The Unsuspected Underlying Culprits of Stomach Pain: Finally Finding a Happy Place of Gut Health
When you are dealing with chronic stomach problems, diarrhea, gas or constipation, you want to find an explanation for it. Like most people, you want to make sure you cover all bases so you can finally overcome your tummy troubles.
Our energy, sense of well-being, and overall health is affected by our gut.
Our gut is the summation of our entire digestive tract that runs as a tube from your mouth to anus.
It’s easy to think about your gut as a simple organ, but it really is very sophisticated. For many reasons, your gut is the keystone of your health. Not the least of which is to ensure you get nutrition from your food for strong bones, muscles, and a clear thinking brain. It also helps your immune system act quickly against invading organisms like sickness-causing bacteria, viruses, and other things.
Masking the Root Cause of Gut Problems
The biggest problem I see is people trying to mask gut problems with digestion medications that don’t address the root of the problem. These may include a variety of symptomatic relief medications like antacids and constipation control aides.
It’s normal to believe that you need these medications for stomach problems because that’s what you see on television, in medical offices, and it’s what you hear from many of those around you.
Just because you see it advertised as a cure for your symptom does not mean it’s the answer to your main problem.
The unhealthy side to these “normal” medications is that they can mask the real problems. As a result your body may not digest food correctly or it might be working with a mismanagedacid-base balance or it may not be able to handle microscopic invaders effectively.
Understanding the relationship between your gut and all that’s operating in and around it can help you understand where you might be getting the chronic tummy troubles you have.
Your Body and the Bacteria that Live In It
Our body is complex and understanding its rhythms and movement are important for helping many internal health issues. As chiropractors, we often see patients with stomach problems and digestive troubles who also have spinal subluxations (joint fixations of the spine) in areas linked to the gut such as the level of the back just between a person’s shoulder blades. It is a common tight area where tension likes to settle in and hold, and it happens to be a key area of connection between the nervous system and the gut. A healthy nervous system ensures your gut is moving and reacting the best way it can. We’ve found that subluxation relief in this area may help.
Whether you like the idea or not, the inside of your body is filled with microbes, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses- some help us while some diminish our health and energy. These microbes make up what is called our “microbiome” or the complete collection of microbes that live in our body.
Michael Snyder, PhD, Director of Stanford University’s Center for Genomics and Personalized Medicine says, “There’s a good chance your microbiome is associated with every disease you can think of.”
Besides normal gut troubles that most people know about like stomach ulcers, ulcerative colitis, or gas, several unsuspected diseases and disorders have been linked to gut bacteria. Interestingly, gut bacteria may be connected with cognitive and psychological disorders such as depression, ADD, anxiety, autism, OCD, substance abuse, and Alzheimer’s disease. This connection may be due to the gut microbes’ ability to create molecules that irritate and impact brain function.
What is a Happy Gut?
A happy gut is in place when several positive intestinal processes are happening all at once: our microbiome is balanced and harmonious, our food choices enhance mobility of the gut and nutrition uptake, and there is a certain level of body and mind calmness in place.
Relieving tension and body restrictions such as that in between our shoulder blades has been shown to improve body calmness in some and thereby improve health problems with the gut. Managing, to the extent we can, what’s living in your body is just as important as managing the health of the surrounding structures of your gut.
How Can We Improve Our Gut to Achieve Better Health?
Rigorous research into the human microbiome is still in its infancy. However, there is evidence that we may be able to influence the mix of microbes in our gut through our food choices.
This is not to say that changing any one particular aspect of your diet—substituting one sort of food for another, for instance—will result in a cure for any particular disease. However, we know enough about a healthy overall diet and its impact on our body’s function and well-being to be able to recommend lowering sugar intake (sugar, bread, pasta, potatoes) and increasing fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and healthy fats (olive oil, avocados, etc.). These changes contribute to a healthier nutritional profile, which clearly leads to better overall health and weight maintenance.
