women need estrogen for numerous physiological functions. Estradiol is the primary circulating form of estrogen in men and women, and is an indicator of hypothalamic and pituitary function. Men produce estradiol in much smaller amounts than do women; most estradiol is produced from testosterone and adrenal steroid hormones, and a fraction is produced directly by the testes. In women, estradiol is produced in the ovaries, adrenal glands, and peripheral tissues. Levels of estradiol vary throughout the menstrual cycle, and drop to low but constant levels after menopause.

In women, blood estradiol levels help to evaluate menopausal status and sexual maturity. Increased levels in women may indicate an increased risk for breast or endometrial cancer. Estradiol plays a role in supporting healthy bone density in men and women. Low levels are associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis and bone fracture in men and women as well. Elevated levels of estradiol in men may accompany gynecomastia (breast enlargement), diminished sex drive, and difficulty with urination.

Summary

Yearly blood testing is a simple yet powerful strategy to help you proactively take charge of your current and future health. A well-chosen complement of blood tests can thoroughly assess your overall state of health, as well as detect the silent warning signals that precede the development of serious diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

Many diseases and disorders are treatable when caught early, but can severely impair the quality and length of your life if left unattended. Identifying these hidden risk factors will enable you to implement powerful strategies such as proper nutrition, weight loss, exercise, supplements, and medications in order to prevent progression to full-blown, life-threatening diseases. Blood testing can also detect biochemical changes that threaten well-being and quality of life, such as declining levels of sex hormones.

Armed with information on important health biomarkers, you and your physician can plan and execute a strategy to help you achieve and maintain vibrant health.

 

Source: http://www.lifeextension.com/magazine/2006/5/report_blood/page-04

 

 

Stickin’ It Tue You: Beat Holiday Stress with Acupuncture

Depression is a condition that involves both the mind and the body and affects how a person feels, thinks, and behaves, and can often make a person feel anxious and apathetic. People who suffer from depression or anxiety can experience muscle pain, headaches, upset digestion, fatigue, and loss of interest, among other symptoms. Anxiety, in particular, can be triggered by stress. With travel, big family reunions or party plans, and gift-buying frenzies, the holidays are a particularly stressful time and many people feel the effects of anxiety or depression in December and January.

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) evaluates the entire body system, including physical conditions and emotional symptoms, and treatments are uniquely tailored to each patient with the goal of healing the body and mind, as well as revitalizing the spirit. While this is fundamental in any TCM treatment, this treatment of the mind, body, and spirit together is especially fitting for depression and anxiety. Each traditional Chinese medicine treatment, including acupuncture, is an individual treatment plan devised for the patient’s specific issues and health history. An integral part of acupuncture practice is the total evaluation of a person’s “qi”, pronounced “chi”, the body’s vital life energy, and how to accelerate the circulation of qi and blood through a system of specific channels running throughout the body, called meridians. Each meridian relates to major body organs and functions, as well as emotions.

The emotions associated with loss, repressed expression, and other stressful events will cause the muscular structure surrounding the chest cavity to constrict and tighten near the lungs and heart. The chest constriction restricts the qi flow to the liver and heart, a condition diagnosed in TCM as qi stagnation in the liver. Without release, the tension now contained within the chest cavity will continue to strain the heart, which, left untreated, results in panic attacks, anxiety, and panic syndrome, also described in TCM as a condition called ‘Heat in the Heart’.

Because TCM connects the mind, body, and spirit and recognizes this connection, anxiety often leads patients to try acupuncture for the first time, as they realize the important tie between their physical and emotional health.

Acupuncture involves the strategic placement of fine needles on specific points of the body related to meridians. This increases blood circulation and stimulates qi, removing energetic blockages and restoring the flow of vital qi energy throughout the body. Once inserted, the needles remain in body for anywhere between fifteen to thirty minutes, during which time the practitioner may rotate the needles or add a mild electric pulse or vibration to further induce relaxation of the muscles.

Studies show that most Americans report unhealthy levels of stress, and holidays can add to anxiety, stress, and depression—particularly in challenging economic times. As use of anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication continues to increase, a natural, safe and cost-effective antidote to stress might be just what the doctor orders.

