OK, quick quiz: How much has your sleep been affected during the coronavirus pandemic? We’re not just talking about the amount of sleep; after all, some people may actually be getting more sleep than usual if they’ve been out of work, restricted in where they can go, etc.
Then again, losing your job or spending more time glued to the COVID-19 updates on TV or your cellphone probably isn’t helping your stress levels, which isn’t helping you sleep, either.
Here’s question #2: How well are you sleeping? Sleeping for eight hours a night and sleeping well for eight hours are two entirely different things. You can hit the bed at 10 p.m. and roll out of bed at 6 a.m., but those eight hours may have been filled with tossing, turning, stressing, thinking and never getting to the deep, restorative sleep your body and brain need.
If any of the above applies to you, and we’re certain it applies to literally millions of people these days, it’s time to do something about it. It’s time for better sleep. Here’s a simple three-step plan to do it:
1. Tune It Out: We know this can be easier said than done, but we all need to try. Particularly in today’s social-media-driven world, it’s far too easy to get news, opinions, and conversations at your fingertips, 24/7. The more we tune in, the more we take in, obsess about, reflect upon; and all that information stays in our brains, even as we try to get to sleep. Tips: Pick a few times during the day to review the latest news, check your social media, etc. Ignore the rest. Most of all, don’t tune in right before bed, or you’ll be up all night thinking, instead of resting.
2. Block It Out: We live in a fashion-over-function world, and our homes are a great example. We’re inundated with home renovation shows that teach us to crave a certain “look,” even if that look doesn’t deliver the function we need. Does your bedding look amazing … but keep you hot (or cold) all night? Do your window treatments keep your bedroom dark – we mean really dark – all night? Do you have a high-tech flat-screen TV mounted on your bedroom wall … that you tend to watch into the wee hours? Tips: If you’re going to achieve quality sleep, your bedroom has to be a help, not a hindrance. Fashion without function in your bedroom equals restless nights that will compromise your health.
3. Calm It Down: We’ve already told you to tune it out a few hours before bedtime; but you have to take it a big step beyond TV and technology. Much like a car, your body has trouble going from 100 miles an hour to a complete stop; it needs a slow, gradual deceleration. Unfortunately, when it comes to eating and exercise habits, too many people make a similar mistake. Eating or exercising right before bed essentially puts your body into overdrive, rather than slowing it down.
In the case of exercise, your muscles are initiating the repair process, rather than resting. In the case of food, your body is starting the digestion process. Either way, it’s a poor way to wind down. Tips: Try to exercise / eat your last meal of the day at least 2-3 hours before bedtime. Also keep in mind that if your last meal is particularly greasy, fatty, sugary or fibrous, it could compromise sleep before it even gets started.
Sleep is rapidly being recognized as a major factor in overall health and wellness, with chronic poor sleep linked to a higher risk of numerous health issues. But don’t take our word for it; just reflect on how your body feels after a poor night’s sleep. Now extrapolate that to weeks, months or even years of inadequate, poor-quality sleep. Talk to your doctor for more information.
Here are three reasons why you should be making an appointment (either in person or via telemedicine, depending on what’s available right now in your area) with your chiropractor today:
1. You’ve been ignoring pain: And you’re not the only one. With stay-at-home orders in place for the past few months, most health care facilities have closed their doors to all but emergency cases. Unfortunately, pain isn’t generally regarded as an emergency, particularly not things like back pain, neck pain, headaches, etc. At the same time pain services have been limited, more people have likely experienced pain, and for several reasons: stress, inactivity, improper remote work set-up, etc. That means many people have been putting up with pain – or popping pills for temporary relief that doesn’t address the underlying cause.
If you haven’t experienced any pain, you should still make an appointment with your chiropractor, especially if you have a history of back pain. That’s because research suggests maintenance care – periodic visits to your chiropractor, even when you aren’t experiencing pain – reduces the number of days you’ll be bothered by the pain: nearly 13 fewer days a year.
