5 Things to Remember This Cold and Flu Season

I am so excited to co-blog this one with the wonderful Naturopaths from Clarity Natural Medicine in Fremont, Seattle! Check out their information below this post!

5 THINGS TO REMEMBER THIS COLD AND FLU SEASON

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Taking small actions in these 5 areas of your life can make a big difference for your wellness.

 

 

 

DIET DOs and DON’Ts:

Avoid eating common food allergens. If you know you have food allergies, now is not the time to ‘cheat’ because something tastes good or because the serving is very small. Any time you eat something you are allergic to, your body responds by attacking the food proteins in the same manner as it would attack a bacteria or a virus. This keeps your defense system is busy and may not allow for proper attention and resources to be spent on actual bacteria and viruses when they invade. If you do not know if you have any food allergies, it is still generally advised that you avoid consuming dairy products while you have the flu or a cold because they often cause the body to produce excess mucous.

fruits-320136_1280If you are sick or have been around people that were sick and wish to avoid falling ill, it is best to eat a whole foods diet- fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein sources. Avoid processed sugar and alcohol as these cause inflammation and depress immune system function.

WATER is your friend:

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During an illness, your number one job (other than resting) should be to maintain adequate hydration. Dehydration not only inhibits your immune system and lymph from circulating properly through your body tissues, but it also elevates your body temperature. Simple dehydration can cause a fever or cause an existing one to worsen. Additionally, consider that the mucous that drains from our nose, gets stuck in our ears or that builds up in our lungs is mostly water! When you are dehydrated, the mucous also dehydrates and becomes thicker and more difficult to get out.

 

MATTERS OF HYGEINE:

It’s not something we often think about, but many times our indoor air quality is more of a concern than the quality of our outdoor air. Persistent exposure to indoor mold, pet dander, dust and smoke irritates our mucous membranes (the lining of our nose, throat and lungs) also making it more likely that a bacteria or virus can invade. Clean and ventilate your home often. Avoiding second hand smoke and smoking counts helps, too. If you know you have a mold or dust allergy, consider installing an air filter in your home.  To reduce the spread of illness, wash your hands frequently and wipe down all shared surfaces: doorknobs, handles, children’s toys, even electronics.

CHIROPRACTIC CARE:

Chiropractic care can help you to combat both ear fullness and sinus congestion as well as boost the immune system.

The human body is an amazing machine. The anatomy of the head, face, and neck are closely related and can directly influence one another. Chiropractors utilize these relationships to help your stuffy sinuses drain or relieve pressure in your ears. The base of skull-31060the skull and the first bone in the neck, the atlas, can help the ears and sinuses drain by opening up the soft tissues in the throat. Sinuses are basically the spaces formed between the bones of the skull and can be gently manipulated to open up and improve drainage.

When working with the sinuses, gentle, rocking motions of the skull are combined with an adjustment to the upper neck and lymphatic drainage massage to maximize the efficacy of treatment. Most patients need a tissue within moments of their adjustment! This technique is gentle enough to use on little babies as well as their parents and grandparents.

One additional benefit of seeking out chiropractic care while sick is that an adjustment boosts the immune system.

The nervous system and, therefore, spine have a tremendous influence on the function of the immune system. In fact, one study demonstrates that Fighter T Cells work better for 24-48 hours after an adjustment for a review of literature click here. This means that getting adjusted regularly can help keep your immune system in top shape, but it also means that when you are sick, an adjustment can speed your recovery and help some of your symptoms.

PROPER SUPPLEMENTATION:

Nutritional and herbal supplements can help your immune system stay strong and are effective at helping fight colds or flus if one does come. While there are some overall recommendations that are safe for most people, such as extra vitamin C, elderberry syrup and probiotics, each individual has unique nutritional needs and immune system weaknesses that make a personalized treatment the best. Your naturopathic doctor or chiropractor can make specific treatment recommendations after discussing your past medical history and any current concerns in detail.

Hope you have learned a couple of new tricks from these tips!

Take a moment and check out Clarity Natural Medicine– I love having Dr. D and Dr. M as colleagues and friends!

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Clarity is the shared vision of Dr. Tamara Dickson and Dr. Kellyn Misser who provide individualized integrative care. At Clarity Natural Medicine, concerns are explored completely and options to care are presented fully.

