Sleep Hygiene

Sleep is our body’s repair time, so compromised sleep is a significant health risk.  If you are having trouble sleeping, identifying the cause is the very first step.  The mechanical factors are easier to deal with, so let’s start there.

How old is your mattress?Family sleeping

  • If it’s more than 10 years old, you are overdue for a replacement. Firm is best.
  • A mattress is a big investment! Take your pillow, take a good book, take your sleeping partner, and spend at least an hour on the possible candidates.
  • Ideally, you want a mattress that won’t force you to sleep in an ever-deepening rut. I like a traditional mattress that can be both flipped over and rotated.

How old is your pillow?

  • Regardless of type, a pillow that you sleep on nightly has a life of about 12 – 18 months. Not more.  Donate it to the local pet shelter and get a new pillow.
  • Have your sleeping partner or your friendly local chiropractor assess your pillow. The centerline of your head should stay in line with your spine.  If it’s a) pushed up too high or b) not supported (so that it is too low), you’re trying to sleep on the wrong pillow.

Is it dark?

Your primal brain needs the dark to sleep deeply. Shut down computers, phones and the TV an hour before your bedtime; the blue light they emit is highly stimulating and will keep you in an adrenaline-charged state.

How’s the temperature?

“Just right” for most people is about 65 degrees. A light blanket is helpful.

Are you hungry, thirsty, or over-stimulated?
Here are some dietary guidelines for optimal sleep:

  • Avoid caffeine after 4 pm.
  • Avoid alcohol in the evening; it will help you get to sleep, but can disrupt your non-REM sleep.
  • Avoid sugary snacks in the evening. You need stable blood sugar during your sleep time.  A small amount of protein, fat and carbohydrate (vegetable or fruit) just before bedtime can help.
  • Get the bulk of your hydration done by 6 to 8 pm. Then have a cup of herbal tea 60 – 30 minutes before bedtime to help you relax.

Are you getting enough exercise?

It helps relieve stress and gives you the “good tired” feeling that promotes restorative sleep.

Woman suffering from exhaustion fallen asleep in her reading glasses on the document she was readingSpeaking of stress… stress, loss of sleep, poor nutrition and inactivity all promote chronic inflammation.  Inflammation disrupts sleep, and slowly depresses our ability to make pro-active lifestyle choices.  So you can see how this can become a vicious cycle, especially if we are time-pressured and over-stretched in our waking hours.

Your body’s adaptive mechanisms get de-regulated, and may need support.  There are a lot of herbal remedies that can be helpful here, but my first questions are:

“Are you having trouble going to sleep?”

This often points to a surge of cortisol at an inappropriate time of day. This is usually linked to a “slow-to-start” pattern in the morning, and a dysregulated appetite.  This is fundamentally a stress-driven problem with the hormonal or endocrine system, and has serious long-term consequences.

“Are you having trouble staying asleep?”

Our sleep cycles between REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and non-REM phases. Our deepest, most restful sleep happens in the non-REM cycle, and that’s exactly when the body is able to do its repair work.  Long term disruption here degrades and distorts genetic expression, leading ultimately to health breakdown.

“What time of the night do you tend to wake up?”

These can give us some clues as to what system (liver, gall bladder, lungs, etc.) may be most affected.

Of course, it’s not uncommon for these problems to exist at the same time!  The body doesn’t isolate this kind of systemic problem particularly well, so a multi-dimensional approach is usually the most effective.  But work on the easy, mechanical aspects of sleep first!

Here are some guidelines for the optimal amount of sleep to get:
Adults
7 – 8 hours is enough for most adults, but it can be anywhere from 6 – 10

12 – 18 years
8 – 9.5 hours*
*Some experts believe more sleep is needed during hormonally active growth spurts in adolescence

8 – 12 years
11 hours

1 – 5 years
13 – 14 hours, tapering to 10 – 12 hours

Infants < 1 year
16 hours (total day & night)

posted in Body Facts, Sleep, Uncategorized

Get a Good Night’s Sleep!

Mother sleeping with childWant to make 2018 your most productive and happiest year ever?  Start by giving your body and brain the repair time you need.  A refreshing night’s sleep boosts your metabolism, sharpens your edge, improves your relationships, and keeps you on track with your life goals.

So don’t shortchange yourself!  Use these simple guidelines to get the rest you need:

 

Refresh your bed:

Rotating your mattress will keep you from sleeping in a ever-deepening rut.  That’s bad for your mattress and for your back.  Give your neck a break, too: make sure your pillow fits you*, and replace it every 12 – 18 months.

Set it at 65:

We sleep much better when it’s not too hot and not too cold.

Embrace the dark:

The blue light emitted by tablets and smartphones disrupts the pineal gland’s ability to produce melatonin, so keep technology out of your sleeping space.  Even better, limit their use in the hour before your bedtime.  Light-blocking curtains are helpful, too.

