Hello, everyone! It’s Dr. Bob with Lowcountry Chiropractic. I hope all of you are doing well and staying safe! It’s a beautiful time of year and each day presents a new opportunity to be active and enjoy nature. Good weather and physical fitness are two conditions which can contribute to or subtract from a person’s quality of life. Similarly, brain function is another condition which greatly impacts how people complete their day-to-day responsibilities and respond to stressful situations. After the last year we’ve all had, it’s understandable many of us find ourselves more susceptible to stress. Unpredictable schedules and mass loss have weighed on all of us. However, heightened levels of stress can actually impair the executive function of the brain, which regulates concentration and emotions. Have you noticed you’re having trouble staying focused? Or controlling your emotional response to seemingly innocuous stimuli? Well, this may be an indication of decreased brain function due to stress.
According to a recent survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, nearly half of the respondents said they felt the pandemic had increased their stress levels. For many, this led to unwanted weight gain or weight loss, coping mechanisms such as drinking, and terrible sleep. The less discussed and perhaps more insidious effect of stress is the burden placed on our brain. Excessive amounts of stress can cause us to feel foggy, unmotivated, and scattered. Many attribute this to anxiety and depression, but the truth is: impaired executive function actually precedes these states. Individuals who are struggling to focus on their work may internalize their inability as laziness or lack of interest. In reality, their brain is working quite hard to perform as it once did.
The topic is important because, untreated, stress can worsen and have a negative impact on every single part of the body. From our mental health to our physical well-being, keeping brain function operating at a high level is in everyone’s best interest. Therefore, today, let’s discuss a few ways you can improve your brain function naturally. While many turn to stimulants such as caffeine for focus, and suppressants such as drugs for relaxation, these are temporary fixes which can contribute to health problems later down the line. Holistic remedies, like the ones I’ll share with you here, are beneficial in the long-term as well as the short-term.
To begin, the anatomy of the human body is anchored by the central nervous system. The central nervous system consists of the brain and the spinal cord, which descends from the neck to the low back. Sixty-two nerves branch out from the spinal cord and these make up the peripheral nervous system. The peripheral nervous system supplies organs, glands, muscles, tendons, and blood vessels with coded instructions that create optimal body functions.
Now, though each aspect of these nervous systems is vital, the brain is the final say in each function performed by these systems. Think of the brain as the “master control.” It’s the window controls on the driver’s side. It’s the overriding command on a computer system. It’s the breaker box on the side of your home. The brain is able to place “child locks,” per say, on any function within the body. Therefore, it is essential the brain operates with maximum efficiency. For maximum efficiency, the brain must send timely signals through the nervous system to regulate the body’s functions. These mechanical, chemical, and electrical messages prompt necessary processes, including motor function, digestion, and even our heart beat. As well, the brain must intake, sort, and classify various signals from parts of the body. When you bump your leg or have indigestion, your brain must recognize these signals and respond accordingly.
For these reasons (and more), ensuring proper brain function should be at the top of your to-do list. There are more than a few ways to do this, but we’ll begin with decreasing stress.
This is perhaps the most intuitive of the tips I’ll share today, but can be difficult to implement to effect. Many of us have stressful jobs or home lives, which seem to preclude us from having more than fifteen minutes of peace. As well, there are many others whose peaceful lives were turned upside down from the pandemic. I understand. However, there can be no long-lasting change to brain function without stress management. Instances of frustration are commonplace and to be expected, but existing in a state of low-grade panic is disastrous for one’s health.
In order to practice stress management, you must be able to self-identify when you are feeling stressed. This is relative for everyone. The feeling of stress coincides with the release of cortisol (and sometimes adrenaline) within the body. These hormones send the body into a fight or flight response. You may experience tense muscles, aching chest, an accelerated heart rate, stomach issues, irritability, or exhaustion. Many sufferers of chronic stress grind their jaw while sleeping or have high blood pressure, as well. And all of these symptoms are in addition to those mentioned at the start of this post.
After you identify your stress response, you can begin eradicating stressors from your life. Taking a step back from work or delegating responsibilities within the home can be hard for some, but just remember you’re doing so for your health. Learn how to say “no” when you cannot handle additional tasks. Learn to distance yourself from those who consistently disregard your well-being and state of mind. Cultivate a peaceful environment in which to work and sleep, free of distractions. Limit news updates if you find these spike your stress levels. Express your feelings readily and communicate when you’re finding something difficult to handle. Take breaks. Take walks outside. Sit peacefully among nature. If you worry you’re wasting time, remind yourself you’re doing the much needed work of returning your brain to its baseline.