Some nutritional experts also recommend eating fermented foods containing live active cultures (such as yogurt, kimchee, kefir, miso, kombucha, and sauerkraut) or taking probiotic supplements to support the colonies of “good” bacteria that live inside your gut.
If you choose to take probiotic supplements, there are a few things you should keep in mind:
- The probiotic supplement you choose must contain the right strains of bacteria to promote good health.
- The probiotic supplement must be of a good quality so that the bacteria strains they contain are active when you take them.
- Your digestive system is a very hostile environment. For probiotic supplements to do any good, enough of the good bacteria in them must be able to reach your intestines alive.
If you are experiencing stiffness and pain in your spine and in between your shoulders or problems with your overall movement, chiropractic treatments can help reduce the pain, improve your movement and has in some cases have been linked with improving internal health of your gut.
For personalized attention, I invite you to a complimentary “What’s Sapping my Energy and Causing Pain?” consultation. Please go to the contact form here, for more information.
The 25 Minute Program for Stress-Free and Pain-Free Work/Life Balance
“If I wasn’t so busy!” is the moto of our time. I often hear people talk about doing healthy activities they know they should like exercising, relaxing, getting more sleep or eating right, but think they can’t because of all the stresses in their life.
I know how it is to feel overwhelmed and like you are just getting by in life.
There is another possibility. Instead of waiting for stress to end, you can end it now by making the decision to take control of your days.
Reducing stress is a worthy goal that can improve your life by transforming your daily outlook, relationships, health, and pain levels.
Many people believe that overworking creates stress. It can. Overworking creates stress that causes high blood pressure, poor diet choices during stressful times, and reduced healing from decreased sleep. The stress is also extremely damaging and aging to your body. I see many people push too hard by staying awake too long or jumping into physical activities they don’t normally do like shoveling snow. A fast paced lifestyle and jumping into seemingly urgent stresses sets people’s bodies up for injuries.
It’s ironic how these injuries often first present themselves. A person can get a screaming wake up call about an injury from the smallest action. One day you may be spending hours typing and putting together an important report, and in one moment, you reach down and feel a painful pull in your neck. I have had people share with me how the seizing pain in their back came directly after picking up a small item like a piece of paper or a pencil.
I know it wasn’t the action of picking up the pencil that caused the pain. Often the accumulation of stress in the body from a fast-paced, overly committed lifestyle is what initiates the sequence of pain. The stress and actions essentially cause the weakness, and injury then comes afterward.
You need to realize that there’s absolutely no reason to overdo it, even if you have bills to pay or a pressing goal ahead of you. In fact, the harder you push yourself, the closer you get to more injuries, body deterioration that looks like fast aging and prolonged debilitating pain.
It’s important to learn how to balance all the aspects of your life without focusing just on work and doing what others want at the moment. Sure, work is extremely important. It keeps your brain active, and it provides the income necessary for you and your family to survive. However, it can also wear you down, especially if you go non-stop. And yes, you have to shovel your sidewalks after it snows, but it can be better planned, prepared for and executed. Don’t jump into the task like you’ve been doing this type of work for a living because you risk overdoing it and causing injury.
The trick to balancing work with the rest of your life lies in performing this 25-minute exercise each day:
- Five minutes for meditation and clear thought. This exercise is crucial for beginning each day. Meditating can mean the difference between attacking your day with ferocity or approaching it with an aura of calmness and preparedness.
- Meditation centers your mind and calms your spirit. It also helps relieve any tension and problems with quick action rather than a calm, focused but persistent energy you may otherwise bring into your day.
- Meditation can help you focus on your inner power, limitations, and resources and remind you of what’s important to you and those who love you.
- Five minutes for energizing your body- While you meditate or just before, take time to stretch your body to ready yourself physically for the day. This preparation will help your body handle endurance, strength, and posture demands you don’t usually consider like sitting long periods in front of a computer or standing on your feet longer than usual for a presentation or event.
- Focus on stretching the areas of your body that are bothering you the most during your day
- Stretch slowly and deliberately, not to the point of pain but to the point of slight tension. This should feel comfortable enough that you want to breathe deeply and hold the stretch for a bit.
