Nigel Denby is a Registered Dietitian with a special interest in women's health - menopause, PCOS, PMS, weight management and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Along with Consultant Gastroenterologist Jackie Harvey we ran a Beat the Bloat workshop at the Northampton studio. We will be repeating it!
But for now..I am delighted to be able to offer insights from Nigel on nutrition, I am a movement teacher and leave this area to the experts.
Fluid retention is very common, it’s often a symptom of being dehydrated, having too much salt in your diet. It’s particularly common for women who experience premenstrual fluid retention each month or during pregnancy.
Long term, frequent fluid retention can be a symptom of a heart, liver or kidney disorder. In some cases retaining fluid can also be a result of an inability to absorb protein from the digestive tract so if the problem persists you should check things out with your GP.
As a first step make sure you’re drinking plenty of fluid each day and also eating your five fruit and veg a day to keep your fluid intake up. As a rule of thumb if your urine is any darker than pale straw you should drink more.
You can try some of these ideas with your diet too.
It’s also important to keep physically active to help your body disperse excess fluid so make sure you’re aiming for the 10,000 steps a day on your fit bit or mobile phone step counter.
So 6 months into the year how are your fitness goals going?
Did you start the year with all good intentions, this is THE YEAR that you are going to get on top of it..they say if you do something for 10 days in a row it becomes a habit. If you did an hour of Pilates every day for 30 days not only would you have a new habit but a new body as well! Sore in a satisfying way, leggings would be loose from all the athleticism, mind clear, internal showers everywhere!
So January went by, so maybe you thought “Why follow the crowd, I’ll start on February 1st instead”
February rocks up, but it’s your day off..Nope, I’ll start next week. Next week rolls around, you get to a class, you totally nail it, you are amazed, happy to think 30 days of pure joy are ahead of you..all you needed to do was start.
Fast forward and its your day off again, I mean..we should ALL have ONE day off when we don’t have to do anything right?
Fast forward four days of taking class and it’s my day off again. I mean…we should all have ONE day where we don’t do our jobs, right?
So here we are, half way through the year. The Bikini diet/workout has come and gone from the magazines already, you can feel the flabby bits creeping towards your thighs as you sit down, and a myriad of excuses as to why exercise hasn’t been possible in your busy schedule.
Ah..well. Better than paying for a subscription that you don’t ever use, you say.
So if you are finding shopping for loo roll, finding the right cushion for the sofa far more important than your fitness, or checking your social media more pressing than a press up, IT’S TIME TO CHANGE THE RULES.
Pick an hour and be really present for it. I am a Pilates teacher and I have SO many options for classes, but just like you I can find excuses not to do anything for my own body and health and wellbeing.
I picked random hours at various places and tried my best to be my best. Maybe it was listening attentively to a friend tell a story. If it was making a meal, (just kidding, I don’t cook, I leave that to my son if I can). One day it was being extra attentive to a student who needed extra TLC. It became an hour where I wasn’t looking toward the next hour or day or week. It became an hour of self-practice and NOT looking at my phone. An hour that had no sense of urgency or instant gratification.
Adding this hour to my day DID challenge me to move more. It may have been physical movement at times, but the most telling and “MOVE”ing portion of these 30 days was finding space and time for myself, others and just showing up.
Cheers to a healthy reminder to just show up for YOU. The community around you will reflect your choice and benefit more than you can imagine.
Thanks for reading..Karen, Northants Pilates.
Mum, Dog Owner, Pilates Teacher and Business Owner…time, what’s that?
Lets's be clear from the outset, I am not a medical professional, I teach movement. However 20 years of working with people with back pain or other joint issues alongside some amazing health professionals has given all of us at Northants Pilates considerable insight in how to help these unlucky souls. Which is why we see so many of their patients, they know we will continue the recovery process they start.
BUT we can be our own worst enemy with our behaviour and beliefs about back pain and some of these are holding many people back from significant improvement not only in their pain but their daily life as well. Below are some of the common reasons or beliefs held by many that can stop you from getting better. If some of these resonate with you or someone you know..great, if it gets you thinking about changing your mindest on back pain and what you can then this is a worthwhile first step to gaining control of your life again.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. Karen Grinter, Studio Director, Northants Pilates.
MOVING WILL MAKE MY BACK PAIN WORSE
It's normal to be fearful of moving. But not moving can actually increase your problem. Your back needs to move to stay healthy and strong. Start small and gradually increase how much you do and keep it moving. A good Pilates class will explain what is the ideal alignment and then take you through some simple essential exercises that will give you confidence that you can move freely and easily.