Hospitals and larger medical practices are increasingly embracing alternative therapies. Studies suggest that acupuncture–which is focused on restoring the body’s “qi”, can indeed reduce symptoms of depression, decrease anxiety, and help relieve stress. Practicing a little self-care this holiday season need not deplete scarce holiday funds: 70 to 80% of insurers now cover all or part of acupuncture treatments.

Chinese medicine has been used in China for over five thousand years and is a holistic, natural alternative to antidepressants or medications that may have side effects. Acupuncture is a drug-free way to feel deep relaxation and to revitalize the spirit.

Wellness Wednesday: Healthy Snacking

Americans love to snack almost as much as we want to lose weight. But according to recent research by the USDA, our snacking habits are adding too many calories and too few nutrients to our diets. It doesn’t have to be this way, says Susan Bowerman, RD, assistant director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition. “When done right, (snacking) keeps your energy levels up and gives you more opportunities to get in all your nutritional needs.”

Eating snacks with the right ratio of nutrients, with the right calories, will help keep you body energized and help you lose weight. Protein (plus exercise) fuels the growth of lean muscle mass, which boosts metabolic rate and increases calorie burn. Fiber, meanwhile, helps improve digestion and keeps you from binging on fats and sugars. So while there’s no food that will literally “burn fat” while you eat it, smart choices with these ingredients will help your body operate at maximum efficiency. Bowerman suggests snacks under 200 calories, with 10 grams of protein and close to 5 grams of fiber.

“Almost any fruit is going to make a great snack, but you usually want to pair it with a bit of protein to make it more satisfying,” says Bowerman; “unlike carbohydrates, which get used up relatively quickly, protein will help sustain your energy and hunger levels for a couple of hours.”

Our pick for a protein-fruit pairing: one large apple and one cup of skim milk. This duo will give you 10 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber for just over 200 calories. Another low calorie fruit and dairy combo is an avocado half filled with half a cup of low fat cottage cheese.

If you don’t want to incorporate dairy into every snack, a can of tuna (packaged in water) is another great source of lean protein plus healthy Omega-3s. For about 200 calories, you can enjoy 3 ounces of light tuna and 6 whole-wheat crackers—complete with 3 grams of fiber and 20 grams of protein.

You may not think of shellfish as a grab-and-go snack food, but you can put a tasty treat together in a flash if you keep pre-cooked shrimp on hand. With Greek yogurt and avocado, it’s a protein powerhouse with 9 grams per serving (and 4 g fiber), for only 129 calories.

There’s no reason you can’t have smaller portions of “real” food as snacks, says Bowerman. “Oftentimes, the healthiest and most balanced snacks are the ones that start as full meals—like a half a sandwich, or a plate of leftovers put together from dinner the night before,” she adds.

The same can be said about salads. They aren’t just for mealtime—when they’re about 200 calories per cup, they make a great afternoon snack, as well. Be careful with the dressings and topics, though. This is where most of us go wrong with our “healthy” salad. Keep the dressing to one serving, or two tablespoons. Forgo the cheese and croutons, as these will be more calories than the salad and dressing together. Opt instead for unsalted sunflower seeds to add a little crunch.

When choosing an energy bar as a snack, the rules are the same: Look for bars with 200 calories or less, 10 grams of protein and close to 5 grams of fiber. The Luna Protein bar certainly comes close (190 calories, 12 g protein, 3 g fiber), and tastes “almost like candy,” Health.com testers said.

A calorie-free beverage doesn’t qualify as a real snack, but if you find yourself scouting the kitchen just because you’re bored, rather than hungry, a tasty drink, like green tea infused with herbs or fruit, may just hit the spot. Green tea has been shown to help dieters lose more weight, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, thanks to its metabolism-boosting antioxidant compound called EGCG.

Bowerman says that most research on green tea for weight loss has been inconclusive, but that either way it’s a healthy, tasty way to stay hydrated throughout the day. “Drinking water and tea is a good way to keep all of your body’s processes, including your metabolism, running smoothly and efficiently,” she adds.

