So what is this so called "text neck"? The nickname has been coined from our generation always looking down texting on our phones. It's not just from texting though. It's also seen in people who have desk jobs and sit in front of a computer all day. In the health field it is more commonly known as upper crossed syndrome. This upper crossed syndrome is caused by muscle imbalances in your upper back and neck. For example, as your chest muscles tighten in the front, your back muscles have to lengthen and become weaker to accommodate this change. This causes you to have forward head posture and your shoulders roll forward as well. Every inch your head migrates forward, another 10lbs. of pressure is put onto the spine. Symptoms that most commonly seem to develop are chronic headaches, upper back pain, shoulder pain, and neck pain. This is very common in my office and I find the majority of my patients dealing with headaches, neck or upper back pain have these exact muscle imbalances. The problem can be corrected though. Through proper adjustments, stretching and strengthening exercises, as well as practicing good posture while sitting and taking breaks from looking down for long periods of time will put you on the right path to correcting this issue. If you feel you may be dealing with this, be sure to get it corrected right away. The longer you let it go, the longer it will take to correct it.
"The Core 4" - Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
The human body can make most of the types of fats it needs from other fats and raw materials. That isn't the case for omega-3 fatty acids. These are essential fats. Your body cannot make these from scratch and you need to get them from foods. Some foods that are high in omega-3s are fish, nuts (especially walnuts), vegetable oils, flaxseed and leafy vegetables. So what makes omega-3s so special? They provide a starting point for the release of hormones that regulate blood clotting, the contraction and relaxation of arterial walls, and inflammation. Likely due to these effects, studies continue to show how omega-3 fats can prevent heart disease and stroke, can help control lupus, eczema, and rheumatoid arthritis, and play a protective role against cancers and other conditions. The strongest evidence of its benefits has to do with the prevention of heart disease, but more research continues to show a multitude of other benefits. Fish oil contains two omega-3 fatty acids called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). In the United States, our values of DHA and EPA are found to be much lower than those of countries with lower heart disease rates such as Japan. Living in the Midwest, it can be fairly expensive to maintain a diet high in fresh fish. Cold, deep water fish contain the highest amount of omega-3s, where as fish such as walleye, crappie and perch tend to have much lower amounts. If you know your diet lacks a strong quantity of omega-3s, taking a daily supplement will help you fill that void. Not only will this help keep your heart healthy, but will also give you all of the other health benefits these fats provide.
"The Core 4" - Vitamin D
Also known as the "sunshine vitamin," vitamin D is important for building strong bones and teeth because it is necessary for the absorption of calcium. Not only does it help build and keep your bones strong, recent studies also show that it plays a major role in healthy cell development and helps keep your immune system strong. While you may think that being outside in the sun and drinking milk fortified with vitamin D is enough, it actually isn't. The problem is that most of us wear sun protection when we're outside and it blocks our vitamin D production. That's fine, because skin cancer is far scarier than having low levels of vitamin D, but if you want to get it from the sun your skin needs to be unprotected. Foods fortified with vitamin D even don't have the therapeutic levels we need. Living in a northern climate, I know the winters are brutal and there is no way to get the sun exposure needed during those chilly months. These reasons are why studies are showing that around 50% of the general population and estimates of 95% of the US senior citizens are deficient.
Getting your levels checked is relatively inexpensive and I recommend everyone at least consider it. If you find you are deficient, the best way to raise your levels naturally is from the sun. Fifteen minutes of exposed skin a day can go a long way to boosting your levels. Many of us work when the sun is at its peak, making this difficult to do on a daily basis. That's when supplementation comes in. Around 8,000 IUs of vitamin D3 daily can make up for those days or months you lack the proper sunlight exposure. Vitamin D is very important to our overall health and well-being. Making sure we maintain proper levels is key to not only strong, healthy bones, but also the prevention of chronic diseases.
"The Core 4" - Probiotic
This one may not be as familiar to people as a multivitamin, but it is just as important. A good probiotic is essential for not just healthy digestive function, but also total wellness. Our gut is home to trillions of good bacteria that aid in digestion, boost our immune system and consume bad bacteria. Making sure we keep them there is critical. As we age, we begin to lose a high quantity of those good bacteria and we can experience digestive failure. Aging isn't the only thing that affects the number of these good guys, antibiotic use and a poor diet can also wipe these guys out and leave you out of balance. It's ultimately up to you to fortify and repopulate your gut with these good bacteria and a daily probiotic is a good way to do that. Finding a good, broad-spectrum probiotic(containing many different types of good bacteria) is a start. Also, as I stated with multivitamins, be sure to refer to the link I attached to find the best companies to purchase from. Since a probiotic is full of many live bacterium, it's important to make sure you store them properly to keep them alive as long as possible. I recommend storing them in a cool place or in the refrigerator. Another reason it's important to chose a higher quality probiotic is because it needs to get past the stomach to do it's job. The better companies formulate the outer casing of the pill to give it the best chance to make it through your stomach acid.
Not only is it great to take a daily probiotic, but you can find natural probiotics in some foods as well. A few examples are live-cultured yogurt, sauerkraut, pickles, kefir and kombucha tea. These are all fairly easy to make yourself and will give you a higher number of good bacteria in each if you prepare them correctly. If they are highly processed and contain high-fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners the bacteria won't survive.
So be sure to keep these good bacteria in your stomach and you will find that you will have significantly better digestion as well as a strengthened immune system.
Dr. Andy Johnson