The rate of surgical births (c-sections) has declined from 32.2% to now 32.0% (as of 2015); a statistic that means close to 1 in 3 pregnant women will still be in the operating room to bring their baby into the world. While there are numerous ways to help prevent this from happening to you, the top of the list includes being educated. Understanding pregnancy, labor, birth, and the natural abilities of the body can lower the risk of delivering via c-section. However, the odds are against so many mothers, and unfortunately many of the mothers and infants in my practice began seeking my care after experiencing a surgical birth.
One of the first questions that I am asked by these mothers is, “Can I see a chiropractor after having a c-section?” The answer is an overwhelming, “Yes.”
There are several reasons for a c-section to take place, but even when completely necessary, the mother and newborn may have negative side effects. Chiropractic care can be life-changing for these families suffering from daily pain and problems with their baby.
During a C-Section:
· An epidural is given. This can cause issues within itself for both mother and baby in relation to chronic pain after delivery.
· The baby is pulled from the womb through a small incision, which means that the neck and head are forced into an unnatural angle, the plates of the skull do not experience the pressure they need for proper placement and development, and the lungs are not compressed through contractions as the baby passes through the birth canal. All of these issues are linked to weakening the immune system, as well as evoking stress hormones to be released.
You can imagine the impact this has on the infant’s alignment.
Babies born via c-section are at an increased risk of experiencing:
· Chronic Pain. Stress hormones are released and can cause mental and physical discomfort.
· Chronic Illness: Obesity, allergies, asthma, and diabetes top the list.
· Subluxations (neurostructural dysfunction) due to delivery method and position in the womb.
· Improper Microbiome Balance due to not passing through the birth canal and avoiding the absorbing of the mother’s bacteria meant to create the foundation of proper gut health in the baby.
Studies show that infants are affected for at least the first two year of life after being born by c-section. The research points to these problems continuing throughout childhood and into adulthood as well, but more time is needed to continue the studies.
Chiropractic care can eliminate the subluxations that cause the above-mentioned problems. Most women who choose chiropractic care do so because it is not invasive, there are no medications needed, and it is a safe and effective option for healing both mother and her baby. A highly-qualified family chiropractor can work wonders.
Sleep is a vital component to health, and it is not uncommon for women to have trouble sleeping during pregnancy. Physical, emotional, and hormonal changes during this time create stress on the body and nervous system, which consequently may make it more difficult for women to fall asleep and sleep soundly at night.
A sufficient amount of quality sleep for women is crucial throughout their pregnancy. Studies have found links between women with poor sleeping habits during pregnancy are at higher risk for birth complications such as low birth weight and pre-term births (University of Pittsburgh School of Health Sciences, 2013).
An added difficulty is that many conventional sleeping aids are not able to be utilized while pregnant. Luckily, there are several natural and safe remedies that women can utilize during this time in which sleep is crucial for both mom and baby.
Vital for promoting and maintaining bone health, vitamin D also plays an important role in neuromuscular functions, immunity, and reduction of inflammation. It is estimated that up to 50% of the general population is deficient in Vitamin D (Lee et al., 2008). Research indicates that insufficient levels of Vitamin D may negatively influence a person’s sleeping habits. A positive correlation was found between those with sufficient levels of Vitamin D in their system and an increase in their sleep quality and quantity (Blumberg et al., 2014).
Vitamin D is found naturally in very few food sources; the food sources with the highest amount of Vitamin D are fatty fish such as tuna, mackerel, and salmon. One of the best sources of Vitamin D is through sunlight. Our bodies are able to use the ultraviolet rays from the sunlight to synthesize its own Vitamin D, however, the average person does not receive enough daily sun light exposure to maintain adequate levels. Supplementing Vitamin D daily is often the most effective way of maintaining proper levels.
Epsom Salt Baths
Epsom salts are a naturally occurring mineral, magnesium sulfate, and has several beneficial uses. Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxant and when there is a sufficient amount in the body, it helps to promote production of serotonin, a calming neurotransmitter. When the body is under stress, it is depleted of magnesium, resulting in a decrease in serotonin levels as well. When added to a bath, Epsom salts are absorbed through the porous openings in our skin, soothing our muscles and decreasing stress levels (D.O., 2014).
Creating a nightly routine with Epsom salt baths can aid in better and more rested sleep. It is important to use natural Epsom salts without any added perfumes or artificial coloring, as these can be irritants to sensitive skin. If you do not have a bathtub, that’s okay, a foot bath with Epsom salts will do just as much good when it comes to absorbing the magnesium and soothing your nervous system.
