Can too much sugar effect bone density?

With Halloween next week, what could be more appropriate than a discussion about Bones and Candy, right?!

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The Western diet, high in protein and sugar is associated with an increase in all kinds of metabolic conditions from cardiovascular disease and Type II Diabetes Mellitus to osteopenia and osteoporosis. As a Chiropractor, bone density is a very important topic and it deserves some discussion.

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Let’s take a closer look at how our bones function in the human body. Our bones provide a framework for our muscles to hang upon. They create a safe space for our organs to live. They act as levers to allow us to move. These are all things that we have been told about before. But, did you know that your bones are actually the largest mineral reservoir in the body? From Guyton and Hall’s Textbook of Medical Physiology[1] we know the following. Our bones are constantly in flux with minerals like calcium, phosphate, and magnesium being borrowed and stored to maintain our body’s pH. 99% of the body’s calcium and over half of it’s magnesium is stored in bone.

skull-778075_1920pH refers to how acidic or alkaline the body is. We live within a tight tolerance and have several systems that make sure that this is regulated. Body fluids can push the balance one way or another within a fraction of a second, the respiratory system can make changes in minutes by changing our breathing to either eliminate or preserve CO2, and the kidneys respond slowly but are the most powerful  buffers of pH in the body. This is where we will focus.

When the body has an acidic environment, our body fluids, breathing, and kidneys work to shift it back to the middle. Our body increases the free calcium in extracellular fluid to correct the imbalance which tells the kidneys to excrete magnesium in urine. These minerals are usually sourced from our bones.

Now that we have reviewed the physiology of the pH balance system, let’s apply it to everyday life.

When we have a diet that causes our body to trend toward acidity, this buffer system is continually pulling minerals from bone. Odds are, more quickly than we can effectively store it.

Think of your bones like a bank. There is a bank balance that is your bone density. When your body needs to borrow some, it makes a withdraw. When it takes in calcium and magnesium from food, it deposits. This system works well when it is balanced. However, osteopenia and osteoporosis happen when you overdraw the account.

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Therefore, it is important to balance the budget. Reduction in sugar consumption can help to reduce the withdraws being made from your bones. Improving absorption of dietary minerals helps you to build up your account.

Guyton and Hall [1] discuss the importance of Vitamin D in the absorption of calcium. They report the following mechanisms:

  • increases intestinal calcium absorption by helping the cells to form calcium binding proteins within 2 days.
  • helps to improve phosphate absorption (another important mineral in bone).
  • helps to decrease kidney excretion of calcium and phosphate.
  • promotes bone calcification by transporting ions through cell membranes

This lets us know that appropriate Vitamin D levels are important in healthy bones. Many people in the northern hemisphere do not make or consume enough vitamin D to have adequate levels when tested in the blood. This is an important conversation to have with your primary care physician.

x-ray-223836_1920Bone density is much more complex than just the biochemistry/physiology; however, there are some tried and true methods for helping to improve your bone density:

Improve your diet. Reduce acidic foods, especially grains and sugars. Consume more green leafy vegetables.

Get your vitamin D levels evaluated.

Start participating in weight bearing exercise! Bone responds to stress. If you do not ask your bones to do work, they do not store as many minerals.

As always, please remember: This blog is intended to provide you with tools and information about the human body. Please speak with your own health care provider before making major lifestyle changes.

Below is a citation for Guyton and Hall.

[1]Guyton, Arthur C., and John E. Hall. “Textbook of Medical Physiology.” Textbook of Medical Physiology, 11th ed., Elsevier Saunders, 2007, pp. 371–985.

For additional reading on the topic, check out these links:

Why is Sugar Bad For You?

Calcium and Osteoporosis

Effect of consuming different caloric sweeteners on bone health and possible mechanisms.

Fat, Sugar, and Bone Health

 

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MRI Study Demonstrates Lumbar Disc Herniation Heals!

backpain-1944329_1920.pngMany times in practice, a patient presents with symptoms of lumbar (low back) disc injury. They have pain into the leg, often have difficulty standing upright, and have accompanying low back pain.

This generally occurs when a disc bulge or herniation places pressure on the spinal nerves or the spinal cord. As shown in the image below, where the purple shape is pressing on the green nerve.

