Curvesday Thursday: Chiropractic and Immune Function

The nervous system and immune system are hardwired and work together to create optimal responses for the body to adapt and heal appropriately. Neural dysfunctions due to spinal mis-alignments are stressful to the body and cause abnormal changes that lead to a poorly coordinated immune response. Chiropractic adjustments have been shown to boost the coordinated responses of the nervous system and immune system.

The autonomic nervous system is hardwired into the lymphoid organs such as the spleen, thymus, lymph nodes, and bone marrow that produce the body’s immune response. Growing evidence is showing that immune function is regulated in part by the sympathetic division of the autonomic nervous system.

Subluxation is the term for mis-alignments of the spine that cause compression and irritation of nerve pathways affecting organ systems of the body. Subluxations are an example of physical nerve stress that affects neuronal control. According to researchers, such stressful conditions lead to altered measures of immune function & increased susceptibility to a variety of diseases.

Inflammatory based disease is influenced by both the nervous, endocrine, and immune systems. Nerve stimulation directly affects the growth and function of inflammatory cells. Researchers found that dysfunction in this pathway results in the development of various inflammatory syndromes such as rheumatoid arthritis and behavioral syndromes such as depression. Additionally, this dysfunctional neuro-endo-immune response plays a significant role in immune-compromised conditions such as chronic infections and cancer.

Wellness based chiropractors analyze the spine for subluxations and give corrective adjustments to reduce the stress on the nervous system. A 1992 research group found that when a thoracic adjustment was applied to a subluxated area the white blood cell (neutrophil) count collected rose significantly.

In 1975, Ronald Pero, Ph.D., chief of cancer prevention research at New York’s Preventive Medicine Institute and professor in Environmental Health at New York University, began researching the most scientifically valid ways to estimate individual susceptibility to various chronic diseases. He has conducted a tremendous amount of research in this area that includes over 160 published reports in peer reviewed journals.

Pero and his colleagues discovered that various DNA-repairing enzymes could be significantly altered following exposure to carcinogenic chemicals. He found strong evidence that an individual’s susceptibility to cancer could be determined by these enzymes. Lack of those enzymes, Pero said, ‘definitely limits not only your lifespan, but also your ability to resist serious disease consequences.’

Pero was fascinated by the relationship cancer-inducing agents had on the endocrine system. Since the nervous system regulates hormone balance, he hypothesized that the nervous system had to also have a strong influence on one’s susceptibility to cancer.

To support this argument he found a substantial amount of literature linking various kinds of spinal cord injuries and cancer. Pero found that these injuries led to a very high rate of lymphomas and lymphatic leukemias. This understanding led Pero to consider Chiropractic care as a means of reducing the risk of immune breakdown and disease.

Pero’s team measured 107 individuals who had received long-term Chiropractic care. The chiropractic patients were shown to have a 200% greater immune competence than people who had not received chiropractic care, and a 400% greater immune competence than people with cancer or serious diseases. Interestingly, Pero found no decline with the various age groups in the study demonstrating that the DNA repairing enzymes were just as present in long-term chiropractic senior groups as they were in the younger groups.

Pero concluded, ‘Chiropractic may optimize whatever genetic abilities you have so that you can fully resist serious disease…I have never seen a group other than this show a 200% increase over normal patients.’

Source: http://www.naturalnews.com/031206_chiropractic_immunity.html#ixzz3t0EZNNAA

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.

Curvesday Thursday: The Importance of Maintenance Care

Every day more and more people are reevaluating their options when it comes to health care. They are realizing that wellness comes from within and that the best way to avoid illness and discomfort is to be “health conscious” in their daily lifestyles. In order to accomplish this we must first understand what it is we need to do to get and stay well.

The simple answer is that we need to adopt lifestyle behaviors that promote health – as opposed to those that lead to sickness. Because the truth is there is no drug that can fix our poor diet or remove the toxins from the processed food we eat. There is no drug that can undo our sedentary living or poor fitness – the answer is in our lifestyle choices. One major lifestyle choice we can adopt is to receive regular chiropractic adjustments, often called maintenance or wellness chiropractic care.

Understanding the reason for maintenance chiropractic care mandates an understanding of two major well documented concepts: 1) immobilization degeneration; and 2) the neurology of pain processing. A primary component of a subluxation (misalignment in the spine) is loss of normal motion in that area; and there is an immense body of research to support the ensuing degenerative process that will occur with this loss of motion and the logical conclusion of restoring movement to the spine.

You see, chiropractic is important for our health in many of the same ways that exercise is so crucial for our overall health and well-being. It’s all about movement. Movement feeds the brain, when we become misaligned we lose the normal motion of that spinal segment – which leads to degenerated joints and  decreases these movement- rich nutrients to the brain (proprioceptive signals).

