Posts Tagged ‘health

20
Nov
13

What Are Food Cravings? Is Your Body Really Trying to Tell You Something?


SwisschiropracticFor some years, researchers had believed that having cravings for a particular type of food may be an indication that you are missing a particular nutrient in your diet. For example, if you crave red meat then you may have an iron deficiency, or if you crave ice cream you must need calcium. Studies have shown, however, that cravings have nothing to do with a nutritional deficiency, but are actually caused by chemical signals in the brain. Nutritionist Karen Ansel says, “If cravings were an indicator of nutritional deficiency, we’d all crave fruits and vegetables. The fact that we all want high carb, high fat comfort foods, along with the research, is a pretty good indicator that cravings aren’t related to deficiencies.” Yes–it’s really all in your head.

When you crave a food, the same reward centers in the brain that are responsible for drug and alcohol addiction are more active: the hippocampus (memory), the insula (emotion and perception) and the caudate (memory and learning). These areas are all very receptive to dopamine and serotonin, neurotransmitters that are responsible for feeling relaxed and calm and which spur reward-driven learning. The reason you crave things such as ice cream, potato chips and chocolate is that these items are full of fat and/or sugar. Both fat and sugar are involved in an increased production of serotonin and other chemicals that make us feel good.

There is a large societal aspect to cravings as well. For instance, women in Japan tend to crave sushi and only 6 percent of Egyptian women say they crave chocolate. Approximately half of American women claim that their cravings for chocolate reach a peak just before their period. However, research has found no correlation between fluctuations in women’s hormones and cravings. In fact, postmenopausal women do not report a large reduction in cravings from their premenopausal levels.

Studies have found that the more people try to deny their cravings, the greater the craving they have for the forbidden food. Researchers suggest that it is better to give in to the craving in a controlled way rather than denying yourself altogether. Just be sure to restrict what you consume to a reasonable amount. If your dopamine receptors are constantly bombarded with high-fat and high-sugar foods (or drugs and alcohol), they shut down to prevent an overload. This makes your cravings even greater and you end up eating more in an attempt get the same reward, but you never really feel satisfied.

Exercise and distraction are two good ways to reduce food cravings. One study found that a morning workout can reduce your cravings for the whole day. Smelling a non-food item can also help. Keep a small vial of your favorite perfume with you when a craving comes on and take a whiff when the craving hits you. It will occupy the aroma receptors that are involved in food cravings.

 

19
Nov
13

How Flexible Should I Be and How Can I Measure My Flexibility?


Low back pain SwisschiroWatching a dancer her leg to her nose is an impressive sight, and many of us can perform similar feats when we’re children. But we begin to lose flexibility as we age if we do not make a conscious effort to remain limber. Inactivity causes muscles to shorten and stiffen, and muscle mass is lost with increasing years as well. However, maintaining flexibility as we get older is of great importance, since it allows us to retain our mobility and reduces the likelihood of aches, sprains and falls as we age.

Optimal flexibility means the ability of each of your joints to move fully through their natural range of motion. Simple activities such as walking or bending over to tie your shoes can become major difficulties if your flexibility is limited. Unfortunately, sitting for hours at a desk, as so many are forced to do on a daily basis, eventually leads to a reduction in flexibility as the muscles shorten and tighten.

There are a number of different tests used to measure flexibility, but the one test that has been used as a standard for years is the sit and reach test. It measures the flexibility of your hamstrings and lower back. The simple home version of the test requires only a step (or a small box) and a ruler.

Before the test, warm up for about 10 minutes with some light aerobic activity and do a few stretches. Then place the ruler on the step, letting the end of it extend out a few inches over your toes, and note where the edge of the step comes to on the ruler. Sit on the floor with your feet extended in front of you, flat against the bottom step (or box). With your arms extended straight out in front of you and one hand on top of the other, gradually bend forward from the hips, keeping your back straight. (Rounding the back will give you a false result). Measure where your fingertips come to on the ruler. They should ideally be able to reach at least as far as the front of the step. Any measurement past the edge of the step is a bonus. No matter how far you can reach on the first measurement, do the test periodically and try to improve your score every few weeks.

If you find that you are less flexible than you should be, some regular stretching exercises combined with visits to your chiropractor can help to restore flexibility and improve range of motion, helping to ensure that you remain limber into older age.

 

18
Nov
13

What Exactly is “Ergonomics”?


