From the monthly archives: "September 2011"

Continuing on with obesity, you know, I’ve been hearing quite a bit about hormones and their role in weight gain. It is an indisputable fact that the concentration of some hormones goes haywire as people gain weight. But listen up o’ seekers of truth: Hormone imbalances are a consequence of weight gain (though I am certain they are also maintainers of such), but in and of themselves they are not the cause.

Hormones are chemicals messengers that have a number of functions, one being regulation or homeostasis. Homeostasis is a control mechanism that maintains the balance in a system—it is a universal principle. The peripheral nervous system is made up of the somatic and autonomic nervous systems (ANS), the latter controlling functions that are on auto pilot–the one’s we don’t have to think about.

The ANS has two branches that act in continual oscillation under normal conditions—the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for our fight or flight responses; the parasympathetic for our rest and digest. In other words, each branch of the ANS is responsible for various functions that support either build-up (parasympathetic) or breakdown (sympathetic) processes. Energy utilization is one such process.

During energy buildup and storage or anabolism—when we extract and store our energy molecules—our parasympathetic system is the driver, controlling various hormones and chemical messengers. During breakdown and utilization (fuel burning) or catabolism—it’s our sympathetic nervous system that’s the driver, with it’s own hormones and neurotransmitters. Parasympathetic prepares the body for build-up (rest and digest), which includes slowing molecular breakdown and energy utilization (sympathetic), increased blood flow to the digestive system, and decreased blood flow to the muscles. When this system is in full force, we often feel relaxed, lazy, maybe even sluggish. Our bodies are ripe for energy storage or weight gain when we are in rest and digest.

On the flip side, our sympathetic nervous system prepares the body for energy utilization, especially under stressful conditions. Remember it’s the fight or flight system. During sympathetic stimulation, our metabolism speeds up so we burn fuel more efficiently, blood flow to the digestive organs decreases (less food coming in and being distributed to tissues, thus less stored), and muscles perfuse with blood (getting ready to work). It’s what makes you shake and tremble when you are stress or excited, although I am certain some people rarely feel it so strongly.

I say that because, no doubt, obese people are in a state of parasympathetic imbalance. That is, their parasympathetic system is kicked in more often than their sympathetic system. As a result, it has been observed in obese people that certain parasympathetic processes are acting normally while their sympathetic system is depressed. The effects of such an imbalance is that obese people have difficulty burning fuel efficiently, while they are quite proficient at packing it in.

Okay, we’ll no sh#%…we all know that: It’s harder for obese people to lose weight. No kidding…that doesn’t mean they cannot. The reason this happens is that when fuel keeps coming in as food, the body, in its profound intelligence, does what it’s proficient at: stores it as fat for leaner times, for survival. The body doesn’t understand gluttony; it doesn’t understand prosperity—it doesn’t know 24-hr pizza delivery exists. All it understands is, “Influx of food—store it.” Period. And so that’s what it does.

As a result of overeating, excessive weight gain and very likely low physical activity, the body is forced into this autonomic nervous system imbalance between parasympathetic and under-active sympathetic systems. And a vicious cycle ensues.

Yes it’s the reason obese people don’t see the same gains non-obese people see from short-term exercise…that’s why they’ve got to make it lifestyle, and see what happens after two years of continued activity. Too many obese people quit when they don’t see result within three months.

And, yes, decreasing calories too quickly can lead to a stress that is both mental and physical, one that the body interprets as a need to store even more (“Starvation!”). That’s why I always recommend keeping weight loss to realistic and healthy goals of one pound per week. It’s one thing I like about the Weight Watchers program—they do it slowly and steadily, advocating lifetime wellness and not just a crash-diet (literally and figuratively).

But here’s the skinny: In the end, it still comes down to calories in (and stored) versus calories burned. It’s just that the hormonal changes that DO occur—the ANS imbalance—slow things down that much more for the obese person. In the end, though, part of the answer is still to exercise regularly and effectively, as well as change eating habits (see last post).  There is, however, one more obstacle that is probably the biggest hump when it comes to losing and keeping off weight, and one which I will be discussing in the next post—the human mind.

What?!?!  Now recalled lettuce?  You got that right–a California farm has now recalled bags of chopped romaine lettuce because of possible contamination with listeria, although no illnesses have been reported. 

True Leaf Farms of Salinas announced the recall of 90 cartons that were shipped to an Oregon food service distributor. From the distributor, it might have gone to at least two other states, Washington and Idaho.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) notified the company that a sample from one bag taken as part of a random check tested positive for listeria.  Officials have said they’ve gotten better at detecting contamination, so they are seeing it more often now in produce.

