6 Ways Camping Improves Health & Circadian Rhythm

Albert Einstein famously said: “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”

In today’s fast-paced world of screens and schedules, we often miss the importance of reconnecting with nature and its many benefits. A few minutes in nature on a hike or even just sitting outside can be beneficial. Yet, the most pronounced benefits come from longer exposure to nature’s beauty, and camping is one of the best ways to get them.

Camping … for Health?

Camping may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of ways to improve your health, but perhaps it should!

The Benefits of Camping

Besides being a great budget-friendly family activity, going camping offers a unique way to reconnect with nature. Surprisingly, research has now found several proven benefits to this simple and fun activity:

1. Light Therapy for Circadian Rhythm

A 2013 study from the University of Colorado Boulder examined how camping affects circadian rhythm. They found that participants who camped for a week noticed major improvements in sleep patterns in circadian biology.

In fact, sleep researcher Dr. Michael Breus explains that camping for one week (away from artificial light) resets circadian clocks. More specifically, the study found that:

The melatonin levels (of subjects of the study) rose two hours earlier when camping than on regular nights around artificial light.
Study participants sleep schedules all normalized during the camping week. In fact, early birds and night owls all adjusted to the same schedule.
Major health problems (from heart disease to cancer) are often linked to poor sleep quality or lack of sleep. A simple activity like camping may help the body normalize sleep patterns and improve health.

2. Forest Bathing Stress Relief

The Japanese have a national practice called “Forest Bathing” or shinrin-yoku which has been a national public health practice for them since the 1980s. The Japanese have spent millions of dollars studying the effects of this time in nature with surprising findings:

A weekend in the woods naturally increased the presence of natural killer (NK) cells in the body. This increase lasted for up to a month after a single weekend exposure to nature.
Forest air contains phytoncide, a natural compound from plants and trees. Some research shows that inhaling phytoncide can improve immune system function.
Another study found reduced cortisol, blood pressure, pulse, and other measures improved with just 30 minutes a day in nature. In fact, comparing metrics from a person spending a day in the city and a day in nature, it found: “Forest environments promote lower concentrations of cortisol, lower pulse rate, lower blood pressure, greater parasympathetic nerve activity, and lower sympathetic nerve activity than do city environments.”

3. Improved Sleep

As mentioned above, camping away from artificial light improves the circadian clock. Logically, it also improves sleep.

Sure, sleeping on the ground in a thin sleeping bag doesn’t sound like the perfect way to relax, but studies show that people achieve deeper and more restorative sleep in nature. One factor may be just that people are not staying up as late watching TV while camping. This alone improves sleep and increases melatonin production.

You may not be the most comfortable while camping, but you are likely getting biologically better sleep.

4. Time to Disconnect & Family Time

One of my personal favorite parts of camping is just the time to disconnect from technology and spend time with family. Sure, we all know we should put down the phone and spend more time with the real people we live with, but this can be hard to do when wrapped up in the business of daily life.

We got each of our children a good quality hiking backpack with their own gear (here’s a good list if you are interested) and they love going camping and getting a chance to use it all.

5. A Breath of Fresh Air

Another tangible benefit of camping is the abundance of fresh air. Experts warn that indoor air is often more polluted than outdoor air. They encourage opening windows and ventilating our homes often. Spending time outdoors, especially overnight, is a great way to get the benefits of fresh air. Areas with a lot of trees have a higher oxygen concentration in the environment, and therefore it’s easier to breathe and relax.

6. Exercise in Natural Beauty

One of the best things about camping? The natural boredom. Without TVs, video games, and the many distractions of home, we naturally tend to want to walk around and explore. This naturally leads to exercise in a high oxygen, natural light environment that makes movement even more beneficial!

Tips for Camping

Ready to spend some time in the great outdoors? Here are a few tips to get the maximum benefits:

Ditch the artificial light: The studies all noted the biggest benefit from camping away from all artificial light, including flashlights. Stick to natural light sources like a campfire, candles, and natural lanterns to avoid the bright LED flashlights.
Cook natural foods: Don’t use camping as an excuse to eat marshmallows (unless they’re made like this, of course 😉 ) and other junk food. Campfires are wonderful for roasting natural foods like meat, vegetables, and even fruit. (My kids love roasted apples on the campfire.)
Stay for the long haul: The studies all showed the most benefits from three or more days of camping. Plan a week long family trip once a year and enjoy all of the benefits!
Get good gear: Few things are worse than being caught in a tent that leaks during a rainstorm. Invest in some good camping gear and it will last for years.
Ways to Get (Some) of the Benefits of Camping While at Home

Despite all of the benefits, I know a few people who adamantly refuse to camp and even hate the idea of braving the great outdoors! If a team of wild horses couldn’t tear you away from the comforts of home, there are a few things you can do to get some of the benefits while at home.