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Chiropractic care is a great conservative way to manage the pain and, often, it will centralize and resolve in a matter of weeks. A home exercise program is then prescribed to help prevent re-occurrence and strengthen key muscles. When symptoms do not improve with a trial of care, a referral is made to an Orthopedist for further evaluation and MRI. Sometimes surgery is warranted.

Previous studies suggested that, while it was possible to remove symptoms, disc injuries do not fully resolve- think of them like a sleeping dragon. This article, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, is a case study that describes resolution of the patient’s disc injury, documented on MRI. This is incredibly promising and supports conservative management of  lumbar disc injuries with chiropractic care and physical therapy before a surgical option is considered.

***This blog post is intended solely for informational purposes. It is always essential to consult with your own health care provider when making decisions about low back pain or leg pain. ***

 

Same Weight, Different Body- It’s time to ditch the scale and take a broader view of health!

As a Chiropractor, my health is an important part of my practice. I try to “live my brand” and do not recommend things to my clients that I would not be willing to do for myself. That being said, I am incredibly human. I have health challenges. I do not always remember to take my supplements. Sometimes, I eat dessert- in fact, I am writing this in a Starbucks where I am treating myself to a Frappuccino. Recently, thanks to Facebook and my wardrobe, I have come to the realization that my health has drastically changed over the past 1.5-2 years (for the better).

About 2 years ago, I became aware that I was not taking care of myself the way I should be. I have food allergies and sensitivities, and while I had cut quite a bit of them out of my diet, I was desperately clinging on to dairy and rice. At a Standard Process seminar, I made the decision to take my health into my own hands and address how my food sensitivities have impacted me.

2 years ago, I was battling depression, my weight, acne, sleep, and the list could go on. I was also working out regularly, had just finished my first triathlon, working on my spiritual well being, sleeping at least 7.5 hours per night, and getting adjusted regularly. Most people looked at me and called me healthy- but I was far from it.

I was faking it and hoping to make it. When each week ended, I spent the weekends in my pajamas sleeping too much and always tired. I would find myself crying over the smallest things. I was always feeling behind and having panic attacks regularly.

It was time for a change.harmony-1229886_1920

The past 2 years have been a quite a journey. I started by cleaning up my diet further- finally giving up my beloved dairy and rice. Within weeks, I was sleeping more deeply. Within months, my skin was clearer. Soon, my clothes fit better. Slowly, I was climbing out of the hole I had dug myself into during grad school and my first years in practice.

I started to really love who I am again. I started to feel like the fun and upbeat person I pretended to be for years. I scaled my workouts back to yoga, swimming, and weight training to allow my body time to heal and balance without as much repetitive stress. I budgeted time for relaxation and recreational reading.

Then, just over a year ago, my husband and I took a month and a half off to visit Europe and move out to Seattle from our first real home together in the Detroit area. The total reset that this allowed for my emotions was unreal and I truly felt in control of my emotions for the first time since puberty.

All told, this was almost a year long process.

The best part was that even moving across the country, finding a place to live, starting a new practice from scratch, dancing this dream awake, didn’t shake my cool. In the year that we have been in Seattle, I continue to be healthier, I can hike and run again, even completing my first half marathon this past June.

Looking at pictures of myself now, the change in my health really hits home. I look happy. I feel healthy. I am significantly more fit. What’s funny, though, is that pesky scale. You know the one. The bathroom scale. Over these past 2 years, it has not budged more than 5-10 pounds in either direction. In fact, during my most unhealthy years it was both at its highest and lowest weight. As I have worked to recapture my wellness and love my body, I have settled somewhere in between- even though my dress size is smaller.

Here’s the thing. And it is a big thing. Something that took me a long time to learn and something that I continue to learn each day. Health is not any one thing. Some of the people who look the healthiest are not well on the inside. Like me, they battle depression or anxiety.

Health is not merely the absence of disease or pain. Health is the constant pursuit of joy in your body and in your soul. It is ever changing. It is not measured on the scale, nor is it truly quantifiable. “Healthy” me is going to be different from “healthy” you. You can be stick thin or curvy and be healthy or unhealthy. It is important to work with health care providers that are focused on wellness and to build your tribe around you that can support your transformation. Find someone to assess you and listen to you. Health is a discussion.

My story of the past 2 years is in no way unique. But. I hope you were inspired in some way to assess your own health.

Start the conversation.

Take those first steps toward your best self.

