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: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

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.

Get Moving Monday: Winter-Proof Your Workout

Hibernating isn’t going to burn you any calories. Winter-proof your workout and your waistline with our seasonal survival guide.

Winter Woe: Your body’s chemical switch has flipped to storing more fat.

Fix-it trick: Get your motor running. When University of Colorado researchers studied a group of 12 women and six men in both summer and winter, they discovered that their production of ATLPL, a chemical that promotes fat storage, almost doubled during the winter and dropped during the summer. But you’re not doomed to don fat pants all season, scientists say. Exercise may increase SMLPL, the muscle enzyme that promotes the burning of fat, to offset the pudge-promoting effects of ATLPL. “We found that people who are normally physically active are more protected from weight gain,” says study author Robert E. Eckel, MD. Get in at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days, whether it’s Spinning, snowshoeing, or building a snowman.

Winter Woe: ‘Tis the season for big sweaters — the better to hide your bulges with.

Fix-it trick: Opt for layers that leave a little bit of your silhouette intact. It’s no surprise that your comfy cardigan may stealthily up the odds you’ll skip your workout, since it keeps soft spots under wraps, says Jennifer Baumgartner, a psychologist in Potomac, Maryland, who makes the link between clothing and mind-set for her clients. “The first thing I tell people who are trying to lose weight is to avoid baggy clothing, since you won’t be able to see the positive changes in your body,” she says. “There’s also a subconscious association between baggy clothes and lounging.” To help break the lazy spell, pick sweaters in red, pink, or bright blue, Baumgartner advises. Mood research suggests that these colors jolt your senses and help energize you.

Winter Woe: Your carb cravings skyrocket when the days get short.

Fix-it trick: Munch on healthy carbs in the afternoon before the sun goes down to stave off a splurge. Winter can trigger cravings for comforting, sweet carbs because diminished sunlight during the season makes serotonin in the brain less active. Too little of this mood-lifting chemical leaves you feeling tired and hungry, says Judith Wurtman, PhD, founder of Triad, a Harvard Hospital weight-management center, and coauthor of The Serotonin Power Diet. Your brain is making you desire carbs because after you eat them, your serotonin level will rise. Wurtman’s research found that “carbohydrate cravers” with seasonal affective disorder may consume an additional 800 calories or more a day because they satisfy their munchies with fatty carbs; indulge like that for five days straight and you’ll gain a pound. Put yourself in a good mood during winter’s dark days by instead eating low-fat, healthy carbs, such as sweet potatoes, oatmeal with a sprinkle of brown sugar, and cinnamon toast. Because cravings tend to grow stronger as the day goes on, try to eat protein, dairy products, and vegetables for breakfast and lunch, Wurtman says. Then have a low-fat carb snack, such as popcorn, soy crackers, or cereal, in the afternoon. For dinner, opt for roasted potatoes, whole-grain pasta, black bean soup, or vegetable stew with barley. (Avoid eating a lot of protein, because that prevents serotonin from being made.) Another slimming strategy that may help put the brakes on binges is to spend at least 20 minutes a day outside or near a bright window to amp up your serotonin, suggests Donnica Moore, MD, author of Women’s Health for Life.

Winter Woe: A snowfall derails your usual outdoor workout.

Fix-it trick: Let it snow! The white stuff increases the calorie burn of each step. For example, a 30-minute moderate walk on an even surface burns 106 calories for the average 140-pound woman. Snowshoeing for the same amount of time more than doubles the burn, to 256 calories. Runners, meanwhile, can safely jog through the season by stealing these get-a-grip strategies from the pros up north, who regularly brave the flakes.

1. Invest in a trail-running shoe for its deeper treads, which provide better traction — some water-resistant models, like the Asics Gel-Arctic 2 WR have removable spikes on the outsole — or a set of winter cleats, such as Yaktrax, which slip on over your running sneakers.

