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Sugar: How Does It Link to Inflammation and Pain?

Have a back ache you can’t get rid of? Or painful, swollen joints that make you want to sit and not move? Have you tried to alleviate the pain with medications, rest, exercises, but nothing works? It may be because you haven’t addressed the real culprit: sugar.

What many people don’t realize is that sugar consumption and the resulting bodily inflammation is often a major factor in the creation of aches and pains.

Our Garland chiropractors see this uncomfortable connection every day. We understand that bypassing sugar can be a real challenge. It beckons as we pass the donut shop on the corner or spy a child with a double scoop ice cream sundae.donuts

Sweet cravings affect everyone at one time or another, but It’s more than just the taste that sparks those cravings. Sweets are a brain reward, a good feeling, a great way to lift your mood.

What causes the cravings?

Dopamine is a chemical that serves as a neurotransmitter in the brain, which means it sends signals to other nerve cells. Dopamine has always been thought of as a chemical of pleasure; however, pharmacology now believes that instead of creating pleasure, dopamine mediates motivation and desire. It causes ‘wanting” reactions. Studies indicate the region of the brain that responds to drugs such as cocaine and heroin also reacts to dopamine. And—here’s the kicker—when sugar (glucose) is introduced to the system, the brain happily releases dopamine!

That’s why sugary foods are a comfort when you’re tired or depressed or in a mood for a mental health break. There’s nothing like a shot of dopamine to brighten your day! The problem that it can be hard to stop eating sugary foods. Because it tastes so good and it makes you feel so good (at least temporarily), sugar can be addicting.

What causes the inflammation and pain?

Sugar, is an inflammatory food. One of the ways it affects the body is by depleting minerals such as calcium, potassium, and magnesium, which are necessary for muscles to contract and relax naturally. So when you eat a large amount of sugar your muscles go a little haywire. If it happens often enough or long enough, you end up with back spasms.

Any food that increases cortisol(a stress hormone) levels in the body causes inflammation in connective tissues. Sugar is one of those foods.

image of man with joint painInsulin levels are also affected by sugar. Sugar causes insulin levels to spike, which leads to a slew of biochemical reactions that result in inflammation. Also, insulin takes sugar from the blood and stores it in cells, which contributes to fat accumulation. Stomach fat actually secretes proteins and hormones that generate inflammation. Joint pains, in particular, result from inflammation.

We already know desserts and candy are cornucopias of sugar, but it’s amazing how many foods that we think of as ‘regular’ also contain sugar. Even those labeled as “low-fat” or “light” are often rich in sugar.

If you want to decrease your sugar consumption, consider avoiding or cutting back on these foods:

  •  low-fat yogurt
  • BBQ sauce
  • ketchup
  • fruit juice
  • spaghetti sauce
  • sports drinks
  • chocolate milk
  • granola
  • flavored coffee
  • iced tea
  • protein bars
  • vitamin water
  • per-made soup
  • cereal bars
  • canned fruit
  • canned bake beans
  • bottled smoothies
  • breakfast cereal
  • white bread
  • cola
  • dried fruit
  • crackers
  • instant flavored oatmeal
  • soy milk
  • low-fat/fat-free salad dressing
  • frozen entrees

Alternative Choices

• Distract your taste buds – If your taste buds crave sweet, distract them with flavors that make cutting back on sugar less difficult. You can make your oatmeal or coffee tasty with a sprinkle of nutmeg, cinnamon, or vanilla powder. Prefer flavored water? Try lemon, mint, or grapefruit. Stick with roasted vegetables. That cooking process accentuates food’s natural sweetness. A few sugar substitutes: honey, molasses, pureed banana, club soda, balsamic glaze, raisins, unsweetened cocoa powder, cranberries, processed dates, and maple syrup. All excellent cooking ingredients!

• Cut back on processed food and drinks– stop consuming them or reduce the amounts and the frequency of intake. The best approach is to just stop drinking soda and stop eating cookies, cakes, candy, and white pasta, rice, and bread. Search for healthy alternatives.

• Eat more fruits and vegetables– these foods have antioxidants, minerals and vitamins that work against inflammation.