Neck painThe term ergonomics stems from the Greek words ergon (work) and nomos (laws). According to the US Occupational Safety and Health Administration, ergonomics is defined as “the science of fitting workplace conditions and job demands to the capabilities of the working population.” Good ergonomics in the workplace is key to maintaining our body’s proper health and function, and it can have a major effect on the quality of our work.

Ergonomics involves the physical stressors in our workplace as well as related environmental factors. For example, physical stressors are any activities that put strain on the bones, joints and muscles. These can involve things such as performing repetitive motions, vibrations, working in awkward positions and actions using excessive force. Environmental factors that contribute to bad ergonomics include loud noise, bad indoor air quality and improper lighting.

Bad ergonomics can increase the risk of injury to the musculoskeletal system, causing conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis and neck and back pain, as well as creating a range of other health problems, including sick building syndrome, eyestrain and hearing loss. However, there are steps you can take to improve your workplace ergonomics that can help reduce health risks.

Cumulative trauma disorders, such as carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis, are caused by repetitive motions such as typing. To prevent this, set up your computer workstation in a way that allows your hands and wrists to be in as neutral a position as possible. When sitting at your desk, your chair should be at a height where your eyes are level with the top of your computer screen, and your arms are at a 45-degree angle for typing. Ensure that your wrists are not angled up or down or to the left or right. If your desk is too high to keep your forearms straight, raise the height of your chair and use a footrest to keep your feet from dangling.

Your chair should be at a height where your feet are flat on the floor or on a footrest, while keeping your knees just slightly higher than the level of the seat. The chair should provide some light support to your lower back (use a pillow, if necessary) while allowing you to move freely. The arms of the chair should support your lower arms while letting your upper arms remain close to your torso.

To reduce eyestrain, adjust ambient lighting to diminish glare and adjust the brightness and contrast until your eyes are comfortable reading. If you are working in a noisy area, use earplugs or headphones that cut ambient sound (but not set loud enough to damage your hearing!).

Good ergonomics also involves taking frequent breaks. Move around, get some fresh air and focus your eyes on things at varying distances.

 

12
Nov
13

Shoulder Arthritis Causes and Treatment Options


While we generally think of arthritis as being associated with old age, shoulder arthritis is not uncommon among younger people as well. Any injury to the shoulder, such as a dislocation or a fracture, can eventually lead to shoulder arthritis.

The shoulder consists of two main joints. The first is the glenohumoral joint. This is a ball-and-socket joint in which the head of the upper arm (humerus) fits into the glenoid cavity of the scapula (shoulder blade). The second is the acromioclavicular. This joint is formed by the meeting of the collarbone (clavicle) with the top of the scapula (acromion).

Hyaline cartilage located on the ends of these bones generally allows for movement of the arm in the socket without friction, but a loss of cartilage here can cause the bones to rub against each other. Although not as common as arthritis in other parts of the body, shoulder arthritis can be extremely uncomfortable and debilitating. The principal symptom of shoulder arthritis is steadily worsening pain, especially when the arm is moved.  However, patients with this condition are also likely to experience considerable stiffness in the joint and weakness at the shoulder. Sleeping may become difficult as the condition worsens, especially on the most affected side.

Shoulder arthritis may be caused by any of the following:

  1. Osteoarthritis.  This is the degenerative wearing of cartilage, especially at the acromioclavicular joint.
  2. Loss of cartilage through acute traumatic injury to the shoulder, such as from a car accident, particularly when there has been a tear to the rotator cuff.
  3. Rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory autoimmune disease in which the body attacks its own cartilage.

Both osteo- and rheumatoid arthritis are more prevalent in older people (osteoarthritis in particular tends to occur in those over age 50).  It’s not surprising that the overall incidence of shoulder arthritis is increasing as the general population ages.

Initial management of shoulder arthritis is usually non-surgical. Possible treatment options include:

  • Chiropractic care
  • Targeted exercise programs to increase shoulder mobility
  • Heat and ice treatment
  • Nutritional supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin, both of which build cartilage and can slow joint degeneration
  • Rest and shoulder immobilization
  • Modifying shoulder movements to minimize irritation
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Corticosteroid injections and other medications may be used in the case of rheumatoid arthritis

The National Arthritis Foundation reports that regular chiropractic care can help prevent the damage caused by arthritis. Chiropractic treatment can help reduce pain and restore movement and increase range of motion in the shoulder joint.