This now amid the cantaloupe recall that has sickened 72, and killed up to 16 people, in 18 states.  

The recall covers packaged lettuce product with a use by date of Sept. 29. The bag and box code is B256-46438-8.  Please check your bagged lettuce and toss if necessary.  But seriously folks, how ’bout some fresh stuff?  Just wondering.

Another great stretch for the low back and hip regions is the twist stretch.  A bit different than your typical piriformis stretches, the twist stretch hits the piriformis, glutes and lumbar spine erector spinae (or paraspinals).  Because of this, the twist stretch is great for relieving low back pain, hip pain, piriformis syndrome, and can even help in some cases of sciatica.

Watch the video below to learn the best technique for doing the twist stretch.  The key that you must remember when doing this low back stretch is to keep your lower back straight, so sitting up straight before twisting is imperative.  If you fail to do this important step, you do risk the potential for injury.  I find this point so important because I observe many people at the gym doing a twist stretch with rounded backs.  Listen, if you want to come see me as a herniated disk patient, then twist with a rounded back.  But if you would rather fix your low back pain, then twist with a straight back–simple as that.  Have fun twisting.

A quick post on a serious food warning: Don’t eat the cantaloupe!  Federal health officials are warning that cantaloupes produced at Jensen Farms in Colorado is being linked to 72 illnesses–including up to 16 deaths–in 18 states due to a Listeria outbreak. This is the deadliest food outbreak in the United States in more than a decade.

Although CDC experts report that the contaminated cantaloupe is solely from Jansen farms, making all others okay to eat, I personally wouldn’t eat any.  My feeling is that unless you can confirm the source of the cantaloupe, I wouldn’t take any chances.  Sure the CDC says that any melons produced outside of Jensen Farms is safe for consumption, but does your cantaloupe have that printed on the side.  Are you really going to call the grocery store and ask if their cantaloupes are from Jensen Farms?  Then throw it out.  Lose the $1.50, save your life, or at the very least, save your peace of mind.

The recalled cantaloupes may be labeled “Colorado Grown,” ”Distributed by Frontera Produce,” ”” or “Sweet Rocky Fords.” Not all of the recalled cantaloupes are labeled with a sticker, the FDA said. The company said it shipped out more than 300,000 cases of cantaloupes that contained five to 15 melons, meaning the recall involved 1.5 million to 4.5 million pieces of fruit.

The FDA said none of the cantaloupes had been exported, reversing an earlier statement that some of the tainted melons had been shipped abroad.

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said that illnesses are expected for weeks to come because the incubation period for listeria can be a month or even longer. That means that someone who ate contaminated cantaloupe last week may not get sick until next month. Jensen Farms last shipped cantaloupes on Sept. 10. The shelf life is about two weeks.

Listeria is generally found in meat and unpasteurized dairy products, but cantaloupe has been linked to other pathogens, like salmonella, over the last decade.  Saying that, health officials are truly surprised about the latest outbreak.

Listeria is more deadly than well-known pathogens like salmonella and E. coli, though those outbreaks generally cause many more illnesses.  It generally only sickens the elderly, pregnant women and others with compromised immune systems.  The CDC said the median age of those sickened is 78 and that 1 out of 5 who contract the disease can die from it.   Symptoms include fever and muscle aches, often with other gastrointestinal symptoms.

Listeria bacteria can grow at room temperatures and even refrigerator temperatures, and it can linger long after the source of the contamination is gone–health officials say people who may have had the contaminated fruit in their kitchens should clean and sanitize any surfaces it may have touched.

Cases of listeria were reported in California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. The most illnesses were reported in Colorado, which has seen 15 sickened. Fourteen illnesses were reported in Texas, 10 in New Mexico and eight in Oklahoma.

Most healthy people can ingest listeria and they’ll probably be okay; however, it is often deadly to older folk, and it’s also dangerous to pregnant women because it can cross the placenta.  Two of the recent illnesses were in pregnant women, but they have since recovered.

Once again: Throw out them cantaloupes people–they’re just not worth the risk.

Clicking at the knee is a common complaint walking into my West Hollywood sports chiropractic office.  Although a couple sites on the knee are potential origination points, I find that the most common area of occurrence is at the kneecap (patella) itself.  Knee clicking coming from the knee cap is usually painless, but it can eventually lead to breakdown of the cartilage underneath the patella itself, which can be painful.

