February 7, 2012
Did you know that having a good posture is one of the healthiest things you can do for your body? Numerous experts are now stating that posture is not just about looking good, but could be the key to better health. According to an article in the American Journal of Pain Management, “Posture effects and moderates every physiologic function from breathing to hormonal production.
For the past fifteen years, I’ve been working with patients to improve their health by improving their posture. With the increasing popularity of smart phones and tablets, long hours at the computer, and a more sedentary modern lifestyle, poor posture is becoming a major health problem. The challenge that many people are starting to face is that poor posture can lead to cervical disc injuries, shoulder injuries, arthritis, breathing problems, hormonal imbalances, gastrointestinal problems, depression, and an impaired immune function.
Why does our posture affect our health so dramatically? The first thing to realize is that when we are standing up we have both the effects of gravity and the weight of our head pushing down on our bodies all day long. The thoracic cages’ job is to protect the vital organs, be an anchor for muscles, and a support system for the head and neck. If the head is directly over the thoracic cage, it will put the least amount of strain on the thoracic area and vital organs. The minute the head pulls forward you now have not only extra strain on the thoracic cage, organs inside of it, but your risk of neck and shoulder injury greatly increases. This type of posture is now being labeled Forward Head Syndrome. Unfortunately, this forward head posture is becoming the normal posture for most people, especially in our younger population.
What are the harmful effects of Forward Head Syndrome? Rene Cailliet, M.D., director of the department of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of Southern California, wrote about the effects of forward head syndrome in his book “Rejuvenation Strategy.” According to his book:
- Incorrect head positioning leads to improper spinal function.
- The head in forward posture can add up to 30 pounds of abnormal leverage on the cervical spine.
- Forward head posture results in loss of vital lung capacity. In fact, lung capacity is depleted by as much as 30 percent. Loss of lung capacity leads to heart and blood vascular problems.
- The entire gastrointestinal system is affected, particularly the large intestine. Loss of good bowel peristaltic function and evacuation is a common condition that comes with forward head posture and loss of spinal lordotic curves.
- Forward head posture causes an increase in discomfort and pain. Freedom of motion in the first four cervical vertebrae is a major source of stimuli that causes production of endorphins in production many otherwise non-painful sensations are experienced as pain.
- Forward head posture causes loss of healthy spine-body motion. The entire body becomes rigid as the range of motion lessens. Soon, one becomes hunched.
Recently, Dr. Roger Sperry, a Nobel Prize recipient for brain research, demonstrated that 90% of the energy output of the brain is used in relating the physical body to gravity. Only 10% of the brain’s energy is used for thinking, metabolism, and healing. If you want to improve your body and brain’s performance start with better posture.
What can you do to improve your posture?
1. Be aware
The very first step is to be aware of your posture. I recently had a teenager in my practice who went off to the Marines. When he left he had the slouched appearance that we see in many teenagers. Three months later, when he came back into my office, he was standing tall, shoulders back ,and his head held high. I asked him what he did to change his posture and he said that they were constantly on him to stand up straight. It was an incredible example of how quickly you can retrain your body by just being aware.
2. Stretch your front side and strengthen your back
What is happening to most people who sit at computers today, is that the chest muscles are shortening and the upper back muscles are lengthening. This causes the shoulders to round and the head to come forward. Start stretching your chest muscles by standing in a door way with your arms on either side and lean in. Similar to the picture to the right. Daily stretches to the chest muscles will stop them from pulling your shoulders forward. At the same time, doing upper back exercises, like seated rows, to strengthen your rhomboids will help hold those shoulders back.
3. Try a yoga class
Yoga is a great place to start if you are serious about changing your posture. What I love about yoga is that it stretches and strengthens the muscles at the same time. If you are going to yoga specifically for posture changes, let your instructor know. A good instructor will assist you throughout the class and make sure you are doing the poses correctly.
4. Go see your chiropractor
Nothing will change your posture as dramatically as a chiropractic adjustment. You can stretch and strengthen the muscles repetitively, but if the spine is not moving properly the muscles are more likely to fall back into their spasmed position. The spine has two jobs: protect the nervous system and be an anchor for muscles. Your nervous system is the mechanism in which your brain and body communicate. Just like Dr. Calliet noticed in his study, when your posture changes it damages the spine and nervous tissue the spine protects. Bad posture will ultimately lead to a poorly functioning nervous system. The key to great spinal health and great posture, starts with an evaluation from a chiropractor who specializes in posture retraining.
