Keep Up

Keep up and you will be kept up - Yogi Bhajan

When I was first going through yoga training I never fully understood this quote. It seemed so arbitrary to me - keep up with what? who will keep me up?

It wasn't until I was fully immersed in my career as a chiropractor and nutritionist that I finally had a light bulb moment: maintenance now = prevention later.*

When we're young, we tend to think we're invincible and can do whatever we want to our bodies and they will continue to move and breathe and feel ok. Unfortunately this is not the case.  When we're feeling good we tend to take movement and breath for granted. We forget about maintaining our health and our joints. That is why maintenance is so incredibly important. Take care of yourself now and you prevent serious health issues down the road. (Plus, you get the added benefit of actually feeling good now. )

It can be a difficult concept to grasp, but keeping your nervous system healthy through a proper diet, regular chiropractic adjustments, and daily movement is worth so much more than the initial cost or effort that you perceive it to be now. Yes, things like getting adjusted, getting dental checkups, spending a little more for quality foods, or paying for that studio/gym/personal trainer may seem like big expenses now, but in the end the savings are innumerable. Plus - I'll say it again - YOU GET TO FEEL GOOD. How awesome is that??

*I know there are more spiritual interpretations of this famous quote. 

 

neck and shoulder pain? your posture may be to blame

Have you ever experienced a nagging pain in your shoulder blade area that just won't go away? How about chronic neck tension while sitting at your desk? Maybe you get a massage but a few hours later, the pain returns. 

Upper back and neck tension are complaints that are becoming more prevalent in my chiropractic office and in the yoga studio.

Pain in the upper back and neck is often a sign that you have a postural imbalance and certain muscles are tired of doing a job they weren't meant to do. But there is a solution! We just need to fix the problem, not the symptoms.

What causes the pain?

First, it’s important to look at the muscular imbalances that slouching posture creates. When the upper back and shoulders are hunched forward, the shoulder blades start to pull away from the spine. This over-stretches and weakens the muscles that connect the spine and the shoulder blades (rhomboids, lower and middle traps). These muscles spasm from being fatigued and pulled, causing pain between the shoulder blades and into the neck. 

In contrast, the muscles that round your shoulders and internally rotate your upper arms shorten and get overworked. These muscles include: subscapularis, teres major, anterior deltoids, pecs major and minor, levator scapulae, scalenes, sternocleidomastoid, and upper trapezius. Wow that's a lot! 

So in a nutshell, your chest muscles get tight, and you back muscles get weak but taught, causing pain in the back and neck.

 

In addition to overall pain and discomfort, chronic slumping can cause rotator cuff issues and neck problems. (fun but scary fact: when you look down to post a photo to instagram or send a text or an email, you put about 60 pounds of pressure on the upper cervical spine. That's like carrying a small child on your neck!)

How can you fix it?

The most common mistake I see is people trying to stretch out their upper back. Don't! Trying to stretch the upper back is unlikely to ease the pain and can actually make things worse since these muscles are already in a lengthened state. Instead, focus on stretching the muscles of the chest and strengthen the muscles of the mid back.

The good news is these imbalances are correctable and you can feel better with some retraining and proper care. If there's one pose I would give you that you can do just about anywhere to start correcting your posture it would be this one... 

 

press elbows and forearms into the wall and walk feet back until they're under hips. Start with elbows shoulder height and work your way up until you feel a stretch along the sides and under the armpits. Reach back through the tailbone and breathe deeply. Hold for 8-10 breaths. 

press elbows and forearms into the wall and walk feet back until they're under hips. Start with elbows shoulder height and work your way up until you feel a stretch along the sides and under the armpits. Reach back through the tailbone and breathe deeply. Hold for 8-10 breaths. 

 

Certain yoga postures and strengthening exercises along with appropriate body work (chiropractic, massage, etc) can alleviate these postural issues and prevent future injury. Learn more by scheduling an appointment with me or join in my workshop at Mind the Mat this Saturday, 2/4 (sign up here: https://clients.mindbodyonline.com/ASP/main_enroll.asp?studioid=5362&tg=&vt=&lvl=&stype=-8&view=day&trn=100000248&page=&catid=&prodid=&date=2%2f1%2f2017&classid=0&prodGroupId=&sSU=&optForwardingLink=&qParam=&justloggedin=&nLgIn=&pMode=0

 

anti-nutrients: what you need to know about phytic acid

You may have heard the recent news about nuts - that they're actually lower in calories than originally thought! In a new study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, almonds were found to contain 129 calories per 28 gram serving as opposed to the current calorie value of 170. Now that healthy nuts like almonds are lower in calories, some of my patients have been asking if they can incorporate more into their diet. As a recovering peanut butter addict, I wish I could in good conscience tell them yes, but I cannot. I found I've been explaining frequently to patients that while nuts (and some grains and legumes) are healthy in moderation, they contain a compound called phytic acid that causes issues when consumed in excess. Allow me to tell you about this sneaky little antinutrient. 

