Proper Injury Recovery

The vast majority of the time somebody has pain, the true cause has nothing to do with the area that hurts.  This is why I see so many people who have already gone through therapy unsuccessfully.  If injury recovery was as simple as foam rolling the area that hurts, most people would bounce back quickly.  The problem is that this is just not the case.  The area of pain, in many instances, is really just the tissue that was overworked due to a much larger dysfunction somewhere else in the body.  For example, a very common injury is IT (Iliotibial) Band Syndrome.  This pain is felt in the outside of the knee and can be extremely painful.  However, it is almost always due to poor health and/or function of the hip and/or pelvis.  Attacking the IT Band with soft tissue therapy and a foam roller is really not going to get you anywhere.  Once the primary cause is addressed and restored to normal function, the IT band will then cease to be overworked and the pain will resolve.  This same philosophy applies to almost all other injuries.  The only time this doesn’t apply is when there is a trauma.  If you slam your knee into a wall and your knee hurts, it is because you slammed your knee into a wall.  Those are the obvious ones, but are by far the minority of injuries.  The vast majority are due to overuse injuries and typically there is no specific incident of injury.

Knowing that the area of pain can have very little to do with the reason for the injury, diagnosing the primary cause becomes crucial to proper rehab.  However, once that is done there are also a sequence of events that must take place in order to return someone to activity as quickly as possible.  So, let’s look at the proper steps that must be taken in order to really overcome an injury:

#1 Figure out the primary cause of the injury

This seems obvious, but many times is not actually done.  If this is accurately diagnosed then you can simultaneously work on the area that is damaged as well as the areas that are the primary cause of dysfunction.   This is by far the fastest and most efficient way to recover.  It can also be a good diagnostic tool.  Many times, if recovery from injury is not happening at the expected rate, the primary cause for the injury has not been discovered and/or addressed.  The best way to do this is not just assessing the area that hurts.  That information only tells you what tissue is damaged and causing pain.  That is the easy part.  The more difficult part is analyzing movement, strength, posture, joint function, and tissue health to determine what are the biggest dysfunctions.  Once you uncover these dysfunctions it becomes more obvious why the area that hurts began to hurt in the first place.  Once you can connect these dots it tells you exactly what needs to be done in the treatment plan.  Address the area that hurts while correcting any abnormalities in movement, strength, posture, tissue health, and joint function.

#2 Restore the health of any damaged tissues

This can mean muscles, tendons, ligaments, and even nerves.  When these tissues are not healthy you cannot expect them to work in the correct manner.  And you can especially not expect to be able to strengthen them.  Trying to strengthened damaged tissue only leads to more pain and potentially more damage.  Fix the tissue first, and then corrective exercises will actually work like they are intended to work.  This step is vastly overlooked in many instances.   

#3 Improve local and associated joint function

Each joint is supposed to move in specific ranges of motion to do the job that it was intended to do.  When a joint loses this mobility it not only puts more strain on that specific joint, but it also puts excessive strain on the neighboring joints that are trying to take up the slack.  This not only leads to increased pain, but the body also cannot function normally until this is addressed.  It is like trying to turn your car to the right when the front right tire won’t move.  In some instances this can be the primary culprit.  For example, if your sacroiliac (SI) joint is not working properly (this is where your sacrum and your pelvis meet), there is no possible way that your hips, knees, and feet can work properly.  Properly pelvis motion is critical to lower extremity function.    

#4 Improve muscle firing patterns

In order for the body to move in the correct motions all of the muscles must contract in a specific order.  This is especially true when you are referring to ball and socket joints like the shoulder and the hip.  Sometimes this pattern can become dysfunctional and certain muscles can contract too early, too late, or just never contract at all!  When this happens the body is stressed in ways that it shouldn’t be and specific areas of the body get overworked and overused.  In this case, healing tissues and fixing joints will only be temporary as the body will continue to work poorly and stress the same areas.

#5. Increase strength and stamina of muscles

Once the tissues are healthy, the joints are moving well, and the body is moving correctly you can now start to improve the strength and stamina of the muscles.  This will give you more resilience and prevent the injury from returning.  However, strengthening a muscle that is not even working properly is not the best use of time.

 

One of the reasons that therapy often fails is that people skip directly to step #5.  Trying to strengthen muscles when they are not actually healthy and the joint structures are not moving properly is just not effective.  This can not only lead to pain during rehab, but also minimal to no progress in healing. 

Now, this doesn’t mean that you always have to fully complete one step before moving to another, as many times they can overlap.  For instance, improving the soft tissue health and joint mobility many times happens simultaneously.  You can also start to work on basic movement patterns and basic strength while the soft tissue is still improving.  Finding the correct balance can be tricky sometimes and can determine whether progress continues or setbacks ensue.  However, understanding that there are many levels to injury recovery can lead to a better understanding of why a particular injury just isn’t getting any better. 

If you, or someone you know, is struggling with an injury let us help reveal what steps need to be taken for optimal recovery.  Call our office today and set up consultation so that we can comprehensively and accurately determine what you need to do to get back to activity as quickly as possible.

 

Pillar 1: Exercise and Movement

We all know that exercise is important, but most people don’t realize that it is a crucial component to optimal health. Certain systems in the body cannot function fully without exercise.  Fitness as a pillar of health is an obvious one for most people, but I would venture a guess that many people have no idea how to apply certain types of exercise to particular goals.  We just think that exercise is good for us, but many times give little thought as to the specific goal of the exercise.  The ‘side-effect’ of exercise is typically that it just makes us feel better and I am the first one to tell you that this has immensely positive impacts on your health.  Just a sense of feeling better from exercise often times can be the first domino that falls in a chain reaction of getting healthier.  Many people report that diet begins to improve as soon as they start exercising because they don’t want to ruin all the hard work they just put in. In fact, many times this occurs because your body and brain start working better, which makes you think clearer, make better decisions, and crave this sense of well-being.  It can drive you to start eating better, perform better at work, and improve your self-confidence, just to name a few.   There are many reasons for these occurrences.  One is that your body begins to produce more of the hormones that promote health and less of the hormones that can negatively affect health when in excess.  For instance, as we will discuss later, exercise helps to improve your insulin sensitivity.  What this means is that your cells are much more responsive to insulin and you effectively need less insulin to do the same job.  This reduction of insulin production improves your blood sugar regulation and helps to decrease inflammation. On the other side there are hormones like brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) that gets released more with exercise.  This protein helps promote the growth, differentiation, and maturation of the nerve cells.  In short, it makes your brain work better.  So, these ‘good’ feelings that occur from exercise are not just random.  It is because your body is actually beginning to work better and more efficiently and that is pretty powerful!

However, there can be a dark side to exercise that is never really talked about.  While the right amounts and types of exercise can be a huge boost to health, the wrong types, intensities, or durations of exercise can actually be harmful to your health and potentially decrease longevity.  This is why it becomes so important to understand what the goal of exercise is so that we can choose what we are doing appropriately. 

The first thing that must be said before we dive into the details is that exercise, for many people, is the only way that they can de-stress and calm the insanity of life.  This is more powerful than people imagine and can never be forgotten in the equation of exercise prescription.  Someone who runs a large volume of miles every single day can put tremendous stress on their body.  However, if that time running allows them to neutralize the other stressors in their life and get some time to themselves, then we have to take that into account as part of the health paradigm.  After all, reduction of mental stress can be a major player in helping someone improve their health.  That being said, we still need to understand a little bit more about exercise so that we can make the best choices for our health.

Also, we must discuss the fact that certain exercise volumes and intensity are mandatory if you are a professional athlete or training for a specific event.  In these cases, the exercise is matching the goal and the focus must now become figuring out how to get the most physical improvements necessary with the least amount of stress to the body.  This is the sweet-spot.  The place where training more probably doesn’t get you increased physical benefit and can only lend to higher chances of injury and/or overtraining.  This can be tricky to figure out and often times is most reliant on someone’s overall health status and ability to recover quickly.  Just know that if the goal is to get better at running marathons you’re going to have to put in the miles.  However, getting to the starting line healthy usually trumps logging all the training miles and showing up injured or tired for the race. 

We live in an ever-increasing sedentary world where people spend the vast majority of their lives sitting. While this is extremely harmful to overall health, there are also times where certain types of exercise strategies may not be the best choice either.  Movement is key to human health.  Applying the correct types and intensities of movement can ensure that it is a positive, and not a negative, impact on human health.