Immobilization degeneration is supported by over 40 years of research. The literature shows that a joint that has lost a degree of its normal movement will begin degenerating at a rate measurable within one week of onset. Its important to realize that this degenerative process will continue, often painlessly, until significant degeneration has occurred. A big reason why you don’t need to be in pain to be adjusted.

This loss of motion leads to an increase in nociceptors, which are receptors that fire when damage is detected, sending pain signals to the spinal cord and the brain. These impulses account for more systemic autonomic changes which can occur without the perception of pain. This is the same neural mechanism that allows serious disease processes to progress without warning.

What this basically means is that if we allow our body to progress in this direction, we are headed towards a state of alarm and adaptation, and ultimately fatigue, illness and early death. However, if we restore the motion to these spinal segments – through regular chiropractic care – we reduce stress hormone levels in the body and we restore proper brain-body communication, which in turn restores health and function in our body.

What happens when we reduce this stress load on our body? The many well documented improvements of chiropractic patients in areas like immune function, allergies, asthma, anxiety, colic, to name a few – show how far reaching of an effect this has on our body. Regardless of symptoms, the research shows we are much healthier with a properly moving spine than without.

Source: http://www.truehealthct.com/2013/why-do-i-need-maintenance-chiropractic-care/

TGIF: The Scary Truth on Heavy Metal Poisoning

We get mercury in our bodies from many different sources including mercury vapors in ambient air, ingesting it via drinking water, fish, dental amalgams, vaccines, occupational exposures, home exposures including fluorescent light bulbs, thermostats, batteries, red tattoo dye, skin-lightening creams, over-the-counter products such as contact lens fluid and neosynephrine, and more.

You absorb about 80 percent of inhaled mercury vapor and nearly 100 percent of the mercury in fish through your gut. Once this mercury is in your body it is then primarily distributed in the kidneys and brain and can be readily transferred to the fetus via the placenta.

The only way it can get out of your body is via urine, feces, expired air, and breast milk. The major reason it is toxic to human biology is because mercury has the ability to bind to sulfur-containing molecules in the body (found in nearly every enzyme and in the mitochondria), as well as other chemical binding sites in the cells.

We’ve learned a lot about how this mercury effects us and our children from reported exposures to mercury over the last 100 years. These include epidemics such as the Minimata Bay exposures in Japan, acrodynia or pink disease in children from calomel (HgCl) used in teething powder, “mad hatter syndrome” or erethism, and methylmercury fungicide grain seed exposures in Iraq and Pakistan.

The symptoms and diseases these exposures have caused are varied and mimic many other conditions. Nervous system toxicity can cause erethism (“mad hatter syndrome” as mentioned above) with symptoms of shyness; laughing, crying, and dramatic mood swings for no apparent reason; nervousness, insomnia, memory problems, and the inability to concentrate.

Other neurologic symptoms may include encephalopathy (non-specific brain malfunction), nerve damage, Parkinsonian symptoms, tremor, ataxia (loss of balance), impaired hearing, tunnel vision, dysarthria (slurred speech), headache, fatigue, impaired sexual function, and depression.

Kidney toxicity leads to proteinura (protein in the urine) and acute renal failure. Gastrointestinal symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and colitis. Skin toxicity causes allergic dermatitis, chelitis (cracked corners of the mouth), gingivitis (gum disease), stomatitis (sores in the mucous membranes of the mouth) and excessive salivation.

Now, there are different types of mercury. Nearly all human exposures to one type, methylmercury, come from fish. Severe symptoms start with exposure to doses of 100 mcg/kg/day, mild symptoms with more than 10 mcg/kg/day, and sub-clinical symptoms with less than 1 mcg/kg/day. These symptoms include late development in walking and talking in children and decreased performance on neurological tests.

Methylmercury (also called organic mercury) is found predominately in red blood cells, which is what doctors check when they do a blood test for mercury. But unless you’ve been eating fish with mercury recently, you won’t see your total body level of mercury.

Plus, mercury is lipophilic, meaning that it concentrates in fatty tissues, especially in the brain, which is made mostly of fat. That means that blood levels aren’t an accurate measurement of total body burden of mercury.

Inorganic mercury from dental fillings (amalgams) is found in plasma but is rapidly cleared and stored in your tissues. Inorganic mercury is also converted from methylmercury by the body and is the main form of mercury in brain, which can lead to dementia, autism, ADHD and more.

Some of us are very good at detoxifying mercury and other toxins, while some of us store toxins like a toxic waste dump. Genetic variations (called polymorphisms) make some people more prone to metal toxicity. One gene in particular is very important because it’s related to the body’s production of glutathione, our most powerful detoxifier and antioxidant. Your body can only excrete mercury when it’s bound with glutathione.

