It is Thanksgiving weekend coming up. This is a time we often talk about gratitude, and it is a good time to do so! The government gives us a day off work, and we have an opportunity to enjoy the spectacular autumn weather. Why am I talking about this as a chiropractor? Look at the posture of the grateful person in this picture! What a wonderful treatment for text neck! Even if we don't get fantastic fall weather on the weekend (I think there may be some rain in the forecast), we will enjoy the long weekend if we have a gratitude focus. For Jane and I, our kids are coming home from University, and we will be together with extended family. All good things! As I have said in previous articles, gratitude and health are closely connected.
Studies show a great benefit to one's health by having a gratitude focus. A 2003 study by Emmons and McCullough found that participants keeping a gratitude journal had 16% less physical symptoms, 19% spent more time exercising, 8% enjoyed more sleep and 25% experienced increased sleep quality. Seligman (et al) found in 2005 that expressing gratitude reduced depressive symptoms by 35%.
A study was done in 2016 by Pratnik Kini (et al). A group of subjects were to write regular letters of gratitude compared to a control group that did not. The "study found that a simple gratitude writing intervention was associated with significantly greater and lasting neural sensitivity to gratitude – subjects who participated in gratitude letter writing showed both behavioral increases in gratitude and significantly greater neural modulation by gratitude in the medial prefrontal cortex three months later." This was visible during functional MRI scans! As an aging population, we are all looking for more neural plasticity these days!
The study mentions "behavioural increases in gratitude." I have noticed that when gratitude is connected to service, the benefits of gratitude are magnified. When we are outward focused instead of self focused, we will be healthier. According to the Corporation for National & Community Service, "Research demonstrates that volunteering leads to better health." A study by Brown (et al) in 2005 showed that those who gave social support to others had lower rates of mortality than those who did not. Volunteer activities can strengthen the social ties that protect individuals from isolation during difficult times, while the experience of helping others leads to a sense of greater self-worth and trust. A study in 2002 showed individuals suffering from chronic pain experienced declines in their pain intensity and decreased levels of disability and depression when they began to serve as peer volunteers for others also suffering from chronic pain. (Arnstein et al., 2002).
When we have a gratitude focus, we see a health benefit. When that gratitude focus leads us to serve others, I believe that benefit increases. When we volunteer, we can give our time, our energy and our money. When this is done from a place of gratitude, we enjoy the experience more and our health reflects this.
There are a multitude of areas in which we can serve. It is helpful to choose an area that we personally enjoy and have something to offer. I like kids and have some experience with them. I volunteer my time teaching 40 preteens in a class on Sundays at church- organizing monthly activities for them and taking them to a summer camp in Maine. My own kids haven't been preteens for 10 years, but I still work with this age group. They keep me on my toes, and that keeps me young!
Jane and I joined the RIDE for Refuge this past weekend- getting exercise and raising funds and awareness for HOPE Worldwide of Canada, an organization that offers programs for the homeless and disadvantaged in the city.
I share these two examples of volunteerism, not to "blow my own horn", but to illustrate that gratitude can lead to action. I am grateful for the mentors I had in my life growing up, and my gratitude leads me to want to provide that for others. I am grateful for the home I have and the freedoms I enjoy, and this leads me to want to support others who do not have as many opportunities.
This weekend, as we celebrate thanksgiving, I encourage you to take some time to exercise your "gratitude muscles". Make a list of the things for which you are grateful. Share your gratitude list with others. If you want to see even greater gains from practicing gratitude, plan some ways you can volunteer or serve in response to that gratitude. Help at a soup kitchen or the Food Bank. Rake the leaves for an elderly neighbor. (I was going to make a joke that I'd better not see you raking my leaves in response to this article, I'm only 55 years old! On the other hand, far be it from me to stop you from getting some exercise and fresh air- just make sure you stretch first!) When someone makes you a wonderful meal, you can tell them "thank you". But when you do the dishes for them, or even just take time to write a card, you are really expressing your gratitude with action. We have been given a lot in our society, but we can "pay it forward" and give to others as we've been given to.
The first day of spring has arrived, and the weather alternates between cold blusters of winter remnants and the tantalizing teasings of spring- with the hopefulness of warmth and new life to come. It's time for SPRING CLEANING! This is when we go through the closets to get rid of junk, and wash the winter grime off the windows to let in sunlight and fresh air. Soon it will be time to get outside and rake the thatch from the lawn, clean the dead leaves from the garden and prepare the yard for a season of growth. Just as we need to get rid of the debris from our gardens to make them thrive, the same is true for our bodies. Spring is a great time to do it!
