The Unhealthy Holidays: 5 Worst Things You Can Do

Home » Blog » The Unhealthy Holidays: 5 Worst Things You Can Do

To Your Health
November, 2014 (Vol. 08, Issue 11)

The Unhealthy Holidays: 5 Worst Things You Can Do

By Editorial Staff

Another year winding down means another string of holidays to test our health will. The last two months of the year bring seemingly endless trips to visit relatives, malls and other hectic locales far from the comfort of your regular exercise and fitness routine.

That’s danger with a capital D when it comes to staying on track. Let’s count down the top five unhealthy holiday behaviors that can undo your hard work from the previous 10 months:

5. Not sticking to a schedule: Look, no one said it was easy to eat right, exercise, get enough sleep and do all the other things it takes to stay fit and healthy. Those challenges are compounded during the holiday months, when get-togethers, gift shopping and other responsibilities seem to pile up one upon the other. Who has time to stay healthy? You do, of course, and you need to do it the way you’ve done it all year: by sticking to a schedule. Calendar your exercise days and keep and eye on what you’re eating to ensure you stay on track. This is no time to “wing it” – after all, how well did that work last year and the year before that?

4. Telling yourself you’ve earned it: We all deserve a “treat” now and then, whether it’s a cupcake at a birthday party or a day off from the gym. We also need to continually remind ourselves of how hard we’re working and why we’re doing it. Staying in shape takes effort, and you deserve to feel great about that effort. But taking the last two months of the year “off” because you think you’ve “earned it” is the perfect recipe for health disaster. Before you know it, bad habits will have replaced good ones and you’ll be back at the starting gate, wondering where you went wrong. (See No. 1 unhealthy behavior below.)

unhealthy holidays - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark 3. Falling prey to “the blues”: As we’ve discussed before, the final few months of the year (and the first few months of the next year) can increase your risk of depression. It’s called seasonal affective disorder, characterized by depressive symptoms and mood changes associated with a particular time of year. Shorter days, longer nights, less sunlight and colder weather can be a bad combination for some people. One solution is to make sure you get outside for 10-15 minutes a day when the sun is shining. Take a few walks during the workday to ensure you spend a little time in the sun (which boosts your vitamin D levels, by the way), rather than spending all day inside and leaving for home at dusk. You’ll feel better and your body will thank you for it.

2. Doing the “same old, same old”: You may think your exercise and diet plan has been working all year, but at some point, you need to mix things up. Why? Because the brain and body get used to the “same old, same old” over time, leading to a diminished sense of achievement, boredom and stagnation. It’s the “Who wants to do these same exercises again?” or “Who wants to eat these same foods again?” mentality, and it can cause you to jump off the wagon. The solution? Stay strong by incorporating new exercises into your workout regimen and trying different (healthy) foods. Variety is the spice of life, and in this case, it can carry you through the holidays committed to your health and wellness goals.

1. Looking ahead to 2015: Yes, 2015 is right around the corner, particularly when you consider how hectic the next several months generally are. That’s no reason to make “getting in shape again” your New Year’s Resolution in early November. Think about how great these first 10 months of the year have been in terms of the results you’ve seen and how you’ve felt. Now try to imagine having to go right back where you were on Jan. 1, 2014. Not a pretty picture, huh? Replace that picture with a portrait of confidence, determination and health by deciding now to finish 2014 strong. Your New Year’s resolution won’t be to “start again”; it will be to continue the great things you’ve done and become an even better, healthier person in 2015.

Beat the Blues With Exercise

Home » Blog » Beat the Blues With Exercise

To Your Health
October, 2014 (Vol. 08, Issue 10)

Beat the Blues With Exercise

By Editorial Staff

Depression is a serious health issue, whether we’re talking clinical depression (major depressive disorder), mild depression, seasonal affective disorder (or appropriately, “SAD” – depressive symptoms that often occur during the fall / winter months) or just “feeling blue.” Fortunately, there’s a simple, natural solution to help deal with depression: exercise.

When you’re depressed, exercise is probably last on your list of priorities; curling up on the couch may seem infinitely more appealing than heading off to the gym for a vigorous workout. Yet an abundance of research suggests exercise is an ideal natural remedy when you feel depressed – and science backs it up.

According to the Mayo Clinic, here are some of the reasons why exercise may be an effective way to combat depression:

  • exercise - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Releases “feel-good” brain chemicals (neurotransmitters, endorphins and endocannabinoids)
  • Reduces immune-system chemicals that have been implicated in depression
  • Increases body temperature, which may provide a sense of calm, reducing anxiety
  • Helps you deal with your depression in a healthy, productive way
  • Boosts self-confidence, which can make you feel better about yourself
  • May provide for more social interaction, improving your mood

If you’re feeling depressed, take it seriously. Talk to your doctor about how you’re feeling. But before they prescribe an anti-depressant, which is the common medical strategy whenever someone says they’re depressed these days, ask them about natural treatment alternatives, including exercise.

