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,
Step 1: Exercise
Group exercise is great for those seeking accountability.
I was asked to write an article without all the fancy scientific words and research. I welcome a challenge, and here you go.
People frequently want to talk with me about diseases (that maybe they or a family member have), treatment options, herbal information or advice. And it's really understandable- I am required to fit all that information in there. The only problem, because I truly do want to help people, is that "diagnosing or treating" is something that only a doctor can do for a patient. Providing that information without having that relationship gets me into hot water.
So, here's a mini-series (I'm guessing only two, so a "very mini" series) on what I'm seeing as the top things that doctors, public health officials and medical researchers are saying to do for your health.
Step 1: Exercise.
It appears to matter less what type, or how much, or for how long. As long as your moving on a regular basis, those in the know say that may experience such "side effects" as weight loss, mental clarity, more stable mood, better digestive functioning, less fatigue, improved heart health (and pretty much every other organ as well) and decreases the effects of most types of chronic diseases- just to name a few.
So, move your way to health. And watch the below video for some animated inspiration.
When it comes down to it, most people just want to know how to be healthy. And, of course, we all have our unique set of medical concerns- but exercise can help most of those (and has been shown in research). Now, 30 minutes of walking as suggested in the above video will be easy and doable by most readers here, but consult a doctor if you're considering a drastic change to your exercise routine (or beginning one for the first time). I won't be held responsible for anyone's kick boxing-induced injuries.
If all of the above information is still not convincing, then either find what works for you. Some healthcare practitioners are great at helping folks make positive changes to their daily routine (I like to think of myself as one in training).
For yet further information about exercise and research-based recommendations, check out Harvard's School of Public Health article "The Benefits of Physical Activity."
Chronic pain is a wide-spread issue. Addressing pain management issues are complex and often ongoing and many times fraught with continued patient discomfort and dissatisfaction. For example, Vicodin is the #1 most prescribed medication in our country, but this doesn't do anything to treat or help heal the reasons for one's pain. So the more therapies available to treat chronic pain, the better!
Chronic pain is defined as pain experienced three months after the original injury is considered healed. Here are the top therapies for chronic pain (both in terms of amount accessed and evidence-based effectiveness):
* Anodyne pharmaceuticals (painkillers): Vicodin, Oxycontin, muscle relaxers, etc.
* Biofeedback: by observing a bodily rhythm or signaling via computer imaging, the patient impacts their experience. A simple type of this is breathing patterns adjusted by looking at a monitor displaying one's blood pressure.
* Meditation: Mindfulness meditation has in particular been shown to decrease one's perception of pain.
* Hypnosis: Many methods and styles are available to change one's psychological responses.
* Tai chi: Chinese meditative energy movement styles which are often found to help with many chronic disease concerns (such as its effect on patients living with heart failure) .
* Awareness, concentration and expectation: patients perceived less pain if told the pain would end soon, were concentrating on a mental task or while concentrating on a picture of a loved one.
There are many therapies to address the acute pain one feels after a trauma or surgery. And they work quite well to dull your brain's perception of that pain. But when dealing with chronic, debilitating pain lasting months or years and affecting one's quality of life, there just isn't one "magic bullet" for everyone. The best approach will most likely comprise one or more of the above treatment options, while incorporating one or more healthcare practitioners who deal with pain management and find efficacy in dealing with underlying causes (a few examples might be massage therapy, Chiropractic care, acupuncture, Naturopathy, physical therapy or orthopedics).
Thank you for reading, please email me any time!
Bringing acupuncture to hospitals benefits patients.
Hospitals are increasing their use of integrative medicine, which is no surprise since the majority of healthcare workers use these therapies.
The results of a recent survey of over 700 American hospitals were reported by the American Hospital Association by the non-profit Samueli Institute. They asked hospitals about their Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) offerings; a few highlights are below. The results are heartening for those wanting customized, full-spectrum integrative health care when needing hospital care.
The following are the top five most interesting findings:
1. 42% of the hospitals offer one or more CAM treatments. This is up 5% from the last survey in 2007.
2. CAM treatment types available at hospitals: massage, chiropractic, herbal medicine, homeopathy, nutritional counseling, acupuncture, smoking cessation, fitness training and more.