Aromatherapy has been shown to have many beneficial physical, mental, and emotional effects to those who utilize it. Difficulty in falling asleep and sleeping soundly can often be linked to a nervous system under stress. If the nervous system is not able to relax, then the body and mind will not be able to relax either.
Studies have shown that the scent of lavender oil before bedtime, calms the body’s nervous system and puts it in a parasympathetic state (Sayorwan et al., 2012). The parasympathetic nervous system is commonly referred to the “rest and digest” nervous system. When in this state the body’s heart rate slows, blood pressure decreases, and an environment of relaxation is created for the body.
Lee, J. H., MD, O’Keefe, J. H., MD, Bell, D., MD, Hensrud, D. D., MD, & Holick, M. F., MD, PhD. (2008 December 9). Vitamin D Deficiency : An Important, Common, and Easily Treatable Cardiovascular Risk Factor? Retrieved January 4, 2017, from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0735109708031756.
Blumberg, M. S., PhD, Karlsson, K. E., PhD, & Seelke, A. M., MS. (2007). SLEEP – Vitamin D and Actigraphic Sleep Outcomes in Older Community-Dwelling Men: The MrOS Sleep Study. Retrieved January 04, 2017, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC428860
O. (2014, October 14). How Epsom Salt may help you (and your kids) sleep better. Retrieved January 04, 2017, from https://sleepsense.net/epsom-salt-may-help-kids-sleep-better
Sayorwan, W., MPham, Siripornpanich, V., MD, Piriyapanyaporn, T., BSc, Kotchabhakdi, N., PhD, Hongratanaworakit, T., & Ruangrungsi, N., PhD. (2012). The Effects of Lavender Oil Inhalation on Emotional States, Autonomic Nervous System, and Brian Electrical Activity. Retrieved January 04, 2017, from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Tapanee_Hongratanworakit/publication/ 225051306_The_Effects_of_Lavender_Oil_Inhalation_on_Emotional_States_Autonomic_Nervous _System_and_Brain_Electrical_Activity/links/0fcfd51257861db827000000.pdf.
University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences. (2013, July 17). Poor sleep in pregnancy can disrupt the immune system and cause birth-related complications. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 04, 2017, from www.sciencedaily.com/release/2013/07/130717164725.htm
It can be so intimidating that most women forego writing one altogether.
Don’t let that be you. Skipping your birth plan means that you are skipping the educational aspect of giving birth. You are walking in blind – uniformed – and unprepared for the possibilities that lie ahead.
You may have the birth of your dreams without a birth plan in hand, but if just one domino falls, your birth has the chance of not being what you were hoping for. How does a birth plan change any of that, you ask?
Like most things in life, it isn’t so much about the end result, but the journey to get there. Your birth plan is a culmination of your research; a brief proposal of what you would like, how things should be handled, and how you deserve to be treated.
Before writing your birth plan, tour your birthing facility and schedule a time to talk with your doctor (or practice of doctors), or midwife. You cannot begin this until all of your questions are answered. You need to know what the standard of care is from the moment you enter the facility until the second you are wheeled out. (Are you allowed to walk out? -simple questions like that need to be asked too!)
Once you have a basic timeline of events, you can dig into the research and figure out your priorities. I have yet to ever see two identical birth plans.
Make sure to bring your birth team a copy of your plan after it is written. Pack a few copies in your birth bag and have your partner pull them out upon arrival when you are in labor. Everyone can receive a copy – the doctor, all nurses, anyone who enters the room can be asked to take 2 minutes to ‘Please review my partner’s birth wishes. We would really like to be team through this, and I want her priorities to be known. Thank you!’
Now it’s time to write.
The easier the plan is to read, the higher the chances are that it will be read. There are three basic formats to choose from:
Bullet Points: Simple, brief statements listed under different headings (example: Early Labor, Active Labor, 2nd Stage, 3rd Stage, After Delivery for Mom and Baby)
Chart: Each procedure listed with the mother’s thoughts or wishes next to it, in charted form.
Paragraphs: Harder and longer to read, paragraph format is typically done under headings like bullet points, but contains longer thoughts.
*Remember not to include WHY you are choosing these things, that does not matter. Keep is SIMPLE and include everything important to you.
A birth plan is not written in stone. No matter what though, YOU SHOULD NEVER BE PUSHED OR TALKED INTO ANYTHING. If situations arise, take the time to talk about your options, risks, and make informed decisions.