• Fill up on the good stuff – eat foods that naturally fight inflammation, such as oily fish, seeds, nuts, olive oil, and avocados.

• Read the labels– food labels will inform you of the presence of the sugary ingredients you want to avoid. Be informed, and be cautious because different words are used for sugar, often to try and hide its presence.

• Stick with the whole-grain carbs– control blood sugar and protect against inflammation by eating brown rice, whole-grain pasta, barley, quinoa and oats.

• Exercise– fighting weight gain also fights inflammation. And it helps reduce stress.

• Consider adding chiropractic treatment to your routine– Our Garland chiropractors can help with proper joint and spinal alignment.

Coming back to health

Change isn’t easy, especially when your diet is a habit. For most of us, sugar has been an integral part of our lives since we were young.

At our Garland Chiropractic Clinic our professional staff can work with you to establish a healthy eating and exercise routine that will enable you to make the right choices for your health. Combined with chiropractic care our garland chiropractors will help you to feel your best.

It can be done! And pain—as much as we hate it—is an excellent motivator. A chocolate-glazed doughnut or an apple? A pain in your back or a sweet fruit that satisfies your cravings without causing a single ache?

Contact our office today at (972) 840-2520.

7 Simple Tips for a Healthier Neck and Back

It’s undeniable. Whether at work or at play, most of us spend a lot of time sitting. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) recently concluded that less than half of all American (45%) spends even 20 minutes walking each day.

There are many reasons that contribute to our sedentary lifestyle, chief among them our long work weeks (47 hours on average for full-time employees) and our fascination with technology such as computers, tablets, and electronic games.

We know that a sedentary lifestyle is a major contributor to hearth disease, obesity, hypertension, breast cancer and more. But it’s also a large contributing factor to back and neck pain.

Frequently looking down at documents, books or tablets can lead to postural changes. Even something as common as texting can, over time, lead to heads that are thrust forward and rounded shoulders. And it’s not just newer technologies that encourage bad posture. Hobbies such as beading, scrapbooking, and even sewing and quilting can add to our back and neck pain.

Our posture problems have often been present for years before we begin to feel pain.

If you find yourself slouching, sitting cross-legged, or standing while leaning on one leg, it’s time to pay attention. Also note if your chin extends past the chest while reading or when engaged in sedentary hobbies.

Simple tips to improve posture

1.  When you’re seated at your desk or at home, make sure both feet are on the floor. It’s a good idea to have the seat height adjusted so that your bent legs form a 90 degree angle. Your ankles should be in front of your knees and chair seat.
2.  Take frequent stretch breaks. Get up, and move around often.
3.  When standing, keep your feet approximately a shoulder’s width apart and balance your weight between the balls of your feet and your heels.

Helpful tips for sleeping

4.  Try to sleep on a supportive mattress. This doesn’t mean you must buy a extra firm mattress, simply that the understructure of the mattress must have provide good support.
5.  Avoid sleeping on your stomach.
6.  Side sleepers may benefit by putting a pillow between their legs. Proper pillow height is also important. A pillow that is too fluffy may raise the neck too high, while one that is too low may bend the head downward. Either extreme can throw the back out of alignment.
7. If you prefer to sleep on your back, a pillow positioned under your thighs can ease pressure on the back.

Simple exercises to perform at home or at work

  • Baby spine – This modified yoga pose is easy to perform and is most effective when done every day. Simply lie on the floor with your stomach facing downward. Next rise up on your elbows and cradle your head in your heads. Start off by holding this pose for 10 minutes each morning and night. Gradually build up to 20 or 30 minutes sessions. This is easy to do while watching television. This pose will greatly improve flexibility when done routinely.

    bay spine

    Baby Spine

  • Shoulder Squeeze – This simple exercise can be performed while seated. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold the position for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat often throughout the day to bring your awareness to your upper back and to keep your seated posture aligned.

    shoulder squeeze

    Shoulder Squeeze

  • Pelvic Tilts – Begin by lying on the floor with your feet flat. Next move your pelvis upward by engaging your lower abdominal muscles. Hold this position for a few seconds. Try for a set of 10 exercises. This exercise can also be performed in a chair. As your strength improves, aim for 50 to 100 repetitions per day.

    pelvic tilts

    Pelvic Tilts

Many of our patients report that simply by following these simple tips and by adding these 3 easy exercises to their daily routines, their strength and flexibility begin to return. They also report fewer episodes of serious back pain.