Despite being painless in the early stages, knee clicking can be disconcerting, so those experiencing it want answers.  I’ve cut the video below to explain clicking knee coming from the patella.  In a nutshell, knee clicking comes from a tracking disorder of the patella on the femur and tibia on bending and straightening the knee.  The disorder is usually due to a muscular imbalance of the quadriceps muscles, specifically the vastus lateralis, which gets strong or overactive, and the vastus medialis, which gets weak or under active.  The vastus lateralis, being the strong one, will thus pull the kneecap toward the outside of the leg on knee extension leading to a…”click.”

The way to fix knee clicking is by strengthening the vastus medialis relative to the vastus lateralis.  Watch the video below to see the best exercise to correct clicking knees due to a tracking disorder or muscular imbalance.  Remember, not fixing your knee clicking problem can lead to future degeneration, pain and disability, so start exercising now to click no more.

I’ve gotten to experience something very interesting over the last couple of weeks.  Resulting from my posts on childhood statin recommendations and parental responsibility for childhood obesity, I’ve gotten numerous replies, comments and tweets that have both commended and criticized my views.  Being all for intelligent discussion, I’ve welcomed the responses; but something has become very clear to me: People who are attached to a particular point-of-view will fill any holes with their own interpretations and opinions,quite apart from anything that has ever been said or implied.  It’s an interesting phenomenon.  So as promised, I will continue presenting my viewpoint on obesity in general, and specifically, childhood obesity, so I can fill those holes myself, and keep my thoughts from being assumed by others.

Let me begin with the obvious: What is obesity?  From Wikipedia:

Obesity is a medical condition in which excess body fat has accumulated to the extent that it may have an adverse effect on health, leading to reduced life expectancy and/or increased health problems.  Body mass index (BMI), a measurement which compares weight and height, defines people as overweight (pre-obese) if their BMI is between 25 and 30 kg/m, and obese when it is greater than 30 kg/m

Wikipedia is not necessarily the end all be all as a reference source…but, in this case…well, it’s right.  Weight gain, which can lead to obesity, is caused by taking in more calories than you burn, period.  It doesn’t happen from eating one tootsie roll, despite a tootsie roll being an unhealthy food-like item, or from eating one French fry, or even thirty on a Saturday night for that matter; nor does it come from eating a Twinkie, or a bag of chips, or drinking a soda.  No, gaining excessive weight, and developing obesity, comes from eating lots of crap over and over again.

It is what one does repeatedly that matters, so, in that regard, obesity is a calorie issue.  But yes, there is more to it, although I would argue very strongly that the most important factor is overeating.  As a rule, Americans eat too much.  Listen, I am an American.  I eat at restaurants.  My observation is that the portions served in most restaurants are more than most people need under most circumstances.  I also observe how others eat, and can say quite confidently that most people aren’t leaving their plates half-full.  No, most people put it away–all of it–plain and simple.  And this (as a habit) leads to excessive weight gain.

Here’s some basic nutritional physiology: Take in more calories than you expend, you gain weight.  Expend more calories than you take in, you lose weight.  When intake and output (over time) are relatively equal…you maintain weight, no gain, no loss.  Duh.  It blows me away that some people actually try to argue against this simple fact.  Why not, then, argue against the Pythagorean Theorem while you’re at it?

Listen, it doesn’t make sense to try to disprove what we already know about any science.  If it’s an established principle, why try to reinvent the wheel?  Oh no, the Law of Gravity is wrong, and that’s why we can’t unify all theories on physical forces.  No serious thinker would go that route.  Instead they would take what is already known and try to formulate a theory around that.  Freakin’ duh!   So why do some self-proclaimed experts attempt it with nutritional physiology?

There is no doubt that food types matter when it comes to weight gain and obesity.  It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to understand that French fries are a worse food choice than broccoli.  And it doesn’t take a theoretical physicist to understand that eating wholesome foods, as a habit, is better than simply cutting your French fry intake in half.  Freakin’ duh!

What amazes me is that some people think that somehow my previous posts suggested that I advocate a low calorie diet.  When have I ever said that?  Let me be perfectly clear: I’ve never said anything about a diet of any sort.  When I speak of “diet,” I speak in terms of how one eats, the types of foods one eats, and NOT a freakin’ fad diet (and that includes Atkins, or rehashed Atkin’s-like theories).  I simply cannot be any clearer.  The types of foods you eat matters, and how much of them you eat matters too, and how much you burn with physical activity also matters a whole hell of a lot more than your mutated skinny genes (and you thought those were just clothing trends).

