Realizing The Feet-Mind Connection

Age-Mind Connection

 

Did you know that nearly half of all the sensory information transmitted to your brain originates in your feet? With this vast amount of stimuli, the feet-to-brain relationship leads to dynamic things such as stability, strength, safety, focus, and clarity about where we are in space–all-important to provide calm, certainty, and security throughout our lives.

When it comes to achieving your mind-body balance it’s important to recognize your feet are a vital cornerstone to total well being.

Footwear is a great protectorate when we are navigating all of the potentially dangerous terrains and conditions. However, with our feet always covered and encased in shoes and socks, the brain loses touch with sensory stimulation from our feet.

Try spending time barefoot to improve the feet-mind connection.

When we are barefoot, we receive a massive amount of sensory feedback from our feet. We receive increased information from the foot about its position in space, the texture of the ground and muscle tension. Being barefoot sharpens the homunculus area in the brain and lays the foundation for better balance and improved motor control through the increased information intake and subsequent brain growth.

The brain, just like muscles, bones and connective tissue operates on the “use it or lose it” principle. Meaning, if an area of the brain is not stimulated it will atrophy, weaken and shrink. Conversely, if an area of the brain is stimulated regularly and used routinely, it can grow in both size and in the number of neuronal connections.

The freedom of going barefoot allows the intrinsic muscles of your feet to strengthen and the many motor and sensory functions of the feet to become restored. Plus–a sandy beach, or a manicured lawn–can feel awesome!

With time and practice, your feet will become strong, more mobile, and increasingly capable of delivering the information you need to feel strong, calm, and in control of your life.

Feel the soles of your feet against the ground. Feel the textures and contours of the ground. Feel the weight of your body against them. Sense the balance of your body in space—yes, on your own two feet!

When it comes to your health, stress can lead to a multitude of physical ailments. Long term anxiety can lead to an overload of the cortisol steroid hormone which can weaken the system immune system and impact your general health. Over-eating, for example, will stress your body and possibly cause the onset of diabetes, which in turn can cause your feet to suffer. And without your feet functioning and healthy your daily life will become a burdensome endeavor.

Aging problems in the body can show up in the feet. Diabetes is a huge one, then there’s nerve damage such as peripheral neuropathy and circulatory decline called Peripheral Arterial Disease, arthritis, swelling, toenail, and arch problems to name a few. Overall, its active prevention that will help ward off foot conditions, and other general health ailments, from arising.

Here are a few more practices to help you meld body and mind through foot awareness.

Foot Reflexology

A great foot massage or reflexive conditioning will leave your feet and spirit freshly refurbished. When you have an expert who has mastered these massage techniques treat you it’s a good remedy for total well-being beyond your feet.

Foot reflexology is a type of science based on the idea that there are “zones” or reflex areas on feet that correspond with all of the glands, organs, parts, and systems found inside or on the body.

According to the idea of reflexology, applying pressure to these points using specific thumb, finger and hand techniques results in a reduction of stress in the body.

Check this link to learn more about foot reflexology at http://www.beyondtalk.net/what-is-foot-reflexology/

Foot Massage

A simple foot massage can offer a surprising number of health benefits like relaxation, stress relief, improved circulation, better sleep and pain relief.

Go to this link and learn about how to give a foot massage which will also enable you to know how to get a great one as well!  at: https://www.verywellhealth.com/how-to-give-a-foot-massage-1337810

Foot Yoga Poses

Yoga offers a wealth of benefits and your feet can be part of an overall wellness routine. Plantar fasciitis and heel pain are two of the most common foot ailments that yoga can help guard against.

Standing poses of yoga can help build a solid and stable foundation in the feet, while the yoga stretches can relieve tightened muscles, ligaments and tendons.

Visit this link to learn about six step-by-step foot poses with instructions: https://www.yogauonline.com/yoga-for-pain-relief/6-yoga-poses-for-achy-feet

Meditation

Plus, learn all about the universal meditation posture at https://www.yogajournal.com/meditation/everything-need-know-meditation-posture

Foot Protection

  • Wearing shoes that have good arch and footbed support and are not too tight is a big factor in keeping your feet healthy.
  • Utilizing well-designed orthotics/insoles gives your feet added support and comfort.
  • Daily foot hygiene: cleaning with attention to details of your feet
  • Nail care: proper trimming (straight across the nail) and checking for cuticle damage

Peace and serenity can be elusive, but the more you are aware and practice good health rituals–especially for your feet–you can achieve a more sound body-mind connection.  Happy, strong feet can bring immense pleasure by virtue of their daily function (carrying you through all your activities and travels), and when you engage exercise, foot reflexology or yoga.

Learn more here about How our feet calm our minds: hypofrontality and optimal performance.

8 Ways Aging Can Affect Your Feet

Aging Can Affect Your Feet

 

Aging takes its toll on your feet as it does with the rest of your body. Given the amount of stress we place on our feet over a lifetime, it’s easy to see why these problems occur. In addition to general wear and tear, there are physiological changes that will inevitably affect how your joints, bones, and tendons function.

