I have always been fascinated by those who seem to function at a higher level than the average person. They lead more interesting lives. They get more things done. They seem more present and aware. I do think a person’s state of health has quite a bit to do with this.
Being a chiropractor has made me more attuned to assessing a person’s state of health through observation. Often on weekends we’ll be doing our regular grocery shopping and I’ll notice the people around us. It’s one thing to see that some guy may have a mechanical issue in his low back because his pelvis is not moving symmetrically as he walks or another gal might be getting neck pain or headaches because of the way her neck is misaligned forward relative to her shoulders.
It’s another thing to see negative signs of general health. I have noticed that when I come across a person with a grocery cart full of low-quality processed foods (cookies, TV dinners, etc.) I’ll often look up and see someone showing the external symptoms of poor health. This may include weight gain indicating that the body is heading in the direction of adult onset diabetes (that middle-age spread of body fat around the waist) and perhaps more subtle signs such as a look of tiredness or the dry skin of an underactive thyroid.
For the purposes of chiropractic patients, when they come to see me their focus and mine is on getting out them of pain. I will try to do that by correcting the faulty biomechanics in their body. This addresses the localized cause of pain and inflammation in the low back and other painful joints. At the same time, there is a more global, systemic cause of inflammation that not only makes the joint pain we are addressing at the clinic worse but negatively affects their health in general.
In fact, an increased level of inflammation in their body, due to our modern lifestyle, contributes to most of the modern diseases including cancer, heart disease, adult onset diabetes, arthritis, even Alzheimer’s. I know this is a bold statement but the research backs this up.
The take-home message is that by reducing systemic inflammation our body works better on multiple levels – plus we are less apt to have pain. How do we do this? Since it’s primarily our bad modern diet that has gotten us into this mess, the solution is to move to a more healthy anti-inflammatory diet. This includes replacing bad fats (vegetable oils containing the pro-inflammatory Omega-6 fatty acids) with good fats (those containing Omega-3 fatty acids).
It may come as a surprise to many people that the oils found in grains do in fact contain the pro-inflammatory Omega-6 fatty acids. For this reason, I recommend avoiding grains (breads, pastas, etc.) and instead substituting with vegetables and high quality meats. For cooking, I recommend coconut oil. While this oil is neither Omega-6 nor Omega-3, thus it doesn’t affect your inflammation one way or another, it is a very stable oil for cooking. That is to say it won’t go rancid as soon as it is heated.
One of the best sources of Omega-3 fatty acids is fish oil. A simple and highly effective way to compensate for our poor modern diet is to supplement with fish oil. But how much? The research shows that 2700-7000 mg of EPA + DHA (look on the label) is the range we should be taking per day to get the full benefits. This is more than just one or two gel capsules. For this reason, I like taking it in liquid form. It’s a simple matter to take a teaspoon or two. By the way, fish oil that is fresh should not have an unpleasant “fishy” taste. If it does, it has gone rancid. Throw it out and get a better one.
As I tell my patients, the top 3 supplements everybody should be taking are a high quality multivitamin, Vitamin D and fish oil. While this won’t fully compensate for a less than ideal diet, it is a very powerful step in the right direction.
Sometimes a few small but important steps can have a significant effect on one’s overall health and function.