Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Spread Your Infection

It is cold and flu season.  In fact, I am getting over a cold right now.  But, I have a different kind of infection to talk about than the ones perpetrated by microbes.  I want you to be aware that you can be infectious in a positive way.

The PBS program Nova presented information about the effect others' moods and attitudes have on us.  Others we know can have dramatic effects on such things as weight loss, how we feel about ourselves, and whether we take on a host of healthy habits.  But, researchers have discovered something even more startling than that almost common sense idea.  They found that even friends of friends or other relationships that are two or three times removed from us can ding us with an affect.  There are strong indications that we reflect more attributes of those in our social networks than any one realizes.   You can see the whole Nova info at this link.

So take that idea of you likely plugging in values, attitudes, health habits, etc. into the social networks with people you are directly and indirectly associated.  Your social interactions, and the identities that you pick up from those interactions are shaping you, and you are shaping others.  Oddly, like bad news we can think of many bad examples where we suspect this is true.  For example, skinheads and neo-nazis collect together in social networks and share particular understandings of how society works and how they change the world, and I'm troubled by that!   But, what is true of the negative is also true of the positive.  We can be encouragers and upbeat and looking for the good in others.  The research implies that either the social networks we are in will respond by becoming more positive, and/or that we'll gravitate into social networks that have those attitudes.  These positive attitudes spin in directions that make us all healthier.

One of my favorite living saints who inform much of my own internal processing and self-help is Thich Nhat Hanh.  Two of his posts the past couple weeks have meant a lot to me as I think about how to implement a positive course correction into my social fabric.  The first one is basically that I am the happiness of this moment.  Until I read this, I had carried the belief that happiness was more like a bird that came into my life (or not) by some willy-nilly luck of the stars or something.  Happiness was some external energy that did it's thing to me.  But daily now, I pause to assess my mood (with the help of the Emojiary ap) and I have to remind myself that I might be the only happiness that someone will receive, AND that someone is fairly often me!  

This fits as corollary with the second post: "A true friend is someone who can offer peace and happiness. If you're a true friend to yourself, you need to be able to offer yourself true peace and true happiness."   When we treat ourselves as friend, as we'd like to be treated, and when we want good healthy things for ourselves first, then we radiate back that positive regard to others.  The ripple effect throughout the social webs we are part of changes the webs!

So what are your New Year's resolutions for 2015, or as I prefer, what Rule of Life do you want to write for yourself to live by in 2015?  Let's all consciously put into that resolve that we will work on adopting and incorporating happiness and peace into who we are and sharing with others all that those attitudes bring us.
  


Saturday, December 13, 2014

Green Power

No, no this isn't about environmentally friendly electricity -- though that isn't a bad subject!  This is about the empowering health effects brought to your body by chlorophyll.  Chlorophyll could be thought of as a plant's form of hemoglobin.  In fact, the chlorophyll molecule is remarkably identical to hemoglobin, except chlorophyll has a magnesium molecule where the iron one is at in hemoglobin.  Chlorophyll is what gives plants their green color, in the same way hemoglobin gives blood it's red color.

Chlorophyll is a terrific health-supporting substance.  You can get it by eating a lot of pretty green vegetables, or you can take a chlorophyll supplement, available at health food stores (or by clicking on my virtual dispensary button in the right margin.)  If you're getting good amounts of chlorophyll, here are some of the health benefits you can expect.

  1.  Detoxification.  Chlorophyll binds with toxins and helps them get eliminated from the body.
  2. Anemia.  Chlorophyll has been shown to improve the body's production of hemoglobin.
  3. Digestive Aid.  Chlorophyll helps digestive functions, likely through its magnesium.
  4. Fresh Breath.  Chlorophyll will freshen your breath by improved digestive function.
  5. Energy.  Chlorophyll provides building blocks for cellular energy production.
The highest levels of chlorophyll are in raw green vegetables, but if you can't tolerate raw then lightly steamed is okay.  However, if you cook vegetables until they are mushy and drab olive green you've probably killed most of the chlorophyll.

Some of the info for this was lifted from a good health website about Alkalkine Diets.  Their more detailed Chlorophyll article is at this link.  

Thursday, December 4, 2014

On the Cancer Front

An interesting tidbit of research news landed on my desktop this morning.  We have known for a while that red wine has a capability to prevent cancer, even though alcohol itself causes cancer.  The study I saw this morning explains this incongruity in more detail.  Researchers looked at the biochemical effects of alcohol metabolism alongside the effect of one of red wine's better known polyphenols called resveratrol.

The finding was that cancer is caused by how the human body digests alcohol.  One of the chemical byproducts of this digestive process creates cellular DNA damage, which over time and exposure will cause cancer.  On the other side of the ledger, red wine specifically, (No, Jack Daniels does not do it!) has resveratrol.  Resveratrol comes along and kills cells with abnormal DNA.(1)  So here is one take away: if one must drink, drink red wine as it has a corrective to the alcohol hit.  

How else do we convert this research finding into something pragmatically useful?  All researchers always end their reports with the typical caveat that "We have to do a lot more research before you use this information."  I don't happen to agree with that.  So here are two pieces of advice from this information.  1.  Do not drink any alcohol to excess.  By excess I mean any more than one or two drinks/beers at a time, and don't drink alcohol every day.  2. Add Resveratrol to your supplement regimen. Resveratrol (without the alcohol) has been available now for a few years from health food stores (or you can click on Newsletter and Blog Mentions at my online dispensary.) 

