It’s not your resting heart rate, blood pressure, squat max, how many pull ups you can do or how many miles you can run every week.
The best indicator of your overall health isn’t even how many grams of protein, carbs and fat you eat every day.
So what’s the single best indicator of your overall health?
There isn’t one. There’s many. And they’re all important to really look at, at least annually, if you’re interested in living the absolute best life you can live.
When it comes to health, look at SYSTEMS not SYMPTOMS.
The Hierarchy of Analyzing Human Health
First, determining how healthy you are should never be based on how you feel.
Basing your health on how you feel is what get’s us into trouble with some of the leading causes of death. Nearly 75% of all deaths in the US are attributed to just 10 causes, with the top 3 of these accounting for over 50% of all deaths.
What’s worst about the 3 leading causes of death is that the first two often have no early warnings, signs or symptoms.
You can be healthy one day and drop dead from a heart attack the next.
You can be bicycling with friends and family at the park; and suffer from a massive stroke during the night.
Cancer can be lurking in your body for 20 years and you’ll never know until it gets so bad that its nasty face becomes obvious. This is exactly why I developed a Hierarchy of Analyzing Human Health for my patients.
If you want to understand your current level of health, it’s important that you look at SYSTEMS rather than SYMPTOMS! When you go to the doctor for your annual checkup, chances are they looked at
Height, Weight & Blood Pressure
Listened to your heart and lungs
Ordered some routine blood chemistry panels
…and called it a day
While this is the standard medical exam that can certainly find obvious problems, it also allows so many people to fall through the cracks because it’s just not enough to really determine your current level of health; especially if you’re someone who is “healthier” than most.
And lets be honest… “healthier” than most in America is not really saying much.
If you really want to a get a hold on your current level of health, then a solid first step in analyzing your health begins with a:
Comprehensive Blood Chemistry Panel combined with a Functional Blood Chemistry Analysis.
Comprehensive Digestive Health Panel
Comprehensive Hormone Panel (Sex and Stress Hormones and Brain Chemistry)
This is not to say that your fitness level, psychology and environment do not play a part. But even if you worked out 12 hours a daya and felt that you had a strong emotional base.. you can still drop dead from a heart attack or come down with cancer.
So let’s unpack all this to have a better understanding of WHY?
Comprehensive Blood Chemistry Panel
The benefits of a comprehensive blood chemistry panel really depends on WHO interprets and HOW they interpret the information.
The reality is, most doctors simply look at lab values and say you are normal or abnormal.
However, a good blood chemistry analysis
Can reveal the source of many symptoms.
Pinpoint underlying health imbalances way before they turn into serious health problems.
Identify hormonal, metabolic, and gastrointestinal issues.
Identify nutrient and mineral deficiencies.
Evaluate your bodies ability to detox and repair itself.
When interpreting blood chemistry results, there is aFunctional Rangeand aPathological Range.
Functional Ranges help to identify imbalances that are predisposing you to disease.
Pathological Ranges tell you when you have a disease.
This is why most doctors will miss what their patients bloodwork is telling them. It’s why you can have all the signs of heart disease or diabetes; yet your doctor will tell you your fine.
Doctors today use Pathological Ranges and do not address the sub-clinical findings that are present until they become a serious medical condition.
The goal is to identify developing helath problems and prevent them from manifesting into a serious medical condition. This is exactly what happens when I order a comprehensive blood chemistry panel.
Comprehensive Digestive Health Panel
80% of your immune system lives in your digestive system.
If you’ve never had a comprehensive stool panel performed, there is no way you can properly assess your current level of health. There are hundreds of conditions and diseases that can be caused by gut dysfunctions.
This can include conditions such as Heart Disease, Cancer, Hormone Imbalances (Thyroid, PCOS, Estrogen, HPA-Axis, Cortisol), Autoimmune Conditions and allergies.
The Benefits of a Comprehensive Digestive Health Panel:
Quanitfy the amount of beneficial (good) bacteria vs pathogenic (bad) bacteria
Monitor your bodies ability to absorb nutrients such as protein, fats and carbohydrates
Identify how much Inflammation is present
Screen for harmful microorganisms such as fungus, parasties, viruses
Like I previously mentioned, many chronic disorders come from digestive problems and inadequate nutrient absorption.
Proper gut function is needed to eliminate toxic substances, pathogenic organisms, and undigested food particles from the body to prevent health problems.
If you’ve never had your gut health assessed, there’s no way you could consider yourself healthy.
Comprehensive Hormone & Brain Chemistry Study
The way most people have had their hormones tested and treated is downright negligent.
To be put on synthetic hormone (birth control, thyroid, estrogen and testosterone) without properly measuring where you are is criminal.
There is enough here that I could write an entire textbook about so I’m going to try and keep it simple.
In order to determine your current hormone status you need:
Blood (Serum) Testing – this checks inactive hormone circulating in your body
Saliva Testing – this checks active hormone that can stimulate cells in your body
Urine Testing – this tells you how your body is metabolizing “active” hormone
Understanding what your hormones are doing is highly useful information when it comes to trying to determine your overall level of health.
