Sunsational Foods for Summer Skin Health

Sunsational Foods for Summer Skin Health

Summer is upon us and I am a big proponent of getting outside and enjoying the summer sunshine. Spending time in the sun can help to boost our mood, encourage activity, help set our circadian rhythm, and support vitamin D production. All things we need to keep our bodies and bones strong and healthy. But we all know how important it is to protect our skin from sunburn. Excessive sun and sunburns can damage our skin, or worse, lead to skin cancer.

If you are going to spend extended time in the sun, you know the golden rules to follow: wear a hat and sunglasses, cover up when your skin starts to get pink and use non-toxic sunscreen. However, did you know that there are also certain foods you can eat that will provide natural skin protection?

Studies have shown certain compounds in foods and beverages can help the skin fight off UV damage from the sun as well as help speed up the recovery process from sunburns. These compounds include carotenoids and polyphenols along with vitamins C and  E. These nutrients are all powerful antioxidants that fight off the skin-damaging free radicals that are produced by the sun’s UV rays. It is no coincidence that many of our favorite summer vegetables and fruits are also foods that contain these skin-protecting nutrients.

Skin Protecting Summer Foods

  1. Tomatoes are very high in the carotenoid lycopene which may help to protect our skin from UV damage caused by excessive sun and sunburns. They are also a rich source of vitamin C. Cooking tomatoes appears to increase the bioavailability of the lycopene as does combining tomatoes with olive oil.
  2. Watermelon, another summer favorite, is also a great source of lycopene. The abundance of water in the melon helps to keep us hydrated when spending time outdoors as well.
  3. Summer berries, particularly blueberries, are an excellent source of carotenoids and vitamin C that can help protect the skin from damaging rays and even act as a sunscreen.
  4. Summer vegetables such as dark green leafy greens, carrots, and red bell peppers are an excellent source of beta-carotene, another great antioxidant to protect the skin. Beta-carotene also converts to vitamin A in the body which is vital to skin health.
  5. Green tea contains a polyphenol called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) which has been found to offer natural sun protection and may even protect against skin cancer.

You can see how nature provides us with foods we need to protect our skin from the hot sunny days of summer!

There are lots of ways you can incorporate these foods into your summer diet, from salads to smoothies. One of my favorite summer salads is my Kale Salad. It combines so many of these wonderful skin-protecting foods such as kale, tomatoes, and red peppers. Serve it with some omega-3-rich salmon (also beneficial for our skin) and you have got a wonderful skin-nurturing meal!

However, eating these foods doesn’t mean ditching the sunscreen, the hats, or the coverups. But they can certainly give a boost to your summer skin protection plan and keep your skin healthy and glowing from the inside out.

I mentioned non-toxic sunscreens. Please check out the Environmental Working Groups Guide on Sunscreens to find safe, non-toxic sunscreens.

 

 

 

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5506060/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30565377/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23053552/
What Nutrients Does Your Unique Body Need?

What Nutrients Does Your Unique Body Need?

You are probably familiar with the phrase “you are what you eat.”  This is pretty accurate, but what is even more accurate is “you are what you eat, digest, absorb and metabolize.”  But how do you know if the nutrients from the food you eat are getting into your cells? Your muscle cells, bone cells, brain cells, where nutrients are needed to produce energy and perform cellular metabolism. Even people that eat a well-balanced diet and live a healthy lifestyle can still have nutrient deficiencies.

Here’s why:

  1. We are all biochemically different. Each of us is metabolically and biochemically unique, so the nutrients required for one person’s body to function optimally are very different than those required for another.
  2. Poor absorption can lead to deficiencies. If you are not fully digesting or have an unhealthy gut, you are going to struggle with absorbing the essential nutrients your body needs.
  3. Chronic illnesses can impact nutrient absorption. Health conditions like arthritis, cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, just to name a few, can directly or indirectly cause nutrient deficiencies. Additionally, in order to help control these conditions, you may also require more of a particular nutrient.
  4. Medications can create nutrient deficiencies. Long-term use of certain medications can deplete your body of critical nutrients through multiple mechanisms, including increased excretion of vitamins and minerals.
  5. Aging can impact your nutrient needs. Your nutrient requirements back when you were 30 are very different than your nutrient requirements as you age. As you age you don’t absorb your nutrients as well. Also, hormonal changes, like a decline in estrogen or testosterone, can increase the excretion of certain nutrients through the kidneys. For example, as you age you’re not only less able to absorb nutrients such as calcium, but then hormonal changes may result in calcium also being excreted through the kidneys.
  6. Your lifestyle also affects nutrient levels. If you are exercising hard every day to maintain muscle and bone mass, chances are you are going to need more nutrients. Stress also depletes the body’s nutrient stores. When you are stressed, you rapidly use up nutrients as part of the body’s stress response. If you smoke or drink alcohol you are more likely to have nutrient deficiencies as well.

As you can see there are so many things that can affect your nutrient status making it hard to know which nutrients you are getting enough of, which nutrients you may be lacking, and which nutrients your unique body may need more of.

Luckily there are some targeted tests that can help determine nutrient levels in your cells. The test I most frequently use is the SpectraCell Micronutrient test (MNT).

The SpectraCell MNT measures 31 different vitamins, minerals, antioxidants. It also gives you a good idea how well you are metabolizing carbohydrates, how well your immune system is functioning, how well your cells can withstand oxidative stress. So it is a very comprehensive test and provides great insight into the nutrients your unique body needs.

If you are dealing with a chronic health condition, like osteoporosis, or striving for optimal health, instead of just swallowing down a lot of different supplements that you think you need this is a great test to find out exactly what your body really needs.

Because March is National Nutrition Month, I am offering you the ability to get the SpectraCell Micronutrient Test at my cost. So, my cost is your cost.

If you are interested in learning more about the test …please reach out to me at susan@nurturedbones.com

Heart Disease and Osteoporosis: Are cholesterol levels the true link?

Heart Disease and Osteoporosis: Are cholesterol levels the true link?

Osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease share many common risk factors such as diabetes, smoking, alcohol abuse, sedentary lifestyle, and in postmenopausal women, a decline in estrogen. However, over the last several years, emerging research has shown a growing link between the two conditions. In fact, a recent observational study reported in the Journal Heart found that a formal diagnosis of osteoporosis was independently associated with a 79% higher risk of cardiovascular disease. Last year in my blog articles titled The Curious Connection Between Osteoporosis and Heart Disease and Curious Connection, part 2 I highlighted two common links between osteoporosis and heart disease, high blood pressure, and atherosclerosis caused by calcium deposits building up in the arteries. Now another strong link has emerged. Dyslipidemia.

Dyslipidemia refers to having unhealthy levels of one or more kinds of lipids (fats) in your blood, such as low-density lipoprotein (LDL), high-density lipoprotein (HDL), and triglycerides. Most of us have heard that LDLs are the so-called “bad” cholesterol and that HDLs are the so-called “good” cholesterol. It is well known that dyslipidemia resulting in high LDLs and triglycerides in combination with low HDLs can cause atherosclerosis and heart disease. It is now becoming evident that dyslipidemia can also lead to low bone mass and increased fracture risk.

Here’s how:

Bone is highly vascularized tissue that depends on a constant supply of blood for regeneration and remodeling. In fact, a typical long bong is nourished through 3 separate vascular systems to meet the metabolic needs of the bone. As in atherosclerosis of the heart, fats and cholesterol can accumulate in the blood vessels of the bone. When these fats become oxidized, especially the LDL cholesterol, it causes inflammation and damage, leading to arterial calcifications and plaques. In the heart, this can lead to blockages and heart attacks. In the bone, this can suppress osteoblast formation (cells that make new bone) and an increase in the production of osteoclasts (cells that break down bone) leading to bone loss. Having high lipid levels can also increase blood viscosity compromising blood flow to the bone.

