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.

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.

Foods that boost brain health

Foods that boost brain health
By: Dr. Alyssa Musgrove

Brain health is critically important because we use our brain throughout our lives. When we’re young, our brains help us develop motor skills, learn and study new information. As we age, we want to preserve our memory and ensure our cognitive ability stays sharp and focused.

Our daily choices have a significant impact on our brain health. Specifically, what we choose to fill our plate with can either help support or deteriorate our brain function. Here are some of the best foods to integrate into your diet regularly for a healthy brain.

Oily Fish
Oily fish like sockeye salmon, herring, and sardines are rich in omega 3 fatty acids, a good fat that is crucial for supporting the development of new brain and nerve cells. Ideally, you should aim for at least two portions of oily fish per week – but be sure the fish is wild-caught as opposed to farm raised. Farm raised fish have been shown to contain high levels of mercury and toxins. You can also take fish oil as a supplement. Nordic Naturals is a high-quality brand that we sell at our office.

Nuts and Seeds
If you are vegan, vegetarian or do not like eating fish, there are other food options available that are rich in omega 3’s. Flax seeds are a plant source of good fats. You can purchase flax seeds that are already ground into a powder and are virtually flavorless. Flax seed powder can be sprinkled over food, added to salads or blended into smoothies for a nutrient boost. Walnuts are another good source of omegas. Four walnut halves a day contain a sufficient amount of healthy fat and also vitamin E, which can help protect against Alzheimer’s.

Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is a natural anti-inflammatory and can help reduce inflammation in the brain. It is ideal to use when cooking at high heat. You can also add some coconut oil to your morning coffee for an additional boost in alertness.

Avocados
Avocados are one of my favorite snacks and are actually considered a fruit. Avocados have the lowest amount of sugar and highest protein content of any fruit. Avocados are packed with healthy monosaturated fats, which are responsible for keeping blood sugar levels steady and great for your skin. Avocados also contain water soluble vitamins C and B, which are not stored in the body and need to be replenished daily. Additional nutrients hiding out in this unassuming fruit include folate and vitamin K, which help prevent blood clots in the brain, and improve memory and concentration.

Turmeric
Turmeric is a root that has been used for its healing properties and health benefits for centuries. Curcumin, an active compound found in turmeric root, is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agent that has been shown in studies to help clear the amyloid plaques in the brain that contribute to conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. Curcumin can be taken in high doses daily to help with arthritis and joint pain, as well. In order to experience the anti-inflammatory effects, you need about 500 to 1,000 mg per day. Turmeric powder can be added to eggs in the morning or can be consumed as a tea.

Broccoli
Broccoli is considered a low-calorie superfood. Eat all your heart (or brain) desires! Broccoli is packed with vitamin K, which supports blood vessels in the brain, and vitamin C, which boosts the immune system. It’s also high in fiber, so you’ll feel full quickly while eating it.

Celery
Celery is low in calories but high in nutrients and antioxidants, making it a great snack if you are looking to boost your brain and shed some stubborn quarantine pounds. Most people eat celery stalks, but the leaves and seeds can be added to soups, stir fries or juiced for a super hydration boost.

Beets
Beets contain nutrients to boost energy and performance, enhance blood flow to the brain, and help filter your blood of toxins. My favorite way to eat them is pickled. Simply boil the beets until tender, add salt and apple cider vinegar, and store in the refrigerator in a glass container in the juice they were boiled in. Beets are great as a snack or salad topper. Just be sure to enjoy them in moderation, as they are high in natural sugar.

Blueberries
Blueberries are a delicious way to protect your brain from stress and degeneration. A small but mighty berry, blueberries are one of the most antioxidant rich foods and include vitamin C, K and fiber.

Dark Chocolate
Yes – chocolate can help boost brain health! Dark chocolate is full of brain supporting antioxidants. The darker the chocolate, the more health benefits. It’s perfectly fine to consume a square or two of dark chocolate each day, just be sure it’s at least 70% cacao and minimally processed.

Start incorporating some of these foods into your diet and enjoy the brain-boosting benefits! By making smart daily choices, you can help maintain your mental clarity and stay sharp, while preventing future disease.

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.

Back Pain

Got back pain? Pay attention to this muscle

By: Dr. Alyssa Musgrove

 

If you, or someone you know, is always searching for back pain relief, it may be time to examine the psoas muscle. I work on the psoas (pronounced SO-as) muscle every day with my patients. Many people have not heard of this muscle, yet it is a major player when it comes to back pain, especially when there is difficulty straightening up from a seated position.

