Weather & Joint Pain

By: Dr. Alyssa Musgrove

The belief that changes in the weather can affect joint pain has been around for centuries.

Perhaps you had a grandmother who would assure you rain was coming because her arthritic knee was acting up. 

 

Or maybe you have earned a reputation as the family weatherperson because your joints become stiff and achy right before a snowstorm blows in.

 

It’s common to blame joint pain flare-ups on changes in the weather, but does science really back up this belief?

 

It’s difficult to study the effect of weather on pain because you cannot control for weather in the same way you can control other variables in a study. Additionally, there is never just a single weather condition present at a time, so it can be challenging when trying to determine exactly what weather condition may be inducing pain. While there isn’t much in the way of controlled scientific studies, there are some theories that shed light on what might be happening to our bodies when there is a change in the weather.

Some people experience headaches when the weather is about to change. Scientists say this may have to do with barometric pressure changes, which create a sensitivity in joint fluids. When the pressure changes in our environment, our muscles, tendons, ligaments and tissues can expand or contract, causing pain. When the barometric pressure is low, joint fluids can receive less pressure, causing an increase in swelling and inflammation. Barometric pressure often drops before a storm, which may be why so many people think their joint pain or headaches can predict the weather.

For some people, colder temperatures are synonymous with joint pain. Researchers hypothesize that as temperatures drop, joint fluids have more viscosity. As a result, tissues become thicker and less moveable, making joints feel less flexible and stiffer than usual. Sudden dropping temperatures could have your joints feel more slow-moving or take longer to “warm up” for activity.

Researchers have also theorized that in colder weather the body tries to conserve heat by protecting the most critical organs, supplying them with the most blood flow. The body then limits blood flow to areas of the body that do not need as much protection – your extremities, hands, feet and knees – causing stiffness and pain.

While there may not be a hard and fast scientific correlation between weather and joint pain, the fact remains that people experience flare-ups in all kinds of weather. Here are a few simple ways you can find relief whether it is hot and dry or cold and wet.

Stay active
Motion is lotion for your joints, so keep moving — even when it might be raining or too hot outside. Activity prevents joint and muscle stiffness, promotes blood flow and ensures proper lymph drainage. Search up some quick at home yoga or stretching videos online or take advantage of an indoor pool for some low-impact aerobic exercise. On a recent rainy day trip to the Home Depot, I ran into a man walking his dog around the outer aisles of the store.  He had calculated how many laps he had to do to get a mile in. That man knew how important it was to go on a walk and was committed to getting the necessary steps for him (and his fur baby) to stay active and feel optimal!

Keep warm
Keeping your body warm promotes blood flow, which creates more viscosity in your joints and tissues. When heading out into cooler weather, make sure to use a vest to keep your core warm, and also socks and gloves for the extremities. Consider taking a warm bath using Epsom salts, drinking warm tea or simply putting a heating pad on problematic arthritic joints during cold weather.

Follow anti-inflammatory diet
What you put into your body has a huge impact on how your body feels. To minimize or avoid weather-induced joint pain, monitor what you eat. Try eliminating processed foods and lean more towards fresh whole foods like fruits, vegetables and healthy fats like fish and olive oil. For a full list of foods to fight inflammation, feel free to email me at pathwaysth@gmail.com and I will share the information with you.

Pathways to Healing specializes in holistic chiropractic care. Dr. Alyssa Musgrove draws on a variety of techniques, including chiropractic, kinesiology, nutrition, food allergy testing and lifestyle counseling to assist clients in achieving optimal health and wellness in one setting. Pathways to Healing is located at 1022 Founders Row, Lake Oconee Village, Greensboro. The office can be reached at 706-454-2040.

Sweet Dreams

SWEET DREAMS

By Dr. Jay Rosen

 

Sleep is crucial for our overall health. Research show adults need anywhere between 6 to 9 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night, however over 35% of adults report logging less than 7 hours of sleep in a typical 24-hour period.

 

Experts also estimate between 50 to 70 million American adults have a sleep disorder, with insomnia being the most common issue. Thirty percent of adults report short-term insomnia issues, while 10% struggle with chronic insomnia.

