• First line of text for new post (add more text here...)
    • When Exercise Can Kill — The Rare Risk of Rhabdomyolysis

      By Dr. Mercola A recent WebMD article1 addresses a rare but potentially fatal muscle disorder called rhabdomyolysis, or rhabdo for short. Estimates suggest it may affect 22 people out of 100,000, and muscle trauma due to overexertion is a common cause. Your skeletal muscles are under your volitional control, which is why they’re also known as voluntary muscles. You engage them when walking and moving. When skeletal muscle is damaged through overexertion injury, the muscle starts dumping myoglobin, an iron- and oxygen-binding muscle protein, into your bloodstream. Excessive myoglobin obstructs your kidney’s filtration system, which can lead to acute renal damage. Rhabdo causes kidney failure in up to 40 percent of cases, so early diagnosis and rapid medical intervention is crucial. Liberated potassium leading to hyperkalemia (high potassium in your blood), which can occur within hours after muscle injury, can also be life-threatening. Signs and Symptoms of Rhabdo The following symptoms are considered “classic” rhabdo symptoms, although all may not necessarily be present in all cases: Muscle swelling Pain in the affected muscle group Muscle weakness or trouble moving your limbs Dark and scant urine output Other possible symptoms include nausea, vomiting, fever, intense shivering, confusion, dehydration and possibly fainting. While it is clear that rhabdomyolysis occurs due to the breakdown of damaged muscle tissue, there are many situations or circumstances that can trigger it. Some of the most prominent examples include:2 Overexercising Pushing yourself while exercising, such as running too far or lifting weights beyond your limit, can damage your muscles. While muscle soreness is normal following a workout, suspect rhabdo if the pain is extreme and seems disproportionate to your exertion. Another tipoff is if symptoms trend toward getting worse rather than better over the next couple of days. Untreated, rhabdo will progressively get worse. Accidents and blunt trauma Patients who survive major accidents typically develop extensive muscular damage. Nonaccidental injury can also cause muscle trauma that can lead to rhabdo. Prolonged immobilization Being bedridden for long periods of time, such as when you suffer a stroke, can put pressure on the muscles pressing against the bed, cutting off blood flow and causing tissue death. Drug side effects Cholesterol-lowering medications such as statins or fibrates usually produce muscle weakness as a side effect. Abuse of illicit drugs such as cocaine and heroin can cause weakness as well. Metabolic disorders Certain metabolic disorders can raise your risk of rhabdo. This includes problems with metabolism of lipids (fats), carbohydrates or purines, hypothyroidism, diabetic ketoacidosis and electrolyte imbalances. Genetic disorders Genetic conditions that can raise your risk includes carnitine deficiency, McArdle’s disease, lactate dehydrogenase deficiency and Duchenne muscular dystrophy. High-Intensity Repetitive Movement Is a Major Risk Factor According to Dr. Maureen Brogan, associate professor of medicine at New York Medical College and author of a 2017 paper3 on the condition, rhabdo can happen with any intense, repetitive motion exercise. Spin classes (high-intensity cycling), for example, have produced dozens of cases, typically among newbies who are just starting out and are working above capacity. One New York City hospital reports seeing 29 rhabdo cases within a four-year span, 14 of which were related to high-intensity cycling.4 According to Brogan, “The high-intensity exercise associated with spin class comes with significant risks to newcomers.” She even goes so far as to call spinning-induced rhabo a “public health concern.” WebMD reports:5 “She says she came to see it as that after six patients came to her hospital’s ER, and all involved people trying a cycling class for the first time … When she searched medical literature, 42 of the 46 cases she found also involved people going to cycling class for the first time. ‘Those are the patients that were most at risk because they may not be conditioned and are using and engaging new muscle groups for the first time at an intense rate,’ she says. ‘So even if you were a different type of athlete like a runner, and then you switch to biking and use quadriceps and gluteus maximus muscles at an intense rate — that first time, you may be at risk of getting rhabdo’ … [P]eople who stop cycling for some time and then go back at the same rate are at risk, too. ‘[Cycling] is great exercise if you are conditioned for it,’ she says. ‘But you burn 600 to 900 calories in one class. You wouldn’t go out and run 6 to 9 miles on your first day of running. If you did that, you wouldn’t be able to walk either.’” Dehydration and Extreme Temperatures Raises Your Risk Inadequate physical conditioning in combination with severe dehydration and/or extreme body temperatures raise your risk of rhabdo, regardless of the exercise you’re doing. Always make sure to stay well-hydrated before, during and after exercise, and take a break if you start feeling excessively hot. If you’re not conditioned to exercise in hot conditions, avoid starting a new type of exercise in a heated exercise room. When starting a new exercise, even if you’re fit, listen to your body, start slow, take breaks and work your way up to greater intensity over time. It’s important to recognize that you don’t have to be in poor physical condition for rhabdo to occur, or that you have to work out for an extended period of time. One of Brogan’s patients developed rhabdo after just 15 minutes of cycling. In fact, many rhabdo patients exercise regularly and express surprise when getting their diagnosis. The key to remember is that there’s a fine line between exercising to capacity and overexerting yourself. Approximately 7 to 8 out of 100,000 military recruits, for example, are affected each year, and even professional athletes — especially marathoners and ultramarathoners — have suffered its consequences. No One Is Immune to Rhabdo Professional snowboarder Amy Purdy was hospitalized in 2016 after participating in a CrossFit class for the first time. While generally well-conditioned, she had not done pullups for a few months and the high-intensity, repetitive pullups done during class did her in. She told WebMD: “It wasn’t until 72 hours later, I was back in my hometown with friends at a restaurant around 11 at night. I told them I worked out too hard a few days ago, and my arms wouldn’t straighten all the way. I then took my jacket off and instantly noticed swelling around my elbows on both arms. The doctors were convinced I didn’t have it because my arms were only slightly swollen. They decided to test me anyway. That whole experience was one of that [sic] hardest experiences of my life! If you push your body to failure and keep going, you are at risk. Listen to your body. It knows best. And if you find yourself going on days with overly stiff and sore muscles and you notice swelling, get to the hospital ASAP. It may not be rhabdo, but a simple blood test can tell.” Diagnosis and Treatment   Diagnosis usually begins with a review of your medical history and the events that led up to your medical visit. A variety of blood and urine tests can help diagnose rhabdo. The following tests are typically recommended:6 Complete blood count, including hemoglobin, hematocrit and platelets Serum chemistries, including blood urea nitrogen, creatinine, glucose, calcium, potassium, phosphate, uric acid and liver function tests Prothrombin time and activated partial thromboplastin time Serum aldolase Lactate dehydrogenase In mild cases of rhabdo, simple lifestyle changes are typically sufficient for a full recovery. This includes:   • Hydration: Keeping your body properly hydrated helps flush out toxins and ease the workload of your kidneys. Drink clean, filtered water until your urine turns to a light-colored yellow. • Reduce exercise: Cut back on your workout until your muscles recover and your urine normalizes. This can help lower the amount of toxins entering your kidneys until you get better. • Increase circulation: Improving blood circulation is vital to helping your muscles heal and lowering your risk of tissue death. Gentle full-body massages and gentle movements can be helpful. Certain foods can also help improve blood circulation. This includes oranges, goji berries, dark chocolate, sunflower seeds, garlic, ginger and cayenne pepper. • Eat a nutritious diet: Optimizing your diet will also increase your chances of a full recovery. By focusing on eating organic, whole foods that are rich in nutrients, you are nourishing your muscles to recover better and improve your overall well-being. While protein is important for muscle recovery, avoid protein loading as excessive protein consumption can stimulate your mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin) for growth rather than regeneration, which is not what you need. To avoid this, limit your intake to 0.5 gram of protein per pound of lean body mass, and focus instead on eating the highest-quality protein you can get. This includes grass fed meats, raw seeds and nuts and pasture-raised eggs. For more serious cases of rhabdo, additional measures may be required. An intravenous solution of special minerals may be used to counteract the potential harms caused by severe muscle damage. Electrolyte imbalances will need to be monitored and promptly treated as well, and in severe cases you may need hemofiltration to address kidney damage. Rehabbing and Long-Term Prognosis Overall, the prognosis of rhabdo is good as long as your blood, electrolytes and urine are closely monitored following muscle failure. The mortality rate for rhabdo is only 5 percent, but your risk can significantly increase if kidney failure occurs. If you take good care of yourself by moderating exercise, drinking enough water and getting enough rest, you will be on your way to a successful recovery. It can take time though. Purdy spent months in rehab before being able to lift even the lightest of weights. While rhabdo is a serious condition, and can happen to anyone, you shouldn’t be scared away from exercise. The take-home message is to always listen to your body. Go easy when you first start something new or different from your regular fitness routine. Give your body some time to adapt and don’t go all-out during the initial sessions. Also, if you just don’t feel right following a strenuous exercise, keep close watch on your symptoms. Check the color of your urine and pay attention to pain, swelling and weakness. If you’re trending downward when you know you should be recovering, seek medical attention. Blood tests can help diagnose the problem and with proper treatment, kidney damage can be avoided. Dr. Mercola

    • I'm With the Band: Mastering Resistance Band Workouts

      By Dr. Mercola If you go to the gym frequently or have visited a physical therapist, chances are you've seen resistance bands. Band work allows you to get a full body workout without using weights or resistance machines. They are especially useful if you are recovering from an injury. However, benefits go well beyond rehabilitation. With resistance bands you can achieve almost any type of strength training exercise — chest press, rowing, shoulder press, triceps extension and squats — are possible using a simple elastic band. Resistance bands are inexpensive, easy to store and a perfect way to get a workout while traveling. Made of strong, thin rubber, they come in a variety of shapes, sizes and different resistance strengths so you can increase difficulty as your strength improves. The bands are not new in the fitness and sports performance industry, but to achieve the benefits the tool is capable of you must start with a plan. According to John Rusin,1 who has developed training protocols to maximize performance and injury prevention:2 “When strategically sprinkled into programming, bands provide an exponential upside to build muscle, get strong and explosive and stay healthy. But if you don’t have a plan and purpose for your band based training, this tool can be brutally tough on your joints and tendons and may even lead to injuries.” Bands Comprehensively Address Performance and Strength Training Strength training is an important component to your overall fitness and health, as it improves your muscle and bone strength, which can help prevent falls and fractures. It also improves production of growth factors responsible for cellular growth, proliferation and differentiation.3 Some of these factors promote the survival of neurons, helping to explain why working your muscles also benefits your brain.4 Strength training promotes fat loss, improves insulin sensitivity, lowers your risk of metabolic syndrome and improves your cardiovascular fitness.5 These elements enhance quality of life and improve your ability to perform activities you do each day. This helps to maintain your independence as you age and may reduce symptoms of chronic conditions such as back pain, arthritis and depression. These simple bands can comprehensively help you improve your performance, strength and fitness by addressing a broad range of motion and muscles, enabling you to improve your range of capabilities. Bands are useful to help you increase your flexibility, develop power and strength and isolate core muscles.6 Each of these factors help to improve your mobility, balance, agility and coordination. Although simple and convenient, resistance bands offer your muscles a training stimulus different from fixed weights.7 They are effective since they increase resistance as the band stretches. This means you work against more resistance at the end of your range of motion where you're likely to have increasing strength, targeting your muscles differently and helping to build functional muscle movements. When used correctly, resistance bands also help decelerate your movement at the end of your range of motion, which may help protect your joints from injury.8 This is vastly different from working with traditional dumbbells or barbells, which provide constant resistance throughout the entire range of motion. Using resistance bands encourages the velocity of movement to change, thus developing greater adaptation in your muscles. Bands Engage More Than Muscle Bands help improve functional strength without the potential for injury you may experience with free weights dependent on gravity.9 Resistance bands allow movement through four planes, increasing the number of muscles and neurons activated. Since the vectors used during resistance band workouts are different, it helps prevent repetitive stress in the same path or pattern of movement in your joints and muscles. While this is important when you exercise frequently, it is critical for those with pre-existing joints problems, such as arthritis. Resistance bands also allow you to be more creative with your fitness routine as they can accommodate both your schedule and your location. Even if you only have an extra 10 minutes during lunch, you can pull out your resistance bands for a quick upper or lower body workout. An almost endless selection of options can be tailored to meet your needs as almost every movement can be replicated with a band to increase tension on the muscle, improving strength and mobility.10 Resistance bands are often used by occupational therapist working with children who have sensory integration and motor planning difficulties.11 Children who have learning disorders, attention and behavioral issues or experience emotional and sensory overload often crave muscle work. Resistance bands are mobile and give the children a way to build neural connections, core-strengthening, sensory integration and motor planning. These tools have become a staple in occupational therapy programs for children with such needs.12 Bands Enhance Your Workout From Start to Finish Regardless of what exercise you’re about to start, resistance bands are an excellent means of warming up your muscles. Using bands in a dynamic warmup on your large ball and socket joints — hips and shoulders — may do dual duty of warming up the muscles while making them work against light resistance.13 To warm up your hips, Rusin suggests doing side steps with a resistance band just above your knees or near your ankles. The bands should provide some resistance as you step from side to side with your hips slightly bent back and your knees slightly forward. To warm up your shoulders,14 Rusin suggests using three motions for eight to 12 repetitions per movement. In the first, hold the bands in each hand in front of your body, slightly more than shoulder width apart, with the band stretched across the front of your legs. Lifting your hands up above your head and back behind you, reverse direction and bring your arms up and around in front again. In the second, the band is anchored on a stable object approximately shoulder height. Standing back far enough for the band to stretch, pull it toward you with both hands at shoulder height and then release slowly with your arms going straightforward. In the final shoulder warm up, hold a band with both hands slightly greater than shoulder-width apart and your arms directly in front of you. Stretch both arms out to either side and slightly behind you, moving against the resistance of the band. While these are warmup exercises for your hips and shoulders, they can also be done while taking a five to 10 minute break at work to increase circulation and movement during the day. Another popular way of using resistance bands is to build strength and power. The further the band is stretched, the greater the resistance generated against your muscles. For a demonstration, see the video below. However, resistance bands also allow you to accelerate the return, or eccentric phase, while your body is returning to its original position. This can potentially increase stress on your joints and care should be taken to reduce your risk of injury. Rusin recommends rotating two to three weeks of banded lifts with two to three weeks off to maximize benefits and minimize risk. Different Bands Allow Different Functions Resistance bands come in a variety of sizes and shapes, and some have handles and loops on the end to make the movements easier. This gives you both variety in the type of exercise you can do and the ability to match resistance bands to your intended activity. As far as design, there are two different types of bands: flat and tube.15,16,17 • Flat Bands There are two types of flat bands. Therapy bands are typically used by physical and occupational therapists in rehabilitation exercises. These bands are wide, flat, open ended, about 4 feet in length and do not have handles so you must grip them with your hands. Fit loop bands are very similar to therapy bands as they are flat and between 4 inches and 2 feet in length, but they are a continuous loop rather than open ended. This type of resistance band is best for lower body movements, such as the side step Rusin used in his dynamic warmups discussed above. • Tubed Bands There are several different types of tubed bands, offering you several fitness options. Compact bands are tubular, approximately 4 feet long and usually have a handle attached to each end. Figure-eight bands are shaped like an “8” with a plastic tube in the middle and two hard handles on opposite ends. Ring bands are a continuous tubular band with a 1 foot circumference and two soft handles integrated into the tube at opposite ends of the ring. Lateral resistance bands are a single strip of tubular elastic with two ankle Velcro cuffs at each end for lower body exercises, targeting the hips and thighs. It is best to purchase several different levels of resistance bands to ensure you have the strength necessary for your fitness level and intensity. For example, a band used on your lower body will likely offer too much resistance for upper body work. Consider Integrating These Movements Into Your Fitness Routine In this video Jill Rodriguez demonstrates several exercises using a resistance band, and a variety of ways you may change the exercises to activate different muscles. Here is a sampling of exercises you can do at home using compact resistance bands. Biceps circuit Start in a seated position with the band under your feet and holding the handles, palms up. Keep your shoulders back and pull the handles toward your chest. You may vary the movement by pulsing the motion in the middle or holding the handles in place with your hands at your chest or in the middle. The bicep curl may also be done standing with the band under your feet, shoulders back and knees bent slightly. Pull the band up to your chest and return to the starting position. The same isometric hold and pulse variation may be added while standing. Another variation begins while standing and bending slightly at the hip, draw your hand up to the opposite shoulder, crossing over your chest. As you advance, you may place both handles in one hand and do a one handed bicep curl. Banded resisted pushup Place the tubular band behind your shoulders and under your armpits. Get into a modified pushup position with knees bent and the bands under your hands. As you do the pushup you’ll feel the resistance from the bands. As you become stronger, do these as regular pushups. Reverse fly In the standing position, the band (not the handles) held in your hands with palms down, pull the band apart at shoulder height. If you need more resistance as you become stronger, loop the band around your hand so the area between your hands becomes shorter. You make this more challenging by pulsing the movement in the middle or holding it for about 10 seconds at the end of the extension. Back extension This is a postural exercise to work your core muscles. Place the band under your feet and grasp the handles with palms up, lifting the handles to your shoulders. Keep your shoulders back and back straight; lean forward, bracing your abdominals, and then sit up. You’ll feel the resistance in your back and core. Shoulder circuit Stand with the bands under your feet. Hold the handles palm down with shoulders back, knees slightly bent and elbows straight. Raise your hands to shoulder height straight in front of you and lower slowly. In the overhead press, begin in the same position with your hands to your side. Raise your hands over your head and straight up. One-armed shoulder circuit Start with the band anchored to a stable object at shoulder height. With your right hand holding the handle, palm down and your body half an arm’s length to the left of the anchor point of the band, pull the handle toward you until your elbow is bent to 90 degrees. Next rotate your arm in this “L” position so your hand raises up and the lowers to the original position in front of you, keeping your arm to the side of your body. This is one rep. Next, keep the handle in your right hand, move your right leg back and pull the handle toward your shoulder for a high row position with your palm facing the ground and your hand to shoulder height. Next, turn your hand so your thumb is up and your palm faces your body. Pull the hand toward your body for a low row, bending your elbow so it moves behind your body as you pull your hand to your waist. Leg circuit For a banded lunge, put the band under your left foot with knees slightly bent, shoulders back and abdominal muscles tight. Pull the handles of the band to your chin with palms in to your body and step back with your right foot, bending both knees to 90 degrees. Return to the starting position and repeat. Switch the band under your right foot and repeat on the other side. Next, place the band under both feet about shoulder width apart in preparation for a squat. Holding the handles with palms facing your body, move your hands up to your shoulders. Sink into a squat position, with your hips swiveling back as if to sit in a chair. Keep your knees behind your toes. Rising and lowering once is one repetition. Overhead triceps extension Sitting on a chair or bench, position the center of the band beneath your glutes. With a handle in each hand, stretch your arms upward, bending your elbows so your hands are positioned behind your neck. With palms toward the ceiling, press your arms straight up until they fully extend. Lower back down and repeat. Dr. Mercola