 

The psoas is a rope-like muscle that attaches to all the low back bones (lumbar vertebra), runs down across the groin and attaches to the inside of the hip. The psoas is joined at the hip, literally, by the iliacus, which travels from hip to thigh. Together, the psoas and iliacus make up the iliopsoas – the body’s most powerful hip flexor. The psoas helps promote good posture and stabilizes your abdomen and pelvis as it works together with your abs, obliques and lower back muscles. Every time you stand, walk, or run, or play golf, you’re engaging the psoas.

 

When the psoas is weak or tight, it can cause symptoms such as pain across the lower back, groin pain, hip pain, pain in the buttocks, difficulty walking up stairs or hills, tight hamstrings, knee pain and even foot pain.

 

John Stiner, a massage therapist based in Durham, N.C., whose credentials include a 2008 stint with the Nike Oregon Project, has noticed an epidemic of psoas tightness among his running clients. The number one culprit, he says, is your chair. Sitting for long periods puts the psoas in a perpetually shortened state. The muscle has memory and will maintain this shortened state, even when you get up from your chair. “Our bodies simply aren’t designed to sit all day,” says Stiner.

 

Another cause of imbalanced psoas muscles are abdominal crunches. Performing too many sit-ups causes the psoas muscle to shorten, which can lead to an increased arch in the lower back and a head-forward posture. While this posture is normally seen in the elderly population, nowadays, we are seeing this type of posture in younger people.  Rather than just focusing on abdominal exercises, it is better to have a more balanced program that works the core muscles in the back, as well as the front of the body. Sleeping in the fetal position also causes prolonged periods of stress on your psoas muscle.

 

You can perform a simple test to determine if you have a tight psoas. Lie on your back with both legs straight. Pull one knee towards your chest. If the other leg lifts off the floor, then your psoas is too tight. Now try the other side.

 

Regular gentle stretching is the best antidote for a tight psoas. Keep in mind that it will take time to release the psoas. The muscle has to be retrained, and you have to be consistent with the stretching. Be careful not to overstretch, which can cause the muscle to contract and shorten. Start your stretch slowly and ease into it without straining. You want to feel a lengthening sensation of the muscle.

 

Here are two simple psoas stretches you can try at home:

 

KNEELING LUNGE

Kneel on one knee, with the front leg forward at a 90-degree angle. With your pelvis tucked, lunge forward, easing into the stretch without straining. If your psoas is tight, your natural tendency may be to arch your lower back; make it a point to keep the back straight. Raise your arms overhead for an added abdomen stretch. To dynamically stretch the psoas, complete 20 reps on each side, holding the lunge for 2 to 3 seconds.

 

WARRIOR YOGA POSE

Step one foot 3 to 4 feet in front of you. Lunge forward until your front knee is at a right angle. (Readjust your foot position if necessary.) Turn your back foot out about 45 degrees. Keeping your back foot firmly planted, and your head, shoulders, hips and knees facing forward, raise your arms overhead. Relax your shoulders; don’t let them inch up. Lift your rib cage away from your pelvis to really stretch the psoas. As in all yoga poses, breathe deeply and easily. Don’t strain. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.

 

Other tips to keep your psoas in top shape include:

 

1.    Sitting less — Try to get up every 45 minutes, at least. If you are traveling long distances, stop every 3 hours and stretch or walk for 5-10 minutes.

2.    Reach for support — Add support to your car seat by using a rolled up towel or small pillow behind your lower lumbar spine.

3.    Professional massage — Massage can help relieve a tight psoas, although this type of massage is not always comfortable.

 

By consistently working to relax the psoas and gradually restore its length, you will help reduce lower back pain, hip pain, groin pain, buttock pain and tight hamstrings, as well as prevent future injury.

 

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.

Apple Cinnamon Waffles

 

Apple Cinnamon Waffles

Ingredients

1 1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 cup flax seed meal I used Organic Golden Flax from Bob’s Red Mill
1/4 cup Swerve Sweetener
1/4 cup unflavored protein powder
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp baking powder
4 large eggs room temperature
1 cup finely chopped or grated apple
3/4 cup almond milk
1/4 cup melted butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp apple extract optional, helps intensify flavor
Instructions

Preheat a waffle iron to medium and grease if necessary.
In a large bowl, whisk together almond flour, flax seed meal, sweetener, protein powder, baking powder and cinnamon.
Stir in eggs, apple, almond milk, butter, vanilla extract and apple extract and stir until well combined.
Spoon a few tablespoons of batter into each section of the waffle iron and close lid. Cook 4 to 6 minutes, or until golden brown on both sides (the amount of batter and time of cooking will depend on your waffle iron).
Remove waffles and repeat with remaining batter.
Serve with sugar-free syrup.

