This post is for my inner metrosexual, and my inner cheapskate, and my inner health nut. I spent a large part of my weekend reading this book, Slow Death By Rubber Duck. The book is about two environmentalists who used their bodys as experiments to see how toxic every day things are. They would do things like live extremely natural for a couple of days, take their blood, then start washing their hair and using regular commercial cleaning products, then take their blood again to see changes in levels of certain chemicals. The results were nothing sort of scary. (All the men out there, just look up what a class of chemicals called "phthalates" do to your testicles and you'll know exactly what I mean.) Needless to say, we are exposed to a myriad of new chemicals every year, and we probably don't know what many of them do to our physiology, and a few of them we damage our body... for sure.
My personal experience with this started with my wife, who had recently started using stuff like coconut oil for her moisturizer. I'm balding like a 30 year old, but almost everything else about me is teenager-ish. For example, when my wife and I were on our honeymoon, the cruiseliner wouldn't let us off the boat without written permission from our parents. That's how "old" I look. The downside of this is I still occasionally breakout with acne. Yeah, it's awesome.
Well my wife recommended I try washing my face with baking soda. My first question: Umm... how? Luckily I'm OK-smart and figured that out fairly quickly. What followed was a cleaner looking face than I could remember. This was a really, really cool find for a couple of reasons. The first being cost. Facial cleansers are crazy expensive when compared to baking soda and water (baking soda = 50¢ for a box!), the second being that baking soda most likely has a less toxic burden. Baking soda was a doubly whammy in the awesome scale! That made me ask, Are there any other household beauty products that I could simplify for my health and wallet?
So, for the next few posts I want to share a few tricks that I learned. Don't worry, I'm a clean guy. In other words, I don't want to ever, ever, ever smell hippy-ish (no offense meant). My job forces my to be dangerously up and close with my patients, and there's nothing worse than a chiropractor who smells of B.O. and garlic. If it doesn't pass this first, basic test, it won't get in my post. I hope you enjoy!
This post is for me. Read on if you want, but I did the research for myself. Every spring, I go off sneezing like a tommy gun for about two weeks. It's uber annoying to me and all those around me, and my patients. Who likes getting sneezed on when they're getting their neck worked on? Me! Meeee!
For some reason Farmington gets hit worse than others. Maybe it's a combo of all the energy production chemical waste in the air, and the fact that we're pretty windy and dry; but we get hit with the dirt and pollen like those test dummies in Alamogordo get dropped with nukes. It's wild. If in about 12 years you want to make a lot of money, start going to graduate school with the intent of getting your MD and then specializing in allergies with a target on setting up shop in Farmington. You'll have customers lined out the door.
If you don't want to be one of those customers, try these things:
1) Order a RAST test. See if there's anything you're eating that's tipping off your allergic reactions as well. Eliminating wheat or dairy may prove to help your hay fever during the spring. The technical name for this food allergy and hay fever connection is oral allergy syndrome.
2) Change your house's filter. Check the air filter in your house, buying a $6 filter may be the difference in circulating all those air borne allergens and cutting them down dramatically. Try it. Worse case scenario is that you wasted $6, but have cleaner air in the house.
3) Consider buying some indoor plants. This is related to number two. The principle is to keep your house's air cleaner, thereby reducing the load to your body whenever you're at home. I.E. control the variables you can control. You probably can't afford to go around and burn every pinon tree down to the ground in hopes that you'll stop sneezing (that would be bad for the environment as well), but you can have a small impact on the air that circulates in your home. NASA did some research (here and here) on which plants are the best at cleaning air. Due to various energy producing industries around here, I've been told that we have more problems with the famed BTEX compounds than other areas. As such, Farmingtonians may want a plant that is good at getting rid of xylene. May I suggest a "Red-Edged Dracaena" (dracaena marginata)? This plant is fantastic at dealing with the harmful organic compounds floating around out there, the only downside is that it requires a lot of light, so you can't put it in places that may need it that don't have a lot of windows.
4) If dealing with a plant isn't your thing, and you have disposable income that needs disposing off, you could consider an air filter. Consumer reports has already done most of the research here, you can read what they have to say about the products available here.
There's three simple tips to help you ward off the nasty onset of allergies that seems to hit a lot of us this time of year. Keep healthy, keep sneeze-less my friends!
We have a sick kid.
Our poor little sick kid, he won't be able to . . .
You don't know what it's like to have a sick kid, you must have to . . .