Another way to sip your way to healthy is a smoothie. Packed with nutrient dense foods, a small serving of a smoothie can give you the energy to face the rest of your day. Look for ones with no added sugar or make your own to keep from ingesting empty calories.

Source: http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20682477_last,00.html

 

Stickin’ It Tue You:Boosting Your Immune System This Flu Season

It’s now December. It’s cold, it’s grey, it’s not Christmas yet.  AND, it’s now flu season!

Also known as the season for drugging yourself silly and making yourself go to work even when you’d rather curl up in bed and do nothing for at least 48 hours.The ironic commercials touting the importance of the flu shot followed by ads for an anti-viral after you get the flu are in full force and on every channel.

Every holiday season we hear about people get whacked left, right and center with colds and many people simply take them as par for the course: you just deal with it. You know at least one person will be sick every place you go, so you just give in to the fact that, at some point, this winter you will be sick.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are ways to strengthen your immune system without the use of expensive and sometimes dangerous drugs. Diet helps as does exercise and rest, but if you’re looking for a method to fill in the weak gaps in your immune system and promote relaxation and pain relief, you’re looking for acupuncture. How does acupuncture boost your immune system and prevent colds?

From the standpoint of the ancient practice of medicine, the reason why acupuncture works is because of the manipulation of energies in the body. Everyone has varying weaknesses in their energy; places where the Chi naturally has problems. Acupuncture can address these weaknesses in the same way a vaccine addresses weaknesses; by boosting energy and giving the body what it needs to strengthen itself. At the root of it all, we see the movement of energy. When the body’s Chi is moving sluggishly and brokenly, the body falls prey to viruses more readily; when the body’s Chi is in balance, the body stays healthy and can fight off viruses.

Not enough? Studies have shown that acupuncture helps the brain increase the body’s level of T-cells; cells which destroy bacteria and harmful viruses in the body. It is thought that acupuncture does this by provoking the body’s immune response through the use of the needles: the body thinks the needles are a threat and marshal their white cell and T-cell count to fight them off. However, the effect of this lasts days after the acupuncture session and so works on viruses and bacteria as well.

So, sick and tired of being… well, sick and tired? Acupuncture may be a great way to fill in the missing gaps in your immune system and keep you healthy this flu season.

Sources: http://rootwholebody.com/how-acupuncture-boosts-your-immune-system-to-prevent-colds

Get Moving Monday: Are You Eating Enough?

The majority of the time when you’re having a problem losing weight, it’s not because you aren’t making good food choices. The reason why your weight loss has stagnated is because you’re not eating enough calories to lose weight.

What Happens When You’re Not Eating Enough Calories?

When most people start dieting, they slash their calories and add a large amount of exercise to their daily routine. That’s fine, but they usually cut their calories way too low. Add in the extra exercise, and all of a sudden you have an extreme calorie deficit that is working against you.

Not eating enough calories causes many metabolic changes. Your body is a smart machine and senses a large decrease in dietary energy. Your large calorie deficit might work for a few days or even weeks, but eventually your body will wake up and sound alarms that it needs to conserve energy.

It doesn’t want to just waste away. It needs that energy (fat) to survive. So, what does your body do when it senses prolonged energy restriction? Not eating enough calories…

  • Slows down thyroid production – Your thyroid is responsible for fat, carbohydrate, and protein metabolism, among other things. Your body has the ability to slow down thyroid output in an effort to maintain energy balance.
  • Decreases muscle mass – Muscle is highly calorie intensive to maintain. In a prolonged extreme calorie deficit, it is one of the first things that your body looks to burn. Your body needs the fat, wants the fat, and the muscle can be spared. It breaks down the muscle tissue and uses it for energy.
  • Lowers testosterone levels – An important hormone for both men and women, testosterone is just one of many hormones that are affected with severe calorie restriction. Testosterone is anabolic to muscle tissue. Without it, it becomes that much harder to maintain, let alone put on muscle mass.
  • Decreases leptin levels – Leptin is one of many energy regulating hormones. More importantly, it’s a “hunger” hormone that tells you whether to eat or not. High leptin levels signal that it’s OK to stop eating, while low leptin levels are a signal to eat more energy. Because of this, leptin levels decrease in calorie restricted environments.
  • Decreases energy levels – There are many physical actions your body takes when you’re not eating enough calories, but there are also some mental ones. Neurotransmitter production is limited, which can lead to a lack of motivation. It’s your body’s way of telling you to “slow down” – conserve your energy.