Here are some of the more common aging-related foot and ankle disorders:

Dry Skin

Dry skin, especially on the soles of the feet, is a problem that may require a daily application of moisturizer to prevent cracking and infection. The gradual depletion collagen, exacerbated by the lack of consistent foot care, can lead to the formation of cracked heels and calluses. If left untreated, cracked skin around the heel can make it painful to walk or even stand.

If cracks in the skin are deep enough, bacteria can easily infiltrate the exposed tissue and cause a foot infection. In older people or people with diabetes, this can lead to a potentially serious infection known as cellulitis.

Seborrheic Keratosis

Another common skin condition affecting older adults is called seborrheic keratosis, also known as stucco keratosis due to its barnacle-like appearance. The raised, flesh-toned lesions are often mistaken for warts and typically affect the top of the feet, toes, and ankles. (They are never seen on the soles of the feet.) Though the seborrheic lesions are not painful, they can sometimes be itchy or cause irritation when wearing shoes.

See your doctor if you notice any changes in the color, texture, or shape of the lesions. These may be an early sign of skin cancer, including pigmented basal cell carcinoma and cutaneous melanoma.

Flat Feet

As your feet age, connective tissues called ligaments can begin to stretch out, reducing the height of your arch (referred to as fallen arches) and leading to a condition known as flat feet (pes planus).

Shortened Achilles Tendon

Another type of connective tissue, known as a tendon, can begin to lose water as you age. Tendons connect muscle to bone, and, if these are shortened due to water loss, you may end up with a more flat-footed gait since you will be less able to flex your ankle, midfoot, and toes. This is especially true of the Achilles tendon which connects the calf muscle to the heel bone (calcaneus).

Toenail Changes

Toenails usually become thicker and more brittle as you age, making them more difficult to cut and maintain. One reason for this is that nails tend to grow slower in tandem with the slowing of hormonal production. The older we get, the fewer hormones we make.

Other causes of toenail thickening include hypothyroidism and inadequate circulation due to peripheral artery disease (PAD). Onychomycosis, a fungal infection of the toenails, is another common cause.

Hammertoe

Hammertoe is the abnormal bend in the joints of one or more of your toes, typically caused by the wearing of narrow shoes or high heels that forces the toes deeper into the toe box. Hammertoes are prone to calluses and corns. Joint stiffness, discomfort, swelling, and pain are also common.

Once they develop, hammertoes are essentially permanent unless surgery (such as arthrodesis and arthroplasty) is used to realign the toe joints. Stretching may help restore some of the mobility but doesn’t necessarily reverse the condition. Toe pads, splints, and well-fitted shoes can help relieve some of the discomfort and pain.

Arthritis

Osteoarthritis (OA) also known as wear-and-tear arthritis, affects roughly 10 percent of men and 16 percent of women over 60. The ankle jointsubtalar joint, and the first metatarsophalangeal joint (big toe) are the three joints frequently affected. Common risk factors include obesity, hammertoe, bunions, or a past foot or ankle injury.

Another joint problem affecting older adults is gouty arthritis. Gout is an autoimmune disorder in which the accumulation of uric acid crystals around a joint causes acute and often debilitating pain, mainly in the big toe.

When observed on an X-ray, the decreased bone density in the foot is strongly suggestive of osteoporosis. This is especially true for women in whom the long bones of the foot (metatarsals) are commonly affected.

Circulation Problems

One of the most common foot and ankle symptoms in older people is edema, the medical term for swelling. Edema is commonly associated with poor circulation, leading the build-up of fluid in the lower extremities (especially the ankles and feet). Edema is typically associated with congestive heart failure, kidney disease, and liver disease, conditions of which are common in older populations.

Circulatory obstruction can lead to venous edema, typically affecting one leg. Cardiovascular disease, certain medications, and hormonal changes may cause swelling in both legs.
Diabetes can also affect circulation, particularly as you get older. If this happens, infections of the foot will be far more difficult to treat, oftentimes resulting in an ulcer that just won’t heal. Diabetic neuropathy, an uncomfortable pins-and-needles sensation mostly affecting the legs and feet, is another common consequence of long-term diabetes.

How Nutrition Can Affect Your Feet

How Nutrition Can Affect Your Feet

Eating certain foods can reduce the risk for inflammation and other diseases that can affect your feet.

A healthy diet can help manage chronic conditions that cause foot problems. When most people think about nutrition and health, they typically associate the food that they eat with weight management or heart health. But diet plays many important roles in overall health and can affect different parts of the body, even our feet, says Sherri Greene, DPM, a podiatrist in New York City who practices holistic foot care.

“When I explain to people that your feet are connected to the rest of your body, and what you put into your body is what makes up your body, then they get it,” Dr. Greene says.

