Friday, April 29, 2011

Essential Tips For Joint Pain

A joint is where two or more bones meet, helping to create a range of movement that makes us mobile, agile, and able. Some joints can provide us with wide movement possibilities, such as in the shoulders and hips, others provide us with limited movement, such in the vertebrae, and others still with little movement at all, such as in the skull.  No matter what the natural range of movement is, all joints work together to help us feel free and easy as we move through life.  When joints are impaired we feel frustrated and stymied, which often affects our state of mind.

A Bit About Joints
What holds the joints together are tendons, which attach muscles to the bones along with ligaments, which stabilize the joints by helping to link the bones to each other.  Bones are generally coated with a slickish cartilage that helps reduce friction as well as fluids that help to lubricate the entire joint structure.  When a joint is injured, the cartilage hardens and begins to deteriorate, causing swelling and pain in the surface of the area if the condition is not treated properly.  When swelling occurs, the muscles are then impinged, creating less movement between the bones in the area of injury.

Whether it is due to constant and repetitive movement, injury, overuse, or the aging process, joint pain can be debilitating and disheartening.  When the joints are not functioning properly, tiny sacs called bursae are also affected.  Bursae are located in  between the joints in order to prevent  bones from rubbing together and also to cushion joints against shock.  If an injured joint is not taken care of, the cartilage and bursae become damaged, consequently affecting neural passageways and causing greater discomfort during movement. 

Dancers, gymnasts, weight trainers, and athletes often suffer from injuries to weight-bearing joints such as the hips, knees, and feet.  Tennis players are especially susceptible to shoulder joint injury from improper placement when swinging the racket. This  excessive friction on the tendons located in the rotator cuff (a group of four muscles that surround the shoulder joint) can cause swelling leading to painful tendonitis.  Other conditions that lead to joint pain include:
·      Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
·      Sciatica
·      Chronic back pain
·      Osteoarthritis
·      Rheumatoid arthritis
·      Post traumatic injury
·      Post surgical recovery

Joint pain is not something you have to live with, as it can be treated through a number of protocols.

Heat and Massage
Applying heated bags filled with buckwheat or other small grains are an excellent way to relieve pain due to joint injury.  Putting a bag in the microwave and then placing it over the area will help prepare the joint for massage, which is best done with eucalyptus or castor oil.  Steam baths are also good ways to soothe aching joints, especially before a massage.

Careful and slow exercise helps to fortify muscles surrounding the joints while also strengthening the bones, controlling weight, and toning the body.  Exercise also contributes to a sense of well-being.  People who do not exercise regularly generally have weak supporting muscles, which can lead to stress on the joints which can ultimately cause injury.

If you suffer from a joint injury go very slowly and examine any limitations regarding your range of movement. Respectfully observe these limitations without trying to push through them.  Be patient.  Hatha yoga classes or remedial yoga is a good way to gently move the body in order to strengthen the areas around the joints.  If you feel sharp pain at any time, this is a clue for you to move more modestly.  Always wear warm clothing when you exercise and make sure you warm up thoroughly before going on to stronger movements.  Warming up in toasty clothing helps to relax and prepare the joints and muscles. You can also apply hot packs to the area before and after exercise for added warmth.  Slow, controlled movement of the joints helps improve the circulation of blood in the area, which is important for healing.  Exercise also helps to remove the toxins and wastes that can accumulate in injured areas.

Somatic Movement
Trust your body as you move as it has its own wisdom regarding the healing process. One very effective way to help heal injuries is by allowing  innate movements to occur.  Listen closely to your body by closing your eyes and slowing down the breath until you feel that you are breathing deeply and rhythmically.  Inhale slowly though the nose counting to four, hold the breath for four counts and then exhale slowly from the mouth for six counts, hold for two and repeat until you feel calm and relaxed.  Dissolving tension in this way allows the body to do its own somatic healing.  You may find that your body will begin to move on its own without the interference of the mind. As it does, it will seek out movement to help bring itself back to health and freedom from pain. Do this as often as needed until it becomes a regular practice that you can rely on not only to help with joint pain, but also to help relieve stress and to get you more in touch with each part of your body.

