Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Truth about Cholesterol

For years people have been getting their cholesterol checked at their doctor to find out how their numbers have changed. Did their "bad" LDL cholesterol numbers go down and how much "good" HDL cholesterol do I have?
What do these numbers mean and what is the role of LDL and HDL? LDL and HDL are carrier proteins that carry cholesterol and fats to and from cells so that they can be used appropriately to form cell membranes and the hormones that direct the function of every body system. LDL carries 70% of cholesterol and when too much LDL proteins exist in the blood they can clump together and produce plaque in your arteries. The plaque in your arteries can put you at risk for heart disease and stroke.

HDL cholesterol actually reverses the negative effects of LDL and helps to reduce the arterial plaquing that puts  us at high risk! HDL's role is to carry cholesterol out of arteries or away from LDL to the liver so it can be eliminated from the body. High levels of HDL are protective of the heart and have been associated with lower risks of heart disease and stroke.

According to new research published in the Journal of Gerontology, LDL cholesterol isn't as "bad" as we previously thought. In their study they found that during high intensity resistance exercise of a group of men and women aged 60-69, those with the higher serum LDL actually gained the most muscle mass over a period of 12 weeks. This study exemplifies the delicate balance in our bodies and shows that LDL and HDL cholesterol are both needed for proper body function.

If we were to completely get rid of the LDL cholesterol in our bodies we would in fact die. LDL is needed for building muscle specifically when resistance training. Although high levels of LDL cholesterol are associated with higher incidence of arterial plaquing, we need to get rid of the outdated notion that LDL cholesterol is ALL bad and look more towards balancing our cholesterol ratios.

Are you on cholesterol medication right now? Did you know that your cholesterol medication can't effect the ratio between LDL and HDL cholesterol? Drugs are never the answer to increasing your HDL numbers and only make your cholesterol numbers look better on paper.They do nothing to restore healthy cholesterol ratios and actually leave you open to heart attack and stroke.

So what can you do to effect a healthy cholesterol ratio?
1. Eat a healthy diet. Make sure to eat a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and lean meats with only a small portion of dairy. Foods that lower LDL include avocado, almonds, olive oil, shiitake mushrooms, chili peppers, oat bran, beans, onions, fatty fish, and flax seed. Food that encourage healthy cholesterol ratios include broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage.
2. Spice your food. Cinnamon, garlic, and cayenne pepper have also been shown to help balance your cholesterol ratios.
3. Supplement your diet. Fish oil supplements or omega 3s have been shown to decrease cholesterol, raise HDL cholesterol, and thin the blood to help prevent stroke and heart attack. Other supplements like Chol-X are designed with healthy cholesterol levels in mind and have been formulated with chinese herbs, niacin, and B vitamins that help to lower LDL and raise HDL with no harmful side effects if managed by a qualified doctor.
4. Get some exercise. The study I mentioned earlier found that resistance exercise can help to gain muscle which can help your body get rid of toxins and excess cholesterol easier and more efficiently.
5. Reduce your stress. Work on reducing stress in your life with writing in a journal, meditation, yoga, deep breathing, and/or explore a new hobby or craft.

If you'd like to talk further about some natural ways to restore your cholesterol balance and lower your risk for stroke or heart attack, give me a call in the office! (309) 689-6200.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Natural Blood Pressure Regulation

High blood pressure or hypertension effects over 65 million Americans. This is a growing problem and many Americans are relying on medication prescribed by their to control their blood pressure. Some of the most common medications being prescribed right now are Chlorthalidone and Propranolol. Some of the side effects associated with these medications include depression, dry mouth, thirst, nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, dizziness, alteration of heart rate, muscle pain or weakness, and even numbness and tingling. In addition, serious drug interactions can occur if you are taking anti-depressants, heart arrhythmia medications, blood thinners, MAO or ACE inhibitors, steriods, diabetic medications, and many others. Are the risks really worth it?

Are you taking a blood pressure medication right now or have you had your dosage changed in the past 6 months? There's a better way. There are natural methods and lifestyle changes that can help regulate your blood pressure with no associated side effects and you can make these changes today!

