Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Qi Is Not Voodoo - It’s Science

For us in the western world, qi (pronounced “chee”) is a foreign concept. By and large, we are only exposed to the allopathic model of medicine - i.e. doctors, prescription medications, surgeries, etc. So when we hear an acupuncturist talk about “meridians,” “qi” or “energy channels,” it’s enough to make us throw our hands in the air and declare it quackery. But eastern medicine has been around for many thousands of years, where allopathic medicine is scarcely over a century old. Furthermore, we now have the technology to effectively understand qi - and it’s definitely not voodoo.

Western scientists have long been confused by any medical model that discusses qi. They have attributed results of treatments based on qi to the placebo effect. Today however, modern technology is shedding some light on this ancient medical model. We now have the ability to measure and see qi, which has shed some light on what was previously thought to be mysterious and imaginary.

So what is qi? Qi can be described as “bioelectricity” or “body electricity.” It is a known fact that our bodies are electric. For instance, the same science base that created the well known EKG machine guides acupuncture, acupressure, chiropractic and applied kinesiology. The general idea is that where qi is unbalanced in the body, problems can arise. In an EKG for instance, physicians measure what parts of the heart are producing electricity and which parts are weak in their electrical outputs.

In addition, many natural health practitioners are utilizing muscle response testing (MRT), also known as applied kinesiology, to measure weaknesses within the body. These methods of testing use electrical flow through the body. They can also measure what the body needs that fills in that weakness to provide strength to the affected part of the body.

In a healthy person, qi channels will be open to promote balanced and open communication within the body. It’s all about where and how the electricity flows through the body. Proper and predictable electric flow through the body helps stabilize health. Chiropractic seeks to stabilize and balance qi through adjustments, so that the body can properly communicate with itself. Acupuncture stimulates meridians along various points of the body to encourage balance.

In eastern culture, qi is such a normal and accepted part of the culture that marketing companies market their products based on qi. Foods are advertised as “hot” or “cold” which correspond to “yin and yang” within the body. In the postpartum period, Chinese women eat only hot foods for 40 days so as to replace the lost yang from childbirth. Generally speaking, the oriental cultures enjoy better health than those of us who are immersed in the medical model.

Clearly we have a thing or two to learn from this ancient model of medicine. Don’t shut out a new idea simply because it’s unfamiliar. Science is proving the benefits of qi as a part of one’s health. It’s best to give it some attention as a part of your wellness plan!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


The Risks and Benefits of Birth Interventions

Birth is normal. It is a healthy physiological process that most every woman goes through in her lifetime at some point. For thousands of years, women have birthed their babies just fine without much hazard. It was simply a part of life. Today however, birthing has become largely a technological and pharmaceutical event. Now, more than ever in history, women have abundantly more options available to them during labor and birth. What many fail to realize is that with all that technology comes a greater responsibility for understanding the risks and benefits of the available options.

Birth interventions have a time and a place where they are useful tools in the delivery room. At some point, all of them have the ability to save a life. However, they are not risk free for every woman just because they are lifesaving in a handful of rare situations. Furthermore, unwarranted use of them can cause serious harm, which is why they should only be used with serious medical justification.

Interventions all carry risks and benefits. They are not always bad - they are simply tools, and nobody should ever feel judged because they chose or consented to one or many.  However, when discussing risks and benefits, it’s important to note that the evidence shows there are more risks than benefits most of the time. Women have a right to know and understand the risks, benefits, and alternatives of proposed treatments in labor. Without this information, she simply cannot make an informed decision.

There is so much to know about basic physiological birth. In addition, all of the available birthing options women have make comprehensive childbirth education quite an undertaking. The risks and benefits of birthing interventions change as labor progresses, so it’s not enough to simply study a chart explaining the risks and benefits of each procedure.

For instance, AROM (artificial rupture of the membranes) carries ricks to the mother and baby. The primary concern is the risk of infection because breaking the water opens the womb to bacteria. However, those associated risks change as labor progresses. When a woman is just starting to labor, breaking her water carries a lot more risk because she is likely going to be in labor a much longer time, providing more opportunity for bacteria to cause infection. If a provider wishes to break the water as a woman is pushing, the associated risks go down because the birth is imminent. In a clinical sense, the list of risks is the same, but the actual risk is much different. To further complicate things, a woman’s GBS status adds an increased level of risk when discussing artificially breaking the waters, regardless of when it’s being done.

Another example of how intervention risk is always in flux is with the use of epidural anesthesia. Epidural risks are well known. They include immobility in bed, catheter placement, increased use of of pitocin, increased risk of cesarean, drop in blood pressure, lower APGAR scores in baby, and so on. The evidence shows that having an epidural placed early in labor greatly increases a mother’s risk of  needing a cesarean. As labor progresses, that risk goes down. At 7-8 cm, a mother is less likely to need pitocin, less likely to become infected from the catheter placement (because it’s not in as long), the baby is likely to be in a better position in the pelvis (because they’ve been navigating the pelvis throughout labor), and so on.