The challenge lies in accurately measuring your hormone levels and interpreting the test results.
The DUTCH Hormone test is one way for a doctor to capture all the information needed in ONE simple test.
Blood testing is the most common method of hormone testing, and it’s a good test for reproductive hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, as there’s no major variation in these hormones throughout the day (testosterone is an exception).
The drawback is that blood testing will not show you the metabolites of those hormones.
The blood test also falls short when testing adrenal hormones like cortisol, as it can only show you total cortisol. However, the saliva still won’t show you the metabolites of cortisol.
DUTCH, on the other hand, does both.
Taking things a step further, the DUTCH Hormone test also evaluates for 3 key neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine/epinephrine) as well as nutritional markers such as B12, B6 and Glutathione.
This helps to understand how your body is absorbing these vitamins which are commonly associated with hormone imbalances that cause fatigue, anxiety, insomnia, depression, motivation, sex drive, estrogen dominance and stress.
Assessing Nutrient Status
In my opinion, a proper nutrient status assessment would include 3 things:
Comprehensive Blood Chemistry Analysis
Food Diary or Nutrition Intake
Ion Profile that evaluates for over 125 key nutrient biomarkers and ratios that can help identify nutritional shortfalls.
All together this allow us to compare information between the 3 studies to get an accurate representation of your current nutritional status.
Why is this important? Specific imbalances of vitamins, nutrients, and essential co-factors can all contribute to common chronic diseases such as:
Mood disorders including anxiety and depression
Digestive Health Problems
Chronic Pain/Inflammatory conditions
Risk of Cancer
There are 3 types of peoplewho really need this type of analysis.
1) The person who has a medical condition and is being treated medically, yet they’re not getting any better.
2) The person who has a medical condition but does not want to be on medication and has no other option for treatment.
3) The person who has been told they’re healthy but has never had this kind of assessment.
If you’re one of the 3 people I just described, I would seriously consider getting properly assessed to avoid any unnecessary health problems that are sure to develop.
We just discussed 4 tests that help to properly evaluate you health status.
If you’re struggling with a health issue… heart health, diabetes, arthritis, autoimmune conditions or weight issues, you need this assessment.
If you believe you’re healthy and you’ve never had this kind of assessment, you’re missing crucial data that may prove otherwise.
Maybe you are healthy and you want a fresh perspective on how you’ve been living your life, then this assessment is for you too.
If you’re ready to get started, simply click the button below:
Let me preface this article by saying I’m a big fan of Crossfit, Olympic weight lifting, weight or resistance training, interval training, running, cycling and any other form of working the body. I love all the things. But sometimes, doing “All the Things” is too much.
This is a follow up article to last week’s review of a study that dissected female athletes who wrecked their metabolism under the best conditons.
So that said… don’t hate on what I’m about to say.
Through clinical observation, functional medicine testing and functional movement assessments of now hundreds of athletes I can honestly say that many people go through health and end up on the opposite end of the spectrum; which has its own set of devastating consequences.
False Health or False Wellness is when we assume we’re healthy because we’re doing what we BELIEVE is right, but all the while it’s creating dysfunction.
In our attempts for achieving “wellness” or optimal health and just the right body composition, we may be doing one of the worst things we can do – especially for those of us who fumble between a full-time career, education, family, finances, etc.
Let me explain.
Anyone who knows me, knows that I spend A LOT of time STUDYING human physiology. I love reading scientific papers on human biomechanics and movement, stress hormones, muscle protein synthesis and nutrition.
I personally love to hang on things, swing my body around, push myself hard (even when I know I shouldn’t), and listen to some loud MotherF’n music while other peeps shout and cheer each other on!
I LOVE ALL THE THINGS and will always continue to train that way, but hear me out…
I care for people who eat PLENTY (2400+ calories) for all the training they’re doing (upwards of 3hrs /day) and even though they acknowledge all the stress in their lives… many more do not or refuse to think it’s there. It’s dumb.
For some of them, there’s no day job. They peruse at home after a hectic morning of driving kids to school, preparing food, cleaning, paying bills, etc.
Then there’s others, who for most of the day, work at an office (usually at a desk) with complete disregard on the mental toll any of it takes.
Still, others go to school…
Going to school provides a unique stress response, but it’s not entirely different from those of us who are stay at home parents, self employed or part of the workforce in general – there’s the pressure to be perfect, to meet deadlines, to impress those in higher positions, etc.
Regardless of what you do… regardless of how much you try to minimize your stress – believe me it’s there.
We all have an immense amount of pressure coming from every angle – don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my job – but that’s why it’s so stressful sometimes – answering to literally +1000 people per week via email, Facebook messenger, Instagram DM’s, text messages, face to face conversation. Everyday.
And I have it easy. If you’re a mom, you have to be the positive source of energy.
If you’re a full time working mom, you have to be a positive source of energy with little to no energy for everyone else.