Why Is Shoulder Pain So Common?

By: Dr. Alyssa Musgrove – Pathways to Healing

The shoulder is the most complex joint in the human body. Studies show nearly 90 percent of the population will tear or damage their rotator cuff, labrum and/or shoulder capsule at some point in their lives. Most of us are unaware of how important the shoulder is until we injure it. Shoulder pain of any sort can make daily activities like combing your hair, brushing your teeth, sleeping and getting dressed complicated and painful.

The reason for the high prevalence of shoulder injury is due to the anatomy and structure of the shoulder. The human shoulder is made up of a complicated system of bones, joints, connective tissue and muscles. The shoulder’s ball and socket joint allow for excellent mobility, but unfortunately a joint cannot be both highly stable and highly mobile. In the case of the shoulder, mobility comes at the expense of stability.

There are many ways we can injure the shoulder, such as falling, throwing, lifting, painting, cleaning, swinging a tennis racket or golf club. Problems can also occur from natural wear and tear over time. One of the biggest challenges in managing shoulder pain is finding the origin. Shoulder pain can be musculoskeletal in nature, it can be referred pain from a visceral organ, it can result from overuse (as in the cases of bursitis or tendonitis), there can be tears in the connective tissue, bone spurs or muscle imbalance.

What’s more, the shoulder is slow to recover from injury. Some research shows only about half of all new shoulder pain episodes achieve complete recovery within six months. Factor in aging, chronic health conditions that slow healing (like diabetes), and hobbies or jobs that are repetitive in nature and increase the risk of re-injury, and it is easy to see why many don’t make a full recovery from shoulder pain.

Chiropractors, physical therapists, acupuncturists and orthopedists are just a few specialists who can help ease shoulder pain. The use of manipulation, mobilization, magnetic field therapy, TENS unit and modalities like cold lasers can help tremendously, but some shoulder injuries do require surgery. If your shoulder pain has not resolved on its own by resting 1 to 2 weeks, you should check with your doctor. However, that does NOT mean you should wait two weeks before seeing someone about your shoulder. Some people ignore nagging pain for weeks or even months, but the sooner you see a doctor the quicker you can begin treatment and resolve the issue before surgery becomes the only option.

When it comes to keeping our shoulders healthy, an ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure.  Here are a few ways to protect your shoulders on a daily basis:

  1. When working with your arms overhead, take small breaks to let the shoulder recover.
  2. Do not reach in the back seat and lift a heavy purse, bag or briefcase at an awkward angle in order to get it to the front seat.
  3. If you are facing a challenging task, request a helping hand. Do not feel insecure about asking for help.  It is better to be safe than sorry!
  4. Follow an exercise program that maintains strength in your shoulders and contains opposition exercises to keep the shoulder muscles balanced. For example, if you are going to do push-ups, make sure you also do pull-ups. In this way, both sides of the body are strengthened for optimal balance and pain-free function.

The following stretches can be done at home to help further balance the shoulder joint and prevent simple injuries:

90, 90 shoulder stretch
Stand in your doorway, holding your arms up so your elbow is at a 90-degree angle and your arm forms a 90-degree angle to your body at the shoulder. Place each hand on the side of the door frame making sure your wrist and elbow also make contact with the door frame. Place both feet in the doorway and lean forward as you brace yourself against the door frame. Make sure your neck is aligned with your spine. Do not drop your chin — keep it parallel to the floor. Hold the stretch for 20-30 seconds and repeat 2-3 times.

Pendulum exercise
Bend at your waist with one hand hanging down and your other arm supporting your upper body on a table or chair. Relax your hanging arm completely and swing it gently and slowly in a figure 8 direction in both clockwise and counterclockwise. You can grasp a light weight, such as a soup can, while smoothly swinging the arm. Circle 10-15 times each direction, do 1-2 sets per day.

Finger wall walks
Face a wall. Using one arm at a time, slowly walk your fingers up the wall, moving your arm upward as far as you can reach comfortably. Then walk your fingers gradually back down the wall (STOP if there is any point of pain). Repeat 10-20 times.