206 Bones- Things you didn’t know about your skeleton!

As a chiropractor, my life revolves around the skeleton, the muscles, and the way that the human body moves. Both in school and afterward I have learned some fun facts about the human skeleton that I would love to share!

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A newborn baby has roughly 300 bones, while the adult has only 206

How cool is it that our skeletons change so much as we grow up?! Bones fuse together as we age AND new bones are formed (like your kneecap) when little ones start to crawl.

The bones of your skull actually have joints with one another

skull-31060These joints move when you breath, chew, and with the movement of your cerebrospinal fluid (the fluid that bathes the brain). This means that, as a chiropractor, I often work with the bones of the skull to influence sinuses and help people with migraines.

Babies with plagiocephaly (bulges or flat spots on their skulls) also benefit from chiropractic work with the skull!

The smallest bone in your body is located within the hardest bone!

The smallest bone in your body, the stapes, is shaped like a stirrup and is a bone that helps you hear. It is so small and delicate that it needsgiraffe a lot of protection. It is located in the most dense and strongest part of the temporal bone in the skull.

You have the same number of bones in your neck as a giraffe

Giraffes and humans both have 7 cervical bones in their necks. They are just very differently shaped! A giraffe’s neck is so long that it cannot cough like a human can because its lungs and epiglottis are too far apart to coordinate.

The hyoid bone is the only bone not connected to another bone by a joint

This bone is a delicate horse shoe shape and it sits in front of your neck. Many muscles connect to the hyoid bone, but it is not shown on most plastic skeletons.

Your femur, or thigh bone is the longest bone in your body

It is also one of the strongest bones of the body. This is because it supports our body weight in running and jumping.

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There are 54 bones in each of your hands

This means that 108 of your 206 bones are contained in just 2 body parts! As a chiropractor, working on the wrists, elbows, and neck can help relieve symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Do you have a fun fact about the skeleton that you would love to share? 

Comment below and let us know what you think!

Overcoming the “Gross” in Gross Anatomy

back-pain-1491801_1920This blog comes from a speech I recently gave.

I am passionate about anatomy and feel that it is an amazing and integral part of my practice. Each time that I work with a patient, I use the amazing skills that I gained working in the anatomy lab. I feel there was no better way for me to learn about the human body.

Enjoy!

On my first day of dissection for Gross Anatomy, I had no idea what to expect. I came to class prepared with gloves, dissection kit, lab coat, instructions, and a ton of anxiety.

I got to class about 15 minutes before my lab group so that I could see how I reacted in private. I opened the double doors and entered the lab full of cadavers in rank and file on metal tables. The smell of formalin and antifreeze assaulted my nose and I walked through the room to my assigned body. I pulled back the plastic and muslin, gagged once, and began my dissection.

I had no idea that first day how important that lab would become to my life.

Class by class, I learned more and more about the human body and uncovered its secrets. Soon the weirdness faded and the magic took over. I spent hours in the lab outside of class studying and teaching my fellow classmates. The anatomy lab woke me up and I found a new passion. Did you know that you have a tiny pulley system in your eye? Or that you have a pressure and chemical receptor in your neck? These facts and many more bring to light the incredibly intelligent design of the human body. I was hooked.

After completing my coursework in Anatomy, I took a job working as a professional dissector in the lab- dissecting the teaching body one step ahead of the class. I took up anatomical drawing. I loved integrating my anatomy with my chiropractic and adjusting skills. Even today, when I lay my hands on a patient, I can see the anatomy beneath my hands, guiding my touch and fine tuning my patient care.

Through tutoring I got to share my passion for anatomy with other students and pass along knowledge in a way that makes it come alive. From the student struggling in class, to those wanting a review before taking board exams, teaching others forced me to be better than average and hone my skills. I even became a guide for “Tours of the Body”- a program where nursing students, massage therapy students, and even future barbers are given the opportunity to visit the cadaver lab and bring book learning to life. In the anatomy lab, I found my home in chiropractic school and a lifelong obsession.skull-778073_1920

During the three and a half years that I worked in the anatomy lab, I worked on upwards of 30 cadavers and- as cliché as it sounds- we are all unique and individual snowflakes. Nerves take paths that aren’t in the books, we find muscles that aren’t supposed to be there or search in vain for a blood vessel that doesn’t exist in that body. Some of these are so common they are considered a normal abnormality. This is much to the chagrin of the studying anatomist… For example, in about 17% of the population the sciatic nerve, the large nerve that travels from your pelvis all the way to your big toe, pierces a muscle instead of diving underneath. If that muscle spasms… presto! Sciatica. In addition, new anatomical findings are still being made. While I was in school, a fellow prosector made an anatomical discovery that is now published in scholarly journals and in the new Gray’s Anatomy (no, not the TV show).

