Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas And The Perfect Storm

In truth, I love, I mean REALLY love the Christmas season.  I love the meaning of Christmas, I love the chance to see friends and family I've not seen in a while, I love the sounds, the sights, I love the food and fellowship.  There's not much I don't like about the season.  (maybe the extra pounds I have the potential to pack on).

However, the season is ripe with opportunity to get sick.  It's the perfect storm for ill health.  And there's sound, scientific reason for it.  Read on.

One, it's the "cold and flu" season.  There are many theories as to why this particular "season" exists.  Solid evidence points to a lack of Vitamin D in our bodies.  Most of us are deficient in this important vitamin, and even more so in the winter with less sun exposure occurring.  Vitamin D has a major effect on the immune system's function.  Also, we tend to have much drier air all around us, which initially dries out our mucous membranes in our nose and throat, which is a line of defense against bugs and bacteria of all sorts.  So stay hydrated and take your Vitamin D!

Secondly, this time of year, we tend to live a life that is diametrically opposed to the wellness lifestyle.  Remember what I always teach:  Eat well, move well, think well and rest well.  Think just for a second on that.  Isn't this time of year the antithesis to that lifestyle??  I'd vote yes.  Let's see why.

Undoubtedly we tend to be exposed to a LOT more sugar in our body.  And man is it good.  We had a patient bring us a pecan pie on the day before the official start to the holidays.  Very tasty, very sugary, very bad for our immune system.  One sugary meal or drink has been shown to slow down our immune response.  Goodness knows we get plenty of those treats brought out to us, or made by us, during the Christmas season.

This season gets us so busy we can't always exercise as regularly as we'd like.  Sometimes the weather plays a factor.  Sometimes we just get out of our normal routines with holidays coming around.  Or we might even stay up later at a party, causing us to not want to rise and exercise.   Appropriate exercise boosts immunity, sedentary lifestyles depress it.

STRESS!!!!  Nah, there's no stress during the holidays is there?  Didn't think so. Depression is also more common this time of year.  Some people are lonely, some are lacking Vitamin D for the same reasons we spoke of a few paragraphs ago.  Stress certainly depresses our immune system.

Finally, it's PARTY TIME!  Lots of great gatherings are to be found, plenty of opportunity to get out of rhythm with our life cycles, plenty of chances for later nights, plenty of time for hustling and bustling for presents and food......all leading to decreased rest which of course...depresses the immune system.

There we have it, the perfect storm.  Knowledge is power they say, but I disagree.  Applied knowledge is power, so take this information and plot and plan a way to combat it so you can enjoy your season illness free.

Until next time...Be Well!
Dr. Bruce

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Thoughts on Gratitude.....(not a belated Thanksgiving post)

Some things come easy.  Unfortunately, some of the things that come easy, aren't that great for us.  Many times the things that come easy are those that just go along with the cultural flow.  It's always easiest to drift downstream, it takes no effort.  And the faster and stronger the current is, the easier it is to go with the flow, and conversely, the more effort it takes to move upstream, to fight against the cultural trends.  These days it's easy to pick a political side and say everything the "other" side does is wrong and evil.  These days it's easy to pull our cars into our garage, close the door behind us and stay secluded in our homes, with hundreds of channels on the TV to watch and dull our senses, laptops, iPads and smartphones to entertain us, and not get out of our comfort zone to develop healthy social relationships.  It's also easy to talk about gratitude all month long in November of every year, it's even trendy to list one thing we're grateful for daily during that month.  But what about the other 335 days a year we have?

Culturally it's easier to complain.  Complain about the weather.  Complain about the boss.  Complain about the kids.  Complain about the spouse.  Complain about our sports team.  Complain about politics.  Everyone does it.  It takes no effort.  It's socially acceptable.  I was in a department store the other day walking around trying to find my wife, and struggling with being successful at it since she isn't much taller than all the racks of clothing in those stores.  In this process I walked by 2 ladies several times that were talking.  Each time I went by I could tell one lady was complaining about something, and speaking of some sort of drama that had been occurring in her life.  Literally she was standing there for 20 minutes going on and on about this situation (or maybe several situations).  It struck me how common this is and how easy we slip into that trend.  Gossip often goes hand in hand with those drama telling moments too.

You know what? Culturally it's also easy to list something, or things, we are grateful for.  But by creating a list, are we really feeling gratitude?  Are we experiencing gratitude on a deep level?  I'd venture to say no.  In our office, when we are dealing with people that suffer from stress, anxiety or depression, one of the "treatments" if you will, is to help them learn how to create and use a gratitude journal.  And yes, in the journal we do list things we are grateful for.  But it's way more than that.

It has been shown physiologically that when we re-live a past experience that evoked a strong emotional response (positive or negative), the same changes that occurred in us when we went through the event, re-occur.  So, re-live the experience, re-experience the positive or negative physiological changes in our body.  So, when we get people doing a gratitude journal, we tell them to list the thing they're grateful for, and also, and most importantly, to list the "why" for the gratitude.  In other words, think about why you were grateful for that event or person.  By doing so, you begin to re-live it and recreate the positive physiological experiences in your body!  That's not only just plain good stuff, it's truly healthy for you too!