NatureWords for Health,
Dr. Mark


(1)  University of Colorado Denver. "How red wine prevents cancer." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 December 2014. . 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

HPV and Cervical Cancer

A study was presented at the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) that correlated HPV vaccination rates with the incidence of cervical cancer.  HPV (human papilloma virus) is the almost sole cause of cervical cancer.  HPV is transmitted primarily by sexual contact.  It is extremely common with some estimates running as high as 80% infection rates within the population.  Women develop cervical cancer as the primary symptom.  Men are asymptomatic and act only as carriers (as far as current medical knowledge is aware.)  There is a vaccine available for HPV that is recommended for inclusion in the vaccination regimen of childhood and teenagers.  There have been a number of complications from the vaccine, including some deaths.  So there are these facts to keep in front of us:


  • HPV is a sexually transmitted disease
  • HPV is responsible for causing cervical cancer
  • Having HPV does not automatically lead to cervical cancer
  • The highest incidence rates for cervical cancer are ages 25-50 years old
  • Men only carry HPV 
  • HPV may not manifest as cervical cancer for decades after exposure

The researchers found in this study that states with the highest incidence of cervical cancer had the lowest HPV vaccination rates, and states with lowest incidence of cervical cancer had highest rates of HPV vaccination.  Superficially, the quick interpretation of this finding is that HPV vaccination prevents cervical cancer.  If you're pro-vaccination, you make a celebratory leap and roll up your sleeve for the shot.  But wait a second.  While there is this finding, I would call it coincidental at this stage.  The HPV vaccine has  been on the market for, at best, seven years.  This really leaves not enough time for there to be any adequate or accurate correlations to be made between vaccines and incidence rates when the disease often takes many years, even decades, to manifest.


Those of you who know me know I'm not the biggest supporter or fan of vaccines in general.  I've gotten vaccinations from time to time.  I was raised in the "time of glowing miracles of new vaccines" - small pox, polio, etc.  I stood in line in my school cafeteria waiting for my shots and polio sugar cube.  Clearly diseases can be avoided through the use of vaccines.  There is something real about the "herd immunity" given through vaccinations.  For the individual however, the potential for side effects and living with health hazards brought by the vaccinations themselves do have to be weighed.  Individuals should still have the right to choose "their poison" so to speak.  There has been a tremendous swing in society toward an almost universal mandate to vaccinate.  My patients tell stories, and I have experienced myself, extreme hostility from pro-vaccination people for not wanting me or my family vaccinated.  If public health officials could guarantee with 100% certainty you won't react poorly to a vaccine, then they would have the responsibility to mandate 100% vaccination.  But, they can't make that guarantee.  The federal government has even waived our legal option to sue a pharmaceutical company for damages from a poor vaccine outcome.  Everyone knows and every medical professional MUST admit and inform you that there are dangers from injecting foreign immunological products into your body.  We should be allowed to choose our health risks for ourselves, and our children!


HPV vaccines do have some serious problems in a small percentage of the population receiving them.  Cervical cancer is a sexually transmitted disease.  It IS a serious disease and WILL kill you if you ignore it.  Celibate individuals should not be forced into vaccinations.  There are effective ways to prevent or deal with cervical cancer without the vaccine.  Getting a PAP smear every year is 100% safe and very effective at catching cellular changes early.  These changes can be effectively addressed through simple in-office gynecological procedures.  I use vitamin A suppositories in the vagina, which appears to effectively prevent HPV from triggering its cellular mutations.  There are other natural anti-viral protocols that also address cervical health.  So, pick your poison.  Not every woman wants to get a PAP smear, or endure office procedures inter-vaginally.  If you don't want to do that and you're sexually active, then get the vaccination!  Or go the other way I've just laid out and skip the vaccination.  Take charge of your health and make the choice that fits best for you without being unduly influenced by the pro-vaccination researchers' hype jobs, which is what I think this "study" is trying to accomplish.    


     

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Improving Emotional Hygiene

"Compassion suits our physical condition, whereas anger, fear and distrust are harmful to our well-being. Therefore, just as we learn the importance of physical hygiene to physical health, to ensure healthy minds, we need to learn some kind of emotional hygiene." -- Facebook Post from Dalai Lama, Nov. 6, 2014

The Dalai Lama's Facebook post resonated so deeply with my spirit that I decided to share it here too.  As a physician I admit to being frequently over-focused on physical health.  Most people come through my door expecting a doctor to heal what is ailing them physically.  I typically oblige with suggested changes to their health practices (hygiene) concerning diet/nutrition and physical exercise.  Many conditions, however, are direct issues of the heart, the soul, or the emotions.  Many more conditions include these other planes of being in the cause of physical imbalance.  His post left me pondering the need we all have for attentiveness to our "emotional hygiene."  The more stressed, anxious and depressed we are the more attentiveness we should be applying.  Here are some of the daily practices I work to include in my efforts keep my mind healthier.  If you have some that you find helpful -PLEASE - share them through the comments!!

Smile:  There is pretty strong evidence that smiling -- even if it has to be forced -- will improve your mood.  Try it and see.  One book I read even suggested holding a pencil across your mouth as a way to force a smile.  When you exercise your smile muscles a signal gets sent to your brain to lighten up.  You know you are smiling enough when you find your facial muscles hurting later.  "Smile until it hurts."

Read Scripture:  Many of the Apostle Paul's letters (Colossians, Ephesians, Philippians, etc.) admonish us to practice mercy, humility, gentleness, kindness, patience, generosity, etc.  Mining these books for these passages and committing them to memory is a way to impress their importance upon your mind.  When your mind prioritizes these attitudinal adjustments, your behavior (and your life) will change too.

Forgive: One of the largest keys to having a healthy mind is letting go of wrongs and mistakes of the past - be they yours or someone else's.  Carrying the toxic sludge of emotional baggage of resentment, guilt, and revenge around with you is a sure fired way to stay in a constant state of dank misery, oppression, and adrenal stress.

Encourage:  Instead of looking for what's wrong, attempt always to spotlight what is right.  Even in the worst moments goodness glimmers.  Habitual searching for what is good, brave, improving, and hopeful smooths out an otherwise very rough and rocky trek over life's journey.  We do have a huge impact on others.  Our words of encouragement to them will bounce back to us and lighten our day too.

