|“There are now more obese people in the United States than overweight people. I think we can safely say that Diet Coke is a complete failure.” |
Aspartame is a non-caloric, high-intensity artificial sweetener that’s 200 times sweeter than sugar. Chemically speaking, aspartame is a “dipeptide.” This simply means it’s composed of two amino acid-like compounds—aspartic acid and the methyl ester (i.e., methanol) of phenylalanine.
It’s true that the components that make up aspartame (i.e., aspartic acids and phenylalanine) are similar to those found in everyday foods. However, similar does not mean alike. And there is nothing in nature quite like this lab-created additive.
Aspartame is the artificial sweetener in little blue packets. It is best known under the brand name Equal®. You may also remember NutraSweet®, which shut its production of aspartame down in 2014 citing foreign competition that made it “impossible for us to sustain a profitable business.”
This sweetener is found in over 6,000 foods, medications, and beverages (most notably, diet drinks). Millions of American adults and children consume aspartame daily (often unknowingly). Despite its widespread use, aspartame remains one of the most controversial food additives.
On one side, you have scientists and health zealots providing compelling evidence that aspartame (and its metabolites) are responsible for a broad range of adverse effects, such as headaches, compromised memory, anxiety and depression, behavioral disturbances, hair loss, weight gain, and cancer.
On the flipside, you have groups arguing that aspartame is safe, hanging their collective hats on decades’ old safety data and approval of numerous international bodies, such as the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Health Canada, and the European Food Safety Authority.
Is Aspartame Safe?
As with most questions, the irritating answer is “it depends.” And in this case, it depends on who you ask. On one hand, if you play Dr. Google, you’ll have no trouble finding one frightening personal account after another attributing multiple health disasters as the side effects of aspartame. In contrast, aspartame marketing paints an entirely different picture, implying it embodies a healthy way of life and is a useful tool for weight and glucose management.
Since 1981, when the FDA first approved aspartame—which, by the way, was launched by Monsanto (the same company notorious for the weed killer glyphosate/Roundup, not to mention the dissemination of genetically modified plants and foods)—researchers have debated both its recommended safe amounts and its general safety to organ systems. The World Health Organization and regulatory food authorities in Canada and Europe consider safe doses (i.e., acceptable daily intake, ADI) of aspartame to be below 40 mg per kilogram of body weight per day (mg/kg/day). Meanwhile, the FDA draws the line for the ADI at 50 mg/kg/day.
To put it into perspective, a 150-pound person weighs about 68 kilograms, for which the ADI would be between 2,720 and 3,400 mg of aspartame. According to the University of Alabama at Birmingham, a single packet of Equal contains 37 mg of aspartame while a 12-ounce can of diet soda contains 200 mg.
Unless you’re using 90-plus packets of Equal a day or drinking 200-plus ounces of diet soda daily, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about, right? Not so fast. While the safety data can be useful (for getting a patent, for instance), it doesn’t always tell the whole story. For instance, rodent studies (which are typically the basis for safety data studies) don’t tell us the functional impact or practical significance.
In a study published in the journal Research in Nursing & Health, researchers from the University of North Dakota examined the real-life effects of considerably lower amounts of aspartame. When folks consumed diets containing 25 mg/kg/day aspartame (half the “safe” amount, according to the FDA guidelines) for 8 days, they were more irritable, more depressed, and scored worse on tests of cognitive function.
While it may seem outrageous to use 45 packets of Equal, believe it or not, there are people drinking 100-plus ounces of diet soda on the regular. Although that may be an extreme example, there’s certain to be folks who are sweetening their food and drinks with Equal, drinking diet soda, and chewing sugar-free gum, eating breakfast cereals, yogurt, sugar-free candy, and other reduced-calorie and sugar-free food products sweetened with aspartame.
It all adds up, and so, too, may the cumulative effects. In other words, it may not just be a matter of how much. It may also come down to frequency and duration.
Four Scary Side Effects of Aspartame
1. Cognitive Dysfunction, Behavior Issues, and Mood Disorders
There’s at least a handful of potential reasons why aspartame may be harmful. According to one recent review study published in the journal Nutrition Reviews, for example, “The existing animal studies and limited human studies suggest aspartame and its metabolites, whether consumed in quantities significantly higher than the recommended safe dosage or within recommended safe levels, may disrupt the oxidant/antioxidant balance, induce oxidative stress, and damage cell membrane integrity, potentially affecting a variety of cells and tissues and causing a deregulation of cellular function, ultimately leading to systemic inflammation.”
Chances are you’ve heard by now that chronic systemic inflammation is bad news. It’s an underlying factor (if not key cause) of almost all chronic degenerative diseases. While there are multiple factors that can contribute to chronic inflammation, excess oxidative stress is a major trigger. In a study published in the journal Drug and Chemical Toxicology, researchers found long-term consumption of aspartame significantly reduced concentrations of glutathione, the body’s “master antioxidant,” in the brain.
