Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Sleep and circadian rhythms

“Get your 8 hours of sleep in every night” seems to be the only advice most people are aware of when it comes to sleep. They assume that if they get 8 hours in, they’ve met the requirement for healthy sleep. However, the body is highly complex. Simply labeling a legalistic 8 hour textbook minimum requirement doesn’t fully capture what it needs. 8 hours of sleep is a good place to start the discussion about sleep patterns and requirements, but it goes far beyond that. In addition to quantity of sleep, quality of sleep matters. Not only that, but the hours in which you sleep matter as well.

Have you ever had a night of poor sleep and felt like the entire effort was a waste? Conversely, have you ever found that a 20 minute catnap can provide you with uncanny energy to carry you through your day? Quality sleep matters. Volumes have been written on REM sleep, non REM sleep, and the various stages of sleep, which is too much to cover in a single blog post. What the experts all agree about though, is that cycling through the various stages is important for total body and mental health.

In addition, the hours in which you sleep matter a great deal, and many people do not discuss this enough. In our modern society, we’ve lost the natural circadian rhythms that our bodies are designed to synchronize with. Circadian rhythm is defined as: A daily cycle of biological activity based on a 24-hour period and influenced by regular variations in the environment, such as the alternation of night and day. Circadian rhythms include sleeping and waking in animals.”

In real life, it means that our bodies were designed to be in sync with nature. With relation to sleep schedules, it means that we should be awake when it’s daytime and we should be sleeping when it is dark. It really is that simple. The invention of electricity has made our brains fall well out of sync with a natural circadian rhythm, as we are regularly exposing our brains to light and stimulation for many hours after we are meant to, particularly in the wintertime.

The adrenals in particular are the essential organ that is governed primarily by sleep. No supplement, food, or vitamin can support the adrenals like sleep can. The adrenals affect all other systems of the body, so supporting them is essential. If you work a night job, it’s likely that even if you get 8 hours of sleep in during the day, your adrenals are stretched very thin. Similarly, women who are caring for small babies during the night have tired adrenals. The adrenals need support - and biologically appropriate hours of sleep - to function. The body cannot be used in a way it was not biologically designed to without repercussions.

Here are a few tips for getting the most out of sleep:

  1. Sleep when it’s dark. Go to bed early and wake up late.
  2. Have a sleep routine. It only takes 21 days to create a routine. Deliberate effort will make this an easy transition. For instance: read a book, wash your face and brush your teeth, drink some tea, lay down and take 5 deep breaths.
  3. Take Magnesium. Magnesium has a natural calming effect and it’s wonderful for those who have a hard time falling asleep at night.
  4. Get adjusted. You may find that a single adjustment can do wonders for your sleep.
  5. Consider homeopathics. Supplements like “Rescue Remedy Sleep” are very safe and effective.
  6. Cut out sugar. Sugar is terrible for your body in every way, and too much sugar can interfere with your brain function.
  7. Lavendar essential oil has a very calming effect. 

“Early to bed, early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise” was a phrased coined by Benjamin Franklin, and it was rather spot on. Take care of yourself in every way, including the way you sleep.

Monday, December 12, 2016

A Theory About Flu Season

We’re well immersed in winter now, so that means we are in the thick of “flu season” here in North America. Pharmacies and doctor offices are pushing patients and customers to make sure they get a flu shot so as to be protected, and they have been encouraging this for a couple months. The flu season runs from fall through winter and begins to dissipate at the beginning of spring. Every year. And I have a theory as to why that is the case. It goes like this:

New Years
Valentine’s Day

Yes. The holidays. They are a big part of it.

What do all of these things have in common? Treats, candy, holiday sweets, and lots and lots and lots of sugar. Cookie exchanges, pumpkin pies, chocolate covered cherries, oh my! The holidays all involve a great deal of sugar consumption in some form.

The problem is, our bodies don’t take a break from their regularly scheduled operations for the holidays just because we want sweets. Sugar, as we know, wreaks havoc on the immune system. (Sugar is even known now to cause cancer. Not just feed it - it causes it.) For four to six hours after you consume sugar, your immune system is operating at only 25%. Sugar takes a serious toll on our bodies in every system. A compromised immune system is much more prone to viruses and infections than one that is adequately supported and functioning properly.