Next, I think that it will be helpful to look at the definition of exercise:

    exercise: activity requiring physical effort, carried out to sustain or improve health and fitness.

 

This is a great definition and unless we are getting paid for our sport we should take this into account when choosing our training plans.  Training ourselves into the ground can many times make us tired, burnt out, and grumpy.  This is the point where we need to take a step back and figure out what the true reasons are for exercising. 

The other great thing about this definition is it opens up an entirely new possibility of exercise choices for many of us.  For instance, one of the most peaceful, and meditation-like activities I have ever done is Tai Chi.  Now, this fits completely into the definition of exercise we just reviewed.  It requires physical effort (although not excessive amounts) and helps to sustain and improve health (mental clarity, mobility, and stress relief). Now, I’m sure most people would not categorize Tai Chi as exercise, but if we begin to look at exercise as fitting into this definition then it most certainly is.  We need to get rid on the notion that exercise only counts if you are dripping in sweat and can barely catch your breath.  While sweating and being out of breath does prove that you achieved certain types of exercise goals, it does not encompass all types of exercise such as walking or basic yoga.

Now, this also doesn’t mean that you can consider daily walking as your only exercise.  While this is exercise by definition, you are not giving your body the vigorous types of exercise that it needs to maintain strength, improve cardiovascular health, and maximize hormone benefit.  In fact, I would argue that the best fitness plans incorporate many different types of exercise and movement to capture the benefits of all the various types of physiological benefits.  So, let’s look at what some of those benefits are.

Benefits of exercise:
  • Control weight
  • Improve blood sugar control
  • Improve mental health
  • Reduce your risk of heart disease
  • Improve your mood
  • Strengthen your muscles
  • Improve bone density
  • Reduce your risk of some cancers
  • Improve your sleep
  • Enhance sexual health
  • Increase your chance of living longer
  • Improve your quality of life in later years
  • Help you think clearer and make better decisions

 

This is just a sampling of benefits that can occur with exercise.  However it doesn’t really tell you how to achieve these.  Running on a treadmill everyday is not the answer for every goal, just like lifting heavy weights is not the answer to every goal.  However, this tends to be the go-to answers for most people.  Hopefully this article will help you better understand what types of exercise you should be doing for specific goals.  While it would be impossible to cover all aspects of fitness in this article, hopefully you will be armed with some better information so that you can start making the best decisions for your situation.

The best thing to do is look briefly at the main categories of fitness, some of the major goals that accompany each one, and then figure out what types of exercise you need to do to reach your intended goals.  However, I will bet that most people will think that it would be a good idea to try and capture all the benefits!  If so, you will need to have a mixture of the different categories.    

 

Resistance training

Firstly, there are many different goals within just this type of exercise.  You can execute different plans depending on whether your goal is increasing power, strength, muscle size, or endurance.  Without going too much into details about that, it is obvious to say that resistance training leads to an improvement in muscle health and size, which has numerous benefits.  It helps us become more resilient, improves bone density, improves the strength of your connective tissues, and definitely helps us avoid dangerous falls as we age.  However, what most people don’t realize is that putting on muscle is one of the best way to burn fat!  Most people think that the treadmill is the only answer, but how many calories can you really burn on the treadmill?? Not many.  While aerobic activity like running does burn calories and can help burn fat, extra muscle on your body can be much more productive.  Pound for pound muscle burns many more calories than fat does.  This means that you will automatically be burning more calories in your daily life just by increasing your lean muscle mass.  Weight, or resistance training should be a part of everyone’s routine.  This doesn’t mean that you have to go for huge muscles and enter body building competitions.  It does mean that you should be challenging your muscles to promote improved strength and lean muscle gain.  The benefits are numerous and undeniable.  The goal is not just a better physique, but a more resilient, healthier body.

This doesn’t just mean using barbells, dumbbells, and weight machines.  Things like reformer pilates and exercises with bands also fall into this category.  Anything that is providing extra resistance to movement is considered resistance training.  You can even consider your own body weight as resistance in many instances.   Things like push-ups, pull-ups, squats, dips, etc, all provide fantastic muscle gain benefits even though you are not specifically adding any other weight other than your body weight.  They are all going to result in changes to the neuromuscular system.  The amount of resistance that you add, and the level of difficulty for you (think pull ups!),  will determine how the body will respond.  Lift heavy weights and your body will put on muscle faster, lift moderate weight and your body will still become stronger, but will focus more on becoming leaner and more tone.  Lift lighter weights and you will be improving the endurance of your muscles.  Define your goal and then apply the resistance accordingly.

Also, a quick note for females.  Many times I hear females say that they don’t want to lift heavy weights because they don’t want to get big and bulky.  I promise you that this is NOT going to happen.  It takes a TON of work and dedication to get big muscles.  You would have to consistently lift heavy weights and eat appropriate quantities of food to gain excessive muscle mass.  Most females that lift heavy weights become strong and very tone.  So don’t avoid lifting heavy weights with the misconception that your muscles will become too big.

Major benefits of resistance training:
  • Increases lean muscle
  • Reduces in abdominal (and total body) fat
  • Increases bone density
  • Improves strength of connective tissue
  • Reduces injury risk in daily life

 

Cardio

Typically people are either all cardio or none.  This seems to be common trend.  Cardiovascular training is really just anything that increases the heart rate.  The level at which this is done can vary and different ‘heart rate zones’ have varying benefits.  The basic equation to figure out what your max heart rate is:  220 – your age

So, if you are 40 years old then your max heart rate will be about 180 beats per minute.  While this can vary it is a good starting point.  Also, note that you should never be at or near your max heart rate for too long of a duration, unless you are extremely well-trained and doing it for a specific purpose.  This provides too much stress to the heart.

Low intensity: 50-70% max effort

Improves overall health, speeds recovery, improves endurance,  and burns fat

Moderate intensity: 70-80% max effort

Improves aerobic fitness

High intensity: 80-100% max effort

Improves performance capacity and speed

 

So, if the goal is to burn fat or speed recovery you want to maintain a low intensity in your cardio sessions.  If you are trying to improve speed or aerobic capacity you want to train at high intensities.  This is why runners vary their training to make sure they are working on all aspects of their run fitness.  The science has shown us the specific ways to affect different parts of our physiology most effectively. 

Understanding the ranges of heart rate intensities can also help to show you that many activities are considered cardio exercise that you otherwise might not have known.  Things like dancing, gymnastics, acrobatics, advanced yoga, and hiking are all cardiovascular exercises.  They all surely get your heart rate to 50% or more of your max heart rate effort.  Depending on your skill level or aggressions these types of activities can be in any of the three levels of heart rate intensities.

  

Regardless of the intensity, cardiovascular training will help you reduce blood pressure, improve lung function, improve insulin sensitivity, burn calories, and improve the strength of your heart, just to name a few.  Many of these benefits just don’t occur as dramatically with other forms of exercise.  And since your heart is a pretty important piece to your overall health, performing activities that improve your cardiovascular system should be a no-brainer.  Figuring out the correct types and intensities can vary depending on your goal, your age, and your health status.  Obviously you should not push your heart to extremes if you have current health conditions, are new to cardio training, or your doctor has not cleared you for exercise.  Also know that maintaining high heart rates for long periods, without rest, can be damaging to the heart.  As with anything, moderation seems to be the key.

Now, you can get some cardiovascular training within weight lifting if you reduce or eliminate the rest time and keep your heart rate elevated during the training, but it will not be nearly as beneficial as increasing your heart rate steadily for longer periods of time.  Also know that many of the benefits to cardiovascular training increase as the intensity increases.

Major benefits of cardio training:
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Improves strength of the heart
  • Improves insulin sensitivity
  • Burns calories
  • Improves brain function
  • Improves sexual health

 

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

This is currently the most popular form of exercise and for good reason.  High intensity interval training can lead to the most hormonal benefits to the body.  HIIT improves immune system function, increases growth hormone production, improves insulin sensitivity (as discussed earlier), increases release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (as discussed earlier), and increases opioid release (makes you feel good!).  However, long bouts of HIIT can also increase the amount of inflammation produced by the body.