2. Immune support matters: COVID-19 is opening people’s eyes to a few realities. First, your immune system is pretty powerful. In fact, it’s constantly defending the body against attack by all sorts of viruses and other invaders. Most of the time, it’s very good at its job. But if you’re old, sick or otherwise immunocompromised, you risk experiencing complications from viral invasion — as we’ve seen during the pandemic, and as we see with other viruses, such as the flu.
There’s a great deal we don’t know about the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), but we do know if you’re a senior or someone with a significant health condition, you’re at greater risk for complications. What’s the common denominator in people who seem to have major problems with COVID-19: a weakened immune system – either weakened naturally by age or weakened because of a disease-compromised immune system.
Now here’s what we know in general about the human immune system: It responds quite favorably to certain nutrients available either in the diet and/or via supplementation. In other words, the immune system can get stronger. And people with stronger immune systems tend to fight back powerfully against the flu virus; so why not coronavirus? Here are some of the key micronutrients that can help boost your immune system, courtesy of longtime nutrition contributor and doctor of chiropractic, Dr. James Meschino. Always make sure to talk to your doctor before taking any supplements.
Immune cells have a high requirement for antioxidants – especially vitamins C and E, and beta-carotene. Many immune cells (i.e. , neutrophils) use these antioxidants to generate reactive oxygen species (ROS) or free radicals to kill viruses and other microbes. Immune cells also require antioxidants to protect themselves against the ROS they produce. With suboptimal antioxidant status, immune cells cannot kill viruses as effectively and they cannot protect themselves from the ROS they generate. The high ROS levels, in turn, damage immune cells and they become less effective or immunosuppressed.
As an example, a 2017 study reviewed all the available studies looking at the role of vitamin C on the immune system. The researchers cited the research showing that the ingestion of 250 mg per day of vitamin C in otherwise healthy people helps to enhance many important aspects of immune function. As we get older and immune function declines, some studies suggest that the combination of 1,000 mg of vitamin C per day and 200 IU of vitamin E per day improves immune function in people over 60. Thus, higher doses are required as we age.
Here is a quote from the research paper itself regarding lung infections, pneumonia and vitamin C: “Beneficial effects of vitamin C on recovery have been noted in pneumonia. In elderly people hospitalized because of pneumonia, who were determined to have very low vitamin C levels, administration of vitamin C reduced the respiratory symptom score in the more severe patients. In other pneumonia patients, low-dose vitamin C (250 – 800 mg/day) reduced the hospital stay by 19% compared with no vitamin C supplementation, whereas the higher-dose group (500 – 1600 mg/day) reduced the duration (hospital stay) by 36%. Vitamin C supplementation also showed a positive effect on the normalization of chest X-ray, temperature, and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (a marker of inflammation and infection). Since prophylactic vitamin C administration also appears to decrease the risk of developing more serious respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, it is likely that the low vitamin C levels observed during respiratory infections are both a cause and a consequence of the disease.”
Editor’s Note: Interestingly, preliminary reports out of Wuhan, China, the reported site of the first COVID-19 outbreak, suggest high-dose vitamin C is being used effectively to treat patients with coronavirus.
An excellent review of how vitamin D works to strengthen the immune system against acute respiratory tract infections was published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases in 2010. These researchers performed a placebo-controlled, double-blind study involving 164 young men (18-24 years of age) undergoing compulsory periodic military training. Men given 400 IU of vitamin D per day during the six-month training period had significantly fewer respiratory tract infections and related fewer days of absenteeism from training compared to the recruits who ingested the placebo.
In this published paper, the researchers explained a novel way in which vitamin D affects immunity with respect to the prevention of respiratory tract infections. They explain that immune cells that line the respiratory tract have vitamin D receptors, which allows vitamin D to enter these immune cells. Once inside the immune cell vitamin D is converted to a more potent form of vitamin D, which is then transported to the nucleus of the cell.
Within the cell nucleus, vitamin D modulates specific genes involved in immunity. One of the gene effects is that vitamin D increases the secretion of a virus-killing molecule known as cathelicidin. As immune cells interact with various microbes, including viruses, in the respiratory tract, cathelicidin punctures a hole in the viral and/or bacterial cell membrane, destroying the invader and thus, preventing infection.