However, epidurals may have tremendous benefits when, for instance, mothers have out of control high blood pressure. Epidurals are well known to drastically drop blood pressure. It can also be useful in some cases of sexual abuse survivors. Birth can cause a woman’s body to tense up and resist any activity involving the same organs where her abuse took place.  In some cases,  using an epidural allows a mother to have a vaginal birth because the associated organs cannot feel what is happening however the risks still apply, but in some cases such as these, the choice is between a cesarean or epidural. So it’s well worth it to consider whether the benefits outweigh the risks.

Simply memorizing a bulleted list of benefits and risks associated with each intervention cannot possibly give you the whole picture. The best thing you can do when preparing for birth in a medical facility is to take a quality independent childbirth class. A hospital class does not cover everything. Consider hiring a birth doula who can support your labor, help you focus on your desired plan, and help you navigate the fluctuating risks and benefits of available labor interventions.

Birth interventions are not bad - they are simply tools. And it’s your responsibility to be informed to the best of your ability before birth about all your available options.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Health Benefits of Fasting

Many cultures around the world promote fasting as a part of a religious centered ritual, or as a cultural expectation for various kinds of life events. Science has not given much more than a nod of acknowledgement to fasting until recent years. For the skeptics who may be wondering about what one could possibly gain from such a practice, science now has several good explanations for you. Fasting has a variety of health benefits that make it a practice worth considering as a part of your wellness routine.

Fasting is defined in general terms as a period in which one does not eat. Technically that means you are fasting in between meals. Even the term “breakfast” literally means “break the fast” from not eating overnight. When “fasting,” however, most of the time people are referring to a defined period of time in which they do not eat and they deliberately give their digestive system a break. These breaks can be short, daily fasting hours, or they can extend a few days or longer. Of course, the body still requires hydration, so water and sometimes freshly juiced juices may be used during a fast.

If you choose to try a fast for any length of time, always make sure you are healthy enough for a fast before trying one. Most will benefit in a tremendous way from choosing to do it. So that being said, here are just a few health benefits to be had from fasting:

  1. Weight loss. This is the benefit most are looking for, so I’ll come out with it first. When you are fasting, your blood sugar drops, so the body begins to use fat for energy. Your metabolic rate can increase by as much as 3-5% during a short term fast. Fasting is not meant to be the sole method one should use for weight loss, but it can be a powerful catalyst for a long term, sustainable weight loss regimen.
  2. Inflammation reduction. Chronic inflammation is one of the primary causes of degenerative diseases. When you fast, you reduce inflammation in all the systems within your body. When your inflammation is down, your immune system can function at its peak.
  3. Reduced blood pressure. Heart disease is still a major killer today, so anything that can contribute to your heart health is worth considering seriously. Fasting contributes to a reduction in blood pressure and that reduction tends to stay low after the fast is over.
  4. Cellular repair. When you are fasting, your cells begin to remove waste and dead cells from the body in a process called autophagy. This process essentially cleans out the body and is a tremendous benefit to those who fast.

There is no single “tried and true” method for fasting that works across the board for everyone. “Intermittent fasting” is the term most commonly used to describe fasting and it is defined differently depending on who you talk to. There are a few different approaches you can take to a fast.

Daily Intermittent fasting is a set window of the day where you eat. For instance, some will follow the 16/8 rule which says you fast for 16 hours of the day, and you can eat during the other 8. Your body will still reap the rewards of fasting doing this method, even though the fast is shorter. With this method, consistency is key.

24 hour fasting is another method that can be used. Once or twice a week, fast for a full day, consuming only water. A good suggestion for those using this fasting method is to do it when you have a busy day. Your productivity keeps you distracted from the temptation to eat, and you’ll make it through the day easier.

Fasting for several days and beyond is a bit more extreme and requires commitment. Fasting cannot become an ongoing lifestyle for obvious reasons, but those that choose to fast for several days can see a marked difference when they return to eating.

Wellness does not come from just one or two programs, regimens, or supplements. It is a lifestyle. Maintaining your body is your responsibility, and giving it a “tune up” from time to time may be necessary, and obviously beneficial. Fasting is one of the most effective ways to do that.
Fluoride Is Not What You Think

For several decades, health officials have promoted the benefits of fluoride to the public. Dentists claim it strengthens tooth enamel, cities have added it to their drinking water, and the FDA even declares it safe for consumption in small amounts. Hidden behind the smokescreen however, lies some disturbing truths about fluoride, and it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

Fluoride is natural element that has a few health benefits. However, what is added to drinking water and dental products is in reality hydrofluoric acid, which is a far cry from the element of fluoride. Hydrofluoric acid is a byproduct of the aluminum, cement, steel, phosphate, and nuclear weapons manufacturing process. It is considered highly toxic, even in small amounts. You may notice that toothpaste now has a warning label that tells consumers to call poison control if they swallow more than a pea sized amount. (How it became used by the dental industry and municipal water plants is complicated and too much for a single humble blog post. If you’d like to read up on the how, check out this article.)