If I went to the store and was shopping in the milk aisle, if there was a large red and black sticker with a skull and crossbones, I would do a double-take on that. You can be sure as hell I wouldn't buy that particular carton of milk. Such is the power of a label. That label told me, even without directly telling me, that there was something wrong about that milk, as a result, I treated it differently.
Labels extend far beyond the poison control into our health destinies. Does this sound familiar? ADHD. OCD. Dumb. Slow. Dyslexic. Short. Weak. And the one I hate the most: sick.
We've become a culture that labels sickness as a part of who we are instead of recognizing it as a state in a dynamic system. My boy had a food allergy that we were unaware for some time, on top of that he contracted a virus (hand, foot and mouth) that made him flare up and develop extremely sensitive skin. Luckily, he had a great allergist who gave him medication to get him over his extremely inflammatory slump, and -- I'm going to toot his parents' horn here -- then he had a couple of parents who understood health enough to provide his body with the raw materials it needed to be able to be healthy.
But, a label has stuck.
I've heard this more than once, and it drives me bonkers. How's your sick kid?
Let me tell you the ways that question is wrong. First off, the wording. I am always careful to say Your child is fighting a sickness, not Your child is sick. It's a subtle change that can have big effects. Calling a young, developing mind a "sick kid" over and over again, and that label becomes a part of them instead of accurately describing a passing phase. That label can even come so much a part of a young mind that he/she begins defending that label of sickness because they have come to identify themselves with it. You've met those people that are in this phase, those people that gladly own their sickness and wear it like a merit badge; these are also the same people that -- despite seeing the most expensive doctors around the country -- can't find "help" for their "illness", because deep down inside they don't want to be cured. Being cured would mean losing a part of them that they believe makes them unique and special from everyone else, and everyone needs to feel unique and special -- but holding on to a disabling label isn't the healthiest way to do this.
On the flip side, you can witness the exact opposite in those stalwart soles who have an honest-to-goodness challenge in their life that can't be worked away with healthy lifestyles, and you see these people thriving because they refuse to accept their "label". People like this guy.
Truth be told, my "sick" boy is far from sick. Many occasions I think he's too healthy, and I wish he'd back off a little bit on the vibrant life energy. Sheesh. He has more energy than a caffeinated chihuahua, picks up more words than should (What did you just say?!), and can operate an iPad. The foods he are allergic to are mostly foods that you shouldn't be eating. Period. Imagine a child that only ate fresh fruit and vegetables, and wild, organic meats? Umm, that's my boy. His sensitivities to dairy, peanuts, and soy have only forced our family to eat healthier. Our boy is a blessing.
Oh that poor soul, he can't eat that diabetes-inducing ice cream like all other healthy children?
Yeah, you nailed it. Watch those labels.
First off, don't take that line as a write-off to do exercises in general. Lately I've been turned on to the research of James Levine, from the Mayo clinic. He's an expert in obesity, and the past few years he's looked at the effect of being a couch potato who exercises. This is that person who wakes up, goes for a 30 minute run in the morning, then sits at a desk for the rest of the day. There may even be some psychological okay that says, "Oh, don't worry, you can take it easy, you exercised today."
This is very, very wrong.
According to Levine, strong bouts of exercise aren't enough to overcome the devastating health consequences from a sedentary lifestyle. If humans are to be healthy and strong, their overall life activities must increase as well. Taken in the light of evolutionary biology, this makes sense. Human beings were constantly moving, climbing, hunting, foraging, with a few bouts of intense physical activity mixed in. The research shows that we should mimick this.
How, do you ask?
MY QUICK-FIX LIST TO INCREASE OVERALL ENERGY PRODUCTION
1) Buy a pedometer. Here's a nice german one that is Prime Eligible (free two day shipping!). That which we measure, we improve. Watch how many more times you take the stairs instead of the elevator when you have one of those things in your pocket. It's like a mini-coach, silently whispering in your ear that you can do more, move more. If you want a Rolls Royce of pedometers, check out the FitBit -- it adds in sleep tracking and a social component as well, and has a sexy, Nike-esque look to it as well.
2) Consider a standing desk. I'm writing at a desk right now. Thanks Microsoft, I'll blame my arteriosclerosis on you. We can't avoid the pitfalls of extreme comfort. We still have to use computers, but there's ways we can make those sedentary activities less sedentary. Standing is the number one, easiest way to do it. This doesn't have to cost a dime: pile some books on top of each other to raise your laptop or place your laptop on the kitchen counter.