    • Boost Your Cardiovascular Health and Fitness With Regular Sauna Use

      By Dr. Mercola Sweating is a biological imperative that has a wide range of health benefits. In fact, unless you have untreated hypothyroidism, sweating is one of the indicators that will tell you that you are effectively doing a high-intensity exercise. Science has shown sweating it out in a sauna can also help:1,2 Expel toxinsLower blood pressure; improve blood circulation and vascular functionBoost brain health and reduce your risk of dementia Kill disease-causing microbesImprove mitochondrial functionBoost immune function by increasing white blood cell, lymphocyte, neutrophil and basophil counts Reduce aches and pains, including headachesLower inflammation and reduce oxidative stress3Enhance relaxation, well-being and boost mood Reduce fibromyalgia-related discomfort and pain4  Improve symptoms associated with asthma, bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease5Reduce pain and stiffness associated with rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis6 How Sauna Bathing Benefits Your Heart and Cardiovascular System Research has even shown that regular sauna use can help improve athletic performance, and correlates with a reduced risk of death from any cause, including sudden death from a cardiac event.7 Among the most notable benefits associated with sauna bathing is its ability to protect and improve cardiovascular health, much in the same way exercise does. A number of studies have shown sauna bathing lowers blood pressure, for example, which in turn lowers your risk for more serious cardiovascular events. Most recently, a study8,9,10,11 published in the American Journal of Hypertension, which had a follow-up period of nearly 25 years, found men who used the sauna for about 20 minutes four to seven times a week had nearly half the risk of hypertension (defined as blood pressure above 140/90 mmHg) compared to those who used the sauna just once a week. Even increasing the number of sessions from one to two or three times a week cut the risk of hypertension by 24 percent. There are a number of reasons for these beneficial effects. As reported by Time magazine:12 “Co-author Dr. Jari Laukkanen, a cardiologist and professor of medicine at the University of Eastern Finland, says that sauna bathing can increase body temperature by up to 2 degrees Celsius (about 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit). This can cause blood vessels to dilate … decreasing blood pressure and helping blood flow easier … Sauna bathing can also increase resting heart rate to 100 to 150 beats per minute, he says (up from the average 60 to 100 beats, according to the American Heart Association), improving pumping power. Sweating can also remove fluid from the body, which may contribute to decreased blood pressure levels. Plus, the authors say, spending time in the sauna likely helps people relax — both physically and mentally — and may protect against the harmful effects of stress.” Other Research Shows Daily Sauna Significantly Decreases Risk of Cardiac Death Another study published in 2015 found similar if not even better results.13,14,15,16,17 Here, more than 2,300 middle-aged men in eastern Finland were followed for an average of 21 years. The frequency of sauna use, and length of time spent in the sauna, correlated with a lowered risk for lethal cardiovascular events. Sauna use was also associated with a reduced risk of death from any cause, and the more they used the sauna, the better. Here they found that: Men who used the sauna four or more times per week cut their risk of sudden cardiac death by 63 percent, and their risk of death from coronary artery disease by 48 percent, compared to those who only used it once each week Those who used the sauna two to three times a week had a 22 percent lower risk of sudden cardiac death and a 23 percent lower risk of death from coronary artery disease, compared to those who used it only once a week Longer sessions were also beneficial. Compared to those whose sauna sessions lasted less than 11 minutes, men who spent more than 19 minutes per session in the sauna were 52 percent less likely to experience sudden cardiac death Overall, 10 percent of those who used the sauna just once per week suffered sudden cardiac death during the study; 8 percent of those who used the sauna two or three times week died in cardiac-related events; whereas only 5 percent of daily sauna goers suffered a lethal cardiac event Sauna Bathing Is a Great Fitness Aid Just like high-intensity exercises, sauna bathing also increases nitric oxide (NO). In addition to being a potent vasodilator, NO also stimulates your brain, kills bacteria, defends against tumor growth, and helps boost muscle growth and strength,18 the latter of which is one of the explanations for how sauna bathing helps improve fitness and athletic performance. As reported by Chris Kresser:19 “In a cross-over study, runners had better endurance and higher plasma red-cell volume after regular sauna therapy. Cyclists also benefited from sauna therapy, shown by increased plasma volume and better heart rate recovery after a cycling test … A lot of what the body experiences in a sauna is similar to what happens during exercise — increased heart rate, nitric oxide, acute metabolic rate, and oxygen consumption, to name a few. Many of the benefits of saunas discussed above are also benefits of regular exercise, probably not coincidentally.”  Part of the benefit can also be attributed to thermogenesis. Exposure to extreme temperatures, be it hot or cold, actually improves mitochondrial function. When your mitochondria are not working properly, your body’s ability to generate energy is impaired. The key is to eliminate old mitochondria and create new ones — a process known as mitochondrial biogenesis. There are a number of strategies that can do that, including exposure to extreme hot and cold temperatures, exercise and intermittent fasting (time-restricted feeding). All of these strategies stimulate the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma co-activator 1 alpha (PGC-1 alpha), which is the primary driver for mitochondrial biogenesis. And when it comes to maintaining biological functioning and good health, the more mitochondria you have the better. Heat Stress Improves Fitness Exercise and sauna bathing both generate heat stress as well, which activates genes that are important for optimizing heat shock proteins (HSP) inside your cells. Like mitochondria, these proteins get damaged with time and need to be renewed. Accumulation of damaged HSP can lead to plaque formation in your brain and/or vascular system. Heat stress helps prevent this. HSP are also involved in longevity, and are important for preventing muscle atrophy. Hyperthermic conditioning (i.e., acclimating yourself to heat independent of aerobic physical activity through sauna use) has also been shown to boost athletic endurance, by: Increasing plasma volume and blood flow to your heart, which reduces cardiovascular strain and lowers your heart rate during exercise Increasing blood flow to your muscles. By delivering more nutrients such as glucose and oxygen to your muscles, fatigue is reduced Improving thermoregulatory control and increasing sweat rate, thereby allowing your core body heat to remain lower even during high exertion. Once you’re heat acclimated, sweating occurs at a lower body temperature than previously, and you sweat longer Sauna Bathing Benefits Your Brain as Well Like exercise, sauna use has been shown to boost brain health as well, in part by lowering inflammation, improving vascular function, enhancing relaxation20 and eliminating toxins. Earlier this year, researchers reported that men who used a sauna four to seven times a week for an average length of 15 minutes cut their risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease by 66 and 65 percent respectively, compared to those who used the sauna only once weekly.21 These results held true even after other healthy lifestyle factors were taken into account, such as exercise and socioeconomic factors. Other research22 has shown sauna use increases levels of norepinephrine, a stress hormone that increases focus and attention, as well as prolactin, which may promote myelin growth, helping your brain to function faster and repair nerve cell damage. Researchers have also found a link between heat exposure and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF),23 which activates brain stem cells to convert into new neurons. BDNF also triggers numerous other chemicals that promote neural health. Heat stress also benefits your brain by:24 Preventing aggregation of proteins in your arteries and brain Increasing production of dynorphin, which helps cool your body down. Although dynorphin has the opposite effect of endorphins, it sensitizes your brain to endorphins that your body produces Increasing production of growth factors, which in turn promote the growth of brain neurons Sauna Bathing Is an Important Detox Strategy Sauna bathing also benefits health by boosting elimination of toxins,25 including pesticides and heavy metals such as cadmium, arsenic, lead and mercury.26 Infrared saunas (which I’ll discuss further below) are particularly good for this. By heating your tissues several inches deep, the infrared sauna enhances your natural metabolic processes, blood circulation and tissue oxygenation. Lack of sweating may actually result in an increased toxic load over time, which in turn can adversely affect your heart and brain. Compared to other detoxification strategies, sauna bathing has a number of benefits, and may be one of the best, if not the best, strategy to lower your toxic load in a natural way. As discussed in my interview with Dr. George Yu, the mobilization of stored toxins can be further enhanced by taking niacin (vitamin B3). The niacin helps mobilize fat, freeing up toxic chemicals locked in lipophilic tissues such as your brain. When the niacin is taken in conjunction with sauna bathing, the mobilized toxins can then be safely eliminated through your sweat. General Sauna Recommendations If you've never taken a sauna before, start out by spending only four or five minutes in there and work your way up to somewhere between 15 to 30 minutes. You will lose important body electrolytes when you do a sauna so it is important to make sure you supplement with extra salt. Either salt your food more, or put a half-teaspoon of Himalayan salt in 2 ounces of water and flavor it with lemon or lime juice and use it as salt shot. Even if you can comfortably tolerate the heat, the detoxification process can in some cases be severe, depending on your toxic load. If you experience detox symptoms or feel ill after sauna bathing, try cutting down on the time you spend in there and slowly work your way up. That said, here are some general recommendations for using the sauna: Infrared sauna: 160 to 180 degrees F for 15 to 30 minutes Regular (Finnish wet or dry) sauna: 180 to 190 degrees F for 10 to 20 minutes Additionally, consider the following safety tips at all times: Avoid using a sauna by yourself; always sauna with a buddy Always listen to your body when deciding how much heat stress you can tolerate. If you’re ill or heat-sensitive, decrease the temperature, time spent in the sauna or both Do not use a sauna if you've been drinking alcoholBe sure to drink plenty of pure water before and after your sauna session. To replace electrolytes use Himalayan salt as discussed above Avoid saunas during pregnancyYou may want to rest either sitting or lying down for about 10 minutes afterward Different Types of Saunas There are several types of saunas to choose from, and they all work in different ways:27 Finnish wet sauna, in which water is tossed on hot coals, generating ample amounts of steam and humidity Finnish dry sauna, oftentimes electric, which prevents the use of water Far-infrared saunas Near-infrared saunas (emitters and lamps) The difference between an infrared sauna and the traditional Finnish-style saunas (whether wet or dry) is that the far-infrared sauna is able to heat you from the inside out. Compared to traditional saunas, athletes using infrared saunas also report greater recovery from strength and endurance training sessions.28 Near-Infrared Radiation Is Important for Optimal Health The near-infrared range affects your health in a number of important ways,29 primarily through its interaction with chromophores — light-absorbing molecules found in your mitochondria and in water molecules. In your mitochondria, there's a light-absorbing molecule called cytochrome c oxidase (CCO), which is part of the mitochondrial electron transport chain and absorbs near-infrared light around 830 nm. CCO is involved in the energy production within the mitochondria. Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) — cellular energy — is the end product. ATP is the energy currency of your body and is needed for nearly all metabolic activities, including ion transport, synthesizing and metabolism. Light is actually an important and necessary fuel for your body, much like food. When you expose your bare skin to near-infrared light, the CCO in your mitochondria are enhanced and increase their ATP production. Near-infrared light is also profoundly healing, and helps optimize a number of other important biological functions. The absence of near-infrared wavelengths in artificial light sources like commercial lighting LEDs and fluorescent lights is what makes these light sources so hazardous to your health. While I still highly value regular exposure to near-infrared radiation, I used to believe that near-infrared saunas with heat lamps were a useful way to achieve this but now I understand that while they do produce valuable near infrared frequencies, that is only 10 percent of their output, and the far hotter far-infrared frequencies prevent you from getting close enough to the bulb to achieve a therapeutic benefit. So, I personally now use an LED light bed that consists of red (660 nm) and near infrared (850 nm). Since there are no frequencies higher, very little heat is generated and you can get close enough to the bed to get a healthy therapeutic dose. You can achieve similar benefits with the sun, but of course most don’t have access or the time to access the sun regularly, and on most of their skin. I personally use it in addition to regular sun exposure as I feel there are additional benefits. Important Caveats and Precautions If using a far-infrared sauna, make sure it emits low electromagnetic fields (EMFs). To learn more about this issue, please see my interview with Steve Benda, who has spent many years developing low-EMF saunas. Also, regardless of which type of sauna you use, keep in mind that profuse sweating will cause depletion of important minerals such as magnesium. Finally, men may consider protecting their testes by holding an ice pack wrapped with a cloth near their scrotum while sauna bathing, as the testes were not designed for such high temperatures. While sauna bathing is by and large hailed as profoundly beneficial, there have been reports of impaired fertility in men who use sauna regularly. I personally use a tent sauna so my head is outside of the sauna and does not heat up, and I sauna well over 300 days a year. In summary, regular sauna therapy can be a powerful tool to optimize your health, helping your body eliminate toxins and energizing your mitochondria. Many gyms have saunas you can use after your regular workout, or you can purchase a low-EMF portable infrared sauna tent that takes up very little room once folded together. It’s an investment that can pay serious health dividends over time. Dr. Mercola