Sports Science: What’s in That Drink?

Home » Blog » Sports Science: What’s in That Drink?

To Your Health
October, 2014 (Vol. 08, Issue 10)

Sports Science: What’s in That Drink?

Key components of a performance / recovery drink – and what many are missing.

By Robert Silverman, DC, MS, CCN, CSCS

“Performance is about fuel. Longevity is all about recovery.” — Jack LaLanne

Athletes frequently ask me what the best liquid is to drink during exercise – water or a sports drink? Water provides the necessary hydration, but unfortunately, it lacks the key nutrients to aid in performance and recovery. If water is not sufficient, what, then, is the best sports drink on the market?

An extensive review of various literature shows that the “best” sports drink should contain carbohydrates, electrolytes and numerous other ingredients. Sports drinks should not only fuel activity, but also aid in recovery.1-3 Let’s review the key components of an efficient sports drink and how some of the popular brands stack up.


Carbs are a key component for athletic performance, recovery and health.4 I recommend 30-60 grams of carbs per hour for an athletic endeavor.5-6 This carbohydrate amount will prevent immunosuppression, which naturally occurs during intensive exercise.7 In addition, this amount enables athletes to maintain blood glucose levels, and optimize glucose uptake and oxidation in performance. Finally, replacing fluids with a carbohydrate / electrolyte beverage prior to exercise assists in meeting fluid / carbohydrate needs. It also reduces dehydration, a critical concern for athletic performance.8-9


sports drink - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Sports drinks should contain electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, magnesium and chloride.10-11 Magnesium, a key electrolyte, plays a pivotal role in 300 enzymatic reactions. Bisglycinate has been shown to be the best form of magnesium because it is chelated (bonded) to an amino acid (glycine). Magnesium in the form of bisglycinate ensures increased intestinal absorption and prevents diarrhea. However, most companies do not formulate magnesium in this bisglycinate form, increasing the risk of intestinal upset.12-16

Other Ingredients

  • Malic acid is a critical addition to a sports drink formulation. It reduces muscle tenderness and assists with soft-tissue recovery.17 Malic acid coupled with magnesium bisglycinate stimulates the aerobic and anaerobic energy pathways.18
  • Taurine is an amino acid that helps regulate the level of water and mineral salts in the blood by keeping potassium and magnesium inside the cell.19 At the same time, taurine prevents excessive sodium from entering the cell. L-taurine’s properties have been validated in numerous studies.
  • L-carnosine, also an amino acid, helps fight muscle fatigue in fast-twitch fibers and aids in athletic performance.20
  • In addition, a full range of complex B vitamins for energy production should be included in the drink as well.

Maximum Carb Efficiency

Research has shown that a combination of diverse sugars maximizes carbohydrate absorption during exercise. Since glucose and fructose are absorbed at different rates, both glucose and fructose polymers should be present to optimize multiple pathways of absorption during exercise. Most commercial brands use only glucose polymers.

Literature reveals that a glucose-fructose combination, versus water or glucose alone, is the best choice for carbohydrates in a sports drink. The glucose-fructose combination results in improved power performance, running time, time to fatigue during cycling, and a perceived higher level of exertion during both strength and endurance exercises.21-27

What Most of the Popular Sports Drinks Are Missing

Of the more popular brands, Powerade contains high-fructose corn syrup as a source of carbohydrates; it lacks electrolytes and any recovery ingredients. Gatorade has no vitamins and contains only sodium and potassium. Both these brands rely solely on glucose as a carbohydrate source and lack fructose. Another popular brand, Vitamin Water, has no sodium or chloride, and contains only trace amounts of magnesium.

Coconut water has very high levels of potassium without any sodium content, and low levels of magnesium. Analysis of coconut water reveals that it primarily contains sucrose as a main carbohydrate source, rather than glucose and fructose in an appropriate ratio of 3:1.28

Thus, in my professional opinion, none of these aforementioned commercial brands contains a proper formulation to aid in athletic performance. Indeed, they hinder athletic performance.

The best sports drink should contain all four electrolytes as ingredients and have the proper 3:1 ratio of glucose to fructose. In addition, it should include magnesium in the bisglycinate form, as well as malic acid, taurine, L-carnosine and complex B vitamins to aid in athletic recovery. Remember to choose wisely and drink up.

Editor’s note: Tap here for a comprehensive reference list.