WE HEAR YOU MOMMA’S OF THE WORLD! You can ROAR! But it won’t change your physiology.
You have to give and give and be willing to rarely receive.
And you can love it. You can love it ALL. You can love your work or personal life and all the while assume to have little to no stress; or at least so you think.
On top of all this, for every physical stressor we have, there is easily 3X’s more emotional stress coming from relationships with both friends and parents…
And you may think – “Hey, I got this.”
My life is great. I get 7-9 hours of sleep, I’m eating good food, I’m exercising. I’m good.
Or so you think.
Let me take a quick pause here and say that if you’re reading this and instinctively start telling yourself that this article does not apply to you… that’s EXACTLY my point.
We all need to do some self-inventory and self-assessing to bring our awareness to the fact that you can NOT do it ALL. Everyone has a stress threshold, and it’s up to you on how you reach it.
Some people are not going to give up their fast-paced job and 3 kids so that they can spend more time training and recovering. Some people will try to think that they can handle all of it and then some.
With respect to health, we all need to realize what our non-negotiables are (career, education, family, finances) and understand that anything in addition to that is either going to ADD to the stress bucket, or take AWAY from it.
It is what it is. Deal?
Treating The Symptom
How the hell have we made it this far?
The vast majority of us live on adrenaline. Coffee consumption is at an all time high. Caffeine is a drug that further spikes cortisol. The reason why Starbucks is so successful is because they fuel our ridiculous pursuits of pushing through everything despite the overwhelming fatigue we are experiencing.
Take a look at the graph below. Pay attention to the increase of “occasional” coffee drinkers vs “daily” drinkers. I believe this is a symptom of something greater at work.
We are basically climbing a ladder and it’s burning from the bottom up.
And when the fire catches you… so does the weight gain – the joint pains, the headaches, the heart palpitations and hormone imbalances. Your blood pressure becomes abnormal. Your hair falls out and you start noticing that you cannot handle things you used to.
It gets to the point where we even start to chalk it up to aging and we think, “Fuck it. I’ll just work harder.”
What the hell kind of nonsense is that??
You’re burning an incredible amount of energy every day – and still gaining weight. How is that possible?
Regardless of what food you eat or how much you exercise, your clothes fit a little tighter, you start retaining more and more water and you notice the scale fluctuating on the regular.
Do you get striations in your skin after you take your socks off at the end of the day? You should know that EDEMA is not a sign of optimal health.
Is it harder and harder to get up in the morning? One coffee is now 3 or 5. You start looking into pre-workout formulas and then you’re wondering why the hell you can’t you fall asleep?
HPA-Axis Dysfunction & Adrenal Fatigue
These are all signs of HPA-Axis Dysfunction commonly known as adrenal fatigue or cortisol dysregulation.
For some of you, you’ll notice that digestion has literally gone to shit – you’re bloated, gassy and leaking from your butt (diarrhea). Maybe you’ve even developed food sensitivities.
Now you can’t eat Wheat (gluten), eggs (albumin) or dairy (casein A1). These are all signs of a leaky gut that almost always co exist with adrenal problems.
Because what does science say about a gut that becomes impermeable to large proteins? You guessed it – chronically high cortisol and inflammation in the gut.
Now let’s talk about sex. What about it Dr. D? There isn’t any.
Sex drive starts to go away too! Cortisol is a stress hormone that has a direct impact on the entire hormonal system. It affects thyroid hormones, blood sugar hormones (insulin) and sex hormones (progesterone, estrogen etc.). What this means for you is low sex drive, irregular periods (if you’re a girl), acne, and possible infertility.
No sex drive also likely coincides with no personal motivation. This also leads to depression. This is when we force ourselves to go to the gym, it takes longer to warm up and despite our amazing workout… we drag ourselves through the rest of the day.
Finally… and this might seem a bit crazy and certainly doesn’t happen to all of you… but you find that your hair is falling out? I mean there’s tons of it. It’s clogging the drain. And if you’re also finding that your cold all the time, well congrats… you might have caused yourself to develop hypothyroidism!
A simple blood test can spell all this out for you, but there’s really no need – your symptoms are telling you that you’re f*cked so let’s skip the middleman and just cut to the chase – you need to fix your hormones!
If any of you have resonated with this story thus far…stick with me…I want to explain what the heck happened, why it happened, and how to keep it from happening over and over.
Why Adrenal Fatigue Happens
When we feel stress, the human body undergoes an amazing change.
The stressor – for example, a 20 min high intensity workout — stimulates the hypothalamus.
This region of the brain is responsible for maintaining the balance between stress and relaxation in your body.
When it’s alerted to perceived ‘danger’, it sends out a chemical signal to your adrenal glands, activating the sympathetic system (Fight-Flight), which sends the body into an excited state. Ever feel that shaky, hyper-focused, strung out feeling after a tough workout?
Or remember being so angry that your hands were trembling, your lips hardly able to sit still? That’s your adrenal glands.
That’s Adrenaline, baby!
These glands release adrenaline and noradrenaline, hormones that create the state of readiness that helps a human confront danger.