Dissection is an art form- much like sculpture. Its goal is to uncover and reveal the structures of the body hidden away beneath skin and tissue. These bones, organs, and muscles tell the story of a life. What kind of work did this person do? Did they smoke? Have children? Work with their hands? Through patient study, Gross anatomy becomes less gross. It becomes fascinating. While not everyone has access to an anatomy lab, I feel that it was one of the most important experiences of my education and I will take its lessons with me always.

Do you have anatomy questions? Comment below or email at seedoflifechiro@gmail.com

Sitting Too Much is Ruining Your Health (and Spine)

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How many hours do you sit each day?

How many days a week do you sit?

Do you ever sit for a period upwards of 11 hours in a day?

 

These are very important questions to ask yourself. As I sit here writing this blog, I am aware that I, myself have been sitting for the past hour researching statistics for this very article… with my posture suffering as minutes tick by.

In some sense, we all know that we shouldn’t sit too long. That prolonged sitting is detrimental to our health. What most of us don’t realize is that it is probably worse for us than we think…

According to Web MD, sitting too much is linked to worsened mental health as well as increased risk of heart disease and disability. Why? No one seems quite sure. What we do know is that the most detrimental data came from a study looking at women who sit for over 11 hours per day.

What’s worse is that it does not appear that your morning walk or jog is enough to combat your 8+ hours of sitting each day. These activities appear to be mutually exclusive. By no means should you stop your regular workout, but this does suggest that- as a society- we need to change how we function. We need to sit less and move more. Revolutionary!

Another study even suggests that sitting is harmful to our children. This study looked at sitting times of only 3 hours. It demonstrated a marked negative change in the blood flow through the arteries of the group that did not move out of chairs for a full 3 hours. However, the group that rode a bicycle (gently) for 10 minutes out of each hour had no change.

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How often do your kids sit for long periods? School has them seated for 8+ hours each day which is not even counting video game or TV time in the evenings. Our society asks kids to sit still and pay attention. We tend to squash the wiggles right out of them by the time they are in the first grade.

Maybe this is why kids are wiggly, naturally?! Maybe we are meant to move around a lot more than we do! Movement pumps our blood back to the heart through our veins. Movement causes positive changes in our cardiovascular health. Movement keeps our joints lubricated and healthy! Movement keeps us alive and healthy.

And guess what else comes along with too much sitting? Back pain!

Our spines are made with gentle curves that support our weight and absorb shock. When we sit, we often curve our spines into a C- shape, rounding the low back, hunching the shoulders, and thrusting the head forward.

We are simply  not built for this. These abnormal stresses on the spine overwork our muscles and can cause a lot of damage to our spines. They are often accompanied by low back pain and headaches!

Proper sitting, ie: sitting on the sit bones and tall through the spine, is far less detrimental to the spine and is difficult to maintain for long periods- necessitating movement.

I feel like I am sounding a bit repetitive, but movement is what we are made for. So… here are some tips to help you to improve your health, sit less, and MOVE MORE.

  • Use a standing desk– Your posture will automatically  be better and you are more likely to move about the office. It is also easy to incorporate simple exercises like heel raises, toe taps, glute squeezes, etc into your day when you are standing at work.
  • Be conscious of your posture– I sometimes place a ball between my middle back and the back of my chair. If the ball moves, I am slouching and probably need to get up and move about.
  • Set movement reminders– If you have a tendency to get locked into a task, try setting an alarm on your phone or computer that reminds you to get up and walk a bit. Remember, the study in young girls found that moving 10 minutes out of each hour made a dramatic change in their vascular condition.
  • Try sitting on an exercise ball– It is really hard to slouch on an exercise ball. Plus, your core will remain engaged and you can perform exercises like pelvic tilts while sitting at your desk.

Now, get out there and move! Remember that regular care for your spine includes an evaluation by a Doctor of Chiropractic as well as movement and good posture. Are you worried about your posture? What about your kids? Stay tuned for my next blog about posture- How to tell if you have good posture and what to do about it!