Robert Silverman, DC, MS, CCN, CSCS, graduated from the University of Bridgeport, College of Chiropractic. He also has a master’s of science in human nutrition. Dr. Silverman is a nationally known speaker and has published numerous articles, in addition to giving seminars on injury-related prevention, treatments and nutrition for various organizations and Fortune 500 corporations. He also serves as a chiropractor and sports injury consultant for basketball players, professional wrestling organizations, local, collegiate, and professional sports teams, professional triathletes, body-builders, martial artists and cyclists. To learn more, visit his website:

Five Common Fitness Mistakes That Can Slow Your Progress

Home » Blog » Five Common Fitness Mistakes That Can Slow Your Progress

To Your Health
September, 2014 (Vol. 08, Issue 09)

Five Common Fitness Mistakes That Can Slow Your Progress

By Emily Duval Ledger

Even when they have the best intentions, exercisers often make mistakes that keep them from getting the most out of their workouts, and in some cases, do them harm. Here are a few of the most common mistakes, and how you can avoid them yourself.

Walking with hand weights. Carrying dumbbells while you walk may seem like a smart way to add strength training to your cardio workout, but it compromises your posture and can lead to injury. Best to keep your cardio and strength training separate, so each can get your full attention.

Focusing only on cardio. Though cardio workouts are great for you, we start losing muscle as early as 30, which can significantly slow your metabolism and leave you vulnerable to injury. Even a few days of strength training per week can increase bone density, and help you burn more calories, even while at rest!

Skipping the stretch. Stretching at the end of your workout (when your body is nice and warm) can significantly decrease aches and pains, reduce delayed onset muscle soreness, and prevent overuse injuries. Plus, stretching is your body’s reward for all that hard work!

fitness – Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Seeking a quick fix. We all want to see results fast, but don’t let crash diets and overly-intense exercise programs lure you into false expectations: the best (and lasting) results come from making changes you can see yourself doing for life. Embracing an extreme program for a few weeks to lose weight fast only sets you up to gain the weight back (and then some later), and wreaks havoc on your thyroid. Instead, figure it will take at least as long to lose the weight as it took you to gain it.

Letting social media be your trainer. It’s one thing to collect inspirational quotes and healthy recipes on your social media pages, but don’t mistake fitness memes for sound advice. 30-Day Push-up (or Squat) Challenges tend to overuse the same muscles day after day, and can lead to injuries and poor posture. Better to find a qualified trainer to help create a program that works best for you.

Emily Duval Ledger is a certified personal trainer though the American Council on Exercise (ACE) and is the owner and lead trainer of Recreation Fitness in Long Beach, CA. In 2012, she and her team were chosen to be off-camera trainers for the ABC-TV series “The Revolution”, and their clients were among the most successful participants. More about her recess-based, functional approach to fitness at

Stressful School Daze: How to Beat the Heat

Home » Blog » Stressful School Daze: How to Beat the Heat

To Your Health
September, 2014 (Vol. 08, Issue 09)

Stressful School Daze: How to Beat the Heat

By Editorial Staff
Missing those lazy days of summer already? With school back in session, children and parents alike are feeling the heat – in the form of stress – as they transition to daily homework deadlines, after-school activities and seemingly constant “drop me off here, pick me up there” needs.

What are families to do? Consider these strategies for relieving school stress this fall – and all school year round:

  1. Put it on the calendar: There’s nothing better than a calendar of events to keep children and parents reminded of the when, where, why and how of their busy week. Think it adds stress by “regimenting” your day? Consider the alternative: essentially running around with your collective heads cut off from event to event, task to task, hoping you can remember it all. For kids, it’s particularly important that they have a clear sense of what they have to do and when they need to do it. It helps them understand what’s on their plate for the day – and have a sense of accomplishment as they complete each task.
  2. Give yourself extra time: Early to bed and early to rise is the success mantra when trying to minimize stress during the school year. You’ve got too much to do and too little time as it is; don’t make it worse with perpetual lateness. Wake up early, get the kids up on time, enjoy a healthy family breakfast, and then get them off to school with time to spare. At night, set reasonable bedtimes so they – and you – can get adequate sleep that will leave everyone refreshed and ready for the next productive day.
  3. One part work, one part fun: Stress builds when there’s no release opportunity, so make sure you build breaks into your daily routine. Whether that’s a 5-minute break for every 15-30 minutes of homework, 15 minutes of free / play time no matter how busy the schedule, or 15 minutes of television at night (yes, 15 minutes is OK), give your kids the chance to blow off some steam and not worry about what’s next on their to-do list. And by the way, that free time for your kids should mean free time for you to relax and unwind, even if for only a few minutes.
  4. Prep for the week: An hour of effort on Sunday can save you hours of time – and stress – throughout the week. Prep the components of a few staple dinners so all you have to do is reheat during the week. Make sure laundry is done so you’re not washing, drying, sorting and folding at 10:00 on a Tuesday or Wednesday night while you’re trying to help the kids finish their homework. A little work Sunday can make Monday to Friday a whole lot easier on everyone.
  5. Laugh it off: There’s no better way to keep stress levels low than to laugh about it – or laugh it off – instead of letting stress build up day after day. Come up with the “joke of the day” at the dinner table and have each family member offer their best joke. Wind down in the evening with a board game the whole family can enjoy – and usually have a good laugh about while playing. Most important, as a parent, turn negatives into positives by teaching your children to laugh in the face of stress; to turn mountains into mole hills; and to appreciate that life is much more than what you do every day – it’s about how you feel doing it. Help your family feel a little stressed today and every day.

