Will CrossFit Stunt My Kid's Growth?

Will CrossFit Stunt My Kid's Growth?

Why would you want to involve your children in something like CrossFit?

Do you even know what CrossFit is? That’s way too hard for even me.

I tried a CrossFit class once and almost died - Intensity doesn’t belong in a kid’s workout routine. I don’t want my kids lifting weights and being over competitive.

It will stunt their growth.

Why would I want to put my kids into something like that?

If you’ll allow, I’d love to address some of those real-life questions and let you in on the secrets of what CrossFit Kids is really about. You’re a parent, I get it. You want the absolute best for your children, no doubt. You want your kids to be active while remaining safe, I completely understand. Trust me, CrossFit Kids is the way to go.  

In CrossFit Kids, our athletes learn to move well and work hard. The youngest learn to take turns and the oldest learn to work with others they don’t necessary agree with. They learn to work together to achieve a common goal and they learn to cheer on the one who is coming in last. Most of all, they have FUN. Yes, they learn to squat, do pull-ups, burpees, broad jumps, handstands, deadlifts, and overhead squats...but in CrossFit Kids, I genuinely believe those skills are somewhat secondary.  

The overall goal is CrossFit Kids is to train up life-long athletes, not hyper competitive over-trained children - the differences in those two are vast. Don’t get me wrong, there is certainly a place for team sports for kids, however, in many situations, we see kids who burn out and become frustrated with training or learn to hate competition. Often, because of long frequent practices and too much pressure to only worry about the scoreboard, children grow to hate team sports or learn that the score at the end of the game is the only thing that matters. We are not about that in CrossFit Kids. We teach them to move well first and foremost - we don’t want to impose injury and thus impede any sport competition or training they may do down the road. One of our primary focuses is good, quality, safe movement. Another prime focus is keeping the child interested. Yes, this means I want them to have fun. At the end of the day, if a child doesn’t enjoy class, they’re aren’t going to want to come back. I can’t convince every child that every activity we do is fun, and (truthfully) not every activity we do is “fun,” but I absolutely want them to want to come back. A healthy and active lifestyle is, without question, fun!

A typical CrossFit Kids class might look like this:

WARM-UP: this generally includes a GAME. For example, we might play tic-tac-toe: class is split into two teams - large game board is across the gym. Kids will sprint one at a time to the game board and place their game piece for the team. Three in a row wins! There’s a huge chance the kids are already warmed up before class simply due to the fact that they’ve probably been running around in the gym 10 minutes prior to class. The warm-up time warms up their bodies, yes, but primarily serves the purpose of getting them all on the same page and preparing them to focus on class for a few minutes.

SKILL: this will be the most “focused” work time of the day. This might include a gymnastic skill or weightlifting skill. We might even work on two skills within a given class. For example, half of the class might work on their gymnastic kip and pull-ups and the other half will work on the Push Press with PVC pipes. During this time we focus on quality movement - as a coach, I strive to address each child and, not only critique what they need to fix, but complement what they are doing well.

WOD/METCON: This will be in the format of any “typical” CrossFit workout. We use AMRAPs, EMOMs, Chippers, as well as other formats - movements include a wide variety of typical CF movements. However, unlike adult CrossFit workouts, our workouts sometimes change during the middle of the workout. This is where, as a coach, I push for intensity but am very aware of the kids and their needs. For example, we might have a short AMRAP for the day consisting of a few different movements. If, at minute 5 of a 7 minute workout I realize the kids are completely spent and don’t need to push any further, I will secretly turn off the clock and then do a countdown to finish the workout sooner than planned. (Don’t tell them, they don’t know that!) While it is necessary for a CrossFit athlete to learn to push as well as pace, we are very careful with this piece of the CrossFit prescription in CrossFit Kids.

GAME: Class ALWAYS ends with a game. If I don’t end with a game, I’m in trouble. Dodgeball, Spud, Tic-tac-toe, Volcano Monster, Hide the Treasure, Guard the Treasure, Capture the Flag...and the list could go on and on.

We pack as much skill, knowledge, and fun as possible into an hour’s worth of class time.

Still not convinced?

CrossFit Kids aids in a child’s overall physical development. According to recent studies by the National Osteoporosis Foundation, high impact physical activities at a young age can provide a benefit, even if that child is genetically predispositioned to have lower bone mass as an adult. The time of maximal bone mineral accretion actually occurs in a children right around the time of puberty. Therefore, it is certainly important to consider the physical activity of a child during this time frame! Increasing time doing high impact physical activity as a youth is a simple and direct way to improve skeletal health. Just a few examples of high impact physical activities are aerobics, dancing, basketball, baseball, gymnastics, running, jumping rope, and weightlifting. A typical CrossFit Kids class will absolutely include one, two, or even three of those activities!

