TEXT NECK

“Text Neck”, definitely a condition coined in the past decade among health care professionals when describing the symptoms of their patients. With the advancement of technology and more frequent complaints of neck pain, shoulder pain, and headaches, this new term is only going to be seen more often. Text Neck is the term used to describe neck pain and damage caused by looking down at your cell phone, tablet, and/or other forms of technology too frequent and for long periods of time.  According to statistics, Americans are spending a staggering average of 4.7 hours on their cell phones or tablet devices a day. Considering the average person gets 8 hours of sleep, we are spending over a third of our day on our “handheld lifelines”.  The constant bending of your neck forward has been going on long before cellphones for things such as reading, but the problem is technology is adding one more activity that is leading to these musculoskeletal problems. 

Symptoms of “Text Neck” include neck pain and upper back pain that is sharp in nature, muscle spasms, headaches, shoulder pain and tightness, and in severe cases causes neurological symptoms like numbness and tingling into ones arm and fingers due to nerve entrapment. Our bodies were designed to have a curve in the neck that develops and is strengthened when we are babies that keeps our head upright . The purpose of the curve is to keep pressure off our discs, nerves, and bones. The consistent flexion or bending of the neck over time can change ones posture that causes loss of the crucial curve in the neck that we were designed to have.  The muscles running from the base of skull, down the back of the neck, and even to the shoulder area become weakened and stretched and can lead to chronic headaches and muscle spasm. 

As a chiropractor, I am seeing this condition more often in the office. Examining x-rays of a healthy neck, there is a visible curve that is present and the spaces where the discs sit are evenly open through the neck. On the flip side, someone with text neck has an alarmingly straight neck with a loss of the important curve. The average adult head weighs between 10-12 pounds, and when the head is tilted forward and constantly looking down at technology, this increases the gravitational pull on the neck and supporting muscles. This applies a great deal of pressure to this delicate area of the spine and the force is equivalent to 60 pounds of extra weight. 

Technology is not going anywhere- social media, text messaging, and gaming is making us more addictive to our devices than ever. So what can we do about it to decrease the risk of damage to our precious spine? Because, we can buy new technology but our spine is irreplaceable. The first tip is no slouching. Not only are we looking down at our devices but usually hunched forward as well. Bring your phone or tablet to eye level. This will be very uncomfortable at first but your body will get used to it and it will save your neck. Strengthening and stretching your muscles can help alleviate the nagging pain caused from “text neck”, visit your chiropractor or physical therapist to learn exercises that will help your posture. Lastly, if you are a parent and have control over how much your children are using technology, limit their time on their devices. Childhood are crucial years for spinal and muscular development and their activities and posture at even a young age are setting them up for the rest of their lives.

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF GETTING YOUR ZZZ'S BY DR RACHEL STEINER

The importance of getting your ZZZ’s

Dr. Rachel Steiner

     Studies show that 35% of adults sleep on an average of less than 7 hours in a 24-hour day. It is recommended that adults should get 7 to 8 hours of sleep, while children and teens need up to 9 hours of sleep a night. Investing in good sleep habits is crucial for maintaining brain health, regulating the energy levels of our cells, reducing stress levels, and aids in the healing processes that do not take place when we are active and awake. Our quality of sleep should be just as important as our diet and physical activity levels. Research shows that those who consistently do not get the proper amount of rest have an increased risk of high blood pressure, cancer, heart problems, depression, and other diseases. When our cells are not able to recharge through sleep, they naturally wear down decreasing the daily function of our organs and will eventually lead to a compromised immune system. Outside of our health, a lack of sleep increases the chances of car accidents, occupational errors, and difficulty performing daily tasks. The quality and timing of sleep are important factors for getting the proper rest each night and there are easy steps to take to make sure you are allowing your body to get quality sleep.

FOOD FOR SLEEP

     Our diet impacts all aspects of our well being including our quality of sleep. Healthy fats such as coconut oil, eggs, avocado, and raw nuts provide our body with the necessary building blocks to produce hormones which aid in sleep. Foods high in antioxidant such as blueberries, leafy green vegetables, and green tea are also important for hormone production and removal of harmful toxins that can negatively affect our sleep. Avoiding sugars and carbs especially at night can increase sleep quality due to the fact that these foods can cause a blood sugar spike and crash affect that will lead to difficulty falling or staying asleep.

YOUR SLEEP ENVIRONMENT

     Your sleep environment is extremely important for sleep quality and for allowing your body to fall into the deep sleep we need to get the benefits of shuteye. Removing all artificial light including the television, phone, night lights, and even your alarm clock can help assure a proper environment for sleep. Try switching out an annoying alarm sound with a gentle noise such as a sunlight alarm clock that will wake you up much more gently. Many people dread the sound of their alarm and can cause anxiety if you wake up before your alarm and are anticipating the sound.