Take Care of Your Skin Naturally

Home » Blog » Take Care of Your Skin Naturally

To Your Health
August, 2014 (Vol. 08, Issue 08)

Take Care of Your Skin Naturally

By Claudia Anrig, DC

Are you aware that the largest organ in the human body is actually the skin? Accounting for 16 percent of total body weight and covering up to 22 square feet of surface area, the skin is more than just a “covering,” as originally thought.

A complex system made up of nerves, glands and cell layers, the skin plays an intricate role in overall health. In fact, the skin is so important that the abrasion experienced by the skin during its passage through the birth canal during a vaginal delivery is what stimulates the action of a newborn’s breathing. Here are some tips on how you can take care of your skin naturally.

Skin Basics

Far beyond being the “bag” that holds the body together, skin is a protective barrier that serves as a buffer to guard against extreme temperatures, chemicals, bacteria and more. It also serves as a warning system, as it is comprised of sensitive nerves that send signals to the brain with messages from pleasure to pain.

It was once thought that the skin was completely inert and impermeable to chemicals; however, the truth is quite the opposite. The skin is incredibly absorbent and is not particular in regards to occupational, environmental or consumer chemicals. If it is slathered on the body, the skin will absorb it.

skin protection - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Skin Absorption 101

The human skin will intentionally and unintentionally come in contact with chemicals on a constant basis. To be absorbed, a chemical will pass through the epidermis, glands or hair follicles in the skin. Sweat glands and hair follicles make up, at most, just 1 percent of the total skin surface. So, while some chemicals may be absorbed in this way, the majority will be absorbed through the epidermis.

Once passing quickly through the seven layers of the epidermis, toxins then enter the dermis, where they can enter the bloodstream or lymph and circulate to other areas of the body.

Products to Reconsider

It may be a little overwhelming, but it’s important to consider how the human skin is “unintentionally” coming in contact with chemicals. The following are “personal care” products that may contain toxic chemicals:

  • Bar soap and body wash
  • Baby wipes and lotions
  • Facial cleanser
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Makeup remover or face masks
  • Acne treatments
  • Anti-fungal or anti-itch creams
  • Foot odor controllers
  • Skin treatments for eczema, psoriasis, skin fading, scars, varicose veins, wounds and sunburns
  • Anti-aging creams
  • Body firming lotions
  • Hand creams
  • Moisturizers
  • Antiperspirants and deodorants

Sadly, the majority of these products can be purchased in the average shopping center and contain at least one toxic chemical – and in some cases, as many as a dozen or more.

Take the time to recognize and avoid chemical ingredients when shopping. Chemicals such as oxybenzone (benzophenone-3), benzoyl peroxide, DEA (diethanolamine), MEA (monoethanolamine) and TEA (triethanolamine), dioxins (used often to bleach disposable diapers), parabens (methyl, butyl, ethyl, propyl), PEG (polyethylene glycol), butylene glycol, sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate, triclosan, 4-methylbenzylidene camphor, Tinosorb M and S, Uvasorb HEB and isopentenyl-4-methoxycinnamate, just to name a few, are prevalent in cosmetics and other skin- and hair-care products.

Natural Skin Repair

Any damage to the skin should be carefully treated to avoid infection and the possibility that other bacteria or damaging chemicals can quickly get past nature’s barrier. However, it’s important not to automatically reach for a tube of antibiotic ointment or other skin treatment. Consider natural, organic options instead.

Aloe vera is hands-down the first defense when treating skin abrasions, burns or other skin damage. It will naturally moisturize and help the skin repair itself.

Apple cider vinegar is another excellent natural treatment remedy for certain skin conditions. Applying a compress can help reduce swelling in the face, hands and feet; soaking the feet in 1 cup of apple cider vinegar and water; or applying the apple cider vinegar directly to the affected area can treat skin fungus or yeast (including athlete’s foot). You can also mix equal parts of apple cider vinegar and bentonite clay with 1 tablespoon raw honey and apply to the skin for 10-15 minutes before rinsing off with warm water for a natural, healthy facial mask.

