Friday, March 23, 2012

Hydration is the Key

Yesterday I got a 90 minute massage, which was the first massage I've had in about a month. It was pretty deep work- very thorough in the back and surprisingly effective in my lats. Deeper massage, especially in the latissimus dorsi attachments almost always leaves me a bit sore the next day. Consequently, I started thinking about water.

It is common practice for massage therapists to advise their clients to drink extra water after receiving a massage to flush out toxins and minimize soreness. The contradiction in this practice is that LMT's, at least in Florida, are not allowed to prescribe any treatments to anybody at home. For example, I can show someone a stretch for the pecs using the door frame, but I cannot say something like, "Once the stretch produces pressure at a 6 out of 10 on the pain scale, hold the stretch for 30 seconds, 4 times per day." That's way too specific. A physical therapist or an athletic trainer could "prescribe" a stretch in that way, with no doubt that it's within their scope of practice.

Likewise, it's gray area when someone asks me how much water they should drink. To be the most legal, I should frame it in terms of what most people do based on medical recommendations. Such as, "The Mayo Clinic suggests that an '...adequate intake for men is roughly 3 liters (about 13 cups) of total beverages a day. The adequate intake for women is 2.2 liters (about 9 cups) of total beverages a day' regarding a '...healthy adult living in a temperate climate...'"

Additionally, states that "the amount of water you need can change every day, based on your physical activity, the weather, and even your current health condition." Since Florida is usually not a "temperate" kind of state, you probably need more water than the average Mayo Clinic follower. Check out this handy online calculator to decipher how much water you need today based on weather, health, fluid demands, and exercise.

It is possible to drink too much water, which is why us lowly massage therapists aren't supposed to be doling out nutritional recommendations to our clients. According to Anne Helmenstine, Ph.D. (doctorate of philosophy in biomedical sciences from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville), "The kidneys of a healthy adult can process fifteen liters of water a day! You are unlikely to suffer from water intoxication, even if you drink a lot of water, as long as you drink over time as opposed to intaking an enormous volume at one time." I guess that explains why we give tiny Dixie cups of water after a massage...

Scientific American Magazine states that "Making up about 66 percent of the human body, water runs through the blood, inhabits the cells, and lurks in the spaces between. At every moment water escapes the body through sweat, urination, defecation or exhaled breath, among other routes. Replacing these lost stores is essential but rehydration can be overdone. There is such a thing as a fatal water overdose." They go on to list several individual cases of water drinking related deaths. That leads us to a fundamental health tenant: Balance.

After a massage, there are increased levels of "toxins" in the blood, which have been pushed out of the muscle and connective tissues- stuff like lactic acid, and other by-products of anaerobic cellular respiration. According to, "If this acid builds up, muscular pain and cramping result." Which is why many people get the massage in the first place. To balance out the blood chemistry we need to keep the proportions of plasma to solutes even. "Plasma, which is 90 percent water, makes up 55 percent of blood volume," according to American Blood Centers.

The moral of the story seems to be, in this case, that drinking more water after a massage is in fact important, but don't drink too much too fast. Balance of salts, minerals, and fluid in the blood stream needs to be maintained for optimal health, whether you are getting massage or not.

Just for fun...this guy says you can get 19% stronger from drinking water and regularly maintaining hydration:

Friday, March 9, 2012

Nutritional Documentary Comparison

As you can probably tell, I'm spending a lot of time lately researching nutrition.  is down to about $9.00 a month for unlimited online streaming of content and I am taking full advantage of the "Documentary" section of their library. 

Last night I watched most of Gary Null's Supercharge Your Immune System. It was made in 2003. Gary Null is an "International expert on nutrition and health sciences" according to his website. He has 10 million listeners to his internet radio show and is an "award winning...documentary film maker and investigative journalist." While trying to decipher Dr. Null's qualifications, I found this website which aggressively calls the accreditation of his PhD granting institution into question. Apparently he has a bachelors in dietetics/nutrition, some kind of graduate level Psychology training, and labels himself as a "Scientist." Either way, I agreed with what I saw and heard on his documentary about the immune system, but was not particularly entertained or compelled by his movie-making style. 

I have to say that I laughed out loud at several of the painfully dated 90's fashions included in the movie. There was a Scottish guy, a physical therapist, talking about Celtic Sea Salt who had a ridiculous pony tail. Then Dr. Null's wardrobe included some laughable shorts with skinny belts as well as a blue denim jeans suit- all were irrelevant to the informational content, but added to the floundering entertainment value.

The following clip is one of the more compelling scenes, where he does a man on the street kind of thing. It feels really contrived and is dry, like his voice, but he takes a seemingly random grocery shopper into the store to decide what the most positive purchases would be for the health of the immune system.

Gary Null's Supercharge Your Immune System

The outcome is that Dr. Null has a cart full of fresh, raw, organic veggies and holds them up one at a time and describes how each food nourishes AND reverses some immune dysfunctions. The "Random" shopper has a cart full of processed, dead foods.

Since it was late at night and the pace of the movie was so slow, I fast forwarded through the last 45ish minutes which explained yoga, meditation, and tai chi. There was a poorly executed interview/demonstration with a supposed 115 year old man with a really low resting heart rate- he was related to yoga in some way that wasn't established clearly. 

Overall, Dr. Null reiterated the importance of lemons and watermelons for cleansing- specifically in juice form, and whole organic foods as primary components of the diet.

I also recently watched a spin off from Forks Over Knives on Netflix called the Engine 2 Kitchen Rescue with Rip Esselstyn. Rip is the son of Dr.Caldwell Esselstyn, who is prominently featured in Forks Over Knives. Rip's approach is like a makeover reality show where he goes into the kitchens of two unrelated families, goes through their current stock of staple foods, takes them shopping for more appropriate choices, and then teaches them how to prepare the new foods. Again, it's all about whole, organic, densely nutritious foods. The one concept which is new to me here is the no olive oil rule. He basically uses little to no fat at all. 