- Try your best to stretch at the beginning, middle, and end of the day, even if the grand total of each time amounts to under 5 minutes.
- Stretching does wonders for your body but doesn’t always clear the jammed or stuck spots in your body. Chiropractic treatments clear joint misalignment and restrictions to release pain and give your back, neck, shoulders, and hips better range of motion.
- Five minutes for planning. After you’ve meditated, you should be in the frame of mind to plan your day or create your to-do list. Planning allows you to organize your tasks so you can be productive without abusing yourself.
- Prioritize your tasks based on their importance.
- Try your best to stick to the plan for the day. Having a clear plan for what you want to accomplish helps to keep you focused and stress-free.
- Five minutes for checking in. Whether all at once or in one-minute intervals, check up on yourself. Assess how well you’ve been able to stick to your plan. Have you accomplished your important tasks? Have you been able to manage your day without losing your cool?
- There may be times when you’ll have to readjust your list of tasks. There are bound to be unforeseen circumstances. What’s important is that you take them in stride.
- Avoid letting unexpected events throw your plan out completely. Take a moment to change your approach. Learn how to go with the flow.
- Five minutes for winding down. Now that you’ve come to the end of the day, it’s time to wind down. Maybe you’ve never allowed yourself the opportunity to do this before. Taking time to wind down is the best way to relieve the stress of the day.
- Engage in some relaxing activities. Do you like yoga or would you prefer to sit quietly and listen to jazz music? Let go of what happened today and get ready for tomorrow.
- Winding down also opens you up to spending quality time with loved ones. You’ll probably agree that at the end of a busy day, you may be too tired to interact with anyone. That will change when you allow yourself to wind down each day.
Once you try it, you’ll realize that this approach works. Designating these 25 minutes each day can help you maintain a balance between your professional and personal lives as well as manage all other aspects of your life with relative ease.
Be sure you get your back, neck, shoulders and hips checked by a chiropractor. Even the best of us need to press “reset” on our bodies after a while. Just like a car needs its wheels rotated, your body joints and muscles need to be gently adjusted to reduce the amount of stiffness and tension you feel.
Getting your spine and muscles checked by a professional can also help with sleep. We’ve had great success in helping alleviate sleep discomfort that comes from body tension due to stress. Contact us for a personalized evaluation to see what might help you get on track to enjoy calmer weeks.
The Doctor’s Best Advice for Injury-Free, Winter Exercise
For many people, colder temperatures outside can mean big changes in exercise routines. Some will move their workouts indoors or hibernate during the winter months. Others, who are very committed, though, will decide to work with the seasons and find ways to be active outside. If you’re one of those people, this article is for you.
I work with many runners who’ve found their runner’s Zen spot before the winter. They came from zero running experience to running their first ½ marathon. Embracing a new direction in life and a new habit is what has set them apart as extraordinary. People who take smart care of themselves, just like the professional athlete’s do, are able to stick with their goals. This is where many seek me out, as a trained and experienced runner and Chiropractor.
In my experience, it’s important to be smart about how you exercise outdoors. While you should be applauded for getting out and staying active in the cold for a bit of exercise, it’s still important to know a few things. Without some necessary advice you may find yourself injured or soon ready to call it quits.
To help you protect yourself from frostbite, hypothermia, and injuries that can come with freezing temperatures, I’ve put together a short checklist that you can use to exercise outdoors safely this winter.
How to exercise outdoors safely in the winter
- Remember that Cold Weather is Often Dry Weather. Winter weather is often associated with precipitation. However, as the temperatures drop to dangerous lows—close to freezing and below—the opposite is often true regarding humidity. The air will get drier, and even if you don’t sweat as much, you can still lose valuable moisture. When exercising in the cold weather, remember to drink plenty of water, even if you don’t really feel thirsty or sweaty.
