Wednesday, December 28, 2016

        Blog#58:  Winter Blues? Holistic Medicine Can Help!

SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a type of depression which occurs either in spring/summer, when it is warmer and there are a lot of allergens in the air, such as pollen and mold, or else during fall/winter, when there is less light than at other times of the year. Most of us have felt tired or a bit sad on a cold, grey day when we are stuck at home due to the snow and we can’t quite get warm enough, no matter how we try. Take that feeling and multiply it by five or ten times, imagine those feelings extending over much of the winter, and we can have an idea of what SAD in the cold weather feels like.  Other forms of depression may also feel somewhat similar to SAD, but are not anchored around a season. 

SAD is diagnosed more often in women than in men, and in younger rather than older people, as well as in people who live far from the equator, and in those who have a history of another type of depression. Since seasonal affective disorder symptoms tend to be as severe in summer as in winter, it makes sense to look for a cause other than insufficient sunlight. In my opinion, based on the cases of SAD I have seen and treated, and due to my own experience of SAD in the summer months for three years, (but thankfully, not for many years, now) seasonal affective disorder is most likely due to the body being over-stressed, run down, and consequently unable to deal well with hormonal swings which may accompany weather changes. Certain issues, such as eating foods that are heavy, rich or fatty, feeling overwhelmed emotionally, especially regarding anger, and having a liver which has a hard time dealing with the body’s and the environment’s toxicity, will predispose a person to warm weather SAD. Other issues, like over-expending one’s energy, having low blood sugar, poor circulation, and having a diet which does not supply sufficient warming foods and herbs, will predispose a person to cold weather SAD. 

In both cases, due in part to lifestyle and diet, the body is not resilient enough to adjust to specific seasonal changes. Here are some holistic, alternative ways to help us face winter SAD symptoms, and for that matter, all mild to moderate winter depression. These suggestions can also help with severe depression, but then prescription medication may be appropriate in addition to these holistic approaches.

Replace light bulbs at home to full spectrum bulbs, and spend time each day in front of a therapeutic light box.

Eat plenty of fresh, high quality fruit and vegetables, as well as beans, grains, legumes, seeds and nuts.  If you are not vegetarian, make sure, in addition, to eat some grass-fed, organically raised, and/or wild-caught animals.  High quality eggs and dairy products are also recommended for those who are not vegan.

Take a good multivitamin along with high-quality B complex vitamins, or else take a well-balanced herbal supplement that supports the energy level. 

Make sure to consume enough Omega 3 fatty acids, either in supplement form or in the diet (ie Flax seed oil and wild-caught salmon).

Exercise regularly – preferably at least 30 minutes per day, walking, dancing, swimming, yoga, sports, weight and resistance training, and Pilates, for example.

Engage in positive self-talk, self-hypnosis, meditation, or a similar method to help keep the mind positive.

Connect socially with positive friends and/or family on a regular basis.

Maintain a sense of purpose through work, volunteer activities, hobbies, and developing talents and interests.

Drink plenty of water and other clear fluids each day.

Make sure to get outside and breathe the (hopefully) fresh air.

Do inspirational things on a regular basis, at least weekly, such as going for a walk in a forest preserve, going to an art gallery, or listening to some favorite music.

Consult a holistic health practitioner for supportive acupuncture, chiropractic, or massage treatment.

See a supportive therapist or counselor for some talk sessions.

Use an appropriate flower essence remedy regularly.

Use St John’s Wort, an herbal anti-depressant.  If using prescription anti-depressants, check for chemical interactions. 

Practice an energizing, balancing Qi Gong form daily.

This month’s blog offer is a simple Qi Gong exercise, learned from Qi Gong master David Coon, that may be helpful in warming the body, increasing energy reserves, balancing the immune and endocrine systems, and elevating the spirit when done on a regular basis, over time. It is designed to help strengthen and rejuvenate the thymus gland and help balance the thyroid and parathyroid glands. Instructions: stand or sit with good posture, spine straight, body and mind relaxed. Place the palm of one hand horizontally on the midline of the upper chest, overlapping the clavicles and also positioned below the clavicles, on the sternum (breast bone). Place the palm of the other hand over the back of the first hand. Close the eyes and breathe in a relaxed manner, imagining a small ball of sunlight slowly growing larger and brighter under the hands. Imagine and gradually feel the sunlight spread throughout the body. Feel the hands growing warm, eventually, even hot. Do this to start with for perhaps three minutes, and then longer. Eventually, even one hour would not be too long for this particular exercise. For best results, do this exercise daily. Feel free to contact me with any questions.

