Have you gotten off the Sugar high or the winter holidays yet? I hope so, because it is almost time for Valentine’s Day. We all know that too much sugar is bad for our health. Over consumption of sugar can lead to tooth decay, digestive stress, poor immune function, diabetes and will trigger went gain (and the many, many health problems that come from overweight and obesity.)
Do you know anyone who really loves going to the gym? I know, me too! They have a full wardrobe of workout attire. They are at the 5:45 a.m. spinning class. They use the gyms in hotels when they travel. I am not one of those people. Sure, I have been to the gym. More than once even. But there are so many things I would rather do, and, all in all, I find the elliptical and the weight machines to be kind of uninspiring. That being said, I do like to be active. Just don’t call it exercising; that ruins it for me! Here are my favorite ways to stay active.
Top ten fun activities (that just happen to be exercise).
- Rock on! Visit a climbing gym. Climbing gyms are cropping up here in St. Louis and all around the country. You do not need special equipment, they will rent that to you, and you don’t need to know how to climb, they have lessons or you can just try it out. There are also safety systems called auto-belays that lower you slowly to the ground when you fall, no matter how much you weigh. You will burn some serious calories while you build your muscle strength. You will be so busy concentrating on your next hand-hold you will forget you are exercising.
- Get out! Try a hike. What if you don’t know where to go? I recommend Meetup.com. There are many hiking groups that have get-togethers every week, year-round. You will find that the difficulty level of most hikes is explained in the description, and the hikes are usually led at no-charge. And, if it’s a cold day, you will burn more energy in a shorter amount of time.
- Pop a wheelie! Ride your bike to work or around town. You save money on gas, save yourself the parking hassles and get some exercise at the same time. If you are lucky enough to live in a town where Cycling Savvy meets I highly recommend attending a class. I was amazed at what I didn’t know about sharing the road safely with cars. In cities you can often take your bike on the bus or commuter train if you have a longer distance to travel. The same trains and busses can take you to bike trails or interesting sites from which you can ride home. Or, bring your bikes on your next date-night. And there are many strategies for cleaning up when you get to your destination if your office does not have a shower available.
- Park it! Plan to leave your car at home more often. In addition to biking to work, consider other times you could walk for your errands or a trip to the library. Walking is a great stress reliever. If you have stuff to bring home wear a back pack. Loading some weight on your spine while you walk is a great way to strengthen your muscles and bones. And when you do have to drive, park a few blocks away from your destination. And if you commute by bus or train you can intentionally miss your stop and hoof-it to where you are going.
- Zone out! There are more and more movement-activated video games that are fun and get you off the couch. We have the Wii Fit, which has us ski-jumping, hula-hooping and line dancing in our living room. There are other systems that have sensors that track your motion and will have you jumping around like a kid.
- Jump for joy! Jumping on a trampoline is great exercise and it is so much fun. We play games on our trampoline. For example, we will have tennis balls on the trampoline and you have to avoid letting them touch your feet. Fun with kids and it’s a workout.
- Extreme vacuuming? Housework and exercise – two of your favorites, right? OK, so maybe this does not qualify as a fun activity, but it’s all about the mindset. What if you treated the housework like an Olympic event? Can you mop the floor more vigorously? Jog that laundry basket up the stairs? Power-walk through the grocery store? Pick up the pace behind your lawn mower? It counts! And your house will sparkle.
- Get your glide on! Ice skating is so much fun. Our community skating rink has lessons and open skate year-round. You can get on the ice for just a few bucks. A few trips around the rink and not only will you feel like a kid again but you will be taking off your scarf because your blood is pumping.
- Swing your partner! Dancing is a blast. Look for swing dancing, salsa, square dancing, lindy-hop, folk or contra dancing. Meetup.com is a good place to look, or in the local paper. Many dancing get-togethers are open to all, regardless of whether you have a partner, and many will begin the evening with a lesson to get the basics under your belt.
- Doggone it! There are so many furry friends needing a loving home. Studies have shown that dog owners are happier and healthier. And you need a walking partner. What a great way to do a good deed and start an activity program, all at the same time. But, sending Rover out to your fenced yard does not do the trick. Go for walks, play Frisbee and tag with your new best friend. Being active together will help both of you live a longer, healthier life.