Here's the deal, just take time every day, in the morning over coffee, or in the evening as you prepare for rest, and work on your gratitude journal (or better yet, both times of the day).  List three things from the day, or the previous day that you are grateful for and why you are.  Spend time re-living it, and re-experiencing it.  Note how you feel before and compare it to afterward.  Give it your all, and make it part of your lifestyle, your ever developing and evolving wellness lifestyle!

Remember, it's easier to complain, and that's not healthy!

Until next time...Be Well!!
Dr. Bruce

Saturday, August 17, 2013

What Are You Thinking?

Most people will admit to letting too much bad stuff get into their lives with their diet. Whether it's oreos, crackers, cake etc., we all know those things that we need to cut out to move forward on the wellness spectrum with regards to what we eat..  Those things are easy to spot.  One of the ways we can get those things out of our life is to fill our life (plate) with an abundance of good healthy things and eat those first.  Dr. James Chestnut always says "Fresh Fiber First", and it's a great way to not leave any room for the bad stuff.  This concept works well in our diet, and can work well in other areas too.  Follow me.

One aspect of health many of us neglect I think is in the area of our mental well being.  Often we focus on eating and exercising, and those are very important legs in our "Wellness Formula" of Eat, Move, Think, and Rest Well.  Let's spend some time on the "Think Well" this morning.  To begin, I like to ask "What are you allowing into your head space?"  What TV shows are you watching?  What music do you listen to?  What gossip do you allow?  What negative thoughts pervade your life?  What negative PEOPLE do you allow?  What stressful situations seem to overwhelm you?  Thing about those for a second.  I'm sure if you're like me, you just came up with some surprising answers...maybe some painful realizations.

Fear not though, let's not focus on those things, instead, let's focus on putting "Fresh Fiber First" for our mental health.  Start asking yourself better questions than those I just asked.  What books could you read that would move you in a positive direction?  What new exciting things can you get involved with that allow you to perform at your highest and best?  What new friendships can you develop that build you up?  What things are you grateful for?  What can you fill your mind with that is uplifting and encouraging?  Maybe even ask who you can be an encourager to (because when you lift up someone else, you can't help but rise with the tide!).

Scripture tells us "Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." (Philippians 4:8)Why not take the time this weekend to focus on adding in true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable things to your life?  Even if it's just one new good habit for you, it will help crowd out one of the bad ones.  Eventually, if you pour enough good stuff into your head and life, the world will look different, your attitude will improve, you'll find more peace and satisfaction, and you'll wonder how you ever even had time for the mental junk food you previously allowed in your world!

Until next time...Be Well!!

Dr. Bruce

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Why Not Take A Wellness Day?

I'd venture to guess that most people experience too many "Sickness Days". They deal with too much stress, bad food, not enough rest or exercise every day of their lives. And since one's life is created one day at a time, the sum of all of our "Sickness Days" is a sick life. So, Wellness Wednesday is what we call the first Wednesday of every month in our office. On those days we focus on adding in a new wellness habit and we often have our patients experience the new habit, such as tasting a new smoothie, trying out a new supplement etc. Our goal is to get people thinking monthly about what they can try that is new and different and that can move them toward a wellness lifestyle. It's a great idea I think, and our patients look forward to it each and every month to try something new. If everyone started a new wellness habit every month, our health as a nation would significantly improve over the long haul.

Recently in doing some wellness lifestyle coaching with one of my patients, I came up with a new idea. We were talking about making changes in her lifestyle to get her moving toward wellness, and I take the approach of making just a little change at a time. My purpose in doing this is to not overwhelm the patient with too much too quickly. This is important as we don't want to set a patient up for failure, and trying to do too much too quickly is sometimes too painful to be successful at, and they become discouraged and tend to quit.

Instead, we focus on baby steps. For instance, instead of trying to go out and jog for 30 minutes when they've been pretty much a couch potato, we encourage them to try walking "x" amount of time, depending on their fitness level, "x" times/week. After they get accustomed to that new habit, they are then encouraged to do a bit more, maybe increase the frequency, or the duration of their walks. That way it feels like they are only adding in a little bit more to their already established routine.

But, in doing this, I've found it takes a long time for enough new habits to build up to create significant changes. So to accelerate the process, I decided to give a new idea a shot. It's called a "Wellness Day". It consists of planning a certain day as a total wellness day. On that day, they must plan in advance what they are going to do. I encourage them to focus on all 4 of our Pillars of Wellness (eat well, move well, think well, rest well) and make sure they have plans for each area.

So in advance they plan out their meals and snacks for the day. They have to focus on whole foods (real food) with no additives. Remember my definition of real food: It either grows or had eyes at one point, otherwise it is an "edible food like substance". They need to focus on consuming plenty of water for the day, maybe some tea with lemon, or an herbal tea of their choice.

They have to plan to move more than they might normally. This may not be much more than a 30 minute walk if they are sedentary usually. If they're already active, then any sort of normal exercise program they do is acceptable, but maybe they push their duration by 10 minutes or so more. If they don't usually do any stretching, this would be a good day to start that habit too. There are many stretching sites on the net to learn from. Just always remember to be careful if you've not been active, and if you're over 40 or have a history of cardiovascular issues, get cleared by your doctor before you begin any vigorous plan of exercise.

