Tips for Optimizing Balance and Coordination

Have you ever wondered how you are able to walk through your house in the middle of the night, and still with a reasonable amount of confidence, not run into walls?

It is pretty obvious that being in your own house you have seen it numerous times during the day that you are able to recall from memory, to a relatively accurate degree, where dangers would be when navigating the hallways and stairs at night.

This might seem like a simple concept, but it is a very important part of having optimal balance and coordination. Try this for a moment:

Stand up from your chair, have your hands at your sides, and now try and touch the tip of your nose with the tip of your left index finger.

How did you go?  Chances are you were successful, but why? How does this work?

Your brain is always in constant communication with your body and your body is in constant communication with your brain, this information going from your body to your brain is called PROPRIOCEPTION.  Proprioception is what allows your brain to have an internal map of where your body is in space, as well as where your body is relative to other objects, even with your eyes closed.

How does this relate to balance?

If for some reason your brain does not have a clear internal map of where your body is relative to its environment, then your balance and coordination would be compromised. Think about it like this; if you are walking through a dark house, but instead of your own house it is one you have never seen before. How do you think you would do? I would imagine a few yells in the dark as you stub your toe or bump your head. In a similar way, if there is a breakdown in the communication between your brain and your body, your brain won’t have an accurate internal map of your body relative to its environment and your balance and coordination will suffer.

Structural Shifts in the spine obstruct the communication between your brain and body, affecting the brains internal map of your body relative to its environment. When your brain does not have an accurate internal map of the body relative to its environment your balance and coordination will suffer.

Now you might be saying: “My Balance is Fine” 

Your balance may be fine compared to a clumsy sibling, but is it good as it can be? If you have a Structural Shift in your spine obstructing the communication between your brain and your body, then your balance may not be as good as it can be.balance west des moines

Altered Proprioception is not just an issue that affects your balance; it might mean you get injured more often (not just injuring your back or neck, but your shoulder, ankle etc.). It affects your workouts or ability to play sports; think about how important coordination is to golf, tennis, cross-fit etc.).

Whether you have poor balance, want to perform at your best in sports or just get injured less often, it is important to have a clear communication between your brain and your body (Proprioception).  Structural Chiropractic focuses on correcting structural shifts in the spine, clearing up the communication between your brain and body, leading to better function, less accidents & falls, and a healthier you.  Allowing your brain to have a clear internal map of your body and how it relates to its environment, just like when you were walking through your house in the dark.

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Top 5 Foods to Boost Brain Power

You may have noticed that brain health makes its way into the news now and again, especially as it relates to things like dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and overall cognitive function.  Why is it a big deal?  In short, your brain is your most valuable health asset.  The brain and nervous system work together to control and coordinate every function in your body.

At Keystone Chiropractic, we take brain and nervous system function very seriously.  There are a number of things you can do to optimize your brain health, but today’s post will address foods you can add to your grocery list to help your brain and nervous system work the best they can.  Are there more than 5 foods that help brain health?  You bet.  Today we’ll outline the ones that give you the best bang for your buck.

First, we must mention that the best place to start is to eat more unprocessed whole foods.  Real foods are full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and countless other phytochemicals that nourish your brain cells (and even grow new ones).

When choosing your foods, remember that it’s not only a matter of how many calories they contain and whether or not they might make you “fat”- it’s a matter of choosing those that contain the nutrients to support optimal health, including that of your brain.

The 5 best foods for optimal brain and nervous system health

1. Wild Alaskan Salmonsalmon-518032_1280

You may have read that Omega 3 fatty acids, which are found in Wild Alaskan Salmon, are great for cardiovascular health.  Omega 3’s are great for your brain, too.  As you age, or due to diseases like Alzheimer’s, your brain volume decreases.  Recent research published in Neurology suggests that Omega 3’s may slow this process.

The study, which included over 1,000 women, measured the levels of Omega 3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA.  The results showed that those with higher levels of EPA and DHA in their blood had larger total brain volumes according to an MRI scan.