CrossFit Kids also aids in a child’s brain development. Not only do the activities in CrossFit impact the movement areas of the brain, they impact the non-movement areas of the brain as well. CrossFit is about solving problems, learning new things, and completing difficult tasks, not just learning to move. CrossFit Kids can also play a large role in developing a child’s vestibular system. Our vestibular system basically connects movements to the brain and also informs us of where we are in space. Our kids will be upside down, they will spin, and they will turn flips. The cognitive benefits are vast. Active students grow to have longer attention spans and even better test scores. The benefits are numerous.

While I could write for days about why your child should be in CrossFit Kids, I’ll try and curb my excitement and bring it down to a conclusion. The studies of benefits speak for themselves. Ultimately, if you’re reading this article, there’s a large chance you’re a CrossFitter. It would only make sense to allow your children to experience CrossFit so they can continue in your footsteps.

So. Why would you want your kids to be in CrossFit Kids?

Why would you NOT want your kids in CF Kids??

~Coach Emily

Sources used AND some great reading/watching sources:

http://library.crossfit.com/free/pdf/07_2013_Growing_Cooper_FINAL4.pdf

http://journal.crossfit.com/2015/11/childs-play.tpl#featureArticleTitle

http://journal.crossfit.com/2016/11/crossfit-kids-research-brief-bone-density.tpl#featureArticleTitle

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eAYM0CV8qM4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oNkLKu3v1VU

The Training Goals You Should Actually Set

The Training Goals You Should Actually Set

Realism and rational goal setting hasn’t always been my strong suit when it comes to the gym. I am what you would call a star-shooter. I put my goals and dreams in a place that makes most people chuckle. It’s simply the way my brain functions. What that typically results in is a focus on numbers. I have ideal totals that I want to hit at the end of my career and every 4 years leading to that. However, after spending the last several years in the gym, I have learned that “Star Goals” only satisfy the long term effort. By not emphasizing a goal for each individual training cycle I was limiting myself. I would find myself 5 weeks into a training cycle and losing steam in my training. These are the times when goals based around movement, or what I call tangible goals, become paramount.

    Most people when asked for a goal for a training cycle will quickly tell you of a number that they want to hit. I am probably guiltier of this than anyone at the gym. Many times over the past two years I put my Star Goals in front of my Tangible Goals. In fact, for the better part of two years I would excuse my terrible form if I hit a number that I deemed acceptable. Obviously, that was not a sustainable system if I ever wanted to hit my Star Goals. Instead of getting to the point where I would be forced to take time off for an injury, I refocused on what gets an athlete to their ultimate goals: safe movement at maximal load. I have taught myself to now focus in on one tangible goal every few weeks or even for an entire cycle. Sometimes that is looking at my back angle on a lift, and other times it is simply looking at how I perform a 5 rep squat compared to the last time I attempted it. Was I moving well? Did my core cave? That sort of thing.

    What I would urge all of my athletes, and anyone that I encounter, is to set up Tangible Goals that will lead to those Star Goals. Everyone has that lift with a specific number that they are dreaming of hitting. Whether the timeline is over the course of a year or the course of a training career, set yourself up for success! If you are continuing to have the same flaw or even nagging pain every time you take a lift above 90 percent, it may be time to step back and make a form based goal. Work with lighter weights and build your way back up until you have achieved that Tangible Goal. Once you do that you will be one step closer to your Star Goal. Then, my friends, you will be a Starboy (or girl).

-Storm Owens

5 Tips for a Successful Whole30

5 Tips for a Successful Whole30

You're tired, hungry, and maybe a little cranky too...

Someone in the office brought cupcakes. Your group of friends ask you to meet them for drinks. You're traveling for business or, even worse, on vacation. If you've finished Whole30, just started, or are considering a Whole30 challenge then you know the struggle of trying to eat clean for 30 days straight. It's tempting to cheat once or twice or even give up completely if you're not properly prepared.

While Whole30 is challenging it shouldn't be miserable. 

In order to make your Whole30 journey as successful as possible here are a few things to keep in mind along the way: 

1. Eat Enough

You know what's awesome about Whole30?! Getting to eat more food! Unlike many "diets" out there the Whole30 lifestyle doesn't limit the quantity of your food, just the quality. In fact, most people are actually under eating which can eventually lead to exhaustion, thyroid problems and even weight gain. You're eating clean calories so make sure you're eating enough to sustain your lifestyle and prevent crashes and cravings. 