I encourage them to spend some time de-stressing and relaxing on their Wellness Day. It's a great time to schedule a massage for relaxation purposes, or some time at a quiet spot for dinner with their spouse (eating healthy of course). Making sure they spend some time being grateful is extremely important, and connecting with their Maker on a spiritual level is vital for this special day. This can also be accomplished by whatever activities they really enjoy doing, grilling a good dinner, playing with the kids, the dog or both.

Finally, I encourage them to work on their sleep hygiene plan. I want them to get good rest that night, so nothing with caffeine after 4 in the afternoon. As bedtime draws near the need to start winding down is vital and they need a plan for doing just that; turning down the lights, quiet music, a good book, good conversation with their spouse etc.

By creating a Wellness Day, one can see what it would feel like to live that lifestyle. The first Wellness Day may be a bit tough, but it's only a day, so plan it ahead of time. If you wait til the last minute, there will be stress when you don't have all the foods that you need for a certain recipe, or when you suddenly realize that you forgot to plan out some aspect. Remember, I want you to be set up for success, not failure. And if you do fail in some aspect for that day, at least the day you had was more wellness oriented than it would have been otherwise. You can also choose to do this in community with others and discuss/plan your day together for accountability.

Once you have a Wellness Day going once/week, or even once per month if weekly is too tough, then add in "a little more", like an extra day/week or month. Soon those days will become comfortable for you and you will be able to continue adding in a day or two more. Soon the majority of your days will be Wellness Days, and you'll have much less "sickness" days.

Until next time...Be Well!

Dr. Bruce

Monday, July 1, 2013

Reversing The Happiness Formula, A 21 Day Challenge

I watched a video from YouTube this weekend, it spoke to the idea of happiness and it's role in our productivity.  One of the things it reminded me of is the fact (yes fact) that most of the world lives in a "Have-Do-Be" mode instead of "Be-Do Have" mode.  What do I mean?  Follow along.

How many times do we hear people say "I would be so much happier if I had 'x' "?  "If only I had "x' I could do "y" and then I'd be happy".  It happens all the time.  We let our outside circumstances determine our happiness in life.  Now don't get me wrong, life is NOT all about finding our own happiness, there's much more to life than being that self centered.  But no one should go through life being totally unhappy all the time either.

It's time to use the correct formula of "Be Do Have".  Decide today to BE happy, BE grateful, BE at peace. Then you will DO things that happy and successful people do, and eventually we'll HAVE some of those things that we may want.  But the focus has to be on BEING and DOING.  I'd suggest that most truly happy and successful people focus on BEing the kind of person that DOES for OTHERS and doesn't focus on one's own happiness.  To that end, the YouTube video I watched suggested a 21 day challenge. Here it is.

1.  3 Gratitudes (I preach this all the time).   Take time every day to think of 3 things you are grateful for, and don't just list them, but think of why you're grateful for them:  I am grateful for my wife because I know there is no better woman on the face of this planet to raise kids with.  There's an example. If you do this for 21 days you will retrain your brain to scan the world for the positive in life instead of the junk!

2.  Journaling:  Every day write down one positive experience you had that day.  This allows your brain to re-live the event.

3.  Exercise:   It's an essential nutrient for the body AND brain.  Do 30 minutes of exercise daily for 21 days, even if it's a casual walk.

4.  Prayer/Meditation.  A GREAT way to end or begin your day.  Spend time in prayer and meditation, it will relax your mind, help you combat stress and open your mind to possibilities.  Prayer is talking to God, meditating is listening to God.

5.  Random or conscious acts of kindness daily.This can be as simple as sending an email thanking someone for who they are and what they do.  

By rewiring our brains, this can affect not only our lives, but can create a rippling effect to change our famlies,  communities, cities, states, nations and world.  

Here's a link to the video I watched:  Reversing The Happiness Formula .

So...........Who's In with me today??? 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Do You Want To Survive or Thrive? The Innate Diet Of Grass Example

Living in the Houston area for almost 48 years, I've seen the summer weather pattern a more than a few times and am quite familiar with it. Typically, June is the wettest of the summer months here, and if it's dry in June, we're likely in for a hot dry summer.

What does that have to do with wellness? Good question of course! Have you ever noticed that when it's dry outside, when we water our grass, it does liven up a bit, and won't die off. However, when a good rain comes through, it seems the grass does even better than an equal amount of watering from our sprinklers. Why would that be? Let's look at that.

First, the innate diet of grass if you will, is rainwater. Rain, from the sky. Not water from a faucet or sprinkler. Plain old water from the clouds. The water in the pipes that feeds our grass is a bit "processed" so to speak. It contains things like chlorine among other possible contaminants (look up water contents and see what you find). So while it does feed our grass and keep it alive, it doesn't do as good of a job as the innate diet of grass. It keeps it alive, but it doesn't thrive.

So what does that have to do with us? We can choose to eat our innate diet or not. If we choose to not eat innately, then we may be choosing to stay alive, and not thrive. If we DO eat innately, then we have a better chance of thriving, and being as healthy as possible ie, living well.

The same goes for all of our lifestyle choices. How well we eat, move, think and rest affects whether or not we'll thrive or just stay alive. Which do you want?