Those with higher Omega 3’s also had a nearly 3 percent larger hippocampus, which plays an important role in memory.  Even before symptoms appear, in diseases like Alzheimer’s, the hippocampus has most likely begun to shrink in volume.

Higher levels of EPA and DHA can be achieved through both diet and supplementation.  The best sources of these Omega 3 fatty acids are fatty fish such as Wild Alaskan Salmon.  Supplements are also an option, and while getting Omega-3’s through diet is preferred, many Americans are deficient, so a high quality supplement may be needed.

2. Eggs

Eggs, more specifically the yolks, are a leading source of choline.  Choline is a precursor for acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter involved in helping you remember things like where you left the car keys.  Eating protein rich foods like eggs for breakfast can improve overall cognitive performance, according to Swiss researchers.

blueberries-690072_12803. Blueberries

Flavonoids are found in foods like blueberries, apples, citrus fruits, green tea, and in cocoa.  Flavonoids take part in multiple cellular processes, depending on the type of flavonoid.  They can also be responsible for may aspects of brain function.  They do this by influencing how neurons “talk” to each other and by increasing the levels of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds that reduce damage to cells in the brain.  There is also some evidence that flavanoids can stave off not only cognitive decline, but also brain diseases like Alzheimer’s.

4. Curcumin

One nutrient that you may not be so familiar with is the spice, curcumin.  Even if you have never heard of it, it is likely that you have tasted it.  Curcumin is from the root of the tumeric plant; it gives curry its yellow color.

Animal studies have shown that it actually clears away Alzheimer’s-causing proteins in the brain called amyloid plaques.

You can add some curcumin – tumeric – to your own cooking to get a dose of this powerful polyphenol.  It seems that some of the most interesting foods and flavors contain some of the most potent brain-boosting molecules.

5. Leafy greens & Cruciferous vegetables

You may not be fond of eating your greens, but there’s a reason why you hear over and over that they’re one of the best things to add to your diet.  Harvard Medical School researchers found that women who ate the most vegetables – especially leafy green vegetables (spinach and romaine lettuce) and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli and cauliflower) – experienced a slower rate of cognitive decline than women who ate the least vegetables.



This one shouldn’t be a big surprise.  Every cell in your body needs what to thrive, and your brain cells are not exception.  Approximately three-quarters of your brain is water.  A small Ohio University study found that people whose bodies were well hydrated scored significantly better on tests of brain power, compared with those who weren’t drinking enough.  Aim to drink half your body weight in ounces ever day.  For example, if someone weighs 150 lbs, they should get 75 ounces of water.


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Combating Chronic Inflammation

As people age, they are not only looking to live longer, but better as well, and that includes avoiding the effects of chronic inflammation.  Inflammation treatment is a big industry because of that.  There is a long list of medications, supplements, and salves aimed at managing chronic inflammation, and the number of advertisements for anti-inflammatory products is even greater.

Inflammation is the body’s natural response to things such as injury, infection, exposure to toxins, and biomechanical dysfunction.  It involves a cascade of events, coordinated by the nervous system, which includes increased blood flow to the site of injury, local temperature increase, redness and swelling.  The additional fluids can also increase the pressure on nerve endings in the area, resulting in pain.

b2ap3_thumbnail_inflammatoryShort term or acute inflammation is a necessary part of the healing process and, in most cases, should not be reduced.  It is NORMAL.

Long term or chronic inflammation, on the other hand, can lead to serious health problems.  As the picture to the left illustrates, it can contribute to Type II diabetes, joint degeneration, heart disease, and even cancer, among other things.  Often times, it is the result of life style choices, and other environmental influences.

There are some easy steps you can take to reduce and prevent chronic inflammation.