    • Try This Bodyweight Workout, No Equipment Needed

      By Dr. Mercola Exercise is one of the foundational pillars of developing and maintaining optimal health. Strength training is just one type of exercise that may be used to maintain muscle mass, strengthen muscles and, when done without rest between sets, can be part of a cardiovascular high-intensity interval training (HIIT) session. For some, strength training, or weight training as it is also called, may be out of your comfort zone. It may feel intimidating to walk into a weight room filled with men “pumping iron” or you may feel that strength training is only for those who want to “bulk up” and train for a Mr. Universe competition. However, there are strategies you can use that reduce your discomfort and result in strong, flexible muscle tone. Below is a training routine you can use at home to maintain and improve your muscle development, all without equipment. Bodyweight strength training has been popular for decades since it’s efficient, cheap and effective. Before I share this simple, yet effective, routine, let’s quickly discuss why you want to include this form of exercise in your weekly routine. Why Weight Work? Strength training has a number of benefits to your health and wellness. As you age, your body naturally loses muscle mass. The medical term for this condition is sarcopenia, and it is one of the most important causes of functional decline and loss of independence in older adults.1 Sarcopenia is defined as both a loss of muscle mass and functional strength. In one survey, seniors expressed greater fear of loss of independence than of death.2 Loss of independence is also costly. The Family Caregiver Alliance estimates that by 2050 the number needing paid long-term services will rise to 27 million.3 Lost income and benefits of individuals caring for family at home averages $303,000 over a lifetime. You may reduce your potential risk for loss of independence by using simple strength-training exercises to slow sarcopenia, improve muscle strength and improve your balance and coordination. Strength training may also help prevent the development of cancer. In a recent study, scientists found strength training, even without using weights, cuts your risk of cancer.4 The study showed that strength training at least twice a week reduces your risk of death from cancer by 31 percent.5 When combined with aerobic activities, the risk of dying from any cause is reduced by an impressive 30 percent.6 When strength training is combined with optimal levels of vitamin D, the benefits are even greater. In my previous article, “How Vitamin D Can Help Slash Your Risk of 7 Different Acute and Chronic Disease,” I shared how the combination of strength training and vitamin D could reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes and the deposition of visceral fat. Your waist-to-hip ratio, which is a numerical indicator of the amount of fat deposited in your abdominal cavity, is a far better measurement to determine your risk of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure than your body mass index. Research has demonstrated strength training improves cognitive performance and the gains were retained for 12 months after participants finished the study.7 A second study using only women found regular resistance exercises led to gains in upper and lower body strength and in cognitive performance.8 In yet another study, researchers found resistance training improved cognitive and functional plasticity in seniors who already had mild cognitive impairment.9 It is important to remember that it is never too late to start a strength-training program. Consult with your physician to ensure you don’t have any underlying medical conditions that may interfere with your program. Research has demonstrated that regular physical activity is healthy and safe even for frail older people, and it decreases the risk of developing metabolic disease, obesity, falls, cognitive impairment and cardiovascular disease.10 Bodyweight Workouts Are Effective There is a difference between training to add bulk or size to your muscles and training to add strength and endurance. The exercises you’ll find below will help you to add strength and endurance, and will also help you to develop a strong core and improve your overall balance and coordination. Some trainers argue that bodyweight exercises are even better than using free weights.11 The difference between building size and strength is not in what you use but in how you structure your workout. To build size your body requires your muscles are stressed with more weight and balanced with the right amount of repetitions. To build strength, you use less weight with more repetitions and sets. A repetition is the number of times you perform a movement and a set is a specific number of repetitions performed at the same time. As you move toward performing the exercises below, you’ll notice a recommendation for 10 repetitions in one set of exercises. Your bodyweight is perfect to build strength and endurance, no matter your current fitness ability or weight. Each of the exercises may be modified to make them easier as you begin and more difficult as you gain more strength. Using proper form is always important to reduce your risk of injury. You might think that you’ve been in your body since you were born and should know exactly how to do these exercises without getting injured. However, it’s important to pay attention to your form and the movements so you don’t experience an overuse injury. The addition of combining HIIT with strength training is an even greater asset in your fitness arsenal. You can learn more about how this combination provides unique benefits in my previous article, ”New Research Reveals Why High Intensity Training Is so Beneficial for Health — It May Even Help Prevent Cancer.” Time-Efficient, Flexible and Effective No-Equipment Workout The workout in this video at the beginning of this article can be done anytime, anywhere. The exercises demonstrated have the advantage of being flexible and convenient as you don’t need equipment and they can easily be added to your daily schedule. In fact, whether in a hotel room traveling, at home or at your office, you can perform these exercises and reap a lifetime of benefits. Begin by doing one set of 10 reps three times a week with 48 hours between each session. As the repetitions get easier to complete, consider increasing to 15 reps and then adding a second and third set as your strength increases. Each of these exercises can be modified to increase or decrease your challenge, based on your current fitness level and to meet your needs as you improve. Pushups: Your First Effective All-Around Bodyweight Exercise Pushups are a classic body weight exercise that are simple and effective. They must be done with proper form to reduce potential injury at your shoulder, wrist or lower back. Common mistakes may be corrected by paying attention to the position of your arms, elbows and shoulders and by activating your core muscles. It is important to stretch your wrists between sets by getting on your knees and hands with the backs of your hands on the floor and fingers pointing toward your toes, stretching muscles often contracted during a pushup. Even if you separate your sets throughout the day as I do, it is still important to stretch your wrists after each set. The same is true for the rest of the contracted muscles in your body. Tension in your muscles during pushups builds strength in your core, back and legs. However, when not released, it may also lead to injury. A simple fix is to do a bridge stretch over a Swiss ball after your final set.12 Your hands should be shoulder-width apart and slightly behind your shoulders, toward your feet. Fingers are facing forward. Your elbows bend to approximately a 45-degree angle with your fingers widely spaced for balance and to increase the work of your lower arms, accessing more strength to lower and raise your body. Keep your elbows close to your body as you move through the exercise to give you more leverage. Imagine squeezing something between your armpits and your body to keep your elbows aligned. Your elbows should stay above your wrists at the bottom of the movement, making a 45-degree angle at the elbows. If your elbows go past your wrists or flare to the outside, it increases your potential for experiencing an elbow overuse injury. Pushups begin using a standard position that may be modified as you need greater physical challenge. Begin on the floor, knees and hands shoulder-width apart and palms flat to the floor. Rise on your toes, elbows straight but not locked. Knees, hips, back and shoulders should be in a straight line. Hands remain palms to the floor with fingers pointing forward. Bend your elbows until your chest is an inch or so from the ground. Keep your head in a neutral position, looking no more than 6 inches in front of your body with your chin tucked. Straighten your elbows, pushing your body back into the start position without locking your elbows, all while keeping your knees, hips and back aligned and straight. Modifications to reduce your effort include doing pushups on your knees instead of on your toes. As your fitness level improves you can move to doing a standard pushup and later to putting your feet on a stable low rise box to do decline pushups with your head lower than your body. Eventually you may want to move to your toes on a chair. In both cases, ensure the object you use is stable and will not move during your exercise. Five More Actions Complete Your Bodyweight Workout These next five exercises round out a bodyweight workout that works your upper and lower body, as well as your core. • Triceps Dips Your triceps are the muscles that run down the backside of your upper arm and may jiggle when you raise your arm to wave. These exercises can be done on a stable chair, bench or on a set of stairs. While sitting on the chair or step, place your hands shoulder-width apart on a chair or step with your fingers pointing toward your legs. Slide your bottom off, keeping your legs straight and place your weight over the heel of your hand. Straighten your arms without locking your elbows to reduce strain on the elbow joints. Bend your elbows to lower your bottom until your elbow is at 90 degrees. Keep your back close to the chair and elbows in to your body as you raise and lower yourself. This is one repetition. Do not go past 90 degrees to reduce strain on the elbow joint. You can make the movement easier by bending your knees to 90 degrees and more difficult by raising your heels off the ground on a bench or chair. • Plank Ups This is a simple exercise that is highly effective and more tiring than you might think. Start out in a plank position, identical to the starting position of a pushup. Instead of raising and lowering your body by bending both elbows simultaneously, you’ll be shifting your weight first to your right arm while bending your elbow on your left arm and placing your left arm on the floor with your elbow directly under your shoulder. Moving your weight to your left arm, place your right arm with elbow bent on the floor, hand facing forward and elbow under your shoulder. Next shift your weight back to your right arm, straighten your left arm and push up on your left arm. Straighten your right arm with both hands directly under your shoulders. This up and down action is one repetition. • Bodyweight Squats This simple squat maneuver works your core, quadriceps, calf muscles and glutes. Done correctly your knees will not go over your toes as this places undue stress on your knee joints. Begin in a standing position, feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointing straight forward and shoulders relaxed. Start the squat by bending at your hips, extending your bottom back as if you were getting ready to sit in a chair. This protects your knee joints from excess stress. At first you may aim to get your knees to 90 degrees while sinking your weight into your heels and not over your toes. Use your arms for balance. Stay in the position for a second or two before rising. Use your legs and glutes to raise and lower your body, not momentum from doing the exercise quickly. • Walking Lunges These exercises help your balance, coordination, leg, glutes and core strength. Start in a standing position. Take one step forward, placing your foot slightly in front of your body without overextending. Sink down until your front knee is at a 90-degree angle without your knee crossing in front of your toes. Keep your weight balanced in the middle of the movement without shifting forward or back. Push forward with your back leg as you drive your weight through the heel of your forward foot, using your quadriceps and glutes to raise your body. Swing the back leg forward as if taking a step and repeat. This is one repetition. • Jump Squat This movement builds on a traditional squat, working your quadriceps muscles and glutes even harder. Start doing a regular bodyweight squat described above. However, instead of rising slowly you will push explosively through your quadriceps and jump off the ground. Start by lowering your hands as you jump up and returning your hands to a central position as you lower yourself into a squat. As these become easier, raise your hands above your head as you jump up. Dr. Mercola