In addition, it is no coincidence that in North America our flu season is during the fall and winter because we have now discovered that the best defense against the flu is Vitamin D. Vitamin D is otherwise known as the sunshine vitamin. This makes perfect sense because during the winter, our vitamin D stores are quite low since we are not exposing our skin to the sun.

According to the World Health Organization, at the equator, there are no reported seasonal peaks in flu activity. In areas just north and south of the equator, the flu incidence rises a bit during the rainy season, again suggesting that vitamin D plays a key role. In areas that have access to warm sunshine year round, there is no reported flu season. Populations in this area have regular access to vitamin D, so their immune systems have the proper support.

Between the body’s prodigious sugar consumption and lack of adequate vitamin D, it’s no wonder that we are extra susceptible to disease and viruses in the wintertime. While the flu shot is rife with risks, dangerous chemicals, and effectiveness inconsistencies, many people opt every year not to get vaccinated against the flu. And that’s ok - because the best defense against the flu is not the shot.

So, here’s this chiropractor’s the best advice for avoiding the flu.
  1. Get adjusted. Without access to the sun, your body needs all the immune support it can get. A single chiropractic adjustment increases the immune response by 200%. Weekly adjustments can do a world of good for your preventative health.
  2. Cut back on the sugar. I know the holidays are full of sweets. But that doesn’t mean your house needs to be full of them for months and months. An occasional treat is acceptable, provided you are eating well in between those times.
  3. Supplement your vitamin D. Now, it’s important to note that vitamin D supplementation is not near as effective as the real deal. But it can go a long way towards keeping your immune system supported during these frigid winter months when the only part of your body that sees sunlight is the tip of your nose.

Stay healthy, stay warm, and enjoy the holidays!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Read Food Labels

Eating healthy is a real trick today. One person’s definition of “healthy” oftentimes doesn’t match another’s, even though their biology is the same. Furthermore, what one “expert” defines as healthy can vary greatly from the next “expert.” So who is right? So what do you need to eat in order to be healthy?

First, let’s define healthy. Check out my blog post about what defines health. Health isn’t merely the absence of disease. Health occurs when all body systems are functioning at optimum capacity. It makes sense that each of these systems need the proper fuel, right? Of course - and that fuel is your food.

The body needs micro nutrients, proteins, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and other essentials to have a balanced and supported system. Whole foods - as close to their natural state as possible - are going to give you the biggest nutritional bang for your buck. At the grocery store, however, finding these foods may not seem as easy as you think. Labels like “all-natural,” “cage-free,” “organic,” “non-GMO,” “gluten free,” and others can make the savviest shopper’s head spin. So how can you know what is actually healthy and what is not? Here are a few general guidelines to take with you along to the grocery store:

  1. Read labels. I don’t mean reading the front of the packaging, and I don’t mean the nutrition facts. I mean pick up the box and read the ingredients list. Can you read those ingredients? Are they even food? If yes, you’re on the right track.
  2. While reading those labels, avoid several ingredients. Sugar is a big one, and it comes in many forms. Sugar is in everything from sushi to bread to ketchup, so be sure to read those labels with a skeptical eye. Furthermore, sugar is listed in several names.  For instance, “cane sugar” is the same thing as sugar. High Fructose corn Syrup is another big no no - it’s not at all natural and it causes insulin spikes.
  3. Don’t buy sugar free. While you should be avoiding sugar, choosing “sugar free” doesn’t fix the problem - it creates a new one. Anything labeled as “sugar free” that is also marketed as sweet will be full of artificial sweeteners which we know cause a whole host of diseases within the body, including cancer and neurological diseases. If given no choice other than artificial sugar or regular sugar, go for the regular sugar every time.
  4. Don’t buy fat free. If you’re purchasing a food that has fat in it, buy the full fat version. Fat free products have added sugar to enhance flavor, so if you’re buying them hoping to slim your waistline, you’ll be sorely disappointed with the results. Sugar causes insulin spikes, and insulin is the fat producing hormone. So the fat free trend is essentially a hoax that should be avoided.
  5. Stick to the produce section. There is little wonder what is in those foods! Of course organic is best, but even if you can’t do organic you can at least buy whole foods.
  6. Buy your meat locally. The commercial meat industry is rife with problems. The conditions in which the animals are raised, the cleanliness of the meat, and even the quality of the meat are all severely compromised. When you purchase cheap meat, you’re taking a serious gamble with your health. Generally speaking, if it’s in the regular meat section of the grocery store, it’s not going to be good for you.
As your chiropractor, I care about all aspects of your health - not just how well adjusted you are. Of course getting adjusted is important, but I would be doing you a disservice if all I did was give you an adjustment, knowing that other aspects of your health may be compromised. Please do your best with your diet - it’s worth it.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Qi Is Not Voodoo - It’s Science

