Are You At Risk For Osteoporosis?

By: Dr. Alyssa Musgrove – Pathways to Healing

As many as 54 million Americans have low bone density, and many of them don’t even know it. Ten million Americans have such low bone density they actually have osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is a bone disease that occurs when the body loses too much bone, makes too little bone, or both. Advanced osteoporosis usually presents with symptoms such as bone pain, backache, curvature of the upper spine presenting as a hump, and loss of height from vertebral compression fractures. 

However, osteopenia (characterized by low bone mineral density that is not extreme enough to be called osteoporosis) and early-to-middle stages of osteoporosis are silent diseases that have no symptoms. A diagnosis of osteopenia or osteoporosis is often found accidentally, such as when a bone is being x-rayed to determine the existence of a fracture. Typically, when low bone mass shows up on an x-ray, as much as one-third of the person’s bone mass has already been lost.

You could be at risk for low bone density and osteoporosis if you:

  • Are a woman – especially if you’ve had a hysterectomy or are postmenopausal
  • Are over 50 years old
  • Have an inactive lifestyle
  • Have amenorrhea because of extreme exercise
  • Have a history of an eating disorder or under-eating for many years
  • Are a heavy user of alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, sugar or carbonated beverages
  • Have a chronic health disorder such as diabetes, malabsorption condition, celiac disease, or hyperthyroidism
  • Are small-boned and consistently below normal weight for someone your size
  • Are, or have a history of, taking certain prescription medications long-term, such as steroids (cortisone and prednisone), certain birth controls and anticonvulsants
  • Have a history of cancer treatments, including chemotherapy or radiation
  • Are deficient in certain key nutrients, including vitamin D, vitamin K, calcium and magnesium
  • Have a low level of testosterone – even if you are a woman
  • Have a family history of osteoporosis, fractures or bone disorders

The only way to truly detect the bone loss associated with osteopenia is with a bone scan – most commonly a low-radiation DEXA scan (Dual-Energy X-ray Absorptiometry) of the hip and spine. A bone scan can detect even small changes in a person’s bone density.

Our bodies are constantly making new bone, however, as we age, we tend to start losing more bone than we create. The good news is, it’s never too late to focus on bone health. Here are a few simple ways you can help increase your bone density naturally:

ExerciseExercise, especially “weight-bearing” types, is needed to keep muscles strong, sustain skeletal strength and help maintain bone density. Weight-bearing exercises include any type of exercise that forces you to work against gravity.  Weight-bearing exercises require your bones and muscles to support your body weight, while also enhancing coordination and balance. (Coordination and balance are important for preventing the slips, falls and accidents that wind up causing a serious fracture or injury.) Examples of weight-bearing activities include walking, dancing, yoga, skiing, tennis, body weight exercises using resistance bands/cables, or even lifting soup cans. Aim to do weight-bearing exercises at least 3 to 4 times per week for 30-60 minutes in duration.

Eat a Bone-Healthy Diet – Focus on eating bone-healthy foods that are high in vitamin D, vitamin K, calcium and magnesium. Incorporate a variety of green leafy vegetables like kale, bok choy, broccoli, and cabbage. (Spinach should be avoided as a source of calcium, because it is high in oxalates that bind calcium.) Fish, such as sardines with small, edible bones, are an excellent source of calcium and oily fish, especially wild-caught salmon, are a good source of vitamin D. Other great sources of magnesium and calcium include: almonds, sesame seeds/sesame butter, beans and legumes, avocadoes, and dark chocolate.

Keep in mind that while eating foods high in vitamin D, vitamin K, calcium and magnesium is encouraged, it can be difficult to get the ideal amounts from your diet alone. This is primarily because the amounts of these nutrients in foods can vary widely. For example, a study of the vitamin D content of salmon found an average of only 240 IU of Vitamin D3 in farmed salmon compared to an average of 988 IU vitamin D3 in 3.5 ounces of wild-caught salmon. 

Optimize Vitamin D Levels – Vitamin D helps the body improve calcium absorption. Spending most of your time indoors and avoiding the sun may mean that your body isn’t making the vitamin D it needs to help maintain bone mass.

It is best to obtain Vitamin D naturally by exposing your bare skin to sunlight for about 15-20 minutes every day.

If you are at high risk for osteopenia or osteoporosis, talk to your doctor about having a bone density test (DEXA) and check your vitamin D levels. No matter the current state of your bone health, incorporating these simple tips today can help you prevent fractures or complications in the future.

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.