All of these changes in our normal physical state prepare us to face danger head-on. The issue is when cortisol is chronically elevated for months and months with complete disregard for recovery…
Stress directly affects the synchronicity of your hormones.
When cortisol levels are constantly high, they affect the production of sex hormones, slow down thyroid function and imbalance blood sugar levels. They also make it hard for your body to create those ‘feel good’ hormones like serotonin.
It’s equally important to understand that high cortisol levels combined with a nutrient deficiency or worse… calorie deficit (diet) is like an atom bomb for your hormones.
You’re literally asking for self implosion.
So, it’s no wonder so many athletes who assume they’re healthy also develop hypothyroidism, cortisol dysregulation, adrenal fatigue, stupid sex hormone imbalances, a lack of recovery/motivation/intensity and even depression.
Some people may be reading this and think “Good God, does all that really happen to people! It’s never happened to me?”
If you’re thinking that, then let me share with you the fact that the number of patients complaining of fatigue make up more than 20 percent of all patient contacts in primary care, which amounts to 18 million physician visits annually in the United States (1,2). A whopping Seventy-five to 90 percent of primary care visits have been reported to be stress related (3). Despite these statistics, conventional medicine is often at a loss as to how to care for these patients.
And on top of that we have people… hundreds of people who will read this article to minimize their stress and say, “Nah, that’s not me.”
Well, this ‘scenario’ is far more common than you think.
See, these symptoms don’t just happen in full force one day…they gradually build up over time. Your body is an incredibly adaptable machine.
You give it some stress, it adapts. Add a little more stress, and it adapts again. But we need to realize that just like we need to sleep every night to process the day’s stressors, we need to deload our lives every so often to process life’s stressors.
My patients clearly do not allow their body a chance to recover…and I see far too many who even agree that they have high levels of stress and yet continue to ignore the elephant in the room.
What to Do When Adrenal Fatigue Happens
So what are we supposed to do?
The first step to re-balancing your hormones is to minimize stress…ugh, damnit.
Is that it? Reduce stress?
Even if you are doing all the right things…eating well, exercising daily, no processed food, you’re 100% gluten free – you could still be struggling with all the aforementioned symptoms!
Why? Because – Stress!
Here’s a few things that can help to balance stress hormones and potentially help you to recover from rock bottom.
Take a break from excessive and intense exercise – before you start whining and pulling out your already falling out hair… try swapping one or two of your high-intensity-met-con-gonna look like Brooke-Ence-type workouts for gentle forms of exercise (e.g. hypertrophy, accessory work, yoga, Pilates or walking). Do this for a trial period of two to four weeks to see if it lowers your stress.
Please make note, I did NOT tell you to give up CrossFit or HIIT or Interval training 😉
Eat more! 9 out 10 people that come to me for nutrition coachingare under-eating for the load of stress and training in their life. Living in a calorie deficitwith minimal carbohydrate intake drives cortisol up throughout the day.
Body re-composition or fat loss should only ever occur in the off season. If your goal is to train hard and increase performance… you need fuel, you need a lot of it.
Not only will calorie deficits cause you to struggle getting through tough workouts, but it may take you 2-3 days to recover. Do you ever feel like Monday – Wednesday you are on fire in the gym, but then by Thursday and Friday you are dragging yourself through the doors?
This is NOT the way to improve your fitness, strength, and skill.
You should be feeling energized and recovered every single day, Mmmmkay?
Practice saying “probably not” or “no” – You can do it – trust me!
Look, we are programmed to overcommit, overprovide and people please, often at the expense of our own health and our stress response and adrenal function. This week when someone asks you to do something that you know will stress you and your adrenals, practice saying “Probably not…(pause), but let me think about it.” No guilt allowed! Take it further by creating a list of your absolute yes’s and no’s for this week.
Give Yourself a smart device curfew – Reduce blue light at night. Too much light at night actually stimulates your adrenals to produce more cortisol to keep you awake and energized. This prevents you from being able to wind down properly and actually get proper sleep. Here’s what to do: After 9pm turn off as many lights in your house as possible. Give yourself a smart phone or smart device curfew, this means no laptops or phones past 9pm or in bed.
Include complex carbs and good-quality organic protein sources in EVERY meal– complex carb (think sweet potatoes, white potatoes, green vegetables and beans) and good quality proteins (pasture raised chicken, wild-caught fish, grass-finished red meats, and legumes) can work wonders in balancing your hormones by keeping your blood sugar regulated. NO more quick hits of sugar throughout the day – your hormones will thank you!
Breathe – This is ridiculous, but so many people don’t breathe properly. Make a conscious effort to relax and breathe deeply for 10 minutes every evening. Pop your legs up against the wall while you do this (think I’m crazy? Top level athletes uses this technique after her training sessions to decompress and enter into para-sympathetic mode).
These lifestyle changes are boring as hell – but that’s why they work. And please, don’t for a minute think that you can simply supplement your way to health. Yes, taking adrenal support supplements (if you know what you’re doing) and popping B-complex can help, but are you really treating the root of the problem?
