Monday, December 12, 2016

A Theory About Flu Season

We’re well immersed in winter now, so that means we are in the thick of “flu season” here in North America. Pharmacies and doctor offices are pushing patients and customers to make sure they get a flu shot so as to be protected, and they have been encouraging this for a couple months. The flu season runs from fall through winter and begins to dissipate at the beginning of spring. Every year. And I have a theory as to why that is the case. It goes like this:

New Years
Valentine’s Day

Yes. The holidays. They are a big part of it.

What do all of these things have in common? Treats, candy, holiday sweets, and lots and lots and lots of sugar. Cookie exchanges, pumpkin pies, chocolate covered cherries, oh my! The holidays all involve a great deal of sugar consumption in some form.

The problem is, our bodies don’t take a break from their regularly scheduled operations for the holidays just because we want sweets. Sugar, as we know, wreaks havoc on the immune system. (Sugar is even known now to cause cancer. Not just feed it - it causes it.) For four to six hours after you consume sugar, your immune system is operating at only 25%. Sugar takes a serious toll on our bodies in every system. A compromised immune system is much more prone to viruses and infections than one that is adequately supported and functioning properly.

In addition, it is no coincidence that in North America our flu season is during the fall and winter because we have now discovered that the best defense against the flu is Vitamin D. Vitamin D is otherwise known as the sunshine vitamin. This makes perfect sense because during the winter, our vitamin D stores are quite low since we are not exposing our skin to the sun.

According to the World Health Organization, at the equator, there are no reported seasonal peaks in flu activity. In areas just north and south of the equator, the flu incidence rises a bit during the rainy season, again suggesting that vitamin D plays a key role. In areas that have access to warm sunshine year round, there is no reported flu season. Populations in this area have regular access to vitamin D, so their immune systems have the proper support.

Between the body’s prodigious sugar consumption and lack of adequate vitamin D, it’s no wonder that we are extra susceptible to disease and viruses in the wintertime. While the flu shot is rife with risks, dangerous chemicals, and effectiveness inconsistencies, many people opt every year not to get vaccinated against the flu. And that’s ok - because the best defense against the flu is not the shot.

So, here’s this chiropractor’s the best advice for avoiding the flu.
  1. Get adjusted. Without access to the sun, your body needs all the immune support it can get. A single chiropractic adjustment increases the immune response by 200%. Weekly adjustments can do a world of good for your preventative health.
  2. Cut back on the sugar. I know the holidays are full of sweets. But that doesn’t mean your house needs to be full of them for months and months. An occasional treat is acceptable, provided you are eating well in between those times.
  3. Supplement your vitamin D. Now, it’s important to note that vitamin D supplementation is not near as effective as the real deal. But it can go a long way towards keeping your immune system supported during these frigid winter months when the only part of your body that sees sunlight is the tip of your nose.

Stay healthy, stay warm, and enjoy the holidays!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Read Food Labels

Eating healthy is a real trick today. One person’s definition of “healthy” oftentimes doesn’t match another’s, even though their biology is the same. Furthermore, what one “expert” defines as healthy can vary greatly from the next “expert.” So who is right? So what do you need to eat in order to be healthy?

First, let’s define healthy. Check out my blog post about what defines health. Health isn’t merely the absence of disease. Health occurs when all body systems are functioning at optimum capacity. It makes sense that each of these systems need the proper fuel, right? Of course - and that fuel is your food.

The body needs micro nutrients, proteins, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and other essentials to have a balanced and supported system. Whole foods - as close to their natural state as possible - are going to give you the biggest nutritional bang for your buck. At the grocery store, however, finding these foods may not seem as easy as you think. Labels like “all-natural,” “cage-free,” “organic,” “non-GMO,” “gluten free,” and others can make the savviest shopper’s head spin. So how can you know what is actually healthy and what is not? Here are a few general guidelines to take with you along to the grocery store:

  1. Read labels. I don’t mean reading the front of the packaging, and I don’t mean the nutrition facts. I mean pick up the box and read the ingredients list. Can you read those ingredients? Are they even food? If yes, you’re on the right track.
  2. While reading those labels, avoid several ingredients. Sugar is a big one, and it comes in many forms. Sugar is in everything from sushi to bread to ketchup, so be sure to read those labels with a skeptical eye. Furthermore, sugar is listed in several names.  For instance, “cane sugar” is the same thing as sugar. High Fructose corn Syrup is another big no no - it’s not at all natural and it causes insulin spikes.
  3. Don’t buy sugar free. While you should be avoiding sugar, choosing “sugar free” doesn’t fix the problem - it creates a new one. Anything labeled as “sugar free” that is also marketed as sweet will be full of artificial sweeteners which we know cause a whole host of diseases within the body, including cancer and neurological diseases. If given no choice other than artificial sugar or regular sugar, go for the regular sugar every time.
  4. Don’t buy fat free. If you’re purchasing a food that has fat in it, buy the full fat version. Fat free products have added sugar to enhance flavor, so if you’re buying them hoping to slim your waistline, you’ll be sorely disappointed with the results. Sugar causes insulin spikes, and insulin is the fat producing hormone. So the fat free trend is essentially a hoax that should be avoided.
  5. Stick to the produce section. There is little wonder what is in those foods! Of course organic is best, but even if you can’t do organic you can at least buy whole foods.
  6. Buy your meat locally. The commercial meat industry is rife with problems. The conditions in which the animals are raised, the cleanliness of the meat, and even the quality of the meat are all severely compromised. When you purchase cheap meat, you’re taking a serious gamble with your health. Generally speaking, if it’s in the regular meat section of the grocery store, it’s not going to be good for you.
As your chiropractor, I care about all aspects of your health - not just how well adjusted you are. Of course getting adjusted is important, but I would be doing you a disservice if all I did was give you an adjustment, knowing that other aspects of your health may be compromised. Please do your best with your diet - it’s worth it.

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

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.

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.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

No, Medicine Is Not Bad

Many times, people today look at their options for wellness and medical care, and they choose one “path.” Commonly there are those who have a more holistic approach towards health, and those who are less holistic, and more “mainstream.”

Once a side is chosen, people tend to develop an “us vs them” mentality. They see their approach toward health as superior to the dreaded “other”, and seek to destroy the other’s credibility and opinion. Those that do not like holistic medicine call practitioners “quacks.” Those who do not like medicine are equally vindictive in their attempts to discredit the “opponent” with phrases like “pill for every ill.”
This is not helpful, productive, or correct in any situation.

We know so very much today about health. Our ability to scientifically research the human body has never before been so advanced. The research available to those who care to look is abundant and many modalities of health and wellness care have been able to base treatments and care plans on sound science.

I work with a holistic approach. I believe strongly in the body’s capability to heal itself. That does not mean that I think antibiotics can’t be life saving, or that routine blood tests can’t give you good information about the current state of your health. I do not think medicine is at all the bad guy.

Anyone who works in a field where they desire to be a healer has a desire and a passion for serving people and helping them pursue and maintain health, regardless of the field they chose. Health is always important to them.

However, they cannot be expected to do everything.

It’s unrealistic to expect one type of care provider to be an expert on all approaches of care. For instance, you cannot go to a hospital - that practices medicine - and expect them to give you anything other than that. It’s not “on the menu” so to speak.
  • Medical doctors to not fully understand what a chiropractor does, so it’s not reasonable to ask them for advice on chiropractic adjustments when that’s not what they do.
  • A nutritionist cannot give you IV antibiotics when you’re gravely ill with a bacterial infection.
  • Medical doctors also have no training on the healing properties of food and nutrition. You need to see a nutritionist for that information.
  • An acupuncture specialist will not know much about drilling root canals - you need to speak with a dentist or oral surgeon for that.

See where I’m going here?

To illustrate this, I heard a birth doula once tell me that, while attending a birth in a hospital, the laboring mother was staunchly insisting on refusing all kinds of medical care. She did not want a heparin lock in her arm, she refused fetal monitoring, she was asking to sign paperwork saying that she would not have pitocin after the birth, and on and on it went. The nurse, who was a wonderful nurse and eloquent advocate for the mother, told the doula, “If a woman doesn’t want medicine, why does she come to a medical facility? We are a hospital - medicine is what we do. If you don’t want medicine, don’t go to the hospital.” And that is fair.

If you personally believe in a holistic approach, seek out the right kind of care providers for you. Wellness cannot possibly come from only one type of provider - collaborative care between several modalities provides you with the broadest spectrum of health advice and care.