    • The Standard American Diet and Its Effect on Athletic Performance

      By Dr. Mercola That your body needs real food to perform optimally should be common sense, yet many ignore this foundational aspect of health. Even professional athletes sometimes fail to grasp the link between their diet and athletic performance. In this interview, Olympic swimmer Arkady Vyatchanin discusses the effects of the standard American diet, colloquially referred to as SAD, on sports performance. Vyatchanin represented the Russian swim team at the Olympic Games in 2004, taking fourth place in the 100-meter medley relay, and 2008, taking bronze medals in 100 meter and 200-meter backstroke. In 2013, he announced he would no longer represent the Russian swim team. Instead of going to the World Championships, he participated in the U.S. Open that summer, and ended up with the second-fastest time in the world. Last year he took home silver and gold medals in the AT&T Winter National Championships for the 100-yard and 200-yard backstroke respectively. Therapeutic Use Exemptions Versus Natural Treatments In professional sports, there’s something called a therapeutic use exemption, which is part of the protocols created by the World Anti-Doping Agency. This exemption allows professional athletes to continue taking their medications while competing professionally. The problem with this exemption is that many of the medications taken are otherwise banned for healthy athletes. For example, asthma medication is not permitted for healthy athletes, as it may give them an unfair advantage. Since it opens up the airway, it allows for easier breathing. Interestingly enough, a disproportionate number of professional athletes apparently have exercise-induced asthma, and the therapeutic use exemption allows them to take otherwise banned asthma medication while competing. “When you’re swimming, you’re kind of losing your breath a little bit, so you’re breathing erratically and deeply,” Vyatchanin says. “In my mind, if people who don’t know the effect of fast swimming and fast-paced running or doing whatever exercise is losing their breath, then they might think, ‘Oh, I might have asthma. I better go talk to my doctor about it.’ The doctor will probably end up writing a prescription for medication. It’s kind of ridiculous … It’s kind of scary how many [athletes] are actually using this [medication]. Basically, I was trying to explain to a lot of people that it is possible to fight these conditions with natural remedies.” Standard American Diet Quickly Resulted in 25-Pound Weight Gain When Vyatchanin and his wife first came to the U.S. in 2011, they (as most immigrants) adopted the standard American approach to their diet. In Russia, they would cook their meals from scratch nearly every day. While there are many supermarkets selling processed food in Russia today, in the past there were very few, and most people would buy their food at the local fresh food market. Contrary to the U.S., whole food is less expensive than processed food in Russia, which certainly shapes people’s choices as well. Eating real food is a foundational key to optimizing your health. “Also, people have to understand that it is actually really satisfying to make food and then eat it, because it’s something that you made on your own. It’s delicious,” Vyatchanin says. Unfortunately, while it’s a simple enough concept, it’s rarely applied in the U.S., and our disease statistics reflect Americans’ preference for processed food. Vyatchanin also suffered the ramifications of his dietary switch. “After completing the first season here — from September of 2011 until August of 2012 — I noticed that, while being on a break, I started to gain a lot of weight. In a short few weeks, I gained 25 pounds or something like that. My wife and I also noticed the change in our cats, which we brought with us. The thing is they were eating the same brand of dry food in Russia. So, we started to research. Little by little, we came to realize that it’s all [about] our diet. It was quite a process. I’d say it took maybe a couple of years for us to [get] a full picture of what’s really going on and how the system works here. But we’re truly grateful to the information we found, especially on your website … We actually started visiting your site and reading about all this stuff and watching the interviews.” Fast Food and Professional Sports As noted by Vyatchanin, McDonald’s was an Olympic sponsor, and in addition to the local cuisine being served at the Olympic Village, there’s typically a McDonald’s fast food restaurant on the premises. The fact that many of the athletes would get their meals there says quite a bit about their naiveté about performance nutrition. The American team actually brings its own cooks, but Vyatchanin still questions the quality of their meals. “I’ve been to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. It’s a great facility. Great pool, great gym, great everything, but I’m not sure about the food. They have little charts there hanging up on every dish that is offered. Almost all of them say 'soy' listed as an ingredient. I’m wondering why you would put soy in the majority of the food.”   Indeed, unfermented soy products are best avoided, even if you’re not an elite athlete, as the health risks associated with soy far outweigh any benefit. For example, soy contains high levels of phytic acid, which inhibits assimilation of calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc. Trypsin inhibitors in soy interfere with protein digestion and may cause pancreatic disorders, while soy phytoestrogens disrupt endocrine function and promote breast cancer and thyroid dysfunction. Soy also increases your body’s requirement for vitamin D. Processing of soy protein also results in the formation of toxic lysinoalanine, carcinogenic nitrosamines and free glutamic acid, a potent neurotoxin. Vyatchanin is wise to be suspicious of soy-laden foods. Unfortunately, soy (just like sugar) is an extremely common ingredient in processed foods. Aside from not taking diet very seriously, Vyatchanin also notes American athletes by and large tend to dismiss holistic medicine — natural remedies such as herbs — massage, sauna and other natural treatments as a good way to improve athletic performance. As just one example, in Russia, it’s common practice to jump into a cold pool after sitting in the sauna. This is a form of thermogenesis, which has a number of beneficial effects, largely thanks to the fact that it improves mitochondrial function and induces greater amounts of brown and beige adipose tissue, thereby reducing your risk of diabetes and other chronic disease. “My father used to do that a lot,” Vyatchanin says, “and he would make me do it when I was a little kid. It’s really good for your body … I was born and raised in the far north. It was really an extreme place, very similar to Alaska … It’s right on the border of Siberia, at the Ural Mountains.” Cancer — A Diet-Driven Epidemic In 2014, Vyatchanin and his wife had their eyes opened by a documentary called “The Truth About Cancer,” particularly as it related to hospital nutrition. U.S. hospitals are notorious for serving junk food to ill patients, whereas in Russia great attention is given to hospital nutrition — especially cancer patients. “In Russia, they give [cancer patients] steamed fish. There’s no junk food. They give other much healthier options that are not offered here in America,” he says. It is my firm belief that a major contributor to the cancer epidemic in the U.S. is in fact our diet, as it is excessively high in processed sugars and exceedingly low in healthy fats. This is the topic of my latest book, “Fat for Fuel,” which was in part written to provide a solution to the cancer epidemic. Research shows having the metabolic flexibility to burn fat for fuel is crucial for mitochondrial health and disease prevention. It’s also a critical component if you’re struggling with excess weight. Most Americans are burning sugar as their primary fuel, as they eat a diet too high in sugars and too low in healthy fats. The key to becoming an efficient fat-burner is to reverse the ratios between these two nutrients. In other words, to regain the metabolic flexibility to burn fat, you need to significantly restrict net carbs and eat higher amounts of dietary fats. Cancer, as well as Alzheimer’s and many other chronic diseases, are actually metabolic diseases that are primarily caused by a high-sugar diet. Unfortunately, most dietitians and physicians still do not understand this, and continue telling patients — including diabetics — to eat a high-carb diet. They’re practicing with outdated, incorrect information, which is actually accelerating the death of most of their patients. At the same time, an enormous amount of money is spent treating diet-related health problems such as Type 2 diabetes and cancer. Low-Carb Benefits for Athletes Getting back to athletic performance, Jeff Volek, Ph.D., is a professor in the human science department at Ohio State University and author of “The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Performance” — a diet book geared specifically toward athletes. Volek has done pioneering work in the field of high-fat, low-carb diets, investigating its effects on human health and athletic performance. Results have proved quite positive, despite running counter to everything he was taught about diet and performance in school. As noted by Volek, humans evolved to primarily burn fat as fuel — not carbs — and yet that’s not how we’re feeding our bodies. “We’re running into a lot of metabolic problems because we’re constantly inhibiting our body’s ability to burn fuel that we evolved to burn,” he says. The most efficient way to train your body to use fat for fuel is to remove sugars and starches from your diet, and according to Volek, this is a beneficial move for everyone — including elite athletes. The dogma in sports nutrition for the last four decades has been that to maximize performance, athletes need to consume high amounts of (non-vegetable) carbs before, during and after exercise. However, in more recent years, the understanding of how low-carb diets can augment performance in certain athletes is starting to catch on. It has certainly gained a great deal of traction in the ultra-endurance world, where athletes are exercising continuously for several hours. As noted by Volek in a previous interview: “[Endurance athletes are] challenged from a fueling perspective, because if they’re eating carbs, they’re inhibiting their ability to burn fat optimally. They’re putting themselves in a situation where they’re increasingly dependent on more carbs. You can only store a limited amount of carbs in your body as glycogen, about 2,000 kilocalories, and if you’re exercising for more than a couple of hours, you’re burning through the majority of that stored carbohydrate. That’s when an athlete hits the wall. We know that’s associated with obvious decrements in performance. How do you avoid that? You can carb-load. That’s been the traditional recommendation — to pack even more carbs into your muscles … but that will only delay exercise fatigue by a half-hour or so. That doesn’t really solve the problem. It actually exacerbates the problem in some ways. The alternative is to train your body to burn more fat. If you’re burning fat and sparing carbohydrates, you don’t hit the wall. That’s one of the most commonly perceived benefits of a low-carb diet for athletes.” Athletes who adopt this strategy can become exceptionally good at burning fat. Even if they’re not eating during exercise, lean athletes have at least 20,000 to 30,000 kilocalories on their body in the form of adipose tissue that they can access during exercise. That’s more than enough to finish even a 100-mile race. So, from a fueling perspective, it makes sense that you’d want to burn fat rather than glucose. Ultra-endurance athletes who have switched to low-carb, high-fat diets are now winning races, and in some cases, setting new course records. They’re also experiencing other benefits, such as speedier recovery rates, improved metabolic health and leaner body composition. Many Athletes Now Vouch for Low-Carb, High-Fat Diet In the past few years, a number of athletic superstars have embraced the low-carb, high-fat diet, including NBA players LeBron James and Ray Allen,1 Ironman triathlete Nell Stephenson, pro cyclist Dave Zabriskie and ultra-marathoner Timothy Olson. Former Ironman triathlete and good friend of mine, Ben Greenfield, is said to have followed a ketogenic diet while training for the 2013 Ironman World Championships, reporting improved stamina, stable blood sugar, better sleep and less brain fog.2 Former Ironman triathlete Mark Sisson is another tremendously fit athlete who has reported improved athletic performance, body composition and energy levels after ditching carb-loading for a high-fat, low-carb Paleo diet. He subsequently went on to write the popular book, “The Primal Blueprint.” Even more interesting, he reports getting fitter on this diet while simultaneously exercising less. As I’ve discussed on many occasions, high-intensity interval training can cut your workout routine down from an hour to about 20 minutes, three times a week, without any reduction in efficacy. On the contrary, you can reap better fitness results by exercising this way, and that’s exactly what Sisson experienced as well. A consideration worth mentioning here is that not all fats are good for you. Most Americans consume harmful fats like processed vegetable oils, which will invariably worsen health. So, please be mindful of the fact that when we’re talking about eating a high-fat diet, we’re referring to natural, unprocessed fat found in real foods like seeds, nuts, butter, olives, avocado, raw cacao and coconut oil, just to name a few. How to Get Started For a quick and concise overview of the basics involved in a cyclical ketogenic diet, detailed in far greater depth in my book, “Fat for Fuel,” please watch this short video. Next, check out “A Beginner’s Guide to the Ketogenic Diet.” Now, if you are an athlete, keep in mind it will take at least four to six weeks for your body to enter into nutritional ketosis where you are burning fat efficiently. During this time, your body has not yet adapted to using fat as an energy source, which may impede your performance in upcoming athletic events. So, if you want to take advantage of the ketogenic diet, give your body time to adapt by planning ahead during the offseason. Dr. Mercola