3) Have an activity timer. Get an egg timer, set it for an hour, when an hour goes off, do ten pushups, or 20 standing squats, or 15 burpees if you're a masochist. How long did that take? 30 seconds? How's your energy levels? Heart rate? Do that throughout the day and you'll be a new person.
I get this question almost every day. When studying, I find it important to understand principles, then the details seem to fall right in line. Although tailored, specific exercises prescriptions work wonders, there is no "one size fits all" program for, let's say, tension headaches. The best thing one can do is learn the principles behind how exercise works to alleviate pain and muscle knots.
Exercise Principle For The Day: Motion is medicine for your brain. The brain craves bodily movement and the barrage of electrical firing that comes with it. A cool side effect of moving your body is that is helps to regulate pain levels of all sorts because it helps create a healthier brain that will probably be more apt to not express pain. (I spoke on the subject that pain is a brain output not an input last post.) Therefore, it's more important that you move than how you move. Let's take the person with a tight neck from working at the computer for all hours. If this person does a google search for "stretches for tight neck" she'll find a ton of cool youtube videos. These may or may not help. Instead of looking for the absolutely perfect stretch for that one muscle at the top of your shoulder blade, try setting a timer on your phone or watch for 30 minutes. Every time this timer goes off, stand up from you desk, and move you head around gently (not spasmodically... please) in all different ways: looking far to the right and left, looking up and down, and giving a good yawn (relaxing the front neck muscles). Then, go back to your desk and reset the timer.
Just moving around and avoiding the stagnant postures we frequently subject our body to day in and day out will work wonders for your pain levels. Worry less about the miracle exercise and/or stretch, and focus more on making sure you give your brain enough movement.
There... you have one of my secrets.
Pain is amazingly complex, and I must first give the disclaimer is that there is much we are still learning about pain. This post isn't about what we do know, it's about what we know and probably know, and how this conflicts with a popular mis-understandings about pain.
Myth: Damage In Your Body = Pain
Few things are clearer than this, pain does not come from nerves, or pain pathways; bain is a brain output, not an input. I repeat (because this is absolutely vitally important, if you get nothing else from this post, get this): pain is a brain output, not a brain input. Yes, there are neurological pathways that get activated when the body gets an ache, a sprain, a cut, but activation of these neurological pathways causes pain in some subjects, and no pain in others. This explains why one person is out of work for the afternoon with a papercut and the next may be coming into work with a broken leg. Pain is a vary individualized brain expression dependant on more factors than just the activation of some neurons.
A pioneer in these field is a man by the name of Melzack, and his research paper regarding what goes into expressing pain can be downloaded and read in full from HERE. His theories are summed up in the graphic below:
What's hopeful about more accurate description of pain is that is provides hope for those dealing with nasty, chronic pain that can't be pin pointed with any x-ray, MRI, or labwork. People who suffer with chronic pain hear this all the time, and it makes me furious: "Umm, you're MRI must be fine. It's probably all in your head."
This makes me want to slap someone. Of course it's all in your head! Everything is all in your head! The misconception is that because pain is sometimes expressed in the absence of anything visibly messed up on imaging or lab work (i.e. no tumor pushing on stuff, or no pinched nerve in the spine), that we can't do anything about it. WRONG. Look at the image above, how many other variables can we can we manipulate that feed into the nervous system, other than just rx'ing ibuprofen for inflammation? I'll give you a hint: try to label all the variables that are targeted with pharmaceuticals. OK, good. Now, how many variables does that leave untouched if we stop there. Answer: a lot.
The good news is that this myth is slowly being overturn by the masses of healthcare providers, but we still have a long way to go. I'll leave you with two great resources to delve into the subject of pain even further:
1) The guys who are basically at the forefront of this research have a website, go to that website here. Abso-friggin'-lutely jam packed with amazing research... for free.
2) An amazing book that is worth its weight in gold. Literally, reading and understanding pain may prove to be one of the most effective therapies in treating pain in the long run. Here is the book, if you struggle with chronic pain, dish out the cash and give it a read.
Here's to kickin' pain in the face.
Your heart. What more ironic and appropriate than to talk a little bit about the organ of your existence. Sadly, much of what you know about it is false. It does not look like the silhouette of buttocks with pointy, arrowhead underside. I have no idea where this symbol came from.
It's a hard worker. Approximately 42 BILLION beats per year, give or take a million. It never sleeps. Its going when you're not going.