Rest, don’t digest:

Eating within 2 – 3 hours of your bedtime forces your body to be metabolically active, just when you need it to focus on rest and repair.  Hydrating during the day, rather than the evening, will help you sleep all night without needing to empty your bladder.

Limit caffeine:

If you are routinely powering through the day on caffeine and sugar, your adrenal glands are in trouble.  Distressed adrenal function leads to overall hormonal imbalance and progressive system failure.  If you need help breaking that cycle, please call us.

Stick to a schedule:

Your body loves predictability!  Sticking to a routine for when you eat, exercise and sleep is one of the most productive and healthful habits you can give yourself.

Get physical – and spiritual:

Regular exercise is just not a luxury.  If walking around the block is all you can fit into your day, be sure to do that every day.  Connecting with nature and your inner voice is powerful: you’ll manage stress better, enjoy your day more, and sleep better at night.

Enlist gravity:

Posture always matters, even while you’re asleep.  Your body’s lymphatic system is a vital maintenance mechanism that drains away accumulated toxins and inflammatory cells from the brain.  Side sleeping on a supportive pillow optimizes that drainage.  Back sleeping is next best.  If you are used to sleeping on your belly, now’s the time to develop a better habit.  Using a body pillow can help.

An added bonus: sleeping with your left side down is the most relaxing position for your hard-working heart.

Don’t suffer needlessly:

If you are consistently having trouble getting to sleep, or staying asleep, please reach out for help**.  You have too much to be and do in the world to operate at a disadvantage.

*I routinely help patients evaluate their existing pillows, so they Little girl sleeping in her bedknow what to look for when they go shopping.

**If the suggestions above don’t help you get to sleep, your circadian rhythm and adrenal output may need to be regulated.  If you are regularly waking up during the night, it may be that a particular organ system needs to be supported.  Please call us for an evaluation!

A PDF of this information is available here!

 

posted in Body Facts, Sleep, Uncategorized

The Skinny on Stool

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Toddler Boy Sitting On Potty

The quality of your stool says a lot about you: what you’re eating, what you’re not eating, and how well or badly your gut flora and gut wall are able to process your food.  Your food is your energy source, so it’s a critical factor in your vitality.  Moreover, a large part of your immune system lives in your gut!  When that doesn’t work well, your health is at risk.

8 signs of healthy stool

  • Color: light or medium brown
  • Consistency: smooth & soft
  • Size: 1-2 inches in diameter; 4 to 8 inches in length is common
  • Shape: should be one long tube, may have an S-shape
  • Behavior: should drop quietly into the bowl in one piece
  • Smell: not overly smelly, not foul or super stinky
  • Texture: smooth, uniform; no lumps or bumps
  • Frequency: 1-2 times daily
 title What it means / Concerns
 type-1 Indicates a lack of bacteria, and insufficient hydration. Higher risk of rectal bleeding.
 type-2 Type 1 stool, impacted together by fiber and bacteria.  Can cause anal canal laceration, hemorrhoidal prolapse, or diverticulosis, and possible small intestine involvement.
 type-3 Similar to Type 2 stool, but moves through the intestine more rapidly.  Higher risk for irritable bowel syndrome.
 type-4 Normal shape for a single daily bowel movement.
 type-5 Typical for people who defecate 2-3 times daily, most usually after large meals.
 type-6

May suggest a slightly hyperactive colon, excess potassium, sudden dehydration, or sudden increase of blood pressure related to stress.  Can also be indicative high stress, over-spiced foods, water with high mineral content, or use of osmotic laxatives.

 type-7 Commonly known as diarrhea, this can be due to multiple causes.  If it persists longer than 2 days, or contains blood or dark tarry stool, please consult your health care practitioner.

Bristol Stool Chart developed by Lewis and Heaton from the University of Bristol

posted in Body Facts, Digestion, Uncategorized

Beautiful Skin

Oh, the skin you’re in…

Simple ways to keep your outer layer happy

Water – Hydration is essential for many aspects of bodily health, one of which is the layers of your skin! It helps flush toxins, too, so you’ll be less prone to breakouts like pimples. 10 – 12 glasses is a good baseline.

Diet – You truly ARE what you eat. A daily diet of unprocessed raw whole foods rich in vitamins and minerals is essential for healthy skin.

Exercise – Sweat is actually good for your skin, because it moisturizes and facilitates waste removal.  Plus it increases arterial flow, so you have more energy and a more radiant complexion.

Sleep – A good night’s sleep is non-negotiable for your general health, and your skin is one of the very first places sleep deprivation will show up.