It’s a great time of year to make a plan to be more active. So, get out there and make activity a part of your daily routine. You deserve to have more fun, and your body will thank you.Read More
I am so fortunate to have a wonderful vocation that allows me to be a force for good in peoples’ lives. Here are a few of my favorite things about my work as a chiropractor and enzyme nutrition practitioner:
Explaining chiropractic. As a chiropractor and enzyme nutrition practitioner I specialize in the restoration and maintenance of health. The goal and purpose of a chiropractic adjustment is to remove interference in the body’s nerve system. When interference is removed the body can do what it should do naturally; Self-heal and self-regulate. Chiropractic, when explained in a simple way, is something that most people understand intuitively.
Watching the changes. Sometimes improvement in health is instant and very noticeable, but sometimes the changes are more subtle. I love it when a client says they notice that they have been sleeping better, or have less fatigue, or can more easily feel when their body is out of balance.
Listening. It is a privilege to be able to help people achieve their goals, and I make sure I have plenty of time to listen to my clients’ stories. I want to fully understand what clients’ concerns are, but even more importantly, I want to know how improving their health will make their lives better.
Working with kids. In many cases children require only small adjustments or small dietary changes to experience big improvements in their health. Working with kids is awesome! In children the amazing power of the body to heal can be seen most easily.
Teaching. My free community health classes are always a fun way for me to share information that helps people to live healthier lives. I also help future chiropractors learn enzyme nutrition at Logan College, a role that I am truly honored to fulfill.
Learning. In addition to my degree in chiropractic I have spent many, many hundreds of hours studying health and nutrition. I study current research articles on a weekly basis and travel far and wide to attend seminars throughout the year. I do this because I am dedicated to continually developing my knowledge and clinical excellence as a practitioner to serve my clients in the best possible way.
Creating hope. I have had the wonderful experience of helping people who had difficult health situations who thought no one could help them, or who were told that their health concerns were “all in their head.” I have years of experience assisting clients with difficult challenges, I study and research to be the best I can be, and I have a team of experts a phone-call away. It is a wonderful transition to see despair become hope, and to guide hope into action, and to see action create changes for better health.
I hope your life is filled with favorite things. Merry Christmas and Happy and Healthy New Year to you and your family.Read More
Remember the “Bet You Can’t Eat Just One!” tagline? What the marketers behind those hard to resist potato chips wanted to convey is that their product is so delicious you would be compelled to eat more. No level of willpower could stop you.
“A reasonable portion will satisfy you” is certainly not as compelling a slogan.
What is it about junk food that makes us go over-board, over and over again? Could it be that these foods are addictive? Hard-to-resist and addictive are not the same thing. An addictive substance is something to which a person can develop a physical dependence. Foods, even potato chips, have long been thought incapable of creating actual, physical addiction. However, in the last year or so certain substances in foods have been researched to understand their drug-like and potentially addictive properties.
One such substance is the endocannabanoid. Endo- describes a substance made inside of us, and Cannabanoid describes something that has a marijuana-like effect on the body. One animal study demonstrated that endocannabinoids increase in the body following feeding with a high fat diet. And what happens when endocannabinoids increase? The munchies! Basically, this research shows the possibility that high fat foods are not only, themselves, harmful to health. They may cause you to eat excessive portions. Indeed, bet you can’t eat just one!
Another group of interesting substances is the Gluetomorphins and Caseomorphins. These are morphine-like substances that come from casein (milk protein) and gluten (wheat protein). These proteins interact with the opiate receptors in the gut and brain. Not all people are sensitive to gluteomorphins and caseomorphins. However, for those who are affected, gluten and casein are broken down into short chains of proteins that, should they escape through the gut and make their way to the brain, mimic the effects of heroin or morphine. Addictive, indeed.
As a final example, one of the most common self-diagnosed food addictions is an addiction to chocolate. Chocolate is just one of many foods with the alluring blend of fat and sugar. Chocolate also contains biologically active compounds, polyphenols, which may have a health benefit to the body. Several research studies have been performed with daily doses of 20-30 grams (less than two tablespoons) of polyphenol-rich chocolate; observing for benefits in glucose metabolism and cardiovascular health. But it is not the polyphenols that drive someone to become a “chocoholic.” It is the fat and sugar.
