Watch Your Back!

This time of year brings me a host of patients who have injured their backs whilst doing the gardening.

We sit around all winter and with the first sign of spring dash out to sort the garden out – spend a productive day sorting out the mess, go inside to have our dinner, then seize up.

The next day we can barely move and our lower back is in agony and away we go to the osteopath.

Yet this is such an easy problem to avoid with a few simple changes to how we do things.

The first thing to do is to take a look at all the jobs that are waiting for you in the garden. I can guarantee that there will be some that require you to kneel, some that require standing and others that demand you lift and move things.


Step one is to plan a ‘round robin’ of tasks that require different postures and spend twenty minutes on each job, gradually getting each job completed over several hours. The commonest mistake I see is one of people focussing on one job, such as weeding a flower bed, and starting it and finishing it all in one go – regardless of time. This may mean someone spends several hours kneeling down, leaning over and reaching across the flower bed.

Now, if you were a professional gardener and used to such work this would be less of a problem but when you are not used to such work there will be enormous strain placed on your body from maintaining a posture for a long period of time. Pressure through your knees and through your flexed lower back with a double whammy on your lower back from the weight of your upper body reaching across to pull weeds up.

The same is true for digging and even more so if most of your life is spent working in a sedentary job.


Therefore, the golden rule is to never spend more than twenty minutes on any one job and after twenty minutes switch to another job that requires a different posture. After twenty minutes in your new posture change again, either back to job number one, or to a new job with a different posture again.

Of course, this requires a little planning and above all else you must think about your body rather than ignoring it to get a job done.

An easy reminder to do this is to set a timer on your phone for twenty minutes and when it goes off you change to job number two, reset the alarm and go again.

Step two in preventing injury in the garden is to make sure you do a warm down after you have finished. This can be some simple leg and whole body stretches such as standing, then bending forward to touch your toes with legs kept straight, or gently rolling your shoulders and arms to release all the muscles that have been working hard. There are a myriad of stretches that are really useful.


Gardening is a physical activity and our body should be gently warmed up and warmed down afterwards to enable it to reset and recover from the work. It may not be a sport but is using your body in a very strenuous way so please stretch it afterwards.

An Epsom salts bath is also useful so add that into your post gardening routine once a week. You can even apply Magnesium oil to any aching muscles and this will also help them recover.

And if the worst comes to the worst there is always your local osteopath to help you out – and if it is me, I will also tell you how to prevent future trouble, the question is…will you heed my advice?

Can processed food cause cancer?

Last week the British Medical Journal published a research paper saying there is, “a direct association between intake of ultra-processed food and incidence of total cancer and breast cancer.”

This was discussed in the press and has since faded away and been forgotten. Yet this is absolutely enormous news.

I decided to head to a local ‘not so super – market’ to see how they had changed their behaviour as a result of this report. Of course, nothing had changed. I found within the first 10 metres or so of the first aisle all this dead food.

Dead food is food that provides your calories and precious little else.

It does not create any vitality but actually stresses your body’s balance systems that have to deal with all this weird artificial nothingness.

Most of this rubbish is full of sugar, highly processed salt and bad, unbalanced, cheap fats.

This convenience food is designed to attract you and make you spend money. It is not designed with any sense that we derive our health from what we eat.

Whoever comes up with this stuff uses simple criteria: profit and shelf life (which is all about profit anyway.)

Is it any wonder we have epidemic obesity problems, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, heart disease and countless other chronic problems when this stuff is let loose on us in a totally unregulated way.

Food is the number one route to poor health, along with lack of movement and these monstrous food producers could not care less.

Eat rubbish and you will feel rubbish. You will have low energy, low happiness and feel sluggish all the time which will leave you more inclined to sit staring at the television whilst eating more horror foods.

Many people simply never relate how they feel to what they’ve eaten but if they had a car and put the wrong fuel in it it would break down. The same is true for your body.

And the easiest way to test this is to eat a bunch of processed foods for breakfast and monitor how you feel an hour or so later. You will probably start to get cravings for something sweet or salty. You may feel tired or have a brain fog or even feel unsettled and a little anxious.

You will almost certainly spend your day looking for snacks, and more food as your blood sugars go on a day long, unhealthy, roller coaster ride.

Then the next day ensure you start your day with real food, with a balance of protein, fat and carbohydrate, whether that be a cooked breakfast or fresh avocado, coconut oil and berries added to a smoothie. I guarantee you will feel different.

I see so many people who put how they are feeling down to their age or stress at work when it is in fact their food causing most of their trouble. Years of eating vile processed nonsense and thinking it is real food dulls your pallet and robs you of vitality in later life.

It is a drip feed of slow food poisoning. Yet people will say they are unwell or tired or lacking ‘va va voom’ because of their age. This is wrong. It is because you have fed dead food to your body for years. It is SLOW food poisoning.