PAIN MEANS DAMAGE
Not necessarily, again, this is where a good health professional comes in, to help diagnose and treat the problem. For some people managing pain levels will be necessary. But it doesn’t mean you are doing more damage or making it worse. We must keep moving to ensure the muscles that support your spine are strong and improve our core muscles as these are essential to good spinal health, that includes your pelvic floor too..see my previous blog on the importance of Pelvic Floor muscles with back pain.
ONLY AN MRI SCAN WILL TELL ME WHAT'S WRONG WITH MY BACK
Now this is where a skilled health professional is essential (I know I am banging on about this, but honestly it's that important!) They will take a detailed case history with your symptoms and that’s how they make the diagnosis. Asking the right questions, building up a picture with that data bank of knowledge they have acquired after years of being in practice.
Sometimes a scan might be required, just to confirm what they suspect and ensure there is nothing else, often it’s not needed.
It’s like getting an X-ray to confirm a break or fracture. They already have good idea something is broken; the picture just gives them confirmation. However an MRI scan is more expensive than an X-ray and in many cases, as I said before, it's not needed
A scan just gives you a picture of the structures, its doesn’t ever give you a picture of pain. What is 10 on the pain scale for one person could be 4 for another person. That’s why a good health professional is worth seeing, because they have knowledge to sift through the information you give, backed up with years of experience.
I SHOULDN'T TAKE PAINKILLERS BEFORE I EXERCISE, I MIGHT DO TOO MUCH AND MAKE IT WORSE THAN EVER.
If you have been prescribed painkillers and cleared for exercise, then it’s perfectly acceptable to exercise. As a Pilates teacher I obviously have no qualifications to tell anyone to take any drugs, prescription or otherwise. However, an eminent Spinal Specialist and Orthopaedic Surgeon we work closely with uses drugs to help patients exercise so they can strengthen and condition their backs. Paracetamol is an excellent painkiller and combined with anti-inflammatory drugs can really help someone with pain and inflammation get their spine moving again and considerably improve low back pain. We see it on many occasions in our classes and it’s great to give someone an exercise tool box to get control of their back pain and enjoy life again.
I AVOID THINGS LIKE DOING THE HOUSEWORK OR MOVING THE LAWN, PLAYING WITH THE KIDS IN CASE I BRING THE PAIN ON AGAIN
The real fear of your back pain rearing its ugly head is very normal. However, taking sensible steps to continue with normal everyday life is the way forward. You don't want to put your life on hold IN CASE it might hurt. Again, the lack of movement is only going to add to your problem, not help it.
A Pilates class will encourage you to move your spine with control and precision and build up the muscles that support your usual daily activities, so that you can get back to being able to do the housework or mow the lawn, play footbal or run round with your children, grandchildren without fear of reprisals.
I DID THE EXERCISES AND MY BACK GOT BETTER, SO I STOPPED. BUT IT'S COME BACK AGAIN.
YUP! So, you did the exercises and it improved. Then you stopped. Clearly the answer is, exercise works! It’s drug free and keeps many people pain free. That’s a great result! Honestly, 10 or 15 minutes of exercise a day correctly targeted is a VERY small price to pay for a healthy back and for some people that will be the case for perhaps the rest of their life. All our classes are geared to good movement patterns with attention to alignment and posture. That is what a good Pilates class can give you..the knowledge to move safely and well.
Men don't have pelvic floors, that's what women have!
Many years ago I had a guy referred to me for Pilates from a local Spinal Specialist. He was clearly dubious about coming and didn't know anything about Pilates. So we got started and as always I talked about what muscles we would be working and looking to improve to help with his back pain and that included the Pelvic Floor.
He was quite insistent that he didn't have a pelvic floor, that's just for women. When I pointed out that incontinence pads are like nappies and you get boy ones as well as girl ones he was quite put out! Sadly we just had the one session, he wasn't a convert.
However, the pelvic floor is pretty vital for all of us and more importantly it can also help support your back and in our Pilates classes it's always part of the muscular recruitment process for each exercise.
I had a C Section, mine's ok.
Hit the menopause and that collagen body stocking we've had for years starts to go. We lose that lovely elasticity and we lose muscle tone too, use it or lose it...literally.
So regardless of if you have had children, none at all, pushed 10lbs through or had a C section it matters not one jot! Once we are no longer capable of reproducing our body changes and we ignore it at our peril.
So how can it help with back pain?
It's all part of our amazing muscular system that supports our skeletal system. It all works well when each part is toned. Your pelvic floor plays a vital role in creating intra abdominal pressure that literally 'lifts the spine off itself'. Sounds barmy? Not really.