Finally, for a natural moisturizer, coconut oil can be applied directly to the skin to help relieve dry patches or itchy skin (known as winter itch) during the winter months.
Going Organic

If you must purchase a skin care product, then be sure to look for the following labeling. These are just a few examples of seals that can be found on products to prove they are toxin-free:

  • The NPA seal is from the Natural Products Association means 95 percent of the product is natural, excluding water, and the remaining 5 percent of ingredients cannot be suspected of any health risk as verified by peer-reviewed third-party scientific papers.
  • USDA Organic designates that 95 percent of the ingredients are organic (meaning grown without pesticides) and the remaining 5 percent are non-organic ingredients on a list of approved substances sanctioned by the National Organic Program enforced by the USDA.
  • ECOCERT is a similar certification devised by an independent European-based group requiring a minimum of 95 percent of ingredients come from natural origins.

Especially for Babies

Considering the sensitivity of a newborn’s skin and its impact on their immune system, WebMD strongly encourages avoiding the following to decrease the risk of developing skin irritation, dryness, chafing and rashes: chemicals, fragrances and dyes in clothing, as well as detergents and baby products.

Further, to prevent allergies and rashes, don’t overbathe babies. It is suggested that in their first month, newborns should only receive a sponge bath; during the first year of life, limit an infant’s bathing to no more than three times a week to avoid removing the natural oils in their skin.

To prevent diaper rashes, consider the following recommendations from WebMD:

  • Check diapers frequently and change them immediately when wet or soiled.
  • Wash the diaper area with plain water and use a soft, clean cloth, not baby wipes.
  • Pat the baby dry and avoid rubbing, or let the baby’s bottom air-dry.

Home Remedies for Infants

Many common discomforts newborns and infants experience can be treated with household items or a change in diet. For instance, common with many newborns is cradle cap, which can be naturally treated by rubbing olive or coconut oil on the scalp.

Diaper rashes may be triggered by high-acid foods like strawberries, citrus and tomatoes. While not typical of an infant’s diet, they may be consumed by the breast-feeding mother.

Disposable diapers, strong soaps or wipes may also be another source of irritation. Switch to cloth diapers and use a vinegar and water mix to wash the infant’s bottom. Also consider infant-formulated probiotics, taken orally, to treat a stubborn diaper rash, as it may have been triggered by the use of antibiotics.

Eating to Protect the Skin Naturally

For a proactive approach to skin health, stay the course with a healthy diet. Dry skin can sometimes be a sign of an omega-3 deficiency, so recommend adequate intake of walnuts, salmon, shrimp and Brussels sprouts. Fresh vegetables, especially leafy green, organic and locally grown, can improve the skin by providing it with important vitamins and minerals from the inside. Fermented vegetables, such as sauerkraut, pickles, tempeh and kimchi, can actually help regulate gut microflora, which has been shown to help prevent skin irritations.

As for what not to eat, it’s important to avoid sugars, fructose, grains and processed foods. Eliminating these items can cause a rapid improvement in the complexion because these foods have been shown to have a detrimental impact on the skin.

The Power of Human Touch

By the way, skin-to-skin contact between a mother and infant has been confirmed to maximize healthy childhood development. A recent study by the UMEA University in Sweden suggests simply touching the skin of an adult can have a positive effect. Results showed that touch massage reduced the stress response, as indicated by decreased heart rate and decreased activity in the sympathetic nervous system, and a significant decrease in cortisol and insulin levels. Anxiety levels significantly decreased in the patient group that received touch massage as compared to the control group. The study concluded that massaging the skin activates a brain area involved in sending rewarding, pleasant stimulations, which decreases anxiety and dampens the stress response.

Claudia Anrig, DC, practices in Fresno, Calif., and is on the board of directors of the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association, an organization that can answer your questions regarding the value of chiropractic care during and after pregnancy.

Healthy Thyroid, Healthy You: 9 Causes of Thyroid Imbalances

Home » Blog » Healthy Thyroid, Healthy You: 9 Causes of Thyroid Imbalances

To Your Health
August, 2014 (Vol. 08, Issue 08)

Healthy Thyroid, Healthy You: 9 Causes of Thyroid Imbalances

By Kristen Bobik, DC, DABCA

How you sleep, how easily you wake up, and how much energy and stamina you have during the day are directly related to the levels of the thyroid hormones. The thyroid is heavily involved in so many more processes in the body as well!

Hypothyroidism is a common health condition in the U.S., and may cause symptoms such as weight gain, fatigue, pale and cold skin, constipation, high cholesterol levels, weakness, and joint pain. Hyperthyroidism may result in symptoms such as weight loss, tremors, heart palpitations or rapid heartbeat, difficulty sleeping, and so forth. But naturally, patients won’t typically present with a “textbook” description or even have all symptoms occurring at the same time. It could be something as subtle as reporting you “just can’t make it through a day without coffee anymore,” or your doctor repeatedly running thyroid panels that are within normal ranges, but you still experience symptoms.