Reduce the artificial light: One of the biggest benefits to being outdoors is the break from artificial lighting. Even if you aren’t ready to sleep in the woods, you can still manipulate the blue light in your home for better health. We now have lamps with only natural orange spectrum light for at night and I also wear blue blocking orange glasses after dark to reduce blue light exposure.
Clean the air: Another benefit to being outside is the abundance of fresh air. Keep your indoor air clean with these tips.
Get enough sleep: Many of the benefits attributed to camping come from sleeping more! This is one health tip every expert seems to agree on, and a free one for the most part. Make sleep a priority and make time to get enough of it. Here are some tips to improve sleep.

Source: Wellness Mama | Not affiliated with Aetrex Worldwide

Why Has the American Approach to Heart Disease Failed?

by CHRIS KRESSER

A recent New York Times article correctly suggests that diet and lifestyle changes are far more effective ways to prevent and treat heart disease than statins and stents. But what diet, and what lifestyle? Is it as simple as avoiding “artery-clogging saturated fat,” as the author suggests? Read on to find out why the American approach to heart disease has really failed.

Jane Brody wrote an article in The New York Times called “Learning from Our Parents’ Heart Health Mistakes.” She argues that despite decades of advice to change our diet and lifestyle in order to reduce our risk of heart disease, we still depend far too much on drugs and expensive procedures like stents.

She says:

Too often, the American approach to heart disease amounts to shutting the barn door after the horse has escaped.

To support this argument, she refers to a recent paper published on the Tsimane, an indigenous population in the Bolivian Amazon. The study found that the rate of coronary atherosclerosis in the Tsimane was one-fifth of that observed in the United States (and the lowest that has ever been measured). Nearly nine in 10 Tsimane had unobstructed coronary arteries and no evidence of heart disease, and the researchers estimated that the average 80-year-old Tsimane has the same vascular age as an American in his mid-50s.

I certainly agree with Ms. Brody so far, and her analogy that the American approach to heart disease amounts to shutting the barn door after the horse has escaped is spot on.

The problem is what comes next, as she attempts to answer the question of why the Tsimane have so much less heart disease than Americans:

Protein accounts for 14 percent of their calories and comes primarily from animal meats that, unlike American meats, are very low in artery-clogging saturated fat. [emphasis mine]

Does saturated fat “clog” your arteries?
Artery-clogging saturated fat? Are we still using that phrase in 2017?

As I’ve written before, on average, long-term studies do not show an association between saturated fat intake and blood cholesterol levels. (1) (I say “on average” because individual response to saturated fat can vary based on genetics and other factors—but this is a subject for another article.)

If you’re wondering whether saturated fat may contribute to heart disease in some way that isn’t related to cholesterol, a large meta-analysis of prospective studies involving close to 350,000 participants found no association between saturated fat and heart disease.

Does saturated fat really “clog” your arteries?

Are “clogged arteries” the cause of heart disease?
Moreover, as Peter Attia eloquently and thoroughly described in this article, the notion that atherosclerosis is caused by “clogged arteries” was shown to be false many years ago:

Most people, doctors included, think atherosclerosis is a luminal-narrowing condition—a so-called “pipe narrowing” condition. It’s true that eventually the lumen of a diseased vessel does narrow, but this is sort of like saying the defining feature of a subprime collateralized debt obligation (CDO) is the inevitable default on its underlying assets. By the time that happens, eleven other pathologic things have already happened and you’ve missed the opportunity for the most impactful intervention to prevent the cascade of events from occurring at all.

To reiterate: atherosclerosis development begins with plaque accumulation in the vessel wall, which is accompanied by expansion of the outer vessel wall without a change in the size of the lumen. Only in advanced disease, and after significant plaque accumulation, does the lumen narrow.

Michael Rothenberg also published an article on the fallacy of the “clogged pipe” hypothesis of heart disease. He said:

Although the image of coronary arteries as kitchen pipes clogged with fat is simple, familiar, and evocative, it is also wrong.

If heart disease isn’t caused by “clogged arteries,” what does cause it?
The answer to that question is a little more complex. For a condensed version, read my article “The Diet-Heart Myth: Why Everyone Should Know Their LDL Particle Number.” For a deeper dive, read Dr. Attia’s article.

Here’s the 15-second version, courtesy of Dr. Attia:

Atherosclerosis is caused by an inflammatory response to sterols in artery walls. Sterol delivery is lipoprotein-mediated, and therefore much better predicted by the number of lipoprotein particles (LDL-P) than by the cholesterol they carry (LDL-C).