Friday, November 25, 2016

    Blog#57: Opiate Addiction: Holistic Medicine Can Help

Did you know that most opiate addiction in this country stems from prescription drugs?  That’s right – not from marijuana, not from alcohol, but from prescription opiates ordered and dispensed by the medical establishment. Opioids are a class of drugs including heroin, morphine, codeine, and also prescription pain relievers such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, and fentanyl.  Not only do opioids reduce pain, they also have highly pleasurable and addictive effects. 

In 2012, 259 million prescriptions were written for opioids, which is enough to give every adult in this country their own bottle of pills.  Opioids not only diminish pain and increase pleasure, they also often change the personality, making the user more passive and less involved with their life and surroundings.  Women and children are more likely to become addicted to opiates than are men.  The number of prescriptions written for juveniles and young adults nearly doubled between 1994 and 2007, and the number of prescriptions almost quadrupled for women in a similar time frame.  Also, people, especially adolescents, sometimes get these drugs from often well- intentioned people who did not finish their prescriptions. 

Prescription opiates can become addictive surprisingly quickly, and sometimes people do not know that they are addicted until they try to withdraw from the drug.  According to an article in JAMA Psychiatry. 2014;71(7):821-826,  94% of new heroin addicts began by using or abusing prescription opiates and then chose to switch to heroin because it was cheaper and easier to obtain.

Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the US, almost quadrupling from 1998 to 2008. In 2014, there were 47,055 lethal drug overdoses.  Clearly, our country is in crisis regarding opiate abuse and addiction.  Yet many, if not most medical doctors continue to prescribe opiates for pain, rather than initially suggesting alternative, holistic methods of pain management, such as chiropractic, acupuncture, hypnosis, and anti-inflammatory nutritional programs.  One or a combination of these approaches can manage almost any pain. 

Addressing musculoskeletal misalignment can greatly reduce pain by helping to restore structural stability and allowing tense muscles to relax.  Acupuncture has a naturally analgesic affect on the body, and has been used in place of conventional anesthesia in numerous surgeries, especially in China, but also in the US and Europe.  Hypnosis, especially when combined with self-hypnosis, can dull or eliminate almost any pain if the hypnotist and practitioner are sufficiently skilled and relaxed, respectively.  Of course, pain is feedback, which the body sometimes needs in order avoid re-injury, so one must be cautious about completely suppressing pain sensations.  Reputable sources such as NIH and several mainstream medical journals have found hypnosis to be effective in relieving acute pain from headaches, injuries, stress/anxiety, and burns, and in relieving chronic pain, such as cancer pain, arthritis, phantom limb pain (amputees), TMJ, and fibromyalgia, to name just a few.  Finally, anti-inflammatory diets and herbs can be surprisingly effective in reducing or even eliminating pain.  Check out my past Blog #16, Cooling Chronic Inflammation for some more information about anti-inflammatory nutrition.  You can click on the link to my blog and then scroll/click backward through the blogs until you reach #16.

Many times in my office I have helped relieve patients’ pain using chiropractic adjusting, acupuncture, nutrition, and/or hypnosis and self-hypnosis.  I also am fortunate to be able to relieve my own pain, and have done so several times with self-hypnosis.  Sometimes a good chiropractic adjustment or a few good acupuncture treatments have helped me the most.  And nutrition has always been helpful.  If people first came to alternative practitioners like myself for treatment when they were afflicted with pain, there would be much less opiate addiction in this country today. 

This blog’s offer:  If you are unable to locate blog#16, or if you have any questions about how holistic medicine can help alleviate your or another’s pain, feel free to contact me with questions or for a free consultation.  

Friday, October 28, 2016

                                       Blog#56: Nerve Relaxing Tea

I first discovered Nerve Relaxing Tea at Dr. Michael’s Herbs, a small shop on Western Avenue in Chicago.  The herb shop sold many single herbs and also some formulas.  This particular formula is the best I have encountered for alleviating insomnia and stress.  Unfortunately, the shop closed over a decade ago.  I bought several boxes of Formula No. 20 (Nerve Relaxing Tea) before they closed.  When I asked where I could buy the formula in the future, they told me that one of their employees appropriated several of their most popular formulas, including that one, and they had no way to precisely make the teas in the future. 

Over the years, I have occasionally used this tea to help alleviate insomnia, and I also, have shared it with several of my patients.  Although the ingredients are all generally safe to use, occasionally people who were taking medication for depression became anxious when they used this tea.  I have decided to share the formula, as written on the box in this blog today.  I will list the ingredients and then briefly explain the action of each one.  Regarding quantity, the first listed ingredient is most prominent, and the last listed is the least prominent.  Unfortunately, I do not know the exact proportions of these ingredients. 

The tea contains the following herbs:  Skullcap Herb, Valerian Root, St. Johns Wort, Licorice Root, Star Anise Seed, Fennel Seed, Blue Malva Flowers, Marigold Flowers, Peppermint Leaf, and Parsley Flakes.  Actions of these herbs include these:  

Skullcap is a mild sedative that helps alleviate insomnia by calming the nervous system. 