You already know this problem: Humans are in the midst of the worst chronic disease epidemic ever faced in our history.
Americans are the biggest consumer of weight loss products (80%) in the world, yet still lead the world in obesity and unhealthy lifestyle.
More than 70% of adults across the United States are already being diagnosed with a chronic disease and more than 75% of the nation’s healthcare cost being spent on managing and treating these conditions.
Nearly every single chronic condition you can think of will not successfully be treated with prescription drugs or surgery. They can only offset the symptoms. This list includes: cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, infertility, hypertension, sleep apnea, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, depression, anxiety, stress, and many more.
Heart Disease continues to kill more people than any other condition despite the fact that more drugs and surgeries are being performed to treat it than ever before
Cancer continues to skyrocket and we are spending billions trying to treat it.
Reality Check: We are not getting obliterated by war, famine or disease spread from one person to the next. Today, billions are suffering from biological imbalance. Unfortunately, there’s every sign that things are going to get worse before they get better.
Today is the first generation of kids in modern history that’s expected to live shorter lifespans than their parents. If current trends continue, in two decades, 95 percent of Americans would be overweight and one in three would have diabetes.
We need a new approach to medicine, one that emphasizes healthcare over disease management. What would such a new medicine look like?
It would have three characteristics.
It would recognize the exposome as the primary driver of health.
It would embrace an evolutionary and ancestral perspective.
It would apply a functional medicine approach to care.
So let’s look at each of these in a little more detail.
The Human Exposome is the Primary Driver of Health
The exposome is a concept originally proposed by Dr. Christopher Wild in 2005, and it refers to the sum of all nongenetic exposures in an individual lifetime, starting from the moment of our conception through the moment of our death.
For decades it seemed as though genetics would hold the key to human health and disease. Unfortunately, those promises didn’t really pan out. The limitations of using genes to predict and prevent disease became apparent pretty early on (especially following the sequencing of our entire genome in 2003.
Ironically, Craig Venter, who was one of the first to sequence the human genome, was also one of the first to recognize its limitations when he said, “We simply don’t have enough genes for this idea of biological determinism to work.”
We now know that genetics accounts for less than 20 percent of human disease and that the remaining causes are environmental, which is to say, they’re related to the exposome.
The exposome encompasses the food we eat, the air we breathe, social interactions, lifestyle choices, and inherent metabolic and cellular activity.
So what does this all mean?
The bad news is that the choices our parents and even our grandparents made affect our disease risk and our health and that choices that we’ve made—perhaps before we knew as much as we know now—affect our children’s and even grandchildren’s health.
The good news is that genes are not our destiny. Genes have an influence over our health, but changes we make in real time can affect our gene expression and, not only our own health, but if we’re still procreating, our children’s health and their children’s health.
Not everybody who has genetics that predispose them to a higher risk of a particular disease actually go on to acquire that disease or die early, and the environment or the exposome is almost certainly the main factor that determined which of those people that were at higher risk got sick and which stayed well.
So while we can’t control what our parents or grandparents did or our genes, we can control these diet, lifestyle, and environmental influences.
Embracing our Ancestry is Essential for Health
For 66,000 generations, humans ate primarily meat and fish, wild fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, and some starchy plants. We were physically active. We didn’t sit for long periods.
We lived in sync with the natural rhythms of light and dark in direct contact with nature and in close-knit tribal and social groups. Both our ancestors and contemporary hunter–gatherers who have been studied were lean, fit, and remarkably free of chronic inflammatory disease. They were also superior to us in nearly every measure of health and fitness, from body mass index to blood pressure to insulin sensitivity to oxygen consumption to vision to bone density.
You might be thinking, “So what? Why should we care about the health of our Paleo ancestors? They all died when they were 30 years old.” It’s true that our Paleo ancestors did have shorter life spans on average, but those averages don’t consider challenges that are largely absent from modern life, including high rates of infant mortality, warfare, trauma, accidents, exposure to the elements, and a complete lack of emergency medical care.
Studies have shown that when these factors were considered, contemporary hunter–gatherers and our ancestors lived life spans that were closely equivalent to our own today, but the difference is that they reached these ages without acquiring the inflammatory diseases that characterize our old age. They didn’t have obesity. They didn’t have heart disease. No diabetes, gout, hypertension, or most cancers. In other words, if our ancestors survived the threat of early childhood and escaped the threat of trauma, they lived long and healthy lives.
So, what happened? What transformed us from a healthy, vital people largely free of chronic disease to a sick, fat, and unhealthy people?
It was a one-two punch, and agriculture was the first blow.
Scientist Jared Diamond calls agriculture “the worst mistake in human history.” Hunter– gatherers were virtually guaranteed a healthy diet because of the diversity and nutrient density of the foods they ate, but once humans settled down and started farming, there was a major shift in our diet. In short – refined carbs went up and quality fibrous vegetable, fat and protein consumption went down.
