Are You Paying Attention?

 

Watching television today, it’s no wonder so many of us are sick.  We’re literally bombarded by advertising for all sorts of different things that sabotage our health.  From fast food, to microwaveable meals, to prescription drug ads, and none of them are making us any healthier.  Have you been paying attention?

Let’s face it, we’re a nation of consumers driven by advertising.  The next time you’re watching your favorite show, count the number of commercials that showcase products which either specifically sabotage our health or promise better health with an alarming potential for side effects.  Have you ever marveled at the prescription drug ads that spend a few seconds (if at all) telling you about what the medication is for but then spend the bulk of the rest of add telling you about all the harmful effects of taking their product?  Sure, it may cure your hiccups, but when your teeth fall out it suddenly doesn’t sound like a miracle after all.

Just open your eyes.  First, there’s the commercial for frozen pizzas and fast food just before the ads for the bag of chips and soda come on.  Then there’s the alcohol commercials.  You know, the ones that make drinking hard liquor somehow glamorous and convinces you you’re a loser if you’re at a party and don’t have a beer in your hand.  I mean, who doesn’t want to be glamorous or sophisticated?  After all, I always drink my bourbon in a tuxedo with my tie undone…every night (kidding).  But wait, there’s more.

Next are the prescription drug adds…the advertising for chemicals to address the symptoms that came about from shoveling all that garbage into your mouth.  High blood pressure? Here’s a pill.  Diabetes?  Here’s a pill.  Can’t poop?  Here’s a pill.  Why take care of yourself?  Here’s a pill.  The problem is that the cause of all these problems is never really addressed.

Then, there are the insurance companies.  A product you’ll definitely need because your health has become a flaming dumpster fire that you keep fueling with bad habits and the treatment you need has become so expensive, you can’t afford to pay for it on you own.  I mean, who can afford to pay the hundreds of thousands of dollars for preventable diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer out of their own pocket?  But it’s really no problem because next, there are the attorneys and they’re itching to sue pretty much anybody, especially the medical companies, because they hurt you.  It’s a nuthouse in a nutshell and so the cycle continues.

So, here’s the translation.  First, you’re bombarded by ads for stuff that poisons you and makes you fat.  Those are followed by the drug companies trying to sell health in a bottle that turns out only to be empty promises of symptom control with a potential for side effects, so you need better insurance to pay for it.  Next, the attorneys are ready to sue just about anybody to get you some money so you can continue to eat more crap and drown your healthcare sorrows in a vodka and tonic.  Still paying attention?

You see, you may have no idea how much of your heath is controlled by the quest for profit.  Here’s a good example.  I would define someone who’s healthy as a person who does not depend on prescription medication or regular medical intervention.  In other words, drugs don’t make you healthy and a healthy person doesn’t need drugs.  A healthy person is pain free, can manage stress, sleeps well at night, and experiences general well-being.  Have you ever wondered how many of the patients that take prescription medications actually become healthier as a result?  Unfortunately, the answer is almost zero.  Remember, symptom control is not the same as health. Just because you’re taking a medication that keeps you blood tests within a certain range doesn’t mean you’re healthy at all. The fact that your symptoms need to be chemically altered to prevent you from dying, by definition, means that you are ill.  So, chew on this: Do you really think that the pharmaceutical companies have any vested interest in getting you well?  They wouldn’t want lose a good customer after all.  How much of their money is spent on advertising versus research after all?

The point is to open your eyes and become an active participant in your health.  Rather than being a sheep, the victim of the next ad or fad, do your own research.  Turn off the boob-tube, the advertising that brainwashes you into a product you really don’t need or want, and start thinking for yourself.  All the tools are there, after all, and most people already know what it takes to become and stay healthy.  They just don’t do it.  But, breaking out of the endless cycle of advertising and gimmicks may be a potent first step to better health.  Be well.

Are You In The Right Office?

A common question I frequently ask my patients is:  Are the people you’re trusting with your healthcare decisions really a ‘healthcare’ provider?  Seems like a pretty simple question, right?  The problem is that we’re living in a day and age where the lines between ‘healthcare’ and ‘disease management’ are terribly blurred.

For example, on my case history form, I have a section that asks:

What medications(s) are you currently taking?

