5 Steps for Living an Anti-inflammatory Lifestyle

5 Steps for Living an Anti-inflammatory Lifestyle

Chronic, systemic inflammation is the type of inflammation that lingers on in the body and damages our cells and our tissues. It can play a huge role in numerous health conditions from cardiovascular disease to diabetes, cancers, and even osteoporosis. Luckily, there are things you can do to put out the fire!

5 Steps to Dousing the Flames

1. Flip the Switch on Stress

One thing that causes inflammation is chronic emotional stress. When we are stressed out it activates our sympathetic nervous system. Our sympathetic nervous system is known as our fight or flight nervous system. When it becomes activated, our body thinks that we are under attack. The sympathetic nervous system revs up our system to get it ready to either fight off the attack or run from it. And one of the ways that it revs up our system is to produce cortisol and other inflammatory proteins. These chemicals are beneficial when we are experiencing short-term stress. However, if they linger as they do with chronic, ongoing stress, they can damage the body and create systemic inflammation.

Having a toolbox of stress-reducing techniques can flip the switch on stress and bring calm to the system. The mind-body techniques such as deep breathing, mindfulness, meditation, Yoga, have all been demonstrated to have a powerful effect for reducing mental stress and relieving inflammatory conditions. My go-to when I am feeling stressed is deep breathing, especially deep breathing with a very slow exhalation. Deep breathing helps to stimulate the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve runs from the brain through the neck and chest area and down to the abdomen and helps to regulate digestion, heart rate, and respiratory rate. When you stimulate the vagus nerve through deep breathing it can lower your heart rate, lower blood pressure, helps to regulate cortisol levels, and suppress inflammation. We are all faced with stress, and that’s not going to change, but what can change is having ways to handle the stress so it doesn’t become chronic and damaging.

2. Engage in Exercise

Exercise also helps to decrease inflammation. As reported in ScienceDaily, a study published in the journal  Brain, Behavior and Immunity showed that as little as 20 minutes of exercise reduces inflammation. The exercise doesn’t need to be intense and even 20 minutes of moderate exercise, like walking, can have anti-inflammatory effects. Additionally, regular exercise helps to reduce stress as well as fat mass. Fat, especially abdominal fat, produces inflammatory proteins that contribute to systemic inflammation. Any activity that reduces abdominal fat will reduce systemic inflammation.

3. Get some Solid Sleep 

There is a lot of strong evidence that shows a lack of sleep raises levels of inflammation in the body. In fact, a study published back in 2010 revealed that people who sleep poorly or don’t get enough sleep to have higher levels of inflammation. Try your best to get between 7-9 hours of sleep at night. If you struggle with sleep, reach out to your health care practitioner to explore ways to help you get a better night’s sleep.

4. Get your Gut Checked

Another important issue when it comes to combating systemic inflammation is gut health. Digestive and gut dysfunction is one of the greatest contributors to chronic inflammation. Conditions like leaky gut and gut dysbiosis have far-reaching effects throughout the body, from your brain to your bones. If you have symptoms of gas, bloating, indigestion, chronic constipation, brain fog, mood issues, or joint and muscle aches and pains, please get your gut checked.

5. Follow an Anti-inflammatory Diet

Following an anti-inflammatory diet can help support healing if inflammation already exists as well as prevent chronic inflammation in the future. You have to avoid heavily processed, packaged foods with salt and sugar and refined carbohydrates, and pro-inflammatory vegetable oils like corn, sunflower, safflower, and soy. All of these types of food will fuel inflammation.

An anti-inflammatory diet is rich in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, whole grains, and fatty fish. Some of the top vegetables and fruits for reducing inflammation are green leafy vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, garlic, onions, and fruits such as citrus fruits and berries. It is really important to get enough omega 3 fatty acids from foods like wild-caught salmon or sardines as well as flax seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts. There are also many wonderful anti-inflammatory herbs like turmeric, ginger, rosemary, sage, oregano, and cinnamon that can be used to spice up your meals and turn down the heat.

Click Here for a complete guide to the Anti-Inflammatory diet.

Following these lifestyle principles will help to heal and prevent systemic inflammation that can contribute to disease, aging, and osteoporosis.

If you are interested to see if inflammation may be contributing to your health issues, I would recommend filling out the Inflammatory Index Questionnaire to get a baseline of your symptoms. Then after following the principles of an anti-inflammatory lifestyle for several months, retake the questionnaire to see how your symptoms have changed. 

Click Here for the Inflammatory Index Questionnaire

Please reach out if I can help you!

