Sunday, August 25, 2019

How Exercise Can Help Prevent and Treat Depression

Everybody knows exercise is good for you in many ways, but for many of us the most important benefit is psychological.   Simply put exercise makes us feel better.    But how?

Molecular Mechanisms involved Exercise and Depression

A key player in the anti-depression effects of exercise is biochemical called kynurenine which is created from the amino acid tryptophan.      Kynurenine can be turned into kynurenic acid which is a neuroprotective agent OR quinolinic acid which is a neurotoxin and associated with depression.
Exercising muscles take up kynurenine which prevents it conversion to quinolinic acid and thereby help prevent depression.

Another biochemical involved in the anti-depressant effects of exercise is called brain derived neurotrophic factor or BDNF for shot.     BDNF is key to neuroplasticity which is the ability of the brain to restructure itself.     Neuroplasticity is limited in depression and other mental disorders.      Exercise increased BDNF and helps the brain remodel and adapt to stress which is key to preventing and treating depression while improving cognition.

Exercise also boosts endocannabinoids which reduce anxiety and the perception of pain.     The now infamous CBD from hemp and marijuana is one of many cannabinoids, and scientists have identified an entire cannabinoid system in humans.

At the same time exercise boosts endogenous opiates – yes your body makes its own versions of opiates to help control pain.    One class of the opiates produced by the body are the well-known beta endorphins.

Another key anti-depressant mechanism in exercise is that vigorous exercise increases the levels of norepinepherine and dopamine and helps the brain balance its stress response.     Both of these neurotransmitters have potent ability to prevent and reverse depression. 

These multiple biochemical pathways likely work synergistically to produce the amazing anti-depressant effects of exercise.

It is critical to remember that exercise is not a substitute for clinical treatment of depression.     While effective exercise is not 100% effective and depression is often a prelude to suicide.    Always seek a licensed health care professional for long-standing depression that does not relent.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Stand-Up Paddle Boarding for Core Strength, Balance and Total Body Fitness!

Stand-up Paddle Boarding (SUP) is a fun activity that almost anyone can learn, and it is one of the best workouts available!   Stand-up Paddle Boarding is low impact and provides a combination of balance, core, strength, and endurance.     Since you are standing you have to use everything from your feet (wow do you use your feet!) all the way up through your entire shoulder girdle.    Because you are standing your arms never have to go above shoulder height which means that there is much less stress on the rotator cuff muscles than kayaking.    You use your shoulders heavily but your shoulders are stressed in the position where they are naturally most stable and strong so much better than kayaking for those with shoulder and neck issues!

Just standing on a Paddle Board forces you to stabilize your entire body and core, and it is one of the best activities available to develop balance.   Best of all if you do fall you land in the water and getting back on the board is very easy!  

SUP Technique Breakdown
Learning to SUP is easy but mastering the stroke and maximizing your speed takes lot of practice.    The first thing to focus on is NOT pulling the water!     Instead you want to plant the blade in the water and pull yourself and the board up to the paddle blade.   Imagine that you are stabbing the paddle firmly into soft sand then pulling yourself and the board up to the paddle.     If you can clearly visualize the difference here it will go a long way to getting your stroke where it needs to be for optimum speed.   Think about grabbing the water NOT pulling the water by you!

Once you get a little feel for it start looking at how far you are reaching forward to put your paddle in the water.   You want to reach as far as possible each time you stroke, BUT there is a limit based on your particular anatomy, shoulder strength and balance.    If you reach too far you can overstress your low back, shoulder or just be off balance which is counter-productive.

This is where the blade of the paddle enters the water.    Make sure the entire blade enters the water before you begin to pull.   The catch should be as smooth and clean as possible with no splashing.

Now you are ready to apply power to the paddle.   Use your entire body for this part of the stroke.   It is NOT about using your arms.   Rather your arms merely connect you to the paddle through your hands and you use the rotation of your torso, hips, and shoulders to drive your paddle!  Try to relax your arms as much as possible to perfect this technique. Do not pull too far back as this will actually slow you down.   Once the paddle passes your hips if you keep pull you are actually pulling the paddle up meaning you are pulling the paddle board down and this only slows you down.

