Snooze, Recharge, Repeat: Improving Health through Quality Sleep

In a recent episode of the Huberman Lab guest series, Dr. Matthew Walker, professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, shared groundbreaking findings on the importance of sleep in maintaining overall health. As an expert in sleep research, Dr. Walker shed light on the intricate connections between sleep, mental health, physical health, and performance.

The Biology of Sleep

Dr. Walker began by explaining the different stages of sleep, including the various cycles that occur throughout the night. He emphasised the importance of these cycles in regulating emotions, learning, and neuroplasticity – our brain’s ability to adapt and change in response to experience. “Sleep is not just something we do to feel rested,” Dr. Walker noted. “It’s a vital process that plays a crucial role in our overall well-being.”

The Evolution of Sleep Research

Historically, sleep was viewed as a simple process involving two stages: REM (rapid eye movement) and NREM (non-rapid eye movement). However, Dr. Walker’s research has shed light on the complex, multi-stage nature of sleep. He explains that there are three main stages of NREM sleep: Stage 1, where we transition from wakefulness to sleep; Stage 2, characterised by slower brain waves and a decrease in body temperature; and Stage 3, also known as deep sleep or slow-wave sleep, where our brain activity slows further.

The Discovery of Deep Sleep

Dr. Walker’s team has made significant advancements in understanding the role of deep sleep (Stage 3) in our overall health. They found that this stage is crucial for physical restoration and immune function. In fact, Dr. Walker suggests that a lack of deep sleep can have far-reaching consequences, including increased inflammation and reduced cognitive function.

The Importance of REM Sleep

REM sleep, often associated with vivid dreams, also plays a vital role in our health. Dr. Walker’s research highlights the importance of this stage for memory consolidation, emotional processing, and the clearance of toxins from the brain. He emphasises that adequate amounts of REM sleep are essential for maintaining mental well-being.

The Connection Between Sleep and Health

Dr. Walker’s work has shown a strong link between sleep quality and overall health. He explains that sleep is not just a passive process but an active one, where our body works to repair and rejuvenate itself. This includes the clearance of toxins from the brain, the regulation of hormones, and the maintenance of cardiovascular health.

The Consequences of Poor Sleep

Dr. Walker mentioned several studies that have shed light on the consequences of poor sleep in the USA, including:

  • The National Sleep Foundation’s 2015 survey, which found that 30% of Americans reported getting less than six hours of sleep per night.
  • A meta-analysis published in the journal SLEEP in 2018, which found that sleep deprivation is associated with a increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • A study published in the journal Science in 2020, which found that sleep plays a critical role in regulating the immune system and reducing inflammation.
  • The American Academy of Sleep Medicine’s 2015 report, which found that approximately 70 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep disorders.
  • A study published in the journal Sleep Health in 2020, which found that individuals who get less than seven hours of sleep per night are more likely to experience depression and anxiety.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) 2019 report, which found that sleep deprivation is a major public health concern, with approximately 1 in 3 adults getting less than seven hours of sleep per night.

When sleep is compromised, the consequences can be far-reaching. Dr. Walker highlighted the impact of poor sleep on mental health, physical health, and performance. He discussed how sleep deprivation can lead to changes in gene activity profiles, causing immune system impairment, increased risk of chronic inflammation, cardiovascular disease, and even cancer.

Practical Tools for Improving Sleep

Dr. Walker emphasised that improving sleep is not only possible but also crucial for maintaining good health. He shared the following practical tips for optimising sleep quality, quantity, regularity, and timing:

  • Cool Down: Exposure to cold temperatures has been shown to increase alertness and boost melatonin production. Try taking a 10-minute cool shower or bath before bedtime.
  • Heat Up: On the other hand, gentle heat exposure can help relax the body and promote sleep. Try using a warm bath or a heating pad on your back before bed.
  • Fitness Fix: Regular exercise is essential for overall health, but timing is crucial when it comes to sleep. Aim for physical activity at least 3-4 hours before bedtime to avoid disrupting your sleep.
  • Digital Detox: The blue light emitted from screens can suppress melatonin production and interfere with sleep. Try using blue light filtering glasses or apps, or avoiding screens for at least an hour before bed.
  • Sunlight Exposure: Morning sunlight exposure helps regulate our circadian rhythms, which is essential for good sleep. Spend some time outside in the morning, or open your curtains to let natural light in.
  • Food and Drink: What we eat and drink can also impact our sleep. Dr. Walker recommends avoiding heavy meals and stimulating drinks like coffee and tea close to bedtime. Instead, opt for a warm, non-caffeinated beverage like herbal tea or milk.
  • Alcohol: When it comes to alcohol, Dr. Walker emphasises that it’s not a good idea to drink too much in the hours leading up to bedtime. While a small amount of wine may help you relax, excessive drinking can disrupt your sleep patterns and reduce the quality of your sleep.