COPE WITH SHIFT WORK SLEEP DISORDER

      A disrupted sleep schedule caused by working nights or irregular shifts can lead to sleepiness in the work place, mood swings, and decreased energy levels. Shift workers tend to suffer from sleeping at home during the day and staying awake at work during the night. Obviously we can’t choose when we work but there are some steps to take to make sure you are still getting quality sleep. If you drink caffeinated drinks, try to consume them early in your shift as opposed to the end when you are feeling tired. Although they may be necessary to get through the last couple hours of work, it will be harder to fall asleep when it comes time to go to bed. Try to stay on a routine even if you are on nights, try to lie down at the same time after you are off work and wake up around the same time each day. If possible, try to limit the number of night or irregular shifts you work in a row to prevent sleep deprivation from setting in. If that is not possible, avoid rotating shifts if you can to maintain the same sleep schedule. When the weekend rolls around or your nonworking days, make it a priority to get the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep and pay off some of your “sleep debt”.

     I hope these tips can be of use to many people who are sleep deprived. In our crazy busy society, sleep is one thing that can always be pushed to the wayside if needed. Think of a good nights sleep as crucial as it is for you to eat or make it to work on time, it is a must for proper health and wellness.

GMO- What Exactly does this mean? By Dr. Rachel Steiner

GMO- What Exactly does this mean?

BY: Dr. Rachel Steiner

     The three-letter abbreviation GMO has become a hot topic of discussion and debate with food and nutrition, but many do not understand exactly what it means. “GMO” is an abbreviation for Genetically Modified Organism. Biotechnology and bioengineering are the two fields of science that studied and created GMO’s with a goal of reducing world hunger. This started with golden rice, which was the first GMO food created with a goal of increasing the nutritional value. It was specifically designed to supplement the diets of children who suffered from Vitamin A deficiencies and was considered a huge break through. This new science creates unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacteria, and viral genes that do not occur in nature or natural crossbreeding methods. Most GMO foods can withstand herbicides, pesticides, and drought intolerance, therefore increasing the chances of the crop making it through the growing process to then be available to the public.

     An example of this unnatural science that is currently being done is inserting a cold-water fish gene into a tomato planet so the plant won’t freeze in the winter. Another combination taking place is inserting a bacterial gene that is toxic to insects in a corn plant so corn worms die when they attempt to eat the corn.

     This is a debated topic of discussion as we are the "guinea pigs" of this experiment. The knowledge regarding this issue is too new to know if there are any long-term side effects, but we are essentially being treated as test subjects in the meantime. Some argue that GMO foods are perfectly fine and are a great attribute to the food industry to modify foods to make them with whatever makeup and nutritional value we want. Because this new science was originally created with the vision of ending world hunger, regulations and bans have been put to the side to support the supposedly good cause.

     On the flip side, many believe GMO products are believed to be ruining the health of citizens with nasty side effects. GMO products are restricted or completely ban in over 60 countries including Australia, Ireland, Saudi Arabia, and Thailand. There are some ongoing experiments showing that consuming GMO foods can lead to reduced fertility, increased inflammation, impaired metabolism, autism, obesity, allergies, and altered liver and kidney function. GMOs do not require labeling anywhere in North America, preventing potential health liability claims from being traced back to the GMO producers and food processors. Without mandatory, legally defined labeling there is no traceability, accountability, or liability to find a direct correlation between GMO products and any side effects.

     Until regulations are set and more research is done, there are a few things we can do in the meantime to protect ourselves. Be aware that items containing GMO’s will not be noted on the label. Again, because the government has not put any restriction on these products, GMO products are not required to inform the public of the fact. Obviously if a company is using GMO products, they would not want to advertise it if they are not required to for the sake of sales and business.

     However, there is some good news! Recently, items that do not contain GMO’s have a green label as seen in the picture with this article. These labels have come available through the Non GMO Project, which is a recognized group who are trying to get restrictions on genetically modified food. To see a complete list of GMO free products, you can visit nongmoproject.org.

     I am no expert on GMO’s, how exactly they work, or the absolute truth of the side effects but I don’t think anyone, is which I find scary. I am still doing my research to learn and become more educated on the topic. Although with this being such a new concept in the world today, the exact long-term side effects are still unknown. That statement alone is scary to me. Scientists are not 100% that the researched side effects are caused exclusively by GMO products. However, anytime we interfere with nature and the amazing job it does, it is never a good thing. I encourage everyone to take the time to do his or her research to better understand this topic that could effect our planet and future generations forever.

Foods For Youth

Foods for Youth

By: Dr. Rachel Steiner

     People are always looking for a quick fix to looking younger and restoring their youth. The answer is, there is no quick fix but there is an easy way to start making positive changes. Have you heard the term, you are what you eat? This is true, our body is a reflection of what we put in it, the stressors we have, and our environment. There are a lot of things we can be adding to our diet if we don’t eat them already to help slow the aging process.

Walnuts to prevent Gray Hair

     Walnuts are rich in body-boosting biotin that promotes hair growth, nourishing vitamin E, and naturally moisturizing omega oils. They also contain copper, which is a very important mineral that helps with the production of melanin. Melanin is the pigment that gives our skin and hair color. A deficiency in copper is a common cause of hair prematurely turning gray. According to research eating a handful of walnuts a day can help delay your hair from turning gray and another bonus is that walnuts are high in the good fat our body needs to function and fuel the brain.