Interestingly, he spends some time reading labels in the grocery store and at home with his participants. Packaged hot dogs, for example, list how many calories from fat  per serving there are. When you do the math, it's more than half fat. So even if you think you're eating a protein rich diet, a majority of your intake may be animal fats, if your diet is processed in any typical ways. I had never thought about those numbers, but Dr. Esselstyn's work is centered on a "heart attack proof" diet and his son seems to be preaching the same message.

The Engine 2 Kitchen Rescue with Rip Esselstyn

Rip Esselstyn is clearly in good shape by looking at his physicality and athleticism as a fireman and triathlete. He really sells his advice without speaking sometimes! I enjoyed this presentation and would watch more Kitchen Rescues if they make more- I've seen so many home makeovers on HGTV that I can't believe that somebody out there in the corporate big media world wouldn't run this stuff.

More about the "No oil!" idea:

Dr. Null is certainly not as scholarly and personable as either Esselstyn, based on these 3 documentaries alone, but all three of these gentlemen make good points for whole food diets. Again I find myself turning to my humble juicer for the answers to a myriad of health concerns!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Mood Music

At least once a week I get a complaint from a massage client about the music in the clinic- Sirius XM's Spa station. Sadly, the only control I have over it is the ability to adjust the volume. Usually the complaint is that it is not relaxing. There are frequent station breaks with strange sounding sound effects and silly voice-overs. For example, there is a train crossing sound effect (Ding, Ding, Ding, Ding- train speeding by) and the dreamy female voice says, "Your relaxation...destination...Spa...Sirius XM." It's both corny and distracting.

In mid December, they started playing an announcement about a seasonal changeover to Radio Hanukkah every 30 minutes- that was a guy reading a whole paragraph about the changing format, station numbers, and dates, like it was vital information to people sitting in a beauty salon or on a massage table. It's like they're completely out of touch with their consumers.

According to the website, Spa's format is "Relaxing and soothing sounds of new age and ambient music from around the world." New age music, from what I can gather from their use of the term, involves computer age, ethereal, synthesizer driven, bouncy, peppy, video game tunes which frequently launch the listeners into space. Immediately following that might be an African drum circle with chanting natives and banging gourds, which could be called "music from around the world," but "ambient" it is not. The other most common sub-genre that I hear is Asian inspired flutes and string instruments along with some gonging bells and nature sounds. One of the "nature sounds" I've been hearing every day lately sounds more like a little boy peeing into a brass bowl than a babbling fountain, which is probably what they were trying to convey in the studio.

Then there's the Middle Eastern songs- complete with shimmy-ing hip scarves and ankles bells on belly dancers. They even have the added bonus of wailing women vocalizing their plight as harem slaves or something. Again, very distracting and not appropriate when I'm doing something like a sports massage on a tri-athlete named Bob.

One regular client of mine has suggested Pink Floyd as her massage music of choice, which I can totally support. Each person's taste is unique and I would love to have more options for my clients. There have been rare instances when I have loaded up my mp3 player with a very personalized playlist for a client. For my Pink Floyd fan, I created this Listmania list on as an example of fine tuning massage music to a specific genre. If it enhances the healing that takes place, any genre of music can be appropriate, in my opinion.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Romanticized Green Beans

Something Like This

 One of my earliest memories is a fond one of helping my grandfather with green beans. He had a large backyard behind his central Florida house, down the street from the Indian River. In that backyard was a large, 6 foot tall maybe,  wire, circular enclosure with a 5 or 6 foot diameter. Inside he threw compost and outside he grew green bean vines. At 6 years old, I remember picking off the dried, dead remnants from the wire fence, because my fingers were small enough to maneuver the tight spots. Grandpa also let me throw stuff over the top like apple cores or banana peels.

Or This

I don't usually dwell on my Southern heritage, but green beans are a Southern food standard. I have  romantic memories of snapping and stringing green beans with both my grandparents. When I saw a big display of fresh beans at the local farmer's market the other day, I was unusually moved by that simple memory.

As I began rinsing and preparing to snap the beans, if occurred to me that my New England born wife, who is an excellent cook, probably has never sat on a back patio picnic table, absorbing the fragrance of a tangerine tree, jasmine vines, and snappy, juicy green beans. Simple yet profound pleasures...

Quick Rinse


I prefer to keep it simple, in comparison to the boil all day with bacon chunks method, as my Georgia-bred ancestors would suggest.

What good are green beans if you don't have a cherished, grandparent-fueled childhood memory about them? They're pretty darned healthy that's what...

According to,  "...beans are low in fat and offer an excellent source of protein, fiber, and complex carbohydrates. They are also a very good source of folic acid and molybdenum.  They provide significant amounts of iron, phosphorus, magnesium, manganesese, and potassium."  tells us that green beans can guard against colon cancer with their high fiber content, fight free radical damage with anti-oxidants, provide "protection in preventing age related macular disease (ARMD) in the elderly," and supply folate, which is an essential ingredient in cell division and DNA synthesis.

World's Healthiest Foods states, "Green beans may be a particularly helpful food for providing us with the mineral silicon. This mineral — while less well known that minerals like calcium and magnesium — is very important for bone health and for healthy formation of connective tissue. Green beans have recently been shown to stack up quite well against other commonly-eaten foods as a good source of absorbable silicon."

That's right! Green beans make healthy connective tissue- you know that gets this massage guy excited!

Audible Green Bean Romance:

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