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Dr Benjamin Loh (Chiropractor) has a passion for learning and practising health and physical rehab related stuff.

Sugar is good for you

Ok before I get attacked by all the nutrition experts, let me clarify myself… In this series of articles, I will share with you Oriental wisdom applied to health and nutrition.

The Oriental and ‘western’ approach to nutrition are not necessarily mutually exclusive. I have summarised some key points in the infographic… (Please click on the pictures for a larger view).

FOOD INFOGR LOGO735

*Why should I care? The ‘western’ approach is superior right?

The ‘western’ approach certainly excels at analysing what makes a food healthy (active ingredients) : eg, green tea polyphenols.

In contrast, the Oriental approach has a more macro view of things. There is no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ food: it depends on the climate and person’s condition.

Let’s put things in perspective. Everyday you take antioxidant supplements, salads with olive oil, measure how many grams of fish/ chicken and carbs, protein powder, etc. Workout three times a week and treadmill twice a week. That’s great… You are certainly doing many things right.

But what about your HEALTH. Have you counted how many times you in the last two months you got:
-sore throat?
-cough?
-cold / flu?
-fever?
-runny nose?
-indigestion?

Hey what’s the matter? You are doing regular exercise and eating good stuff… yet you get colds/ coughs/ indigestion / etc frequently? Hope I got your attention!

Welcome to Oriental wisdom… she can offer strategies to stay HEALTHY (we’re not talking about curing diseases, getting a sixpack, etc). No need for micro stuff such as measuring how many grams of carbs, protein, etc.

Oriental = Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Indian, etc… all have their own take on how to stay healthy. Bottom line = there is no good / bad food… what is ‘good’ depends on how suitable it is for the person as well as the climate. I will focus on the Traditional Chinese Medicine simplified approach to health.

Staying healthy according to the season.

In some countries, there are four seasons. In Malaysia, the weather has been HOT and DRY lately (no rain). I believe this is where Oriental wisdom excels… what strategies can you use to stay healthy in spite of the hot and dry weather.

I will briefly mention two concepts of TCM (dummies version :)-

#1 Food properties – Cool, Neutral, Warm. 

Meat is generally Warm (lamb ranks on the higher end).

Seafood, vegetables and grains are generally Cool to Neutral.

The way you cook food can affect the property of food: deep frying, barbeque, grilling your food would tend to shift the property to Warm / Hot (yeah, that includes veggies cooked that way).

>When the weather is hot, it makes sense to eat food which is neutral or cool (eg, salad)… less of grilled / barbeque / deep fried food.

#2: Flavours of food (includes herbs)

TCM principles suggest that there are five flavours, each has a different function and benefit for a certain organ (complicated stuff which I will skip). For example, the benefits of:

Bitter – to dry up dampness, clear heat

Sour – help digestion

Pungent / spicy – warm the body, circulate energy, disperse wind

Salty – remove phlegm

Sweet – calm/ ease/ provide moisture

So, what is a balanced meal (flavours and nature)? Take a look at this Korean set meal (click on picture to enlarge):

kfood_small_COMMENTS2

Cool / cold : potato; cabbage (in the kimchi); veggies blanched

Neutral: rice (steamed)

Warm: braised black beans

Warm / hot: meat deep fried; meat stir fried in spicy sauce

Kimchi = sour, spicy; cool (refrigerated)

Stir fried meat = sweet AND spicy (don’t know if this is common to Korean cooking, but it seems fairly common to have an equal proportion of spiciness and sweetness?)

Braised black beans = sweet and salty (cooked in soya sauce and sugar/ syrup)

Steamed rice = sweet (according to TCM)

Overall, this set menu appears to have a mixture of flavours (except for bitter) and relative swing to the warm/hot scale (the two meat dishes, spicy etc). kfood 2_smallll

Oh yeah, loads of refrigerated sweet rice drink too (picture above).

So what? How is this useful to me?

If you paid attention, sweet food can be beneficial (calm/ moisturise/ etc). Not surprisingly, many TCM recipes for cough require you to boil the herbs with sugar (calm the cough etc). So, sugar ain’t too bad after all ;0 sugar is good for you550

In case you’re wondering, excessive consumption of any  flavour is not good for your health…

What about your plate? Is your meal mainly spicy / warm? sweet? cool / cold? Hopefully it’s a mixture of flavours and warm as well as cool.

I know the weather can be super crazy hot and dry, so eat more salad/ fruits, drink more water. If you have craving for spicy food, try to balance it out (some sweet food in the same meal, non-spicy food for the next few meals). Barbeque meat one day, steamed food the next few days.