How Many Calories Should You Be Eating?

Your goal should be to eat as many calories as possible and still lose weight. You always want to start high and then come down with your calorie intake. It’s much easier to do this than come up in calories after your weight loss has stalled and you’ve lost all your motivation.

How many calories should you eat? There is no perfect number. Each person’s metabolism is different. Calorie calculators are a good starting point, but they can’t take into account all the individualistic variables.

To do that, you need to find your calorie intake either through:

  • Experimentation – Journal your caloric intake and compare your weight loss and gain on the scale until you achieve optimal results.
  • Measure it with a device – A device, such as a type of pedometer watch, that measures steps and body movement are found it to be accurate within a 10% margin of error. Many will give you the amount of calories you burned in a 24 hour period. With this information, you should be able to adjust your caloric intake to reflect a loss on the scale.

The problem is most people want the weight gone, and they want it gone now. Weight loss is a patience game. It takes time and consistency to make it work.

Losing 1% of your body mass each week is the most I would aim for. At this pace, it will ensure that the majority of your weight loss is coming from stored body fat instead of muscle. You will also give yourself the best chance to build muscle while you lose fat, which is what you should be striving to do.

So if your progress has stalled, but you think you’re eating the right foods and exercising intensely, more than likely your problem is that you’re not eating enough calories to lose weight. Eat as much as you can, get in as many nutrients as possible, and your weight loss will start moving forward again.

Source: http://www.coachcalorie.com/not-eating-enough-calories-to-lose-weight/

TGIF: Going Beyond Iron Supplements for Anemia

Anemia is broadly understood as a deficiency of red blood cells. The chief role of red blood cells is to grab oxygen from the lungs and deliver it to every nook and cranny in the body. This ensures the survival of our cells.

Anemia is complex, and there is no one mechanism behind it.

 

When the body is anemic, we feel tired and lethargic. Every tissue in the body needs a steady supply of oxygen in order to have fuel and to function properly. Oxygen is one of the ways that we produce energy.

When we talk about anemia, we are really talking about oxygen not getting to where it needs to be.

Because iron supplements are routinely given to those with anemia, many people believe that anemia translates into iron deficiency.

Iron is found in hemoglobin, a transport system within each red blood cell. Oxygen binds to the iron in red blood cells. This is why many of us take iron when we find out that we are anemic. However, taking an iron supplement or even eating extra iron-rich foods assumes that anemia is the result of low iron levels.

Anemia and Its Relationship with the Gut

Anemia is the result of a deficiency in red blood cells and can lead to exhaustion. To get to the root cause of anemia, it’s critical to focus on stomach and gut health to naturally support healthy red blood cell levels.

 

Anemia is complex, and there is no one mechanism behind it. In order to properly address anemia, it’s essential to understand what is causing it in the first place. The multiple reasons behind anemia can be divided into 4 categories:

  1. The body fails to produce enough red blood cells or hemoglobin.
  2. The body destroys too many red blood cells.
  3. Loss of blood from trauma, menstrual disorders like heavy bleeding or endometriosis, and chronic inflammatory disorders.
  4. Fluid overload from excessive sodium intake or pregnancy.

When the body fails to produce fully mature red blood cells, this can be due to a number of reasons, including nutrient deficiency. And we are not only talking about iron!

When the body does not have enough vitamin B12, it’s unable to manufacture healthy red blood cells.

And while it’s not often talked about, B12 deficiency is fairly common. For example, one study found that 40% of people between the ages of 26 and 83 have low levels of B12. (1)

When we look at the possible underlying causes of a B12 deficiency, this percentage is a little less surprising.

