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Brown Fat And My Californian Pool

October 31, 2011

Tags: water, movement, addiction, arms, baby, back, belly fat, blanket, blood vessel, brown fat, Brown Fat And My Californian Pool, California, calories, chlorine, coconut oil, cold exposure, cold - minor, cold shower, energy factories, exercise, fat - brown, fat – yellow, hand, husband, hypothermia, itching, knee bend, medical curiosity, metabolism, mitochondria, muscles, newborn, obesity, oxygenation, pool, posture, rash, skin, stubbornness, swimming, tea - hot with fresh ginger, warmth, water book, weight loss, yellow fat, iron, Sebastian Kneipp (1821-1897), Kaltwasserkur, Cold Water Cure, winter, Danube River, tuberculosis, frailty

The experiment is still on: How long into the winter will I succeed to keep up my daily twenty-one laps in the pool?

So far, so good. The water is much colder now, but the days have been sunny and friendly – the fog lifted while we were at the East Coast.

Truthfully, lately it has been harder to face the pool: I am still battling a minor cold, and every day I have to decide if it is prudent to swim with the cold, or if I should just snuggle up in a warm blanket. But the exhilarating feeling after my daily swim – I seem to be addicted to it. I look full of vigor. My posture definitely is straighter. I am building up muscles where I never had any – on my back and my arms. Plus, the tiny belly I had is getting smoother (not smaller).

On the negative side is my skin. No outright rash or itching yet, but I have the suspicion that my skin looks a bit older, notwithstanding the coconut oil I slab all over me after each bath.

For a few days, I had been getting extremely cold after each swim, and couldn’t get warm at all. If you ever read my water book, you know that staying cold after water exposure is not a good idea. But with my inborn stubbornness (which might just get worse with age …) and medical curiosity, I kept doing what I should not have done: go swimming. And got colder and colder. In spite of the knee bends, blankets and hot tea with fresh ginger. Two nights in a row, I didn’t get warm all night – certainly not a healthy state!

Until yesterday. Shortly after I went swimming, had taken my short cold shower to get rid of the chlorine, had done my exercise, had rolled up in my blanket and imbibed the tea, I got really warm. Even my hands felt tingling with warmth. This lasted all night, and is still going on. I suddenly had the feeling that, for the first time in my life, that I was getting on the warm side in life. Like, where my husband always is.

Looking around for an explanation, I stumbled onto brown fat. Brown fat gets activated by cold. Brown fat is supposed to be healthier than yellow fat that just stores superfluous calories. Babies have more brown fat because it protects them from hypothermia – a constant threat for newborns.

Brown fat is not so much fat but is related to muscles. Brown fat is brown from the mitochondria and their iron contents; mitochondria are tiny energy factories. Brown fat has also more blood vessels for better oxygenation and is metabolically more active than yellow fat – it actually burns calories instead just storing them.

So, by swimming in the cool pool, I must have tapped into my brown fat – I can’t come up with any other explanation. And did you know? Brown fat is implemented in weight loss. Yes! Brown fat can make you lose weight – IF you have enough brown fat.

Sebastian Kneipp, the father of the Kaltwasserkur (Cold Water Cure) is famous for jumping into the wintry Danube River to cure his tuberculosis. Later, he modified his approach because he observed that some weakened patients were not able to withstand the bitter cold he himself had applied to his body. One could say he watered down his original approach … I had always repeated what I had been taught: that too much cold might be hazardous to your health. Which still might be true for frail people.

But I might be onto something here … I will let you know how this will work out.

P.S. After today's laps, I have very warm hands.

The Role of Your Neck in Urge Incontinence

February 21, 2011

Tags: order, Alzheimer's, bladder, childbirth, diapers – adult, food allergies, gluten intolerance, idiopathic, incontinence - urinary, inflammation - local, mitochondria, MS, multiple sclerosis, muscular strength, neck, nerve – pinched, neurogenic, observations – medical, overflow incontinence, Parkinson’s, posture, spina bifida, stress incontinence, stroke, urge incontinence, Wikipedia

As a physician I sometimes make observations that strike me as plausible – but I don’t have the wherewithal or time to scientifically check on them. Writing a blog might be one method to test an idea, and find out if others made similar observations.

So, here is my first one, pertaining to urge incontinence.

Wikipedia defines urge incontinence as “involuntary loss of urine occurring for no apparent reason while suddenly feeling the need or urge to urinate.” What really happens is the patient makes it to the stall but then goes before she has a chance to pull down her pants. Or she hears water tinkling, and tinkles herself.

The two other forms of urinary incontinence are stress incontinence and overflow incontinence. Stress incontinence comes from weak pelvic floor muscles – when you sneeze or run or laugh, you suddenly can’t hold your urine. Overflow incontinence is a constant dribbling of urine – as if the faucet can’t be shut off. All three forms are common in people of a certain age – therefore the hilarious TV ads for adult diapers. But according to my patients, incontinence is no laughing matter. People thus afflicted (women are in the majority here, probably because of what childbirth can do to one’s organs) are on the constant lookout for the nearest restroom.

The interesting part of Wikipedia’s definition of urge incontinence is “for no apparent reason.” Urge incontinence has been linked to stroke, Alzheimer’s, spina bifida, multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s – they all can lead to urge incontinence. All are neurogenic causes (stemming from the brain and the nerves) – we lump them in one group, but still they are poorly understood. And then there is “idiopathic” urge incontinence. Idiopathic means: Doctors have no clue at all. But they think it has to do with local inflammation around the bladder.

Years ago a patient with urge incontinence told me that she could make the urge disappear (at least long enough to make it to the bathroom), if she stretched her neck. For a while I was not sure if any sudden distraction – like clapping your hands or hopping up and down – would do the same. But lately I returned to my first hypothesis, namely that the stretching of the neck works best. Because I have observed that the condition occurs more often in people with less than stellar posture, especially the ones whose head is slightly bent most of the time. Standing tall and erect, at least for a moment, seems to release the urge.

As for the mechanism – are certain spinal nerve fibers pinched when the head is bent? We need more research on that.

Poor posture is more common in people with gluten intolerance and food allergies – it seems as if they don’t have the muscular strength to keep their heads straight on their shoulders – perhaps on the basis of poorly functioning mitochondria (this is all speculation on my part; I would be happily disproved).

If urge incontinence is your problem, try this out – nod a bit, stretch your neck - and write me if it works for you! Perhaps one day a peer-reviewed study will be done.
Aspen eyes, by Peggy Peters

Iguazu Falls, by Xin Liu

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

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