Lean Beef for Shiny Nails

     Weekly manicures can keep your nails in tip-top shape, but so can a Sunday's roast dinner. Research has found that a diet rich in protein, iron and zinc are the key to long, strong, beautiful nails. And you’ll get a healthy serving of all three nutrients from a small portion of lean red meat.

Tomatoes to Reverse Sun Damage

     New research has found that the reason melanoma rates are so low in regions like the Mediterranean where the sun shines almost all year around has to do with the particular diet they eat. Foods high in antioxidants, particularly deeply colored fruits and vegetables, can help fight the oxidizing effect of UV rays. One study found participants who ate five tablespoons of tomato paste daily showed 33 percent more protection against sunburn than the control group. Tomatoes do two great things- the carotenoids and antioxidants help the body fight off oxidation that ages skin cells and they boost pro-collagen which is a molecule that gives skin its taught, youthful structure.

Sweet Potatoes for Glowing Skin

     Eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables gives a healthier, and more attractive, golden glow than the sun. Researchers found people who ate more portions of red and orange fruits and vegetables per day had a more sun-kissed complexion than those who didn’t consume as much. Few foods are as rich in all the compounds that give your skin a glow as sweet potatoes. Eating just half a sweet potato with the skin provides 200 percent of your daily-recommended intake. Other vegetables that can give your skin a glowing look are beets, carrots, and pumpkin.

Lastly… Water! Good for everything in our body.

     When looking for the real fountain of youth, search no further than plain water. Our bodies are made up of over 70 percent water and it keeps us fresh and hydrated. When our body is dehydrated, not only can that cause fatigue but also it can cause our skin to look dry and wrinkled. Hydrated skin looks smooth, fresh and younger and you will be doing well to all your organs too by drinking water. A good rule of thumb for how much water you should drink is dividing your body weight in half and that is the amount of ounces you should be consuming.

Diagnosis: Text Neck

Diagnosis: Text Neck

BY: Dr. Rachel Steiner

     “Text Neck”, definitely a condition coined in the past decade among health care professionals when describing the symptoms of their patients. With the advancement of technology and more frequent complaints of neck pain, shoulder pain, and headaches, this new term is only going to be seen more often. Text Neck is the term used to describe neck pain and damage caused by looking down at your cell phone, tablet, and/or other forms of technology too frequent and for long periods of time. According to statistics, Americans are spending a staggering average of 4.7 hours on their cell phones or tablet devices a day. Considering the average person gets 8 hours of sleep, we are spending over a third of our day on our “handheld lifelines”. The constant bending of your neck forward has been going on long before cellphones for things such as reading, but the problem is technology is adding one more activity that is leading to these musculoskeletal problems.

     Symptoms of “Text Neck” include neck pain and upper back pain that is sharp in nature, muscle spasms, headaches, shoulder pain and tightness, and in severe cases causes neurological symptoms like numbness and tingling into ones arm and fingers due to nerve entrapment. Our bodies were designed to have a curve in the neck that develops and is strengthened when we are babies that keeps our head upright. The purpose of the curve is to keep pressure off our discs, nerves, and bones. The consistent flexion or bending of the neck over time can change ones posture that causes loss of the crucial curve in the neck that we were designed to have. The muscles running from the base of skull, down the back of the neck, and even to the shoulder area become weakened and stretched and can lead to chronic headaches and muscle spasm.

     As a chiropractor, I am seeing this condition more often in the office. Examining x-rays of a healthy neck, there is a visible curve that is present and the spaces where the discs sit are evenly open through the neck. On the flip side, someone with text neck has an alarmingly straight neck with a loss of the important curve. The average adult head weighs between 10-12 pounds, and when the head is tilted forward and constantly looking down at technology, this increases the gravitational pull on the neck and supporting muscles. This applies a great deal of pressure to this delicate area of the spine and the force is equivalent to 60 pounds of extra weight.

     Technology is not going anywhere- social media, text messaging, and gaming is making us more addictive to our devices than ever. So what can we do about it to decrease the risk of damage to our precious spine? Because, we can buy new technology but our spine is irreplaceable. The first tip is no slouching. Not only are we looking down at our devices but usually hunched forward as well. Bring your phone or tablet to eye level. This will be very uncomfortable at first but your body will get used to it and it will save your neck. Strengthening and stretching your muscles can help alleviate the nagging pain caused from “text neck”, visit your chiropractor or physical therapist to learn exercises that will help your posture.

     Lastly, if you are a parent and have control over how much your children are using technology, limit their time on their devices. Childhood are crucial years for spinal and muscular development and their activities and posture at even a young age are setting them up for the rest of their lives.