Then, it asks about their vitamins and is followed by a question that asks:

How would you describe your overall health?     Excellent     Good     Fair     Poor

I’ve been in practice for nearly two decades and it still surprises me to see patients who may take a half dozen or more medications (and no vitamins btw) but describe their health as “Excellent.”  Why?  Because the commercials on TV tell them that if they want to be healthy, they have to take this or that medication.  Because the people that they trust tell them that if they don’t take the medication, they won’t stay healthy.  The problem with both scenarios is that medications are not vitamins.  Whether helping to marginalize your symptoms or not, they’re still toxic and have side effects.  Further, I propose that if you are taking medications, prescription or otherwise, to manage a chronic illness, you’re definitely not in “Excellent” health.  A healthy person doesn’t need medication.

Nowadays, advertising has sold you on the notion that medicine is health.  It’s not.  Medicine is disease management and disease management is not the same thing as healthcare.  Now, I’ll be clear.  Modern medicine is a marvel of crisis care and intervention saving countless lives every year.  But you have to understand that it really stinks for chronic illness.  That’s why so many chronic illnesses are on the rise like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes, despite miraculous advances in medicine and technology.  The interventions we turn to in these illnesses just aren’t helping us to become healthier.

So, how do you know the difference between the two?  Here are a few clues:

You develop some sort of symptom and go to your doctor.  Your doctor performs all the tests, as appropriate, to determine the nature of your issue.  If he/she then:

 

  1. Gives you a pill (Disease Management). This is symptom control.  The pill does nothing to necessarily improve your health but it does at least manage your symptoms enough to make you comfortable and/or prevent you from becoming sicker or even dying.  That being said, all medications are toxic and have variability of side effects.  So, while you’re directly managing the symptoms of your disease, you may actually be compromising your general health in the long run.  So many meds are tough on your liver, kidneys, digestive system, heart, nervous system…etc.  Not only that, many medications breed dependency, meaning that if you take it long enough your own body chemistry may never recover.
  2. Hooks you up to some sort of gadget or gizmo (Disease Management). I run a chiropractic office and we routinely use passive therapies like electrical muscle stimulation and ultrasound to help decrease a patient’s pain.  But this type of intervention is also not healthcare.  It’s pain control.  It’s disease management.  A TENS unit, on its own, does nothing to improve your general health.  It just temporarily covers up your symptoms.  The same can be said for back braces, orthotics, and even hot packs.
  3. Tells you it’s “normal” for your age (Disease Management). Now, this is a total cop-out.  Not only is it false in too many cases, it steals a patients hope and gives them a crutch to justify their illness.  Your body is designed to be healthy.  It will fight with every fiber and molecule of your being to resist disease and stay alive.  So, at what point does “dis-ease” become normal?  Always be wary of anyone who tells you that.  In many cases, what it really means is:
    1. “I see this a lot but don’t have much experience with helping people with it.”
    2. “I don’t know what’s wrong with you. (Here’s an antidepressant.)”
    3. “I don’t know if a referral will help.”
    4. “I’m too busy to help you fix it.”
  4. “Pops” your back when you’re in pain (Disease Management). As a chiropractor, this one also strikes particularly close to home and so many of my peers operate their offices this way:  “Just give me a call when you’re have problems again.”  Seriously?  I thought as chiropractic physicians, our mission was to educate and keep the patient healthy, not just pick up the pieces after everything falls apart.  We should not be mimicking a failing model of disease management and you should expect more from your chiropractor.
  5. “Pops” your back when you’re doing well (Healthcare). Chiropractic care has been shown to help improve a patient’s health above and beyond just pain management.  The problem is that most patients who see a chiropractor for pain don’t maintain their alignment and functionality after the pain subsides.  How can you expect to be at maximum health when your pain levels are never truly stable?  You can’t have consistent health when your pain is in flux.  My experience has shown me that the patient gets the most health benefits from adjusting once they are out of pain.  And, ironically, it’s much easier to keep a person well than get them well.
  6. Tries to help you make meaningful lifestyle changes (Healthcare). Maintaining and restoring health is not mystery.  It’s largely about the choices you make, good or bad.  Truthfully, most people know what they need to do to stay healthy, but they still fail.  Why?  Because becoming sick is easy.  Anyone can do it.  But not everyone will stay healthy.  Additionally, most people don’t have a support system and they’re turning to the wrong people for healthcare advice.  Too many people turn to a disease management provider for healthcare advice.  That’s like asking an electrician about why your sink is backed up.  Listen, I’ve said it before.  Maintaining optimum health is about 6 things: Proper Diet, Exercise, Stress Management, Proper Sleep Habits, Limiting Toxic Exposure, and Healthy Nervous System Function.  But, you may not know how to do those things well.  You need a healthcare provider.  You need a coach.