Until next time, BE WELL!

Dr. Bruce

Monday, May 20, 2013

Every Minute.... Every Second....Counts...

....in life.

I sit here typing these thoughts down, with my heart hurting, not for me, but for people I know that are hurting from loss.  It's a reminder that, as I spoke with my pastor yesterday about, we don't know what's right around the corner in our lives.  One minute I was speaking with a young lady about her coming to work at our office today, and within an hour she's dealing with a significant loss in her life.  

It made me look seriously at my family life.  In many ways, I feel like I am pretty good as Dad, husband, friend, chiropractor, and Christian.  In many ways, I fail miserably in those roles (regularly), usually because of selfish reasons, usually when life is all about me.  I guess I feel like I can "make it up" whenever I screw up and don't perform at the levels I  know I should.  "I'll do better next time" and "I've got to get better at that" are two common thoughts I have when I've performed below standards.  Those are not inherently bad thoughts, but they assume a lot, maybe too much.

I said my normal goodbye to my wife this morning.  I said my usual goodbye to my son as I dropped him off at high school.  In a little while I'll say my routine goodbye to my daughter when I drop her off at middle school.  Not to think darkly, but my world could be a lot different by the end of this day.  I'm not guaranteed my next breath.  None are.  

Right now I want to apologize for the heaviness of this post.  But I think it's vital to think this way on occasion, to gain some perspective, and to appreciate, really appreciate what we have.  I believe that living a wellness lifestyle involves healthy relationships with those we love the most, with our co-workers, our friends, and those we serve through our respective careers.  And it shouldn't be something we put off til tomorrow.  It should start today. It should start now.  Immediately.  

I start every day with an affirmation with our team at the office that says "today I have another opportunity to fulfill our promise to our patients".  What a profound way to live, if we lived with that attitude in all that we do.  What if I said that affirmation daily, and lived it, in regards to how I treat my wife? My kids? My friends?  What if we as a nation, we as a global community began looking at life that way?  What kind of difference would it make?  What if we took on that attitude in all our roles?  I'm writing this on a Monday morning, and so many people complain about Mondays.  But what would Mondays feel like if we lived out that one simple statement?

I'm not going to presume to preach to or at anyone about this.  My thoughts are my thoughts as they apply to me right here, right now, on Monday morning.  I hope I can take these thoughts and apply them today, tomorrow, and remember them even when I'm not feeling my best, when I'm tired, when I don't even really feel like it.  

Because every minute...every second...counts.

Until next time...Be Well.

Dr. Bruce

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Armed And Dangerous...Now You Know What I Know

So I had a virtual conversation with someone online this past week.  More accurately, it was an online disagreement.  I was reading a story about a chiropractor who broke the law and was punished with jail time, when in the comments section, someone went off about the "pseudo-science" (his/her words) chiropractic.  I had to laugh as I read their take.  It was sadly amusing to read their often repeated mantra of unsubstantiated rumor and how they don't "believe" in it.  Of course, when someone tells me they don't "believe" in it, I have two thoughts:  1.  It's not a religion, and 2.  I am so glad it doesn't take their belief for it to help the millions of people that benefit from it.  I mean, saying "I don't believe in it" would be the same as me saying, I don't believe in engineering, or the real estate business, or whatever.  It's not a matter of belief, it's a matter of fact, it's a matter of a science that has been wrongfully vilified, yet still survives.  It's about a form of health care that the AMA was found guilty of trying to "contain and eliminate" (their own words....  see Wilk Vs. AMA), but still thrives and serves.

It's a little frustrating (I admit it) to have years and years of success in a profession, and years and years of scientific proof, but still have the uneducated, or those people with ulterior motives, continue to spread their lies, half-truths, and rumors.  It's even more frustrating to have people, educated or not, buy into them so easily.  It will take years to overcome that.  I am actually ok with it at this point in my life.  I have no issue speaking with those who have an issue with my chosen profession and showing them the light.  It is, of course, their choice to truly see the light or ignore it (which some inexplicably do).  I've always had a rather pacifist approach to it.  Let people say with they may, and keep on doing what I do to the best of my ability.  Now my thought processes have changed.

I'm armed and dangerous.  Armed with studies.  Armed with experience.  Armed with a passion.  And very tired of hearing our profession besmirched, and the medical model of health care looked at as the gold standard, when in so many ways the opposite should be true. And tired of having patients with back or neck pain so poorly managed, to the detriment of their health.  This post will have some serious science backing it, so hold on tight, here comes truth.

Let's start back in the early 90's with the "Manga Report". Pran Manga was commissioned by the Ontario government to evaluate all treatments, mainstream and otherwise, for low back pain.  He gathered the information, and I'll share a few snippets of what he found.  "On the evidence, particularly the scientifically valid studies, spinal manipulation applied by chiropractors is shown to be more effective than alternative treatments for low back pain.  Many medical modalities are of questionable validity, or are clearly inadequate.  Chiropractic manipulation is safer than medical management of low back pain".  None of the researchers had anything to do with chiropractic, all were non-biased participants, doing a review of literature and treatment modalities. It goes on to state that spinal manipulation performed by non-chiropractors is much less safe.  To me, that's enough right there, but for some, that's "only one study".  Ok, I get that, let's move on.