From a neurobiological standpoint, it’s also important to understand a bit of biochemistry about aspartame. Once ingested, aspartame is metabolized to yield aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol. Phenylalanine is involved in neurotransmitter regulation, and aspartic acid is an “excitatory” neurotransmitter.
Disturbances in neurotransmitter regulation can result in neurobehavioral disturbances. Aspartame also compromises the blood-brain barrier, increasing its permeability and altering concentrations of neurotransmitters (such as dopamine).
It’s also worth noting that part of the reason aspartame is thought to increase the risk of neurologic deficits (and even cancer) is because of its conversion to methanol and formaldehyde. When stored near or above room temperature, methanol (one of the components of aspartame) is metabolized into formaldehyde, which is a known human carcinogen.
Given these effects on the nervous system, aspartame has been linked to mental disorders, cognitive dysfunction, headaches, and more. Along those lines, randomized controlled trials (yes, involving humans) have shown that some of the dangerous side effects of aspartame are:
Longer memory lapses
Impaired memory and word recall
Slower reaction times
Impaired attention and focus
More irritable mood
Greater feelings of depression
Impaired performance on tests of cognitive function
One study had to be stopped prematurely due to the severity of adverse reactions in depressed participants who consumed aspartame. The researchers concluded, “Individuals with mood disorders are particularly sensitive to this artificial sweetener, and its use in this population should be discouraged.”
In a study published in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers from the National Cancer Institute evaluated the connection between soft drink consumption and the risk of depression among a sample of over 260,000 participants in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study. They found that frequent consumption of diet sodas (which are typically sweetened with aspartame) significantly increased the risk for depression among older adults.
2. Weight Gain & Obesity
As a zero-calorie sugar substitute, it seems like it would be a no-brainer that aspartame would help with weight loss. After all, if it’s 200 times sweeter than sugar, swapping 5 g of aspartame (which is considered an average amount annually) for its equivalent of 1,000 g (or 1 kg) of sugar, which represents about 4,000 kcal, would lead to a theoretical 1 pound or so loss in weight.
Even the astute Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics takes the position that non-nutritive sweeteners can help limit energy intake as a strategy to manage weight and blood glucose.
As intuitive as that conclusion may seem, however, it doesn’t seem to work that way in the real world. At best, the evidence that aspartame prevents weight gain or obesity is inconclusive. Worse, there’s compelling evidence that aspartame may prevent, not promote, weight loss.
In a recent study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, researchers found that potential side effects of aspartame are long-term weight gain and increased risk of obesity, as well as increased risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
In general, increased awareness of the health consequences of excess sugar consumption has fueled a dramatic uptick in the consumption of zero-calorie artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame. However, new research published in the journal Experimental Biology shows sugar substitutes like aspartame can cause health changes that are linked with diabetes and obesity. This suggests switching from regular to diet soda, for example, may be a case of “out of the frying pan, into the fire.”
According to lead researcher Brian Hoffman, PhD, assistant professor in the department of biomedical engineering at the Medical College of Wisconsin and Marquette University, “In our studies, both sugar and artificial sweeteners seem to exhibit negative effects linked to obesity and diabetes, albeit through different mechanisms from each other. We also observed that replacing sugars with non-caloric artificial sweeteners leads to negative changes in fat and energy metabolism.”
If that’s not worrisome enough, check this out: Recent research reveals that women who drank artificially-sweetened beverages like diet soda (presumably containing aspartame at least a majority of the time) every day while pregnant were more likely a year later to have infants with a higher body mass index (BMI). In other words, women who consumed more aspartame and other artificial sweeteners were more likely to have overweight babies. To put it differently, the dangers of aspartame consumption seems to affect offspring, trickling down at least one generation.
3. Type 2 Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome
Zero calories and sugar-free, there shouldn’t be any concern about aspartame when it comes to blood sugar management and metabolic health, right? That’s a rational thought process. In fact, it’s why many healthcare practitioners recommend its use to type 2 diabetics. After all, it’s 200 times sweeter than sugar yet has a negligible effect on blood glucose levels.
However, research shows that the side effects of aspartame may include increased risk of weight gain (rather than weight loss) and impaired glucose tolerance in type 2 diabetics.
In a report published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, a team of Massachusetts General Hospital investigators found a possible mechanism explaining why the use of aspartame may lead to metabolic syndrome—a group of symptoms associated with type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
In the study, the researchers showed how the aspartame breakdown byproduct phenylalanine blocks the action of an enzyme (i.e., intestinal alkaline phosphatase) that can prevent obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. In the study, they also showed mice receiving aspartame in their drinking water gained more weight and developed other symptoms of metabolic syndrome than animals fed similar diets without aspartame.
And according to another study published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, aspartame intake is associated with greater glucose intolerance in individuals with obesity. The researchers at York University’s Faculty of Health said, “Individuals with obesity who consume artificial sweeteners, particularly aspartame, may have worse glucose management than those who don’t take sugar substitutes.”