  • Getting the right balance of omega-6 and omega-3 fats.  Most Americans consume too much omega-6.  Reduce the amount of cooking oils you consume, especially those that contain corn.  Eat grass-fed met over grain fed and choose cold-water fish such as Wild caught Alaskan Salmon.  Adults should aim for a omega-6:omega-3 ratio of about 2:1.
  • Avoid trans-fats.  It’s as simple as that.  But, be careful to read the ingredients.  The nutritional label may read 0 grams of trans fat, but make sure to look for “partially hydrogenated” oils.
  • Limit refined carbohydrates such as white bread, white rice, high fructose corn syrup and refined sugars
  • Maintain a healthy weight.  The more fat you carry, the more inflammatory chemicals you produce.
  • Increase you intake of antioxidants such as vitamins A, C, D, and E.
  • Have your spine checked for structural shifts.  Chronic inflammation may be a secondary condition of a structural shift of your spine.  The structural shift blocks your nerves from functioning correctly and from properly controlling the inflammation process.  Neuro-Structural Chiropractic restores your spine to its normal position reducing the obstruction to your nervous system, which allows inflammation be more appropriately coordinated.



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If It’s Happening in Pro Sports, It’s Happening in Your Child’s School, Too.

Fall is here and the fall sports season is well underway around the Des Moines metro.  Unfortunately, along the spectrum from young to professional atheletes, comes the risk of concussion.  Each year, nearly 2 million traumatic brain injuries occur, 75% of which are concussions.  Approximately 300,000 of those are sports related, in large part, due to football.

But, let’s not blame football for all of them.  A spike to the head in volleyball, or perhaps a fall from the monkey bars, injuring the neck and/or head can certainly be responsible for a concussion

Now, concussions in professional sports are always in the news.  So, it’s safe to say that if it’s happening in professional sports, it’s happening in  your child’s school, too.  The good thing about being a pro-athlete, such as an NFL player, is the access to some of the greatest concussion care available.  The NFL and other leagues are highly invested in the safety of their players because:

  1. They want to avoid lawsuits down the road, and
  2. They want to make sure the athletes have the best care for a safe and quick return to play.

Even in the NFL, though, there is no helmet standard.  Regardless, NO helmet is capable of preventing the brain from shifting around within the skull during a collision.  It is the movement that can cause damage to the brain and central nervous system, leading to concussion.

Your child may not have immediate access to such great care.  If you have a child is sports, or who is injured on the playground, you should be aware of these symptoms associated with concussion:

  • Brief loss ofkids-56952_1280 consciousness
  • Memory problems and confusion
  • Lethargy
  • Dizziness
  • Double or blurred vision
  • Headaches (with or without vomiting)
  • Light and noise sensitivity
  • Problems with balance
  • Slow reaction time
  • Fatigue

If you know your child took some hard hits during the game, or begins to show any of the above signs as the season wears on, it would be prudent to have him or her evaluated by a qualified professional as soon as possible.

What may surprise you is that head injuries and structural abnormalities of the neck are closely linked.  The potential damage to the brain is often the sole focus, and the potential injury to the cervical spine (neck) is often overlooked.  Stay tuned for a future blog post that illustrates how concussions can lead to injury and structural issues in the cervical spine.



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Your Brain on Sugar

Is sugar addictive?  Can it lead to other problems?

What are the effects of excess sugar on your body? Before we can talk about the health consequences of consuming too much sugar, it’s important to understand why we like sweets and the effect they have on the brain and nervous system.  The alterations in brain chemistry from the consumption of excess sugar begins to tell the story of the potential negative impacts on the rest of the body.

Recent evidence, as brought to light by Glasgow University and in a segment on NBC’s The Today Show, suggests that an addiction to sugar, or “sweet tooth” may begin early on in life as infants are first introduced to foods.  It proposes that, because most store bought baby foods contain either added sugar, or sweeter foods (sweet potatoes, apples, carrots, fruit juice, etc.), children are unable to develop their other tastes, such as bitter.  The report recommended that baby foods be made at home, allowing the parents to control the exact ingredients their children were eating.

This video, from Dr. Nicole Avena, gives us a great synopsis of what happens to the brain when we eat foods containing added sugars.

Keep an eye out for future blogs which will begin to discuss the impacts of sugar on the rest of the body.


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