How about the 2004 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine?  It states "Systematic access to chiropractic care may not only be clinically beneficial, but may also reduce overall health costs".  Then there's the 2011 study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine that had several interesting quotes such as "cases treated by chiropractors had less surgeries and less use of opiods" and "In addition, people who were mostly treated by chiropractors had, on average, less expensive medical services and shorter initial periods of disability than cases treated by physiotherapists and medical physicians."  Is that good or is that great??

Need more? Ok fine, there's plenty more to share, but I'll end with a study published in Spine, the premier medical journal for spinal health.  In 2011, there was a study titled "Does Maintained Spinal Manipulation Therapy For Chronic Non-Specific Low Back Pain Result in Better Long Term Outcome?".  In other words, does regular spinal adjusting really impact long term results when done on a maintenance or wellness level?  The results are impressive.  "Only the third group that was given spinal manipulations during the follow up period showed more improvement in pain and disability scores at the 10 month evaluation."  In the non-maintenance-treated group, "..pain and disability scores returned back to near their pre-treatment levels".  What does that mean?  Those with regular wellness or maintenance care continued doing better long term, as compared to those that did not receive maintenance care, and in fact the non-maintained group had pain and disability ratings very close to where they were before treatment.  A case for wellness oriented chiropractic adjustments?  You bet.

There's so much more out there to support chiropractic, but it seems only the most powerful voices are heard the most.  And for so long, we've put those voices on a pedestal, thinking they know all when it comes to health care when it's far from true.  The next post will show some of the shortcomings of their approach to health with regards to low back pain in particular.  When you're done reading both of these posts, you should have no doubt that chiropractors are the ones who know what's best for your spine!

I'm armed and dangerous, and you are now too.

Until Next Time....Be Well!

Dr. Bruce

Friday, April 5, 2013

What's The Weekend For?

Sounds like a dumb question doesn't it? I'd agree except that for many people, the weekend means different things. For many, it's a time used living in a way that we don't normally live.  Higher alcohol consumption, more dinners out, more junk food, no exercise, lots of sitting around watching sports and more.  And in moderation, that may be ok in our wellness quest.  Maybe.   

I've found when I watch my weight throughout the week, I'll consistently lose weight Monday through Friday.  But when I weigh back in on the following Monday, I'll be back up by the same amount of weight I had lost over the previous 5 days if I am not careful.  I understand that weight is not the "be all, end all" in evaluating the status of our health and well being.  But it certainly is ONE of the markers, and right or wrong,  most likely the MOST used marker.  My point is in speaking about this though is that it only takes 2 days (Saturday and Sunday) to UNDO a whole lot of good work in our lives. I find that particularly true as I get older. (old-ER, not old)

So what's a person to do?  Aren't weekends meant for down time?  Aren't they meant for renewal?  Don't you, Dr. Guillory, preach the importance of resting well?  Yes, I do preach that.  What I don't preach is overindulgence.  I think Mae West was quoted once as saying "too much of a good thing is MAAAAHVELOUS", but that's just a cute quote.  I have no issue with going out to eat a big meal.  I have no issue with watching some sports on TV Saturday afternoon.  I often do both of those.  But I think the issue is that many people totally bankrupt themselves on the weekend when it comes to health; there's NO exercise, there's way too much junk food and alcohol consumed, and entire afternoons spent on the couch.  Are you guilty of that?  (honestly, there are times when I am too).

So I think, the answer lies in one word:  Plan.  Just as I preach often, "Failing to plan is planning to fail", we need to focus that applying that to our weekends.  Realize that there will be opportunities for indulging.  But plan for a great healthy meal, replacing a meal with juicing and/or some healthy vegetables and fruit.  Plan on trying a new healthy recipe since you'll have more time to cook it up. Plan some time outdoors with your family walking, playing tennis, or if the weather is inclement, going to the gym together.  Listen to your body, and plan a nap if you feel worn down.  The key is to plan it all.  If we leave it to chance, chances are poor decisions will be made.  

So, here it is, Friday afternoon, what are your plans for the weekend?  None?  Time to PLAN it!  I just created this acrostic for PLAN:  Prepare it, Live it, Analyze it, and NEXT!  Prepare is the planning, Live is doing it, Analyze is seeing if it worked, and NEXT means to work on the next plan.  Just something to think about!

Until next time...Be Well!!

Dr. Bruce

Friday, March 29, 2013

There's No Excuse....

....for not exercising.  Well, there are very few legit excuses anyway.  Today was a perfect example of why anyone can do a workout, without a gym membership, and with little to no equipment needed.  And yes, in 30 minutes or less, you can get your heart rate up, and tone the whole body pretty darn well.

This morning, my wife and I were trying to figure out what we wanted to do for exercise.  We have a gym membership at a place 5 minutes away which offers everything we could want/need.  But today I talked her into doing my "30 Minute At Home Exercise Plan".  For her, there was no equipment needed.  For me, I used a jump rope and a 30 pound kettle bell.  Oh and we used a free app called Gym Boss Interval Timer.