Valerian Root is a mild muscle relaxant and also is a sedative for the nervous system.

St Johns Wort is a mild anti-depressant that helps calm the mind.  It can interact with some anti-depressants, resulting in unpleasant side effects, such as anxiety. 

Licorice Root can help support adrenal gland function and also can help alleviate digestive problems such as heartburn.  Side effects include elevated blood pressure.  This herb should not be taken longer than two weeks without a break of at least a week, unless directed otherwise by an herbalist. 

Star Anise Seed helps alleviate gas and other abdominal upsets and also helps soothe sore throat and flu symptoms.  The seeds obtained from Chinese star anise, a star-shaped fruit, are safe but a very similar herb from Japan, also called star anise, is toxic.  Sometimes the Chinese herb is even contaminated with the Japanese herb, since they look similar and may grow near each other.  Unless you grow your own or are sure of the source (there are several reliable sources), you should not use this herb. 

Fennel Seed has powerful anti-oxidant properties and helps alleviate indigestion. 

Blue Malva Flower helps soothe the digestive tract and has a mild laxative effect.  Since not enough is known about the effects on nursing mothers and their infants, it is recommended that it not be used while nursing. 

Marigold Flower (Calendula) is renowned for its anti-inflammatory action on skin. It also helps alleviate indigestion.  It can interact in unpleasant ways with some medications, both prescription and over the counter, so if you take any medications, you should contact both an herbalist and a knowledgeable physician before using this herb. 

Peppermint Leaf is mild and energizing.  It can help alleviate indigestion, irritable bowl syndrome, and is also used in many formulas to help soothe symptoms of cold and flu. 

Parsley Flakes are mildly diarrhetic and thus help rid the body of toxins.  They also soothe the digestive tract and relax the muscles.  

I have found that one or two teaspoons of the tea steeped in a quart of water works well.

This blog’s offer:  as my “trick or treat” gift to you, feel free to contact me with any questions about “Nerve Relaxing Tea”.

Monday, September 26, 2016

 Blog #55 Seaweed – Herbal Protein and Mineral Powerhouse

These sea herbs can be so nutritious that some people have lived on them for years as one of their main foods, along with moderate amounts of land-based fruit, root vegetables and leafy greens.  Certain seaweed - algae, chlorella, and spirulina in particular - are considered by some authorities to be crosses between plants and animals, and actually contain a small amount of vitamin B12, but probably not enough to keep you healthy if you are vegan, unless you eat massive quantities if these herbs.  Under the heading of seaweed are included over 20 sea organisms, some of which are chlorella, algae, spirulina, sea lettuce, kelp, dulse, kombu, wakame and nori.  Seaweed is high in protein, iodine, sodium, potassium and also contains some calcium, plus many other trace minerals. 

Research has shown that certain seaweeds can help with detoxification from toxic heavy minerals, especially cadmium and lead, can help protect against radiation poisoning, especially radioactive strontium, can help keep the thyroid gland healthy, can help lower LDL cholesterol, and even may possibly help prevent certain types of cancer, particularly breast cancer.  However, the source of the seaweed determines its quality and safety.  If taken from contaminated or radioactive waters, these herbs will do more harm than good.  Additionally, if taken in too large quantities, they can cause problems by either over-stimulating and disrupting the thyroid function with too much iodine or causing heart palpitations with too much potassium.  Since seaweeds are also high in sodium, if taken in too large quantities, they can result in hypertension and possible kidney damage. 

The “weed” in seaweed is probably a misnomer, since most sea vegetables do not over-run an aquatic area at the expense of other organisms, but instead are fairly localized, while also contributing to the integrity of the local habitat.  A major exception to this are algae, which, due to climate change, including the warming of many bodies of water, are proliferating in “blooms” at the expense of other habitat residents.

Most of us will benefit from small amounts of seaweed on a daily or almost daily basis.  It is vital that these herbs are sourced from uncontaminated waters and are processed appropriately.  Many bodies of water from which seaweed is obtained are contaminated with bacteria or other organic materials, chemicals, heavy metals and/or radiation.  Be sure that the seaweed is either certified organic or is sold through a reliable distributor.  Iceland is one area that still has high quality seaweed.  Frontier Herbs is usually a reliable source for seaweed, and the Synergy Company sells a high quality supplement, which contains a large quantity of these herbs. 

Seaweed can be sprinkled on salads, added to soups and stews, and used as seasoning in place of salt.

This blog’s offer:  contact me with questions about specific seaweed and sources.  I also have a limited quantity of high quality seaweed, which I am willing to sell, since I purchased enough to last me at least ten years (seaweed has a very long shelf life).