 

So, what is preventing us from getting the rejuvenating, quality sleep our bodies need?

 

There are a variety of substances that can negatively affect our sleep, including alcohol, nicotine, other drugs and caffeine. A person can also have an underlying allergy or food sensitivity that may be causing disruption. And, it’s not just what you eat that can cause sleep disturbances. When you eat or drink can play a factor, as well. Drinking too much water late in the evening, or not enough water during the day, may interrupt your sleep at night. Eating right before bedtime may not be the best practice unless suggested by your health care practitioner.

Certain physical conditions like sleep apnea, which affects 25 million U.S. adults, can impact sleep quality. Other sleep disruptors include frequent urination (as may happen in pregnancy), pain and physical discomfort. Behavioral and mental disorders, such as depression, stress, and anxiety, may cause the brain to “wind up” so that even if a person is tired in bed, his brain will not allow him to relax into sleep.

Past and present injuries can also cause sleep issues. When we are injured, oftentimes the eyes are driven to look in the direction of the injury. We even turn our heads in that direction and rub the area if appropriate. Sometimes an injury continues to reside in the brain and the corresponding nerves of the injured area. That means that even if one does not feel pain, the brain can still be interpreting pain patterns.

 

When a person sleeps through the night, he experiences rapid eye movement sleep (REM) and non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM). During REM, the brain is highly active and the eyes rapidly twitch. This is the dreaming stage and each time the eyes are driven in the direction of an injury, new or old, the brain can move a person from the REM stage into the awakening stage. Even if the person goes back to sleep and does not notice this awakening, the brain and body know. These awakenings can contribute to lower sleep quality. To prevent this, it is always better to correct injuries as soon as possible in order to decrease the interference that results from waiting for the pain to just go away.

 

So, what can we do to improve our sleep? These simple steps can help:

 

  •         Go to sleep and wake up around the same time each day
  •         Keep your bedroom pitch black by eliminating noises, electronics, and lights
  •         Have a firm, comfortable mattress and pillow
  •         Keep the room cool with adequate humidity (69 degrees)
  •         Take a warm bath, hot tub, or sauna before bed, preferably with bath salts such as Epsom, Magnesium, or Dead Sea salts.
  •         Avoid watching TV and/or using your smartphone or computer at least two hours before bedtime
  •         Avoid drinking alcohol at least three hours before bedtime
  •         Avoid caffeinated beverages after 12 p.m.
  •         Use your bed only for sleep. If you read before bed, read on a couch or chair in another room. When you get tired, go to your bed for sleep.

 

Broader lifestyle modifications can also make a significant difference in your overall sleep quality:

 

  •         Obesity plays a strong role in sleep disorders, so consider adopting a diet low in carbohydrates and processed oils
  •         Eliminate toxic substances like nicotine and foods you might be sensitive to
  •         Decrease caffeine consumption
  •         Manage stress better with visual imagery techniques, a written weekly plan, and exercise
  •         Visit your chiropractor or naturopath regularly to help promote overall physical health.

 

Keep in mind, sedative sleeping supplements, such as melatonin, will only help to a certain degree and are better for short-term use. If used long term, these supplements may make things worse. The body can become dependent on those aids and decrease natural production of melatonin and other critical hormones and neurotransmitters.

 

Pathways to Healing specializes in holistic chiropractic care. Doctors draw on a variety of techniques, including chiropractic, kinesiology, nutrition, food allergy testing and lifestyle counseling to assist clients in achieving optimal health and wellness in one setting. Pathways to Healing is located at 1022 Founders Row, Lake Oconee Village, Greensboro. The office can be reached at 706-454-2040.

 

How Clean is Your Water?

By Dr. Alyssa Musgrove & Susan Kent

One of the most common questions I ask my patients is, “Are you drinking enough water?” Unfortunately, for most of us, the answer is “No.” I usually follow up with two additional questions. First, “How much water are you drinking?” And then, “What kind of water are you drinking?”

Finding ways to make water more enjoyable and accessible are among the suggestions I make when consulting with patients who need to up their water intake. For me, and many of my patients, having a reverse osmosis water tap makes drinking water easier and more enjoyable, while also removing potentially harmful impurities.