Pray/Meditate: When I talk about prayer/meditation, I am talking more about quiet listening and seeking understanding than ticking off all the needs and wants I have.  While there is certainly room in God's life for the complaints, as well as the intercessions for others (as the Psalmist proves!), I think the greater dose of emotional hygiene is found resting in hopeful silence and watching for the illuminating insights that can flow from it.  
Journal: One of the best ways to self-process is to write them down.  This allows you to hear yourself.  This allows you to go back after you're done and see patterns and potential problems that you can reasonably address.  Journaling works well with prayer and meditation.  Keep a journal nearby and if a pesky or irritating thought keeps interrupting your quiet time, just write it down.  This will often release that thought's grip on your contemplation.


These are six acts of emotional hygiene I work at daily.  Do you have others?  Again, share them please in the comments.

    

Monday, September 22, 2014

Dump the Artificial Sweetners

Summary:
Increasingly, it is being found that the microbial world present in each of our digestive tracts has some impressive powers to reach out and change our overall health.  Discoveries in the past year have shown that our gut microbial colonies manipulate our food cravings and change our serotonin production and brain chemistry.  Now it's been discovered that the effect of artificial sweeteners on those colonies alter our glucose metabolism.  This creates more insulin resistance, more weight gain, and spurs the drift toward diabetes, even with zero calories.(1)

History of Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners have been around since the Roman Empire.  The first substitute for sugar was lead acetate, also known as "sugar of lead."  Lead poisoning was obviously a problem.  It was associated with the deaths of Pope Clement II and Mozart among many others, so it was banned very early on.  In the mid-19th century saccharin was developed.  Since then, five other artificial sweeteners have appeared on the market, including aspartame (Nutrasweet) and sucralose (Splenda.) Each of these substitutes have endured strong opinions about their negative effects on health.  Saccharin, for example, was banned for a few years starting in 1977 out of a concern it caused bladder cancer.  It was subsequently put back on the market (cyclomate removed near the same time, however, remains banned.)  Aspartame has been accused of causing migraine headaches and altered brain function.  Many airline pilots refuse to drink diet sodas before flying because it has created drowsiness.  This new study is the first to document that all the sweeteners can alter blood sugar regulation via the microflora of the digestive tract.

Comment:
I've been against artificial sweeteners for all nineteen years I've been a naturopath.  It is an extremely rare occurrence that ingesting a synthetic substance improves your overall health.  The human body is a complicated work of nature and eons of adaption.  It is always ludicrous to think that a superficial solution is going to change human physiology as we know it.  One simplistic solution cooked up for losing weight was to substitute sweeteners with zero calories for sugar (sucrose) that has about 16 calories per teaspoon.  On that single score it made some sense.  However, no scientist can predict how a synthetic substance will be broken down in the body, what toxins might be created by the chemical process a liver will put it through.  No scientist can predict what the body, and in the light of this present study - what the body's microflora, will do with the synthetic substance.  The bottom line is this: you're better off with real sugar from real plants (sugar cane or sugar beets), that is, if you MUST feed your sweet tooth.  The massively more healthy answer is extract your sweet tooth altogether and partake of nothing sweet.  You honestly won't die, and you will most likely extend your life by a few healthy years. 

Nature words for your health,
Dr. Mark 

(1)  Weizmann Institute of Science. "Certain gut bacteria may induce metabolic changes following exposure to artificial sweeteners." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 September 2014.         

Friday, September 19, 2014

This Is What Your Brain Does On An Anti-depressant

I'm not really sure whether this is good news or bad news.

A Bit of History:
 Around 1980 the first serotonin re-uptake inhibitor (SSRI) medication came on the market and very quickly after that pharmaceutical companies around the world popped in with five others.   They were each developed following a theoretical concept that serotonin affected the connectivity of the brain cell synapses.  Was there any proof that a connectivity issue with the brain synapses caused depression or anxiety?  No.  Is there any proof of that even today?  No.   Nearly 35 years have passed and SSRI's are one of the most heavily prescribed and studied medications in the world.  We still haven't got an answer to how they work, or if this theory on which they are based has any legitimacy.  Millions of people have used these "wonder drugs" and hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, hate the side effects and question which is worse to endure the depression or the medication(s).  Even worse, the psychiatric profession, in general, seems to subscribe to the belief that there is no going back and once someone begins a prescription psychotropic drug that the patient must remain on it forever. 

A New Study: SSRI's Work Quickly
A study reported this week in Cell Press reveals that a SINGLE dose of a serotonin re-uptake inhibitor medication alters the entire connectivity structure of the brain.  It alters the whole brain, not just certain places.   Previously, it was believed it took weeks to make these changes and they only happened in localized places.  It now has been shown that it takes place in hours. (1)

Comment:
 Is it good news that these medications will work that fast?  It might be if there was a direct link between connectivity and anxiety/depression.  Given the speed with which these medications alter the brain, one would think that taking one when you felt a little anxious or blue would be like an aspirin, and fix you right up.  But, I think it is safe to say that these medications don't work that fast, leading us once again to question just how DO they work?  The only thing that seems to work quickly is in the side effect department.  More disturbing is what does it mean to have your brain reconnected by a drug in hours time?  What does it mean to a young, teenager's brain to be altered when it still hasn't developed completely? There is small doubt that giving psychotropic drugs to teenagers for garden variety, run-of-the-mill dramas and difficulties in life is not appropriate.  It's not much more appropriate for adults.  We are awash in advertising and a brain-washed social attitude that we don't need to feel anything we don't want, and we get nervous around people who are anything but upbeat and on-their-game.  Don't get me wrong!  There are serious mental disorders that need pharmaceutical intervention.  The trouble is that only a small fraction of the millions of prescriptions being written are for these severe situations.  Most of the prescriptions are being written as "feel good" pills to shore up lives that are ungrounded, hectic, and too fast paced (literally crazy) to cope.  Rather than altering the "connectivity of the human brain," how about altering the crazy society and/or how you engage with it?