Our primal ancestors did not have regular access to sugary and fatty foods, so we are all equipped with a biological drive to consume such foods when present that comes from an earlier time in human history. So, it’s the caveman/woman in you that is taking a third trip to the freezer for the salted caramel gelato. It turns out that foods high in sugar, salt and fat stimulate the pleasure centers in the brain, like a drug. So it is not only the chocolate that’s potentially addictive, it’s the salt/fat/sugar blend. Food manufacturers know this very well and create foods that hit the so-called “bliss point,” so you eat more (and more).
Breaking the Cycle
What can you do if you feel like you are out of control with certain foods? In my practice I find a few strategies very helpful. One is to use enzyme nutrition to help the body absorb nutrition better. Better nutrient absorption and eating a more balanced diet will reduce food cravings. Another strategy is to break the addictive pattern with an elimination diet. One such program I have discussed in the blog before is The Ultrasimple Diet. Sometimes a period of withdrawal is enough to break the cycle of food addiction or compulsion, and cleanses or eliminations diets are great for that. Acupuncture or EFT (emotional freedom technique) can help with the emotional aspects of eating and impulse control. Hypnosis can also be a real game-changer. Mindfulness meditation can also be a help to compulsive eaters. Truly, when was the last it time you sat down to eat and just ate, focused on your meal without multi-tasking? Finally, for those who are overweight and addicted to unhealthy foods, I love the Take Shape for Life program.
What about folks who truly struggle with food addiction on an extremely deep level? Perhaps you have tried some of the approaches above but have not been successful? For some people I do recommend one-on-one counseling with a therapist or life-coach, especially one with a professional focus on eating issues. Eating disorders can affect men and women or any age. Overeaters Anonymous (OA), a 12-step program, has helped many to control their eating and has free meetings across the country and online.
Here’s wishing you a healthy relationship with foods in the coming year!Read More
A couple of days ago I was chatting with a patient who was experiencing a sore throat. This brought to mind some of my first clinical experiences at The Way to Optimal Health, the office in the Chicago suburbs where I began in practice 12 years ago. I was taught that it was important to consider the role of a person’s emotional states when considering the origin of certain symptoms. Does that mean symptoms are “all in your head?” No, but your emotional state does have an impact.
It has been recognized, perhaps most famously by Austrian physician Hans Selye in the 1950’s, that stress is the cause of all illnesses. Stress can be roughly categorized into three types; mechanical, chemical and emotional. These were also defined in 1910 by founder of chiropractic DD Palmer as the three T’s; trauma, toxins and thoughts.
And, emotional stress is a biggie for many of us, right?
So, coming back to the woman with the sore throat. She was describing her symptoms and I asked her “What are you not saying?” That question was one that my mentors in Chicago would sometimes ask people experiencing sore throats and it comes from the concept of Chakras. Briefly, chakras are the energy centers of the body as described by ancient Indian Ayurvedic and yogic tradition. Typically seven chakras described. The fifth is the throat chakra and it is associated with communication, the connection between the heart and the mind and expressing yourself. So, when there are symptoms in the throat we might think about what we are not expressing. Could “swallowing” negative emotions be contributing to how we feel?
Another common area of symptoms is the lower back. The mechanical causes of lower back pain are numerous, although in many cases the cause of injury is not known. A research paper published in the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation showed a link between job dissatisfaction and the development of chronic pain. So, being happy at work, a component of happiness in general, can reduce your risk of chronic low back pain and disability. At our office in Chicago, the key emotional association with lower back pain was feeling unsupported. For many, dissatisfaction is related a perception of or an actual lack of support. Next time you feel a twinge in your lower back for no clear reason ask yourself, how supported do you feel by your family, spouse, friends and colleagues? Have you been acting like an invulnerable super-hero who does not need help from anyone? How can you better communicate so that your needs are known?
But, how does it happen that emotional states create physical symptoms? That doesn’t seem very scientific, does it? Actually, every thought or feeling is accompanied by the release of thousands of different neuro peptides, each triggering a physiological, physical response. Thus, it is theorized, prolonged, negative emotional states can cause an imbalance in your physical body.
