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What Should You Eat For Chronic Pain? | Nutrition for Chronic Pain

Do you suffer from chronic pain? Perhaps you’ve had pain for greater than three months, and you’re not sure how you can support nutritionally? Fortunately, there is so much high-quality evidence to support how diet therapy can make a profound difference in chronic pain.

Chronic pain is associated with pro-inflammatory states which are linked to peripheral and central sensitization. This is when the brain perceives that there’s pain, and even a heightened sense of pain with very little stimuli, yet there is no tissue damage.

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Additionally, the mitochondria, which is essentially the powerhouse of our cells, are also associated with chronic pain. The damage to the mitochondria can be driven by how we eat. Consuming pro-inflammatory foods, such as the Standard American Diet—the Western Diet—which is rich in sugary foods, alcohol, processed meats, and enriched grains, can contribute to inflammation and even damage the mitochondria. Therefore, with the Standard American Diet, there becomes an imbalance between our essential fatty acids, which we need for optimal health, and pro-inflammatory markers. That’s where a specific diet therapy comes in.

The first thing we want to do is address the inflammatory markers. The Mediterranean diet is one of the best and well-researched diets that has been shown to decrease inflammation. Think of a diet comprised of fish, legumes, olive oil, low in grains, and high in vegetables – also referred to as an anti-inflammatory diet.

5 ways that you address your chronic pain through diet

1) Decreasing Inflammation

The best way to do this is through an elimination diet. Eliminate the potentially pro-inflammatory foods for at least three weeks and then slowly reintroduce them, one at a time. These include gluten, dairy, sugar, alcohol, caffeine, coffee, tea, corn, soy, processed meats, red meat, chocolate, tea, coffee, and shellfish. If you don’t want to do a full elimination diet, you can do a modified version—eliminate gluten and dairy, for example. These two definitely can play a role in inflammation, and specifically chronic pain. If you’re eating a lot of sugar, this is also a great place to start. Sugar is a massive pro-inflammatory agent, so decreasing sugar in your diet would be very beneficial.

 2) Calorie Reduction

When we are consuming fewer calories than required by our basal metabolic rate, then we can not only increase our brain’s ability to generate new neurons by decreasing free radicals, but we can also increase ATP, the energy source of the cells, and we can increase our number of mitochondria. These all could play a huge role in inflammation and pain.

3) Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting, an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating, can help turn on genes that help cells survive by reducing inflammation. There are many different ways to include intermittent fasting in your life. Fasting from seven o’clock at night until seven o’clock in the morning would be a 12-hour fast. You can slowly increase that to a 16 hour fast, or you can do 24-hour fast two days a week. There are many options to suit your lifestyle and it is strongly recommended to start slowly.

4) Specific Nutrient Supplementation

Omega 3’s, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin B-12, and magnesium have all been shown to impact chronic pain. There are other nutrients that also help specifically with chronic pelvic pain, such as vitamin E, B1, and B3. 

5) Gut Health

Seventy percent of your immune system is in your gut. If there is an inflammation issue, we should start in the gut. So, do you need to include prebiotics, probiotics, or do you need a specific gut health protocol? If you are not managing gut health properly, then you are not managing chronic pain and inflammation well, either. 

These are just a few of the ways that we can use diet to influence chronic pain.  When we have that central sensitization of the nervous systems, our brain still perceives that there’s pain, yet there is likely no tissue damage. Our nervous system is heightened, and we can begin to associate chronic pain with pro-inflammatory markers. We can use diet to decrease inflammation and optimize our micronutrient, antioxidant, and phytonutrient profile to begin to bring our body back into a state of balance and healing. 

Reach out for a 15-minute FREE discovery session to see how we can help you on your journey.

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How to fix your forward head posture | Cranial nerves

WHAT SHOES TO WEAR FOR FOREFOOT PAIN

What do your gut bacteria do? | 10 Functions of Gut Bacteria | Microbiome

Everyone talks about the microbiome and gut bacteria, but why is it so important? What are the actual functions of the bacteria?

Before we get into the 10 functions of your gut bacteria, let’s talk a little bit about the anatomy. The small intestine which is 18 to 25 feet of our intestine, should be a relatively sterile environment. The large intestine, however, is where we house the majority of the bacteria, especially the beneficial bacteria. When we get something like a small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), it is in essence where the bacteria have now been relocated and overpopulated into the small intestine where it is not supposed to be. We have trillions of bacteria in our gut, and we have a thousand different species. There are also 5,000 different bacterial strains. With that said, everyone is unique, however, there are combinations of collections of bacteria that are present in healthy individuals.

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10 Functions of Gut Bacteria

So, let’s get into the 10 functions of gut bacteria and why it is so important that you have an optimal balance.

  1. Nervous System Modification

This is a really powerful function of our gut bacteria. We want to think of three key neurotransmitters which are essentially are chemical messengers that are formed from the gut bacteria.

  • Serotonin: This is the key hormone that stabilizes our mood, feelings of well-being, and happiness. Ninety percent of our serotonin is located in our gut.
  • Dopamine: Fifty percent of our dopamine, our feel-good hormone, is located in our gut.
  • GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid): This is an inhibitory neurotransmitter that decreases feelings of fear and anxiety and produces a feeling of calm.

All of these are associated with this amazing gut-brain connection.

2. Breaks Down Food Compounds

Essentially, the gut bacteria metabolize the food and medications that we consume.

3. Pathogen Resistance

Think of our gut bacteria as one of our protective mechanisms. It will protect us from pathogens and toxins.

4. Protection Against Any Epithelial Injury

It protects against infections, just like it does with toxins and pathogens.

5. Bone Density Modulation

The gut bacteria can influence our bone density.

6. Promotion of Fat Storage

The gut bacteria can influence the hormones that store fat. Additionally, the Standard American Diet (SAD), that is, the western diet, is influencing gut bacteria, which has been linked to obesity.

7. Immune System Stimulation

Seventy percent of our immune system lies within our gut. So when we have optimal gut bacteria, this gut bacteria is influencing how our immune system responds to foreign invaders, toxins, and pathogens that they might be exposed to.

8. Promotion of Angiogenesis

When we have more blood vessels in the gut, this can be very powerful for future advances in treatments for gut infections.

