Do you Feel Like a Train Wreck?
When was the last time you went out with your friends or your partner to do something fun? Did the experience cause you any pain? Were you feeling the repercussions for days? Unfortunately, growing old is often synonymous with our health breaking down. The anti-aging movement may help you appear beautiful well into your later years, but do you actually feel good on the inside? Do you have ample energy to do all the things you want to do in your day? Growing old does not have to equate to degeneration.
But to make any grand change, you need to make a grand gesture. To make a grand gesture, it is helpful to consider all aspects of your body. This article will review some natural strategies to help you improve your health and lead a pain-free life.
Digestive Health and Illness
It may come as a surprise, but digestive health is in fact one of the most important steps to achieving a pain-free life. What is digestive health? According to Elizabeth Lipski’s book, Digestive Wellness, faulty digestion is directly responsible for a large number of seemingly unrelated illnesses such as arthritis, migraines and auto-immune disorders. Improving digestive health is one way to reduce inflammation in the body. By reducing inflammatory foods that contribute to disease and illness, you can take steps towards a pain-free, healthier life.
How can you reduce chronic pain and promote health in your body through digestion? One way is to reduce inflammatory foods. Here is a list of some foods that are particularly inflammatory.
1. Eliminate Gluten
Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, rye, barley, and often oats. It is a ‘pro-inflammatory food;’ when you eat foods that contain gluten, you create more inflammation in the body. By avoiding gluten, you can make great strides toward better health. There have been countless reports of reduced joint pain, headaches, and other inflammatory symptoms, such as arthritic pain, following elimination of gluten in the diet. There are many substitutes today, as well as increased awareness in local restaurants about options for meals. For more information on how to maintain a gluten-free diet, visit www.gluten.net.
2. Avoid Processed Foods and Preservatives
Processed foods and preservatives are largely comprised of chemicals that are difficult for the body to digest. When you eat a lot of processed foods, your body becomes more inflamed, which leads to joint pain as well as other chronic issues. By maintaining a diet full of fresh foods, you can create an environment in your body that is more optimal for healing.
3. Refined/Processed Sugar and Sugar Substitutes
As with processed foods, processed sugar is largely comprised of chemicals. These chemicals are not easily broken down and can lead to multiple health challenges when consumed over a lifetime.
Some examples of sugar substitutes include Aspartame, Nutra Sweet, and Splenda. Refined sugar includes cane sugar and brown sugar, as examples. Refined sugars can be very toxic to the body. The incidence of diabetes in this country is rising dramatically, largely due to refined sugar in our collective diet. Sugar substitutes often contain chemicals that can be carcinogenic and highly toxic. By avoiding refined sugar and sugar substitutes, you can improve your health and longevity significantly. As an added benefit, by avoiding refined sugar, pain is often lessened. Some ‘natural sweeteners’ include honey, pure maple syrup, coconut sugar, palm sugar, and stevia. When used in moderation, these sweeteners can satisfy your sweet tooth without contributing to disease.
4. Drink Lots of Water
Water is a true panacea! In fact, for many Americans, dehydration is a status quo. Without proper hydration, your body fails. Commonly, joint pain is accompanied by swelling in the joint. Drinking lots of water helps to filter the fluid in your body, which can be helpful in reducing chronic joint pain. It is also important that your water source is optimally clean. If you are drinking tap water, be sure that it is filtered.
5. Reduce Grain in Your Diet
Grain is essentially rice, wheat, barley, couscous, pasta, bread, baked goods, etc. There is growing research showing that many of the diseases that affect us in later life are contributed to by high intake of grain throughout our lifetimes. A prominent voice in this community is David Perlmutter, MD, a board-certified neurologist. In his book, Grain Brain, he lays out research on how a lifetime of grain sets the stage for neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. There are many grains that have been touted as healthy, such as brown rice and quinoa. The key to avoiding the inflammatory aspects of grain is to remove it from center stage. There are, in fact, some benefits from eating some grains but unfortunately, there also are inflammatory consequences from eating too much. It is helpful to completely avoid grain for a two-month period and then to assess how you feel when you eat small amounts of healthier grains.
6. Eat Low-Glycemic Food
The glycemic index is a rating scale, which determines how quickly our blood sugar spikes after eating certain foods. For example, white potato or white bread is very high on the glycemic index, because after you eat these types of foods your blood sugar spikes quickly, and that is not good for your body. Sweet potatoes are lower on the glycemic index and don’t create that type of spike. An example of fruit that is lower on the glycemic index is berries. There are other fruits as well.
You can visit the following link for a more complete list of foods and their corresponding glycemic index: www.glycemicindex.com/foodSearch.php. By lowering your glycemic load, you can make tremendous changes in your health.
‘Grand Gesture’ beyond Diet
To make a grand gesture towards health, you need to consider all aspects of your life. Changing the food that you eat on a daily basis is a great start. In addition to implementing dietary changes, there are additional natural strategies that lead to a pain-free life, such as reducing your exposure to harmful chemicals in the environment. In reality, unless you live in a secluded community, it would be impossible to completely avoid environmental toxins. But there are many efforts you can make to lessen your exposure. Here are some helpful suggestions:
1. Replace synthetic cleaners and detergents in your home with natural versions. Even a simple change such as this can lead to significant health benefits.