You may be deficient in B12 if you:

  • Are vegan or vegetarian
  • Suffer from low stomach acid
  • Take an antacid medication
  • Drink alcohol regularly
  • Suffer from “leaky gut”
  • Are prone to gut infections, cramping, and bloating
  • Struggle with irritable bowel disease (IBD), ulcerative colitis, or Crohn’s disease

One of the main factors contributing to B12 deficiency is poor gut health.

This means that even if you eat meat, which contains B12, several times a day, you may not be digesting it well enough to absorb the B12 that your body needs to produce red blood cells.

B12 is important for other reasons besides the production of red blood cells. For example, it also helps to make the myelin sheath that surrounds portions of the nerve cells. This is one reason why B12 deficiency is associated with memory loss and psychiatric disorders.

Anemia of Chronic Disease

Sometimes we have plenty of iron, but we still do not have enough red blood cells or hemoglobin. This is the case in anemia of chronic disease.

Anemia of chronic disease is sometimes easy for a physician to miss. This is because on a lab panel, all the classic markers indicating iron-deficiency anemia are there: low red blood cells (RBCs), low hemoglobin, and low iron.

This is why it’s essential to check ferritin levels if you know that you are anemic. Especially if you are fighting an infection, or if you have an immune system disorder.

Ferritin is a storage form of iron. This means that oxygen cannot bind to it. When ferritin levels are elevated, the body may in fact have enough iron – only the iron is inactive and unavailable.

More importantly, ferritin is involved in the inflammatory response. This means that when ferritin levels are elevated, it indicates that there is inflammation occurring somewhere in the body. Elevated ferritin tells us that the body is storing iron in order to protect and limit infection. Like us, infectious bugs, bacteria, and parasites need iron to proliferate and grow!

Anemia of chronic disease can often happen in those with an autoimmune condition or with a low-grade gut infection. If you are anemic with high levels of ferritin, an iron supplement can simply make matters worse.

If Iron Supplements Aren’t Working for You…

In the case of anemia from vitamin B12 deficiency or anemia of chronic disease, gut health is the top priority.

If lab tests confirm that levels of vitamin B12 are low or that ferritin levels are askew, iron supplements may not necessarily improve anemia. Worse, they may even feed an infection in the body.

1. If you have anemia, focus on the stomach:

When correcting digestion and its relationship to anemia, it’s critical to begin in the stomach.

Remember, anemia from vitamin B12 deficiency is commonly found in those with too little stomach acid, heartburn, and those who are on antacid medication.

An HCl (hydrochloric acid) supplement that is equipped with enzymes to break down protein can ease the digestive burden on the stomach and help to restore the proper pH of gastric juices. This is an important first step in correcting poor absorption of vitamin B12.

2. If you have anemia, focus on the gut:

If ferritin levels are high, this means that the body is stockpiling inactive iron as a protective mechanism. While elevated ferritin indicates that the body has plenty of iron, it also tells us that the body is inflamed and that it may be fighting off an infection.

Meanwhile, when levels of both iron and ferritin are low, this may indicate poor absorption and possibly an imbalanced inner ecosystem. This is why those with gut disorders are also frequently anemic.

Whether ferritin levels are elevated or low, cover your bases and make sure that your gut is in a state of perfect health. By introducing fermented foods into the diet on a daily basis, you can gently heal the gut and promote a beneficial inner ecosystem. Fermented foods and probiotic beverages are predigested, full of enzymes, and brimming with friendly bacteria.

When anemia follows poor absorption or inflammation, this is a significant first step in supporting optimal levels of red blood cells.

 

Source: http://bodyecology.com/articles/are-you-anemic-going-beyond-iron-supplements#.UvYPvbROKbg

Curvesday Thursday: Alternative Methods to Treat Vertigo

People with vertigo know that the law of gravity prevails, but their brains get confused. They experience an illusion of movement, feeling like they are tilting in space, or that the world is spinning or moving around them. Nausea, sweating, headaches, vomiting and fatigue may add to their discomfort.