Interestingly, the notion that calories in vs. calories out and food type both contribute to obesity presents somewhat of a conundrum to people battling weight.  Some will say, “I don’t eat junk food, and I just cannot seem to lose weight.”  Then you eat too much, is my answer.  No, I don’t eat too much.  Then the types of foods you are eating are poor choices.  No, that’s not it either.  Okay, then what is it?  It’s genetics.  Oh, you mean fatness runs in your family.  Well, no…I have a gene.  But nobody else in your family is fat?  Well yes…both my parents.  Listen that’s called nurture–what you were exposed growing up, your learned behaviors–not necessarily genetics, or nature.  All you are doing when you blame it on your genetics is pulling yourself out of the equation, and I’m sorry, but that just doesn’t cut it.  Genetics, hormones, lack of sleep, blah, blah, blah…yes, okay, they contribute…but not more than your food choices do, both in quantity and quality.

I’m going to discuss hormonal factors in weight gain in the next post on the subject, as well as list some factors that are primary in the development and maintenance of obesity.  Just remember that food choices matter–the types of foods you eat (whole, natural foods that you prepare yourself are best), as well as how much you eat.  Denying basic physiological principles isn’t going to make one dent in the obesity epidemic, so the fools doing just that are merely perpetuating the problem.

Although prescription drugs are getting most of the press these days, recreational drugs aren’t off the hook.  Lots of people are still addicted to these bad-boys, so discussing ramifications here is worthwhile.  It’s not that knowing the physiological effects of party drugs will stop anybody from partying, particularly not an addict, but plenty of people struggle with the decision to quit everyday.  Sometimes getting scared straight is just the habit-kicking potentiator needed.

Take former Guns and Roses bassist, Duff McKagen: In his upcoming book, It’s So Easy: and other lies, he discusses what his body turned into from years of chronic, high-volume drug use:

“My hair began falling out in clumps, and my kidneys ached when I pissed.  The skin on my hands and feet cracked, and I had boils on my face and neck.  I had to wear bandages under my gloves to be able to play my bass.”

Rock stars are the perfect subjects for health research, because the years of heavy drug abuse by some creates a sort of rapid-progression case study, a walking laboratory of sorts.  Although it might be tempting to believe that rock-star drug loads are simply outside the realm of your average, everyday user, many people abuse drugs even longer than McKagan had, so what happened to him can definitely happen to any drug abuser that manages to stay alive long enough to witness the self-destruction.

McKagan goes on about his deterioration:

“I felt as sick as I ever had.  My hands and feet were bleeding.  I had constant nosebleeds.  I was shitting blood.  Sores on my skin oozed.  The house was awash in the fetid effluvia of my derelict body.”

He does a good job of describing what happens to a body from repeated and long-term drug use.  It essentially wastes away from the inside-out.  Vitamin deficiencies, liver overload and breakdown of the kidneys (McKagan today is on permanent dialysis) is what we risk when we take drugs.

Lots of people think it won’t happen to them, or they try not to think about it at all.  Ignoring the occasional worry about the damage drugs must be doing is a temporary solace to the realities every drug user understands.  But if you are thinking about quitting, or you’ve just recently quit, then perhaps McKagan’s words will serve as a deterrent to a relapse.  Or maybe you can use the information to strategize your comeback, or plan your healing regimen.

Good luck to those of you still carrying the monkey–I feel fer ya.  But understand that even if you don’t overdose, you’ll die a slow death from the inside-out…unless you make a decision, now, to kill your appetite for destruction, and start living instead.

This post is about weight loss.  It’s about basic physiology, and personal responsibility (ooh, dirty words).  I recently tweeted a bunch on a subject I wrote about three years ago.  The number of responses I received was incredible.  The subject was on giving the cholesterol lowering medication, statins, to children.  In 2008, the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommended screening children as young as two-years-old for high cholesterol.  If a child is found to have high cholesterol, the Academy recommended putting him or her on statins to prevent future cardiovascular disease.  My response today is the same as it was three years ago–it’s a freakin’ crime!

I know too much about physiology and human health to accept this as a treatment option for children, let alone the first line of defense.  Statins have side-effects, and they are also based on a faulty premise–that low density lipoproteins (LDLs) are the most important factors in cardiovascular health.  While definite contributors, LDLs are simply not as important as high density lipoproteins (HDLs) when it comes to cardiovascular risk.  To consider giving drugs that most people take for a lifetime to children as a preventative is purely irresponsible.

But, really, the criticisms I encountered weren’t about points I made on statin use in children.  They were mostly directed at a particular line, an idea,

“Childhood obesity? Excuse my language, but…that’s effin’ child neglect and abuse by lazy, undisciplined, ignorant parents.”

