ROCKFORD — The quest to improve one’s health is marked not just by tried-and-true, time-tested methods, but by some pretty unusual — to downright quirky — ways to help people look and feel better.
Here’s the skinny on five unconventional health fads and whether they could be beneficial or detrimental to your health.
That’s right, it’s a thing. Goat yoga recently has catapulted to the heights of popularity. It’s yoga but with goats mingling about and walking up on you, often while you’re downward dog. Hint: Their little hooves provide the massage effect on your back.
Sean Brown, a physical therapist at Athletico, 7474 E. State St. in Rockford, said he’s seen this type of four-legged massage and it seems interesting, not harmful. As long as one’s not allergic to goats.
“It would be at least as safe as having a dog walk on you,” Brown said. “Anything that reduces your stress level can have a physical benefit.”
Drinking apple cider vinegar
Shirley Poole, a registered dietician nutritionist with SwedishAmerican Health System, said there’s really not scientific evidence that drinking apple cider vinegar is beneficial, but people who do say they feel better because of it. Whether an individual should drink it depends on that person’s health and how much they consume, among other variables, she said.
“People should be cautious of overdosing on it,” she warned, saying how much people consume is akin to eating one piece of chocolate vs. a pound of chocolate each day.
Detoxing the body through fasting or consuming certain concoctions
Everything people eat funnels through their livers — the body’s detox organ — and kidneys. Fasting or doing a cleanse, as it’s often called, probably won’t affect the body’s natural function, Poole said. However, these methods can cause people to drink more liquids, which will flush through the system.
“In some extent, all that water goes through the kidneys and picks up those toxins,” she said. “But that’s not to say that wouldn’t happen naturally” if people simply drink more water.
The average person has a variety of different types of bacteria throughout their gastrointestinal tract. The good kind is known as probiotics.
When purchasing a probiotic from the store, Poole cautions not to use the same product throughout the year, year after year. Different products contain different strains of bacteria, and Poole said these should be switched off throughout the year so the consumer receives multiple types of beneficial bacteria instead of a constant stream of the same old thing.
Probiotics also are found in foods, like kefir and yogurt containing natural cultures. The effects of probiotics are “a continuing new science” that constantly yields new insights and benefits, she said.
“More foods in their natural state are going to be having benefits we don’t know about,” Poole said, noting that what’s known today about the effects of prebiotics and probiotics is “very small” compared with what researchers might discover in years to come.
“How many food allergies are related to the bacteria we have or don’t have in our GI tract?” Poole questioned. “There’s a lot more studying to be done. That’s very unknown. I think prebiotics and probiotics will be very helpful, but I could be wrong.”
You might have seen those special running shoes that look like five-toed gloves for the foot, but this takes it back to the au naturel level. And there is some debate about whether running barefoot is beneficial or detrimental to one’s health.
Brown said barefoot running peaked in 2014 to 2015 and seems to be on the way out. But those interested in trying it should be cautious, he said, because they won’t have a protective layer between the ground and the soles of each foot.
“You don’t want to do it on Perryville. A grassy field is probably the better place to do it,” Brown said. “Shoes have only been around for 2,000 years so yeah, we did develop the structures for minimalistic or no footwear. But then again we didn’t have roads (back then). Do you want to embrace your inner humanness on a road? I’ve seen people do it and then get injured."
Running barefoot means running up on one’s toes, Brown said, which sets some runners up for injuries to their calves and Achilles tendons.
Josh Meyers, a physical therapist at Edgebrook Physical Therapy, 1643 N. Alpine Road, Rockford, said it’s not recommended for a couch potato looking to take up running. It has to be eased into, he said, and he helps people train to use what’s called the mid-foot strike pattern, which means landing on the balls of the feet.
“You’re going to make your muscles pretty sore if you don’t ease into it,” Meyers said.
If a runner and his or her muscles are strong enough, the mid-foot strike pattern is a running style that allows athletes to run faster, Meyers, said. These runners are less likely to suffer injuries, he said, making it a more beneficial running style for them.
“It puts the load on your muscles instead of your bones,” Meyers said.
Kristen Zambo: 815-987-1339; firstname.lastname@example.org; @KristenZambo