Mar
31
2018

Self-Love Is Important

You need to appreciate that self-love is important, if you want stable mental health and well-being. Before you can take care of people around you, you need to practice self-love first. You cannot give love, if you don’t love yourself first. We get so busy in working hard, wanting to achieve goals and then surpass ourselves. We want to be perfect. But this is not possible without first looking after our own needs: again, self-love is important to be able to reach the goals you want to achieve.

Perfectionism can be harmful

Most of us were grew up  in the Western society thinking that perfectionism would be good for us. After all, we achieve things; we criticize ourselves and improve it even more; so finally we end up with our dream goal. What is the downside of perfectionism?

Perfectionism often comes with chronic stress, which can shorten our life span. Perfectionism leads to diseases like irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, depression and eating disorders. Depression can have a serious complication, namely suicide attempts and actual suicide. Perfectionists also often suffer from anxiety disorders that can make life miserable. Chronic stress together with perfectionism can weaken the immune system, which in turn can cause infections and even autoimmune diseases.

Moving away from perfectionism

The United Nations passed a resolution in 2012 saying, “pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal.”

Psychologists also tell us that happiness is something we deserve to have; it is our right. A clinical psychologist in Vancouver, Canada, compares the inner critic of perfectionists to a “nasty adult beating the crap out of a tiny child”. We don’t have to beat ourselves up internally; it is not healthy for us. Don’t let the inner bully put yourself down for a minor thing that went wrong.

Start cultivating self-compassion. Self-compassion is not something that you have or do not have. According to psychologists self-compassion is something that you can learn.

The more you learn self-compassion, the less important perfectionism will be for you. You will still be productive and successful, but you will stop injuring yourself in the process.

Learning about self-compassion

Psychologists have researched how self-compassion can be developed. They even have invented an 8-week program that helps the client to build up self-compassion. These psychologists could measure a significant improvement of the level of self-compassion before taking the course and after completing it. According to Prof. Neff and associates there are three parts to self-compassion.

  • Self-kindness, which means treating yourself with understanding and forgiveness.
  • Recognition of one’s place in the shared humanity. This acknowledges that people are not perfect. It also means that personal experiences are part of the larger human experience.
  • Mindfulness, which means emotional balance and avoiding over identifying with painful emotions.

Listening to yourself

Dr. Kristin Neff has written a book that describes how to change your inner voice from a harsh voice to a softer, kinder internal voice. By becoming aware what your internal thoughts are, you can gradually change your internal talk. Profs. Neff and Germer have developed an 8-week course called “mindful self-compassion training”. In their own words “Self-compassion says, ‘Be kind to yourself in the midst of suffering and it will change.’ Mindfulness says, ‘Open to suffering with spacious awareness and it will change.'”

Part of the course is to learn how to deal with suffering when things go badly. In this case they recommend to their clients to repeat the following 3 phrases: “This is a moment of suffering,” “Suffering is a part of life,” and “May I be kind to myself.” This will take the sting away from the suffering and reduce the emotional pain.

Doubts about mindful self-compassion training?

You may have some doubts whether or not self-compassion training would work. But psychological tests regarding self-compassion ratings before and after the course have found a significant 43% difference. Similar compassion training can be found under this link.

These mindful exercises in self-compassion have been proven to down regulate the stress response. The hormones ACTH and cortisol in the blood were found to be much less in persons who had undergone self-compassion training. The training also was shown to increase heart rate variability, which is the body’s natural way to react to stress.

Not everybody is a good meditator. But apart from meditating there are other methods to recognize that self-love is important, as is self-compassion. You can write a letter to yourself, but pretend it comes from a close, loving friend. You could also write a letter that you pretend comes from you addressed to a person that you show compassion to.

Yoga to help you realize that self-love is important

Yoga is a great way to re-acquaint you with pleasures you experienced in childhood. Part of a yoga exercise can be “Mindful Eating”. You are simply refocusing your attention to the tastes that you may have taken for granted. Such a technique helps you to listen to yourself, become aware of your needs and train yourself in self-love and self-compassion. One of the top recommended Internet accessible yoga classes was this.

Self-love Is Important

Self-love Is Important

Conclusion

Perfectionism is widespread and is often taught in schools to be desirable. However, we become so good at this that it often turns into self-injurious behavior. We become harsh on ourselves and nothing is good enough to please us. And we expect perfection from people around us. We may even become abusive when they do not measure up to our expectations.

Dr. Kristin Neff has written a book that describes how to change your inner voice from a harsh voice to a softer, kinder internal voice. She also teaches an 8-week course at Harvard University how to develop self-compassion and self-love.

Mindful exercises in self-compassion

Mindful exercises in self-compassion have been proven to down regulate the stress response. It teaches you to deal with suffering when things go badly.

The bottom-line is to find your path away from perfectionism to a feeling of wholeness. And by achieving this we will free the negative energy of harsh and often unjustified criticism to give our best and succeed.

