Here’s why most people might benefit from a physical therapy checkup
If you are reading this, chances are you consider yourself at least moderately health-conscious. And why wouldn’t you? Good health is not simply the absence of illness, it’s a state of well-being and the ability to enjoy life and experience all the wonderful things a healthy body allows us to do. Health is arguably our greatest asset, and without it, not much else is much fun anymore.
As a health-conscious person you probably visit a dentist several times a year for a check-up and for preventive measures such as a cleaning. You know that the absence of a toothache is no guarantee that a cavity isn’t developing in some hidden nook or cranny, and therefore you use the expertise of the dentist to find problems long before they become serious and require more drastic measures, such as extractions and root canals.
This is the attitude we take to many other aspects of health, as well. We go for yearly checkups with a physician, undergo diagnostic tests and even take prescription drugs to prevent illness. But how do we relate to our musculoskeletal system, our muscles, joints, and nerves? Do we take preventive measures to benefit from the powerful existing strategies to care for the body and avoid conditions that are as common as low back pain (1, 2) or arthritis of the hip (3)? Most don’t. We wait until we feel pain, and some even wait until the pain is functionally limiting and hard to bear. Imagine taking this attitude to heart disease or dental health. It would be considered irresponsible, wouldn’t it?
There’s an easier way!
The fact of the matter is, of course, that problems tend to be much easier (and more fun!) to prevent than solve. This is definitely true for the musculoskeletal system, and we might arguably be spared a lot of pain, dysfunction and unnecessary financial strain if we took care of our muscles, joints and nerves the way we care for our teeth, blood vessels and colons. Once we are in pain, it may actually be hard to comply with both treatment and self-care, and the therapist’s hands may be somewhat tied due to the intolerance of movement and positions that the pain causes.
The preventive approach works on a large scale as well. People in countries with universal healthcare, a system that significantly lowers the threshold for seeking care and counseling long before serious illness occurs, have longer life expectancy and a longer health span. (4)
So why don’t we take steps to care for our musculoskeletal health? In a word (or three): habit, convention and lack of information. Regular physical therapy checkups and prevention just haven’t become common practices, (you know, as in something others do and you’d feel odd not doing it, too) so you simply don’t think to do it, or wouldn’t know how. So let me suggest a new approach, a new way of thinking. Let me tell you how.
Once or twice a year, whether you feel pain or not (remember how you have your teeth checked even if you don’t have a toothache?) make an appointment with a Doctor of Physical Therapy. Have the PT perform an evaluation of your musculoskeletal system. (5)
So how can I benefit from a Physical therapy check-up?
The physical therapist will evaluate important aspects of your body and its functioning and suggest simple action steps to decrease the risk of injuries, degeneration and pain before they occur. You might be taught important stretches and how to best perform them, told what muscles are under-functioning and causing strain, pain and imbalance in your body, and what to do about it. You might be taught how to hold your body and how to move it in a more natural and healthful way. If you work by a computer, you might be taught how to minimize the deleterious effects of a sedentary lifestyle. You might be given suggestions for changes or additions to your diet, supplementation regimen, posture, exercise habits, sleep and more. You might be taught an exercise regimen based on your goals and needs, making sure that you don’t waste your time performing the wrong type of exercise, or worse, harm yourself when working out. If you are an athlete, regular check-ups with your PT will help you reach and stay at the top of your performance, helping you avoid acute injuries as well as gradual breakdown from the specific strains of your sport. If you have any pre-existing problems, joints that have been replaced or segments of your body that have been immobilized through injury, underuse or surgery, you can learn important actions to take in order to prevent subsequent problems that otherwise might arise as a result of your medical history. A physical therapy screening will also uncover developing problems with your balance and may help you avoid and prevent falls. (6)
Lastly, if you have experienced gradual changes in your body and how it feels and functions and have been told (or believed) that these were happening simply because of “old age”, your physical therapist may show you that what you are experiencing is no less subject to positive changes than the ailments you may have noticed before you were old enough to blame your age.
Physical therapists are also trained to and always do screen for health problems in general, and your regular PT check-up can therefore help you uncover signs of non-musculoskeletal problems as well. Should this occur, your physical therapist will help guide you to the appropriate medical specialty.
Put simply, physical therapy helps you move, and movement is the absolute best, and often only, way to prevent joint degeneration. (7)
Do physical therapy check-ups simply mean thaat I’ll have more PT?
So does this mean that you simply need to spend more quality time with your physical therapist? Not necessarily, and it might actually mean that you’ll have less PT. A dental check-up and cleaning is faster, cheaper and less painful than a root canal and a crown. Musculoskeletal problems are no different. A regular physical therapy check-up may save you both money and time and, above all, result in a body that feels much better for much longer. Not a bad bargain, when you think about it!
Here’s to loving, respecting and taking good care of our bodies, now and for always!
The lifetime prevalence of non-specific (common) low back pain is estimated at 60% to 70% in industrialized countries
Chronic low back pain prevalence was ( …. )19.6% in those aged between 20 and 59.
Hip OA has been identified as one of the most common causes of debilitating pain in the general population, (,…)overall prevalence ranging from 0.9% to 27% with a mean of 8.0%.
Universal Health Coverage (UHC) is a comprehensive health system approach that facilitates a wide range of health services and significantly improves the life expectancy at birth and healthy life expectancy.
(5) Physical therapists are in an ideal position to promote health and wellness in their patients and clients.5 Physical therapists can reduce risk factors and prevent and treat NCDs by providing patient and client education; prescribing physical activity and exercise; and performing noninvasive, hands-on interventions consistent with a biopsychosocial paradigm. However, patients and clients often fail to recognize the role of the physical therapist in promoting health.
US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) Guide to Clinical Preventive Services recommends preventive physical therapy screening for falls prevention
Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and a healthful weight can help you reduce your risk of developing osteoarthritis, especially in the hips and knees, or suffering sports injuries. Exercise helps bone density, improves muscle strength and joint flexibility, and enhances your balance.
What does your aching back or shoulder have in common with hardening of the arteries or heart disease? They are all “lifestyle diseases”, i.e. problems that arise not because of a flaw in our construction or genes, but due to a mismatch between what our bodies have evolved to require for good health, and our current lifestyle. We are experiencing what could only be called an epidemic of chronic pain, and a third (30.7%) of Americans now suffers from chronic pain. For a health professional dedicated to minimizing and eliminating pain from people’s lives, this is a shocking statistic. Prescription drug use and abuse is subsequently at an all-time high, and the federal government has been forced to start taking steps to deal with the situation.
Lifestyle disease: A disease associated with the way a person or group of people lives. and can be prevented by changes in diet, environment and lifestyle, such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, obesity etc.