Get Your Flu Adjustment Here!

woman-698943Flu season is generally considered to be present from October-February. Many of us have experienced that we are more likely to “catch” a cold during this time of year. Signs pop up for you to “Get Your Flu Shot Here”. (For more info about the flu shot click here).

But why?

Flu and cold viruses are no more prevalent in the environment in the winter months… so why do we get sick!?

During the winter, our lifestyle drastically changes. We are enclosed with more people in work/school and are outdoors less. This also means that our Vitamin D levels are probably low because we aren’t getting as much sun exposure. Vitamin D plays a role in immune system function as well as mood and Seasonal Affect Disorder.

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It’s also no secret that stress levels rise in the holiday season with travel, family, and increased demands on our time. The holidays are also a time of increased sugar consumption. A study performed by Loma Linda University in 1973 found that 100g of sugar correlates with white blood cells being 40% less effective at killing germs for up to 5 hours.

These factors and many more mean that we are far more susceptible to colds and flu.

Don’t. Panic.

There are simple steps you can take to boost your immune system and protect yourself during the winter (and year round).

  1. Get Your Flu Adjustment Here!

patient-adjustmentThe nervous system and, therefore, spine have a tremendous influence on the function of the immune system. In fact, one study demonstrates that Fighter T Cells work better for 24-48 hours after an adjustment for a review of literature click here.

This means that getting adjusted regularly can help keep your immune system in top shape.BUT it also means that when you are sick, an adjustment can speed your recovery.

2. Monitor Your Sugar Intake

cake-727870It is recommended that women consume no more than 28g of added sugar, daily. By cutting sugary drinks, like pop and sports drinks, and keeping an eye on your cookie and dessert consumption you can improve your overall health and keep yourself from getting sick. If you want to learn more about sugar, join our book club which is reading Sugar Nation this January.

3. Get Your Vitamin D Levels Checked!

Vitamin D is essential for many bodily processes. Living far North of the equator, many of us are deficient in Vitamin D year round- and our levels plummet in the winter months. I love Biotics Vitamin D drops for easy and safe supplementation for both children and adults.

Is there a topic you would like to see me discuss?

What are your favorite ways to keep your immune system boosted?

Comment below!

Your knee pain may not be knee pain.

One of the most valuable things I use in my chiropractic exam is functional screening, which is looking at how the body’s joints move. It gives me insight into patterns of motion that can result in pain and dysfunction. For example, the knee is particularly vulnerable to altered biomechanics in other parts of the body.

The knee is, most basically, a hinge.

Because of this, it is significantly affected by the biomechanics of the hip, pelvis, and ankle/foot. Joint restrictions and/or muscular imbalances in these areas are incredibly common from everyday activities like sitting, improper footwear, or repetetive activities. The patterns that we create in our everyday life change the way our joints move and can cause stress in joints and tissues that are farther away.

For example, when the gluteus medius muscle is weak or inhibited (not firing when or how we want it to), it does not properly compress the hip joint. This causes the thigh bone, or femur, to change its angle, resulting in increased pressure on the inner part of the knee joint. The medial/inside part of the knee is usually the first place that arthritis shows up on x-ray of the knee. Slight narrowing of the joint (inside the circle below) is the first physical indicator that the knee is under stress.

knee-xray

Clinically, knee issues show up as pain! Remember, knee pain may not be a problem with the knee!

As a chiropractor, I evaluate to see which muscles or joints are impacting the function of the knee and work with you to strengthen or stretch them appropriately. Many times it is the gluteus medius, but can also be a number of other muscles or tissues.

When it comes to aches and pains, it is important to have a professional evaluate your mechanics for you- you cannot appropriately assess yourself. Only when you know what the true problem is, can you correct it with exercises, stretches, and joint manipulation. Otherwise you can create new problems!

I am a prime example of this. When I was working on my internship to complete my Masters in Sport Science and Rehabilitation, I spent many hours each week in a PT clinic helping to evaluate patients and work with them on their exercises. Thinking that I was helping myself, I did all of the exercises with the patients. In 4 months, I had increased my knee pain, given myself plantar fascitis, and irritated my pelvic joints. Not all of those exercises were appropriate for my body and its previous sports injuries. It took being evaluated for my own movement patterns and months of diligent corrective exercises to undo what I thought was going to help me.

Understanding how your body works and starting from a basic analysis can help to diagnose problem areas and correct problems before they begin. Pain is a warning sign that something is not right within the body. Before you cover it up or dismiss your pain, get assessed and see what can be done to strengthen and support your body.

