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Protect Your Peripheral Nerves: Top 5 Supplements for Optimal Foot Function

We all know that keeping our feet strong is key to proper posture, optimal movement patterns and staying pain-free as we age. In my workshops I’m a huge advocate of Barefoot Baby Boomers and keeping barefoot stimulation a key part of our lifestyle. However to truly stay #barefootstrong as we age we need to do a little more than simply train sans footwear.

Biohacking Your Barefeet 

With changing nutritional values, toxins in our food and combating everyday stress we no longer can rely on diet and exercise to ensure our youngest, healthiest selves. This is where I advise my patients to turn to vitamin supplementation and simple ways to #biohackthebody.

Below are some of my favorite supplements that are all designed to enhance nerve function, reduce inflammation and combat free radicals before they damage our peripheral nerves and fascial network.

Supplement #1 – Wild Blueberry Extract 

You may have heard that blueberries are brain food.  What makes blueberries so beneficial is that they are packed with polyphenols or compounds unique to plants. Polyphenols which can also be found in coffee, dark chocolate and spices carry some of the strongest anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

A 2004 study by Youdim et al. found that wild blueberry supplementation enhanced neurogenesis in the aging brain with their flavonoids being able to cross the blood brain barrier. Now you may have been told that we do not grow new brain cells or our peripheral nerves cannot regenerate – this is not true! The research in the field of  neurogenesis is a super exciting area of medicine and is showing some exciting advances in aging, neuropathy and neurodegenerative diseases.

To maximize the benefits of blueberry polyphenols I recommend taking wild blueberry extract daily to avoid the excess sugars of eating so many blueberries daily. Also make sure the blueberries are *wild* as these contain the highest levels of polyphenols!

Recommended: Life Extension Wild Blueberry Extract

Supplement #2 – Krill Oil 

This is one of my newest fav supplements for my patients. Krill oil is similar to fish oil supplements in that they are packed with beneficial Omega-3 fatty acids (DHA & EPA). However unlike fish oils, krill oil phospholipids have a special carotenoid called astaxanthin attached to it. Astaxanthin is an extremely powerful antioxidant that – get this – can cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB)! This makes Krill Oil so powerful to maintaining nerve function.

In addition to crossing the BBB omega 3’s have such a powerful anti-inflammatory benefit that they make a great replacement or alternative to traditional NSAIDs such as Advil, Aspirin or Aleve. These anti-inflammatory benefits have shown to reduce arthritis pain, nerve inflammation and connective tissue pain.

Recommended: Dr Mercola Antartica Krill Oil 

Supplement #3 – R-Lipoic Acid

This was one of my favorite supplements when I was going through medical school and was a big forerunner when it came to anti-aging supplements. It’s great to see that it is still one of the strongest anti-oxidants on the market – and has actually been formulated to be even more powerful when taken in its sodium-R-lipoate form!

Neuropathy has a oxidative stress theory which means that to keep the nerves of the feet (and hands) healthy we need to keep our oxidative stress low!   Super R-Lipoic Acid is more bioavailable, stable, and potent, achieving 10–30 times higher peak blood levels than pure R-lipoic acid.

I also recommend taking R-lipoic acid with the next supplement and nerve-protective powerhouse ALC!

Recommended: Life Extension Super R-Lipoic Acid 

Supplement # 4 – Acetyl-L-Carnitine (ALC) 

ALC is another favorite supplement when I was going through medical school and doing research in diabetic peripheral neuropathy. Again super excited to see it’s still one of the best nerve-protective supplements on the market.

ALC like all of the above supplements has the unique ability to cross the BBB which means it’s crucial to nervous system health. Studies have shown that ALC may have potential in exerting unique neuroprotective, neuromodulatory and neurotrophic properties that are not limited to just the central nervous system. Study after study has shown great effects of ALC on peripheral neuropathy patients.

Recommended: Life Extension Acetyl-L-Carnitine

Supplement #5 – L-Cittruline (Watermelon) 

Watermelon is one of my favorite pre-workout drinks due to its effect on vasodilation and circulation! The vasodilation effect of watermelon is found in the amino acid L-Citruline which is a precursor to nitric oxide (think Viagra!).

Nitric oxide is integral to relaxing blood vessels which is necessary for healthy blood flow to the heart, muscles, nerves and throughout the entire body. Nitric oxide helps the blood vessels maintain their flexibility so that blood flow is unrestricted – even to the smallest vessels to the peripheral nerves.

To get enough L-Citrulline for optimal circulation you’d need to eat 6 cups of watermelon or you can cut out the sugar and take a supplement. Amino acids are always recommended to take on an empty stomach for maximum absorption.

Recommended: Source Naturals L-Citrulline 

To learn more about how to protect your nervous system from inflammation and oxidation and how to #biohackyourbody please visit, dremilysplichal.com

Originally printed on the Barefoot Strong Blog. Reprinted with permission from Dr. Splichal.