But is masking pain arising from living incorrectly in our bodies a good idea? The ever rising percentage of people in chronic pain shows that it may not be. We need to understand what we are doing wrong in order to fix the problem, and since we are all doing (or not doing, as the case may be) the same thing, understanding our mistake can be hard to do. But the paradoxical nature of the pain epidemic is this; our lives are too easy. By attempting to make our lives easier, we have actually made them harder. Let's look at why that may be the case.
It may come as a surprise to you, but a certain degree of hardship is good for you! Not convinced? Imagine how much easier it would be to float around in a weightless environment than it is to carry your body weight around against the downward pull of gravity on Earth. But do you know what happens to the human body in a weightless environment? Any astronaut can tell you: osteoporosis, loss of muscles mass, loss of balance, lowered testosterone, depression and more. The fact that we evolved with the gravity of our planet also means that we require gravity in order to thrive, just like a fish that has evolved for a life in water requires its habitual environment in order to survive.
Modern life requires a minimal amount of physical activity, and the activity we have lacks variety. You may at first protest, thinking “but I’m very active, I go for walks several times a week, I’m up and down the stairs in my house all day and I love to garden”. I’m sorry to have to break it to you, but even though it may be more than what some of your peers get that is not a great deal of activity, and more importantly, not very strenuous activity. Your DNA doesn’t compare you to other relatively inactive westerners, it expects the type and degree of activity we humans have experienced during our long history on planet Earth. If you think back just a few generations, you'll realize that your great grandma and grandpa probably worked much harder simply because they had to to put food on the table than you do in your yoga class. Actually, there's really no comparison.
Modern-day westerners have gotten used to comparing activity to inactivity (sitting) which is perceived as the baseline, but that’s misleading on many levels. Sitting is not our natural state, historically speaking, low-grade activity (walking, household chores etc) interspersed by heavier activity (hunting, farming, fighting) is. Prolonged and frequent (as in sedentary work) sitting actually carries its own risks, in addition to the fact that it also means that you aren’t being active. It is now known to be an independent risk factor even if you engage in exercise activities outside of work.
Our bodies are designed for a certain degree of hardship, and this strain is actually helpful on many levels. The oft' touted anti-oxidant effects of fruits and vegetables? They are largely produced by the human body itself in an effort to defend itself against the toxic effects of plants (yes, really)! Exposure to cold, heat, sunlight and fasting have all been shown to result in beneficial changes in our bodies, even resulting in better aging, aka longer health spans. The word used to describe this is hormesis.
A short working definition of hormesis is: ‘a process in which exposure to a low dose of a chemical agent or environmental factor that is damaging at higher doses induces an adaptive beneficial effect on the cell or organism.'
Physical strain; lifting heavy objects, running fast, walking long distances, twisting, turning, pulling, pushing and carrying all have their distinct and beneficial effects on the composition and functioning of the body, and this is what is commonly missing in today’s world. A leisurely stroll with a cup of Starbucks in your hand or a weekly yoga class simply doesn’t meet the requirements for physical activity that have been shaped by our long evolution. And so, without the physical stimuli required by your DNA to produce strong, healthy tissues, your body gradually starts to malfunction and cause pain.
Adding insult to (real or metaphorical) injury, the loss of exposure to the mild to moderate discomfort regularly involved in a more active lifestyle leads to a hypersensitivity in our nervous system, resulting in even small stimuli being perceived as painful. Simply put, being inactive makes you overly sensitive, and not in a good way. It simply leads to you suffering more from anything you feel, and that fact alone should be a powerful incentive to move more.
Physical inactivity makes you much more sensitive to pain.
A more recently understood phenomenon, called Fear Avoidance Beliefs in scientific circles, has put the nail in the coffin. When our ancestors hurt, they couldn’t afford not to move, to hunt and farm, there was no sick leave or disability pay, there was no-one to sue or blame. When our modern bodies, weakened by our inactivity and thus poorly prepared to withstand challenges sooner or later (and one might perhaps add, unavoidably) get injured we now have the dubious luxury of avoiding certain movements and positions out of a fear of causing more pain and injury. Anyone who’s seen a person with acute low back pain move (or perhaps been one!) knows what I’m referring to here. The problem with the logical assumption that it’s best to “take it easy” and act in a protective way when the body hurts is that it is completely wrong. Fear avoidance beliefs and the resulting behaviors have actually been shown to be the very gateway to chronic pain, and are to be avoided at all costs. When you move around stiffly and carefully in order to avoid pain, the stabilizing muscles that are part of the deep spinal structures atrophy and abnormal and, unfortunately, lasting movement patterns quickly form and contribute to pain that lasts way past the time it takes for the body to heal.
Avoiding movement in order to avoid pain has been shown to lead to chronic pain.
So assuming I have convinced you that the greatly reduced amount of strain on every system of the body that a per default modern-day existence in an industrialized information-age society leads to is a trap, what are you to do?
Here are some suggestions for steps to take to build a healthier, more resilient body and mind. But before you get going, bear in mind that a body that has adapted to a sedentary lifestyle needs some help adapting to increased levels and new types of activity. Have an evaluation and some treatment by a physical therapist to straighten that spine, loosen those hips and activate muscles to help prepare your body for physical activity. Skip this step at your own risk, and be prepared to sustain injuries and experience feelings discouragement if you do. Running has the highest injury rate of all recreational sports in part due to the lack of preparation of the (western) body for running. So get into prehab - prepare your body for activity before you start.
Once you’re ready, however, and take steps to become more active you will discover that Nature has created a strong incentive for us to move: the uplifting and extremely pleasant experience of the immediate and long-term effects of physical activity on your body chemistry. Way bigger a concept than merely a "runner’s high” , physical activity makes you feel happy, feel pleasure, energy, optimism, confidence and a stronger connection to the world around you.
Physical activity makes you feel good both immediately and in the long term
In chronic pain, pain is not a good indicator of whether you should move or not.
Lack of exercise causes depression.
When is referral for physical therapy appropriate?
A referral for physical therapy is appropriate any time a patient’s symptoms and impairment may be related to the musculoskeletal system.
Physical therapists are movement experts and address impairments in the locomotor system and its intersection with the nervous system. There are of course many areas of specialization. Mine is orthopedic physical therapy, which is the conservative treatment of musculoskeletal disorders and neuromuscular dysfunction through the use of orthopedic manual therapy, therapeutic exercise, ergonomics, movement- and posture re-education etc. There is strong support in the scientific literature for the combination of manual therapy and therapeutic exercise in the treatment of the majority of the most common musculoskeletal disorders.
The current entry level physical therapy degree is a clinical doctorate, and the state of Illinois grants direct access to physical therapy.