Conclusion

Dr. Walker’s research has far-reaching implications for our understanding of sleep and its impact on our overall well-being. He emphasises that individual differences play a significant role in determining what constitutes optimal sleep for each person. Rather than focusing solely on quantity, he stresses the importance of quality sleep, regularity, and timing.

His research showed intricate connections between sleep, mental health, physical health, and performance. By sharing his findings and practical tools, Dr. Walker is empowering individuals to take control of their sleep and overall well-being. As the Huberman Lab guest series continues, listeners can expect more insights into the world of sleep science and its applications in everyday life.

Myth: Chiropractic is only for Injuries and Accidents

At Happy Healthy Bodies, we often come across misconceptions about chiropractic care. One common myth we’d like to debunk is that chiropractic is solely intended for treating injuries and accidents. While chiropractic care is indeed effective in helping individuals recover from injuries, its benefits extend far beyond just that.

Understanding Chiropractic Care

Chiropractic care is a holistic approach to wellness that focuses on optimizing the function of the nervous system and the musculoskeletal system. Chiropractors are highly trained healthcare professionals who specialize in diagnosing and treating conditions related to the spine, joints, and nervous system. They use hands-on adjustments and other techniques to realign the body and promote natural healing.

The Role of Chiropractic in Injury Recovery

It’s true that chiropractic care is a valuable tool for individuals recovering from injuries and accidents. Whether it’s a sports injury, workplace incident, or an automobile accident, chiropractic adjustments can help reduce pain, inflammation, and promote faster healing. By restoring proper alignment to the spine and joints, chiropractors can alleviate pressure on nerves and improve overall mobility.

Beyond Injuries: The Many Benefits of Chiropractic Care

While injury recovery is an essential aspect of chiropractic care, its benefits don’t end there. Chiropractic can play a vital role in improving overall health and well-being. Here are some of the other conditions and concerns that chiropractic care can address:

  1. Back and Neck Pain: Chronic back and neck pain can significantly impact your quality of life. Chiropractic adjustments can provide relief from pain by restoring proper spinal alignment and reducing muscle tension.
  2. Headaches and Migraines: Many headaches are caused by tension and misalignments in the neck and upper back. Chiropractic care can help alleviate headache frequency and intensity.
  3. Posture Improvement: Poor posture is becoming increasingly common due to our sedentary lifestyles. Chiropractic adjustments can help correct postural issues and prevent further complications.
  4. Joint Pain and Arthritis: Chiropractic care can help manage joint pain caused by conditions like arthritis, promoting better joint function and reducing inflammation.
  5. Enhanced Athletic Performance: Athletes can benefit from regular chiropractic care as it can improve flexibility, range of motion, and overall performance.
  6. Stress Reduction: Chiropractic adjustments not only help with physical issues but can also contribute to reducing stress by promoting relaxation and improving sleep.

Conclusion

At Happy Healthy Bodies, we are dedicated to providing comprehensive chiropractic care that goes beyond treating injuries and accidents. While our chiropractors are skilled in injury recovery, our goal is to help you achieve overall health and wellness. If you’re experiencing pain, discomfort, or seeking to improve your well-being, chiropractic care may be the solution you need.

Don’t let myths about chiropractic hold you back from experiencing the numerous benefits it offers. If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us or schedule an appointment. Our team of chiropractors is here to support you on your journey to better health.

References

  1. Chiropractic Care for Injuries and Accidents:
  2. Chiropractic Care for Back and Neck Pain:
  3. Chiropractic Care for Headaches and Migraines:
  4. Chiropractic Care for Posture Improvement:
  5. Chiropractic Care for Joint Pain and Arthritis:
  6. Chiropractic Care and Athletic Performance:

The Power of Squatting: Preventing Low Back Injuries for a Healthier You

Today, we’re excited to share valuable insights on a simple yet powerful exercise that can play a significant role in preventing low back injuries – the squat. Whether you’re an athlete, a fitness enthusiast, or someone looking to improve their overall health, incorporating squats into your routine can make a world of difference.