Basically, HIIT training means that you are exercising at very high intensities with periods of rest, or lower intensity activity, at specific intervals.  This allows you to get the benefits of high intensity exercise without overloading the system and creating excessive inflammation and stress.  The science clearly shows the benefits of this type of exercise.  However, what many people don’t know is that you can achieve many of these benefits in as little as 3-5 minutes.  Constant high intensity exercise for 2 minutes, or intervals of 20 seconds at high intensity, 20 seconds at low intensity, for a duration of 3-5 minutes, can give you the hormone benefits without any risk of excessive inflammation.  And the beauty is that you won’t get any more of the hormone benefit with longer bouts!  Now, this doesn’t meant that longer duration HIIT isn’t beneficial.  You will still get improved cardiovascular and strength benefits from longer sessions, but many of the hormone benefits can be achieved in a much shorter span of time.  So, even if you only have 5 minutes to exercise, this type of exercise can be immensely beneficial to overall health. 

However, even outside of the hormone benefits many HIIT classes and gyms are even incorporating a multifaceted approach to their fitness sessions.  Not only are you varying the intensities, but you are doing both cardio and resistance training in the process.   

Benefits of High Intensity Interval Training
  • Increase growth hormone production
  • Improve insulin sensitivity
  • Improve brain function
  • Increase opioid release
  • Improve immune system health

 

Movement

I am going to give this its own category to highlight the difference between this and the movement involved with things like running and resistance training.  The body thrives with movement.  In fact, losing mobility is a sure-fire way to decrease your health status.  Use it or lose it is absolutely true.  So, just basic forms of movement that don’t require weights, or low, moderate, or high intensities should also be considered as exercise.  Things like basic yoga, tai chi, easy walking, stretching, foam rolling, etc.  These are also very beneficial to health even though there is no external resistance applied or significantly elevated heart rates incorporated.  They all require the body to move more efficiently and help to maintain full ranges of motion. 

These types of things not only help to keep range of motion optimized, but they also help to improve blood and lymphatic flow throughout the body.  And since these things are crucial to move nutrients throughout the body they should also be seen as an important thing to incorporate.  They also allow you to have more time to recover from the other more intense activities. 

Benefits of Movement:
  • Increase or maintain range of motion
  • Improve blood flow
  • Improve lymphatic flow (your body’s drainage system)
  • Reduce stress
  • Speed recovery

 

 

Hopefully this article has helped to define the various types of exercise so that you can apply them with a purpose to your training plan.  Many times you will have to focus mainly on one type if you are trying to achieve a specific goal, but you should also be aware of how beneficial it is to add brief bouts of the other types within your plan.  If your true goal is optimal health and longevity then you should definitely be incorporating each of these into a well-balanced fitness attack.  Also note that sometimes you may have health restrictions that prevent you from this.  Injuries or poor health status can many times cause us to alter the ways in which we exercise.  In these cases, knowing all of this information can be even more helpful.  If you can’t perform certain types of exercise, know that there are many different options that can boost health from many different aspects.  Whatever your situation, just know that exercise is a critical part of your health.  You must always make exercise and movement a priority to keep your health at optimal levels. 

The 5 Pillars of Health

I think that most people understand that there is no magic bullet to achieving optimal health.  There are many different aspects to human health and so it would make sense to try and gather some knowledge about each of these so that we can make healthier decisions in our daily lives.  These decisions would theoretically lead to improving health instead of harming it.  The perfect scenario just doesn’t exist so don’t try to find it.  However, we should at least strive to make improvements in our lifestyle and habits in order to maximize these critical areas as much as possible.  This article is a look into what I consider the Five Pillars of Health.  These pillars are what I have found in my research to make the greatest impact on human health and should be addressed whenever trying to holistically approach a program intended to improve someone’s health.  This is an introduction to these 5 Pillars and it will spread out into a 5 part series.  Each article will take a closer look at one specific pillar, help to explain it, and give you some tips on how best to analyze it and improve it in your life.

Trying to focus intensely on just one pillar while ignoring others is just not going to improve your health drastically.  The classic example is the person who works out hard 7 days a week, but eats poor foods, sleeps 5 hours a night, and is stressed out 24 hours a day.  If this doesn’t describe you I’m sure that you know many people who fit this picture.  I’m a firm believer that having a very fit physique can sometimes be a very misleading thing.  While there is an illusion of health on the exterior, interior health does not necessarily match.  In today’s society we put so much value on having the ‘beach body’, that people have been automatically conditioned to think that it equates to optimal health.  However, many times there is an exterior appearance of high fitness, with a poor level of internal health.  I have seen this be the case on many occasions.  Most times this is because the fitness pillar was given all the attention and energy, despite the fact that the other pillars were suffering.  If the sole goal is to have a beach body then that would be sufficient, but if the goal is to improve your health you may not be moving the needle as much as you think.

The Five Pillars allow you to have a good understanding of which areas of your life you should pay attention to and learn how to improve.  Each pillar is crucial to the overall health of a human being and sometimes failure in one can bring the whole system crashing down.  My Five Pillars of health consist of:

  1. The Neuroendocrine System
  2. Nutrition
  3. Fitness or Movement
  4. Sleep
  5. Stress Management

Figuring out the most efficient strategies to improve these areas can be the best way to improve your health.  Maintain a healthy balance of them all and you’ll be setting yourself up for the best chances of a long life filled with vitality.     

Below is a brief summary of the each of the 5 Pillars.  Again, each of these will be discussed in much more detail in the upcoming newsletters.  Each newsletter will contain an article on one of these pillars to help you learn more about how best to assess your health and things you can do to make improvements today.

Neuroendocrine System

The Neuroendocrine System basically consists of the numerous mechanisms that make up your nervous system’s interaction with your hormones. The neuroendocrine system is the mechanism by which the hypothalamus (part of the brain) maintains homeostasis (healthy, normal balance), regulates reproduction, metabolism, eating and drinking behavior, energy usage, and blood pressure. This is a very important pillar to address because if your brain and hormones are not working efficiently then it becomes difficult to fix anything else in the body. Many of the times this will be the main, initial focus in my wellness programs because of its high level of importance. Things such as your adrenal system, sex hormones, neurotransmitters, energy levels, and food metabolism parameters need to be addressed and analyzed so that you can understand how to make improvements in areas that are not performing well. Normalizing hormone function can often be the missing link and normalization can make the rest of the health journey significantly easier!

But the other important thing to know is that dysfunctional hormones are typically a result of other things going wrong!  This future blog article will go over the 3 most common causes of hormone dysfunction.  You will understand what these are and why you must first address these if you truly want to normalize hormone function.  You will also learn how your gut is directly linked to this system and plays a larger role in a healthy brain than you can probably imagine!

Nutrition

Most people understand that nutrition is a key component to optimized health. However, the marketing machine of the food industry confuses people. The goal is to uncover each person’s specific nutritional needs while learning about making wise decisions and deciphering the food labeling chaos. Food sensitivities and allergies are becoming exceedingly common and without the correct information many people are continually causing damage to themselves simply by eating certain things every day. Nutrition information changes at a rapid rate and without proper mentoring it can be very difficult for the average person to stay well informed.

There are so many different types of ‘diets’, or eating strategies, to consider.  Applying the correct eating strategy can make all the difference in someone’s success of failure.  Apply the wrong strategy and sometimes you can feel worse!

Nutrition has become very complex and confusing.  It seems like every month there is something new and some other nutritional fact contradicted in the news.  This has caused many people to lose sight of the basics and the key components that really make a difference in their health.  Some of these concepts have been popularized in the media, however the real understanding of these concepts has been skewed and altered such that people continue to make unhealthy choices, but this time unknowingly.  The complex tricks of the food industry and the loads of misinformation in the general public have made nutrition more complicated than it really needs to be.  Learning the basics of food and how to understand what you’re eating is paramount if you want to navigate the food industry and make the correct choices. 

This future article on Nutrition will give you a much better understanding of how nutrition is such a big part of your health.  It will also help to clear up some confusion that may be causing you to unknowingly sabotage your health.

 

Movement/Fitness

We all know that exercise is important, but most people don’t realize that it is a crucial component to optimal health. Certain systems in the body cannot function fully without exercise. The fitness pillar is an obvious one for most people, but I would venture a guess that many people have no idea how to apply certain types of exercise to particular goals. The dark side to exercise, that is never really talked about, is how too much exercise can actually be harmful to your health and potentially decrease longevity. 

We live in an ever-increasing sedentary world where people spend the vast majority of their lives sitting. While this is extremely harmful to overall health, there are also times where certain types of exercise strategies may not be the best choice either.  Movement is key to human health.  Applying the correct types and intensities of movement can ensure that it is a positive, and not a negative, impact on human health.