So stand tall, go see your chiropractor, try a yoga class, do your stretches and you will make sure your posture doesn’t take you down the path of bad health.
January 24, 2012
One of the more common questions that patients ask me is “Should I cleanse?” And, if so “What cleanse do you recommend?” I have a personal rule that I won’t recommend anything to my patients that I haven’t tried myself. Over the past fifteen years I have tried several cleanses, including the Master Cleanse, the Fast Track Detox cleanse, the Watermelon Cleanse, a Gallbladder Cleanse, and many different protein drink-type cleanses. The challenge with many of these cleanses is not so much doing the cleanse (although that can be a challenge), but how to reintegrate your “normal” food back into your digestive tract. You can feel fabulous while you cleanse, but if you are drinking a special cleansing shake/drink for 10 days, it can take several weeks to a month for your body to feel like it is digesting food properly again. I especially noticed this with people who do the Master Cleanse.
In my opinion, cleansing is a very personal decision. No one can tell you to do it. You have to REALLY crave a cleanse. You need to be highly motivated to make a change in your health. Because of that, I have been a little gun shy to recommend cleanses to people. It’s difficult for me to prescribe a cleanse. You have to really want it. Recently, two things happened that made me change my mind on cleanses. The first one was a movie called “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead” which is a story about a man whose lifestyle and bad food habits were literally killing him. After being fed up with all the medications he was taking and getting very little result, he decided to take his health into his own hands. For 60 days he drank nothing but fruits and vegetables. His results were remarkable! Not only did he lose weight, he got off his medications and massively turned his health around. All of this came from drinking fruits and vegetables. What I love about this movie is that it is a very simple concept that I preach daily in my office: less processed foods, more fruits and vegetables. It is a very inspirational movie and, if you have any desire to cleanse, I highly recommend you watch it.
The second thing that changed my mind on cleansing is the staggering statistics on how our poor eating habits are the cause of 80% of all chronic illnesses in our country (including most cancers), and the overwhelming number of my patients who are waking up to this fact and seeking more information on what they can do nutritionally to avoid certain diseases. I have another personal rule: when people reach out to me with a desire to live a healthier life, it is my mission to help assist them on that journey.
So two weeks ago, as an office, we did a five day fruit and vegetable cleanse. It’s called the Reboot Express Cleanse. We had over twenty people participate. It was simple, not always easy, but the results were huge. The options for food were vast. It required that we cook more and constantly eat so our energy did not dip. What I witnessed over these five days was that it required people to reach for healthy alternatives throughout their day. They couldn’t reach for a Starbucks at 3 o’clock when their energy dipped. Instead they looked to good, nutritious food to help boost their energy. Patients pointed out to me how acutely aware they became of the bad food choices they normally made and how great they felt replacing them with an apple or carrot. Some people discovered how much they loved fresh vegetable juice and how much energy it gave them after they drank a glass. Many people were more committed to cooking in their kitchens and discovered some new recipes that they will continue to use long after the cleanse. My son and I invented a new recipe called the sweet potato taco. The reward for several people was the feeling of pride they had about themselves for accomplishing such a feat. Most everyone dropped weight and enjoyed the benefits of feeling lighter. I also noticed that people had a healthy glow to them at the end of the five days. Was it all the good nutrients with which they had just saturated their bodies? Or was it the incredible feeling one gets when you know you are doing something great for your health? Whatever the reason, I saw twenty healthier people at the end of the five days. Many of those people implemented new, healthy habits that will stick with them for years to come.
Who should go on a cleanse? In my opinion, anyone who is looking for a change in their health could use a cleanse. If you have reached that point where you are sick and tired of how you feel, then a cleanse is a great option for you. If you have just come off a holiday or vacation and have overindulged, cleansing is a great break to give to your body. If you are on several medications and feel like you are getting sicker as the years go by, ABSOLUTELY try a cleanse. Cleanses are also great for people who are trying to lose weight and feel like their metabolism is stuck. If you plan on following healthy eating habits after the cleanse, then go for it and cleanse a couple of days to reignite your metabolism. And perhaps the best reason to go on a cleanse is to get a fresh start on implementing new healthy habits into your life. It’s like a clean slate for your body. Just remember: it’s what you give your body after the cleanse that will determine your health for the future.
What type of cleanse should you do? I strongly urge you pick a cleanse that teaches you good eating habits. We did the Reboot Cleanse and you can find all the info you need about that cleanse at www.jointhereboot.com. We did the Reboot Express, which was 5 days long. They also have a cleanse that goes 15 days. That requires 5 days of juice fasting. Although that may sound challenging, I know several people who have done the 15 day cleanse and felt fantastic.
How should you expect to feel on a cleanse? It depends on your eating habits prior to the cleanse. If you currently eat a lot of processed foods, sugar, alcohol, or caffeine, the first few days may be challenging. What I like about the Reboot cleanse is that they recommend you do a pre-cleanse the week before and remove those items from your diet. I strongly recommend this!! It will make your cleanse more enjoyable. In general, you will have highs and lows on a cleanse. Some moments you will feel fantastic, and other moments you may feel tired and irritable. If you hang onto a cleanse long enough, you should feel more energy, feel lighter, and even feel euphoric.
What’s the best way to succeed at a cleanse? Surround yourself with people who support you. I loved doing this cleanse with our Family Life Chiropractic community. It was fun to go into the office everyday and hear the process everyone was going through. We gave each other ideas and cheered each other on. We also were accountable to each other, which can be extremely helpful during the tough moments of a cleanse. We also chose to do it Monday through Friday, when we were the busiest and couldn’t be distracted by social gatherings or downtime that might let our brains decide to give up.
No matter which cleanse you choose, anytime you take a few days to commit to being a healthier you is a win for your body.
January 20, 2012
Last Monday, the first person on my adjusting table was a woman who has been battling cancer for the past five years. She is deeply invested in changing her lifestyle habits so that her body is better equipped to fight the cancer. For the past few months, I have been working with her to help relieve some hip and knee pain that she was experiencing. Her first comment to me this particular morning was “So I know you already know this, Dr. Mindy, but I am starting to realize that when I eat grains, I have more aches & pains”. We chuckled a bit at the rhyming nature of her comment, but then I went on to discuss with her why this happens.
There are many foods in our diet that initiate an inflammatory reaction in our body. What this means is that when you eat these foods, your body inflames. In my experience the place that people feel that inflammation first is the weakest, most traumatized, spot in their body. If they have an overuse carpal tunnel condition, they will feel it their wrist. If they have low back pain, they will feel it in their low back. If they have digestive complaints, they will notice more bloating & irritation in their stomach. I had a patient one time that had a mysterious thumb pain that would not go away no matter what we did, the minute we got her off of wheat, the pain was gone.
What are those foods that cause inflammation? Some of foods you want to avoid to keep inflammation down are white and wheat flour, white sugar, white and wheat pastas, cereals, cookies, crackers, chips, hydrogenated vegetable oils, margarine, corn oil, soybean oil, and safflower oil. One of the most important foods to stay away from if you are experiencing chronic pain is anything with wheat. Wheat contains a protein called gluten that will promote inflammation in the body, causing the gut to become leaky. Gluten increases a chemical called Zonulin, which opens the gaps between cells in the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. The more wheat a person eats, the leakier their gut becomes. When the gut is in stress the body will initiate the inflammatory response to try and heal it. Just like your body would inflame after spraining your ankle. A leaky gut also predisposes the body to develop all sorts of problems from bacterial imbalances, yeast overgrowth, food allergies, suppressed immune system, and can lead to the development of several autoimmune diseases. Bottom line is wheat promotes inflammation, and when you are trying to heal the body from diseases that are caused by inflammation, this is counterproductive.
One of the best explanations of why wheat is harmful for us was recently explained in an interview with William Davis, a preventive cardiologist who has a new book out called “Wheat Belly”. He does an excellent job giving us a simple explanation why recently we are seeing more people suffering from wheat intolerance. According to Dr. Davis wheat is so bad for your health, that it should carry a surgeon general’s warning. Check out the link to below to see his interview.
My recommendation to you is that the next time you find yourself dealing with chronic pain, get off the grains for two weeks and see if it goes away. It may seem like a difficult task, but it could be the one thing that gives your body that little bit of love it needs to heal itself and allow you a pain free day. Whenever I am looking to make a change in my diet to improve my health, I always think of Tony Robbins quote: “Nothing tastes as good as healthy feels”
Cheers to a healthier and happier you!