You might think that I’m splitting hairs here over terminology, but that’s not the case. It turns out that this distinction—viewing heart disease as caused by high LDL-P and inflammation, rather than arteries clogged by saturated fat—has crucial implications when it comes to the discussion of how to prevent it.

Because while it’s true that a high intake of saturated fat can elevate LDL particle number in some people, this appears to be a minority of the population. The most common cause of high LDL-P in Americans—and elsewhere in the industrial world—is almost certainly insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. (I explain why in this article.)

And what is one of the most effective ways of treating insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome? That’s right: a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet!

News flash: diets high in saturated fat may actually prevent heart disease
Perhaps this explains why low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets (yes, including saturated fat) have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease.

For example, a meta-analysis of 17 low-carb diet trials covering 1,140 obese patients published in the journal Obesity Reviews found that low-carb diets were associated with significant decreases in body weight, as well as improvements in several CV risk factors, including decreases in triglycerides, fasting glucose, blood pressure, body mass index, abdominal circumference, plasma insulin, and C-reactive protein, as well as an increase in HDL cholesterol. (3)

(In case you’re wondering, low-carb diets in these studies had a null effect on LDL cholesterol: they neither increased nor decreased it.)

Saturated fat is a red herring
Instead of focusing so much on saturated fat intake, which is almost certainly a red herring, why not focus on other aspects of the Tsimane’s diet and lifestyle that might contribute to their low risk of heart disease? For example:

They are extremely active physically; Tsimane men walk an average of 17,000 steps a day, and Tsimane women walk an average of 15,000 steps a day—and they don’t sit for long periods. Ms. Brody does mention this in her article.
They don’t eat processed and refined foods. We have been far too focused on calories and macronutrient ratios and not enough on food quality. We now know that hunter–gatherers and pastoralists around the world have thrived on both high-carbohydrate, low-fat diets (like the Tsimane, who get 72 percent of calories from carbohydrate) and low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets (like the Masai and Inuit). But what all hunter–gatherer diets share in common is their complete absence of processed and refined foods.
Perhaps if we stopped focusing so much on the amount of fat and carbohydrate in our diet and started focusing more on the quality of the food we eat, we’d be better off.

And of course we also need to attend to the many other differences between our modern lifestyle (which causes heart disease) and the ancestral lifestyle (which prevents it), including physical activity, sleep, stress, light exposure, play/fun, and social support.

The Tsimane study illustrates exactly why an evolutionary perspective on diet, lifestyle, and behavior is so important. It helps us to generate hypotheses on what aspects of our modern way of life may be contributing to chronic diseases like atherosclerosis and gives us ideas about what interventions we need to make to prevent and reverse these diseases.

Source: ChrisKresser.com | Not affiliated with Aetrex Worldwide

Are There Home Treatments for Neuromas of the Feet?

By RONI CARYN RABIN

Neuromas of the foot, a painful condition caused by an inflamed nerve in the ball of the foot, can be effectively treated at home with daily massage and stretches and over-the-counter painkillers, said Dr. Jacqueline Sutera, a doctor of podiatric medicine and surgery.

“Of all the patients with neuromas I see in the office, I would say that ultimately only two of 10 might need surgery,” said Dr. Sutera, who practices in New York City and New Jersey.

Neuromas of the foot, also known as Morton’s neuromas, typically cause sharp, stabbing pain in the second, third and fourth toes. The goal of massaging and stretching is to open up the space between the bones — the metatarsals — in the ball of the foot and increase circulation, which can help reduce the pain and inflammation. Focus on the ball of the foot, not the toes, since the pain in the toes is referred pain from the ball of the foot.

Dr. Sutera recommends placing the thumbs at the top of the foot and the other fingers on the bottom of the foot — or vice versa — and pressing and massaging the bones of the ball of the foot, “creating pressure on both sides, top and bottom.” Follow massages with stretches, using your hands to “grab your forefoot and pull it apart so you’re stretching the spaces between the metatarsals in the ball of the foot.”

Massages and stretches are most effective at the end of the day, she said, ideally after a hot shower, bath or other heat application. After the massage and stretching, the area should be iced.

Since neuromas can be caused or aggravated by narrow, tight and pointy shoes or high heels, you may want to invest in comfortable, supportive footwear that has a wide toe box to help with healing and prevent recurrences, Dr. Sutera said. If you must wear high heels on occasion, wedges or platforms may be better for your feet, she said. Pads or cushioned inserts are also available to place in your shoes under the ball of your foot to help lift and separate the metatarsals.