Dr. Emily Splichal, Podiatrist and Human Movement Specialist, is the Founder of the Evidence Based Fitness Academy and Creator of the Barefoot Training Specialist®, Barefoot Rehab Specialist® and BARE® Workout Certifications for health and wellness professionals. With over 13 years in the fitness industry, Dr. Splichal has dedicated her medical career towards studying postural alignment and human movement as it relates to foot function and barefoot training.

woman-walking-trail

From Primal to Bipedal: Why we need to get off the ground and walk more!

Before you start throwing stones at me assuming that I’m bashing or discrediting any of the primal movement programs out there – please hear me out. Anything I’m about to say does not mean I do not value the role primal movements and ground work has on restoring optimal movement patterns. However, where these programs fall short is that ultimately we need to GET UP and being able to navigate the world of ground and gravity. We need to be able to optimize the coordination required to load and unload impact forces, stabilize on a single leg and get from point A to point B.

When we look at the evolution of the human neuromuscular system, fascial lines and the skeleton we can see that the primary purpose behind human movement is WALKING.

From the medial rotation of the ilium creating the lateral fascial line and allowing single leg stance to the abduction of the foot’s 1st ray creating the spiral fascial line and lateral fascial line allowing the stability for a rigid lever – everything – I repeat everything favors locomotion – and we need to train the body as such.

When was the last time you walked? I mean REALLY walked?

I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to evaluate the gait of thousands of people from all over the world and there are a few key compensations that I see in too many people. So many people have lost the rotational element of gait. I’m talking locked up t-spines, restricted triplanar motion of the pelvis, tight ankles and even tighter subtalar joints.

Rotational loading and unloading of the fascial system is how we transfer impact forces and the potential energy of gait. If we lose this rotational element of gait the entire movement efficiency pattern breaks down and restrictions, compensations and connective tissue fatigue results.

So what’s causing this restriction in rotation?

Sitting, a sedentary lifestyle, driving, injury, compensation – there’s a lot of things that cause a restriction in rotation. However there is a KEY one that is missed so often and cannot be addressed through rolling, crawling and being on the ground.

This driver of restricted rotation is so important that it is what leads me to say GET OFF OF THE GROUND AND JUST WALK! What is it? Short strides!

The impact of shortened stride length!

Think of the type of walking you, your clients, your family does in a typical day. You walk around your home. You walk around the office. You walk around the store. This type of walking is not the walking EVOLUTION intended.

These small stacotic steps are insufficient to optimally 1) hydrate your fascia 2) load rotational forces in the body 3) stimulate the neuromuscular system.

To maintain an optimal gait you need to STIMULATE your gait. You need to tap into all the fascial systems with each step you take – a process that can only be achieved and a long enough stride length.

The Optimal Stride for Fascial Fitness

To better understand this let’s take a look at the point in gait in which the optimal stride is happening.

One foot is initiated heel contact with the ankle dorsiflexed, hip flexed, pelvis medially rotated and posteriorly tilted. With the foot, leg and pelvis in this position the posterior fascial line is tightened, locking the SI joint and preparing for ground contact.

Meanwhile the opposite leg is in 1st MPJ dorsiflexion ankle plantarflexion, hip extension, pelvis lateral rotation and anteriorly tilted. With the foot, leg and pelvis in this position the psoas, plantar fascia and functional fascial lines are primed to release elastic energy upon swing phase.

Now the SHORTER the stride you take you tighten your rotations of the t-spine, pelvis and foot eventually leading to fascial tightness and compensations.

Since walking is THE most functional movement we do every day with the average adult taking 5,000 – 8,000 steps per day – improper stride length is what’s f’ing up your body.

These small steps we take to our cars, around the office or at home are killing our fascial system. It is a cycle that can only be temporarily alleviated by rolling and crawling on the ground.

Imagine this. You take your client through all the rolling patterns, dynamic bodyweight movements, foam rolling – all which are so great for the body – and then they leave the session and go back to waking small steps and in insufficient stride length. They just REVERSED all the work you did.

The solution?

Walk. And I mean really walk. Put on your favorite shoes, grab your earbuds and walk. Do not go on the treadmill, I need you to walk outside. Find the pace that feeds into a momentous state. You will feel when your body has switched and is now flowing in your fascial. It is an effortless gait that is working WITH the ground and impact forces, not against it.

And then just walk.

Originally printed on the Barefoot Strong Blog. Reprinted with permission from Dr. Splichal.


Dr. Emily Splichal, Podiatrist and Human Movement Specialist, is the Founder of the Evidence Based Fitness Academy and Creator of the Barefoot Training Specialist®, Barefoot Rehab Specialist® and BARE® Workout Certifications for health and wellness professionals. With over 13 years in the fitness industry, Dr. Splichal has dedicated her medical career towards studying postural alignment and human movement as it relates to foot function and barefoot training.