9. Biosynthesis of Vitamins and Amino Acids

Water-soluble vitamins are plentiful in the diet, but also can be synthesized by the gut.

10. Metabolism of Therapeutics

This is ultimately how we process our medications and supplements. So keep in mind, that if you are planning to take things, you have to make sure that your gut is optimized so that you can metabolize these appropriately.

Now that you know the functions of gut bacteria, you know how important it is to optimize it. You can do that through numerous things, and you can see some other videos for different suggestions to optimize your gut health. But, we do want to think about everything from prebiotics, the fiber that the probiotics feed on, probiotics whether that’s through fermented food or supplementation, and then, of course, stress management, a high-fiber diet with 25 to 35 grams a day, drinking plenty of water, eating a whole, natural food diet to ensure that you are optimizing the diversity of your gut—that is one of the key things that your gut loves, diversity.

Reach out for a 15-minute FREE discovery session to see how we can help you on your journey.

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IS YOUR GUT PREVENTING YOUR WEIGHT LOSS?

How to fix your forward head posture | Cranial nerves

WHAT SHOES TO WEAR FOR FOREFOOT PAIN

How to fix your forward head posture | Cranial nerves

Do you have forward head posture, or do you have a friend or family member who does? Perhaps you’re always telling them to stand up straight, but they just can’t seem to do it. Let’s talk about the neurology and physiology behind forward head posture and most importantly, what you can do about it.

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Three things that contribute to forward head posture:

  1. Decreased tone in the trapezius muscle and increased tone in the sternocleidomastoid muscle

This is typically due to some kind of breathing dysfunction. That can be from an airway issue such as nasal valve collapse, deviated septum, chronic allergies, jaw issues, enlarged tonsils, just to name a few, which contributes to poor breathing mechanics, breathing more from the neck and shoulders as opposed to the abdomen and diaphragm. It can also be caused by a stressful event, trauma, or even chronic ongoing stress. This specific imbalance in these muscles is what contributes to forward head posture. Additionally, people that have asthma or COPD will almost always have a forward head posture.

2) State of the nervous system

If you are in a chronically stressed state, perhaps a fight or flight state, or even a freeze state where you feel shut down, how you hold your posture will be impacted. Your posture is your story and how you present yourself to the world. Do you walk into a room with confidence and standing up tall, or do you feel shy, reserved, and rounded forward? All of your thoughts, emotions, beliefs, and activities impact your posture. We can’t simply think about your forward head posture as a plumb line.  It is so much more than that. 

3) Scars

No matter where the scar is or how old it is, it can affect your breathing, emotions, and movement. Scars contribute to postural changes, shifts in the nervous system, and contribute to muscle imbalances. It’s important to look at any scar in your body no matter where it is or what it’s from, and begin to address the scar from a fascial perspective. This means that doing scar work can influence your emotions, breathing, and movement. 

Now that you have three causes, let’s talk about three solutions. So, when we’re thinking about how we’re going to shift this forward head posture, we have to think beyond just simple exercises such as chin retractions and thoracic mobility. We have to think about the cranial nerves because they are impacting our nervous system, facial expression, and whether we’re in a state of social engagement, which means we’re mindful, joyful, and grounded. We’re going to address this more so from a cranial nerve perspective and optimizing breathing so that you can make a change immediately. You can also have a cumulative effect the more that you do these.

What I would recommend before you start the exercises is to have someone take a side view picture of your forward head posture. Then, take one again after you finish the exercises to see if there is a change. There absolutely should be at least a subtle change if not a very noticeable change. 

Three solutions for forward head posture

Three solutions for forward head posture

1) The Basic Exercise

With this, you’re putting input to the back of your head and looking with your eyes to create more blood flow around the brainstem. This is where the vagus nerve originates. What happens when we’re not in a state of social engagement is our first two vertebrae can become slightly misaligned. By bringing blood flow to the area and stimulating the vagus nerve can bring the first two vertebrae back into alignment, which means we’re back into a state of social engagement. This can impact your forward head posture almost immediately.

To perform the basic exercise, interlace your fingers and bring them behind your head. Look with your eyes only in one direction until you sigh, swallow, or yawn. When you’ve done that, repeat on the other side. This should take approximately 30 to 60 seconds, however, it can take longer depending on if your nervous system is ready to relax 

2) The Salamander Exercise 

This is also a cranial nerve reprogramming exercise, which will help to create more space in the chest cavity, the heart, and the lungs, therefore impacting breathing and forward head posture.

To perform the salamander, assume a table position. Look with your eyes first and then your head as you bring your ear to your shoulder and hold that for 30 to 60 seconds. Repeat on the other side again making sure you lead with your eyes, then side bend your head bringing your ear towards your shoulder. 

3) The Trapezius Twist

This is essentially waking up all of the trapezius muscles. It’s not stretching or strengthening them. It’s just waking them up, which means there will be an immediate change in posture, breathing, forward head posture, as well as overall posture. Especially after you’ve been sitting for some time, get up and do these three twists! You won’t be disappointed.

To perform this exercise, start with your arms grasped together at waist level rocking back and forth. Next, move your arms up to the heart line rocking them back and forth. Lastly, raise your arms slightly above your shoulders and once again rock them back and forth. You should do about five to ten repetitions at each position. 

There you have it, some causes for forward head posture and most importantly some solutions. We do have to remember that with forward head posture it becomes a vicious cycle because the more forward the head is the more blood flow that is constricted from the vertebral arteries. This means less blood flow to the brain. It also is affecting our airway which means it’s impacting our lymphatic system, hormonal system, and causing inflammation in the body. It’s really important to understand the neurology and physiology of forward head posture and begin to think about it from a much different perspective rather than simply corrective exercises like the chin tucks, upper back stretches, and retractions. We want to think of it especially from a nervous system perspective.

Reach out for a 15 minute FREE discovery session to see how we can help you on your journey.

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WHAT SHOES TO WEAR FOR FOREFOOT PAIN

How to Map Your Own Nervous System: The Polyvagal Theory

WHAT SHOES TO WEAR FOR FOREFOOT PAIN

Do you have forefoot pain or pathology and you’re not really sure what shoe you should be wearing? There are numerous foot pathologies that you could have, however we are going just zero in on a few today, such as bunions, first metatarsal joint arthritis, neuromas, and plantar plate tears.