This is a sample birth plan. Yours will be your own, but feel free to start here and add/delete and alter as you see fit. It is based on a plan for a natural hospital birth without medical intervention. Remember, you may not agree with my plan, but that’s the beauty of it – you get to make your own!
SAMPLE BIRTH PLAN
I would like to have an unmedicated, peaceful birth with the help and support of you as my birth team. My partner and I are educated and understand that unexpected situations may arise. If anything occurs, please help us to continue on the most natural path as possible, granting us time to make decisions and supporting us through the process.
In case of emergency, save both mother and baby in any way possible.
*There will be a photographer with us, and she is allowed to stay with us in all situations.
- I would like to let labor begin naturally, even past my due date, and do not want any interventions to begin labor.
- If water breaks before labor begins, I would like 48-72 hours before any interventions are suggested. I agree to have my fluid levels monitored.
- If I arrive before active labor has begun, I would like to leave and come back further into labor – even if my water has broken.
- I deny antibiotics for GBS and will watch for fever and signs of illness after birth.
- I would prefer no heparin lock be put in place, but will compromise if an IV will not be attached.
- DO NOT OFFER PAIN MANAGEMENT MEDICATIONS.
- My partner will remain with me and be included in all discussions.
- I would like a peaceful, calm, and intimate environment with minimal interruption.
- I would like to move freely and labor in any position comfortable.
- I will eat and drink throughout labor.
- I would like access to the birthing tub (if available).
- No cervical checks unless requested.
- No artificial rupturing of membranes (water breaks naturally or baby is born in the caul).
- I would like baby’s heartbeat to be monitored intermittently through Doppler or stethoscope. No electronic fetal monitoring, internal monitoring, or wireless monitoring. If continuous monitoring is needed, wireless monitoring will be permitted so I can still walk freely.
- As long as my baby and I are fine, I would like to be free of time limits and not have my labor augmented.
2nd Stage Labor:
- No episiotomy unless I am naturally tearing toward my clitoris.
- No vacuum or forceps. Instead a change of position.
- I will wait until my body naturally begins pushing before I push.
- Please do not instruct my pushing, I will listen and aid my body, taking breaks when needed.
- I do not want to be laying on my back to push.
- I would like access to the squatting bar and birth stool.
- I would like to ‘catch’ my baby, or have my partner catch the baby.
- My partner will announce the baby’s gender.
- Baby will immediately be placed skin to skin on my chest.
- We will let the umbilical cord pulse to completion before clamping.
3rd Stage Labor:
- No medical interventions to birth the placenta.
- I wish to see the placenta.
- Placenta will be kept in the provided cooler to be encapsulated.
- A c-section will only be performed once all options have been exhausted and it is a medical emergency.
- My partner will remain with me throughout the procedure.
- I would like to have feeling and the ability to move my arms. (Avoiding general anesthetic.)
- I would like a family-centered c-section with a clear curtain, mirror, and inclusion in the birth conversation.
- Baby will be placed directly on my chest with the umbilical cord and placenta still attached to the baby.
- Take extreme care with incision and sutures to support a future VBAC and more pregnancies.
- My partner or child will cut the cord after it has finished pulsing.
- No separation from baby. Hold off on any newborn checks. Anything needed can be done with baby on my chest.
- In an emergency, my partner will accompany the baby everywhere needed.
- Breastfeeding will be attempted before any weighing or measuring takes place.
- All procedures will be held off until initial bonding has been established.
- Vernix will be rubbed into the baby’s skin, please do not wash it off.
- I decline the Vitamin K injection and antibiotic eye ointment.
- NO VACCINES: I decline the hepB vaccine and any other vaccines or injections offered.
- DO NOT CIRCUMSIZE if baby is a boy (or a girl).
- Do not bathe baby.
- No formula.
- No Bottles.
- No pacifiers.
- I would like a lactation consultant to be available as soon after delivery as possible.
Few people know if their child is right or left brain dominant. Few people understand why it is important to know such a thing. Not only does brain hemisphere domination relate to how a child learns and absorbs information, but their thought process, emotions, and conflict management are all tied to it as well. As a chiropractor, knowing this detail about a child, which brain hemisphere dominates, is a wonderful tool to aiding an adjustment.
The brain is made up of two halves – hemispheres – with each one controlling the opposite side of the body. This means that the right half processes what the left eye sees, and it controls the left side of the body. The opposite is true for the left hemisphere.