For us in the western world, qi (pronounced “chee”) is a foreign concept. By and large, we are only exposed to the allopathic model of medicine - i.e. doctors, prescription medications, surgeries, etc. So when we hear an acupuncturist talk about “meridians,” “qi” or “energy channels,” it’s enough to make us throw our hands in the air and declare it quackery. But eastern medicine has been around for many thousands of years, where allopathic medicine is scarcely over a century old. Furthermore, we now have the technology to effectively understand qi - and it’s definitely not voodoo.

Western scientists have long been confused by any medical model that discusses qi. They have attributed results of treatments based on qi to the placebo effect. Today however, modern technology is shedding some light on this ancient medical model. We now have the ability to measure and see qi, which has shed some light on what was previously thought to be mysterious and imaginary.

So what is qi? Qi can be described as “bioelectricity” or “body electricity.” It is a known fact that our bodies are electric. For instance, the same science base that created the well known EKG machine guides acupuncture, acupressure, chiropractic and applied kinesiology. The general idea is that where qi is unbalanced in the body, problems can arise. In an EKG for instance, physicians measure what parts of the heart are producing electricity and which parts are weak in their electrical outputs.

In addition, many natural health practitioners are utilizing muscle response testing (MRT), also known as applied kinesiology, to measure weaknesses within the body. These methods of testing use electrical flow through the body. They can also measure what the body needs that fills in that weakness to provide strength to the affected part of the body.

In a healthy person, qi channels will be open to promote balanced and open communication within the body. It’s all about where and how the electricity flows through the body. Proper and predictable electric flow through the body helps stabilize health. Chiropractic seeks to stabilize and balance qi through adjustments, so that the body can properly communicate with itself. Acupuncture stimulates meridians along various points of the body to encourage balance.

In eastern culture, qi is such a normal and accepted part of the culture that marketing companies market their products based on qi. Foods are advertised as “hot” or “cold” which correspond to “yin and yang” within the body. In the postpartum period, Chinese women eat only hot foods for 40 days so as to replace the lost yang from childbirth. Generally speaking, the oriental cultures enjoy better health than those of us who are immersed in the medical model.

Clearly we have a thing or two to learn from this ancient model of medicine. Don’t shut out a new idea simply because it’s unfamiliar. Science is proving the benefits of qi as a part of one’s health. It’s best to give it some attention as a part of your wellness plan!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Risks and Benefits of Birth Interventions

Birth is normal. It is a healthy physiological process that most every woman goes through in her lifetime at some point. For thousands of years, women have birthed their babies just fine without much hazard. It was simply a part of life. Today however, birthing has become largely a technological and pharmaceutical event. Now, more than ever in history, women have abundantly more options available to them during labor and birth. What many fail to realize is that with all that technology comes a greater responsibility for understanding the risks and benefits of the available options.

Birth interventions have a time and a place where they are useful tools in the delivery room. At some point, all of them have the ability to save a life. However, they are not risk free for every woman just because they are lifesaving in a handful of rare situations. Furthermore, unwarranted use of them can cause serious harm, which is why they should only be used with serious medical justification.

Interventions all carry risks and benefits. They are not always bad - they are simply tools, and nobody should ever feel judged because they chose or consented to one or many.  However, when discussing risks and benefits, it’s important to note that the evidence shows there are more risks than benefits most of the time. Women have a right to know and understand the risks, benefits, and alternatives of proposed treatments in labor. Without this information, she simply cannot make an informed decision.

There is so much to know about basic physiological birth. In addition, all of the available birthing options women have make comprehensive childbirth education quite an undertaking. The risks and benefits of birthing interventions change as labor progresses, so it’s not enough to simply study a chart explaining the risks and benefits of each procedure.