Before we get into details about each, let’s just go over some quick anatomy.  The forefoot includes the phalanges (toes), the five metatarsals, and the connective tissue.

Now, let’s jump right into our foot pathologies and what feature in the shoe you should be looking for to accommodate for your pain.

  1. 1st MPJ arthritis:

This 1st metatarsal phalangeal joint is also referred to as the great toe. This is caused by the joint jamming too early in the gait cycle or an inflammatory reaction.  If you have arthritis in this toe and it is either painful and or limited in mobility, then the most important feature for your shoe will be a more rigid midsole. Secondly, you’ll want a wide toe box so that you have room for your toes to splay properly.

midsole

2. Bunion:

A bunion occurs when we lose stability in the metatarsal cuneiform joint (first ray). The first metatarsal will swing out and create a valgus position on the great toe. With a bunion, you definitely want a wide toe box. Because a bunion is caused by a lack of stability in the 1st ray, this often indicates that the foot is likely an unstable, everted foot type. In this case, a stiff heel counter in the back of the shoe will help control the foot so that it does not overpronate.

heel counter

3. Neuroma:

A neuroma is a scarred or fibrotic nerve often between the third and the fourth metatarsal. The nerve rubs on the fascial tissue and then becomes fibrotic.  This typically occurs from a loss of stability in the foot and/or compression in footwear, among other things such as injury. What will be most important with acute symptoms of a neuroma will be a stiff midsole. If the midsole is flexible, and you have an active, painful neuroma, you will continually compress the nerves at toe-off in your gait. So when your foot is more irritated, a stiffer midsole with a wide toe box will be most beneficial. 

toe box

4. Plantar plate tear:

The plantar plate is an extension of the plantar fascia that runs horizontally across the joints. A plantar plate tear can be very painful, and you’ll want to immobilize the tissue for a period of time. In this case, once again, you’ll want something more rigid in the midsole. During an acute injury, you will want to immobilize the tissue for a period of time, therefore utilizing the rigid midsole.

In certain circumstances depending on the level of forefoot pain and pathology and how it’s affecting your quality of life, a forefoot rocker is frequently recommended. If someone has advanced great toe arthritis, whether it’s fused itself or a fusion surgery has been performed, a rocker bottom shoe can be very helpful.  It can be added to the shoe or there are actually shoes that you can purchase with this specific feature.

Now for your bonus! The more cushion you have in your shoe, the more impact force you will have through your body. Picture yourself walking outside barefoot. Imagine how you would walk–your pace, your intention, your impact.  Now picture yourself doing the same walk in high cushioned shoes. Think about the difference in how you would interact with the ground. You will strike the ground much harder because you do not have the same sensory input that you would have if you were walking barefoot. 

When you have pain that is affecting your quality of life, shoes can be part of the solution, rather than part of the problem.

If you’d like to schedule a free 15-minute virtual discovery session, please email drarianne@themovementparadigm.com or text 302-373-2394 to schedule. We’d love to help you get healthy again!

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THE SCIENCE OF KNOWING WHAT TO DO BUT NOT DOING IT | 6 Mindset Hacks

Did you ever wonder why you know exactly what you should be doing to make your life better, happier, healthier, but you don’t do it? You keep saying next week, next year, in five years, but it never really becomes a reality. We have all been there but let’s talk about the science of why that happens and what you can do about it. To put it simply, we are humans and we all have emotion. With that, we are naturally going to gravitate towards pleasure and away from pain. Say for example, Friday night rolls around, and your spouse or significant other wants to order pizza. You’ve had a long week so even though you’re planning to have a salad, you go for the pizza. Another example is sleeping in versus working out in the morning. The reality is that we consistently overcomplicate things. We make them way too complex for what they need to be.

Your subconscious mind is 99 percent of your mind. This is the house of all of your past experiences. This includes your memories, beliefs, and unresolved emotions. This is the domain of your habits. Our conscious mind, however is one percent of our mind and is responsible for our thoughts, goals, awareness of self. For us to be able to set a goal and be able to succeed at it, we have to align the subconscious mind with the conscious mind. Even though we know what we should do i.e. our conscious mind, our subconscious mind is a million times faster and much more powerful. If those two are not aligned, then unfortunately we will not be able to meet our goals or set out to do what we said we were going to do. As it relates to habits, we run our day on approximately 45 percent to 95 percent on habits.  Our thoughts are actually part of our habits. We have about 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts a day. You can hopefully appreciate that if these conscious thoughts are overpowering our conscious mind, then we are going to default to whatever is easier. We are not necessarily going to move towards the pain, we are going to move towards pleasure, whatever is the easiest thing right now. Going back to that Friday night pizza, “I’ve had a long week and I’m tired,” so I’m just going to go back to what’s comfortable and what’s easy…pleasure.

Additionally, when we get out of our comfort zone, for example setting a goal to exercise every day, this signals fear to the body. Immediately we have chemicals released that are signaling fear and danger. So guess what happens? We also want to move towards what’s easy, what’s comfortable, and what’s pleasurable. We easily will revert back and not achieve our new year’s resolution to exercise every day.

So let’s talk about six ways that you can begin to align your subconscious mind with your conscious mind, you can begin to make your goals a reality.

1) Healthful habits

You want to develop healthful habits so that when your conscious mind gets tired from all those thoughts that are racing through your head, that your subconscious mind decides to take over and do the right thing.

2) Be aware

Be aware of your thoughts, inner voice, and most importantly the language that you are speaking to yourself. If you continue to say, “I’m never really going to get strong,” then you will not get strong. You will not necessarily work out like you’re supposed to in order to get strong. So, you want to make sure that you’re in tune with the language that you’re speaking and shift it to a productive language. “I am going to work out so that I am strong.”

3) Clarity

Have clarity about what you want, what are you striving to do, and the goal(s) that you are hoping to achieve. If you do not have clarity of your vision, dream, or goal, then it will be very challenging to allow that subconscious mind to be aligned with the conscious mind.

4) Take small action steps

This is extremely important to make sure that you are making small incremental changes, especially in your habits. Think of the first time that you were told you had to brush your teeth. Since you were a young child, you’ve been brushing your teeth every single day, at least we hope so. That’s a perfect example of how habits start.