GOOD OLD HIGH QUALITY H2O BY: DR. RACHEL STEINER

     60% of our body is made up of water and just a drop in 2% of our water level can send us into dehydration. Our brain, blood, and lungs are made up of 95%, 82%, and 90% water respectively.  From that alone, you can see the importance of why humans need water for survival. Did you know that when you thirsty it is your bodies signal to tell you that you are already starting to become dehydrated? Signs of dehydration include fatigue, weakness, headaches, impaired memory, and trouble focusing on things like basic math and reading. Make sure you are getting the adequate amount of water daily by this easy equation.  For the average person, dividing your body weight in half is how many ounces of water you should drink daily. For example, if you weigh 140 pounds, you should roughly drink 70 ounces of water per day. Of course this varies on your activity level, how much you sweat, and the climate in which you live and work in. If you were drinking bottled water, the average bottle containing 16 ounces, you would need to drink 4.5 bottles a day to meet your daily requirement of water for a 140-pound person.

     Water is essential to the human body just as gas is for your car. All cell and organ functions that make up our entire anatomy and physiology require water to function. Here are just a few important qualities of water.

     Water removes toxins from our body. Water flushes toxins through the process of urination and sweating.  If we are dehydrated, the body will pull fluid from our stool, which can result in constipation. When our gastrointestinal track is not removing waste regularly, this can result in excessive build up of harmful substances, which can be poisonous to our body. Drinking enough H2O is an easy way to insure waste is removed quickly and regularly. Our kidneys and liver play an important role of filtering our blood and bodily fluids and they perform more effectively and with much more ease when the body is properly hydrated.

     Water can help control caloric intake. Water doesn’t have any magical effect on weight loss, but it is a great substitution for higher calorie liquids. With sweet tea being a staple in our state, just think of the calories that can be spared if water replaced our tea intake. A small glass (approximately 8 ounces) of sweet tea contains 150 calories and 36 grams of sugar (9 teaspoons). Lets do the math. Just drinking one glass of sweet tea with every meal racks up a total of 450 calories in just 3 glasses. In a week, that is 3150 calories just in drinking sweet tea alone. 3,500 calories makes up one pound, so you can see in just a month of drinking 3 small glasses per day would add up to 4 pounds of potential weight gain. The good news is if you swap the sweet tea for water, you could lose 4 pounds per month. That is huge amount for such an easy step to take in your health!

      Another way of reducing caloric intake is making it a conscious habit of drinking of glass of water before each meal. Water helps you feel full, not to the point of eating actual food, but will make you feel fuller faster which will result in you eating less.

     Water makes your skin look healthy. Our skin is a protective barrier to prevent excessive fluid loss and is made up mostly of water. Water is essential to maintain the optimum skin moisture and aids in the delivery of nutrients to our skin cells. When we are dehydrated, our skin looks wrinkly and discolored but when we are properly hydrated, this helps reduce the visibility of wrinkles and fine lines. 

     Since water plays such a vital role to our body, it is important we are drinking clean, high quality water that is free of chemicals and other toxins. As mentioned in my last article, invest in a water filter that removes everyday chemicals that our found in our tap water.  Brita and Pure water filters are inexpensive and can be kept in your refrigerator. Some helpful and easy ways to increase your intake of H2O include: have a glass before each meal or snack, anytime you leave the house make sure you have water with you, and consider downloading a free water phone app. There are phone apps available to track how much water you drink per day and remind you when you fall short of your daily requirement. 

     A great article that proves water has a major effect on the body is a case study a lady from the UK wrote. Google- “Drinking 10 liters of water a day took ten years off my face”- this person describes the positive changes that took place with her body and she has pictures included to see the difference it made. Check it out!

     The human body is very resilient and if we treat it well, our body has the ability to heal on its own.  Remember, if you are thirsty, your body is already dehydrated. Cheers to drinking your way to health and achieving your goals.

SUGAR-THE NOT SO SWEET FACTS BY: DR. RACHEL STEINER

     Is sugar making us sick? According to over 8,000 scientific papers, it is! Studies have shown that too much sugar can lead to many chronic diseases not only in people who are overweight, but thin people as well. These diseases include type 2 diabetes, liver disease, heart disease, and even cancer. On average, Americans consume 19.5 teaspoons of sugar a day when the recommended daily limit is 6-9 teaspoons depending on body weight. A soda contains 8-9 teaspoons of sugar alone, so you can see how sugar intake can quickly add up.

     According to the Department of Health and Human Services, liquid sugar found in sodas, energy drinks, and sports drinks like Powerade make up 36% of our diet. When we have an overload of sugar, our bodies store the sugar in our organs like our pancreas and liver.  It also increases the amount of sugar (or glucose) in our bloodstream. Insulin is a hormone that acts as the “Pac Man” for sugar. Simply put, insulin goes around and eats the excess sugar in our bloodstream. The problem is, our body can only send out so much insulin and over time the body stops responding to it. When this happens, the sugar stays in our blood circulation that leads to type 2 diabetes.  Type 2 diabetes typically comes on later in life and is due the overconsumption of sugar and a sedentary lifestyle. Research shows that 79 million Americans suffer from this disease and it cost the healthcare system 279 billion dollars last year. It is estimated by 2050, one in every three Americans will suffer from diabetes. On a positive note, this type of diabetes is reversible and can be overcome with proper nutrition and lifestyle changes.