While human studies are somewhat limited and inconsistent, rodent studies paint a fairly clear picture that common side effects of aspartame include glucose intolerance, insulin resistance, and hyperinsulinemia.
It’s believed aspartame may act as a chemical stressor by increasing levels of the hormone cortisol, which has many bodily functions, including raising levels of blood glucose. As mentioned, aspartame may lead to the production of excess free radicals, triggering systemic oxidative stress and inflammation, which are well-established factors linked to type 2 diabetes.
Aspartame may also alter the activity and balance of gut microbes, and it may interfere with the N-methyl D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor, resulting in insulin deficiency or resistance. That’s a lot of mumbo jumbo, I know, but the point is that despite being a non-nutritive sugar substitute that doesn’t impact blood glucose, there’s compelling evidence that aspartame may do more harm than good when it comes to glycemic control and variability.
4. Negative Gut Bacteria
In addition to its potential impact on metabolism, appetite, weight management, cognitive function, and mood, aspartame may also have negative effects on the digestive system, namely on gut bacteria. In fact, negative alterations in the gut microbiota seem to underlie at least some of the other negative effects of aspartame mentioned above (e.g., glucose intolerance).
While artificial sweeteners like aspartame are touted because they’re sugar-free, recent research shows that gut bacteria may be able to break down artificial sweeteners, resulting in negative health effects.
Admittedly, it’s challenging to understand exactly how aspartame influences the gut microbiota because it tends to be rapidly broken down in the small intestine. Be that as it may, there’s compelling evidence that despite being metabolized in the upper intestine, gut bacteria still used and are affected by aspartame (perhaps via the byproducts of its metabolism), or maybe yet-to-be-determined mechanisms are involved.
According to a new paper published in Molecules by researchers at Ben-Gurion University of Negev in Israel and Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, artificial sweeteners, including aspartame, are toxic to gut bacteria. Researchers say the consumption of artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, can adversely affect gut microbial activity, causing a wide range of health issues from cancers to type 2 diabetes.
While they are considered safe, there is increasing controversy regarding the potential of artificial sweeteners, including aspartame, to promote metabolic derangements. Recent research suggests that alterations in glucose metabolism (e.g., glucose intolerance) seem to be functionally mediated by alterations of the gut microbiome.
How to Avoid the Side Effects of Aspartame
While the rationale for aspartame and other non-nutritive artificial sweeteners makes enormous sense, studies show counterintuitive links between non-caloric artificial sweeteners and the same ailments of metabolic syndrome they are meant to prevent, such as weight gain, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and more. Several physiological explanations have been suggested, such as increased sugar absorption, disruption of the ability of sweet taste to signal caloric consequences, an increase in appetite, impaired glycemic or insulin responses, and disturbances in the gut microbiota.
Put differently, there’s drastically less upside to aspartame than we have been led to believe. Even worse, there’s compelling and significant evidence to believe it may be harmful, especially when consumed in meaningful amounts for prolonged periods of time. While you could potentially make a case for its application as a sugar substitute for someone who’s consuming a substantial amount of added sugar and excess calories, that would be a very short-term approach. Even then, there are much safer, better options.
Having said all that, while I would like to take a more agnostic viewpoint, I just don’t see any benefit to the regular, long-term consumption of this artificial sweetener, especially given all the potential side effects of aspartame. With that in mind, here are some action steps:
Take attendance. The first step is being mindful of your consumption of aspartame. While diet sodas are the most recognizable suspect, aspartame is found in a wide variety of products:
Sugar-free condiments (e.g., ketchup, syrup)
Sugar-free ice cream and toppings
Diet drinks (e.g., iced tea)
Sugar-free fruit drinks
Meal replacement shakes/snacks
Sugar-free sports drinks
Most obvious: The blue packets used to sweeten coffee, tea, etc.
Cut back. If you find you’re consuming a lot of the products mentioned above—either a wide variety, a lot of a single category, and/or both—then work on cutting back. There’s more on this below, but the constant hankering for something sweet is something that needs to be addressed in and of itself.
Make better choices. As mentioned, the potential costs far outweigh the benefits when it comes to aspartame. The good news is there are better choices, such as stevia, monk fruit, erythritol, isomaltose, and xylitol, which have far fewer downsides and even some potential upsides.
In general, I think you could make an argument that most people could stand to reduce the amount of “sweet stuff” they eat. Between added sugars and non-nutritive, high-intensity sweeteners, many people are persistently exposed to sweet-tasting foods, which tend to be highly reinforcing and lend to the development of a “sweet palate” (notably at an alarming rate among children).
One of my favorite conclusions comes from an editorial published in the British Medical Journal and written by Professor Michael Lean, Chair of Human Nutrition (Medicine) at the University of Glasgow, who said, “The cynical conclusion is that there is probably too much sweetness and never enough light, and the public probably needs protection against misleading websites.”