After the pull you need to release the paddle from the water.    Like the catch you want this movement to be quick, smooth, and with zero splashing.   Feathering the blade of the paddle creates a smooth release and set-up for the next catch.   You feather by dropping your top shoulder, “breaking your wrist inward”, or a combination of both.  

Once you release the paddle you are ready to set-up for the next catch and pull.   Try to relax during this phase – the key to optimum paddle technique is learning to set a rhythm between tension and relaxation and ultimately getting your breathing into a rhythm with the stroke.  The first time you feel this come together it is amazing – really zen!  So stay relaxed and let go of the tension you produced in the catch and pull and smoothly swing the paddle forward to prepare to drive the blade fully into the water for the next pull!

How many calories can you burn Paddle Boarding?
Obviously your actual calorie burn will depend on the intensity of effort you are putting into to paddling along with your height, weight, and the wind and water conditions you are paddling in.     However here are some estimates based on people weighing between 165 and 200lbs :

            Casual Paddle Boarding – 300 – 430 calories per hour
Yoga on Paddle Board – 416 – 540 calories per hour
Touring on a Paddle Board – 615 – 708 calories per hour
Surfing on a Paddle Board – 623 – 735 calories per hour
Racing a Paddle Board – 715 – 1,125 calories per hour

So if you have not taken the plunge yet – google “Stand-up Paddle Board Rental” and find a rental location and give it a whirl.   Rentals including paddle, board, and lifejacket are generally $25 - $35 per hour so get out there and give it a go!   

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Is the Barbell Back Squat Necessary for Athletes?

For most strength and conditioning experts, the answer is yes, but there is another point of view worth understanding.  The purpose of all strength training for athletes is to improve athletic performance and building lower body and core strength is key for almost all athletes.      Conventional practice is that the barbell back squat is THE way to develop lower body strength.

However, if you think about it a second athletes do very little with both feet evenly spaced out beneath them.  All running is about landing and pushing off on one leg and most jumping happens off one foot not both feet.  One of the few exceptions is the sport of rowing where you always push off with both feet evenly spaced.

According to Mike Boyle, one of the best sport conditioning experts in the world, the back squat is an exercise that does not translate well to sport, carries a high risk of injury (particularly for the low back), and is hard for many athletes to perform properly based on the length of their torsos, lower leg, and upper leg.

So, what does he recommend?    Split squats with rear foot elevated aka Bulgarian split squats.  Boyle feels they translate better to athletic performance and are also much safer than back squats.       He points out that muscular failure occurs because of lower body muscle fatigue instead of low back strength being the limiting factor like the back squat.

Critics of Boyle maintain that the loads utilized in split squats are too low for athletes to gain the strength they need, but is that true?   Boyle’s answer is that you can lift MORE weight with split squats, and he has the evidence to prove it.   If you work at Split Squats and increase load over time as you become stronger you will find that if you add the loads you are capable of using on each side together the combination is usually significantly higher than what you can barbell back squat!

In addition, when you train one side of the body the other side is also stimulated. Indirect stimulation of the non-working side of the body via working the opposite side improves strength in the injured area. This is called cross-education of muscles and is a neural event. The brain pathways that are used for the primary unilateral exercise stimulate the same muscles on the opposite side of the body.

Split squats have several other key advantages:

They require higher levels of core stabilization because of the unbalanced loading

They require better balance.   
They allow a greater range of motion at the hip with higher levels of hip flexion and extension.

They provide a great emphasis on the eccentric strength both in hip extensors AND hip flexors.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Some Keys to Preventing Migraine Headaches

Riboflavin deficiency linked to migraine
A 2017 study looked at riboflavin's influence on migraine and Parkinson’s Disease, highlighting its neuroprotective potential.  According to the study, "riboflavin ameliorates oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction, neuroinflammation and glutamate excitotoxicity; all of which take part in the pathogenesis of Parkinson’s Disease, migraine headache and other neurological disorders."