In severe cases, surgery for shoulder arthritis can help to reduce pain and improve motion if non-surgical treatments are no longer working. Glenohumeral surgery can consist of either replacing just the head of the humerus with a prosthesis (hemiarthroplasty) or replacing the entire joint (both the humeral head and glenoid cavity, a total shoulder arthroplasty).

 

07
Nov
13

Dowager’s Hump Causes and Treatment Options


Camel. Ship Of DesertAlthough the name “Dowager’s Hump” implies that this condition is one that affects elderly women (which it primarily does), it can also affect anyone who spends a lot of time hunched over or who has a severe case of osteoporosis, including men. The medical term for Dowager’s Hump is hyperkyphosis, which is an increase in the forward curvature of the lower cervical and upper thoracic spine. It is a condition that can either be relatively painless or can cause considerable pain and discomfort.

Dowager’s hump is common in people with osteoporosis and is usually due to what is called a wedge fracture. This is when the front part of the vertebra (the side facing your chest) collapses. This causes the vertebra to tilt forward, which forces the back to curve and the head to jut forward. In some cases the curvature is so severe that it forces the head to look downward. It can become a sort of domino effect, with the collapsed vertebra tilting and putting pressure on the one below, until it too subsequently fractures and tilts, etc. In advanced osteoporosis, the bones of the vertebrae can become so porous that they may fracture as a result of lifting something or doing something as simple as coughing or sneezing.

A wedge fracture does not necessarily cause pain, and the first signs of it may be a loss in height or an obvious rounding of the upper back. Other people are more likely to see it before the person suffering from the disorder, as we do not generally see ourselves from the side. Someone with hyperkyphosis may also experience neck pain, breathing difficulties, rib pain and loss of appetite. Symptoms may be worse when coughing or sneezing and may be relieved when lying down.

Those with mild cases of hyperkyphosis may find some relief through yoga. A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that elderly women with Dowager’s Hump who took yoga classes three times a week for six months had a slight reduction in the curvature of their spine. In situations where Dowager’s Hump is more severe and is causing pain, there are also more invasive treatments available. The surgical treatments vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty involve the injection of cement into the vertebrae to restore their height, reducing pain and spinal curvature.

The best treatment, however, is prevention, which involves strengthening the bones as much as possible and preventing bone loss by eating a healthy diet and getting regular weight-bearing exercise. Maintaining correct posture is also important, as habitual slumping (such as when you use a laptop or when sitting at a desk) eventually causes muscle imbalances, and the muscles and ligaments supporting the spinal column weaken, putting additional pressure on the vertebrae, allowing them to slip out of place. Regular chiropractic adjustments can help keep the vertebrae aligned, along with exercise to strengthen the supporting muscles.

Dr Dubois, DC, CCSP

Pierre DuboisDr. Dubois, a Swiss physician, and a Triangle Certified Sport Chiropractor has over 20 years of experience in the treatment and prevention of disorders of the musculoskeletal system. Amongst his patients, two world champions in martial arts (gold medalists in 2005 WMJA), one carrier of the Olympic flame in 2004, and numerous soccer players, swimmers and athletes of all levels who benefited from his chiropractic care.

 

06
Nov
13

How Does the VibraCussor Work?


man-with-questions-200-300Increasing numbers of chiropractors are incorporating a VibraCussor into their practice, as they have found that it often helps to prepare the patient for an adjustment. The VibraCussor relaxes the muscles and fascia surrounding the vertebral subluxation that they will be addressing, making their treatments more effective.

The VibraCussor is a vibration instrument that differs from usual massagers in that it uses a piston-like up-and-down movement rather than a back-and-forth movement. It creates comfortable waves of compression that travel through the tissues to the affected muscles and fascia, allowing the instrument to release fascial adhesions, relax tense muscles and increase circulation and lymph flow. It is possible for the chiropractor to vary the frequency of the percussion in order to target specific tissues and tissue depths.

Fascia is the thick, white connective tissue that surrounds the body’s muscles and which keep our organs in place. However, under stress from injury or surgery, the fascia can become too tight and may form fascial adhesions that can be felt under the skin as knots or ropes in the muscles. These adhesions can trap nerves and restrict blood flow and movement of the muscles, which puts the body out of balance. Tight fasciae are often responsible for poor posture and imbalances in the breathing and heart rhythms.