Oh in case you’re thinking of a raw food diet everyday, read this: http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-13454/3-reasons-no-one-should-be-on-a-raw-foods-diet.html

Finally, if you have craving for a particular flavour, that may indicate some imbalance in the body.

In such a case, your best bet is to go to a TCM practitioner who knows how to do pulse diagnosis. If you stay in Malaysia and wish to consult an experienced TCM practitioner, do email me and I can suggest a few places.

 

Are you a fast car?

In Malaysia and Hong Kong, the movie Ip Man 3 has been released. For the uninitiated, the late Grandmaster Ip Man, wingchun kungfu expert taught many students, including the late Bruce Lee. Anyway, being an action movie, expect some bone crunching action. In Ip Man 3, Mike Tyson boxing powerhouse fights the protagonist.

Yeah, what’s with the ‘fast car’ title?

An excerpt from an Inside Kungfu magazine has this to say:

wc4

what Grandmaster Hawkins Cheung intended to reiterate was that there was an alternative to being a big (fast) car. Imagine driving a Ferrari, the car can literally fly.

image007_car

The late Bruce Lee had exceptionally fast reflexes and was able to explode and punch/ kick extremely quickly. Grandmaster Hawkins contention was that there is an alternative (sensitivity) – the ability to sense (and in his words “shut off the opponent’s engine). This sensitivity is trained through wingchun’s sticky hands (chisau) exercise, and other arts such as taichi have push hands to develop this sensitivity.

You may say all this sensitivity training is mysterious nonsense. Take a following look at a  taichi master, being able to unbalance and ‘lift’ someone up.

Quite impressive I would say, and he did it with less effort than say, a kettlebell guru who practises the human turkish getup such as this:

Conclusion:

  1. There are probably alternative, less tiresome ways to develop ‘strength’ and ‘power’ to carry people without having to do work on core strength. Part of this includes redirection of force, sensitivity to detect when someone is off balance, etc.
  2. Raw power and speed can do real damage (watch the Ip Man3 movie and news reports) – think Mike Tyson, the late Bruce Lee, present day mma fighters, etc. This fact cannot be denied.
  3. It’s worth adding some sensitivity training. Grandmaster Hawkins article adds that how big is your car and compared to who? Translation: you’re fast, but compared to who? Why not add some sensitivity training. You gotta watch this:

I hear you guys asking… how is sensitivity training relevant to ordinary folks who don’t do martial arts? Well, the more AWARE you are about your body position and what you are doing equals better posture, less STRAIN on your body, less stiffness and injury. There are many non-martial arts stuff that you can try to increase awareness. How about walking with your eyes closed (do this in your own room!)? You can also try many other things such as Feldenkrais :

 

 

 

Foot dysfunction Part 1

Mr X has flat feet since primary school and bunions since secondary school. Walking for more than 40 minutes would result in tired feet. His ankle would would also roll in (pronation) whenever he walked. Hence, he would buy various brands of insoles bought from the pharmacy and even custom-made insoles from an outlet:

orthotics

He Googled and also bought various brands of shoes to help relief the discomfort. The Springboost negative heel shoes (see picture)

springboost Springboost shoes

did reduce the pressure on his toes. He also went for chiropractic treatment and had his lower back and pelvis adjusted (high speed thrust), and obtained temporary relief. The chiropractor told him that the left leg was one centimetre longer than the right, and that he would probably need a heel lift for the right side to equalise the leg length imbalance.

One day, he noticed that the bunion on the left big toe had gone worse, and sometimes that toe would overlap with the second toe. Desperate for improvement, he went to a podiatrist who prescribed custom-made insoles (orthotics) and recommended motion control shoes as well as ankle/ foot exercises. Mr X was glad, and went for a jog. As months went by, he realised that there was not much improvement in his condition. Dissatisfied, he went to a different podiatrist to make custom-made insoles. The outcome was still the same.

Around October 2015, Mr X met a therapist who pressed on reflex points in his body. After several sessions, his toes began to straighten out slightly and the arch in the feet became more prominent as he has learned how to activate the deep muscles of the feet (NO gripping of toes/ tightening of any muscle). His leg length equalised and has remained equal for two months during which he walked a lot, jumped around during dance class, etc.

foot before after tx

Note the worsening of the bunion on the left big toe (yellow arrow shows it is more deviated to the second toe compared to the first picture) and also the big toe ‘knuckle’ bone has gone bigger. This suggests that within the 10 month period, there was worsening of Mr X’s condition. However, after the reflex point therapy, his toes  have straightened slightly (not obvious in the photo) and the foot arch is slightly more prominent (***) as the deep muscles are activated.