SAD_Tips For Surviving Winter

By Dr. Alyssa Musgrove

Being from the Great White North, a.k.a. Alaska, I have encountered numerous people affected by the “winter blues.” As we head into the height of the winter season, cooler weather combines with shorter periods of daylight and sunshine. Some people welcome this seasonal change, but others may experience something more serious — a type of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). SAD is a form of clinical depression that comes and goes based on a specific seasonal pattern, hitting around the same time each year. Studies show about half a million Americans are affected by SAD.

SAD symptoms vary from person to person. Symptoms can start out mild and become more severe in peak winter months. People suffering from SAD may experience a loss of interest in activities or decrease in motivation to socialize with friends and family.  Other common symptoms include trouble sleeping, decrease in energy, weight gain, irritability, and appetite changes — especially cravings for foods high in sugar and carbohydrates.

Unsurprisingly, location makes a difference in the occurrence of this condition since sunlight and temperature play a major role. SAD is more common among people who live far north or south of the equator due to abbreviated daylight hours. For example, in my hometown in Fairbanks, Alaska on December 21 (the shortest day of the year) there is about 3 to 4 hours of daylight and temperatures are often below zero. You can imagine the effect this has on the brain and body! In Georgia, the shortest day of the year still has 9 to 10 hours of daylight and is not as cold.

It can be challenging to differentiate if a person is suffering from “traditional” depression or seasonal depression, but the main difference is the duration.  With SAD, feelings will begin in September, be the worst in peak winter months, and ease up once spring rolls around in March or April. Health professionals typically wait to see if symptoms persist over two or three consecutive winter seasons before making an official diagnosis, however, no one should have to wait that long to start feeling better! There are several natural remedies that can provide relief.

Vitamin D is known as the “Sunshine Vitamin” because the body produces it when exposed to the sun. Low vitamin D levels have been linked to depression. Check with your doctor to make sure your vitamin D levels are up to par. Adding a supplement could help you feel better, while also improving bone health and boosting your immune system.

It can be challenging to get to the gym or go outside when you are not feeling great, but regular exercise has been proven to help with all types of depression. Staying active increases the production of endorphins – those feel-good chemicals that help ease depressive feelings and clear brain fog. One study showed just 20-30 minutes of walking for 10 consecutive days was enough to significantly reduce depression.

Research also has shown consistency and frequency of exercise has more positive effects then duration or intensity. You do not need to run a marathon or lift massively heavy weights in order to reap the benefits of exercise. Join a group fitness class, walking club or practice yoga. Also, when there is a ray of sunshine or the temperature is tolerable, take advantage! Get as much natural light as possible — your brain and body will thank you for it later. If you can squeeze in a workout outside, great! But even playing fetch with the dog outside will boost your body’s ability to make proper hormones and regulate your circadian rhythm.

Talking it out is another option. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of psychotherapy that helps people change unhealthy habits of thinking, feeling and behaving into positive solutions. Reach out to friends and family, and establish a support network to help ease feelings of isolation.

Finally, be sure to eat a healthy diet. People with SAD tend to crave sweet treats and sugary carbs, which make them look and feel worse. Try to focus on lean protein, leafy greens and fish, which will keep hormones in check and boost serotonin.

These simple lifestyle changes can greatly impact overall mood and health – and help minimize the “winter blues,” should they come knocking on your door this winter. 

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.

Principles Of Intuitive Eating (Part 2)

By Dr. Alyssa Musgrove

Last week, we discussed five strategies you can use to begin eating intuitively, as opposed to relying on the typical “diet” approach to weight management.

Intuitive eating doesn’t rely on a diet or meal plan, counting calories or excessive willpower.  Rather, intuitive eating is about learning to trust your body again. It’s about learning to read internal cues, like hunger, fullness and satisfaction, and moving away from external cues like food rules and restrictions.  People who eat intuitively, trust their bodies to tell them when, what and how much to eat.  And they give themselves permission to eat what they want without feeling guilty.

This week, I’m sharing five more ways you can begin to incorporate intuitive eating principles, from Sun Basket’s staff dietitian, Lindsey Kane. By beginning to implement these strategies on a regular basis, you’ll develop healthy habits and be able to get off the diet-go-round for good. 

Discover the satisfaction factor.
Intuitive eating encourages you to identify foods that truly make you feel good—not just during a meal, but afterward, too. By doing this, you’ll find yourself gravitating towards and returning to foods that make you feel your best. In addition to eating foods that make you feel good, try engaging all your senses. Slow down, appreciate the way the food looks, respect how it arrived at your plate, breathe in all of the aromas, and eat in an environment that feels good and with people who light you up. 