Just like having higher levels of HDL cholesterol is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, it is also recently been reported to be associated with higher bone mineral density. HDL cholesterol is considered to be the ‘good” cholesterol because it helps to transport excess cholesterol from the body to the liver where it is then flushed from the system. HDL cholesterol also helps to modulate inflammation. Inflammation has a negative effect on bone and can disrupt bone metabolism leading to bone loss. In a recent study published in the journal Lipids in Health and Disease, the researchers report a positive association between HDL cholesterol and lumbar spine bone mineral density in people aged 20-59. Meaning the higher the HDL cholesterol, the higher the bone mineral density in the lumbar spine.

Below is a table that summarizes the effects that dyslipidemia can have on bone metabolism.

 

7 ways to protect your bones and your heart

  1. Emphasize Exercise- Aerobic exercise, as well as strength training, can boost HDL cholesterol levels. Exercise has also been shown to enhance the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of HDL cholesterol.
  2. Opt-In for Olive oil. Research has also shown that one of olive oil’s heart-healthy effects is an increase in HDL cholesterol. This may be because it is a rich source of antioxidants called polyphenols.
  3. Don’t forget Fatty Fish. The omega 3 fats in fatty fish may help raise HDL cholesterol and decrease triglycerides. Taking fish oils supplements can do the same.
  4. Pile Up on Purple Foods.  Anthocyanin, the plant flavonoid found in purple foods, has antioxidant effects which can increase HDL cholesterol, decrease LDL cholesterol and help fight inflammation. Examples of foods rich in anthocyanins include eggplant, red cabbage, blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, and cherries.
  5. Splurge on Soluble Fibers. Soluble fibers bind to cholesterol in the intestine and remove it from the body. Legumes, vegetables, oatmeal, quinoa are good examples of foods with soluble fibers.
  6. Go for the Garlic. Garlic has been shown to decrease total cholesterol levels and increase HDL cholesterol.
  7. Add Anti-inflammatory Herbs. Anti-inflammatory herbs like ginger, turmeric, thyme, and cloves all have powerful anti-inflammatory effects that can help to prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol in the body.

 

As women go through menopause the decline in estrogen plays a strong role in developing heart disease and osteoporosis. But with a nutritious diet and healthy lifestyle, you can offset the effects. What the link between these 2 conditions truly shows is that any steps you take to support your heart health will also support bones and vice versa.

Please reach out if you need more guidance on building strong bones, a strong heart, or a strong body!  703-738-4230  susan@nurturedbones.com

 

References:
1. Anagnostis, Panagiotis, Matilda Florentin, Sarantis Livadas, Irene Lambrinoudaki, and Dimitrios G. Goulis. “Bone Health in Patients with Dyslipidemias: An Underestimated Aspect.” International Journal of Molecular Sciences 23, no. 3 (January 31, 2022): 1639. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms23031639.
2.Tang, Yuchen, Shenghong Wang, Qiong Yi, Yayi Xia, and Bin Geng. “High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol Is Negatively Correlated with Bone Mineral Density and Has Potential Predictive Value for Bone Loss.” Lipids in Health and Disease 20, no. 1 (July 25, 2021): 75. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12944-021-01497-7.
4. Xie, Ruijie, Xiongjie Huang, Qianlong Liu, and Mingjiang Liu. “Positive Association between High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol and Bone Mineral Density in U.S. Adults: The NHANES 2011-2018.” Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery and Research 17, no. 1 (February 15, 2022): 92. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13018-022-02986-w.
3.ScienceDaily. “Thin and Brittle Bones Strongly Linked to Women’s Heart Disease Risk: Thinning Lower Spine, Top of Thigh Bone and Hip Predictive of Raised Heart Attack/Stroke Risk.” Accessed February 24, 2022. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2021/05/210506183351.htm.
Antibiotics or Roundup: Which is more damaging to your gut?

Antibiotics or Roundup: Which is more damaging to your gut?

By now you know that your gut houses trillions of microorganisms. Most of these microorganisms are beneficial to our health. They aid in digestion, vitamin production, regulation of the immune system and inflammation, regulation of bone metabolism, and production of neurotransmitters that affect our mood and brain health. Among this community of microorganisms, there are also opportunistic bacteria and yeast. In small numbers, these so-called “bad” microorganisms are harmless. However, if they overgrow and start to overpopulate the gut microbiota it can lead to dysbiosis, inflammation, and associated disease conditions. By nourishing and supporting the beneficial bacteria, their abundance will naturally crowd out and prevent the overgrowth of opportunistic organisms. It is when the beneficial bacteria become compromised, that the opportunistic organisms will overgrow and start to dominate the gut.