If you're struggling with knowing how much to eat or when to eat it click here

2. Fats Are Your Friend

Don't fear the fat! You'll want to introduce foods that are higher in clean fats such as avocado, coconut products, olive oil, nuts, eggs, meats, nut butters and fish rather than avoid them. Since you're eating cleaner calories higher fat foods will keep you fuller for longer so you'll have plenty of energy throughout the day. Try eating your fats at breakfast to avoid a mid-day crash and start the process of training your body to burn fat, rather than carbohydrates, for energy. Try to add some fats to every meal. 

3. If You Must Snack, Snack Wisely

First and foremost try your hardest to limit snacking. A big part of the Whole30 program is to reprogram your relationship with food which includes the mental and emotional need to snack. If you're consuming a healthy amount of fats (see step #2) then you should be able to make it from meal to meal without snacking. 

But, if you must snack, then choose wisely. Whole30 approved items such as RX Bars are great if you're on the go like traveling or at work. Keep some low glycemic fruits in the fridge or whip up some frozen nut butter power balls to keep you going. Whatever you do, don't get caught off guard. You're most likely to cheat when you're unprepared!

4. Make Some Friends

Okay, okay I'm sure you have plenty of actual friends. We're talking about Whole30 friends, fellow travelers on the 30 day journey to health. You're going to need some accountability (particularly around day 9) to keep you encouraged along the way. Get a group or a friend to do Whole30 with you so when you're tempted to cheat you can send a quick text or someone who will dream about ice cream with you. Plus, it always helps to do meal prepping or recipe swaps if you're feeling overwhelmed or discouraged with your food.

5. Get Outside the Box

Whole30 is the perfect time to try new things! Experiment with different recipes and foods you've never had the chance to try before. Check out a Japanese sweet potato or ghee or yucca. Try cooking in some duck fat or sauté some beets to top on a salad. If you're eating the same boring meals every day then you're guaranteed to resent your Whole30 journey. Switch it up, spice it up and make your meals as flavorful and exciting as you can!

What tips would you add for completing a successful Whole30 program? Any ideas or recipes you want to share? Comment below and let us know! 

A Post-Holiday Detox to Jump Start Your Year

A Post-Holiday Detox to Jump Start Your Year

It’s that time of year when people test out new cleanses and detoxes. Many are in need of a boost or a chance to press the “reset” button. You can find all sorts of ideas on the internet - from a juice cleanse to a lemon and cayenne pepper detox. But what’s the best? What is really going to make a difference? Lucky for you, we can help.

A detox will not be successful unless you get to the root of the problem. No matter how clean of a lifestyle we aim to live, toxins bombard us on all levels. Whether you’re frustrated with weight-loss resistance, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, thyroid problems, hormone imbalance, or a number of other things, true healing cannot occur without going to the source of the problem. This is where periodic detox can help with healing, but it won’t do any good unless it’s done properly.

What kind of toxins are we talking about here?

To barely scratch the surface, we come from generations of lead paints and amalgam fillings. Our parents lived in homes doused in lead paint. They breathed this and lived in this - and those toxins are passed along quite easily from mother to child. The effects of mercury amalgam fillings are far-reaching as well - with the ability to pass on mercury for four generations. Those fillings contain nearly 50% mercury, which moves right into the brain. We also find heavy metals in other common places: mercury in water and lead in our pipes and drains. Many practitioners today will agree that heavy metal exposure is the root of many illnesses, but they’re not quite sure how to rid the body of those toxins. Not only do we encounter heavy metals on a daily basis, but many of us are exposed to mold as well. Many individuals living with unexplainable symptoms could be living in a very moldy home. Metals and molds are simply two examples of toxins that often fill our bodies.

It’s time to detox.

Step number one will be to remove the source of the toxins. This can be as simple as checking the ingredients in your deodorant, buying a new filter for your water faucet, or deep cleaning your home. It may, however, be a much larger task if you have amalgam fillings or know that you live in a home containing large amounts of mold. Take small steps to make changes, but know that change is important - detox and true healing won’t happen unless the source of toxin is removed to the best of your ability!

Once we remove the source of external toxins, we can begin to rid the body of internal toxins. When The Health Factory does our collective detox at the end of this month, we will offer an option to follow a True Cellular Detox program. The supplement, called IDS, or Intracellular Detox System, contains two products: Gcell and BIND. This system is unique because it up-regulates detox pathways of the cell and prevents the reabsorption or redistribution of toxins so common in other forms of detox.

