The latest craze for barefoot exercise may offer more than just a novel workout and an excuse to give your feet a break from trainers.
The Body Shop: Arch Enemy The Body Shop: Arch Enemy 5 simple stretches and strengthening exercises that can cure a nagging foot injury. Foot Work: Strengthen Your Feet and Ankles
Source: Arch Enemy | Runner’s World
Plantar fasciitis is a runner’s recurring nightmare. It’s a notoriously stubborn injury that strikes when the thick band of fibers that runs along the bottom of the foot becomes inflamed. It can start as a minor irritation but can advance and develop into a sidelining injury, especially if it’s not treated promptly or properly. While ice, rest, orthotics, and pain relievers may ease the discomfort, the injury can come back again (and again) unless you address the underlying cause—weakness and tightness in the muscles and tendons that make up and support the foot, says Irene Davis, Ph.D., P.T., director of the Spaulding National Running Center, Harvard Medical School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. If arch pain is your nemesis, Davis recommends doing the following exercises barefoot daily.
Strengthens the tendons in your heels and calf muscles, which support your arch.
To Do: Raise up on the balls of your feet as high as possible. Slowly lower down. Do three sets of 10 reps. Progress to doing the raises on stairs (with heels hanging off), and then to single-leg raises.
Improves flexibility in your Achilles tendon and calf—when these areas become tight, the arch gets painfully overloaded.
To Do: Stand at the edge of a step, toes on step, heels hanging off. Lower your heels down, past the step, then raise back up to the start position. Do three sets of 10 reps.
Works the arch muscles and the tibialis posterior (in the calf and foot) to control excess pronation.
To Do: While standing, press your toes downward into the ground while keeping the heel planted, so that your foot forms an arch (or dome). Release, and do three sets of 10 reps on each foot.
Toe Spread and Squeeze
Targets the interossei muscles of the foot, which support the arch.
To Do: While sitting, loop a small resistance band around your toes. Spread toes; release. Then place a toe separator (used at nail salons) in between toes. Squeeze toes in; release. Do three sets of 10 reps of each exercise on both feet.
Works the toe-flexor muscles that run along your arch to increase overall foot strength.
To Do: Lay a small hand towel on the floor, and place one foot on the towel. Using just your toes, scrunch the towel toward you, hold, then slowly push the towel away from you back to start position. Do three sets of 10 reps on each foot.
What’s up with things that alter our sense of taste? Why does orange juice taste revolting if you drink it too soon after brushing your teeth? Or how about sipping white wine after eating artichokes? For some people, that makes the wine taste weirdly sweet. Even more bizarre are the berries of the so-called miracle fruit, Synsepalum dulcificum, which make even sour lemons taste sweet.
Some scientists are even trying to exploit such taste oddities to make healthier foods that trick the brain into thinking it’s getting something more delicious than it really is. Linda Bartoshuk, an experimental psychologist at the University of Florida, and her team have been investigating naturally occurring volatile compounds in fruit that make foods taste sweeter or saltier by influencing how the sense of smell and the sense of taste interact in the brain. “Those interactions are much more interesting than we ever dreamed, and they may lead to new ways to add sweet and salty taste to foods without actually adding sugar or salt,” Bartoshuk said.
In tropical West Africa, berries of the shrub Synsepalum dulcificum (photo above) were traditionally used to sweeten palm wine and make stale bread more palatable. More recently they’ve been used in Queens at “flavor tripping parties” where people do vinegar shots and say things like “Doughnut glaze, hot doughnut glaze!” after someone puts Tabasco sauce on their tongue.
The secret to this freaky fruit is a chemical called miraculin. It’s a protein with sugars attached to it. Normally these sugars don’t activate the sweet receptors on the tongue; they are like a key that doesn’t quite fit the lock. That’s why miracle berries on their own don’t taste particularly sweet. But in the presence of vinegar, lemon juice, or other acids, the molecule changes shape in a way that allows it to fit the sweet receptors and trigger the perception of sweetness. (It’s also possible the receptors themselves change shape—scientists haven’t yet worked out all the details). “It adds an intense sweet taste and in turn suppresses the perception of sour in the brain,” Bartoshuk says. The effect can last an hour or two—plenty of time to eat enough strange things to give yourself a serious bellyache.
Artichokes are notoriously hard to pair with wine. You’d think they’d go well with whites, but for many people they make wine (or other beverages) taste unusually sweet. Whether that’s good or bad depends on your perspective.
In a 1972 paper in Science, Bartoshuk identified the compound responsible for this effect. It’s called cynarin, and unlike miraculin, it doesn’t require acid to work its magic. It makes even water taste sweet. Again, the cellular-molecular details are a bit murky, but Bartoshuk says what seems to happen is that cynarin temporarily inhibits sweet receptors. Then, when you wash off the cynarin by taking a drink, the receptors bounce back and fire, sending a signal to the brain that they’ve detected something sweet.