Supplements for Joint Pain
There are several potent supplements that you can take to help diminish wear and tear on your joints, ligaments, and cartilage.  
Calcium helps build strong bones and healthy joints, especially when combined with magnesium, which assists in its absorption. 
 Chondroitin is a long chain of sugars that are naturally found in the joints and connective tissues, helping them to stay resilient. Chondroitin blocks the enzymes that can destroy cartilage. 
 Glucosamine is a “synergistic” amino acid that comes from hydrolyzed collagen, a primary protein naturally found in connective tissues and cartilage that repairs damage and ensures flexibility. 
 MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) helps to keep the ligaments in healthy condition and is usually found in combination with other joint-building compounds. 
Omega 3, 6, and 9 helps prevent and reduce joint inflammation. The Omegas are made of long chains of linoleic and alpha-linolenic acids that help reduce inflammation as well as  boost the immune system, regulate blood pressure, lower insulin sensitivity, and more.  You can buy Omega 3, 6, and 9 in gel cap form, or get your daily dose from  flax seed or borage oil.  Put the oil on your salads or add it to any smoothie to get the best results.
Selenium helps reduces inflammation in the joints while serving as an antioxidant, helping to eradicate free radicals that compromise the immune system. 
Vitamins E and C   heal and help repair muscles, ligaments, and cartilage. They also help to reduce bruising while contributing to overall health.

 Note:  Before embarking on a supplement protocol, be sure to consult with your healthcare provider.  Always buy organic formulas as they are easier to absorb.

Foods for Joint Health
One of the most important things you can do for the health and repair of your joints is to eat intelligently.  This means buying fresh organic fruits and vegetables and avoiding foods that can irritate injured areas. 

Foods to avoid when suffering from joint injury include:
·      Red meat
·      Too much protein
·      Hot and spicy foods
·      Deep fried foods
·      Fast foods
·      Sugar
·      Soft drinks

Foods that help repair and heal joints:
·      Fresh fruits contain abundant vitamin C and more…
·      Apricots
·      Avocados
·      Blueberries
·      Cantaloupe
·      Dates
·      Grapefruit
·      Papaya
·      Peaches
·      Pineapple
·      Broccoli, kale, and spinach contain large quantities of vitamin C and E
·      Salmon, brazil nuts, brown rice, and oatmeal are high in selenium
·      Beans
·      Lentils
·      Whole grain bread and cereal
·      Sunflower seeds
·      Tofu
·      Garlic
·      Fish contains the Omega 3 oils, especially oily fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines
·      Fenugreek

Remember that when it comes to joint pain, listen to your body.  Move slowly and lovingly, eat healthfully, and have patience.  

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Four Superfoods You Shouldn't Do Without!

There is a lot of excitement over super foods these days, and almost every health food stores now supplies them.  Yielding a powerful punch, these foods fortify the entire system by activating the immune system and providing extra anti-oxidant power.  This means that we are better able to deal with our toxic environment and stress.  And as we eat these super foods regularly,  it becomes evident that something wonderful is happening as our skin takes on a greater glow, our hair’s luster shines again, our nails grown stronger and longer, our resistance to illness increases, and our sense of well being becomes unstoppable.

Bee Pollen
I have already written about the benefits of bee pollen, but it is never a mistake to be redundant regarding this magnificent example of nature’s perfection.  As one of the most complete foods that exist, bee pollen contains almost all of the B vitamins, which makes it an important choice for vegetarians who may not get enough from the regular foods they eat. Additionally, bee pollen is filled with vitamins C and E as well as protein, carotenes, essential enzymes, amino acids, and necessary carbohydrates.  The bees certainly know what they are doing as they create a synthesis of nutrients that help to improve stamina and mental acuity while also contributing to weight loss, better skin, energy, libido, and enhancing fertility.

Note:  If you have allergies, check with your health care provider regarding your intake of bee pollen.
 When buying bee pollen, make sure it comes from organically grown flowers.