5) Consistency

It is so crucial that for you to do what you want to do, to be consistent with your habits, day in and day out. Blocking time in your schedule, for example, to allow yourself the time to be able to perform whatever it is that you need to do. Whether that’s working out, meal prepping, or meditation. Be consistent with whatever you do so that it becomes a habit, just like brushing your teeth.

6) Celebrate

Celebrate your successes! This is where we can have serotonin and dopamine responses that can improve that feeling of happiness, as well as reward and motivation. It keeps you motivated to keep doing what you’re doing to keep this habit going to make sure that it’s truly part of your life.

There are six different ways to help you align your subconscious mind with your conscious mind, allow you to achieve your goals, and do what you say you are going to do.

If you need help on your journey to better health, contact drarianne@themovementparadigm.com to schedule a FREE 15 minute virtual consultation.

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Stop Stretching Your Hamstrings

Have you been stretching the heck out of your hamstrings for years with no improvement?

Most people think that when we are stretching, we are lengthening the muscle. Unfortunately, that is not true. What we are doing is creating the neurophysiological response to convince our nervous system that we are safe in a new range.

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What is actually happening when you stretch?

When we are stretching too far, especially in the case of hamstrings, you have proprioceptors in the muscle fibers that signal to the brain to tell it, “Hey, this is a vulnerable position.”

We also have a stretch reflex that functions as a protective mechanism that you’re going too far. So when you begin to have this pain, irritation, or a sense of discomfort when you’re stretching, that means that you are not making a change. We have to think about changing our nervous system, so let’s get into how to do that.

Let’s use the classic toe touch test as our example. When we are touching our toes and reaching down, what ideally happens is that the pelvis shifts backward which allows for a uniform curve in our spine.

Most people that can’t touch their toes will see all of their motion is coming from their spine and there is no motion coming from the pelvis. That means that they’re not getting a natural sequencing in flexion, or forward bending, pattern. To change that pattern, we have to think about how is the pelvis and trunk sequencing with the rest of the body.

One of the most basic things from a biomechanical standpoint is to look at the position of the pelvis. Ideally, in a neutral position, we have our rib cage stacked over top of our pelvis. If our pelvis is tilted forward, an anterior pelvic tilt, or it’s tilted backward a posterior tilt, this changes the length of our hamstrings.

Our hamstrings, just like any other muscles, contract, relax and lengthen. When they are in the lengthened position, it might present as a tightness but doesn’t mean they are tight, and in fact, might need to be strengthened.

Essentially when we have one of these pelvic positions, then that means that our deep intrinsic stabilizing system, our pelvic floor, diaphragm, and our deep stabilizers of our core are not sequencing well.

If they’re not doing their job, including the deep stabilizers of the hip, then our glutes can never really produce the appropriate amount of force. We have to have enough stability to be able to generate force through our glutes.

So what happens if we’re not using our glute and we’re not using our core properly? Then, the hamstrings present as tight because we’re having a global tightness or facilitation from our nervous system. Our nervous system is saying “Hey, I have to tighten up something to create some stiffness somewhere.”

So what can you do?

Reestablish your breathing and pelvic position. Using a diaphragmatic breath, breathing into the base of the abdomen, all the way into the pelvic floor, and getting that ribcage stacked over the pelvis. It is important to do this in a variety of different movements and patterns. Everything from standing, sitting, quadruped, and lying on the ground; establishing this and integrating it into all of your movements and activities.

Here are a few things that you could do, most importantly reestablishing new movement patterns, especially a posterior weight shift of the pelvis. Allowing for proper sequencing in the pelvis reinforces that your nervous system isn’t in protective mode all the time, using hamstring stiffness as a way to protect your body.

3 Exercises To Establish New Movement Pattern

Here are some exercises you can perform to help you establish this new movement pattern.

1. Rock on Forearms

To perform this exercise, place your elbows and knees wide on the ground. Inhale as you rock back, only bending from the hips and keeping the spine straight. Exhale as you return slightly over your shoulders.

2. Hip Hinge

For the hip hinge, place a dowel behind your back touching your pelvis, middle of your shoulder blades, and your head. Inhale as you go down, hinging in your hips backward and allowing the knees to bend softly. Exhale as you come up.

3. Toe Touch Progression

For the toe touch progression place a block between your thighs and start with your toes elevated. Inhale as you reach up, and exhale as you reach down to touch your toes. Then you’ll reverse the direction by putting your heels up on the board and toes down, and performing the same thing. This creates a natural posterior weight shift in the pelvis and activates the deep core.

Reach out for a 15-minute FREE discovery session to see how we can help you on your journey.

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Chew Your Food To Heal Your Gut

Do you experience bloating, digestive issues, constipation, diarrhea, and/or just don’t feel right after a meal? Did you know how important chewing is in your digestive process and how it could help heal your gut?

In order for us to have proper digestion, we have to be in a parasympathetic state; think rest and digest. If we are in a fight or flight mode, for example, our blood flow is moving away from our digestive system.

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Chewing is one of the things that actually helps calm the nervous system. That is one important aspect of why we want to chew our food very well before digesting it. The saliva that is produced in the salivary glands produces digestive enzymes, and these enzymes help break down the food in the mouth, and as it moves into the esophagus.

The first enzyme is called lingual lipase which helps break down our fats. The second is amylase which helps break down our starches. And the third is called lysozyme, which is an antibacterial enzyme. This is important for preventing dental cavities and other infections in the gums.

The more chewing that we do, the more salivary enzymes are released. This influences not only our autonomic nervous system because we need these specific cranial nerves for chewing and swallowing, but it’s also influencing the enteric nervous system, which is our gut. That is, in fact, its own nervous system.

So when this is happening, we’re getting an increase in smooth muscle contraction, intestinal secretions, the release of some of these enteric hormones, and dilation of blood vessels. It is very powerful when we begin the process of chewing thoroughly. 

5 Things You Can Do To Maximize Chewing

What are five different things you can do to maximize your chewing, and digestive process?

1) Breathe

Before you sit down to eat, try taking at least three diaphragmatic breaths. You want to think of calming your nervous system, bringing blood flow to this area, and bringing yourself to this parasympathetic state so that you can enhance your digestive process. 