Vitamin shortages also became common. Our new diet relied heavily on a limited set of crops such as wheat, rice, and corn, and it was lower in more nutrient-dense animal products. This led to diseases such as beriberi, pellagra, rickets, and scurvy that are caused by nutrient deficiency and were rare in hunter–gatherers but became much more common in people living in agricultural societies.
We also saw an increase in tooth decay and anemia due to iron deficiency, increases in infant mortality, and decreases in average bone density. All of these diseases, again, were rarely experienced by our hunter–gatherer ancestors.
The second blow was the Industrial Revolution.
There is no doubt that agriculture led to an overall decline in human health, but the Industrial Revolution was really the knockout punch. It brought us to where we are today when white sugar, flour, and vegetable oil make up over 50 percent of the calories that the average American consumes on a daily basis. We’re more sedentary than we’ve ever been before.
We sit while we work and increasingly even sit while we play. We’re chronically sleep deprived. A third of Americans sleep fewer than six hours per night, which is up from just 2 percent in 1965. We’re working harder than ever. American men and women are working 12 to 13 hours more per week today than we were in 1968. Stress levels are off the chart for most people.
We don’t feel like we have enough time for rest and leisure, and even when we do go on vacation, many of us compulsively check our email and social media accounts.
Finally, many of us live and work in isolating and alienating social environments that are disconnected from the natural world we evolved in and from other people.
The profound mismatch between our genetic heritage and the modern environment that we live in today is responsible for the epidemic of modern disease that we’re suffering from, and it also explains why the Paleo diet and lifestyle have helped so many people.
A Functional Approach to Medicine & Optimizing Health
The third principle of achieving health is that it applies a functional medicine approach to care.
As I said before, conventional medicine has some amazing characteristics. It’s remarkable in terms of trauma and emergency medicine and acute care, but again, I think we can all agree it’s not very good at treating chronic disease, which is the number-one problem that we face today.
Functional medicine is investigative. It treats symptoms by addressing the root of the problem, which leads to more profound and longer-lasting results, whereas conventional medicine tends to be more superficial, in that it masks or suppresses symptoms but doesn’t address the underlying cause, and this tends to create patients for life.
For example, if you have high blood pressure, you get on a drug to lower it, and you’re basically told to take that for the rest of your life, and the same is true for high cholesterol.
Functional medicine tends to be more holistic. It treats the body as an interconnected whole, and we recognize that in order to treat one part, all other parts must be addressed, whereas conventional medicine is more dualistic. It views the body as a collection of separate parts. In fact, there’s a doctor for every different part of the body, and there’s often very little communication between these doctors or acknowledgement of a connection.
In functional medicine, the patient is respected, empowered, educated, and encouraged to play an active role in their healing process, whereas in conventional medicine, the patient’s opinion is often discounted or ignored, little time is spent on education, and the patient is even sometimes actively discouraged to play a strong role in their healing process.
Functional medicine is integrative. It combines the best of allopathic and alternative treatments. It doesn’t exclude drugs or surgery when they’re necessary but does tend to focus more on diet, lifestyle, supplements, and herbs as the primary interventions, whereas conventional medicine is more limited in its scope. It typically relies almost exclusively on drugs and surgery despite risks, and while it does pay some lip service to the importance of nutrition and lifestyle, physicians are undereducated on these topics and often don’t have much time to devote to them in the typical patient interaction.
Functional medicine is preventative. It’s guided by the ancient Chinese proverb, “The superb physician treats disease before it occurs,” whereas conventional medicine tends to be a little more reactive. It really aims to manage disease after it occurs and often doesn’t intervene until disease has progressed beyond a certain point of no return.
Joints form the connections between the 206 bones in the human body. They are a crucial part of human movement. Without them, we’d be unable to move.
Joint pain is a frustrating and oftentimes debilitating symptom with a wide range of underlying causes. Joint pain can make it difficult for us to move, imposing a major distraction in our lives, and can even be downright debilitating.
Pain in your joints is usually accompanied by other unpleasant symptoms including joint redness, swelling, tenderness, warmth, limping, joint locking, stiff, weakness and/or a limited range of motion in the joint.
Joint pain is typically caused by the following:
Injury to the ligaments, tendons, bones, cartilage or bursae (the fluid-filled sac in your joints that provides a cushion between our bones, tendons and/or muscles). Examples include: rotator cuff (shoulder) tear, sprained ankle, runners knee and bursitis.
Joint inflammation due to an autoimmune condition. Examples include rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, lupus, and psoriatic arthritis.
Bacteria or fungi can enter your body through your skin, eyes, ears, mouth, nose and mucous membranes and cause joint pain throughout your body. Examples include the bacteria that causes the following diseases: staphylococcus (staph) infections, strep throat, pneumonia, gonorrhea, tuberculosis, and Lyme disease.
In rare instances, cancer can also be the cause of joint pain.
Now that you know the primary causes of joint pain, let’s learn how to make your joint pain disappear.