Cacao Nibs
Inside a thin shell, cacao beans cluster like little health bombs waiting to nourish your body.  With more than four times the antioxidant power found in green tea,  raw, organic cacao nibs help with cardiovascular health by dilating blood vessels, improving circulation, balancing blood pressure and heartbeat, lowering LDL cholesterol, reduce blood clotting, and preventing the risk of heart attacks and stroke.  As militant free radical fighters, they help the body resist the possibility of disease.   Cacao nibs also activate the secretion of endorphins, which makes us feel good as our neurotransmitters are increased.  Rich in magnesium, calcium, potassium, manganese, zinc and iron, these babies help to build bones, detoxify the liver, support pancreatic function, and enhance hair and nail health.  Additionally, cacao nibs contain  oleic acid, which is a healthy monounsaturated fat, which helps enhance good cholesterol.  Raw, organic cacao nibs make an excellent snack, especially when combined with goji berries (see below), almonds, and raisons ~ which is the super-pack I keep in my bag to munch on all day long. 
 For extra information on cacao in the form of dark, organic chocolate, please refer to this link: Dark Chocolate: No, really, its okay… go ahead!

 Goji Berries
Again, at the risk of being redundant, I must mention our friends the goji berries once more. Little red berries shaped in ovals, gojis (also known as wolfberries) are highly abundant in vitamins A, C, E, B1, B2, and B6.  An as an exceptionally potent phyto-nutrient, they are powerful antioxidants and anti-carcinogens so essential for fighting pathogens, viruses, and other toxins.  Helping to augment our immune systems, goji berries also help to prevent heart disease, power up brain function, and slow down the aging process.  Nibble on these gems throughout the day and witness how your energy levels stay constant and strong.

One of the most talked about super foods of our day, Maca is a brilliant adaptogen and mega antioxidant.  A root found in the Andean jungles, Maca is filled with B1, B12, C, calcium, and phosphorus, along with a bevy of other essential phyto-nutrients.  Maca is best known for balancing hormonal function, including assisting with heightening libido and enhancing fertility.  Maca also helps to add balance to the nervous system, increase physical and mental endurance, and fight against the signs of aging.  I place a heaping tablespoonful of Maca in my cooked oatmeal or whole grain cereal everyday, or in my daily smoothie of choice.  I will be writing more about Maca in the future as this powdered root really rocks the house!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Health and Alkalinity

Our health is directly related to the balance between alkalinity and acidity.  Too much alcohol, a meal high in fats and fried foods, too many sweets, too many allopathic medications, and exposure to external toxins can all lead to an acidic condition. When our acidic levels exceed the norm, we are then creating an internal environment that invites bacteria, viruses, and other unwanted guests to a very destructive party!  

 Over-acidity is one of the main culprits in creating dis-ease and all of its implications.

Acidosis, which is when the body holds a high acid count, happens when calcium and oxygen levels are low.  This condition prevents the body from defending itself against invasions of viruses, bacteria, fungi, yeast, and mold. When we have acidosis it is often accompanied by excess mucus and symptoms of colds and flu. Cancer cells love an acidic environment, as do other major diseases.

pH Balance
Preventing discomfort, illness, and disease comes with maintaining a high level of alkalinity in the body. When we observe a good pH balance we are strengthening the immune system, which is also essential in slowing down the aging process as well as assuring that our internal system is functioning at its best.  When the body obtains a healthy alkaline balance, our calcium and oxygen levels are then able to eliminate the cause of illness and disease, whereby we absorb up to 20 times more oxygen than when there is too much acid in our system. The healthier the body, the more oxygenated it is as toxins cannot survive in an oxygenated environment.   

Testing for pH
Our pH level is determined by the balance between an acidity and alkalinity.  It is easy to test for this by getting pH strips at your local drugstore.  Simply spit on the strip or pass a drop or two or your urine over it and watch what happens to its color. The chart on your package of strips will indicate your pH level at that moment. If the strip turns blue, you are in good alkaline health.  If it turns another color, you will see by the number where you stand in terms of pH balance. Ideally we should maintain a balance at 7.4, which indicates a balance of pH. The greater the alkalinity, the more chance we have at maintaining health.

Losing Weight Through pH Balance
An alkaline system makes it easier to lose body fat. Acidosis inspires the body to protect itself against excess acid seeping into the organs by creating more body fat, which can lead to ulcers and other complications. In this state, the body has difficulty absorbing nutrients as well as producing sufficient calcium. This can lead to a search for extra calcium in the teeth and bones, where the body will extract it for the organs to share, thus causing teeth and bones to weaken.  In the case of our teeth, this leads to weakened structure as well as decay.  In the case of our bones, this leads to depleted bone mass, which in turn leads to osteoporosis.  When we have a higher degree of alkaline present, the body can maintain its proper calcium and oxygen levels, helping us to maintain an ideal weight while insuring our teeth and bones the calcium and other nutrients that they need.