For instance, AROM (artificial rupture of the membranes) carries ricks to the mother and baby. The primary concern is the risk of infection because breaking the water opens the womb to bacteria. However, those associated risks change as labor progresses. When a woman is just starting to labor, breaking her water carries a lot more risk because she is likely going to be in labor a much longer time, providing more opportunity for bacteria to cause infection. If a provider wishes to break the water as a woman is pushing, the associated risks go down because the birth is imminent. In a clinical sense, the list of risks is the same, but the actual risk is much different. To further complicate things, a woman’s GBS status adds an increased level of risk when discussing artificially breaking the waters, regardless of when it’s being done.

Another example of how intervention risk is always in flux is with the use of epidural anesthesia. Epidural risks are well known. They include immobility in bed, catheter placement, increased use of of pitocin, increased risk of cesarean, drop in blood pressure, lower APGAR scores in baby, and so on. The evidence shows that having an epidural placed early in labor greatly increases a mother’s risk of  needing a cesarean. As labor progresses, that risk goes down. At 7-8 cm, a mother is less likely to need pitocin, less likely to become infected from the catheter placement (because it’s not in as long), the baby is likely to be in a better position in the pelvis (because they’ve been navigating the pelvis throughout labor), and so on.

However, epidurals may have tremendous benefits when, for instance, mothers have out of control high blood pressure. Epidurals are well known to drastically drop blood pressure. It can also be useful in some cases of sexual abuse survivors. Birth can cause a woman’s body to tense up and resist any activity involving the same organs where her abuse took place.  In some cases,  using an epidural allows a mother to have a vaginal birth because the associated organs cannot feel what is happening however the risks still apply, but in some cases such as these, the choice is between a cesarean or epidural. So it’s well worth it to consider whether the benefits outweigh the risks.

Simply memorizing a bulleted list of benefits and risks associated with each intervention cannot possibly give you the whole picture. The best thing you can do when preparing for birth in a medical facility is to take a quality independent childbirth class. A hospital class does not cover everything. Consider hiring a birth doula who can support your labor, help you focus on your desired plan, and help you navigate the fluctuating risks and benefits of available labor interventions.

Birth interventions are not bad - they are simply tools. And it’s your responsibility to be informed to the best of your ability before birth about all your available options.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Health Benefits of Fasting

Many cultures around the world promote fasting as a part of a religious centered ritual, or as a cultural expectation for various kinds of life events. Science has not given much more than a nod of acknowledgement to fasting until recent years. For the skeptics who may be wondering about what one could possibly gain from such a practice, science now has several good explanations for you. Fasting has a variety of health benefits that make it a practice worth considering as a part of your wellness routine.

Fasting is defined in general terms as a period in which one does not eat. Technically that means you are fasting in between meals. Even the term “breakfast” literally means “break the fast” from not eating overnight. When “fasting,” however, most of the time people are referring to a defined period of time in which they do not eat and they deliberately give their digestive system a break. These breaks can be short, daily fasting hours, or they can extend a few days or longer. Of course, the body still requires hydration, so water and sometimes freshly juiced juices may be used during a fast.

If you choose to try a fast for any length of time, always make sure you are healthy enough for a fast before trying one. Most will benefit in a tremendous way from choosing to do it. So that being said, here are just a few health benefits to be had from fasting:

  1. Weight loss. This is the benefit most are looking for, so I’ll come out with it first. When you are fasting, your blood sugar drops, so the body begins to use fat for energy. Your metabolic rate can increase by as much as 3-5% during a short term fast. Fasting is not meant to be the sole method one should use for weight loss, but it can be a powerful catalyst for a long term, sustainable weight loss regimen.
  2. Inflammation reduction. Chronic inflammation is one of the primary causes of degenerative diseases. When you fast, you reduce inflammation in all the systems within your body. When your inflammation is down, your immune system can function at its peak.
  3. Reduced blood pressure. Heart disease is still a major killer today, so anything that can contribute to your heart health is worth considering seriously. Fasting contributes to a reduction in blood pressure and that reduction tends to stay low after the fast is over.
  4. Cellular repair. When you are fasting, your cells begin to remove waste and dead cells from the body in a process called autophagy. This process essentially cleans out the body and is a tremendous benefit to those who fast.

There is no single “tried and true” method for fasting that works across the board for everyone. “Intermittent fasting” is the term most commonly used to describe fasting and it is defined differently depending on who you talk to. There are a few different approaches you can take to a fast.