This means that physical therapy is the most appropriate initial referral for patients in need of conservative management and care for musculoskeletal disorders, as well as pre- and postsurgically for prehab and rehab. The physical therapist’s evaluation includes a screening for potential red flags and a patient not currently appropriate for physical therapy will be referred back to you. Therefore, a referral to physical therapy can also constitute a screening tool for whether the patient’s presenting complaint is musculoskeletal in nature or not.
After referring a patient for physical therapy you will receive a thorough evaluation report, as well as regular progress reports to keep you posted about your patient's progress.
Physical therapy does not need to constitute a stand-alone intervention, but can effectively be combined with medical management, acupuncture etc.
How do I write a script for physical therapy?
Your referral only needs to include the patient’s main complaint, e.g. “low back pain” and your name and credentials. The physical therapist will evaluate the patient and determine the classification, cause and appropriate treatment plan for the patient.
Who can refer to physical therapy?
In the state of Illinois any healthcare practitioner such as MD, DO, DPM and DDS etc are welcome to refer patients to physical therapy. Medicare requires a referral or a sign-off on the patient's treatment plan by one of the above-mentioned professionals writing the first month of care.
Will my patients be able to use their health insurance for physical therapy services?
I am in network with BCBS and I am a Medicare provider. Patients covered by other healthcare plans will receive an itemized superbill complete with ICD-10 codes and CPT codes and may submit this to their respective insurance company for reimbursement of their services.
Please do not hesitate to contact me at any time via text or voice at 847-208-8063 or via email.
More news and information about physical therapy here.
Beattie et al. Patient Satisfaction With Outpatient Physical Therapy: Instrument Validation. Physical Therapy, 82(6). (2002).
Resnik et al. Predictors of Physical Therapy Clinic Performance in the Treatment of Patients With Low Back Pain Syndromes. Physical Therapy 88.9 (2008)
Ok, I admit, I actually made that diagnosis up, although it does make a whole lot more sense than a lot of other diagnoses out there...
Have you ever immobilized your body? If you've never had an arm in a sling or leg in a cast, your answer may initially be no, but without realizing it, you probably have subjected your body to far more immobilization that you've ever realized.
Our DNA needs the type of stimulation a more "primitive" lifestyle would create; movement and positions in varied terrains with varied loads, taking joints (not just shoulders and knees but even the small facet joints between your spinal vertebrae and the joints between the bones in your feet) through their range of motion on a regular basis.
We moderns, however, tend to walk on completely flat surfaces in a forward direction only and sit in the same position, in chairs, day after day. At night we sleep in beds and with pillows that are designed to keep all out joints in a neutral position. We wear shoes with rigid soles and arch supports (support sounds like such a nice word, who would ever suspect there was anything wrong with it?) that keep the many (over 30!) bones of the feet and ankles from moving. We even wear other types of clothing (bras, belts, tight pants, boxer briefs etc) that restrict the natural movement, expansion, jiggle, swing and bounce of our bodies.
I once treated a man that I only could diagnose with "Big Belt Buckle Syndrome". No, that's not an official diagnosis either, I must confess. But in reality, that's what he suffered from. He wore tight jeans, cowboy boots and a belt with a huge belt buckle every day, and his body had learned to move within the restrictions that his fashion sense created, with low back pain as one of the resulting problems. The moral of the story? Things (clothes, sleep surfaces, chairs, cars, walking surfaces etc) that look completely innocuous to us because we are so used to them do immobilize our bodies to varying degrees, and since we were not designed for it there is always some price to be paid (and, conversely and thankfully, many potential improvements at arm's reach!)
So does it really matter whether joints move or not as long as you're comfortable in the moment? It actually matters. A lot. You could put it this way: whatever evolution has prepared us for it also expects of us. What this means in terms of your musculoskeletal system is that all our bones and joints and ligaments and muscles need pressure and movement from and at various angles in order to stay fully healthy. When we remove a large percentage of the forces our bodies expect to be subjected to, our bodies become weak, unstable and rigid and this (not the number of birthdays you've had) over time results in degeneration of joints, osteoporosis, loss of muscle mass and stiff, malaligned bodies from our feet all the way up to our heads.
And here you thought you were taking good care of your body with that posturepedic sleep number bed and those custom-made orthotic shoe inserts! Sorry, but using such products, unless you absolutely have to due to an acute injury or advanced stages of degeneration, is doing your body a huge disservice. The bed that keeps you so comfortable is actually preventing your pelvic bones and spinal vertebrae from realigning themselves during sleep and muscles from stretching the way they would if your sleep surface was firmer. The way your chest sinks in in a soft bed deprives you from oxygen both during sleep itself and during the daytime due to a permanently collapsed ribcage, and that's just as bad as it sounds. The "supportive" shoe prevents the foot from acting as the shock-absorbing, mechanical force-conducting marvel that it was designed to be and instead over time makes it weak, stiff and painful.
But why do soft beds and supportive shoes feel so good to some people? Essentially, they are indulging your restrictions. A body made inflexible through years of positional deprivation can no longer stretch and yield enough to be comfortable on a harder surface. A hard surface now stretches the body's (already achy) tissues in a way that is perceived as discomfort. Similarily, a foot shod for decades may lack the stuctural integrity to hold up the body without collapsing, and hurts without the additional help of an arch support.
So what might another approach look like, one that would help our urbanized bodies stay healthy and happy? Here it helps to look at how non-industrialized folks do it. The ones that manage to get through the day wihout supportive shoes, chairs or beds and are walking around erect, comfortable and agile. They may walk around barefoot, or in minimal footwear, sleep without soft bedding and pillows and move three-dimensionally through their world exposing their bodies to forces by lifting, pushing, pulling, carrying, twisting and turning. At night they sleep in varying positions on much harder surfaces than we are used to, that stretch and mobilize joints in their bodies and even correct joint mal-alignments in their sleep. And speaking of joint mal-alignment, when you expose your body to a wide range of movement through most of your range of motion daily it is much more likely that mal-aligned joints correct themselves than if you keep your body relatively still or only move in the mid range of your joint range of motion the way most of us Westerners do.
When visiting west Africa many years ago I remember thinking that people sleeping on thin straw mats on the ground with only a thin piece of fabric covering them to protect against the terrorizing mosquitoes looked like they must be terribly uncomfortable But do you know what else I kept thinking throughout my stay? The people around me had the best posture I had ever seen anywhere in my whole life. Gradually, very gradually if you are stiff, moving towards a less supportive sleep surface and a flatter pillow is a move in the right direction.