     The frightening fact about sugar is that has been found to be addictive. When we eat sugar, it stimulates a part of our brain, which releases hormones into the body. This is why we actually crave sugar and when the craving is satisfied, we get a “sugar high” experience. This is a scary concept because at this point, our body is dependent on sugar and withdraw experiences can occur when it isn’t consumed. Our brain goes through the same process with sugar as it does with any addictive substances like with nicotine from tobacco or other drugs.

     Bottom line, sugar is cheap to add to food substances and makes our food taste better, which is why it is an ingredient on nearly every food label. What can we do about? Below are some ways to cut sugar from your diet that in return will lower your chances of developing many preventable diseases as mentioned above.

1. Choose whole foods. The closer a food is to its original form, the less processed sugar it will contain. Like I mentioned in my last article, we must be consuming a variety of fruits and vegetables daily. Food in its natural form, usually presents no metabolic problems for a normal body.

2. Try incorporate protein and fat with each meal. This helps control blood sugar levels if consumed from a healthy source. Good options of protein sources are lean meats such as chicken and turkey, eggs, and raw nuts such as almonds and cashews. Examples of good fats are avocado, oils like coconut and olive, and seeds like chia and flax.

3. Be Active. Walk, run, dance, or do some yoga. Whatever movement you enjoy will help reduce your stress levels, boost your energy, and decrease your need for a sugar lift.

4. Scare yourself straight. As mentioned in this article, there is a strong physical component to sugar addiction. A way to kick off your sugar-free journey is to re-frame the way you think about sugar. Treat it like an illegal drug, a dark force to be avoided, and a substance that can lead our body to start breaking down.

      There are great programs such as detoxification that can be extremely helpful with this process. My clinical and personal experiences have proven that a proper detox not only resets the appetite but also decreases sugar cravings. After the initial sugar cravings (I won’t lie, they can be overwhelming), our bodies adjust and you won’t even want the sugar anymore. Feel free to email me with any additional questions at drrachelsteiner@gmail.com

HEART HEALTH BY DR. RACHEL STEINER

     It will probably take you roughly 5 minutes to read this article about heart health. In this 5-minute span of time roughly 9 people will have a heart attack and 5 people die of a heart related condition. Statistically in the United States, every 34 seconds someone has a heart attack and every 60 seconds someone dies of a heart related condition. Cardiovascular diseases claim more lives than all other cancers combined. Unfortunately according to research, Alabama as a state is the second to Mississippi as most deadly state in the country based on heart disease death rates.

     Heart disease generally refers to conditions that involve narrowed or blocked blood vessels that can lead to a heart attack, chest pain, or stroke. Other conditions, such as those that affect your heart’s muscle, valves or rhythm, also are considered forms of heart disease. It is the leading cause of death in the United States and claims more lives than all forms of cancer combined. Typically when people think of heart disease, it is thought that more men are affected than women however this is not true. According to statistics, since 1984 women than men have died each year from heart disease. This is because men on average develop heart disease 10-15 years earlier than women, usually during the prime of their life, which raises more concern and awareness.

     There are many contributors to heart disease and the good news is many of them are controllable and are a direct result of how we take care of ourselves and live. Unfortunately there are also some risk factors beyond our control such as genetics. Some risk factors that increase the chance of heart disease that are controllable include: smoking, a sedentary lifestyle, a poor diet, obesity, uncontrolled high blood pressure, excessive drinking, high cholesterol, and high stress levels. There are also risk factors beyond our control that lead to heart disease such as ethnicity, age, and genetics that are passed down from our parents.

     There are many different signs and symptoms of heart disease that can make it difficult to know you actually have a problem. Some common signs include: Anxiety-heart attack survivors often talk about having experienced a sense of impending doom, chest discomfort, cough, dizziness, fatigue, rapid or irregular pulse, shortness of breath, sweating, weakness, nausea, and loss of appetite. If someone is having a heart attack, the pain can actually refer to other parts of the body besides the chest, including the jaw, shoulders, arm, back, and stomach. Unfortunately despite all these common symptoms, the most common sign of a heart condition is nothing at all.  This is why heart disease is termed the “silent killer”, because it a lot of times people do not know they any problems at all until they have a heart attack or die suddenly. 

     This is why it is so important to be checked regularly for possible heart conditions, especially if it runs in your family.  Fortunately, there are many things we can do to prevent heart disease from forming.  These include: avoiding the use of tobacco, exercise for 30-60 minutes daily, lowering our stress level, eating a healthy diet, getting proper rest, and taking vitamins such as fish oil, garlic, Co-Q 10, and Vitamin D.

     So you have the facts about heart disease, causes, signs and symptoms, and ways to take care of yourself to lower your chances. As you read, heart disease is the silent killer so don’t assume you are healthy just because you “feel fine”. Take action of your heart health now, lets change the statistics and make Alabama a healthier state one person at a time.