Daily Intermittent fasting is a set window of the day where you eat. For instance, some will follow the 16/8 rule which says you fast for 16 hours of the day, and you can eat during the other 8. Your body will still reap the rewards of fasting doing this method, even though the fast is shorter. With this method, consistency is key.

24 hour fasting is another method that can be used. Once or twice a week, fast for a full day, consuming only water. A good suggestion for those using this fasting method is to do it when you have a busy day. Your productivity keeps you distracted from the temptation to eat, and you’ll make it through the day easier.

Fasting for several days and beyond is a bit more extreme and requires commitment. Fasting cannot become an ongoing lifestyle for obvious reasons, but those that choose to fast for several days can see a marked difference when they return to eating.

Wellness does not come from just one or two programs, regimens, or supplements. It is a lifestyle. Maintaining your body is your responsibility, and giving it a “tune up” from time to time may be necessary, and obviously beneficial. Fasting is one of the most effective ways to do that.
Fluoride Is Not What You Think

For several decades, health officials have promoted the benefits of fluoride to the public. Dentists claim it strengthens tooth enamel, cities have added it to their drinking water, and the FDA even declares it safe for consumption in small amounts. Hidden behind the smokescreen however, lies some disturbing truths about fluoride, and it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

Fluoride is natural element that has a few health benefits. However, what is added to drinking water and dental products is in reality hydrofluoric acid, which is a far cry from the element of fluoride. Hydrofluoric acid is a byproduct of the aluminum, cement, steel, phosphate, and nuclear weapons manufacturing process. It is considered highly toxic, even in small amounts. You may notice that toothpaste now has a warning label that tells consumers to call poison control if they swallow more than a pea sized amount. (How it became used by the dental industry and municipal water plants is complicated and too much for a single humble blog post. If you’d like to read up on the how, check out this article.)

What are the consequences of using this fluoride (hydrofluoric acid) on a regular basis? So here are a few examples of what fluoride does to your body:

  • Fluoride disrupts the endocrine system which puts all people at risk for related diseases, including cancer, and we’ve known this since 2006. A report by the National Research Council of the National Academies published a 450 page report, and their conclusion was this (emphasis mine):

In summary, evidence of several types indicates that fluoride affects normal endocrine function or response; the effects of the fluoride-induced changes vary in degree and kind in different individuals. Fluoride is therefore an endocrine disruptor in the broad sense of altering normal endocrine function or response, although probably not in the sense of mimicking a normal hormone. (page 266)

  • Fluoride interferes with the function of the pancreas. Numerous animal studies have shown that fluoride causes blood sugar to increase. This is bad news especially for those who are already at increased risk for type 2 diabetes.

  • Fluoride interferes with the thyroid’s ability to absorb essential nutrients, including iodine. Without iodine, the thyroid cannot function. Even if you are supplementing your diet with iodine, your fluoride toothpaste is preventing you from absorbing any of it.

  • Too much fluoride causes a condition known as dental fluorosis. Fluorosis is a defect of tooth enamel. It happens when fluoride interferes with tooth-forming cells. (It is actually preventing enamel from forming - so how can it possibly protect enamel?) People affected by fluorosis have cloudy spots and streaks on their teeth. In severe cases, brown stains and tooth erosion are present. In some areas of the country, as many as 70-80% of teenagers are showing signs of this condition.

There are a few ways you can avoid fluoride. The most obvious is to switch your toothpaste to fluoride free. There are many on the market, and most are sold in health food stores.  DoTerra has a great one!  I can help you purchase one if you are interested.

If you live in a city, the chances are good that your water is fluoridated. Simply filtering it will not remove the fluoride. As a substitute, you can buy pure water at most stores very inexpensively. Most grocery stores have a fill station where you can bring your own containers for storing your water. This water is very inexpensive and it’s much healthier for you.

Finally, when you go to get your teeth cleaned, you can request to ask the dentist not use fluoridated cleaners. Most dentists will discourage this, but you can ask to have it done anyways.

Taking care of your health requires so much more than just a pill or two. Get adjusted, eat whole food, supplement your diet with wholesome vitamins, move your body, get enough sleep, remove toxins from your world, and think positive thoughts. A lifestyle of health is worth every effort, no matter how small.