Why Squatting Matters

Squatting is a fundamental human movement that engages multiple muscle groups, including the core, glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings. When performed correctly, squats not only strengthen these muscles but also promote flexibility, stability, and balance. The benefits of incorporating squats into your exercise regimen go far beyond just building strong legs; they also contribute to a healthy spine and reduce the risk of low back injuries.

The Role of Squats in Preventing Low Back Injuries

  1. Strengthening Core Muscles: A strong core is essential for maintaining proper spinal alignment and stability. Squats engage the deep core muscles, helping to support the spine during various movements and activities.
  2. Improving Posture: Poor posture is a common cause of low back pain. Squats encourage an upright posture, reducing the strain on your lower back and preventing undue pressure on spinal discs.
  3. Enhancing Hip Mobility: Squats involve a wide range of motion in the hips, which helps improve flexibility and reduce the likelihood of overloading the lumbar spine during daily activities.
  4. Engaging Glutes and Hamstrings: Weak glutes and hamstrings can lead to compensatory movements that strain the lower back. Squats target these muscle groups, promoting balanced strength distribution and reducing the risk of injury.

Tips for Safe Squatting

To maximise the benefits and minimise the risk of injury during squatting exercises, keep the following tips in mind:

  1. Form is Key: Maintain a neutral spine throughout the squat, avoiding excessive arching or rounding of the back.
  2. Start Slowly: If you’re new to squats or have existing back issues, start with body-weight squats or use light resistance. Gradually increase intensity as your strength and form improve.
  3. Warm-Up: Prioritise a proper warm-up to prepare your muscles and joints for the exercise.
  4. Seek Professional Guidance: If you’re unsure about your technique or have specific health concerns, consult a qualified fitness trainer or healthcare professional, like our team at [Your Chiropractic Clinic’s Name].

Conclusion

As chiropractors dedicated to your overall well-being, we believe that prevention is key to a healthy and active life. By incorporating squats into your exercise routine, you’re not only building strength and endurance but also safeguarding your spine against low back injuries. Remember, your body is unique, so it’s essential to tailor your fitness plan to suit your specific needs and goals.

For personalised guidance on how to incorporate squats into your exercise routine safely, or if you’re experiencing any discomfort or low back pain, we’re here to help. Contact us at Happy Healthy Bodies to schedule a consultation with our experienced team.

Stay tuned for more informative posts on health, wellness, and injury prevention from Happy Healthy Bodies!

References

  1. McGill, S. M. (1992). “Low back exercises: evidence for improving exercise regimens.” Physical Therapy, 72(10), 878-886.
  2. Gullett, J. C., Tillman, M. D., Gutierrez, G. M., & Chow, J. W. (2009). “A biomechanical comparison of back and front squats in healthy trained individuals.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 23(1), 284-292.
  3. Hartmann, H., Wirth, K., Klusemann, M., Dalic, J., Matuschek, C., & Schmidtbleicher, D. (2013). “Influence of squatting depth on jumping performance.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 27(12), 3229-3233.
  4. Akuthota, V., Nadler, S. F., & Faden, J. S. (2004). “Core strengthening.” Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 85(3), S86-S92.
  5. Kim, J. E., Kim, T. H., & Lee, B. H. (2015). “Effects of 4 weeks of resistance exercise on pain threshold and balance in subjects with chronic low back pain.” Journal of Physical Therapy Science, 27(11), 3595-3598.
  6. American Council on Exercise (ACE). (n.d.). “Exercise Library: Squat.” Retrieved from: https://www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/lifestyle/exercise-library/59/squat

Headache? Backache?

Haven’t you ever wondered why humans have to endure such debilitating conditions as headache and backache?  If you watch a lot of television, you will be bombarded with advertisements for analgesics (such as aspirin, paracetamol, ibuprofen, and the list goes on).  They all claim to provide some version of  “fast, effective temporary relief of aches and pains, such as headaches, migraine headaches, and back pain”, as well as other body pains. They are commonly called pain-killers.

From an anatomical viewpoint, we know that pain is an instinctive response, initiated by our brain to protect our bodies, by getting us to stop doing what we are doing, as it is potentially causing us harm to continue to do it.  Our pain changes from being local to the area of injury, when we have “simple” injuries, to a more general headache or backache response when the injury, or stress, is a result of adverse chemical, emotional or “compound” physical injuries1.

The best way to imagine how this works is the view “pain” as the engine light on the dash of all motor vehicles.  When the engine light comes on, it a top level signal that indicates that something general is wrong with your engine but does not tell you what it is.  Treating pain with a pain-killer is analogous to sticking black tape over the engine light in your car.   I am sure you have heard many a jokes about people who do this, yet we are led to believe, when watching popular media, that it’s OK to do this when our body gives us the same danger signals.