What are the consequences of using this fluoride (hydrofluoric acid) on a regular basis? So here are a few examples of what fluoride does to your body:

  • Fluoride disrupts the endocrine system which puts all people at risk for related diseases, including cancer, and we’ve known this since 2006. A report by the National Research Council of the National Academies published a 450 page report, and their conclusion was this (emphasis mine):

In summary, evidence of several types indicates that fluoride affects normal endocrine function or response; the effects of the fluoride-induced changes vary in degree and kind in different individuals. Fluoride is therefore an endocrine disruptor in the broad sense of altering normal endocrine function or response, although probably not in the sense of mimicking a normal hormone. (page 266)

  • Fluoride interferes with the function of the pancreas. Numerous animal studies have shown that fluoride causes blood sugar to increase. This is bad news especially for those who are already at increased risk for type 2 diabetes.

  • Fluoride interferes with the thyroid’s ability to absorb essential nutrients, including iodine. Without iodine, the thyroid cannot function. Even if you are supplementing your diet with iodine, your fluoride toothpaste is preventing you from absorbing any of it.

  • Too much fluoride causes a condition known as dental fluorosis. Fluorosis is a defect of tooth enamel. It happens when fluoride interferes with tooth-forming cells. (It is actually preventing enamel from forming - so how can it possibly protect enamel?) People affected by fluorosis have cloudy spots and streaks on their teeth. In severe cases, brown stains and tooth erosion are present. In some areas of the country, as many as 70-80% of teenagers are showing signs of this condition.

There are a few ways you can avoid fluoride. The most obvious is to switch your toothpaste to fluoride free. There are many on the market, and most are sold in health food stores.  DoTerra has a great one!  I can help you purchase one if you are interested.

If you live in a city, the chances are good that your water is fluoridated. Simply filtering it will not remove the fluoride. As a substitute, you can buy pure water at most stores very inexpensively. Most grocery stores have a fill station where you can bring your own containers for storing your water. This water is very inexpensive and it’s much healthier for you.

Finally, when you go to get your teeth cleaned, you can request to ask the dentist not use fluoridated cleaners. Most dentists will discourage this, but you can ask to have it done anyways.

Taking care of your health requires so much more than just a pill or two. Get adjusted, eat whole food, supplement your diet with wholesome vitamins, move your body, get enough sleep, remove toxins from your world, and think positive thoughts. A lifestyle of health is worth every effort, no matter how small.
Candida

A little known but significant health threat affects many more Americans than we even realize and it’s time we give it some attention. Candida, or yeast overgrowth, is not widely recognized by the medical profession past the topical and women’s health issues it has the potential to cause. In reality, yeast overgrowth can cause a vast array of systemic problems ranging from neurological conditions to gastrointestinal problems.

Candida is a parasitic fungus that lives in the intestinal tract of nearly all humans. When kept in check it’s not a problem and is quite normal. However, when it grows and begins to take over the system, it can cause all manner of dangers for your health.

Antibiotics are one of the most prevalent causes of candida. Yeast can quickly get out of hand after even just one round of antibiotics. Antibiotics can be lifesaving, but they leave the gut dangerously out of balance. Candida is not killed by antibiotics, but the bacteria that keeps yeast in check dies during a course of antibiotics. Once that bacteria is gone, yeast quickly spreads.

Yeast overgrowth has no medication to combat it, and there is no stand alone supplement you can take to get rid of it. To attack and get rid of candida, you need a multi faceted approach, and your diet is the cornerstone of your candida battle plan. Candida diets can take months of commitment in order to be effective and bring the body back in balance. Each person is unique in their makeup though, and working closely with a holistic practitioner during your candida diet will enhance the effectiveness and create longevity in the effects.

To combat yeast, here are a few things you must do.  

  1. Sugar is your enemy. Sugar causes all kinds of problems, but it is especially bad when you have yeast overgrowth. Candida feeds on sugar and complex carbohydrates of all kinds, so eliminating them from your diet is essential for your health. Cutting out sugar is a process and it’s not always easy, but it can save your health. The only sweetener that does not feed candida is stevia.
  2. Some fruits and vegetables need to go too. Carrots, peas, lentils, beans, potatoes and all fruits contain sugar that feeds candida.  
  3. No grains. Bread contains grains, sugar, and yeast, so it is a definite no no.
  4. Caffeine - yes, your coffee and tea need to go. All caffeine products also feed yeast, so as  a part of your candida diet, you’ll need to cut out all caffeine as well. Note: cutting out both sugar and caffeine at the same time can be rough for several days as your body detoxes from the effects of both. Be gentle on yourself because you are likely to feel quite tired and cranky for several days.
  5. Add probiotics. Probiotics add the good bacteria that keep candida at bay and in check. Daily doses of probiotics help keep your body moving toward balance.
  6. Anti Fungals can help, but not as standalone treatments. There are many antifungal plants that are edible and some can help with yeast overgrowth. Oregano oil and garlic for instance are tremendously beneficial for those combating yeast overgrowth.

If you are having strange unexplainable health symptoms that a doctor cannot seem to pinpoint, check with a holistic provider about yeast overgrowth as a possible root cause. It is estimated that at any time ⅓ of Americans have candida, so there is a good chance you could be one of them.