Children are born right side dominant. Until the age of three, blood flow is significantly greater to the right hemisphere of the brain. Between ages 4-7 there is a huge shift, as the left half of the brain typically takes over. This aligns with most countries of the world delaying formal education until 7 years of age. The left side of the brain is responsible for the reading, writing, calculation, logistical thinking, verbal processes, analytical thinking, and ability to focus for extended periods of time. It is known as the “Digital Brain.” But for some children, this shift is much more gradual – or does not fully happen. These “Right-Brained Children” are known as ‘butterfly-chasers.’ The right hemisphere is visual. It processes information as a whole with an emotional product. Creativity, artistic ability, emotions, and all of the senses are tied to the right side.
Researchers want us to believe that there is a true balance that occurs in adolescence, but I fail to agree. While a child may pull from both hemispheres, it is far from equal. I have yet to meet a parent who wouldn’t agree.
Research shows that the frontal lobes of the brain are extensively involved with logical reasoning. The left hemisphere’s frontal lobe being the ‘rational voice.’ Therefore, left-brain children can handle social situations with little emotion but practicality instead. http://brain.oxfordjournals.org/content/127/4/783.abstract
That being said, the right frontal lobe is tied to divergent thinking. This means that things are never black and white. While a right-brained child sees things as a whole, they also see it as ‘gray,’ with so many emotions and details involved that the answer may never be exact. controls sensory processing and expression. Children who are right brain dominant are often very visual, spontaneous, emotional and intuitive but may struggle academically with memorizing facts and paying attention to details. This hemisphere also controls sensory processing and expressions. These children may struggle academically, as our curriculums tend to be left-brain driven. http://repository.cmu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1003&context=shr and http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4107958/
Children diagnosed with ADD, ADHD, SPD, social, behavioral, or academic challenges may have an extreme imbalance in hemispheric communication. Although, I do believe that the gut plays a major role in feeding these issues, the brain itself may be aiding in the problem(s).
What does this have to do with chiropractic care?
A right-brained child needs to be adjusted throughout the left side of the body. This allows optimal blood flow to reach both sides of the brain as needed.
While our society is molded for left-brained children (and adults), I urge you not to try to fit your right-brained child into that mold. We need more creative, musically inclined, artistic, peace-seeking, compassionate, empathetic children in the world.
Right-Brained Children: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4107958/
- Prefer group activities
- Organize things before they begin something (by color, size, product, etc)
- Are athletic
- Prefer to be shown rather than told
- Tend to lie down while reading or drawing
- Can find patterns and similarities while problem solving
- Read later and prefer drawing to writing
- Need to touch and physically handle objects
- Need to physically manipulate items to problem solve
- Want to discuss and air feelings
- See information as a whole
- Reach beyond the reflexive action of a situation and expand farther to include past experiences adaptive behaviors, and needs
If this is your child, chiropractic care may help her adapt to our society’s educational system by feeding the left hemisphere of the brain, along with:
- Using visual cues like picture stories to stimulate the brain to remember facts
- Using colors and images for mathematical reasoning
- Role playing lessons to increase memory
- Working in small groups instead of alone
While there are strengths and weaknesses to both hemisphere-dominant sides, right-brained children seem to struggle in our culture’s expectations. Instead of allowing this, support your child’s creativity and passions and aide them in conquering their goals. These are the children who will change the world.
It is becoming more common to hear my clients explain to me about how their child is not managing well with school. These children are as young as kindergarteners. They complain of tummy aches daily, beg not to be dropped off, or become a different child under the eyes of the teacher. Parent-teacher conferences are leading parents to wonder what is wrong. There may be behavior issues, refusal to complete work, ADHD tendencies, isolation or seclusion, and/or little attempts to learn the material, leading to a believed learning disorder. Many families struggling with these challenges speak with their pediatrician and turn to medication for better focusing, or use threats of losing privileges if the child doesn’t ‘do better’ or perform to standard. I talk a lot about the anxiety a child may be feeling, and how that anxiety could be the root of all the challenges.
School-related anxiety is a very real thing today. Separation anxiety, performance anxiety, and social anxiety can impact our children in a large manner. If you believe that the mind and body are one unit working together, then you understand just how important it is for the body to be in perfect alignment so all neurons firing can reach their desired destinations. Anxiety is not only mental, but it relates to the physical body, causing personality alterations and even chronic pains or illnesses.
It can be hard to diagnose school-related anxiety because it tends to surface in different ways for different children, but the most common problem for children suffering from anxiety is that school is hard. It becomes harder the longer the anxiety goes unnoticed.