When these kind of revelations are delivered to the processed food manufacturers they normally turn out the usual nonsense about there being nothing wrong with such food when we use it in moderation in a balanced healthy diet. However, they also know that people are not very good at moderating. In fact, we are useless at it! So much so that we make wrong choices and eat too much of this stuff which leads to poor health. It is not acceptable to knowingly manipulate a population into eating this stuff too much then using the ‘moderation’ excuse. Look at the pictures  of the aisles – there is NO moderation coming from the manufacturers or the stores is there?

The good news is that this is more evidence to show you can have profound influence on your chances of getting cancer with your lifestyle. It does not have to be bad luck that brings you this awful disease. Over to you – make your choices sensible and healthful where you can.

Have a good day,

Nick Tofalos

Helping anxiety…

Through my years in practice as an osteopath, working in the natural healthcare field I’ve noticed more and more of my patients are taking antidepressants and other medication for anxiety.

One of the commonest questions I get about CBD is whether it will help a person who is experiencing anxiety and panic attacks.

Therefore, I thought I’d take a quick look at WHY so many people are suffering with this problem.

I suspect our modern world is actually completely out of sync with what we need to live a fulfilled, simple life. The western world runs at a very fast pace, governed by the clock. Yet our body works according to nature’s rhythms – the seasons, the rising and setting of the sun and of course throughout the year this is always changing.

So we have a modern world demanding our attention whilst our body may be asking us to rest. We’re still expected to function at the same pace in the short winter days as in the long summer days.

Artificial light throws off our circadian rhythms, the natural rhythms that govern our sleep and wakefulness, as does the need to be at work or at an appointment when our body is craving rest.

Perhaps all this out of kilter activity is disorientating to our body. We also have complex modern stresses such as debts, threats to our job security or relationship problems. The primitive stress response of our body cannot be fully expressed towards these type of stressors (our body demands ‘fight or flight’) so we have a subtle build up of stress hormones in our body which can start to cause bizarre physical symptoms such as skin problems, chronic pain and a myriad other problems. Of course, none of this shows up on scans or blood tests so whilst you are experiencing dis-ease the medics find no obvious causes. This is because your body is not functioning correctly but is not in any structural way damaged or broken.

With all this going on, along with the modern pressures of how we have to look, big chests thrust forwards to the world regardless of gender, one of the first problems that is often unnoticed is a change in our breathing pattern.

We start to breathe using our shoulder and neck muscles instead of our diaphragm, and our breathing rhythm increases so we take faster, shallow breaths.

This kind of breathing can lead to a panic attack which may be a one off event in a person’s life or may settle into an incredibly distressing vicious circle, crippling the sufferer with fear, phobias and a sense of dread and feeling of being ill at ease.

The two areas I always suggest people begin to address when they have such problems are their breathing patterns and ensuring they are exercising their body regularly. Neither of these changes can fix you overnight but in time they begin to help your body adjust and find it’s balance point again.

There are lots of breathing exercises out there, many of which can be off putting in complexity but I have found one simple one that is easy to do and effective:

When you practice this exercise you may find yourself getting light headed to begin with. If this happens then simply stop. Return to the exercise later and bit by bit you will find this sensation fades away.

All you have to do is take a deep breath in then slowly breathe out through pursed lips (almost as if you are whistling) for as long as you can. When you run out of breath, pause for a second then inhale. Do not worry about the inhaling part, your body will make sure you breathe in! Then repeat the breathing out through pursed lips. To start with only do this five times, gradually increasing to be able to do it 30 times without getting light headed. At this point you will be retraining your breathing muscles to a more healthy pattern of movement. Using pursed lips gently encourages the main breathing muscle (your diaphragm) to reactivate.

There are plenty of useful supplements they may also help anxiety and panic attacks – and CBD may have a role to play here since scientists at the University of San Paulo in Brazil and King’s College in London have done research into CBD and the neural correlates of anxiety. They have found that CBD may well have an anti anxiety effect. Fortunately it is very safe to take and so is a low risk strategy for potentially getting good gains.

Please keep an eye out for more information about this distressing area in future blogs. I wish you all well for 2018.

Nick Tofalos

I read a headline in the press recently about the drive to medicate half our population to help reduce high blood pressure.

It showed how studies point to aggressive use of medication to get this problem sorted. Yet I would argue that aggressive promotion of exercise for everyone should be the absolute first line of defence for this problem.

Most people’s high blood pressure problems are caused by a chronic lack of movement. This leads to a weaker heart from the fact it does not have to do much every day – our body is very dynamic and clever and it is always looking for efficiency savings so if we sit and do nothing it will let muscle waste away that is not required.

Muscle requires lots of energy to maintain it so if it is not being used your body will let some of it disappear so it can move important resources elsewhere, such as using energy to feed your brain. I am over simplifying the entire process but the old adage of ‘use it or lose it’ is very true.

Therefore, you sit all day and your heart gets weaker. The knock on effect of this is that your heart has to pump harder to get the circulation moving, therefore, your blood pressure rises.

This is where we then see the usual, predictable, standard medical response of treating the symptom (your high blood pressure) rather than the cause (your sedentary lifestyle) because getting you to deal with the cause does not make a single penny for a drugs company.