 

Is Inflammation contributing to your Health Issues?

Is Inflammation contributing to your Health Issues?

Seven Consequences of Chronic Inflammation

 

Most people are familiar with the inflammation that occurs when we injure a joint, cut ourselves or develop an infection. This swelling, redness, heat, and pain is one of our body’s most important mechanisms to heal an injury or fight infection. This acute inflammatory process generally lasts a few days and is the body’s way of recovering naturally. However, it is also possible to develop chronic, systemic inflammation, not related to injury or infection, which causes continual low-level inflammation throughout the body. This type of inflammation can result in damage to healthy tissue leading to many diseases, including osteoporosis.

Chronic inflammation has been found to be a culprit in a wide array of health conditions including cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, dementia, asthma, obesity and age-related macular degeneration. There is mounting evidence that suggests chronic systemic inflammation can also contribute to osteoporosis and increase the risk of fractures in aging adults.

Ongoing systemic inflammation may contribute to loss of bone mass and bone strength by affecting the bone remodeling process; the process where old bone is reabsorbed and new bone is laid down. Inflammation causes an increase in osteoclast activity (cells that break down bone) resulting in accelerated bone loss. Over time, this will lead to a decrease in bone mass leaving them weakened and more susceptible to breaking.

Chronic inflammation is generally not caused by a specific injury but things like:

  • Diet high in processed foods, sugar, trans fats

  • Smoking

  • Chronic stress

  • Poor sleep

  • Obesity

  • Unhealthy gut

  • Chronic infections

  • Toxins

What are some signs and symptoms that chronic inflammation may be contributing to your health issue?

  • Chronic body pains, arthritis, muscle pain

  • Constantly being tired or fatigued

  • Mood disorders like depression or anxiety

  • Memory issues or brain fog

  • Frequent colds and infections

  • Abdominal fat

  • Bowel issues

  • Skin rashes

  • Dry eyes

Testing to check for Chronic inflammation:

  • C-Reactive Protein (CRP): CRP levels increase in the blood when there is a condition causing inflammation.

  • Homocysteine: High levels of homocysteine can be linked to inflammation

  • Omega 3 fatty acids: Low levels of omega 3 fatty acids can contribute to inflammation

  • Anti-Oxidants: CoQ10, vitamins E, A and C are all powerful anti-oxidants that are needed to protect your cells against inflammation

There are many comprehensive tests available, beyond the common blood test, that can test for not only CRP and homocysteine but also for the important anti-oxidants and fatty acids

If you are interested, please reach out to me. susan@nurturedbones.com

Coming up next, lifestyle habits to help reduce and control chronic inflammation!

But in the meantime, I have put together an anti-inflammatory questionnaire that walks you through all of the different signs and symptoms of inflammation. You can use the questionnaire to rate your symptoms now and then again in 1-2 months from now after following an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle.

You can download the Inflammatory questionnaire/index HERE.

Smart Supplementation: My Top 5 for Bone Health

Smart Supplementation: My Top 5 for Bone Health

The fifth pillar of my BONES Method is Smart Supplementation. Trying to figure out what supplements you should be taking to keep your bones strong and healthy can be very confusing.

We all know that calcium and vitamin D are important for bone health, but the truth is that our bones need a constant supply of over 20 different nutrients. Ideally, we should get these nutrients from food. Unfortunately, modern farming practices, the use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, and the erosion of nutrient-rich topsoil has led to a decline in the concentration of nutrients in our food. Some sources suggest that our food today may be up to 40% less nutritious than it was 50 years ago!

Although I am an advocate of “food first,” getting all the nutrients your bones need from food is difficult and supplementation is often necessary.

What supplements should you be taking? Figuring this out can be tricky. We are all metabolically and biochemically unique individuals and the nutrients required for one person might be very different from those required for another. So making generalized supplement recommendations in a blog can be tough, but I do have 5 nutrients that I feel almost everyone needs to be supplementing.

5 Nutrient Supplements Essential for Bone Health

1. Calcium. I know there is a lot of controversy over calcium supplements. Many feel that calcium, especially in the form of supplementation, is not beneficial and can actually be harmful. However, I believe that it is very hard to get all the calcium your bones need from food, especially if you are sensitive to dairy products or have issues with oxalates. Foods highest in calcium include dairy, leafy green vegetables and some nuts, like almonds, and seeds like chia and sesame seeds. If you are sensitive to dairy products and rely heavily on green leafy vegetables for calcium, you need to be careful about the oxalates in greens such as spinach, collard greens, and swiss chard which can prevent absorption of calcium. So you can see where it can get tricky for people like me who are sensitive to dairy and oxalates!