If all you’re getting from your doctor is a pill or procedure and you’re trying to get your health back, I hate to break it to you: you’re in the wrong office.  If, however, your provider is spending time with you to council you on better nutrition, help you with exercising better, and work with you to better your lifestyle, then you’re on the right track and in the right place.  Think about it.  Almost all of us have a disease management provider, but how many of us have a healthcare provider?  If you can find a good one, you may even surprise yourself at how healthy you can become.

What Would A Caveman Do?

After nearly two decades in practice, you start to notice some common themes and, among them, certain questions that are shared by large portions of the population.  One, in particular, is a broad sweeping question that I’m asked quite a lot:  What do I need to do to stay healthy?

Sounds simple right?  Well maybe not so much.  We live in the Information Age with nearly limitless amounts of good and bad advice from nearly limitless sources.  One person will stay do this and you’ll be healthy but then another article will completely contradict it.  And it’s not just relegated to opinions on health.  There are even plentiful examples of research that contradicts other research, studies that are completely contradictory.  So, who’s right?

A person could spend an entire lifetime trying to sort through all the good, bad, and misleading information out there and still be confused.  Consequently, I try to keep health easy to understand for my patients and this is what I ask them: How did our ancestors live?

I mean, think about it.  Were we really designed to sit at a computer all day, munching on processed bags of food?  Were we built to endure near constant stress in an artificial environment?  If you really consider today’s lifestyle, it’s no wonder chronic illness is on the rise.  We don’t exercise like we should, we eat a lot of garbage, our stress is ridiculous, we’re too busy, and we’re literally bathed in toxins every day.

Now, every day patients will ask me, do I do this or that?  Do I eat this or that?  Is this good for me?  Is that bad for me?  And, so on.  My response will generally be, what would a caveman do?  After all, that’s what we are.  We’re hunter gatherers, designed to roam the land hunting for food, water and shelter.  We’re designed to get 12-16 hours of exercise every day.  We’re built to eat real whole foods.  We’re meant to live free of the human zoo we’ve created for ourselves.

Look at tribal cultures around the world.  Do they suffer from cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and obesity like we do in more developed countries?  No way!  Granted, in many of those places, infectious disease and traumatic death is much higher, but if you’re lucky enough to make it to old age, you’ll live a fuller healthier life.  Accordingly, how can we, as members of a highly developed country without the threat of environmentally caused death, ignore the huge potential we have for a longer, healthier, more satisfying life?  Why do so many take our health for granted and just accept illness as the inevitability of aging?  The answer is simple.  We’ve set up too many barriers between us and our genetically programmed, natural lifestyle requirements and our herd mentality falls for the lie that illness is normal.

Here’s a news flash.  Your body’s not designed to be sick.  It’s designed to be healthy.  In fact, it fights with every molecule of your being to be healthy and resist disease…if you’ll help it along.  Go out and get some fresh air.  Stop eating your food out of a bag.  Break away from your desk and get on your feet.  Take on the world like the alpha predator you were destined to be, not the lapdog that chains your seat.  Being healthy isn’t magical and becoming sick isn’t a mystery.  If you make better choices, you get better results.

So, the next time you wonder about which choice about your health is best, ask yourself:  What would a caveman do?

Pregnancy Related Back Pain: Real Solutions

This is the most amazing thing to happen to you!  Congratulations!  Few things will change your life more than having a child.  It’s a joyful time for you, filled with anxious excitement and planning.   While you relish this 9 months and the anticipation of your baby, there was one thing you weren’t planing on: pregnancy back pain!  Ugh!

Pregnancy related back pain is an extremely common complication of pregnancy. Some estimates place as many as 61% of women as experiencing low back pain while carrying their child.  That being said, there are many practical conservative solutions to the stress on the low back that occurs while pregnant.

So, why does a woman develop low back pain? Well there is the obvious answer that with added weight, comes added pressure on the joints. True, the average woman, in a healthy pregnancy, gains 25-35 pounds on average. However, there is more the back pain it than a simply weight gain.