The first part of the IDS is called Gcell. This raises intracellular Glutathione (GSH), which is the key to removing toxins from the cell, and therefore, the body. GSH is in every cell in the body and is the strongest antioxidant in the world simply because your body makes it. The second part of the IDS is called BIND. This product has the ability to bind organic and inorganic toxins and pull them out of the body so they are not reabsorbed. The combination of the two products is unlike any other option on the market. That is the type of detox that works!

While we’re going through this process of cellular healing and toxin removal, we are also going to take a close look at what foods we are using to fuel our body.

During this detox, here are a few basic guidelines to follow when it comes to nutrition:

Remove the bad fats and replace them with good fats:  Bad fats, such as hydrogenated oils, trans fat, and rancid vegetable oils are linked to cellular congestions, chronic fatigue, as well as chronic inflammation. Inflammation is at the root of many illnesses: heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and even cancer. Good fats are essential for hormone production, brain development, weight loss, and inflammation reduction.

Change the meats you eat:  Grass-fed and free-range meats are the way to go. These meats, unlike commercial meats, do not contain hormones, pesticides, herbicides, or antibiotics. Grass-fed and free-range meats also offer many of the fatty acids missing in the standard American diet such as conjugated-linoleic acid (CLA) and the proper ratio of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids.

Remove all processed grains and refined sugars from your diet: We could write an entire article on the dangers and addictive qualities of processed grains and refined sugars. Sugar is an anti-nutrient which offers insignificant amounts of vitamins and minerals which rob your body of nutrient sources. Refined sugars also unnaturally spike and elevate levels of insulin and leptin. Prolonged elevated levels of insulin and leptin lead to insulin and leptin resistance. This resistance causes diabetes and weight loss resistance. Take these things out of your diet!

The combination of cellular detox and diet adjustments are the perfect way to get your year started. Looking forward to doing the January Health Factory Detox with you!

Articles used:

http://drpompa.com/additional-resources/what-is-cellular-detox-and-cellular-cleansing

http://drpompa.com/additional-resources/health-tips/cellular-healing-r1-removing-the-source-of-toxins

http://drpompa.com/diet/basic-diet-plan

An Easy Guide to Realistic Clean Eating

An Easy Guide to Realistic Clean Eating

New Year, new you is all the rage each year as the ball drops. Millions of people make the commitment to start living a healthier lifestyle. The top five resolutions to date: Stay Fit and Healthy, Lose Weight, Save Money, Enjoy Life, and Spend more time with Family. The first two are typically geared towards eating the “right foods” and working out. The problem is many fall short of their goal within the first month and never get back on track.

Now the first question is, how can one achieve and maintain what they truly desire? First step is to set a realistic goal, which we talked about earlier. The second step is becoming educated on how to approach the goal you’ve set out to achieve.

A few years ago, I started my CrossFit journey and heard a lot about nutrition. Each of my coaches would tell me that training started with a clean diet and how I needed to use food as my fuel. Coming from a true southern background with mashed potatoes and cornbread at each meal, I didn’t know a lot about clean eating.  I thought to myself, “I’m no good at diets, I cannot be on a diet and do CrossFit.” However, I wanted to try. So, it began, my journey to eat clean and fuel my body in a way that allows it to perform.

What is healthy eating? What are the right foods to eat? Are foods really good or bad? Type in “healthy eating” in google and be prepared to be overwhelmed with an abundance of articles and studies which will pull you in a million different directions. When someone is first trying to find the direction, they want to pursue it’s hard to decide which is “right” for you. Know that not everyone is made the same and not everyone can eat the same exact things and get the same results. I remember sitting down trying to decide how I would do this thing called “Paleo”. Everything I read made me think I needed to throw out everything in my pantry. Well, needless to say, that wasn’t easy. I had a lot of foods that I spent money on. My dilemma was to eat or not to eat. I chose to eat it all at one time, gorge myself on the foods I was no longer able to have and start fresh. That was a disaster. I felt horrible and had zero food left. Clean eating doesn’t mean you need to go crazy, grab a trash bag and throw out the entire kitchen. If you’re first starting out, take it one day at a time. Buy a few staples that will help you transition and phase out the other foods gradually. Going cold turkey into a new style of eating can seem like a great idea, but it usually ends with a midnight run to the store for pizza, cookies, and our friends Ben and Jerry.  From experience, eliminating slowly while adding a new item is the best approach.  Clean eating is removing foods that are filled with harmful chemicals, artificial sweeteners, or processed foods that contain wheat, soy, and other allergen, inflammatory foods.

Healthy eating, clean eating, and following a paleo approach at The Health Factory is, “YOUR pursuit of wholeness”.  What make you feel whole and allows you to move free of aches, pain, and inflammation? To start, you want natural items. Foods with ingredients you can pronounce and understand. General rule is to choose foods with 3-6 ingredients and a shore shelf life. Shop the parameter of the grocery store. 

