September 2, 2008 [Volume 2, Issue 20]
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In this issue of To Your Health:
Massage to the Rescue
Put It in Writing
Green Tea: Good for Body & Soul

Massage to the Rescue

Oh, how exciting! You're pregnant! But along with the eager anticipation that comes with waiting (for nearly 40 weeks) to meet your baby, are the common aches and pains associated with your growing baby and changing body.

One of the most pleasant and effective ways to reduce these minor discomforts is to get a professional prenatal massage from a certified prenatal massage practitioner. Prenatal massage has many benefits for you and your baby. First of all, massage reduces stress levels and since very few women go through this major transition without some degree of stress and anxiety, a supportive massage is just what is needed to override the harmful effects of stress. Studies have now shown that your attitudes and stress levels have a direct consequence on your growing baby. When you are uptight, nervous, and anxious, so is your baby. And the opposite is true: when you feel good, relaxed and confident about your pregnancy, your baby is happiest. And these benefits continue to be enjoyed even after your baby is born.

One of the most common complaints is backache. As your pregnancy progresses, your center of gravity shifts forward and the muscles of your lower back compress. Your abdominal muscles weaken, stretch, and separate in order to make room for the baby, but this also adds to your lower back discomfort. A professional massage practitioner knows exactly how to release those tight back muscles and advise you how to strengthen your abdominal muscles for increased lumbar support. (Hint: crunches are the worst exercise you can do during your pregnancy and early postpartum recovery. Abdominal exercises that recruit your transverse abdominis – the deepest of the abdominal muscles – will stabilize your lower back and pelvis and will minimize the abdominal separation (diastasis recti) affecting nearly 90% of pregnant women.) Sciatic pain can also easily be relieved with appropriate massage and specific postural stretches.

You also may notice how achy, sore, and swollen your legs and feet have become, especially during your third trimester or in warm weather. Some of you may be having difficulty fitting into your shoes. There is a specific massage technique, called manual lymphatic drainage, which eases the congestion in your legs and safely protects against dislodging any blood clots your body might produce. (As a protective mechanism during pregnancy and up to 10 weeks postpartum, your body produces more blood clots to prevent excessive bleeding or hemorrhaging during labor and early recovery. Most of these clots are found in the deeper vessels of your legs and calves. Therefore, all deep strokes to your legs are not appropriate during this sensitive time.) A trained professional will understand this and will use the light touch of manual lymphatic drainage to make your legs feel wonderful.

Make sure the practitioner takes a complete medical history before the first massage and employs the essential pretreatment evaluations (for blood clots and pitting edema – a possible sign of preeclampsia) prior to each session. You want someone who understands the importance of using manual lymphatic drainage on your legs and can massage you in a variety of comfortable positions on the treatment table or sitting, if necessary.

Most of all, you want to find someone with whom you feel comfortable. It is an honor and a privilege to massage pregnant women and new mothers, and you want to share this journey to parenthood with the right partner.

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Put It in Writing

A recent study suggests keeping a food diary can double your weight loss. The study, coordinated by the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research and conducted at Duke University Medical Center, Johns Hopkins University and other sites, involved nearly 1,700 overweight or obese adults ages 25 and older. Subjects maintained food diaries for six months and were encouraged to eat a healthy diet and stay physically active. They also met on a weekly basis to discuss their food diaries in a group format.

After six months, study participants who recorded their daily food intake six days a week had lost approximately 13 pounds – twice as much weight lost by those who kept a food diary one day or less per week. Number of days maintaining a food diary was the most powerful predictor of weight loss.

Here are a few other good reasons to chart the amount and types of food you eat, particularly if you're trying to lose weight. And remember, all it takes is a pen, paper and a few minutes each day to write down what you eat. If a particular food doesn't have a nutritional label (a banana, for example), several online sites provide comprehensive nutritional information on thousands of common foods.

1. You might be shocked to learn how many calories they're eating on a daily basis – especially for certain foods and drinks. And too many people think portion size is all that matters; that perception will changes when they find out a tiny piece of cheesecake has 800 calories and a full day's worth of fat.
2. One way to be motivated over the long term is to be invested in your progress. A food diary is that investment. It also helps you gauge how much exercise you need to do to reach your target calorie count for a given day.
3. A major reason why people don't stick with a nutrition or weight-loss regimen is lack of accountability. Most supervised weight-loss programs require participants to keep a food diary and submit it to their nutritionist, doctor or fitness counselor.

If you're still skeptical about the benefits of a food diary, consider that half of all participants in the National Weight Control Registry, which tracks the habits and practices of people who have lost at least 30 pounds and kept it off for one year or more, say they use some type of self-monitoring such as a food diary.

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Green Tea: Good for Body & Soul

Tea has always had a special place in our hearts. And as any tea drinker will tell you, it does indeed relax and calm the spirit. Take it from author C.S. Lewis, who once said, "You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me."

New research suggests green tea in particular may have an even more special place in our hearts. It may actually help relax your arteries, thereby reducing your risk for heart disease and clots. When your arteries are more relaxed, blood flow increases, which reduces the risk for cardiac disease.

Healthy subjects were given 6 grams of green tea (the equivalent of about three to four cups of brewed tea), another caffeinated beverage or hot water. Arterial blood flow was measured 30, 60 and 120 minutes later. People who drank the green tea showed increased arterial blood flow compared to the other two groups. Even more impressive was that the heart-healthy benefits lasted up to two weeks for those who drank green tea daily.

In addition to its influence on heart health, green tea is rich in potent antioxidants called polyphenols. Research suggests polyphenols help reduce the risk of breast, stomach, colon, prostate and other cancers. Green tea also is a natural antiseptic and skin protector; applied to the skin, it helps relieve itching, swelling, sunburns and even puffy eyelids.

So brew yourself a pot of green tea, settle down with your favorite book, and relax your body and soul.

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The information provided is for general interest only and should not be misconstrued as a diagnosis, prognosis or treatment recommendation. This information does not in any way constitute the practice of chiropractic, acupuncture, massage therapy, medicine, or any other health care profession. Readers are directed to consult their health care provider regarding their specific health situation. MPA Media is not liable for any action taken by a reader based upon this information.

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