For this week’s article, I’ve asked local water filtration expert, Susan Kent, to share how the reverse osmosis process works, what contaminants are removed, and the benefits of having highly filtered, great tasting water right at the tap.

The desire to have great tasting drinking water is nearly universal. The market is flush with fridge cartridges, replaceable filter pitchers, and faucet carbon filters. While these products can help improve the taste and smell of water, they do not have a significant impact when it comes to removing contaminants.

Reverse Osmosis (RO) is a filtering method that removes virtually all contaminants from water. It is the highest level of filtration available for home use and produces exceptionally clean, great tasting water.

RO systems use pressure to push water through tiny pores to create pure water. A reverse osmosis system sends your regular tap water through several steps of purification. First, it passes through a sediment pre-filter designed to reduce larger particles such as silt, rust and scale. The second filter is typically an activated carbon pre-filter to help remove substances that can be attributed to tastes and odors. The activated carbon pre-filter is also able to reduce any chlorine that might be present.

Once the sediment and other contaminants have been reduced, the purification process is ready to begin. The RO membrane has a tight pore structure that is 500,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair. This membrane filters away contaminants such as bacteria, viruses, parasites, heavy metals, inorganic chemicals, pesticides and algae. The contaminants are trapped by the ultra-fine pores in the membrane, then sent down the drain. Water passing through the RO membrane is remarkably pure, but most RO systems will send the water through one final carbon filter to trap any lingering impurities. The result is polished, clean drinking and cooking water. Well maintained reverse osmosis systems reduce contaminants by up to 99.5%.

I am often asked if it is safe to drink unfiltered tap water. We are fortunate to have abundant water sources and generally safe public water systems in the United States, but that does not mean we have perfect water. Traditionally, government organizations play catch up when it comes to identifying what contaminants have found their way into our water, what levels are truly unsafe, and how to remove or prevent them.

Some contaminants, like calcium, manganese (common discoloration of local toilets), and iron are aesthetically displeasing but not inherently harmful. Other contaminants like PFOA/PFOS (also known as “forever chemicals), radionucleotides such as radium and uranium, and nitrates from farming and golf course treatments have been identified by the EPA to cause health issues at certain levels. Unfortunately, many of these chemicals were not regulated until after the harmful effects were established. Some consumers aren’t waiting to see what new chemicals will be added to the EPA’s list. They want more certainty about the water they are consuming and choose RO systems for a higher level of protection.

If you want to see what is in your drinking water, head to www.ewg.org. Click on Consumer Guides, select EWG’s National Tap Water Database, enter your zip code and select your neighborhood. EWG is a nonprofit organization that tests environmental contaminants and reports findings in regard to consumer health. (No need to sign in or give contact information. All information is available to the public for free.)

Reverse osmosis systems do require annual filter changes for the sediment and carbon filters. The membrane typically lasts 2-5 years, depending on usage. Most RO systems are designed for quick and easy filter changes.

Reverse osmosis drinking water produces on-demand, highly purified water and makes daily water consumption easier and more enjoyable. If your goal is staying hydrated and feeling good about the quality of water you are drinking, a reverse osmosis system might be an option for you.

Dr. Alyssa here: Keep in mind reverse osmosis systems cannot differentiate between “bad” ingredients and “good” ones. That means that, in addition to removing harmful contaminants, some of the essential trace minerals that our bodies need for optimal function – such as magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, sodium and potassium — are removed too. Remember, you do not sweat out just water; trace minerals need to be replenished through food or supplementation. Pathways to Healing offers flavored minerals to add back into your water after that sweaty tennis match or long game of golf. You can also buy unflavored minerals online. Trace Minerals is one of my favorite brands and can be found at traceminerals.com.

Susan Kent is the Director, VIP Accounts at Juturna. She can be reached at skent@juturna.com.

Out is “in” and In is “Out”

By Dr. Jay Rosen

My wife loves being outdoors — the blue sky, warm sun and fresh air – sometimes I think she would have us live in a tent in the middle of the forest if she could!  As it turns out, she’s on to something. Spending time outdoors has been shown to have tremendous health benefits and a positive impact on our overall wellbeing.