As such, lower vitamin D blood levels result in lower secretions of cathelicidin with resulting reduced anti-viral fighting abilities of the immune cells that line the respiratory tract.
Note: Some people need to be extra cautious with vitamin D supplements. These individuals include those with active tuberculosis, individuals with sarcoidosis (an autoimmune condition), lymphoma, and primary hyperparathyroidism. In each of these cases the body is often synthesizing very high amounts of vitamin D as a result of the disease. Taking additional vitamin D can easily cause vitamin D toxicity in these cases.
Editor’s Note: Former CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden recently suggested vitamin D could help boost the immune system as part of the discussion about potentially preventing and/or treating COVID-19.
Other Micronutrients of Importance
Other antioxidants have also been shown to be critical to immune function. For example, supplementation of healthy individuals over age 60 with 200 IU vitamin E per day improved many aspects of immune function and reversed some key age-related features of immune system decline. In short, they had more youthful immune function with vitamin E supplementation.
Supplementation with other nutrients has also shown improved immune function in human subjects, including zinc and beta-carotene. As well, animal studies show the importance of selenium to immune function.
Various researchers have conducted research providing healthy elderly individuals with supplement combinations such as vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin E, or with a multiple vitamin/trace mineral supplement. In many of these studies, the participants ingesting the supplements showed improved function of many immune parameters compared to their baseline values and compared to those who ingested the placebo.
Moreover, human and animal studies have proven that even marginal deficiencies of certain vitamins and minerals cause a significant decline in immune function or immunocompetence. These nutrients include vitamin A, beta-carotene, folic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin E, riboflavin, iron, zinc, and selenium. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES) show that many people are walking around with marginal deficiencies of some of these nutrients unless they are taking a well formulated multiple vitamin and mineral supplement.
When it comes to weight loss, we often hear about the need to speed things up – train faster, train harder, train with more intensity and pace to burn as many calories and as much fat as possible. Well, research actually suggests slowing down may be a beneficial way to lose weight, too, in at least one circumstance: while eating.
Researchers compared nearly 60,000 type 2 diabetics in a study designed to determine whether eating speed was connected to weight (excess weight is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, among other health problems). All participants self-reported themselves as fast, normal speed or slow eaters. Based on these classifications and periodic checkups during the six-year study period, the researchers discovered that normal-speed eaters were 29 percent more likely to be obese compared to slow eaters. Fast eaters were even more likely to be obese: 42 percent more likely compared to slow eaters.
While the study, published in BMJ Open, does not establish a causal relationship between eating speed and obesity (meaning eating speed did not necessarily cause obesity), the authors emphasize that people who eat faster may end up eating more than slower eaters because the former don’t realize they’re full until they’ve overconsumed. Talk to your doctor for more information about dietary and exercise factors linked to weight gain (and weight loss), and how to pursue a balanced lifestyle conductive to a healthy weight.
It’s frighteningly easy to spot forward-head posture – and a primary cause of the condition – these days. Just look around. Anyone who consistently uses their cellphone, tablet or computer either has FHP or is likely on their way to developing it.
Forward-head posture has also been coined “text neck,” “tech neck,” “nerd neck” and “iHunch,” among other amusing monikers.
FHP itself is no laughing matter, however; constant hunching of the shoulders, neck and head can not only compromise posture, but also generate pain in those areas. What’s more, recent research suggests FHP can actually influence the brain and the messages it receives, potentially affecting other areas of the body and overall function.
Published in the Journal of Gait and Posture, the study involved 160 participants, split evenly among people with forward-head posture and those with normal head alignment. Participants with FHP and resulting biomechanical dysfunction of the spinal column also can negatively impact the brain, namely nerve impulses that travel toward the brain. Researchers specifically evaluated how feedback to the brain from the upper neck (cervical spine) can be distorted by forward-head posture, finding that problems with this feedback (which then impacts the feedback the brain delivers to the muscles) can potentially compromise proprioception and the vestibular system.