References:

SBR Sport

Dr. Dooley Noted

 

3 Chiropractic Myths- Busted!

There are a lot of misconceptions about chiropractic care and chiropractors floating around… Today, I am going to tackle 3 of the Chiropractic Myths I hear most often:

Once you go to a chiropractor, you have to go FOREVER.

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Most people seek out chiropractic care when they are in a lot of pain or have an issue they would like to resolve. Chiropractors are fantastic at taking care of low back pain, headaches, whiplash associated disorder, thoracic outlet syndrome, etc. Usually, these conditions can be taken care of with a single treatment plan combined with exercises, chiropractic adjustments, and nutrition.

But what happens then?

Once you have seen a chiropractor, you become more aware of your body and how it moves. Often, the condition that brings people into the chiropractor have been a long time coming and they don’t even remember what it’s like to truly feel good.When things are moving well, you are feeling great. This is a common awareness in chiropractic patients. These patients progress from acute care- where we target a major condition or problem- to corrective care.

Corrective care focuses on helping to identify, target, and eliminate movement patterns or postures that were behind the low back pain or headaches. This type of care can take a bit of time to work through, depending on how diligent home exercises are performed and how long the problem has been going on.

Following this, some patients elect to continue seeing their chiropractor periodically to prevent future issues and to be checked for wellness. This is the part where people tend to say that you go FOREVER. However, as humans, we are very complex machines that come into contact with all kinds of challenges from long flights, to tech neck from working on computers, to falls and athletic injuries. Many people choose to get checked periodically to ensure that they are doing well and have nothing brewing underneath the surface. But this is their choice!

Chiropractors aren’t REAL doctors.

Chiropractors undergo graduate education to achieve the degree Doctor of Chiropractic (DC). While chiropractors do not treat patients using drugs or surgery, our education is comparable to that of Medical Doctors (MD). In fact, our core studies are just about the same! Click here for a breakdown of the course requirements for DC vs MD students.

Chiropractors are trained in anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pathology, clinical diagnosis, etc; however, our training in treatment involves learning how to adjust the spine and other joints of the body, work with soft tissues, and implement clinical nutrition.

One thing that I feel it is important to emphasize is that chiropractors are especially well trained in recognizing when pain is not coming from the joints or the spine, but from another area. For example, sometimes right shoulder blade pain is referred from a hot gallbladder. In this case, the patient is often referred to an MD, DO, or ND for further evaluation and intervention. This is especially important because many common organ conditions cause back pain, causing people to seek chiropractic care.

In conclusion, Chiropractors are REAL doctors, just not medical doctors 🙂

Chiropractic Adjustments HURT

As I mentioned above, many times pain is the main driver that causes someone to seek out chiropractic care. If you have ever had back pain, you understand that sometimes it is painful to even have your clothes touch the area that is injured. It is understandable, then, that a chiropractic adjustment may be uncomfortable in that area.

However, an adjustment is not, generally painful. I have made a point, in my education, to learn many techniques. This includes one  that uses less pressure than you would be comfortable with on your own eyelid (Did you just push on your eyelid?) as well as instrument adjusting.

When a patient is in pain, I work to make my adjustment as comfortable as possible- sometimes using cold or heat to relax the area before adjusting.

Most patients report mild to no discomfort throughout their adjustments- in fact the majority experience a sense of relief almost immediately.

What is something that you have heard about chiropractic care?

Stay tuned for more Myth-Busting about Chiropractic care!

 

 

 

 

Chiropractic Helps Low Back Pain in Pregnancy

Pregnancy is one of the most exciting and amazing experiences in a woman’s life. During pregnancy, her body changes and blossoms as it accommodates the tiny human that is being built. This process is beautiful. Somewhat uncomfortable, but beautiful. Most women, however, don’t know that chiropractic care can greatly improve some of the aches and pains commonly associated with pregnancy.

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As a Doctor of Chiropractic, I have taken advanced training in the analysis and treatment of pregnant women. It is one of the greatest honors afforded me by my patients- the trust that I will take care of them and their growing family. The tremendous changes that a woman’s body undergoes while pregnant (and in the months directly following birth- have you ever tried to carry a car seat!?) cause altered biomechanics and stress that can result in headaches, low back pain, lack of mid back mobility with a feeling of shortness  of breath, pain into the leg(s), etc. Using the Webster technique, as well as modifying other techniques including Sacro-Occipital Technique, Applied Kinesiology, and Diversified, I apply gentle corrections to the spine and soft tissues. Women with malpositioned babies often seek chiropractic care to help balance their bodies as well- for more information on this check out my prenatal page.

