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Vitamin C Truths and Myths

30 Mar

Ever since Dr. Linus Pauling wrote about vitamin C (ascorbic acid) and its ability to fight the common cold, controversy has persisted about the value of vitamin C, how much is needed, and how to get it into the body. Let’s discuss some truths and myths about vitamin C…

MYTH: Blast a cold with vitamin C. It can fight it off! Though a lot of people ramp up their vitamin C intake during the winter months in the quest to avoid getting a cold, this unfortunately may not be as helpful as we think. While some research found that those who take vitamin C regularly may be sick for a slightly shorter duration (about 8% in adults, and up to 18% in kids that took 1-2 g/day or 1000-2000 mg/day) or have milder symptoms, for most people, boosting vitamin C does not reduce the risk of coming down with the common cold.

TRUTH: In many Western countries, like the United States and Canada, vitamin C deficiencies are rare. Although our bodies cannot produce vitamin C and we have to get it from food, most residents in richer countries are successful in getting enough in their diet to avoid deficiency symptoms such as bleeding gums, nosebleeds, joint swelling, dry/rough skin, and bruising. The minimum daily dose to target is 75mg for women and 90mg for men, though many experts believe this should be increased to 200mg/day, which is the minimum needed to saturate the body. Scurvy can be prevented with as little as 10mg/day.

MYTH: Citrus is the best source of vitamin C. Just one cup of bell pepper offers 200-300mg of vitamin C compared with 70mg from an orange. Other good (and non-citrus) sources include broccoli, brussels sprouts, kiwi, strawberries, papaya, pineapple, and cantaloupe.

TRUTH: Reduce obesity risk by improving vitamin C intake. A study conducted by researchers at Arizona State University found that a low blood level of vitamin C has been linked to having a higher BMI, body fat percentage, and waist circumference. Researchers report that vitamin C plays a role in the body’s ability to use fat as a source of fuel during both exercise and rest.

MYTH: You can’t overdose on vitamin C. You can! Because we can’t store vitamin C, the excess surplus when taking over 2000mg/day has to be eliminated through the kidneys in urine. Though many easily tolerate that dose and more, a megadose can trigger bloating/gut upset, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, heartburn, headache, insomnia, and kidney stones.

If you have any questions about vitamin C or other facets of nutrition or overall health, feel free to ask your doctor of chiropractic during your next visit.

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.

Combating the Obesity Epidemic

18 Feb

Obesity is defined as having a body mass index (kg/m²) of 30 or higher. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that approximately 42.4% of adults in the United States are obese, up from 30.5% just two decades ago. The current scientific literature notes that obesity is associated with an increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and some cancers.

Being severely overweight can also elevate one’s risk for musculoskeletal pain conditions. In the past, researchers hypothesized that excess weight places added strain on the joints and soft tissues in the body, increasing the risk for injury. This may be a contributing factor, but a 2020 study suggests that inflammation in the body associated with obesity may be a more important risk factor for developing conditions like back and neck pain. Whatever the mechanisms, obesity can cause both long-term health concerns and can make carrying out everyday activities more difficult due to musculoskeletal pain and disability.

The good news is that even if there is a family history of obesity, it may not be due to genetics but rather shared lifestyle habits among family members. Even if an individual has a genetic predisposition for obesity, it’s not necessarily irreversible, and the research shows that engaging in healthy lifestyle behaviors can change how those genes are expressed. So while it may be more difficult for some to achieve a healthier weight, it’s certainly possible in almost every case.

Fat accumulates in the body when excess calories are stored as fat. Diet and exercise are considered the cornerstones of weight management because you can control how many calories are consumed and can take steps to affect how many are burned.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all diet, the current research supports a meal plan that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean meats, healthy fats, and a lower intake of red/cured meat, added sugar, and highly processed food products. The time of day that calories are consumed may also be important. Some experts suggest eating smaller meals throughout the day while others advise intermittent fasting strategies. It may take trial and error to see what dietary strategies are best for you.

Current federal guidelines recommend 150 minutes per week of moderate intensity exercise (or 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise) as well as two resistance training sessions that target the major muscle groups. There’s no consensus on which form of exercise is the best, so you’ll want to experiment to find an exercise strategy that you enjoy and can incorporate into your lifestyle. Of course, consult with your doctor before beginning any diet or exercise program, and don’t be afraid to ask questions or seek advice. Your healthcare provider may have insights that can accelerate the weight loss process or even recommend experts such as a dietician or personal trainer to help you. If back pain, neck pain, or any other musculoskeletal conditions are getting in the way of achieving your goals, your chiropractor can treat you in the office and provide home care recommendations to help keep such issues from flaring up in the future.