Testing for Imbalances

One of the main functions of the thyroid gland is to help regulate body temperature. The Barnes temperature test takes an average body temperature upon waking to see how active the gland is. The thyroid gland requires iodine to function, and iodine is common now in the standard American diet. For an iodine patch test, you apply iodine in a square patch to your inner forearm and track how long it takes to lighten over a 24-hour period. If it lightens very quickly, the thyroid may not have sufficient iodine.

thyroid - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark In addition, the thyroid gland also helps the heart utilize cholesterol, and that can be another sign that the hormones in the body aren’t functionally optimally.

Here are nine causes of thyroid imbalances and what further steps you might want to explore with your doctor if they determine you have a thyroid issue:

1. Environmental Factors

The body is shutting down because it’s exhausted. The two most common examples of environmental factors affecting the thyroid gland are high stress levels and lack of sleep. Sleep is literally the body’s time to heal itself; depriving ourselves of adequate sleep has a much greater effect than most of us realize.

Constant stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system will cause excess cortisol in the body, which is a hormone linked to increased risks of heart disease (and other conditions), raises blood pressure, and decreases the function of the immune system.

Deep breathing exercises, lavender essential oil, elimination of electronics from the bedroom, and yoga / meditation / stretching can all help reduce stress and improve sleep.

2. GI Function

Not only does our digestive system break down food to use as nutrients, but it also contains almost 80 percent of our immune system! Food intolerances are a common cause of digestive problems, and there is a strong link in the research to gluten intolerance and celiac disease with thyroid imbalances.

3. Toxicity

A common sign of toxicity in the body can be bags underneath the eyes. Liver is our main organ responsible for detoxing the body, and the body requires elimination of waste from what we eat, drink, think, and expose our skin to. Detox can involve dietary changes, reduction of chemical exposure in the home, and nutritional supplementation.

4. Hormonal Imbalances

Potential causes of hormonal imbalances include pregnancy, contraceptive use, estrogen / hormone replacement therapy, or bowel dysfunctions. Too much estrogen will increase the activity in the thyroid gland. Research on hormone replacement therapy (estrogen as medication) suggest it does not protect patients from incontinence, Alzheimer’s, heart disease and so forth, and actually increases the risk of cancer. Natural ways to resolve a hormonal imbalance, especially around menopausal age, include acupuncture and nutritional supplementation.

5. Consumption of Soy Products and Non-Organic Dairy

Soy and non-organic dairy both will increase estrogen in the body and therefore affect the thyroid gland. I recommend anyone (regardless of your health condition) eliminate both of these items from the diet. Remember, both of these items are hidden in many processed foods.

6. Constipation

Too many toxins being recycled in our bowels from lack of elimination will put extra estrogen into system. My favorite, most effective and natural solutions for constipation are acupuncture; dietary changes like eliminating sugar and grains; probiotic supplementation; food intolerance testing; and other lab measurements that could enlighten the reason for constipation.

7. Nutritional Deficiencies

This includes deficiencies such as B12 or iron deficiency. Some of the signs of nutrient deficiencies are similar to symptoms of hypothyroidism. Potential causes of nutrient deficiency could include lack of nutritional dietary habits or heavy metal toxicity (which is actually much more common than it sounds). Hair analysis is the best long-term blueprint of the body to assess for heavy-metal toxicity or nutrient deficiencies.

8. Immune System Dysfunction

Immune system dysfunction, such as adrenal problems which increase cortisol in the body, increase your risk for heart disease (among other conditions) and keep your body in constant “flight or fight” panic mode. Adrenal imbalances are typically measured with easy-to-perform, take-home saliva testing.

9. Chronic Candidiasis

Chronic candidiasis may cause additional symptoms such as white patches in the mouth, memory problems, issues with sugar handling, gas and bloating, mucous in the stool, and cold hands or feet. Candida is typically measured via bloodwork. Solutions for candidiasis may include dietary changes, detoxification, and the use of herbs or nutritional supplements.

Kristen Bobik, DC, DABCA is a 2010 graduate of Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa. She practices in Hoffman Estates, Ill.

Exploring the Science of Stretching

Home » Blog » Exploring the Science of Stretching

To stretch or not to stretch? Impact on performance and injury rates in runners.

By Thomas Michaud, DC

In 1986, Rob DeCastella set a course record by running the Boston Marathon in 2:07:51, just 39 seconds off the world record.

A few days before the race, I saw Rob in my office; when I checked his hamstring flexibility, I was shocked to see he could barely raise each leg 30 degrees off the table (even tight runners can raise their legs 60 degrees). Having never seen hamstrings that tight, I asked Rob if he ever stretched. He responded: “When I run, that’s as far as my legs go forward, so that’s as far as I want them to go forward.”