Being on the Defensive side of Cold & Flu Season BY: Dr. Rachel Steiner

Being on the Defensive side of Cold & Flu Season BY: Dr. Rachel Steiner

     Looking at the upcoming weekly weather, I see temperatures of mid 60’s and lows in the 20’s in the forecast here in Tuscaloosa. I wear my winter jacket (which I previously wore in my snowy home state of Ohio) to work in the morning, but by the afternoon I could almost be in shorts. It is the many mood swings of weather here that manifests into the “cold and flu” season. I don’t watch a lot of television, however I have seen more than my share of Tamiflu or Robitussin commercials! Instead of taking these medications once you are already infested with sickness, your defense weapon should always be doing things to prevent them from happening in the first place. Through research and personal opinions from being in the field conservative healthcare, these are some helpful tips to stay healthy and keep your body functioning at its greatest potential.

     Get some exercise- exercising increases the immune system through the release of endorphins and sweating out toxic substances. With added stress- whether it is physical, emotional, or mental, sends the bodies’ immune system into a downward spiral. However, physical activity decreases stress levels by releasing “happy hormones” and mentally clearing the mind. Also good news, if you are already sick exercise stimulates the production of epinephrine, which constricts blood vessels in and around your mucous membranes and can relieve nasal discomfort and congestion.

     Eat your way to health- Think of food as an insurance policy, like a preventive strike against cold and flu season. Eat a diet that is high in antioxidants, which are found in fruits and vegetables. More specifically and beneficial, eat fruits and vegetables that are rich in colors like red, orange, yellow, purple, and dark green such as tomatoes, oranges, bell peppers, eggplant, spinach, and blueberries.  Don’t forget that healthy eating is not just a winter concern but should be developed into habits for a healthier life.

     Start taking vitamins aka “Fight-amins” - Our Vitamin D levels decrease in the winter months because the sun is not as powerful and the amount of sunshine becomes few and far between. Unfortunately, you can only consume a small amount of Vitamin D in your diet so you need to take matters into your own hands. Why Vitamin D? Because it helps the body fight off colds. In fact research shows, taking 10,000 IU of Vitamin D a day can help fight respiratory infection.

     Drink more water- Water oxygenates your blood and flushes out toxins from your body. It also hydrates all your organs and specifically your eyes and mouth, which keeps them moist to repel viruses. What I recommend to my patients in the office is drinking half your body weight in ounces of water per day. For example-if you weigh 160 pounds, you should be drinking 80 ounces of water each day. Try it, it will change the way you look and feel.

     Avoid Sugar and Dairy-  According to research, the amount of sugar in one can of soda (Or my northern lingo, a can of pop) can decrease your immune system by 30% for 3 hours. Some will argue that sugar should be completely avoided in your diet however, sugar intake should be limited to 9 and 6 teaspoons respectively for men and women. Dairy products increase mucus production and thickness, making it harder to fight congestion. Dairy also increases inflammation in the body, which can lead to further constricted airways, making it harder to breathe.

     Eat your Protein- Research shows that a diet too low in protein can deplete the immune system. The recommended about of protein per day set by the American Registered Dietician Association is .4 grams per pound of body weight. So again if we take a 160-pound person and multiple that by .4 grams, this person should be consuming 64 grams of protein per day. Good sources of protein include lean meats such as chicken breasts and turkey, eggs, legumes, peanut butter, and whole grains such as quinoa.

     Chiropractic Care- First of all let me say, chiropractic care is not a cure for the common cold. Regular chiropractic care, however, will increase a person’s natural resistance to colds through natural resistance. The natural resistance I am talking about is the body’s ability to function optimally, which can only happen if one is free of misalignments of the spine. These misalignments prevent proper nerve flow through the body and lower its natural resistance to fight illnesses.

     In closing, I want to debunk the saying “feed a cold, starve a fever”. Anytime your body is fighting a sickness, nutritious foods will aid your immune system in getting rid of whatever you are battling. Also, when you have a fever your metabolism is higher which means you are burning more calories than you normally would due to the higher temperature of your body. So you actually need more calories for energy and for your body to function properly.

     Although these are suggestions for preventing a cold or flu, in general they are healthy habits that should be implemented year around. Trying all of these at once may seem overwhelming, but instead try adding one change a week. Making small changes at a time will add up to a big change and in return a much healthier you. Best of luck and I wish you the healthiest, happiest year yet!

Quick Tips to Purchasing Vitamins BY: Dr. Rachel Steiner

     From a recent survey, it is reported that 63% of Americans take some kind of daily vitamin or supplement. When asked why they started taking them, most responded that they saw some kind of advertisement of the benefits and thought they needed it. Vitamins and supplements can definitely be beneficial in ones diet however, it is important to talk to a health professional or heavily do your research before you decide if and what you should be taking. Just as important it is to make sure you are taking dietary supplements that are right for you, knowing the quality and dosage is just as crucial. Earlier this year the New York State Attorney General accused major retailers of fraudulently labeling several of their supplements. It was also found that some of these stores were not including all of the additives to their supplements on the ingredient list. Such a practice is concerning, especially with many people taking supplements to be sure they are getting all they need from their diets. The world of supplements can seem confusing at first. The shelves at retail shops carrying nutritional products are overloaded with everything from vitamin A to Zinc. Just taking a look at the supplement section feels overwhelming, some stores having numerous aisles of them. Each product has different formulations, with different doses and percentages on the label. If you are considering taking a supplement or are currently taking some, there are some important tips to consider to make sure what you are taking is actually of benefit and not just a waste of your money.