It is also important to remember that calcium is a critical nutrient for so many processes in the body, like muscle contraction, nerve conduction, blood clotting, and blood pressure. When you are not taking in enough calcium, your body will draw calcium out of the bones, where it provides strength and structure, to supply calcium for these other functions. So although many in the field of nutrition don’t think people should be supplementing with calcium, I think it is critical to make sure you are getting enough.

My general rule of thumb when it comes to calcium is to calculate, the best you can, the amount of calcium you get in your diet and then supplement to reach 1000 mg of calcium a day. If you calculate that you are getting 800 mg of calcium in your diet, then you only need to supplement with 200 mg. If you are not getting enough calcium from your diet, low-dose supplementation (200-300 mg) can help. In order to safely supplement with calcium, you also need to supplement with vitamin K2, vitamin D, and magnesium.

2. Vitamin K2. As I have talked about in the past, K2 is the nutrient that shuttles calcium into the bone so it doesn’t settle in the blood vessels or other soft tissue. Vitamin K-2 has been found to activate the protein osteocalcin which helps to integrate calcium into the bone where it belongs. I generally recommend 100-200 mg of vitamin K2 a day.

3. Vitamin D3. Although our body makes vitamin D from the sun, most of us have a hard time making enough vitamin D because we spend most of our days inside, use sunscreen when we go out or live in the northern latitudes where it is impossible to get adequate sun rays for 6-8 months of the year. The amount of vitamin D that you need is very individual and should be based on serum blood levels. Most labs give a reference range that indicates that anything over 30 nanograms/mL is considered normal. However, there is an abundance of research that suggests vitamin D levels should be higher than that. I like to see vitamin D levels in the range of 50-60 ng/L. A rule of thumb for dosing vitamin D is to take 1000 IUs of vitamin D3 to increase serum levels about 10ng/mL. I don’t believe in mega dosing of vitamin D as there has been some recent research indicating that too much vitamin D can actually have a detrimental effect on our bones. With moderate supplementation, it has been shown to take about 6 weeks for serum levels to reach their peak.

4. Magnesium. Magnesium is also one of my top supplements because it’s necessary for the proper utilization of vitamin D and calcium. It’s needed to balance two very important hormones, calcitonin, and PTH, which regulate the absorption of calcium into bone. Magnesium also supports just about every function in our body! I generally recommend supplementing with equal amounts of calcium and magnesium. If you are taking 200 mg of calcium, then you need to supplement with 200 mg of magnesium. Even if you are not taking calcium supplements, I generally recommend that people supplement with magnesium since magnesium deficiency is common. Generally, 200 to 350 mg/day is a good amount. Taking over 350 mg/d may start to cause loose stools.

5. Omega 3 Fatty Acids. The omega 3 fatty acids in fish oils help to fight inflammation. Unless you are eating fatty fish, flax and chia seeds every day, it is hard to get enough of these beneficial oils in our diet. Additionally, most of us end up getting too much omega 6 fatty acids from vegetable oils and nuts. Too many omega 6 fatty acids and enough omega 3 fatty acids can actually contribute to inflammation in the body. Inflammation is one of the root causes of bone loss and osteoporosis. Anything that promotes inflammation activates your osteoclast cells, which leads to the breakdown of your bones. EPA and DHA are the 2 most important anti-inflammatory fatty acids in fish oil. Although different amounts of EPA and DHA have different purposes, a general daily dose of about 300-500 mg of EPA and DHA are beneficial for fighting inflammation. It is essential to find a high-quality fish oil that has been 3rd party tested for purity.

Beyond the above, there are a lot of other nutrients our bones need like boron, zinc, manganese, and vitamins C and B. However, generally, these nutrients can be obtained through diet if you are eating healthily.

Try to meet your nutrient needs with food first, and use supplements to fill in the gaps.

I do offer a supplement review….where I go over your health history, your medications, your diet, your lifestyle and then put together a more personalized supplement protocol for you.

If interested, please reach out to me at susan@nurturedbones.com or schedule a free 15 min consult by CLICKING HERE.

Is Walking Enough to Build Bone?

Is Walking Enough to Build Bone?

Exercise is probably one of the most essential aspects of maintaining and building strong, healthy bones. Our bones need resistance exercises to help build muscle which in turn makes bones stronger. Balance exercises help to improve our coordination and stability and decrease our risk of falls. Impact exercises provide a mechanical load through the bone and stimulate new bone formation. Activities such as jogging, jumping, racket sports, dancing, hiking, or stair climbing are all examples of impact exercises. But what about walking? Is walking a mile or two a couple of times a week enough to build bone mass? It depends.

