A Good Night’s Sleep = A Better You

By HSHS Sacred Heart and St. Joseph’s hospitals

Get up, wrangle the kiddos, go to work for eight-plus hours, make dinner, wrangle the kiddos again, go to bed exhausted, do it all over again the next day. Sound familiar?

The National Sleep Foundation says 40 percent of women in the United States are not getting the recommended number of zzzs because of busy lives. Plus, sleep problems and diagnosed sleep disorders affect women nearly twice as much as men.

Experts at HSHS Sacred Heart and St. Joseph’s hospitals say there are 84 identified types of sleep disorders.

“Sleep is just as important as the air you breathe, the food you eat and the exercise you get,” said Kelly Schmidt, HSHS Clinical Sleep Educator.

Schmidt has been studying sleep for 17 years with HSHS. She said while insomnia is the most common sleep disorder, you don’t just get insomnia.

“Insomnia is a symptom of something else like depression, stress or medication, and women are three times more likely than men to suffer from it which leads to daytime sleepiness.”

The environment in which you get your zzzs is just as important as avoiding caffeine and screen time before bed.

“For women especially, the bedroom should be a stress-free zone. Daily life brings enough challenges with kids, managing a household and finding time for personal space,” she said.

Studies show lavender decreases heart rate and blood pressure which puts you in a more relaxed state.

White noise from a sound machine, fan or air purifier could also give you a better chance of undisturbed sleep because it blocks background noises.

Temperature is also extremely important, especially for women. As you sleep, your body temp drops. As morning arrives your temp naturally rises and gets you ready for the day. Experts say the ideal bedroom temp is 65 degrees.

Schmidt says it’s important to get seven to eight hours of quality sleep every night and if you don’t, a sleep study could shed light on why.

“It could be sleep apnea, maybe restless leg syndrome,” she said.” The bottom line is you have to listen to your body. If you’re struggling through the day to stay awake, you need more sleep. It’s that simple.”

If you think a quick fix like caffeine or a 15 minute snooze in the afternoon will help, Schmidt says think again.

“Caffeine leads to a crash which leads to being more tired,” she said. “A nap throws off your schedule which can trigger disrupted sleep at night.”

If a nap is an absolute must, Schmidt says limit it to no more than 60 minutes and no later than 3 p.m. Even better, she says use that time to get in some exercise. Movement will release endorphins, improve your mood and awaken your system.

The bottom line for women is to remember personal time is important. Taking care of everything and everyone else is great, but if you aren’t healthy and happy, the support you give others will be a snore.

Advice for Allergy Sufferers

By Carol Rudd, registered respiratory therapist, Healing Choices Oasis

Our nose drips, we sneeze and cough, people think we are sick, and the reality is we suffer with allergies. And I mean suffer! Our eyes itch and our ears and throat, even our skin itches. Those who don’t have allergies just don’t understand how irritating and distracting allergies can be. Approximately 50 million Americans suffer from some form of allergic disease, and the number is increasing.

So, what is an allergy? An allergy is a physical response your body has to something that usually is not problematic, like pollen, grass, dogs, or cats. Allergens can be just about anything: foods, plants, animals, dust, molds—you name it. Our immune system is triggered by an allergen and creates a variety of responses to defend against what our body sees as a foreign invasion. According to the John Hopkins Medicine website, “That’s the job of the immune system, to defend our bodies from microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi and to destroy any infectious microorganism that does invade. The immune system is made up of a complex network of cells and organs (lymphoid organs) that are responsible for the growth and development of lymphocytes.”

The American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology states “your immune system overreacts by producing antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE). These antibodies travel to cells that release chemicals, causing an allergic reaction.” It’s that allergic reaction that gets us in trouble! Those pesky symptoms can involve the nose, lungs, throat, sinuses, ears, lining of the stomach, and the skin. The AAAAI further states “each type of IgE has specific ‘radar’ for each type of allergen, and that’s why some people are only allergic to cat dander while others with multiple allergens have many more types of IgE antibodies.”

So what’s to be done? Avoidance has been the first line of defense against allergens. Sometimes, especially with those who have multiple allergies, it’s extremely hard to avoid contact with an allergen.

So, an over-the-counter antihistamine, which helps suppress the allergic response, is the usual first treatment for allergies. Then allergy testing and shots can be used to decrease a person’s sensitivity to an allergen. If that fails, prescription medications, including nasal and oral steriod inhalers, can decrease inflammation and offer some relief. On the holistic spectrum, things like detoxing the body, especially the gut, can be beneficial, as well as adding anti-inflammatory foods. Green tea is a natural antihistamine and only 2 cups a day, two weeks before allergy season will help avoid congestion! Adding spices like cayenne pepper, hot ginger, or fenugreek can calm a sore nose and un-stuff your head. Also acupuncture, chiropractic, and massage can provide relief of symptoms.