Many women describe pregnancy related low back pain as back pressure, pain across the back, or pain in the hips. Additionally, they may report achiness, stabbing, burning, or instability in the low back.   Regardless of the description, the causes of pregnancy related low back pain are many and include:

  1. Increased weight gain – as your body increases in weight, increased stress is applied to the joints. Gaining the typical 25-35 pounds in a period of 9 months is a relative rapid weight gain, and change your body may have difficulty adapting to. Generally, the impact of weight gain will be affected by general health going into the pregnancy and other factors such as core strength and exercise levels. While healthy weight gain should not generally be discouraged, there are ways to get the body to adapt better to the increased weight, minimizing stress to the joints and maintaining full function of the back through the duration of your pregnancy.
  2. Changes in weight bearing – Generally, most of the weight gain during pregnancy is in the stomach causing the center of gravity to shift forward. While non-pregnant individuals will generally have a center of gravity that is somewhere over the mid-pelvis, pregnancy causes trunk weight to shift forward. This forward weight bearing can cause an increase in the curvature of the low back leading to cramping as the back muscles struggle to support the weight of the abdomen. Additionally, forward weight bearing stress the sacroiliac joints, those tailbone joints that work with the pelvis, to cause sacroiliitis.
  3. Changes in hormones – As your body approaches its due date, your body will start to produce hormones which will increase flexibility. While the hormones do allow for increased motion in the pelvis to allow for birthing, they also make it more difficult for the pelvis and low back to stay in proper alignment, leading to increased instability and pain. Pain may come and go as the pelvis and low back shift and move more easily, resulting in low back irritation and pain.

So, you have low back pain from your pregnancy, what can you do? There are a lot of conservative interventions available to help your deal with your back pain. Some can be accomplished on your own, others require the help and intervention of others. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Weight bearing exercise – A moderate amount of walking will help keep postural muscles strong and improve circulation to affected tissues. Additionally, walking will help improve motion in the pelvis which should, in turn, decrease the likelihood of joint instability, asymmetry, and misalignment of the pelvis.
  2. Stretching – Later in pregnancy, your body does produce hormones that increase joint flexibility and make birthing possible. However the degree to which flexibility improves often depends on pre-pregnancy range of motion. It’s been my experience that many women have developed such muscle tightness before pregnancy that the relaxing hormones can’t even get those individuals to normal ranges of motion. Your body is designed to have a certain level of flexibility that we lose due to life circumstances. Maintaining and improving that flexibility will help decrease the stress on your low back and pelvis. Often, stretching areas you would not associate with your back can even help, such as hamstrings, upper back, and hips. Sitting on an exercise ball and rolling the hips or laying on your back and using the ball to roll the hips back and forth are great exercises for improving your back pain. There are also yoga programs for pregnancy that are available. True, you may not be able to do every pose, but working on your range of motion is generally a good idea.
  3. Improved diet – Of, course, it should go without saying that you should be eating well during your pregnancy, and I’m not talking about volume but quality. After all, you are eating for two now. You should be eating whole foods free of artificial ingredients. Not only will you be healthier for it but your baby will thank you. Improved nutrition will increase nutrient supply for the muscles, ligaments, and tendons of the back. Good food will decrease the likelihood of muscle spasms due to nutritional deficiency.   Avoid excessive carbs/sugars because they can be pro-inflammatory and contribute to inflammation in the joints. Also, watch your water intake. Dehydration can also lead to muscle spasming and soreness in the soft tissues. Finally, a whole food pre-natal vitamin should be part of any regimen to help fill the holes in your diet, not to mention prevent possible birth defects.
  4. Stress management – Mental stress causes physical distress. True, your low back pain is most likely due to the physiologic changes you’re experiencing with your pregnancy but mental stress can take a physical problem and make it that much worse. Pregnancy in and of itself can be a trying time mentally, especially for single or first time mothers. Finding an outlet or your stress, such as exercise or even counseling will help your body adapt better.
  5. Improve your body positioning – Being conscious of your posture and taking active steps to alleviate the stresses on your back may improve your pain symptoms. This may include everything from sleeping on your side with a pillow between your legs to using pillows to support the back and legs while you’re sitting. Back supports may also help.   Avoid standing or sitting in one position for too long and try to get moving as much as possible.
  6. Massage Therapy – Because much of the pain experienced during pregnancy is due to tension and stress on the muscles, soft tissue mobilization may help alleviate a portion of the pain. Massage therapy will help relax tightened muscles, improve circulation to the tissues, and promote a general sense of well-being.
  7. Heat or ice – While many sources will include hot baths for relieving pain, I will generally discourage that for my patients. In fact, many physiotherapy resources discourage the application of heat over the abdomen as a contraindication during pregnancy. I generally tell patients to use a regional warm pack over the back for no more than 15-20 minutes. It can be repeated but allow about an hour or so for re-application. I want the patient to avoid increasing their resting metabolize temperature and the goal isn’t to cook the tissues. A warm pack can often provide just as much effect as a hot pack, with less risk. A microwaveable heat pack or hot water bottle will generally suffice to ease tension in the low back without the danger of overheating the area. As a general rule, avoid placing heat or ice over the abdomen while you’re pregnant.
  8. Kinesiotaping – This is an athletic taping technique that has been gaining popularity in recent years. Kinesiotape is being increasingly used by professional and amateur athletes to help alleviate pain and improve tissue healing. It’s safe to use during pregnancy because it does not use any drugs and is strictly a cloth tape with a skin adhesive.  In fact, there are specific taping regimens for pregnancy, to not only alleviate low back pain, but possible abdominal pain associated with carrying your baby. To be effective, though, the tape should be applied by an individual with training and experience in kinesiotaping. There is a certain art form to its application. It can, however, offer notable decrease in pain and improved stability in the back, hips, and abdomen.
  9. Proper spinal alignment – Arguably one of the most important aspects of decreasing pain in your back, I saved this for last. Proper alignment of the low back will decrease pressure on pain sensitive nerves, improve motion of the joints of the low back, decrease stress on the soft tissues, and improve overall function of the low back. Chiropractic care has been routinely shown to be safe and effective for relieving the back pain associated with pregnancy. Spinal adjusting has also been linked to improved labor and delivery. There are certain medical conditions that may be a contraindication to chiropractic care but, for most women, chiropractic care can be very effectively incorporated into a pain management regimen. In my office, I will frequently see pregnant patients on a weekly or biweekly basis for their pain and most women will see decreased pain immediately following their adjustment. They also will report improved ability to sleep, decrease generalized soreness, and an improved ability to function. In my opinion, chiropractic adjusting should be incorporated for most women with pregnancy related low back pain.