The actual pain you feel, may be the result of any number of causes, including physical (injury), body chemistry or mental (e.g. stress) and in many cases may not even be in the same part of the body as the source of the problem.

Chiropractors do not “treat” headaches or backaches.  All professional chiropractors in Australia have undergone a minimum of 5 years of university education to enable them to perform medical diagnosis of your body in order to attempt to find the thing that is triggering the pain response.

So before you rush into the store to buy you next pain-killer, consider what your body is telling you and perhaps consider getting some professional medical diagnosis from your chiropractor and allow them to help get to the root cause of your headache or backache and offer appropriate treatment.

References

  1. NeuWrite West: Pain in the Brain (this article explains the pain phenomena we experience and also cites numerous technical references)

Why Is Informed Consent Important?

Informed consent  is a person’s decision, given voluntarily, to agree to a healthcare treatment, procedure or other intervention that is made:

  • Following the provision of accurate and relevant information about the healthcare intervention and alternative options available; and
  • With adequate knowledge and understanding of the benefits and material risks of the proposed intervention relevant to the person who would be having the treatment, procedure or other intervention.

Ensuring informed consent is properly obtained is a legal, ethical and professional requirement on the part of all treating health professionals and supports person-centred care.  Good clinical practice involves ensuring that informed consent is validly obtained and appropriately timed.

Informed consent is integral to the right to information in the Australian Charter of Healthcare Rights, and recognised in Professional Codes of Conduct. Additionally, the National Safety and Quality Health Service Standards require all hospitals and day procedures services to have informed consent processes that comply with legislation, lawful requirements and best practice.

For there to be valid informed consent, the person consenting must:

  • Have the legal capacity to consent
  • Give their consent voluntarily
  • Give their consent to the specific treatment, procedure or other intervention being discussed
  • Have enough information about their condition, treatment options, the benefits and risks relevant to them, and alternative options for them to make an informed decision to consent.  This includes the opportunity to ask questions and discuss concerns.

These paragraphs above have been extracted from “Fact Sheet for clinicians – Informed consent in health care” 1.

When you come into our clinic you will be given some forms to complete which will help the chiropractor to understand your circumstances and initiate a diagnosis and subsequently recommend a treatment plan.  You will also be asked to complete an “Authorisation For And Consent to Treatment” form which outlines the benefits and risks associated with chiropractic care which will in turn allow you to give informed consent to any treatment offered.  In addition, at the time of the consultation, your practitioner will outline a treatment plan and again explain all available options, highlighting all risks and benefits of the proposed treatment.  If supplements are recommended in your treatments, your practitioner will also go through all of the risks and benefits with you, along with their recommended dosages.

As you can see, the fundamental principle of informed consent is that you are fully aware of all of the risks and benefits associated with your care plan and thereby you are in control of what is done to your body.  We therefore encourage you to ask questions if you are in doubt, or do not understand what is being proposed by your chiropractor.  Remember that is OK to say no, if you need more time to do further research, need to review the references that we can provide for your proposed treatment plan, or any other reason.  We understand that everybody is different (in fact, unique!) and that perception of risk versus benefit is ultimately a personal decision.

Rest assured that all of our chiropractors pride themselves with treating your health care as their No.1 priority and will respect any request, or decision you make, with regard to what they have offered.

 

References

  1.  Australian Commission on Safety and Quality in Health Care – “Fact Sheet for Clinicians – Informed Consent in Health Care” 

What’s On Your Menu?

The subject of what we should eat to ensure a healthy life, is so complicated that in 2021, we still don’t have all the answers.  All that we can say for sure is that there is a direct correlation between what we put in our mouth and both our mental and physical health.

There are some very important variables to consider when making decisions on what to eat.  These include:

  • Your age
  • Your gender
  • Your ethnicity and in particular your genetic heritage or your DNA
  • Your lifestyle, especially, how much physical and/or mental activity you do in a day
  • The medications you take (as well as things like cigarettes, alcohol, and recreational drugs).
  • The times of day that you eat
  • The current health of your body (for example, if you are ill, injured, etc.)
  • Your desire to change your current weight, whether it be weight reduction or gain

As humans we are designed to be able to process a large variety of substances through our digestive system.  This is one of the factors that has allowed humans to survive, as  a species, for so long!  However, we cannot escape the fact that some substances are more beneficial to others and some substances, are so bad that, they create a destructive patterns in our bodies.