One consequence: A person with forward-head posture may be at higher risk of experiencing poor balance, upping the risk of clumsiness and/or a fall. But because FHP can compromise the autonomic system overall, the condition can have wide-ranging effects on the body. And of course, that’s in addition to the pain and dysfunction generated by forward-head posture itself. In other words, a major lose-lose situation when it comes to your health.
Fortunately, that’s where your chiropractor comes in. Your doctor can not only treat forward-head posture and get you back on the road to wellness; they can also help prevent FHP from occurring in the first place, and certainly minimize the risk of it recurring. Of course, prevention is also up to you, by reducing the activities that can contribute to FHP. Talk to your doctor for more information.
The overwhelming majority of news coverage right now deals with the coronavirus: what it is, where it’s spreading, efforts to make a vaccine, who has succumbed to it and how to prevent it.
Here’s a prevention tip you may not have heard about: nutraceuticals.
You may have already observed that many of the deaths from these
viruses, whether it be flu or corona (yes, thousands of people die every
year from influenza as well), usually involve people with
less-than-ideal immunity – older, suffering from a health condition or
both. It makes sense, therefore, that anything which would boost your
immunity could potentially help prevent coronavirus from advancing
beyond a few harmless symptoms to something life-threatening.
What exactly are nutraceuticals? In a nutshell, they’re
dietary supplements, compounds or other nondrug entities found in food
sources that have benefits beyond basic nutrition. For the purpose of
this conversation, we’ll focus on the nutraceuticals that may reduce
corona and flu per a recent study published in Progress in Cardiovascular disease,
and let the researchers explain their findings: “Nutraceuticals have
potential for boosting the type 1 interferon response to RNA viruses.”
Type 1 interferon exerts several important functions, but the most
important may be helping protect against viruses in neighboring cells
that have not been infected. You can see how a boost in type 1
interferon could help prevent corona and flu viruses from taking hold
and causing problems in the body.
So, back to nutraceuticals: Which ones could help? The researchers
provide some suggestions based on the evidence: elderberry, zinc,
glucosamine, spirulina, lipoic acid, selenium, ferulic acid,
N-acetylcysteine and yeast beta-glucan. Your doctor can tell you more
about these and other nutraceuticals that can boost immune health,
including the food and/or supplement sources.
Here’s one reason of many reasons why: Younger people (ages 10-24) who
are experiencing spine pain improve with chiropractic care, suggests
research. Pain scores, assessed through the Numeric Rating Scale, which
asks patients to rate their pain from 0 (no pain) to 10 (unimaginable
pain), decreased significantly following chiropractic management.
Reduced pain scores were reported in all four spinal regions:
cervical, thoracic, lumbar and sacral. Spinal manipulation,
mobilization, soft-tissue therapy, acupuncture, and other modalities
within the chiropractic scope of practice were utilized.
Now here’s one of the many reasons why these findings are so important:
Evidence also suggests people who experience spinal pain at a younger
age are more likely to experience it when they get older, potentially
setting up a cycle of pain and dysfunction that can recur (or even last)
Here’s another reason: While public perception is changing, many
people still don’t believe chiropractic is necessary for children,
adolescents and young adults. But as research and experience continue to
show, chiropractic benefits everyone – regardless of age. Your baby benefits. Your children benefit. Young adults benefit. We benefit. So start them while they’re young, and plant the seeds for a lifetime of health and wellness.
With all the talk about weight loss and the benefits of intermittent
fasting, sometimes it’s easy to think everyone should be losing weight
and skipping meals. Certainly not the case when it comes to the average
child. Kids need food – and lots of it, especially if they’re active.
That starts with a healthy breakfast; if nothing else, to ensure they
perform well in the classroom.
Case in point: a study published in Frontiers in Public Health
that evaluated academic performance among secondary-school students
based on the frequency with which they ate breakfast. Children who
rarely ate breakfast scored, on average, two grades lower in various
course subjects (assessment tests) compared to students who regularly
ate breakfast. Breakfast habits were evaluated based on self-reports by
students on all food and drink consumed over a one-week period (seven
days), culminating on the day of testing. Researchers defined
“breakfast” as any food or drink containing at least 5 percent of total
daily energy expenditure consumed before 10:00 a.m. on a school day.