If you are struggling with pregnancy related low back pain, there are solutions out there for you. Perhaps the best place to consult about your back pain is with someone who sees a lot of back pain patients, like a chiropractor. Besides adjusting your spine, they can provide you with additional tips and tricks to alleviate your pain.

Has your doctor suggested pain medication to you? Always ask better questions. The decision to take pain medication while pregnant should be a thoughtful one made with your medical doctor.  You need to know what research has been done on that medication and its effect on a developing fetus. Certain conditions like asthma and autism have risen to alarming rates, with little research done on the effects of oral medications on an undeveloped fetus. While there is little overt evidence to explain the remarkable rise in childhood illness, that is mostly the result of a lack of research. Just because there is not an established 1 to 1 relationship between a specific cause and disease does not discount an overall trend toward increasing illness due to an accumulation of exposures. I don’t think it’s an accident that autism rates have risen to 1 in 88 kids. Too much of the research focuses on, and debunks, a single specific cause like vaccination and I fear conditions like autism are not due to a solitary cause but a series of toxic exposures over time. Unfortunately, there is very little research on the effects of pre-pregnancy, intra-pregnancy, and post-pregnancy toxic exposure on the developing child. However, it reasons that the rises in childhood illness rates may be linked to the fact that our environment is as toxic as it’s ever been. Anything you put in your body that is not food is a potential toxin. That toxin can affect you and your baby. Pain medication is not food. Anything you feed your body while pregnant, your baby will respond to, either for good or bad. Try to remove as many toxins as possible from your diet and lifestyle. Turning to natural means for alleviation of your pain may make you and your baby a whole lot healthier and happier for a lifetime of wellness.

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symptoms_and_discomforts_of_pregnancy

www.webmd.com/baby/guide/back-pain-in-pregnancy

http://icpa4kids.org/Chiropractic-Research/Pregnancy-and-Adjustments/

Overfed But Undernourished: Why Supplementation Matters

One of the cornerstones of our chiropractic practice is proper nutrition.  Indeed, eating a healthy diet and supplementing for the holes in a healthy diet should be a cornerstone of any health related practice.  Having worked with thousands of patients over the years, however, I’ve found that very few people ever even give rational though to how they are feeding their body.

The truth is, you will only be able to remain well with adequate fuel and proper maintenance.  Your body requires a variety of certain nutrients in order to fight of disease and preserve your health.  Too little of certain good nutrients can lead to diseases like neuropathy or cancer.  Too much of the bad stuff can lead to heart disease or diabetes.  The job of the individual looking to become and stay healthy is to find the happy medium that balances nutritional requirements without consuming excess calories or chemicals from their diet.

