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Alternative Goes Mainstream - Or Does it?

June 11, 2011

Tags: order, movement, food, herbs, water, acupuncture, alternative-complementary medicine program, Alternative Goes Mainstream, Arzt für Naturheilkunde, Ayurvedic Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, BIDMC, biophysical medicine, board-certified, Boston, Cheng - Jill and Hung, Chinese food, chiropractic, conferences – medical, Continuing Education, diseases, Family Practice, Germany, healing foods, healing modalities, hydrotherapy, Internal Medicine, massage, medications, medicine – alternative, medicine – conventional, Natural Medicine, overweight, Primary Care, quackery, relaxation, research, subspecialty, subspecialty degree in Complementary Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine, under-exercised, yoga

Have you ever not told your doctor you are using an herb or a massage for your problems? Have you ever had a physician yelling at you because you dared mention such modalities at all? I am looking for gentle healing forms for twenty five years now – and I am astonished that I am still hearing about such fossil physicians and incidents.

This week I attended a gathering to celebrate a generous gift Jill and Hung Cheng have given to the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) in Boston toward an alternative-complementary medicine program.

We celebrated with speeches (of course!) and healthy Chinese fare, and had a ball, generally – celebrating that a farsighted couple tries to overcome the big divide between alternative and conventional medicine.

BUT: Why are we still talking about alternative?

There is nothing alternative in using healing foods and movement to help patients. Not astonishing, a new study showed that overweight, under-exercised physicians are utilizing less food and physical modalities to help their patients. Which means: Overweight, under-exercised physicians prescribe more medications. Scary?

In Germany, many modalities like herbal therapy, Natural Medicine, massage, acupuncture, yoga, relaxation, hydrotherapy, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurvedic Medicine, chiropractic, biophysical medicine, and so on are mainstream. Which means that a physician can pass an examination in a subspecialty, in front of a board of peers to show his/her knowledge. I have done it (Arzt für Naturheilkunde).

Are there quacks in alternative medicine? Sure, there are. But so are in conventional medicine. Not talking to each other only perpetuates the shortcomings on both sides of the aisle.

This is what is needed:

• A subspecialty degree in Complementary Medicine that can be acquired by any physician who has passed the Internal Medicine, Family Practice or Primary Care Boards.
• Conferences and Continuing Education that automatically comprise ALL healing modalities that have been proven useful in certain diseases and conditions.
• More research in complementary modalities – of course!!

Your Hair Stands on End – Time for an Oil Bath!

January 17, 2011

Tags: order, water, herbs, air – dry, Ayurvedic Medicine, bad hair day, bath oil, body folds, coconut oil, cold shower, ears, essential oil, hair day – bad, itch, mineral oil, nut oil, nose, oil, oil bath – warm, olive oil, oregano, rose, rosemary, sauna, scalp, sesame oil, shampoo, shower, thyme, winter, Your Hair Stand on End – Time For an Oil Bath!

Winter is the time of the year when the air is so dry that skin irritations blossom and – worse! – one seems to have a bad hair day every single day.

Get ready for a warm oil bath! Any vegetal oil will do: Olive is perfect, but I have used other oils too. The original idea comes from Ayurvedic Medicine; they use sesame oil. Coconut oil has the finest smell.

Don’t use commercial bath oil preparations as they contain preservatives, even luxury ones. Often they are mineral-oil based. You really need plant oils. Nut oils work well, unless you have allergies. If you like the smell, add a drop of essential oil to your warm oil, like rosemary, thyme, oregano, rose, etc.

It is easy to do, just a bit messy. I have done it in the sauna, on a big towel, or in the shower. In the shower, make sure to stand on a small towel because you will be slippery like a fish, and I don’t want you to fall.

Warm about half a cup of oil, either in a second pot with hot water, or on the radiator, or with a tea light. Don’t use the microwave! Stand by when you heat the oil! It easily can get too hot – make sure it is just nicely warm.

Take the pot with oil into the shower stall and rub it into every nook and cranny of your body: ears, nose, between the toes, into all body folds. Pour it over your scalp deliberately and hair and rub it in. Let it work for ten minutes or longer.

Wash your hair well, twice, with shampoo. Don’t forget the short cold shower at the end!

Your hair will fall smoothly again and your itchy skin calms down – until it is time for the next warm oil bath, in about two weeks.