So, what’s a good breakfast (beyond the energy requirements stipulated
above)? It can vary by the child and their preferences. As long as it’s
balanced and as low as possible in sugar / processed carbs (both of
which will burn quickly and lead to fatigue later in the day), it
doesn’t necessarily matter. Just get your child to the breakfast table
and send them off to school in a position to achieve.
Sounds simple enough – and research is proving it. If you’re a senior,
particularly an older woman, remember this simple formula: more steps
equal a longer life. That’s the conclusion of a large U.S. study
involving more than 18,000 women (average age: 72 years) from the
Women’s Health Study. Participants agreed to wear an accelerometer to
track steps during waking hours over a seven-day period. Steps and
several measures of stepping intensity were variables assessed, and
researchers tracked mortality (death) from any cause over a four-year
period to correlate steps taken with mortality.
According to findings, published in JAMA Internal Medicine,
“as few as approximately 4,400 steps/d was significantly related to
lower mortality rates compared with approximately 2,700 steps/d. With
more steps per day, mortality rates progressively decreased before
leveling at approximately 7,500 steps/d. ” Just as significant,
“Stepping intensity was not clearly related to lower mortality rates
after accounting for total steps per day.”
In other words, it doesn’t really matter how you get your steps as long
as you get them! And keep in mind that while this study involved older
woman, one can reasonably assume that older men can also benefit from
taking a few more steps every day. Talk to your doctor to learn more,
especially if you have a health condition that increases your risk of
balance / falling issues when walking.
When was the last time you or someone you know suffered an episode of
back pain? Chances are it wasn’t that long ago. It might have forced you
to miss work, take painkillers, anti-inflammatories or other
medication, or just deal with the pain longer than you wanted to.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to do some simple things to try and prevent
back pain from happening in the first place? Here are a few easy ones to
get you started.
In the new millennium, the health care
pendulum has swung from treating symptoms toward prevention. It is a way
of thinking that is analogous to going to the dentist for your
six-month check-up or taking your car in
for regularly scheduled maintenance – you avoid problems before they
start, rather than waiting for something to happen and then “dealing
with it.” By that time, your car may be in the junk yard and you may be
relegated to long-term medication or even surgery.
pain is the perfect example of a symptom too many people treat instead
of preventing, and the consequences are staggering. It is the most
frequent cause of activity limitation in people younger than 45 years
old. Approximately one quarter of U.S. adults reported having low back
pain lasting at least one whole day in the past three months and 7.6
percent reported at least one episode of severe acute low back pain
within a one-year period. Low back pain is also very costly:
Approximately 5 percent of people with back pain disability account for
75 percent of the costs associated with low back pain. Americans spend
at least $50 billion per year on back pain – and that’s just what gets
With all that said, how are you going to prevent back pain? Here are
four things you can start doing today to reduce your risk of suffering
back pain and its costly (physically, emotionally and financially)
1. Get Adjusted by Your Chiropractor
Your muscles, bones and ligaments are stressed continuously by normal daily activities: driving, sitting at the computer, lifting your kids, doing exercise and countless other things. These little stresses add up over time and misalign the joints of your spine, arms and legs. The misalignments can then lead to muscle tightness, spasms, joint stiffness and pain. Although chiropractors commonly see patients who are in pain, getting spinal tune-ups when you are feeling “fine” will keep you feeling fine. Adjustments will put the bones and joints into healthier positions, which will also help muscle tone.
2. Practice Proper Ergonomics
Think safety: When you make your everyday activities safe to perform, it will help reduce the undue stress on your body.
This includes having your computer work stations at home and at your
office set up properly for your body. Generally speaking, the keyboard
height should be the same height as when your arms are comfortably at
your side with the elbows bent. The mouse should also be close to your
dominant wrist while your arms are at your sides.