Eating Alkaline
Our diet determines our level of pH.  What eat causes us to either absorb or combat external toxins that compete to turn our systems into acid factories.

Drinking pure, filtered water along with the juice of a freshly squeezed lemon is a great way to keep the body alkalized, especially if you feel the symptoms of acidosis.  Add a tablespoon of sodium bicarbonate to give yourself an extra boost of alkaline, especially if you have had too much alcohol and want to avoid a hangover the next day.  You can also look for alkaline water at your local health food store.

Exercise helps the body maintain an alkaline state, especially exercises that do not over-tax the muscles into creating excess lactic acid. When we exercise, we are filling our cells with needed oxygen, which helps to eradicate excess acid. Varying your workout throughout the week will keep your cells oxygenated while strengthening and toning the body.

Taking vitamins that help oxidize fats and carbohydrates such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and the B vitamins can be helpful, especially if your healthcare provider feels you are not getting enough of these nutrients from your foods.

Here is a partial list of foods high in alkaline content. Make sure they comprise the predominant part of your menu each day and you will celebrate a healthy body with reduced body fat that exults in consistent energy:
·      Broccoli
·      Brussels sprouts
·      Cabbage
·      Carrots
·      Cauliflower
·      Celery
·      Kale
·      Spinach
·      Tomatoes
·      Apricots
·      Bananas
·      Citrus fruit (grapefruit, lemons, oranges)
·      Almonds
·      Millet

Buy organically grown foods that are grown by local farmers whenever possible. If you are eating acid foods, eat a larger quantity of alkaline-based food to keep your pH at or above 7.4. 

Here is a partial list of acid-forming foods:
·      Animal proteins
·      Poultry
·      Eggs
·      Seafood
·      Most cereal grains
·      Butter and margarine
·      Cheese
·      Pasta
·      Peanuts
·      Chocolate
·      Coffee and tea
·      Alcohol

Smoking can also lead to acidity, but by now of course, if you smoked you have stopped!  If you do eat meat and poultry, make sure you buy them free range, farm-raised and without hormones and other additives that create a high acidic level.

Other Advantages of Proper Alkalinity
When our bodies are at a proper alkaline-acid ratio, we are also helping to enhance our brain function through the support of extra oxygen intake. With a healthily alkalized system we also experience a sense of emotional balance as our digestive system functions optimally and we feel the absence of aches, pains, and other debilitating symptoms. As we all know, feeling well is the key to creating a better life for ourselves and those around us, as well as giving us a sense of joy and appreciation for the world we live in.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Four Essentials for Developing Healthy Habits For Life

One of the first steps in creating healthy habits is to take an objective look at our present lifestyle as it relate to diet, exercise, sleep, and our overall outlook.  These four elements comprise a basic foundation that can lead to optimum health or to dis-ease, depending on the habits we have developed over time.  If we look clearly at our present choices and match them against how holistic health is defined, it becomes easier to see what needs to be changed and what needs to be more clearly encouraged.

Reducing Toxins
Because we are constantly exposed to toxins, be it through our foods, the environment, or through stress, one of the most essential ingredients in beginning   a healthy regimen is to reduce toxic intake.  Learning to identify harmful additives is the first step in determining which foods are healthful and which are not. Reading food labels carefully and choosing natural products is essential if we want to make substantial changes in our diet. Consuming fresh organic produce as often as possible, making our local health food store our grocery-shopping destination, and steering clear of foods containing GMO modified products is a great way to begin. Choosing recipes that require steaming, lightly sautéing, baking, and broiling instead of frying will also ensure a more conscious health practice.  Additionally, reducing toxic elements in the home is essential for a healthful lifestyle.  This means using Green household cleaning products and buying allergy and toxic-free materials instead of those that contain harmful chemicals.  A little bit of research into these areas can keep us informed of the latest green products on the market as well as how to make our own.