The polymorphism of the gene that controls the enzyme glutathione-S-transferase (GSST) prevents excretion of mercury. That is the gene problem I have that led to my mercury toxicity. When that happens, the mercury stays in tissues and does damage. Plus, mercury also binds to key enzymes that help us produce glutathione — in effect helping itself accumulate in our bodies.

Research also shows that people suffering from symptoms like fatigue, irritability, mood disorders, poor concentration, headaches, and insomnia due to their amalgam fillings are more likely than their peers to have the apolipoprotein E 4 (ApoE 4) gene.

ApoE 4 is known as the “Alzheimer’s gene.” It also promotes heart disease. ApoE 4 reduces detoxifying activity. This means that people with this gene can’t get rid of mercury from their brains, contributing to its toxic effects on this organ.

10 Truths and Tips about Mercury Toxicity

  1. Industrial exposure to mercury is significant and mostly comes from coal burning (220 million pounds a year) and chlor-alkali plants.
  2. The main ways that humans are exposed to mercury are from contaminated fish and dental amalgams or silver fillings.
  3. Mercury can affect nearly all your organs, especially the brain, heart, kidneys, and gut.
  4. Many chronic diseases may be caused or worsened by mercury, including neurological diseases, ADHD, autism, heart disease, autoimmune diseases, and more.
  5. Some of us are genetically better adapted to detoxify mercury than others, leading to variable effects within the population.
  6. You should reduce your exposure by avoiding large ocean fish (like tuna, swordfish, shark, and tilefish) and river fish. Eat only small wild fish. If it fits in your pan, it is probably okay.
  7. Blood tests are relatively worthless for analyzing mercury toxicity, unless you have had a significant recent exposure or eat a lot of sushi or tuna.
  8. Hair tests only check for mercury from fish, not from fillings so they only give you a partial picture.
  9. The only way to find out your total body load of mercury is to take a medication with sulfur molecules that binds to the mercury like fly paper. This is called DMSA or DMPS. This test should ONLY be done by a trained physician and involves taking one dose of this medicine, followed by a 6- or 24-hour urine collection to see how much comes out.
  10. If you are toxic and sick, you may consider addressing your dental health by seeing a biological dentist who can safely help you deal with mercury in your mouth.

Sources: http://drhyman.com/blog/2010/05/20/mercury-get-this-poison-out-of-your-body/

Curvesday Thursday: A Natural way to end GERD

What is GERD?

Most people will experience the symptoms of heartburn at least once in their lives. For most, hopefully, the painful sensation in the chest is limited to a one-time indulgence in jalapeno-flavored donuts, a significant amount of meat-lovers pizza, a pot of coffee, a few beers and a recent break-up after being fired from a job. For many others, heartburn occurs more frequently and it’s causes are harder to pinpoint.

Heartburn that occurs frequently is called GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease. It is a disorder in which the contents of the stomach, (gastro) including digestive juices and partially digested food, get by the barrier between the stomach and the esophagus (the lower esophageal sphincter) and come up (reflux) into the esophagus. This is problematic since the esophagus is not designed for digestion, but is rather a conduit from the mouth to the stomach, where digestion begins.

Acids that break down proteins and enzymes that break down protein, fats, and carbohydrates, are present in the stomach juices. This combination of acid and enzymes irritates the lining of the esophagus producing what most people describe as a burning sensation in the chest. Occasionally people have GERD that is pain free—these people may experience a hoarse voice that is more pronounced upon waking.

The symptoms of GERD can be extremely irritating. GERD that exists for a period of time causes changes in the esophagus. The constant aggravation to the esophageal lining can lead to pre-cancerous changes (called Barrett’s esophagus) that greatly increase one’s risk for cancer. For this reason, it is necessary to take very good care of your esophagus—and by extension, your digestive tract in general, and while we’re at it, the rest of your physical, mental, and spiritual being.  Rates of esophageal cancer are increasing in industrialized nations at a rate faster than any other cancer.

Pharmaceutical drugs used for GERD fall into several categories; H2 receptor antagonists (Tagament, Zantac), proton pump inhibitors (Prilosec, Prevacid), and antacids (Tums and baking soda). All of these drugs decrease the acidity of your stomach. The problem, of course, is that the stomach is supposed to be acidic. Acid in the stomach is needed to break down protein into its constituent parts, called amino acids. If the protein is not completely broken down and gets into the blood stream, your body can develop an allergy against that protein. This can cause both food allergies and autoimmune disease.

The problem with pharmaceuticals is that while these relieve symptoms, they do nothing to stop the reflux or the increased risk of developing digestive tract cancers. Also, your stomach detects the low-acid environment that the drug has created and secretes large amounts of the hormone gastrin (a hormone that stimulates the proton pumps to create acid). Elevated levels of gastrin are associated with many digestive tract cancers including esophageal, pancreatic, and stomach cancer.