Avoid poor posture:
Whenever you sit, it is safest to sit on a full-back chair with plenty
of support. Crossing the ankles is fine, but do not cross your legs.
This puts tremendous pressure on the lower back, contributing to back
pain. Also, if you are experiencing low back pain, it’s a good idea not
to sit on the couch or sofa, since they are typically too soft and
unsupportive for the low back.
Low Back Pain: One Symptom, Many Potential Causes (Including the Following) • Strenuous activity, overuse or improper use (repetitive or heavy lifting, vibration, pressure, etc.)
• Physical trauma, injury or fracture
• Obesity (often caused by increased weight on the spine and pressure on the discs)
• Poor muscle tone in the core or stabilizing muscles of the back
• Tightness, spasm, injury and strain of back muscles
• Joint problems (e.g., spinal stenosis – narrowing of the spinal
canal, which compresses the spinal cord and nerve roots)
• Protruding or herniated (slipped) disk
• Arthritis or degeneration of vertebrae due to stress and the
effects of aging – osteoarthritis, spondylitis (inflammation of the
spinal vertebrae), compression fractures, etc.
When lifting items, use the legs and the trunk of the body rather than
the arms. Always bring objects closer to your abdomen or chest, as that
is the center of gravity and support for most people. Try to avoid
bending the back while you lift.
Sleep well: The most supportive position for the body during sleep
is on your back with a pillow under your knees. The next best position
is on your side with a pillow between your knees and your head on a
pillow that is thick enough to span the distance of your neck to the
shoulders. A neck pillow that is too thin will kink the neck and could
lead to neck and upper back pain down the road.
3. Exercise Regularly
all know how important it is to participate in some type of regular
exercise. Some of you already do that. Whether it be walking, playing
sports or going to the gym, make sure you set up a program that keeps
you consistent. Exercise helps the human body in so many ways, but one
of the most important aspects involves stretching and strengthening of
your back muscles. Often these muscles are referred to as core muscles
of the body because they are located very close to the spine.
The core muscles help move and protect your spine when it is stressed or strained. By keeping them flexible and toned, you prevent pain and injuries from happening. When you are developing an exercise plan, talk to your doctor for ideas on what areas of the body you should specifically focus on to get maximum results, both in terms of overall fitness and protecting the back from injury.
4. Avoid Unhealthy Lifestyle Habits
stress can cause muscle tension, which can lead to back pain (it also
can lead to heart problems, chemical imbalances, an inability to sleep
and a host of other bad things).
It’s always hard to maintain balance in your life between work,
family and play, but it goes a long way toward helping your emotional
can be as simple as scheduling some quiet time to be alone, doing yoga
or meditation, taking a bath or just sitting and doing breathing
exercises. Whatever activity you find relaxing or energizing, take time
to do it. Down time allows you to unplug from the world and get
grounded. It also allows your body to reset itself so you can deal with
the next crisis or problem that’s sure to arise.
Poor nutrition. Watching
what you eat is another important factor to consider, because excess
weight literally “weighs you down,” which can contribute to back pain.
Quite simply, losing excess weight in a healthy manner will take
pressure off your lower back and reduce stress on the vertebrae.
is truly amazing that our society is now making an active transition
from listening to symptoms or pain to preventative health care. Now is
the time for you to be able to take a more active role in deciding how
your future health will play out. Armed with the tips discussed above,
you can make changes now that will help your back and your overall
well-being for years to come. The power of health is in your hands.
The Back Pain Epidemic
pain has become an epidemic in our modern society – up to 85 percent of
all people will experience back pain at some time in their life, and it
is the fifth most common reason for all physician visits in the United
States. According to the statistics, if you’re in a room with three
other people, one of you has suffered low back pain for an entire day or
more in the previous three months and only one of you (if they’re
lucky) will avoid suffering back pain at some point in their lifetime.
Kevin M. Wong, DC,
a 1996 graduate of Palmer College of Chiropractic West in San Jose,
Calif., practices full-time in Orinda, Calif. He is also an instructor
for Foot Levelers, Inc.