We know that some substances are clearly detrimental to the health of most people.  They  are commonly called “poisons” and widely publicised as such, to ensure that people do not eat them by mistake.

Other than water, unfortunately, everything else that we could eat, is not necessarily universally “good to eat” for everybody.  To make matters more complicated, humans have changed their food production practices and their food products over the centuries and what might have been good for us at one time may well be very poor today.  For example:

  • Meat products, made from animals are now being fed with different food and in modern farming practices, supplementation is added to the animal’s diet.  These have a direct effect on the processed meat composition1.
  • Vegetable products where there are now genetically modified (GMO) versions, are designed to enhance their disease resistance, prolong their freshness and enhance their flavour, to name just a few reasons for their introduction.  However, the new plants have potentially unwanted side effects in addition to the original good health benefits.  Many studies shown that there are tangible adverse side effects to both the environment and to those eating these foods2.

Some foods are good for you in small doses and can be damaging in larger doses.  Some are good if you do a lot of physical activities and yet harmful if you live a sedentary lifestyle.  Some foods are harmful to certain people and yet completely harmless to others.

Deciding what and when to eat, to improve health and wellbeing,  is no longer a simple decision, or something you can determine by researching on Google!

Fortunately our practitioners in our clinic are able to help sort out some of this puzzle and point you in the right direction.  They have a good educational foundation, in relation to foods and body biochemistry and can understand the effect that most food and edible substances have on various parts of the human body.  Careful history taking and evaluation of your lifestyle and diet may help to determine whether there are   specific adverse reactions to some of the foods that you may currently be eating.

Chiropractic is a lifestyle that involves all aspects of wellness, including exercise, nutrition, personal development, and stress relief.  We encourage you to ask your chiropractor for help in deciding what to eat with the goal of improving your overall health.  With unique advice, tailored specific to your body, they are well equipped to point you in the right direction for better health.

References

  1.  Diet and Genetics Influence Beef Cattle Performance and Meat Quality Characteristics

  2.  GMO Dangers: Fact you need to know.  (This site references other sites and gives a great overview of the GMO problem.)

How Many Visits Will Fix Me?

This is the MOST frequently asked question in our practice by patients and also by people considering a visit to the chiropractor for the first time.  Unfortunately, this is the one question for which we do not have a single answer for everybody. 

What Are People Made Of?

Unlike a car which can be fixed in a single visit to a mechanic, human beings are a complex organic structure.  We are made of bones, muscles, ligaments and connective tissue, veins, arteries, lymphatics – just to name a few parts!  On top of that, the part trying to make sense of it all is one of the most complex organs we have – the brain – which uses our nervous system to signal events, receive sensory and motor information from our body parts, and hopefully keep it all under control! Research studies also show that there is even a direct neural connection between the brain and the gut1, which makes the relationship between all your organ systems that much more complex.

Wow! 

What Could Could Go Wrong?

With this mind, you can imagine that with so many processes occurring simultaneously in the human body, the possibility that something is going to go wrong, is very high.  Fortunately for us, we are not as fragile as you think!  In most cases, our brain is able to compensate very well for things that go wrong.  We don’t stop functioning just because we get an injury, nor do we stop functioning if we eat something that is not good for us.

Like putting on a bandaid, the brain continuously “rewires” our electrical signals and body-maps to help us to keep going, to eat, to breath and most importantly, to survive.  It is very good at doing this.  Unfortunately, while this band-aiding process helps us to survive, as you can imagine, piling bandaids one on top of another can rapidly obscure what the original problem was.

Compensation is unfortunately not a fix – eventually, you will find yourself receiving warning messages from the brain when it can no longer cope, just like the check engine light going on in your car.  This could be in the form of experiencing pain, ongoing pain, behaviour changes, mood changes, or just little things just not functioning as they used to.  What might have caused the first bandaid to be put on (such as an injury), and where you might currently feel your warning signals occurring, may be very different locations from the original issue! That is compensation at work.

Your chiropractor has gone to university for 5 years, and in many cases, undertaken further years of study, to get the training to understand how the complex chemical and physical processes interact in the body.

Solving the puzzle of “what went wrong?” is pretty tricky, as we already know, the brain compensates for every malfunction, including the brain and body compensations themselves.  Eventually, your body will end up with an onion of ‘bandaids’ piled one on top of each other.

Treatment In Stages: Peeling back the onion layers

To seek the root cause of the “injury”, your chiropractor goes through a process of diagnosis and treatment which endeavours to peel back each layer of compensation. Each chiropractic treatment reveals the next underlying issue until we get to the root cause. This may take a few visits, or a lot, depending on how many bandaids you have accumulated!