This future article will discuss the many possible goals of fitness and some of the best strategies to achieve those goals.  It will also help to uncover some situations in which exercise may be causing more damage than good, and when the wrong type of exercise was chosen for a specific goal. 

Sleep

Sleep is one of the most important functions of the human body.  New discoveries on the importance of sleep are occurring every year.  The only time that we are truly growing, recovering, and healing is while we sleep.  Reduction in sleep duration and quality is getting worse every year and is one of the reasons that global health continues to decline.  This pillar analyzes the true science behind sleep, why it is so important, and many tips to help improve duration, quality, and rhythm of sleep.

Optimizing your sleep, like every other pillar, is critical to achieving overall health.  Many times people sacrifice sleep in order to be more productive, but in the end they will actually lose long term production when health starts to decline.  You must start to consider sleep as an integral part of your health and not just something you can neglect because coffee will get you through the day. 

The future article on sleep will explain more about why sleep is so important to your health, explore the most important things to consider about your sleeping habits, and highlight things you can do to improve your sleep hygiene.  There is a reason that sleep deprivation is so damaging to normal function.  It is so important that if you remove sleep for even a small period of time, normal human function is not possible.  It is finally time to learn about and appreciate your most important recovery and detoxification tool: Sleep.

 

Stress Management

One thing that we all have to deal with is stress. It will never go away completely so the real trick is to learn how to manage and deal with stress effectively. This pillar is one of the most crucial and without addressing it, the other pillars can be negated. Not only does improved health allow you to manage stress better, but learning effective self-care strategies can make a massive difference in your well-being. For this reason stress management is a pillar that I often focus on with my clients.

This future article will help you understand the different types of stress and how they all can impact your health.  Understanding how your body responds to different stressors can be helpful if you are trying to minimize the amount of stress in your life.  It will also give you many different suggestions of ways to track and reduce the stress in your life.

This is a brief explanation of the 5 pillars of health.  I will go more in depth on each of these in the upcoming newsletters.  I hope that you take the time to read the articles so that you can have a better chance at positively impacting your 5 pillars of health!

If you are interested in customizing these areas specifically to your needs, our wellness programs can help you take control of your health with a systematic approach to wellness.  Learn everything you need to know to improve and protect your health for the rest of your life.  For more information on how our wellness programs may be able to change your life, contact us today and schedule your Functional Medicine Consultation.

Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is currently one of the hottest topics in health and wellness.  It is a strategy that has been used for hundreds of years.  Its popularity is well deserved as it provides numerous health benefits, but as with anything it is not always an appropriate strategy to implement.  This article will help to explain some of the benefits of intermittent fasting and also some of the instances in which intermittent fasting would be a poor choice.

Before we get into the benefits of fasting you should know that there are numerous types of fasting.  While we are not going to list them all in this article it can be very helpful to understand why there are so many and what they are trying to accomplish.  Fasting can deal with the following variables:

  • Increasing the number of hours without food
  • Reducing the daily ‘feeding window’, or the time when you are allowed to eat
  • Reducing the number of calories at specific feeding windows
  • Specifying which types of foods you can eat during feeding windows

Some fasts will manipulate many of these variables while others just focus on skipping meals.  Regardless of the exact type of fast, the benefits that you are attempting to achieve are the same.  Many systems in the body begin to work more efficiently when periods of fasting are introduced.  In fact, our bodies were designed to be able to ‘switch gears’ in times of reduced food supply.   After all, food in abundance is a relatively new phenomena in human existence.  This article is not designed to review all the different types of fasting, but rather to explain more about how fasting works, when to avoid it, and things associated with fasting that you need to pay attention to.

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

The benefits of intermittent fasting are evident.  The body has a physiologic response to food deprivation and many of those responses are beneficial.  This doesn’t mean that not eating is the best way to live, it just means the using this as a dietary strategy can provide many benefits to our health.  Here are some of the benefits that you can achieve when you are fasting.

  1. Increases the production of Human Growth Hormone (HGH)

HGH is a hormone that is involved in body composition, cell repair, and metabolism.  Many people have heard about athletes using this illegally to help with muscle gain and recovery.  It is a vital hormone to optimal health and we lose production volume as we age.  Helping keep this hormone active can help support weight loss while preventing muscle loss.

2.   Reduces insulin and improves insulin sensitivity

Insulin is released by your pancreas when blood sugar levels rise.  So, when you don’t eat you don’t release insulin.  This has a secondary effect on your cells.  When less insulin is present in the body the cells become more sensitive to insulin.  This means it takes less insulin to the same job.  This is a really good thing because it means that your pancreas has to produce less insulin when you eat.  The flip side of this coin is when your cells become insulin resistant, meaning there is excessive, chronic insulin in your body and the cells stop accepting insulin.  This is exactly what leads to and causes diabetes.  So, long story short, insulin sensitivity is a great thing!

3.  Burns fat instead of sugar

When you fast you are not putting any carbohydrates of sugars into your body.   Your intelligent body senses this and switches to start burning fat for fuel.  Your body’s main source of fuel is sugar (which carbs eventually become), but when sugar is not available it can make fuel from fat that is stored in your body.  So, fasting makes your body switch to fat-burning in order to keep your body running properly.

4.  Improves cellular health

During periods of fasting it appears that your body begins to ‘clean house’ more efficiently.  A process called autophagy begins to be increased and your body begins to remove waste and recycle cellular parts to create new healthy parts.  Other healthy cells begin to become more resilient and work more efficiently in the presence of less nutrients.  Basically, healthy cells start to work better and damaged cells get recycled and improved.

While all of this sounds amazing it doesn’t mean that we should just constantly be in a state of fasting.  That is one of the biggest problems when something becomes popular in the media.  People always assume that if a little is good, more must be better.  This is many times not the case.  The body does needs constant supply of nutrients in order to achieve optimal health.  The real trick is to know how to implement it as one dietary strategy.   There are definitely times when applying intermittent fasting would not be beneficial to health.  Some of the most common instances of this are listed below.

Bad Times to Use Intermittent Fasting

Poor Adrenal Function

If your adrenal system is dysfunctional, intermittent fasting can make this worse!  One of the jobs of cortisol (a hormone produce by your adrenal system) is to pull sugar from cells and bring it into the bloodstream for quick use.  If you begin to restrict food under these circumstances it is going to put more stress on your adrenal system and never let it return to normal status.  Restoring normal adrenal function should be the priority before turning to intermittent fasting.  In these instances keep blood sugar stable with healthy, low-sugar, whole foods is the best strategy

Chronic Caloric Deficit

I have seen many people in my office who are chronically under eating.  There can be many reasons for this but adding calorie restriction or reduction of feeding windows will only make this problem more intense.  A perfect example is the active person who trains intensely 5-6 days week and doesn’t eat enough calories to support this activity level.  In this situation the body is already lacking the calories that it needs to match output, so adding more calorie restriction would be a poor idea. 

Hormone Dysfunction

When hormones are not at proper levels restricting food can make it worse.  The production and regulation of many hormones can be affected by food intake.  While intermittent fasting can in many instances make hormones work more efficiently, it should not be attempted if you know that hormones are already at poor levels.

Eating Disorders

For anyone who has an eating disorder, concentrating of eating less will only make the problem worse.  The negative consequences of adding intermittent fasting to this situation far outweigh any benefits that may be achieved.

If you think you may fall into one of the categories above it is best that you consult with a healthcare practitioner. Improving those situations first will make a massive, positive impact on your health.

Assuming that you are in a good position to attempt intermittent fasting one of the easiest ones to begin with is a 16-18 hour fast.  This is the easiest to do because it takes advantage of the hours that you are sleeping.  So, simply put, it is really just eating dinner at a normal time (between 5-7pm) and then not eating again until lunch the next day.  Many of us have probably done this inadvertently when we were rushed in the morning and didn’t have time to eat breakfast!  So, you unknowingly completed an intermittent fast.  However, there are three really important pieces of the puzzle that you must consider as well.

1. Restricting feeding windows doesn’t have to mean restricting calories

Just because you spend less waking hours eating doesn’t mean that you should necessarily be restricting total calories.  If you are fasting for 24 hours or more then obviously you will be reducing calorie intake, but a 16-18 hour fast doesn’t mean that you have to, especially if you are an athlete or very active person.  You can still realize the benefit of fasting without dropping your calorie consumption too low.  Just consume the same amount of calories in less time.  This is often time reported as reducing feeding windows, or time that you consume food.