You do not need to analyze yourself psychologically regarding every ache and pain. Symptoms need to be taken seriously in a physical context. However, a balance in focus between the physical and the emotional can enhance your healing . Next time you have an twinge or a crick in your neck consider giving some non-judgmental attention to your emotional state. You may be surprised to find a hidden cause.
I feel like I have always known the conventional definition of metabolism, even when I was a kid. I was kind of a chubby kid, at least for some of my youth, and “slow metabolism” was a term I heard thrown around. Easier to say “I have a slow metabolism” than “I eat too much” or “I have an extremely inactive lifestyle.” Slow metabolism means you gain weight easily, and it’s not totally your fault, right?
But what is metabolism, really? In science, metabolism is defined as the chemical processes that occur within a living organism in order to maintain life. What are the processes that maintain life in your body? Too numerous to list, but building things (anabolism) and taking things apart to obtain energy (catabolism) are the general categories. Metabolism has a lot to do with weight, since the efficiency of your body’s ability to turn food into energy is a key factor in how your body uses or stores the foods you eat. Metabolism also has a lot, really everything, to do with everything else your body does; moving, growing, sensing, resting, reproducing, healing, etc.
Here are some facts about metabolism:
Whether you are a tortoise or a hare can change: It is true that if a person has two overweight parents they are more likely to be overweight or obese. However, genetic predisposition is not destiny. The main determining factor in how many calories you “burn” is not your genetics, it’s your Basal Metabolic Rate, BMR. Basal Metabolic Rate is the amount of calories that a person needs to keep the body functioning over 24-hours at rest. BMR accounts for 60-75% of the calories you burn each day. A key way to increase your BMR is to lift weights. Muscle uses more calories at rest than fat. Lifting weights once or twice a week can drastically change your BMR over time. Also, age related muscle loss is one of the main reasons it gets harder to lose weight as we get older.
A good night’s sleep makes a difference. When you are sleep deprived your metabolism actually slows down. Lack of sleep causes a rise is Cortisol hormone, and among the effects of Cortisol is elevated blood sugar levels and increased storage of fat cells around the organs. Poor sleep, even one night, will also alter levels of the hormones Leptin and Ghrelin. If you short yourself on sleep Ghrelin goes up, stimulating your appetite, while Leptin goes down, leading you to feel less satisfied when you eat. You can learn more about what happens when you go without sleep by clicking here.
Your “slow metabolism” might really be inflammation. Inflammation in the body can be caused by a poor diet that includes pro-inflammatory foods, environmental toxicity, dehydration and even emotional stress. Detoxification can help your BMR by lessening the body’s burden of waste. The body has numerous responses to toxicity. Fluid retention is just one example. The waste products from the energy factories in your cells collect in the spaces between the cells like trash waiting for curb-side pickup. This is the real “junk in the trunk!” If you are overly toxic, or under-hydrated, the body will retain the water it has around the cells to dilute that toxicity. Another way that inflammation looks like a slow metabolism is seen in food sensitivities. That is why detoxification programs can help boost your metabolism, they help to ease your body’s burden and operate more efficiently. Click here for an opportunity to learn more.
To learn more about metabolism and healthy living join Chef Sharon Tutko and me for Clean Eating 101: Get Your Metabolism Cooking! at Whole Foods Town and Country.Read More
Achieving a healthy weight may be one of the most difficult goals that I help people work toward in my practice. On the one hand, there are those folks, usually non-overweight folks, who say “you just have to eat less and exercise more!” On the other hand, there are the vast majority of us who know it is not that simple. If getting to a healthy weigh was a simple eat less/exercise more proposition there wouldn’t be sky-rocketing rates of obesity in this country and a 68 billion dollar a year weight-loss industry.
So, what gives? Why does it have to be so hard? Here are my thoughts on the main barriers to weight optimization.
- You eat too often, or too late in the day. For quite some time we have been hammered with the advice to eat every few hours. I think this is ok if you are eating mainly low-glycemic index snacks (very
low sugar, higher in fat and protein). However, if your every 2-3 hour snack is a piece of fruit, or a 100 calorie pack of Oreo cookies, or a yogurt with 25 grams of sugar, your body will never go into fat burning mode. Not if there is a constant source of carbohydrate fuel available. Snack carefully.
Also, your metabolism is more active