It can truly be said that, as Americans, we are overfed but undernourished.   The results of this lifestyle are plain.  We now suffer from skyrocketing obesity rates and chronic illness continues to rise.  Despite having one of the most sophisticated “healthcare” delivery systems in the world, we’re not getting any healthier.

One of the ways we attempt to improve the overall health of all of the patients in our office is through improved nutrition.   Some of this comes in the form of nutritional supplementation.  I’ve realized over the years that one of the reasons so many people are overweight is that they are getting so few nutrients from their food.  Food quality is not today what it was 50 years ago.  We’re literally bathed in food that’s high in calories and additives but very low in nutrients.  As a result, we end up eating more and more just to satisfy the minimum nutritional requirements of our body.  So, we eat and eat and eat just to get to the minimum nutrient requirement your body needs to function.  The problem is that the unhealthy foods we are eating are very calorie rich, causing us to literally burst at the seams.

During our patient intake process, I ask patients if they are taking supplements.  Not surprisingly, the few people who do take supplements are largely just taking a ‘pot-shot’ in the dark, offering little if any health benefit.  Often their decision on certain supplements is not based on health, training, or guidance by a healthcare provider, but is based on advertising.  Worse, I’ve had patients who believe or have been told, even by their own healthcare provider, that vitamins are “worthless” or “a waste of money.”  The ironic and sad thing is that many of the patients who mistakenly believe this disinformation are some of the most ill new patients we see in our office, often taking the most medication.  The bad advice they have been given is sabotaging their health.

Here are several reasons why taking a nutritional supplement is critical to maintaining your health:

1.       Many people don’t eat the diet they should – In our busy world, many of us eat a diet of convenience.  Meaning, we eat what we can when we can.   Our diets are nutrient poor, high calorie, and laced with artificial chemicals.  We give little though to what we eat, how we eat, and when we’re eating it.   Worse, many people who think they’re eating a healthy diet have never really sat down and evaluated what they really eat during the day.  Many are surprised at how shockingly bad their diet really is when they do a 7 day diet intake analysis.

2.       General food quality has declined – With an increase in convenience foods, from fast food to microwavable meals, our food quality has suffered.  We’ve moved away from cooking and preparing fresh food at home to “picking something up” or “grabbing a bite.”  Restaurants also include additional salt and MSG to enhance the flavor of their foods and thus generate repeat customers.

3.       Nutrient content of even the good food we eat is on the decline – Think about it.  We are growing enough food in the U.S. to feed the largest population ever, over 300 million people.  That doesn’t even include the food and food supplies we send to other countries.  The problem is that we are growing it on the fewest number of farms in a century.  So, what happens when you grow more and more food on less and less land?  The nutrient content of the food declines.  In other words, a carrot nowadays does not have the same nutrient levels as it did in 1950.

4.       How we cook our foods depletes many of the natural nutrients found in healthy foods – The cooking process can often destroy naturally occurring nutritional and digestive enzymes found in raw foods.  This is particularly true of fruits and vegetables.  Further, cooking and preparing meals often adds undesirable elements such as greases and oils, not to mention chemical additives.

5.       As we age we absorb fewer nutrients from our food – Do you honestly think that a 70 year old will absorb the same nutrients from food as a 17 year old?  Of course not!  As we age, our digestive system ages with us.  Just as our muscles may not function like they used to, so does our digestion.  It’s critical then to supplement those nutrients for which we may have a problem digesting and absorbing as we age.

6.       The medications we take may prevent absorption of certain nutrients and deplete nutrients from our body – There are several examples of medications that affect nutrient absorption.  For example, acid reducers for acid reflux neutralize stomach acid which is required for calcium absorption.  Likewise, cholesterol medication decreases vitamin D production in the liver, which is also critical to calcium absorption.  Cholesterol medication also decreases the body’s production of Coenzyme Q10 which is a critical antioxidant and important for cellular energy.  Antibiotics kill bacteria in the gut that produce vitamin K.  Even the pain medication you’re taking can deplete a multitude of nutrients from vitamin C to Zinc.  And the list goes on…

Not taking a supplement in this age of nutritional decline is a mistake.  Even if you do eat a healthy diet, you may not be getting all the nutrients you need to stay well.