Our feet are made for walking, barefoot. Wearing rigid shoes with thick soles and heels alters the alignment not only of the feet but of the entire body and prevents the foot from staying supple and strong. Gradually (again, very gradually if your feet are stiff and sore) move towards mostly using less "supportive" (there's that "nice" word again) footwear, removing the heels (that goes for guys too, just look under your shoe and you will find a heel) from your existing shoes or buying "neutral" footwear that doesn't have a heel. And no, you don't have to wear five-finger shoes to do that. Here's an example of a very formal-looking minimalist shoe Doing strengthening and corrective exercises along the way to prepare your feet for a more normal load will help make this in transition easier and smoother. And remember, this is not a binary issue. You don't have to take sides, choose only minimalist shoes and never wear heels. Juts wear them more, and see how you feel! Every little bit counts, and perfection and perfectionism doesn't have to enter into the equation. Our bodies are very forgiving, we just have to help them out a little bit.
Walk a bit more, and if possible walk in terrain and up and down hills, sideways etc. Walk barefoot whenever you can. If you sit or stand for work you can even place some pebbles in a flat pan and place your feet on them from time to time. It feels wonderful and invigorating, and gently wiggles the many bones in your feet and keeps the muscles and ligaments holding them together supple and healthy.
At home, don't use shoes, belts, bras or other restrictive types of clothing.
Sitting in is a position we find ourselves in way too often. The best thing to do about that is to try to stand and walk more. When you are sitting, vary the way which you sit and use props to keep your self from slouching and collapsing. Standing desks are becoming more and more popular, and you can even use a walking desk. If you're using a laptop, why sit at all? Sometimes you can choose lay on your stomach, for example.
Expand your positional and movement repertoire: find new ways of sitting, whether that means positioning yourself better in a chair or choosing one of the myriad ways you can sit on the ground. If ways of sitting other than straight up in a chair feel uncomfortable at first, you can use alternate sitting positions, such as crosslegged, kneeling on your heels, squatting etc as stretches that you only hold for 2-3 minutes at a time. As your body limbers up you may find yourself spontaneously choosing these positions over sitting upright in a chair. Use young children and images of people in more primitive cultures as a source of inspiration. There are literally hundreds of positions you can choose for sitting, lying down and moving about your day, and they all treat your body a variety of forces necessary to keep it healthy.
Once you get used to seeing movement and position as a necessary input in order to get the output of a healthy, well functioning body you will not only find yourself choosing a wider range of movements and positions, but actually craving them. You will develop a more intimate connection with your body due to the varying proprioceptive inputs and a greater confidence in your body through experiencing movements and positions you never experienced before. And hopefully you will also be ditching the outdated notion of "my body feels stiff - but I guess that's just because I'm getting older". No matter what your age or health status you can always nudge your body in a better direction by using it the way nature intended. And what better and easier way to do that than by doing what you already do: walk, sleep, sit - just in more varied and interesting ways!
You probably don’t know anyone that hasn’t suffered from a musculoskeletal injury or pain. Achy shoulders, sore backs and creaky knees seem to be part of life these days. Even children often suffer from these ailments, the more sedentary among them suffering from “text-neck” and the more athletically inclined from shin splints and, yes, from back and shoulder pain as well.
"The rate of musculoskeletal diseases far outstrips that of circulatory diseases and respiratory diseases" http://www.boneandjointburden.org
Half of all people over 18 and 3/4 people over 65 suffer from musculoskeletal pain
Apart from the obvious pain and suffering, decreased quality of life, financial cost and lost workdays caused by chronically or acutely painful body parts, musculoskeletal dysfunction carries an even greater risk than you might have realized. It unavoidably leads to physical inactivity, which in turn is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and decreased function of all major organs.
"250,000 Americans die prematurely from improper diet and lack of exercise each year."
This means that musculoskeletal pain and dysfunction should be taken very seriously, and that it needs to be demoted from its comfy position among “things that just happen with age”.
Don’t blame your age
The true cause of musculoskeletal degeneration is not Father Time, but the things we have, or haven’t, been doing with our time. As a matter of fact, elderly people who do exercise reap tremendous benefits not only in terms of increased bone density, muscle mass and functional ability, but also in memory, mood and cognition. Lifestyle factors such as being sedentary most of the day (yes, even if you exercise regularly), not sleeping long enough or deeply enough, nutritionally poor modern diets that don’t supply enough building blocks to keep the tissues supple and strong and “positionally monotonous” movement habits do not enable our bodies to keep renewing and rejuvenating themselves, and lead to the illusion that human bodies simply gradually wear out over time. Stress in all its various permutations plays a major role as well, as it alters hormone function, disrupts deep, healing sleep and in general signals to our DNA to stop repair and maintenance of the body, as there apparently is an emergency to be dealt with.
A multi-pronged approach that decreases the mismatch between our (mostly) stone-age-adapted DNA and the modern world, along with some targeted treatment of specific mechanical musculoskeletal problems such as skeletal mal-alignment, fascial adhesions and muscle weakness and -imbalance can significantly increase our ability to enjoy our bodies and all the wonderful things we can do with them. The subsequent increase in physical activity (assuming of course that you make that choice!) leads to increased bone and muscle mass, increased organ function and -reserve, increased levels of beneficial hormones, neurotransmitters and happy thoughts, and makes you smarter and keeps you smarter longer. In short, taking care of your musculoskeletal system increases both your lifespan and your health span, and no, there is no drug that can match that promise. So take care of them bones and forget Father Time!
12 ideas for an even better life
3) JERF - Just Eat Real Food. There are many reasons behind our neurotic relationship to food; the obesity epidemic, the rising prevalence of lifestyle-diseases, dietary information from self-proclaimed gurus that often contradicts everything else you've read, including itself. Take a deep breath - food is not out to get you, and the latest dietary "truth" is not here to save you, only to add more stress to your already heavy stress bucket. Focus on eating real, organic food instead of packaged processed food products, no matter how much kale they contain, and focus on good taste, quality and enjoyment. You know, kind how those Italians do. You do know that they live longer than Americans, right?
4) Be grateful- find something every day to be grateful for - the soft bed you woke up in, your car, your furnace that keeps you warm, the commute that gave you time to listen to a great audiobook, your children ( what a miracle!), the food on your plate before you eat, a friendly word, an opportunity to help someone, your ability to walk and move, how beautiful the sky is...you get the idea. You will decrease muscle tension, stress hormones and general grumpiness, and enjoy and appreciate your life more. You might even live longer, and at least you’ll enjoy whatever time you do live more.
5) When faced with a stressor, fast forward 6 months in time, and realize how trivial most things we worry about are.
6) but live in the moment. We tend to either live in the past ( regrets, grudges) or the future
(worry, fear and planning how to avoid what we fear) and miss out on the now. This makes time
(aka life!) fly by and increases ( again) muscle tension, stress hormone levels, and your ability to actually enjoy your life. Bring your attention to something tangible, like the taste of your food, the feel of your body, the temperature and softness of the skin of someone ( you?) you touch. What can you be aware of right now? Reach out and touch something, and let yourself take a moment to actually feel it. Do it often.