It is well known that antibiotics can affect this critical balance of organisms in our gut microbiota. But so can numerous other things, including the herbicides used when farming our food.

Which do you think is more likely to damage your gut bacteria? Antibiotics or consuming foods that have been sprayed with the weed killer known as Roundup?

You might be surprised to learn that even though antibiotics can certainly have a negative effect on the gut microbiota, consuming conventionally grown foods sprayed with Roundup can actually be more damaging.

Here’s Why:

Antibiotics kill off ALL bacteria. When you take an antibiotic it not only targets the bacteria that is causing your infection, but also the bacteria in the gut microbiome. Antibiotics don’t discriminate, they eradicate the beneficial bacteria as well as the opportunistic bacteria.

Roundup works differently. The main ingredient in Roundup is a chemical called glyphosate. When glyphosate was originally developed by Monsanto in the 1970’s it was patented as an herbicide. However, it was then discovered to also have antimicrobial properties and Monsanto was later awarded a patent for glyphosate as an antibiotic. The antibiotic property of glyphosate is one of the primary ways it kills off the weeds and unwanted plant life. However, glyphosate is selective in the bacteria that it kills. Research indicates that glyphosate appears to preferentially kill off beneficial bacteria, like bifidobacterium and lactobacilli, allowing for an overgrowth of opportunistic bacteria. Bifidobacteria and lactobacilli are two of the most important bacteria for plant health and human health.

So unlike antibiotics that kill off both the beneficial and opportunistic bacteria, glyphosate, the primary ingredient in Roundup targets the beneficial bacteria while allowing the opportunistic bacteria to flourish.

Roundup has been the most widely used herbicide in the United States since 2001. Not only is it sprayed on the plants that we directly eat but also on the crops that our livestock eat. In animals such as pigs, cows, chickens, the glyphosate accumulates in the flesh that we then consume. In particular, it gets concentrated in the collagen of animals. Getting more collagen in our diets is the number one reason why we consume bone broth! Research has confirmed that glyphosates alter the gut microbiota of animals and there is growing evidence that it also disrupts our human microbiota. Until glyphosates are banned in the US, as they have been in many EU countries, for the sake of your gut, avoid them as best you can.

How to avoid glyphosates?

  • Try to eat organically as much as possible to minimize exposure to Roundup and other herbicides whose primary ingredient is glyphosate. Foods most heavily sprayed with glyphosates are:
    • soy, wheat, rice, corn, almonds, apples, apricots, asparagus, cherries, and dates
  • Avoid genetically modified foods. GMO foods are plant or meat products that have had their DNA altered in a laboratory. Most GMO foods grown in the US are “Roundup Ready,” meaning they can withstand spraying of Monsanto’s Roundup pesticide and live, while weeds around it die. In turn, GMO foods can have a higher residue of glyphosates.
  • Look for labels. Besides looking for USDA Organic labels, also look for labels such as NON GMO Project Verified label and the newest Glyphosate Residue Free labeling.

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We have known for many years that antibiotics can damage gut microbiota. However, if you have to take an antibiotic to overcome an infection, it is generally only for a short period of time. Eating prebiotic and probiotic-rich foods and/or taking a probiotic supplement after taking an antibiotic can help to re-establish a healthy gut microbiota. Unfortunately, if you are not careful about what you eat, you can be exposed to glyphosates on a daily basis causing an ongoing and unrelenting assault on those precious bacteria that make up our gut microbiome. Even a probiotic with billions of bacteria will have difficulty maintaining a healthy gut microbiome under a constant barrage of glyphosates.

 

If you want to take a deeper dive into all the ways the gut and your digestion affect the health of your bones, please check out my free webinar “Is your gut holding your bones hostage”. Click here to go to the webinar.

