Tight shoulders? Blame it on the sugar?

Dr. Samelak is excited to have Amber Horn, NTP, LMT as a guest blogger today! Amber tackles tough topics with her clients like how blood sugar can impact your posture. I feel like I want to shout that out- Did you even know that your tight shoulders and hunched posture could be, in part, blood sugar related?

Amber and I recently geeked out about this topic and thus, a blog was born!

Can my tight shoulders be tight because of my blood sugar?

shallow focus photography of woman in black shirt
Photo by Ezekixl Akinnewu on

Yes, it’s true! Let’s talk logistics.

Excess sugar consumption puts a strain on your whole body, but most notably your pancreas. One of the many functions of the pancreas is to release insulin when blood sugar rises. Blood sugar rises from stress, eating sugar, processed carbohydrates, and even fruit. Insulin is a hormone that acts as a key to unlock the cell “door” to allow glucose (sugar) into the cell and out of the bloodstream. Eating many meals and a diet high in sugar and processed carbs creates the need for constant insulin production. The pancreas then gets tired AND the cells stop listening when insulin attempts to usher sugar into the cell (insulin resistance). This happens over time and will be represented by low energy (especially after meals), difficulty losing weight, high fasting glucose and/or HA1C, among other symptoms. Since our bodies are essentially a fancy electrical system, this imbalance starts diminishing connections throughout the body.

One of these connections is muscle to organ and organ to muscle. These occur in common pairs throughout the body. Due to this connection, when an organ is in stress, it weakens the corresponding muscle. This allows the opposing muscle to become chronically tight, which creates adverse muscle and structure patterns. (Think poor posture or feeling tight no matter how much you stretch) The latissimus dorsi muscle corresponds to the pancreas and when the pancreas is stressed it weakens the lats, allowing the trapezius (brings shoulders to ears) to tighten without opposition. You’ll go broke spending money on bodywork if don’t address the root cause, which is a pooped out pancreas from excessive sugar intake. Who knew?!

Below are some action items to help balance blood sugar so your bodywork is worthwhile AND sustainable.

Action Items:


  • Keep sugar intake to 25g a day maximum.


Recent World Health Organization recommendations are for 25 grams or less of added sugar per day. Just for reference, a can of Pepsi has 33 grams of sugar and a lot of popular granola bars have 7-10 grams of sugar! If you’re not paying attention, you can meet your maximum by lunch. This leads into our next item.


  • Check your labels


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Photo by Stokpic on

Food manufacturers like to hide added sugar in anything and everything. Educate yourself on all the names that sugar is listed under on a label. It’s in everything from ketchup and almond milk to granola bars and spaghetti sauce. A great question to ask yourself while shopping is “Does this food have ingredients or is it ingredients?” Fill your cart with ingredients for the most part and you will be on your way to keeping your blood sugar balanced. This often involves shopping the perimeter of the grocery store instead of the aisles.


  • Always pair carbohydrates with protein and fat.


Even if it’s not added sugar, carbohydrates can still spike blood sugar. Start thinking of snacks as mini meals and set yourself up with a carbohydrate, protein, and fat. This will help prevent sugar highs and dips and creates a food template and blood sugar that is in balance.


By helping to keep your blood sugar regulated, you can support your organ systems and your overall health. Please remember that this blog is not intended to be medical advice. It is important to consult with your medical doctor, chiropractor, nutritionist/dietician, etc prior to making major dietary changes to be sure that your body can handle the changes.

About the Author:
fullsizeoutput_18Amber is a professional trifecta, seeing clients as a functional nutritionist, massage therapist, and personal trainer. Her passion is figuring out the cause of imbalances that her clients come in with. After decreasing her own depression and regulating hypoglycemia through food choices and targeted supplements, her focus is helping others find optimal mood balance and decrease symptoms related to diabetes and other blood sugar imbalances. Amber lives in the Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle with her husband, Steve and adorable pittie, Lucy. In her spare time she enjoys hiking and reading, and is a die-hard Gryffindor.

The Safety Aspect of Newborn Photography

Newborn photography is an adorable and growing field. Dr. Samelak is excited to host Uzma Hamid, certified infant photographer, as a guest blogger. In her post, Uzma shares a couple of the technical and (more important) safety considerations that must be taken into account when photographing newborns and infants. We hope that you gain some valuable knowledge in this blog and that you share it with your friends and families!