7) Throw out all vegetable oils right now. They are not good for you, and are among the biggest contributors to inflammation (pain, degeneration) in your life. Let the canola, safflower, corn etc oil go. (And while you're at it, if you're using it, let your flax seed oil go, too. It is not a good source of omega 3 oils of the kind your body can use, and very likely rancid and thus even more harmful to you.) Use high-quality olive oil, grassfed butter or coconut oil instead.
8) Stop associating with people that don't make you happy. If they don't make you happy, you don't make them happy, and you are both wasting your precious life making each other miserable. Respect your short time on earth and the miracle of the life you've been given enough to make quality choices, especially when it comes to the thing that's been shown to have the greatest impact on your health - the relationships you have with other people. Remember, happiness = health and unhappiness = lack of health. Pretty simple.
9) Move more, but not for too long - your body will deteriorate (= age, "fall apart") if you don't use it as it is supposed to be used. You need to move it every day, often through the day (see #2), you need to use your muscles and bones if you want to keep them. Lift something heavy - your own body is great for starters. Do some squats, push-ups (against the wall or chair if you can't (yet!) do them on the floor. You don't need to do them at the same time, or at a gym. If you sit for work, the overall benefit will actually be greater if you intersperse your sitting with the squats and push-ups throughout the day. Most people don't move enough. Those that do move, tend to not exercise vigorously enough. A leisurely stroll with a cup of Starbucks i your hand is much better than only sitting still (congratulations!) but not nearly enough to maintain muscle and bone mass and a youthful look and disposition.
10) Stretch. Place your body in positions other that the fetal position ( which you are in when you sit by your desk, dinner table, car, sofa, sleep curled up on your side)on a regular basis. Otherwise you'll soon find yourself unable to assume other positions, and will need a walker to hold yourself upright. I know you've seen people that this has happened to ( they are often referred to as the elderly, and it is assumed that their condition is an inevitable stage of life. Not so). Straighten your body completely before you walk, if you've been sitting for a while. Stretch a little ( just let your body lead; if your dog can do it, so can you). Get used to existing in other positions than a sedentary one- lie down or to read and watch a movie, walk instead of calling or driving.
11) Get some light ( and avoid it at night). Our bodies need help keeping the rhythmic and cyclical production of hormones and other bodily functions in sync. Bright light is one of the signals to the body that it is daytime, and thus functions as an important pacemaker for the body. It follows, then, that if you want easy and deep sleep, you should not be shining bright light ( computers, backlit reading devices, bright ambient light) into your eyes at night, thus telling your body to perk up and get ready for action.
12)Don’t be too trusting. Develop a good conspiracy theory from time to time, realize that drug companies, governments and media do not first and foremost have your best interest at heart. Realize that it can take between 10-15 years for research findings to reach the office of your primary care physician to be implemented as standard practice. That means that at any given time, you probably are being given obsolete advice and that you can probably benefit from some thinking and digging of your own. PubMed is a way to directly access scientific studies online, and there are many independent healthcare professionals that make an effort to stay more up-to-date than big medical associations and the government.
13) Laugh. Only stressed-out adults do not find life hilarious. Little children laugh often throughout the day, 72 percent of centenarians laugh or giggle every day, and anthropologists and other travelers often find the behavior of"primitive" peoples around the world puzzling - they actually seem to laugh at life's hardships and the crazy and sometimes absurd little twists and turns we find ourselves in as we go through life. Maybe we should all aim for a bit of that attitude? Take in medicinal amounts of funny movies, books and vines (google it). Train yourself to be more lighthearted, and above all, don't take yourself so seriously, because it will just increase your level of stress ( although others might find such pompousness humorous). Laughter, on the other hand, has been shown (in case you haven't experienced it lately and had a chance to notice) to decrease stress and thus increase health. Oscar Wilde was right when he said “Life is too important to take seriously!”
Now choose one thing from the list and try it out! Dive right in and do all of them right away, or make a commitment to incorporate them one at a time, choosing a new one once a week. Either way, the list is intended to demonstrate that health-enhancing changes are easily within your reach, they do not need to be dramatic or hard. As the Pareto principle (somewhat paraphrased) states, 20% of the work accounts for 80% of the results. And remember to stay humerus!
Eating and living for
Did you skip out of bed this morning feeling good, ready to face the day ahead, or did you emerge, slowly unfolding your aching body, feeling stiff and thinking to yourself “boy, I’m getting old!”
Whether you make your living farming the land, delivering packages or hunched over a computer, your physical body is your home here on earth, your vehicle for experiencing life and moving around. Whether simply shuffling around your apartment or traveling the world, your body is either a source of freedom and joy, an impediment (or worse; a source of suffering). It’s probably safe to say most of us, if given the choice, would choose option #1. Guess what - good news! - we do have a lot of say in the matter! Let’s look at how in a little more detail. And if you’re not one to geek out on the scientific nitty-gritty, you can skip to the end of the article and head straight for the action steps.
Whether you feel pleasure or pain as you move around, or simply sit in your chair, depends mostly on your musculoskeletal system; the system of muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones and joints and associated tissues, such as the fascia, that move the body and maintain its form. This system is made of specific proteins, fats and minerals, and like all other parts of the wonder of you, it is constantly in the process of breaking itself down and building itself back up. In order to for this process to go smoothly and result in strong, healthy tissue we have to supply our DNA with the right signals and our body with the right building blocks. So how do we do this?
Food and your DNA
Far from being something set in stone, your DNA actually has many blueprints for how to construct you. Assume that as you were growing up, your diet was rich in minerals and all the other building blocks for bones. To the DNA this would signal that it is safe and appropriate to build a large (tall) skeletal structure, whereas the DNA of a child eating a diet poor in minerals would be prompted to activate plan B, an alternate blueprint for a shorter stature, rather than build a tall, but porous and weak skeleton. The same holds true for adults - even deficiency of one mineral, say Magnesium, leads to decreased bone building activity and therefore weakening of the bone, aka osteoporosis (1). We can observe the same effect even through the lens of history: hunter-gatherer populations were taller and stronger than the agricultural societies that followed them (2). due to the switch to a grain-based diet (more later about why).