Please reach out if you have any questions or would like to schedule a consult to talk about how to get your gut healthy!

703-738-4230

susan@nurturedbones.com

 

 

References:

  1. Aitbali, Yassine, Saadia Ba-M’hamed, Najoua Elhidar, Ahmed Nafis, Nabila Soraa, and Mohamed Bennis. “Glyphosate Based- Herbicide Exposure Affects Gut Microbiota, Anxiety and Depression-like Behaviors in Mice.” Neurotoxicology and Teratology 67 (June 2018): 44–49. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ntt.2018.04.002.
  2. Barnett, Jacqueline A., and Deanna L. Gibson. “Separating the Empirical Wheat From the Pseudoscientific Chaff: A Critical Review of the Literature Surrounding Glyphosate, Dysbiosis and Wheat-Sensitivity.” Frontiers in Microbiology 11 (2020). https://www.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fmicb.2020.556729.
  3. Bruggen, A. H. C. van, M. R. Finckh, M. He, C. J. Ritsema, P. Harkes, D. Knuth, and V. Geissen. “Indirect Effects of the Herbicide Glyphosate on Plant, Animal and Human Health Through Its Effects on Microbial Communities.” Frontiers in Environmental Science 9 (2021). https://www.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fenvs.2021.763917.
  4. “Frontiers | Separating the Empirical Wheat From the Pseudoscientific Chaff: A Critical Review of the Literature Surrounding Glyphosate, Dysbiosis and Wheat-Sensitivity | Microbiology.” Accessed January 23, 2022. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmicb.2020.556729/full.
  5. ĀTA – Simply Better. “Glyphosate: What It Is and Why You Should Be Concerned,” February 4, 2019. https://ata.land/glyphosate-the-big-issue/.
  6. Hu, Jianzhong, Corina Lesseur, Yu Miao, Fabiana Manservisi, Simona Panzacchi, Daniele Mandrioli, Fiorella Belpoggi, Jia Chen, and Lauren Petrick. “Low-Dose Exposure of Glyphosate-Based Herbicides Disrupt the Urine Metabolome and Its Interaction with Gut Microbiota.” Scientific Reports 11, no. 1 (February 5, 2021): 3265. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-021-82552-2.
  7. Mao, Qixing, Fabiana Manservisi, Simona Panzacchi, Daniele Mandrioli, Ilaria Menghetti, Andrea Vornoli, Luciano Bua, et al. “The Ramazzini Institute 13-Week Pilot Study on Glyphosate and Roundup Administered at Human-Equivalent Dose to Sprague Dawley Rats: Effects on the Microbiome.” Environmental Health: A Global Access Science Source 17, no. 1 (May 29, 2018): 50. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12940-018-0394-x.
  8. Mesnage, Robin, Maxime Teixeira, Daniele Mandrioli, Laura Falcioni, Quinten Raymond Ducarmon, Romy Daniëlle Zwittink, Francesca Mazzacuva, et al. “Use of Shotgun Metagenomics and Metabolomics to Evaluate the Impact of Glyphosate or Roundup MON 52276 on the Gut Microbiota and Serum Metabolome of Sprague-Dawley Rats.” Environmental Health Perspectives 129, no. 1 (January 2021): 17005. https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP6990.
  9. Motta, Erick V. S., Kasie Raymann, and Nancy A. Moran. “Glyphosate Perturbs the Gut Microbiota of Honey Bees.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 115, no. 41 (October 9, 2018): 10305–10. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1803880115.
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/.
Core 101: The Dead Bug

Core 101: The Dead Bug

Sit-ups use to rule the fitness world. For many years, sit-ups were seen as the golden ticket to stronger abs and a trim waistline. As a fitness-crazed teenager, I often did 500 sit-ups a day! No doubt this likely contributed to my back pain and spinal injuries as an adult. Sit-ups only work the rectus abdominis, one of the many muscles necessary to build a  strong core. Additionally, the strong abdominal flexion movement that occurs when performing a sit-up can damage spinal ligaments, discs, and vertebrates. If you have osteoporosis, doing sit-ups can also lead to spinal compression fractures. 