Phytic acid is the storage form of phosphorous that plants use to grow once they sprout. It is found in the hull of grains, nuts, and seeds. While ruminant animals (cows, sheep, goats) can digest phytic acid, humans cannot. This is significant for two reasons:

once the seed sprouts, phytic acid is degraded to phosphorous which the plant uses to grow.

once the seed sprouts, phytic acid is degraded to phosphorous which the plant uses to grow.

1) because it is not digested, phytic acid binds to minerals (especially iron, zinc, and calcium) and prevents us from absorbing them. Over time this can lead to deficiencies in these minerals, causing serious health conditions. 

2) It interferes with enzymes that help us digest our food including pepsin and trypsin (required to breakdown protein in the stomach and small intestine, respectively) and amylase (required to break down starch). When your food does not get digested properly, it backs up into your intestines and causes all sorts of havoc on your organs and lymphatic system.

Now that I've caused you to be thoroughly terrified of phytic acid, let me tell you that the average human can tolerate low levels of phytic acid (400-800mg a day), and that by sprouting your grains and legumes you can reduce the phytic acid level by up to 50 percent. Soaking and roasting nuts will also significantly reduce the amount of phytic acid. 

I do really like phytic acid's chemical structure though. so pretty. 

I do really like phytic acid's chemical structure though. so pretty. 

Bottom line: even though nuts may have fewer calories that previously thought, it is a good idea to stick to one to two 1 oz servings a day due to the phytic acid content (as well as high levels of omega 6 fatty acids... we'll save that for another discussion). It is especially important for people with iron deficiency anemia, vegans, and vegetarians to watch their levels of phytic acid intake and consider sprouting or soaking beans, grains, and legumes prior to consumption.

stretches for cyclists

Tomorrow (May 20th) is bike to work day! (If you haven't registered yet, you can do so here).

In the spirit of bike commuting, and cycling in general, I've put together a few of my favorite yoga poses that are great both before and after you ride. 

1) Downward facing dog

This posture is excellent for stretching hamstrings and the low back. To do this pose, think of making a triangle shape with your body and reach your tailbone up and back while pressing your chest gently toward your thighs to keep your back flat. It's ok if your heels don't touch the ground! Feel free to experiment with keeping the knees slightly bent if the hamstrings are very tight. 

2) Lunge

This pose lengthens the front of the body, opens the chest, and stretches the hip flexors of the back leg. Make sure your front knee is over your ankle, and your hips stay square. Lengthen through the torso and through the back leg.

Photo by Christen Kinard

3) Half Pigeon

This pose opens the hip flexors, hip rotator muscles, and groin muscles. If the hip of your front (bent) knee does not feel supported or is not resting on the ground, consider putting a folded blanket under that hip for support to keep the pelvis in a neutral alignment. 

Start sitting tall with your spine long for a few deep breaths, then progress to folding forward over the front leg. 

Remember that alignment is important. If these stretches aren't quite getting you to feeling your best, make an appointment today so we can get you back on your bike and feeling pain free!

Calcium Without Dairy

 

When people think of good sources of calcium, they generally think of cow's milk and other dairy products. But dairy is not the only good source of calcium. There are many non-dairy sources you choose from!

Fun Facts About Calcium:

We all know that calcium is needed for healthy bones. In fact, it's the most abundant mineral in the body. But it also has many other vital functions including regulating blood pressure, facilitating muscle contractions, and nerve conduction. It also binds with bile acids and dietary fats so that they are carried out of the body and eliminated instead of being absorbed, which is important for colon health. It is recommended that adults get 1000mg of calcium per day.

The Other Half of the Equation:

When you consume any form of calcium, your body needs vitamin D to absorb it. Vitamin D is found naturally in only a small number of foods and most of these are of animal origin. Fish (like salmon, tuna, and mackerel) and fish liver oils have some of the highest amounts. Vitamin D is also found in smaller amounts in cheese and egg yolks. Today, many processed foods are fortified with vitamin D.

Without sufficient vitamin D, bones can become brittle because calcium will not be absorbed. In addition, vitamin D has other roles in the body including modulating neuromuscular and immune function and aiding in the reduction of inflammation.

The body is able to synthesize vitamin D from UV rays from sunlight on the skin. Sunlight is one of the best ways to get vitamin D, but if you are not able to be outside much with some skin exposed, or you have very dark skin, you may need to consider a Vitamin D supplement. The RDA for vitamin D is 600 IU, but you may need more if you are deficient.

