Monday, May 21, 2012

Why Does My Head Hurt?

"Why does my head hurt again? I didn’t do anything, I didn’t drink too much, I didn’t hurt myself, but my head is still killing me… why?"

This is an extremely common complaint that I hear in my office. People dealing with constant headaches and not understanding why they won’t go away. Fortunately, there is always a cause of headaches and it’s not because “it’s just how I am” as many people think. There are skeletal, muscular, hormonal, nutritional and neurological causes to headaches and once we find out where the headache is coming from we can take steps to fix them.
The most common type of headache is the tension headache which is caused by muscle tightness, skeletal joint tightness or nerve irritation. These headaches are normally seen in people who are stressed out, have a demanding job or personal life, and in people who sit in an office all day. They are caused by the body being under constant stress. If the body is always under stress, physical or emotional, it usually responds by causing muscle spasms or tight spinal joints in the neck. Luckily for people who suffer from tension headaches we can quickly find the cause and fix the problem. Here’s a quick test for you to perform to find out if you suffer from tension headaches:
With your thumbs, find the base of your skull. You should feel 2 bumps on either side, now push on those bumps and then move an inch lower and push on those spots as well. If either spots are tender or give you a headache you probably suffer from tension headaches. Another way to test is by pushing on your shoulder areas, if they are very tight, painful, or cause you to get a headache then you may be suffering from tension headaches.
Another very prominent type of headache is a migraine headache. These are normally caused by lack of oxygen getting to the brain. Here’s how it works: When your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen the blood vessels expand to allow more blood flow into the brain and thus more oxygen. This is how your body reacts to a decrease in oxygen, it tries to open things up and get more oxygen to the area, it’s a normal and highly effective process. However, wrapped around those expanding blood vessels are nerves which don’t appreciate being pushed on and they react with pain. This is how you get a migraine, the blood vessels are doing their job and expanding but they’re expanding into nerves that give you a migraine. So what’s a person to do? Well the easy answer is to get more oxygen throughout the day… but how?
In the office we deal with migraines by enhancing the amount of oxygen each person takes in. This is normally done by adjustments to the thoracic spine and rib cage. These adjustments allow the lungs to expand more than they normally would, thus increasing the amount of oxygen in the system. After a few adjustment the body can start to take in more oxygen with each breath and the frequency of migraines will decrease.
Other causes of headaches and migraines are hormonal or nutritional. Both can be dealt with in a similar fashion. For some people it’s just finding out what food triggers the migraine. For hormonal migraines, such as those felt during certain times in a woman’s menstrual cycle a more advanced treatment is usually needed. These women normally need to balance out the hormones in their bodies (many menstrual migraine sufferers also suffer from fibrocystic breast disease, fibroids, endometriosis or acne, all signs of a hormonal imbalance). Luckily there is emerging evidence that diet can help to balance hormones. When we put these people on a diet filled with micronutrients, vitamins, and minerals they experience amazing results.
Doctors Note: You don’t have to live with headaches. Drugs don’t cure your headaches, they just make them manageable. But they can be fixed when we find out where they’re coming from. Everyone should be able to live pain free and if you suffer from chronic headaches there is hope.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

HBO Special Says Nutrition Is Key To Obesity

If you tuned into the HBO special last night, The Weight Of A Nation: Confronting America's Obesity Epidemic, you probably noticed 2 major themes. The first, and most crucial, is that obesity is killing more people and ruining America's Healthcare system faster than any other health issue... and it's not even close. The money it takes to take care of obesity related diseases such as diabetes and heart disease is disturbing to say the least. No other health related issue has the ability to drain our healthcare system to the extent that obesity does. And as the special clearly laid out, if we don't do anything to curb the appetites of America's youth our healthcare system will be all but useless in the near future. But this is information we've all known for the past ten or so years... it's not pretty but most health experts have known for quite some time that obesity is more harmful to america than any other health issue.

The second major theme that came out of the special was the fact that most health authorities haven't known what to do about the obesity epidemic.  And as the show stated repeatedly, exercise is not the answer. Let's repeat that one. Exercise is NOT the answer to the obesity question.  As a former personal trainer it took me years to understand this so I can only imagine how difficult it will be for most Americans.  And do we all know what is the answer? Wait for it... wait for it... it's nutrition! The answer to obesity is proper nutrition! Shocking I know!

Another interesting part of the special was when they explained about the amount of calories burned during exercise, and how we have an inflated notion of how many we're actually burning.  For example, they said that running 1 mile burns about 100 calories. It's something I knew back when I was a personal trainer but hadn't given much thought to for quite some time. Let's see what else contains 100 calories. 1 light beer, 1 soda, 1/2 bag of M&M's, 1/2 a bagel, 1 very large banana, 1 small handful of peanuts, and many many more. 100 calories is almost nothing! So the point here is that exercising 45 minutes a day may only burn 300 calories, but a change in your diet may make a difference of up to 1,000 calories! So the quickest, and most effective, way of losing weight is with your fork... not your running shoes.

Think about it this way. If you never worked out but you ate properly what would happen to your weight? You'd stay nice and skinny right? I mean how couldn't you? Now what would happen if you ate like crap but worked out a lot? Which is what most people do. Well you'd be skinny, for a while at least. And this is why you see people start to pack on the pounds as they age. The body isn't able to process all those extra calories, plus the fact that people get more sedentary as they age, and the weight just piles up. The easiest, healthiest, and most efficient way to lose weight and stay thin is by eating real food.

That's the last point the documentary made, which has been echoed in just about any nutrition best seller you can think of within the past 10 years. Eat Real Food. If you can't find it growing out in a field then don't eat it. That means no bagels, pasta, bread, crackers, soda, candy, etc, etc, etc. It seems strange to have to tell our nation to eat "real food" but that's how crazy our view of food has become. People look at macaroni and cheese as if it were real food. But if we all just followed that one rule, to eat real food, nobody would be overweight. It's not about your metabolism or your grandmother or the pull of the moon... it's all about eating real food.

Doctors Note: The point here is this; we all have to stop relying on exercise for weight loss. We've got to start eating real food again.  Try eating only real food for one month and you'll be amazed at how much weight you lose and how much better you actually feel... and you may just help solve our health care crisis... so don't just do it for yourself... do it for America! :)