Each treatment step will change the compensation steps that the brain has put in place.  It is only when all the “layers” of compensation have been uncovered, that brain will report that there is no problem and that you are finally fixed!

This is why, some patients can be treated in one consultation, and others may require many months of rehabilitation.

The number of treatments therefore depends on the many factors including:

  • the length of time you have lived with the injury
  • the severity of the injury
  • your lifestyle
  • your age
  • your general level of health

OK, So How Many Visits Will Fix Me?

Spinal problems, neglected since early childhood, may require ongoing supportive care for optimum spinal function. These long-standing problems are often associated with muscle weakness, soft tissue damage, and degenerative changes to the spine.
Most patients find that periodic chiropractic check-ups help keep them in tip-top shape. Those who are active, have stressful jobs, or want to be their very best, find that a schedule of preventative visits are helpful in the maintenance of good health.
Some patients seek chiropractic care only when their ache or pain becomes unbearable. While this style of “crisis management” is usually more costly and time-consuming, chiropractors stand ready to help all patients, regardless of their health goals. How long you decide to benefit from chiropractic care is always up to you.

References

  1. Harvard Health Publishing: The gut-brain connection

Dealing with Stress

Why Am I Feeling Stressed?

Our bodies can experience a “stress” response to any one of these three inputs:

  • Thoughts (what we think about)
  • Toxins (what we eat and put near,  in or on, our bodies)
  • Trauma (our injuries – physical /psychological /emotional)

Is Stress Normal?

Yes.  Our bodies are programmed to react to our environment in such a way that it ensures our survival.  This is commonly referred to as the “fright-flight” response.  When our brains perceive changes in the environment as potentially dangerous, it triggers a response that serves to heighten our perceptions and reactions and effectively brings the issue to our immediate attention.  Our heart races, our breath quickens and we begin to sweat.  We get a rush of hormones and the result is that we get a “stress” response.  While we often think of this as something external to our bodies, it can also occur when there is an over reaction to events that are not life-threatening.  These can be things such as over work, a family crisis, and even, for some individual, chemical stress that occurs as gut changes that occur after ingesting some foods.  A detailed article published in the Harvard Medical School1, gives a good detailed explanation of the background and the body chemistry involved in stress reactions.

When Does Stress Become Unhealthy?

The body is designed to manage the stress response for short periods of time.  Once the stress inputs are removed, our bodies settle down and eventually return to normal functioning.

The Harvard Medical School article goes on to say:  “Over time, repeated activation of the stress response takes a toll on the body.  Research suggests that chronic stress contributes to high blood pressure, promotes the formation of artery-clogging deposits, and causes brain changes that may contribute to anxiety, depression, and addiction…”.  We are effectively seeing permanent unhealthy changes taking place in our body.

The changes/symptoms that are connected to excessive stress include:

  • persistent pain (headache, backache, etc.)
  • anxiety
  • sleeplessness
  • depression
  • frequent sickness
  • decreased energy
  • digestive issues
  • changes in libido
  • appetite changes
  • obesity or weight loss
  • increased heart rate
  • excessive sweating
  • addictions (smoking, drinking, drugs, gambling and other obsessions)

The problem is that once we start to have the symptoms of excessive stress,  we may possibly be adding to it by eating the wrong foods, drinking too much, sleeping less, or having negative / destructive thoughts.

OK, I’m Over Stressed.  How Do I Deal With It?

Most people have a clear idea that they are suffering from excessive or chronic stress, based on the list of symptoms above.  Unfortunately, tackling the problem is a challenge, given that so many factors can contribute, or feed into, the stress response.

Once you have recognised that your state of constant stress is having negative consequences in your life, it’s time to seek professional help.

Chiropractors are primary health care practitioners.  The first steps to addressing stress and its many consequences often starts with a discussion in your chiropractor’s office. Chiropractors are used to dealing with the physical causes of stress (that result in musculoskeletal issues) and some look further at the nutritional / biochemistry issues as well.  There are a number of clinics, including ours, that include heart rate variability (HRV) testing as a biomarker of stress and use it to make sure that prescribed “exercise is having the desired effect2“.  Chiropractors also “advocate for a whole-of-life approach to health – one that involves movement and social connection” in a state of spinal and neurological health.

Additionally, your chiropractor may refer you to other health professionals to assist you with the stress.