Quality of the Supplement
     The reputation of the manufacturer, their suppliers, and their record of quality are helpful, but most important is what is actually in the supplement. If you are looking for a particular supplement, make sure to take a look at the ingredients. If you are researching on the Internet, search for things like “most bio available” or “most absorbable form”. Like most things, you get what you pay for. Vitamins can be full of additives and other fillers, which decrease the quality of the vitamin and allows the retailer to sell it for much cheaper. If you see numerous types of a particular supplement on the shelf, typically the higher priced one is going to be better quality.

Dosage
     Do your research. To benefit optimally from a supplement, there’s a specific dosage for a specific person, at specific frequencies and durations.

Read the Labels Carefully
     Choose a supplement based on your research and not just what the label says. The labels are the selling point for the manufacturer; everything will probably sound good to the potential buyer. The FDA does not require a warning label on most supplements so it is important to make sure what you are going to start taking does not interfere with any current medications or conditions you have.

     Most importantly, when possible it is always best to get your nutrients from actual food instead of supplement form. When in doubt, seek out health care practitioner that can make the best recommendations for you.

The Fabulous Life of Coconut Oil by Dr. Rachel Steiner

    Coconut oil has gained much popularity over the last few years and research continues to support its many benefits. Many of you have probably heard numerous ways to use it, but I am going to highlight some of its great qualities and explain a little of the science behind it. Coconut oil has actually been classified as a “super food” because of its unique combination of fatty acids and its positive effects on our body and our health. Before I get started though, not all types of coconut oil have these benefits. If you search for coconut oil in the store, you will notice a variety of brands, types, and prices. Cold pressed, refined, unrefined, raw, and virgin are just a few words you may see on a jar of coconut oil. Don’t let this overwhelm you, it is simple- you must buy UNREFINED, COLD PRESSED coconut oil to get the benefits and let me explain why.

      First off, there are two types- refined and unrefined. Refined virtually has no coconut taste or aroma. The oil is produced from dried copra (not fresh coconuts) and it typically undergoes various levels of bleaching and deodorizing. When the oil is refined, it is treated with numerous chemicals and is processed at a very high temperature. By doing this, the health benefits are compromised and the shelf life is increased which makes it less expensive. Unrefined which can also be labeled virgin or extra-virgin, has a fresh coconut taste and smell, is white in color, and is made from fresh coconuts. The unrefined oil is going to be a few dollars more than the refined, but it is definitely worth it. 
Another quality you must consider when purchasing coconut oil is whether it is cold-pressed or not. Cold pressed is a chemical-free mechanical process that extracts oil from seeds and nuts. Oils that are cold pressed are made in a heat-controlled environment to keep temperatures below 120ºF. The lower the temperature it is made with, the more nutritional properties will stay in tact. All labels will sound great on the front for marketing purposes, but again just make sure to look for these two words- UNREFINED and COLD PRESSED.
While researching the benefits of coconut oil, I found one website had 101 uses and properties (not Dalmatians!) That is a lot so I am going to highlight a few that I found fascinating, things I personally do, and would be of most benefit to the majority of readers.
1. Anti-bacterial properties. Lauric acid, which is a type of fatty acid found in coconut oil, is converted to monolaurin that helps kill off fungi, infection, and bacteria. As a result of these various health benefits, it has been extensively used in Ayurveda, the traditional Indian medicinal system.
2. Improvement of blood cholesterol levels. Coconut oil is loaded with saturated fats, which were once thought to increase your risk of heart disease.  Saturated fats raise HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol your body needs). There was a study done on rats that found coconut oil reduces triglycerides, LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol), and antioxidant properties. Long-term use showed a reduced risk of heart disease and cardiovascular improvement.
3. Whiter Teeth. Oil Pulling, have you heard of it? Oil pulling is done by swishing a teaspoon of oil in your mouth for 15-20 minutes. It is believed to have many benefits, however the most popular is a natural teeth whitener. I do this myself and am a true believer! Many of my family and friends who oil pull have also noticed visibly whiter teeth. It helps with many other dental hygiene properties such as stronger teeth, prevents bad breath, and can actually decrease TMJ problems by strengthening the muscles in the jaw.  Thousands of years ago before dentists and discovery of proper dental health, oil pulling was done to prevent cavities and infections of the mouth.
4. Boost Brain Function.  Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia worldwide and research has found it is caused by the brains reduced ability to use glucose for energy in certain parts of the brain. Coconut oil is high in medium chain fatty acid and has proven to show immediate improvements in brain function when consumed by providing an alternative source of energy.
5. Skin and Hair Moisturizer. Research also shows various purposes of coconut oil when used directly on the body as opposed to consuming it.  It has become popular to use it for cosmetic purposes to improve the health and appearance of skin and hair. Studies show that when applied to dry skin, it improves the moisture and lipid content making it soft and hydrated. These properties also work the same for your hair. When applied to the hair as conditioner or as an overnight hair treatment, it hydrates dry hair and adds instant shine.
Hopefully you can see now that coconut oil has many great qualities, giving it the reputation of a “super food”. Whether it is consumed or used directly on the body, this simple addition to your pantry can change your health for the better in so many ways. Again, when purchasing coconut oil make sure to spend the few extra dollars on UNREFINED, COLD PRESSED to reap the health benefits.