Muscle Testing and Chiropractic- Applied Kinesiology

As a Chiropractor, one of my main techniques is Applied Kinesiology. While in Chiropractic school, I obtained my 100 hour certification in this technique. According to the International College of Applied Kinesiology (ICAK):

Applied Kinesiology (AK) is a system that evaluates structural, chemical and mental aspects of health using manual muscle testing combined with other standard methods of diagnosis… The combined terms “applied” and “kinesiology” describe the basis of this system, which is the use of manual muscle testing to evaluate body function through the dynamics of the musculoskeletal system

The basis of Applied Kinesiology is in the manual muscle test.

When working with patients, I use the muscles of the body as indicators to help me decide where there is stress in the system and what I can do to help support the nervous system and the musculoskeletal system. A manual muscle test involves isolating a specific muscle in the body- like the deltoid or the latissimus dorsi, and checking to make sure that it is “turned on” or working how it should.

This can seem mystical and magical, but all boils down to basic neurology. Can the brain find that particular muscle and tell it to do a specific task? If it can’t, why not? According to the ICAK:

Manual muscle tests evaluate the ability of the nervous system to adapt the muscle to meet the changing pressure of the examiner’s test. This requires that the examiner be trained in the anatomy, physiology, and neurology of muscle function. The action of the muscle being tested, as well as the role of synergistic muscles, must be understood. Manual muscle testing is both a science and an art. To achieve accurate results, muscle tests must be performed according to a precise testing protocol. The following factors must be carefully considered when testing muscles in clinical and research settings:

• Proper positioning so the test muscle is the prime mover

• Adequate stabilization of regional anatomy

• Observation of the manner in which the patient or subject assumes and maintains the test position

• Observation of the manner in which the patient or subject performs the test

• Consistent timing, pressure, and position

• Avoidance of preconceived impressions regarding the test outcome

• Nonpainful contacts – nonpainful execution of the test

• Contraindications due to age, debilitative disease, acute pain, and local pathology or inflammation

What all of that means is this: It is important that a practitioner using manual muscle testing (MMT) is able to be consistent, specific, and observant when evaluating the human body. By ensuring that all muscle tests that are performed follow these basic guidelines, the results of a muscle test should be clinically useful. (ie: They should help me to tell what is going on with my patient. )

For example, when there is severe low back pain, are the muscles in the pelvis and lower back properly supporting the spine? If not, why not? How can we turn them on and make sure that they are doing their job?

In 2007, a paper was published in the Journal of Chiropractic and Osteopathy that evaluates the reliability and validity of the MMT through a review of the literature. This paper found that there is significant evidence to support the clinical use of the manual muscle test in practice; however, the experience of the provider and the adherence to specific guidelines for muscle testing is important. This review suggests that muscle testing is a useful way to evaluate the neuromusculoskeletal system, but it will be important to continue studying MMT and to incorporate randomized controlled trials, if possible.

Are Flip Flops Causing Your Headaches?

It’s that time of year again! The trees are blooming, the sun is starting to make an appearance, and so is our summer footwear. This means flip flops are about to make a comeback.

flip-flops-1479699_1920One of the things that I often see rearing its ugly head with the arrival of flip flops is headaches. People who have no trouble with headaches throughout the winter and early spring suddenly get terrible headaches as soon as they don their favorite bejeweled footwear.

But what do flip flops have to do with headache?

Our bodies are amazingly interwoven and connected. Our bones are connected by ligaments. Our muscles connect to our bones to move them. Nerves and arteries form a complex system that travels around our bodies. And all of it is tied together in fascia.

Fascia is a specialized system of the body that has an appearance similar to a spider’s web or a sweater. Fascia is very densely woven, covering and interpenetrating every muscle, bone, nerve, artery and vein, as well as, all of our internal organs including the heart, lungs, brain and spinal cord. The most interesting aspect of the fascial system is that it is not just a system of separate coverings. It is actually one continuous structure that exists from head to toe without interruption. In this way you can begin to see that each part of the entire body is connected to every other part by the fascia, like the yarn in a sweater. (https://www.myofascialrelease.com/about/fascia-definition.aspx)

Once we can understand that everything in our bodies is connected to everything else, it is possible to start seeing more patterns and relationships. The book, Anatomy Trains, has broken down this system of fascia into relationships or “trains/chains” that influence our body in a myriad of ways that can cause far-reaching results. Like headaches from flip flops!