Please read on to learn more about Safety and Newborn Photography!

It is an honor to be chosen (read: trusted) to photograph a little new human who, almost always, is the center of many people’s universes. One very major aspect of that “trust” is ensuring the safety of the baby during the session. Like I frequently say, photos are treasures, but no photo is worth risking the safety of a human, let alone, the littlest one.

Unfortunately, newborn photographers are not required to complete any form of training or education before they are deemed qualified to photograph babies. This is especially relevant in case of styled newborn sessions, where babies are posed in those cute, squishy little poses.
This is not to say that such education, training and certifications are not available. Many photographers -who care enough – do enroll in, complete and maintain these certifications. This should be the norm; but unfortunately, such photographers are still a bleak minority.
For instance, the photo in this post is a composite (read: digitally created) image of three separate photographs: first, of just the hot-air balloon prop, without placing the baby in it; the second and the third, of just the baby in the basket with the ball (serving as the balloon) removed and the baby’s head carefully supported.

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A newborn baby cannot support his/her own head. Hence, poses such as “the froggy” or “the potato- sack” require specific skills, know-how and expertise. A different kind of skill and caution is required when props are used. If older siblings are participating in the session (and why shouldn’t they?), there is an extra layer of care that is desired.

Needless to say, other basic precautions are always required to make the space safe, which includes not only ensuring safe handling of the baby, and safe handling of
photography equipment around the baby, but also other environmental factors, such as, temperature, humidity, air quality, and hygiene.
There is a lot that goes into photographing a newborn, other than the act of photography itself.

Being mindful of a newborn’s physiology, reflexes, sensitivities (such as the umbilical cord if it is still attached, and the belly-button site if it has fallen off; the site of circumcision if one is performed; etc.), and watching out for signs of distress are just a few to name. Take a baby’s immature circulatory system for instance.
Cyanosis is defined as a bluish discoloration, especially of the skin and mucous membranes, due to excessive concentration of deoxyhemoglobin in the blood caused by deoxygenation. Acrocyanosis refers to blueness in the hands and feet. It is marked by a mottled blue or red discoloration of the skin on the fingers and wrists and the toes and ankles. Central cyanosis is referred to as bluish discoloration around the core, lips and tongue and can be quite a bit more dangerous. Certain poses, if not performed
correctly, can cause a risk of cyanosis. For example, chest compression due to tight wrapping, leaving a baby unsupported in a position for too long, closing off the airway as can sometimes result from leaning the chin, or the area under the jaw on the edge of a prop or by positioning babies upright without supporting the weight of the head, thus leaving the head to rest on and compress into the wrists/hands.

This piece is not meant to scare anyone; rather to educate and inform. It is coming from a place of love.

Parents, please choose a photographer for your precious little one not only on the basis of the pretty photographs that you see in their portfolios; but after interviewing them and asking them how they intend to create any specific shots you (or they) may want. Also, do your own research. Professional organizations like the American Association of Newborn Photography Safety (AANPS) and Accredited Professional Newborn Photographers International (APNPI) not only train and certify newborn photographers, but also host public lists of certified photographers by location. Check their online directories to find trained and certified photographers near you.
And always trust your parental instinct.

If there are any questions that I can answer for you, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.


Uzma M. Hamid wears two professional hats: one, that of a maternity, newborn and family photographer; and two, a residential real-estate broker. She lives in Kirkland, WA, with her loving husband and adorable son, and serves families in the Puget Sound Area with their photography and real estate needs. As you might have guessed, she is an AANPS- and APNPI-certified newborn photographer, and can be reached at: or

Book Review: Every Woman’s Guide to Foot Pain Relief

In case you hadn’t noticed from my previous blogs about foot care and going barefoot… I am kind of obsessed with healthy feet. As a Chiropractor, I see the spinal changes and postural changes that occur in my patients from poor footwear choices or injured feet on a daily basis.


Katy Bowman’s book, Every Woman’s Guide to Foot Pain Relief, belongs on every household’s bookshelf! In her book, Bowman breaks down the details of how your feet move, how they are built, and the basics of both self foot maintenance and rehabilitation. The reality is that most women will experience severe foot pain at some point in their lives. With simple daily activities and stretches… and maybe some better footwear choices… these can be overcome, but most importantly prevented.