Walking is considered a low-impact exercise, which is great for our maturing joints, but may not be optimal for building bone. It depends on the amount of stress and impact you create when your foot hits the ground. If your walking consists of a leisurely stroll or a morning walk with your dog who wants to stop and sniff every other minute, then it is not enough to build strong bones. For walking to be beneficial, you need to walk several miles, at a good pace, 3-4 times a week. Think power-walking.

However, there is another caveat to exercise and bone density and that is that our bones accommodate to exercise. This means that they adapt to the exercise that they are doing and they only get strong enough to handle that particular exercise. Walking at the same pace, for the same amount of time, the same number of days a week will result in a minimal increase in bone density. To truly build bones, you need to be continually challenging them. You need to switch up your routine, switch up your speed, change the load through the bones to stimulate new bone formation.

Here are some tips to enhance your walks:

  • Pick up the pace. Walking briskly will increase the impact of your foot on the pavement and add some extra stress on your bones.

  • Find some hills. Walking up and down hills will increase and vary the impact.

  • Change up your stride. Add sideways walking, high knee stepping, or braiding periodically to change up your stride. Try doing one of these activities for 1-minute intervals for a total of 8 times during your walk.

  • Add modified jogging to your walk. Take “baby steps” but use a jogging motion. This gives a great impact when your foot hits the ground. Start slow, only jogging for 10-20 seconds at a time, 2-3 times during your walk for the first few weeks. Only attempt this if you have healthy joints and spine.

  • Try walking poles. Poles are a great way to promote better posture, add stability when walking outside or hiking over uneven terrain, and promote weight-bearing and stress through the upper body as well as the lower body during your walks.

  • Add some weight. To increase the bone-strengthening benefits of walking, consider adding a weight vest.

Wearing a weighted vest during exercise not only stimulates bone formation but also aids in improving lean muscle mass as well as balance. A study published in the journal Rheumatology International found walking 30 minutes, 3 times a week wearing a weighted vest stimulated bone synthesis, increased lean tissue mass, and improved dynamic balance in post-menopausal women with osteoporosis. 

For years I have been researching weight vests to find one that is comfortable and fits the female frame. Many vests are too large and bulky and don’t fit snugly to a woman’s smaller frame.

What to look for in a weight vest:

  • The vest should fit snugly. If it is too loose, it will move around while exercising and throw off your balance or possibly cause injury.

  • Get a variable weight vest, one that you can gradually add weight to. If you start off with a vest with a fixed amount of weight, most likely it will be too heavy at first and could flare up an old injury or create a new one.

  • Choose a vest which you can add enough weight to equal 5 to 8% of your body weight.

  • Choose a vest that has weights that are in 1/4 pound to 1/2 pound increments. The lower weight increments are best if you have arthritis or previous injuries.

  • Make sure the weights can be distributed evenly around all sides of the vest so there is even loading throughout the body.

  • I prefer a vest that has a comfortable abdominal strap that transfers weight from the shoulders to the trunk.

If you are just starting out with an exercise program for osteoporosis, don’t use any weight in your vest for the first several weeks, simply begin a walking program with the goal of walking 30-45 minutes, 5 days a week. Once you have accomplished that, you can begin to add weight to your vest. By adding weight gradually, you allow the body to accommodate the additional weight without risking injury. 

Here some guidelines to follow when adding weight to your vest:

  • START LOW and GO SLOW. Start off with 1/4 pound of weight in the back of the vest

  • Walk your normal routine with the vest on for 1-2 weeks before increasing the weight

  • Increase the weight by no more than 1/4 pound a week

  • Alter the position of the new weight so the weights are evenly balanced in the front and back of the vest, as well as side to side

  • Gradually work up to a weight that is equivalent to 4-8% of your body weight, this could take several months..maybe even a year!

  • If at any time you begin to feel pain or discomfort, discontinue the use of the vest

My favorite weight vest is through a company called Challenge Weighted Workoutwear.

It meets all the criteria above and is very comfortable to wear.

Check out their website at: https://challengeweightedworkoutwear.com/collections/weighted-vests

If you put in the code “Brady” at checkout you will receive $10 off the vest of your choice along with free shipping.

Although walking may not produce the same bone-building results as high-impact exercises, it is one of the best exercises for many people because it is convenient, one of the safest forms of exercise, easy on the body’s joints and helps to improve balance and reduce the risk of falling. Walking is also beneficial to the soul because it may mean spending special time with a friend, enjoying pretty scenery, and breathing in fresh air.