Inflammation, Diet, and Your Feet

Medical research, including a review of studies published in October 2015 in the British Journal of Nutrition, suggests that what we eat can affect inflammation in the body, which is a risk factor for many chronic conditions.

“Generally, inflammation is a defense mechanism in the body that helps stop growth of abnormal cells, promotes healing of injured tissues, and signals cells to fight off viral and bacterial infections,” says Shilpi Agarwal, MD, a family physician in Washington, DC. “But when inflammation persists, it requires the body to recruit different mediators to protect the cells. When these mediators are present for prolonged periods of time, they can destroy healthy tissue and trigger disease.”

Inflammation is a common cause of foot pain associated with types of inflammatory arthritis such as psoriatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout. It can also strike the plantar fascia, a thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of your foot, causing the intense heel pain associated with plantar fasciitis.

Many common foods are believed to encourage inflammation, such as the refined grains, sugar, and trans fats in baked goods and junk foods; the saturated fat in red meat; and the omega-6 fats found in many commonly used vegetable oils, such as corn, soybean, and sunflower oils, according to the Arthritis Foundation.

People may also develop increased levels of inflammation in their bodies due to chronic allergies to common foods such as wheat, Greene says. One 2014 case study suggests that eliminating the protein gluten found in wheat, barley, and rye may benefit patients with plantar fasciitis. The study reported the case of a woman whose plantar fasciitis went into remission when she maintained a gluten-free diet, but it did not prove a direct cause-and-effect relationship and only included one patient.

Another dietary factor that can contribute to inflammation is eating too many foods that cause your blood sugar to rise quickly, such as sweets, white flour, and pasta.

To reduce inflammation, Greene advises patients to eat more omega-3 fats. Fatty fish such as salmon, as well as fish oil supplements, are good sources of omega-3s, she says. Most people’s diets provide far more omega-6s than omega-3s, so a fish-rich diet can address this imbalance.

A healthy diet with anti-inflammatory benefits is rich in green vegetables and other fresh plant foods, and eliminates refined grain foods and sugary treats.

Osteoporosis, Diet, and Your Feet

Many chronic conditions that affect the feet can be better managed by eating right. One such condition is osteoporosis, a disease of progressive bone loss.

Osteoporosis is associated with an increased risk of fractures, and one of the first signs of the disease is often a stress fracture in the foot. Increasing your dietary intake of calcium and vitamin D can decrease the risk of a fracture, as can other lifestyle changes like regular exercise.

Dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt are among the best dietary sources of calcium. But remember that saturated fats, which are found in full-fat dairy products, are on the list of things that can increase inflammation.

You can also get dietary calcium from some green vegetables; and many products such as certain cereals, breads, and juices contain added calcium. Vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium, can be found in fatty fish such as mackerel, salmon, and tuna.

Peripheral Artery Disease, Diet, and Your Feet

Two common conditions that affect millions of Americans’ feet are peripheral artery disease and diabetes. These conditions can damage arteries that bring blood to your lower extremities.

One of the ways peripheral artery disease (PAD) is diagnosed is by comparing the blood pressure in your feet to the blood pressure in your arms. This test, known as an ankle-brachial index (ABI), determines how well blood is flowing. According to the American Heart Association, the ankle pressure is normally at least 90 percent of the arm pressure, but with severe narrowing it may be less than 50 percent.

Common symptoms of peripheral artery disease may include discomfort in the muscles of your feet. In severe cases, patients have extreme pain or tingling in the feet or toes.

A diet that is low in saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium, while also rich in fruits and vegetables, can help reduce your risk of peripheral artery disease, according to the American Heart Association. A January 2015 study published in the Journal of Vascular Surgery also recommends consuming omega-3s as a way to lower the risk of peripheral artery disease.

Diabetes, Diet, and Your Feet

Like peripheral artery disease, diabetes can cause many types of foot problems, from skin changes to nerve damage, or neuropathy. According to the National Institutes of Health, as much as 70 percent of people with diabetes have some form of neuropathy. Symptoms may include burning pain, tingling, or weakness in the feet.

An estimated 1 out of every 3 people with diabetes over age 50 also has peripheral artery disease, according to the American Diabetes Association.

A healthy diet is one of the keys to controlling blood sugar levels and managing your diabetes. A diabetes diet, like any healthy eating plan, means eating fiber-rich fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and moderate amounts of whole grains and healthy fats.

Weight, Diet, and Your Feet

Given that your feet bear the weight of your entire body, it’s not surprising that being overweight can lead to foot problems. Excess body weight increases your chances of a variety of painful conditions in the feet.

Besides the other benefits of a healthy diet, weight management can help avoid or manage conditions affecting the feet. “Even 25 extra pounds can tip the scales to more problems in the foot and ankle,” says James Mahoney, DPM, an associate professor of podiatric surgery at Des Moines University in Iowa.

Credit / view source: https://www.everydayhealth.com/foot-health/nutrition-and-your-feet.aspx

By  Eric Metcalf, MPH

Medically Reviewed by  Justin Laube, MD