Exercising daily, whether it is lifting weights, engaging in aerobic exercise, enjoying a favorite active sport, or joining a yoga, martial arts, or dance class are excellent ways to strengthen and tone our muscles and organs. Additionally, these types of activities help to reduce toxic waste through our perspiration.  Physical exercise is also a great way to reduce stress, which in turn eliminates toxins.

Quality Sleep
Getting a healthful dose of quality sleep each night is essential for a solid and enduring health practice.  Try to get to bed at the same time each night.  Focus on deep, rhythmic breathing to release the tensions of the day and drink a cup of soothing tea such as chamomile before retiring to ensure a restful and uninterrupted sleep.

A Positive Outlook
Focusing on a positive outlook is one of the key factors in a healthful lifestyle.  Staying in the present is one way to keep centered and clear.  There are many practices that help keep the mind free of stress such as meditation and breathing exercises.  Finding  a suitable practice and incorporating its teachings whenever we feel tension helps us to stay on track.  Optimism is cumulative and is one of the most important elements in creating and maintaining healthy habits that will endure.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Stretch Marks Minimized, Naturally!

Stretch marks can be a kind of emblem of the birth of your child, but most people who have them are bent on finding ways to eliminate or at least minimize them.  Laser treatments and all sorts of pharmaceutical potions are available everywhere, but these can be expensive and not always foolproof.

Stretch marks are the result of the skin expanding rapidly to the point where connective fibers break, causing collagen production to stop. This often happens when there is quick weight gain and then loss, such as in a pregnancy, a well as with bodybuilders who push their lifting beyond the limit. Stretch marks appear when the level of what is known as glucocorticoids increase throughout the bloodstream.  Glucocorticoids are hormones that are secreted by the adrenal glands during weight loss, pregnancy, weight lifting, and in the case of Cushing’s syndrome.  Stretch marks left are generally red or purple, fading into a sliver or whitish color through time.  This type of scarring in medical terms is called vergetures, line albicane, or straie distensae, but to us mere mortals, ‘stretch mark’ is more than moniker enough.

Natural Fats and Oils
There are many natural products that help to minimize the appearance of stretch marks. Tried and true through time is cocoa butter, which comes from the cacao bean.  A vegetable fat, cacao butter fortifies the skin with layers of moisture that helps keep the skin supple.  Using cacao butter on a daily basis will also help discourage the potential appearance of stretch marks, so if you are pregnant, generously rub the cream on your stomach, breasts, hips, and buttocks throughout the months.

Specific oils will also help to keep the skin moist and pliable. Applying the following to your skin, targeting the stretch marks that you may already have, can help to soften their appearance:

  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin A
  • Rose oil
  • Wheat germ oil
  • Cod liver oil
  • Olive oil
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Lavender oil

Massage any one or a combination of these oils into the skin and you will see improvement over time.

Aloe Vera and Lemon
A combination of aloe vera and fresh lemon juice is another way to reduce the offence of stretch marks. Aloe vera is exceptionally healthful for skin ( and lemon is a natural skin lightener. Applying this little formula to your stretch marks will help to make them less noticeable.

Apricot Scrub
A good apricot seed scrub is another way to soften the area.  Just as you would apply the scrub to clean the pores of your face, apply to your stretch marks to soften and diminish their harsh lines.

Vitamin C
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient for enhancing collagen production.  Daily doses of C can help improve all skin conditions.  Applying a formula of vitamin C combined with glycolic acid as well as retinoids will help to smooth out the area and prevent further marks from forming.

Diet and Exercise
Eating balanced meals filled with fresh, organic fruits and vegetables is key to keeping the skin healthy and mark-free.  Even if  you don’t  have stretch marks, you must drink a lot of water every single day to help with the elimination of toxins and to keep the skin plump and youthful.  Avoid foods that are high in fat as this fat will be stored in the body, causing stretch marks to swell and expand. 

Exercise, as we all know helps to tone the body and reduce fat deposits.  Concentrate on the areas where you have stretch marks in order to tighten the zone by doing isometric exercises, yoga, or other similar practices.

Love Thyself!
The most important thing you can do for your stretch marks in the end is to embrace them, as they may never totally be eliminated.  By loving your body and appreciating who you are, your stretch marks will then diminish in your own eyes, as well as in the eyes of those who love you.  Your confidence is contagious and will cause others to see you the way you wish to be seen… as beautiful as you are, no matter what changes your body may go though.