Helping your body to function at its best so that you feel great and live the life you love!

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Wellness Challenge

Weekly Wellness Challenge #25: Evaluate Your Basic Body Functions


Evaluate Your Body FunctionsEvery day patients tell me the conditions they have been diagnosed with. The conditions range from plantar fasciitis to disc herniations, to irritable bowel syndrome.  Often patients are attached to their diagnosis and feel as though once diagnosed, the condition is a permanent part of their story. This does not always have to be the case. If you have been diagnosed with a condition, for the rest of this article, forget about your diagnosis, and step back to evaluate how your basic body systems are functioning. 

Even if you don't have any diagnosis, it is important to make sure all your body functions are working well. When one of your basic functions is not optimal, it can lead to problems in the future.

How well does your body perform  basic human functions?

 Go through the following list, and note which are not ideal.

  • Are you hydrated? If so, you are able to urinate without discomfort and  your urine a “normal” color. If you are unsure, check out the following chart. My typical recommendation is to drink  half of your body weight in ounces of water each day.  That is, a 150 pound person should drink 75 ounces daily.
  • Digestion-Can you take in food and process it normally? Do you have regular and and pain free bowel movements of proper consistency? Check out the following chart if you are unsure if your stool is “normal” or not. In case you weren't already aware, there is a HUGE connection between digestion and the skin and the brain, as they come from the same tissues when our bodies are being formed. As a result, problems with digestion are commonly linked to skin or brain problems, as well as with inflammation in general. 
  • Nutrients- Are you giving your body the nutrients that it needs? Are you eating foods that lead to inflammation within the body? (Hint: Most of what you are putting into your body should be nutrient dense "real foods", rather than foods made in a factory with long ingredient lists.) 

    As a side note, if you are not digesting food well, the odds are that even if you are eating all of the healthy things, you might not be absorbing all of the good nutrients in these foods which can lead to a number of health problems
  • Stress management- How often do you feel stressed? What is your tolerance to handle small, medium, and large stressors? Do you have any mechanisms to relax following a stressful event? Are you intentional about relaxing or calming down for a certain amount of time each day?

    If you are unsure, here is a quick test- A police officer just turned on his lights right behind you on the road. Phew they are going after someone else. How long does it take you to calm down after this incident? If you are still feeling the impact hours later, you are probably not handling stress well
  • Sleep- How many hours do you sleep each night? 7-9? Do you have trouble falling asleep? Do you have trouble staying asleep? If you are not sleeping well, it can drastically impact your immune system and ability to heal.
  • Movement- Are you able to move without discomfort? Are you able to recover after movement? It is natural to be able to move without pain, and if you are unable to do this, it is a sign that there could be an underlying issue. Regaining the ability to move without discomfort and recover after bouts of movement will not only improve your quality of life, but leads to improved health. 
  • Energy- Is your energy stable throughout the day? After you eat a meal, are you more energized or sleepy? Both of these could be signs that you are not regulating your blood sugar well. There are other metabolic issues that can impact energy levels as well. 
  • Sexual function- For females of reproductive age, do you have a regular and symptom free cycle (did you know that this time of the month is not supposed to come with symptoms like pain, cramping, headaches, etc.). For males, can you get and maintain an erection? If not, this could be a sign of inflammation or early blood flow problems.
  • Cardiovascular- Can you do an intense activity comfortably? Does your heart rate come back down quickly when you are finished? Do you even feel like your heart is skipping a beat or beating out of your chest for no reason? All of the muscles and organs in the body need blood flow, so having these systems working well is crucial for health!
  • Immune system- Do you feel like you get sick more than you should? When you do get sick, are you able to recover quickly or are you the person who will hand onto a cold for a month at a time? Do you have allergies or reactions to foods or things in your environment? If you immune system is constantly in overdrive, this could be a sign that there is an underlying issue that your body is battling under the surface. 
  • Brain- Do you feel like your brain is working? Do you often feel anxious? Depressed? Foggy? Recently, depression specifically has bee strongly linked to inflammation.
  • Skin- Is you skin clear? Do you get rashes? Acne? Rosacea? Psoriasis? Dry skin? Your skin tells a lot about what is going on under the surface. If there is something like inflammation going on under the surface of the skin, it will likely show up on the surface of the skin.