Precaution: If you have severe osteoporosis or have experienced a fracture due to osteoporosis please check with your healthcare practitioner prior to starting any exercise routine.

Reach out if you need help establishing an exercise routine that best meets your bone health needs.

Goodnight Bones

Goodnight Bones

 

Sleep has amazing benefits to our body, our brains, and our bones. It can help you live longer, enhance your memory, ward off disease and protect against bone loss.

According to the research:

  • Sleep disruption can alter bone metabolism and decrease bone formation leading to bone loss and bone fractures

  • People with sleep disorders, like sleep apnea, have an increased risk of osteoporosis

  • Postmenopausal women who sleep less than 5 hours a night have a high risk of osteoporosis

There is no doubt that for our bones to be healthy they need sleep!

When we are fast asleep at night, our bones are busy repairing and rebuilding themselves. Our special bone cells called osteocytes are hard at work regulating the body’s calcium levels, repairing microscopic cracks in the bones, and orchestrating the bone remodeling process. If we aren’t getting good quality sleep at night, none of these processes can happen.

I know as we get older, as our hormones change, it can tougher and tougher to get a full night’s sleep. But there are a couple of things you can do to encourage slumber.

10 sleep strategies to help you get a good night’s sleep:

1. Get morning sunshine in your eyes. The morning light helps to set your daily circadian rhythm or that internal clock that regulates our sleep-wake cycle.

2. Stick to a consistent sleep schedule 7 days a week. Going to bed and waking at the same time every day helps to solidify your sleep-wake cycle. Staying up late to finish a work project and then trying to make up for lost sleep on weekends will only further disrupt your body’s natural clock.

3. Limit evening tech time. Turn off all electronics 2 hours before bedtime. The blue light emitted from your computers, pads, and phones is very similar to the sun’s rays and can confuse your brain into thinking it is still daytime.

4. Establish a bedtime ritual. Having an evening ritual of taking a warm bath, reading a book, meditation, prayer, a warm cup of tea can help you wind down and single to the body and brain that it is time for sleep.

5. Keep your bedroom as dark as possible. Cover sources of light that you can’t turn off or consider wearing a nighttime eye mask to block out the light.

6. Keep your bedroom cool. Sleep usually begins when our body temperature drops, so a colder room can encourage us to fall asleep faster.

7. Beware of electromagnetic frequencies. Keep your phone and electronic devices away from your body at night, or in airplane mode. This includes the use of sleep-tracking devices like Fitbit.

8. Be conscious about what you are eating and drinking in the hours before bedtime. Caffeine and alcohol can have negative effects on sleep. Although alcohol makes you feel sleepy because it is a sedative, it does not induce a night of natural, restorative sleep. So it can lead to waking up more frequently at night and interfering with your normal sleep cycles.

9. Don’t nap too late in the day or for too long. 20-30 minutes is the ideal length for a power nap.

10. Reserve your bedroom for 2 things…..sex and sleep!

Many wonderful natural sleep remedies can help promote a good night’s sleep. Herbal teas with valerian root, chamomile, lavender, and lemon balm are a good place to start since they can help calm your system and encourage sleep. The other popular sleep remedy is melatonin, which in some studies has been shown to help with sleep and bone density.

If you are struggling to sleep, reach out and let me help you determine what sleep remedy might best suit you.

Sleep is really too important to your health, your bones, your body, and your brain to be neglected!

 

 

References:

  1. MediLexicon International. (n.d.). Short sleep may harm bone health in older women. Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/327076.
  2. Preidt, R. (2014, April 15). Sleep Apnea May Be Linked to Poor Bone Health. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/sleep-apnea/news/20140415/sleep-apnea-may-be-linked-to-poor-bone-health#:~:text=Over%20six%20years%20of%20follow,apnea%2C%20according%20to%20the%20study.
  3. Swanson, C. M., Kohrt, W. M., Buxton, O. M., Everson, C. A., Wright, K. P., Orwoll, E. S., & Shea, S. A. (2018, July). The importance of the circadian system & sleep for bone health. Metabolism: clinical and experimental. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5994176/.
  4. Xu, X., Wang, L., Chen, L., Su, T., Zhang, Y., Wang, T., Ma, W., Yang, F., Zhai, W., Xie, Y., Li, D., Chen, Q., Fu, X., Ma, Y., & Zhang, Y. (2016, August 2). Effects of chronic sleep deprivation on bone mass and bone metabolism in rats. Journal of orthopaedic surgery and research. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4970273/.