1. See a chiropractor.

Treatment of hypertension or high blood pressure with an upper cervical chiropractic adjustment, according to George Bakris, MD of the University of Chicago hypertensive center,  "has the effect of not one, but two blood pressure medications given in combination and it seems to be an adverse-event free treatment. We saw no side effects and no problems." A 2007 study compared the two treatments and found that on average systolic numbers dropped 14 mm and diastolic numbers dropped 8 mm of mercury with upper cervical chiropractic care. Read more about it here.  

2. Talk to your doctor about taking a supplement.

Supplements can lower your risk for heart disease and stroke by lowering dangerously high protein levels like homocysteine and C-reactive protein. These proteins are just as high of a risk as high cholesterol levels and many people either haven't heard of these proteins or have NEVER had their levels checked. Supplements can completely and naturally manage these risk factors with proper guidance from your doctor. 

3. Cut back on coffee and switch to caffeine-free.

Many experts agree that switching to decaf coffee can lower your risk for blood pressure, however new studies have been showing its the amount of coffee you drink and not just the caffeine that has the biggest impact on your blood pressure. Limit your cups of coffee to two per day and switch to decaf. Read more here. 

4. Indulge in anti-oxidants such as those found in dark chocolate.

Researchers have found that the anti-oxidants found in dark chocolate and cocoa has a healthy effect on blood pressure and blood glucose levels as well. The study found that insulin resistance was reduced after 15 days of dark chocolate consumption of 100g or 3.5oz per day. Read more about it.

5. Cut back on sodium.

Doctors have been saying to lower your salt intake for years to help with blood pressure. Listen up! Studies and more research has not proven otherwise and suggest that lower than 1500mg of sodium per day has great blood pressure lowering effects. Read more here.

6. Get to a healthy weight.

Reducing your weight can help decrease the stress and demand on your heart and have other healthy effects as well. It can reduce your risk for many diseases and improve your blood sugar as well. Talk to your doctor about options for reducing your weight and healthy diet tips you can adopt on your own.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Healthy food from your backyard!

Spring is in the air and planting season is here! I know I've been seeing my neighbors raking or planting almost every day of the week and my green thumbs are itching to start planting as well. My big plans for this year are two-fold, first I want a decent size vegetable garden so my daughter can join in the dirty fun of planting and the joys of eating food she helped to grow and secondly I want a small plot of visually pleasing flowers with some functional herbs strewn in so that I can spice up my cooking a bit.

So how do I plan to accomplish this? Well after a few trips to the hardware store I plan on building a few plant boxes to not only streamline the garden but also encourage soil draining so my husband can't drown my garden if he thoughtfully waters it for me. Then I plan on filling my boxes with soil and either seeds or sprout plants from my indoor winter greenhouse.

Now, building plant boxes may seem like a daunting task, but its less expensive than buying expensive vinyl planter boxes or easier than trying to de-crypt the instructions that come in the Build-Your-Own-Plant-Box kit. Of course, if you like the pre-made thing, they're available at your local home improvement store! I personally prefer a project, and thus stumbled upon a few project and design tips from how-to templates and other thrifty bloggers.
Compliments of Norm Plate
Andrea, Andrea what will your garden grow? My daughter and I are aiming for a fully functional garden that will supply side dishes or salads on demand! Our planning stages for the vegetable garden include a few tomato plants, zucchini, green beans, onions, green, yellow, and red peppers, strawberries, and a mixed bed with plenty of salad choices including leaf lettuce, butterhead, romaine, spinach, and kale. My small flower and herb garden will have a variety of colorful flowers, basil, thyme, rosemary, and sage. I'll have to follow-up on some great recipes to incorporate these foods into a variety of dishes sometime soon.