NatureWords for Your Health   
Dr. Mark



(1) Cell Press. "Single dose of antidepressant changes the brain." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 September 2014. . 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Antibacterial Soap?

Seems that the antibacterial agent used in antibacterial soap, Triclosan, shows up in urine samples.  I don't know if that bothers you.  In the very least it speaks to how our skin functions to absorb (or eliminate) substances.  What you put on your skin can get absorbed and travel throughout your body.  There has not been any ill health effects proven from systemic exposure to Triclosan (yet), but one does have to wonder if something is sufficiently destructive to bacteria to kill them, then what it might be capable of doing to our cells?  That question is beginning to be asked in various circles - especially among governmental agencies concerned about public health and the manufacturers who are always leery about potentials for lawsuits.  

There are several problems with antibacterial soap.  Largely because of the advertising for these soaps, the consuming public has developed germ-phobia.  We've gotten pulled into a war against germs (that we probably can't win.)  There are many germs that our allies in the war against illness, and we are killing them off too.  Then, the pathological germs have shown themselves quite capable of adapting to chemical warfare -- more so than we are, so we could be well on our way to causing more "super bugs."  The effects of these anti-bacterial agents on our own cell structure are unknown.  The human body is very responsive and it comes as a little bit of a surprise that exposures to an anti-bacterial soap that is immediately rinsed off, in most cases, can be absorbed in amounts quickly and effectively enough to then be excreted and detected in urine.  Generally, there are many chemicals that take a long time to do their damage, or for us to see a negative health effect.  What are our children being exposed to now that will appear in some unwanted health problems years down the line?  Finally, what effect are these chemicals having on the unborn children of pregnant women?    We know for a fact that another common chemical used in cosmetic products, soaps, lotions, and shampoos -- Butyl Paraben, reduces the size of newborns, in addition to its pretty strong association with causing cancer.  What will be the health toll of using the some 2,000 different home cleaning, health, and beauty products with antibacterial ingredients?

It's almost enough to make you go natural, isn't it?  For the record, natural soaps are as good as antibacterial soaps for washing your hands.

NatureWords for your Health,
Mark  

Thursday, August 7, 2014

What to Do About Aspirin?

Millions of people who have been to their doctor for a routine physical have been told the past few years to take a baby aspirin (81 mg) every day to prevent heart attacks and stroke.  Aspirin commercials and the medical profession have gone all out to teach this.  The FDA this past week issued a statement reversing this well rehearsed advice.  They now say that aspirin, while it may be indicated after a stroke or heart attack, it does nothing to prevent heart attacks or stroke.  Therefore, the risk from aspirin to cause bleeding in the brain or stomach outweighs the benefit.  Consequently, you should not be taking aspirin to prevent a heart attack.  Seemed clear enough.

A day later, out of Europe, comes very convincing evidence that aspirin is strong prevention against cancer - especially gastrointestinal tract cancers.  So, what does one do with this confusing duel of studies about aspirin?

Here is a little table to help you decide.

You should PROBABLY NOT TAKE ASPIRIN (check with your doctor to be sure.)
If you are allergic to it.
If you bruise easily.
If you have a blood clotting problem or you have difficulty getting cuts to stop bleeding.
If you have stomach or duodenal ulcers.
If you are taking blood thinners.

You MIGHT BENEFIT FROM ASPIRIN (check with your doctor to be sure):
If you have a family history of stomach or colorectal cancer in your family.
If you have a bad headache.
If you have a fever, aches, or pains.
If you have some kind of inflammatory condition (e.g. arthritis)

You PROBABLY RISK YOUR HEALTH TAKING ASPIRIN (check with your doctor to be sure):
If you are trying to avoid getting a heart attack or stroke.
If you think you are avoiding cancer (when all other cancer risk factors are low or absent.)

In every instance, it is best to check with your doctor.  About 7500 (non-suicidal) deaths per year occur due to aspirin.  It can cause hemorrhaging, so you should respect the fact that it is a drug, like all the others out there.  Don't take it if you don't have a clear need and indication to be taking it. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Modestly Reducing Lung Problems?

An interesting study just reported out of the U.S. Forest Service says that the air pollution trees are removing from the environment is saving 850 lives a year and reducing respiratory problems by 670,000 incidents.  (Read the study abstract by clicking here.)

Out of curiosity --  almost all of people I see with asthma or COPD seem to be having gradually increasing problems with getting enough air into their lungs.  If this has been true for your respiratory problems, post a short comment of "Me too!"   Not a scientific survey of course, but sometimes it does help on some level to know you are not alone.

The increased difficulty breathing and the results of this study give me pause to wonder if all the destruction of rain forests is behind the increase.  Forget the rain forests -- how many subdivisions have gone in where a pretty stand of trees is just bulldozed?  The study mentioned the more dramatic respiratory health impacts were seen in urban environments.  A few years ago some neighbors "clear cut" their yard.  They had large (beautiful) trees in their yard and they removed them all.  Have you got room for more trees in your own yard?  The National Arbor Day Society gives 10 free trees to your for a $10 membership in their foundation.

You might be one of those people with a "black thumb" and are single-handedly capable of exterminating every house plant you were ever given or ever bought.  But, if you aren't one of those rare serial plant murderers, you might improve the air in your house by getting some additional house plants.    These ten plants have been shown to be especially effective at cleaning the air:
  • Areca palm
  • Reed palm
  • Dwarf date palm
  • Boston fern
  • Janet Craig dracaena
  • English ivy
  • Australian sword fern
  • Peace Lily
  • Rubber plant
  • Weeping fig
(Read more: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/top-ten-houseplants-for-cleaner-air.html#ixzz38mv62sR5)

So -- if you or anyone in your house have breathing issues, give plants and trees a chance!