The risks associated with pharmaceutical drugs for GERD are greatest with long-term use. A recent study by University of Michigan scientists found that mice given proton pump inhibitors for gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining), acquired more “bad” bacteria and developed more inflammatory changes in their stomach linings than untreated mice. All this being said, there are times when the aforementioned pharmaceuticals may be appropriate to treat GERD. If you are on a prescription pharmaceutical, you should discuss this with your doctor. Do not stop taking any prescription mediation without your doctor’s knowledge and consent.

short term relief:

Rule number one is do not lie down within three hours of eating. Simply being vertical helps your stomach contents to stay where they belong. Lying down with an incompetent lower esophageal sphincter encourages stomach contents to reflux, causing the uncomfortable burning sensation (and damage) .

Rule number two is to avoid those things that cause the LES to relax, especially in the evening:

  • Peppermint
  • Chocolate
  • Soda
  • Coffee
  • Tea (herbal teas are OK)
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol
  • Bad fats—especially fried foods

There is also a range of herbal supplements that can be taken to calm the inflammation in the esophagus and help rebuild the damaged lining. Consult a functional medicine physician to determine which herbal supplements would be best to add to your individualized treatment plan.

Long Term Cure:

Chiropractic can work in two ways to help you to heal your GERD. First, chiropractic is the most effective means of treating a hiatal hernia, a common but often overlooked cause of GERD. A hiatal hernia is when the top part of your stomach “pops through” (herniates through) your diaphragm. The diaphragm muscle pinches the top part of your stomach and can cause reflux. A chiropractor trained in reducing hiatal hernias can fix this rapidly and your troubles are over.

The second way chiropractic can help is through manipulation of the spine. Research has shown that people with stomach ulcers who receive chiropractic adjustments heal much faster than people who do not. Often people who suffer from GERD and/or stomach ulcers develop pain in the upper back-between the shoulder blades. This is because the nerve supply is the same to both areas. Chiropractic adjustments to the upper back can “reconnect” the nerve supply to the esophagus and stomach and hasten healing.

Lifestyle Changes:

Lifestyle changes that could reduce or eliminate the occurance of GERD include the following:

Lose weight if you are overweight.

Eat a good organic whole yogurt on a regular basis, preferably raw.

Eat foods high in good bacteria include kim chee, sauerkraut, kombucha tea, and Miso.

Quit eating refined sugars and carbohydrates. This excess sugar and lack of fiber and nutrients disturbs the balance of bugs in your gut.

Cut down on coffee and alcohol. Do not have either on a daily basis, and when you do have them limit yourself to one cup of coffee or one alcoholic drink.

Cut out bad fats. These include hydrogenated oils, saturated fats from meat products, and many vegetable oils. Instead eat cold pressed organic olive, flaxseed, coconut, and sesame oils, organic butter, avocados, fresh nuts, lean meats and fatty fish.

Eat lots of fresh fruits and veggies. These foods contain the vitamins and minerals that your digestive track needs to function properly. The fiber and minerals also act as an acid buffer.

Check in with yourself regarding your stress levels. Your stress levels can play a large role in the state of your digestive track. If you are high strung, learn some technique of stress reduction. Learn to control your stress by practicing stress reduction daily.

Lastly, avoid taking pain medication unless absolutely necessary. NSAIDs and other pain medications eat the lining of your stomach and esophagus. Even Tylenol, which doesn’t have the systemic effect on your gastrointestinal tract, will eat your esophagus if it spends any length of time there. Tylenol is also the leading cause of liver failure in this country.

GERD can pose serious risks to your health over time. Do not let this disease go untreated. If you follow the outline above, you will be healing yourself at a much more meaningful level. GERD is often a symptom of a much greater problem involving diet, lifestyle, stress, the digestive tract as a whole. As always, it is better to treat the disease, not the symptoms.

Source: http://www.docroberts.com/ar-35-c-13-heartburn-and-gastroesophageal-reflux-%28gerd%29.aspx

Curvesday Thursday: Exercise and Chiropractic Therapy

If a patient has a history of heart problems, it is important for the patient to consult with not only the doctor of chiropractic but their primary care physician to be certain that they can tolerate cardiovascular fitness-promoting activities.

Cardiovascular and strengthening exercises combined with chiropractic care are important in the management of low back pain.  Specific instructions are given by the chiropractor with respect to proper exercise for the patient’s condition before beginning any exercise program. In general, a reasonable amount of exercise that is performed daily and utilizes activities that are enjoyed is recommended for patients undergoing chiropractic treatment.