Physical exercise can be an invaluable tool for managing stress. Research has shown those who are regularly physically active are less likely to experience decline in their mental function and have a lowered risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Now, to enable these benefits, at least 20-30 minutes of exercise is needed per day. Further, research has indicated stress and physical activity are inversely linked. This means people who are highly stressed are less likely to make an effort to exercise, while people who exercise regularly are less likely to be highly stressed. In order to reverse the relationship between the two, you must commit yourself to being the latter.
Once you’ve learned to manage your stress, the other tips have the most beneficial effect on your brain function.
Now, we’ve discussed subluxations and their impact on the nervous system before on the blog, but it’s important enough to say again. Misaligned vertebrae within the spine are called subluxations and these can impair nervous system function, as they compress nerves and impede signals from the brain. Obviously, with chiropractic care, these subluxations can be resolved. However, chiropractic care doesn’t just have an effect on the parts of the body which are targeted by the peripheral nerves. According to a study conducted by the Spinal Research Foundation, chiropractic adjustments increased brain activity by quite a lot! Participants underwent a brain scan before and after adjustment; and, after adjustment, they’re brains showed increased activity in the prefrontal cortex. Higher learning and cognition take place in the prefrontal cortex, and this area of the brain is responsible for: behavior, goal-directed tasks, decisions, memory, processing pain, eye movements, spatial awareness, and so much more.
It’s normal for chiropractic patients to leave an adjustment feeling spry, awake, and able to take on the day. Now, we know this is more than just a feeling. It’s backed up by scientific evidence--chiropractic adjustment alters brain function by almost 20% on average. This increased brain function leads to improved coordination, muscle strength in lower limbs, control of pelvic floor, and mental agility.
These findings are great news for individuals suffering from brain fog, an inability to focus, and trouble sleeping. Likewise, a healthy brain and well-performing nervous system bode well for the immune system, digestive system, reproductive system, and endocrine system alike! We here at Lowcountry Chiropractic are here to help. Send us a quick email or phone call. I’ll perform a thorough analysis of your situation. I hope this information was helpful to you! I look forward to seeing you and remember: I’m Dr. Bob and I have your back covered!
Hello, everyone! It’s Dr. Bob with Lowcountry Chiropractic. I hope all of you are doing well! This blog’s topic is particularly rousing and I know you’ve all been waiting with bated breath for this post. Today, we’re talking about: constipation. Yes, that’s right! Today, we’ll discuss how you can manage constipation, which can be an uncomfortable and persistent condition. Constipation can affect anyone. About 4 million Americans complain of frequent constipation, making it the most common digestive complaint over any other chronic digestive conditions. However, constipation is 3 times more common in women than in men, 1.3 times more common in nonwhites, and much more likely to occur in anyone over the age of 65. That said, mild constipation can negatively impact your quality of life, while severe constipation can result in a costly trip to the emergency room. I want to save you the trouble and discomfort, which is why today’s post is dedicated to natural methods of relieving constipation.
Now, most individuals struggling with constipation aren’t even aware they have the condition. That’s because they are unaware of how often they should be having bowel movements on a daily basis. Once? Twice? Three times? Well, everyone is different. Some people will have bowel movements more frequently than others. However, a general rule of thumb is this: If you’re eating three meals a day, you should be performing two or three bowel movements a day. At the very least, one bowel movement per day is necessary for optimal health. If you find yourself struggling to have a singular bowel movement, or even going days without having a bowel movement, this is a strong indicator you’re dealing with constipation. However, since everyone’s body is different, it’s important to understand how your body operates. If you generally have a bowel movement twice per day, at around the same time, a sudden change in this schedule should tip you off. Or, if you have bowel movements thrice per week and this has been the case for a majority of your life, you’re probably not constipated. Therefore, the consistency of one’s bowel movement is more often used as a gauge of one’s health than one’s frequency.
If you have fewer than three bowel movements per week, your stool is dry and hard, or your bowel movements are painful, these might be further indicators you’re struggling with constipation.
When you eat, part of the digestive process begins while the food is still in your mouth, as enzymes in your saliva begin to break down what you’re eating. The majority of the digestive process, however, takes place in your stomach, small intestine and large intestine. Enzymes and acids there extract nutrients from what you’ve eaten and deliver those nutrients into your bloodstream. The small intestine, which is generally twenty-feet long and one inch in diameter, continues the digestion process. Then, the large intestine (or colon), which is generally five feet long and three inches in diameter, wrings the remainder of nutrients still left in the food out.