Body Cleansing by Dr. Rachel Steiner

     Body cleansing- most people have heard of it but not many have actually tried it. There are all kinds of programs out there that usually include some of the following: dieting, fasting, consuming exclusively certain foods or avoiding certain foods. The general idea of cleansing is that most foods contain toxic ingredients such as chemically enhanced flavors, food coloring, pesticides, and preservatives.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that hundreds of these chemicals are present in our bodies. Cleansing is done to rid your body of toxins by consuming only foods that are free of all the ingredients mentioned above and foods that will enhance waste removal in your body. Although our bodies are designed to rid itself of these toxins naturally, it can become overburdened over time. Research shows that toxins can contribute to a wide range of conditions including: fatigue, indigestion, food cravings with weight gain and joint discomfort. The idea of cleansing is often controversial among healthcare professionals.

     I chose to discuss body cleansing because I just finished a 21 day purification cleanse and I want to share with you my results and how I felt throughout. I did the Standard Process cleanse, which is a company that makes supplements from their small organic farm in Wisconsin. I chose this particular program because the process is done with all organic foods and supplements, and it is the program we use in our office with patients. The cleansing program included eating whole, organic, and unprocessed foods, taking whole food supplements, and drinking lots of water. The first 10 days consisted of fruits and vegetables with protein supplementation that I mixed in smoothies a couple times each day. On day 11, select proteins such as organic chicken and beef, cold-water fish, and wild game were added into my diet. I generally eat very healthy, but I felt like since the holidays, I had been eating more sweets and processed foods. I decided I needed to give my body a reset and give this cleanse a try.

     I am not going to sugar coat it and tell you the cleanse was easy, it was not! It requires a change in your mind set of food and it was difficult to find a 21-day time frame that I knew I would be able to stick to. Food revolves around all social activities in our lives, especially during this time in my life that is full of weddings, social gatherings, and baby showers. The cleanse requires you to plan ahead to what you will eat for the week and prepare food in time so you have things available as to not resort to eating out. The first couple days were rough, I felt fatigued and hungry and even experienced a few headaches. It was on day 4 of the cleanse that I started feeling “normal” and had a sense of mental clarity. From there on out, it was much easier and each day I felt better. I found it best that I did my grocery shopping and food prepping for the week on Sunday. When protein was added on day 11, it was smooth sailing from there. By day 11, my body was used to the type of foods I was eating and protein was just a bonus. It is amazing how full protein makes you feel and until you deprive your body of it, you do not even realize it.
     When I got to day 4, I found myself having more energy than normal throughout the day. Normally after eating lunch, I feel sleepy and have less energy at work, but when I was cleansing I actually felt surprisingly well and was more alert after lunch. I found my skin was brighter and I just had an overall better feeling as a whole. Not being able to consume certain foods made me realize how much “junk” I was eating just because it was available whether things brought into work or sweets I had around the house. Detoxing helped me to only eat when I was hungry rather out of boredom or if something looked appetizing. Of course there were those times I wished for unhealthy food that I couldn’t eat. However as I progressed through the program, the food that was off limits looked less and less appealing. When the cleanse was over, I definitely felt a lifestyle change and different mind set about food. I have stuck to my healthy eating for the most part and have definitely cut back on the food I was eating prior to the cleanse. Although I did not do this for weight loss purposes, I lost 8 pounds over the 21 days.

     If you are thinking about doing a cleanse, there are many things to consider before doing one. Most importantly, if you are fighting an illness or if you are currently lacking major nutrients, you want to do consult with your doctor first. Also, make sure you pick a cleanse that will work with your lifestyle and your energy needs. Some of the more extreme cleanses require major calorie depletion, so just be careful and choose wisely. Although I was consuming less calories than my previous eating habits, I was actually eating more foods that just contained less calories but had more energy and nutrient dense qualities to them. When choosing a detoxification program, you also need to pick a timeframe in your busy schedule where you can actually stick to it. Again, I do not think cleansing is for everyone but I think it did me a world of good. There isn’t much evidence out there to prove exactly what a cleanse does or if it in fact “rids your body of toxins”, however it worked for me in what I wanted to get out of it and our patients who go through this process also have great testimonies. Lastly, just remember to pick something safe and that will be realistic to do!