If you consider the cylinder that is your torso, the pelvic floor sits at the bottom. It stops the world from falling out of your bottom! Add the buttock muscles, the abdominal wall, the back muscles and the diaphragm, it all creates a lovely support structure for your spine and intervertebral discs.
Any weak link in that chain leaves you vulnerable to injuries. Especially if you have the kind of job where you are sitting for hours, muscles switch off. Some slacken with poor posture, others tighten up when held in the same position for long periods of time.
Or maybe your job is more physical. Again a weakened support system will rely on the stronger elements to try to keep going, but one day it will become too overloaded and it will make you stop and take notice.
How can I strengthen it?
With very simple exercises. For women... after you have had a pee, wiggle forward until you can feel the hard loo seat against your 'front bottom'..hee hee I love that expression! That was from a client I was teaching, she couldn't work out which bit she needed to feel..this sums it up well. Don't stop a pee..well maybe once a year to test how good you are. You could send infection back up the tubes.
So to be quite graphic..its where you pee, its where the tampons go in, it where the penis goes in. Then squeeze and lift right there.
For men..lift the crown jewels! When I first worked with the Northants Cricket squad I wasn't to sure how to cue for guys, so I asked the physio and this was his suggestion. It has more benefits too for guys, but let's keep it clean! Or imagine walking into the sea when its cold! As you walk further out the crown jewels will start to pull up and in.
Once you have found even the slightly glimmer of a contraction, hold it for a slow count of 10, then release. Do that 10 times. Then do a quick snatch and grab lift too, 10 times, every day. Then build it into your day. I have some suggestions further down.
You might not feel anything to start with. it might take WEEKS before you do. But truly don't give up.
This is not a one minute wonder, you do have to put the effort and time in but the rewards are worth it.
You can do them anywhere! Standing in the queue at the supermarket, see how many items they can scan whilst you hold the contraction.
The long term benefits are worth the effort, you won't be spending your pension on incontinence pads!
You can keep jumping on a trampoline without worrying. Even run without leaking. All of these are common in younger and younger people. But its easily fixed.
However as I said earlier, you do have to put the time in, you cannot pay someone else to do it like your cleaning or your ironing. Some of you might need specialist help and that's not always easy to find.
Don't expect fast results, it can take up to 3 months to see significant improvement, but the results are totally worth it.
You can over do it, so make sure you fully let go after your contraction.
Whilst we see lots of people with back problems, neck and shoulder issues feature highly too. Sometimes people are not even aware of the tension they create in this area. It seems it’s our default position when we are cross/stressed/tired or all of that are shoulders up around our ears. Truly if we tensed our abdominal wall or maybe the pelvic floor muscles as often as we did our shoulders, we’d all have 6 packs and Tena Lady/Man would see the share price fall with lack of sales. Sadly it’s not, constant tensing of the shoulders around our ears simply seems to create problems with pain and poor posture being the end result.
It’s a simple fix though. Correct head and neck alignment is the start, but do you know what that looks like? ‘Normal’ for you could be poor alignment due to years of sitting at desk over a keyboard, steering wheel, teaching small children, or any number of reasons for sustained posture. Anyone new to our classes is always taught what the optimum alignment is for every exercise we teach.
Doing a bit of self-massage on the tops of the shoulders and around the back of the neck really does help too. Strengthening the muscles that support the neck is key.
These techniques are easily learned and if you put it into practice on a daily basis working gently then you can turn around poor posture, reduce neck and shoulder pain and greatly improve weak neck muscles and create the balance you need.
The message here is simple, however you have to do the work, you do need to do it daily or every other day and you have to be consistent. You cannot fix it with one session a week, you can’t give it to someone else to sort out for you, sorry! It’s a bit unreasonable to expect to turn around years of poor posture in minutes. Honestly a few minutes a day really can improve it and by doing it little and often you are going to see the long term benefits that become your ‘normal’ and create the correct position to balance your head on top of your spine with minimal effort..just how it was designed to be!
Being a pilates teacher is like being an undertaker, as long as there are keyboards, we will have customers! This year marks 20 years since I first trained to teach Pilates and finally I am embracing social media to send out the message about exercise and pain and where it can help. Perhaps dispel a few myths and most of all educate anyone seeking help with back pain and all that comes with it.
"Pilates in my practice is mainstream, and Northants Pilates is a first class outfit that I wholeheartedly endorse."
Mr Nick Birch, Consultant Spinal Surgeon