And, statistically, its failing is the reason you, as an American, will die. Way to be a bummer for Valentines, Josh! I'm not trying to be a Debbie Downer, only trying to illuminate the possibility that your heart may need some extra love.
So I leave you with a thought and a book: 1.) That soda pop is probably more dangerous to your heart than the hamburger. 2.) The Cure For Heart Disease.
I hope you have a great rest of the day, that you eat some chocolate sugary goodness today (even if it isn't the best for you), and that you take better care of your heart in the year to come.
With perfect timing, even more research was recently released looked at gains in life expectancy with those who are active with their spare time. The study examined life expectancy increases and decreases according to whether or not participants in the study followed the following recommendations:
• 2.5 hours of moderate activity per week (moderate defined as activity vigorous enough that one can talk, but not sing), or
• 1.25 hours of vigorous activity per week (vigorous defined as activity where one can only get a couple of words out before getting out of breath)
Now, these recommendations aren't that difficult. Basically, at least one time per week, for the take the time one would take watching a movie, and go do something physical instead. 2.5 hours, if you parcel this out for the week, is 21.42 minutes per day; if you take the weekends off, this is 30 minutes per day. Now, if you're really short on time and went and exercises vigorously, it's around 11 minutes per day, 15 minutes if you want to keep your weekends exercise free. Not too excessive, no? Well the gains were excessive! Those who followed the study gained an estimated 3.4 years to their life; those who went for the gold and doubled this recommendation added an estimated 4.2 years to their total life expectancy. In medical statistics terms, this is huge. If a drug could do this, you know nearly every doc would be considering getting on this. 3.4 years!
The good news for us that aren't the driven, even doing a measly half of the recommended requirement for physical activity (think of only a ten minute walk!) added an average 1.8 years to life. This is great news for us looking to make a change. Even little increases in physical activity will yeild dramatic results. In business terms, the ROI (return on investment) is huge and cannot be overemphasized.
What happens this month is difficult, though. Things get busy. They already started getting busy with Halloween, then there's Thanksgiving, and Black Friday, then Hannakuh, Christmas, and New Years. We have a lot going on.
Personally, my activity level has been put onto "weekend warrior" status as of late, and I'm feeling it: decreased energy, mental fatigue, lack of happiness. Playing a crazy game of paintball on the weekend isn't enough to keep my system at its peak all weak.
So, publicly, I'm repenting of my former follies and returning to full activity status, and I invite you to come along. Enjoy the added years to your life, as well as the added life to your years. Don't let the cold weather be your excuse.
"The current system is not working. We don't need more debate about who should pay for healthcare, we should be debating what kind of healthcare we should pay for." -Dr. James Chestnut
There is a subtle shift happening throughout healthcare. Like most advances in thinking, it is illuminating past errors. I want to discuss why we get sick, what we used to think about this subject, and contrast how this is different from present truths. This subject is broad, but I will try to simplify it as much as I can. As a result, I will be looking at general rules, not the rare exceptions to the rules.
Behold my simple lists of awesomeness:
OLD THINKING NEW THINKING
Genes cause my diseases Genes are heavily influences by environment
Sick because missing right medicine Sick because missing the right nutrition
Body is separate from mind/brain Body is intricately connected with mind/brain
Infectious diseases kill most people Lifestyle diseases kill most people
My health is the responsibility of the Dr./insurance company/mom & dad
My health is no one's responsibility but my own
Do you see the contrasts between the two modes of thinking? I would encourage every consumer to do their research, and ask yourself, Why am I sick? What is making me sick? Most likely, the answer you'll write down will point to either:
a) There's something your body needs, that you're not giving it. This is all the stuff you already know, that you hear on the nightly news and The Doctors every week. "You should eat your vegetables." "Exercising 30 minutes a day cuts your risk of stroke by more than half!"
b) Or, you're sick because you're giving your body too much of the bad stuff. "Trans fats are bad!" "Eating refined sugars will give you diabetes." Or, the one you've been hearing for years "ZOMG! Stop SMOKING!!! It'll kill you and your babies!"
We all know these things. Now, there's a few you may not know about (What?! Diary is bad for me?), but for the most part, I haven't told you anything new. The question is: do you directly correlate that delicious soda pop with diabetes? Or a sedentary lifestyle with early onset dementia? Probably not.
You now know a little bit more about what gets us sick, and that it's probably a result of poor health habits. Let me show you one of my favorite slides that I frequently show at the end of lectures I give. On the far left is the number zero, which is death; on the far right is the number ten, which would be absolutely vibrant health -- health so awesome that it couldn't get any better, Jack-Lalanne-type health. We're all somewhere in between, according to our choices. Every time you pick the apple over the donut (or the exercise over the couch, or the moment of gratitude over complaining), you're making yourself healthier; every time you choose the donut over the apple, you're moving closer to death a little bit quicker.
It's important to note that it's OK to have a donut every now and then. There's something special about breaking the rules and splurging every now and then. Just as long as you're choosing the apple far more than the donut, you'll have a good life.
Now that you know, you're responsible. Go choose "healthy."
Ack, I'm sore all over. My bones hurt. My teeth ache. I'm moody. Do I have fibromyalgia?
Maybe. But something you should check before you spend thousands of dollars on eight different doctor's appointments is: your vitamin D levels!
I've been studying Dr. Holick's work recently. The man doesn't look like it at all, but he's one of the world's leading experts in the sun and the harmful and beneficial effects of radiation on human beings. Such work has made him an expert in vitamin D.
Maybe you've heard of vitamin D. Your doctor probably said you should take a calcium supplement with D in it for your bones. Your doctor was right! But have you ever wondered why? Why do I need to take vitamin D? What's it all about?
No, you haven't? Oh... well, it's so important that I'm going to blog about it anyways.
First off, vitamin D is the the Daylight vitamin. UVB rays hit your skin, and a chemical cascade goes underway that ultimately raises blood levels of vitamin D.
Secondly, vitamin D is responsible for hard bones. You see, vitamin D is the gatekeeper that allows your body to utilize calcium. Without vitamin D, all the calcium from your gallon challenge is urinated out without ever being deposited in your bones. Sturdy, hard bones are something a chiropractor is concerned with; I'm concerned over this.
The crazy thing about vitamin D is that it acts more like a hormone than a vitamin, and that all sorts of cells have receptors for this hormone from your brain cells to your fat cells. Mess up this hormone's levels, mess up those cells... basically. In areas where people don't get daylight (i.e. they don't get vitamin D), cancer levels go up. But people have been so scared by dermotologists into getting skin cancer that everyone is lathering up on the sunscreen and making what little outside time we get practically useless as far as vitamin D is concerned.
So, how can you fight this raging vitamin D deficiency that may be making you have bone pains and a greater chance for internal cancers? First, get outside. You don't need to be outside all the time, but get some tanning time 1 to 2 times a week. If you're doing this outside, it must be from 10AM to 3PM to get UVB rays to activate vitamin D. UVA are the main rays present outside of this time window, and just mess up your skin without the vitamin D benifit. Also, November through January are difficult times to build up vitamin D levels because of the angle of the sun's rays and how the ozone is situated just right as to bounce UVB rays away during these months. How do you survive winter, then, without vitamin D? By building up vitamin D storage in your fat cells, like the hibernating bear, during summer months.
What if you're not able to get outside? Take vitamin D orally. According to Holick, 2,000 IU's/day if you're an adult, 1,000 IU's/day if you're a small kid. We carry a great vitamin D, suspended in organic olive oil, 1,000 IU's per two drops of oil, 500 servings in a bottle, for $25.99. Buy ours if you're worried about quality control. Now, sunshine is a better way to get D than supplementation, but supplementation is great insurance just in case you can't get outside. It's impossible to get vitamin D toxicity from sunlight exposure, and only a very, very, very slim chance of getting d-toxicity from supplementation. Honestly, you're probably ravagingly deficient in this hormone anyways. Which brings me to my next point.
Test the sucka'! I've phoned around Farmington, and yes! -- there are labs that will test blood levels of vitamin D. The cost is$50, and results take 2 weeks to get. Spend the money, take the test, and treat yourself for 3 months, and then re-test. I LOVE testing, treating, and re-testing; it takes the guess work out of it all and provides the patient and the provider with greater certainty. Don't wait until you're a 50 year old osteoporotic female until you get your vitamin D levels evaluated and taken care of... the damage is already done by that point! Yes, you can supplement without testing, but how much more committed would you be to taking your vitamin D on a daily basis if you had the lab work in your hand saying you had crazy-low blood levels of the stuff? A little more committed, no? Sometimes having the paperwork is worth its weight in gold.
You know how I'm always freaking out about omega-3 fatty acids? Well, the more I read about vitamin D, the more I think that it is an "omega-3" level of a supplement. Meaning, that everyone should be making sure that this is taken care of so their body can perform the processes it needs to.