2. The types of food you eat really matter

Gaining the benefits of intermittent fasting and then filling your body with processed and unhealthy foods doesn’t really make sense!  Many of the benefits of the fast will be negated by putting harmful foods into your body after the fast.  If you are using intermittent fasting as a health strategy then you should also be conscience of the foods that eat when you are eating.  Eating whole foods can help to continually promote internal health and boost the benefits of intermittent fasting even more.

3.  Re-feeds can be where the magic is

There is some research that shows the real magic and benefit to fasting comes when you break the fast and ingest food.  Your body is ready for nutrients to assimilate and use more efficiently than ever.  Also, restoring your levels of glycogen (stored carbohydrate, or sugar) will help get your body primed for activity and ready to operate smoothly.  So, paying attention to what you eat and how much eat post-fast can be a very important part of the process.  Don’t think that its all about how many hours you can avoid food.

Hopefully this can help you understand more about intermittent fasting and whether or not you should do it yourself.  As was previously mentioned, there are many different ways to fast so if you are interested in it, begin with a 16-18 hour intermittent fast and then begin to experiment with other types of fasts. You may start by a simple fast once a week and then graduate into multiple times per week.  From there, you can increase the fasting windows and see how you feel.  Just remember that it is supposed to be done to improve health, so if you notice negative symptoms when you attempt it, maybe you are not in a good position to do it.  Best thing is to always consult a health professional to uncover the best fasting strategies for your situation. 

Inflammation Decreases Recovery Potential

Inflammation is the root of all evil.  In fact, we know that it’s a part of every disease process known to man.  The tricky thing is that it can be caused by many different things within the body and if it is present it dramatically hinders the body’s ability to perform properly and recover efficiently.   

Inflammation can come from overuse, trauma, gut dysfunctions, food sensitivities, improper eating patterns, hormone dysfunction, and many other things.  The trick is to figure out if there is inflammation present, what various things are causing it, and what strategies are needed to eliminate it.

Unfortunately, most people only think of inflammation in situations where they can see visible swelling.  A sprained ankle, for instance, creates obvious swelling and the damage is apparent.  If the ankle were to stay swollen for many months it would make you concerned and wonder why it wasn’t healing.  You would probably then take appropriate steps to seek medical advice in order to determine why the swelling remains and what to do to eliminate it.  However, inflammation can be present in your body and causing damage without any obvious signs.   This can be the worst kind because it goes on for months, sometimes years, undetected and causes continual irritation and destruction.  This destruction can show up in many different forms: unhealthy skin, dysfunctional bowel movements, brain fog, painful joints, fatigue, frequent sickness, repetitive injuries, etc. 

One of the most common causes of systemic inflammation is gut dysbiosis.  This is basically just a dysfunction or imbalance of the gut environment.  There are many things that can cause this, but all of them cause gut irritation and increased levels of inflammation.  Some common things that cause gut inflammation are chronic medication use, food sensitivities, chronic constipation, viruses, excessive bacterial growth, infections, inefficient enzyme production, alterations in acid production, as well as many others.  What’s concerning about this list is that many of these are very common.  Most people don’t consider GI symptoms like bloating, constipation, diarrhea, etc., to be anything serious. The reality is that these symptoms are telling you that something is wrong!  And if these are causing inflammation then your ability to recover from workouts and the stressors of life is drastically reduced. 

Another common situation that I see in my office is the dysfunction of the adrenal gland.  The adrenal gland is responsibly for many hormones, but most notoriously for cortisol, which is known as our ‘stress’ hormone.  When cortisol is dysfunctional it can not only promote inflammation, but it can also cause problems with sex hormone function and your body’s ability to regulate blood sugar effectively.  These things can further lead to the promotion of inflammation.  Since our collective stress levels have never been higher in the history of mankind, this is an important area to normalize in the body.  Especially for athletes whose use of cortisol is increased due to the normal stress of training on the body.  Training, by nature, creates inflammation on its own, so it is important to know if your ability to handle and recover from that stress is diminished.

First of all, you should understand that inflammation is actually a good thing.  It is a smart response by the body to kick-start processes that lead to healing and detoxification within the body.  Without inflammation we would not be able to heal.  However, the real problem lies in situations where inflammation is excessive or never turns off, and this is more common than you can imagine. 

I like to educated my clients by using the analogy of a bucket.  Your body can handle a certain level of inflammation without negative consequences.  However, when this bucket of inflammation overflows it becomes too much for the body to handle and symptoms begin to appear (fatigue, brain fog, poor GI health, unhealthy skin, painful joints, recurring injuries, etc).  The goal is to keep inflammation at manageable levels and not let your bucket overflow.  Now consider that you have a dysfunctional gut and you consistently eat poor foods.  Inflammation may never shut off and your bucket may be constantly half full just from poor lifestyle choices.  When you add the stress of training to the mix, your bucket begins overflowing and your ability to train hard is reduced.  If you can identify and remove the things that are keeping your bucket constantly half full, then your training will no longer cause the bucket to overflow.

Recovery is your body’s ability to clean up any damage from the day, rebuild tissue, and hopefully grow stronger and more resilient.  It is mainly done while you sleep, but can be hindered if there are constantly fires that it is trying to put out.  If excessive inflammation is present then your body is using all of its energy trying to remedy those situations and has less energy to spend on recovering, rebuilding, and growing.  This is why a reduction in inflammation can help speed and improve recovery.  Your body now has more energy reserves for the building process.  Again, another analogy to help this sink in.  If firefighters are continually putting out fires in your house you have little time and energy to start rebuilding the damaged areas.  Give the firefighters less fire to put out, they can finish the job, then you have plenty of time to rebuild. 

Remember, your ability to recover greatly influences the gains you can make from training.  This is because you are poorly equipped to spend energy on getting bigger, stronger, and faster, if your body cannot sufficiently recover from the previous training session.

So here are some things that can you do to try and reduce your bucket of inflammation:

Eat healthy

Avoid sugar, processed foods, inflammatory oils, known food sensitivities, etc.  What you put in your mouth is the most important thing you can do for your health. Learn how to do it properly and what works best for you.

Sleep well

This is where you recover most so take advantage of it.   Focus on quality, quantity, and timing of sleep.

Supplement with quality supplements

Things like turmeric, fish oil, resveratrol, boswelia, glutathione, etc.  Just remember to only use high-quality supplements from trusted brands or practitioners.  Otherwise you are probably not getting any benefit.

Optimize your adrenal function

Tests like the DUTCH test can help comprehensively assess your adrenal function.  Find someone qualified to help you.  If you don’t know someone then we will be happy to order and analyze this test for you.

Make sure blood markers are looking good

Obviously, blood labs are one of the best ways to analyze internal health.  Running comprehensive panels instead of standard basic panels can help you analyze your overall health, rather than just look for disease. Find a practitioner who is interested in using blood labs to assess your overall HEALTH status.  Again, if you don’t have one then we would be happy to help you with this.

Manage emotional stress

You’ll never conquer stress completely.  Learn strategies that help you reduce your anxiety and stress.  Everyone is different so find what works for you.  Some ideas are meditation, yoga, gardening, walks on the beach, tai chi, etc. If you feel like the activity helps shut off your brain then it is probably a good thing for you!

In summary, we all know that inflammation is a problem when it is allowed to continue excessively in our bodies.  What we need to realize is that there are many things that can cause inflammation that don’t signal us to a problem as clearly as a sprained ankle.  Uncovering and eliminating other more subtle areas of inflammation allows your body to recover faster and more efficiently.  After all, recover is simply the name of the game!  Improve recovery ability and you can train harder and longer!

The Top 3 Things Your Medical Doctor is NOT Testing

Running labs can be one of the best tools to assess heath or uncover disease processes.  There are countless things that can be scientifically tested and the technology gets better and more accurate everyday.  Most people are surprised to find that some of these tests are even possible and that many health status factors can be tested in the comfort of your own home.  The biggest problem is that most of the labs that are typically run for patients are driven by what can be medicated.  Unfortunately, this only tells us when we have already reached the stage where we have a disease.  Don’t you think it would make more sense to start using lab testing to assess health so that you can avoid the diagnosis of a disease?  Well that’s what we are doing at Momentum!  There are many different tests that we use to help people correct or optimize their health.  Here are three examples of ones we commonly use in our clinic.