Here are some of my favorite take-home points from this book:

  1. Wearing shoes all the time is like living your life with mittens on.x-ray-223836_1920
  2. Your feet are unlike anyone else’s.
  3. Your toes should be able to move independently (This sounds crazy, I KNOW! But I am currently working on this feat).
  4. A shoe whose sole is taller at the back than the front is a heel… even if it’s a running shoe.
  5. Shoes should be foot-shaped.
  6. Ditch the Flip-Flop.
  7. Barefoot time is essential!!
  8. You have the power to change your own feet- and your HEALTH.

I also really appreciated the practical exercises in the back of the book and am implementing them into my own nightly routine. I highly recommend reading this book and starting to assess and correct your footwear and your feet. I am also excited to start reading more of Katy Bowman’s books 🙂

I’ll leave you with this quote from her book:

feet-619399_1920“Human tissue is phenomenal stuff. When you make small changes in your movement patterns, you nudge yourself down a new physiological path. The body works to tear down old or underused tissue every day, and builds up tissues that are in greatest demand. The body continuously adapts to whatever you are doing now. Changing your habits will change your life!”- Katy Bowman


Why Pregnancy Massage?

Please welcome Lize Williams as a guest blogger for Seed of Life! Lize is a massage therapist specializing in pre and postnatal massage- in the home. She is passionate about helping parents navigate the perinatal period through massage. We are excited to have her blogging with us!

Benefits of Pregnancy Massage

Pretty much anyone who has been pregnant has had someone tell them “Ooh, you should get a pregnancy massage!” And sure, massage sounds great, but what does that have to do with pregnancy?

As it turns out, quite a lot. There are a number of reasons to get massage while you are pregnant, some of which are the same as the reasons for getting a massage in general, and some of which are specific to pregnancy. Here are some benefits specific to pregnancy massage:

  1. Massage reduces strain on muscles. Perhaps the most obvious benefit of pregnancy massage is that it makes your sore muscles feel better. Pregnancy increases muscle soreness in several ways: you are carrying more weight, your joints aren’t carrying their full load due to loosened ligaments so the muscles have to pick up the slack, and your posture changes as your center of gravity shifts. All of this leads to increased strain on your muscles, which get fatigued faster, and can be more prone to injury.
  2. Massage can lower anxiety and stress hormones, resulting in a decrease in premature delivery and birth complications. This may seem like a wild claim, but Dr. Tiffany Field did a study at the Touch Research Institute on the effects of massage on pregnant women, and women who received regular massage during their pregnancy had improved deliveries!
  3. Massage can improve emotional well-being. Along with the reduction of stress hormones, massage can decrease depression and anxiety, and increase production of feel-good hormone serotonin. Pregnancy can be an exciting time, but it is also a time of change, and change is stressful. Even in the best of circumstances pregnancy can bring some challenging emotions, and massage can help balance those through hormonal effects and calming the sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system.massage-486700_1920
  4. Massage can improve blood and lymph flow. Improving lymphatic flow can decrease swelling, which is a common pregnancy complaint especially in the feet, ankles, and legs. Improvements in blood circulation can benefit blood pressure and relieve headaches.
  5. Massage improves posture. By relieving tension in various muscles, it can be easier to realign into good posture. Massage therapists can also help your posture by teaching you what good posture looks and feels like for your changing body. Proper alignment can help reduce frequent pregnancy-related complaints, such as low back pain, shoulder pain, sciatica and headaches.
  6. Massage can improve sleep. By decreasing stress and physical discomfort, massage can help mothers-to-be sleep better. Massage therapists can also give advice on how to properly position pillows to be adequately supportive and relieve stress on your body when you lie down.
  7. Massage can help mothers prepare for labor. By learning how to relax, and practicing relaxing as a response to touch, pregnant women can have easier labor thanks to their experiences with massage during pregnancy. Associating touch and relaxation ahead of time can help a birth partner’s touch be more effective during labor.
  8. baby-499976_1920Massage during pregnancy may increase how much loving touch mothers provide their infants. Touch is hugely important for human development. Even with all our other physical needs met, without touch, babies fail to thrive. Women who receive compassionate touch (such as through massage) during their pregnancy and labor go on to touch their infants more, in a more nurturing way. This creates more security and attachment for the baby, versus babies who are touched less and can be more aggressive and withdrawn.
  9. Massage can support lactation. Positive touch stimulates production of the hormone prolactin, which has multiple effects on the body, including increasing milk supply and nesting and nurturing instincts.
  10. Massage can help you enjoy your changing body. In a culture obsessed with women’s bodies, the weight gain and changes in shape associated with pregnancy can be hard on our self-esteem. We may avoid being touched or looked at by even our intimate partners. In addition to reducing pregnancy pains, massage can also help you reconnect to your body in a positive, non-threatening way, experiencing touch without the worry of attractiveness. Your body is doing a wonderful thing, but more than that, it IS a wonderful thing, and sometimes we just need a little extra reminder of that through an enjoyable physical experience.