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Jul
22
2016

Anxiety Is Common

Recently a review article was published that showed that anxiety is common. This research was conducted in England (Cambridge and London). 48 reviews about anxiety around the globe were examined. The results showed that anxiety in the world population fluctuates between 3.8–25%. Women (frequencies of 5.2–8.7%) and young adults (frequency 2.5–9.1%) are suffering from anxiety more. Among people with chronic diseases there is considerable variation in the frequency of associated anxiety (from 1.4% to 70%).

Variability of frequency of anxiety in different countries

The frequency of anxiety in various ethnic populations varies considerably around the world. For instance European and North American cultures have a relatively high anxiety rate in the population (3.8–10.4%) when compared to Indian and Asian cultures with only 2.8%. In Africa the rate is 4.4%, in Central and Eastern European countries the rate is 3.2%. In North Africa and the Middle East the anxiety rate is 4.9% while in Spanish/Latin cultures the rate is 6.2%.

Anxiety is common and there are subtypes

There are many subtypes of anxiety that have been researched. 

Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)

This disorder affects 6.8 million adults, or 3.1% of the U.S. population. It seems like women get this condition twice as often as men. The risk for developing it is greatest between childhood and midlife. People with a mild case of GAD can cope and work. Severe cases can be disabling and may be difficult to treat.

Social anxiety disorder

About 15 million US citizens suffer from this. This equally affects women and men. Typically it starts at the age of 13, but 36% of people will not ask for medical help for 10 years or more. Symptoms of anxiety surrounding social situations are so intense that it interferes severely with making friends and having romantic relationships. They end up being alone, powerless against their anxiety.

Panic disorder

6 million US citizens or 2.7% of the population suffer from this. Women commonly are twice as often affected by it than men. Panic attacks develop in early adulthood. They often suffer in silence; distance themselves from friends, family and caregivers who could offer them help. Panic disorders often occur simultaneously with depression and medical conditions like asthma, irritable bowel syndrome and substance abuse.

Specific phobias

19 million or 8.7% of the US population suffer from this. It often starts in childhood and the median onset is at age 7. People affected by specific phobias may be afraid of high bridges, of animals like spiders or mice, of thunder, of flying and a myriad of other things. It disrupts daily routines, causes limitations of work efficiency and reduces self-esteem. It also places a strain on relationships because people afflicted by this problem will do whatever they can to avoid the uncomfortable or terrifying feelings of phobic anxiety.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder

2 million or 1% of the population in the US suffer from this form of anxiety. Onset is in the teenage years, although 1/3 of adults with obsessive-compulsive disorder experienced symptoms already in childhood.

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

7 million people or 3.5% of the US population are suffering from PTSD. Women are much more affected by PTSD than men. But a lot of soldiers who were involved in direct combat situations will suffer from PTSD. Rape can be a source of PTSD. Most people who experience traumatic events and develop PTSD will be affected by it for months or even years, but eventually recover from them; a minority will not recover. Often therapy is helpful for these individuals.

Major depressive disorder

8 million American adults or about 6.7% of the U.S population will suffer from depression between the ages of 15 and 44 years. It is more common among women. A certain percentage of depressed people commit suicide. Anxiety is often mixed in with depression.

Persistent depressive disorder

This is a form of depression that persists for at least 2 years. 1.5% of the US population or 3.3 million adults suffer from this condition. The median onset is at age 31. Like with depression, so also with persistent depressive disorder, anxiety is very common.

Anxiety is common; related illnesses

There are many medical diagnoses where anxiety is often part of the symptom complex. The medical profession often talks about psychosomatic diseases. This means that these diseases have an anxiety overlay, which is part of the condition.

  • For instance, bipolar disorder is a condition where extreme mood swings are common, often between elation and mania, but then switching to deep depression with suicidal thoughts. Mixed into this condition is often a certain degree of anxiety, which can be very overwhelming.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome is a psychosomatic disease of the gut with bowel cramps and frequent bowel movements, in others there are periods of constipation. But irritable bowel syndrome often has anxiety attached to it. They are often inseparable.

Eating and sleep disorders

  • Eating disorders: here the person has an intense fear of turning fat. Persons with eating disorder often restrict their calories severely, even when they are underweight. They may exercise for hours with the hope to lose weight. Perhaps the most striking condition among eating disorders is anorexia nervosa, which often affects teenage females, but adult women are affected as well. Sadly many of these women die from starvation or starvation related diseases.
  • Sleep disorders: more than 40 million Americans suffer from chronic, long-term sleeping disorder. Another 20 million suffer from occasional sleep disorder. In addition, often there is stress and anxiety that interferes with the normal sleep cycle.