2) Allow for at Least 30 Minutes of Meal Time

Give yourself plenty of time to be able to sit down, eat your meal, and enjoy the experience rather than rushing your meal. This will also prevent you from overeating because you’re giving your body enough time to tell the brain that you are full. 

3) Non-judgement

This is a mindfulness practice, but it’s also important for digestion. When we’re judging ourselves, our food, and the environment, unfortunately, we are typically not totally present, and we’re not being mindful of our food. That often takes us out of that parasympathetic state. So, encouraging a positive eating experience lends itself to optimal digestion. 

4) Avoid Water Before Meals

Drinking water before meals can dilute the stomach acids, so it optimizes our natural enzymatic activity. 

5) Chew 20-30 Times

Chew your food at least 20 to 30 times. In our Ayurvedic medicine, chewing at least 30 times has been extremely beneficial.

 If you’re thinking about healing your gut, start with chewing your food.

Reach out for a 15-minute FREE discovery session to see how we can help you on your journey.

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Vagus Nerve Hack | Hand Reflexology

Research has shown that reflexology directly stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system. Eighty percent of our parasympathetic nervous system is our vagus nerve, so it can help with heart rate, digestion, and overall relaxation.

Reflexology is based on the Chinese medicine belief in Qi which is our vital energy. Qi flows through our bodies differently, but when we are stressed, it tends to be blocked, and it can be blocked in certain areas of the body.

In Chinese medicine, different parts of our body correlate with different specific reflexology or pressure points. The vagus nerve point for your hand is right inside of the pinky, for example. This is great because it’s so accessible during the course of your day.

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How can you stimulate the vagus nerve via this hand reflexology point?

Place pressure on the inside of your 5th finger, your pinky. Start with a sustained pressure for approximately 30 to 60 seconds.

After that, make small circles in that area, while keeping pressure on the skin.

Lastly, you can use feather-light strokes back and forth. You can perform this for 30 to 60 seconds.

You might notice that as you’re doing this, you may experience some form of relaxation. This could be a yawn, sigh, swallow, or simply a sense of calmness.

Just like all of the other hacks that we have spoken about thus far, this is yet another simple way for you to regulate your nervous system during the day. Anytime you’re feeling stressed, you can easily do one of these three techniques, or all of them, to create a relaxation response. If this was helpful, please make sure to incorporate it into your lifestyle.

Reach out for a 15-minute FREE discovery session to see how we can help you on your journey.

For more content, make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel here.

Other things that may interest you:

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Why You Shouldn’t R.I.C.E.

I’m sure that you’ve had an injury in your lifetime where you grabbed some ice and rested it. You should know that R.I.C.E (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation) is outdated and better yet, how you should address your injuries.

Dr. Gabe Mirkin coined the term RICE in 1978. This is a term that has been popularized for years and years, and this is still what most people think of when they think of treating an acute injury.

At this point, we have way too much research and knowledge about the human body to know that this is not at all how we should treat injuries. Even Dr. Mirkin himself, many years later, has been humble enough to say that this is not the most effective way that we should be addressing acute injuries, and that there is a lot of science about how we should use the body’s natural ability to manage inflammation to maximize our healing. 

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Inflammation is our natural defense and repair mechanism. An acute injury is about the first four to five days of an injury. Inflammation is important so it is necessary that we maximize the initial stage of healing, rather than delay it.

When we have swelling after an injury, that indicates that our immune system is kicking in gear. These inflammatory cells called macrophages are going to release what’s called insulin-like growth factor and this is what comes into the area to help repair the tissue. What do we need for this to happen? We need blood flow. We need blood flow to bring these inflammatory cells to help repair the damaged tissue.

What Does Ice Do?

So what does ice do? Ice constricts our blood vessels, which decreases blood flow to the area. Remember, the only way that we can manage this initial inflammatory response and manage healing is through blood flow. In fact, when we apply ice to the injured area, these blood vessels actually cut off blood flow for hours afterward, delaying this entire repair mechanism. The only thing that it may do for you is it may decrease pain. However, it can interfere with your brain’s signaling to that area. Nociception is our pain response that is signaling from the tissue to the brain. Although it might temporarily feel better, you are having a true delay in healing. 

So now that we understand a little bit more about inflammation and ice, we should be able to recognize that ice does not, in fact, decrease inflammation. Conversely, we need to eliminate ice to promote the inflammatory period, our first stage of healing, to be able to repair the tissues. Now we know that we don’t want to ice, and we don’t want to rest. So what are some things that you can do with an acute injury?

What To Do With Acute Injury

1) Move                                                 

This is very important. We want to use movement, and optimal loading of the tissue, while managing pain, to provide blood flow to the area. We want to respect the tissue and the body, but you want to continue to move as much as you can in a safe manner. 

2) Compression

You’ll want to use gradient compression because you are optimizing the lymphatic system. Our lymphatic system is one of our detoxification systems. Let’s say you had an ankle injury; you would use a compression sleeve that would have just the toes out and come up ideally to your knee. If you’ve had a knee injury, preferably, you would use compression from the foot all the way up to begin to pump and assist the lymphatic system. You can also use various other tools, types of compression, or other forms of lymph drainage to assist the lymphatic system as well. 

3) Diaphragmatic Breathing

This is helpful for two reasons. One diaphragmatic breathing can help to inhibit pain, and it also calms your nervous system down. When we are in a heightened sense of pain, then our nervous system is in a protective state, which is typically a fight or flight state. The breathing is going to help stimulate the vagus nerve, which releases acetylcholine to calm the nervous system down and helps to inhibit pain. A side benefit is that it is our biggest pump for the lymphatic system is our diaphragm. 

4) Eat Right 

Make sure you’re getting enough protein necessary for optimal healing and you’re eating an anti-inflammatory diet. You also want to consider other things. For example, not taking any NSAIDs, especially within the first five days, if at all, because NSAIDs will block that inflammatory process that we need for healing. If you’re going to take one, it should be after five days, and that should only be if you absolutely need to. NSAIDs can also influence your gut and can contribute to dysbiosis in the gut. Seventy percent of our immune system is in our gut, so the more you take those, the more they’re negatively impacting your ability to regulate inflammation. 

So the next time you get injured, please make sure to ditch the ice, continue to move, use compression, diaphragmatically breathe, and don’t forget to eat an anti-inflammatory diet to promote optimal healing. 

