I love HeartMath.
It's the only computer program that I can think of that I'd call a life saver. Others are useful, helpful or necessary for business operations. But not live savers.
HeartMath is. It's for real. Myself and all my formerly-stressed-out patients who have experienced the biofeedback training using the HeartMath system can attest to this.
At first, there was the emWave as a desktop or handheld version. I use the desktop version with myself and my patients (I do practice what I preach!). I usually have one or two handheld devices on hand for those patients who are most eager and committed to relieving their stress that they enthusiastically continue biofeedback training in their own time away from my office.
Then a month ago I learned about the Inner Balance Sensor: the next generation version for the iPhone, iPad and iTouch. Check out the video all about it, and get brushed up on this innovative technology in under 3 minutes.
It turns iPhones into biofeedback devices. That is seriously cool. Anyone can now access and use this technology in their daily lives. I've long been looking for a way to bring my in-office biofeedback sessions on the road. It's difficult to explain in words a concept that's instantly understood by just watching and experiencing biofeedback in action. Now when I'm out and about at meetings, presentations and other public events, I'll be able to fire up my iPad and have a scaled-down version ready to demonstrate on demand.
I recently saw that Dave Asprey, the Bulletproof guy, recently endorsed the Inner Balance Sensor as well as provided a very comprehensive overview of how it works. He's known for dismantling the entire way that we eat, and reconstructing his Bulletproof diet based entirely on research findings for optimal human performance and activity. Check out his diet guidelines, they're pretty spot-on.
As Dave Asprey's writings can be trusted to be firmly rooted in the scientific research, his articles are well worth a read: How to Biohack Your Courage, How HeartMath Training Helps You Live Longer, and Six Ways To Hack Your Nervous System. His theme is "biohacking" your body's physiology through the use of science, if you can't tell.
Well, that's my exciting news today, though there's much more in the works. But that will be exciting news for another day.
To your good health,
In an ever-developing expansion of my reach on the internet, PDX Holistic has featured Stress: what is it good for? At PDX Holistic, you can find my directory listing, find other holistic practitioners in Portland and get up-to-date articles and information straight from alternative medicine practitioners such as myself.
Ok, so that's not entirely true. But 99.9% of reactions to stress nowadays are harmful and unnecessary.
Here's a whirlwind tour on what stress is doing to you and your body, why it sucks, and what you can do about it to have a happier, more kick ass life.
Most of us have heard that the physiologic (body) response to stress has evolved to run away from woolly mammoths or saber tooth tigers or something along those lines.
Well, ok, great, but we were also club-swinging unibrow-sporting troglodytes (word of the day for ya). Things have changed. So why on earth would morning traffic and work deadlines cause the same effects in your body as a near-death experience as the hands (or claws?) of a neolithic lion? Because, for the most part, deep deep down in your genes and cells, not much has changed. You're still living, breathing and metabolizing like its 1999. B.C that is.
And what is stress and who defines it anyways? What cranks one person's stress-o-meter up to 11 (public speaking anyone?), is exciting, challenging and enjoyable to another. Well, the million dollar answer is: that person, thing, event or activity that is "stressful" is only stressful because you're responding stressfully to it.
Ok, before I go too esoteric and off into "what is is" land, let me break it down another way: stress as a word was not created to describe a human physiologic response. It came from civil engineering, and only afterwards did biology researchers take the idea and apply it to the human body. Stress is a force from the outside that is exerting its effects in you (or a bridge, but why split hairs). Or to quote the never-wrong wikipedia, "stress is a measure of the internal forces acting within a deformable body." Sexy definition, right?
So something is trying to deform your body (boss breathing down your neck, kids going nuts, no time to yourself) and stress is the amount those things are affecting you, internally.
But. But. The real kicker of all this is you have a choice in the matter. You can choose how all those external forces affect your internal forces and deform your body. (ok, I'll stop with the engineering talk)
There are many ways you can respond physiologically (and emotionally) to potentially stress-inducing events and interactions.