The intestines are both organs and muscles. In order to move the food along these lengthy channels, they must perform a movement called peristalsis. Peristalsis is “an involuntary constriction and relaxation of the muscles of the intestine, creating wave-like movements that push the contents of the canal forward.” When these muscles are working properly, leftover remnants from digested food are spirited along the digestive tract without issue or delay. However, when these muscles refuse to work or are slow to do their job, people end up with what’s called “lazy bowel syndrome” or sluggish bowel or slow gut.
The major concern regarding constipation is the retention of certain toxins created during the digestive process. When leftover food materials remain in the digestive tract for long periods, these toxins can be reabsorbed into the body and cause many problems. You may experience nausea and bloating. Excess hormones are often excreted in our stool and, with the reabsorption of these hormones, you could become estrogen-dominant, which is related to weight gain. Retained fecal matter also impacts the intestinal flora, which can leave your bowels open to opportunistic cancers, diseases, and infections.
Sluggish bowels can occur due to a lack of fiber in one’s diet or even because of an overuse of laxatives. That’s the frightening truth: using laxatives to cure constipation can actually lead to more constipation. That’s why I want to equip you with alternatives which will hit at the root of the problem and help you achieve a healthier bowel.
One of the easiest ways to improve the health of your gut is to increase your fiber intake. I recommend each of my patients take fiber on a regular basis (i.e. once a day). You can invest in psyllium powder, a fiber supplement which comes in both pill and loose powder form. Why not just incorporate more fiber-rich foods into your diet? Well, I recommend that as well, but most of us will inevitably fail to do so on a consistent basis. Investing in a supplement will ensure our bodies are receiving the necessary amount of fiber every single day.
That said, a well-balanced diet with plenty of fiber is crucial to maintaining not just a healthy bowel, but a healthy body. To further combat constipation, you should make sure to incorporate whole grains (such as whole wheat bread, pasta, oatmeal, and bran flake cereals), legumes (i.e. lentils, beans, soybeans, and chickpeas), an assortment of fruits (i.e. berries, apples with the skin left on, bananas, and pears), vegetables (i.e. carrots, broccoli, dark leafy greens) and nuts (i.e. almonds, pecans, and nut butters). In addition to a plentiful diet, you need to make sure you’re drinking enough water. It’s easy to forget when our day-to-day schedules become hectic, but dehydration is sure to make existing constipation worse. Drinking plenty of water softens the stool, making its passage through the digestive tract easier. The average person should drink at least half of their body weight in ounces of water every day. For example, a two-hundred pound man should consume at least one-hundred ounces of water every day.
Another product which can be ingested to help relieve constipation is aloe vera gel. This gel softens the food material being digested and coats the inner lining of the intestinal tract, thus helping to facilitate a smoother journey. If your intestines are inflamed or damaged and this is what’s causing your constipation, aloe vera gel will help to calm down an irritated bowel.
Many aren’t aware chiropractic care can play a huge role in relieving constipation! There are sixty-two nerves emanating from the spine which affect or control organ, gland, and cell processes. A handful of these nerves are responsible for connecting your brain to your large and small intestines. The signals which control peristalsis (the movement of the bowel) are being sent by the brain. If there are any places where those nerves are compressed, the signal from the brain is being impeded. Therefore, the intestine cannot operate as needed. Compression, or subluxations, can be caused by a traumatic incident, a fall, or even sleeping wrong. With chiropractic care, these subluxations can be resolved, thus freeing up those nerves to perform their regular functions. All of the body’s processes are connected and, with chiropractic care, you can expect multiple issues (which may seem unrelated) to be improved.
There are plenty of medications available on the market which promise to treat constipation, but many of these medications only loosen the bowel muscles. They do not target the root cause of constipation and, as mentioned earlier, they can actually make constipation worse down the line. Additionally, many constipation medications come with side effects. For example, with many laxatives, you can expect bloating, gas, cramping, and nausea to accompany their intended use. There are natural means to alleviate the pain and discomfort associated with constipation and I hope you’ll try those mentioned above.
If you’re currently experiencing persistent constipation and are unsure what to do, go ahead and try these natural remedies. No one should have to suffer with the fatigue and irritability which constipation is liable to cause. Reclaim your bowels and your life. The sooner the better! We here at Lowcountry Chiropractic are here to help. Send us a quick email or phone call. I’ll perform a thorough analysis of your situation and investigate whether a subluxation is the cause of your constipation. I hope this information was helpful to you! I look forward to seeing you and remember: I’m Dr. Bob and I have your back covered!
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