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Vagus Nerve Hack | Pelvic Floor Relaxation

Another great vagus nerve hack that you can do is pelvic floor release and relaxation.

The vagus nerve is integrated with a sympathetic nervous system (fight/flight) almost everywhere in the body, but especially the gut and the pelvis. What’s interesting about the pelvic floor is that we tend to hold so much tension here. This is where we tend to hold our emotions, too.

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Let’s dive into the anatomy. The posterior vagus nerve actually integrates with a network of sympathetic plexus with a network of nerves:

  1. celiac plexus
  2. superior and inferior mesenteric plexi
  3. superior and inferior hypogastric plexi

This plexi actually forms an integrated circuit that moves blood flow in and out of the pelvis, and this is exactly what the autonomic nervous system is all about—moving blood. This network of nerves is where the vagus nerve brings blood to the heart and brain. Lastly, urination, defecation, sexual orgasm all require this complex integration of all of these nerves and blood flow from the pelvis to the rest of the body. In order to do all of those things, we have to feel safe in the bedroom as well as in the bathroom. Safety is the cornerstone of our state of social engagement of the ventral vagal nerve. Check out the video HERE to see how to perform:

1.   Pelvic Floor Release

Sitting on a ball and addressing the pelvic floor musculature is a great way to create this efficient relaxation response. The placement of the ball is behind the pubic bone to address the front of the pelvic floor and then right inside of the buttocks to address the back of the pelvic floor. Sit on the ball and breathe diaphragmatically until you feel a release or relaxation response.

2.   Happy Baby

This is a great relaxation exercise where there are lots of variations. However, you just need to get to a position where you feel very comfortable, and you’re able to inhale into the pelvic floor. When you are inhaling, that’s when the pelvic floor is relaxing and you are opening the pelvic outlet.

3.   Rock on Forearms

Resting on the forearms and knees wide, inhale as you rock back and exhale as you rock slightly forward. Once again, you’re opening up the pelvic outlet, inhaling into the base of the pelvic floor to create that relaxation response.

The pelvic floor is one of the most fascinating connections with the vagus nerve, so it’s a really great way to address this from a chakra standpoint. It tends to be an area for clenching and guarding, and especially for holding emotions.

You can see this intimate relationship with your nervous system and how it could affect you.

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5 Steps to Addressing SI Joint Pain | the Truth About SI

Do you suffer from sacroiliac (SI) joint pain and you’ve been told that your SI joint is out of place? Maybe you are trying to put it back in or wearing an SI joint belt? Perhaps you just can’t seem to resolve it. Let’s discuss the anatomy of the SI joint and how you can help to address your SI joint pain.

The SI joint comprises the triangular bone, the sacrum, with the two ilium’s, pelvic bones. It is also reinforced with a lot of ligamentous structures. All of these connective tissue structures and the SI joint are primarily responsible for shock absorption between the upper body, and the pelvis and legs.

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The sacroiliac joint has very little motion. It has approximately four to six degrees range of motion, so there is a subtle forward bending and back bending even just with our breath alone. However, just as much as it needs to be stable and have proper sequencing and coordination of all the deep stabilizers of the pelvis, it also needs proper mobility. We need the pelvis to be able to move freely in forward bending, backward bending, side bending, and rotation. This is crucial for gait.

Speaking of gait, how we interact with the ground influences our SI joint. Walking is one of the best assessments of movement efficiency. It tells us how well we can load forces and unload forces, and how well we can transfer energy through the body. We do that through our fascial tissue, and we have different fascial lines that are transferring this energy through our body, crossing over the SI joints.

One of the primary subsystems o the SI joint is the deep longitudinal line. This starts at the bottom of the foot comes up the lateral side of the leg, up into our hamstring, or biceps femoris, into our sacrotuberous ligament, which is one of the ligaments of the SI joint, and then right into the SI joint and up along the spine. This is where we’re transferring energy and this line is mainly responsible for shock absorption. When our breathing is compromised, and we’re not able to have proper sequencing and pelvic control of our gait, then we will see SI joint pain and dysfunction.

Now let’s talk about five different things that you should consider with your SI joint. 

1) Breathing

More specifically, diaphragmatic breathing. That means as we’re inhaling through the nose and breathing all the way down to the base of the pelvis. This will assist us to get the proper relaxation of the pelvic floor. As we exhale, we get the proper contraction of the transverse abdominus, our natural weight belt. Our abdominal muscles contract, returning the diaphragm back to its resting position. This will allow for proper sequencing, timing, and coordination of the deep stabilizers of our core. If we’re breathing from the neck, that will not happen. 

2) Pelvic Mobility

As I mentioned, the pelvis needs to be able to move freely in our gait cycle. We have to integrate the breath with this and coordinate into pelvic patterns. We want to be able to forward bend, backward bend, rotate, and side bend the pelvis. Evaluating those movements lying down and standing will be very valuable. Notice where the restrictions are and notice if that reproduces the pain. Remember if the pelvis isn’t moving properly as we are walking, then we are not transferring force efficiently. That is exactly what can contribute to SI joint pain.  

3) Rotational Stability

This can take on lots of different forms, although the bird dog is a great exercise to develop tensioning and coordination in a rotational pattern. This dials into a lot of other fascial lines and connections that all pass through the SI joint. It is important to stabilize basic patterns and then progress them to higher-level patterns.

4.1) Foot to Core Sequencing

Use dynamic patterns such as forward lunging, reverse lunging, side lunging, and rotational lunging. The goal is to perform all of these with proper alignment and connecting the foot to the core with intention. So, you’ll want to use a short foot, rooting the toes into the ground and connecting it to your breath, to be able to maximize how you’re sequencing from the ground up.

4.2) Foot Type

Different foot types will contribute to how we are loading and unloading force. If we have a more everted foot type for example, where the arch is flattened, this can contribute to the stability in our foot and how we transfer energy towards our pelvis. Conversely, if we have a more inverted foot type, which means we are a little higher arched, that can put a lot of stress and force on the SI joint as well. Our goal is to bring our foot back into neutral. Whether we are strengthening the feet and connecting them to our core or creating more mobility in the foot, calf, and lower leg to bring our foot back into neutral, how we load and unload the ground is going to directly impact the SI joint. 