At the time, it was just assumed that runners had to stretch to run fast and remain injury-free, but here was one of the world’s fastest runners who not only didn’t stretch regularly, but avoided stretching altogether!

According to conventional wisdom, I should have encouraged Rob to stretch, but I didn’t. Besides being one of the world’s fastest runners, Rob DeCastella knew a lot about exercise physiology and I trusted his judgment.

Years later, research appeared suggesting tight runners were metabolically more efficient than flexible runners. This is what DeCastella intuitively knew: Tight muscles can store and return energy in the form of elastic recoil, just like a rubber band can stretch and snap back with no effort. Because tight muscles provide free energy (i.e., the muscle fibers are not short­ening to produce force, so there is no metabolic expense), stiff muscles can significantly im­prove efficiency when running long distances.

Muscle Composition & Flexibility

stretching - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark To understand why muscles are able to store and return energy, just take a look at how muscles are made. To protect individual muscle fibers from developing too much tension, and to assist in the storage and return of energy, muscle fibers and fibrils are surrounded with perimysium and endomysium. These envelopes contain thousands of strong cross-links that traverse the entire muscle. These cross-links are essential for injury prevention be­cause they distribute tension generated on one side of the tendon evenly throughout the entire muscle.

If these cross-links were not present or were excessively flexible, the asymmetric tendon force would be transferred through the muscle fibers only on the side of the tendon being pulled. Because fewer muscle fibers would be tractioned, the involved fibers would be more prone to being injured because the pulling force would be distrib­uted over a smaller area.

The muscle itself would also be less able to store and return energy simply because fewer fibers would be stretched (the more fibers being pulled, the greater the return of energy). The tight cross-links present in the soft-tissue envelopes act as powerful reinforcements that distribute force over a broader area.

Given the improved efficiency associated with tightness, you would think that the world’s fastest runners would all be extremely stiff. This isn’t the case. Compared to the mid-to-late ’80s, today’s elite runners are significantly more flexible. The reason is that even though tight muscles can make you more efficient, they are easily strained and are more likely to produce delayed-onset muscle soreness after a hard workout.

Because the best runners often run a significant number of miles per week with grueling track workouts, increased delayed-onset muscle sore­ness would interfere with their ability to tolerate their rigorous training schedules and more than likely increase their potential for injury.

To prove that tight muscles are more prone to injury, researchers from Lenox Hill Hospital in New York classified subjects as either stiff or flex­ible before having them perform repeated hamstring curls to fatigue. Following the workout, the stiffer subjects complained of greater muscle pain and weakness. The enzyme marker for muscle damage (CK) was also significantly higher in the stiff group after working out.

The authors of the study state that because flexible people are less susceptible to exercise-induced muscle damage, they are able to exercise at a higher intensity for a greater duration on the days following heavy workouts. The catch-22 to muscle tightness is that while a certain degree of tightness increases the storage and return of energy, excessive tightness can increase the potential for injury, especially with hard workouts.

While excessively tight runners are injury prone, excessively loose runners are also prone to injury because their muscles have to work harder to stabilize joints that are moving through larger ranges of motion. Flexible muscles are also less able to store energy in their epimysium and perimysium, so their muscles have to work harder to generate the same force.

The end result is that overly flexible runners are just as likely to be injured as stiff run­ners. It turns out that if you make a graph of inju­ries associated with different degrees of flexibili­ty, it forms a U-shaped curve with the tightest and the loosest runners being injured.

Too Tight or Too Loose? Avoiding Flexibility-Related Injuries

Because runners in the middle of the graph are typically not prone to flexibility-related injuries, the goal of a rehab program should be to get your runners away from the extreme ends of the curve. A simple test your doctor can do to quickly evaluate flexibility is to bend your thumb back toward the wrist and measure the distance. Checking range of motion in the thumb is one of the easiest ways to evaluate overall flexibility because thumb flexibility is a marker for whole-body flexibility (just as grip strength is a marker for whole-body strength). If the thumb is overly flexible, your doctor may consider adding resistance training and incorporating agility drills to improve strength and coordination.

In contrast, if you happen to fall on the tight side of the flexibility spectrum, they may consider incorporating specific stretches into your daily routine. Keep in mind that improving flexibility is not that simple. Some great research has shown that when done for just a few weeks, stretching does not alter the ability of a muscle to absorb force because the improved stretch tolerance results from changes in the nervous system that allow the muscle to temporarily lengthen, with no corresponding changes in muscle stiffness and/or work absorption.