Back to Calcium... Where can I get it?

No need to rely only on dairy products for that daily dose of calcium. Here is a list of some food items that are good sources of calcium that you may not have known about.

1) Almonds: 1/4 cup = 72mg (7% DV)

Aside from calcium, almonds contain potassium, vitamin E, and iron. Sprinkle on a salad or have a handful as a snack.

2) Seaweed: 1 cup raw = 126mg (13% DV)

Seaweed is full of calcium, fiber, and iodine, which helps with proper thyroid function. Try these raw kelp noodles

3) Blackstrap molasses: 1 TBSP = 172mg (17% DV)

Blackstrap molasses is darker in color and richer in flavor than regular molasses. It's filled with calcium, iron, and other vitamins. Plus, it’s a great sweeten many dishes that call for sugar, honey, or other sweeteners. Try drizzling some on pancakes in lieu of syrup.

4) Black-eyed peas: 1/2 cup canned = 185mg (18% DV)

Calcium, potassium, folate, and more! Add black-eyed peas to soups or salads, or make your own bean dip.

5) White beans 1 cup canned = 191mg (19% DV)

These legumes are a great source of calcium and iron . Add them to a pasta dish with veggies or make your own hummus with white beans instead of chickpeas.

6) Kale: 2 cups raw = 188mg (19% DV)

Filled with calcium and antioxidants, kale is perfect to use as the base of any salad, or blend into smoothies to sneak in an extra health boost.

 

If you're feeling adventurous....

7) Nopales (cactus) 100g = 164mg (16% DV)

Nopales can be eaten raw in salads or made into salsa (with tomato, onion, olive oil, seasoning). Or try fried or boiled as a side dish.

8) Sardines 5oz = 541mg (!)

I'll be honest.. sardines weird me out so I'm at a loss for ideas on how to eat them But if you like them, go for it! They have almost double the amount of calcium as an 8oz glass of milk.

 

Chriopractic and Yoga - A combination for better results

Both yoga and chiropractic center many of their principles on the idea of balance. In yoga, balance exists between a pose and counterpose, effort and rest, and prana (the breath that enters the body) and apana (the breath that exits the body). In chiropractic, balance exists in the assessment and treatment of  restricted and hyper mobile joints, taut and lax ligaments, and strong and weak muscles. Both yoga and chiropractic aim to balance the body to improve posture, range of motion, and strength in order to obtain optimal health.

 

Most people come to me as a chiropractic patient because they are in pain. If I've had the opportunity to teach them in a yoga class, I already have a fair assessment of what spine and joint dysfunctions they are experiencing. When I get them in the office, I do a few more functional screenings to confirm the issues that are causing them pain or reducing their ability to reach their full potential in yoga and other activities. Our goal through chiropractic is to treat the cause of the symptom - not just the symptom itself.

 

On the other side, I generally encourage people who are regular chiropractic patients to begin a yoga practice. During their chiropractic treatment, proprioception (awareness of the position of one's body) is heightened, making patients more aware of their posture. While I am correcting imbalances with adjustments, adding yoga helps patients recover and heal even faster while helping prevent future injuries. Additionally, patients who add yoga to their routine will develop the skills to keep themselves healthy and balanced so they can go longer between chiropractic visits. They ultimately become in tune with their bodies and become self aware of when something is off and when they need to come in for an adjustment instead of waiting until they experience pain - which is typically a longer recovery process.

If more of my patients practiced yoga, I wouldn’t have to see them nearly as frequently. Alternatively, if more of my yoga students received adjustments, their practice would improve and they would prevent injuries. While I do, in fact love, seeing every one of my patients, my goal is to get them feeling and moving better so they can come see me to maintain health, not just recover from an injury or get out of pain.

You don't have to keep coming back for adjustments once you start (which I've found to be a belief that some people have) although you may want to. Just like in your yoga practice, you can have a great class and feel amazing for a day or two after, but ideally you want to maintain that so you can continue to stay healthy and move uninhibitedly as you progress in life. A healthy individual who practices yoga, exercises, and eats a healthy diet may just need to come in every few months for an adjustment to maintain health and prevent injury.

Bottom Line:

Along with breathing and meditation, the physical practice of yoga promotes balance, strength and flexibility, making chiropractic care and manipulation easier and more effective. Having a yoga practice in conjunction with chiropractic care empowers patients to understand their own misalignments and imbalances, allowing them to have more control over the correction of their spine in their yoga practice and in other daily activities. When combined, yoga and chiropractic care work together to make you stronger, more flexible and happier.