So here's some helpful tips if you're wanting to begin your garden:
1. Choose a great spot to start. A sunny spot with drainage is necessary but try to keep it away from old buildings, roads, or flood areas as paint chips, oil/tar, and chemical sediment may contaminate your garden or cause it to not grow as hardy.
2. Check your soil. Check your soil acidity levels as low pH (acidity) can stunt or slow the growth of plants and increase the likely hood of chemicals being taken up in your plants.
3. Replenish your soil. You should make sure if you're using homemade compost to make sure its fully broken down as the beneficial nutrients aren't released until after decay. It's always a great idea to add aged compost or manure every year to enrich the soil for planting season, however there's many different variable to this recommendation. For example, if you have plant boxes you can add aged compost anytime but if your garden is on flat land you might run the risk of it getting washed away if its added too soon. For this reason, many people recommend adding it in spring before you begin planting.
4. Know your materials. Use untreated wood for plant boxes as pressure treated wood and railroad ties contain chemicals. If you're going to paint the plant boxes make sure you're using non-toxic latex or water based paint as oil can leach chemicals into the soil.
5. Protect yourself and your family. It's great to get 10-15 minutes of sun to boost your Vitamin D, but make sure to wear sunscreen if you're going to be out longer to protect your skin from sun damage and premature aging. Wash your hands with soap and water after working in the garden and always wash fruits and vegetables before cooking with them or eating them.
6. Water. How much or how little water your garden needs will depend on your climate, the weather, and where you've planted, but a good rule of thumb is to watch your plants! If they are dropping mid-day then they'll need more water. Another good rule of thumb is to feel the soil. Place your fingers down in the soil up to the knuckles, if its dry near your fingertips then you need to add more water.
7. Enjoy! Experiment with new recipes or try using fresh ingredients like herbs instead of dried! Encourage everyone to try new foods and share with neighbors. (Neighbors love to join in and share the spoils of planting and exchanging crop.)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Is stress making you fat?

Do you experience stress on a daily basis? Do you feel unable to lose weight? Do you feel like you gain weight the more you stress out?

If you answered yes to any of these questions then KEEP READING!
Compliments of New Line Cinema
While Michael Myers is wearing a fat suit in this picture, it still makes you wonder how people can live like this on a daily basis. Imagine that extra weight on your joints and how much degeneration is occurring not only in those joints but also in your spine! Take a look at the picture below for a comparison MRI of an average and overweight female and check out those joint spaces!!!
Let's do a short anatomy lesson. Your adrenal glands are located on top of your kidneys and are responsible for secretion of many hormones essential to every day function like epinephrine, cortisol, progesterone, DHEA, estrogen, and testosterone. In fact, in women going through menopause the adrenal glands are a major source of the estrogen and progesterone needed to prevent bone loss and menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings, and even depression! In andropause, (YES that's right men go through a change too!), the adrenals are relied on for another source of testosterone to prevent excess weight, lose of confidence, and the familiar "low T" syndrome that is advertised everywhere now.

So how does stress play a part into being fat or weight loss in general?  Well let's dig a little deeper. Cortisol is released from your adrenal glands when you are stressed out  (It's called a "fight or flight" response). This stress doesn't just have to be at work under a pile of paperwork because your body views stress as a perceived threat whether its physical such as running a marathon, emotional during a tear-eyed movie, or even environmental such as extreme temperature changes. When you are under "stress" your adrenal glands release cortisol which will signal your liver to release amino acids from muscle surrounding the liver in order for the body to make more glucose (blood sugar) for your body to be able to spring into action to deal with this stress.

When we are under stress long term and our adrenal glands are constantly producing cortisol at high levels, our body will start to store that excess blood sugar as fat. That fat usually gets deposited right around our middle which can lead to that big pouch that is hard to get rid of with diet and exercise. This is due to the fact that our cortisol levels are too high and our blood sugar never gets the chance to lower to normal levels!

So how do we get around this problem? Well we have to relieve some of the stress in our lives and focus on supporting our adrenal gland function so that they are still able to support us later on (such as during menopause or andropause!). In addition, we need to incorporate some healthy diet changes that seek to keep a consistent blood sugar rather than spiking our sugar levels up and down.

A balanced wellness program can be designed to reduce stress levels and support or even restore the adrenal glands if they've started to decline their function. Talk to your doctor and they will be able to give you a better picture of where your body is at and what kind of support you are going to need.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Get your feet in shape and ready for a run!