Orange juice and toothpaste
Scrubbing your teeth before breakfast is a bad idea for lots of reasons, but if your breakfast includes orange juice it’s even worse. The normally delicious sweet-tart juice will taste bitter and awful.
The chief culprit is probably sodium lauryl sulfate, a detergent added to many toothpastes to increase foaming and make your mouth feel clean. “The detergent tends to reduce your ability to taste sweet, and whenever you encounter any type of acid, there’s a bitter taste that’s very unpleasant,” Bartoshuk said. The most likely explanation at the molecular level is that the detergent alters the responsiveness of taste receptors by disrupting the fatty membranes that enclose each cell (much as dish detergent would break up the oily layer atop a sink filled with dirty dishwater).
What do you do when one of your favorite ingredients suddenly turns against you? For some people, that’s what happened with the emergence of “pine mouth,” a mysterious syndrome in which eating pine nuts causes an unpleasant bitter or metallic taste that starts a day or two later and can last for a week or more.
One species in particular, Pinus armandii, a white pine from China, has been linked to “pine mouth.” According to one report, a poor pine nut harvest in 2010 resulted in Chinese imports accounting for up to 80 percent of pine nuts sold in the U.S. that year, coinciding with an uptick in reports of pine mouth.
The culprit could also be a contaminant or something used to process the nuts, Pelchat adds.
So far, scientists can only guess at the mechanism, and some of those guesses are kind of creepy. One idea, suggested by Bartoshuk, is that the metallic taste is a phantom caused by nerve damage, essentially a taste equivalent of the phantom limb experience of some amputees. The nerves that carry taste signals to the brain inhibit one another, she explains. Damaging one nerve releases inhibition on the others and can cause phantom taste sensations. Indeed, she notes, a metallic taste is a common side effect of damage to the chorda tympani nerve. This nerve passes through the middle ear on its way from the tongue to the brain, and it can be damaged by surgery or infections of the middle ear. So far, though, no neurotoxic agent has been identified in pine nuts.
Another idea, proposed by Gregory Möller, a Professor of Environmental Chemistry and Toxicology at the University of Idaho, is that the metallic taste arises, at least in part, not in people’s mouths, but in their guts. The small intestines have bitter receptors similar to those on the taste buds, and some pine nuts may contain compounds that either stimulate those receptors directly or by prompting the production of bile,
We smell things in the air around us by sniffing with the nose. But when we eat, there’s an additional pathway involved. “When you put food in your mouth and chew it up, the aroma from the food is forced up behind your palate and into your nasal cavity from the back,” Bartoshuk explains. “That’s called retronasal olfaction.” She thinks retronasal olfaction has a bigger impact on our perception of taste than the regular old route through the nose.
Her group has been studying this effect in tomatoes and strawberries. They’ve found, for example, that people perceive tomatoes of one variety, Matina, as twice as sweet as another, Yellow Jelly Bean, even though the sugar content of Matinas is actually lower. The reason, Bartoshuk says, is the mix of volatile compounds in each strain. She says her group has identified more than 80 volatile compounds that alter the perception of sweetness and saltiness via retronasal olfaction. Most have only modest effects on their own, but they have much stronger effects when combined. Bartoshuk thinks it should be possible to exploit those effects to create healthy foods that taste better.
Our brains evolved to crave sweet, salty and fatty foods because our ancestors needed to gobble up energy and nutrient-rich foods when they found them, Bartoshuk says. That’s why it’s so hard to change people’s behavior with education alone. ‘If we want people to get healthier, we can either keep trying to educate them, or we can find ways to make food taste the way evolution makes us want it to taste,” she said.
Oversleeping feels so much like a hangover that scientists call it sleep drunkenness. But, unlike the brute force neurological damage caused by alcohol, your misguided attempt to stock up on rest makes you feel sluggish by confusing the part of your brain that controls your body’s daily cycle.
Your internal rhythms are set by your circadian pacemaker, a group of cells clustered in the hypothalamus, a primitive little part of the brain that also controls hunger, thirst, and sweat. Primarily triggered by light signals from your eye, the pacemaker figures out when it’s morning and sends out chemical messages keeping the rest of the cells in your body on the same clock.
Scientists believe that the pacemaker evolved to tell the cells in our bodies how to regulate their energy on a daily basis. When you sleep too much, you’re throwing off that biological clock, and it starts telling the cells a different story than what they’re actually experiencing, inducing a sense of fatigue. You might be crawling out of bed at 11am, but your cells started using their energy cycle at seven. This is similar to how jet lag works.
If you’re oversleeping on the regular, you could be putting yourself at risk for diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. Harvard’s massive Nurses Health Study found that people who slept 9 to 11 hours a night developed memory problems and were more likely to develop heart disease than people who slept a solid eight. (Undersleepers are at an even bigger risk).
When you go to bed, your body cycles between different sleep stages. Your muscles, bones, and other tissues do their repair work during deep sleep, before you enter REM. However, if your bed or bedroom is uncomfortable—too hot or cold, messy, or lumpy—your body will spend more time in light, superficial sleep. Craving rest, you’ll sleep longer.