Causes of Vertigo

  • Vertigo can be caused by many problems, most of which originate in the peripheral or central nervous system.
  • The causes of vertigo that stem from the peripheral nervous system include benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), acute vestibular neuronitis, labyrinthitis and Ménière’s disease.
  • Acoustic neuroma, migraines, cervicogenic vertigo and multiple sclerosis are all related to the central nervous system.
  • Vertigo can also be caused by a wide variety of medications such as antidepressants, anticonvulsants, antihypertensives, diuretics, barbiturates, salicylates (e.g., aspirin), sedatives or hypnotics, some prescription and over-the-counter cold medicines, and some antibiotics and antineoplastics.
  • Diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism, high blood triglycerides, hypoglycemia, and food allergies or gluten sensitivity can also cause or worsen vertigo.
  • Motor vehicle accidents, falls or other types of traumas or illnesses can also be associated with vertigo.
  • To diagnose the cause of vertigo, your health care provider will perform an examination, including a variety of positioning tests, to check if they will reproduce the sensation of motion. Other tests may also be necessary.

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo

  • About 65 percent of vertigo is diagnosed as Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)—a result of calcium debris in the inner ear.
  • BPPV is usually treated through the Epley maneuver—a procedure in which the patient is rapidly moved from lying on one side to lying on the other, to move the calcium debris to a less sensitive location in the inner ear.
  • Studies show that up to 80 percent of patients recover after a single treatment with Epley maneuver, and most BPPV cases respond to two to three treatments with Epley.
  • Epley maneuver is contraindicated in patients with severe carotid stenosis, heart diseases and severe neck problems, such as cervical spondylosis with myelopathy or advanced rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Even without treatment, BPPV tends to resolve in weeks or months and also has a tendency to recur.
  • Vestibular rehabilitation exercises (called the Brandt-Daroff exercises) can also be performed at home to help treat BPPV.

Other Types of Vertigo

  • Treatment for vertigo caused by other conditions depends on the individual case.
  • Ménière’s disease patients can benefit from a low-salt diet.
  • Treatment for vertigo associated with migraine headaches should include dietary changes, such as reduction or elimination of aspartame, chocolate, alcohol and caffeine, in addition to exercise, stress reduction, adequate sleep, and vestibular rehabilitation exercises.
  • Vestibular neuronitis and labyrinthitis, which are often attributed to viral infections, can also be treated with vestibular exercises.
  • Working with your doctor of chiropractic to improve postural issues can also bring relief to the patients whose vertigo is exacerbated by sedentary lifestyle or working in certain positions for extended periods.
  • In patients with cervicogenic vertigo, a general ergonomic assessment of work and life activities can help identify the factors contributing to the problem.

Nutrition and Stress Reduction

  • Alcohol, nicotine, fried foods and excessive salt intake are potential sources of trouble for patients of vertigo.
  • Vincopectine, vitamin B6 and ginkgo biloba may be helpful in reducing vertigo.
  • Chromium may be helpful in patients whose vertigo is caused by a blood sugar imbalance.
  • Physical exercise and meditation, adequate sleep and other stress reduction techniques can all help contribute to recovery from vertigo and should be a part of the treatment regimen.
  • Your doctor of chiropractic can help create an appropriate exercise program for you and counsel you regarding healthy lifestyle and stress relief.

Red Flags
Vertigo patients who present with the following signs should immediately go to the emergency room:

  • double vision
  • headache
  • weakness
  • difficulty speaking
  • difficulty waking up or staying awake
  • difficulty walking
  • inappropriate actions
  • difficulty controlling arms or legs
  • abnormal eye movements

Source: http://www.acatoday.org/content_css.cfm?CID=3571

Wellness Wednesday: Flexing Your Mental Muscle

Add mind exercises to your workout schedule.

Physical fitness gets plenty of attention—and for good reason. A healthy body can prevent conditions like heart disease and diabetes, and help you maintain independence as you age.

Mental fitness is just as important as physical health and shouldn’t be neglected. Incorporating mental dexterity exercises into your life can help you reap the benefits of a sharper mind and a healthier body for years to come.