Here at AlignLife in Peoria we've been focusing on exercising together during lunch hour with stretching and jogging . Which is a great way to boost our metabolism and energy levels, but also a great way to get some sun and fresh air in the middle of the day.
So what's so important about prepping your feet for running season? Well everything!!! Your feet are the foundation of your body and as such have the job of supporting your body weight, your joint alignment, and your posture. Did you know that your feet take the brute force of about four to seven times your body weight when your forefoot contacts the ground while jogging? Now for a 150 pound runner that is equivalent to 600-1000 lbs! 

The intrinsic muscles of the feet and the posterior musculature of your legs must have the proper strength and be the proper length in order to support healthy joint function and to keep the arches in the bottom of your feet ready to support the extra weight associated with movement. Due to modern footwear restrictions on foot movement especially at the individual joints, most of our feet aren't conditioned enough to walk barefoot while supporting the rest of our joints let alone take part in the Barefoot Movement that is all the rage! Click here to learn more. To top that off, most of our posterior leg musculature is actually shortened from its proper length due to elevated heels at the back of our shoes that causes our feet to be put in extension with our weight shifted forward on our feet rather than in a neutral position with our weight centered over the hefty bones of our ankle and heels. Learn more about footwear positioning in my previous blog post.

In fact, most modern footwear restricts movement of our forefoot in general and puts all the demand for flexibility at our ankles (which is wear our shoes usually stop). This demand at our ankles is against our body design as these ankle ligaments are supposed to be strong and virtually unyielding to support the bones of our heels and ankles rather than stretched out and pliable to allow to flexible movement. This increased flexibility at the ankle can lead to increased risk of injury to the ankle while the forward weight shift can lead to degeneration of the joints in our feet (think bunions and deformed feet) as well as flare ups of plantar fasciitis.
So what can you do to reduce your risk of injury and get your feet in shape? Great question and I'd be happy to share a bit more.

** Remember to consult with your doctor about starting an exercise program, especially if you have issues with bone density or balance.

1.)           Stretch your legs and feet daily. Some helpful tools to help include a 1/2 dome that you can pick up in the craft section of your local craft store or Walmart or even a rolled up towel. In fact, below find some great stretches you can do on your own to help support your soon to be healthy feet.

This one is great because it stretches your posterior legs as well as your feet. Thanks for the great pose Katy!

Check out this great video from Katy Bowman for some more great foot exercises!

2.)       Get out of your shoes for at least 2 hours every day. Just slip them off when you get home and do some of the foot exercises I showed you above.

3.)        Stretch your toes. Toe spacers are a cheap and effective way to get those muscles in their proper position and  in the proper length, but you can also get these great socks as well. 

4.)        Get walking! Increased movement helps keep your muscles working, your joints moving, and your blood pumping which can not only help you lose weight but also reinforce proper movement into your joints.

5.)        Pamper your feet. A foot soak can be relaxing and beneficial for stress relief and healthy bacterial growth (this can also prevent athelete's foot too). Moisturizing your feet can also help support good foot hygiene and can be as simple as putting some coconut oil on your tootsies before a pair of cotton socks.

So get moving and get your feet in shape for running season!!!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Do you suffer from chronic fatigue?

Welcome to April 2012, ladies and gentlemen! This month in our office we are focusing on chronic fatigue and how to battle it for better health and more energy to embrace our true vitality.

Only 2% of the population worldwide has been diagnosed as having chronic fatigue syndrome, however 20% of people report that their fatigue is so serious it interferes with their daily life. What's most shocking? Over 80% of people cite fatigue as the most common reason they visit their doctor. This is serious business and an epidemic in our world today!!!! Fatigue can occur for a variety of reasons including exertion and overwork, high stress levels, auto immune disorders, adrenal fatigue, and even an unbalanced diet.