Today, I came across a research article with full text available here, that outlines a study performed on pregnant women with low back pain during pregnancy. To summarize, below are the Results and Conclusions part of the abstract:

Results

52% of 115 recruited patients ‘improved’ at 1 week, 70% at 1 month, 85% at 3 months, 90% at 6 months and 88% at 1 year. There were significant reductions in NRS and Oswestry scores (p < 0.0005). Category of previous LBP episodes number at one year (p = 0.02) was related to ,improvement’ when analyzed alone, but was not strongly predictive in logistic regression. Patients with more prior LBP episodes had higher 1 year NRS scores (p = 0.013).

Conclusions

Most pregnant patients undergoing chiropractic treatment reported clinically relevant improvement at all time points. No single variable was strongly predictive of, improvement’ in the logistic regression model.

What fantastic results! Chiropractic care provides statistically significant results in the treatment of low back pain in pregnant women- including at the 1 year mark!

If you are interested in learning more about prenatal chiropractic and/or having your questions answered, please feel free to reach out to me for a consultation or referral to a provider close to you!

Helping to keep Mommas healthy is a passion of mine that I bring to Seed of Life. Stay tuned for future posts about chiropractic care and overall health…

Holiday Survival Guide

The Holidays are upon us! Thanksgiving has passed and we are welcoming the onslaught of holiday parties with Family, Food, and Cheer… Though if we are honest most of us have a love/hate relationship with the holidays.

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Love the family time → hate how family knows how to push all the right buttons

Love the food → hate how clothes fit later

Love the cheer →  but who can be happy all the time?

Thankfully, I have devised tactics to combat this love/hate relationship to leave us with bigger smiles and (hopefully) intact waistlines after the holiday season.

Family Time

I love family meals. I love the people. I love spending time with loved ones who know all my stories and love me for them… but this is also the downfall. Many times family can’t help but bring up the embarrassing or hurtful stories in a way that is meant to be funny, but awakens some old hurt you swore was gone long ago.

After years of this, I have finally found a counter-tactic. Rather than reminiscing about days past, I come prepared with a game to play (a prize is a plus) These help to build our relationships rather than relying on past interactions.  I also bring at least one question to ask each family member- who doesn’t like to be an expert in their own topic or talk about themselves!

Food

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The food at the holidays is nothing less than decadent.  It is entirely too easy to over-indulge. There are work parties, neighbors give cookies, family parties, friends have ugly sweater parties, and the list goes on. With all of this, our good habits from the rest of the year are often thrown out the window and we eat more cookies than we planned, drink in excess, and have just one more helping at dinner.

In past years, I have gained a rather large amount of weight over the holidays which I immediately try and banish with workouts and an endless march of salads in January.

The last 2 years I have planned ahead. When going to parties, I eat a small salad or some veggies before leaving the house. I offer to bring a dish to pass that is low in sugar and high on taste. If the meal is buffet style or appetizers only, plate food instead of grazing and always choose the smallest plate. If seated, put your fork down between bites! Cookies… I haven’t found anything too fool-proof here. The variety is my Achilles heel- I want to try them all! What I attempt to do is take only 1-2 cookies and split them with my husband.

Holiday drinks are often high in sugar and very rich, so I always aim for a glass of dry wine that is easier to sip than drink or a fill a glass with ice before adding any cocktail. Staying hydrated is also key- always have a glass of water at your place in addition to your drink.

Moderation in all things is the goal- with food and drink, you get to have some of the decadence but can keep a modicum of control over consumption.

Holiday Cheer

I am an introvert.  A Meyer Brigg INFJ. Holiday cheer is uplifting and exciting. It provides an opportunity to celebrate and connect with people. It also leaves me feeling drained and wanting to crawl under a rock. As an introvert, self care is incredibly important, so I make sure to sleep enough, mediate regularly, use a gratitude journal, regular adjustments, and remind myself that it is OK to come late or leave a party early.

Holiday cheer can also be a financial burden with gift exchanges and lots of eating out. Understanding what is within budget and what is affordable can be a downer, but will ultimately make holidays more gratifying in the end. No one likes to go into debt for the holidays. Amongst my friends and family, we use white elephant exchanges, games, and handmade gifts to keep the costs down on entertainment.