We encourage you to give these tips and exercises a try. Then let us know what you think!

For acute or chronic problems, our medically directed chiropractic clinic in Garland, TX offers a wide range of services including chiropractic care, exercise rehab and therapeutic massage. We also specialize in joint pain treatment including osteoarthritis of the knees.

Over the last decade Dr. James Mixon has successfully treated thousands of patients suffering from back pain, neck pain and stiff, achy joints. If you’d like more information on our treatment options, please contact us at (972) 840-2520.

Heartburn Pain: Why Proton Pump Inhibitors Are Not Your Safest Option

Many people suffer from “Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)”, a complicated name for a chronic digestive disease. GERD results when stomach acid, pepsin and bile back up into the esophagus. This is “acid indigestion”, or, more commonly, heartburn. Because your esophagus runs down the center of your chest and behind the breastbone, that burning sensation can feel like it’s surrounding your heart, which is how the term “heartburn” came about.

Image of man with heartburn painThe burning heartburn pain from acidic influx often extends into the abdomen and the throat. The intrusion of very powerful stomach acid onto the sensitive esophagus and throat tissues is a misery! It can cause health issues such as ulcers, chronic coughing, vomiting, weight loss, difficulty swallowing, wheezing or hoarseness, and the unpleasant sensation of a lump in your throat!

Our Garland Chiropractic Clinic wants you to feel your best and live a pain free, active life. This is one of the reasons we offer a range of nutritional options that can reduce or eliminate the discomfort of heartburn pain.

What Causes Heartburn Pain?

There is a narrow band of muscle located around the base of your esophagus called the “esophageal sphincter.” When this sphincter relaxes, food and liquid can enter your stomach. Once food is safely in the stomach, the muscle retightens. This is the body’s simple, direct means of protecting the esophagus from the stomach.

It’s the health of the esophageal sphincter that prevents, or causes, acid indigestion. If something happens to the sphincter that either makes it relax abnormally or makes it weak, reflux and heartburn pain can occur. An open sphincter is an easy route for fluids to flow back up the esophagus. The influx is even worse when you bend over or lie down.image of gastroesophageal-disease

Stress, anxiety, and fear have long been linked with heartburn symptoms. In addition, the risk of heartburn increases for people who are overweight or pregnant. With more than 36% of Americans being overweight, heartburn is a major issue across the country!

The initial trigger for heartburn pain in some people results from the types of food and drink they consume, including but not limited to:

  • Spicy foods like peppers
  • Chocolate
  • Peppermint
  • Citrus products
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Vinegar
  • Tomato products like ketchup or salsa
  • Fatty foods
  • Fried foods
  • Alcohol, caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea or soda, and carbonated beverages
  • Large high-fat meals

Problems with Proton Pump Inhibitors

When faced with heartburn many people reach for over the counter antacids. When that doesn’t work, people will often turn to their doctors for a prescription. One of the most common categories of drugs used for heartburn are  proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), which directly block the millions of tiny pumps in your stomach that generate acid.

One commonly known proton pump inhibitor is Prilosec. Ideally, this drug should only be taken once a day for two weeks.

Absorption of the drug doesn’t begin until it reaches the intestine, about an hour after being swallowed. The drug isn’t a quick relief for heartburn, instead providing more substantial relief over a longer period of time. PPIs are usually eliminated from the body within 90 minutes of absorption, but their effect continues for more than 24 hours.

PPIs are effective as a treatment for ulcers, improve pancreatic enzyme absorption, provide healing of erosive esophagitis, and prevent stricture formation.

However, there are side effects. Many people tend to use the drug for relief long after the recommended two week cycle, and the longer it is used, the more PPIs reduce stomach acid. It doesn’t matter that PPIs don’t remain in the blood for very long. The problem is the manner in which they bind to proton pumps is irreversible! That affect suppresses the body’s capacity to absorb necessary minerals, including iron, magnesium and B-12.