Our changing food supply is changing our bodies
Changes in our dietary habits have affected us in other ways, too. Our ancestors, both paleolithic and more recent, tended to consume a much greater variety of animal products (hint: animals are made of the same building blocks our bodies are made of!) and thus ingested eg more minerals and collagen than today’s boneless-skinless-chicken-breast-eating populations. They drank mineral-rich water from natural sources and ate vegetable matter growing in mineral-rich soil. Todays’ agricultural practices have unfortunately lead to severely depleted soil, so that we despite a higher yield are receiving fewer nutrients (minerals, vitamins etc) from our food (3). Most of our meat is from animals that are not only kept in inhumane conditions that induce stress in animals, but also fed an unnatural diet. You know what cows like to eat, right? Grass. But CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation, aka animal factory, aka anything but meat guaranteed to be organic, grass-fed and grass finished) cows are fed a diet of (genetically modified) corn, soy and sometimes candy (yes, you read that right!) (4), (5) and fed and injected with hormones and antibiotics. This has a profound effect on the healthfulness of the resulting product, rendering once healthful foods, ruminant meat, organ meats and milk from these poor animals unhealthy.
The nutrients we are missing out on, and the things we really, really should avoid
Apart from nutrient-poor foods and de-mineralized water there is another dietary novelty that is robbing us of our health and well-being, and like a Trojan horse it’s tricking us to let it in. What I’m talking about is the addition of foods, until very recently unknown to mankind, that are contributing to inflammation in our bodies. One is refined sugar and the overuse of refined carbohydrates in general, and the other one is vegetable seed oils such as canola, cottonseed oil, soybean oil, safflower oil etc.
Sugars, and foods that turn into sugar in the body (most carbohydrates) are necessary for the body. But they are also harmful if they remain in our bloodstream unused. This happens when we eat them often and in large amounts, as we do today, encouraged by convention, taste and the ubiquitous and perhaps somewhat unfortunate “food pyramid”. One way in which they wreak havoc is by creating the appropriately named AGEs (advanced glycation end-products) that destroy proteins, including collagen in our bodies. Collagen is what gives us our form, holds us together, gives muscles and tendons their form and strength, gives our skin its strength and suppleness. Collagen breakdown equals tissue breakdown.
The other novelty, the industrial seed oil, comes to us masquerading as a health food. Canola oil bottles, for example, will often feature labels boasting that it is high in omega 3, a fatty acid that has anti-inflammatory effects on the body. However, that omega 3 has likely ceased to be healthful, as the fragile polyunsaturated oils have been exposed to a refining process (6) involving high heat and solvents (hexane) resulting in harmful trans fats. Industrial seed oils don’t only cause damage inside our bodies by virtue of their own oxidized fats, but actually by starting an oxidative cascade that damages other fats, too, thereby damaging blood vessels, cell membranes and bones as well as affecting hormonal signaling inside the body (7). I don’t know about you, but messing with hormonal signaling something I'd rather not do.
These fats end up on our plates and in our bodies because we use them in cooking, trusting the marketing claims. They are also get into our bodies via restaurant food. They are so much cheaper than healthy oils like butter and coconut oil that only upscale restaurants will avoid them. They are also found in virtually every processed food product you can think of. We also absorb them through our skin. (Try using unrefined coconut oil instead, or this wonderful balm http://www.vintagetradition.com/ )
Technically, the effect of these Tojan horses is know as lipid peroxidation (8) and glycation (9), respectively, and constitutes one of the major reasons for degeneration and aging.
Mind your minerals
Grains and legumes (soy!) contain phytates, which hamper mineral absorption from the food they are in. So while grains contain minerals, you will probably not absorb them well due to the phytates they contain, so be sure to get minerals from other sources. Nuts tend to be high in phytates, too. Even healthful vegetables such as spinach contain mineral-absorption hampering oxalates. Our more recent ancestors minimized these effects by soaking, sprouting and fermenting grains, nuts and legumes, and you can still benefit from this ancient technology for example by soaking your beans for a day before cooking them.
Speaking of bones, vitamin K2 is essential for them, and may protect you from calcification of tissues that you’d probable rather keep soft (arteries, for example). Vitamin K2 is found in some food and can be manufactured in our guts, but most of us would benefit from supplementation. Studies show that vitamin K2 far outperforms osteoporosis drugs, with none of their side-effects.
Bone broth http://wellnessmama.com/5888/how-to-make-bone-broth-tutorial/ , has become quite fashionable, and if taken several times a week, will supply you with valuable minerals. However, given that most people are deficient in Magnesium, you may want to supplement with at least this important mineral. There are several forms of Magnesium, some better absorbed that others. Magnesium glycinate is one of the better absorbed ones (unless you want to go for ionic minerals http://www.angstrom-mineral.com/ ). Magnesium is vital for maintaining a normal muscle tone, and therefore some of the many symptoms of magnesium deficiency include tight and sore muscles, muscle cramps, angina and high blood pressure.
Inflammation causes pain
It is no coincidence that many pain medications (think Motrin or Cortisone) are anti-inflammatories. Inflammation, whether for a good reason, such as your tennis game two days ago that triggered muscle and bone growth, or for a bad reason (inflammatory foods) is painful and, if prolonged, causes damage to the body. One of the most important steps to maintain, or regain, a healthy pain-free body and lead a long, happy and productive life is to minimize unnecessary inflammation. You already know that large amounts of sugar trigger changes that lead to inflammation. Your choice of fats play an important part, too. Avoid vegetable oils and trans fats, and balance out your omega 6 to omega 3 ratio (by avoiding vegetable oils, favoring olive oil instead, and eating wild-caught fatty, cold water fish fish and grass-fed meat) ideally making it 1/1.
Nuts (with the exception of Macadamias) also contain high amounts of omega 6 polyunsaturated oils, which may both sometimes be rancid and otherwise contribute to inflammation by skewing the critical omega 3/omega 6 ratio, so while nuts definitely belong in a healthy diet, using large amounts of nut flour for baking in order to avoid grains may not be ideal.
What all of these changes in what ends up on our plates amounts to could be summarized as quantity over quality. Good for industry, not so good for you and me. Luckily you can take many steps (ideas at the end of the article) to improve the quality of your food.
Lifestyle changes play a big part, too
Remember how what we eat affects what blueprint our DNA activates? We can affect the choice of blueprint in other ways, too. Sleep is, as mentioned in my previous post, critical. We need somewhere around 8 hours as adults and much more in childhood. Anything less will results in decreased time allowed for growth, decreased amounts of growth hormones (which are released during sleep10), increased levels of Cortisol and an increased desire for carbohydrate-rich foods (leading to more inflammation).
Last, but most definitely not least, the physical forces our bodies are exposed to strongly signal to our bodies whether we should be using our resources to build a strong frame or not. Bone and muscle is living tissue that needs to be stressed in order to stay strong (11). Astronauts exposed to weightlessness have discovered this the hard way - even relatively short stays in space have lead to significant osteoporosis in these brave men and women.