Questions? Call me, Dr. Deborah Pearson, a chiropractor serving Roswell, Alpharetta, Peachtree Corners, and Johns Creek, @ 770-993-3200
“Diet Coke with Lemon – didn’t they used to call that Pledge?”
Sugar-Free, Dairy-Free, Flavor-Full!
With just a few ingredients and a candy bar mold, you’ll be enjoying your creation to curb your sweet tooth which of course will help you keep on focus with your healthy eating track!
This takes literally less than 5 minutes to make and 30 minutes or so to harden.
– 8 ounces 100 % unsweetened cacao or baking chocolate
– 6 1/2 tablespoons coconut oil
– 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
– 1/2 teaspoon Himalayan sea salt
– 3 tablespoons 100% powdered stevia
– Melt all ingredients in a sauce pan over low heat on the stove until completely smooth OR just melt in 30 second intervals in the microwave until completely smooth, stirring every 30 seconds.
– Pour into candy mold and refrigerate until hardened.
Makes 16 servings @ 118 calories
My husband and I are in love with this treat. It is a staple in our house. Sometimes we get crazy and add shredded coconut or homemade nut butter to the mix.
Questions? Contact me, Dr. Deborah Pearson, chiropractor serving Alpharetta, Johns Creek, and Roswell.
I think this is a great article for you to enjoy. If you have any questions, please contact me, Dr. Deborah Pearson, a chiropractor serving Johns Creek, Roswell, Alpharetta, and Norcross.
YOU MIGHT THINK chiropractors are only able to help with back aches, stiff necks, slipped discs and whiplash injuries. If so, you’re not alone – but you’re missing out.
Chiropractic care – which is based on the understanding that, given the opportunity, the mind and body can heal itself – can treat many issues that might surprise you.
Here’s a look at the top five most surprising conditions a chiropractor can treat:
1. Migraines and tension headaches
Nine out of 10 Americans suffer from headaches. Some are occasional. Some are persistent. Some are dull and nagging, while others cause debilitating pain and nausea. Taking a painkiller and hoping your headache goes away is one option. But there’s a better one.
Research shows that spinal manipulation – the primary form of care provided by chiropractic doctors – is an effective way to treat tension headaches and headaches that begin in the neck.
In a clinical trial conducted at Macquarie University, 72 percent of migraine sufferers experienced either “substantial” or “noticeable” improvement after a period of chiropractic treatment.
In fact, most headaches are related to muscle tension in the neck, which is an increasingly common condition among Americans who spend hours in the same position or posture (such as in front of a computer or television), leading to joint irritation and tension in the upper back and scalp that cause headaches.
What Can a Doctor of Chiropractic Do?
- Perform spinal manipulation or chiropractic adjustments to improve spinal function and alleviate stress on your system.
- Provide nutritional advice, recommending a change in diet or the addition of vitamins.
- Offer advice on posture, ergonomics, exercises and relaxation techniques.
2. Stress and anxiety
We perceive stress from three basic sources: our environment, our body and our emotions.
Environmental stress includes noise, weather, physical threats, time pressures and performance standards. Body stress includes disease processes, organ malfunction, poor nutrition, poor sleep and physical injury. And emotional stress is more difficult to define, but it encompasses our reactions, in both thought and emotion, to environmental and physical stressors.
Jobs today are increasingly complex as the business world becomes more and more competitive. Physical stresses such as sound, air and water pollution have also grown worse over the last century – especially in the United States – and so have emotional and psychological stresses caused by an increasing awareness of troubles and tragedies around the globe, brought to our attention every hour by the Internet and its 24/7 news cycle.
Many illnesses are caused or worsened by stress, which activates our “fight or flight” reaction. This systemic reaction affects almost every part of the body, as the hypothalamus in the brain stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, which causes an increase in heart rate, blood volume and blood pressure, redirecting blood away from our digestive system and extremities.
When prolonged, the long-term effects of this state can be disastrous to good health and cause high blood pressure, muscle tissue damage, diabetes, infertility, damage to the immune system and slowed healing from disease and injury.
Chiropractors work primarily with the spine – the root of the nervous system through which nerve impulses travel between the brain and the rest of the body – and can help the body manage and process this stress in a healthier way.
What Can a Doctor of Chiropractic Do?
- Chiropractors can release muscle tension, one effect of chronic stress that leads to nerve irritation and creates uneven pressures on the body’s bony structures, which can cause the spinal column to become misaligned. This, in turn, helps the body return to a more balanced, relaxed state.
- Chiropractic adjustments can reduce spinal nerve irritation and improve blood circulation, which can help signal the brain to turn off the “fight or flight” response and begin the healing process.
- A doctor of chiropractic can suggest nutritional supplements, like B complex vitamins, to help the body cope with stress.
- A chiropractor can also recommend relaxation techniques and discuss posture and environmental changes to help you recover from chronic stress.
Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder involving widespread pain and sensitivity throughout the entire musculoskeletal system. To be diagnosed with FM, a patient typically has a minimum of 11 out of 18 specific tender points on the body. In addition to pain, patients also report long-term fatigue and/or disturbed sleep and mood. Other disorders commonly associated with FM include irritable bowel syndrome, TMJ pain and dysfunction, psychological conditions and some autoimmune diseases.
Fibromyalgia is a widespread condition that affects about 2 percent of the United States, and medical science has yet to discover the cause of this condition.
Since those with FM often experience an altered mood, like depression, many experts focus on the psychological aspect of the disease. Others feel that FM is more physiological and has its origins in physical trauma or chronic postural alterations. Still others suggest that FM is a central nervous system disorder rooted in neurochemical imbalances, since those with FM are hypersensitive to even the slightest stimuli and often have a pain response to normally non-painful pressure or activity. Since all information from the outside world is collected and analyzed by the nervous system, it’s logical to assume that if a person with FM is sensitive to a stimulus that others are not, there may be something wrong with this system.
It’s often difficult for patients to find solutions for all of their symptoms, but recent studies show that chiropractic adjustments combined with a soft tissue technique called ischemic compression can help FM patients.
In one study, 60 percent of the subjects treated by a chiropractor experienced a significant improvement: reduced pain, improved sleep and decreased fatigue.
What Can a Doctor of Chiropractic Do?
- Chiropractors are trained as neuromusculoskeletal specialists, and one of the main focuses of chiropractic care is the positive impact it can have on a person’s nervous system. Therefore, chiropractic adjustments can improve a FM patient’s nervous system, which gives them a better chance for recovery.
- Chiropractic care can treat pressure points, back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, headaches and pain from musculoskeletal injuries.
- Chiropractors can also reduce a patient’s overall pain through spinal adjustments that increase the mobility between spinal vertebrae, which have become restricted, locked or slightly out of proper position, thereby increasing cervical and lumbar range of motion.
4. Weak immune systems
The nervous system, endocrine system and immune system are inextricably linked. Together they share tiny messenger molecules that mediate communication between them, creating optimal responses for the body to adapt and heal appropriately.
Until recently, one of these messenger molecules, IL-2, was thought of as an immune system molecule. But recent studies have clearly shown its presence and activity in the nervous system, leading researchers to believe that neural dysfunctions due to spinal misalignments are stressful to the body and can cause abnormal changes that lead to a poorly coordinated immune response.
Subluxation is the term for misalignments of the spine that cause compression and irritation of nerve pathways, affecting the body’s organs. Subluxations are an example of physical nerve stress that affects neuronal control. According to researchers, such stressful conditions lead to altered measures of immune function and an increased susceptibility to a variety of diseases.
It’s important to note here how the endocrine system also impacts the immune system by producing cortisol in the adrenal glands – endocrine glands that are directly connected to the nervous system through the sympathetic nervous system – a stress hormone that inhibits the immune system.
If the sympathetic nervous system is too “switched on” due to stress and subluxation, it can increase the adrenal glands’ synthesis of cortisol, in turn affecting the immune system.
What Can a Doctor of Chiropractic Do?
- Chiropractic care is the only way to detect and eliminate subluxation, and chiropractic adjustments have been shown to reduce the stress on the nervous system, thereby boosting the coordinated responses of the nervous and immune systems.
- One research group found that when an adjustment was applied to a subluxated area, the white blood cell count collected rose significantly.
- Another study measured the effects of six months of regular chiropractic care on the immune system function of HIV patients. At the end of six months of care, the patients who had received regular adjustments showed a 48 percent increase in the number of CD4+ T cells, whereas patients who had not been adjusted showed an 8 percent decrease in CD4+ T cells.
When we’re younger, it’s easy to take our extensive range of motion and flexibility for granted. As we age, a number of health conditions – and the cumulative effects of wear and tear – can affect our ability to move the way we used to.
But a decrease in range of motion and flexibility can result in a downward spiral of disability.
For example, an injury or degenerative condition that causes pain, swelling and stiffness, may limit our flexibility and range of motion. When this happens, we may avoid activities that involve the affected body parts, either consciously or unconsciously.
This then becomes a classic case of “use it or lose it.” Without regular exercise, the muscles and joints stiffen, adhesions and scar tissue can form, and mobility may be further reduced. Eventually, a person can become completely incapacitated, and ordinary tasks such as picking up something off the floor or tying your shoes can become extremely challenging or painful.
Regular chiropractic can help increase both range of motion and flexibility.
A study performed by researchers at the Phillip Chiropractic Research Centre of RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, and published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics found that chiropractic adjustments increased range of motion in the 105 patients who participated in the study. There were three phases of this study, in which each of the participants was given no adjustments, fake adjustments or true adjustments. In each phase, the patients who were given the true adjustments showed a significant improvement in range of motion, which was not the case for the other two groups.