[1] Nurturing Massage for Pregnancy by Leslie Stager


Finished 1.JPGLize Williams is a Licensed Massage Therapist whose work focuses on the strains of bearing and raising children. After having her own daughter she realized just how hard engaging in self-care can be for new mothers, so she founded Motherhood Massage, a house-call based massage practice designed to reduce the barriers to self-care for mothers, mothers-to-be, and other caregivers. She recognizes that amongst all the joy, motherhood can also be challenging and isolating, and works to help her clients feel more connected to themselves, their families, and their world through the healing power of touch. Her work combines treatment and relaxation, to help soothe and strengthen her clients’ bodies and minds. The perinatal period is rife with changes and challenges, and Lize views her work as a wholistic support for her clients, helping them with face whatever the journey into parenthood is throwing their way. She is a certified MotherTouch Bodywork Professional and has studied under Leslie Stager.

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Top Apps for Healthy Living

Staying healthy can be tough! It is hard to stay on top of the latest in healthy eating, shopping, and fitness. Luckily, there’s an app for that!

Dr. Samelak has put together a list of her Top Apps for Healthy Living.


Fooducate is a free app that makes shopping a breeze! Simply scan the barcode on your food to learn more about it. The experts at Fooducate have created a database that grades your food based upon its ingredients. It even provides suggestions for healthier alternatives! Did you scan something not in their database? Simply submit it for evaluation by the Fooducate team and they will research the ingredients and add it to their list!

Environmental Working Groupbrushing-teeth-787630_1920.jpg

The Environmental Working Group, EWG, is a US based environmental group that, “specializes in research and advocacy in the areas of toxic chemicals, agriculture subsidies, public lands, and corporate accountability”. [Wikipedia] EWG has released a Healthy Living App that works like Fooducate for your personal care products. This helps take the guesswork out of buying shampoo or toothpaste. Suddenly, you don’t have to be a chemist to shop smarter and healthier. EWG touts that you can, “scan a product, review its rating, and pick the better choice” in your purchases.


We’ve all heard about the benefits of meditation in a myriad of areas in our lives… but where to start? Many times, we set out to meditate only to end up writing our grocery list in our heads or worrying about whether you were the one in charge of carpool pickup from soccer tonight. Enter: Headspace. The Headspace app specializes in providing guided meditations that are themed for different needs and work to help busy people take a break and create some headspace.


There are a lot of fitness apps and they all have their benefits and drawbacks. My personal favorite is Runkeeper. I use this app to help myself stay accountable to my fitness, track workouts of various kinds, and ensure that I don’t put too many miles on my running shoes. The app even includes a goal setting area and even training workouts. If you need the push, you can even allow notifications from the app to your phone’s lock screen to encourage you to get out and move.

Do you have an app that you can’t live without? Let us know about it in the comments!

Parents Supporting PLAY!

PS PLAY –Parents Supporting PLAY!

Watch a young child at PLAY and you’ll be struck by how totally and completely they are consumed by it. The yoga teacher in me would say they’ve entered a state of Samadhi—about realizing and becoming one, an I-am-ness, with what they’re doing; in terms of psychology they’re in a state of flow…being fully immersed and present, in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and total enjoyment in the process of the activity.

A succinct definition of PLAY is impossible because PLAY does so much! A general, but far from complete description: PLAY is an activity that is

  • Self- motivated
  • Freely chosen
  • Absorbing
  • Process-oriented, in other words it’s the doing, not the end-result that’s important
  • Imaginative
  • Mentally stress-free
  • Framework of rules governing how PLAY proceeds determined by player(s)

Why should you, as a parent, care about PLAY?