Ugly Reflux

August 21, 2010

Tags: food, herbs, movement, order, water, acidity, alcohol, aloe vera, antibiotics, artichoke extract, Ayurvedic Medicine, Barrett's esophagus, betaine HCl, bone-enhancing drugs, cabbage juice, caffeine, calendula, chamomile, chewing, chocolate, citrus, coloring, corn syrup, dairy, DGL, digestion, eggplants, elm - slippery, enzymes - digestive, eating late, endoscopy, enzymes - digestive, esophageal cancer, flavorings, food allergies, food - cooked, food intolerance, food - processed, food - raw, foods - spicy, germs, gluten, grains - whole, gut, heartburn, HFCS, hiatal hernia, H. pylori, indigestion, infection, inflammation, junk food, licorice, marshmallow, mastic gum, meals - too big, neem, nightshades, nuts, over-eating, peppermint, peppers, plantain banana, potato, PPIs - proton pump inhibitors, preservatives, probiotics, reflux, SAD (Standard American Diet), stabilizers, starches - white, stomach, stomach acidity - high and low, stress, sugars, timing of food intake, tomato, trans-fats, Ugly Reflux, Zollinger-Ellison syndrome

Reflux is one of those ailments which keep people going to the doctor and take medication forever – and on the face of it, there’s no cure.

And, in the long run, it can be a dangerous disease. Longstanding erosion of the esophagus can lead to Barrett’s esophagus and even cancer.

Why are so many people with the diagnosis of reflux?

Reflux is, in most parts, another disease with owe to SAD – the Standard American Diet. People have intolerances to certain foods and allergies, and those keep the esophagus (and possibly the stomach and the whole gut) inflamed. Instead of eliminating the offending foods, the doctor prescribes Zantac or Tagamet or even one of the stronger proton inhibitors. And has gained a life-long patient.

In the long run, those stomach medications create new problems: Since they all reduce acidity, they also may hinder digestion, and further infections as the stomach acid is supposed to kill invading germs.

PPIs (proton pump inhibitors, drugs lik, Prilosec, Prevacid and Nexium), the strongest anti-heartburn medications can also be addictive, can trigger food allergies, and can weaken your bones.

Heartburn only comes in very rare cases from producing too much acidity for no good reason (that condition is called Zollinger-Ellison syndrome, and should be ruled out by your doctor if the burning goes on relentlessly, regardless what you do). Normally, your stomach reacts with acidity when you eat something wrong. Or if you just each too much, period. So, why fighting the acidity, if you can eliminate the underlying cause?

Sometimes physicians diagnose a “hiatal hernia” – a gap in the diaphragm that allows the stomach to come a bit into the chest area. No connection has been found between HH and reflux. It seems that many people have a hiatal hernia, for reasons unknown – or for carrying a paunch that pushes the organs up into the lung cavity; for instance, it is very well known, that heartburn is extremely common in highly pregnant women. Perhaps also lacking exercise makes the diaphragm go limp. Whatever it is, hiatal hernia does not cause reflux.

If you want to break that cycle – here is what you can do:

Find out what your body does not tolerate. It is not difficult. Write a food journal. The most common culprits are, in my experience,
• Gluten
• Dairy products
• Corn syrup (HFCS)
• Tomatoes (and the whole nightshade family actually – peppers, eggplants, potatoes, too).
• Chocolate could be the culprit.
• Or nuts.
• Harsh foods: alcohol, caffeine, citrus, and spicy foods.
• ANYTHING can lead to a reaction. And not only burning in your esophagus; bloating, cramps, diarrhea, constipation, joint pains, migraine headaches, and many more symptoms can stem from food intolerance.
• Certain medical drugs are the culprits – Fosomax, for instance, that is intended to make your bones stronger (I would not touch it because of its side-effects. Better food and more movement certainly gives you stronger bones without side-effects).
• Sometimes it is not the kind of food but how it is prepared: raw versus cooked. Usually, cooked is easier on the stomach.
• It might be the timing: Some people get away with a raw salad or an acidic fruit during the day, but not at night, as the last meal that lingers in their stomach.
• Or a whole food group: Many people do better without sugars and white starches and reduced whole grains.
• Basically, all junk foods and processed foods are under suspicion. They contain trans-fats and preservatives, coloring, stabilizers, flavorings that are alien to you body.
• Drink enough water - but not with meals or right afterward.

Of course, it is better, to not be indiscreet in the first place. But if you are looking for healing alternatives:
• Mastic gum is my favorite; it is an agent that covers the stomach and helps if you have been indiscreet, food-wise. Unfortunately, mastic is not cheap. An alternative, paid by insurance is Carafate, with a similar action.
• DGL licorice helps – it is a deglycyrrhized licorice that does not have the bumping effect on blood pressure. This comes also as a lozenge.
• Other herbs that soothe the stomach are chamomile tea, aloe vera juice (or eat directly from the plant – the jelly-like inside of the leaf; avoid the green outside leaf – it is a harsh laxative), slippery elm, plantain banana, calendula and marshmallow (the real herb – not the sweet candy!), cabbage juice, artichoke extract. But watch it: I, for instance, have a chamomile allergy; that would make the situation worse.
• It is always a good idea to start out with the Ayurvedic herb neem which kills all sorts of infections because, unbeknownst, germs can cause all the indigestion. Ask your doctor.
• In an acute attack, sleep with your upper body a bit elevated (turns the flux downward).
• Always chew your food well! Big chunks might lie in your stomach like stones.
• Help your whole digestive tract with probiotics.
• Eliminate stress – especially when you eat. Sit down for three meals a day – don’t gobble things down on the run!