Statistics show the average American spends 90% of time indoors. That’s a problem because our bodies are built to move constantly and breathe fresh air. Although the modern style architectures we enjoy today have changed the way we live, they have not changed the way our bodies work. Our ancestors were nature dwellers, hunters, and gatherers who went inside shelters only for sleep and self-defense. The entire human body is dependent on fresh air, adequate sunlight, changing seasons, and all the vitamins that are absorbed through those natural gifts.

Research suggests just 120 minutes of sun exposure per week is associated with good health and wellbeing. Inhaling clean, fresh air provides better oxygenation to your tissues and decreases the toxic load on your liver and other organs, while also increasing Vitamin D and serotonin levels. In fact, some studies have shown, those who spend a large amount of time indoors, may be at a higher risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s.

The great outdoors is calling! Here are six simple steps you can take to get outside and improve your health:

Here Comes the Sun
Spend at least one hour in the sun daily — preferably between the hours of 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. – and ensure your arms and legs are exposed. Sitting in the sun for roughly 10 minutes without sunscreen allows your body to produce about 10,000 units of Vitamin D, which is critical for a well-functioning immune system. If you work during the day, try to spend your lunch hour outside, take small breaks outdoors or make time to exercise outside.

Breathe Deeply
Research shows breathing deeply 3 to 4 times a day, preferably outside, immediately improves body system function, lowers stress, lowers blood pressure, and improves cardiac and immune system function. It may even help reduce some symptoms associated with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. When breathing, inhale slowly and deeply for 4 to 5 seconds. Then exhale slowly and deeply for 6 to 8 seconds. You can practice this all day long – any time you are outside – for 3 to 4 minutes at a time.

Supplement Correctly
Most North Americans are deficient in Vitamin D and other essential minerals. Getting tested to see what your body is lacking and taking the right supplemental nutrition on a regular basis will ensure physical health, good sleep, and high energy levels.

Eat Clean
Consume more organic foods and supplements. Transition slowly and avoid foods that have a history of being higher in pesticides and other environmental pollution.

Go Barefoot
Feel the grass beneath your feet, hike without shoes, go for a walk on the beach!  “Grounding,” also called “earthing,” has been shown to improve both our nervous system and our posture! Take care of that spine, nervous system and immune system by walking barefoot on the grass or dirt for 10 minutes a day.

Get Checked
Just because the body feels fine, does not mean it is fine.  Routine checkups with preventive practitioners, such as chiropractors and naturopaths, are crucial for an optimally functioning body and can help prevent physical and mental weaknesses.

 

How to Make Your Home Smell Like Fall

By: Dr. Alyssa Musgrove

Fall is finally in the air! While the changing leaves add visual beauty to our surroundings, the comforting and soothing scents of the season are cropping up all around us. It’s time for pumpkin spice and everything nice!

Scented Candles Aren’t the Best Choice

While it’s easy to reach for candles and air fresheners to enhance those fall fragrances this time of year, these products may not be the healthiest choice. Many scented candles and air fresheners use synthetic perfumes. These perfumes are not aggressively regulated, so it’s difficult to know exactly what is being released into the air. On top of that, many candles and air fresheners contain phthalates. Phthalates are known endocrine disruptors that have been shown to play a role in hormone abnormalities and other health problems.

A Healthier Alternative

The good news is that it’s very easy – and a whole lot healthier – to make your own stovetop air fresheners from whole food ingredients. A basic stovetop potpourri made of spices, dried fruit peels, and extracts will fill your entire home with a wonderful toxic-free aroma that lasts throughout the day.

Additionally, simmering potpourri on the stove is a great way to add moisture to the air. I often leave mine on for an hour or two, replacing the water as needed. All of that extra moisture helps the heat to stay longer and carries the aroma throughout the house.

Below are several of my favorite simmering pot recipes.  Any of these recipes can be modified to suit your personal preference. There are an infinite number of combinations, so go ahead and experiment!

