Kids And Martial Arts

Do you worry about your kids?  Do you worry that they will grow up overweight and/or obese?  Are you concerned they will be the target of bullies?  Worse, will they BECOME bullies?  Are you seeing a tendency for them to boss their friends and classmates around?  Are they clumsy and prone to injury?

If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, martial arts training would help.  There is lots of evidence that martial arts training helps children grow up healthy and happy, able to interact comfortably in groups and one-on-one.

My family has participated in martial arts for my children’s whole lives, and over half of my life.  I have seen with my own eyes remarkable results in behavior, self-esteem and self-confidence both in children and adults.

Children with autism-spectrum disorders who have shown improvement in their ability to tolerate touch.  Children with ADHD who are able to meditate quietly for short periods.  Children with little or no self esteem or self confidence who gradually bloom into skilled teachers and leaders on (and off) the mat.

What does the science say?  There are LOTS of scientific studies published on martial arts training in kids.  Kids who study martial arts tend to enjoy physical activity more than those who don’t.  Martial arts is effective for prevention of fall-related injuries.  Martial arts training improves creativity, flexibility, self-control, and discipline.

Martial arts training benefits adults too.  I’ve seen adults with asthma develop vastly better lung function.  Core strength and stamina are particular targets of martial arts training.  Mindfulness, meditation, and stress relief are core principles.

If you choose to enroll your child in a martial arts program, how should you go about it?  Look for a school that particularly emphasizes teaching children (not as an afterthought).

Go to your prospective school(s) and observe classes.  See if the children have plenty of time to ask questions and understand the exercises and techniques.  See if the master or sensei of the school teaches the children him- or herself, or if classes are taught primarily by junior instructors.  Talk to the other parents and get an idea of what improvements they have seen in their children, as a result of the training.

Two other concerns to make sure you address before enrolling your child:

  • What is the teacher’s attitude towards bullying?  Does he or she specifically address measures to prevent and handle bullying in and outside of school?
  • What are the safety measures taken?  Injury prevention is a huge issue in martial arts, especially with developing children’s growing bones and flexible joints.  Make sure safety equipment such as mouthguards and groin protection are worn whenever contact is expected.

If you choose to enroll your child in a martial arts class, you should consider taking classes yourself.  Spending time on the mat is a great way to relieve stress and build strength, endurance and confidence that you can handle challenges that come your way.  If you’re not interested in external, combat-style arts you can consider Tai Chi, which is gentle and meditative but still has great health benefits.

Martial arts training is of benefit to the whole family.  Give it a try!  Your results should speak for themselves.


Childhood Obesity: Our Kids Are In Danger!

As part of my preparation for my integrative-medicine boards, I’ve been doing some research about childhood obesityThe results of this research have been pretty scary!

Childhood obesity is a very common problem.  According to the CDC’s website, obesity rates among children age 2-19 has been stable at about 17%.  The good news is that obesity in kids age 2-5 has gone DOWN.  Black and Hispanic kids have higher obesity rates than white kids, as do kids from lower-socioeconomic-status families.

Why have obesity rates gone down among preschoolers?  No one is quite sure, but it’s possible that awareness campaigns targeting parents of preschoolers have been successful. 

Why should we care about obesity among kids and teenagers?  The scary fact is that obesity raises the rate of a large number of diseases.  Diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, fatty liver, cirrhosis and cancer are among the diseases associated with overweight and obesity.

Our kids’ generation is the first in known history to have a SHORTER life expectancy than their parents.  Yikes!

So how do we help our kids?  The first thing parents need to do is learn how to create healthy habits for THEMSELVES.  Our kids learn their habits by watching their parents.  You can’t teach your kids skills that you yourself don’t know.  And TELLING your kids they should turn the TV off, go exercise, eat healthy, get enough sleep, manage stress, and tend to their spiritual life is not nearly enough.