According to the Child Mind Institute, signs of anxiety in school-aged children include: http://childmind.org/article/classroom-anxiety-in-children/
- Attendance Problems
- Disruptive Behavior
- Trouble Answering Questions in Class
- Frequent Trips to the School Nurse
- Problems in Certain Subjects
- Lying About Homework/Not Completing Work
- Avoiding Socialization/Not Making Friends
- Asking to Stay Home
- Bullying/Being Bullied
These signs can be linked to any of the following types of anxiety:
- Separation anxiety: Worried about being separated from the parents.
- Social anxiety: Excessively self-conscious, making it difficult to participate in class and socialize with others.
- Selective mutism: Having a hard time speaking in some settings, like at school around the teacher.
- Generalized anxiety: Worrying about performance and perfectionism.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder: When children’s minds are filled with unwanted and stressful thoughts.
- Specific phobias: When children have an excessive and irrational fear of particular things, like being afraid of animals or storms.
There is, of course, a normal amount of anxiety that can be felt, but even that can manifest itself. Utilizing chiropractic care will allow the body to work as a whole unit and provide proper pathways for the nervous system, allowing for a healthier overall well-being. Chiropractic care reduces stress-related subluxations in children just as it does in adults.
In addition to chiropractic care, there are numerous ways you can help your child manage their anxiety.
Open Communication. Talking about your own hard days, finding happiness in situations, and how you talk yourself through things will provide a positive example and allow for them to come to you with questions and emotional struggles.
Self-Confidence Building. The key to coping with and minimizing anxiety in your child is to teach them to talk their way through it. “I am strong. I am kind. I will learn something new and smile today.” You can alter the talk to suit your child’s needs, but it is important to follow the day with a second talk. This one should be in response to how the day went – but always taking a positive outlook and including happy things to dream about and plan for the following day.
Talk positive about school, friendships, and learning. Modeling positive feelings can have a large impact on your child.
Do not ask probing questions about your child’s anxiety. Questions such as, “Why are you feeling this way? What’s wrong? Why don’t you want to go to school” can cause more stress and will not help you help your child. Instead stick with simple questions that can invoke positive answers. “Are others including you? Is something happening at lunch that makes you feel bad?”
Be there. Let your child know that you will be there for lunch, recess, or another specific time frame and be sure to follow through. Seeing you may ease the anxiety. This may not be convenient, but it can be very important to gradually helping your child adapt and feel more comfortable.
Talk to the teacher. Work as a team to help your child feel more comfortable at school.
Lead a healthy lifestyle. By eating a well-balanced diet and keeping the body healthy with the highest quality supplements, the body will function at its highest potential.
Respect your child. Ultimately, your child deserves your respect and support. Figuring out how to help without breaking your child’s spirit or forcing them against their will may be the hardest obstacle you are faced with during this phase of parenthood, but you can do it.
As a chiropractor, I see many children who are experiencing growing pains. This is one of those diagnosis that seems to umbrella many unknown issues in the medical world. The biggest misconception is that everyone assumes the pains are caused from a sudden growth spurt. In all actuality, science cannot seem to find the cause of growing pains. That is, if there is one cause. It seems more probable that many causes may exist.
Chiropractic care is extremely beneficial for everyone, children experiencing growing pains are no exception.
Let’s break down everything known about growing pains.
The good news is that science does acknowledge that these pains exist.
A South Australian study published in the August 2004 issue of the Journal of Pediatrics found that approximately 36.9% of children 4–6 years of age experienced growing pains.
It has been found that up to 40% of children will experience these pains between ages 3 and 12.
A throbbing or sharp pain typically occurs in the legs (thighs, knees, calves, and feet) but may be felt in the arms as well. It begins in the evenings or wakes a child at night and may cause intense emotional reactions. It tends to be worse after an overactive day of sports or running.
How to Help
Parents are given few to no options for treatment. Typically, massaging the legs and the use of pain killers are the only suggestions. Parents are told this is normal during the growth process and it will pass. This is not the answer.
In the moment, massaging may be the only form of comfort, but (as I have previously discussed) pain killers such as Tylenol should be adamantly avoided.
Arnica gel and pellets: Arnica Montana, a plant native to mountainous areas of Europe and North America, has been used for centuries to treat a variety of pain. In 2007, research proved that arnica worked as well as ibuprofen.