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.

Coffee May Benefit Colorectal Cancer Patients

25 Jan

Coffee is one of the most consumed beverages around the globe, and many individuals can’t seem to start their day without a cup or two. Past research has identified several compounds present in coffee that can offer health benefits, and new research suggests that coffee intake can also help patients under treatment for colorectal cancer.

The study, published in September 2020 in JAMA Oncology, looked at the association of coffee intake and survival in patients with advanced or metastatic colorectal cancer. In the study, which included 1,171 patients (median age 59), participants kept track of their caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee consumption for five years. The researchers observed that participants who consumed two to three cups of coffee per day were not only more likely to survive but their cancer was less likely to progress. Additionally, those who consumed at least four cups a day had even better results. The study concluded that “Coffee consumption may be associated with reduced risk of disease progression and death in patients with advanced or metastatic colorectal cancer. Further research is warranted to elucidate underlying biological mechanisms.”

The longevity benefits aren’t limited to patients with advanced colorectal cancer. A 2015 study looked at the association of coffee consumption (both caffeinated and decaffeinated) with total and cause-specific mortality in three large prospective cohorts: 1) 74,890 women; 2) 93,054 women; and 3) 40,557 men. The research team’s analysis revealed that regular coffee drinkers (one to five cups a day) had a lower risk for early death, though those who frequently consumed more than five cups a day did not experience increased longevity.

Regular coffee drinkers often report that it improves their ability to think and focus, but are there any long-term cognitive benefits to coffee? Perhaps. In 2019, researchers used advanced imaging to look for amyloid plaque build-up, a characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease, in the brains of 411 seniors without cognitive impairment. When researchers separated the data based on the participants’ coffee habits, they observed that those who consumed two or more cups of coffee a day had lower amyloid levels in the brain, suggesting a reduced risk for Alzheimer’s disease. A review of past studies has shown coffee consumption to be associated with a reduced risk of developing many diseases including type 2 diabetes, liver cancer, endometrial cancer, lethal prostate cancer, basal cell carcinoma of the skin, neurological diseases, and cardiovascular disease when consumed in moderation. Doctors of chiropractic often encourage patients to adopt a healthier lifestyle, which includes consuming vital nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, and getting regular exercise. If you enjoy coffee and do so in moderation, the current data suggests it may provide benefits beyond helping you become more alert.

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo Management Strategies

21 Dec

Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is a common cause of vertigo, or dizziness, that is associated with movement of the head (though some motions may be more problematic than others) that goes away when movement ceases. Essentially, BPPV is caused by crystals becoming displaced within the semicircular canals (inner ear), which causes eddy currents in the fluid that circulates in the canals. Instead of the normal flow that bends small hair-like nerves in the same direction telling the brain that you’re standing, laying, running, etc., the brain is essentially given mixed messages of what position you’re in, resulting in a “sea-sickness” type of sensation.

There are several “canalith reposition maneuvers” available, and the choice of which maneuver to use depends on which canal(s) is affected. According to the Mayo Clinic, these maneuvers consist of several simple head movements, which can provide release in up to 80% of BPPV patients within a few treatment sessions, though the problem can recur.  

In an August 2020 study, researchers set out to determine whether vitamin D and calcium supplementation could prevent the recurrence of BPPV. A group of 518 BPPV patients from eight participating hospitals were provided with a twice daily 400 IU vitamin D and 500mg calcium carbonate supplement for a year. Another 532 BPPV patients served as a control group that did not receive a supplement.

The data show that patients in the supplement group were less likely to experience a recurrence in the following year (37.8% vs. 46.7%), especially those with low vitamin D levels at the start of the study. The researchers concluded that vitamin D and calcium can be considered in patients with frequent attacks of BPPV, especially when their blood level of vitamin D is low.

            Interestingly, another study published in August 2020 found that vitamin D deficiency may be associated with up to a 3.29 times increased risk for BPPV recurrence, giving individuals yet another reason to spend time in the sun, take a vitamin D supplement, and eat vitamin D-rich foods to improve their vitamin D status.

            A review of your health history and an examination can reveal if your vertigo/dizziness symptoms are indicative of BPPV. If so, your doctor of chiropractic can train you in the various canalith reposition maneuvers to relieve those frequently debilitating symptoms. He or she will also counsel you on nutritional supplementation and diet. As noted in the recent study, the recurrence rate of BPPV is high and the intake of vitamin D and calcium can significantly reduce that rate.