Natural Words for Your Health
Mark

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Medicine for Society

As a naturopathic physician, I work to treat the whole person.  Part of the whole person is the society in which we live.  If we pick up the news from somewhere, it is not hard to discern that the society around us has some health problems.  I don't mean people with health problems, but the collective of people we call "society" and how we treat problems we all face.  Take gun violence for instance.  My oldest daughter attends Seattle Pacific University and had her math class in the building where the recent school shooting took place.  To put it mildly, it rattled her sense of well being substantially, even though she was thankfully not on campus at the exact time of the shooting.  My younger daughter is graduating from high school tonight and last night she sent be a text from bed saying, "I'm worried about graduation tomorrow.  What happens if someone brings a gun and starts shooting everyone?"  When the effects of gun violence begin infiltrating our homes because we continue refusing to take even the simplest rudimentary steps toward protecting our most vulnerable members, there is a disease in the society!

There is a study out of the University of California just released online from the Annals of Epidemiology that looked at gun violence and its association with mental illness (another society health problem.)  It basically shows that gun violence is NOT typically being perpetrated by the mentally ill.  One could argue that it takes mental illness to pull a trigger and randomly kill someone.  However, people who are diagnosed with a mental illness such as schizophrenia, bipolar, or depression are very rarely involved in the mass shootings that have become a weekly event.  Only about 4% of the mass shooting events involve such a person.  In fact, this study reports that 6 out of 10 gun deaths are suicides.  As Jeffrey W. Swanson, a professor of psychiatry at Duke University Medical School says in the study report:  "It shouldn't be harder for a person in a suicidal mental health crisis to get treatment than to get a handgun."

There are 3.5 million people with serious mental illness who are not being treated in this country and more of them are committing suicide than are committing acts of violence against helpless classrooms of youth and children.  Domestic violence (another societal health problem) and people with violent behavior patterns are far more likely profile groups, and as the study in essence says -- these are the ones we need better protection from, and are the ones we need to prevent getting their hands on a gun.

If we're going to prevent fear, maiming, and death in our society, we simply must begin taking steps to curb the ready availability of firearms to people not trustworthy enough to possess them.  In Washington State we have Initiative 594 coming up on our ballots in the not distant future.  It takes a sadly infinitesimally small step to require background checks on all guns sales, including private sales and gun shows.  But, it's a start!  It's time.  Time for ratcheting down the ready availability of guns to those who can't use them morally, for providing mental health treatment over warehousing and ignoring mental illness, and to do something about the all too common social solution of getting angry and resorting to violence to make what irritates disappear.  Use your vote and take a small step for preventive health!!

You can read the abstracts of the above mentioned study here.
University of California - Los Angeles. "Gun violence and mental illness: Study addresses perception vs. reality." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 June 2014. .

For information about Initiative 594 you can visit this website.  Initiative 594


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Experiments With Diet

With obesity and diabetes in the weekly news circuits, we are all perpetually being faced with another weight loss commercial that promises fantastic results.  Frequently, or even most of the time, these diets take more weight off your bank account than they do your body.  Every entrepreneur has a weight fix-it and a lot of people join the ranks of diet dropouts because they don't work.  Why is this?

The main reason is we want things to be simple.  The medical field, in particular, seems driven to find One-Size-Fits-All solutions for all seven billion human beings on the planet.  But, seven billion people have seven billion sets of fingerprints - all of them unique.  Seven billion people have thousands of biochemical reactions taking place in their bodies every second, most of those reactions having their own unique quirks for each individual person.  Which leads me to say this about diets and weigh loss -- what works for you, works for you; you have to find what that is.  To find out what works you have to be willing to experiment, and be prepared to be disappointed many times in the quest.  Like the Hero's Journey, you have to overcome initial resistance and obstacles; descend into the dark mists of turmoil, hard work, and struggle; and gain a few allies and helpers before achieving success and finding a new relationship with food (your most long-lasting intimate friend.)

There are many options out there.  Dr. Mercola highlighted one this morning in his daily email that I'm going to try.  I actually make a hobby of, and enjoy trying out, new diet approaches!  This one is the "Intermittent Fast."  Calorie restriction diets have shown the most promise in longevity studies with animals, and some of the more obsessed-for-longevity folks have embarked on this difficult and trying path -- it's not for wimps!!!  Some studious diet experts have found some impressive successes in following a regimented, regular fasting schedule.  Of course, there is no agreement on what that exact schedule is among these experts.  Some advocate for fasting every other day (fasting = 500-600 calories a day) and eating anything you want the other days.  Some advocate fasting two days a week (the same 2 days split - e.g. every Tuesday and Thursday.)  The results appear to be comparable: weight loss, better blood sugar numbers (and control), and lower triglycerides and cholesterol.  Mercola, in his usual thorough way, covers all the health benefits and you can read about them by clicking here.  If you haven't registered with Mercola.com you may be asked to in order to see the article, but it's free and his information is always at least interesting - though I will say I don't agree with a good amount of what he claims.  Enjoy that!

Summer is a GREAT time for changing up your dietary and life style pace!  There's lots of fresh produce at farmers' markets and lots of time to get an exercise routine in place.  So make a fresh health pact with yourself and experiment with something new!

NatureWords for your Health!!
Mark

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Women Over the Hill

So when do women go over the hill and start a downward decline in health?  Would you believe 30?

From the British Journal of Sports Medicine:
Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in all high income countries.  Half of the global incidence of heart disease in women is caused by one of four factors: high BMI (obesity), high blood pressure, smoking, and lack of physical activity.  Researchers in Australia have narrowed this down further.  They have found that women over 30 years old who are physically inactive have greater risk for heart disease than women with any of the other three risk factors.  (They found that smoking was the highest risk factor for women under the age of 30.)