Stretching and Injury Rates

The inability of short-term stretches to improve muscle flexibility explains why there are so many studies showing that stretching does not change injury rates. Because of compliance issues and time constraints, almost every study on stretching and injuries has evaluated stretches over a short duration (probably because so few people would stick with a long-term stretching regimen).

That being the case, it’s not sur­prising that while some great research shows tight muscles are more likely to be injured,1 relatively few studies have ever shown that stretching alters your potential for injury.

In order to produce real length gains, some experts suggest it is necessary to stretch regularly for four to six months. In theory, when a mus­cle is repeatedly stretched for several months, cellular changes take place within the muscle, allowing for a permanent increase in flexibility. Animal studies have shown that the increased flexibility associated with repeated stretching results from a lengthening of the connective tissue envelope surrounding the muscle fibers (especially the perimysium) and/or an increased number of sarcomeres being added to the ends of the muscle fibers.

Although I typically suggest that stiff runners should stretch and flexible runners should strengthen, recent research suggests runners may intuitively know whether or not they should stretch. In the largest randomized control study of stretching to date, Daniel Pereles and colleagues randomly assigned 2,729 recreational runners to either a stretching or a non-stretch­ing pre-run routine. Not surprisingly, there was no significant difference in injury rates between the runners who stretched versus the runners who didn’t stretch.

However, if a runner who routinely stretched was assigned to the non-stretch protocol, they were nearly twice as likely to sustain a running injury. This research confirms that regardless of their overall flexibility, the individual runner should always be the final judge of deciding whether or not a pre-exercise stretching routine is right for them. Talk to your doctor for more information.

Thomas Michaud, DC, is the author of Injury-Free Running: An Illustrated Guide for Preventing and Treating Running Injuries, the content of which forms the basis for this and subsequent articles. He is a 1982 graduate of Western States and practices in Newton, Mass., where he has treated thousands of recreational and elite runners.

Study: Health Buzzwords Misleading

Home » Blog » Study: Health Buzzwords Misleading

When you go grocery shopping, do you notice the words “whole grain” canned pasta, “organic” candy and soda that contains “antioxidants”?

How likely are you to buy these without actually noticing they are not health foods? Very likely, according to researchers.

Recently in the journal Food Studies, found that the majority of consumers want to make healthful choices, but “food marketers are taking advantage of them by misleading those consumers with deceptive labeling.”

Words can often motivate people to consume foods that are making them heavy and contributing to obesity and other diseases, including diabetes.

According to the study, when we see food packages with
panels, usually on the side or back of a product, the words that appear on the front of packages don’t always match up to what it is that we are really consuming.

The study included a total of 318 undergraduates who completed an online survey looking at packages and at nutrition panels.

organic food - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark They were asked to look at two versions of a product: the real one and the same one with words such as “organic” or “whole grain” removed. The participants found every version with the words included to be significantly more healthful, the study said. Some examples: Annie’s Bunny Fruit Snacks, with and without “organic”; cherry 7-Up, with and without “antioxidants”; and Tostitos tortilla chips, with and without “all natural.”

Then they were asked to look at two nutrition panels. They were told the category, such as cereal, but not the name of the product. They were asked to rate healthfulness. Based just on those numbers, 33% of participants chose Spam as more healthful than salmon, for example. Seventy-nine percent chose the less healthful cereal in a pair. But participants did choose juice over soda and carrots over potato chips.

Researchers are hoping this study can bring awareness to the public about food. When products have improved labeling and corporate responsibility people can feel better about the foods they are consuming.

Make sure to read the labels carefully next time you see health buzzwords that don’t seem to match up to the products you are about to consume.

Death by Migraine?

Home » Blog » Death by Migraine?

Could your migraine headache increase your risk of suffering a life-threatening event? If you’ve ever suffered a migraine, you know it can feel as if your life is ending, with symptoms including intense throbbing / pulsing sensation in one area of the head.

Add to that a good chance of nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to both light and sound, and many migraine sufferers find themselves out of commission until the migraine subsides.

But what if that wasn’t even the worst of it? According to a study published online ahead of print in Stroke, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Heart Association, researchers found that self-reported migraine sufferers (migraines verified by International Classification of Headache Disorders-2 criteria) had more than double the risk of suffering a subclinical brain infarction (essentially a stroke) compared to study participants who did not experience migraines. This increased risk was evident even when the researchers accounted for other potential risk factors for brain infarction, including sociodemographic variables and vascular risk factors.

Migraine - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Infarction is tissue death caused by lack of oxygen, generally due to an obstruction of blood supply / flow. Obviously if the brain can’t get enough oxygen / blood, bad things are going to happen – quickly. If you suffer from migraines and have decided to “survive” them with over-the-counter medication and other tactics, this research should be an eye opener that you may not be doing enough. Talk to your doctor about your migraines and learn more about headache symptoms here.