Do you have up and down patterns of fatigue?
Are you fatigued in the morning and unable to sleep at night?
Uncontrollable cravings for sugar, caffeine, or bread?
Find your appetite ravenous some days and others you have to remind yourself to eat?
Unusual mood swings?
Having trouble regulating your body temperature to your environment?
Having trouble concentrating or focusing on tasks?

Did you answer yes to any of these questions? Then make an appointment with your doctor today!

Here are 10 Common Causes of Fatigue:
1. Stress. If stress is long standing and doesn't give your body a chance to cope or adapt this can result in chemical and hormonal changes that can be long term.
2. Dehydration. I talked about this in last week's blog a bit more but water is VITAL to your body functions and not having enough of it can also lead to fatigue and headaches.
3. Vitamin C deficiency. This nutrient is required for growth and repair of your body and is also a powerful anti-oxidant that can prevent tissue breakdown. A deficiency can result in you feeling fatigued and sore after a simple workout.
4. Magnesium deficiency. This nutrient is responsible for all the muscle activity in your body and is essential in energy production! A deficiency can result in fatigue, muscle cramping and weakness, and even cardiac arrhythmia.
5. Under-active thyroid or adrenal gland. Your thyroid gland is responsible for setting up your body's metabolism and your adrenal gland is responsible for adapting to stress in your environment. Many people who suffer with fatigue may have a combination of dysfunction with both of these glands because they tend to work together. A dysfunctional adrenal gland can also be responsible for keeping you awake at night because it releases hormones that tend to keep us aroused and ready to battle stress.
6. Toxins. Your body (more specifically your liver) helps to filter toxins from our body on a daily basis. However if you've got a lot of toxins in your body and your liver is unable to keep up these toxins can be stored in your cells to help keep them out of the blood stream. These toxins can make you feel sluggish and have a hard time getting going throughout the day. (Toxins in fat cells can prevent them from shrinking and cause you to hit a plateau when trying to lose weight too!)
7. Nervous system dysfunction. Your nervous system is protected by your spine however when the bones of your spine aren't aligned properly after an injury or even from poor posture it can cause irritation or even compression to the nerves that exit at every level of the spine. These nerves bring communication from your brain to supply every organ, tissue, and cell in your body so if they aren't working correctly your organs and muscles may have a hard time working at their 100% optimal function. Chiropractors focus on restoring your nervous system function so that your body can carry out normal functions such as breathing, fighting off infection, and even healing.
8. No schedule. Our bodies and hormones work like clockwork to direct every function and system in our body on a normal basis. However, when we don't eat or sleep around the same time every day it can really affect our chemical and hormone balance that may have long term effects.
9. Minimal to no exercise.  Exercise is important to keep your body in shape and your blood and heart pumping strong, however it also plays a vital role in the production of endorphins and neurotransmitters (brain hormones) that are responsible for chemical balance and sleep cycle regulation. Exercise also helps to reduce stress levels and boost your body's stress coping ability.
10. Electronics. Studies have shown that use of electronics less than an hour before bed can not only interfere with normal circadian rhythm (calming bedtime hormone patterns) but can prevent you from sleeping deeply to restore after the day.

So what healthy habits can you bring into your life?
1. Take some time to de-stress every day. Take a walk, meditate, or do some deep breathing to help your body relax. (I personally find cooking is a great stress reliever for me!)
2. Make sure you're getting enough water. The 8 glasses of 8 oz water per day is a great guideline but most of us need more than that especially if its hot outside or if we're active.
3. Make sure you're eating a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables to not only increase your nutrient intake but also to help rid your body of excess toxins.
4. Take a daily multivitamin! It's nearly impossible to get the right nutrients that our body needs from just our diet. How do you choose a multivitamin? Read how some retail vitamin are dangerous. Read here to find out what you need to know about a multivitamin. Or just ask us at your consultation. You've scheduled one now right? NO?!? What are you waiting for, its free!!
5. Go visit your chiropractor to make sure your nervous system is functioning properly.
6. Get some exercise. Start at 5 minutes a day if you need to.
7. Stick to a schedule for sleep and meals.
8. Relax a bit before bed rather than zoning out with the TV or computer. This might be a great time to do some deep breathing or meditation.