SO -- it really could be this starkly put...  once you hit your 30th birthday, sitting or laying lazily around decreases the days you will be alive.  The good news from this research supports the opposite.  They found just 150 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity A WEEK (21.4 minutes a day) erases low physical activity as a risk factor.  Stay on the upward slope of the hill.  Show your family your take-charge discipline and get in a brisk walk every day and stay in their lives for a long time!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Naturally Preventing Breast Cancer

Do you worry about breast cancer?  There is some really amazing news in this month's journal of Anticancer Research.  4,443 women with breast cancer were assessed from five different studies over ten years.  When their levels of Vitamin D were compared, those with the lowest levels of Vitamin D were 94% more likely to have metastasis and had a 73% greater chance of dying. On the flip side, those with the highest levels of Vitamin D had reversals in their disease.  What's this mean?

Obviously, the first thing you should think about if you have worries of breast cancer is get your Vitamin D levels checked.  Just keeping your levels high can be preventive.  In the studies levels of 40-60 ng/l of 25(OH) D were in the protective range.  Pushing it up to 80 ng/l actually reversed tumor growth in those with existing disease.

Second, having adequate levels of calcium in circulation also seemed to facilitate Vitamin D effectiveness.  The authors of the study recommended 1500 mg of calcium a day along with Vitamin D supplementation.  This flies a bit in the face of the cardiovascular risks from calcium supplements that I've addressed in other blogs here.  Getting calcium from food sources and taking a calcium supplement that also includes other minerals such as magnesium, zinc, boron, and Vitamin K2 would modulate the cardiovascular risks of a straight calcium pill.

Third, the study also hinted that the same mechanics that cause Vitamin D to be a preventive/treatment for breast cancer might likely also do the same for prostate cancer.  So men can also benefit from getting plenty of the sunshine vitamin too.

So, everybody get out there and get some (moderate) sunshine starting up those gardens or start making sure you're getting adequate amounts of Vitamin D.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Fun of Herbal Medicine

I love herbal medicine!  There is just something mysterious and wonderful to think that you can actually grow your own medicine.  Yeah right?  Right in your own yard - a veritable green pharmacy!  So i love researching medicinal qualities about plants, and what plants need to grow, and where they can be grown.

Take for example, my herbal research project this afternoon.  A little news headline caught my attention: "Ancient Chinese Medicine Put Through It's Paces for Pancreatic Cancer."  I like hearing news about plants and cancer.  I hold out firm faith that the good Lord put the cure for cancer on this planet, and it's been lurking here somewhere just waiting to be found.  So this article immediately drew me to it.  They are testing an extract of the bark from the Amur Cork tree (Phellodendron Amurense) on pancreatic and prostate cancer with optimistic-looking results.  That's pretty cool.  I wondered what the tree looked like and where it grows.

Turns out the tree is native to China, but it is being sold for growing in Zones 4 and higher.  That's where just about all of us Americans live.  It's a quite pretty spreading shade tree.  Also turns out its bark isn't just for cancer.  Last August PubMed, the national clearinghouse for medical research, reported a study about a supplement that had Phellodendron in it.  The supplement had worked really well in reducing cortisol hormone levels.  Cortisol is a stress hormone that is produced to trigger our fight-flight reaction.  It is associated with weight gain, jittery nerves, insomnia, and can lead to a crash and burn kind of thing physically - burned out, depressed, and anxious.  All of those things were improved with this supplement in the study.  So, think of it -- you could go to a garden nursery, order yourself an Amur Cork tree for your yard.  Then, go out and collect a bit of bark from it, steep it, and drink your Cork tea every afternoon and fall right out of stress, anxiety, obesity, and cancer -- all in one shot!  WOW.

An even more fun side note on this is - the supplement is marketed under the name Relora and come to find out -- I had it sitting right in my dispensary already!  And I didn't even realize that a supplement that I got a while back to try for weight loss (and hadn't gotten around to) had so many other uses.

With spring just around the corner, I'll be sharing some more blogs about other interesting, easier to find and grow herbs that you can be planting in your garden soon.


Saturday, February 22, 2014

The On-going Battle With Bacterial Infections

Years ago there was a comic strip in the newspaper where a pickup truck was turned over on the side of the road with smoke coming out of it.  There were tumbleweeds blowing across the road and on the hill overlooking the carnage a small tumbleweed was talking into a communicator saying, "The Venusians score another one for planetary domination."  Reading about infectious disease these days sounds a lot like that, like the bacteria are winning the war.  MRSA (methicillin resistant staph aureus) causes over 80,000 skin, lung, or septic infections a year with 11,000 deaths.  It's just one of a growing legion of different bacterial species that are antibiotic resistant.  Their resistance developed by  natural selection aided with the speed of their reproductive capability and our gross over-use of antibiotics.  Hospitals, nursing homes, and group care facilities are the largest incubation chambers, but make no mistake -- you can come into contact with them virtually anywhere.  The last two or three generations have hardly known what serious bacterial infections could do because we have had antibiotics readily available.  To now read about dangerous infections that we lack treatments for is frightening.

The good news is that from the natural side of medicine there are weapons against even these mutated bacteria.  The inhabitants of planet Earth would not have survived this long if there were not an effective system of checks and balances firmly in place.  So, here are a few of the ways bacterial infections get treated in naturopathic medicine.  (Most of these methods have been and are being tested against MRSA.  There is no reason they should not work as well with other species of bacteria.) 

A.  Build Immune Defenses:

  1. Radically limit or eliminate sugar from your diet.  Sugar completely weakens the immune system.
  2. Exercise daily to build strength and stamina, and increase lung and cardiovascular capacity and circulation.
  3. Insure you are getting enough protein and good fats in your diet.  Both are essential for healthy white blood cells.
  4. Wash your hands often.  Work to break any habit of touching your face and mouth with your hands and fingers.
  5. Take a hot bath daily.  Raising your body temperature temporarily will destroy a lot of bacteria and viruses, as well as stimulate more vigilance by white blood cells. (This is even more effective if you have the courage to take a minute long cold shower afterwards.)