Our warm up included her doing jumping jax, and me doing jump rope.  I have a timed program on my Gym Boss App that has us do 10 seconds of activity, followed by 10 seconds of rest.  Then 20 seconds of activity, 20 seconds rest, 30 seconds of activity, 30 of rest, then 20 and 20, then 10 and 10.  We then start over and go through the cycle again 2 more times.  It takes about 9 minutes total and warms up the whole body, gets the heart rate going a bit, and gets you ready for more intense exercise.

The next thing we did was a combination of two exercises back to back, with downward pyramiding reps.  She did lunges and crunches I did kettle bell swings and mountain climbers.  I started with 10 of each, then 9, then 8, then 7 (well you get the drift) with no rest in between exercises or sets.  She did her's starting with 8 reps and working her way down.  So it looked like this for her:  8 lunges on each leg, immediately dropping down and doing 8 crunches, then back up to do 7 lunges, then 7 crunches etc til we both got to 1.  This program, particularly if you do large muscle groups, gets your heart rate really going!

We then did what I call my finisher.  Again we used the Gym Boss App.  It was set to do 20 seconds of work, followed by 10 seconds of rest.  We had two exercises to use. One was what I call a skater's jump.  You start on one leg and jump to the side, landing on the other leg, and not letting the original leg touch.  Then you jump back the other way, back and forth. It looks almost like an ice skater on a long stretch where their body moves back and forth, except they're gliding and we're jumping.  I pretend I am jumping over something so I get some height, and distance to the side.  After 20 seconds of that, there's 10 seconds of rest.  Then we assume the plank position on our forearms, and when the timer beeps, we go up to a pushup position, then back down to the plank position, back and forth til the timer beeps again (20 seconds). Then there's rest and we go back to the skaters jumps.  This program is 4 minutes long, and includes 4 sets of the two exercises.

That was it.  We were done.  I had gotten my heart rate up, I had worked the entire body for the most part, and it didn't require getting ready to drive to a gym and then coming back home.  You can modify your reps, timing, exercises etc to make it work for you.  Anyone can do this (with rare exceptions, please consult your physician if you're not a regular exerciser and want to get started).  It's a great way to get some variety of exercises, in a short, compact time, that is very efficient!

Until next time...Be Well!!

Dr. Bruce

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Sleep Vs. Rest

There's a difference between sleep and rest. You can have a night where you sleep, even sleep in, and not feel rested.  You could have a night where you sleep lest, yet wake up feeling refreshed and ready.  And it's very important to be aware of the difference.

It's vital to our body that we get regular rest.  For us to be living a wellness lifestyle, rest is a MUST.  Your body will not function well without proper rest.  What are some of the effects of poor rest?  The list is long but includes reducing stress, improving your immune response, reducing inflammation and more.  Rest is when your body repairs the damages done to it with every day living.  To me, the whole act of getting sleeping is a perfect example of the innate intelligence of the body.  That sensation of sleepiness comes on telling us it's time to power down, time to make repairs.  And, when we're sick with an infection or the flu, our body's natural response is to want to sleep more.  Pretty cool the way the body works isn't it?

It's important that we develop a good routine for rest, particularly as we get a little older.  Our body's work best in a routine.  This routine should start before bedtime, when we do things like turn down the lights, turn off anything that may be too stimulating, maybe put some soft music on and spend time relaxing.  That way when we hit the bed, we're already on our way to powering down.  Keep your room as dark as possible.  Most experts agree that having a TV in the bedroom is not conducive to good rest.  Maybe have some white noise in the background to drown out random sounds (I keep a floor fan running, even in the winter).  Avoid caffeine after 3 or 4 in the afternoon.  I know, people say "I can fall asleep even after a pot of coffee".  I get that, but remember that sleep and rest are two different things, and it is scientifically proven that caffeine reduces your chances of reaching the deepest levels of sleep, REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement), which is where real rest and repair occur.

Here's a couple of important notes for those that have trouble sleeping/resting. Don't lay in bed tossing and turning. Get out of bed and go read something boring (like some of my blog posts???) until you get sleepy.  Staying in the bed when you're not able to sleep starts to develop a neuro-association in your mind of "bed = sleep problems".  Don't bring your work to bed with you, ie laptop, iPad, paperwork etc.  Once again, a bad neuro-association can occur.  The bed is for rest, and sex.

If you are a teen, or have teens, be wary of starting the habit of texting with friends laying in bed.  That can go on for hours and interfere with rest.  Even adults that are chained to work via their smart phones need to be wary of this habit as well.

Remember, resting well is part 4 of our wellness formula:  Eat well, move well, think well and rest well.

Until next time...Be Well!

Dr. Bruce

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Let's Get Serious

I was at the gym the other day, and lately I've done a few treadmill workouts instead of my normal HIIT workouts on a bike at the gym.  No real reason, sometimes it was because "my" bikes at the gym were being used, sometimes it was to spend more time with my wife while she did her treadmill workout, sometimes it was just for variety.  When I am on the treadmill, my workouts are never as intense, though I do my best to make them more than just going for a walk.  Because they are less intense, I get the chance to watch others around me working out. This is a good thing.