This is what to avoid – besides hurting foods:

• Too big meals.
• Eating after dinner.
• Peppermint – as it has a relaxing effect on the sphincter that closes of the stomach.

A reminder: Before you embark on a natural healing course, it is a good idea to have endoscopy – because you don’t want to overlook anything serious. And make sure your doctor looked for an H. pylori infection. On the other hand, there is evidence, that a bit of H.pylori might be necessary for normal digestion – and triple antibiotic definitely could do some harm.

And then – just to confuse things: Elderly people often have too low stomach acidity, and if they are taking medications that lower it even more, one can imagine that this will lead to problems. There is a supplement for this condition: betaine HCl. And some patients with can be helped with digestive enzyme – a whole new topic.

High Blood Pressure - the Disease of Lost Balance

May 9, 2010

Tags: order, water, acupressure, acupuncture, aromatherapy, art therapy, Ayurvedic Medicine, balance, biofeedback machines, breathing exercises, cold shower, cupping, electrolytes, exercise, high blood pressure, High Blood Pressure - the Disease of Lost Balance, HTN, hypertension, journal writing, massage, minerals, music therapy, overweight, Raynaud's, salt, shower - cold, sleep, stress, Traditional Chinese Medicine, visualization, weight lifting

If you have high blood pressure, ask yourself if you have balance in your life. If you feel you are off-kilter - here is what you can do:

1.Balance physical and mental exertion: Walk 10 minutes every day. No excuses: rain or shine, snow or ice. Bundle up for the weather and just go. Best times are after work, to release stress, and at noon to catch some rays of sun. — Shut off TV and computer - move more. Take up activities you like. Avoid weight lifting and isometrics, rough contact sports, races and competitions — your blood pressure is already high enough.

2.Balance inhaling and exhaling: Quit smoking and learn breathing exercises. Here is a simple one: Take three deep breaths every hour on the hour while awake. Always start with a deep exhalation.

3.Balance your electrolytes: Cut down on salt and salty foods like deli and canned goods. Food in restaurants and ready-made foods are loaded with hidden salt. Drink tons of water to flush out excess salt.

4.Balance warm and cold: End every hot shower with a cold shower: Turn the handle on very cold, start at your feet, then your hands and face. Finally the whole body. The whole thing takes just a few seconds. - Contraindications: uncontrolled high blood pressure, severe hardening of the arteries, Raynaud’s.

5.Balance your weight toward ideal. Even one pound less means that you have stopped the steady weight gain that people think comes normally with age. It does not. Five pounds totally changes your metabolism toward healthy.

6.Balance sleep and activity: Go to bed early, between nine and ten o’clock. Read yourself sleepy. Get up before seven o’clock. Follow your natural rhythm of sleep and wake. It is possible to go shopping at three AM, but it does a number on your system ... a HIGH number.!

7.Balance the seasons: Follow Nature's yearly circle. Eat in season: lighter in the summer, heartier in the winter. Open your window at night, avoid overheated or overly air-conditioned rooms. Engage in seasonal activities.

8.Balance the colors in your meals: The more colorful, the better. Try a new vegetable each month. Use olive oil for cold dishes, coconut oil for hot ones. Garlic and onions are good for your heart. Fish oil counterbalances the myriad of inflammatory agents in our diet.

9.Balance work and relaxation: Take time for your family and friends, music, arts, and hobbies. Learn something like yoga, meditation, tai chi or another relaxation technique.

10.Balance with herbs: Herbs are not first-line drugs for high blood pressure, but hawthorn flowers and berries might help reduce it. Always discuss herbs with your physician. Avoid unnecessary medication — especially over-the-counter (for instance, pain meds can increase blood pressure).

11.Balance your mood with natural herbs or pleasant activities instead of alcohol or drugs. After weight, alcohol is the most common cause for high blood pressure.

12.Balance your attitude: Avoid negative emotions like hate, envy, regret, jealousy, greed, contempt. Nourish your heart chacra: Anxiety and stress elevate your blood pressure; happiness lowers it. Look at your relationship with your significant other, with God and Mother Earth. Or with your pet. Bring meaning into your life by connecting with people — family, friends and people less fortunate than you.

13.Balance your week: Plan an outing/ excursion/ event each weekend. Do not stay at home to catch up on work.

14.Balance your minerals and other small molecules: Eat nuts - unless you have an allergy - because they provide all the important minerals for keeping your vessels elastic.

15.Balance stress with alternatives: acupuncture and acupressure, Ayurvedic Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine, massage, cupping, aromatherapy, visualization, music therapy, art therapy, journal writing, biofeedback machines — anything that makes you feel good.

Measure your blood pressure at home and write it down for yourself and your doctor.
Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

Alexa Fleckenstein M.D. 2012, by Lolita Parker jr.

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