So what other steps can we take to make sure things go right, resulting in a strong physical frame that will serve us well over the course of a long life and function properly, carry us around and be a source of pleasure and joy? Turns out, there’s quite a lot we can do. Below, I have listed some of those action steps in a hopefully easy-to read (and implement!) format.
Action steps for a healthy musculoskeletal system:
-Match the use of sugars and carbohydrates to your activity level
Sugar from carbohydrates is used for some structures in the body, such as mucus, tears, joint fluid etc. But most of all it's fuel. Don't eat much more carbohydrate than you will burn for your body's basic needs and physical activity at any given time. The rest will be stored as fat, after it's circulated in your body and may have raised your insulin unnecessarily, causing inflammation. Go easy on sugar, fruit juices, soft drinks, desserts etc. Fruit also contains sugar, especially since all modern fruits are hybrids bread for their high sugar content. Minimize use of refined foods, especially low-fat varieties, which contain a lot of “hidden” sugar.
-Minimize the use of vegetable seed oils
Use animal fat including butter (choose grass-fed aka pastured butter) and olive oil instead.
-Include healthy fats and protein in your diet - your body is made of them
Saturated fats (from healthy animals and tropical oils) are building blocks for our bodies, are a source of energy and protect the fragile mono-unsaturated fats that we also need. Eat grassfed organic ruminant meat (beef, lamb, goat, bison), pastured butter or ghee, grassfed dairy, olive oil and fatty fish such as salmon and sardines. People with stain genetic traits may need to keep their saturated fat intake a bit lower than others, but contrary to long-circulated soundbites saturated fat does not "clog arteries".
The above-mentioned meat and fish are also a safe source of proteins (apart from fats and minerals, we are made from protein!)
-Get sun and organ meats
The sun triggers the formation of vitamin D in the body, while organ meats supply valuable nutrients such as vitamin A, found in large amounts in liver) to balance and work with vitamin D. You already know that vitamin D is necessary for growth, but did you know that it also has many more functions, including modulating inflammation 12? Liver is also an excellent source of valuable B-vitamins (and no, it does not filter or store toxins).
-Make bone broth, slow-cooked stews and eat meat on the bone
Cooking bone and the connective tissue (contained in the fascia in the meat and cartilage on the bone) frees these valuable nutrients into liquid and build these same tissues (bones and other connective tissues such as tendons, fascia and skin as well as joint cartilage and discs) in our bodies.
Whenever possible, choose whole foods and a natural lifestyle over supplementation. However, there are some supplements that may be necessary due to the changes to our environment and lifestyle detailed earlier.
Getting enough sun exposure in the summer is the ideal way to raise your vitamin D levels. In the Midwest, winter months are dead-zones for vitamin D production and supplementation is necessary to reach healthy levels.Bone mineralization is optimized at serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels near and above 40 ng/ml 13.
As mentioned, K2 builds bones, treats osteoporosis and makes sure calcium ends up where we want it to end up. It’s even been shown to reverse calcification of arteries. Now that’s an offer you can’t refuse!
Bone broth and other healthful foods will supply you with some the Calcium you need. Magnesium is another story, and most will benefit from supplementation. Organ meats, meat and other foods supply minerals, as does high-quality water. A tissue mineral analysis http://www.arltma.com/HairAnalysis.htm may show you where you stand, although this test hasn't yet been properly validated. Important minerals you want to make sure you get enough of include Iodine (especially if you live in the Midwest), Selenium, Potassium (instead of reducing salt, increase Potassium by eating more vegetables)
If you are over 65 years of age, your body is less receptive to the muscle-building signals of the protein in your food. You need to eat approximately 25% more protein in order to maintain your lean body mass (muscle and bone) and to reap the benefits of exercise.
A special note on Osteoporosis
Women, especially, tend to be understandably fearful of osteoporosis and tend to follow the somewhat misguided advice to supplement with large amounts of Calcium without simultaneous attention to other factors contributing to this debilitating degeneration of our frame. Other culprits of osteoporosis are deficiencies of vitamin D, vitamin K2 15 and Magnesium as well as the low activity levels typical of our society. Including collagen-rich foods in the diet, minimizing inflammation and increasing physical activity, all mentioned in this post, are also of great value.
An another one on digestion
We are not what we eat, but what we digest. With time and some conditions our production of stomach acid may decrease. If this happens, digestion suffers and our absorption of body-building substances such as protein and minerals suffer. Symptoms of low stomach acid include heartburn, heavyness and bloating after meals, gassiness or abdominal distention, poor resistance to infections, slow emptying of the stomach, fatigue and illness. Note that salt is an important source of the Chloride needed to produce hydrochloric acid. As mentioned before, most of us would benefit from increasing Potassium and Magnesium rather than decreasing Sodium e.g. in order to normalize blood pressure.
So there you have it! Avoid inflammation, supply your body with the right building blocks and lead an active lifestyle and get plenty of sunshine and sleep to signal to your DNA to build a strong, health body.
Free bonuses include: more beautiful skin, increased energy for all the wonderful things you want to do with your life, decreased risk of erectile dysfunction and other forms of vascular disease and much, much more. Now that’s what I call a great deal!
Disclaimer: the information shared in this blog is not intended to diagnose or treat illness. It is presented as information and inspiration only. If you have a medical condition, use medication or believe that you may have a medical condition, please work with a doctor (medical, osteopath, naturopath, doctor of oriental medicine etc).
As important as sleep is to our health, and as much time as we spend doing it, it is sometimes frustrating to discover that sleep is not something you can decide to do. It sort of either seems to happen, or not. But as you will discover, it might be more accurate to say that even though we can’t decide to fall asleep, we can decide to create circumstances that invite and induce sleep.
If you are one of the sleepless, you are not alone. It is estimated that over 15-80% of the adult population suffers from problems with sleep(1, 2). And many more simply feel they don't have time to sleep the 7-8 hours an adult needs. Some believe they don’t need as much sleep as the average person, but many who feel they are doing great on 6 hours a night actually turn out to be chronically sleep deprived when tested, and would benefit from sleeping more.
But what's the big deal with sleep, you may ask, and why on earth would a physical therapist choose it as a subject for a blog? Lets look at some of the effects of not getting enough sleep.
Sleep is part of our circadian rhythm. We are very specifically adapted to life on this planet, and our life cycles around it's position in space. The various functions in the body follow a certain daily and monthly pattern, and the correct timing of these functions in necessary for good health. Every cell has an internal clock telling it what time it is, and this system allows for the various functions in the body to be synchronized, sort of like an orchestra where a great number of instruments are playing together in beautiful harmony. Now what would happen to the symphony if all instruments were played randomly? Chaos, instead of beautiful music.
Our body functions in the same way; it needs for the clocks of the cells to be synchronized in order for our bodies to function harmoniously. If we disrupt the rhythm, chaos ensues.