1.  Adrenal Status: DUTCH testing

If I asked you to tell me one major thing that impacted people’s health negatively, I’m sure many of you would say STRESS.  And for those of you who said that you would be absolutely correct!  However, most people have never had their adrenals tested accurately.  Cortisol, one of the major hormones produced in the adrenals, is your stress hormone.  Your body uses this to help you respond to stressful environments so that you can ‘run from the tiger‘.  However, in today’s world we never stop running from the tiger.  Accurately testing adrenal function can help uncover a huge piece of the health and/or performance puzzle.  DUTCH testing is the newest and most accurate way to assess adrenal health in a comprehensive fashion.     

2.  Digestive Health: GI-MAP

All of the cutting-edge research is continually uncovering the importance of the GI system in overall health.  The ‘second brain’, which is the new name for the GI system, is one of the most important organs in the body.  Not only is it responsible for the absorption of nutrients, but it is also responsible for immune system health, hormone production and conversion, and many other critical processes.  Ensuring that the GI system is healthy and free of harmful ‘bugs’ is a great way to assess health.  The newest technology is called the GI-MAP test.  This test uses DNA technology to analyze the sample for pathogens such as bacteria, parasites, and viruses.  The testing is extremely accurate and one of the best ways to see if your GI system is compromised.

3.  Organic Acids

One advantage of lab testing is that it allows us to create detailed strategies to correct any dysfunctions.  The organic acids test is a great test to give you a snapshot of what is going on inside the body.  The test we use gives 40+ metabolite markers that help show how efficiently numerous reactions in your body are occurring.  It helps to assess nutritional deficiencies, antioxidant deficiencies, fatty acid metabolism, yeast overgrowths, neurotransmitter levels, and Krebs cycle (energy productions) abnormalities.  This comprehensive test is probably one of the best ways to optimize health and improve function. 

These three tests are just a sample of things that can be scientifically tested to truly get a picture of your health.  Once we start using labs to improve normal function instead of just reacting to disease, we can start to help people feel better and avoid many chronic diseases. 

While these are just a few great tests that we use there are certainly many others.  Click below to learn about other labs that we frequently test with our patients.

LAB TESTING

If you are interested in taking look at your true health status, contact our office today for more information.  We can help determine what labs may be best to run for your specific situation and how we can help you optimized your health and start feeling your best!

Are Your Oils Killing You?

One of the most overlooked aspects of healthy eating is which oils people use in their diet.  While it seems easy enough the rules change a bit depending on how you are using the oil.  In order to learn this it is best to first understand why it is so important.  Oils (and their corresponding foods) are most commonly known for their type of omega, most notably omega 3, 6, and 9.  All of these are typically good for us and serve slightly different purposes.  We probably wouldn’t even need to have this conversation if people had just continued to eat real, whole foods and nothing was processed.  However, that is not the reality that we live in so we must adapt.  One of the biggest things we need to pay attention to is the ratio of Omega-6: Omega-3 in our diets.  Many people have started hearing that Omega-6 fats are bad and we need to only consume high levels of Omega-3.  This is not entirely true.  The reality is that both are healthy, but the modern diet is full of high density Omega-6 oils which skew this ratio greatly towards Omega-6.  The problem with this is that this promotes an inflammatory state in our body.  Having a ratio closer to 1:1 is ideal.  So, the reason that people are told to greatly increase their levels of Omega-3 in their diet (wild fish, fish oils, etc.) is mostly because we are trying to get that ratio close to 1:1 for people who are eating lots of processed foods filled with vegetable oils and Omega-6 heavy foods.  Again, if people only ate real, whole foods then it would probably suffice to just also eat foods with high levels of Omega-3 in them to achieve this balance, and use supplement forms to only increase the benefits of higher levels of DHA and EPA. 

Oils are one of the biggest ways that we add all types of fat to our diet since they are very dense and contain high levels of fat in only small amounts.  So, if we add the wrong types of oils we can quickly take our Omega-6: Omega-3 ratio in the wrong direction.  However, if we use the right oils we can easily bring it in the RIGHT direction!

So, a couple of things we need to consider.

Which Oils Should I Be Eating?

This section pertains to oils specifically that we are consuming without cooking them.  So, oils that we use on salads or poured directly over meals that have already been cooked.  The first rule is that you should stay away from most vegetable oils.  Canola oil is an absolute no-no!  If it is in your house, throw it away!  There is never an OK time to use this oil and will only add to the inflammation within your body.  Two great oils to use that have many notable benefits are coconut oil and olive oil.  It seems that many people use olive oil as a staple in many foods so this might not be new information.  The problem with this oil only arises when you cook with it, which we’ll get to in a bit.  For now, just know that if you are consuming a raw oil stick to the basics and just use one of these 2 oils.  This doesn’t mean that certain forms of various vegetable oils aren’t acceptable, but to keep things easy just stick to these two oils and you’ll get plenty of health benefits.  The only other recommendation in this section is to get organic, unprocessed versions as their health benefits will supersede others.

What If I’m Cooking With the Oil?

Here’s where it gets a bit tricky.  This section depends entirely on the smoke point of the oil.  The smoke point is basically when the oil begins to smoke, which is essentially changing the molecular structure of the oil.  When this happens the oil becomes more unstable in its makeup.  This is important because unstable oils have a much higher potential of becoming inflammatory in your body.  So, if you take a healthy oil and heat it past its smoke point, you are now creating an inflammatory oil!  Not a good strategy.  Your good health intentions have now become health hazards.  Extra-virgin olive oil is a common oil that many people use for all purposes.  While the oil is really good in itself, its smoke point is very low which means you must be careful how you cook with it.  Take a look at this list to see the smoke point of various oils:

Fat

Smoke Point )

Avocado

520

Ghee

485

Olive oil (extra light)

468

Palm oil

455

Coconut oil (expeller pressed)*

450

Macadamia oil

413

Beef tallow

400

Duck fat

375

Lard

370

Coconut oil (extra virgin)

350

Olive oil (extra virgin)

320

Butter

250-300

 

As you can see there is a big difference in smoke point between various oils.  You will also notice that depending on the type you buy, the smoke point can change drastically.  For instance, extra-virgin olive oil has a low smoke point, while refined olive oil has a high smoke point.  The same goes for coconut oils.  So, you really need to pay attention to which one you’re using and have 2 versions in your house, using them according to how you’re preparing your food.

Smoke points are the most important when you are using oils to heat up in a pan before adding food.  This rises the temperature in the oil most dramatically so you must be careful.  If this is how you are using the oil you must use one with a very high smoke point, like avocado oil or refined, organic coconut oil.  However, if you are adding oil to a pan that also has other liquids in it, the temperature will not get nearly as hot, so you can get away with using oils with somewhat lower smoke points.  Start to pay attention to how you’re cooking and this will dictate which oil you can use.  While this may seem like a pain at first, just remember that this alone can determine whether the meal you are eating is helping to promote inflammation or reduce it!

What if an Oil is in the Food I am Buying?

This is where you really need to be careful!  Many companies use only inflammatory oils, like canola oil, in their products because it is cheap to use.  But remember, this oil is a ‘no-no’. It can make a ‘healthy’ product immediately unhealthy.  Sometimes this can become difficult to find.  One common food that is considered fairly healthy, but almost always uses unhealthy oils is hummus.  Start paying attention to labels and you will see.  I tell my clients that they are not allowed to buy a product unless they have read the ingredients label and it has passed the test.  You’ll be surprised how many foods you eat are littered with these bad oils, even though they are passed off as ‘healthy’ food options.  So, if the product you are buying uses canola oil, put it back and keep searching.  Even places like Whole Foods use many of these oils in their prepared foods.  If you tend to get some of your lunches or dinners from their self-service area, read the ingredients they provide for each food and start avoiding the ones that are prepared with canola and vegetable oils.  Again, you’ll be surprised how many products use these harmful oils even at places like Whole Foods! 

Eating healthy doesn’t really need to be that difficult.  We have made food a very complicated topic when all we need to do is start eating more whole foods.  It can really be that simply.  From that point all we need to do is start learning a few more tricks to really make our diets healthy.  Figuring out how to use oils is one of those tricks that can really make a huge impact on your health.  Start your learning process in this world and soon it will become second-nature!

Blood Sugar Levels are NOT All About Sugar

Sugar is getting a lot of attention lately, and rightfully so,  It is creating a health catastrophe.  Diabetes rates are skyrocketing and proper advice is still not reaching the general public.  Diabetes Type 2 is a massive problem, and many times is completely reversible.  Proper advice, if followed correctly, can turn this devastating disease around and completely restore health to an individual. 