Psychologists & professional counsellors are trained to help you deal with your thoughts.  We cannot emphasise how important it is to seek this type of help.  Remember that some of these services are provided free, or at very low cost, from your local government.

Great Stress Reduction Strategies

It is possible to take some action immediately to help you manage some of the stress inducing factors in your life.  They all help to bring your life back into your control.

Here is a list of some we would recommend:

  • Talk to a friend or colleague (preferably face-to-face)
  • Turn off all of the mainstream social media (including news and Facebook feeds) as they thrive on feeding you fear and uncertainty.  They are designed to flourish in an environment of high stress and anxiety.
  • Get a pet
  • Start a hobby that makes you feel good
  • Take a walk in the park (any exercise is great but doing it outside is even better)
  • Get some sleep (greater than 8 hours per day) and develop a routine pattern of bedtimes.
  • Look around and see whether you help those that are less fortunate than yourself.  Often when we do this, it puts our perspective into a more meaningful context.
  • Take up mindful thinking exercises (meditation, yoga, etc.)

Summary

Prolonged or excessive stress is bad for your health and wellbeing.  Dealing with it in a timely manner is the key to recovery.  This article has shown you what to look out for and where to get help.

At Happy Healthy Bodies Chiropractic we treat all enquiries discretely and are passionate about improving community health, so if you feel you need some caring professional help, just ring and see if we can help.

References

  1. Harvard Health Publishing: “Understanding the stress response”
  2. Australian Spinal Research Foundation: The Stress Series Part 4

Start A Movement Today

Our health is directly related to the amount and the type of movement that we do.  We are born to move.  Unfortunately, our modern lifestyle choices limit, or remove, any need for us to move like we used to.

This is just a small list of what is considered normal today:

  • We drive everywhere – sitting while we do it.
  • We sit at our desks
  • We come home and relax on the couch
  • We sit while we eat
  • We go to bed and sleep
  • We sit for a long time looking at our mobile devices
  • We go out for dinner and sit
  • We go out to the movies and sit

Why Do We Need to Move?

Good For The Brain

Reason No.1

The antidepressant. Numerous studies have shown that movement, such as walking, running and other aerobic exercises, have an antidepressant effect in the body. Movement boosts our mood and causes our brain to flood our bodies with feel-good chemicals. These feel-good chemicals, the endorphins, are also natural analgesics – pain relievers!

Reason No.2

Movement helps our brain plasticity by causing growth and new connections between cells in a wide number of important areas of the brain1. Chiefly, aerobic movement has been associated with more cell growth in the hippocampus – the area of the brain responsible for learning and memory2 ! The hippocampus is also an important part of your limbic system, the area of our brain which regulates our sense of motivation, our emotion, learning, spacial navigation and memory function.

Unfortunately, the hippocampus is also the most fragile part of the brain and is the region that suffers the most when we “don’t look after ourselves” (alcohol, drugs, poor diet, hours of television viewing,  etc.)


In other words, movement increases brain function and improves brain health.

Movement done in the morning before the work day increases our attention span and mental clarity throughout the day, and helps us be more resilient to any mental stresses that may occur. Movement is also one of the main reasons that “active” people (ones that move a lot on a regular basis) maintain a healthy brain longer as they age.  This in turn results in a higher quality of life during our later years.

Good For Your Joints

Motion is lotion, as the saying goes. The joints in our body, including our spine, are surrounded by a soft tissue called the synovial membrane, which produces a very important fluid that lubricates your joints and allows them to move smoothly.  Physical activity (movement) is one of the best ways to help that fluid circulate! The increase in heart rate during movement also helps blood circulation throughout your body – including your joints.  As a result, your joints, muscle, ligaments are exposed to a steady supply of nourishing oxygen and nutrients, helping them to stay healthier.

Are you noticing you are in pain? So long as you have the all clear from a professional (your Chiropractor or your GP), exercise is actually highly recommended for pain management!  It is a common misconception that “resting” is the best way to relieve pain, however, in most cases the opposite is true. Movement is healing. In fact, these days, even surgery patients are encouraged to get up and about as soon as possible after their surgery.

Good For Your Heart

When we move, our heart rate increases so as to increase the circulation of blood around the body.  This increased blood flow is required to feed the organs in our body and flush toxins out.  Our heart is programmed to regulate this flow to meet the bodies various demands.  Our heart is a muscle too and having a strong heart allows us to change from rest to activity and conversely recover back to rest when the activity stops.

Since our heart is responsible for feeding the brain with oxygen and nutrients, we have a relationship that what is good for the heart is also good for the brain.