Here is a list of many adverse effects that can develop from long term use of PPIs:

  • increases the risk of wrist, hip or spine fractures
  • acute pancreatitis
  • anxiety
  • cough
  • depression
  • drug toxin-related hepatitis
  • erythema multiforme
  • flu-like symptoms
  • myalgia
  • Stevens-Johnson syndrome
  • thrombocytopenia
  • toxic epidermal necrolysis
  • ulcerative colitis
  • upper respiratory hypersensitivity reaction
  • upper respiratory infection
  • vomiting
  • reduced kidney function
  • may mask the symptoms of stomach cancer
  • may increase infections in the colon
  • may increase the risk of heart attacks
  • allergic reactions

Of great concern is how PPIs suppress stomach acid keeps ingested microorganisms from being destroyed. This allows them to reach the intestines, which can significantly alter the bacterial balance in the Gastrointestinal (G.I.) tract. That imbalance leads to an increase in bacterial strains dangerous to the system, such as streptococcus. This type of bacteria causes diarrhea and abdominal pain. These bacteria also increase the colon’s susceptibility to serious infections from clostridium difficile, a bacterium that releases toxins into the linings of the intestine.

Considering the potential side effects from long term use, it’s important to keep PPI usage to low doses and short duration. In fact, the best approach is, when possible, to avoid PPIs altogether.

Alternatives for Better Digestive Health

Dr. Ellen Cutler, DC, author of MicroMiracles: Discover the Healing Power of Enzymes” states:

image of fresh vegetables“Even if you eat good food every day, if you don’t digest it properly, undigested food can actually seep from the small intestine into the bloodstream, and the immune system reacts.”

Lack of energy and digestive discomfort are among the first symptoms of poor digestion, but there are many others: craving certain foods; weight gain; thyroid problems; bloating, heartburn, gas, indigestion or burping after meals; constipation or diarrhea; hair that is dull, thinning, or falling out; lackluster skin; weak or cracked nails; trouble getting up in the morning; sleep problems; arthritis or joint pain; feeling too tired to exercise; depression; mood swings; headaches or migraines; ADHD; rashes; hives; hot flashes; PMS; and, sometimes, fertility problems. Poor digestion also speeds up the aging process.

Just knowing the consequences of poor digestion encourages us to seek a remedy.

With our patients we use two powerful nutrients in a combination approach. Okra Pepsin, produced by Standard Process, works to soothe the symptoms of heartburn pain, while professional grade digestive enzymes, help the body by supplying dietary enzymes their body might be lacking.

The Power of Digestive Enzymes:

• Digestive enzymes help convert food into nutrients that produce energy in our bodies. They also work to repair and support our physical structures and their functions.
• Digestive enzymes are safe for adults and children.
• Raw fruits and vegetables contain the essential digestive enzymes needed.
• Many Americans don’t consume enough raw fruits and vegetables; therefore, enzyme supplements are beneficial.

Our digestive enzyme supplements contains all the enzymes required for a healthy digestive system.

The Okra Pepsin made by whole food supplement leader, Standard Process, includes okra, fat extracts from alfalfa, sunflower seeds, carrot roots, buckwheat, pea vine, gelatin, milk, water, and soy. This supplement supports the intestinal function of mucosal tissues and bowels, and provides a good bowel cleansing. It is excellent for easing gastric aches and heartburn pain.

Lifestyle Tips for Better Digestion

In addition to taking our recommended supplements, you might also want to make certain changes in your lifestyle and diet. Try to avoid stress, but if you can’t, work to reduce its influence by relaxing more often, getting more sleep, exercising, or engaging in an activity that calms you. Avoid foods that bother your stomach, and don’t eat within two to three hours of bedtime. Also important, chew your food thoroughly. As you chew you produce saliva. Your saliva contains key enzymes which start the process of digesting fats and starches.

Eating should be an enjoyable activity. Don’t let the unpleasant effects of heartburn pain make your life miserable! Contact us today to learn how these two supplements can help your enjoy your meals again.