The best staples for a successful change:

  • Meat on hand (organic chicken, grass-fed beef, salmon, eggs)
  • Grass-Fed Butter
  • Coconut Oil
  • Local Honey
  • Organic Vegetables
  • Fresh Fruits (berries, apples, avoid high sugar fruits)
  • Nut Supply (almonds, cashews, walnuts, pecans)
  • Almond Butter
  • Dark Chocolate Bar (60% and above dark chocolate)

Find one item that you can remove such as sodas, processed snacks, or gluten. Just make sure you add something in its place. If you remove soda, replace it with water flavored with fruit and stevia to start. Remove processed snacks and replace with fresh vegetables or fruit. Again, start small. Look at recipe blogs and try simple recipes first and tackle more complicated recipes later.  Clean eating can start in any manner, the goal is to always more forward to a path that will leave you feeling energized and powerful.

I want to stress that healthy eating isn’t eliminating all the foods you’ve grown to love like pizza and hamburgers. It’s shopping for ingredients that can be blended together and will make your food taste great while not breaking down your body. Food can be seen either as a way to fight disease or a cause for disease.  

Many people often say, let me wait until the beginning of the year or let’s wait until the holidays are over.  When done correctly, you’ll never need the excuse of waiting for something to be over. You’ll be able to maintain the standard for a lifetime without longing for certain foods.  It’s taken me a few years with a few fails, but I’ve finally achieved being able to maintain and my clean eating while living a food fulfilling life. Ask anyone who knows me, they’ll tell you I love talking about food. My life has been changed by fueling my body with proper nutrients for my body. It has allowed me to make it through workouts, sleep better, decrease stress, and reset my hormonal issues. If I had started sooner or just trusted the foods that made me feel great, I would’ve saved my body a lot of aches, pains, and struggles through hormones. Start today, start small, and make a change to a better way of living. Don’t be scared, ask questions, and know it’s one day at a time.

-Coach Caitlin

Lab Testing- Why It Really Matters

Lab Testing- Why It Really Matters

What's the big deal with lab tests?

Lab testing can be an extremely useful tool for taking a closer look at what is going on in the body, and finding objective markers that can reveal much more than what can be gathered by looking at signs and symptoms. Commonly experienced symptoms such as fatigue, gastrointestinal issues and muscle aches can all be caused by a number of different abnormal bodily processes, and so treating these things empirically, that is, by clinically educated guesswork, can be frustrating and oftentimes without success.

Oftentimes, doctors will reach for these lab tests, which are fortunately very often covered by insurance, in order to assess a person’s risk for cardiovascular disease, diabetes and a variety of other conditions. What is unfortunate, though, is the fact that many of the most readily available tests that are used to assess overall health are not used properly. Despite research that has clearly shown cholesterol to be the culprit of heart disease, doctors will still order lab tests for cholesterol levels and look to prescribe based on what looks like, but might not even be, a “high” reading1. Understanding which tests are of importance when dealing with whatever health problems you are looking to address is crucial in choosing a health plan that will put you in a position for success. For this reason, we will talk about two very useful tests that cover a broad range of conditions that are worth you and your doctor’s consideration.

Homocysteine

Homocysteine is produced in the body from the breakdown of the amino acid L-methionine. An elevated level of homocysteine is commonly found in people with chronic inflammation, and has been linked to an increased risk for heart disease2, osteoporosis and fracture risk3. It is important to understand that, although homocysteine has been linked to a number of diseases in addition to those mentioned above, an elevated homocysteine finding is simply a chronic inflammatory marker. Simply lowering levels of homocysteine will not necessarily resolve issues in the body, but is instead a much more useful tool to be used in conjunction with diet, specific nutritional support, and any other modalities designed to address dysfunction.

C-Reactive Protein (CRP)

High-Sensitivity C-Reactive Protein (hs-CRP) is produced by the liver in response to inflammation. Like homocysteine, CRP is also seen as a risk factor for a number of diseases and dysfunctions, but differs from homocysteine in its association with certain diseases. Simply put, in certain cases, levels of CRP have been found to be highly correlated with particular diseases that levels of homocysteine have not, and vice versa. For the majority of the time, though, the two are often ordered together for confirmation of an objective view at inflammation going on in the body.