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.

Health Optimization Strategies

23 Nov

Though some element of our overall wellbeing is defined by our genetics, there is a  lot you can do to live a long and healthy life. Here’s a short list:

  • Get enough sleep. While the average adult needs only seven to nine hours of sleep a night to feel rested, younger age groups usually require much more: infants (0-3 months): 14-17 hours/day; 4-11 months: 12-15 hours/day; toddlers: (1-2 years old) 11-14 hours/day; pre-school (3-5 years old): 10-13 hours/day; school age (6-13 years old): 9-11 hours/day; and teenagers (14-17 years old): 8-10 hours/day. An expectant mother may need additional sleep, especially early in the pregnancy.
  • Exercise at moderate intensity for at least 30 minutes a day (brisk walk, bike ride, jog, yoga, tai chi, etc.). Federal guidelines also recommend strength training the major muscle groups twice a week.
  • Avoid added sugars, sugary drinks, and processed foods. Eat more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Not only will it help you maintain a healthier body weight, but you’ll also improve the make-up of your gut microbiota, which can bolster your immune system.
  • Consider supplementation if your diet is deficient in important vitamins and minerals. For example, a 2017 study published in the journal Nutrients reported that vitamin C can enhance the production of B- and T-cells, which are related to the body’s ability to fight off infections. Moreover, the study noted that vitamin C deficiency is associated with impaired immunity resulting in higher susceptibility to infection.
  • When (not if) stress hits, take five slow, deep breaths (in your nose and out of your mouth). Consider mindful meditation or schedule relaxing activities into your day.
  • Engage in social networks (senior centers, church, and book clubs or go to plays, music events, and art galleries with a friend), preferably in person but virtually (phone or video chat) if that’s not feasible.
  • Laughing reduces stress hormones, boosts white blood cells, and keeps you healthy.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water regularly, use hand sanitizer regularly (if it’s not possible to wash your hands), don’t touch your eyes, nose, and mouth; cover your mouth with your arm when you sneeze, and stay home when you’re ill.
  • Spend time in the sun or take a vitamin D supplement. Studies show that individuals with poor vitamin D status may be at an increased risk for upper respiratory infection and impaired immune response.

Of course, if you experience musculoskeletal pain, like neck or back pain, schedule an appointment with your doctor of chiropractic. Typically, the sooner you seek care, the faster you’ll be able to return to your daily activities without pain.

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.

The Benefits of Blocking Blue Light

22 Oct

The electromagnetic spectrum spans from gamma rays—which can be deadly—to the radio waves that flow in the air all around us without any effect. Between the ultraviolet and infrared sections of the spectrum is the most important wavelength for our eyes: visible light. But research indicates that blue light can be problematic in high doses—especially with our increasing use of electronic devices.

Both the sun and incandescent bulbs emits light in a broad range that our eyes have evolved to see. The light that emanates from our electronic devices may appear similar, but it’s concentrated in three main peaks of blue, green, and red. When using a phone or tablet, that means a greater than average amount of more energetic blue light is being sent to your eyes at a short distance and for (often) a prolonged period of time. Researchers have observed that this can cause the eyes to grow tired and dry out, which can lead to discomfort. Exposure to blue light at night can slow the production of the sleep hormone melatonin, resulting in sleep difficulties and the negative health effects associated with it.

To reduce the consequences of excessive blue light exposure, several tech companies have created blue light and nighttime filter settings that reduce the amount of blue light that comes from devices. Many websites and programs also offer a dark mode that reduces the amount of white on the screen, which means less light is emitted by the diodes. Users often report that these features are easier on the eyes.

While there is debate on the topic, excessive exposure to blue light may also lead to an increased risk for macular degeneration, a common cause of vision loss associated with damage to the photoreceptor cells in the retina. In laboratory studies, researchers have observed that when blue light interacts with the molecule retinal, it can lead to cell damage and even cell death. This effect did not occur with other forms of visible light. However, it’s important to note that this study was conducted in a laboratory setting and not on eyes themselves, so although the authors found a mechanism by which blue light plus retinal can cause cell damage, they’re not sure if this occurs in the eye itself.

Nonetheless, given the effect that prolonged screen use can have on eye fatigue and possible sleep interruption, it’s important to take breaks to rest the eyes and use filters or modes that reduce blue light (or wear glasses that block blue light).

This information should not be substituted for medical or chiropractic advice. Any and all healthcare concerns, decisions, and actions must be done through the advice and counsel of a healthcare professional who is familiar with your updated medical history.