Sunshine – Your skin is an amazing organ in many ways! one of which is the ability to turn sunshine into Vitamin D, a necessary adjunct to your body’s absorption of calcium. Sunlight also helps heal rashes, eczema, psoriasis and acne. So give yourself a daily dose of 10 minutes of sunshine! The early morning or late afternoon are the best times.

Stay away from tanning beds! Unless you think old dried-up leather is a good look for you, there is just no reason to waste time or money on these.

Wash off the make-up – Skin needs to breathe; if it’s clogged with dirt or make-up, it can’t rest and refresh while you are sleeping.

Exfoliate – Using a natural fiber washcloth daily will keep your pores clear and remove the top layer of dead skin cells. You can also use a gentle scrub once a week.

Moisturize – Use a moisturizer that works for your skin type. If you want to experiment, make your own! Aloe vera gel, jojoba oil, or a glycerin/water mixture can be used for oily to normal skin, while a few drops of extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil is wonderful for normal, dry or mature skin.

posted in Body Facts, Uncategorized

The gift nobody wants…

 

The plain fact is that no one welcomes a headache. Or pain anywhere, for that matter. And why would we? Pain gets in the way of whatever we’re doing, or thinking, or thinking about doing. At the very best, a headache is downright inconvenient.Stress

So why consider it a gift? Because, unsurprisingly, pain gets our attention. And a pain in the head gets our attention like nothing else. Of course, the very first idea we have is, “Get rid of it…”, followed by “as fast as possible.” This is perfectly normal, and there’s nothing wrong with it. I keep aspirin* in my bathroom cabinet, and so should you.

The obvious temptation is to dismiss the headache from our awareness as soon as it’s gone. Bad idea. Pain anywhere in your body is a friendly signal, alerting you that something is amiss. Sometimes it is more than a signal; sometimes it’s a screaming, last-ditch, about-to-go-over-the-cliff panic button that you ignore at your peril. So how do you tell when you getting a friendly “nudge” vs. an all-stations alarm?

 

What you need is a simple checklist that can help you determine why you developed that pesky headache. Then you have a reasonable basis for deciding whether it’s

a) a “one-off”, or

b) a trend you need to correct, or

c) potentially a serious situation you are going to need help with.

 

There are lots of variables and complexities to explore, but here’s a short form that’s practical and easy to use.

  1. Are you hungry?
  2. Are you thirsty?
  3. Are you sleepy?
  4. Are you unhappy or stressed?
  5. Are you over-working? or spending lots of time at a computer?
  6. Have you had your vision checked lately?
  7. Are you taking any medication?
  8. Have you been over-indulging with alcohol? or other mood-altering substance?
  9. Did you pull a muscle (especially in the neck) or over-strain during sports or other activity?
  10. Have you been in an accident, had any type of fall, or hit your head?
  11. Have you been exposed to any environmental irritants? or to any known allergen?
  12. Did you wake up with it? or did it come on during the day?
  13. Have you had this kind of headache before? Is there a pattern to it? Is it getting worse?
  14. Does it correspond to a change in barometric pressure? or to any hormonal fluctuation?
  15. Did you experience anything unusual before it started: ringing in your ears, or sensitivity to light?
  16. Does anyone in your family have a similar experience with a headache?

Some of the answers give you an immediate framework for thinking about the root cause of your headache. Dehydration is an almost pandemic problem, but easy to fix. Giving yourself the benefit of a regular and healthy diet is not as easy, but can certainly be done. Correcting ergonomics at your workstation is usually pretty simple; I ask patients to bring me pictures and we troubleshoot from there.

Other causes and linkages can be a little harder to tease out. A hormonal pattern is easier to chart than one that’s linked to barometric pressure. Migraine-type headaches don’t always have the classic presentation with a prodrome and light sensitivity. If you suspect a prescription may be the problem, talk to your medical practitioner about alternatives or interactions.

Awareness of head injuries has definitely increased, but still not enough people know that headaches can be caused by increasing intracranial pressure. This can be from a blood vessel leakage, a growing mass within the skull, or a disruption in cerebrospinal fluid flow. These are worse case scenarios, but I hope to convince you to take a headache seriously. Early warning is a gift worth having.

On a more positive note, I have seen many patients who now, I am happy to say, no longer have headaches. And that’s a wonderful thing – much better than a gift from even the best store.

 

*Preferably not acetaminophin, by the way; see Harvard Medical School’s 12 Things you Should Know about Paint Relievers.

 

Click here for a print-friendly version of the checklist.

posted in Body Facts, Headaches, Stress Strategies, Uncategorized

Facts about Sugar

 

Enjoy this infographic created by Ellie Koning for TotalHealth

Read the full article here.

 

 

posted in Body Facts, Nutrition, Uncategorized

Loving your liver (and kidneys!)