What Happens When We Stop Moving?

Things start to go wrong in so many areas.  Some of the ones you will notice include:

  • Our brain (especially the hippocampus) starts to shrink.  Connections decrease. Our mood depresses (the feeling of being “flat”or “low”).  We remember less.  We are slower or reluctant to change.  We lose interest in things.
  • Our joints start to “dry up”.
  • Our muscles start to wither (atrophy).
  • We start to experience more pain, aches, and stiffness.

How Much Movement Is Enough?

There is no golden rule for movement.  Remember that before technology, we, as humans, moved a lot and most of it was simply walking from place to place in search of food.

In fact movement doesn’t have to be intense to be effective. Anything that seems manageable to you right now is great – whether that’s a 20-30 minute walk, a session of yoga, stretching or Tai-Chi on YouTube, or for those needing a bigger fitness challenge to stay motivated, a high intensity dance class in your living room (there’s a lot of new classes for almost anything you can think of available on YouTube!).

Regardless, daily movement IS IMPORTANT- and you should choose an activity that you can manage a little of each day.

We know from research3 that to maintain health, we need to do some heart rate elevating exercise for around 30 minutes a day, every day.  Please do remember this is different things for different people.  For people with injuries or older people, low intensity is best. But for those already into fitness, feel free to experiment with running, dancing, riding bikes, weight training (body weight training if you don’t have any equipment at home), the list is endless.

Does It Mean That You Have To Do A Workout?

To summarise. No.  All we need is movement, preferably of all of joints in the body and an elevated heart rate.

Movement is key to resilience to the daily physical and mental stresses of life.  Start a Movement today!

References

  1. Voluntary exercise increases axonal regeneration from sensory neurons
  2. The antidepressant effect of running is associated with increased hippocampal cell proliferation
  3. Development of Evidence-based Physical Activity Recommendations for Adults (18-64 years) – Department of Health Australia

Don’t Let Lockdown Get You Down

Many people have been “stuck” at home since March this year.  This is a whole 5 months.  Even the strongest amongst us are feeling the pressure.  Here are some tips to help you cope.

  1. DO NOT listen to the news every day.  The “news” is not really news when you get to hear the same thing every day, day in, day out.  Look up goodnewsnetwork.org to see lots of articles that will make you laugh and smile and help you to see that there is real news worth checking out.
  2. DO reach out for help, if you are feeling miserable or if you feel things are getting hopeless. If you already have people you can talk to, don’t put it off.  Do it now.  If you are isolated (physically) and feel like you cannot cope any more, then lookup au.reachout.com.  Most of the critical services are provided for free.
  3. TAKE up a new hobby.  Our body health is controlled by the brain. Learn a new language, play computer games, build something new, try anything you have not done before.   Not only will you have something to look forward to each day, you will be “exercising” the brain and will build new neural connections/pathways, which will help to keep your brain stimulated and happy.
  4. MOVE. The importance of this cannot be understated.  Our bodies love to move.  Movement stimulates the brain, lubricates the joints and makes us breath more.  If your body is able, then consider spending 30 minutes early in the day, every day, to do an an exercise program (even if it’s just walking around the back garden!).  There are plenty of programs available for free on the Internet.  You will notice that your day will look very different once you have finished.  If you are unable to exercise, the at least consider walking and/or standing, rather than sitting.  Try walking while you read your book.  If you are working from home and have to work at a desk, take frequent breaks… i.e. get up and run on the spot, skip around the house, do some push-ups, or anything else that gets you to MOVE.  Each time you move, it flushes your brain with fresh oxygen and blood and you will be able to work better and feel happier.
  5. LISTEN to your body.  For most people this is as simple as deciding whether you are hungry, tired, sleepy or sick.
    While it may be tempting to indulge in alcoholic drinks, remember that alcohol is still a drug and at some stage, your body will tell you to stop!
    Try to maintain a rough timetable in your day and make sure it involves sleep.  Your body will appreciate it if you can get 8 hours of sleep every day.  Yes, it’s tempting to tell yourself that watching another episode of a TV series at 11:30pm won’t matter as you don’t have to go to work the next day.  Again, your body will tell you that something is not right the next day.  If you do this often enough, your ability to do your daily tasks will diminish and your health will eventually suffer.
    If you do any exercise and it hurts, your body is telling you that something is wrong.  Stop doing that exercise and pick something different, or simply let your body rest for a day or two.  If the pain does not go away or gets worse, consider getting treatment.  You are permitted to seek medical treatment and remember we are still open and ready to help.