Mental fitness is exactly what it sounds like: keeping your brain and emotional health in tip-top shape. It doesn’t mean training for “brain Olympics” or acing an IQ test. Rather, it refers to a series of exercises that help you slow down, decompress, and boost a flagging memory.

Mind-Body Connection

It’s no surprise that the more you help your body, the more you help your mind. Physical activity increases the flow of oxygen to your brain and increases the amount of endorphins, (feel-good chemicals) in the brain. For this reason, it’s not surprising that people who are in good physical shape also tend to enjoy a higher level of mental agility.

Engaging in a vigorous workout can help you battle depression and gain a more positive outlook on life and yourself. It’s also a great way to beat stress, which can harm you mentally and physically.

While exercise is good for the brain and the body, so is meditation. Meditation, in conjunction with other methods, is an alternative way to treat depression. Calming the mind allows you to calmly think through your problems.

Benefits of Mental Fitness

When you finally get to bed after a long day on the go, your body begins to relax, but the mind doesn’t always follow.

Achieve a sense of calm through imagery, the process of picturing a calming scene or location. This reduces tension in both your body and your mind by challenging neurons in the less-dominant area of your brain.

The less-dominant side of your brain is the area that controls feelings of self-confidence and optimism. Increasing activity in your brain’s neural structures by forcing yourself to think about something other than your daily worries through visualization, for example, boosts emotional well-being in addition to calming you down mentally.

Become Mentally Fit

Keeping your mind mentally fit isn’t as difficult as getting ready for a marathon, but it’s the best way to view it. You can simply add it to the many activities you already perform, such as reading, daydreaming, or finding humor in life.
Stop Multitasking

You may think that multitasking enables you to get many things done at once, but it actually creates more problems than it solves. Focusing on one task at a time will not only improve your concentration, but it will help you to see the bigger picture, and get you pointed toward in a productive direction.

Be Positive with Yourself

Positive affirmation is one avenue to increased mental proficiency.

Affirmation—or the way you talk to yourself—involves strengthening neural pathways to bring your self-confidence, wellbeing, and satisfaction to a higher level.

To start, make a list of your good qualities and remind yourself that you don’t have to be perfect. Set goals for what you want to improve, and start small to avoid becoming overwhelmed.

Try Something Different

New experiences can also set you on the path to mental fitness.

Trying new foods, different ways of accomplishing routine tasks, and traveling to new places improves your memory and expands your horizons. Even taking a new way to work improves your brain.

According to the Franklin Institute, mental dexterity exercises help you see the world in a new way and strengthen your neural pathways. In essence, breaking out of your routine can help keep your brain young and healthy.

Play Games

Crossword puzzles, Sudoku, and other games that test reasoning and other portions of your brain are fun ways to keep your mind sharp. Any kind of game that employs the use of logic, reasoning, or trivia are great ways to build up your brain muscle.

Read More

Reading is great for your brain. Even as you’re reading this sentence, your brain is processing each word, recalling the meaning instantly.

Beyond the mechanics, reading helps you visualize the subject you’re reading about, imagine what voices sound like in dialogue, and more. If you don’t think this works, find a picture of Morgan Freeman on the internet with a quote next to it and hear his voice in your head. It’s also a great relaxation technique as well.

Reading is a great activity because it can stoke the imagination and ignite so many different parts of the brain. There are also endless genres and types of reading material that you’ll never run out of interesting things to read.
Take the Time

Mental fitness does not have to take up a lot of your time. Just spending a few minutes every day visualizing, affirming, or relaxing can help you feel better and think more clearly. Schedule a mental fitness break into your calendar right next to your workout schedule. Your mind and your health are worth it.

Source: http://www.healthline.com/health/depression/mental-fitness#1

Stickin’ It Tue You: Tinnitus Relief with TCM

Constant noise in the head – such as ringing in the ears – rarely indicates a serious health problem, but it sure can be annoying. Here’s how to minimize it.

Tinnitus (pronounced tih-NITE-us or TIN-ih-tus) is sound in the head with no external source. For many, it’s a ringing sound, while for others, it’s whistling, buzzing, chirping, hissing, humming, roaring, or even shrieking. The sound may seem to come from one ear or both, from inside the head, or from a distance. It may be constant or intermittent, steady or pulsating.