- Understand the Real Temperature Where You Plan to Exercise. Look up the weather on a website or app before you head out into the cold, but understand the numbers you are looking at. The general weather conditions can differ greatly from place to place locally, even in the same region. Pay especially close attention to wind chill numbers, since the combination of wind and your own movement may lead you to experience lower temperatures. The thermometer may say its 35 degrees out, but the wind chill may mean it feels closer to 20 degrees in certain areas.
- Dress Appropriately. It may be tempting to bundle up when going out in the cold to work out, but this comes at a cost. Thick, warm clothes will make you sweat more easily, and that sweat can leach heat from your body and allow your temperature to drop to unhealthy levels. The key, as cold weather experts know well, is to dress in layers, starting with a thin synthetic layer of wicking material, then a fleece and finally a thinner waterproof coat. The added benefit to this clothing strategy is that it’s flexible. You can always take off layers if you get too hot.
- Warm Up your Extremities First. When exercising in the cold weather, pay particular attention to your extremities, which are more vulnerable to frostbite. It’s especially important to cover your fingers and head. If the air is very frigid, cover up your nose and mouth, too: That cold air can damage your lungs and freeze your nose.
- Fuel Up. A source of energy is vital to keeping up your metabolism and keeping you warm when out in the cold. Eat a healthy amount of complex carbs and proteins before you go out, and if you’re going to be out for a few hours, then bring a snack along, too. Stay away from sugars and other less dependable sources of energy, if possible.
- Start Slow. Stretching and warming up will both make injury less likely and help your metabolism pick up until you are ready for more strenuous work. Always warm up before going out into the winter weather, particularly if you are planning on an intense session with lots of running or heavy exertion. Otherwise, joint and muscle injuries could result.
- Know the Danger Signs. Hypothermia and frostbite can creep up on you if you’re not careful. You can defend against the cold better if you recognize the signs. Frostbite occurs on exposed skin like your cheeks, nose, ears, and hands, especially below 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Hypothermia occurs when shivering cannot keep up your core body temperature and your heart and brain begin to shut down. Watch for intense shivering, sudden weariness, slurred words, and trouble with coordination.
If your joints are feeling stiff or achy, we help you get what feels like “lubrication” back into the moving parts. If you’re injured, we help you get up and moving quickly. Dr. Nicole Muschett is the “Best in Town” Chiropractor in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
4 Effective Means to Alleviate a “Charley Horse”
You’re lying in bed and just about to go to sleep and then all of a sudden, you feel that pull start deep in your calf muscle. You know exactly what is coming; the seizing pain of another “Charley Horse” sets in.
“Charley Horse” is a slang term for a painful muscle spasm that can happen in any muscle but most often it happens in the calf or foot. Sometimes you may experience this pain in the arms, hands, rib cage, abdomen, or thighs. It is characterized by a tight or “seizing” sensation. The pain can last for just a few seconds or stretch out over a period of days. The affected area can become difficult to touch.
Just about everyone will experience this common type of muscle spasm from time to time. Sometimes the worst part is just the fear of when it’s going to happen again.
The important thing to know is that you can prevent this pain from coming and even from hitting its peak when you feel it starting. Knowing how to alleviate a Charley Horse effectively will be profoundly helpful to you when you are trying to rest and just feel better.
Common Causes and Prevention
Charley horses are commonly caused by exercising without stretching first. Dehydration, hormonal imbalances, dietary deficiencies, nerve malfunction, and reactions to medication can all contribute to creating a painful charley horse episode. Here’s what you need to know:
- Encourage and maintain flexibility. Stretching exercises are highly useful for both alleviating and preventing the dreaded charley horse. If a muscle spasm affects your calf or the back of your thigh, you can stretch it out by lunging forward, putting your weight on the affected leg, and slightly bending your knee. If a cramp or spasm is affecting the front of your leg, you can alleviate it by using a chair to balance while pulling your foot up behind you, toward your bottom.
- Massage the affected area. Massaging the affected area can release and relieve muscle tension, allowing the spasm to subside. Applying hot and cold compresses can also assist in alleviating the pain. You can also elevate the affected area to increase blood circulation and encourage the release of tension.