Chiropractic Care: Improving the alignment and mobility of the joints of the pelvis and lower extremities can eliminate growing pains. Many times growing pains can be attributed to biomechanical issues early in development. Vertebral Subluxations may be behind the pain. Research shows that Spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) has been an effective way to eliminate growing pains!
Vitamin D: A recent study found that only 6% of children who suffered from growing pains had adequate levels of vitamin D. Another study examined the relationship of supplementing affected children with Vitamin D over a three month timeframe. Amazingly, the pain resolved completely in most of the children, while others experienced a significant reduction in symptoms.
Vitamin B6: According to the Weston A. Price Foundation, growing pains may eb a sign of Vitamin B deficiency.
Diet Changes: An anti-inflammatory diet, or more specifically, finding your child’s trigger foods, may end the pains. The gut is linked to the brain, the skin, the nervous system, etc. Inflammatory foods such as diary and gluten, as well as anything processed or containing chemicals should be avoided.
Regular Stretching: A small study found that regular stretching appeases growing pains. Stretching the quadriceps, hamstrings and calves every morning and evening for 10 minutes eliminated reoccurring pains.
Magnesium Lotion: The skin is the largest organ and will absorb anything placed on it. Magnesium has amazing powers and a soothing lotion version rubbed over the legs may prevent the pain.
Epsom Salt Bath: The magnesium found in Epsom salt mixed with warm water will soak into the skin and replenish a slight magnesium deficiency that could be linked to the night time pains.
Did You Know?
Growing pains are bilateral. That means that they will not exist on only one side of the body. If the right foot hurts, the left foot is sure to follow. It may not be at the same time, but it will be within a few days.
A Reassuring Note:
One believed cause of growing pains is a low threshold for pain. Since adults with fibromyalgia also have low pain thresholds, it was thought that children who suffer growing pains may be at an increased risk of suffering from chronic pain syndromes later in life. However, in 2010, a 5-year study followed 44 children suffering from growing pains and found that when children stop having growing pains, their pain thresholds tend to normalize. None of the kids in his follow-up study had developed fibromyalgia.
When Is It NOT Growing Pains?
It is important to note that ‘Growing Pains’ do not suddenly appear at age 8,9, or 10, but rather they exist from a younger age and may continue through age 12. If pains suddenly occur at these later ages, it is not caused by growing pains.
Some children diagnosed with growing pains meet diagnostic criteria for Restless Leg Syndrome, and a family history of RLS is common in these children. In some cases, symptoms are severe enough to warrant treatment.
Talk to your chiropractor or doctor about other issues if:
- Pain is occurring in the joints
- Pain worsens when touched
- Pain is worse in the morning
- Pain interferes with activities
- Pain is associated with an injury
- Pain is accompanied by fever, rash, weakness, redness, swelling, limping, loss of appetite, or fatigue.
Did you know that there are two different types of happiness?
Eudaimonic Well-Being: Giving, passionate, nurturing, intrinsically happy
Hedonic Well-Being: Superficial happiness, ‘consummatory’ self-gratification
These two traits are both defined as happiness, but only one is linked to positive well-being; while the other can have lifelong negative effects.
In the past few years, as the science has unfolded in linking eudaimonic happiness to health, I have often pointed my patients toward the published information. Too often, I see clients who take longer to shake a cold, those who get the flu year after year, and some who just never feel healthy. They all say that they are happy with their lives, but if they open their minds to this research and start seeking true joy, I tend to notice a huge difference in the way their body handles and maintains an adjustment.
In 2013, Scientists from the UCLA Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology and the University of North Carolina found that positive psychology (happiness) impacts human gene expression (our DNA). In a study that took over 10 years to conclude, researchers learned just how life-altering it can be when an individual reaches an overall state of happiness.
Previous research had found that immune cells shift during extended periods of stress, threat or uncertainty. This shift is called the conserved transcriptional response to adversity, or CTRA, and it occurs when there is an “increased expression of genes involved in inflammation and a decreased expression of genes involved in antiviral responses.” But no one had looked at the emotion of happiness, and how it plays a role in the overall well-being of the human body.
Happiness can prevent and protect us from illness and disease, and it help lessen the impact or heal those who are ill. In the last 10-15 years, research has been published that links eudaimonic happiness to lower heart rate and blood pressure, healthier heart rate variability, increased immunity, decreased risk of various diseases (such as coronary heart disease), and increased chances of positive health outcomes during an illness. A 2010 study found that for every additional point of happiness a subject earned during their research, their individual risk of heart disease decreased by 22%.