B.  Eliminate the Bacteria: I'm just going to list the substances that are getting used with effective success.  For how to use them, you'll have to talk to me.

  1. Neem
  2. Tea Tree oil
  3. Garlic
  4. Turmeric
  5. Homeopathy
  6. Coniferous tree essential oils such as Cedar, Pine, and Blue/Black spruce*
  7. Colostrum*
* The last 2 have no scientific studies that I'm aware of, however, I have had good results using them with ordinary bacterial and viral infections.
       

Friday, February 21, 2014

Toxins in the Food Chain

There are more than 4,000 chemicals in use for food packaging.  These chemicals fall in a category known in the industry as Food Contact Materials (FCM).  These synthetic agents could pose health risks to us when they leach into the foods we eat, says a report from environmental scientists.(1)  Some of these chemicals include cancer initiators (e.g. formaldehyde, bisphenol A) and hormone disrupters (e.g.  phthalates.)  Because so much of the food supply comes packaged it's exceedingly difficult to avoid FCMs.  We do not know what the real health impacts are over our lifetime exposure to them, but the scientists are warning that many "epidemic" chronic illnesses such as cancer, obesity, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases could be getting made worse by FCMs.  Trying to pinpoint the health effects on a ubiquitous presence of 4000 synthetics is like looking for needles in haystacks.

The researchers identified the FCM's that have the largest potential for health impacts are from the hormone disrupters.  Many synthetic chemicals disrupt the metabolism of estrogen in particular.  In my clinical practice it is startling the numbers of women who have difficulties with their periods, like PMS, cramping, and heavy flows.  In men as well, the whole thing about low testosterone is being talked about in the media a lot.  While there is no small degree of marketing going into this, the environmental exposures to hormone disrupters could quite logically be at play in creating the symptoms.

What can be done?  Chiefly, one big way to avoid FCM's is to go back in time (so to speak) to growing your own fruits and vegetables, or buying them at farmer's markets and "putting them up."  In the summer my parents used dozens of Mason & Kerr jars of all sizes for foods from jams and jellies to applesauce to beets and green beans.  At summer's end our basement shelves were lined with jars and jars of food that we ate on all winter.

There are bisphenol A-free plastic storage bags for putting foods up in the freezer.  And, food dehydrators could certainly be used more.

To detoxify your body the following supplements and foods can be helpful.  Cruciferous vegetables (bok choy, cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts.) supply healthy amounts of sulpher compounds that your liver uses to metabolize various chemical compounds.  Cilantro has strong detoxifying capability, as does cholorphyll (available at health food stores.)  Drink lots of water (from glass containers), exercise or take hot baths/saunas to stimulate sweating and deeper breathing, and get at least 25-30 gm of fiber a day will all contribute to keeping elimination pathways open so toxins can more readily leave your body.

So, you are not a hapless victim to the industrialized food manufacturers.  You have some concrete means at the very least of cutting down a lot on the exposures to FCMs and ridding your body of the ones you do have to be exposed to.

Source:
  1. J. Muncke, J. Peterson Myers, M. Scheringer, M. Porta. Food packaging and migration of food contact materials: will epidemiologists rise to the neotoxic challenge? Epidemiology and Community Health, 2014 (in press) DOI:10.1136/jech-2013-202593

    

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Guidelines for Women to Reduce Stroke Risk

Earlier this week I did a class with a group of women at Salvation Army about Heart Health in Women.  If you'd like my notes on that, or the quiz I gave them leave a comment here, or email me.

To add to that, there is this information on how women can reduce their stroke risk later in life.  It's important to know this information early in your adult female life, as what you do early can have payoff benefits in your older age.  Strokes still kill and disable more women than men, and they are the 4th leading cause of death in the United States.

The Guidelines:

1.  Before going on a birth control pill you should be screened for high blood pressure.  You should get your blood pressure checked regularly while taking birth control pills.

2.  Women with a history of high blood pressure before getting pregnant should take low dose aspirin and/or calcium/magnesium during pregnancy to help prevent preeclampsia.

3.  If you have had a pregnancy with preeclampsia you are at twice the risk for stroke and four times the risk for high blood pressure later in life.  Therefore, be more vigilant about blood pressure checks as you age, and even more so if you also have other stroke risk factors such as obesity, high cholesterol, or smoking history.

4.  If you develop high blood pressure during pregnancy, it should most likely be treated to reduce chances for strokes then or later.

Source:
  1. C. Bushnell, L. D. McCullough, I. A. Awad, M. V. Chireau, W. N. Fedder, K. L. Furie, V. J. Howard, J. H. Lichtman, L. D. Lisabeth, I. L. Pina, M. J. Reeves, K. M. Rexrode, G. Saposnik, V. Singh, A. Towfighi, V. Vaccarino, M. R. Walters.Guidelines for the Prevention of Stroke in Women: A Statement for Healthcare Professionals From the American Heart Association/American Stroke AssociationStroke, 2014; DOI:10.1161/%u200B01.str.0000442009.06663.48




Thursday, February 13, 2014

Mammograms Take a Hit of Their Own

This news out of Canada: 

So out of Canada comes the pretty solid evidence that screening mammograms are not adding a thing to women's health care except a lot of unnecessary expense and anxiety.  All the hype about early detection of breast cancer and the shaming of women who do not choose to get mammograms amounts to a lot of hot air.  Yet once again, this is news that isn't really new, but it has been difficult to tell women they didn't need mammograms with all of the high powered brain washers going full tilt. 