Now many people said, “Bravo! Thank you for telling it like it is.”  Many others, however, felt it was callous, off-base and out-of-sync with the real causes of obesity.  Some tweeters informed me that my understanding of basic physiology was prehistoric, and that my solution to the obesity problem (I didn’t know I had actually given one) was short-sighted and erroneous.  So in the next few posts I will attempt to clarify my thoughts on weight loss/weight gain, the obesity epidemic and parental responsibility as it relates to the weight–and health–of a child.

I am actually going to start with my thoughts on parental responsibility.  I contend that if you as a parent are not responsible for your child and his or her health, then who is?  This question is only obvious to those parents who share this philosophy, and won’t be to those believing (either consciously or subconsciously) that health is the responsibility, and byproduct, of something outside themselves.

Every parent will say that they take full responsibility for their child, but far too many act otherwise.  What you do your children will do, period.  They eat what you eat, they think like you think, and they care for themselves in the same way you care for yourself.  How is your child’s weight, then, independent of you?  Oh, you didn’t shove the cookies down his or her throat…but did you buy them?  Maybe you thought it was harmless to feed your child cookies as a baby…I hope you know better now (Plenty of tweeter critics claimed to not feed their children junk food…listen, your obese child is eating junk food–WAKE UP!)

Parents of heavy children have lots of support for their innocence.  The concept that “your illness is not your fault” is preached by many doctors, psychologists, talk show hosts, media celebrities and support groups; and while it’s true that illness is not a fault, it certainly isn’t true that we have no hand in how our health plays out.  More importantly, though, everyone has the potential to achieve and maintain great health, no matter what the current circumstances.

When health issues arise, the most important thing to do is determine where changes need to be made.  Whether talking about major lifestyle modifications–like quitting smoking, or changing food habits, or exercising–or simply getting checked by a professional, change is an absolute necessity in correcting any health problem.  How soon you make that decision can mean the difference between life and death.  Symptoms are your body’s way of telling you something needs attention.  Ignoring them is the worst possible approach you can take toward your health.

Obesity, as a morphological symptom, is a major change–and it just doesn’t happen overnight.  Once parents see it unfolding, they have a responsibility to act (neither children nor teens can make this decision on their own) and create change.  For parents of chubby or obese children, this also means how you decide to change.  A child isn’t going to change independently from his or her parents.  Are you going to change your diet to a more healthful one?  Are you going to eat less, and decrease your intake of junk foods, fast foods and sodas?  Are you going to work out, play sports with your kids or take fitness classes together?  Your child isn’t going to change without you–you’ve got to change as well.  And simply dishing them off to Little League will not do either, as building their confidence before they compete in groups will be paramount to their psychological health and well-being.  The bottom line is that parents must get actively involved in the obese child’s life, if they are to stand a chance of losing weight.

For new parents, it simply begins with creating good habits from the very start–the foods you expose your children to, the activities you share, how much television you watch, and so on.  You control the environment, and your choices contribute to your children’s bodies, and their health.

Obesity is reversible, that’s a fact.  How you see things, and how you approach the world determines your chances of overcoming (or your child overcoming) obesity.  Too many people lose weight for it to simply be a ‘hopeless situation’.  Blaming obesity on genetics, hormones, depression, lack of health insurance or anything else will not change the fact that everybody is capable of being either obese or anorexic, as well as everything else in-between; it just comes down to one’s habits in determining where one will weigh-in on the scale.  You have the power to change anything with regard to your health, or that of your child’s.  Understanding this, and fully embracing it, is the only way to create lasting changes.  Denying it will only get you the same, which is definitely your prerogative, but don’t act as if you have no hand in the matter.

C’mon folks–let’s not go nuts.  You’ve got a bedbug problem–hire an exterminator; don’t try to do it on your own.  Duh!  A recent government report has disclosed that scores of Americans have fallen ill by playing bug executioner, and they are endangering family members in the process, including their children.

The report by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention showed that 80 illnesses and one death were linked to indoor insecticide use over the last three years.  Most of the cases were in New York, where bedbug infestations have been highly publicized due to a recent revival.  However, the CDC has collected data from twelve states, where seven reported accidental poisonings from insecticides used against the microscopic blood-suckers.

About 90% of the cases were linked to pyrethroids or pyrethrins, insecticides commonly used against bedbugs. Such products are not a health risk to most people but should still be applied by a trained exterminator, said Dr. Susi Vassallo, an emergency medicine doctor who works at New York City’s Bellevue Hospital Center and occasionally treats patients who report bedbug problems.