The take home on cheer is to understand your own limits and respect them. Whether you are an introvert like me- who needs to recover after being social- or an extrovert who thrives on community, it is important to stay within your boundaries.

Who doesn’t love the holidays?! It is a time when we celebrate with loved ones, new friends, and old. By maintaining good practices with family, food, and merry-making- we can ensure that we are healthier at the end of our holidays both mentally and physically.

What helps you survive the holidays?

 

Are walkers bad for my Baby? What about other upright toys?

Quite often I have friends and patients who ask me about walkers, exersaucers, and Bumbo seats (along with a huge list of other infant toys). There is a lot of confusing information on the internet regarding these and some of it is very misleading from manufacturers. I hope that here I can clarify some of the information and give you some facts.

The place to begin is normal child development. When a baby is born, they have no curves in their spine and they have no understanding of the physical world. These things are learned and skills are earned through experience and exploration. Motor and mental development are often broken down into “milestones” which are a series of behaviors and skills that we expect children to have at different ages.

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Spinal development is completely formed through activities. Tummy time causes the little one to lift their head up, forming the cervical (neck) curve. The curve in the lumbar spine (low back) is formed when the child begins to rock and crawl. The muscles and bones of the spine develop in response to these activities and the basis of the adult spine is formed.

The same activities that help to form the curves in the spine stimulate the brain and help your child develop a sense of where they are in space (proprioception). Crawling, scooting, pulling up, walking, and tummy time help in vestibular (balance) and sensory development. Movement stimulates a circuit called the Reticular Activating System which links motion to the cerebellum and helps the brain to learn posture and balance (and a whole lot more!).

Walkers:

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Walkers are one of the most dangerous babysitters. A 2006 study looked at ER data from 1991-2001 and found 197,200 ER visits related to walkers. This study does not take into account those who saw a pediatrician, other health care practitioner, or stayed home for self-care. Walkers allow little ones to move quickly and often they can tip when they encounter the edge of a rug, door sill, or staircase.

Actual physical injuries aside, it is important to take into account the mental and motor developmental delays associated with walkers. As we mentioned above, many skills are dependent upon motion and experiencing the environment. It is easy to see how a parent may think that a walker is a great way for their little one to experience the world. However, this is a false environment. In a walker, children cannot see their feet which changes how the brain develops proprioception, children do not have to learn balance, and their future gait (walking) patterns may be affected.

In 1999, a study was performed with 109 infants where some were placed in a walker and others were allowed to play on the ground. By a landslide, the walker infants sat, crawled, and walked later than the other group. It is also important to note that the walker group also scored lower on the Bayley scales of mental and motor development.

In 2004, Canada banned baby walkers.

Upright Bouncers:

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Upright bouncers like the Jolly Jumper are very hard on the developing spine of the infant. The stress of being held prematurely in an upright position, when the bones and muscles have not developed the proper strength can damage the infant spine. Spondylolisthesis can occur in the lumbar spines of infants in these types of devices from the repetitive stresses delivered through an undeveloped spine. Spondylolisthesis occurs when the front part of the vertebra (which stacks) is separated from the posterior elements which surround the spinal cord and most often occurs at the lowest bone in the lumbar spine.

 

Exersaucers and Bumbo chairs:

These upright devices promote abnormal postures and can lead to the altered formation of the curves of the spine. For example, when an infant is placed in a Bumbo chair, their pelvis often tips backward, thrusting the ribs forward, and promoting anterior head carriage. This is a reversal of the curves we see in a normal spine- indicating that increased spinal stress is present when children sit in these positions.

While the Exersaucer is much safer (less likely to tip) than a Walker, it still promotes weight-bearing through the spine in an abnormal and premature way and should be used with caution.

What is the take home? Children need to experience their environment in order to learn. It is essential to have a lot of exploration time for our infants and little ones. The development of their brains and bodies depend upon it. As a Doctor of Chiropractic, I am committed to sharing knowledge with parents so that they can  make informed decisions regarding their children.

References:

http://consults.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/22/the-dangers-of-baby-walkers/?_r=0

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10533994

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16510623

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-03-15/health/ct-met-bumbo-posture-20120315_1_physical-therapists-developmental-benefits-babies

http://pathwaystofamilywellness.org/The-Outer-Womb/maximizing-infant-development.html