Do you know the importance of having a good posture and how your posture can affect you not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. Do you watch your posture when sitting, standing, or working out? The concept of a "perfect" posture is questionable, and our postures will change throughout our years, but being aware of our posture and trying to achieve an alignment that reduces stress on our body is ideal.
Over time, bad posture can put tremendous stress on the body leading to back and neck pain, headaches, and muscle imbalances which alter lower limb alignment causing pain and injury. When you slouch or keep your back in an awkward position, your entire body suffers. Poor posture impacts every system in the body, including lung, brain, and digestive function, and it can have a dramatic affect on your confidence and self-image. Standing up straight can prevent a myriad of problems, reduce your risk of injury, help improve your balance and make you stronger.
Posture is the position in which you hold your body while standing, sitting, or lying down. Good posture is the optimal alignment of body parts supported by the right amount of muscle tension against gravity. When you concentrate on standing tall, you reduce the strain on your joints and allow your muscles to work optimally to support you. Every body is different!
Your posture can be affected by so may things: the job you do, how active you are, your mood and your confidence.
Just take a second - wherever you are and become aware of your body position. Now put yourself into a slumped position and feel how that affects you mentally and physically. While you are there, try and tighten your tummy muscles and see how hard it is. Now sit up tall, and feel the difference that makes... how just sitting up tall has a positive affect on your whole attitude, and how those abdominal muscles are automatically engaged to support your back.
It’s never too late to correct your posture. Our bodies serve us so well, so as a show of gratitude take a few minutes regularly throughout the day to think about your posture, and take the strain out of your day!!
Use a mirror to identify your postural type and look at what you need to do to improve your posture.
Use can also use a wall to help you find correct alignment.
Put little stickers (red dots) around the house to remind you to check your posture regularly through the day or remember to do it every time you read a text message or boil the kettle.
According to The Association for Pelvic Organ Support (APOPS http://www.pelvicorganprolapsesupport.org) one in every two women is estimated to experience some degree of POP. Despite this very high statistic, it remains a subject that most women are embarrassed to talk about and it is another of those conditions that many women just live with, considering it to be "normal" following childbirth. As women, we are not as informed as we could be on the preventive and healing strategies that can ease symptoms.
What is a Pelvic Organ Prolapse?
A POP occurs when the pelvic floor muscles weaken and one or more of the pelvic organs (the uterus, the bladder or the bowel) descend into the vaginal canal. In advanced cases of POP, tissues push through the vaginal canal and can protrude outside of the body.
There are four levels of severity - grade 1 is the most mild and a grade 4 is the most severe.
Vaginal childbirth and menopause are the 2 leading causes of pelvic organ prolapse and nearly every woman carries at least one risk factor for POP. Women who do develop POP, typically have multiple risk factors, but even 1 damaging child birthing experience can be sufficient to cause problems that evolve into pelvic organ prolapse. HOWEVER, women in every age demographic and from all over the world can experience pelvic organ prolapse, even those who have never given birth.
SYMPTOMS OF PELVIC ORGAN PROLAPSE
There are five different types of POP (relating to which organ has prolapsed) and each type has its own specific symptoms, but in general the most common symptoms include:
Once you have received a definitive diagnosis, a treatment plan can be put into place. Although surgical management of symptomatic POP is common it is not always necessary, so make sure you take good advice and consider all your options before diving in for surgery, I am sure you will have seen the recent controversies over surgical POP repair.
It is important to know that a Grade 1 or 2 prolapse will not inevitably worsen, so if you are suffering Grade 1 or 2 symptoms, preventative and healing strategies and changes in lifestyle can prevent your prolapse worsening, and reverse the symptoms.
CONSERVATIVE TREATMENT OPTIONS INCLUDE:
June is Pelvic Organ Prolapse awareness month and last week we looked at what Pelvic Organ Prolapse is, what symptoms you may experience if you have one and what to do about it. Remember - if this information does not apply to you, it may apply to your mum, your aunt, your sister or your friend - so spread the word, so many women live in a state of embarrassment or fear of what is happening to their bodies, not knowing what to do or who to talk to - this just isn't right.
For many women irregular bowel habits and constipation are a very real issue. A constipated bowel can cause or worsen pelvic floor dysfunction due to the pressure generated through the pelvic floor when trying to have a bowel movement. Let's face it, going to the toilet is not something we can just decide not to do ... eliminating waste is key to our health and well being, so what can you do to make sure that an every day habit does not have an adverse effect on your body.
Are you constipated?
Ideally you should be emptying your bowels daily but at the very least you should be going at least 3 times a week and not more than 3 x a day.
An ideal stool according to the Bristol Stool Chart is soft, sausage shaped and brown.
If you feel you are constipated here are a few tips you can try to see if they ease the problem, and help you to protect your pelvic floor from long-term damage in the future. If the problem persists or you notice anything unusual with your bowel you must seek medical advice.
FIVE TIPS FOR BETTER BOWEL HEALTH
DRINK MORE WATER
Sometimes the simple remedies are the most effective. Many women, for fear of leaking, simply reduce their intake of all fluids. While this might mean that you feel more confident when you are out and about, chronic dehydration is bad news for virtually every cell in your body and has the potential to reduce a range of bodily activities from brain function to fat loss.
I find it easier to drink more when I monitor my water intake and carry a water bottle with me all of the time. If you know you are not drinking enough, have a think about what might work to help you improve your fluid intake.
HOW AND WHAT ARE YOU EATING
Is the food you are eating delicious AND good for you?
Do you eat on the run?
Are you feeling guilty about what you eat?
Are you mindful about what and how you are eating?
Give some thought to not only your diet but your eating habits – try and make sure that you have time to chew and digest your food properly at each meal, this could make a huge difference to your digestion.
A DIET RICH IN FIBER
Increasing the fiber content of your diet can really help to improve the function of the digestive system. But ease into it slowly:
When we sit on the loo in an upright sitting position – part of the pelvic floor is only able to partially relax, keeping the colon kinked and blocking the flow of waste. In a more squat position the muscles can fully relax allowing the colon to empty quickly and completely. So an ideal toileting position has the knees higher than the hips– which can be achieved by placing a small stool or a couple of blocks under each foot.
Here is a rather humorous look at the "Squatty Potty" and the and-rectal angle!
I LOVE YOU MASSAGE
This is a lovely way to start the day and connect with your body – and I have found it really does help to eliminate any excess gas and move any waste that might be lingering a little longer than you wanted.
There are a few thieves which may be raiding your bones without you knowing it:
HIGH SODIUM FOODS - The more salt you eat the more calcium that is excreted out of the body. Medical researchers at the University of Alberta discovered an important link between sodium and calcium. These both appear to be regulated by the same molecule in the body. When sodium intake becomes too high, the body gets rid of sodium via the urine, taking calcium with it, which depletes calcium stores in the body. High levels of calcium in the urine lead to the development of kidney stones, while inadequate levels of calcium in the body lead to thin bones and osteoporosis.
CAFFEINE - Caffeine is also responsible for leaching calcium out of the bones, but this can be overcome by ensuring your diet has adequate calcium intake and limiting your coffee intake.
CARBONATED DRINKS (COLA) - Reaching for a fizzy can of soda may be doing more damage to your bones than you think. Soft drinks are packed with phosphoric acid, which causes an increase in the blood's acidity levels. As a result, the body pulls calcium out of our bones in order to bring the acidity levels back to normal.
ALCOHOL - Alcohol prevents osteoblasts (bone-building cells) from absorbing any bone-friendly minerals, like calcium, which in turn slows down a broken bone's healing process and weakens the bones overall.
EXCESSIVE PROTEIN - The right amount of protein is important for building healthy and strong bones, but there can be too much of a good thing. Women need about 46g of protein a day and men need about 56. Too much protein particularly from red meats, can change the pH balance of our bodies. The more acidic environment can lead to bone loss. Someone who eats a diet heavy on the protein and light on the fruits, vegetables and grains can be particularly out of balance.
INFLAMMATORY FOODS - Nightshade vegetables, such as tomatoes, mushrooms, peppers, white potatoes, and eggplant, can cause bone inflammation, which can lead to osteoporosis. However, these vegetables contain other vitamins and minerals that are good for your health so they shouldn’t be totally avoided. As long as you make sure to get enough calcium in your diet.
PROCESSED FOODS/TRANS FATS - Hydrogenated oils are man-made fats produced by contaminating vegetable oils with hydrogen gas under super high pressure—which creates artery-blocking trans fats. This process destroys any naturally-occurring vitamin K in the veggie oils. And since vitamin K is essential for strong bones, we recommend forgoing any foods that contain trans fats completely (think fast food, frozen food, pastries, and some coffee creamers). To ensure your foods aren't contaminated by these foul fats, check the ingredient list (even if the label reads trans fat free!) for any "hydrogenated oils" or "partially hydrogenated oils."
SMOKING - Smoking reduces the amount of calcium your bones absorb. Vitamin D helps bones to absorb calcium, but smoking interferes with how your body uses vitamin D. Less calcium is then available to build strong bones. As a result, your bones start to get brittle.
Smoking lowers oestrogen levels in both men and women. Estrogen is important because it helps the bones to hold calcium and other minerals that make them strong. At menopause, a woman’s body makes much less estrogen, and this puts her naturally at risk for osteoporosis. Smoking increases her risk even more.
To hold calcium, the bones also need help from weight-bearing exercise, such as walking. Smokers, however, tend to get less exercise than non-smokers do. Smoking is also toxic to osteoblasts (bone-forming cells).
STRESS - You may wonder what stress and sleep have to do with bone health? As we know chronic stress and sleep deprivation can lead to elevated cortisol levels, which have been associated with bone loss. Elevated cortisol levels interfere with osteoblast formation and dramatically decrease bone building—resulting in reduced bone density.
MEDICATIONS - A number of medicines can cause bone loss if used over the long term (several years). Some common ones include:
May is National Osteoporosis Month - and I am using this as an opportunity to raise awareness about building bone strength and density when you’re younger to achieve peak bone mass and to maintain bone health and strength as you age.
BONE HEALTH - the facts
The Statistics are alarming–but there seems to be a lack of dialogue about osteoporosis?
The Skeleton is a living organ. Bones are constantly being remodelled with old bone being reabsorbed and new bone being formed. As we grow up large amounts of calcium and other minerals are deposited in bone steadily increasing bone mass until it reaches its "peak" when we are about 25, and after that bone loss starts to outpace bone gain.
The good news is that by considering your posture, your diet and addressing negative aspects of your lifestyle you can optimise your "peak bone mass" and prevent the natural ageing process from becoming pathological. Healthy bone is strong and does not break easily.
Bone building is a complex mechanism and contrary to popular belief calcium is important but its not the only factor –Magnesium, phosphorous, boron and Vitamins C D and K are all important. Magnesium in particular helps the body to use and absorb calcium, and so getting a healthy balance of both calcium and magnesium is important.
The first thing that people think about when you mention bones is calcium and dairy, and although dairy is a good source of calcium women can often become lactose intolerant as they enter the perimenopause and the menopause and dairy products also contain virtually no magnesium.
To get a balance of both calcium and magnesium try and include a diet rich in nuts, seeds and green leafy vegetables such as watercress, kale, broccoli and cabbage.
Adding foods such as fish which are rich in omega3’s particularly salmon, sardines, mackerel and anchovies have also been shown to really help with the absorption of calcium.
It is also really important to make sure that the digestive system is healthy and that the body is able to absorb the nutrients it requires from the food we consume – a high fiber diet, with probiotics and good hydration will certainly help.
Vitamin D helps your body to absorb calcium, and the action of Sunlight on your skin provides your main source of Vitamin D. Living in Kenya we are lucky that we have sunlight all year around (well nearly all year around!!) – but in climates where winters are cold and dark getting the required sun can be a problem.
Did you know that if you pop a punnet of mushrooms on a sunny windowsill for an hour or two you will get a 100 x more vitamin D from them.
Finally moving more is key for bone health - movement is hydrating to your soft tissues and fascia, the more you move the better you move. If you don’t move you will lose joint range, lose mobility all of which will have a negative impact on your posture and your bone health. Studies have shown that with specific exercise, bone mineral density in postmenopausal women can be maintained or actually increased –so lets do it.
1. ADD WEIGHTS AND RESISTENCE - to maintain or build muscle tohelp with posture and general ADL’s.
2. ADD IMPACT- research has shown that subjecting bones to abrupt stress prompts them to add mass or at least reduces their loss of mass as people age. To get the levels of stress needed on the bone to build or maintain boney mass you need weight bearing exercise. Don’t forget that the wrists are a vulnerable point for fracture and so a few ½ press-ups loading up your arms are also fab.
3. GET SWEATY - to reach Lactate Threshold. To do this you need to get out of breath, and feel the burn’ but not for extended periods. This is vital for weight management and hormonal balance too.
4. Make sure your routine includes stretching to maintain range of movement and improve posture AND don’t forget to work your balance. As you age balance is one of the first things to go and it goes without saying that if your balance is poor you are more likely to slip and fall and break something.
5. FINALLY, add in that RESTFUL RESTORATIVE exercise which is essential to combat stress – Stress elevated cortisol is a trigger for many of the hormone cascades that disregulate the entire endocrine system which will affect your bone health.