Many studies have reported the importance of exercises in managing acute and chronic low back pain, strengthening the low back, preventing and keeping back patients working, and to improve quality of life. The strength of the abdominal muscles was also found to be able to differentiate between those with vs. without chronic LBP. Overall and when combined with chiropractic care, aerobic exercise helps promote proper digestion, keeps the muscles in proper tone and promotes better circulation. Walking briskly around the block at least once or twice is a convenient and popular activity. Also, many forms of work and/or household tasks can function as an exercise program. The important point is to exercise!

There are many applicable back exercises that are available for patients also undergoing chiropractic care for lower back pain. The physician or physical therapist can classify the chiropractic patient into a flexion or extension biased category to determine the variety that is best for that patient and recommend specific exercises to be completed at home.

For example:

  • If a patient feels best when bending over (flexion biased), exercises that promote low back flexion such as pulling the knees to the chest, posterior pelvic tilts, bending forward from a sitting position and others are usually helpful.
  • If a patient is least symptomatic in extension, especially if leg pain centralizes or diminishes (extension biased), prone press-up type exercises usually yield the best results.

Other exercises that can help reduce lower back pain include:

  • Strengthening of the pelvic stabilizing muscles (trunk muscles)
  • Stretching of the hamstrings, adductors, and other overly short or tight postural muscles
  • Proprioceptive or balance promoting.According to the Scientific Commission of the Council on Chiropractic Guidelines and Practice Parameters (CCGPP):
    • Strong evidence supports exercise as being at least as effective as other non-surgical treatments for chronic low back pain
    • Moderate evidence supports use of a graded-activity exercise program in occupational settings for subacute lower back pain
    • Some evidence shows that exercises are no more effective than other nonsurgical treatments for acute lower back pain.

As with any chiropractic treatment, it is important for chiropractors to perform a focused reevaluation of an exercise program following its initial therapeutic trial to determine its effectiveness. Using spinal range of motion as a measurement of the effectiveness of exercise is just one way in which chiropractors can make such determinations.

Source: http://www.spine-health.com/treatment/chiropractic/exercise-and-chiropractic-therapy

 

Get Moving Monday: Avoid Winter Weight Gain

Do you dread the holidays with all those tempting, fattening foods? This year, be prepared for the season with this five-point plan to beat winter weight gain.

Winter can be a bleak time of year for dieters, and not just because of the holidays. The cold weather can interrupt your workout routine, make you more likely to reach for comfort foods like mac and cheese, and can even send you on a mood roller coaster that can lead to overeating.

“Although seasonal weight gain varies from person to person, there have been surveys that show an average of a five to seven pound gain in weight in winter,” says Lawrence J. Cheskin, MD, founder and director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center and associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.

The good news about fighting the pounds of winter is that cold and dark do not appear to be responsible for overeating, for most of us. “A small percentage of people in winter may develop seasonal affective disorder, which is clinical depression brought on by winter’s short days; many of these people may have trouble overeating,” says Cheskin. “But that is due to the depression itself, and people with this disorder are just as likely to undereat as to overeat, which is true of all people who suffer clinical depression.

For the rest of us, winter weight gain is largely the result of reduced exercise and increased eating, Cheskin says. “Research studies show that the ‘hibernation theory’ of winter overeating does not hold up for the vast majority of us who do not have seasonal affective disorder.”

So this year, be prepared for the season with our five-point plan to beat winter weight gain.

1. Exercise, exercise, exercise
“Setting a regular fitness schedule is the key to keeping weight off in winter,” says Lisa Giannetto, MD, an assistant clinical professor in the Diet and Fitness Center at the Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. “Come five o’clock, when it’s pitch black and cold out, you’re a lot more likely to go to your warm home and watch TV if you don’t have a regular fitness schedule that includes a variety of types of exercises.”

2. Never go to a party hungry
“Fruits and vegetables are where we need to get our carbohydrates, and not from alcohol and brownies,” says Jule Anne Henstenberg, RD, director of the nutrition program at La Salle University. “Use high-fiber fruits and vegetables to fill up before a party.” Eat a bunch of baby carrots, a big salad, or an apple, for example, to curb your desire for empty party-food calories.

“When we eat outside the home, studies suggest that we may take in 40% more calories than we would otherwise,” says Cheskin. “We even have seen this finding replicated in animal models.” So much of our eating is not related to hunger, he says. The more variety of foods available at a meal, the more likely you are to eat more food.

“The stress of a social setting and an environment with many food choices and alcohol will tend to foster overeating,” Cheskin says. “So these are good times to be on guard.”

3. Avoid alcohol
Alcohol is loaded with calories. And since “many holiday celebrations involve drinking, it’s easy to take in a lot of calories without being aware that you are,” says Scott Isaacs, MD, clinical instructor of medicine at Emory University and medical director at Intelligent Health Center. “Drink a glass of water before and after each alcoholic beverage to help pace yourself and to dilute calories,” says Isaacs.