I’m sorry to say that the world is a very cynical place and being healthy does not pay. Of course, humans are also naturally lazy and always looking for the easy route so having a drug for a problem appears the simple, easy way out.

Yet this is not in any way the easy way out. Have you seen the side effects of using these drugs long term? In an issue of Cardiology Review it was shown that these drugs increase the risk of death and being hospitalised. They can also cause acute kidney failure.

There are many problems with taking long term medication for a symptom. However, using exercise brings nothing but enormous benefits to all aspects of your life.

Exercise does not just lower your blood pressure, it can improve your mood, ability to do things (like going up stairs – and believe me, I see plenty of people who start to lose that vital skill), get out of a chair and on and on.

If you have been sedentary for a long time, start with walking and get advice from a health expert before you throw yourself into a movement regime. Do not be concerned by picking up niggles, aches and even injuries when you exercise – your body will recover from these and you will learn from them too.

Medication should only ever be the option of last resort – nobody has ever become ill from a lack of meds. Avoid wherever possible.

Exercise is truly the wonder drug of drugs for your health. Use your body wherever possible.

Our body is a moving machine, so move it.

Take care,

Nick Tofalos

Pass on the pasta sauce…

In my work as an osteopath I am forever asking people about their diets. Food is so critical to your health that we should all be looking for the right diet for ourselves. Unfortunately we are bombarded by conflicting information and powerful and misleading advertising. As well as subliminal messages about what is good to eat.

A case in point about the sly way we are manipulated by food companies is to watch any generic American teen drama…remember ‘Saved by the Bell’?

Where do all those beautiful, slim, attractive teenagers all inevitably meet up to talk? The diner! What are they eating? Burgers, fries, milk shakes and sodas.

Yet I can guarantee that those slim, beautiful people hardly ever touch those foods in real life – the problem being they put across an image that makes it seem like they do. So we think it’s okay to follow suit.

The same is true of our supermarket shelves – rows and rows of processed foods wrapped up as family recipe pasta sauces or home cooked curry. When we look at all this food on the shelves we, quite understandably, assume that because they are allowed to sell it and it’s there in front of us, it is perfectly fine to eat. It must be safe because it’s there.

However, the only criteria for it being on the shelf is from the food safety aspect of toxic bacteria such as salmonella and e coli (there are others). As long as it is free from such dangers it can be sold. Yet its nutritional content may be so poor that it should be labelled as dangerous to eat, because not only does it have precious little goodness in it, it is laden with weird chemicals, sugar, salt and cheap, bad fats.

A case in point is this pasta sauce:

Notice how it is labelled ‘per 100g’ rather than the entire contents of the jar. This is so at a quick glance we think the amounts of bad stuff in it are small, after all, 5.8g of sugar is only a little over a teaspoon so we can dismiss that as almost irrelevant.

The problem being that most people, most of the time, will not measure out a 100g portion but will chuck the entire jar on their pasta which means they have effectively sprinkled six teaspoons of sugar on their meal! There is also almost an entire teaspoon of salt. Who EVER puts an entire teaspoon of salt in such a small amount of food when they cook for themselves.

So a family sit down to what they think is a healthy, low fat, meal of pasta (carbohydrate heavy) and tomato sauce (Carbohydrate heavy) not realising they’re only getting one macronutrient in their body – that of carbohydrates, which causes blood sugar spikes which effectively mean their body rapidly converts all the carbohydrates to fat. Yes folks, your body makes fat from a low fat meal.

Here is an even worse example:

Notice how they give you the percentages of all the vegetables but not the sugar? Even though this sauce is 13% sugar! Which is over ten teaspoons of sugar in one jar! This is horrific.

And do you know why all this sugar is added? I’ll take the pasta sauce as a case in point: The tomatoes are cooked to a very high temperature to pasteurise them. This is to ensure they will have a long shelf life – the fact it destroys the goodness of the tomatoes is irrelevant to the manufacturer.

Next lemon juice is added as a preservative. This creates an unpalatable, bitter sauce.

At this point let us draw breath and take stock: The expert chefs at this company have worked out how to create a vile tasting, inedible, overcooked tomato mush. At this point you and I would be throwing whatever was in the pan in the bin and starting again.

However, our friendly processed food manufacturer has a trick up their sleeve – add sugar! The sugar makes it taste nice again. Hurray for sugar. So you get a product with a long shelf life that tastes like a tomato sauce – it’s simple trickery to fool us into buying it.

The criteria it meets allow it to be sold – you will not get a bout of acute food poisoning from this jar. You will, however, get long term, slow food poisoning and chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and even arthritis from such horror products. You will also become obese.

Yet all the time we are thinking we’re eating a balanced diet and being healthy. WRONG.

Cook your food from scratch. Never trust a processed food manufacturer to provide your one and only body with any form of good nutrition.

Ensure each meal you have has some fat, some carb and some protein in it – THAT, is a balanced diet.

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