You don’t have to run a marathon to show your kids that physical activity is important.  Set limits on screen time for everyone in the house.  Go outside and play with your kids.  Play tag, Frisbee, toss a ball, teach them backyard games you loved as a kid.  Anybody remember “Ghost in the Graveyard,” “Red Light Green Light” or “Swinging Statues?”

You can also get the whole family involved in organized sports.  Rec league and pick-up sports games are great fun.  Basketball, softball and golf are available for the whole family to play.  Martial arts classes teach focus and discipline and actually decrease the incidence of violence and bullying in schools.


The important thing is to make changes slowly.  The changes are more likely to stick and be accepted by picky eaters if they happen gradually. 

Make a list of family favorites like pizza, chicken nuggets and hamburgers.  Look online for ways to tweak the recipes to make them healthier, or start making them at home rather than getting takeout.  I guarantee they’ll be heatlhier and everyone is likely to eat less.

Make family meals a priority when possible.  Obesity rates are lower in families who all sit down to meals together.

When shopping, choose foods from the OUTSIDE of the grocery store.  Fresh whole foods are much healthier than foods that come in boxes, bags and cans. 

Read labels and avoid artificial colors and sweeteners.  If you see “partially hydrogenated” anywhere in the ingredient list, don’t buy it (it has trans fats which are linked to heart disease and cancer risk).  Reduce and avoid high-fructose corn syrup, especially soda. 


Probably the number-one stress reliever that people ignore is SLEEP.  Everyone needs to get enough sleep!  Sleep deprivation makes grownups grouchy, makes kids have trouble with learning and behavior, and makes everyone gain weight.  Read more here.

Do you consider yourself religious?  If not, that’s OK, there are plenty of nonreligious people who have very healthy spiritual lives.  It is important to consider and encourage our families’ spiritual growth.  Those who consider themselves spiritual or religious tend to be healthier and suffer less with chronic medical illnesses.  You can attend church or other religious services, encounter nature as a manifestation of divine, or explore other spiritual practices such as meditation.

There is more information about the biology of stress here on this page.

The bottom line is that our kids’ health is our responsibility. If the trend of shortening life expectancy is going to be reversed, it is up to us.  We all need to make the small changes that will pay big dividends in our kids’ lifelong health habits.

QUESTION:  What one area do you feel your family needs to improve most?  Activity, diet or stress relief?


What Is An Elimination Diet, And Do You Need To Try One?

Stuffy nose.  Postnasal drip.  Swollen, puffy eyes.  Dark circles under the eyes.  Swollen legs.  Fatigue.  Sound familiar?  If you’ve been told you have allergies, whoever told you so might very well be right.  You MIGHT be allergic to foods you’re eating, and an elimination diet can help identify those foods.

When you say “food allergy” most people think of peanut allergy (since it’s a big buzzword in our kids’ schools.  The type of food allergy that makes it necessary to have peanut-free schools is Type-1 Hypersensitivity.  This causes hives, itching, swelling, wheezing, and can even progress to shock and death.  People with this type of allergy are pretty easy to identify and don’t need an elimination diet!

The type of food allergy symptoms that I want to discuss today are actually more accurately termed food SENSITIVITIES.  Food sensitivities can contribute to a wide variety of medical problems including chronic fatigue, chronic leg swelling, migraine, ADHD, irritable bowel syndrome, eczema, psoriasis, and recurrent aphthous ulcers (canker sores) in the mouth.

Many doctors don’t really believe that these sensitivities exist.  However, the success that holistic practitioners have had with identifying food sensitivities and helping patients feel better is quite impressive.


I’ve had patients come to me requesting “food allergy” testing, and I’ve ordered blood tests or sent them to allergists for skin testing.  Usually the tests come back negative, but scientific studies have shown that blood tests for food allergies are VERY inaccurate.  Both false positive and false negative results are pretty common.  And if you go for skin testing while still eating the foods you’re sensitive to, the results can be inaccurate as well.

So that’s where an elimination diet comes in.  You basically eat a diet for about 3 weeks that removes ALL the most common allergenic foods.  Most patients feel much better at this point!  Allergy symptoms subside, skin clears up, energy is good.