4. Practice calorie damage control
“If you do overeat, don’t ‘fall off the wagon.'” says Isaacs. “Make up for it by cutting your calories for a few days and adding extra exercise.” And get exercise in anywhere you can, says Giannetto. Take a brisk walk on your lunch break and after dinner. At work, use stairs rather than the elevator. “When you get just 100 fewer calories per day through dieting and exercise or both, that is the equivalent of 10 pounds per year.”

5. Remember to have fun
“The main reason you’re at a party is to see people and celebrate, not to eat a lot of high-calorie foods,” says Cheskin. “So be aware of why you’re there and make that your focus.”

Source: http://www.webmd.com/diet/5-tips-to-avoid-winter-weight-gain?page=2

Wellness Wednesday: Getting to Know Your Sole

Buying the right shoes is an investment in foot health. But how do you find ones that fit properly and provide adequate support?

Start with your own feet, and look at what’s already in your closet. Stand barefoot on a piece of paper or cardboard, and trace the shape of each foot. Now take your shoes, one by one, and place them on top of the drawing. If you’re like most people, your “comfortable” shoes will closely match the outline of your own feet.

Identify the shoes that cause pain. If you’re a woman, most of these will be shoes with narrow toes or high heels. Check to see if the toe of the shoe is narrower or shorter than your own toes.

When to replace shoes?

  • Look at the heel. Most people will wear out the side of the heel over time. When the heel becomes angled, it will alter every step you take and can cause pain in the leg or back. Shoe repair stores may be able to fix the heel. If not, replace the shoe.
  • Running shoes can cause pain before they look worn. This is because they lose the capacity to absorb shock. The guideline to replace running shoes is every 350 to 500 miles. Running shoes older than one year old may also cause pain because of changes in the sole with exposure to humidity or heat. Save running shoes for running only and it will prolong the life of the shoe. Old running shoes can be used for walking.

When you’re ready to replace footwear, these tips can help:

  1. Wait until the afternoon to shop for shoes — your feet naturally expand with use during the day and may swell in hot weather.
  2. Wear the same type of socks that you intend to wear with the shoes.
  3. Have the salesperson measure both of your feet — and get measured every time you buy new shoes. If one foot is larger or wider than the other, buy a size that fits the larger foot.
  4. Stand in the shoes. Make sure you have at least a quarter- to a half-inch of space between your longest toe and the end of the shoe.
  5. Walk around in the shoes to determine how they feel. Is there enough room at the balls of the feet? Do the heels fit snugly, or do they pinch or slip off? Don’t rationalize that the shoes just need to be “broken in” or that they’ll stretch with time. Find shoes that fit from the start.
  6. Trust your own comfort level rather than a shoe’s size or description. Sizes vary from one manufacturer to another. And no matter how comfortable an advertisement claims those shoes are, you’re the real judge.
  7. Feel the inside of the shoes to see if they have any tags, seams, or other material that might irritate your feet or cause blisters.
  8. Turn the shoes over and examine the soles. Are they sturdy enough to provide protection from sharp objects? Do they provide any cushioning? Also, take the sole test as you walk around the shoe store: do the soles cushion against impact? Try to walk on hard surfaces as well as carpet to see how the shoes feel.

Consider different factors for different shoes:

Athletic shoes: There are four types of running shoes: motion control, stability, neutral/cushioning, and minimalist. The correct shoe for you is based on arch type and biomechanics. One way to test the shoe is to walk and jog in it. You can also balance on one leg and do a one-legged squat. The shoe should feel comfortable right away and these tests should feel easier in the right shoe.

For court sports, a sport-specific shoe is better than a running shoe because it will provide more side-to-side support. For cleats, it can be helpful to pick a shoe that allows you to add an arch support.

Minimalist shoes are used for forefoot running to simulate “barefoot” running. To avoid injury, it’s best to slowly add time and to get guidance for proper form.

Sandals: Flip flops are good for short distance walking only. Choose sandals with straps that cover more of the foot and/or wrap around the ankle.

Boots may fit loosely and not provide adequate foot support. Adding arch support can improve comfort.

Women’s dress shoes are often detrimental to feet, knees, and spines. Heels alter whole body posture and can cause pain. If you wear heels, pick a lower heel shoe, a wider heel or wedge, and a heel that does not curve in. Wear higher heels when you have to, then switch to a lower heels if you have to walk any distance.

Take time to tie and untie your shoes:

Your shoe will work best when it fits snugly and acts as an extension of your foot, without sliding around. Pulling off your shoe without untying it will cause the support in the shoe to break down much faster.

Sources: http://www.health.harvard.edu/pain/8-tips-for-buying-shoes-that-are-good-to-your-feet

https://www.uhs.umich.edu/shoes

Stickin’ It Tue You: CAM Treatments for Asthma

Many people try complementary and alternative asthma treatments, ranging from herbs to yoga, in conjunction with their traditional medicine presecriptions. Never stop taking any prescription drug without your doctor’s approval. None of these treatments are meant to replace a fast-acting inhaler in the event of an asthma attack.