- Drink plenty of water. Dehydration is a leading cause of charley horses. Water keeps your muscles hydrated and truly “fluid”. You can alleviate and prevent them by drinking lots of water.
- Eat More of the Right Foods. A low sodium diet combined with increasing your consumption of potassium-, magnesium-, and calcium-rich foods is recommended. Foods to eat include bananas, oranges, avocados, almonds, halibut, spinach, kale, and dairy products. Vitamin supplements can also assist in increasing your potassium, magnesium, and calcium levels. Lastly, avoid diuretics (i.e. caffeine or drugs) as they can deplete your hydration and electrolytes.
What about if you need help now? They just keep coming back!
If you’re experiencing charley horses on a frequent basis, they could be an indication of a physical problem. For example, a pinched nerve can cause reoccurring muscle spasms and is correctable via chiropractic adjustment. Also body imbalance can cause frequent muscle spasms such as Charley Horses. Imbalance of your posture is where your muscles are pulling stronger on one side of your body in comparison to the other side or pulling on one side of a body part- such as your leg- versus the other. This causes a muscle to experience more episodes of spasm than if it was balanced. Consult us today for a comprehensive diagnosis to see if you have the tell-tale signs of faulty foot, ankle or hip muscle movement patterns or other health disturbances that may cause Charley Horses.
3 Ways to Identify Pain That’s Caused by Repressed Stress
Chronic back pain is one of the most common and frustrating ailments.
Few things are worse than a sore back. It can make everything from moving to staying still very uncomfortable and often painful.
True relief can only be achieved if and when the root cause of your pain is identified. This is where things sometimes get tricky. Healthcare professionals categorize chronic back pain as one of the most frequently seen musculoskeletal issues in health care. And although they repeatedly treat it as a physical ailment, some have realized that often there is more at play. There are times that a person’s pain is more than a physical problem; more than a problem that solely involves the muscles, bones, joints or nerves.
In the 1970s, Dr. John Sarno proposed the idea that not all pain is caused by a physical issue. He introduced tension myositis syndrome (or TMS). TMS is based on the premise that not all pain is purely physical in nature, and chronic pain could be linked to repressed psychological or emotional stress that is directly causing muscle tension.
Spotting Signs of Repressed Stress
It’s rare to receive a chronic back pain diagnosis documenting the cause as TMS. Unfortunately, the bulk of the mainstream medical community fails to recognize it as a valid diagnosis, and they do not endorse related treatment methods. However, Dr. Mehmet Oz, Andrew Weil, and other alternative care health professionals have given TMS attention. According to Dr. Sarno, when TMS is accurately diagnosed and treated, the approximate cure rate is 85 percent. Here’s how you can spot the signs of repressed stress pain:
- Emotional Triggers: Repressed anger or anxiety are major causes of TMS. Triggers can involve everything from highly emotional encounters to pain occurring directly after a sound, smell, or sight.
- Known Symptoms: Documented TMS symptoms include recurring and intermittent back pain, stiffness, tingling sensations, numbness, and weakness in the affect area. Discomfort in other neighboring parts of the body is common, including the neck, arms, jaw, wrists, and knees.
- Periods of Relief: It’s common for symptoms to decrease after a vacation or other form of relaxation. Once back to the daily grind, symptoms can rapidly reoccur and they are not contingent on physical activity.
The core treatment is education. Once a proper diagnosis is issued, you can begin to recover. Regardless of whether you’re experiencing acute or sporadic back pain, a trained chiropractor can help. Chiropractors treat joint misalignments that cause muscle tension as well as sharp and pulling pain. It is well known to us that these misalignments in the body often stem from three major influences in our lives: trauma, toxins and thoughts. All have a strong influence on how well our bodies are able to heal, replenish and cope with the day-to-day movements we make.
We have proven to help many of our clients feel much better so they gain a deeper sense of rest and balance. When this happens, the body is able to restore itself releasing much of the tightly held tension you have been feeling. Contact Dr. Nicole Muschett today for a complimentary consultation.