The VibraCussor can be effective in treating myofascial trigger points, frozen shoulder, TMJ (jaw) problems, joint fixation (particularly of the shoulder, elbow, hand, hip, knee and foot), muscle fatigue and fascial adhesions. With VibraCussor treatment, nervous system tension is released, muscle spasms are reduced and lymph and blood circulation are encouraged. This helps to reduce musculoskeletal pain and allows the patient to reduce or eliminate the need for pain medication, in addition to increasing their range of movement.

According to Jeff Banaszak of Back9Fitness.com, “Besides targeting tight tissues, the benefits of mechanical compressive therapy include stimulation of body proprioceptors. Prioprioceptors are specialized cells found within joints and muscles that when activated help protect and improve function. By stimulating the proprioceptors, the therapist can activate a particular muscle needed to control posture, balance and strength.”

Most chiropractic patients report that the VibraCussor is very relaxing, and in addition to releasing fascial adhesions some have reported that it releases emotions as well, helping to eliminate the stress that is so often the cause of the tightness and adhesions in the first place. The VibraCussor is a gentle, non-invasive form of treatment that can be a positive addition to your regular chiropractic care.

 

 

04
Nov
13

Cleansing: What Does the Science Really Say?


preparation teaCleansing, sometimes also referred to as detoxification, has been all the rage in recent years among those interested in alternative medicine. The theory is that the body accumulates toxins from the environment in the form of pollution, processed foods and food additives (and even sometimes toxins created by the body itself), so a “body cleanse” or “detox” is necessary to rid ourselves of these harmful toxins. Those who promote detox programs have developed special diets along with a host of (often costly). Colon cleanses are another form of body detoxification that is popular in some alternative medicine circles. But scientific evidence shows that special cleansing regimes do not provide any additional health benefits, and in some cases may even be dangerous.

A noted epidemiologist from the Harvard School of Public Health, Dr. Frank Sacks, says of cleansing, “There is no basis in human biology that indicates we need fasting or any other detox formula to detoxify the body because we have our own internal organs and immune system that take care of excreting toxins.” Our bodies are expert at getting rid of unwanted substances.

Colon cleansing dates back to the days of ancient Egypt where it was thought that material in the intestines could poison the body. This theory became popular again in the late 19th century when the term “autointoxication” was coined, which led to resurgence in the use of enemas in perfectly healthy people. However, a study performed by Dr. Ranit Mishori and colleagues at Washington D.C.’s Georgetown University found that colon cleanses could actually be harmful for many people, causing nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea.

First of all, there is no way by which toxins can be absorbed into the blood through the colon. Almost all nutrient absorption takes place in the small intestine, and any toxins that have been excreted by the liver and kidneys is efficiently expelled in the urine and feces. Meanwhile, injecting fluid into the colon in the form of an enema or colonic on a regular basis not only does not aid your body in clearing toxins, but it can remove beneficial bacteria, in addition to robbing your body of much-needed electrolytes. Also, regular colon cleanses can interfere with your body’s ability to create normal bowel movements, so you become dependent on enemas.

Most doctors agree that fasting or pursuing an extreme detox diet is detrimental to long-term health. The body starved of nutrients does not operate efficiently, and will go into conservation mode. This means that your metabolism will slow down and any of the water weight you lost in the initial days of the diet (very little of the weight lost in fasting is fat) will come back in the form of accumulated fat once you start eating again, as your body will be burning fewer calories.

There is no doubt that eating processed foods filled with chemical additives and preservatives is not good for health. But you don’t need to go on a special detox diet to improve your health. Simply drink plenty of water and substitute fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, moderate amounts of fish and organic meat for the processed foods you are now eating. Your body will take care of getting rid of any toxins you may have ingested and you will be healthier without having to spend money for a special diet that makes you feel miserable and could even be harmful to your health.

Dr Dubois, DC, CCSP

Pierre DuboisDr. Dubois, a Swiss physician, and a Triangle Certified Sport Chiropractor has over 20 years of experience in the treatment and prevention of disorders of the musculoskeletal system. Amongst his patients, two world champions in martial arts (gold medalists in 2005 WMJA), one carrier of the Olympic flame in 2004, and numerous soccer players, swimmers and athletes of all levels who benefited from his chiropractic care.

 




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