Some patients feel so good they just want to stay on the elimination diet forever.  That’s OK, but the longer you stay on the elimination diet the less sensitive you become to those allergenic foods.  If you don’t start to identify them after about 3 weeks, your window becomes smaller and smaller (meaning you react less and less) and in the future if you start eating those foods again the symptoms may recur after awhile.

It’s better to start testing the foods you really would like to be able to eat (or foods like milk and wheat which are REALLY tough to completely eliminate) because, if you don’t react to them, you should be able to safely start eating them again.  Since we want people to eat a wide variety of foods, it doesn’t make sense to give up ALL possibly allergenic foods.  Just give up the ones your body doesn’t handle well!

After about 3 weeks on the elimination diet, you would eat one allergenic food per day.  For instance on day 1 you might drink milk.  On day 2 you might have eggs.  On day 3 you might try coffee or tea.  And so on, until you’ve tried every food on the list.  Some people who have subtle reactions may feel they want to retest a certain food if they’re not sure how they felt when they ate it.

Elimination diets and food challenges should be done under the direction of a holistic practitioner.  If you’re in the Cleveland area and would like to discuss this with me, please feel free to call my office and make an appointment.  If you’re not in northern Ohio you can search for a doctor in your area by clicking this link.

Eliminating foods to which you’re allergic can make a huge difference in your quality of life.  Just the act of doing an elimination diet is an outstanding step in taking control of your health!


Get Cracking! Is Chiropractic Therapy Good For You?

Recently I noticed a recurrence of some mild neck and right shoulder pain, with less mobility in my neck than I’m used to.  I noticed it hurt to turn my neck all the way to the right and left (to check blind spots while driving, for instance).  There was some tightness of the muscles of my right upper back as well.

So…  Off I went to see my chiropractor again.  I’m a bit of a slow learner about some things, you see.  I know in my head that regular treatments are helpful for keeping the body healthy, but actually making time in the schedule for it is a challenge sometimes.

As I was talking with Dr. Schmidt at Pleasant Valley Chiropractic yesterday, I was thinking about not much more than getting rid of this discomfort in my neck and upper back.  He’s helped me before and will definitely do it again.  Then I was wondering why more people with neck and back pain don’t see chiropractors.

Unfortunately manual therapies like chiropractic therapy have a little bit of a bad rap in the USA.  Health care is dominated by western medicine and if a therapy doesn’t involve cutting the problem out or drugging it away, western medicine doesn’t have much use for it.

So what are manual therapies, and do they work?  Manual therapies involve a practitioner using parts of their bodies (usually the hands, but sometimes other parts such as elbows, knees, or feet) to treat, influence or change parts of the patient’s body.


Examples of manual therapy are massage, chiropractic therapy, osteopathic manipulation (OMT), physical therapy, and reiki.  The laying on of hands in manual therapy is a powerful treatment in its own right.  When a skilled therapist uses touch to soothe tight muscles, realign spinal vertebrae, or encourage healthy energy flow, the improvement can be startling.

What does the science say about manual therapy?  Since I am committed to advocating and promoting evidenced based treatments, I looked into the evidence.  Manual therapy is helpful for neck and back pain, headache, recurrent otitis media in children, colic in babies, preterm delivery, Parkinson’s disease, and even heart attack patients.

What can you expect if you decide to see a chiropractor or other manual therapist?  It depends on the problem you’re addressing.  As with other practitioners it’s important to be clear from the first visit about your goals for therapy.  What’s wrong?  What do you want done about it?  How often can you expect to see the practitioner?  What will you feel?  How long will it take to see results?

It is also important to remember that manual therapy practitioners are people just like anyone else.  Most of them are good.  Some are excellent and a few are quacks.  Get recommendations from friends or family or check with the practitioner’s regulating body before making an appointment.  If your condition isn’t improving like it should, don’t hesitate to get a second opinion.

Manual therapy is an excellent addition to a holistic approach to wellness.  Give it a try and experience the healing touch!