2. Listen to your body: Run slower than usual and take shorter strides. “If you continue your normal stride length, your calves will be sore the next day, because you tend to claw the ground with your toes to keep your footing,” says marathon coach Ronnie Carda, PhD, coordinator of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s physical activity program.

3. Skip the hills. “More falls happen on downhills, because you naturally tend to pick up your pace, making it harder to stop when you hit an icy patch,” says Jan Ochocki, a coach with the Road Runners Club of America in Minneapolis.

4. “Get out while the powder is down” is the basic rule of thumb, Carda says; sit it out if snow refreezes overnight into hard-packed ice.

Winter Woe: You’re too comfy on the couch to break a sweat.

Fix-it trick: Don’t settle on your sofa until you’ve completed your workout for the day. “It’s a motivation killer,” Baumgartner says. Change from your work clothes directly into workout wear — skip the pj’s! — when you get home. Still can’t peel yourself off the cushions? Stash resistance bands under the seat to remind yourself to get moving during commercial breaks. Or try the at-home, no-equipment routine that follows, from Mike Donavanik, a celebrity trainer in Beverly Hills. Do these moves during commercials rather than fast-forwarding and repeat the circuit until your show starts up again.

— 15 squats

— 15 push-ups

— 15 crunches

— 15 seconds of high knees

Winter Woe: Brr! It’s too cold to exercise outside.

Fix-it trick: Dress for success in freezing temperatures. With the right gear, it’s almost never too frigid to work out, according to John W. Castellani, PhD, an exercise physiologist at the U.S. Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine in Natick, Massachusetts. Because moisture on your skin evaporates and pulls much-needed heat from your body, the key is to dress so that you’re protected but you don’t get soaked with sweat, Castellani says. “Begin your workout feeling cool, not toasty, since you’ll warm up once you get moving. Do your warm-up, stretching, and cooldown inside to reduce your exposure. If it’s a blustery day, start your walk or run by facing the wind so you’ll work hardest when you’re fresh.

Winter Woe: You can’t get out of bed on dark mornings to do your a.m. workout.

Fix-it trick: Tuck in earlier to go from tired to inspired. “Darkness is a cue for your brain to crank out the sleep-inducing chemical melatonin,” says Alfred Lewy, MD, a sleep and mood disorder researcher at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. “In the winter, when you wake up before sunrise, it’s like having jet lag — for four or five months,” Lewy says. If it’s not possible to wait for the sun to sneak in your workout when you’re more energized, he suggests making your wake-up easier by going to bed 15 minutes earlier each week over the next four weeks: Set your cell phone alarm for when it’s time to hit the sack at night and avoid computer and TV use for an hour before bedtime to shut out light and other brain stimulators. That extra hour of shut-eye could make a huge difference in your morning-after mood: Brazilian researchers randomly assessed 200 healthy people and found that night owls, who went to sleep at midnight, were almost three times more likely to experience severe symptoms of depression than those who turned in at 11 p.m.

TGIF: Natural Methods for Reversing Atherosclerosis

Even when cardiologists aggressively manage their patients’ cholesterol and blood pressure levels, millions of Americans continue to suffer heart attacks and strokes. The reason is that many cardiologists fail to address the key underlying cause of coronary artery disease—that of endothelial dysfunction.

Endothelial dysfunction is the major cause of atherosclerosis—the blockage of arteries that increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and congestive heart failure. Fortunately, it is never too late to start counteracting this circulatory breakdown, which is often a part of the aging process.

A wealth of research now points to several nutritional agents, such as cocoa polyphenols and pomegranate, that have been shown to dramatically improve arterial blood flow, helping promote youthful endothelial function and protect against the processes known to damage aging arteries.

