Improving Your Balance Naturally
As you grow older, balance becomes a more important piece of your health puzzle.
It makes sense. As you age, your muscles and bones weaken. Your digestive tract might become less efficient—leading to nutrient deficiencies. And your nerve pathways and reflexes slow.
If you need visceral proof, watch a teenager text sometime. Their fingers fly at light speed not just because they grew up with cell phones, but because their nerve network is running at max capacity.
The same can’t be said for the rest of us. That’s why virtually every professional athlete has to retire well short of 40.
Worse, when you start to show signs of imbalance—or, worse, experience a fall—things tend to snowball.
Anyone who has fallen is much less likely to be as active after the stumble. And greater inactivity leads to weaker muscles and bones, dulled reflexes—and a greater risk for future falls.
Over the past few years, the problem has actually gotten worse. In a recent 12-year study, self-reported falls have increase 30% amongst American seniors.
Luckily, there is plenty you can do about it. But before we talk about how to improve your balance, we have to understand why you may be losing it in the first place.
Finding the source of the problem
Recently, a patient came to me complaining of dizziness. She had gone to urgent care, where they gave her antihistamines, antibiotics, and a whole host of other drugs—to no avail. The doctors were guessing, without proper information, that her dizziness was the result of a sinus problem.
Doctors—especially in emergency rooms or urgent care facilities—look for big problems first. They ignore the small problems, small adjustments, which can make a big difference.
That is what I always check first. So I did what would have been most helpful in the beginning. I gave her a nutrient, allergy, and toxicity assay.
This is the greatest tool we have in the fight against nutritional deficiency and foreign contamination. With an assay, you can quickly and easily see if you’re missing something—or if a foreign body is causing an adverse reaction.
In my patient’s case, it turned out she was deficient in iron, ferritin—a chemical the body uses to store iron—and the hormone progesterone.
I gave her iron supplements and progesterone, and just like that, her dizziness disappeared.
Now, if you are having problems with your balance, it could be caused by all sorts of factors. Iron deficiency is just one of many possibilities—and one that most doctors won’t catch, because regular assays don’t test for iron.
That’s a big mistake. Too much or too little iron can cause all sorts of problems, including dizziness—and cancer.
But that’s a subject for another day. The important takeaway here is that you are your best—and, in many cases, only—advocate.
If you aren’t feeling well, see a doctor and get a nutrient assay. Before anything else, find out if you are in balance.
Get allergy and toxicity assays as well, to make sure that nothing is poisoning you.
With that knowledge, you can often guide your own care. Sometimes, with something as simple as iron supplements.
A surprising number of balance issues are actually nutrition or allergy issues. Less common—but still present—are toxicity issues.
If your balance is being affected by one of these problems, you could have a very easy fix on your hands.
However, inevitably, we all lose balance as we age. But here’s how you can help slow the fall.
- Eat right As I just mentioned, nutrient deficiencies can directly cause balance problems.
However, nutrient deficiencies can have a more indirect effect as well. If you are eating too many fats and carbs, for instance, you are likely to feel lethargic after meals.
Lethargy leads to inactivity. And inactivity leads to decreased muscle and bone mass, along with a less efficient neural network.
Make sure you are giving your body the proper fuel to operate at peak condition.
- Throw the ball Studies have shown that exercises involving a throwing motion help your body’s balance. Because the act of throwing and catching involves lots of tricky calculations your body must make, it’s a great exercise for your nervous system, along with your muscles and bones.
The study was done using a medicine ball, but throwing a baseball or even just throwing a bouncy ball against the wall and catching it will train and improve your coordination.
And that increase in coordination will help your balance.
- Do complex movements This doesn’t mean you need to strike difficult yoga poses.
Rather, it means that you should do movements that involve your whole body. The more muscles have to coordinate with each other, the better.
Yoga can count, in some cases. Tai chi is a great exercise as well. But so is dancing! And simply walking around!
Anything you can do to get large muscle groups communicating with one another will do wonders for your balance.
- Heel raises If you are going to practice a limited exercise, make it heel raises.
Although the motion is small, the effects travel up and down your body, strengthening your legs and your core. In other words, the parts of your body most responsible for holding you upright.
Best of all, you can do heel raises each morning and evening as your brush your teeth. Adding this little wrinkle to your morning and evening routine can have an outsized effect on your balance.
- Strengthening all your muscles and bones The best possible thing for balance is a strong body, through and through. Your muscles can help hold you in place and protect you in any fall.
Meanwhile, stronger bones give your body a better infrastructure, and reduce the likelihood of any real damage sustained during a fall.
Getting stronger muscles and bones takes more than one or two quick pointers. That’s why I’m saving most of my tips for the second part of this series, devoted entirely to strengthening your bones.
Practice all these exercises and habits, and you can keep balance problems from interfering with your life.
And that, after all, is the goal of all wellness in the end.
- Healthy Years, “The act of better balance”, December 2015, page 3