Although bedbugs pose no risk to people, some are getting hysterical over bugs feeding on them while they sleep, and are resorting to drastic measures.  A 65-year-old woman from Rocky Mount, N.C., with a history of heart trouble and other ailments, died after one such response.  She and her husband used nine cans of insecticide fogger one day, then the same amount two days later, without opening doors and windows to air out their home afterward.  She also covered her body and hair with another bedbug product, and covered her hair with a plastic shower cap.

Unsuspecting people have also been getting ill.  Take, for instance, two carpet cleaners who had not been told that an apartment they worked in had recently been treated with pesticides. Two others were emergency medical technicians who responded to a scene and were exposed to a white powder believed to be a pesticide.  Duh, people!

In some cases, a more dangerous and inappropriate product was used as the insecticide.  In 2010 in Ohio, a non-certified exterminator used malathion to rid an apartment of bedbugs, even though the chemical is never supposed to be used indoors. A couple and their 6-year-old child got sick.

Okay here goes: First off, use an exterminator.  Doing it yourself when it comes to toxic chemicals is not a good idea.  Would you do your own electrical wiring?  Forget I asked.  And if you do decide to be the bug executioner, can you at least try reading the labels on your products?  Duh?  Malathion?  Fer cryin’ out loud!  And could you please have the decency to tell your guests, workers, landlord or parents of your kids’ friends that you’ve just sprayed toxic chemicals in your home?  Can they have a choice…please?

I wouldn’t like bedbugs, either–but I’m not going to endanger my family over a freakout.  If you can’t drop the coin for professional help, then maybe follow some guidelines, like these set forth by the National Park Service: You’ve got to fill cracks and crevices with caulk in ceilings, walls and corners.  And boric acid works well, although it’s toxic to humans and animals, too.  And clean your house, dagnamit!  I know nobody wants to accept this part of the equation, but it’s not a judgment…just a fact.  Be smart about fighting bedbugs–that’s all.

Last month I showed you the second step in a balance training regimen–the one-legged balance.  You’ll want to practice this on its own, as well as with a little challenge, to stimulate your proprioceptive system enough to prepare you for the third step–the rocker board.

Rocker boards can be purchased online or from your local neighborhood (Beverly Hills) sports chiropractor.  A rocker board is a flat surface sitting on top of an angled fulcrum (30 degrees usually).  It creates instability in one plane, either forward/backward, diagonally or side-to-side depending on how the board is turned relative to the person.  Each plane adds a unique challenge to the balancer, and mastering all three planes, both with two legs and on single legs, is necessary to move onto the next level–the wobble board.

Once again, it’s important to have a friend challenge you by tossing an object (ball, chainsaw, feral cat) back and forth with you as you balance.  Not only is balancing on one leg a phenomenal challenge, but transitioning from one leg to the other should also prove demanding.  Once you sufficiently master the rocker board, you can graduate to the wobble board or Bosu ball which are unstable in every plane, and thus significantly more difficult.

Proprioceptive training is not only for balance but also for motor coordination, proper weight distribution and core strength; it helps elderly people to prevent falls (which can lead to fractures and even death); it’s great athletic training; and it’s imperative for rehabilitation from serious injuries.  I encourage everybody to take on a balance training regimen for health and function.

Watch the video below for a demonstration on using the rocker board, as well as tips on how to challenge yourself while balancing.  Keep rocking!

Listen up, peeps–your voice does matter, and it can make a difference.  I know many folks speaking out against the liberal use of antibiotics in animal feeds, and the governing bodies are listening.  In late May, consumer groups lodged complaints with the Food and Drug Administration denouncing the widespread use of antibiotics in animal feed and urged the agency to do more to halt the practice.  And just recently the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended restricting and even eliminating the use of antibiotics to boost animal growth.  Bravo!

Limiting the use of antibiotics in animal husbandry is suggested to reduce the risk of developing and transmitting resistant microbes to humans.  Antibiotic resistant bacteria, like Methicillin-resistant Staph aureus (MRSA), are believed to be transmissible to humans via farm animals, particularly pigs.  The mode of transmission can include meat consumption, being in close contact with the animals, or through the environment (groundwater contamination).

The European Union has already banned most antibiotics in animal feeds (with the exception of two in poultry feeds) since 2006, and Scandinavian studies have shown that restrictions have led to a decrease in resistant animal bacterial populations.