Keeping Your Balance as You Age: 5 Simple Exercises for Seniors

Balance is important in every stage of your life. It allows you to walk with grace, easily see your surrounding and stay pointed in the right direction. Balance allows you to make automatic adjustments to your posture and stability during every activity.

exercising womenBalance is achieved via a set of  ‘sensorimotor control systems’, which includes input from your vision, touch, and vestibular system. The vestibular system involves equilibrium, motion, and spatial orientation. All that sensory input is directed to the muscles of your eyes and body.

Any one of those sensory components can be negatively affected by disease, Injury, certain prescription medications, or—that undeniable part of our life cycle—aging.

How Age Affects Balance

Balance problems as we age usually result from deteriorations in our sensory and muscular functions. After all, many people begin to exercising and move much less after middle age. Here are a few common reasons seniors are more susceptible to falls:

  • Vision decreases;
  • The legs and hips weaken, making walking difficult;
  • Spinal degeneration or the posture becomes poor and it’s difficult to stand up straight;
  • Often people can lift their feet like they used to, increasing the likelihood of stumbling;
  • Our reactions slow when we encounter a physical obstacle, which can cause a fall;
  • Prescription medicines can cause dizziness or affect balance;
  • Low blood pressure can cause light-headedness that increases the risk of falling.

For these reasons it’s a good idea for seniors to begin a gentle exercise program that addresses strength, endurance, and balance. Even a small amount of targeted exercise can help restore good balance.

Simple Exercises for Seniors

The main muscle groups should be exercised several days a week, including the legs and arms, shoulders, chest and abdomen.

Staying safe while retraining the balance system is critical. Before beginning any kind of physical program, check with your doctor to be certain you or your family member’s balance problems aren’t the result of disease or infection. Make sure you or your family member aren’t alone while performing these exercises. Start slowly! There’s no hurry and it will take time for balance to return.

• Single Limb Stance
This is an exercise for seniors that can be done with either a chair or a counter to hold onto. An armless chair from the kitchen or dining room is good. Wear shoes with a smooth bottom so they don’t catch on the floor.

This is an excellent exercise to strengthen the hips and ankles. Keep your body weight over your ankles as you stand with your feet together and your arms as your side. Steady yourself with one hand on the back of the chair, which should be placed a bit to the side and in front of you. Bend the knee of the leg that’s closest to the chair, raising your foot back behind you so you’re balancing on the other foot. Hold that position for 10 seconds, then move over and do the same thing with the other foot.

Work up to standing on one foot for a full minute, and lessen your need to use the chair (or counter) by eventually using only a finger, then letting go completely.

• Eye Tracking
The exercises below helps the eyes track, and assists in the visual and vestibular systems, which in turns improves postural stability.

If you get dizzy while doing the exercise below, stop, sit, take a drink of water and look straight ahead until you feel better.

Begin by bending your elbow and holding your thumb in front of your face. It’s as simple as that. Now, move your thumb to the right, tracking it with your eyes until you can’t see it. Don’t move your head! Move your thumb back to the left until you can’t see it. Lift your thumb up, drop it down—track only with the eyes and not your head.

Now hold your thumb at arm’s length. Repeat the tracking exercise; this time follow the movements of your thumb with your eyes and your head.

Clock reach
This exercise is to designed to improve standing balance by strengthening hip and ankle muscles. It will also add motion range to the upper body and shoulders. Hold onto a chair to avoid a fall. If you want to add to the workout, use a one pound wrist weight.

As you hold onto the chair with your left hand, visualize a giant clock at your right side. Think of the 12, 3, and 6 o’clock positions. Stand tall, lift your right leg and balance on your left leg. Bring your right arm up to the 12 o’clock point then circle your arm back to the 3 o’clock. Don’t reach back too far because it might strain your shoulder. Now go to the 6 o’clock position. Repeat on the other side.

Staggered Stance
This is to strengthen the ankles so they can help keep the center of gravity, which improves standing balance. Remember your chair!

Start with your feet together and hands at your sides. Step forward on the right foot and stand that way for 10 seconds. Now alternate by placing the other foot in front of you. If you need more accuracy, put tape on the floor to guide your feet. To make it more difficult, close your eyes. Or try twisting at the waist. For a really big challenge, do it standing on a pillow.
And don’t do it alone!