5) Total Rotation

Lastly is addressing your total rotation. If we are in a standing position doing a full rotation, are there asymmetries side to side? Can you focus on specific thoracic spine mobility to create and emphasize more rotation in your gait? Ultimately, we need optimal rotation in our pelvis and thoracic spine for efficient gait. We walk on average 6000 to 8000 steps a day and that is our best assessment of movement efficiency. 

There you have it, a new way to look at your SI joint, and perhaps not seek out muscle energy techniques and ‘put it back into place.’ The SI joint only moves about four degrees so it is likely not out of place. You might have pain and dysfunction, but looking at why that’s happening, looking at it from an integrated perspective of how we are interacting with the ground, and get to the root of the issue is key. 

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Vagus Nerve Hack | Valsalva Maneuver

Let’s discuss another vagus nerve hack that you can incorporate into your day to decrease your heart rate and regulate your nervous system. This one is a little unique; it’s different than our standard slow, deep breathing. The Valsalva maneuver is great for anyone that’s experiencing super ventricular tachycardia (SVT), which is an increase in your heart rate. In essence, it will slow the heart rate down and create a relaxation response.

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Anatomy

Now let’s talk a little bit about anatomy. The vagus nerve is leaving the brainstem and branches off to innervate muscles of the face, ears, throat, heart, digestive tract, and elimination tract. As it relates to the heart, specifically for this maneuver, the vagus nerve innervates the SA node of the heart. So, by creating pressure in the chest, it signals the SA node to signal the AV node to decrease the heart rate. In essence, the Valsalva will slow the signaling down in the lower chamber of the heart, which decreases the heart rate.

Precautions

Before we get into how you’re going to perform the technique, I do want to remind you who should not perform this technique. Anyone that has a known heart condition, congenital heart disease, coronary artery disease, or heart disease, should not perform this, and/or check with your medical doctor. There is a temporary increase in blood pressure so it can place you at higher risk. If you do not fall into one of those categories, please feel free to give this a try.

How to Perform the Technique:

  • Inhale normally, pinch your nostrils, and begin to exhale.
  • Hold it for 10 seconds. You’re exhaling through the nose while you are pinching your nasal valves, thereby creating pressure in your chest.

Initially evaluate how you feel, and then you could repeat this several times. It should have a slowing of the heartbeat and relaxation response. A great thing to do is to take your pulse before and after the maneuver to see if it has lowered your heart rate. You can use your radial or carotid pulse, whatever is easiest for you. Just make sure not to use your thumb when taking your pulse. The Valsalva maneuver can be a great addition to your life and your health.

Reach out for a 15-minute FREE discovery session to see how we can help you on your journey.

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Is your anxiety or depression coming from your gut?

Is your anxiety and/or depression coming from your gut? So many people are suffering from anxiety and/or depression, so it’s important to look at the connections between the gut and the brain, and the gut’s influence on mood and behavior. This is an important aspect of looking at mental health and addressing some underlying physical causes. 

The gut-brain connection is fascinating, and it is essentially our bidirectional communication between our gut and brain. It has multiple pathways, including the hormonal, immune system, and nervous systems. For the purpose of today, let’s focus on two aspects: the hormonal and nervous systems.

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The hormonal connection is based on neurotransmitters which are essentially chemical messengers; we also refer to them as hormones. They are signaling from the gut to the brain and the brain to the gut. We have 90% of our serotonin, which is our hormone that provides feelings of happiness, located in our gut. 50% is the dopamine in our gut, which is our feel-good hormone. We also have GABA, gamma amino butyric acid, which decreases feelings of stress and anxiety. All of these are located in our gut! Therefore, gut issues, infections, inflammatory diets can influence our mood and behavior. 

Our gut bacteria form these neurotransmitters, so different strains of bacteria will influence these different neurotransmitters. For example, Streptococcus and Enterococcus produce serotonin. Escherichia produces norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin. Bacillus species also produce norepinephrine and dopamine. Bifidobacterium produces GABA. Lactobacillus species influence our acetylcholine, which is important for relaxation response, and GABA. 

The nervous system pathways of the gut-brain connection, on the other hand,  primarily exist through the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve originates from the brainstem; it’s the 10th cranial nerve, and it’s actually a pair of nerves. It innervates muscles of the face, throat, heart, respiration, digestion, and our entire elimination track. It is one of the most important nerves of our digestive system. Therefore, we are influencing this gut-to-brain connection when we are either stimulating the gut from a viscera and/or probiotics or vagus nerve stimulation exercises such as breathing. 

It is imperative that we begin to look more closely at these powerful connections and that we look beyond the genetic and environmental components to see why someone may be experiencing anxiety and depression or other mental health issues. Things such as leaky gut, SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), systemic inflammation, inflammatory foods, and the standard American diet will undoubtedly influence these neurotransmitters and the vagus nerve. This attributes to changes in our serotonin, dopamine, and GABA levels, thereby impacting our mood and behavior. 

What can you do about it? Find a functional medicine provider to help you navigate the physical causes of anxiety and depression. You could also start with testing: leaky gut, SIBO, stool testing to look at your microbiome. 

You can also start by making small changes. Focus on eating an anti-inflammatory diet, optimizing your sleep, and working on stress reduction connections.

Reach out for a 15-minute FREE discovery session to see how we can help you on your journey.

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8 causes of LOW BACK PAIN that isn’t a weak core

Do you have low back pain, and you’ve been told that it’s from a weak core? Here are eight reasons why it may not be coming from your core.

One in four people experience low back pain in their lifetime, and it is also one of the number one causes of the opioid epidemic. Most people that are seeking pain medication are coming in initially for low back pain.

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One of the things that is important to recognize with acute low back pain is that it can be treated very easily. However, because of the nature of our medical system, we tend to go to our primary care, get a muscle relaxer and pain medication, and get referred potentially for an X-ray. The X-ray doesn’t show anything, but you still continue to have low back pain. Now you are referred for an MRI but still don’t show anything except for some degeneration, which everyone after the age of 35 is going to have. You still don’t have any answers, so you get an injection. Then three months after this acute low back pain episode, you’re still having pain. Now you are in a chronic pain state. 