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The Posterior Chain of fascia connects the bottoms of our feet, up through the backs of our ankles and legs, along the spine, and over the top of the head.  When we wear flip flops, we generally scrunch up our toes to keep our shoes on our feet. This causes shortening and tightening of the fascia on the bottoms of our feet. Combine that with the shortening that happens from sitting at a desk for long hours and all of a sudden that posterior chain has a dramatic increase in tension. This pulls at the base of the skull and can result in severe tension headaches.

What can we do about it?!

I, personally, try and avoid flip flops in favor of sandals that have more support or require less “toe scrunching” to walk- Birkenstocks are my favorite. However, on the occasions when I do wear flip flops, it is essential to address the posterior chain. Generally, going through a yoga routine like a sun salutation can help to regulate the tension running down the spine and into the feet.

What is most important, though, is to recognize that if a few hours in flip flops causes severe headaches, it is probably time to have a movement specialist like a Chiropractor, Physical Therapist, Personal Trainer, etc. evaluate your biomechanics. This can be a sign that you have underlying imbalances in your muscles and fascia that can lead to future issues if they are not addressed. Understanding the balance within your body (and its imbalances) allows you to make educated choices regarding your physical health and function.

So if your flip flops lead to headaches, please get your body checked and assessed for correction. Headaches are not a sign of ibuprofen deficiency, but of an underlying issue. This blog discusses only one of hundreds of possible causes- it is important to speak with a healthcare professional about your individual circumstances and seek appropriate care.

Why you should STOP ignoring your feet!

wanna-see-my-footFeet are important.

They are the foundation that we stand upon.

Your feet contain 26 bones, 33 joints, and over 100 ligaments, tendons, and muscles. Not to mention nerves and blood vessels!

And yet we abuse them by wearing impractical shoes, restraining them, sitting too much, etc.

Problems with our feet involve more than just foot pain, they can impact the low back and even headaches.

Gait patterns (how we walk) are driven by the foot.

The gait cycle is broken down below, but, in essence the way that we walk is influenced by how we transfer weight from one foot to the other. It is important for us to see that the heel hits the ground first and then the bones of the foot lock together, rolling the toes down and bearing weight.

  • The gait cycle starts with a Heel Strike. The heel of the reference foot is the first place to touch the ground.
  • When the foot is flat, weight can be transferred to the referenced leg. In this part of the gait cycle, think about weight bearing, shock absorption, and moving forward.
  • Mid Stance occurs when the body is balanced and in alignment on the reference foot.
  • Just as the heel of the reference foot leaves the ground, the body is in terminal stance.
  • Toe off occurs when the great toe of the reference foot leaves the ground and begins to swing. This is the beginning of the swing phase of the gait cycle.
  • The swing phase is that part of the gait cycle during which the reference foot is not in contact with the ground and swings in the air. It constitutes about 40% of gait cycle. (wikipedia)

Feet have arches that act as springs to support our movement.

It is important to have your arches analyzed and evaluated- no matter their shape to ensure that your feet support your body. Think about it, have you ever been told you had flat feet or high arches? Take at look at the photos below and compare to your footprints in sand.

arches

Often, high arch feet are very rigid and benefit from self-mobilization. Follow the steps below to mobilize your feet. By stimulating motion in a rigid foot, you can reduce foot pain and improve your biomechanics.

  • Grasp your forefoot in both hands and perform a shearing motion between each of the toes
  • Gently tug on each of your toes
  • Using your whole palm, grasp the heel of your foot and firmly move it back and forth

Flat feet, on the other hand, generally need to be retrained to have more muscular coordination. For this, the “Short Foot” exercises tend to be very helpful.

  • Try placing a kitchen towel on the floor and using your toes to pull it toward you

OR

  • Use your toes to pick up marbles off the floor

feet-619399_1920Either way your feet should be moveable and strong. Think of watching a toddler walk barefoot. You can see their toes grasp the ground, almost like they have suction cups on their tiny toes.

In this photo, see how the toddler is pulling up on their toes? This is especially noticeable when they are first learning to walk and balance.

Perhaps, one of the  most important things to realize is how our shoes influence our feet.