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) asthma treatment ranges from breathing exercises to herbal remedies. Here’s a list of treatments that may be beneficial if you are suffering this allergy season:

 Acupuncture:
 Acupuncture involves the insertion of very thin needles into your skin at specific points on your body. Some studies suggest that asthma symptoms may improve with acupuncture.

If you decide to try acupuncture, work with an experienced, licensed acupuncturist, preferably one who is also a medical doctor.

 Breathing exercises:
 Breathing techniques used for asthma, including the Buteyko breathing technique and yoga breathing (pranayama), are aimed at reducing hyperventilation and regulating breathing. They don’t seem to improve the underlying allergic reaction that causes asthma symptoms. In some studies, however, people who did breathing exercises reported improvement in symptoms.
Herbal remedies:
 Herbal remedies have been used for thousands of years to treat lung problems in Asia. Some have shown promise in research, but more studies are needed.

Traditional Chinese, Indian and Japanese medicine usually involves using blends of herbs. Taking certain herbs in combination may be more effective than taking only one herb.

Use caution with herbal remedies and always discuss the use of herbs or dietary supplements with your doctor. Consider these concerns before taking any herbal remedy:

  • Quality and dose. The content of herbal remedies is often not standardized and may vary in quality and potency. Herbal remedies may contain ingredients that aren’t listed, and they may contain contaminants.
  • Side effects. Side effects caused by herbal supplements can range from minor to severe, and depend on the herb and the dose you take. Be especially cautious of herbal asthma remedies that contain stimulant substances, which may cause high blood pressure, heart attack and/or stroke.
  • Drug interactions. Certain herbal remedies can interact with prescription medications.

These concerns don’t necessarily mean trying an herbal treatment is a bad idea — you just need to be careful. Talk with your physician before taking an herbal remedy to make sure it’s safe for you. Also, contact a Functional Medicine or Naturopathic physician to be prescribed pharmaceutical grade supplements and remedies to ensure quality ingredients and the proper dosage.

 Vitamins and supplements:
 Three supplements that seem promising include:
  • Antioxidants. People with severe asthma appear to have decreased levels of these protective nutrients found in fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants such as magnesium, vitamin C and vitamin E may have some effect on asthma.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids. Found in several types of fish, healthy oils containing omega-3s may reduce the inflammation that leads to asthma symptoms. They also appear to have a number of other health benefits. It isn’t clear whether omega-3s from vegetable sources, such as flaxseed and canola oil, have the same beneficial effects as omega-3s found in fish.
  • Vitamin D. Some people with severe asthma have a vitamin D deficiency. Researchers are exploring whether vitamin D may reduce asthma symptoms in some people.

A multivitamin or supplement pill may help you get nutrients, but the best way to make sure you’re getting adequate nutrition is to eat a varied diet rich in fresh, unprocessed foods. There’s no downside to increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as cold-water fish, nuts, greens and ground flaxseed.

Curvesday Thursday: Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative disc disease is one of the most common causes of low back pain and neck pain, and also one of the most misunderstood. Simply put, degenerative disc disease describes the symptoms of pain and possibly radiating weakness or numbness stemming from a degenerated disc in the spine. While the definition sounds simple, many patients diagnosed with degenerative disc disease are left wondering exactly what this diagnosis means for them.

Common questions often include:

  • If I have this much pain in my thirties, how much worse will it become with age?
  • Will the disease become a crippling condition? Will I end up in a wheelchair?
  • Should I restrict my activities? Can I still play sports?
  • Will the disease spread to other parts of the spine?
  • Will the degenerated disc(s) cause any permanent damage?
  • Is surgery inevitable?

A diagnosis of “degenerative disc disease” is alarming to many patients because it sounds like a progressive, threatening disease. However, it is not really a disease, and it is not strictly degenerative.

For most people the term degenerative understandably implies that the symptoms will get worse with age. However, the term does not apply to the symptoms, but rather describes the process of the disc degenerating over time.

While it is true that the disc degeneration is likely to progress over time, the pain from degenerative disc disease usually does not get worse and in fact usually gets better given enough time.

Another source of confusion is probably created by the term disease, which is actually a misnomer. Degenerative disc disease is not really a disease at all, but rather a degenerative condition that at times can produce pain from a damaged disc.

Disc degeneration is actually a natural part of aging, and over time all people will exhibit changes in their discs consistent with a greater or lesser degree of degeneration. However, not all people will develop symptoms. In fact, degenerative disc disease is quite variable in its nature and severity.