What can we learn from this case?
#1 If you keep doing the same thing, you will get the same results. Try something different!

#2 It is possible that sometimes muscles get switched off for some reason or other. In the neurodevelopmental perspective, the therapist would say that some of Mr X’s postural reflexes were probably ‘lost’ or not developed during childhood. Therapist presses on reflex points and the switch is on again*.

brain on300

#3 Following point #3, strengthening exercises may not make much difference if the switch is off.

#4 How to explain the leg length imbalance being sorted out? I don’t know… One thing we can probably say is that when there is some physical imbalance in the body, the way the brain perceives things would be different. Once Mr X’s reflex points were activated, he probably has more body awareness to let the weight distribution be more equal between the left and right side, and hence the leg length equalled out. Just my guess!

TOL board300

Note:
*Individual results may vary. Mr X probably had flat feet with switched off muscles, whereas other people may have structural flat feet (flat regardless of standing, walking or lying down) despite the muscles being switched on. In the case of the latter, orthotics would probably bring significant benefit.

*Leg length imbalance is a complicated matter. If Mr X had dislocation, fracture, etc then it is unlikely that chiropractic treatment or pressing on reflex points can reduce the leg length imbalance.

Stay tuned for part 2 of feet dysfunction.

*Reflex point activation can also be used to switch on the deep muscles of the core (see earlier blog about core stability). For more information about reflex point activation, please email info@mbachiro.com

Control freak!

Yeah I was thinking of a suitable title for this post… Basically for any physical activity, especially those involving carrying a load, fast movement, etc you need to have good CONTROL of the joints and muscles which are involved. I will give some examples for the upper and lower limb.

*Upper limb: this involves the thorax, ribs, shoulder blade (scapula), arm bone, forearm, etc. In the video below, Dr Andreo Spina (chiropractor) shows EXCELLENT control of the shoulder.

As he and many others allude to, if there is poor control of motion, or insufficient motion in one of the joints, this could lead to unnecessary muscle tightness or potential strain! For activities such as hanging clothes to dry, this strain is probably not a big a problem as those who lift weights, do lot of smash (racket sports).

Now do you honestly have good control (or sufficient motion)? If not, you need to rethink whether you should do overhead lifts such as:

Overhead squat

Snatch (kettlebell fans usually use one arm at a time)

Tennis and other racket sports (serve, smash, etc)

You get the point… the situation is more complicated as it is not uncommon that one side of the body could be significantly tighter, less mobile, have poor control than the other. Here is an example of ideal symmetry, judging from the photo (incomplete information), it seems like the left and right upper limbs have fairly equal motion:

674340_powerrrr

*Lower limb:

control is needed at the pelvis, hip, knee, feet, etc and it is in fact MUCH more difficult to control when you add fast movement to it (jogging, running, football, dance, etc).

I found this example of someone executing wushu with quite good control of the lower limb.

When he raises his knee above the belly button to kick, the lower back rounds slightly (can be improved); maintains good upper body alignment (no hunching) all the while he is moving and kicking.

As you can see, single leg activity is not easy. Consider the popular yoga ‘Warrior 3’ pose, well executed in the example below… even more difficult to control  when you are tired.

Sports involving running and changing direction (football, etc) is even more difficult to control the lower limb. the martial arts example below shows how difficult it is to control hip, knee, ankle and foot.

Oh yeah, even fun dance type workout (Bodyjam, Zumba, etc) could lead to knee injury if you can’t control lower limb movement, etc.

Take home message:
#1 Simplify if necessary. For gym goers, instead of attempting overhead lifts, modify the movement or use lighter weights, make smaller movements. Racket sports players can try to attempt less overhead smash, etc. It’s not worth the risk of injuring your shoulder.

For lower limb control, try taking smaller steps, reduce speed of running, jumping, changing direction, dancing, etc. It’s not worth the risk of injuring your knee, etc.

#2 Know your limits. Pros have generally been doing certain movements for a long time. Trying to imitate your favourite athlete or instructor is not always a good thing.

#3 If there is significant asymmetry (left versus right) tightness , motion, control, etc consider exercises which require simultaneous use of left and right side (barbell, chinup, pushup, etc). If you play tennis with your right hand, try practising with your left hand.
Take smaller steps, reduce speed of running, jumping, etc.

#4 Go for treatment. As always, seek treatment as soon as possible if you are injured, notice tightness that does not go away, etc.