Shoes are orthotics. They support our feet or force them into submission- like in high heels. High heels can do a lot of damage to our bodies- no matter how nicely they make our behinds look in skinny jeans.

feet-1840937_1920Knees: increased pressure by 26% through the knee (knees are also affected posturally as described below)

Calves: tightens/shortens the calf muscles

Achilles (Calf tendon): Shortens and risks tearing when barefoot

“Pump Bump” or Haglund’s Deformity:     bony enlargement on the back of the heel from rubbing/irritation

Posture: whole body mechanics are different with the sacrum rocked forward, increased strain through the knee, increased pressure in the lumbar spine, anterior head carriage, etc.

Ball of foot: pushes weight forward into an area that isn’t designed for it, creating metatarsalgia (the higher the heel, the more pressure through the forefoot)

Hammertoes/Hallux Valgus: from “squishing” the foot into the toebox

What does it all mean?

It is important to go barefoot sometimes! Especially in grass or sand where your muscles in the feet are forced to work.

If you are a runner or walker, get your shoes professionally fitted to be sure that they are correct for your gait and foot type.

For that matter, have your gait assessed to be sure that you are running properly and prevent future injury.

Have your Chiropractor assess your feet to ensure that they move properly and to help you decide if exercises, mobilizations, or orthotics are right for you.

 

 

 

 

My 5 Favorite Chiropractic Quotes

I collect quotes.

Quotes on all subjects from health and chiropractic, to motivation, to silly phrases.

Sometimes they speak to where I am in my life.

Sometimes they remind me of my goals or of something I love.

Chiropractic quotes remind me what I love about my profession and why I do what I do.

bj-palmer

This is probably one of the most well-known chiropractic quotes. BJ Palmer is known as the “Developer” of chiropractic. One of the major principles of chiropractic care echoes this quote. Our bodies all have innate potential which is present in all living beings. When the body is damaged or ill (dis-eased), it is important to unlock its potential and allow it to heal itself.

When I adjust the spine, I am moving the bones into a more normal alignment but most importantly, nerve interference is removed from the body. This unlocks our innate intelligence and allows the body to heal.

heal-better

This quote speaks to me on so many levels. As a Chiropractor, it is important for me to remember that sometimes it takes time for pain or discomfort to be relieved. However, I know that each and every person that I lay my hands on and make a correction to their spine is healthier after their adjustment.

This is also a phrase I quote to my patients. Chiropractic is unlike any other healing modality. When we remove the interference in the nervous system, I expect some immediate changes in symptoms… but pain relief is not the goal of the adjustment. The goal of the adjustment is to make the body function more smoothly which will speed up healing.

patient-centered

This quote dovetails with the previous one. This definition hits on my 3 favorite aspects of Chiropractic.

Chiropractic is patient-centered:

I treat each patient as an individual, from assessment to treatment. In order for me to work with each person, we must build a relationship of trust and cooperation. Each treatment plan is unique and tailored to the patient.

There is nothing cookie-cutter about Chiropractic Care.

Chiropractic is hands-on:

I use my hands to gently and effectively assess, analyze, and correct the spine and joints of my patients. Think back … when was the last time that a doctor touched you other than to listen with a stethoscope or give a shot?

Chiropractic focuses on influencing bodily function through structural correction:

See: “The power that makes the body, heals the body”

whisper

Many times, I see patients for the first time when they are in crisis. We often ignore warning signs from our bodies (myself included). We dismiss that headache. We walk off the knot in our hamstrings or the pain in our low back because a heat pack gets rid of it for awhile. We go on roller coasters and get shaken about, then cover up our symptoms the next day with over the counter meds.

Eventually, we end up having to stop everything because our quick fixes are no longer enough. When you ignore the subtle hints from your body, it stops you in your tracks.

Chiropractic patients learn to listen to those whispers and nudges from their bodies. They learn to seek care when things are minor to avoid the screaming.

"When in sickness, look to the spine first"- Hippocrates

This quote sums up a lot of my feeling about Chiropractic.

The nerves that go to all of your organs, muscles, and tissues must pass through the spine.

It makes sense, therefore, that when the spine is not moving properly, the body will not function optimally.

Many times a patient seeks care because their low back was sore or they had pain in their leg. They neglect to mention that they suffer from constipation or menstrual cramps. After a few treatments, many patients casually mention that some of these “other things” have corrected themselves. What a great side effect!

Am I missing your favorite health or Chiropractic quote? Post it below!