How do you respond? Crack like an eggshell? Crumble like saltine?
How do you want to respond? Bounce back from any hardship like a superball? Nonchalantly and gracefully move from one project to the next like a slinky?
You may have minimal influence over commuter traffic, paying the bills and having a ever-expanding to do list with never enough time-- but what you do have maximal influence over is your response.
This is more than a matter of "just think good thoughts" or "quit your job and move to Fiji" (though if you're looking to take a concierge doctor to Fiji with you, let me know). I work with people to build up their internal reserves so that they can react to life more like a slinky and less like an eggshell.
Getting and maintaining that attribute is a process (unless you do just move to Fiji)- but one that when working together, I have always seen stress diminish, anxiety dissolve and positivity and resilience grow in their place. And from that standpoint, you can take on the tigers and bosses without losing your cool.
To your good health,
Lung cancer and smoking- got it. But did you know cervical cancer is linked to smoking?
Ninety percent (90%!) of cancers have preventable causes.
Here's a quick "What are my chances of getting cancer" quiz. Count up your points for these health factors. Do you:
More than 2 a day=2
Get checked for STIs?
Yes I have=0
No or "What is that?" =1
Eat fast food?
Have exposure to any of these known carcinogens (means cancer-causers).
One point for each: radiation exposure (occupational or many, many X-rays), polluted water, chemical or industrial toxin exposure (such as from your occupation or living nearby a chemical plant) and a history of bad (blistering) sunburns.
Now, if you didn't notice the pattern above, this is not the SATs. More points is not better- it's worse off for your cancer risk. And since 95-98% of all cancers are not genetic (inherited and perhaps inevitable), then that means there's ample time and resources for cancer prevention. Take a look at this engaging infographic from Rock Your Cause and see your nearest preventive medicine doc and cultivate your health for now and decades to come. Contact me for more, or feel free to email me day or night at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be healthy, well and happy. And remember, "prevention is the best cure."
There are over 300,000 people in the US who suffer a stroke each year, especially those with a personal and/or family history of heart disease, diabetes and clotting disorders.
The aftermath is uncertain and often ranges from paralysis to difficulty speaking and other far-reaching effects. Since the damage is already done by the time someone knows they have a stroke, prevention is key for this potentially devastating disease.
Research published last week in the British Medical Journal found that those who ate fish 2-4 times a week had a 6% less chance of a stroke, and those who ate fish 5 times a week had a 12% less chance of having a stroke.
Fish has been long recognized as an "anti-inflammatory" food, meaning that it reduces, rather than stimulates an aggravation of your immune system when you eat it. Just remember, that there is a wide diversity of fish out there, and be cautious in your choices.
Wild-caught Alaskan salmon, for example, has higher amounts of Omega 3 fatty acids and bioflavonoids than farmed Atlantic salmon- which is "pinked up" by artificial dye to look as healthy and fresh as its wild counterpart.
And when considering species of fish and fishing practices, over fishing and other environmental concerns (not to mention heavy metal content such as Mercury), it can at first be difficult to find a healthy source of fish that you feel good purchasing. Take a look at Environmental Working Group's Safe Fish List and this Sustainable Seafood Shopping Guide for pointers, recommendations and further reading.
Here's to your good health.
If it could never exist in nature, is it still natural?
Has science left common sense eating in the dust? When I see Cherry 7-Up Antioxidant advertising "A Delicious Cherry Way to Pick Your Antioxidant.," it seems that science, any science whatsoever, trumps common sense.
When you have no idea how your food is made, as is the case with pretty much all processed food, you leave your health in the hands of companies such as Pepsi-Co. Personally, I do not trust that these companies have my health in mind when they're advertising the antioxidant power of soda pop.
So, if Pepsi-Co won't look out for our best health, who will? You will. And if the old adage is right, that we are what we eat, then what should we eat?