Sleep is one of the important metronomes of the body. When sleep is disrupted, shortened, happens randomly or at the wrong time (think shift workers) our balance is disrupted, resulting in an endless array of problems - infertility, obesity (3), depression, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, poor immune function and of course poor cognitive functioning and general grumpiness. The list could go on, but you get the picture, sleep is crucial to your health and well-being. Famously, a tired driver is a greater danger on the roads than a slightly intoxicated one(4). But at the same time, good and regular sleep is also the result of properly maintained biological rhythms.
Our ancestors probably didn’t have nearly as many problems getting enough zzz’s as we do. They lived in a world where nature set the pace. Our modern-day inventions have freed us from many of the constraints of the natural world, but at the same time that new-found freedom may be hurting us. It behooves us to live in such a way that we are benefiting from all the wonders of modern technology without allowing them to harm us.
Lack of sleep also makes you hurt more(5), hence my choice of topic for this blog. The mechanisms through which sleeplessness makes us hurt are many. For one, nighttime is the time for repair. Every part of the body is constantly being broken down and replaced - you literally don't have the same body you did a few years ago. All the cells have been replaced. Lack of sleep interrupts this rebuilding process. Exercise and even normal use of the body creates microscopic breakdown of muscle tissue, and as this is repaired at night the body emerges from sleep stronger. But what if you don't sleep? Well, you can guess the answer to this one - you feel stiff and sore. And yes, athletes need even more muscle repair, and hence more sleep.
The National Sleep Foundation lists the following effects of a good night's sleep: blood supply to muscles increases, tissue growth and repair, memory consolidation and release of hormones regulating growth and appetite, release of hormones such as growth hormones, which are essential for growth and development, including muscle development, maintenance of a healthy immune system.
Normal sleep has many stages, from lighter to deeper non-REM sleep, and REM, or dream sleep. The patterns vary depending on a persons age, degree of sleep deprivation and whether sleep is natural or chemically induced through the use of sleep medication.It is believed that tissue repair and release of growth hormone happens during the deepest stage of sleep. Growth hormone stimulates protein synthesis, helps break down fat (wohoo, right?)) that supplies energy for tissue repair and stimulates cell division. This repair process is essential to recovering from athletic endeavors and the wear and tear of everyday life. In fact, some scientists theorize that the decline of deep sleep as we age may contribute to physical decline by depriving us of growth hormone.
With that in mind, here are some practical steps to incorporate into your life in the new year to help you fall asleep easier and experience a better quality of sleep.
-Think of sleep as something that happens when your body knows that it is nigh-time.
-Think of your activities during the entire day as signals to your body about what time it is. Signal appropriately, i.e. do not engage in activites at night that tell your body it’s morning, and vice versa. This can be though of as circadian rhythm enhancement.
-Light is one of the most powerful circadian rhythm regulators (6). Expose yourself to bright light in the morning and during the day. A brief walk outside first thing in the morning, working in front of a window and using light boxes http://www.verilux.com/light-therapy-lamps/happylight-6000/ are ways to accomplish this. As the sunlight gradually fades outside, so should the lights in your home - otherwise you are signaling to your body that it’s daytime when it actually is night. Trying to fall asleep 10 minutes after you’ve been telling your body it’s 12 noon is not going to work very well! In the evening, use orange-colored lights instead of white light bulbs. the orange/red end of the light spectrum does not suppress Melatonin production the way the blue light (in sunlight, regular white light bulbs etc) does. Install http://stereopsis.com/flux/ on your computer. This program will change the light on your computer screen according to the time of day to filter out the blue lights that most strongly signal “daytime!” in the evening. Another way to filter out blue lights is to use orange-tinted glasses http://www.amazon.com/Uvex-S1933X-Eyewear-SCT-Orange-Anti-Fog/dp/B000USRG90/ref=pd_bxgy_hi_text_y while watching TV or using a computer or other backlit device in the evening. Also remember that the intensity of light is important, so dim your lights as much as you can in the evening. Sleep in a completely darkened room, using black-out curtains and a sleep mask http://www.amazon.com/Bucky-Blinks-Sleep-Mask-Lacey/dp/B007MEBEXY/ref=sr_1_cc_3?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1356889817&sr=1-3-catcorr&keywords=bucky+sleep+mask if needed.
-Seek social interaction, even just images of human faces, during the daytime.
-Take vitamin D supplements in the morning, not at night. Take your Magnesium supplement at night.
-Eat food during daylight hours only and eat your last meal around 7pm. Eating signals “daytime” to your body. If you often have trouble sleeping, eat more of your carbohydrates later in the day, and make sure your breakfast contains sufficient amounts of protein.
-Be aware of the effect of temperature: a drop in body temperature such as after exercise or after a warm bath signals “night-time”. Keep your bedroom temperature cool.
-Research the temporary or occasional use of Melatonin supplementation at night, and/or 5HTP or Tryptophan to support Serotonin levels during the night. Melatonin is produced by the Pineal gland in your brain when your eye is not exposed to light, i.e. at night. It has multiple very important functions in the body and when taken as a supplement it can help you fall asleep and stay asleep.
-Research the use of calming herbs such as Valerian, Hops etc at night-time as a temporary support or when weaning off prescription sleep medication.
-Consider health-promoting forms of care such as acupuncture to help support normal sleep rhythm.
-Decrease your overall stress levels through changing your life situation and changing how you react to your life situation. Living in a constant state of “fight or flight” is not exactly the ideal prelude to sleep. Think about how dangerous it would have been for our ancestors to fall asleep if danger was lurking right outside the tribe’s compound! Your body is equipped with the same reaction to danger, even though it isn’t very helpful when the perceived danger consists of real-estate taxes or health concerns.
-Use and Earthing pad or sheet http://www.earthing.com/product_p/umck.htm
Earthing technology supplies the body with a steady flow of electrons to compensate for our modern-day lack of contact with the ground, resulting in a multitude of benefits, including normalization of diurnal cortisol secretion (7). Cortisol is the body’s activity/daytime- or stress hormone, and like other hormones is secreted in a specific pattern during a 24-hour cycle. High levels of Cortisol at night are a common reason for sleeplessness.
-Incorporate meditation into your life. Mediation helps normalize bodily functions and supports normal sleep (8). Tech-loving folks can harness the power of the em wave
http://bio-medical.com/products/emwave2-personal-stress-reliever.html?gclid=CKuRurDiwrQCFetDMgodckgAUQ to achieve many of the effects of meditation.
Keep in mind that even when you’ve started treating your body in a way more consistent with it’s natural rhythms, change make take some time. Be patient and equip yourself with knowledge, support and the openness to listen to your bodymind and its signals.
Sweet dreams in 2013 and beyond!