Allergies can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, race, or socioeconomic status. While allergies in children are more common, a first-time occurrence can happen at any age or recur after many years of remission. The most important thing you can do for yourself is to know your triggers and be prepared, be it a seasonal allergy or multiple all-year allergies.

WIC Can Help You “Go Further with Food”: March Is National Nutrition Month

By Susan Krahn, MS, RDN, CD, CLC, Public Health Nutritionist, Eau Claire City-County Health Department

Whether it’s starting the day off right with a healthy breakfast, packing a brown bag lunch, or enjoying a family supper, the foods you choose can make a real difference. “Go Further with Food” is the theme for National Nutrition Month. The theme highlights how our food choices impact not only our own health and well-being, but also the community.

Conversations about food often revolve around weight, health, or the environment. But people rarely talk about the foods we toss out. It is estimated that Americans throw away up to 90 billion pounds of food each year–either at home or when eating out. This amount doesn’t include food that goes to waste at the grocery store.

While many families struggle to get enough food to feed their families, the amount of safe food wasted in the United States is on the rise. While not all food that is thrown away could be saved and eaten, there are ways we can prevent food from being thrown away, especially at home.

  • Plans meals around the foods you already have on hand. Check the refrigerator, freezer, and pantry for foods that need to be used up. Buy fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy products that can be eaten within a few days. Buy more frozen fruits and veggies that are ready to use quickly and keep longer.
  • Get creative with leftovers. Plan to use leftover meats and vegetables in soups, salads, or sandwiches later in the week. Use them as a topping on cooked grains like rice or pasta.
  • Learn about date labels. Many dates on food packaging refer to the food’s quality, not food safety. Easily find out if it is time to toss foods by using the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ “Is My Food Safe” app (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.foodsafety&hl=en) or accessing the USDA’s FoodKeeper App at www.foodsafety.gov/keep/foodkeeperapp/index.html.

Registered dietitian nutritionists with the WIC program can give you more practical tips on how your family can “Go Further with Food.” The Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program is a nutrition program that provides wholesome foods, nutrition and breastfeeding education, and community support for low- and moderate-income women and children up to the age of five years.

WIC gives you healthy food and teaches you how to use it. Good nutrition during pregnancy and in the first few years of life has long-term positive impacts on health. WIC teaches you about the benefits of breastfeeding and guides you through the process. WIC gives you healthy food and teaches you how to shop for it, how to prepare it, and ways to help your child enjoy eating it. If you think your family may be eligible, contact your local WIC office or visit http://bit.ly/EauClaireCoWIC .

Each March, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics focuses nationwide attention on healthful eating through National Nutrition Month. For more reliable nutrition information, visit www.eatright.org/nnm.

Forms of Stress: How Does Your Body Handle Them?

By Dr. Emily Rowan Alsheskie, chiropractor, MY Life Health Center

What if I told you that stress wasn’t real? Sounds untrue, but when thinking about mental or emotional stress, it is really how you perceive it. A farmer needs rain at certain times and sunshine at certain times. Sometimes when the farmer needs sunshine, it rains and when the farmer needs rain, the sun shines. Is rain a stressful event? Absolutely not! It’s all about how you perceive it. This idea of perception is the first essential of health that is taught in our practice, and it is one of three forms of stressors that occur to our bodies–emotional/mental stress.

Some mental stressors are out of our control, but there are ways to reduce our exposure to negativity by doing things like practicing forgiveness, using positive self-talk, and limiting our interactions with negative individuals.

The second major stressor may not be as obvious as the others, but it has a HUGE impact on the body’s ability to function properly. This is chemical stress. The most common form of chemical stress comes from our daily nutrition. This includes inflammatory products and foods like sugar, artificial sweeteners, food additives, preservatives and pesticides, as well as hydrogenated fats. The easiest way to avoid these harmful substances is to consume whole, fresh, organic foods and cut out processed and packaged foods. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store and not the aisles!

The last and typically most noticed form of stress is physical stress. Motor vehicle accidents, slips, falls, and sporting injuries are common forms of macrotrauma. Microtraumas that accumulate over time and contribute to physical stress include things like sitting at a desk for extended periods of time and bending the head forward to use gadgets like cell phones. These repetitive actions, that we were not designed to experience on a daily basis, cause structural changes to the spine and supporting musculature. These changes in our foundation impact our most important system, the nervous system. The nervous system is made up of the brain, spinal cord, and nerves that control all cells, tissues, and organs. When stress is constantly endured by the body–in all three forms: chemical, mental/emotional, and physical–the nervous system takes the hit and cannot control the body’s processes as it was intended to. This is why stress not only harms us in the short term but can lead to chronic diseases like cancer, cardiovascular complications, and other debilitating diseases.