The Takeaway

A good clinician can accomplish much with a careful history and assessment of signs and symptoms you are experiencing, but addressing a dysfunction in the body is often a complex and tricky task. If you are looking to get deeper insight into any health problems you might be experiencing, lab testing, when done properly and used properly, can be an instrumental part in finding the fastest, least frustrating path towards success in becoming more healthy. Using either a test for elevated homocysteine or high sensitivity C-reactive protein levels, or both, is often indicative of the kind of treatment required, and can provide insight into whether a systemic inflammatory process is going on in the body that will need to be addressed along the path to better health.


 

References

1 Mcnamara, Donald J. "Dietary Cholesterol, Heart Disease Risk and Cognitive Dissonance." Proceedings of the Nutrition Society Proc. Nutr. Soc. 73.02 (2014): 161-66. Web.

2 Wierzbicki, Anthony S. "Homocysteine and Cardiovascular Disease: A Review of the Evidence." Diabetes & Vascular Disease Research : Official Journal of the International Society of Diabetes and Vascular Disease (2007): 143. Web.

3 Mclean, Robert R., Paul F. Jacques, Jacob Selhub, Katherine L. Tucker, Elizabeth J. Samelson, Kerry E. Broe, Marian T. Hannan, L. Adrienne Cupples, and Douglas P. Kiel. "Homocysteine as a Predictive Factor for Hip Fracture in Older Persons." New England Journal of Medicine 350.20 (2004): 2042-049. Web.

How to Work Out Smarter, Not Harder

How to Work Out Smarter, Not Harder

Think about all of the time many of us spend daily performing functional movements improperly, and consider the impact this has over the span of many months, years or even decades...it's time to work out smarter, not harder.

If You're Having Post-Thanksgiving Stomach Issues This Could Help

If You're Having Post-Thanksgiving Stomach Issues This Could Help

Feeling a little rumbly in your tummy? 

Healthy gastrointestinal (GI) function is essential for good health. For many people, compromised GI function may be the result of the consumption of processed foods, exposure to environmental toxins, an overconsumption of sugar and alcohol, inadequate water intake, lack of fiber and other probiotic and prebiotic nutrients, stress and a variety of other factors. When these things overburden the body’s ability to adapt and thrive in spite of them, they must be addressed and healthy GI function must be supported. 

An extremely common pitfall many people experience on their path to addressing GI dysfunction is removing allergenic and inflammatory foods and beverages from their diet without the accompanied nutritional support that the digestive tract may need to bounce back from the damage that was done to cause the dysfunction in the first place. This leaves people discouraged and feeling as if they have wasted their time and money on things that “didn’t work” for them. The goal of this article is to briefly and effectively provide insight into some of the most common things people miss when they go about trying to solve GI issues. 

Everyone with GI dysfunction has different causes for it, and therefore different “best” steps of treatment for it, but no matter the person, the organ system and body function the same way, and for this reason, the majority of these different modes of treatment fall under general guidelines that apply to everyone. For this reason, for many people, healthy GI function starts with support from a four-phase program.

The 4 phases of this approach are:

1.) Remove: This phase involves the removal of triggers that negatively impact GI function, including foods to which a person is overly sensitive, bacterial overgrowth, toxins such as heavy metals, or other potential GI stressors. For the majority of people, this is the hardest phase to implement, as it almost always involves the removal of gluten, dairy, and processed foods. The removal of these three things alone is often accompanied by life changing health benefits for those that remove them, but the change, for many, comes with a steep learning curb.
Examples: Removal of gluten, dairy, processed foods, excess sugar in the diet.

2.) Replace: This phase involves any digestive support that may be needed for optimum digestion. Many people, even those without symptoms of GI dysfunction, benefit greatly from this added digestive support. 
Examples: Digestive enzymes.

3.) Repair: Oftentimes when GI distress has progressed far enough, there occurs damage to the intestinal lining and GI mucosa. This phase supports the GI mucosa so that it serves as an effective barrier against the uptake of undigested foods, unwanted organisms, toxins, etc. In addition to this, a healthy GI mucosa is essential for quality nutrient absorption, which will significantly impact the effects of good nutritional changes.
Examples: Specific herbs, amino acids, botanicals, L-Glutamine.

4.) Repopulate:
This phase involves the use of any effective probiotic support that may be needed to aid in the health and maintenance of the GI tract. 
Examples: Aloe Vera, colostrum, probiotics.

This four-phase program is a good model for anyone looking to address good GI health, but it is important to keep in mind that your plan will often look differently than another person’s, even if your issues are the same. Using signs, symptoms and any necessary lab tests alongside this model will help you narrow your focus and provide you with the most cost effective, body effective results. In addition, like any health outcome, the implementation of exercise, neurological care, and lifestyle and healthy food choices will drastically affect the impact any changes you make will have.