What does this mean for those who fulfill their happiness by spending money and living a materialistically happy life? Simply put, it means the exact opposite of everything above. Instead of having low levels of inflammatory gene expression with high levels of antibodies and antiviral genes, their blood shows an hostile environment with high inflammation and low antiviral and antibody gene expression. This leads to higher risk of illness, chronic problems, and earlier death.
The 2013 study included blood samples from 80 healthy adults who were assessed for hedonic and eudaimonic well-being, as well as potentially confounding negative psychological and behavioral factors. The outcome not only taught us that eudaimonic happiness alters us at a cellular level, but researchers learned that both types of people (eudaimonic and hedonic) expressed the same levels of positive emotion. This means that just feeling happy is not what alters our genetic makeup; it is the happiness that occurs when we are doing good in this world that makes us healthier.
Researchers have found that the following 10 habits are scientifically linked to happiness, with acceptance being the number one predictor of reaching true happiness
- Giving: do things for others
- Relating: connect with people
- Exercising: take care of your body
- Appreciating: notice the world around
- Trying out: keep learning new things
- Direction: have goals to look forward to
- Resilience: find ways to bounce back
- Emotion: take a positive approach
- Acceptance: be comfortable with who you are
- Meaning: be part of something bigger
Take this as your inspiration to start working towards your own true happiness. You will thank yourself later.
We are addicted to technology, but at what cost?
- Sleep Deprivation
- Heart Disease
- Eye Diseases
- Breast Cancer
- Prostate Cancer
- Rewiring of the Brain
The list can go on.
Blue light is everywhere. The sun, TV’s, computers, phones, tablets, fluorescent and LED lighting, electronic devices, and any type of digital screen all project a blue light. Light from the sun is natural, traveling through particles in the atmosphere and scattering everywhere, making the sky blue. This natural blue light is what regulates the body’s circadian rhythm (the sleep and wake cycles). This natural light boosts alertness and increases happiness. Artificial blue light, however, does not have the same effect.
Most people spend a majority of their day at work exposed to unnatural blue light through their phones, tablets, or laptops. Due to the addiction of social media and technology, the exposure of light continues at home into the evening. Homes are illuminated well past the darkest hours, and people are paying the price.
The Dangers of Technology
Rewiring the Brain: Exposure to technology and blue light is rewiring the neural circuitry, increasing skills like multi-tasking, complex reasoning and decision-making. But it reduces emotional abilities like sympathy and empathy.
Repetitive Stress Injuries: Recurring movements that affect muscles, joints, tendons, and nerves can cause pain and injury to the area(s). Quervain Syndrome, injury to the tendons in the thumb, can be caused by texting, for example.
The Spine: Tilting the head 60 degrees places 60lbs of pressure on the neck. The neck and cervical spine can compress or stretch the nerves and cause posture issues and chronic health problems. Proper chiropractic care can alleviate symptoms and promote healing if you are suffering from issues currently. A chiropractor can also aid in preventing problems from arising.
Tendonitis or Wrist Pain: Holding devices and using the fingers to type can trigger joint pain. Virtual keys don’t react when they’re pressed. Users typically strike these keys with as much as eight times the force as they tap real ones. This force puts strain on the fingers, wrist, and forearm. Typing more than a few sentences at a time on a tablet or smartphone can cause problems. Even holding the fingers in anticipation of typing can cause damage. This is known as isometric tension, and it puts stress on the muscles and tendons. Disorders such as Carpel Tunnel Syndrome and other diseases caused by unnatural postures are painful and possibly debilitating, but can be helped through chiropractic care.
Decreased Fertility: Wifi (electromagnetic radiation) can lower sperm count in men. A 2015 study discovered that sperm count is lowered, damaged, and has a decreased motility whether the man spends one hour a day or seven working with a laptop connected to wifi. This includes carrying a smartphone in a pocket all day.
Suppressed Melatonin: Blue light can suppress the secretion of melatonin which leads to sleep disruption. Exposure to light at night is linked to breast and prostate cancers, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and depression. Melatonin is a hormone that influences circadian rhythms, meaning that a lower production causes the entire body to be at risk for illnesses.
Headaches: Tension headaches can arise from eye strain, triggered by blue light.
Eye Strain: Constant or excessive blue light exposure blurs and dries the eyes causing strain and eye exhaustion. Blue light penetrates all the way to the retina and can damage light-sensitive cells causing macular degeneration, which can lead to permanent vision loss.
