By Dr. Sara
Our food, cosmetics, carpet, furniture, you name it, is made with thousands of chemicals. It is estimated that in the US, we have over 70,000 chemicals in commercial use with more than 2,000 additional being approved each year. Does that alarm you? Should it concern you? It concerns me. And here’s why.
The human body is a miracle of intricate systems working together in fine tuned harmony. Our kidneys’ primary purpose: extract waste from blood, balance body fluids, and form urine. Our liver’s primary purpose: detoxify chemicals and metabolize drugs, among other important tasks. These organs are critical to our overall health and they do their jobs very well. However, with the continued bombardment of chemicals – new and old, they can get overwhelmed. Continued exposure to chemicals can be linked to liver disease, autoimmune diseases, fertility issues and even possibly autism, along with other problems. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has many great resources to learn even more about how chemicals impact our health. Two articles I think are important to start with are:
One of the ways that I work to decrease my and my family’s exposure to chemicals is to use safer cleaning products. I believe it’s important to have safer cleaners for a number of reasons. One, I don’t to breath in the fumes from harsh chemicals while I’m cleaning. Two, I don’t want harsh chemicals left behind after I’m completed with my chores to then be transferred to our food, hands or otherwise to be secondarily ingested. And lastly, I think the natural cleaners many times work just as good, or better, than the ones found in the cleaning isle at the grocery store.
You’ve probably heard about the immunity benefits of Vitamin C – but it’s time to move one letter down the alphabet. It turns out that Vitamin D may be the more critical vitamin when it comes to fighting off colds and flu’s. An important vitamin that also promotes anti-aging, the ‘sunshine vitamin’ is a nutrient generated by the body through exposure to the rays of the sun.
Vitamin D plays a role in many important functions of the body. Most American’s are suffering from dangerously low levels of this key vitamin and we do not realize it. According to the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, “Abnormal levels of Vitamin D are associated with a whole spectrum of diseases including cancer, osteoporosis, and diabetes, as well as cardiovascular and autoimmune disorders.” (Kremer et al. March 2010). What’s the best way to know if your Vitamin D level is normal? You need to have a simple blood test. That way you know if, and how much, supplementation with Vitamin D is necessary for your overall health and well-being.
How can I get vitamin D?
The best form of Vitamin D comes from natural sunlight. A good rule of thumb is that unless you are getting 30 minutes of summer sunlight exposure on large parts of your body every day, you will almost certainly be deficient in Vitamin D. Many people live in a climate (like us here in Wisconsin!) where during most of the year we have minimal proper sun exposure. When that’s the case, it makes supplementation even more important.
When supplementing, always choose Vitamin D3 cholecalciferol, not vitamin D2 ergocalciferol which the body has to convert to vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is sold in either a liquid form (like the Innate Choice brand we carry here in the office which is suspended in olive oil) or in pill form. Both are effective forms of supplementation.
Some foods in the American diet contain small amounts of Vitamin D. These foods include:
- Fatty fish such as salmon and tuna
- Beef liver, egg yolks and some mushrooms
- Vitamin D is added to many breakfast cereals and to some brands of orange juice, yogurt, and soy beverages. Check the labels for more information.
Although some foods contain Vitamin D, humans cannot get adequate amounts through our diet. We are genetically designed to get Vitamin D from sun exposure, making the best way to ensure you are getting enough Vitamin D is through exposure to sunlight and necessary supplementation daily.
Am I getting enough vitamin D?
The amount of Vitamin D required depends on your weight. A Vitamin D deficient person minimally needs 1000 IU’s (international units) of Vitamin D for every 40lbs of body weight. That means that a person weighing 160lbs needs 4,000 IU’s per day.
How does vitamin D affect health?
In addition to reducing the risk of bone loss and fractures as people get older, some studies suggest that Vitamin D may protect against cancers of the colon, prostate, and breast. Vitamin D is important in maintaining strong teeth, proper parathyroid function, and enhancing the body’s immune system. In fact, when taken properly, Vitamin D is more effective than the flu vaccine in helping to prevent the flu. Vitamin D is also being studied for its possible role in the prevention and treatment of low-back and joint pain, bronchitis, colds, diabetes, hypertension, glucose intolerance, multiple sclerosis and other conditions.