MRSA is not the only drug-resistant bacteria on the rise in animal products, either.  Bacteria resistant to fluoroquinolones and the most recent generations of cephalosporins have become more common.  Both these classes of drugs are considered essential to human health as a last line of defense to combat the most stubborn infections.  Resistance to third and fourth generation cephalosporins in Salmonella Heidelberg infections in humans has been increasing over the last several years.

According to Beth Karp, senior veterinary epidemiologist with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Between 2008 and 2010 resistance increased from 8 percent to 24 percent. In retail chickens isolates, resistance in Salmonella Heidelberg increase from 17 percent in 2008 to 31 percent in 2009.”
The strain is resistant to nearly all antibiotics.
We are well beyond a wake-up call here.  Antibiotic resistant bacteria is no joke, as we have seen what it can do during mass outbreaks like in 2007-2008.  More and more meat products are contaminated with these super-bugs, and with further neglect, it’ll only be a matter of time before we see another one (fluoroquinilone-resistant campylobacter is common in the U.S. in poultry products).
Again I say bravo to the WHO for taking a stand, as well as the USFDA for listening to consumers and passing on their recommendations to the meat growers industry.  As for meat manufacturers, I hope you are listening.  I get wanting to provide product that’s beefier and all-around more aesthetically pleasing, but your current practices are a powder-keg waiting to explode.  Hopefully you’ll discontinue the practice of pumping-up livestock with antibiotics, hormones or anything else that you might be adding.  Just the meat, please–the people have spoken.

Here goes an exciting story, a symbiosis of human mind and computer, to solve a decade-long problem in the molecular structure of a key enzyme in an AIDS-like virus.  The feat was carried out by gamers playing an online game called Foldit, where groups compete to unfold chains of amino acids–the building blocks of proteins–using a set of online tools.  It is believed that this is the first time gamers have resolved a long-standing scientific problem.

Online gamers cracked the structural code of a retroviral monomeric protease enzyme, a cutting agent in the complex molecular tailoring of retroviruses, a family that includes HIV.  The game is a 3-D picture that “unfolds” the molecule and rotates it in order to reveal potential targets for drugs.  Looking at proteins through a microscope provides only a flat image of what looks like (to the untrained eye) a plate of one-dimensional scrunched-up spaghetti.

Understanding protein structure is important in understanding enzymatic function, substrate and environment to lead to strategies for combating viruses and other microorganisms.   Pharmacologists use structural information to devise drugs.

Foldit was developed in 2008 by the University of Washington.  “We wanted to see if human intuition could succeed where automated methods had failed,” Firas Khatib of the university’s biochemistry lab said in a press release.

“The ingenuity of game players is a formidable force that, if properly directed, can be used to solve a wide range of scientific problems.”
One of Foldit’s creators, Seth Cooper, explained why gamers had succeeded where computers had failed.
“People have spatial reasoning skills, something computers are not yet good at.  Games provide a framework for bringing together the strengths of computers and humans,” he said.
I love this latest breakthrough, not just because I am a molecular biologist by training, but because I am certain that man and computer will continue to evolve together in greater hybridization to the benefit of both in the near future.  This is simply one example of what will be accomplished from that symbiosis.  Bravo to online gamers!  And this should be food for thought to those that think video gaming is useless.  As I’ve contended repeatedly in this blog, all human interests have value, and we never know how our underappreciated skills will serve humanity in the future.

Congratulations medicine, you’ve done it!  You’ve now helped drugs pass traffic fatalities as a cause of death in the U.S.  Bravo!  That’s right, pushers–37,485 people die every year from prescription drug overdoses, according to preliminary data from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

While most other causes of preventable death are declining, drug deaths continue to rise.  Many blame the increases in prescriptions for pain pills and anxiety medications.  Well intentioned doctors, wanting to spare their patients from pain and suffering, have doled out these meds for years in a sort of illogical haze.  As a result, prescription drug deaths have double over the last decade, with a person overdosing every 14 minutes.

Back in the day when I was a coming up, celebrities and rock stars were ODing on heroin, cocaine, speedballs, barbiturates, and other illicit drugs, but not today!  Oh no, the new millennium is the era of Oxycontin, Vicodin, Xanax and antidepressants like Zoloft, Prozac and Paxil.  And we musn’t forget the legalized speed, Ritalin. 