So what supplement should you take?  That depends on your individual health status and your ability to supplement.  I generally recommend that anyone looking to make a serious change in their nutrition consult with a healthcare provider.  That being said, make sure that the people you take your health advice from are in the health business and not the disease management business.  Just because a provider may understand the cause and treatment of disease, does not necessarily mean that they understand what it takes to be healthy.  Managing the symptoms of your disease is not the same as being healthy.  Don’t confuse the two.

Supplementation is a crucial aspect to being healthy.  With regard to which supplements to choose from the infinite choices, we’ll discuss that in a future blog.

Fat and Happy or Fit and Healthy

There is an old expression that describes contentment as “sitting fat and happy.”  Our modern lifestyle seems geared toward having both, often at the expense of your health and longevity.  While the United States has one of the most sophisticated healthcare delivery systems in the world, we rank 37th in overall health according to the World Health Organization.  Why is that?

Look around you.  We live in an age that is designed to sabotage our health.  Cheap, poor quality food is readily available at every turn.  Our jobs are slowly moving away from physical labor toward a computer driven economy that inhibits exercise.  We even have moving sidewalks.  So, the question becomes is “sitting fat and happy” the picture you had for your life?

Let’s look at the results of a sedentary lifestyle.  There are endless known effects of lack of exercise and poor diet, including:

1.        Increased risk of heart disease

2.       Increased risk of diabetes

3.       Increased risk of cancer

4.       Increased risk of stroke

5.       Decreases immune system

6.       Sleep difficulty

7.       Depression

8.       Digestive problems

9.       Decreased life expectancy

10.   General decline in health

The “fat and happy” lifestyle is a recipe for disaster.  While you may enjoy temporary satisfaction, you are setting yourself up for long-term failure.

Unfortunately, many people are led to believe that being healthy is out of their reach.  They’ve been told that illness is just inevitable and they are destined to suffer the rest of their life with some form of chronic infirmity.  Worse, many of the people telling them this are the very people they trust with their health decisions.

The truth is exactly the opposite and you have more power than you know.  Being healthy is a choice as much as being sick is your decision.  Your body is a self healing machine and functions optimally with adequate fuel and proper maintenance.  Further, where you are in your health right now is more likely a reflection of the decisions you have made up to that point rather than an accident of genetics or fate.  The biggest detriment to being healthy may be you.  Lack of exercise, poor diet, high amounts of stress, and poor nervous system health all contribute to a decline in your overall well being.

If we’re told that as we age getting sick is normal, does that make the 90 year old healthy individual on no medications abnormal?  When did sick become the new normal?  Where you are in your health is a product of the choices you make, a cause and effect.  If you choose to exercise or not, there will be an effect.  If you choose to eat junk food or vegetables, there will be an effect.  If you are able to manage your stress or not, there will be an effect…and so on.

Disease does not occur in a vacuum.  It’s the deliberate result of years of poor decisions and neglect…years of “sitting fat and happy.”  You need to understand that the decisions you make now about your health may determine whether you spend the later years of your life sick and tired or fit and healthy.  The decisions you make now may even shorten or prolong your life.

Even if you are sick, there are ways to restore your health.  No, taking ibuprofen for pain, an acid reducer for acid reflux, or an antibiotic for a sinus infection does not make you healthy.  You can’t get health from chemicals in a bottle.  Medications are only designed to alter body functions in order to manage a disease process…cause and effect.  They are not vital nutrients.  In other words, you’re still “fat” (or, more appropriately, sick) but at least you’re happy.  Health can only come from one place…from inside you.  The decision you have to make is whether you are willing to make the good decisions to take care of yourself as an insurance policy for your future.

The ironic thing about health is that most people know what they need to do to be healthy.  They know they need to stop eating the junk.  They know they need to eat more fruits and vegetables.  They know they need to get more exercise.  They know they should take care of their spines.  Many of the patients I talk to even know that the medications they take are not the solution they are looking for.  Still, they choose not to do anything about being well and prefer to live “fat and happy.”

Each day is a new cross-road in your life.  Each day, you have the option to take care of yourself or not.  Keep in mind that every day you choose not to act builds upon the next.  Ultimately, you need to decide for yourself whether you are going to live each day “fat and happy” or fit and healthy.

You Are What You Eat

Anything you put in your body that’s not food is a poison…period.  While this fact is lost on the masses who shovel chemically laced food and medications into their mouths without a second thought, the truth is the truth.  From a genetic and developmental standpoint, your digestive system is designed to process food.