3. Top reasons hospitals offer CAM therapies: patient demand (#1) and clinical effectiveness (#2).
4. Top reason hospitals don't have more more CAM therapies: budgetary constraints.
5. And the number one most popular CAM therapy: massage therapy.
Massage therapy, along with many of the above listed CAM therapies has been a long-standing treatment option available at private offices nationwide. The introduction of such CAM therapies to hospitals will benefit both the hospital and the patient.
Hospitals benefit by being able to better optimize patient healing, recovery and pain management to name a few (which may result in shorter hospital stays, fewer complications and less medical intervention).
According to Nancy Foster, AHA's VP of quality and patient safety, patients benefit by these hospitals' "desire to treat the whole person—body, mind and spirit...Hospitals have long known that what they do to treat and heal involves more than just medications and procedures. It is about using all of the art and science of medicine to restore the patient as fully as possible.” Sounds like a game plan we all can agree on!
Thank you for reading, please leave a comment below or email directly.
The End To Deadly Allergic Reactions?
Asthma inhalers may soon be less relied upon.
New research from Northwestern Medicine shows promising benefits for the tens of thousands who experience life-threatening allergic reactions each year. By introducing specifically modified immune system cells, it gives the body a new signal, which turns off the anaphylactic reaction.
Using mice who were designed to have deadly allergic reactions to peanuts, the researchers attached peanut proteins to white blood cells which are normally a part of allergic reactions. Introducing these modified white blood cells prompts the body to create a tolerance, instead of a severe allergic reaction, to peanuts.
This "fooling of the immune system" treatment has also been applied to asthma and autoimmune disease research, such as Type 1 Diabetes and Multiple Sclerosis. All of these medical conditions have been shown to be reduced in severity by this immunological application (more info here).
So what does that mean for us who have experienced or who know they are susceptible to anaphylactic reactions because of severe allergies? Since this research has shown to provide such beneficial applications, it won't be long before human clinical trials are begun.
One day in the near future, this may be a treatment option given to patients suffering from severe allergies (and perhaps moderate or mild allergies). The treatment feel something like a vaccine or allergy shots (which in its current form contains hundreds of shots to provide its benefit). The white blood cells will be taken from a blood sample, allergic proteins will be attached, then reintroduced to the patient. Who knows? A few sticks then perhaps the occasional booster shot may provide permanent relief from severe allergies!
Thanks for reading, please as always feel free to send me a line. Comments and questions are always welso
Vitamins and Media: A Love-Hate Relationship, and their custody battle over Research.
So it looks like vitamins don't help us and may actually hasten our demise. Or at least that's the message the Wall Street Journal is wanting us to take away from recent research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine (article found here), titling their article, "Is This the End of Popping Vitamins?"
Well, in answer to their question, I hope not. Let me lay out this recent research publication, what it shows, and what it doesn't.
Highlights of the publication are that it was an epidemiological study, gathering self-reported data from tens of thousands of elderly white women over 18 years.
When controlling for (data analysis attempting to factor in differences of) age, height, education, a few chronic diseases (diabetes, high blood pressure, hormone replacement), activity level and smokers, it found these affects on the hazard ratio (increase risk of death):
But wait just a minute before you throw out all those vitamins and supplements out of the medicine cabinet (well, maybe the dusty ones can go).
Here's a few points to consider when evaluating how to use journal publications like this when making health care considerations:
And this makes sense to me. I don't expect any given supplement to decrease mortality rates across tens of thousands of people. I do, however, expect them to work for most people when specifically indicated (B6 for nerve and adrenal support, or magnesium for vasodilation and muscle relaxation).
So before you give up on supplements proving themselves in the scientific literature, make sure you're looking in the right places. NDNR and Natural Standard both offer plentiful information on vitamin, mineral and herbal supplementation with scientific backing.
For those interested in positive effects found of supplementation of the mid-aged and elderly as reported by NIH, please check out the articles here and here. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that "modest" supplementation of middle-aged women slowed the aging process. You can find that article here.
In general, I hope that those of you interested in your health are taking supplements for well-indicated reasons from knowledgeable sources, although the Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics found that vitamin D and omega 3 fatty acids was beneficial for anyone (the article here called it a "metabolic tune-up").
The issue as to supplements' efficacy and beneficence will not be resolved with a single publication. I anticipate following the research-lead discourse for some tim. Please let me know if you'd like more information about specific supplements and research outcomes. Thank you for reading.
Natural sources: sunshine, fish and mushrooms.