A podiatrist can prescribe other treatments, such as physical therapy, cortisone injections for pain or custom-made orthotics.

But consult a physician before doing anything. “It’s important to get the right diagnosis,” Dr. Sutera said. “And if your symptoms get worse or persist, you should definitely go to a doctor for an X-ray and evaluation.”

Source: NY Times | Not affiliated with Aetrex Worldwide

How walking benefits the brain

You probably know that walking does your body good, but it’s not just your heart and muscles that benefit. Researchers at New Mexico Highlands University (NMHU) found that the foot’s impact during walking sends pressure waves through the arteries that significantly modify and can increase the supply of blood to the brain. The research will be presented today at the APS annual meeting at Experimental Biology 2017 in Chicago.

Until recently, the blood supply to the brain (cerebral blood flow or CBF) was thought to be involuntarily regulated by the body and relatively unaffected by changes in the blood pressure caused by exercise or exertion. The NMHU research team and others previously found that the foot’s impact during running (4-5 G-forces) caused significant impact-related retrograde (backward-flowing) waves through the arteries that sync with the heart rate and stride rate to dynamically regulate blood circulation to the brain.

In the current study, the research team used non-invasive ultrasound to measure internal carotid artery blood velocity waves and arterial diameters to calculate hemispheric CBF to both sides of the brain of 12 healthy young adults during standing upright rest and steady walking (1 meter/second). The researchers found that though there is lighter foot impact associated with walking compared with running, walking still produces larger pressure waves in the body that significantly increase blood flow to the brain. While the effects of walking on CBF were less dramatic than those caused by running, they were greater than the effects seen during cycling, which involves no foot impact at all.

“New data now strongly suggest that brain blood flow is very dynamic and depends directly on cyclic aortic pressures that interact with retrograde pressure pulses from foot impacts,” the researchers wrote. “There is a continuum of hemodynamic effects on human brain blood flow within pedaling, walking and running. Speculatively, these activities may optimize brain perfusion, function, and overall sense of wellbeing during exercise.”

“What is surprising is that it took so long for us to finally measure these obvious hydraulic effects on cerebral blood flow,” first author Ernest Greene explained. “There is an optimizing rhythm between brain blood flow and ambulating. Stride rates and their foot impacts are within the range of our normal heart rates (about 120/minute) when we are briskly moving along.”

Source: Science Daily | Not affiliated with Aetrex Worldwide

Do You Have Overlapping Toes

Many disorders can affect the joints in the toes, causing pain and preventing the foot from functioning as it should. People of all ages can experience forefoot problems. Overlapping toes can occur in any of the toes and can cause extreme irritation if not corrected. 

So what causes overlapping toes? Typically it’s your footwear choice. Tight shoes can lead to the formation of bunions caused by friction, and these in turn can cause overlapping toes to develop over time. When bunions form on the big toe, it causes the second toe to have to accommodate the extra space. Often, the only place the toe can go is over another toe.

Any problems that cause pain or discomfort in the toes should be given prompt attention. Ignoring the symptoms can aggravate the condition, and lead to a breakdown of tissue or even infection. Conservative treatment (non-surgical treatment) of overlapping toes begins with accommodating the disorder. Shoes with a high, broad toe box (toe area) are recommended for people suffering from overlapping toes. Forefoot supports such as gel toe straighteners, gel toe caps and toe combs are often recommended to keep overlapping toes apart. These effective devices are designed to reduce friction to help relieve the discomfort.

mens-slipon

Buy Men’s Casual Slip-ons with high toe-boxes: Here

cork-slipon

Buy Women’s Slip-ons with high toe-boxes: Here

Mens-Lynco

Buy Lynco Men’s orthotics: Here

Womens-Lynco

Buy Lynco Women’s orthotics: Here

DISCLAIMER:  The information contained on this site is not provided by medical professionals and is provided for informational purposes only.  The information on this site is not meant to substitute consulting with your podiatrist, doctor or other health care professional. The information available on or through this site is in no way intended to diagnose, influence treatment or cure any foot or other health problems nor is it a substitute for the services or advice of a podiatrist, physician, or health professional.  You should always consult a physician licensed in your state in all matters relating to your health.