The answer to that is more than a few sentences! But I’ll highlight the extra important reasons!

  1. The need for PLAY is hard-wired into us; it is the way our brains like to learn best.
  2. The BRAIN develops sequentially from the least complex functioning to the most. However, PLAY in the early months and years of life is very important as it wires the brain, preparing it for higher level skills later.
  3. PLAY is integral to a child’s development emotionally, socially, physically and cognitively.
  4. Children fail to thrive when deprived of PLAY.

In fact, PLAY is so critical to a child’s overall health and wellness that the United Nations listed it as one a child’s rights.

So, what can parents do? water play

Luckily, that’s pretty easy!

  • Pay attention to your child—listen and talk to her/him. Relationship-building and language development takes face-to-face time.
    ◦ For example, immerse your child in language by reading together.  Reading to your child is a wonderful activity; building a closeness between parent and child that is never too soon start! You’ll also find out more about your kiddo’s interests and likes and can use that when creating PLAY spaces.
  • Provide time, space and materials for your kiddo to PLAY!
    ◦ Provide hands-on activities with a variety of materials. Young children need concrete experiences to build a foundation of knowledge; hands-on as opposed to virtual experiences offers the greatest learning potential.  This enhanced learning via hands-on persists even into adulthood.
    ◦ Do parents need to entertain their children 24/7? Of course not! And if you hear their cry “I’m bored!” then read this article for added reassurance.
  • Give your child the freedom to PLAY!
    Support their budding independence and decision-making with child-led activities. Another way is to resist the urge to over-schedule your kiddo with a lot of organized activities supervised by adults. One caveat to that: Downtime should not equate to screen time. The risks vs benefits of screen time for young children come down strongly in favor of waiting.

When children engage in PLAY they are gaining knowledge; developing the tools and skills they’ll need not only in the present time but also to be used as they continue to grow and learn throughout their lifetimes.

PLAY matters in childhood…and beyond!
Karen Whittier
Logo with me & toys
About the Author
Karen Whittier, aka Teacher Karen, is Early Childhood Engineer and Play Specialist for Play & Grow. She has an extensive background in early childhood education, co-founding and teaching at her own preschool for many years. Combining her backgrounds in engineering and early childhood education she’s serving children and families with Play & Grow advocating for children by supporting parents in promoting and facilitating PLAY!

Benefits of Being Barefoot!

As the gray days of winter start to pass and the temperatures warm, I find myself itching to ditch my shoes and head outdoors. I love being barefoot and how my feet (and my legs) feel when I get to spend more time sans-shoes.

Walking barefoot is great for adults, but utterly essential for our little ones.

The human foot has 33 joints as well as tons of tiny muscles and nerves that provide information to the brain about where your body is in space- proprioception- and balance- dictated by the vestibular system. When we walk barefoot, our feet are alive with information. Think of walking on a pebbly beach. Our feet interact with the ground and there is a massive amount of data sent to the brain.


When barefoot we are truly interfacing with our environment.

Let’s take a moment and think about what happens when we place our feet in shoes- particularly stiff and restrictive ones. You are basically placing a blindfold on your feet!

  • Your nervous system is not getting as much information from the ground.
  • The joints in your feet don’t get stimulated. (Joints get nutrition through motion, so they starve when they are restricted)
  • The muscles of the foot don’t get exercised.
  • Your balance and your proprioception suffer.

These same principles apply to the feet of our children. When they learn to walk, stand, and even when they play with their toes, children are building and programming their nervous system. They are patterning the way their muscles will fire for proper gait and spinal stabilization. Kids earn every milestone that they make. All of this happens from the ground up. Some neurologists even prescribe thinly soled shoes or barefoot time for children with developmental delays.


According to an article in the Washington Post, “Going barefoot helps a child develop body awareness.” I love how succinctly they boil this all down.

Have you taken your shoes off yet?

Do you feel like your feet have been blindfolded your whole life?

Do your feet need to wake up?

Dr. Samelak is passionate about helping people wake up their feet and improve the way that they interact with the ground- improving balance, preventing injury, and starting to correct long standing structural imbalances.

Check out our Events Page to learn about when Dr. Samelak will be teaching her next Love Your Feet workshop with Jodi Boone!