Long Term Solutions
Remember the three main causes of joint pain are injury, inflammation and infection. Our long term solutions for joint pain will focus on preventing and alleviating these underlying causes. First and foremost: Injury Prevention!
Long Term Joint Pain Solution #1: Learn How to Move Your Body
Learning how to move your body is your surest bet for preventing joint pain caused by injury to your ligaments, tendons, bones, cartilage or bursae. Here a few tips to get you started:
Improve body awareness and posture in everything you do. If you’re a patient of mine, you know that I begin our relationship with how to have good posture. Posture is just a fancy word for position, but your posture is what ultimately determines how healthy your ligaments, tendons, cartilage and bones will age. Do everything you can to improve your position throughout the day.
Regularly check in with your body by practicing full body stretching. Take a yoga, pilates or a swimming class that incorporates stretching. Make a daily habit of stretching at home, preferably in a quiet, soothing environment and especially before and after any strenuous physical activity. If you have had previous injuries, target those areas because they will be your weakest link. Be sure to stretch supporting muscle groups as well. For example, if you’ve had an injury to your back, your neck and hip regions will have compensated to provide support to the injured area.
Practice mindful, functional strength training tailored to your current capabilities. Movements like squats, deadlifts, and overhead presses executed properly with a full range of motion can go a long way to preventing joint injury. In fact, loading your joints will demonstrate your body’s current vulnerabilities and give you key insight on what body parts you should be improving. Exercise doesn’t hurt you- bad positioning and unhealthy joints do.
Practice joint mobility exercises. Joint mobility exercises will include regular foam rolling, lacrosse balls or trigger points balls, banded/flossing exercises and anything that takes your joints beyond a comfortable range of motion or movement.
Long Term Joint Pain Solution #2: Identify Potential Causes
If you currently experience joint pain and it’s not due to injury, you should try to identify potential causes of infection or inflammation. Some tips include:
Identify autoimmune reactions. Symptoms to look for include any type of unwarranted itchiness, flushed face, neck and chest, nausea or lightheadedness within an hour of eating or drinking. If you experience any of the following symptoms, you should contact a functional medicine doctor to help you identify a potential autoimmune condition:
Tingling hands and feet
Numb lips nose and tongue
Swelling, hives and swollen ankles
Dry eyes and mouth
Low energy, fatigue and generalized stiffness.
Identify any hidden infections. Symptoms to look for include bad breath, sinus issues like a stuffy or runny nose, malaise, hot or cold flashes and circulation problems. Underlying infections can include candida or yeast infections, staph infections, strep throat, pneumonia, gonorrhea, tuberculosis, and Lyme disease. Your functional medicine doctor can help you identify these and other underlying infections that could cause joint pain.
Identify food sensitivities. Look for the same symptoms we talked about for identifying autoimmune reactions. Headaches, insomnia, mood swings and digestive issues can also point to a food sensitivity. Try an elimination diet to identify the foods you’re sensitive to. Another trick is to indulge in foods that you think you may be sensitive to and watch for food sensitivity symptoms, especially within the first hour after eating or drinking. One of the most common food sensitivities I find in people with joint pain is gluten intolerance.
Long Term Join Pain Solution #3: Reduce Inflammation
Reducing your body’s overall inflammation can help you mitigate joint pain. Try the following techniques:
Modify your diet. Increase your consumption of healthy fats like coconut oil, avocados, nuts, eggs, grass-fed butter and meat. Avoid inflammatory foods and beverages like grains, legumes, sugar, seed oils and alcohol.
Avoid humid environments. Humidity can exacerbate whole-body inflammation. Short of moving to a drier climate, you can try a dehumidifier for your home.
Decrease your stress. Cut out unnecessary obligations and take steps to simplify your life. Avoid multi-tasking and take time for yourself every day. Try meditation or shut off your electronics and immerse in yourself in a tranquil environment like a library or park. Make sure you get enough sleep.
Increase micronutrients and trace minerals. Use natural salts to flavor your food, consume unfiltered juices and eat the skins of fruits and vegetables, especially root vegetables, and take a multivitamin every day.In general, switch to unprocessed foods since, compared to processed foods, they naturally contain high nutrient and mineral levels.
Long Term Joint Pain Solution #4: Address Nutrient Deficiencies
Nutrient deficiencies can cause a whole host of health problems that contribute to inflammation and joint pain. If you’re puzzled on what you might be deficient in, consider a test like the SpectraCell Micronutrient test. This cutting edge method, provides an exact, detailed and comprehensive nutritional analysis. The test assesses your micronutrient deficiencies at the cellular level by determining how well your body absorbs and utilizes a number of minerals, vitamins, fatty acids, antioxidants and metabolites. This affects how well and how quickly your body rebuilds and repairs itself.
Contact us to learn how to boost your individual micronutrient levels.
Joint Pain Health Hacks
There are a number of short term solutions that can help you manage your joint pain until you can get to a functional doctor and find the underlying cause.