 

Pregnancy & Your Feet

Pregnancy triggers many different changes in a woman’s body. Many women have common complaints throughout their pregnancy. One of these complaints, often overlooked, is foot pain. Due to the natural weight gain during pregnancy, a woman’s center of gravity is completely altered. This causes a new weight-bearing stance and added pressure to the knees and feet. Two of the most common foot problems experienced by pregnant woman are over- pronation and edema. These problems can lead to pain at the heel, arch, or the ball-of-foot. Many women may also experience leg cramping and varicose veins due to weight gain. Because of this, it is important for all pregnant women to learn more about foot health during their pregnancy to help make this nine month period more comfortable for them.

over-pronation

Over-pronation and edema a very common foot problem experienced during pregnancy. Over-Pronation, also referred to as flat feet, is caused when a person’s arch flattens out upon weight bearing and their feet roll inward when walking. This can create extreme stress or inflammation on the plantar fascia, the fibrous band of tissue that runs from the heel to the forefoot. Over-pronation can make walking very painful and can increase strain on the feet, calves and/or back. The reason many pregnant women suffer from over-pronation is the added pressure on the body as a result of weight gain. Over-pronation is also very prominent in people who have flexible, flat feet or in people who are obese.

edema

Edema, also referred to as swelling in the feet, normally occurs in the latter part of pregnancy. Edema results from the extra blood accumulated during pregnancy. The enlarging uterus puts pressure on the blood vessels in the pelvis and legs causing circulation to slow down and blood to pool in the lower extremities. The total water fluid in the body remains the same as before pregnancy, however it becomes displaced. When feet are swollen, they can become purplish in color. Sometimes extra water is retained during pregnancy, adding to the swelling. If there is swelling in the face or hands, a doctor should be contacted immediately.

orthotics-W

There are effective ways to treat both over-pronation and edema during pregnancy. Over-Pronation can be treated conservatively with “ready-made” orthotics or sandals/flip-slops with added arch support. These orthotics/footwear should be designed with appropriate arch support and medial rearfoot posting to correct the over-pronation. Proper fitting footwear is also very important in treating over-pronation. Choose comfortable footwear that provides extra support and shock absorption. It is important to treat over-pronation for pain relief but also to prevent other foot conditions from developing such as Plantar Fasciitis, Heel Spurs, Metatarsalgia, Post-Tib Tendonitis and/or Bunions.

elevate-feet

Edema in the feet can be minimized by the following methods: Elevate your feet as often as possible. If you have to sit for long periods of time, place a small stool by your feet to elevate them. Wear proper fitting footwear. Footwear that is too narrow or short will constrict circulation. Have your feet measured several times throughout your pregnancy. They will probably change sizes. Wear seamless socks that do not constrict circulation. If you are driving for a long period of time, take regular breaks to stretch your legs to promote circulation. Exercise regularly to promote overall health; walking is the best exercise. Drink plenty of water to keep the body hydrated. This helps the body retain less fluid. Eat a well-balanced diet and avoid foods high in salt that can cause water retention. Swelling is normally similar in both feet. If swelling is not symmetrical in both feet, this may be a sign of a vascular problem and a doctor should be contacted immediately.

womens-sandals

Since the weather is warming and sandals and flip flops are easy shoes for pregnant women to wear during pregnancy, it is important to select footwear with the proper support. Aetrex makes a few great sandal lines that can help keep your feet supported, comfortable and looking cute this spring and summer. Click on the links below to learn more.

Women’s Lynco Flips

Women’s Sandals

DISCLAIMER:  The information contained on this site is not provided by medical professionals and is provided for informational purposes only.  The information on this site is not meant to substitute consulting with your podiatrist, doctor or other health care professional. The information available on or through this site is in no way intended to diagnose, influence treatment or cure any foot or other health problems nor is it a substitute for the services or advice of a podiatrist, physician, or health professional.  You should always consult a physician licensed in your state in all matters relating to your health.

Heal Your Body With Fermented Foods

As a health coach, I am often asked, “What are some simple ways to improve my overall health?” One of my favorite answers is fermented foods! Fermented foods are nutrient dense, healing to the gut, fairly easy to make and can really make a difference in giving your health a boost.

You may be wondering “what the heck are fermented foods?” Fermented foods are foods that have been through the lactofermentation process in which natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in the food, which creates lactic acid. This process preserves the food, and creates beneficial enzymes, b-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and various strains of probiotics. Not only does it preserve the nutrients and contain naturally occurring probiotics but it also makes the food more easily digestible, which is great for your gut health.

While fermented foods used to be very commonplace in many societies, our modern convenience diet is often very lacking in fermented foods. In fact, many people would consider them “gross” because they taste and smell very differently than the packaged, processed fast foods that many Americans are accustomed to eating.

So what are some of the benefits of eating fermented foods, you may ask. Let me break it down.