What precautions do I need to take with vitamin D?
When amounts of Vitamin D in the blood become too high, it can lead to toxicity—nausea, vomiting, poor appetite, constipation, weakness and weight loss. In addition, by raising blood levels of calcium, too much Vitamin D can cause confusion, disorientation and problems with heart rhythm. Excess Vitamin D can also damage the kidneys. Be aware that higher levels of vitamin D in the blood have also been linked to higher rates of pancreatic cancer. At this time, more studies are needed to assess the connection between Vitamin D and cancer. Although uncommon, Vitamin D toxicity can occur and happens from the overuse of supplements. Again, I urge you to have a simple blood test to confirm your body’s level of Vitamin D, amount of supplementation needed and can show you how effective your supplementation has been over a longer period of time.
Excessive sun exposure doesn’t cause Vitamin D poisoning because the body limits the amount of this vitamin it produces. Like most dietary supplements, Vitamin D may interact or interfere with other medicines or supplements, most notably: steroid usage, some weight loss medications, seizure medications and cholesterol lowering statins. Tell your health care providers about any dietary supplements and medicines you take.
Some of us love to be in the kitchen cooking and creating delectable food to nourish the body. Others of us use the kitchen more for separating real mail from junk mail and haphazardly scrounging together something that resembles a meal. I belong to the first of those groups. My kitchen is my haven. If I’m having a stressful week, there’s likely a batch of fresh cookies packaged up to share with friends. Saturdays many times consist of a new recipe simmering on the stove or a crockpot full of goodness making the whole house smell mouthwatering. And then on Sunday afternoons, you’ll find me prepping my lunches and snacks for the whole week. It’s well known that 80% of how we look is based on how we eat. Like you mom always told you, “you are what you eat”. The more I’ve learned over the years about nutrition, the more time I’ve spent in my kitchen preparing food that will enrich my health and the lives of those who sit at the table with me.
You are hopefully well aware of a few cardinal rules of eating: fill most of your plate with veggies, eat clean sources of protein, add in fruit once or twice a day, and make sure you’re drinking plenty of water all day. A few other rules of nutrition: local sources of food are great and work hard to avoid toxic ingredients like additives and preservatives.
Let’s talk a little more about additives and preservatives. Many processed food products – those found in the middle isles of the grocery store – are loaded with ingredients to elongate shelf life and enhance flavor and stability. Some aren’t as threatening, but with others it’s downright mind boggling and infuriating when you realize what they are. Let’s take propylene glycol, for example. I recently turned around a bottle of BBQ sauce and found propylene glycol as the second ingredient. If you do a simple google search, you’ll find many uses for it, including a de-icing fluid for aircrafts and anti-freeze for marine and RV purposes. I’m not sure about you, but I think I would prefer to stay away from these potentially toxic ingredients. A good word of advice when looking at nutrition labels: if your grandmother never heard of it and you can’t pronounce it, it’s probably a good idea to stay away from it. Another word of advice: if a product has more than five ingredients, try not to eat it. The more processed a food is, the more ingredients it has, and the less likely it’s a good idea to make it a regular part of your diet.
Knowing what I know about toxic ingredients, this summer I decided to make my own versions of some common food items. Remember, I love being in my kitchen so when I made my first batch of homemade mayo, I was so excited. Then I perfected a green garlic sauce that is delicious on everything from a steak to grilled veggies. Just this last week I made homemade Sriracha. Not only was it much easier than I thought it would be to make it, but it was fun and it tastes just like the “real thing”. One of the most gratifying parts of making these all on my own is the fact that I know exactly what is in them – no toxic additives and preservatives. Instead, they are jam packed with nutrients our body needs to be healthy.
You may not be interested or able to make your own products like this. If that’s the case, do yourself and your loved ones a favor and start paying close attention to the nutrition labels on everything you put in your cart. If you aren’t sure of what an ingredient it, I urge you to google it and start learning what you’re eating. Whether you make your own food or rely on more packaged goods, start replacing foods full of additives and preservatives with nutrient dense, wholesome options. If you’re like me and love the kitchen, try your hand a making as much of your own food as possible. As for me, my next adventure is going to be making my own ketchup. I’m hoping it turns out to be as easy and tasty as my other new favorites. Wish me luck in finding the perfect recipe.
“Stand up straight!” “Stop slouching.” “You look terrible when you stand like that.” How many of these phrases did we hear as a kid and now might be using with our own children? Proper posture has always been important for a number of reasons, but over the last few years I routinely notice that less and less people have what I would consider “good” posture.
Let’s take a look at a few reasons why human posture has gotten considerably worse in recent years. The first and foremost reason, I believe, is our reliance upon hand held technology. A recent article by NASM.org mentions that: “Over the past seven years, mobile device usage has grown from .3 hours a day to 2.8 hours a day for the average adult. Comparatively, our computer use has remained about the same over the same time period at 2.4 hours per day.” The problem with this is that the vast majority of the time when we are looking at our mobile devices, tablets and the like, our head is in a position of extreme flexion. From the side, our neck, if we could see the bones from the outside, needs to have a nice curve in it like the shape of a banana. When we look down, that curve is flattened which leads to problems and causes additional pressure on the nerves of the neck and upper back. This can end up causing headaches, neck pain, and muscle tension to name a few problems.
Another bad habit associated with technological advances (as well as poor habits while driving, sleeping, sitting….) is forward head posture. Your head is meant to be centered over your body keeping your body neutral and your center of gravity balanced. It seems that because of our bad habits, many people’s heads are anterior to what’s natural and ideal. Let’s take an example of a typical person whose head weighs between 10-12lbs. According to research from Dr. KK Hansraj presented at Surgical Technology International in 2014, if that person were to flex their head 15 degrees their head effectively now weighs 27lbs. At 30 degrees it weighs 40lbs, at 45 degrees it weighs 49lbs and at 60 degrees it weighs 60lbs. Those numbers may not seem to be a big deal until you realize that the average position of someone’s head while looking at a digital device is 60 degrees. That means that when you are checking a quick text or seeing what’s happening on Instagram, you are making the muscles and bones of your body work much harder than they are designed to work.
Our body is designed to respond and rebound from the stresses we put it through. The problems begin when we chronically put our body under stressors like this. Our body does the best it can to keep us upright and looking healthy from the outside but it’s at the cost of altering alignment of bones, muscles, and other surrounding soft tissues inside. Initially you have no idea it is happening. Over the course of time, however, improper posture and forward head carriage can lead to shortness of breath, shoulder pain, neck pain or even low back pain, to name a few symptoms.
An easy way to see if your posture is up to par is to have someone look at your posture from both the front and the side. From the front, you want your nose, your sternum, your belly button and the space between your ankles to be in a straight line. From the side, ideally you want your ear, shoulder, hip and outer ankle bone to be in a single line. Don’t have someone to help you? Stand against a wall. You should comfortably be able to have the back of your feet, your buttocks, shoulders and the back of your head touching the wall all while having your arms and hands extended back to touch the wall, too. If you can’t do this, you have a problem. Even if you can, you likely fall into the categories above where you know your posture isn’t as great as it needs to be. If that’s the case, do your present and future self a favor and visit a chiropractor. A good chiropractor will ask you what you want help with, do an exam (and look in depth at your posture) and possibly perform x-rays to formulate the best plan to get your spine back in proper alignment. We do exams like this on a daily basis in my office and so many people are shocked when they see what is happening on the inside. Equally, people are thrilled after they’ve started getting adjusted, receiving care and are seeing the positive benefits of regular chiropractic care. We take pride in our patients walking out of our office with their heads held high, great posture and better overall health. We’d love to see how we can help you, too!
Fad. A noun. Defined as an intense and widely shared enthusiasm for something, especially one that is short lived and without basis in the object’s qualities; a craze. The health field is known for fads. Think of Suzanne Sommers and the Thighmaster. Think of the Atkins diet craze. The list goes on and on. One trend that I believe is here to stay is the push for better quality food, specifically in regards to staying away from the ugly, now popular g-word: Gluten.