3 (More) Reasons to Exercise That Might Surprise You

3 (More) Reasons to Exercise That Might Surprise You

When people hear the words “exercise” and “health” used together in a sentence, they usually have one of two responses. The first response comes from the person who is active and regularly moving, and it is one of peaked interest in what is about to be said. The second response is a sort of knee-jerk reaction that comes from the person who does not regularly exercise, and does not want to hear about more reasons he or she should start. The truth is, as we learn more and more about the body and how it responds to exercise, we are finding more and more reasons why we should be exercising regularly, and fewer and fewer excuses to not be exercising. With all of this in mind, here are a few more benefits of exercise you might not have heard of before to help motivate you to exercise, whether you are already or not. 

Exercise Increases Neuroplasticity, Decreases Cognitive Decline.

Exercise, specifically high intensity training has been shown to significantly increase brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).1 BDNF is a protein that supports the survival of neurons, as well as encouraging the growth and differentiation of new neurons and synapses. Subsequently, increased levels of BDNF in the brain has been shown to be associated with slower rates of cognitive decline in older adults.2

Muscle Contraction Associated With Exercise Promotes Flushing of Toxins (Lymph Flow).

Muscle contractions during physical activity have been shown to aid in the flow of lymph, which, unlike blood, does not have a pump system, and moves only when we do.3 The takeaway? The more you move, the more your body is exercising its capacity to flush toxins. 

Exercise Relieves Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety.

Through a number of means, including the release of neurotransmitters, endorphins and cannabinoids, and reducing immune system chemicals, exercise has shown to decrease the symptoms of depression and anxiety.4

For many people, the hardest part in beginning to exercise is finding a community that makes exercising easier. It is extremely hard to follow a consistent exercise regiment on your own, which is why we place such an emphasis on creating and fostering a community of people at The Health Factory that, together, encourage and motivate one another to strive in every state of health. With knowledge of the numerous health benefits of exercise as well as the opportunities to join a community of people motivated to improving their health and wellness, we hope that you will find a way to start moving in a way that enhances your health!

References/Resources
1 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26472862
2 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26819457
3 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26283382
4 http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/in-depth/depression-and-exercise/art-20046495

What Your Doctor Won't Tell You About Osteoporosis

What Your Doctor Won't Tell You About Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a condition in which the bones in the body become weak and brittle, and along with low bone mass is currently estimated to be a major public health threat for nearly 44 million U.S. women and men aged 50 and older.1 In addition, it is well understood that many people have no symptoms until they have a bone fracture, leaving many people unaware of their current or developing osteoporosis. Unfortunately for many, the laboratory tests commonly given to diagnose, monitor and treat this condition are insufficient in determining bone health and developing an effective treatment plan for increasing bone strength and resiliency. The following information is absolutely critical for anyone with or at risk of developing osteoporosis.

In order to understand the importance of the following information, we need to take a quick look at what osteoporosis is. Fundamentally, osteoporosis is a condition in which the body’s ability to remove bone (osteoclasts) exceeds the body’s ability to create bone (osteoblasts). The coordinated function of the breakdown, or resorption, of bone and the renewal of bone is an extremely important process in the body called remodeling, and a long-term imbalance in this process becomes problematic.

Why On Earth Does My Body Break Down Bone?

If you’re wondering why the body even breaks down bone in the first place, you are asking a common question. Though many people view bones simply as hard, stiff structures, they are much more complex. Our bones perform many functions in the body, such as support, movement, mineral storage, red blood cell production and more. In fact, bones are living tissues that grow, multiply and die just as all of the other cells in the body. Simply put, bone cells begin making bone by secreting a cartilaginous matrix made up primarily of collagen, and then signal minerals to form around this matrix. The cartilaginous matrix is soft, and the mineralization around the matrix is hard. Because our bone cells are constantly undergoing this process, old bone must be removed before new, healthy bone is laid down so that we are not left with weak, ineffective bone.

Bone Quality vs. Bone Quantity

Now, the distinction between bone matrix and bone mineralization is important. To distinguish between the two, we can refer the matrix material as constituting bone quality, and the mineral material (calcium, phosphorous, etc.) as constituting bone quantity. The reason this is so important is that both bone quantity and bone quality must be taken into account when examining bone health and effectively treating bone-related disorders. Unfortunately, the standard procedure for the diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of bone-related disorders focuses solely on bone quantity without regard to bone quality. With this kind of procedure, even the most effective treatments for bone loss only lead to increased mineralization of bone, which will increase the score on a bone mineral density test (BMD), but alone will not reduce the risk for fracture, and may even increase the risk of fracture. This is commonly seen in older individuals who continue to fracture despite taking bisphosphonates to harden their bones.