Well, I for one was not created in a lab, so why would lab-created food be best for me? It wouldn't. What is "whole food?" I like to think of it as food you can identify. Meat, vegetables, fruit. What isn't whole food? Food that you have no idea how it was created. If you're squinting to make out the ingredient names (if you're looking at the ingredients list at all), you're probably not eating whole food.
And if you're not eating whole food, then you're eating part food and part chemicals, at a greater cost. A whole chicken and rice (or beans or potatoes) will always cost a family less than Combo/Value/Kid's Meals for everyone at a fast food establishment. And what kind of sense does that make?
If you want to read more on this, one place to look is Michael Pollan. I've taken the liberty to condense his already condensed "7 Rules for Eating" to the phrase: "Real Food, Not too Much, Not too Fast." See WebMd's page on him as a springboard into this topic.
Thank you for reading. I always appreciate your comments and questions!
Take time to stop & smell the flowers.
Most people have more inflammation (what we may call "pro-inflammation reactions") happening than their body really needs. Too much inflammation increases the severity of all those diseases and medical conditions we discussed in Part 1 (few diseases are really free from inflammation's influence), as well as leading some seemingly minor health complaint (such as occasional achy joints or a mild skin rash) into more severe disease categories all together (developing Rheumatoid Arthritis or Ezcema).
High levels of inflammation also lead to other diseases or conditions hopping on for the ride and serve to worsen your overall health (high blood pressure, then coronary artery disease then heart attack). To combat this, one must identify what actions and circumstances lead to more vs. less inflammation.
Inflammatory causes are a lot farther reaching than simple traumas. Most of your body's inflammation actually comes from all those factors in your day to day life that stress you out and make you less healthy overall. These include dietary and exercise choices, as well as pretty much any thing you surround yourself with that exhausts you and makes you irritable and on edge (work? relationships? daily commute?).
And anti-inflammatory helpers include a much larger list than just that Aspirin or Aleve in your medicine cabinet. Every choice you make to lessen stress and strengthen your health are working on your side to decrease inflammation in your body. Calm, nutritious, leisurely dinner with loved ones? Put that in the anti-inflammatory column. Cramming down a burger and cola while fuming about the rush hour traffic you're trapped in? That is upping the inflammatory responses in your body.
So continue to make choices to support your health and lessen your stress.
Lastly, feel free to contact me any time to continue this discussion further. I'm also open to topic suggestions, particularly related to health in the news. Send me an article link, or other topics that have come to your attention, and I look into writing a piece about them here.
Thanks for reading!
Inflammation- you've all heard of it, but few understand what's really going on. It's a lot more than just the swelling that happens after you twist your ankle or slam your finger in the car door. It's a very complex and dynamic interplay of many immunologic compounds interacting with each other in your body- on an almost constant basis.
It all starts with some type of trauma- an injury like listed above, or something a lot more subtle like blood vessels getting stressed out by too much tension (high blood pressure), or areas of the body becoming hypersensitive to invisible particles in the air (allergic reactions like hay fever). What happens then is a directed cascade of immune reactions where some guard molecules alert others to make reaction, and the message keeps getting passed along to more and more immune cells until you start the visible signs of inflammation like swelling or getting itchy eyes.
So is it all bad? Not really. There's a certain low amount of inflammation that is helpful when you really do injure yourself, to prevent overuse or strain of the recently injured area. But as for the rest of the inflammatory reactions we experience day in and day out, it's really better to decrease these as much as possible.
So how do you know if you have more inflammation than your body needs? Well, there's some well established medical conditions that will always be associated with high levels of inflammation. Some listed above are allergies (hay fever, allergic skin reactions/ ezcema, etc), high blood pressure (or having a strong family history of high blood pressure) and all other forms of Coronary Artery Disease signal high levels of inflammation as well as some other common conditions like asthma, migraines/ tension headaches, rheumatoid arthritis, PMS, problems with proper bowel function such as colitis and Irritable Bowel Syndrome- the list goes on and on.
In Part 2, we will talk more about inflammation, what it leads to and what can increase and decrease your body's amounts.
Please leave any comments or questions below, or see the Contact section to write me a note.