    • Intense Exercise Might Aid Parkinson’s Disease

      By Dr. Mercola For newly diagnosed cases of Parkinson’s disease, new research has offered an important breakthrough that scientists say may dramatically slow progression. It may seem surprising to some, but the study indicates that intense treadmill exercise is recommended and safe. The operative word “intense” is key, because lower intensity exercise doesn’t have much of an impact, according to the randomized clinical trial published in JAMA Neurology.1 According to The New York Times (NYT): “As most of us know, Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder that involves problems with motor control. Symptoms like weakness, stiffness, loss of balance and falls can make exercise difficult and potentially hazardous.”2 Interestingly, the paragraph continues by stating that Parkinson’s is “currently incurable,” and easing symptoms “for a time” with drugs is the only arsenal most doctors draw from. The problem with the prescription drugs given to people with Parkinson’s disease is that they gradually become ineffective over time. That’s why researchers began searching for alternative treatment options. Symptoms, which worsen over time, have been described by some as debilitating, including unceasing tremors, a stooped posture and a shuffling gait; later symptoms may include impaired speech, changes in personality, depression and dementia. The Parkinson’s Foundation3 lists some sobering statistics regarding this condition: About 1 million people in the U.S. suffer from Parkinson's disease — more than the number of people with multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and Lou Gehrig's disease combined. More than 10 million worldwide are living with the disease. About 60,000 Americans are diagnosed annually — around 4 percent before the age of 50. Men are diagnosed with Parkinson’s about 1.5 times more often than women. Costs associated with the disease are estimated at $25 billion per year. Scientists reason that if individuals with the earliest stages could put the brakes on the way the disease typically advances — as well as delay the drug protocol — with the intense exercises the study recommends, the most severe effects might modify the “arc” of the disease’s progression. Exercise as a Treatment Option for Early Parkinson’s Disease Researchers from a number of universities and medical centers in Pennsylvania, Colorado and Chicago participated in the research, led by Margaret Schenkman from the physical therapy program at University of Colorado in Aurora, along with Charity G. Moore from the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, and Wendy M. Kohrt, from the Geriatric Research Education at the Veterans Affairs Eastern Clinical Center from the University of Colorado. Key questions the team addressed started with whether high- and moderate-intensity treadmill exercise would be safe for patients given a Parkinson’s diagnosis within the previous five years (aka “de novo” patients not yet on medication), whether or not patients could actually perform the exercises at the necessary “hypothesized adherence” three times per week and whether changes in motor symptoms would warrant further study. For the 128 participants involved in the study, aged 40 to 80 years old, 80 percent to 85 percent exercise intensities, as well as 60 percent to 65 percent intensities, were deemed safe and feasible. High-intensity treadmill exercises were considered “nonfutile” — having enough of a benefit to warrant further testing — so an efficacy trial was set up for high-intensity, but not for moderate-intensity exercise, the study authors explained. However, as the NYT noted, there were inconsistencies in studies on how such exercises as cycling (especially tandem biking), boxing, dancing and others benefited Parkinson’s patients, and there were also precedents: “Animal studies already had shown that exercise reduced symptoms and slowed physical decline in a rodent version of Parkinson’s. But rodents are not people … In addition, many of these earlier studies had used many different types and amounts of exercise, and none had systematically compared different varieties of exercise head-to-head.”4 ‘Treat Exercise As if It Were a Drug’ In drug trials, safety, effectiveness and other factors are tracked and weighed while at the same time ensuring outcomes can’t be skewed or manipulated, and that’s how researchers treated the different intensities of the treadmill exercises, as if they were different “doses” in a formal Phase 2 clinical trial. Phase 1 trials for drug research generally establish how safe drugs are through small-scale experiments. Larger groups of people are used in Phase 2 studies, looking at the safety of what’s being tested and whether it’s worth continuing with experimental protocols (nonfutile). Being a Phase 2 trial, the study involved both men and women who were not taking drugs for the condition, and none of them were exercising regularly. Using a standard numerical scale, the scientists tested the participants in three main areas: Aerobic capacity Maximum heart rates Disease severity Next, the entire group was split at random into three categories of activity: high-intensity exercise, moderate-intensity exercise or control, each lasting for a month and any injuries reported, after which the volunteers were asked to continue the activities they were given on their own, but with heart monitors: One group was asked to continue living just as they had with no changes (although the members were put on a waitlist for exercise training later). The next group began exercise protocols on a gentle treadmill walking for 30 minutes four times per week. Meanwhile, the scientists manipulated the machines’ speed and incline to keep individual heart rate between 60 percent and 65 percent of what had already been deemed their maximum. The last third of the participants were given the same amount of time for exercises but at a more strenuous incline and pace so their heart rates would stay between 80 percent and 85 percent of their maximum. Results of the Study’s Treadmill Exercises After a total of six months following the start of the study subjects’ exercise programs (including the delayed onset of the exercises), the disease status of each was checked and compared to their previous statistics. The NYT reported: “To no one’s surprise, the men and women who had continued with their previous lives showed some worsening. Their scores on the disease scale had declined on average by more than three points. Likewise those in the moderate exercise group showed declines of around two points, meaning that, by the study’s standards, the exercise had been ‘futile’ as a Parkinson’s treatment. But the group that had worked out intensely showed almost no decline in their disease scores, meaning their exercise had been 'nonfutile.' It had helped.”5 Along with the improved disease scores, the participants agreed that the exercise regimens had been tolerable, and in fact almost all of them in the group of 128 completed six months of exercises without injuring themselves and only a few complaints of sore muscles. Rather than being a test to see why intense exercise slowed the progression of newly diagnosed Parkinson’s disease while moderate exercises didn’t, it was designed more as a study in high-intensity doing a better job at the more beneficial bottom line — lowered disease progression, likely due to improved brain vascularity and neuronal blood supply. According to Daniel Corcos, professor of human movement sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago and one of the study leaders, scientists believe improved blood flow to the brain might help not just improve overall brain health, but slow deterioration. That hypothesis needs further testing, however. Corcos also thinks the next step is a Phase 3 study on the merits of intense treadmill exercises for people with new cases of Parkinson’s, especially since the Phase 2 results justify it. He and his research cohort have been preparing for such a study. He advises people with relatively new cases to talk to an athletic trainer about how to incorporate intense treadmill workouts, as they’re not likely to cause harm and may in fact be helpful.6 Causes, More Studies and Therapies In 2012, a University of Maryland study7,8 analyzed three types of exercise for patients with Parkinson’s disease: low-intensity treadmill exercise, high-intensity treadmill exercise and stretching and resistance exercise, reporting improved gait speed for the low-intensity exercise. Both high- and low-intensity exercises built up cardiovascular fitness, and as the scientists expected, Parkinson’s patients engaging in stretching and resistance exercises had increased muscle strength. A 12-year-long Swedish study9,10 involving around 43,400 people concluded that people who engage in six hours of moderate exercise per week reduce the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease by 43 percent. Those are two more examples of the way exercise can relieve Parkinson’s symptoms and may help prevent the disease altogether. But what causes Parkinson’s disease? While it’s known as an idiopathic disease, meaning there’s no one cause scientists can pin it on, there’s evidence that pesticides, even at low levels, may be culpable. Other toxins, including mercury in amalgam fillings (a known neurotoxin), may have a bigger impact on this disease (and others) than many people realize. That’s why eating organic foods as much as possible is so important; not doing so increases your exposure to pesticides. In addition, studies suggest that your gut microbiome, besides being inextricably intertwined with your overall health, may also influence your vulnerability to Parkinson’s. A study in Neurology11 contends that Parkinson’s may start in your gut and travel to your brain through your vagus nerve, the longest nerve in your body, which runs from your neck to your abdomen, distributing sensory and motor fibers, as well as influencing heart rate and digestion. A surgery known as vagotomy is a resection of the vagus nerve to reduce the amount of acid secretion, often undergone by people suffering from ulcers. In Sweden, researchers compared people who’d had the surgery with those who hadn’t. Those who had a truncal vagotomy, in which the trunk of the nerve is removed, as opposed to a selective vagotomy, had a 40 percent lower risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. Can Fasting Help With Parkinson’s? It may seem odd that going on a fast could have anything to do with helping to alleviate symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, but it’s connected to immune system function. As Valter Longo, director of the USC Longevity Institute and co-author of a study that explored the beneficial effects of fasting on aging and immune system health, observed, your white blood cell count drops with prolonged fasting, and when you eat again, your white blood cells, the primary disease fighters, return. Longo explains that when you fast, a “regenerative switch” is activated, which promotes stem cell-based regeneration of your hematopoietic system that’s involved in the production of blood. Fasting initiates the death of old, damaged immune cells and replaces them with new ones. He noted, “We could not predict that prolonged fasting would have such a remarkable effect in promoting stem cell-based regeneration of the hematopoietic system.” Medical Daily explains further: “Fasting forces the body to store sugars, fats and ketones, and to break down a significant amount of white blood cells. Ketones are produced when the body turns fat into energy or fuel, and are a major player in weight loss. Intermittent fasting allows the body to use fat as its primary source of energy, which is why many athletes use it to hit lower body-fat percentages for competitions. It can help speed up the metabolism and improve bowel movements by giving your digestive system a rest. Periods without food boost the metabolism to burn through calories more efficiently — in a way reminding the body how healthy digestion is done.”12 Strategies for Parkinson’s Prevention The studies showing that intense exercise may be a way to stave off or minimize some of the more debilitating aspects of Parkinson’s disease indicate that, once again, the beneficial effects of exercise on health shouldn’t be underestimated. There are many more studies listing other health conditions exercise remediates, as well as prevents. No matter how well you may be eating, exercise is crucial and ideally should combine strength training as well as core-strengthening exercises, stretching and high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, which is particularly helpful for aging muscles. One version, known as the Nitric Oxide Dump, can be completed in short, four-minute sequences. Regular daily nonexercise movement is also important. Other ways to help prevent Parkinson’s include: Adopting a ketogenic diet, which focuses on lowering your net carbohydrate intake and getting moderate amounts of good protein and high amounts of healthy fats. Molecular hydrogen,13 a potent and highly selective antioxidant supplement, consists of two atoms of hydrogen, the planet’s smallest molecule. It selectively targets damaging free radicals produced by radiation, such as the gamma rays, and can mitigate as much as 80 percent of the damage they cause. A randomized double-blind study showed that drinking molecular hydrogen water for 48 weeks significantly improved Parkinson’s disease symptoms, and research is ongoing to confirm the results.14 Optimizing your vitamin D. There’s a direct link between Parkinson’s disease as well as several other serious conditions and a deficiency of vitamin D, even in areas where there’s plenty of sun. It’s involved in the biochemical function of all your cells and tissues, so when you don't have enough, your entire body struggles to function optimally.  Eat whole, organic, unprocessed foods as much as you can, free from hydrogenated oils and other unhealthy fats and high-fructose corn syrup, and be informed regarding foods that are genetically engineered, known as GE foods. Eating as close to the earth as possible will help keep your body in balance and minimize the prevalence of disease. Remember that, possibly more than any other factor, diet is responsible for fueling your body with what it needs to stave off disease and function at its best. Dr. Mercola

    • What Causes Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)?

      By Dr. Mercola The combination of early year resolutions and thinking about shorts and bathing suit weather may be responsible for delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) as you boost your exercise program or start a new one. Research demonstrates exercise does more than tone your muscles and helps you fit into your clothes with greater ease. It also helps you build a neurological system and brain that resists shrinkage as you age, and improves your cognitive abilities.1 A long-term investment in regular exercise helps improve your mood and prevent depression.2 Exercise helps boost your metabolism, helps you to maintain your weight and prevent chronic illnesses, such as cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. However, while exercise has a significant number of benefits, those benefits are not permanent. When you stop exercising the benefits to your muscle strength and tone, neurological protection and metabolic boost slowly recede. While it is common to experience post-exercise muscle soreness after beginning a program when you have not exercised in a while, DOMS can occur even when you’ve been previously exercising. Knowing what it is, how to avoid it and how to speed up healing may discourage you from giving up your program completely when faced with muscle discomfort and stiffness. Post-Exercise Muscle Soreness Muscle stiffness may occur after starting a new exercise program, adding a new exercise to your current program or increasing the intensity and duration of your routine. This stiffness is often accompanied by discomfort, pain and sometimes, cramping. Stiffness associated with exercise is not usually a cause for concern and may be treated at home. As your muscles work harder it may cause microscopic damage to muscle fibers that result in DOMS. Any movement may result in discomfort, but jogging, squats, pushups and weightlifting are more commonly associated with the condition.3 Most people who develop DOMS don’t seek medical care and assume occasional soreness is the cost of strengthening and toning muscles. However, with planning and practice you may reduce the number of occurrences and severity of the condition. Interestingly, the sensation of discomfort occurs more frequently after new eccentric physical activity.4 When your muscles move through an exercise, there is eccentric and concentric movements. During a concentric movement the load being lifted is less than the maximum. The contraction shortens the muscle, such as when you raise a weight during a bicep curl.5 Eccentric muscle contraction happens while the muscle lengthens. In other words, as your muscle is lengthening it is also activating. During eccentric activity strengthening is greatest, the motion is physiologically common and DOMS is selectively associated with eccentric motion.6 Think of the same bicep curl, when the muscle is at once shortening and contracting. As your arm is extending, the muscle is lengthening yet is still activated or contracted to control the extension. This is eccentric motion. Exercise-Related Muscle Tears Related to DOMS During eccentric motion, tiny muscle tears occur as the force is distributed over a smaller cross-sectional area of muscle than concentric movement. This increased tension may be the cause behind the structural disruption in the muscle fibers or connective tissue, muscle tears and subsequent pain and soreness.7 The pain and discomfort often occurs one to two days after your workout and is sometimes described as “muscle fever.”8 A common misconception about DOMS is that it’s triggered by a buildup of lactic acid in the muscle after a strenuous workout.9 Lactic acid is an organic compound that builds up during anaerobic activity, when there isn’t enough oxygen delivered to the muscle to break down glucose and glycogen for energy.10 The buildup may trigger a temporary burning sensation in the muscle groups being used, and if enough builds it may trigger nausea and vomiting. However, it is not responsible for DOMS. Sensation of pain is transmitted over myelinated fibers that terminate in free nerve endings distributed in the connective tissue between muscle fibers.11 Larger group III fibers are believed to carry sharp, localized pain, while dull, diffuse pain associated with DOMS is likely carried over group IV sensory neurons. These fibers respond to a variety of stimuli, including chemical, thermal and mechanical, and are likely triggered by the chemical irritants released when microtears in the muscle occur. A higher number of repetitions is commonly associated with the development of DOMS, so you may be able to prevent a severe case by starting a new exercise slowly with lower weight and a low number of repetitions before building to your goal level. Other than local pain or discomfort, other symptoms that are related to DOMS include: Swelling and tenderness to the touch of the affected area Stiffness of the joint with a reduction in range of motion Temporary reduction in strength of the affected muscle and joint An elevation of creatinine kinase (CK) in the blood indicating muscle damage In rare cases of severe injury, elevated CK may place your kidneys at risk Sprains and Strains Create Similar Symptoms A strain happens when muscle fibers are stretched or torn, while a sprain is when ligaments are torn, stretched or twisted.12 Common areas affected by strains are your lower back and legs, while sprains are common in your knees, ankles, wrists and thumbs. Symptoms of strains and sprains are similar to those of DOMS, including pain, swelling and tenderness. Additional symptoms include bruising and redness. Other medical conditions can also create muscle soreness that is unrelated to exercise or injury, including fibromyalgia, polymyalgia rheumatica, infections, medication side effects and lack of physical activity.13 DOMS causes only temporary pain and discomfort. You may experience voluntary reduced performance from the soreness and reduced muscle capacity, but there is no evidence to suggest that it may lead to permanent loss of strength or continued discomfort. The injured muscle usually completely regenerates within three weeks.14 However, the symptoms often resolve well before. Imaging studies have found ultrasounds are not sensitive enough to detect DOMS in cross-sectional muscle areas, but ultrasounds are able to detect damage from sprains and strains, indicating the damage from DOMS is significantly less than that incurred during a sprain or muscle strain.15 Muscle edema from DOMS is evident on more sensitive imaging studies, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) but these are not a necessary diagnostic tool. Researchers have found the abnormalities related to DOMS found on MRI are evident for three weeks after you no longer experience symptoms. Recovery Happens in Baby Steps Although you may have suffered microtears that triggered DOMS in one exercise session, recovery doesn’t happen nearly as quickly. The condition doesn’t usually require medical attention, however. You can help your body heal at home using a few simple strategies. However, if your pain is debilitating, if your limb becomes heavy and weak or your urine becomes dark despite drinking adequate amounts of water, then seeking medical attention is advisable.16 Often you’ll find the symptoms improver as you become more active, which may tempt you to return to your previous level of activity and workouts. However, your muscles will recover far quicker if you do a lighter workout in the days following. Continue this lighter workout schedule for several days until your muscle stiffness and pain are nearly gone within 24 hours of your last workout. Trying to “push past the pain” and do a difficult workout may make the situation worse. While there are ways to help reduce the immediate pain, it is important to remember that a reduction in pain does not equal muscle repair and recovery. Ice packs, light massage and acupressure may help relieve discomfort. As your pain subsides with these measures, do not be tempted to attack your next workout believing you’ve healed or you may create a bigger problem. Although it is unlikely you’ll be able to avoid soreness altogether, it is important to note that greater pain doesn’t equal greater gains. In fact, pain is often an indication it’s time to slow down or back off a bit until your body is fully recovered.17 Remember that pain that starts during your workout signals there is a problem with the exercise, such as poor form or a sprain or strain. Your workout should stop immediately before further muscle or joint damage occurs. There are two valuable modalities that I regularly use that virtually eliminate DOMS and that is PEMF (pulsed electro magnetic field therapy) and PBM (photobiomodulation). I use about 20 minutes of near infrared and red PBM that reduces DOMS by over 80 percent and PEMF gets rid of the rest. I will discuss these in more detail in a later article as a detailed discussion is beyond the scope of this article. Benefits of a Foam Roller A foam roller implements soft tissue mobilization that can be regularly used to address pain and stiffness or as a pre-workout warmup to increase blood flow to the muscles you intend to work. Poor flexibility and mobility may impair your range of motion and movement, which may lead to DOMS as you overexert to achieve your workout goals. A foam roller benefits general fitness and addresses common pain. They are inexpensive, therapeutic tools that can: Release trigger points and tight muscles, tendons and ligaments Increase blood flow through your skin, fascia and muscles, thereby improving tissue quality and cellular function Engage core muscles and build strength Increase range of motion in your spine Improve posture by strengthening your core Warm up With a Foam Roller Epoch Times has published a four-part series on foam rolling warmup exercises. You can find an infographic showing the basic moves for a lower leg warmup18 in their November 26, 2017, post. Below is a summary of the suggested moves. In the video above, Jill Rodriguez also demonstrates some of these foam rolling techniques, along with a few others. • Foot roll: Sit on the floor with knees bent and your feet on the roller. Prop yourself up for balance by leaning back on your arms. Roll the soles of your feet from heel to toes. • Shin roll: Position yourself on all fours. Lift your right leg, placing the roller beneath your shin. Support yourself on both hands and one knee while rolling your right shin, from your knee down to your ankle. Repeat on the left leg. • Calf roll: Start by sitting on the floor with your knees bent to your chest. Extend your right leg and place the foam roller under your right calf. Roll the entire area from your Achilles tendon to the back of your knee by supporting yourself on both hands and left foot while lifting your buttocks off the floor. Rotate your hip inward and outward to reach the inner and outer areas of your calves. Remaining stationary, you can also rotate your calf from side to side. Alternatively, you can keep both legs outstretched on the roller, with one foot crossed over the other. This will allow you to exert more pressure. Repeat on the left leg. • Outer leg roll: Sit on the floor and place the foam roller under your knees. Bend your left leg, keeping your right leg extended. Support yourself on your arms and left leg, and lift your buttocks off the floor to roll your extended leg across the roller. Rotate your leg outward to reach the outer side of your leg. Nutritional Factors That Can Help Prevent and Heal DOMS Microscopic tears in your muscle release chemical irritants that may trigger pain receptors. Several nutritional factors have demonstrated usefulness in the prevention and healing of DOMS. Ginger Ginger has a long medicinal history of use to treat digestive upset, nausea, improve cognitive function and as a natural anti-inflammatory pain reliever. Both raw and heat-treated ginger may reduce muscle pain by as much as 24 percent.19 Cherries Cherries have proven anti-inflammatory effects and can help reduce pain and discomfort associated with arthritis and gout. They may also be useful for general muscle soreness. One study demonstrated tart cherry juice significantly reduced post-exertion pain in long-distance runners.20 Astaxanthin Astaxanthin, a naturally occurring, powerful antioxidant, boasts a wide variety of health benefits, including decreasing DOMS and speeding recovery.21 Curcumin This pigment gives the spice turmeric a vibrant yellow color and is an effective anti-inflammatory agent, assisting in relieving pain, increasing mobility and reducing inflammation.22 Omega-3 fat Animal-based omega-3 fat is highly anti-inflammatory and beneficial for your heart. The best way to get these from your diet is through wild-caught Alaskan salmon or smaller fish, in which environmental toxins are not highly accumulated, such as herring, mackerel or anchovies. When faced with immediate DOMS, try krill oil supplementation. Arnica This homeopathic remedy has been shown to reduce muscle soreness in marathon runners but did not have an effect on cell damage.23 Sulfur/MSM MSM, which is 34 percent sulfur, is known for joint health benefits, improving metabolism and reducing inflammation. It also appears to improve cell wall permeability, so it can help deliver other active ingredients. Sulfur plays a critical role in detoxification, and is the primary component your body uses to manufacture the most important native antioxidant, glutathione. Carnosine This antioxidant consists of the amino acids beta-alanine and histidine. It helps reduce muscle soreness by buffering acids in muscle tissue and reducing local inflammation. Most studies find that if you want to increase athletic performance with carnosine, your best bet is to take beta-alanine alone, since it appears to be the rate-limiting amino acid in the formation of carnosine. As your muscles accumulate hydrogen ions, pH falls, making them more acidic. The theory is that by improving your carnosine levels, you can counteract the detrimental effect of these hydrogen ions, thereby enabling you to sustain high-intensity muscle contractions for longer periods of time without damage. Dr. Mercola

    • Move More

      30 Tips in 30 Days Designed to Help You Take Control of Your Health This article is part of the 30 Day Resolution Guide series. Each day in January a new tip was added to help you take control of your health. For a complete list of the tips click HERE By Dr. Mercola Compelling research shows that the more time you spend sitting, the shorter and less healthy your life will tend to be, thanks to the negative impacts on your cardiovascular and metabolic function. Even the World Health Organization lists inactivity as the fourth biggest killer of adults worldwide, responsible for 9 percent of premature deaths.1 For example, one 2012 meta-analysis2 found those who sat the longest on a daily basis were twice as likely to have diabetes or heart disease, compared to those who sat the least. Importantly, findings reveal that prolonged sitting is an independent risk factor for poor health and early death, meaning these risks apply even if you’re fit and maintain a regular workout schedule. For example, one study3 found that six hours of uninterrupted sitting effectively counteracted the positive health benefits of a whole hour of exercise. The answer is clear: To achieve and maintain optimal health, a weekly workout regimen is not enough. You also need to move more throughout each day. In other words, non-exercise movement, sometimes referred to as “nutritional movement,” is just as important, if not more, than working out a couple of times a week. If you’re pressed for time, this is actually great news, as there are countless ways to get more movement into your day that don’t require you to set aside hours to exercise. How Much Movement Does Your Body Need? According to many experts, the key is to avoid sitting for more than 50 minutes out of each hour. Ideally, you’d want to sit for a maximum of about three hours a day. This rule of thumb comes from research looking at life in agrarian environments, which found that rural villagers sit, on average, for about three hours a day. If you’re like most, this means you may need to device ways to avoid your chair for several hours each day. Sound impossible? It’s not. But you need to be patient. A stand-up desk is an excellent workaround for many office workers, but if you’re unused to standing up for extended periods, you may need to work your way into it. Start by standing for 10 minutes every hour or so, and slowly increase the time you spend standing while working. I personally strive to sit less than an hour a day and usually succeed. This has had the remarkable effect of eliminating persisting back pain that I've struggled with for many years, despite treatments from a dozen different clinicians. The reason sitting is so detrimental to health has to do with the fact that lack of muscle contraction decreases blood flow through your body, thereby reducing the efficiency of biological processes. One study4,5 found that a single hour of sitting impaired blood flow to the main leg artery by as much as 50 percent. On the upside, simply taking a five-minute walk for every hour spent sitting was found to ameliorate the heart disease risks associated with chronic sitting. Other research shows that within 90 seconds of standing up after sitting for a long period of time, the muscular and cellular systems that process blood sugar, triglycerides and cholesterol are activated. In other words, as soon as you stand up, a series of molecular mechanisms are triggered that beneficially impact the cellular functioning of your muscles and push fuel into your cells. All of these molecular effects are activated by the simple act of bearing weight on your legs. In a nutshell, standing rather than sitting appears to be a foundational factor for optimal biological functioning. Biological anthropologists have also noted that evidence from fossil records show trading our nomadic hunter-gatherer lifestyle for a more settled agrarian one resulted in less dense bone structure.6 This makes sense, considering weight-bearing exercise is one of the most effective ways to strengthen your bones and avoid osteoporosis.  Sitting Accelerates the Aging Process and Is Detrimental to Cognition Joan Vernikos,7 Ph.D., former director of NASA's Life Sciences Division and author of “Sitting Kills, Moving Heals,” is an expert on the hazards of sitting. In my interview with her, she revealed that sitting prevents your body from interacting with and exerting itself against gravity. While not nearly as severe as the antigravity experienced by astronauts, uninterrupted sitting mimics a microgravity situation, which accelerates the aging process. Indeed, in one recent study,8 women who sat the longest on a daily basis were found to be, on average, eight years older, biologically speaking, than those who were less sedentary. Other research has shown that for every hour you sit, your life expectancy decreases by two hours. For comparison, smoking a cigarette cuts your life expectancy by 11 minutes.9 Research10 published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine also found that sitting for more than three hours a day causes 3.8 percent of all-cause deaths in the 54 countries surveyed. Physical movements, such as standing up or bending down, increase the force of gravity on your body, which counteracts the cellular degeneration that occurs when sitting. In recent years, many other researchers and health experts have also started emphasizing the importance of nutritional movement such as standing and walking. As noted by Katy Bowman,11 scientist and author of “Move Your DNA: Restore Your Health Through Natural Movement:” “Walking is a superfood. It’s the defining movement of a human. It’s a lot easier to get movement than it is to get exercise. Actively sedentary is a new category of people who are fit for one hour but sitting around the rest of the day. You can’t offset 10 hours of stillness with one hour of exercise.” In addition to shutting down molecular processes in your muscles and tissues, chronic sitting also takes a toll on your brain. According to Dan Pardi, a researcher with the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University and the departments of neurology and endocrinology at Leiden University in the Netherlands, muscle activity acts as a stimulus to keep your brain alert. When you sit and stop using your muscles, your brain may follow suit. Productivity studies seem to confirm this link. In one, a call center increased sales by $40 million over a six-month period after employees switched to standing workstations — and this was with standing for only 1.5 hours a day, not all day.12 A study published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sports also revealed that in first grade boys, lower levels of physical activity and longer sitting time were linked to poorer reading skills.13 Make Walking a Part of Your Daily Routine I believe the combination of high-intensity training, non-exercise activities like walking and avoiding sitting whenever possible is the key to optimal fitness and enjoying a healthy, pain-free life. I recommend walking in addition to your regular fitness regimen, not as a replacement for it, but if you're currently doing nothing in terms of a fitness regimen, walking is certainly a great place to start.  Walking may be particularly beneficial for Type 2 diabetics. Recent research14 shows Type 2 diabetics who sit all day (rising only for bathroom breaks) have much riskier blood fat profiles than those who get up and move for three minutes every 30 minutes. Lead author Megan Grace, Ph.D., and senior research officer at Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute in Melbourne, told Reuters:15 "Our study showed that breaks which include either simple resistance exercise or light walking were generally equally beneficial in reducing blood lipids. Our current findings reinforce the message that avoiding prolonged periods of sitting, and finding ways to increase activity across the day, is beneficial for health. In line with the recent American Diabetes Association Position Statement, we recommend interrupting sitting every 30 minutes with a few minutes of light intensity activity, in addition to regularly taking part in a structured exercise program … Stand up, sit less and move more — particularly after meals." Walking Is Good Medicine for All  The elderly and those struggling with chronic disease that prevents them from engaging in more strenuous fitness regimens would also do well to consider walking more. While often underestimated, studies show you can reap significant health benefits from it. For example: Walking 2 miles a day or more can cut your chances of hospitalization from a severe episode of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease by about half16,17 Walking has also been shown to reduce the risk of stroke in men over 60. Walking for one to two hours a day cut a man’s stroke risk by as much as one-third, and it didn’t matter how brisk the pace was. Taking a three-hour walk each day slashed the risk by two-thirds18 Twenty to 25 minutes of walking per day may add anywhere from three to seven years to your life span19 As little as two hours of walking per week may also reduce mortality risk in older adults, compared to inactivity. Meeting or exceeding the activity guidelines of 2.5 hours of moderate activity per week in the form of walking lowered all-cause mortality by 20 percent20 Research published in 2012 found brisk walking improved life expectancy even in those who are overweight.21 Smokers may also increase their life span by nearly four years by taking regular walks22 The Nitric Oxide 'Dump' — A Revolutionary Workout Strategy Fitness science is getting more and more focused on efficiency — gone are the days when fitness was thought to require several hours of running each week. Research reveals that by maximizing efficiency you can dramatically reduce the amount of time needed to stay fit and healthy. The Nitric Oxide Dump is one such revolutionary exercise. This four-minute workout, done three times a day, capitalizes on your body’s release of nitric oxide, which plays an important role in muscle development and growth. It's hard to believe, but in those few minutes, you can get the same benefits as if you'd worked out in the gym for an hour. The exercise was developed by Dr. Zach Bush, whose triple-board certification includes expertise in internal medicine, endocrinology and metabolism. According to Bush, the workout is anaerobically efficient and the more you do it, the better it works. This short series of exercises could be called a new version of high-intensity interval training. Above, I demonstrate a slightly modified version of this exercise. Start with three sets of 10 repetitions, incrementally increasing your reps until you’re doing 20 reps for each exercise. At the end, you'll have completed 240 movements. Here's an important stipulation, however: As you exercise, don't breathe through your mouth. Keep your mouth closed and breathe only through your nose as this helps keep your carbon dioxide levels in the healthy range. What This Four-Minute Workout Can Do for You While intended to be done about three times a day, you'll want to wait for at least two hours in between sessions, because that's how long it takes for nitric oxide to synthesize in your body for subsequent release and optimal benefit. Nitric oxide is a soluble gas and free radical stored in the lining or endothelium of your blood vessels that can catalyze and promote health. For example, nitric oxide: Dilates your blood vessels, which can help lower your blood pressure Improves immune function Thins your blood and decreases its viscosity, which helps lower your risk of platelet aggregation that can result in a heart attack or stroke, two common causes of death Is a powerful anabolic stimulus that can help you increase lean body mass, which in turn triggers your body to burn more fat. Nitric oxide feeds your muscles, and the reason your muscles start to ache when exercising is because you’re running out of oxygen. Nitric oxide is released to make up for this lack. Once it moves through your bloodstream, your blood vessels dilate to deliver more oxygen and nutrients, resulting in muscle growth Bush explains the revolutionary theory behind the Nitric Oxide Dump as follows:23 "Our blood vessels actually only store about 90 seconds' worth of nitric oxide before they need to manufacture more, so working each major muscle group out for 90 seconds gives you the most efficient workout to tone and build muscles.The body has the ability to regenerate nitric oxide every couple of hours, giving you the opportunity to release it multiple times a day. What that means is the most effective way to increase your muscle function is to work out very briefly every few hours." Standing, Walking and High-Intensity Exercise — An Excellent Combo for Health The take-home message is that while regular workouts are important for optimal health, they cannot sufficiently compensate for the damage incurred if you’re still sitting for hours on end. So, perhaps the most important strategy to protect your health is simply avoid sitting as much as possible. It is at that point that all the extra exercise you do will really start to pay off. If you’re currently sedentary, following this step-by-step progression into greater amounts of physical activity will likely do wonders for your health and well-being: Start by reducing your sitting to three hours or less per day. A stand-up desk can help you achieve this goal. For additional tips and tricks to get more movement into your workday, see “Tips for Staying Active in the Office.” Remember, you likely need to work your way into increasingly longer periods of standing, so be patient with yourself. Don’t give up and abandon the practice altogether just because you cannot stand for eight hours straight Add more walking into your day, with the ultimate aim of walking 10,000 to 15,000 steps daily. A fitness tracker can be helpful to measure your progress Incorporate the Nitric Oxide Dump into your daily routine. It’s one of the best ways to start toning your body's systems, and it's free. Ideal times could be first thing in the morning and again in the evening, after work. Depending on your situation, you might be able to do a third set during your lunch hour. It doesn’t really matter what you’re wearing, as long as your clothing allows you to move freely Once you’re walking and doing the Nitric Oxide Dump regularly and you feel ready to do more, devise a well-rounded fitness routine that incorporates other types of exercises. To get you started, see my free online Peak Fitness Plan If you’re elderly, infirm or have severe mobility challenges due to some other condition, give some thought to how you can move about more. Do what you can each day. Something is always better than nothing. For guidance, please see the following articles: “Exercises for Those With Limited Mobility,” “Basic Exercise Guide for Seniors and the Infirm,” and “Easy Strength Training Moves for Seniors.” And, for a shot of inspiration, proving it’s never too late to start, be sure to check out “Superstar Seniors Exercise Well Into Their Golden Years.” Tip #25Express Gratitude Tip #27Properly Filter Your Water Dr. Mercola

    • Nonsurgical Relief for Bunions

      By Dr. Mercola Healthy feet provide stability to your entire body, giving you the freedom to stand, walk, run and jump. If you suffer from bunions, however, you may experience less freedom of movement due to the inflammation and pain commonly associated with them. Bunions are an inherited condition in which your metatarsal bones are displaced, thereby producing a bony protuberance, or unsightly "bump," on the outside of your big toe joint. As the joint enlarges, your big toe crowds inward toward your smaller toes, causing further discomfort and misalignment. I know about bunions personally because I have one on my left foot that had, at one time, misaligned my big toe by about 30 degrees. Ideally, your big toe joint should be straight, but the average angle measure for most people is about 10 to 15 degrees. Anything beyond 20 degrees is considered to be a bunion and needs your attention.1 In the video above, I demonstrate some foot stretches that have been helpful in addressing my bunion. While pain medications, cortisone shots and surgery are among the standard treatment options, I suggest you consider natural alternatives to gain relief and prevent further degeneration of your big toe joint. How Common Is Foot Pain? A 2014 survey by the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA), which polled 1,000 U.S. adults aged 18 and older, revealed that 83 percent of American adults experience foot pain on a regular basis. Furthermore, 51 percent of survey respondents claimed their activities were restricted by foot pain. The survey authors said:2 "While in theory U.S. adults understand the importance of foot health, they don't think about it often, and don't care for their feet as regularly as teeth, eyes or some other body parts. The majority trim their toenails, but after that, less than half adhere to other foot-care regimens. Women are more likely to care for their feet than men." Clearly, your feet need special care. One of the easiest ways to care for them is often the most overlooked: simply taking off your shoes and socks on a regular basis and allowing your feet to breathe. Along those lines, you may be interested to know that bunions are virtually nonexistent among barefoot populations around the world. Part of the basis for this may be genetics, but a significant factor is the type of footwear you choose and the amount of time you smother your feet inside socks and shoes, particularly shoes that are ill-fitting. Researchers involved with the APMA study stated:3 "When it comes to shoes, high heels are the No. 1 culprit of foot pain. Most women who own heels say these shoes hurt their feet, but that doesn't stop them from buying them — the average woman who owns high heels owns nine pairs! And they are pretty liberal when it comes to height — almost half say they will wear 3-inch heels or higher." While you may not be able to go barefoot all the time, you may certainly consider doing so more often around your home and in your yard, as well as other safe areas covered with grass or sand. One of the benefits of living in Florida is my ability to go barefoot at home and on the beach, where I spend a few hours a day walking. Common Symptoms of Bunions Beyond the noticeable unsightly bump on the side of your big toe joint, you can recognize a bunion according to their common symptoms: Redness, tenderness and pain around your big toe joint Reduced mobility of your big toe, smaller toes and/or foot Joint stiffness in your big toe Deformity of your smaller toes and whole foot, caused by the deviation of the big toe Corns or calluses on the side of your foot or on other toes due to improper weight distribution resulting from the bunion While bunions are most commonly associated with the big toe, smaller bunions, called a bunionette or tailor's bunion, can form at the base of your little toe. Much of the inflammation you experience with bunions is due to bursitis. Bursitis occurs when the small fluid-filled sac, or bursa, which is adjacent to your toe joint, becomes inflamed. As the condition progresses, and if arthritis develops, you may suffer from a deeper and more intense joint pain and stiffness. Bunion symptoms are not only painful and bothersome, but they also can restrict your lifestyle. Most especially the presence of bunions will affect the type of footwear you may feel comfortable wearing, which can have both emotional and social implications. To accommodate your bunion, your shoes will definitely need a flexible sole and most likely a wider toe box. Without treatment and care, your bunion could potentially enlarge to such a degree that you will have trouble finding suitable shoes to accommodate the deformity. In generations past, some bunion suffers were known to cut away a portion of their work boots to ease the pain. Thankfully, we have better treatment options available today! What Causes Bunions? Some of the factors promoting the development of bunions include:4 Genetics: After analyzing data from the Framingham foot study, researchers concluded bunions and lesser toe deformities are often inherited, particularly in white men and women of European descent5 Faulty foot structures: Having abnormal bone structures, excessively flexible ligaments or flat feet can cause bunions; feet that overpronate (roll inward more than normal) have also been indicated for bunions6 Shoes: Shoes that are too narrow or fit poorly create an environment for the development of foot pain, including bunions; wearing high heels for prolonged periods contributes to the high incidence of bunions among women "For many people, it may simply be a matter of wearing properly fitting shoes," says doctor of podiatric medicine Dina Stock, who is affiliated with Cleveland Clinic's Solon Family Health Center. "Be sure to choose low-heeled, comfortable shoes that provide plenty of space for your toes and the widest part of your foot."7 Three Strategies to Quickly Address Bunion Pain If you suffer from daily bunion pain, below are three strategies you can apply today to find relief:8 1. Relieve pressure: A quick method for pain relief is to reduce the pressure over your bunion. Going barefoot as often as you can is one way, while choosing shoes with plenty of space in the toe box is another. Also, when wearing your standard footwear, you can protect your bunion by applying a piece of moleskin or a gel-filled pad to cushion it. Particularly if you are a runner dealing with a bunion or other foot pain, you will want to take special care in selecting your shoes. I recommend you have your feet measured by a professional who can fit you with the right size shoe. Part of the exam often involves analyzing video of you running on a treadmill. You might be surprised to learn your real shoe size may not be the one you've been wearing most of your life. Also, your feet may vary in size and width, and these differences will need to be accounted for to ensure maximum comfort. You won't regret getting a professional opinion, especially for shoes you will wear every day. 2. Increase circulation: Chiropractic treatment, foot massage, ultrasound and whirlpools can all increase the circulation to the affected area, which will help soothe painful bunions and promote healing. 3. Reduce inflammation: Applying ice packs and soaking your feet in Epsom salt can help soothe inflamed feet. Rather than take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) relievers, such as Aleve or ibuprofen, I recommend you try curcumin to help reduce your body's inflammatory response related to your bunion pain. As you may know, there is an increased risk of heart attacks associated with NSAIDs, which is one of the reasons I suggest you avoid them. I also discourage cortisone injections mainly because they are painful — the injection is made directly into an already inflamed joint — and they often do not last. Assuming you make no other changes, it's only a matter of time before bunion inflammation builds up again, making cortisone shots not worth your time or added discomfort. Steps You Can Take to Improve Your Foot Health and Bunions As with any medical condition, anything you can do preventatively is better and more effective than reactionary approaches. That said, if you do not regularly perform exercises or stretches focused on your feet, you may be putting yourself at risk for developing a new bunion or for having continued problems with an existing one. Two steps you can take now to help improve your foot health are: 1. Improve flexibility: Stretches that bring more flexibility to your whole foot, including the ones noted below may potentially help you prevent bunions from developing and will certainly help you cope with an existing one. The following stretches and illustrations were obtained from Harvard Medical School:9,10 Limber up: Sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor. Lift your right leg so your foot is off the floor and use your big toe to make circles in the air, moving in a clockwise direction, for 15 to 20 rotations. Repeat in a counterclockwise direction, then change feet. Bottom of foot: Stand with your feet together. Step back with your right foot and leg and raise your heel as you press your toes against the ground. You will feel a gentle stretch in the muscles on the bottom of your foot. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, and then repeat with your other foot. Heel exercises: Secure a resistance band around the leg of a heavy piece of furniture, such as a desk or table. Sit in a chair directly opposite the piece of furniture and slip your foot into the other end of the band. Loop the band around your forefoot below your toes. Perform a series of 10 to 15 stretches by pulling your upper foot toward your body while flexing at the ankle. Hold the stretch for several seconds, then relax and repeat. Change feet and repeat the sequence. 2. Strengthen your muscles: The strength of the muscles in your foot affect proper form and range of motion, factors which influence your risk of injury and bunions. In the video below, Daniel Fitzpatrick of Alternative Foot Solutions in Sydney reviews two daily exercises — heel raises and toe crunches — that will help you strengthen the muscles around your bunion. The goal is to secure your big toe within the strength of the whole foot to prevent further displacement, while attempting to correct its misalignment. Additional Suggestions for Dealing With Bunions Yoga poses such as downward-facing dog and plank poses are effective for stretching and strengthening the muscles of your feet. Also, you can apply a foam roller or roll a tennis ball across the bottom of your foot to soothe aching foot muscles and promote flexibility. Grasping and picking up items such as marbles or small towels with your toes is a great way to flex your feet and promote toe dexterity. Whole-body vibration exercise using a vibrating platform, such as a Power Plate, is an excellent addition to your fitness program. It can radically boost the effectiveness of virtually any exercise you do, including those focused on your feet. Vibration exercise is particularly useful for improving balance and circulation, areas that are directly linked to foot health. Wearing a night splint or an orthotic shoe with a toe separator are two other options that may help decrease your bunion pain and improve your flexibility. As your toe is held in the correct position and the muscles become more flexible, the long bones in your foot should be better able to retain their proper alignment. A three-month study11 involving 30 adult females found that an orthotic shoe with a toe separator was more effective for pain relief than a night splint. The study authors noted: "[T]he insole with toe separator significantly decreased the pain intensity … and was a good option for pain reduction." Unfortunately, neither solution proved to be effective for improving the misalignment of the big toe, but then again, the study lasted just three months. In my opinion, that is too short of a timeframe in which to expect structural changes related to a condition that has taken years to develop. Curcumin Can Help to Naturally Reduce Inflammation As mentioned above, curcumin, the active ingredient in the spice turmeric, is what I recommend for bunion and other foot pain. In India, turmeric is often referred to as "the spice of life" and it may very well be one of the most potent anti-inflammatories nature has to offer. As mentioned above, curcumin is much easier on your body than NSAID pain relievers. To date curcumin has been investigated for its potential role in improving Alzheimer's disease, metabolic syndrome, Parkinson's and stroke damage. Curcumin exhibits over 150 potentially therapeutic activities, including potent anticancer properties. One of the ways it works, which is similar to vitamin D, is by modulating large numbers of your genes. Previous research has also demonstrated that curcumin acts by inserting itself into your cell membranes where it changes the physical properties of the membrane itself, making it more orderly.12 As for its anti-inflammatory properties, curcumin can inhibit both the activity and the synthesis of cyclooxygenase-2 and 5-lipooxygenase, as well as other enzymes that have been implicated in inflammation. A 2006 study13 found that a turmeric extract composed of curcuminoids (curcumin is the most investigated curcuminoid) blocked inflammatory pathways, effectively preventing the launch of a protein that triggers swelling and pain. For all these reasons, if you must take something for pain relief, by all means consider curcumin. If You Love High Heels, These Tips Are for You Since the majority of bunion sufferers are women, I want to draw your attention once again to the importance of choosing proper footwear. Notably, the APMA survey14 revealed that 49 percent of American women wear high heels, even though the majority of heel wearers (71 percent) acknowledge the shoes hurt their feet. Additionally, chronic discomfort — including the presence of bunions — has been shown to be ineffective to deter most women from wearing the tall strappy heels they say they love. As such, it's not a surprise that nearly 40 percent of women surveyed said they continue to wear shoes they like even when they hurt their feet. For whatever reason, men do not seem to have this problem. With respect to high-heel habits, past APMA president and doctor of podiatric medicine Matthew Garoufalis stated: "With high heels, moderation is key. It's best not to wear them every day. Daily heel wearing can cause the Achilles tendon, the strong tendon at the back of your ankle, to shrink. This increases your risk of an injury while doing activities in flat shoes, including exercise. Heel wearers should avoid heels higher than 2 inches. Wearing heels 3 inches or higher shifts body weight forward, and puts great pressure on the ball of the foot and the toes." If you are a woman with bunions who also loves wearing high-heeled shoes, please consider these tips to help offset the harmful effects of the shoes you feel you cannot live without:15 Wear high heels only occasionally and only for short periods of time, giving your feet ample breaks between wearings Choose a shoe with a moderate heel height and wide heel base (i.e., wedge heel) Use a shoe insert to reduce pressure on the forefoot and heel when wearing high heels16 Stretch your calves every day to maintain ankle flexibility Wear flat shoes or tennis shoes if you must walk long distances during the day, such as to and from the train station to your office, for example You Need Your Feet for a Lifetime The bottom line is that you need your feet for a lifetime. So much of your vitality and livelihood depend on the proper functioning of your feet, so it's best to take good care of them. Although your doctor may suggest anti-inflammatory drugs and cortisone shots for pain relief or surgery, keep in mind there are no "quick fix" solutions to bunions. I believe surgery is the very last resort you should consider, after trying natural remedies first. While a surgical procedure may correct the anatomical structure of your big toe, it will not address the underlying condition that caused the bunion in the first place. For this reason, it is possible for a surgically altered big toe to become misaligned years after the surgery, especially if you continue with the bad habits that contributed to your bunions in the first place. I have been treating my bunion for several years. Fortunately, treatments have reduced my level of pain and discomfort, and most notably, have nearly curtailed the changes the bunion had been making to my foot. While conventional doctors will tell you bunions are permanent unless you have them surgically corrected, I recommend you start with less-invasive treatments. With steady effort, you can reduce your level of pain and discomfort, slow or stop the progression, and improve the flexibility of your foot and other joints. Dr. Mercola

    • Burn Fat for Fuel

      30 Tips in 30 Days Designed to Help You Take Control of Your Health This article is part of the 30 Day Resolution Guide series. Each day in January a new tip was added to help you take control of your health. For a complete list of the tips click HERE By Dr. Mercola The notion that your body needs to regularly consume glucose for energy has become a deeply ingrained myth. As a result of this misguided advice, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer prevalence have all spiked, burgeoning into national if not global epidemics. The truth is, most long-term low-fat, high-carb diets prevent healthy mitochondrial function, thereby making a greater contribution to disease than most people are willing to even consider. Dietary fats are actually the preferred fuel of human metabolism. In 2016, the British National Obesity Forum and the Public Health Collaboration issued a joint report on obesity based on the analysis of 43 studies, warning the policy to encourage people to eat a low-fat diet is having a "disastrous impact on health."1,2,3 According to the authors, the current guidelines have been manipulated and corrupted for commercial gain by the food and beverage industries, and are based on flawed science. Low-Carb, High-Fat Diet and Reducing Meal Frequency Can Solve Many Common Ailments In conclusion, the report suggests a low-carb, high-fat diet — and eating less by cutting out between-meal snacks — may be the answer to the obesity epidemic. The benefits of this type of diet is the primary focus of my most recent book, "Fat for Fuel," and my complementary online course, which guides you through seven engaging lessons to teach you how your body works at the molecular level, and how different foods affect your body. Traditional weight loss advice suggests all you need to do is count calories, eat less and exercise more. Somewhat better recommendations specifically recommend cutting down on sugar. However, while many will initially lose weight doing this, it usually doesn't take long to gain the weight back. Before you know it, you're caught in a loop of yo-yo dieting. There's a better way. A great many of the disease epidemics facing us today could be turned around by educating people about the benefits of: A diet high in healthy fats, moderate in protein and low in net carbohydrates (total carbs minus fiber) Intermittent fasting Longer water fasting It's important to realize that calories are not created equal, and this is why counting calories doesn't work for weight loss and health in the long run. The metabolic effects of calories differ depending on their source — a calorie from a Twinkie is not equivalent to a calorie from an avocado or a nut. That said, excessive snacking is a significant contributing factor to obesity, so, to lose weight and keep it off, you may need to reduce your meal frequency. The Case for Fasting I recommend limiting it to two meals per day, either breakfast/lunch or lunch/dinner, within a six- to eight-hour window each day. This meal timing is a form of intermittent fasting, as by eating all your meals within a certain span of time each day, you end up fasting daily as well. Longer water fasts also offer powerful health benefits, although you need to work your way into them. One strategy I've found to be extremely helpful is to gradually increase the time of your daily intermittent fasting until you're fasting 20 hours a day. After about a month of this, doing a four- or five-day long water fast will not be nearly as difficult, as you're already used to not eating for extended periods. I was skeptical about water fasting for a long time, but after learning more about the metabolic benefits of it, the relative safety and testing it out for myself, I've become convinced it's a powerful tool that is vastly underutilized. The clarity of thinking alone, which occurs around Day Three or Four, makes it worth it. That's not the only benefit though. Importantly, water fasting activates autophagy, allowing your body to clean itself out, and triggers the regeneration of stem cells. Remarkably, whereas low-calorie dieting will cause morbidly obese people to develop skin folds that must be surgically removed after significant weight loss, this typically does not occur when you lose the weight by water fasting. Your body actually metabolizes the excess skin as you go along, because it's in such efficient regeneration mode. Even having as little as 200 or 300 calories a day is enough to abort the autophagy process, though, which is why I started doing complete water fasts. I now do a five-day water fast on a monthly basis, and since I was used to doing 20-hour daily intermittent fasting, I experienced no significant hunger at all. It was really pretty effortless right from the start. If you're severely overweight or have Type 2 diabetes, water fasting may be the answer you've been looking for. Recent research4 confirms that fasting can effectively reverse Type 2 diabetes in a relatively short amount of time. In this trial, Type 2 diabetics were placed on a severely restricted calorie diet where they ate just 600 calories a day for eight weeks. By the end of their fast, all were disease-free and three months later, having returned to their regular diet, seven of the 11 participants were still disease-free. Fasting has also been shown to trigger the regeneration of the pancreas in both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics5 — a testament to the regenerative power unleashed in your body when fasting. Burning Fat for Fuel Improves Mitochondrial Function Eating a diet low in net carbs and high in healthy fats and/or fasting will allow your body to burn fat rather than glucose as its primary fuel. This has the sought-after side effect of improving mitochondrial function, which is foundational for disease prevention and optimal health. The mitochondria within your cells are largely responsible for generating the energy (adenosine triphosphate or ATP) your body needs to stay alive and thrive. They're also responsible for apoptosis (programmed cell death) and act as signaling molecules that help regulate genetic expression. When your mitochondria are damaged or dysfunctional, not only will your energy reserves decrease, resulting in fatigue and brain fog, but you also become vulnerable to degenerative diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and neurodegenerative decay. Why Cycling in and out of Nutritional Ketosis Is Recommended The devil's in the details, though, and an important yet rarely discussed facet of nutritional ketosis — which is when your body burns fat as its primary fuel instead of sugar — is feast-and-famine cycling. The reason for this has to do with the fact that long-term uninterrupted nutritional ketosis can trigger a rise in blood sugar by driving your insulin level too low. This paradoxical situation can arise because the primary function of insulin is not to drive sugar into the cell, but to suppress the production of glucose by your liver (hepatic gluconeogenesis). If your blood sugar is high due to chronically and excessively low insulin, eating a piece of fruit or other sugar-containing food will actually lower your blood sugar rather than raise it. Your microbiome may also be compromised in the long term, as chronic low-carb diets will not optimally feed your gut flora. All of this can be avoided by cycling in and out of nutritional ketosis, basically going through a one-day-per-week fast and one or two days a week of feasting, where you eat double or quadruple the amount of net carbs. Your body is designed to have the metabolic flexibility to use both glucose and fat for fuel. The problem is, when you eat a high-carb diet for a long period of time, your body ends up losing its ability to burn fat. The good news is, you can regain it by inverting the carb and fat ratios of your diet. Fat Is Your Body's Preferred Fuel When your body is able to burn fat for fuel, your liver creates water-soluble fats called ketones that burn far more efficiently than carbs, thus creating far less damaging reactive oxygen species and secondary free radicals. This is why being an efficient fat burner is so important for optimal health. Ketones also improve glucose metabolism and lower inflammation.6 Recent research7 suggests a ketogenic (high-fat, low-carb) diet may even be key for reducing brain inflammation following stroke and other brain trauma. Chronic inflammation is a hallmark of most chronic disease, including pain-related conditions such as arthritis. As noted in one study,8 ketogenic diets appear to be helpful for inflammation-associated pain by: Generating fewer inflammatory reactive oxygen species Lowering the excitability of neurons involved in pain signaling Boosting signaling of the neuromodulator adenosine, which has pain-relieving effects How to Implement a Ketogenic Diet To implement a ketogenic diet, the first step is to eliminate packaged, processed foods. The emphasis is on real whole foods, plenty of healthy fats and, initially, as few net (nonfiber) carbs as possible. This typically involves dramatically reducing or temporarily eliminating all grains and any food high in sugar, particularly fructose, but also galactose (found in milk) and other sugars — both added and naturally-occurring. As a general rule, you'll want to reduce your net carbs to 20 to 50 grams a day or less, and restrict protein to 1 gram per kilogram of lean body mass. To make sure you're actually meeting your nutritional requirements and maintaining the ideal nutrient ratios, use an online nutrient tracker such as www.cronometer.com/mercola, which is one of the most accurate nutrient trackers available. It's also preset for nutritional ketosis, so based on the base parameters you enter, it will automatically calculate the ideal ratios of net carbs, protein and healthy fats required to put you into nutritional ketosis. This is what will allow your body to start burning fat as its primary fuel rather than sugar, which in turn will help optimize your mitochondrial function and overall health and fitness. Beneficial Fats to Eat More Of Another key to success is to eat high-quality healthy fats, NOT the fats most commonly found in the American diet (the processed fats and vegetable oils used in processed foods and fried restaurant meals). Just about any fat found naturally in food — whether animal- or plant-based — is in fact healthy for you. For example, saturated fat found in animal products and coconut oil: Increases your large fluffy LDL particles, which are not associated with an increased risk of heart disease Increases your HDL levels, which is associated with lower heart disease risk. This also compensates for any increase in LDL Does not cause heart disease, as made clear in a large number of studies9,10,11,12,13,14 Serves as a "clean-burning fuel" for your brain and mitochondria, producing far less damaging free radicals than sugars and nonfiber carbs Examples of healthy fats to eat more of include: Olives and olive oil (look for third party certification, as 80 percent of olive oils are adulterated with vegetable oils. Avoid cooking with olive oil; use it cold) Coconut oil (excellent for cooking as it can withstand higher temperatures without oxidizing) Animal-based omega-3 fat from fatty fish low in mercury like wild-caught Alaskan salmon, sardines, anchovies and/or krill oil Butter made from raw grass fed organic milk Raw nuts such as macadamia and pecans Seeds like black sesame, cumin, pumpkin and hemp seeds Avocados Grass fed meats MCT oil Ghee (clarified butter); lard and tallow (excellent for cooking) Raw cacao butter Organic, pastured eggs Harmful Fats to Avoid The harmful fats you need to steer clear of are all man-made. This includes trans fats, which are pro-oxidant, and all highly refined polyunsaturated vegetable oils,15 which are high in damaged omega-6 and produce toxic oxidation products like cyclic aldehydes when heated. Vegetable oils promote oxidized cholesterol, which becomes destructive when entering your LDL particles. Also, when consumed in large amounts, omega-6 polyunsaturated fats — and especially industrially processed ones — cannot be effectively burned for fuel. Instead, they're incorporated into cellular and mitochondrial membranes where they become susceptible to oxidative damage, which ultimately damages your metabolism. These harmful fats have been shown to:16 Contribute to heart disease Promote gut inflammation Disrupt arterial blood flow through your brain Deplete your brain of antioxidants Attack the cellular architecture of your nerves and impair brain development through mutagenic effects on DNA and altered epigenetic expression Boost Your Health With Self-Paced Online Course Current health statistics tell a discouraging story of repeated failure: Two-thirds of the American population is overweight or obese,17 1 in 5 deaths are obesity-related,18 half have prediabetes, diabetes or other chronic illness,19 and 1 in 3 women and half of all men will develop some form of cancer in their lifetime. There's an answer to all of these health trends, and it all starts with your diet. If you or a loved one has been struggling with low energy, excess weight or a chronic or degenerative disease like Type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer's or cancer — or if you simply want to optimize your health and longevity — consider enrolling in my online course on mitochondrial metabolic therapy (MMT). MMT is a whole new way of looking at nutrition, merging decades of my own research with the latest science on mitochondrial health, all of which have been peer-reviewed by more than two dozen experts, including physicians, researchers and scientists. The MMT diet is a cyclical ketogenic diet, high in healthy fats and fiber, low in net carbs with a moderate amount of protein. Worksheets, additional reading, meal planning resources and recipes are all included. You'll also learn a number of other nondiet related ways to boost your mitochondrial health, such as sensible sun exposure, exercise and grounding. In short, this program will teach you everything you need to know to safely and effectively improve your mitochondrial function, thereby regaining your health and boosting your longevity. If you've thought about making changes but lacked the confidence to take the plunge, or have made half-hearted attempts that quickly petered out, this course can set you on the right track, guiding you through the changes to your diet and lifestyle one step at a time, from any computer, tablet or smartphone. And, while a new lesson is released each week, you can go through the lessons at your own pace.   >>>>> Click Here Dr. Mercola