The problem belongs in the laps of all those who are super keen about new technologies.  Sciency-types all presume their new technology inventions will save the world.  They convince everyone and put their machines out for sale on the gossamer theories of how the technology is supposed to work on paper.  We all flock to see the bells and whistles and put all our hopes in the newest science to save us.  This goes for mammogram machine manufacturers as well as pharmaceutical drug creators, and computer giants.  We all begin to wonder how the world survived without MRI's, CT-scans, ultrasounds, mammograms, and maybe a few hundred or even a thousand blood tests.  We're technology happy, whether it works like it's advertised or not.  In the case of mammograms they don't work, not any better in terms of mortality than an old-fashioned physical breast exam.  If a woman wants just a little extra technology boost then why not use thermography rather than shooting a bunch of x-rays through her body?  It's been a question I've had for more than ten years, and why I've continued doing thermograms even when the mammogram-crazed professionals stared at me with incredulity.  Sadly, we can't have 100% guarantees - not 100% accuracy in detection,  not 100% effective therapy, and not 100% remissions for life.  But, in medicine we work really hard to do no harm.  I'm grateful for the Canadian study that it, at least. gives back to women the level field to more rationally choose whether to shoot their breasts with x-ray radiation or not.  May the mammogram intimidation end!

       

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

This is Your Brain on Stress

"Wow, this is pretty stunning," was my primary thought when I read the results of a study out of the U. of California, Berkeley, reported in Molecular Psychiatry and abstracted by Science Daily.(1)

In a nutshell, the researchers found that rats that underwent long periods of chronic stress wound up with structural brain changes.  These changes created a streamlined communication linkage between the emotional center (hippocampus) and the fight-flight reaction center (amygdala) and reduced connectivity to the prefrontal cortex (where rational thought resides.)  This shift in brain structure strongly suggests that chronic stress can lead to anxiety, panic, and other mood disorders.  So, chronic stress is making substantial organic changes in the brain with at least long-lasting, if not permanent, changes.  Are you mentally checking your stress levels  yet?


This is a pretty substantial discovery.  American society has turned into a seriously stressed out place to live.  Fears, worries, busy-ness, financial pressures, craving for personal attention or professional recognition, and massive social media voyeurism each ratchet up the overblown consciousness of doing life perfectly enough.  27% of high school students report feeling extreme stress during the school year.  "There's never enough hours in a day."  So, stress like this, experienced over the long run, leads to brain alterations that super charge the communication between the emotion center and the fight-flight center.'

I have the following suggestions for reducing stress:

  1.   Reduce use of social media.
  2.   Exercise regularly.
  3.   Get adequate amounts of sleep, target 8 hours (adults), 9.5 hours (teens).
  4.   Meditate or pray daily.
  5.   Avoid procrastination.
  6.   Eat well -- lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, plenty of fruits & vegetables, and  limit saturated fats but include good fats.
  7.   Don't eat when you're feeling stressed.
  8.   Limit or avoid pointless conflicts.
  9.   Listen to calming music where possible throughout your day.
  10.   Simplify your life and reduce clutter and disorganization.
  11.   Write in a personal journal daily and/or process feelings with a close friend or therapist.
  12.   Structure in time weekly for relaxing or enjoyable hobbies or activities.
  13.   Limit caffeine use.
  14.   Utilize adrenal supplements like Siberian ginseng, Rhodiola rosea, Pantothenic acid (Vitamin B5), L-theanine, glutamine, and 5-HTP.


(1)  University of California - Berkeley. "How chronic stress predisposes brain to mental disorders." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 February 2014. .
  


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Balancing Act

NPR picked up a story from the New York Times this last week about how cruciferous vegetables (kale, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, etc.) could cause people's thyroids to crash.  I find it disconcerting when these kinds of articles hit mainstream media because they seem to sow subtle messages that your food is hazardous and you are really too stupid to know what you're doing when you eat healthily.  The conspiracy theorist that resides in the back of my brain starts ranting and pulling out his hair knowing that "they" are trying to poison us with processed food from Costco and Sam's Club by scaring us away from Real Food.  So what is the scoop here?

Cruciferous vegetables are a significantly healthy family of vegetables that all of us would be better off eating.    Generally speaking they are among the most nutrient dense foods on the planet.  They support good digestion, great detox and liver function, strong bones, and good blood clotting and circulation.  Some studies have associated cruciferous vegetable intake with reducing cancer risks.  Bottom line: they're a good nutritious food.  There's nothing in them that should frighten or scare us.  They have been shown in animal studies to reduce thyroid function.  There have been isolated instances of humans having impaired thyroid function from cruciferous vegetables.  However, in twenty years of naturopathic practice, I've not seen them work that way.  I've had a fair number of people with over-active thyroids, which I've tried to treat by  having them eat a lot of cruciferous vegetables without any real success.  There may be a small number of individuals (who are likely deficient in a number of other nutrients) who might have a thyroid-lowering experience.  I'd like to meet them to try and learn their whole story!

Another possible explanation for the impaired thyroid is how much is their cruciferous intake?  There are individuals who, frankly, have some obsessive-compulsive leanings where they learn of cruciferous vegetables being healthy and they go totally overboard eating nothing but cruciferous vegetables.  They chop them, dice them, blend them, stir them, saute them -- mounds and mounds of them every day.  They go on the Cruciferous Diet and eat little but broccoli.  They are the people with raw cabbage in a little container clipped to their belts and a bit of cabbage leaf hanging out of the corner of their mouths when they talk.  They go nowhere without it.  These people could have some problems -- thyroid deficiency perhaps the least of them!

As in ALL things natural health related, and I have said this for 25 years: Moderation.  Moderation.  Moderation.  Keep things in a balance... ALL things in balance -- from proteins, fats, and carbohydrates to sleep to sex to meditation to work to play to your cabbage intake.  We are humans beings.  We are capable of reaching stars.  We cope and thrive best with balance in EVERY aspect of our lives.   Keep yourself in the balance point and it will be hard for you to go wrong on anything.