Spine Health During the Holidays: 8 Ways to Protect Your Spine & Overall Health This Thanksgiving by Dr. Kenneth Hansraj
Spine health might be the last thing you think of when you're planning Thanksgiving, but it's important. Here are eight tips to help your spine and overall health this holiday season:
1. Maintain good posture the entire time. Proper digestion only occurs when we are sitting up straight. Good posture is defined as ears aligned with the shoulders and the “angel wings,” or the shoulder blades retracted. In proper alignment, spinal stress is diminished. Recent studies show that gastric emptying is significantly delayed in the supine position when compared to a sitting position. If you’re slouched over your plate, food cannot travel to the stomach in time for your body to tell your brain it’s getting full; it can take twice as long; thus, causing you to eat twice as much leaving you full and tired.
2. A brief family meditation for peace and happiness. Coming back together as a family means leaving many personal worlds of happiness, sadness and development behind. Take time out to honor and recognize this transition. Sit quietly together, hold hands and briefly recognize the personal worlds. Then state an intention to have a great family get together. Meditation is the process of calming the body and mind while allowing a connection with the universe. We are all so busy with our day-to-day activities and thoughts that we lose track of our goals, our vision and our life plan. This non-stop grind prevents us from being thoughtful and performing the tasks necessary for our well-being and body maintenance.
3. Practice deep belly breathing. Deep belly breathing helps with digestion of food by enhancing motion of the belly and its food contents. Deeper yet though it serves to improve the motion of the spinal segments, spinal cord and nerve roots, and it increases the cerebrospinal fluid motion and distribution. Deep breathing might also decrease the swelling of the deranged spine joints and the nerve roots causing less pain. Deep belly breathing in itself will help you to feel better. A deep breath of clean fresh air is as soothing to the body as a large glass of cool water on a hot summer day, so place your hands on your belly and breathe deeply to feel your belly move. Repeat this all day.
4. Small bites and small breaks will allow you to enjoy a steady-paced meal without needing to slow down or stop eating entirely. Take small bites of the highly caloric sides like mashed potatoes, stuffing and cheesy casseroles, but load up your fork with turkey and string beans. Take a five-minute break between each helping to allow your stomach to catch up with your eyes.
5. Chat! Take time out to engage in and enjoy the conversations around the table. When you are actively engaged and fully involved in a fulfilling conversation then you spend less time eating and more time feeling externally better. The craving for food and internal satisfaction diminishes. Ask each person how they are doing. Find out about their little inner workings in life. Your family will manifest happiness, and then you become happier leaving you with less of a desire to binge.
6. Savor your desserts. Use a demitasse spoon to eat. This spoon is diminutive, smaller than a teaspoon. Allow the dessert to sit on your tongue for a minute. Allow the 2000 to 8000 taste buds on your tongue to delight in the vanilla or chocolate, cinnamon and other contents. Feel the texture and temperature of each bite. Train your taste buds to enjoy and delight in the taste and textures. Otherwise you become involved in volume consumption. This is where you eat so much to feel that your belly is full. Evening out the trajectory of a meal that can last three to four hours takes some purposeful technique. On average, it takes between 12 to 14 minutes for our bodies to recognize we’re full. Keeping this in mind, begin your dinner with small thoughtful fork full and pay attention to your body’s signals. It will tell you when to take a break, so you can save room for dessert!
7. Mini chair exercises (bends and twists) help you keep your blood pumping and metabolism working. Bending to the right or left (as if you were picking up a fork you dropped) and sideways twists (like you’re greeting a guest behind you) are two small, but effective ways to help your body digest. Small range-of-motion exercises help ensure your body’s digestive functions keep up with your food intake and your blood pressure remains stable. This will help ward off headaches, cramps and gas at the dinner table.
8. Take an after-dinner walk. Schedule a family walk after dinner. Walking helps digestion of food and builds a togetherness of the tribe. It is a great family routine to build. People start to feel better because the spine joints and the spinal nerves start moving with walking. One of the fastest ways to develop back or neck pain is to remain stagnant. When the spine joints and the spinal nerves do not move, then they can cause pain.
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