  1. Easily digestible: Due to overall unhealthy diets, many people have compromised digestive systems. When your body is being forced to break down foreign chemicals, preservatives and difficult to digest foods on a regular basis, your gut pays the price. Fermented foods are already in the process of being broken down by beneficial bacteria, making them much easier to digest, and therefore much friendlier for your gut.
  2. Budget friendly: Fermented foods can be stored for long periods of time in jars, meaning less waste for those veggies that are usually left to rot in your refrigerator drawer. You can buy your veggies in bulk, ferment them and use as needed. This will help cut down on wasted food, and allows you the advantage of bulk pricing. It also helps cut down on the need to buy supplements like probiotics and digestive enzymes.
  3. Naturally occurring probiotics and digestive enzymes: The fermentation process introduces beneficial bacteria into your system naturally. Incorporating probiotics and digestive enzymes can do wonders for your gut health by healing the gut and allowing for more complete absorption of nutrients.

Some of my favorite fermented foods include kombucha, kefir, authentic sourdough bread, sauerkraut, Bubbies brand pickles and pickled carrots. You can find many of these items at your local health food store, or you can make them yourself.

DISCLAIMER:  THE INFORMATION CONTAINED ON THIS SITE IS NOT PROVIDED BY MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS AND IS PROVIDED FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY.  THE INFORMATION ON THIS SITE IS NOT MEANT TO SUBSTITUTE CONSULTING WITH YOUR PODIATRIST, DOCTOR OR OTHER HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONAL. THE INFORMATION AVAILABLE ON OR THROUGH THIS SITE IS IN NO WAY INTENDED TO DIAGNOSE, INFLUENCE TREATMENT OR CURE ANY FOOT OR OTHER HEALTH PROBLEMS NOR IS IT A SUBSTITUTE FOR THE SERVICES OR ADVICE OF A PODIATRIST, PHYSICIAN, OR HEALTH PROFESSIONAL.  YOU SHOULD ALWAYS CONSULT A PHYSICIAN LICENSED IN YOUR STATE IN ALL MATTERS RELATING TO YOUR HEALTH.

NYC Foot Doctors Discuss Causes of Big Toe Pain and Treatment Options

Big toe pain is a big problem in New York City. The big toe’s function is to provide leverage to the foot during the push-off phase of the gait cycle. Along with the little toe, the health of the big toe is essential in maintaining balance while you stand. It is impossible to walk without a limp if your big toe hurts, and most people with big toe pain cannot run or even stand for long periods of time. There are many different issues associated with big toe discomfort, according to the best foot doctors in NYC at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine.

How Serious Is Big Toe Pain?

Do not delay in seeking treatment if your big toe is hurting; after all, pain is your body’s warning signal that trouble is brewing. We offer many non-invasive treatments to take the edge off immediately. At a minimum, big toe pain stems from an obvious injury—such as stubbing the toe and activating a bundle of pain receptors or digging your toe into the turf, causing tiny tears in the ligament. At worst, you could have an underlying structural deformity, disease, or a vascular issue that could worsen, require amputation, or become life-threatening.

Big Toe Warning Signs

Look out for…

  • Swelling, bruising, AND pain: There is a good chance a traumatic injury has occurred.
  • Sudden onset of swelling, redness, and excruciating pain: You may be having a gout attack.
  • Pain and swelling, but no bruising: You may have an overuse injury.
  • Stiffness, burning, or throbbing: You may have arthritis pain.
  • A big lump: It could be a ganglion cyst, neuroma, lipoma, fibromatosis, a bunion, or (rarely) a bone tumor.
  • Sudden discoloration or coldness: There may be a circulation issue like a blood clot or arterial blockage.
  • Nail pain accompanied by drainage, redness, and swelling: You may have an infected ingrown nail.

Seeing a foot and ankle specialist in the early stages of pain can help you get the correct diagnosis from the start to reduce your chances of progression, surgical intervention, and unnecessary complications.

Diagnosing Big Toe Pain

Pain and swelling generally appear together when a patient complains of problems with the big toe. Other symptoms may include redness, discoloration, burning, warmth, bruising, stiffness, numbness, and nail pain. Sometimes there is pain even with rest, or the pain is most acutely felt in the morning. Patients may have difficulty wearing their favorite shoes. Keep in mind that the feeling of physical pain can vary greatly from person to person; it can be sharp or a dull ache, shooting like electrical pulses, or a burning warmth.

NYC foot doctors at The Center For Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine may be able to tell what’s wrong simply by conducting a basic physical examination and asking you a few questions about your symptoms, recent activities, diet, and medical history. Other times, we may request a urine or blood sample to rule out conditions like infection or gout. Biopsies and cultures can be tested to look for specific pathogens or diseases. X-rays, MRIs, and CT scans can be used to rule out bone and tissue damage. Accurate diagnosis is of utmost importance to our foot specialists, so we have all the diagnostic tools we need right here.