Almost everyone has had tinnitus for a short time after being exposed to extremely loud noise. For example, attending a loud concert can trigger short-lived tinnitus. Some medications (especially aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs taken in high doses) can cause tinnitus that goes away when the drug is discontinued. A more serious problem is chronic tinnitus — symptoms lasting more than six months. As many as 50 to 60 million people in the United States suffer from this condition; it’s especially common in people over age 55 and strongly associated with hearing loss. Many people worry that tinnitus is a sign that they are going deaf or have another serious medical problem, but it rarely is.

Most tinnitus is subjective, meaning that only you can hear the noise. But sometimes it’s objective, meaning that someone else can hear it, too. For example, if you have a heart murmur, you may hear a whooshing sound with every heartbeat; your clinician can also hear that sound through a stethoscope. Many people can hear their heartbeat — a phenomenon called pulsatile tinnitus — especially as they grow older, because blood flow tends to be more turbulent in arteries whose walls have stiffened with age. Pulsatile tinnitus may be more noticeable at night, when you’re lying in bed, because more blood is reaching your head, and there are fewer external sounds to mask the tinnitus. If you notice any new pulsatile tinnitus, you should consult a clinician, because in rare cases it is a sign of a tumor or blood vessel damage.

The course of chronic tinnitus is unpredictable. Sometimes the symptoms remain the same, and sometimes they get worse. In about 10% of cases, the condition interferes with everyday life so much that professional health is needed.

In Chinese medicine, chronic Tinnitus is believed to be caused by kidney weakness, according to Pacific College of Oriental Medicine Faculty Member Dr. Mohammed Javaherian. Acupuncture is recommended and treatments will focus most likely on the kidney meridians, as well as on points along the liver and gallbladder meridians to help strengthen the root of the problem.

Tinnitus is linked to nerve and touch sensitivity. For some people, clenching one’s jaws or applying pressure to the neck can bring on or reduce tinnitus episodes. Acupuncture patients with this disorder will have a high response rate to the nerve’s natural response to pressure and the disorder’s sensitivity to certain points. The practice of acupuncture is based on the stimulation of certain points on the body, as well as meridians and channels. Stimulating specific points (which are determined based on the patient’s unique case) can rebalance the qi (one’s life force) and alleviate the source of the problem. It is integral in traditional Chinese medicine to treat the origin of an ailment as well as the symptoms, and TCM has several theories as to what causes tinnitus.

For example, in more temporary cases of Tinnitus, high emotional strain or sudden anger can lead to a ringing in the ears. Also, diet can have an effect. Practitioners of TCM believe that excessive greasy foods or irregular eating can lead to Phlegm (a TCM term that commonly refers to a retention in body fluid), which prevents the rising of clear qi to the head (resulting in the “phantom noise” associated with tinnitus). Overworking or excessive physical strain can lead to a nerve disturbance, causing tinnitus. Lastly, trauma is a common cause of the ringing noise associated with this disorder.

Along with acupuncture, Chinese herbs can be prescribed depending upon the location of the weakness.

Western medicine is limited in its treatment options for Tinnitus; no prescription drug is available for this condition. However, with careful management and the natural remedies found in traditional Chinese medicine, there is a resource waiting to be tapped.

Sources: http://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/tinnitus-ringing-in-the-ears-and-what-to-do-about-it

http://www.pacificcollege.edu/news/blog/2015/03/29/whats-ringing-tinnitus-and-how-tcm-can-help

Auditory pathways and tinnitus

illustration of ear and auditory pathway to brain

Sound waves travel through the ear canal to the middle and inner ear, where hair cells in part of the cochlea help transform sound waves into electrical signals that then travel to the brain’s auditory cortex via the auditory nerve. When hair cells are damaged — by loud noise or ototoxic drugs, for example — the circuits in the brain don’t receive the signals they’re expecting. This stimulates abnormal activity in the neurons, which results in the illusion of sound, or tinnitus.