Riboflavin may help by ameliorating many of these hallmarks of migraine, including oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction, neuroinflammation, homocysteine neurotoxicity and glutamate excitotoxicity.
Are you getting enough riboflavin?
In conclusion, the authors of the study stated that:

"Riboflavin has demonstrated its ability to tackle significant pathogenesis-related mechanisms in neurological disorders, exemplified by the ones attributed to the pathogenesis of … migraine … In addition, riboflavin is required for pyridoxine activation.

Riboflavin and PLP, the active form of pyridoxine, play essential roles in homocysteine metabolism, and tryptophan-kynurenine pathway. Indeed, any accumulation of homocysteine or kynurenines due to vitamin insufficiency can lead to significant neurological consequences.

Taking into consideration the limited riboflavin absorption and utilization in 10–15% of global population, long term riboflavin insufficiency could participate in the development of multiple neurological disorders, emphasizing the importance of long-term riboflavin-sufficient diet especially in vulnerable populations."

Since Riboflavin is a water-soluble B vitamin which is not stored - you need to get a consistent supply from your diet and/or supplements. Foods rich in riboflavin include:
Beet Greens
Portabella mushrooms
Pastured Eggs
Organic turkey
Grass fed beef liver
Grass fed beef tenderloin
Identifying riboflavin deficiency, and dosing suggestions
Overt Riboflavin Deficiency is rare in the U.S., but older adults, women on birth control pills, alcoholics, pregnant and lactating women, vegans and those with liver disorders are at increased risk for deficiency.  Common signs and symptoms of deficiency include:

Swollen throat
Blurred vision
Itchy or cracking skin
Dermatitis around the mouth
Liver degeneration
Hair loss
 Reproductive problems

The recommended daily intake is 1.3 milligrams for adult men, 1.1 mg for adult women, 1.3 mg for male adolescents (14 to 18 years of age) and 1.0 mg for female adolescents.

If you struggle with migraines, however, you may need far higher doses.  A study found that 400 mg of riboflavin per day reduced migraine frequency by 50%, from four days a month to two days a month, after three months of use.    

Other vitamin deficiencies implicated in migraines

Other nutrients deficiencies that have been implicated in migraines include:

Vitamins B6, B12 and Folic acid — A 2009 study evaluated the effect of folic acid,  vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 in 52 patients diagnosed with migraine with aura. Compared to the placebo group, those receiving these supplements experienced a 50% reduction in the prevalence of migraine disability (from 60% to 30%) over a six-month period.

Magnesium — Magnesium also plays an important role in the prevention and treatment of migraines, and migraine sufferers are more likely to suffer from magnesium deficiency.
Since magnesium administration is both easy and safe, researchers have noted that empiric treatment with a magnesium supplement is justified for all migraine sufferers.  As a prophylactic, be prepared to boost your magnesium intake for at least three months to experience results, ideally in combination with CoQ10.

In many cases, receiving a high dose of magnesium can also abort an attack in progress. Magnesium Threonate may be your best option to prevent and treat migraines. It has superior absorbability compared to other forms of magnesium, and it crosses the blood-brain barrier makes it more likely to have a beneficial effect on your brain.

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) — A 2016 migraine study involved 7,420 children, teens and young adults, found 51% had low levels of CoQ10, 31% had low vitamin D status and 16% had low levels of riboflavin.

Those suffering from chronic migraines were overall more likely to have CoQ10 and riboflavin deficiency compared to those with episodic migraines. Another 2015 study found supplementation with a proprietary combination of magnesium, riboflavin and CoQ10 for three months lowered migraine frequency from 6.2 days at baseline to 4.4 days at three months. Pain intensity was also significantly reduced. Foods rich in CoQ10 include grass fed beef, herring, organic pastured chicken, sesame seeds, broccoli and cauliflower.
Preventing Migraines
Like most issues, prevention is the best form of treatment for migraines, because treating migraines after they start is notoriously ineffective!   To learn how to develop a comprehensive and proven natural strategy to prevent migraines watch this great interview video where Dr. Mercola interviews one of the leading clinicians for migraines Suzy Cohen aka “America’s Pharmacist”: