Photo: woods wheatcroft photography

If you are like most of us, you spend most of your day in a few positions – and a lot of time sitting. Within the last two generations, physical activity has dropped by 32%. This lack of movement increases the likelihood of Alzheimer’s disease by 82% [1]. It also causes a 114% increased risk of reporting poorer general health than a person who is physically active.[2]

A sedentary life is the new normal. We are sold devices that make our lives easier, encouraging less movement. Texting would hardly be considered a movement exercise.

It gets worse: we don’t realize that for hundreds of years we were trained to stand still and move incorrectly. In 40 years of private practice, I have never seen a client who was breathing fully or using gravity to aid their walk – including the Olympic and professional athletes I’ve worked on. Your first breath was your first movement. From that day on, you slowly tightened your breath.  You learned a walk that made you tighter from fighting gravity and your body’s natural movement pattern.

Most of your restrictions developed slowly over decades. One day you wake up, and you have a back problem that will not go away no matter what you do. It’s as if your joints became rusted from lack of use. You are told you are out of shape, which may be true. Often exercising will bring initial improvements. Over time your exercise can accentuate your tightness and stiffness, as your limited movement patterns get reinforced. You may not realize that twenty years of sitting at a desk had more impact on your body than twenty years of no exercise.

The Power of Movement

It’s a biological imperative to move. Our ancestors were constantly moving. Unlike horses, which can sleep standing, we are not built to stand for extended periods.

Everyone believes they are breathing enough—they aren’t. The Olympic marathon runners I worked with discovered that they had more capacity to breath after their chests were released. Your chest gets tight from years of not breathing a full, relaxed breath. As the saying goes, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” We stopped breathing a full relaxed breath primarily because of stress. Your walk gradually shifted away from leaning forward into gravity to leaning back where walking is climbing a hill.

If the only thing you do is create more movement with your breath and walk naturally, the rest would increasingly work itself out. Doing these simple behaviors and moving in a freer manner usually requires help. A tight body often can’t stretch its tightest parts. From years of inefficient movement, your body became tighter. For many stretching, massage and chiropractic treatments don’t last. That is because the chronic structural and movement patterns were not released.

Start catching yourself holding your shoulders, stomach or breath. They all are connected. Once you notice it, relax. As far as your walk, play with falling forward as you relax into gravity. It will feel strange at first. Eventually, it will become the norm. Change positions and furniture through the day. Take movement breaks through the day. Begin moving like you did as kid—start playing. You can go to my site, www.align.org to download a free book on natural walking.

Owen Marcus, MA Certified Advanced Rolfer & author, www.align.org, 37 yrs experience, author of: Power of Rolfing– call if you have questions: 265.8440.

[1]              Diabetologia. 2012 Nov;55(11):2895-905

[2]             Preventive Medicine ; Volume 37, Issue 5, November 2003, Pages 520–528

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The gastrointestinal tract is host to countless bacteria, some estimate as many as 100 trillion microbes alone. These have a powerful impact on our health. As the benefits of probiotics are becoming more and more understood, the number of available products has also escalated.

I still always start with the basic principle that diet is critical to promoting overall health and reducing the risk for most chronic diseases. This same diet also promotes a healthy gut microbial community.

Eating with the notion in mind that I am also feeding my gut bacteria is important. Supplementing healthy eating habits with a probiotic has certainly become more common. The challenge is how to sort through the numerous choices available.

The first thing I do when making a selection is to look at the number of colony forming units (CFUs). This gives me an idea of just how many probiotics are in each capsule. This can range from 100 million to 900 billion.

The problem with this number alone is that it does not determine potency. For this we need to know how many strains there are, which species were selected, how the product was handled during before purchase, and whether the expressed count was determined at time of manufacturer or is guaranteed at expiration.

The timing of potency is critical. One product may indicate 80 billion and another, 20 billion. At first, it seems the higher number is stronger. But probiotics will deteriorate over time and are affected by temperature, so the lower number could be a more potent option if measured at expiration.

The next thing we’ll need to know is the genus and species included, and how much of each. You can have anywhere from 1 to 30, or more, species. This will be in the supplement facts box, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus.

Higher, again, is not always better, as a larger number of strains will diminish the potency of each individual strain. Overcrowding can also create chaos and competition since bacteria are antagonistic.

Carefully look for the amount for each species. I like to see this measured in CFUs and not just milligrams. If this is listed as a blend, you won’t really know how much you are actually getting.

It is important to consider the viability and efficacy of the individual probiotic strains. This is the most significant factor in terms of potency. Even single strain probiotics can be very effective. Each strain survives differently, and some need to be refrigerated. Others don’t, especially ones that are microencapsulated or spore based.

Strains are identified by their brand name, like CL1285 or NCFM. Too often these are not disclosed, yet tied to important clinical tests and studies.

It’s also a good thing to know if these are normally occurring in your gut or are soil based organisms. Knowing why you are taking a probiotic helps with selecting the most effective strains.

Strains must be live, or in spore form, at the time of consumption, and must survive the stomach acidity and biliary salts in order to reach the intestines. Some are pretty hearty and can do this on their own, others need a bit more protection. Look for the type of capsule used to see if it dissolves slower.

The specific strains also have different properties of adhering to the gut wall lining, though some strains are more transient and still work well. Knowing the strains is helpful.

Once you have a good idea of the potency, you’ll then be able to compare products based on price. I’ve seen some products have four times the potency for half the price of another brand. So once more, higher, is not necessarily better.

