In this issue of To Your Health:
Summer Spinal Safety / Stay in the Game
The Highs and Lows of Summer Sun
Apples for Asthma
     July 24, 2007 [Volume 1, Issue 15]
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Summer Spinal Safety / Stay in the Game
Summer sports are a favorite pastime of beachgoers and sun lovers everywhere. From bicycle riding and swimming to football, baseball and volleyball, outdoor activities can put a great deal of strain on your spine.

Swimming is a popular activity, particularly as people visit beaches and local swimming pools this summer. If you have experienced lower back or hip problems in the past, the type of swimming stroke you choose is important in order to avoid putting undue stress on the body. For example, side and back strokes are better than front strokes.

Running can exert five times a person's body weight on the feet and ankles. This force travels up the legs, through the hips to the spine and head, potentially causing muscle, joint and back pain. You must take measures to protect yourself; otherwise, your joints, cartilage and other connective tissue can get damaged – leading to arthritis or worse. Be sure to wear properly fitting running shoes that have good cushion and avoid running on hard surfaces.

Summer is a great time to take advantage of nature's beautiful sights, and hiking is a way to experience the great outdoors while giving your body a good workout. But walking for long periods of time on uneven terrain presents the opportunity for injury and fatigue. Wear comfortable shoes with proper traction and use a walking stick to take some of the pressure off your body.

Biking is another great form of exercise. It is easier on the knees than running and hiking; however, you can still injure your back if you're not careful. Adjust the bike so it fits your body and periodically shift your neck to loosen your muscles.

Your chiropractor can identify and correct any weaknesses or imbalances and can provide you with exercises to help improve your athletic performance. Taking a few moments to evaluate how you are performing your activities this summer will go a long way in preventing injuries. Now get out there and have some fun!

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The Highs and Lows of Summer Sun

It is well-known that vitamin D is essential in maintaining healthy bones. However, research over the past 10 years has shown that vitamin D is essential for overall health and disease prevention. It plays a role in regulating cell metabolism, insulin production, the immune system and inflammation – factors that contribute to a host of chronic diseases, including cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and many autoimmune disorders, such as MS and inflammatory bowel disease.

We get 90 percent to 100 percent of our vitamin D requirements from the sun. The rest comes from natural and fortified dietary sources like oily fish, vitamin D-fortified foods, such as milk and orange juice, and vitamin supplements. Despite a generally available source (sunlight), researchers argue that vitamin D deficiency remains prevalent.

Dietary reference intakes for vitamin D are based solely on the dietary intake that is adequate to prevent bone disease (i.e., rickets or osteomalacia), but there is overwhelming evidence that vitamin D is essential in maintaining overall cellular health. Based on this research, some researchers are calling for a revision of the recommended intakes for vitamin D, asserting that the recommended daily allowance of vitamin D be increased to 1,000 IUs per day during times when sun exposure is insufficient.

Safe sun exposure is important when considering vitamin D for health. The Food and Nutrition Board recognizes the importance of sun exposure to achieve vitamin D requirements, and says that between 10-15 minutes of sun exposure (without sunscreen) per week is adequate for most individuals. A sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 should be used for any exposure beyond that time. Given the importance of vitamin D intake for your overall health, ask your doctor about daily requirements, sources and benefits of this vital nutrient.

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Apples for Asthma

We've always known apples are part of a healthy diet, but here are a couple new reasons to get your apple a day. New research has shown that babies are less likely to develop asthma when their mothers eat four or more apples per week during pregnancy. And a study conducted by the National Heart and Lung Institute found that children who drank apple juice at least once a day had a 50 percent less chance of wheezing than those who drank it less than once a month.

Although the reasons for these benefits are unknown, experts speculate that the phytochemicals in apples, such as flavanoids and phenolic acids, exert anti-inflammatory effects in the lungs and airways, reducing wheezing and other asthma symptoms. Of course, more research is required to thoroughly understand the health benefits of apples, particularly the link between maternal diet and children's health.

Given that asthma is the most common serious chronic disease of childhood, affecting nearly 5 million children in the United States, this research gives pregnant mothers even more incentive to eat a healthy, balanced diet.

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