• Knee Marching
One final exercise. This is a mild cardio exercise that also addresses leg weakness and helps your ‘moving’ balance.

Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and arms at your sides. Lift one knee as high as you can and still be comfortable. Lower that leg and lift the other knee. You’re marching in place. Repeat the knee lifts 20 times on each side. Keep the chair or counter close.

Older people can achieve better balance and reduce their risk of falling by faithfully working to improve the strength in their ankles and hips, and by moving their arms to build flexibility in the upper body and shoulders. These 5 simple exercises for seniors will help you do just that.

If you would like to learn about our customized programs of exercise rehab, please contact Texas Spine & Wellness. Our doctors can help you achieve your goals and feel your best!

Chiropractic Treatment and Your Immune System -Natural Ways to treat Allergies and Sinus Problems

Sinus problems and allergies are often treated with medicines, antihistamines and cold remedies, but surprisingly, chiropractic treatment may also play a role in improving allergies. It may sound strange, but recently it’s been learned that there is a direct link between the immune system and the nervous system. If your body is performing at its optimum level then your immune system will be stronger and therefore can prevent infections and disease more easily.

image of a man with sinus problemWhether you have sinus problems, are allergic to pet dander, foods, or are unable to successfully fight off infections, an improved immune system will help. By making strategic adjustments to your neck and spine, our Garland chiropractor can reduce the stresses on your body and help the nervous system operate more effectively.

Although many allergy sufferers rely on over the counter medicines to treat their symptoms, this may not always be the best choice for your body. Over time, traditional medicines can create inflammation within the liver. In addition to fine tuning your body with chiropractic treatment, there are a number of other natural ways you can help your body fight off allergies and sinus congestion.

  • Saline Rinse – Occasional use of a neti pot or a nasal irrigation bottle using a saline rinse can be helpful for many people to thin mucous secretions and aid drainage. We recommend using boiled water to make the saline solution, as it will help prevent contamination from potentially harmful bacteria that might be found in tap water. Please don’t ignore this recommendation as a few net pots users have suffered a fatal brain infection linked to the parasitic amoeba, Naegleria fowleri. You can follow this link for a demonstration on how to use a neti pot.
  • Homeopathy – This system of medicine has been around for more than 200 years. Developed in Germany, homeopathy is based upon a system of like treats like. To give you an simple example, if you were suffering from sleeplessness due to an overactive mind, a couple of cups of coffee drunk late at night might add to your distress. However, a homeopathic remedy, called coffea cruda, which uses infinitesimal doses of the original ingredient, can be used to calm and soothe the mind and promote peace, tranquility and rest. Although traditional science may dispute Homeopathy’s claims of success, we have found remedies to produce wonderful results for many of our patients. We stock several fine homeopathic remedies for both sinus and allergy conditions.
  • Herbal Supplements – Many herbs can be used to tone down or alleviate typical hay fever symptoms, such as stinging nettle, milk thistle, and yarrow. Our office stock products by Allergy research group, Standard process, Douglas Labs and NutraBiogeneis that combine natural ingredients with advanced science to deliver products that can help you get through allergy season with barely a sneeze!

2-A-DAYIn addition, it’s important to check your diet. Be sure you’re eating plenty of fruits and vegetables. Five to seven serving per days is ideal. This will help ensure you’re receiving a rich source of vitamins and mineral through your food. We also recommend supplementing your diet with a professional grade multivitamin, which can be found here.

To sum up, the Health Care professionals at Texas Spine and Wellness are more than just “back doctors”. In addition, to providing chiropractic treatment, our team of health care practitioners which includes an MD and nurse practitioner, can help your body get back on track in other ways. We also offer nutritional advice and recommendations on supplements to help your body work in a more harmonic way to fight disease, infections and allergies. Our doctors are always available to assist you when you need them.

Having a properly balanced and healthy lifestyle, in conjunction with regular chiropractic treatment, helps the body heal naturally and become aligned quicker and more easily.

Contact us today if you’re ready to start feeling your best.