However, even for those who don’t have diabetes, proper sugar control in the body can be key to restoring optimal health.  I have had numerous clients whose lab tests show normal sugar levels and who are not diabetic, yet still have problems with blood sugar control.  This often times confuses them.  I implement better sugar control strategies in their program and questions always come: “Why do you think I have a sugar problem when my blood sugar levels are normal in my labs?”  Great question!

It is not always about how your fasting blood sugar levels look.  Remember that this is just a snap-shot in time and how your body looked at the exact moment that blood was drawn.  For better indications of how your body is controlling sugar interiorly we look more to symptoms expressed by the patient.  This can be a huge indicator of a problem yet to come.  It is also important to understand that dysglycemia, or poor blood sugar control, is one of the primary dysfunctions that needs to be addressed in order to normalize the body as a whole.  Excessive fluctuations in blood sugar can negatively affect almost every other system in your body! 

Some of the symptoms that I look for to indicate poor blood sugar control are:

  • Irritation or anger when hungry

  • Increased or decreased energy after eating

  • Cravings for carbs

  • Shakiness relieved by eating

  • Fatigue relieved with food

  • Waking at 2-3am

  • Mood swings

  • Poor brain function

  • Anxiety

These symptoms can mean that someone is constantly riding the blood sugar roller coaster.  These fluctuations cause intermittent spikes in insulin levels, which is the true problem with dysglycemia.  However, this doesn’t always mean that someone is eating high sugar snacks and foods all the time.  In fact, I have had many clients who eat ‘really clean’ and yet still display many of these symptoms.  There are many reasons why this can occur, but let’s just cover a few of them.

Adrenal Dysfunction

The adrenal system is crucial to overall health.  It is responsible for the production of many hormones, but most notably cortisol.  Cortisol is your stress hormone and is released anytime your body experiences any type of stress (physical, chemical, and/or emotional).  The main job or cortisol is to release sugar from cells into the bloodstream so that your body has access to quick energy.  A very useful technique when you need to run from an approaching tiger!  However, in today’s society this response tends to stay on all the time.  So, if this is the case, then no matter how ‘clean’ you are eating, your hormones are telling your body to release more sugar into the bloodstream.  This is why this system becomes critical to address if you want to truly control blood sugar.

Timing of Foods

Sometimes people eat ‘healthy’ foods, but just don’t understand how to pair them.  Fruits are not all bad.  While limiting total fruit intake is probably a good idea you can also use another strategy to slow the release of fruit sugar into your bloodstream.  One strategy I always give my clients is to eat fruits with either a healthy fat or protein.  This is not only good to get more good macronutrients on board, but it also significantly slows the sugar absorption into the blood.  This reflexively dampens the insulin response and does not allow for major spikes in insulin release, which can be the sole factor causing dysglycemia.  And once you get on the blood sugar roller coaster it can make it tough to get off for the rest of the day!  This is why a big bowl of fruit in the morning might not be the best strategy.

Not eating

Many people have a goal of weight loss and the first thing that they think to do is restrict calories.  This is an ancient way of thinking and can many times backfire.  Especially if your are trying to maintain a high level of exercise.  Skipping meals, while it can be a healthy strategy for some, can cause harmful effects in others.  Skipping meals causes your body to rely on cortisol to obtain blood sugar.  And if you are someone who has poor adrenal health to begin with,  you may be making your health worse!  These periods of not eating can cause fluctuations in blood sugar to increase in severity, which puts you back on this blood sugar roller coaster.  The longer you can stabilized blood sugar, the more your hormone response will normalize.  This is why many times the goal is to eat frequently and get to a point where you have none of the symptoms listed above.

Sugar Shakes

Protein shakes have become popular both for their convenience and for their ease in getting many nutrients into the body quickly.  However, a major pitfall often occurs when people add things to these shakes.  You must remember that blending foods and drinking them as liquids speeds there absorption into the body.  This can be a good and a bad thing.  People who add mainly fruits into their shakes in the morning are actually just having a sugar shake.  It would be the same as having a big glass of fruit juice.  It is not only high levels of sugar, but it also hits the system quickly.  And while you are getting protein and other nutrients you cannot take the liberty to also add immense amounts of sugar!  Fruit in shakes should be minimal and only used to add some flavor and sweetness.  Just understand that anytime you drink a food it hits your bloodstream faster, so just be aware of what you are putting in your shakes.

 

While these are just a handful of reasons, you can see why blood sugar regulation is not as simple as just avoiding sweets.  Unfortunately, many of the strategies that people think may be helping their situation may in fact be hurting.  You can also see how people can develop poor blood sugar control even if their diet is void of candy, sweets, and soda.  Overall health can be a bit trickier sometimes.  It is important to begin to learn what strategies may help you for your particular situation.  Once you start to learn the reasons why certain strategies are implemented, then you will know when you can use them and when you should avoid them!  It is not always the best idea to just follow the latest trend or do something just because it worked like magic for friend of yours.  Sometimes this pays off, but other times it makes our conditions worse even though we think we are doing something ‘healthy’.

The absolute best way to figure out what health strategies will work best for you is to do some comprehensive lab testing and work with someone who can understand how your symptoms intertwine with the lab data.  As you can see, sometimes certain lab markers make you think everything is fine, when in reality there is a storm brewing that will eventually cause damage.

For more information on how we can help feel free to call our office.  We would be happy to help get your health back on track!

“Primary Care” Physician??

Over the years I’ve helped many people to not only overcome injuries, but restore health on many levels.  This could be in the form of weight loss, more energy, improved GI health, and many other things.  In many instances these people are able to stop using multiple medications in the process, sometimes those they have been taking for over 20 years!  (all of this of course under the supervision on their prescribing physician ;))  This is always extremely rewarding for me and I’ll never get tired of helping someone transform their life by vastly improving health and ridding themselves of the chains of medications.  However, in many of these instances I hear people talk about going back to check-in with their primary care physician.  Obviously as a chiropractor this has always somewhat bothered me.  We (chiropractors) have always been thrown into this ‘alternative care’ bucket, as if the care I provide is some alternate to ‘real’ healthcare.  This even happens with some patients in which I provide the vast majority of care when it comes to their health.  Helping them with injuries and pain, assessing labs, modifying nutrition intake, running labs to assess health and not just disease, providing natural approaches to restore health, etc.  All of this seems to be the real main focus in a person’s health, so why then is it considered ‘alternative’ healthcare.  Since this has been boiling inside my head for quite a while I’ve decided to completely redefine the way in which we see and label physicians.  While viewpoints are beginning to change many people still use their MD of choice as their primary care go-to.  However, I would like to try and change that paradigm for you, in what I think makes a lot more sense when it comes to optimizing the health of an individual.  So, in unfolding this new paradigm of primary care let’s explain this in what I believe should be three levels of care and how I think they should be defined.  And since the term primary care is so widely used (and in my opinion so grossly misused), we will use the terms primary, secondary, and tertiary to explain this new paradigm

#1  Primary-care Physician:

Firstly, the definition of physician is:

a person skilled in the art of healing; specifically : one educated, clinically experienced, and licensed to practice medicine as usually distinguished from surgery  

Now, while physician does mean someone who has a license (MD, ND, OD, DC, etc), adding the primary care to the front really changes the game.  In my opinion, the primary care physician should be the one who has the most ability to change the scope of your total health and wellbeing.  And if we really want to label who the primary care physician should be: IT IS YOU!!!

That’s right! If you are looking to maintain and optimize your health, then you are your own primary care physician.  The #1 way that you can protect your health is by doing the things that you’ve always heard about: eat well and stay moving.  Now, while it is not as simple as just that, you can tremendously improve your quality of life, vitality, and longevity by following a ‘healthy’ lifestyle.  Healthy is in quotations because this doesn’t always mean the same thing for everyone.  Nutrition can be slightly different for everyone, beneficial types of exercise can be different for everyone depending on their situation, and healthy protocols can differ widely depending on someone’s current health status.  However, in all situations, YOU are the primary care physician.  If we can start to wrap our heads around that, then I think health care may just start to shift in the right direction.