 

For most of us, it takes a lot of stamina to get through the day.  This often leads to over-reliance on sugar and caffeine (Starbucks, anyone?), and usually to chronic dehydration as well.  The demands of a busy schedule mean we’re just too pre-occupied to focus on the routine good habits of diet and exercise that we all know are best for us.

Your liver and kidneys play a pivotal role in maintaining your body in a healthy state.  That’s why they are always a primary focus in any seasonal cleanse.  There isn’t a single one of us who isn’t occasionally guilty of dietary excesses and omissions, especially during the holidays – both summer and winter!

Highlighted-Liver

Here are a few highlights of what your liver does:

  • Helps absorb fats and fat-soluble vitamins
  • Metabolizes and stores nutrients for energy
  • Builds proteins to help filter your blood
  • Supplies nutrients for healthy brain function
  • Breaks down harmful chemicals and toxins

Your kidneys are equally hard-working:

  • Like the liver, they remove waste from the bloodstreamKidneys
  • Regulate the body’s level of salt, potassium and other chemicals
  • Stimulate red blood cell production
  • Help keep bones strong via calcitrol (a form of Vitamin D)
  • Generate renin, a hormone which helps control blood pressure

Signs you might need to consider a cleanse:

• Headaches
• Dark urine
• Loss of appetite
• Diarrhea, and light colored stools
• Enlarged blood vessels, easy bruising
• Anxiety and depression
• Mental confusion
• PMS
• Exhaustion and fatigue
• Jaundice, or yellowing of the skin
• Impaired libido (sex drive)
• Food allergies and chemical sensitivities

What degree and extent of cleanse you need depends on your history and lifestyle!  It’s always easier to embark on a cleanse with your healthcare practitioner – and that way you get an individualized assessment of your potential need for supplementation (versus “one cleanse fits all”!).

This is something I love doing with my patients; it’s a privilege to witness the changes that can occur in people’s physical health and, even more importantly, in their outlook on the world!

Healthy-Food-Heart

posted in Body Facts, Uncategorized

The Lymphatic System

The lymphatic system is a hidden powerhouse in the body’s self-regulating activity. It has multiple roles, but its primary job is as the body’s sanitation engineer.

Arterial blood leaves the heart loaded with oxygen.  Once that oxygen is delivered to the cells, 90% of that fluid returns to the circulation as venous blood.  The venous system returns blood to the heart where it’s re-charged with oxygen.

The remaining 10% is a clear, pale yellow-ish fluid known as lymph.

One of the lymphatic fluid’s jobs is to absorb fats and fat-soluble vitamins from your digestive system!  It carries these nutrients to the cells where they can be used as energy reserves and in tasks like cell wall repair.

lymphatic-system

Lymphatic fluid removes waste products that have accumulated in the spaces between cells, like debris from dead cells.  Lymph nodes are packed with white blood cells that attack toxins and pathogens; they act as filters or traps for these foreign particles.

So the lymphatic system is a vital part of your immune system.  Swollen lymph nodes are most typically an indication that the body is fighting off an infection. These are often found in the neck, but can also occur in the armpits and groin.  You may need some short term support for your immune system as a whole; I’ve had good success with supplementation* for my patients.   If swollen lymph nodes persist, you should see your healthcare practitioner.

Loofah Help promote healthy lymphatic drainage by brushing your skin!  You can do this in the shower, using a washcloth or a soft bristled brush.  Start at the fingertips, and brush towards the heart.  Use a gentle, firm stroke.  Brush down from the head and neck on both the front and back of your body.  Then from your toes up the legs, over the belly and buttocks, again towards the heart.

It feels great, it’s good for your skin, and it helps your body do its job!

*See the Resources section on the website for more information about supplementation choices.  http://greatriverchiro.com/resources/products/

posted in Body Facts, Uncategorized

Fun Female Facts

Vive la difference!

Here are some fun facts about the girls among us…

  • Women have a better sense of smell than men.
  • Sex releases collagen and estrogen – so it makes us look younger! and it burns about 360 calories per hour.
  • The female egg is the largest cell in the body; the male sperm is the smallest (and swims about 8 inches per hour).
  • Much of the genetic information on the male Y chromosome is inactive – so women really are more complex than men!
  • Women tend to get fewer hiccups than men.
  • Women’s hearts beat faster than men’s.
  • 90% of breast-fed babies have higher IQ ratings.
  • Women spend, on average, 2 years of their lives looking in the mirror. Men? 6 months.
  • A woman says about 7000 words per day. Men? 2000.
  • It’s not that men aren’t listening! They actually have a hard time hearing us: women’s voices contain more frequencies which means they are harder for the brain to analyze!
  • Researchers at Iowa State found marriages are happier when men let their wives be the boss on household matters.
posted in Body Facts, Uncategorized