It's good because it encourages me.  I love seeing people out there going for it.  I especially love watching the folks running on treadmills especially, partly because it's cool to see them working hard and seeing how some run with such ease.  The other reason is jealousy that I can't run (knee issues) sometimes.  (just being honest).  It's also good because I see people that are seriously trying to get in shape and become healthier.  I see some of the less healthy and overweight people doing their best to move well.  Sometimes my initial reaction is to think about the very overweight that are there negatively.  My wife, in her infinite wisdom, brought up the point once that when we see an obese person, we never know if they've lost 30 pounds already, and are headed in the right direction.  So true, and so humbling to think of it that way.

Some of what I see at the gym though seems like people wasting their time.  I see them walking on a treadmill, and able to carry on conversations with their friend next to them without ever losing their breath.  Now I understand, as I try to see it from the other side, that they are still exercising, still burning calories, and enjoying the benefits of social relationships (which are part of a wellness lifestyle).  However, some of these same people that I know, wonder why they're not getting anywhere with their exercise.  When they come to me and ask why they're struggling with losing weight, I encourage them to get a bit more serious.  I encourage them to not just casually walk on the treadmill, but make it tougher.  To get anything out of cardio work, you have to have times where you're working hard enough that you can't carry on a conversation with someone. You can do that by increasing the incline.  That's what I do.  I bump up the incline for "x" amount of time, then bring it back down for recovery.  This way you create intervals that increase your cardio output and then recover actively. It's the simplest way to make your cardio workouts tough enough to make a difference.  It just takes getting a little more serious about how you spend your time in the gym.

So, if you're struggling with losing weight, take a look at the intensity of your cardio workouts.  Increase the intensity (with the approval of your health care provider if needed) to a level that makes you work hard enough to be unable to carry on conversations.  Do it in intervals and watch how your cardiovascular capacity improves, and how you burn more calories and melt some inches off!

Until next time....Be Well!
Dr. Bruce

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Then, and ONLY Then, Will It Happen For You

It's 20 days into the new year of 2013, and I wonder what percentage of New Year's Resolutions are still standing.  So I did a little (very little) research into the topic.  Here's what I found in one article this morning:

"It took one-third of Americans less than a week to cheat on their New Year's Resolutions, a new study by research and consulting firm YouGov reveals. The research showed that 11 percent had already broken at least one resolution, while 22 percent had cheated a few times, but were still trying to stick to their goals."  That was taken from Business News Daily's January 15 edition.  

Wow, that didn't take long did it? Less than a week?  Elsewhere in the article, it stated that health and fitness were the most common types of resolutions made, and thus the most common ones to be broken.  Have you been one of those annual health and fitness resolution breakers this year?  and last year?  Or maybe for most or all of your life?  There's a simple reason for this, and I am going to explain it here.

Here it is in a nutshell:  Your "why" isn't big enough.  That's really it.  If your "why" were big enough, you'd not have any issue staying true to your stated goal/resolution.  Your "why" is your reason for making that decision.  If your resolution is to get fit, or lose weight, or get healthy because you're in need of those things, yet you've failed regularly at it, then your "why" isn't big enough to keep you committed to your goal.

Oh sure, you "know" you should get fit.  You "know" you should lose weight.  But you actually haven't sat down and really gotten serious about listing and reading and "feeling" all your reasons for staying true to your desire. It's in your head, but not your heart.   If you had done this, your commitment would stick.  Lots of people "want" to, but most don't.  I had a friend and patient that allowed herself to gain massive amounts of weight, and I mean massive.  I remember trying to coach her to stop the weight gain as she became larger and less healthy.  Eventually she had to have a tracheotomy so she could breath, and eventually she was confined to wheelchair, and eventually her bed.  I even tried to hit her with what to me would be the most convincing and compelling reason to change:  watching her son grow up.  Sadly, none of this worked and she continued to gain weight, her health continued to deteriorate, and she died in her mid 40's.  

On the other hand, I can think of a few examples in my world where people have hit "rock bottom" and created such a massive reason or "why" that they made incredible changes in their life and thus in their health.  One such lady lost well over 100 pounds by eating better and exercising and now looks FANTASTIC!!  Beyond looking fantastic, she's feeling great physically, and about herself.  She simply had a big enough "why" to stay committed to her goal.

Oh sure, I get that there are reasons that sometimes we fail.  I sometimes have my reasons......er...ok.....let's be real here, there aren't reasons, there are excuses.  I sometimes come up with a good enough excuse to not exercise for a day, or eat badly for a bit.  It happens to the best of us.  But how long do we sit in those excuses?  That is the issue.  Skipping exercise isn't so bad for a day, but when that day turns into a week, or longer, or a lifestyle, that is the issue.  

If you're not where you want to be with regards to your health, fitness, weight etc and you know it, GOOD!  At least you know it.  First step done!!  Now you have to come up with all the reasons why you need to change, all the pain that you have from not making that change.  Make it real.  Feel it.  What will your life/body be like if you continue down this path in 1 year, 5 years, a decade?  How will you feel about yourself if you don't make the changes?  Then, spin it around and write down and think/dream/feel what it will be like if you DO make the changes you know you need to make?  Get really really good at feeling those emotions for making and NOT making the changes.  Once you have that down, you'll get moving in the right direction.  If you fall off the wagon, re-focus on those reasons again.  See and feel them.  Make it real.  