What Can a Doctor of Chiropractic Do?
- A chiropractor uses spinal adjustments and manipulations to other parts of the body to realign the bones and joints so as to reduce pain, restore range of motion and improve flexibility, balance and coordination.
- Your chiropractor can also recommend specific exercises that can be done at home to increase your strength and flexibility so that you’re able to maintain and build upon the gains from your chiropractic adjustments.
- Regular chiropractic care can reduce or eliminate the source of your back and joint pain, allowing you to resume your normal activities and to remain more flexible into your golden years.
The term “subluxation” is used by doctors of chiropractic to depict the altered position of the vertebra and subsequent functional loss, which determines the location for the spinal manipulation “Subluxation” has been defined medically as a partial abnormal separation of the articular surfaces of a joint.
Chiropractors have described the term to include a complex of functions (i.e. the subluxation complex) as an alteration of the biomechanical and physiological dynamics of contiguous structures which can cause neural disturbances.
Chiropractic Viewpoint on Subluxation
Chiropractors view subluxation as a process rather than a static condition during which the tissues undergo constant changes, including:
- Hyperemia. Referring to an excess of blood in a specific area of the body, hyperemia may develop when there is an obstruction preventing the blood from flowing normally.
- Congestion. Joint dysfunction affects the muscles in different ways, with some muscles developing trigger points, or areas of congestion, where toxins develop, irritate the nerve endings within the muscle, and produce pain.
- Edema. When the body’s tiny blood vessels (capillaries) are damaged or pressurized, excess fluid may leak from them and build up in the tissues, leading to a swelling known as edema.
- Minute hemorrhages. Referring to a small amount of bleeding or an abnormal flow of blood, minute hemorrhages may develop within the body’s blood vessels as a result of certain triggers, underlying conditions and other risk factors.
- Fibrosis. Detailing the replacement of normal tissue with scar tissue, fibrosis commonly occurs in people dealing with recurrent back pain.
- Local ischemia. A very specific type of muscle pain, ischemia refers to a lack of blood flow in the muscle (often from a muscle spasm), leaving the muscle very painful to touch.
- Atrophy. With muscle atrophy, the muscle shrinks and may partially or completely waste away as a result of inactivity or various diseases and conditions.
- Tissue rigidity. Eventual rigidity and adhesions form not only in joint capsules, but also in ligaments, tendons and muscles themselves.
Spinal Subluxation in Chiropractic
Static Intersegmental Subluxation
- Flexion malposition
- Extension malposition
- Lateral flexion malposition
- Rotation malposition
- Altered Interosseous Spacing (increased or decreased)
- Osseous Foraminal encroachment
Kinetic Intersegmental Subluxation
- Hypomobility (fixation subluxation)
- Hypermobility (unstable subluxation)
- Aberrant motion (paradoxical motion)
- Scoliosis and/or alteration of curves secondary to muscle imbalance
- Scoliosis and/or alteration of curves secondary to structural asymmetries
- Decompensation of adaptational curves
- Abnormalities of motion
- Costovertebral or costotransverse disrelationships
- Sacroiliac subluxation1
Questions? Call me, Dr. Deborah Pearson, a chiropractor serving Alpharetta, Johns Creek, Roswell, and Norcross @ 770-993-3200.
Milliseconds and micrometers can make a big difference in competitive sports. That’s why, when injuries happen, many turn to chiropractic care rather than more invasive options for pain relief. Prescription drugs slow reaction times, the body’s sensitivity, and carry the risk of addiction. Surgery might leave an athlete side-lined for months and leaves permanent scarring of skin, muscle, ligaments, and interstitial tissue. A certified chiropractic sports physician, on the other hand, is able to relieve pain without drugs or surgery—all while keeping the body balanced, flexible and at optimal performance.
Common place injuries suffered by athletes of all kinds can knock the spine out of alignment, either by brute force or repetition, causing stress on its pain-sensitive joints, muscles, nerves, discs and ligaments. In study after study, chiropractic care outperforms other medical options at reducing pain and restoring normal function.
Chiropractic provides proven pain relief from a wide range of common sports injuries, from tennis or golfer’s elbow to groin pain in soccer players to recurrent shoulder instability in hockey players. It also helps with headaches from head and neck injuries, back and shoulder pain, and ankle and knee injuries.
But it’s not just injured athletes who visit chiropractors. In fact, an estimated 90% of all world-class athletes routinely use chiropractic care to prevent injuries and boost their performance. All NFL teams employ on-staff chiropractors. So do 72 percent of PGA golfers and the majority of NBA, MLB and NHL teams.
“Chiropractic just makes you feel so much better,” says New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. “When I walk out of the clinic, I feel like I’m about three inches taller and everything’s in place. And as long as I see the chiropractor, I feel like I’m one step ahead of the game.”