Chronic pain is much different than acute pain. It is defined by having pain greater than three months and is referred to as central sensitization. Our nervous system becomes sensitized. We have no tissue damage, however, the brain is still interpreting that there is pain in, let’s say, for example, the low back.

Here are eight root causes of your low back pain, that isn’t simply a weak core. All these can also contribute to acute and/or chronic low back pain.

1) Poor Breathing

Our breath should be a diaphragmatic breath. We breathe 20 to 25,000 times a day. If we are not breathing from our diaphragm, then that means that the sequencing of our entire abdomen is affected. It also creates a stress response.  

2) Movement Compensations

When we think of how pain or injury ultimately happens, think it’s when anatomy meets opportunity. If you have an ankle sprain, let’s say three months ago, and although it’s getting better, there’s still some stiffness in the ankle. Now every time you are walking and striking the ground in dynamic movement, there is asymmetry. You have different forces that are being transferred up through your body.  That means that now you’re going to begin to compensate. You’ll change how my foot strikes the ground; how your pelvis is moving. This can be an example of how any movement-compensation, especially over a period of time, can ultimately lead to pain and or injury.

3) Stress

This can not be emphasized enough and how it’s one of the biggest factors in low back pain. Not only can we hold tension in our abdomen and our pelvic floor, but it also shifts our breathing to an upper chest breathing pattern. Additionally, stress is linked to inflammation. Without a doubt, I’ve seen in my clinical practice that this is one of the biggest driving factors of low back pain, especially chronic low back pain.

4) Poor Sleep

Inadequate or interrupted sleep is actually one of the biggest drivers of low back pain. Poor sleep also shuts down the release of our growth hormone, which is needed for repair and healing.

5) Chronic Inflammation

Ninety percent of all health conditions are linked to excessive or persistent inflammation; from eczema to anxiety, depression, and even Alzheimer’s. Now, when we think about inflammation as it relates to our musculoskeletal system or nervous system, inflammation will contribute to pain, joint stiffness, joint inflammation, osteoarthritis, and more. This can also consistent with chronic low back pain.

6) Sedentary Lifestyles

This can be one of the biggest drivers of recurring low back pain, per some of the research. We are meant to move; our bodies crave movement. We do not want to be in one position all day long. As you’re thinking about your day, think of it from a ‘movement mindset’. It doesn’t have to be exercising 30 to 60 minutes; you need to be moving all day long.

7) Poor Gut Health

Your gut is your second brain, and we have an entire nervous system located right there. If there are gut issues, that means there are inflammatory issues. Without a doubt, because we have 70 percent of our immune system in our gut, and we have this nervous system, when we are having visceral pain, this will influence the sequencing, timing, and coordination of all of our muscles and our abdomen and pelvis. It is definitely something that can contribute to low back pain, especially in the case of bloating and constipation. 

8) Lack of Movement Variability

As I mentioned earlier, our bodies crave movement. When we are in sustained postures all day long like sitting at a desk or crossing our legs in one direction, not changing positions consistently throughout the day, then our fascial tissue, our three-dimensional network, or ectoskeleton can get sticky. It is meant to be elastic, create tension, and transfer force efficiently. If we are sitting in sustained postures throughout the day and not changing positions, like getting down to the floor and getting back up, this can, unfortunately, contribute to low back pain.

There you have it; eight different root causes of why you might have low back pain. There are, of course, other things like pelvic pain and other medical conditions, but hopefully, you can appreciate that it is not necessarily because you have a weak core that you are having low back pain, and if you strengthen your core it’s going to get better. You want to look well beyond that. 

Reach out for a 15-minute FREE discovery session to see how we can help you on your journey.

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The benefits of GROUNDING | Earthing

Grounding, otherwise known as earthing, is one of the most powerful and simplest things you can do to improve your health. As Aristotle once said, “In nature, there is something marvelous.” This conductive contact of the human body with the surface of the earth can have intriguing benefits on our physiology. Let’s discuss this simple and powerful technique, its benefits, and of course, how you can do it.

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What is grounding?

Essentially, it is the direct contact of the skin on the hands or our bare feet on the surface of the earth. Or it can be done via a grounding system. The amazing thing about grounding is that people all over the world in diverse cultures have talked about the benefits and how to improve their health and well-being from being barefoot on the earth for thousands and thousands of years. Although this may seem new to some, it is really prevalent in other cultures.

Benefits of Grounding

Let’s get into the evidence-based benefits of grounding

1) Reduces inflammation

We know that ninety percent of all of our chronic health conditions are linked to excessive or persistent inflammation. Grounding is one of the simplest ways to address that.

2) Decreases pain

3) Decreases stress response

It can help shift us from our sympathetic state to our parasympathetic state in our autonomic nervous system

4) Increases heart rate variability

The higher our heart rate variability is, the interbeat between the heartbeats, the better the function of our autonomic nervous system. This can be associated with better recovery, better emotional resilience, and overall well-being.

5) Improves sleep

6) Improves cortisol rhythm

Cortisol is one of our key stress hormones.

7) Improves wound healing

Grounding can be a great thing to include in an integrative approach to healing.

8) Reduces blood viscosity

This can be one of the best things you can do for reducing your cardiovascular risk.

So, how can you include grounding in your life?

The easiest way is to just get outside barefoot. You could spend as little as 10 minutes to see some benefits up to an hour.  Stand or sit in a chair and place your feet on the ground. You can put your hands in the grass but be sure to make sure it is consistent time outdoors. This is the simplest way to include grounding, but if that’s not realistic for you, you can use a grounding system. That can come in the form of a sheet, mat, patches, wristbands, and ankle bands, and connect to a grounded outlet. By connecting to this grounded outlet, you’re connecting to mother earth.

Why does this work?

One of the theories is that our skin contact with the earth allows electrons to spread into the skin as well as the body, which thereby impacts immune markers.

As I mentioned, grounding has been around forever. Now, through research, we are seeing the potential health benefits.  Think barefoot is a way of life. When you stimulate the small nerves in the bottom of your feet, you can connect to the earth’s surface and bring your body back into a state of balance; reducing inflammation and driving parasympathetic nervous system response.

Reach out for a 15-minute FREE discovery session to see how we can help you on your journey.

For more content, make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel here.

Other things that may interest you:

Understanding Your Pain

Top 5 Vagus Nerve Hacks to Help You Relax and Restore

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