Why cleanse? Our bodies are bombarded by toxins. They are in our food, the air we breathe, everywhere in our environment! Toxins take a terrible toll on our health. The liver is a major organ that is responsible for getting rid of the toxins from the body. Unfortunately it cannot properly do its' job for a number of reasons:
1. Stress: When an individual is under stress, their body automatically diverts resources from normal digestion to focus on dealing with the stress. This is called "Fight or Flight". It can happen with a physical stress - like being chased by a wild animal, but it can also happen with a mental stress- like a deadline at work. The body cannot tell the difference between the two types of stressors! When stress physiology takes over, a number of normal bodily functions don't proceed as they should. One of these is the digestion of food and the normal elimination of toxins from the body.
2. Toxins: The liver also will not perform well if it is inundated by too many toxins. Have you looked at a list of chemicals in the ingredient labels of the foods we consume? In order to maximize shelf life and keep foods from spoiling in our urban environment, producers add large quantities of preservatives. Also, in order to get an abundant and healthy looking crop, farmers use vast amounts of chemicals to protect from bugs and fertilize the depleted soil. These pesticides end up in food we eat, and they are toxic to us!!!
3. Weak Nutrition: Finally, the liver will not function well if it is not receiving sufficient nutrition from the diet to have the necessary enzymes needed in processing the toxins. The soil with which we now farm is nutritionally deficient. Farmers specialize in crops and do not "rotate crops" or risk losing income by leaving fields fallow to replenish the soil's micro nutrients. Specific fertilizers are used to supplement the soil and force optimal growing for the specific crop farmed, but these fertilizers do not provide the person consuming that produce with the same spectrum of nutrients that humans require. A carrot grown today is not the same carrot that grew 100 years ago!
Do you want your toxins stored or eliminated?
If we cannot properly eliminate toxins from the body, guess where we store them? In FAT!!! We innately protect ourselves from the effects of toxins on our body by storing them, wrapping them in fat to reduce the negative impact on our body. This is a safety feature built in to our body. This visceral fat is stored around the organs, so it may not be too obvious, or it may be very obvious- that paunch that you've been working so hard to reduce!
The amazing thing is that all the sit-ups in the world will not reduce that belly fat! Our body is protecting the toxins that are stored there. Without proper nutritional support, our body does not want to release those toxins back into the blood stream. It is important that we allow the body an opportunity to cleanse or detoxify, while still providing the appropriate nutrition for the liver to function optimally during this process.
Specific cleansing with intermittent fasting will do even more than help us eliminate stored toxins from our bodies! It will improve our insulin sensitivity. Glucose will be absorbed more easily by the cells to be used as energy, allowing an individual better control of their blood sugar levels and reducing those sluggish/sleepy periods in the afternoon.
Join us for a workshop on April 19 as we discuss SPRING CLEANSING. Learn about how easy it can be to do your own cellular cleansing, what to expect from your body, and how to make it work for you. This is not a bowel cleanse I'm talking about- where you develop your own special relationship with your toilet! ;) We will talk about things you can do at home to minimize your toxin exposure- when is it worth the extra money to buy organic and when can you save and not buy organic? It's spring time- learn how easy it is to detox, you've got nothing to lose- except maybe some belly fat!
As we head into "colds and flu season", it is important that we take time to prepare. We are constantly exposed to all kinds of nasty germs. We must make sure we are fully armed in the battle for good health- whether it is the winter season or not.
In researching for our Wellness Workshop, I read a number of articles on boosting one's immune system. A Harvard Health Publication recommends some simple and basic things:
• Healthy Diet
• Regular Exercise
• Adequate sleep
• Decreasing stress
• Do not smoke.
• If consuming alcohol – minimal consumption.
• Avoiding infection through hand washing
Pretty common sense! Yet so many of us succumb to illness each winter. In our next "In Good Health" article, I will discuss healthy diet and foods that we may consume to improve our immune response. That's a big topic that deserves its' own article. Let's talk about the other things on the list. The second area listed by Harvard Health, "regular exercise", is important because physical activity may help flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways. It can cause changes in antibodies and white blood cells. A study of 1000 adults published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine demonstrated that the group who exercised 5 or more times per week experienced 43% less sick days than the group who exercised one day or less per week. Also, when the first group did get cold symptoms, they were rated as significantly less severe. Exercise appears to reduce upper respiratory tract infection incidence by 18-67%, according to the study. Regular exercise also lowers stress hormone levels, and higher stress hormones levels are linked to lowered immune response.
Sleep deprivation suppresses immune system function. During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines. These are needed when you have an infection or inflammation, or when you are under stress. Inadequate sleep may decrease production of these proteins and reduce the body's ability to fight illness.
As already stated, hormones created in the body during times of stress will reduce the ability of the immune system to function, so if fighting sickness is our goal, we must examine the stress we experience in our daily lives. Smoking has also been demonstrated to hinder the immune response, as has excessive consumption of alcohol.