It’s a lot more than just pain relief, here are some of the athletic benefits a certified chiropractic sports physician can offer improved performance. A misaligned spine interferes with the functions of all other systems, causing athletic performance to suffer. Regular adjustments keep the spine working smoothly, which in turn boosts the body’s overall performance. In one study, athletes showed a 6.12 percent performance increase after receiving chiropractic treatment. Another study found a 30 percent improvement in eye-hand coordination after 12 weeks of chiropractic care. Examples of athletes who can benefit include:
Football players: Chiropractors give about 20,000 adjustments to NFL players over the course of a football season.
Baseball players: Regular chiropractic care helps MLB players significantly improve muscle strength and long jump distance.
Basketball players: NBA players under routine chiropractic treatment helps boost speed, flexibility, range of motion, balance and strength.
Golfers: PGA athletes like Tiger Woods know that correcting postural imbalances makes their swing more smooth, thereby helping to prevent injury.
More effective training. Many athletes also find that chiropractic care helps them train more effectively. In one study, 100 percent of runners with joint problems were able to maintain—and in many cases increase—their training mileage. More than three-quarters of athletic trainers refer their players to a chiropractor, while all of them report that some of their clients seek chiropractic treatment on their own.
Fewer injuries. Alignment issues cause unnecessary stress on the body and can often lead to injury. A sports chiropractic keeps the musculoskeletal system running smoothly so the body is less prone to injury. For example, chiropractors help golfers correct postural imbalances in their swing that could lead to injury.
Reduced recovery times. By relieving the irritation between misaligned vertebrae, chiropractic treatment helps minimize the healing time required from injuries. One research team found chiropractic care helped a group of injured long-distance runners recover quickly. Sports chiropractors use several techniques to promote rapid healing, including massage, stretching, and cupping.
Chiropractic care helps athletes at all levels achieve optimal performance. That’s why so many athletes—from professional sports teams to high school players—regularly see a chiropractor to stay in top shape.
Questions? Call Me, Dr. Deborah Pearson, a Chiropractor serving Alpharetta, Johns Creek and Roswell.
Cupping is an extraordinary technique that has been passed down for thousands of years and continues to be widely used across many cultures by both professionals and lay people alike. When toxins or cell waste stagnate in the muscles or joints, the body has a difficult time with waste disposal and we often experience this as discomfort or pain. This kind of stagnation can occur for any number of reasons; injuries that never fully healed may create scar tissue and poor circulation in a localized area which creates site specific pain.
You can expect some dramatic colors to appear with coloring if:
• the issue is chronic
• there is a history of either recreational or prescription drug use
• you are eating more animal protein than your body can adequately tackle
• candida or other parasite infection is present
• you’re being exposed to environmental toxins such as black mold
• you’ve gone through a particularly traumatic emotional event
• you’re in a period of life where you’re feeling particularly “stuck”
When our liver or kidneys aren’t able to process these insults to the system and excrete them correctly, the toxins are put into storage to be managed at a later time – and they’re usually housed in the muscle layer. The vacuum action of cupping rapidly facilitates the release of rigid soft tissues, stimulates the peripheral nervous system, loosens and lifts connective tissues, breaks up and drains stagnation. It also increases blood and lymph flow to skin, muscles, and connective tissues. It does all of these things far more rapidly and effectively than any other type of therapy, including acupuncture, massage, chiropractic adjustments, medications or even surgery.
Cupping draws stagnant blood and other fluids that has fallen out of healthy circulation up to skin the level and away from the injury so that healthy free circulation can be restored to the affected area. Being that skin is the body’s largest organ, it contains about 20% of your blood volume at any given time. The skin has a beautiful network of capillaries that make it a fantastic vehicle to transport all the stagnation that cupping pulls up into it. Cupping creates a space for oxygen, living cells, and nutrients needed for healing. The body’s capillary system at the skin level carries the toxins to the liver and kidneys, where they can be metabolized and excreted.
It’s a common misconception, however, the marks left by cupping are not bruises.
Bruising is caused by impact trauma leading to breakage of capillaries and a reactionary rush of fluids to the damaged location from the tissue injury. There is no compression in cup therapy. The marks are the result of having internal unwanted toxins pulled up to the skin.
When a condition exists within a deeper muscle layer and is dredged up during treatment, discoloration will appear on the skin. As treatments cumulate and even though each time the cupping may focus on the same area, for the same duration, with the same amount of suction – less discoloration will appear over time.
HOW LONG WILL THE MARKS LAST?
I advise patients to hope for an hour but prepare for 2 weeks.
The more severe or chronic an issue, the deeper the color, the longer the marks stay with you. Therefore, I also advise patients to review their social calendar (e.g. any weddings or beach vacations coming up?) before they receive cupping so that we can schedule their session accordingly.
The dramatic marks seen on swimmers in the Olympics, though true athletes and healthy, most likely come from lactic acid buildup in addition to the toxins they’re exposed to from long hours in chlorinated pools. If they were on a less regimented exercise schedule out of the pool, the cup marks may not have been as entertaining.
DOES CUPPING HURT?
Cupping creates a unique sensation that doesn’t compare to anything you may have experienced before.
Because of natural suction, there is a pulling sensation at the skin and muscle layer that results in a tight feeling under the cups. In the method I employ, the cups are left on only long enough to generate color – which means the entire application and removal of the cups generally lasts 15 minutes.
PREPARE TO BE CUPPED!
Below are a few things to take into consideration and do ahead of time before coming in for your cupping session:
• Eat something prior to your session. Being cupped on an empty stomach may cause dizziness or nausea.
• Know your upcoming social schedule; rethink whether cupping marks showing above a strapless dress line are appropriate or not if you have an upcoming wedding to attend. Discoloration can last anywhere from 1 hour to 3 weeks – it’s difficult to predict what will happen, especially if it’s your first time.
• Bring clothing that can cover the area where you were cupped. Following the session you will want to ensure exposure is kept to a bare minimum. You should bring a scarf, sweater, hoodie, or jacket as cover-up.
Everyone reacts to cupping a little bit differently, so it’s important to give your body a chance to recuperate after the experience. Some patients feel ready to run a marathon while others may experience fatigue, soreness, or even mild headaches. Either way, please take note of the following:
• Keep the cupped area covered, warm, and free from any drafts following your treatment. Cupping opens the surface of the body, therefore temperature extremes (especially cold or wind) can trigger the muscles to go into spasm or tighten up. You need to be sure to keep the area protected and avoid activities such as hot tubs or cold showers. Warm baths are acceptable if you can avoid leaning back into the tub where the area may be put up against cold ceramic.
• Take an Epson salt bath tonight. Add 2 – 4 pounds of salts to a warm bath and soak for at 10 – 30 minutes. Benefits of Epsom salts: Relaxes muscles, Draws toxins from the body, Sedates the nervous system, Reduces swelling, and Natural exfoliate
• Drink plenty of water! Since toxins have been released back into your system, be sure to drink plenty of fluids to help your body flush them out.
• Avoid alcohol or other toxic substances for at least 48 hours following the session. Your liver is working hard to process what has been reintroduced into the system; don’t make it work any harder than it has to.
• Take it easy! Healing happens in the quiet moments we create; so avoid strenuous activity. Give yourself permission to take down time to recuperate.
Questions? Call me, Dr. Deborah Pearson, a chiropractor serving Johns Creek, Alpharetta, Roswell, and Johns Creek @ 770-993-3200.
Educational and licensing requirements for doctors of chiropractic (DCs) are among the most stringent of any of the health care professions.
DCs are educated in nationally accredited, four-year doctoral graduate school programs through a curriculum that includes a minimum of 4,200 hours of classroom, laboratory and clinical internship, with the average DC program equivalent in classroom hours to allopathic (MD) and osteopathic (DO) medical schools.
They are designated as physician-level providers in the vast majority of states and federal Medicare program. The essential services provided by DCs are also available in federal health delivery systems, including those administered by Medicaid, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Department of Defense, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, Federal Workers’ Compensation, and all state workers’ compensation programs.
The typical applicant at a chiropractic college has already acquired nearly four years of pre-medical undergraduate college education, including courses in biology, inorganic and organic chemistry, physics, psychology and related lab work. Once accepted into an accredited chiropractic college, the requirements become even more demanding — four to five academic years of professional study are the standard. Because of the hands-on nature of chiropractic, and the intricate adjusting techniques, a significant portion of time is spent in clinical training.
Chiropractors undergo a rigorous education in the healing sciences, similar to that of medical doctors. In some areas, such as anatomy, physiology, rehabilitation, nutrition and public health, they receive more intensive education than their MD counterparts. Like other primary health care doctors, chiropractic students spend a significant portion of their curriculum studying clinical subjects related to evaluating and caring for patients. Typically, as part of their professional training, they must complete a minimum of a one-year clinical-based program dealing with actual patient care. In total, the curriculum includes a minimum of 4,200 hours of classroom, laboratory and clinical experience. The course of study is approved by an accrediting agency that is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. This has been the case for more than 25 years.
Certification and Licensure
This extensive education prepares doctors of chiropractic to diagnose health care problems, treat the problems when they are within their scope of practice and refer patients to other health care practitioners when appropriate.
Certification and licensure of chiropractors is governed by the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE).
Chiropractors must pass a national board exam administered by NBCE and then obtain a license in the state in which they wish to practice. Additionally, they must meet yearly continuing education requirements to maintain their license.1
Questions? Call me, Dr. Deborah Pearson, a chiropractor serving Johns Creek, Roswell, Alpharetta, and Norcross @ 770-990-3200.
- Chiropractic Qualifications. Retrieved from https://www.acatoday.org/Patients/Why-Choose-Chiropractic/Chiropractic-Qualifications