Very few doctors discuss the importance of endothelial health with their cardiac patients. The endothelium comprises the thin layer of cells that line the interior surfaces of the entire circulatory system including the heart, blood vessels, the lymphatic system, and even the smallest capillaries. Essential to good health, the endothelium maintains uninterrupted circulation by allowing blood to flow smoothly to every part of the body and by participating in blood pressure control. One of its most important functions is the release of nitric oxide, which signals the surrounding smooth muscles of the arteries to relax and dilate, which increases healthy blood flow throughout the body.
But harmful oxidative stress, such as that which occurs in hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, diabetes, cigarette smoking, and the aging process itself inactivates nitric oxide, thereby contributing to endothelial dysfunction.

Damage occurs when the endothelium’s structural integrity is compromised and is no longer able to protect the artery walls against the infiltration of cholesterol, triglycerides, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL). Thus, endothelial dysfunction is one of the first steps in the creation of atherosclerosis—the buildup of arterial plaque that elevates the risk for heart attack, stroke, and congestive heart failure.

Unfortunately, as we age, our body continually loses optimal endothelial function. A research study published in the journal Gerontology that examined healthy people showed that endothelial function declines with increasing age. Even worse, some research has shown that the development of endothelial dysfunction can begin as early as the teenage years. Cardiovascular researchers believe the endothelium has an “enormous yet largely untapped diagnostic and therapeutic potential,” which is why a better understanding of endothelial dysfunction may help to prevent or delay deadly cardiovascular events. As scientists continue to unravel the numerous causes of heart disease and atherosclerosis, the importance of preserving endothelial health is gaining appreciation.

Fortunately, researchers have identified several innovative nutritional ingredients that appear to enhance endothelial health. Among them are cocoa and pomegranate. In studies published in peer-reviewed journals, these substances have been shown to have properties that protect against endothelial dysfunction, while helping reverse clinical markers of arterial plaque.

Centuries before European confectioners processed the beans of the Theobroma cacao plant to make a confection we call “chocolate,” cocoa was used in Mexico and parts of Latin America in its powdered form for medicinal purposes. Recent studies in medical journals have found that cocoa may actually be cardioprotective, and a new study showed it may even be able to reverse the effects of endothelial dysfunction by improving the dilation of blood vessels.

Cocoa has a high concentration of polyphenol compounds, specifically a class of natural compounds called flavonoids. Scientists have identified several cocoa flavanols, including epicatechin and catechin, which can benefit circulatory health. Cocoa flavanols improve endothelial function by enhancing nitric oxide bioactivity, increasing blood flow, reducing the tendency of blood clot formation, reducing moderately high blood pressure, and helping LDL resist oxidation, which may prevent the buildup of atherosclerotic plaque in artery walls.
A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that giving flavanol-rich cocoa to diabetic patients improved their vascular function. In an editorial accompanying the research report, another team of scientists noted that the study provides “sizable evidence that cocoa flavanols have a positive effect on the health of the arteries.”

A recent clinical trial examined the effects of dark chocolate including liquid cocoa on endothelial function and blood pressure in overweight adults. Consumption of dark chocolate or liquid cocoa improved endothelial function and decreased blood pressure. Sugar-free cocoa produced greater improvements in endothelial function, compared with regular cocoa containing sugar. This led the study authors to conclude that sugar may decrease cocoa’s benefits for endothelial health and blood pressure, and that sugar-free cocoa preparations may offer superior benefits.

An exotic fruit whose taste and beautiful ruby-colored seeds have been revered since ancient times, the pomegranate (Punica granatum) has recently become universally prized for its cardiovascular health benefits.
Studies have found that pomegranate has powerful antioxidant properties that appear to protect the heart and blood vessels. Pomegranate juice may have anti-atherosclerotic properties, slowing the progression of arterial plaques. Most promising may be the results from studies showing that pomegranate juice improves stress-induced ischemia in patients who already had cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis. Pomegranate even shows benefits in reducing systolic blood pressure. Punicalagins, tannins, and anthocyanins are the major components in pomegranate that are responsible for its antioxidant and cardiovascular health benefits.