Thank goodness exercise has evolved to include safer and more effective ways to strengthen your abdominal muscles along with all the core muscles. 

In my previous blog, I talked about the “core”, how it is made up of many different muscles throughout the trunk and how these muscles have to work in harmony to provide stability and a foundation for efficient movement. I also gave you 2 easy ways to learn how to engage your core muscles. Now it is time for exercise!

The Dead Bug. Certainly not something any of us aspire to be but a very effective exercise for strengthening the core muscles. 

Here’s how you do the Dead Bug exercise.

 

Beginner

Starting position: Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Activate your core by exhaling through pursed lips, like you are blowing out a candle or by bracing in preparation for a punch to the stomach. When your core is activated, your spine should be in a neutral position and should not be rounded towards the floor or arched.

Exercise Movement: Raise one knee up to hip height, keeping your knee bent at 90 degrees, and then back down to the floor. Continue by alternating lifting one knee up and then the other while keeping your core muscles activated and engage. Aim to do 10-20 repetitions. Be sure your spine maintains a neutral position and doesn’t flex or arch during the exercise. Be sure to move slowly and steadily, exhaling as you go.

Precautions: If at any time while you are performing this exercise your back begins to arch or flex, stop, take a break, re-engage your core and continue.

 

 Advanced Beginner:

Starting position: Lie on your back with both legs raised up to hip height with knees and hips at 90-degree angles.  Activate your core.

Exercise Movement: Slowly lower one foot to the floor and then back up to the starting position. Next, lower the other foot to the floor. Aim to do 10-20 repetitions. Be sure your spine maintains a neutral position and doesn’t flex or arch during the exercise. Be sure to move slowly and steadily, exhaling as you go.

Precautions: If at any time while you are performing this exercise your back begins to arch or flex, stop, take a break, re-engage your core and continue.

 

 

Intermediate level:

Starting position: Lie on your back with your arms extended straight up towards the ceiling. Lift your feet off the ground so your knees are in line with your hips and your hips and knees are at a 90-degree angle as above. Engage your core.

Exercise Movement: Slowly extend your right arm over your head while at the same time lowering your left foot to the floor, keeping the knee in a flexed position. Return to the starting position and then switch and reach your left arm overhead and place your right foot on the floor. Perform 10-20 repetitions. Be sure to move slowly and steadily, exhaling as you go. Keep your spine in a neutral position so that it doesn’t flex or arch during the exercise.

Precautions: If at any time while you are performing this exercise your back begins to arch or flex, stop, take a break, re-engage your core and continue.

 

 

Advanced level:

Starting position: Lie on your back with your knees and hips bent at 90 degrees and your arms extended straight up towards the ceiling. Lift your feet off the ground so your knees are in line with your hips and your knees and hips are at a 90-degree angle (as above). Engage your core.

Exercise Movement: Slowly reach your right arm overhead while simultaneously extending your left leg out straight so it is hovering a few inches above the floor. Return to the starting position and repeat with left arm reaching overhead and right leg extended out straight. Perform 10-20 repetitions. Keep your spine in a neutral position so that it doesn’t flex or arch during the exercise.

Precautions: If up have difficulty keeping your low back in neutral, reduce the motion of your limbs. Only extend your leg and opposite arm as far as you can without your back beginning to arch. When you feel your low back arching, bring your arm and leg back to the center before repeating to the opposite side.

Even though the dead bug exercise is a great way to strengthen your core, it is essential to do it safely and correctly. One of the most common mistakes I see when performing the dead bug exercise is trying to do the exercise too fast. Many people confuse this exercise with the bicycle crunch and try to use speed and momentum to execute the exercise. The truth is, the slower and more controlled you perform the exercise, the more effective it will be at strengthening the core muscles.

The dead but exercise is a great first exercise to start strengthening the core with little risk of injury to the spine. It is an especially good exercise for anyone with back or neck pain or osteoporosis. Maintaining a strong core is going to protect your spine but also improve your balance and posture and even your athletic performance.

Have questions? Reach out and I can guide you through the best exercise to strengthen your core, protect your spine and improve balance and posture.