Which leaves us avoiding infection through regular hand washing. Minimizing the spread of germs is certainly important. However, we will never live in a vacuum where germs don't exist. Louis Pasteur, who developed the germ theory, was later to remark that it is not the seed but the soil that determine the virulence of an illness. That is to say that the condition of the person is of much more importance than the strength of the germ to which they are exposed.
We see this in our lives today. A "flu bug" may pass through a classroom or office and some will get sick and some will not. What is the difference, if the germ that they face is the same one? The immune system is controlled by the central nervous system.
Chiropractic adjustments help to regulate the autonomic nervous system. The nervous system communicates with endocrine and immune tissue to modulate chemical reactions that keep you healthy. Researchers in New York found that people under chiropractic care for more than five years demonstrated 200% greater immune function that those who had not. One very interesting study measured a 48% increase in CD4 cells in HIV patients over a six-month period, compared to an 8% decrease in the control group over the same period of time. CD4 cells are important immunoglobulins that play a critical role in HIV and AIDS. Similarly, an enhancement in white blood cells has been measured with chiropractic care. Patricia Brennan, PH.D., found improved immune response in her test subjects following chiropractic treatment. The study specifically demonstrated the "phagocytic respiratory burst of polymorphonuclear neutrophils (PMN) and monocytes were enhanced in adults that had been adjusted by chiropractors."
There is so much information out there regarding the effects on the immune system of children specifically. There have been multiple case studies presented investigating the positive effect of chiropractic care on ear infections, tonsillitis, colds, asthma, and common childhood illnesses. Kids are exposed to lots of germs in the classroom environment, so it is important that they are under regular care to stay healthy.
I sometimes get calls from patients that are experiencing cold symptoms, asking if they should still come in for their appointment. The answer is always "ABSOLUTELY!!!" Having an entrainment will prime your nervous system to fight the cold more efficiently, provide some relief and get you through faster. If you're worried about "passing it on", we use a hospital grade cleaner on our chiropractic beds, and will clean yours immediately after your appointment if you let us know you may be contagious.
So as we face "colds and flu season", it is important to make sure that our bodies are "tuned up" to maximum efficiency. Dr. Donald Epstein, the developer of Network Spinal Analysis, describes how NSA "upgrades the central processing unit that is our Nervous System". Instead of operating an outdated "Commodore Computer" using floppy discs, we can train our nervous system to function like a "high speed" state of the art computer, maximizing the potential of the human condition.
Make sure you get assessed with Network Spinal Analysis regularly. It will help reduce stress in the body and improve the efficiency of your nervous system and immune function.
I have to commend Dentists! They have done a wonderful job at educating the public on the need for preventative maintenance with regards to our teeth. Most people would not think of going to bed without some regiment of brushing and flossing. We have regular check-ups with our dentist to see if there are any cavities creeping in. Many people go through an extensive process to have their children's teeth straightened with braces if their alignment is not good. We expend considerable time, energy and money on maintaining our teeth.
Ironically, our teeth are the only part of our body that we can replace with relative ease. I'm not suggesting that dentures are a breeze, or that we should ignore preventative measures with regards to our mouth. However, I would suggest we spend as much time, energy and yes, money, on maintaining the rest of our body.
There is an old expression- "you've got to use it or lose it." This is particularly true of our bodies. The sedentary lifestyle of our culture is one of the most significant factors in the decline of our health. We sit a lot. We are less active. We need to put some solid effort in to the maintenance of these machines that we call our bodies.
Strengthening our core muscles will reduce strain on our joints and prevent subsequent wear and tear. Regular cardiovascular exercise will maintain the function of the heart and lungs. Stretching overly tight muscles will improve flexibility and allow the inevitable postural stress we face to be properly distributed and diminish its negative effects.
Just as we brush and floss, we should be stretching, strengthening and doing cardio in our everyday lives. As we have regular dental check-ups, we should have regular physical tune-ups at the chiropractor, to make sure we catch small problems before they become big problems. If things are badly out of line, we may need a period where we spend some time and energy on improving alignment, much like we apply braces to poorly aligned teeth so that they will wear well and not cause future problems.
We have recently started a new year. Some of us made resolutions to get in "better" shape. How is it going? Whether you made a resolution or not, it is never too late to plan to improve your health. Use it or lose it! Schedule a check-up at our office. Find out what exercises would most benefit your body. Join us for our workshop, All About Exercise, and find out tips to prevent injury and maximize your health potential. Tuesday, January 26 @ 7 pm. Sign up now!!!
As has been said before, if you wear your body out, where are you going to live?
You may also develop your 'self healing through self connection' by doing Somato Respiratory Integration at home. See the website to sign up for the upcoming workshop on February 2.
If you want to know more about Network Care, check out our website www.WellnessFamilyCare.com. Set up an appointment at our office to have your spine checked!