In a recent review of 75 scientific research articles, vitamin D is showing itself to be associated with lower rates of cardiovascular disease (high blood pressure, heart attacks and atherosclerosis) as well as better insulin control (essential for prevention of Type 2 Diabetes).
What this shows is a static picture comparing vitamin D levels and the above disease states. What this doesn't show is whether taking vitamin D will prevent these epidemic-level diseases in our communities.
So does taking vitamin D supplements help prevent these chronic disease? This particular research cannot answer this question.
The next step towards answering this, however, is already under way. These researchers started a research project last year comparing development of cardiovascular disease and insulin resistance (seen in diabetes and pre-diabetes) in groups taking either vitamin D, fish oil (high in omega-3 fatty acids) or placebo.
This study will continue for another five years, but these research findings could shed some light on dosage of these supplements and what disease risk factors doctors will confidently be affecting. I look forward to to resulte they may find, and will pass this information along when it becomes available.
Diabetes and Glycemic Index
Low glycemic index.
So after a few less than positive articles about diabetes (it's a global phenomena and may lead to dementia), here comes one of the more well known solutions. Published this August in the Journal of Nutrition, the research (here) looked at groups following either a vegan diet or that recommended by the American Diabetes Association.
The dieters followed specific glycemic index and load diets and were measured in terms of their change in weight and hemoglobin A1C (blood test which tracks diabetes managetracking measurement).
What this research found is that following either a low glycemic index diet or a low glycemic load diet will lead to weight loss and improved blood sugar regulation (a lower hemoglobin A1C and presumably better management of one's diabetes). Although the vegan diet showed lower glycemic index levels and the ADA diet showed lower glycemic load levels, both appear to be helpful in controlling the dysglycemic patterns of diabetes.
For more information about these diets, or the difference between GI and GL please contact me.
A brain scan, such as those which confirm Alzheimer's.
Research just published Sept. 20 in the American Academy of Neurology journal looked at the link between diabetes and the development of Alzheimer's (may be found here).
There was over 1,000 research participants of both sex, all age 60. They were measured for the presence of diabetes or pre-diabetes then followed for 15 years. Those who were diabetic were twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's and more likely (1.75x) to develop dementia of any type (Alzheimer's is a specific type which irreversibly forms plaques in brain tissue).
So what's the proposed link? Well, in diabetes, glucose remains in the bloodstream for a long time, waiting to be taken into cells but in the meantime floating around the bloodstream. Glucose which remains too long in the bloodstream leads to oxidative damage, hardening of the blood vessels (atherosclerosis) and glycosylation (think candied fruit but with blood vessels instead). All of this directly and indirectly compromises the body's ability to break down proteins, such as the amyloid protein which form the plaques found in Alzheimer's.
People with or at risk for diabetes now have one more reason to keep a close eye on their blood sugar levels and do what they can to keep them in healthy ranges. Diabetes is a complex, difficult disease. Bringing about positive change often means significant lifestyle changes and an ever-changing regimen of drugs.
Two positive things have come of this research. One is that those with pre-diabetes did not show as significant a correlation with the development of Alzheimer's, so encourage your friends and family members in this situation to not wait for until pre-diabetes becomes diabetes. The second is that the research authors have already begun follow-up research looking at what Alzheimer's rates they find in diabetics who then control their blood sugar levels and risk factors. I'll keep you posted on the developments.
Is that enough calcium for the day?
Women commonly take calcium supplements (especially when entering middle age and beyond), but dosage and reasoning is often not well described. How much information out there is research based, and how much is fear based?
Recent research from the British Medical Journal (article here), followed women for 19 years and compared calcium supplement dosages to rates of development of fractures. The results? Calcium supplementation maxes out its benefit around 750mg, with more not translating to better in terms of fracture rates.
Another piece of the women-calcium-fracture puzzle is that massively increasing calcium supplementation later in life (such as after an initial osteopenia or osteoporosis diagnosis) has minimal impact on bone density and fracture prevention by that point.
The authors' conclusions are that in terms of public health focus, attention should be paid to younger women with low dietary calcium intake, and away from loading up older women on calcium megadoses. So their take home advice is to start early, with diet, to prevent chronic disease later in life. Makes sense, I like it.
The last piece I can offer to this topic here is for interested readers to consult a Nutritionist or Naturopathic Doctor, as there are many dietary, supplementary and lifestyle variables to consider for one concerned about personal or family history of low bone density. Thank you for reading.