Look at the list of other ingredients. Sometimes I’ll find things like yogurt concentrates, magnesium stearate, and titanium dioxide. And don’t forget to look at the serving size. Come on down and I’ll help you understand how to evaluate probiotics.

Scott Porter is a Functional Medicine Pharmacist at Sandpoint Super Drug. He is a member of the Sandpoint Wellness Council.

Photo: Profet77 / Pixabay

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As the days become sunnier and warmer, I notice the extra weight I gained while in hibernation over the winter. When I’m up on the hill skiing, I’m all bundled up and the little extra gets me down a run a bit faster. But as the snow melts, I feel motivated to let some of this go.

One of my most powerful tools is fasting, or changing the timing of eating. Simply put, I like to not eat for a meal or two, and drink water and a cup of coffee instead.

When I do eat again, I eat my regular diet. Changing when I eat doesn’t require me to change what I’m eating, or to eat less.

This is one of the simplest strategies I have discovered to take off fat while working out to maintain lean muscle. It requires very little change in behavior to do it, while being meaningful enough that it actually makes a difference.

How this works relates to how the body responds in a fasted state verses a fed state. Every time I eat it takes about four hours for my body to digest and absorb food. During this time, it’s very hard to burn fat because insulin levels are too high. Insulin not only helps to use food energy, it helps store energy.

Once food is processed, there is another period that starts about eight hours later. This is when I move into the fasted state and my body begins burning fat because insulin levels are now low.

In the fasted state metabolism may speed up by 4 to 14%, adrenaline is increased, and growth hormone production is increased. Fasting has been shown in clinical trials to substantially improve insulin sensitivity and levels compared to calorie reduction. Other benefits include reducing inflammation, as well as lowering cholesterol, blood pressure, and heart rate.

I’ve heard for years you have to eat every three hours, have a small snack before bed, or that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. The idea of voluntarily fasting is thought to cause starvation mode, burning of muscle, over eating, or low blood sugar.

But this is typically just not the case. Fasting doesn’t get talked about as much because there is nothing to buy or any membership required. Though it’s been around for millenniums, it is widely ignored as a dietary therapy.

Don’t just jump into fasting if you are taking medication to control blood glucose, need to closely monitor your blood sugar levels, or are underweight. It’s also not good idea for food disorders or addictions..

There are several duration’s to pick from. If I skip breakfast the result is an 18 hour fast. This is because my last meal was the night before, around 6 pm, and I started eating again at noon the next day.

Another way is to skip both breakfast and lunch. This gets me 24 hours of fasting. But the schedule I really like is not eating for a full day and waiting until breakfast the next day. That’s a whopping total of 36 hours.

Fasting works with any type of diet, it’s flexible and a powerful weight loss tool. It supports my bodies natural repair, detoxification, and cleansing processes. I like to do an intermittent fast at least once a week. But I’m also known to have fasted more than that.

Recently, I did 108 hours in one week by combining fasting days with alternating eating days. Getting past the mind games of hunger, gives me the ability to stay in the fasted state a lot longer. I felt sharper and had tons of energy.

Come on down and let’s talk.

Scott Porter is a Functional Medicine Pharmacist at Sandpoint Super Drug. He is a member of the Sandpoint Wellness Council.

Photo: michelmondadori / Pixabay

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Berberine is a chemical found in barberry, goldenseal, Oregon grape, phellodendron, goldthread, and tree tumeric. It is usually found in the bark, stems and roots of these plants. It has a long history in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. It is very yellow and has been used as a dye in wool and leather. It is also used as a laboratory stain for looking at mast cells.

For this particular group, the study showed berberine was able to regulate glucose and had a modest effect on lipid metabolism. Specifically there was a significant decrease in hemoglobin A1c, fasting blood glucose, postprandial blood glucose and triglycerides.

Often times an herbal extract will have multiple uses. Berberine is one of these. I see it used effectively as an antibacterial, immune supporter, and anti-inflammatory. It appears to be effective across a broad range of bacteria in the digestive system. Often I find it used in balancing gut imbalances.

Berberine has significant antimicrobial activity against bacteria, fungus, protozoans, helminths, viruses, and chlamydia. Because of this it can help protect against bacterial infections, particularly in the throat, intestines, and urinary track.

These properties have made it a unique supplement as part of detoxification program and commonly used for treating bacterial diarrhea and intestinal parasite infections.

It is sometimes thought that berberine is not well absorbed in the body, which is probably why it is has such strong effects in the gut, while other discussion is showing that it is actually quite well absorbed. It may just get metabolized too rapidly for blood tests to measure it before your body uses it.

I saw a quote that there were some 2,800 studies over a 5 year period in PubMed discussing berberine. This research is uncovering that the benefits of berberine may extend beyond its antimicrobial properties.

There are additional studies on the ability of berberine to support metabolic function and cardiovascular function. Some of these look interesting, but I am always skeptical because there can be downsides to even natural herbal extracts.

For example, with berberine some research is showing that it may affect how you body eliminates a drug called repaglinide (Prandin) because some important enzymes get down regulated with repeated use. At high dosages it could cause gastrointestinal discomfort.

Yet, another enzyme called adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK) gets activated by berberine. Metabolic syndrome can arise when the AMPK-regulated pathways gets turned off. This in turn triggers hyperglycemia, diabetes, lipid abnormalities, and energy imbalances.

But let’s not get confused by all this. Just come on down and talk with me.

Scott Porter is a Functional Medicine Pharmacist at Sandpoint Super Drug. He is a member of the Sandpoint Wellness Council.

NatashaG / Pixabay 

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