Evaluating Your Fracture Risk

In reality, no one can ever actually tell you your actual risk of fracturing a bone. It’s really a guessing game. However, with the right kind of information, you can make this speculation based on facts. When assessing your risk of fracture, you must consider three things: BMD, osteoporosis risk factors, and your chances of falling. You can then use the combination of these factors to estimate your risk. Most fractures result from a fall. Muscular weakness and poor balance resulting from a less than optimal nervous system can make a crack in the floor or a false step hazardous. This is why the main benefit of exercise as you age is not to add bone density (quantity), but to maintain bone strength, balance and coordination, all of which decrease your chances of falling.

Measuring Bone Quantity

One of the first tests your doctor will order if you are at risk of osteoporosis is a bone mineral density (BMD) test. Skeletal health is quantified by a procedure called a dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) examination, and effectively measures BMD. Using the DXA report, two separate scores are used to compare your bone density to others. T scores are a value of measurement that compares your BMD to the BMD of a healthy young woman, while Z scores compare your BMD to the average BMD of people your same age and sex. Because this article focuses on the largely ignored assessment of bone quality, we will stop talking about the assessment of bone quantity here.

Measuring Bone Quality

Both bone quality and bone quantity can be compromised when there is increased bone resorption (breakdown) by osteoclasts, and or not enough bone formation by osteoclasts. The quantity of bone can be measured relatively easily and accurately through DXA testing, but the only way to directly assess bone quality is to bore a piece of bone from the pelvis and examine it under a microscope. This is both extremely painful and costly. Fortunately, there are laboratory tests called bone turnover markers which measure the degree at which bone remodeling is occurring, the extent to which we are making (osteoblastic activity) and breaking (osteoclastic activity) bone. The two kinds of markers fall under this kind of testing are called resorption markers and bone formation markers.

Bone Resorption Markers

By using bone resorption markers, you are able to effectively measure the level of osteoclastic activity of your bones. Usually examined in the urine, these tests look at small pieces of collagen released into circulation and then excreted in the urine. The amount of collagen detected is directly correlated to how much bone the osteoclasts are destroying. Research has both validated and encouraged the use of these markers in helping to determine bone health. For instance, it has been shown that when resorption markers are high, there is a greater risk of fracture regardless of your BMD2.

There are three resorption markers that your doctor can order, though he/she only needs to order one of them. These markers all look at the resorption process, but use different technology to do so. The three kinds of resorption markers are:
- Deoxypyridinoline (DPD)
- C-telopeptide (CTX)
- N-telopeptide (NTX)
Note* If you are currently using a bisphosphonate medication but have not had baseline tests for resorption markers checked prior to your use of the medication, these results will not be useful to you.

Bone Formation Markers

The level at which osteoblasts are forming bone can be measured through three different tests-serum osteocalcin, serum bone-specific alkaline phosphatase, and serum P1NP. Unlike the resorption markers, each of these tests is used in different situations specific to the patient.

Osteocalcin

Osteocalcin is a protein made by osteoblasts that is important for activating the mineralization of bone. For this reason it can be effectively used as a biomarker for osteoblastic activity and bone formation. Note that this is a biomarker, as opposed to the kind of marker you get from simply measuring the density of bone. By looking at the living, functioning capacity of bones, you can use this test as a measure of bone quality.

Bone-Specific Alkaline Phosphatase

This test is essential for anyone taking a bisphosphonate medication. Bone-specific alkaline phosphatase (bsALP) detects earlier signs of osteoblastic activity and is useful for assessing the oversuppression of osteoclastic activity caused by bisphosphonate treatment. This is another living marker, and is therefore a measure of bone quality.

P1NP

If you are currently taking or are considering treatment through teriparatide (Forteo), you should consult your doctor about the P1NP test. The P1NP test measures the amount of collagen in your blood serum and is a direct reflection of your osteoblasatic activity3.

Putting It All Together

Overall, it is important to understand that the issue of bone loss requires a whole body approach for treatment. Inflammation, gut dysbiosis, adrenal health, blood sugar issues and a host of other things can all play a hand in the progression of osteoporosis. Therefore, diet, neurological care, and exercise alongside proper supplementation all become necessary components in effectively treating osteoporosis. Understanding the importance of assessing bone quality and bone quantity is critical for anyone at risk for or currently suffering from osteoporosis, and this, like every aspect of health, requires your proactive research and work to finding treatment and health-based approaches that will best suit your needs.

References
1 https://www.iofbonehealth.org/facts-statistics
2 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8889854
3 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8665688