Public health experts are now calling the current prescription drug trends “epidemic.”  Well no shiitake mushrooms–’bout time!  Pain killers and anti-anxiety meds are highly addictive and especially lethal when combined with other drugs, like alcohol.  And users (abusers) span every demographic from elderly ladies (like my patient on daily Fentanyl patches–100 times more potent than morphine) to children (known to get into their parents stash with tragic results).  Prescription drugs kill more people than heroin and cocaine combined.  Booyah!  Something we can all be proud of…

Why what do you mean, Campos?  Nobody is off the hook on this one: Yes, doctors are to blame because they dole out these drugs like candy.  Yes, the pharmaceutical industry is to blame because they have aggressively marketed drugs to doctors by incentivizing high prescription volumes with trips and other gifts, as well as to the public through direct-to-consumer adds in magazines and on television.  And yes, the public is the most to blame because they’ve been asking for these drugs by name.  Why?  Because it’s an easy way to get high.  And who doesn’t like getting high?

But the most important lesson to be learned from all this is that everything comes with it’s flip side.  So yes, your doctor can help you get high…or stay out of pain…or fool you into thinking you’re happy all the time…but not without a price.  And that price is often life.  Your game, your choice–the newest numbers just show how many people are playing.

A few posts back we discussed proprioception, our ability to know where we are positionally, and our sense of movement. I showed the short foot exercise, which is a powerful precursor to balance training. In this post, I am providing a video to get you started on balance training. By balancing–and constantly being challenged while balancing–proprioceptors become conditioned, and this will help you gain stability, strength and endurance.

A great beginners balancing exercise that comes from yoga is called “tree pose“. Watch the video to get an idea of how to do a tree pose, and practice daily. You, can challenge yourself by simply bringing the hands to the chest in a prayer pose. This simple movement will increase the difficulty of tree pose significantly. For even more challenge, you can eventually raise your arms in the air (harder) and start looking up to the ceiling while maintaining the two poses (even harder). Have fun.

Another great balancing exercise is called “one-legged balancing“. This is simpler in that you do not have to worry about placing you feet or hands to get into the pose. To challenge yourself you can have a friend throw a ball, keys or any other object for you to catch while maintaining balance. Juggling chainsaws will come later; just master the one-legged balance while being challenged and you’ll soon be ready for the next level–the rocker board!

Watch the video to get the best rudimentary exercises for balancing, and thus training your proprioceptive system. Believe me when I say that everything from your athletic performance to your ability to remain pain free relies on it.  Happy balancing.

I had an interesting case come into my office this last week, a 3-month-old boy that was having difficulty sleeping and the inability to turn his head to the right.  When his parent tried to turn his head to the right, the child would start to scream and cry.  The parents reported that the boy had refused the breast from early on, and was therefore on formula, and also that his left eye drooped a little.

Upon examination I noticed that his right occipital bone (back skull) appeared to be protruding backward, yet he was turning his head toward the left, which was an oddity to me.  If, for instance, his occiput was rotated backward on the right, he would turn his head to the right, but not to the left.  This, of course, was not the case.

Not Child’s Actual MRI: for illustrative purposes

I realized that his right occipital bone was jammed into the first cervical vertebra, and rotated backward on the left.  But why did it appear as if he was rotated back on the right.  It was an optical illusion that was perpetuated by increased muscular tone on the left side of the back of his skull (see picture).  Further, I believe that because he was lying on his back (to prevent sudden infant death syndrome or SIDS), he might have caused a bit of flattening known as plagiocephaly, which should correct now that he is improving.

I guess I gave it away, but I treated him by lifting his occipital condyle off of the first cervical vertebra.  With a little left to right rotation, the infant was immediately turning his head to the right (see pictures).  For his eye drooping I did some light adjustments of his hand and foot digits on the opposite side (in this case the right), and sent he and his family on their way, with instructions to return two days later.

I saw the little guy again on Saturday, when his father told me that “whatever you did worked, because he slept that day like he hadn’t in weeks.”  His eye also seemed to normalize somewhat.  When I worked on him this time, he was giggling and cooing throughout the light chiropractic infant adjustments.  It was amazing!

On day three (today), he looks like a totally different kid.  His head was sitting straight, he was calm and his eyes seemed nearly fully symmetrical.  I believe that this condition is not that uncommon, as the birthing process can be tough on a baby.  Somewhere through the canal, his head jammed.  Although I am certain he would have adapted to the malformation, probably with an increased thoracic hump (hunchback), correcting the problem now prevents any neurological compromise or even learning difficulties that could arise from the deformity.

Cases like this make my work so rewarding.  I only wish more people would take their children in for regular chiropractic checkups.  Sometimes the fussing and crying some babies go through has to do with a structural deformity.  I can’t imagine having your occiput jammed into your spine feels good.  It sure didn’t for that little tyke, but he feels a lot better now.  And so do his parents.  God bless chiropractic.

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