Joint Pain Health Hack #1: Supplement with Gelatin and Collagen
Gelatin and collagen are the building blocks of your body’s joints. If have a joint injury, your body will need extra gelatin and collagen to repair itself. You can try supplementing with gelatin and collagen products like powders, capsules and condensed liquids. You can also supplement the old-fashioned way by preparing your own bone broths (preferably with grass-fed or wild caught meat and fish) and consuming a cup or two per day.
Joint Pain Health Hack #2: Increase Magnesium, Turmeric and trace Minerals
Magnesium is crucial for your body in its ability to transport other necessary nutrients for optimal joint healing. Try a chelated magnesium supplement or find it in foods like leafy greens, pumpkin seeds, kefir, probiotic dairy, avocados, figs, banana, almonds and even dark chocolate.
Joint Pain Health Hack #3: Soak in Epsom Salts
Prepare an Epsom Salt bath and immerse your body for at least a half an hour, once a week. This is another method to increase your magnesium intake AND reduce stress simultaneously so you can ease your joint pain. The warmer the water temperature, the more bioavailable the magnesium is for your body to absorb. This solution is irresistible in winter months.
Joint Pain Health Hack #4: Elevation and Inversion
Elevate joints experiencing pain above the heart multiple times a day, for at least ten minutes. This transports the accumulated fluid in your swollen joints back to your vital organs where it can be processed and detoxified. It also reduces stress on your joints and is simple way to reduce your joint pain. A great investment for chronic joint pain is an inversion table. The inversion table allows gravity to alleviate built-up fluid and pressure in your joints.
Joint Pain Health Hack #5: Aerobic Exercise
One of the keys to alleviating joint pain, is mild, daily aerobic exercise. This gets your heart pumping which circulates excess fluid away from your swollen joints. Try walking, swimming, biking, yoga, pilates, or a team sport like soccer, basketball or vollyball. Another benefit of aerobic exercise are its mood elevating effects and its ability to speed healing and take your mind off of your joint pain.
Joint pain affects most of us from time to time, whether it’s from injury, infection or inflammation. Don’t be discouraged because there’s always a natural, short term health hack that can alleviate your pain. While joint pain usually affects middle aged to elderly age groups, everyone can benefit from the long term tactics I mentioned above. Following such a plant can help you prevent future joint issues. Choose solutions wisely and choose solutions that fit well into your lifestyle to ensure consistency.
Most people don’t equate the word hygiene with bones or muscles, ligaments or tendons. The word hygiene means sciences, conditions or practices that promote and preserve health. We observe the meaning of this word when we maintain personal hygiene, dental hygiene as well as mental hygiene in the form of mindfulness, meditation and affirmations. Why not maintain the health or hygiene of the spine? Nothing in the human body with the exception perhaps of the brain does more to ensure the health and well-being of the whole body. Spine hygiene, therefore, is something we must practice and maintain daily for optimal health.
Yes, must. Studies have proven that a healthful diet and exercise prevent and might contribute to lessening disease. However, proper posture is often overlooked in spine maintenance. That is, it is overlooked until back pain happens, and then it’s the first thing the patient is advised to practice.Promoting and preserving the health of the spine, therefore, must begin with proper posture. The head should be up, chin not tucked into the chest. The shoulders should be above the hips and not slumped forward or pushed back. This maintains the natural curvature of the spine, ensuring the natural placement of the ligaments, tendons and other things stay there.
Lack of proper posture results in headaches, back pain, muscle stress and other problems. Today, most people sit for hours at a time doing their jobs. The above description of proper posture is ideal for sitting jobs. Make sure the knees are bent at a 90 degree angle, the back against the chair back and the feet slightly in front of the knees.
To gently stretch the neck, sit or stand as described above. Tip the head onto one shoulder. Slowly and gently let the head drop and swing to the other shoulder. This should look like a pendulum in an old-fashioned grandfather clock. Alternate putting the head on the other shoulder and allowing the pendulum movement to follow its natural course. Repeat this ten times.
To gently stretch the upper to lower back, get onto your hands and knees, hands beneath the shoulders, back straight. Gently bow up the upper back until you feel like an inverted “u”. Hold this pose for ten seconds. Now sit onto the legs, stretching the arms out in front of you on the floor. The body will look like a puppy stretching, but your behind will be on your legs. Hold for ten seconds. Repeat ten times.
Stretching the lower back prevents back pain. This stretch will benefit the lower and middle spine. Sit on the floor with one leg straight and the other foot tucked into the straight leg. Sitting straight up, stretch both arms toward the straight ankle. Round the back as you stretch. Hold for ten seconds. Repeat with the other leg. Repeat ten times.
Learning to keep the spine as straight as possible is as simple as doing a plank. On hands and knees, place the forearms on the floor, hands gripping each other for support. Lift the legs until the body is resting on forearms and toes. Your head and neck should be in a straight line with the spine. Don’t allow the lower back to droop; suck in the abs to prevent this. Hold for ten seconds and repeat ten times.
A healthy spine is essential to whole body health. Remember your posture, and do some stretching exercises to keep the spine in good shape, and you can enjoy a healthy happy life.