Generally, the pain associated with degenerative disc disease is thought to stem from two main factors:

  1. Inflammation
    The proteins contained within the disc space can cause a lot of inflammation, and as a general rule inflammation will cause pain.
  2. Abnormal micromotion instability
    If the annulus – the outer rings of the intervertebral disc – degenerates and wears down, it is not as effective in resisting motion in the spine. This condition has been termed “micromotion” instability because it is usually not associated with gross instability (such as a slipped vertebral body or spondylolisthesis).

Both the inflammation and micromotion instability can cause lower back or neck muscle spasms. The muscle spasm is the body’s attempt to stabilize the spine. It is a reflex, and although the body’s response of muscle spasm is not necessary for the safety of the nerve roots, it can be quite painful. The muscle spasms associated with the instability are thought to cause the flare-ups of intense pain often associated with degenerative disc disease

The two findings most correlated with a pathological disc (a degenerating disc that is painful) are:

  • Cartilaginous end plate erosion
  • Disc space collapse

Like other joints in the body, each vertebral segment is a joint that has cartilage in it. In between the vertebral body and the disc space is a layer of cartilage, which is known as the cartilaginous end plate.

The cartilaginous end plate is the source of disc nutrition. If it becomes eroded, it is thought that the disc is likely to go through a degenerative cascade leading to the inflammation and micromotion instability, which in turn causes pain. As it goes through the process, the disc space will collapse.

MRI findings of spinal degeneration are not specific causes of back pain. Typical MRI findings may include:

  • Disc dehydration, also called disc desiccation, and often referred to as a dark disc or black disc, because a disc with less water in it looks dark on an MRI scan
  • Annular tears
  • Disc bulges

These findings may or may not be the cause of the patient’s low back pain. It is well known that the results of surgically fusing a spine with these findings will be less reliable than fusing a disc space that has disc space collapse and cartilaginous end plate erosion.

There are several symptoms that are fairly consistent for people with lower back pain or neck pain from degenerative disc disease, including:

  • Pain that is usually related to activity and will flare up at times but then return to a low-grade pain level, or the pain will go away entirely
  • The amount of chronic pain—referred to as the patient’s baseline level of pain—is quite variable between individuals and can range from almost no pain/just a nagging level of irritation, to severe and disabling pain
  • Severe episodes of back or neck pain that will generally last from a few days to a few months before returning to the individual’s baseline level of chronic pain
  • Chronic pain that is completely disabling from degenerative disc disease does happen in some cases, but is relatively rare.
  • Activities that involve bending, lifting, and twisting will usually make the patient’s pain worse
  • Certain positions will usually make the pain worse. For example, for lumbar degenerative disc pain, the pain is generally made worse with sitting, since in the seated position the lumbosacral discs are loaded three times more than standing
  • Walking, and even running, may actually feel better than prolonged sitting or standing
  • Patients will generally feel better if they can change positions frequently
  • Patients with lumbar DDD will generally feel better lying in a reclining position (such as with legs propped up in a recliner), or lying down with a pillow under the knees, since these positions relieve stress on the lumbar disc space

The goals for treatment of degenerative disc disease usually include a combination of three areas: pain control; exercise and rehabilitation; lifestyle modifications.

  1. Pain Control
    The focus of this part of treatment is on achieving enough pain reduction to enable the patient to pursue a specific exercise and rehabilitation program. Pain from a degenerated or collapsed disc is usually caused by both instability and inflammation, so both of these causes of pain should be addressed. For most people treatment is nonsurgical and may include one or a combination of many medical, alternative, and/or self care approaches. Often a patient needs to take a trial and error approach to find which types of treatment work best.
  2. Exercise and Rehabilitation
    The goals of exercise are both to help the back heal and to prevent or reduce further recurrences of pain. For people with symptomatic degenerative disc disease, exercises are usually best done under the guidance of a physical therapist or other appropriately trained healthcare professional. A side benefit of exercise is that it can also help reduce pain naturally, as it releases endorphins that serve as the body’s natural pain reliever. Exercise is best done in a controlled progressive manner and with the help of a trained health professional, such as a physiatrist, physical therapist, or chiropractor.
  3. Lifestyle Modifications
    The focus of this part of treatment is education and resources to help the patient develop a healthier lifestyle. Often, people can make lifestyle changes that aim at both avoiding stress on the spine and supporting the spine through the right ergonomics and posture.

    In addition, many people can benefit from the following changes:

    • Avoid nicotine
    • Avoid excess alcohol
    • Incorporate movement into one’s daily routine and avoid staying in one position for too long. For example, stand up and stretch and walk around every 20 to 30 minutes instead of sitting for a prolonged period.
    • Drink plenty of water
    • For lower back pain from DDD, most patients can benefit from a gentle hamstring stretching routine

Sources: http://www.spine-health.com/video/degenerative-disc-disease-interactive-video