 

emily-s-article

Biohacking Your Body with Barefoot Science

We are all on the eternal hunt to looking good, moving well and feeling young – however as responsibilities (job, school, family, friends) increase the time allocated to health and fitness often decreases. Surprisingly we expect the same results with less time in the gym but is this really even possible?

Perhaps it is.

Enter…..biohacking!

What is biohacking?

Biohacking, as the name suggests, is “hacking” or finding a way to more efficiently manipulate human biology. This can include areas of sleep, nutrition, mental health, strength, recovery.

If you are new the concept of biohacking – please think of this as a positive thing! Don’t get wrapped up thinking it is a mad scientist in his garage implanting computer chips into his own body.

Think of biohacking as a empowering concept which allows one to enhance or improve the efficiency of different aspect of health. It means taking ownership of your body and the aging system.

Can biohacking apply to fitness?

Absolutely!

In the case of fitness some examples of biohacking include drinking caffeine to give you energy during a workout. Or taking branch chain amino acids after a workout to enhance muscle repair and hypertrophy. Or using kinesiology tape to enhance proprioceptive stimulation and muscle activation.

Seems less mad scientist-y doesn’t it?

One area of biohacking that I am particularly a fan of is the application of barefoot science to improve your workout. As I mentioned at the start of this blog the one thing we never have enough of is TIME.

By integrating barefoot training into your workout you will hack your way into a more efficient workout allowing you to achieve faster fitness goals. Below are my top 4 biohacks integrating barefoot science.

Biohack #1 – Barefoot release to improve your balance

Next time you hit the gym start your workout start with just 5 minutes of trigger point footrelease the bottom of the foot. A 2015 study showed that 5 minutes of manual trigger point release was associated with an immediate improvement in single leg stability and postural control.

Since having someone do the trigger point release isn’t efficient we’ll instead use RAD Rounds by RAD Roller (www.radroller.com) These small rounds of different sizes can be used to apply pressure to different intrinsic muscles of the foot. I recommend 5 minutes in the morning, evening and before exercise.

View video below:

Biohack #2 – Barefoot whole body vibration to enhance micro-circulation and tendon strength

In the world of proprioception whole body vibration is one of the most efficient ways to stimulate the nervous system. Since our foot is also the gateway to proprioceptive stimulation I recommend doing your WBV activation barefoot and using PowerPlate which is a multi-planar harmonic vibration platform.

A 2007 study by Lohman showed that just 3min of WBV at 30Hz enhanced skin, nerve and tendon micro-circulation resulting in enhanced tendon tensile strength and decreased arterial stiffness. All of which is a very powerful response before any workout.

Learn more about WBV and PowerPlate at www.powerplate.com

To learn more on this topic you can view the following webinar below:

Biohack #3 – Improve your core strength with barefoot foot to core sequencing

The core. The center of stability and the center of power. When it comes to any dynamic movement or exercise – core strength and stability are critical to the way force is generated or transferred through the human body.

The foot. The base of stability and only contact point between the body and the ground. Studies have shown that it is more efficient to strengthen the core via the foot in what EBFA calls “foot to core sequencing”. The access into foot to core sequencing is via an exercise called short foot.

To learn more about short foot and how to integrate it with exercises please see below:

Biohack #4 – Improve your balance with small nerve proprioception

Postural control and dynamic stability require the integration of four input systems – visual, vestibular, joint proprioceptors and plantar foot skin. Of these four one of the most important but often overlooked systems is the skin on the bottom of the foot.

The skin on the bottom of the foot contains thousands of small nerve proprioceptors all of which are sensitive to different stimuli. One of the most important stimuli coming into the foot is vibration (see WBV above). We use vibration not only to know how hard our foot is striking the ground but also in the maintenance of dynamic balance.

As soon as we put on our shoes our nervous system inherently becomes slower. This delayed neuro stimulation of the foot is small or micro which means it is hard to detect by the average client or patient – however it is happening. Accumulatively this results in micro-trauma and micro-compensation.

To biohack your nervous system whenever you are barefoot training integrate small nerve plantar stimulation with Naboso Technology. Whenever performing barefoot exercises such as short foot or any foot to core sequencing this is the perfect opportunity to pull out your Naboso Barefoot Training Mat.

If you want to bring this stimulation to your shoes, Naboso Technology also makes small nerve proprioceptive insoles which have been shown to improve postural control and stability

Originally printed on the Barefoot Strong Blog. Reprinted with permission from Dr. Splichal.


Dr. Emily Splichal, Podiatrist and Human Movement Specialist, is the Founder of the Evidence Based Fitness Academy and Creator of the Barefoot Training Specialist®, Barefoot Rehab Specialist® and BARE® Workout Certifications for health and wellness professionals. With over 13 years in the fitness industry, Dr. Splichal has dedicated her medical career towards studying postural alignment and human movement as it relates to foot function and barefoot training.