Honor your feelings without using food.
Food can be comforting, but that pleasure only lasts as long as the meal. Afterward, whatever was eating you is still there, buried under food, perhaps now served with a side of guilt and shame. Intuitive eating encourages you to identify whether you’re feeling anxious, bored, lonely, sad, or angry and then seek a true solution. Go for a walk, call a friend, practice yoga or meditation, get a massage, read a book, or write in a journal. You’ll know you’re responding appropriately when the response makes you feel better, not worse. 

Respect your body.
Our differences are our superpowers, yet we live in a world that idealizes a cookie-cutter body type. The idea that we can radically transform our bodies is unfair and unrealistic. Intuitive eating challenges you to embrace your genetic blueprint, set realistic expectations, and celebrate your uniqueness. Anytime you catch yourself comparing your body to someone else’s, respond as you would if a friend said something similar about themselves. 

Exercise and feel the difference.
People who practice intuitive eating enjoy exercise because it gives them energy, improves their mood, promotes self-efficacy, and makes them feel strong, flexible, and agile. For intuitive eaters, working out isn’t about which activity will burn the most calories, but rather about which activity is the most fun and energizing. Exercise you enjoy is exercise that you’re likely to repeat, creating the momentum that drives sustainable, long-term happiness.

Honor your health.
Acknowledging how your health impacts the richness of your life erases superficial reasons for health goals and grounds your motives in what truly matters: your personal values. Getting perspective on why health is important helps you understand that no single meal or bite can make or break your self-worth. Align your health with your ambitions and you’ll be more motivated to cultivate habits that support your life goals. Ask yourself if your goals are realistic, are you accepting of your natural body or constantly fighting your genetics and beating yourself up? Respect your body and start feeling better about who you are so you can take better care of yourself long-term.

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.

Benefits of Bodyweight Exercises

By: Dr. Alyssa Musgrove

Some of the most common obstacles for fitting regular exercise into our daily lives are time, money, and energy. But what if I told you it was possible to invest in your health without having to go to a gym, buy fancy equipment or spend a lot of money?  Bodyweight exercises are a convenient and free way to improve your health and energy level.

Bodyweight exercises are strength training exercises that do not require free weights. Rather, an individual’s own body weight provides the resistance for the movement.

Multiple health goals can be achieved using bodyweight exercises, including weight loss, muscle gain, and increased range of motion.

Our skeleton’s job is to hold and support the entire weight of the body, but if you don’t move, the bone is sent the message that it doesn’t have to maintain as much density. Bodyweight exercises can help prevent osteoporosis by boosting the bone-building forces and improving bone density. Simply stressing your bones by the force of your own body weight stimulates more bone growth to protect your skeletal frame. Bodyweight exercises also increase muscle mass, meaning you rely less on your joints to move because your muscles are stronger. Additional benefits include improved heart health and circulation, reduced risk for diabetes, reduced stress and increased energy levels.

Bodyweight exercises work numerous muscle groups simultaneously and can be modified, which allows you to customize the exercises to your level of ability. They are simple enough to perform without supervision and have a low risk for injury. All you need is your own body and enough space to jump around a bit – and, of course, water is highly encouraged.

Push-ups are a great bodyweight exercise that strengthens the chest, shoulders and arms. (Be sure to stabilize your core by pulling your belly button in toward your spine.) They can be performed with various hand placements to isolate different muscle groups. Also, push-ups can be done at different levels of incline or decline. For example, beginners can start by pushing off of a wall or kitchen counter, progress to the floor on their knees, and eventually to their toes using full bodyweight.

Squats help build leg muscles and also help make daily living activities easier. You can begin squats against a wall and progress to air squats, but make sure your knees never bend past your toes. Other bodyweight exercises include bicycle crunches, reverse flies, tricep dips, planks, leg-raises, flutter kicks, bridges, donkey kicks, burpees, mountain climbers, lunges, sit-ups, reverse crunches, and step-ups.

You can customize your own workout by combining five to 10 different bodyweight exercises that target opposing muscle groups to create a circuit. Aim for 10 to 20 reps of each exercise. For best results do not rest much in between exercises in order to get – and keep — your heart rate up.

If you are not accustomed to physical activity, start with a few exercises and, after you become stronger and more adapted, add more exercises to your routine. Increase the number of circuits and repetitions of each exercise as you become more physically fit.

After completing bodyweight workouts, it is important to stretch to increase range of motion, flexibility, prevent injury, and decrease recovery time.  Aim to perform your bodyweight circuit two to three times per week.

Whether you’re a weekend warrior, a mom who chases after a toddler, or a mature adult trying to reduce your risk of falls, strength training helps build strong muscles and bones to make the activities of daily living easier! While high intensity workouts, cardio, and strength training have their benefits, bodyweight exercises are the most convenient and least expensive workouts for those lacking time and money.

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, Ga. The office can be reached at 706-454-2040.