 

Lets KISS

Let’s keep it simple silly!

minimalism-cr

In the Internet age, there’s no shortage of info on the Internet about the ‘best’ way to design your training program for strength, fat loss, etc. I won’t bore you with another article or ‘secret’. Instead, I wish to highlight a few points that can help you reduce your risk of getting injured.

#1 Avoid fancy stuff

Pistols (one legged squat) and jumping to reach a box, jump down are impressive feats but could damage your knees and feet (impact force).

If you can’t stabilise yourself on the floor, it’s probably not a good idea to attempt suspension type training (eg, TRX) such as the following example.

#2 Keep expectations realistic

For those into strength training and endurance sports (marathon, triathlon, etc), the positive aspect is being able to MEASURE your performance (how many reps, kilograms lifted, minutes to complete, etc).

However, you need be realistic and not obsessed about achieving personal best and personal records. For example, a performance such as in the Crossfit video below is probably unachievable for average people.

#3 Sensible program per session

We seem to have an obsession with packing as MUCH as possible into a day in the office, gym, running on the road, etc. Whether it is ‘kiasu’ attitude (afraid to lose out) or as a consumer, perceiving that you get your money’s worth (attend as many group exercise classes since you have paid for your gym membership), etc, there’s only so much the body can handle. After that it breaks down! Think knee, shoulder, elbow wear and tear! Or worse, a heart attack while running a marathon!

Prof Stuart McGill has some comments about Crossfit (Prof McGill )

#4 Rest

You may need to rest one or more days for each day of intense physical activity. You also need some rest during your physical activity to catch your breath, etc.

#5 Stretch

While Crossfit has got a bad reputation for leading to injury, there is no denying that they do have some great ideas for improving mobility as Kevin Kula demonstrates below:

#6 Try different activities (aka cross training)

If you do predominantly strength or endurance activities, try adding or substituting with mind-body classes such as Yoga, taichi, or qigong; racket sports such as badminton, etc.

#7 Use your brain

There you go… KISS. Principle #7 reiterates the need to think rationally and not be driven by ego, emotion etc.

 

Core strength or stability? Who is corect?

Not another article about core training! If you haven’t been living in a cave, you would surely have noticed the trend of doing planks, side planks, etc. Gyms and fitness magazines are screaming that you need to develop ‘core strength’ to protect your lower back. In this article, I will cover three main schools of thought on training.

But first of all what is the core? It is made up of superficial muscles (rectus abdominis aka sixpack, etc) as well as deep muscles of the abdomen, lower back and pelvic floor. Some researchers also include the diaphragm as part of the core. In essence, the core wraps around the body much like a cylinder, with muscle fibres running horizontally, diagonally and vertically.

sml_umbrella

Properly engaged, it puffs out in a 3D fashion, and provides stability to the spine. Tom Myers uses the term ‘tensegrity’ to describe this, while I think the analogy of an umbrella is probably easier to visualise!

CORE TRAINING INFOGR LOGO735 green

As the diagram shows (CLICK on the above picture for a larger view), there are three schools of thought with regard to core training. The core endurance and strength approaches are self-explanatory. Just a few comments regarding core endurance and strength.

*Endurance – Unfortunately, in the spirit of competition or challenge, some have opted to challenge oneself by holding the plank position for as long as possible. The problem is that when you are tired, you will use sloppy technique and you run the risk of injury. A lady in the UK got injured (read here Planking challenge), although it is not entirely clear if her low back injury was solely due to holding the plank for long periods of time.

*Strength – some potentially risky exercises such as the Turkish getup are getting popular.

You may run the risk of a low back or knee injury if you are not careful. Other radical examples that could injure the lower back include using a sledgehammer to hit a tyre (mma inspired exercises), etc.

*Stability – this school of thought is rather varied. It is concerned with activation of the deep core muscles and researchers such as Prof Paul Hodges have used diagnostic ultrasound to verify that the deep muscles are engaged.

Visualisation cues are also given to help switch on the deep muscles, hence there is no concern for counting reps, feeling the muscle ‘burn’, etc.

In the early days, sucking in the stomach was thought to be the way to engage the deep muscles (see article low back Pilates). Nowadays, two styles of breathing are more common – bracing (popularised by Prof Stuart McGill, low back biomechanics expert) and natural (not sure if there is such a word, but proponents include neurodevelopmental physios, DNS, etc).

What is my take on the whole core training approach? I (Ben) tend to favour the stability approach because not many people can fire the deep core muscles. So if they can’t fire the deep muscles, chances are they will just tense the whole body, hold their breath, fire the superficial muscles, etc when asked to perform a plank or side plank. Once they can fire the deep muscles, then we can progress to mini plank, etc.