The body has an amazing ability to heal itself.  This works best when it all of its systems are functioning so they can work together.

Think about any body functions above, and consider those that are not working well as "warning lights". If any warning lights are on, it is a sign that your body isn't functioning ideally. 

How Many Warning Lights Do You Have?

If you have a diagnosis of some condition already, fixing these fundamental systems and making lifestyle changes can play a huge roll in helping you overcome and even reversing that diagnosis. 

If you do not suffer from any diagnoses, that is great! We want to keep it that way. If any of these "warning lights" are on, or fundamental systems aren't functioning properly, this could lead to developing a condition in the future. 

It is so clear in my mind that all of the systems of the body are interconnected, and how they are all impacted by lifestyle choices like sleep, stress, nutrients, and movement. Sometimes I forget that this isn’t common knowledge. It baffles me that most dermatologists and psychologists don't ask patients how they are digesting food. 

In order to give your body the best chance of staying healthy or at recovering from a diagnosis, you need to realize that all the basic body functions are important because a malfunction in one system of the body can cause a problem in another area of the body. A few examples-

  • Low Energy/Fatigue-  A patient came to my office complaining about low energy and fatigue. When going over her history, she noted a10 year history of constipation acccompanied by bloating. She has just accepted the fact that this was "normal" after all of those years.  Upon further testing, we found an overgrowth of bacteria in her small intestine. After treating that overgrowth, not only did she experience regular daily bowel movements of a much more normal consistency, but her energy levels improved dramatically.
  • Acne- This used to be me. Even as an adult, I suffered from breakouts on my face and back. I used to try various creams and even was prescribed medication for it at one point. I didn't realize the huge connection that existed between the gut and the skin. When I started eating a less inflammatory diet, my skin cleared right up! .
  • Foot Pain (Plantar Fasciitis)- One of my early Wellness Warriors told me 11 days into the program about her feet. She had had chronic foot pain for years. She had seen many specialists and tried many therapies to no avail. 11 days into making dietary changes, her foot pain dissapated. She had no idea that muscular skeletal pain could be linked to general inflammaion within the body, and that changing her diet could help with this. 
  • Infertility- A few years ago, someone approached me letting me know that they had stopped using birth control, and their cycle didn't return. She thought that because she was thin and active, she must be healthy. I knew that fundamentally not having a cycle was a sign that clearly hormones and body systems were out of whack. I introduced her to the idea of eating a more nutrient dense diet. She did this along with stress management. It took some time, but her cycle returned, and she now has a happy and healthy baby! 

Over the years that we all live inside of our bodies, we get used to them feeling the way that they feel. We develop a "normal". Most people get so used to how they "always feel," that don't realize how good their body should feel. Pay attention to your warning lights and fix them before your body develops any deeper conditions! I bet you will be suprised at the "new normal" you can develop and how good you will start to feel! 

Need more help or guidance with this? I’d be happy to chat with you about it! Call our office at 630-448-0255 to schedule an appointment. 

- Dr. Jamie

Weekly Wellness Challenge #24: Make Sleep a Priority

Make Sleep A Priority

How many hours of sleep do you get each night?

The average adult requires 7-9 hours depending on their circumstances and genetics, but most Americans are not getting this. 

Nearly 1/3 of adults get less than 6 hours of sleep per night. More than a third of Americans have trouble sleeping every night while over half report sleep problems at least a few nights a week. The use of medications to help with sleep have also dramatically increased in recent years.

The average number of hours American's sleep now is down to 6.8, which is over an hour less than it was in 1942. 

Without adequate sleep, you cannot be healthy.

Sleep is essential for basic repair of systems in the body including neurological, endocrine, immune, musculoskeletal, and digestive. Have you ever noticed that you get a cold or flu after not sleeping well for a few nights? Melatonin (one of the main hormones controlling your circadian rhythms) increases immune system function to protect you from infections.