Why Does My Big Toe Hurt?

The most common causes of big toe pain we treat are:

  • Arthritis: Wear-and-tear or an immune system disorder causes degradation of cartilage, stiffness, inflammation, and debilitating pain.
  • Blue toe syndrome: Blood vessel damage causes reduced blood and oxygen flow to the toe, causing changes in color and sudden pain.
  • Bunions: A combination of heredity and ill-fitting shoes causes the big toe joint to drift out of alignment.
  • Capsulitis: Stress and improper footwear cause the fluid-filled sac surrounding the toe joint to inflame.
  • Diabetes: Blood vessel damage can cause pain, deformity, and sensitivity changes in the toe joint.
  • Fractures: Broken bones in the big toe can occur if a heavy object is dropped on the toe, the toe is stubbed with significant force against a hard object, or from overuse during sports activity.
  • Gout: An excessive amount of uric acid build-up in the body causes the formation of urate crystals in the blood, which pools in the toe joint, causing excruciating pain, inflammation, redness, and tenderness.
  • Ingrown toenail: Injury, improper clipping technique, or heredity causes the nail to grow into the flesh rather than upward and outward.
  • Sesamoiditis: Inflammation of the two bones beneath the toe occur with sports that involve a lot of toe work and jumping (like dancing) or with a lot of high heel wearing.
  • Tennis toe: Repeat damage from hard stops while running causes blood to accumulate beneath the nail, causing a throbbing pain and discoloration beneath the nail.
  • Turf toe: Hyperextension as the toe bends too far backward causes strain and damage in the ligaments, which is accompanied by pain along the bottom of the foot, inflammation, and tenderness. 

Treatment for Toe Pain in NYC

Naturally, your treatment will depend upon your diagnosis. Most conditions can benefit from PRICE treatment (Protection, Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation). Your prescription could be as minimal as easy at-home therapies, over-the-counter ibuprofen, careful monitoring for signs of progression, and stretching. In some cases, a change in footwear and custom orthotics can help.

In the office, we offer a number of advanced pain therapies beyond the typical cortisone shot. Advanced injection therapies include biopuncture, platelet rich plasma, and stem cells. Pain lasers, cryotherapy tools, ultrasonic debridement, ultrasound therapy, and shockwave therapy can all be used to trigger natural healing mechanisms in an area that typically features reduced circulation (and, as a result, slower healing).

We can refer you to another specialist to help with the treatment of vascular issues or complex disease like diabetes. We can prescribe you medication to treat a number of conditions or antibiotics/antifungals for infections. Dietary changes are necessary for the management of gout. Some conditions—such as bunions—can only be completely healed through surgery. Our team of board-certified podiatric surgeons brings the most up-to-date techniques, methods, tools, and training to the operating room. Those same doctors guide you through rehabilitation, so you won’t need to visit a different facility to recover. Contact us for the best big toe pain treatment NYC has to offer.

Source: Dr. Geldwert | Not affiliated with Aetrex Worldwide

The Purse Apothecary

BY Robyn Prescott

Does your busy lifestyle sometimes throw unexpected challenges your way—a restaurant menu sure to cause you digestive grief, a stressful business meeting, or a tickle in your throat forecasting an impending cold? Prepare for these and other nasty surprises with natural remedies you can carry in your purse.

As a practising naturopath with a busy life, I long ago discovered a useful trick for meeting unanticipated challenges: quick on-the-go remedies I can carry in my purse. Along with some natural vanilla-scented lip balm and a tub of homemade healing calendula cream for accidental cuts, I carry a selection of natural remedies in my purse and use them as needed.

Having these items in my purse gives me a sense of personal power and allows me to take action to prevent colds, eat out comfortably, and mediate anxiety in situations where I need to perform. Use the following tips to create your own purse apothecary so you too can face adversity with strength.

HERBAL TINCTURES TO BOOST THE IMMUNE SYSTEM

Stressful situations such as work deadlines or constantly feeling overwhelmed in your life can dramatically affect your immune system’s function. Extended periods of stress can suppress the immune system’s fighting abilities, leaving you more vulnerable to infections such as colds and flus.

When combatting the initial cold symptoms, it is important to ward off unwanted viruses and bacteria by killing them and stimulating your immune system’s defences. One of the first signs of a cold is a sore throat, often due to the start of an infection. To quickly combat the viruses or bacteria your throat and mouth may be harbouring, you can use a potent herbal antimicrobial (germ-killing) tincture.

Here are a few herbs to look for that are excellent for boosting immune function when you start feeling those cold or flu symptoms coming on.

WHAT IS A TINCTURE?