Be sure to discard the ingredients in the pot once the mix starts to smell or look “off.” (I’ve never simmered a stovetop potpourri for more than a week.) It also helps to have a dedicated pot for your stove top simmers, as cleaning the pot afterwards can be a chore and involve some scrubbing. This is definitely not something you want to do in your favorite pot!

Basic Fall Stovetop Simmer

  • 5 cups water
  • 2 navel oranges, peeled
  • 1 apple, sliced in half
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 3 star anise
  • 1 teaspoon-sized knob of fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried orange peel

Combine all ingredients together in a saucepan and heat over low heat until simmering. I have kept this going for a few hours, adding additional water when needed. You can also place everything in a small crockpot and set it on low or high with the top off.

Other variations:

Ginger Orange

  • 3 cups water (or enough to cover the fruit and spices)
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 2 oranges cut into wedges or 1 cup dried orange peel or 2 cups fresh orange peel
  • ¼ cup grated or thinly sliced fresh ginger or 2 Tbs. dried ground ginger

Cinnamon Apple

  • 1 quart water (or enough to cover the fruit and spices)
  • 2 apples cut into slices or 1 cup dried apple peel or 2 cups fresh peels and/or cores, organic if possible
  • 6 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 Tablespoons whole cloves or 1½ Tablespoon ground cloves (I think whole have a stronger scent and I love these cloves)

Apple Cider Chai

Winter Woods Simmering Pot

  • ½ cup juniper berries
  • 1 sprig thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried thyme)
  • 1 sprig rosemary (or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary)

Ginger Citrus Simmering Pot

  • ¼ cup grated ginger (or 1 tablespoon ground ginger)
  • peel of 2 oranges
  • peel of 1 lemon
  • 1 bay leaf

Citrus

  • 1 Orange, Sliced
  • 1 Lemon, Sliced
  • Cranberry Bliss
  • 1 orange
  • ½ lemon
  • 1 cup cranberries
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tablespoon cloves

Spinach Salad with Beets and Goat Cheese

Spinach Salad with Beets and Goat Cheese

Ingredients:

  • 1 to 2 cups peeled cubed beets
  • Olive oil to drizzle on beets
  • 6 cups  spinach
  • 4 ounces goat cheese
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • Dressing:
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons  Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • sea salt and black pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Roast the beets drizzled with olive oil for 20-30 minutes at 400 or until fork tender.
  2. In a large serving bowl, add spinach, goat cheese and walnuts.
  3. Add  beets to salad mixture.
  4. Combine all ingredients for the dressing in a separate bowl.
  5. Pour dressing over salad and serve immediately.

Backpack Safety

Backpack safety

By: Dr. Alyssa Musgrove

 

It’s that time again – students are heading back to school. This year, school looks different for many students choosing to learn online at home. But for those who are heading back to campus, it’s likely they’ll be carrying backpacks. It’s important to understand the effects heavy backpacks can have on a child’s growing body.

 

Hauling a backpack loaded with books, school supplies, binders, lunch and water bottles can add up to a significant amount of weight. (One textbook or binder can weigh up to 3.5 pounds!) Carrying around this amount of weight on a daily basis could be setting students up for future neck, shoulder, hip, back, muscle and joint injuries.  In fact, roughly 14,000 children are treated for backpack-related issues annually.

 

Overstuffed, heavy backpacks create a forward trunk lean that rounds the upper back, causing forward head posture. This awkward posture results in neck and shoulder pain. It also makes it difficult for the muscles and ligaments to hold the body up correctly. Shoulders are not made to hang things on, so a heavy load placed on the shoulders alters the biomechanics and creates potential strain and tightening of the muscles. Hips can become sore if a child is bending forward to compensate for the backward pull of a heavy backpack. Knee pain is possible because of the change in walking pattern and body posture due to an overweight pack.

 

The good news is injury is preventable, and there are ways for kids to carry backpacks comfortably. The following four guidelines were established by Backpack Safety International™:

 

  1. Choose it Right

The size of the backpack should be proportional to the size of the person wearing it. The height of the backpack should be no more than three quarters of the length of the torso. The bottom of the pack should sit two inches from the waist. A backpack that is too large invites you to fill it to capacity, which will go beyond healthy and safe limits.

 

Don’t assume that paying more for the pack will guarantee your child’s safety. Look for backpacks that have padded shoulder straps to prevent pinching the nerves around the neck and shoulder area. Some packs have lumbar (low back) padding to buffer the lower part of the back from the hard edge of books and other contents. Also, opt for a waist strap when possible. The strap can be used to stabilize the pack load and prevent injuries that occur if the load is swung.

 

  1. Pack it Right

Backpack Safety International and The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons recommend that no more than 15 percent of the child’s body weight be carried in the backpack. For example, a child weighing 85 pounds should carry no more than 12 pounds in his backpack. If the child must lean forward to handle the load of the pack, then it is too heavy. Books can be very heavy; so only carry items that are necessary for that day’s activities. When packing the bag, use all available compartments and pockets to help distribute the weight. Pack heavier things low and towards the back, closer to the body. Check the backpack weekly to ensure the weight remains manageable.

 

  1. Lift it Right

Improper lifting can do damage to the spine — especially a child’s growing spine! Say your child lifts a backpack 10 times a day and it weighs (conservatively) 12 pounds. With about 180 days of school per year, that is 21,600 pounds the child lifts each school year. That is roughly 11 tons — the equivalent of 6 mid-size automobiles – that your child lifts every year! Teach your child how to safely pick up a heavy backpack by bending at the knees and lifting with the legs to protect the back and shoulders.

 

  1. Carry it Right

Children have creative ways of wearing their backpacks. Putting the load on the front is no safer than the back. Most commonly, you see backpacks dangling by one shoulder strap or hanging so low that the pack rests on their bottom, which pulls the shoulder blades and spine far from the healthy, upright posture. The best way to wear a pack is using both shoulder straps, with the pack positioned in the middle of the back.

 

Rolling backpacks may be a viable alternative, but they have disadvantages, as well. Wheels and handles can add as much as 20 percent to the overall weight of the backpack – and that’s before you add books and other items. That makes rolling backpacks often just as heavy as traditional backpacks. Rolling backpacks can also be difficult to lift properly when carried up and down stairways, or getting in and out of a vehicle. They also can present a tripping hazard in crowded hallways and school corridors.

 

If you have been concerned about the effects of extra weight on your child’s still-growing body and spine, your instincts are correct. Heavy backpacks can lead to numerous problems from back and shoulder pain to poor posture.  By carefully choosing the right pack for your child, packing it correctly, and teaching your child proper lifting and carrying techniques, you can help prevent future injury and pain.

 

Pathways to Healing specializes in holistic chiropractic care. Dr. Alyssa Musgrove draws on a variety of techniques, including chiropractic, kinesiology, nutrition, food allergy testing and lifestyle counseling to assist clients in achieving optimal health and wellness in one setting. In addition, the practice is committed to being a valuable source of information so that people can learn how to live a healthy lifestyle and prevent future illness. Pathways to Healing is located at 1022 Founders Row, Lake Oconee Village, Greensboro. The office can be reached at 706-454-2040.

Sweet Potato Hash Browns

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 sweet potatoes, peeled and grated
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • Egg wash (1 egg beaten with a tablespoon of water)
  • Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the onions, garlic, and sweet potatoes.  Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Sauté for 10–15 minutes in coconut oil until sweet potatoes are tender and onions are translucent.
  3. Transfer the sweet potato mixture to a baking pan and brush with the egg wash.
  4. Broil for five minutes, or until potatoes have reached your desired crispiness. They should be just a little browned on top.

The Immune System-Gut Connection

The Immune System-Gut Connection

By Dr. Alyssa Musgrove

Over 2,000 years ago Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, said “All disease begins in the gut.” And, as it turns out, he was right. Seventy to 80% of our entire immune system is located in the digestive tract. What’s more, the gut is responsible for creating 95 percent of serotonin and may have significant impact on brain function and mood. This is why our digestive system is often referred to as the “second brain.”  If we want to stay healthy for a lifetime, it is important to pay attention to our gut health.

There are about 100 trillion bugs, better known as bacteria, that live in our digestive tract. Some of these bacteria are “good” and some are “bad.” The good bacteria support immune function and enhance nutrient absorption. To stay healthy, our bodies need to have more “good” bacteria than “bad.”

But how can we determine if we have the right ratio of good bacteria to bad bacteria?

Our bodies let us know by the symptoms we experience.

When our gut flora becomes imbalanced, the result can be constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, bloating and irritable bowel syndrome.  Other symptoms include chronic fatigue, premature aging, joint and muscle pain, weight gain, insomnia, eczema, acne, asthma and even autism.

An increase in bad flora can occur when we are stressed, eating packaged and processed foods, eating fast foods, consuming sugar, overdrinking and overindulging. That’s because the “bad” bacteria feed on the sugars and fats found in these foods. Another cause of imbalanced gut flora is eating mostly cooked foods. Cooking can destroy essential nutrients and enzymes important for good digestive health. Antibiotics can also disrupt the overall gut flora balance.

Doctors and researchers are also beginning to realize that a “leaky gut” can be the cause of a host of health issues. Leaky gut, or intestinal permeability, is caused when the lining of the small intestine becomes damaged (typically by diet or medication).  Once this lining is damaged, undigested food particles, toxic waste products and bacteria “leak” through the intestines and into the blood stream. These substances entering the blood can cause an autoimmune response in the body, including bloating, food sensitivities and allergies, irritable bowel, rheumatoid arthritis, fatigue, digestive issues and skin problems.

The good news is that by making a few lifestyle and dietary changes, we can alter the diversity and number of microbes in our guts for the better and heal the gut. We need to begin with eating “real” food. Vegetables and high-fiber foods, such as green leafy vegetables, garlic, onions and artichokes, feed the “good” bacteria. We should also eat at least 50% of our food in a raw state. Eating a daily salad with lots of colorful vegetables is a simple way to accomplish this. Fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kimchee, yogurt, miso, tempeh, olives, pickles and kefir, can also help improve gut health. (Although it is best to make sure the yogurt and kefir and unflavored, since “bad” bacteria breed on the added sugars.)

Another way to improve your digestive system is to improve your stomach acid. When we have proper acidity in the stomach, germs and foreign invaders such as parasites and bad bacteria are destroyed before they can get to the gut. Many people assume they have too much stomach acid due to chronic heartburn or acid reflux.  Often, however, these symptoms are caused by low stomach acid.

Both probiotics and prebiotics can help increase healthy gut bacteria. A high-quality probiotic is typically consumed in capsule form. Prebiotics, on the other hand, can only be found in food. Prebiotics feed on non-digestible carbohydrates, which encourages beneficial bacteria to multiply in the gut. Prebiotic-rich foods to add to the diet include asparagus, bananas, chicory, garlic, onions, and whole grains.*

And, finally, do your best to avoid taking antibiotics, which destroy the beneficial bacteria and disrupt the overall balance of good and bad bacteria.

When you focus on improving your digestive health, your immune system will reap the benefits.  You will discover you require fewer medications and, more importantly, find yourself further down the path toward optimal health.

*Always talk to your doctor before making any drastic changes to your diet. For some people, such as those with irritable bowel syndrome or other medical conditions, probiotics and fiber-rich diets may not be helpful.

Pathways to Healing specializes in holistic chiropractic care. Dr. Alyssa Musgrove draws on a variety of techniques, including chiropractic, kinesiology, nutrition, food allergy testing and lifestyle counseling to assist clients in achieving optimal health and wellness in one setting. Pathways to Healing is located at 1022 Founders Row, Lake Oconee Village, Greensboro. The office can be reached at 706-454-2040.

Roasted Asparagus

Ingredients: 

1 pound fresh asparagus 

Good quality olive oil

Kosher salt

Fresh ground black pepper

 

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
  • Break off the tough ends of the asparagus. Place the asparagus on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil. Spread the asparagus in a single layer and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast the asparagus for 25 minutes, until tender but still crisp.
  • (Note – can broil for a quicker option to get crispy but MUST WATCH CLOSER)