#2 Secondary-care Physician

Secondary-care physician should be by definition the layer of care necessary if the primary care physician (YOU) cannot sustain or improve health.  We should have levels of intervention when it comes to health and the first level should always be the most non-invasive.  So, the secondary level of care should be those health professionals who are experts in the areas that most greatly affect health status, while also at the same time doing it in the most non-invasive manner.  So, then we need to know the areas that most greatly affect daily health status so we can find these professionals.  These areas are nutrition, fitness/movement, sleep, and stress management.  I think that most people can agree that these are definitely pillars of health and those who are typically the most healthy, are the ones who understand how to optimize these pillars.  The strategies are not always the same for everyone and proper self-protocols may change situationally or depending on what stage of life you are in.  So, finding professionals who are experts in these fields is important.  They are crucial people that should be on your health team.  Again, if we look at them as ‘secondary-care physicians’ then we can truly appreciate their importance.  Some professionals that might fit this category are chiropractors (of course!), nutritionists, dietitians, personal trainers, massage therapists, movement specialists, yoga instructors, Pilates instructors, meditation leaders, tai chi instructors, etc. etc.  While you might not think of all of these people as standard health care practitioners or physicians, I would argue that they many times have a much bigger impact on your health that medical doctors.  Remember, MDs are FANTASTIC at acute care or disease management, but not so much at addressing the pillars of health previously described.  It’s not their fault, it’s just not what they are trained to do.  So, if you can’t seem to find the ways to optimize your own health, or need a little help in seeing what is going wrong, find the appropriate ‘secondary-care physician’.  An even better plan is to find “YOUR TEAM”.  These are the people that contribute to your overall well-being and I believe that everyone should have multiple people on this team.  People who help you move well, eat right, reduce stress, and keep a clear mind.

#3 Tertiary-care physicians

This level of care should be seen like a safety in football.  Once your primary and secondary defenses have not proven strong enough to restore health, sometimes you have to rely on the safety to save the day.  This is when the big guns need to be called in to act.  This level requires targeted strategies and interventions to help get things back on track so that health does not further decline.  Again, 1st and 2nd levels should be attempted first in the majority of cases.  Sometimes this third level may even require drugs and surgery.  Yes, these things are not always bad!!  They are extremely useful and many times can save lives.  Medical doctors are amazing physicians and I still marvel at some of the things that they can do to intervene in a situation.  However, we need to get away from using them as primary care tools.  This strategy has really gotten us into a mess and is making people even more sick.  Pharmaceutical companies spend millions of dollars annually to keep drugs as the primary tool for health care.  It’s NOT WORKING!  Let’s keep them as a tool because they are very powerful, but start to learn when and where to use them judiciously.  But, if you need to go the tertiary level of care then you need to find the proper medical doctor or functional medicine practitioner who can handle the job.  The specific professional will vary depending on what condition you may be facing.  Many times a non-medical functional medicine practitioner can intervene naturally and restore health without resorting to medications.  However, sometimes medical doctors are the only ones who can address the severity of the situation. Always best to have both on your team so that you can use the proper professional and they can refer to each other as needed.

I think that this re-defining of the primary care physician and levels of health care should make sense to most people.  In fact, I think more and more people are trying to find ‘alternative’ health care practitioners so they can avoid drugs and surgery.  Sometimes they just don’t know where to look.  Hopefully this new paradigm will help you find professionals that can really make an impact on your health.  It’s time to find your own personal team.  A team of professionals who can play a part in keeping you healthy.  You just need to stop seeing your whole team as made up by a guy (or girl) in a white coat.  Your team is much more vast than that.  And the major team players are probably much different than you have ever thought about before.  The primary one being YOU!  And don’t be afraid to ‘shop around’ for your team.  Don’t think that you have to just accept what anyone on your team says.  Find the people who are not only educated, but are also primarily interested in your health first.  If anyone on your team in unwilling to work with other people on your team, then it is probably a good time to move on.  No health practitioner knows it all.  No health practitioner should be unwilling to co-manage care with others who are looking after your health.  The flip side to this is also true.  Don’t think that you can find a ‘secondary-care physician’ who can just take care of EVERYTHING.  They must also know when it is appropriate to refer out to a medical doctor for consultation and co-treatment.  Every health professional has a part to play in your health.  Search for your team, find the best, and watch your health soar!

The Easiest Way to Reduce Inflammation

posted in: blog post, General Health | 0

The name of the game for maintaining health is keeping inflammation under control.  Every disease on the planet has inflammation as part of its process.  Every doctor on the planet can agree upon this fact.  We have many tools that ultimately are designed  to reduce inflammation in the body to improve our overall health status.  This can be from many different forms: supplements, prescription drugs, lifestyle changes, dietary changes, etc.   However, one of the most basic forms of combatting inflammation in not purposely done by most people.  This is probably because we are never taught about it and so never do it.  This simple tool is called Grounding and it couldn’t be any easier!  All you have to do is put your bare skin in contact with the Earth.  And while this may seem very ‘granola’ and ‘hippie’ the physiological effects are evident.  When you are in contact with the Earth your body naturally absorbs its electric field.  This electric field just happens to be a flow of electrons that can help counteract the free radical, or positive charge, present in our bodies.  This doesn’t just mean if you have a swollen ankle that shows visible inflammation.  Free radicals are present everywhere in your body and many healthy chemical reactions in your body produce free radicals.  Now, our body does have natural defenses against these, but in today’s world we are bombarded with free radicals and external electric charges that affect our bodies.

The first thing to understand is that our bodies are basically made of varying charges.  Our heart beats off of an electrical charge.  Our brains work off of electricity.  Our muscles constrict due to electrical charges.  So, avoiding interference towards our body’s electrical field seems like a wise thing to do.  However, we cannot avoid many of these interferences.  Things like bluetooth, wi-fi, electrical wires, computers, etc. all have electrical charges that our bodies are affected by.  While most of us don’t feel the negative consequences of these electrical fields, they are in fact affecting us.  Again, we have natural defenses agains these, but if we can reduce these stressors to our body is gives us a much better chance to improve recovery potential and overall health.

This is where Grounding comes into play.  By getting in contact with the Earth you are absorbing the electron field and helping to counteract this ‘electric interference’.  If you were able to do this daily you would be helping to return your body back to a healthy electrical balance.  The problem is that most of us are NEVER in contact with the Earth. Think about it.  How often are you barefoot in nature.  Some of us haven’t done that for months!  Even if we do go barefoot it is typically in our house which doesn’t allow us to absorb the Earth’s electric field.  Try to think about the last time you were grounded.  Hopefully for some of you this was recent!  But I would bet that many of you can’t even remember the last time (unless you were recently at the beach).  But, I bet that we can all easily recall when we were around devices that interfere with our body’s electric field! Typically because we do this everyday, ALL day.  Anything that is plugged in can do it.  For many people sitting next to a computer for 8 hours a day is just a reality that we can’t avoid. 

So, let’s see what you can do about it.  Firstly, just get in contact with the Earth as often as possible.  Here are the rules so that you know you are actually getting the benefits:

Skin is Essential

 

You have to have bare skin to make it work. Socks and shoes don’t work.  The only exception (if you can find them) are sandals that have a metal conductor built into the sole that contacts your feet.  If not, just get barefoot!  It’s also better for strengthening your feet.

Dirt is Best!

Just get dirty!  This is one of the best ways since you are directly in contact with Earth with nothing separating you from its benefits.

Grass Works, but Best if Wet!

Grass can work but exceptional thick grass can mute the benefits.  However, if the grass is wet (like early morning dew), it acts as a conductive medium and greatly enhances your absorption.

Sand is Amazing

Besides having great mental calming effects the beach is one of the best places to ground.  So, next time your are there just take the time to stick your feet in the sand.

Asphalt Doesn’t Count

The make-up of asphalt just doesn’t let the electric field through.  You’ll be getting black feet without the benefit!

Concrete Can Do the Trick

Concrete does in fact allow the electric field to penetrate.  So, if there is no Earth around then find some concrete to at least get some benefit.

 

What If I Just Can’t Find Time to Get to the Earth??

While this is sad, it is a reality for many of us.  Luckily there are companies now that create products that can allow us to ground ourselves at work and even while we sleep.  They simply utilize the grounded part of your plugs (the little circular part of the plug).  This part of the plug is actually connected to the Earth so when you access that portion only you are basically accessing the Earth.  So, get a mat for work or buy a sheet for your bed.  The more time you can spend grounded the better your health benefits will be and the more you will avoid the negative consequences of the electric fields around you.  For more information on products or to read the book that shows the studies on how grounding can help go to https://grounded.com/

Every little thing that you can do to improve your health can make a difference.  Sometimes the simple things can make the biggest impact on our health.  Take advantage of this simple trick.  You can do it everyday and the best part is that it is completely free!