Let me start off by stating that your mother was right. You really are what you eat. 80% of your body composition is based upon what you put into your mouth. The other 20% is based on exercise. Gluten is a combination of two groups of proteins present in cereal grains, especially wheat, that is responsible for the elastic texture of dough. Some people are extremely sensitive to it, leading to gastrointestinal upset and suffering from even the slightest bit of gluten in their diet. On the other hand, and while we may not realize it, I’d argue to say that most of us have some sort of intolerance to gluten. We don’t realize it because we eat it so frequently there is no way to delineate gluten as the source of our suffering. Gluten-laden diets can be at the heart of a number of common American ailments from rashes, behavioral problems, IBS or other digestive issues, and so many others. The way to find out if you are sensitive to gluten and would benefit from a gluten-free diet without spending excessive money on sensitivity testing, is to simply give up gluten for a period of time (start with 21 days to give your body time to detox and respond) and see how you do. If you’re like many people I know who have gone gluten-free, you’ll find yourself with more energy, less aches and pain and feeling better overall. I’d also recommend you doing your own research and learn for yourself. One book I urge you to read is “Grain Brain” by David Perlmutter, MD. The information laid out in that book will change the way you look at food and eat for the rest of your life.
In our area, we have an abundance of healthy foods. Every time we sit down for a meal, we are making a choice for our future health and well-being. Do your part to learn what you need to be eating (more veggies, protein and healthy fats) and then watch your health skyrocket. Humans are designed to be healthy. Now is the time to make sure you are eating right and ensuring a long, healthy life.
This is the time of year we think of hot afternoons, apple picking, weekend camping, and school aged children having back pain. Wait…..WHAT? Even though you may not realize it, you did read that statement correctly. As kids go back to school, their bodies are put under undue stress and weight from all the text books and supplies they need each day. This often times results in pain, whether it be low back pain, shoulder pain or headaches. As humans, we want to avoid being in pain. It’s especially important to find the cause of pain when it involves children as they are growing. Here are a few tips to keep in mind for your children to keep them healthy as they head back to school this fall and anytime they are carrying an extra load.
First things first, check the weight of your child’s backpack on a regular basis. The total weight of the bag needs to be no more than 10-15% of their body weight. Any more than that and it can cause harmful effects on their spine and joints. Once you do the math, you’ll realize that much of the time your child’s backpack is far too heavy.
If your child has to carry a heavy load, make sure the heaviest items are packed closest to the body. In other words, pack text books against the back of the bag and lighter items farther away from the body. Encourage your child to use both of the shoulder straps. It may be more fashionable to only use one strap, but long term use of only one strap causes imbalances in posture and muscles leading to shoulder, neck and upper back pain. Make sure the straps are both wide and well padded. If possible, buy a backpack with a waist strap. Using the waist strap will help distribute a portion of the burden onto the hips versus all of the weight of the bag being on the back and shoulders. Another feature of a better backpack to look for is one that has built in padding across the back for comfort and protection.
Roller-style bags and messenger bags have become more popular. Even though you may think a roller bag will mean reduced stress on your child’s body, that isn’t always the case. Many times children pack even more stuff into a roller bag because it’s easy to tote around. The problem then comes when they need to lift the bag up stairs or over a curb. Repeatedly tugging on a bag that weighs too much can lead to shoulder injuries. If your child can only use a roller style bag, ensure they aren’t overstuffing it and can properly lift it with their knees (and not their back) to prevent problems in the future. The same goes for a child that will only use a messenger bag. If this is the case, have your child switch the bag from side to side to keep muscles balanced and gait even.
Lastly, look at your child when they have the backpack on. Make sure that bottom of the bag falls right at their hip level. What you don’t want is the bottom of the backpack too far down their legs and body. That will cause them to have an abnormal gait, increasing the likelihood for, among other things, trips and falls. Also look at their posture with the backpack on. From the side, you want their ear to be over their shoulder and their shoulders directly in line with the hips and feet. If they have their head out in front of their body or their posture seems off, that is a problem. Always remember that posture is the window to your spine, and your spine is the window to your health. If you’re having a problem fitting your child’s backpack, ask the advice of a professional. Most Chiropractors, Physical Therapists and Pediatricians would be more than happy to help. They all care about the health of your child, especially when we know that there are 33 moveable bones in your spine all with a disc in between. Those discs act as natural shock absorbers and we don’t want to see them under unnatural compression which we know leads to long-term problems. You may not realize now the importance of having a properly fitted backpack, but do yourself and your child a favor and pay attention to prevent future problems from occurring. As the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Here’s to a healthy, happy start to the 2015 school year.