A tincture is a combination of herbs extracted with the appropriate alcoholic percentage best suited to remove the active ingredient from the desired herb. Generally, tinctures contain a variety of herbs with different actions for maximum benefit.

Tinctures are usually sold in 100 mL, 250 mL, or 500 mL dark brown bottles to avoid light damage to the herbs. The bottle is topped with a squeeze dropper allowing you to administer the appropriate dose accurately to the drop.

Tinctures are often prescribed as either a dropperful two to three times per day or 20 to 60 drops per day (there are approximately 20 drops or 1 mL in a dropper) or as directed by the prescribing health care practitioner.

The tincture is often taken alone but can also be taken in a glass of water if needed.

Here are a few herbs to look for that are excellent for boosting immune function when you start feeling those cold or flu symptoms coming on.

ANTIMICROBIAL HERBS: ANDROGRAPHIS AND MYRRH

Two very potent antimicrobial herbs are andrographis (Andrographis paniculata) and myrrh (Commiphora spp.).

Andrographis has been shown to reduce frequency and severity of cough while also clearing mucus.

Myrrh has been used traditionally to inhibit the growth of bacteria and decrease inflammation.

SOOTHING AND HEALING MARSHMALLOW

Another very important herb to help heal and soothe the mucosal lining of your throat is marshmallow (Althea officinalis). Because of its therapeutic properties, this herb is called a demulcent (it coats and lines organs, allowing them to heal and be protected from damage). The tincture works best if it can be taken preventively, starting as soon as the undesired symptoms begin.

DIGESTIVE ENZYMES FOR GAS AND BLOATING

It is easy to find ourselves in situations where food choices are less than optimal. This is where digestive enzymes in your portable apothecary can come in handy. Although there are many types of digestive enzymes, a complex of enzymes derived from plant sources may be best.

Usually, this type of supplement consists of a spectrum of different enzymes that each help digest a particular food group. For example, lactase digests dairy products and lipase helps digest fats. Digestive enzymes help break down the food we eat, which reduces the likelihood that we will experience the negative side effects of gas and bloating.

TIP: Keep in mind that digestive enzymes are not a permanent solution if you experience persistent gas and bloating. Useful for occasional situations that you cannot avoid, digestive enzymes in your purse may come in handy.

PASSION FLOWER FOR ANXIOUS MOMENTS

If you suffer from anxiety in social situations, experience stage fright before public speaking, or generally feel anxious, it may be helpful to have some passion flower on hand to help you get through these stressful moments.

Passion flower has been used for many years as a mild sedative, relaxation, and calming medicine. In recent animal studies it has been shown to reduce anxiety and improve memory through potentially affecting GABA receptors in our brain (which are thought to control fear and anxiety).

Although passion flower is considered a mild sedative, it is important to make sure this is the right herb for you based on allergies you may have or the type of job you do. Some people can have an allergic reaction or feel more sedated than normal.

Please consult your health care practitioner for proper dosing and safety instructions prior to taking any new herbs or supplements. Many herbs and supplements can interact with medication, and it is important to ensure they are safe for you.

WHAT CAN BUSY MEN CARRY IN THEIR BACKPACK?

WITCH HAZEL can be used as a topical cleanser that closes up open hair follicles after shaving and protects the skin. It can also help avoid redness after shaving, as it reduces inflammation and cools the skin.
A NATURAL DEODORANT STICK containing sage extract can be used to kill unwanted odour-producing bacteria naturally and also reduce the risk of skin irritation.
GINSENG (Panex ginseng) can be used to help increase mental capacity when you need to perform at a big presentation or meeting.

Source: Alive.com | Not affiliated with Aetrex Worldwide

Study ties Mediterranean diet to larger brain volume

Can eating a Mediterranean diet help you hold on to more brain cells in older age? A study published online Jan. 4, 2017, by Neurology suggests there’s an association. Scientists measured the brain volumes of about 400 dementia-free people, taken when participants were age 73 and again at age 76. Researchers then compared the changes in brain volume over the three years to questionnaire answers about how well participants stuck to a Mediterranean-style diet. The diet includes lots of fruits, vegetables, olive oil, legumes, and whole grains; moderate amounts of fish, dairy foods, and red wine; and limited amounts of red meat and poultry.

Sticking to the diet was associated with a lower amount of total brain shrinkage over the three-year study period. The finding is only observational and doesn’t prove that eating a Mediterranean diet slows age-related brain shrinkage. But other studies have linked eating a Mediterranean diet to larger brain volumes. The diet is also associated with better thinking skills, a reduced risk of Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease, and a reduced risk of dying from heart disease or cancer.

Source: Harvard Health Publications| Not affiliated with Aetrex Worldwide