Chiropractic care may be most known for symptom relief related to the spine, but chiropractors are really nervous system doctors. The nervous system is addressed via the spine since the vertebral column is what surrounds and protects this very important system. When the structure of the spine is in its most stable form, stress and tension are relieved from the spinal cord and the nerves that control the system’s processes. This is why patients who practice proper spinal hygiene with chiropractic adjustments and spinal therapies experience less sick days, improved quality of sleep, reduced number of over the counter/prescription medications, and less symptoms overall.

Stress is a normal part of life. I can’t take away your stressors like picking up your kids, making dinner, or walking your dog. But the big question here is, how well can your body handle stress? As doctors of chiropractic, we first and foremost check for any nervous system stressors and disruptors that can be causing an imbalance and inability to heal. From there we make corrections (the adjustment) by using our hands, drop table, and adjusting tool to put the body in a healing and less stressed state.

Physical, mental/emotional, and chemical stressors are a part of our day to day lives, but stress itself is not the problem. It’s how much stress we experience and how our bodies handle it. Taking care of yourself with adequate nutrition, exercise, mindset practices, and proper spinal alignment give you the best opportunity to prevent common lifestyle-induced illnesses and chronic pain. Whether you have aches and pains or not, get a nervous system evaluation to take a proactive and preventative approach to your health. Then incorporate the other tips included here to aid your body in healing!

Dr. Emily Rowan Alsheskie holds a doctorate in chiropractic with a special emphasis on prenatal and neonatal care. She is a recent graduate from Life University, a chiropractic college in Marietta, Georgia. Dr. Emily joined in practice with her mentor, Dr. Kevin Schultz, at MY Life Health Center in Lake Hallie this past fall. She is a mother to her two-year-old son, Rory, and is excited to raise him in the Chippewa Valley!

Choose HEALTH This New Year

By Dr. Emily Smith, Smith & Prissel Chiropractic

With every new year, we as adults find ourselves knee-deep in resolutions to make this year different than the last. As with everything else, our kids are watching! Without knowing we often “gift” our kids with their lifestyle habits, both good and bad. Breaking a bad habit is much harder than making a good habit. This year resolve to instill healthy changes that will benefit the entire family (and if everyone is involved, success is more likely to last past January!)

● Treats are just that, a treat! Eating a sweet treat every day creates a habit of needing sugar to feel satisfied. Avoid buying highly processed cookies/cakes at the store/gas station and instead choose to make healthier versions of sweets at home. (Add the word “healthy” into your Pinterest search bar to eliminate temptations.) If you have always been a family that ends a meal with dessert, try to follow the meal with fruit instead!

● Water should be the drink of choice! It’s not sweet or carbonated, but water is what our body needs and craves in order to function optimally. You should be drinking half of your body weight in ounces every day (for example if you weigh 100, pounds you should drink 50 ounces of water every day). Think of it like this, if you aren’t drinking enough water you are essentially creating “jerky” out of your muscles. If you’ve ever tried to bend/twist/stretch jerky, you know that you don’t want to be on the receiving end of that yourself. Dehydrated muscles will also be more prone to injury and result in more pain. Nobody wants that! If cold/flu symptoms have caused dehydration, turn to coconut water for rehydration (it’s nature’s Gatorade!)

● We’ve all heard the phrase “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but did you know that a simple apple contains 10,000 ingredients?! None of these are in huge amounts but rather in small amounts that work synergistically together to provide us with the prevention we give it credit for. But don’t stop there! All fruits and vegetables have their own massive amount of nutrients just waiting to do amazing things within your body! Strive to “eat the rainbow” with a wide variety of colors of fruits and vegetables every day. For those of you who struggle to accomplish that (due to cost/time/effort/desire), Juice Plus+ can be a great way to bridge the gap between what you are eating and what your body needs! www.JuicePlus.com

● Get active together! Whether this involves a family gym membership or hiking through the woods on snowshoes, the important part is that you are moving! To motivate kids check out http://healthylivingrevolution.com/start-strong-kids-challenge/. This Strong Kids Challenge sticker sheets offer lots of ideas to help kids incorporate all of these healthy choices and keep track of their progress. There are also great ideas for healthy snacks, lunchbox planning, and a downloadable cookbook full of tasty recipes that the entire family will love.

Dr. Emily Smith is a pediatric chiropractic specialist but treats patients of all ages at her Menomonie and Eau Claire (Smith & Prissel Chiropractic) offices. She focuses on whole body wellness as it relates to health, including how important good nutrition is. She can be reached at esmithdc@msn.com or (715) 833-3505.