Then, and ONLY then, will you it happen for you.

If the "why" is big enough, the facts don't count.

Until next time...Be Well!
Dr. Bruce

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Building Immunity, The Natural Way

We are right in the middle of the annual flu season, and there's a rather large (to say the least) outbreak occurring in our country.  It's all over the news.  It's the talk at coffee shops.  People are asking questions about flu shots and immunity. In short, it's the talk of the town.

This isn't a discussion about whether or not you should have the flu shot.  I'll leave that up to you to get educated and make an informed decision.  I will say this though.  The shot gives you only about a 40% chance of not getting the flu, so even if you DO get the shot, you'd better do a few other things to increase your odds.  Here's my suggestions.

1.  Focus on eating health promoting foods.  I'd particularly focus on fruits and vegetables.  If you're a fan of juicing, double up on your juices, try some new recipes.  Avoid eating junk, including soft drinks, candies, crackers, bread (even supposedly healthy "whole grains bread) and other things that lower your immune response.  Find a good whole food supplement (I use Nanogreens and Nanoreds) to SUPPLEMENT (not replace) your healthy diet.

2.  Keep up with your exercise program.  If you're not exercising, start.  And if you're not exercising, do NOT over do it.  This will lower your immune response by wearing out your body.  Actually that goes for regular exercisers too.  Be careful not to push too far and have a worn down body.  Exercise has been shown to increase the immune response, and it combats stress which would ordinarily lower your body's ability to respond to potential infections but too much has the opposite effect.

3.  Keep your body on schedule.  This will allow you to rest appropriately.  Our bodies work best when on a schedule, they get into a rhythm and the result is a body that is best prepared to attack when foreign invaders attack.  It has been shown that one bad night's sleep slows down your immune response, so do your best to stay rested.

4.  Lastly, wash your hands regularly.  Using regular water, and soap from time to time as well, especially if you are in contact with people in public.

PS, if you didn't recognize something vaguely familiar in the first 3 recommendations, they boil down to my wellness mantra:  Eat well, move well, think well and rest well.  It's as simple as that.

Until next time...Be Well!
Dr. Bruce

Saturday, January 5, 2013

What Kind Of Breeding Ground Are You Creating?

It's the time of year where I see more and more of my patients and friends and acquaintances dealing with the common cold, or upper respiratory issues, sinusitis and the like.  Many of them are quick to rush out to grab the first over the counter "remedy" they can find.  Some venture beyond that to see a medical doctor for their symptoms, with our without having had any fever (sign of infection).  I find this interesting and sad all at the same time.

It's sad because so many times, simple throat irritations, cold symptoms, and even mild fevers are going to resolve without any help from anyone.  It's interesting to me, because it shows that our culture in general still looks to the medical community as the be all, end all, for health and well being.  Of course, I live in a different world, a world where I know the body has this amazing healing ability, a world where I believe that the body doesn't need outside help as much as it needs less interference.  In my world, I grasp the fact that we are constantly building or destroying our bodies with our habits.  How we eat, move, think and rest creates a breeding ground for one of two things:  health and wellness, or sickness and disease.  It's a long term process that occurs daily.  Just like we don't become obese by eating one bad meal, or skipping exercise one day, we don't become ill by one exposure to someone with the flu.  Conversely, we don't become well by eating a healthy meal one day, or for a week etc.  It's a constant, ongoing process that sees us always moving one way or the other on what I term the "Wellness Spectrum".

Have you ever noticed how often sick people get sick ?  This is not a knock on anyone that gets sick a lot, but honestly, I see people with years, or decades, of behavior patterns that are unhealthy, and they are the one's usually who are always sick.  (Yes I know there are exceptions to the rule, but they are, by definition, exceptions, not the rule).  For someone like that, it may take years of turning their life around with new habits, to clean out their body, and to build a new foundation inside for wellness.  I see people with unhealthy relationships, lifestyles, habits that are consistently getting sick, taking medication (over the counter or prescription) and they never seem to get any better.  Oh sure, they get over the current condition, only to be whacked by another one right around the corner.

Again, this is not a knock on anyone, and some people have had serious problems that have weakened their immune systems, that's a given.  But too many of us blame outside circumstances for our health issues, ie bad luck or bad genes.  Yes, those may be a factor.  But in reality, if we work to build our body's immune system, if we strengthen it by how we eat, move, rest and think, our batting average of fighting off illness will get better.  I'm a good example of this. I used to get sick and miss work about 2x a year as I am constantly exposed to people carrying various illnesses, viruses, etc into my office and me touching them physically.  However, in the past 7 or 8 years, as I've focused on wellness more intently, this has begun to happen less and less. It doesn't mean I don't ever get sick, everyone gets a little sick at times whether it's the flu, or just a bit of a scratchy throat.  Again, I like the concept of "batting average", where we improve our ratio of well times vs. sick times, much like a baseball player wants to improve his ratio of how many hits he/she gets to how many times they make an out.

Start a trend today, right now, to move in a wellness direction consistently.  Don't get down if you do fall ill, you may have decades of habits that have created an unhealthy base in your life, and everyone gets sick somewhat at some point.  It takes time, but in the long run it's worth it!

Until next time...Be Well!!

Dr. Bruce