Cross-body reach
Lift one arm at the elbow and bring it up and across your body and hold a stretch for 20-30 seconds. Each day try working on reaching further across your body in order to increase mobility.

Towel stretch
Take a small towel that is about 3 feet long and hold each side with your hand. Bring the towel behind your back and grab the opposite end with the other hand. Pull the top arm upward while also pulling the other lower arm downward to stretch your shoulders. You can also hold the towel on both ends while pulling with both arms to keep the towel tight and raise your arms in front of you and above your head, keeping elbows straight at all times.

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.

How To Maximize The Shelf Life Of Your Produce

Dr. Alyssa Musgrove

Spending hard-earned money on groceries that never actually reach your plate is like throwing away cash. Because most of us do not have the time to visit grocery stores or farmers markets daily to get fresh produce, we tend to buy produce all at once, which can lead to early spoiling if we don’t utilize proper storage techniques. For example, refrigeration causes some foods to spoil faster. Other types of produce should be ripened at room temperature to reach their best taste potential. What follows are some helpful guidelines for keeping your food fresher, longer, as well as tips and tricks to enjoy maximum flavor.

Fruits

  • For gradual ripening, keep fruits separated.  Fruits release ethylene gases during the ripening process, which can cause other produce to ripen more rapidly.
  • The following fruits are best ripened on the counter first, then refrigerated: kiwi, nectarine, peach, pear, and plum.
  • Storing bananas in the refrigerator can disrupt the ripening process. Once refrigerated, a banana may never be able to resume the ripening process if returned to room temperature. If your bananas are turning bad, cut up, freeze and use in smoothies or for banana bread.
  • Refrigeration shuts down the ripening enzymes in avocados, so unless you want to stop the ripening process, keep avocados on the counter.
  • To ripen avocados quickly, put the un-ripened avocado in a brown paper bag.  Be sure to fold the top over to close the bag, and then check the bag daily to remove ripened ones.  This ripening trick also works for tomatoes.
  • Apples lose flavor and texture when refrigerated, so if you prefer eating apples cold, place them in the fridge 30 minutes before eating.
  • Avoid washing berries until right before you eat them, as wetness encourages mold growth. Berries can be refrigerated in a drawer uncovered or in a vented container.
  • To keep your pineapple longer, cut the leafy top off and store the pineapple upside down. This also helps redistribute sugars that sink to the bottom during shipping and transport.
  • Lemons can be stored in a bowl full of water in the fridge in order to get the longest shelf life. 

Vegetables

  • Winter squash, butternut squash, acorn squash, and pumpkins should all be stored at room temperature.
  • When exposed to cold temperatures, the starch in sweet potatoes turns to sugar, disrupting their flavor and texture – and increasing their overall sugar content. Store sweet potatoes, yams, and regular potatoes in a cool dark area of the kitchen or pantry for the longest shelf life, up to 2 months in a paper bag!
  • Tomatoes lose flavor and become mushy when refrigerated. Spread them out on the counter, out of direct sunlight for even ripening, as well as better taste and texture.
  • To get the longest shelf life for onions, place them in a paper bag, and store them in a cool, dark cabinet.
  • Garlic will last up to 4 months if stored away from heat and light. The pantry is a great location. 
  • Ideally, leafy greens should be consumed within 1 to 2 days of purchase to ensure you are getting the most nutrients. You can extend the shelf life by wrapping unwashed leaves in a paper towel. (The towel will absorb any excess moisture and prevent soggy rotten leaves.) After wrapping the unwashed greens in a paper towel, put them in a plastic bag and store them in your fridge.
  • Asparagus should be stored upright in the refrigerator with a damp towel wrapped around the base or upright in a cup with the stems in an inch of water.
  • Celery should be kept in the front of the refrigerator where it is less likely to freeze.  Or you can cut celery and submerge in a tall cup of water.

Coffee and Herbs

  • Coffee is best stored at room temperature in order to allow the natural oils of the coffee bean to activate its powerful aromatic scent. Be aware that coffee can also absorb odors from other foods in your fridge or freezer.
  • Wrap rosemary, thyme, parsley, and cilantro in a moist paper towel, place in air-tight containers and refrigerate for up to ten days.
  • Basil is best kept on the countertop with the stems in water and the top lightly covered with plastic.

Finally, remove pesticide residue from your produce by mixing one tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to one cup of water, and soak desired fruit or vegetable. Stir periodically for five minutes before draining, rinsing, and using.

These storage tips will help keep your fruit and vegetable purchases fresher longer so you get your money’s worth.

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.