Sleep is crucial for

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Weekly Wellness Challenge #23: Drink More Water

drink more water

Water is the most abundant liquid on our planet.  It makes up more than 70% of the earth’s surface. Your body is approximately 60% water. Yet, you may not be drinking enough water each day.

The fluids in your body have many functions. These include digesting food (prevents constipation), flushing out toxins, moistening tissues such as eyes, throat, and nose, lubricating joints, circulating blood, creating saliva, transporting nutrients, and maintaining body temperature. 

How do I know If I'm dehydrated?

Your  urine should be  pale yellow in color if your are healthy and drinking enough water. When you are dehydrated, your urine has a strong odor, and is yellow or darker in color. This means that it is concentrated and your body is getting rid of waste, but doesn’t have enough water to flush it out. 

If you feel thirsty, your body is telling you that you are already dehydrated. Some symptoms of severe or chronic dehydration are muscle pain, low back pain, headaches, constipation, dry itchy skin, nose bleeds, sinus pressure, fatigue, craving sweets or hunger after eating, sticky roof of mouth, low blood pressure, dizziness with standing, muscle cramping, rapid heart beat, and repeated urinary tract infections.

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Weekly Wellness Challenge #22- Spend More Time Sitting on the Ground

Sit on the Floor

I challenge you to spend more time sitting on the floor! That might sound ridiculous to some of you, but stay with me, and I'll explain why you should try this. When we are little (like my 1 year old daughter pictured here), sitting on the ground is natural and comfortable. Somehow after years of sitting at desks, in chairs, and on couches, sitting on the floor starts to feel much less natural and comfortable. Here are some of the reasons that I think it is important for all of us to try sitting on the floor. 

Sitting on the ground => movement when you aren’t “trying to move”.

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Weekly Wellness Challenge #21: Manage Your Stress

Manage Your StressHow Do You Handle Stress?

There is nothing that I can do directly to change the stressors in your life, but I can help you to re-frame the way you think about these stresses to make your experience completely different. 

These days most of my patients feel stressed. While I understand that it is a fast paced and demanding world that we live in, our bodies are not meant to be in a constant state of stress. We have mechanisms in place to deal with short term intense events (fight or flight), but if we are constantly feeling stressed, this is very hard on the body and can wreak havoc on organ systems such as our adrenals, thyroid, digestive systems and beyond. 

Many Researchers use 4 key factors to determine how we perceive stress. You can use the analogy NUTS to think about this.
  • Novelty of an event (newer event -> more stress)
  • Unpredictable nature of an event (more unpredictable -> more stress)
  • Threat to our body or ego (Higher threat ->higher stress)
  • Sense of Loss of control (loss of control -> higher stress)
The idea that we can perceive the same stresses differently opens the door to re-framing our thoughts, leading to a totally different outcome. 

Weekly Wellness Challenge #20 - Practice Gratitude

Practice Gratitude

Did you know that research correlates giving thanks and improved happiness?

Keep reading to learn from two studies that make this connection.

Count Your Blessings vs. Burdens

The first study took three groups of people. One of the groups was told to write down things that they were thankful for in a journal, the second group was told to write down things that irritated them, and the third was to just make notes on events from the day with no emphasis on positive or negative spin. At the end of ten weeks, each group was followed up with. The group that wrote about gratitude was more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Another interesting finding was that the group that wrote what they were thankful for also had less visits to physicians and exercised more than the other groups. Wow! Who would think that something as simple as writing what you are thankful would correlate with less doctor visits.

Deliver Letters of Gratitude

The second study evaluated the effects of various positive psychology interventions. Each intervention was compared with a control group that was assigned to write down early memories. The intervention had the most impact when participants were instructed to write and personally deliver a letter of gratitude to someone who had never been properly thanked for their kindness. After delivering letters of gratitude, participants immediately showed a huge increase in happiness scores, and benefits to this group lasted a month!

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