- Include chiropractic care in your regular habits. Chiropractors can aid with posture problems, joint pain, and other issues related to blue light and technology over-exposure.
- While it is impossible to avoid blue light and technology, it is possible to decrease usage by creating rules for yourself. Turn off devices 2-3 hours before falling asleep at night and lessen your daily exposure.
- Resist the temptation to bend your neck forward or backward, and especially avoid turning your head or tilting it to one side or another for extended periods. Take frequent breaks, and if you feel any discomfort stop what you’re doing and find a more comfortable position.
- Adjust contrast of light admitted by your devices.
- Try to stretch after every 10 minutes of blue light or technology exposure.
- Use a red night light instead of blue. Red light has the least power to shift circadian rhythm and suppress melatonin.
- Consider wearing blue-blocking glasses or installing an app that filters the blue/green wavelength at night.
It is almost impossible to avoid interaction with technology today. Our children are exposed to smart phones, tv’s, laptops, smart watches, iPads, LeapPads, other pads, and gaming systems just about every awake hour of every day of their lives, starting from infancy. As parents, we know it is wrong, but yet, the blue light draws us all in.
Children between the ages of two and 18 spend an average of five-and-a-half hours (or more) a day at home watching television, playing video games, surfing the Web or using some other form of media.
Brain growth occurs at a rapid rate. From birth, an infant already has all of the neurons he will ever have, but the synapses are forming based on nourishment and environment. Synapses are the relays over which neurons communicate with each other and are the basis of the working motherboard of the brain. Already more plentiful than an adult’s at birth, synapses multiply rapidly in the first months of life. A 2-year-old has about half as many synapses as a grown adult. They continue to form throughout childhood, into the teenage years, and complete development around age 25.
A few facts we know to be true about the development of the brain:
- Environmental exposures influence brain development.
- As the brain develops, the fibers connecting nerve cells are wrapped in a protein that greatly increases the speed with which they can transmit impulses from cell to cell. The increase in connectivity shapes how well different parts of the brain work at the same time. Research is finding that the extent of connectivity is related to growth in intellectual capacities such as memory and reading ability.
- Many hormonal changes take place during puberty. Reproductive hormones play a role in behavior and stress hormones have compound effects on the brain.
- The part of the brain involved in emotional responses changes during the teen years.
- An adolescent brain peaks in its ability to absorb and learn well before adulthood. The amount of information it can hold will never be larger than this stage.
- Sleep, or lack of it, plays a huge role in brain development. Sleep deprivation and fatigue attributes to difficulty maintaining attention, irritability and depression. Studies of children and adolescents have found that sleep deprivation can increase impulsive behavior. Sleep is imperative for proper physical and emotional health.
Did You Know?
21% of children under the age of 2 have a television in their bedroom, by the age of 8, over 50% of children have one. This does not include other media devices.
The amount of time spent in front of blue-light media devices at 2 years of age is linked with academic, social and health problems by age 10:
- Less engagement in classroom activities
- Less exercise
- Less sleep, poorer sleep quality
- Increased bullying statistics
- Poor food consumption
- Increased obesity
The average amount of reported time a 2-year-old spends exposed to blue-light media each day averages around 90 minutes. Again, that is the reported average, not the actual. I would assume the numbers are much higher. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children under 2 watch no TV, and children over age 2 watch no more than 2 hours per day. For every hour beyond this mark, the rate of the above mentioned problems increases.
As children enter school, those who utilize the internet during class cannot recall the information being taught nor do they perform as well on a test of the material as those who are not exposed to media. Research proves that reading books, not screens, develops reflection, critical thinking, problem solving, and vocabulary.
Not only is increased screen time effecting learning and brain development, potentially stunting both, but exposure may be causing permanent eye damage. Unlike digital eye strain, the effects of blue light media add up over time and can lead to eye diseases like macular degeneration. Children are at a higher risk than adults because their eyes are still developing, and they don’t yet have the protective pigments in their eyes to help filter out some of this harmful blue light.
I know that this is all scary, and yet common sense at the same time. We live in a time of technology, and our children should be included so they are not surpassed, but there is so much to be aware of before handing over a device and walking away. Notice body positioning as devices are used. Joints can be effected by prolonged media usage, effecting posture and causing many chronic problems. I see it all too often in my practice!
The bottom line, follow the guidelines of zero exposure before age 2 and limit to under 2 hours a day afterward. It may be an easy babysitter. It may even provide educational purposes, but there are consequences to the exposure.
Please take the time to watch this TedTalks: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BoT7qH_uVNo