2. Replace your soap, shampoo, and other body products with natural versions. So often, we take for granted some of the symptoms that we deal with on a day-to-day basis. Changing the brand of soap you use to a more natural one can eliminate previously irresolvable issues such as daily redness or rashes on the face and even psoriasis and other skin issues.
3. Buy produce that is organic or natural and free of pesticides and growth hormones. It is true that organic foods are more expensive. Hopefully, one day, this will change. One option is to search for a local CSA (a community supported agriculture co-op farm) that sells memberships. These farms will provide you with great natural produce through the warm months of the year and often they provide a winter share as well.
Body Work: Integrative Manual Therapy
Improving what you put into your body and creating a healthier external environment for yourself are two very important steps towards a pain-free life. In addition, body work can help you feel better. Generally, your body learns how to compensate for injuries and traumas caused by car accidents, sports, illness, etc. But at a certain point, we reach our limit and begin to feel like a ‘train wreck.’
Body work can help you find your homeostasis. By eating fewer inflammatory foods and reducing your body’s exposure to harmful chemicals, you allow your body to heal itself. But if your internal body is in chronic dysfunction, you probably need a little help. Body work can push you in the right direction.
One form of body work is Integrative Manual Therapy (IMT). IMT is a gentle hands-on therapy that can identify underlying causes for pain and illness. By using IMT to treat these underlying problems, relief from pain and illness can be achieved.
For example, when there are biomechanical or joint problems at the pelvis, sacrum, and low back, a traditional approach of stretching and exercise can stretch out stiff muscles and looser joints, but this type of approach typically does not affect the tight joints which might be the true cause of the person’s pain and symptoms. Smooth and painless movement comes from normal joint mobility and alignment. IMT addresses this.
Restore Alignment and Mobility, Reduce Inflammation
Muscle spasms that often accompany long-standing pain may be symptomatically helped with heat or cold. When a muscle is in spasm, stretching and/or exercise does not release the spasm. Gentle hands-on techniques such as IMT can restore mobility to the spine and lower back, correct the position of the pelvis and the sacrum, and restore normal alignment between the lumbar spine and the sacrum. Once the joint alignment is restored, and there is less inflammation in the region, stretching and exercise will be much more effective to help create more movement. After the muscle spasm is released, the normal muscle tissue helps to maintain joint mobility, which can then allow you to return to stretching and exercise programs.
Finding the Underlying Cause
In addition to treatment of joint alignment with IMT, there are many underlying reasons why a person might experience pain that’s not necessarily related to a particular injury. Often, pain is compounded by inflammation, digestive problems, circulation issues, and much more. When something in the body requires protection (for example, something related to circulation or immunity), the body’s tendency is to inhibit movement—to ‘lock up.’ This lack of movement can cause persistent pain and stiffness. IMT uses a comprehensive, hands-on assessment process to identify underlying causes of pain. Once these sites of dysfunction are found, a customized IMT treatment plan is developed to treat the underlying issues and restore normal movement in the body. The treatment plan consists of gentle hands-on techniques to promote greater health and a pain-free lifestyle.
The idea that we can be energetic and pain-free into our later years is a foreign concept for many. How many of us feel like a train wreck most of the time? The ability to participate in leisure and sports activities with your friends and loved ones can be a reality when you implement the right changes in your diet and make some simple changes in your lifestyle. Finding the right manual therapist or body worker can aid in this process.
We all know that change is never the easy route and often unwelcomed. At a certain point, we all seek out change when we feel ‘bad enough.’ Eating fewer inflammatory foods, reducing harmful chemicals in your environment, changing your cleaning and body products, and receiving manual therapy will lead you in the right direction and provide the resources that allow your body to heal itself.
Ayelet Connell-Giammatteo, PhD, PT, IMT,C is the President and Owner of Integrative Wellness and Physical Therapy in Bloomfield, CT, a wellness center specializing in holistic Physical Therapy, Integrative Manual Therapy (IMT), and nutritional wellness. Dr. Connell-Giammatteo is a Physical Therapist and Certified Integrative Manual Therapist. She has been practicing in the field of IMT for over 15 years. Dr. Connell-Giammatteo received her Bachelor’s Degree in Physical Therapy from The University of Hartford in Connecticut. She received her Doctoral Degree from Union Institute & University in Cincinnati, Ohio, focusing in neuropediatrics, with a concentration in autism. Some of Dr. Connell-Giammatteo’s Doctoral research involved a unique charter elementary school, Soaring Heights, in inner city Jersey City, New Jersey. During this research, she investigated the efficacy of Integrative Manual Therapy on young children that presented with challenges in learning, socialization, and behavior. In addition to her IMT expertise, Dr. Connell-Giammatteo is a graduate of the Institute of Functional Medicine’s program “Applying Functional Medicine into Clinical Practice” focusing on nutritional wellness. She has written many articles on the subjects of IMT, healthy living, natural parenting, and nutritional wellness. Dr. Connell-Giammatteo was Dean of the Connecticut School of Integrative Manual Therapy (CSIMT) for multiple years. She has taught courses in Integrative Manual Therapy nationally and internationally for over 15 years. Dr. Connell-Giammatteo is also a local of this community and has been living in the Greater Hartford area for many years, where she integrates a healthy lifestyle at home with her wonderful family.