One of pomegranate’s key mechanisms for supporting cardiovascular health is its ability to modulate nitric oxide activity. In endothelial cells, pomegranate enhances the bioactivity of nitric oxide synthase, an enzyme that generates nitric oxide. Pomegranate’s antioxidant effects also help protect nitric oxide against oxidative destruction, thus ensuring its availability for essential vessel-protective functions.
Preserving optimal endothelial function is essential to maintaining smooth flow of blood through the arteries and preventing the accumulation of atherosclerotic plaque that can contribute to heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases. Powerful, natural antioxidant sources like cocoa and pomegranate have been shown to enhance cardiovascular health. In some studies, pomegranate and cocoa have been shown to limit or reverse atherosclerosis, lower high blood pressure, and improve endothelial function in people with the most serious arterial problems, including heart disease and diabetes.

Source: http://www.lifeextension.com/magazine/2008/10/natural-methods-for-reversing-atherosclerosis/page-01

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/

Stickin’ It Tue You: Acupuncture May Reduce Severity and Frequency of Hot Flashes

Menopause is a time of natural change in a woman’s body. Hormones and chemistry are shifting because of lower estrogen and progestin produced by the body. For some women, these shifts in hormones can cause hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, and mood changes. It can be a challenging time.

For women going through menopause, hot flashes can be one of the most uncomfortable symptoms. But a new study suggests that acupuncture may help to reduce the severity and frequency of hot flashes among menopausal women.

Hot flashes, also known as hot flushes, are a sudden feeling of heat over all or parts of the body. They may also cause redness on the face and neck, red blotches on the arms, back and chest, and heavy sweating or cold shivers. Many health conditions can cause hot flashes, but they are most common among women going through menopause. The study found that menopausal women who underwent acupuncture experienced a reduction in the severity and frequency of hot flashes for up to 3 months.

The most effective treatment for hot flashes is hormone therapy (HRT) – the use of medication that contains estrogen and/or progesterone. However, such treatment can increase the risk of other health conditions, including stroke, heart disease and cancer.

In this latest study, recently published in the journal Menopause, researchers wanted to see how acupuncture affected the regularity and severity of hot flashes a woman experienced while going through natural menopause.

Acupuncture is a form of alternative medicine that is more than 2,500 years old. It incorporates a number of procedures that stimulate anatomical points on the body as a form of healing. The most common form of acupuncture involves the use of thin, metallic needles that penetrate the skin. The technique is most commonly used to help treat chronic pain, but past research has indicated it can help reduce inflammation and may even boost weight loss.

The research team analyzed 104 studies that assessed the effectiveness of acupuncture. The team included 12 of these studies in their research, involving 869 women between the ages of 40-60 who were going through natural menopause.

The women included in the study underwent various forms of acupuncture, including acupressure, electro-acupuncture, laser acupuncture, ear acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine acupuncture.

The investigators found that women who underwent acupuncture experienced a reduction in the severity and frequency of hot flashes for up to 3 months. Furthermore, the treatment appeared to have a beneficial effect on hot flashes regardless of the number of doses, sessions or duration of treatment received.

The team is unable to explain why acupuncture appears to help alleviate hot flashes among menopausal women, but they hypothesize that acupuncture may trigger a reduction in the concentration of beta-endorphin – a neuropeptide found in the cells of the central and peripheral nervous system – in the hypothalamus of the brain. They say lower levels of beta-endorphin may activate the release of calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), which regulates body temperature.

Commenting on the team’s findings, Dr. Margery Gass, executive director of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS), says:

“More than anything, this review indicates that there is still much to be learned relative to the causes and treatments of menopausal hot flashes. The review suggests that acupuncture may be an effective alternative for reducing hot flashes, especially for those women seeking non-pharmacologic therapies.”

Source: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/279714.php

http://www.mainlinehealth.org/oth/Page.asp?pageID=OTH006124