So, what is food?  You probably remember.  No, it’s not a microwavable burrito, curly fries, or a bag of potato chips.  Food is a carrot.  Food is a piece of grilled chicken.  Food is an apple.  Food is a salad.  Essentially, if it comes from a plant, but doesn’t grow on a plant, a lot of what’s in it is not food.

Nowadays, we live in a society of convenience.  Quick and easy meals are everywhere.  Why cook dinner when you can just pick it up on the way home?  Even illnesses have become more convenient as there seems to be a treatment for just about every sort of symptom.  Our lifestyles abound with chemical exposures, the most direct of which is what we ingest.

The United States Food and Drug Administration allows thousands of non-food chemicals into the food supply.  This includes everything from artificial sweeteners and flavor enhancers to preservatives and colorings.  Much of the meat we consume is tainted by hormones and antibiotics and even some of the chemical additives we regularly ingest are sold to us as “healthy.”

Let’s take the example of margarine.  For years, margarine was sold as a “healthier” alternative to butter.  Lo and behold, after years of consumption, it turns out that the exact opposite is true.  It really shouldn’t have been any surprise.  Look at the back of a package of margarine versus a package of butter.  Margarine is a chemical soup of up to 20 different ingredients, most of which are unpronounceable, and in my opinion not fit for consumption.  Butter’s ingredients are simple: milk, cream, and salt…all food.

Artificial sweetener is another example of a chemical alternative that’s been sold to the masses as “healthier” for them.  Never mind that there is some research that suggests that saccharine is a potential carcinogen, and aspartame and sucralose are both potential neurotoxins.  Your body is designed to process sugar not the reasonable approximation of sugar.  The problem is not the sugar itself, it’s the copious volumes we as Americans consume per year.

Even the vitamin supplements you take may not be all they are cracked up to be.  Many of the larger vitamin suppliers provide their vitamins as a “chemical isolates.”  Meaning, the vitamin has been mass produced in a laboratory from simpler chemicals to manufacture a reasonable approximation of a natural vitamin.  The problem is that many of these chemical vitamins are missing key enzymes and cofactors that make the vitamin usable by your body.  So, some of the supplements you take may actually be worthless.  For instance, many supplement manufacturers list vitamin E as ‘alpha-tocopherol’ but this is only one component of a larger vitamin E complex.  To get the complete vitamin, you need beta, gamma, and delta tocopherol along with selenium, xanthine, and lipositols.  I know that sounds like a chemistry lesson, but what you don’t know about your supplements may be costing you money and even affecting your health.   Go with a whole food supplement manufactured from food.  After all, that’s what you’re built to digest.

Last, but certainly not least in the chemicals we regularly ingest, are the medications we take. Your body is not a chemistry set.  It’s a finely tuned biochemical producing machine.  Medications are not vital to life and are not essential nutrients.  Granted, for a person suffering from acute and chronic illness, their effects can be miraculous, but no one ever died of an aspirin deficiency.  Still, patients routinely list aspirin in their vitamins on our new patient intake forms.  That’s the effect of marketing and deficient patient education.  Medications are designed to produce a desirable effect within the chemistry of the body.  Often, this comes with a barrage of less than desirable effects (side effects).  The medications you ingest will chemically affect the tissues of the body in specific ways and your body will respond to those effects based on your individual health.  Your liver then has to process and package those chemicals for excretion out of the body.  Well, what happens when your medication consumption becomes greater than your body’s ability to excrete them?  You become toxic.

Now, you may be so ill as to need the medications you take just to stay alive.  As a chiropractor, I’ll be the first to say that I would never tell a patient to take or not take their medications.  That’s between the patient and their medical doctor.  I have no objection to required medications as a life preserving and improving methodology.  You just need to be aware of the positive and negative effects of regularly ingesting significant amounts of artificial chemicals.  It does not come without a price.  What I will encourage, however, is the patient to become better informed about the treatments they receive, both positive and negative, and ask their doctor better questions.  Your physician works for you, after all.

You see, illness is not an accident.  Illness is the result of neglect and exposure.  Not eating correctly, feeding ourselves convenience foods laced with chemicals, and even intentionally ingesting non-natural chemicals are all factors that can make us sick.  The most overlooked aspect of this scenario is that you ultimately have near full control over your chemical exposures.  If you want to be healthy, make better decisions, ask better questions, and make health a priority.   When you decide to take charge of your own health and be conscious of the good and bad decisions you make on a daily basis, that’s when you have true power over your health.