Chronic pain and fibromyalgia

  • Chronic pain: Pain is a common symptom; if it is associated with a surgical procedure or with an injury it is short lived and eventually goes away. With chronic pain, the pain is present all the time. People with arthritis or nerve injuries that did not heal often have this type of pain. Fibromyalgia sufferers also have this type of pain. When a person has an underlying anxiety disorder and gets chronic pain on top of this, the pain is amplified and becomes even more chronic. On the other hand anybody with chronic pain will suffer from a certain amount of anxiety just because of the chronicity of the pain.
  • Fibromyalgia: this chronic musculoskeletal pain disorder is a special form of chronic pain. About 20% of fibromyalgia sufferers have either chronic depression or chronic anxiety, which certainly complicates the condition.

Substance abuse, stress and headaches

  • Substance abuse: about 20% of people with chronic anxiety disorders have an alcohol or substance abuse disorder; and 20% of people abusing alcohol or having a substance abuse disorder have a chronic anxiety disorder.
  • Stress: too much stress can turn into distress. Distress is an overdose of stress where the stressed person loses control of the situation. This can cause depression and anxiety. It can also cause physical illness.
  • Headaches: migraines, anxiety and depression seem to affect the same population group. Stress and anxiety can cause muscles around the neck to get into spasms and cause tension type headaches. But any headache can be brought on by anxiety.

Anxiety is common; biochemical brain abnormalities

Dr. Kharrazian has summarized in his book that Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which is a by-product of the brain cell metabolism is responsible for calming the brain (Ref.1). Most noteworthy, this mechanism is not working properly in people with anxiety. In many people with anxiety GABA is simply not produced enough to calm the brain or it gets inactivated too fast resulting in a lack of GABA with anxiety. Consequently, the end result is the same: when there is a relative lack of GABA in the brain the person develops symptoms of anxiety.

Disbalances in neurotransmitters

Disbalances in other neurotransmitters can also contribute to anxiety. As a matter of fact, serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is essential to have for a stable mood and to prevent depression. It is produced in the mid brain. Furthermore, the pineal gland stores serotonin and makes melatonin out of it, which is essential for a normal sleep pattern. When serotonin is low, a number of things can happen. Anger and increased aggressiveness are associated with a lack of serotonin. But depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, migraines, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, bipolar disorder and anxiety disorder are also frequently observed. Many of these illnesses have been noted above to be associated with anxiety. Ref.1 also describes that stress inhibits the conversion of serotonin into melatonin, which therefore explains sleep problems in persons who are exposed to chronic stress.

Anxiety is common; treatment options

In particular, what are the treatment options for a person with anxiety?

Treatment with anxiolytics

It is tempting to just treat the symptoms in an anxious person. But just prescribing anxiolytics like benzodiazepines (like Xanax) will not cure anxiety, just relieve the symptoms for a while. Eventually the body gets used to benzodiazepine and requires higher doses to suppress the anxiety. This can be the beginning of drug dependency, which is not what the health professional or the patient wants. As mentioned above alcohol and substance abuse is already a problem for 1 in 5 people with anxiety.

Treat sleep deprivation

An alternative is to concentrate on treating sleep deprivation in order to help the person to get a good night’s sleep. Melatonin at a dose of 3 mg at bedtime is a reasonable dose to help a person to fall asleep. If during the night the anxious person wakes up again, another dose of 3 mg of melatonin can be given. In addition, if an anxious person lies in bed and ruminates about various things that have happened during the day, a dose of valerian root (500 mg or even 1000 mg) can be useful.

Brain hormone effects

Dr. Datis Kharrazian describes in Ref.1 that valerian root increases GABA at the GABA receptor site. Research has also shown that valerian root slows down the breakdown of GABA. Although GABA is available in health food stores, GABA does not get absorbed through the blood/brain barrier easily. Only patients with autoimmune problems have a leaky blood/brain barrier and GABA can get through, but this is not a good approach to take for treating GABA deficiency. When you take GABA as a supplement, it wears off after a few days and loses its effect. It is wiser to stay away from GABA.

Cognitive therapy and behavioral therapy

This has been proven to help the person with anxiety. Often psychologists specialize in these treatment methods. Meditation and counseling therapy will also help.

Antidepressant therapy

In anxiety cases where depression is part of the psychological make-up antidepressants may have a place for a period of time. The FDA issued a warning in October 2004 about antidepressant medications, including SSRIs. These may lead to suicide and suicidal behavior in a small number of children and adolescents. But there is no way of predicting who will be affected this way. The antidepressant medications are still available and many physicians still prescribe them.

A balanced diet

A balanced diet like a Mediterranean diet provides the nutrients necessary to make GABA. People should avoid sugar in any form as it contributes to anxiety from blood sugar fluctuations.

Yoga and biofeedback

Yoga with an emphasis on breathing techniques can also be useful. Biofeedback methods are useful as well.

Anxiety Is Common

Anxiety Is Common

Conclusion

Anxiety is common, but also very complex, as explained above. 74.8 million Americans suffer from the various forms of anxiety mentioned. Psychosomatic disease often involves anxiety as well and it can be difficult to sort out the symptoms of patients afflicted with physical illness and anxiety. Repeat visits to the treating doctor will eventually help sort these problems out. The physician will rule out any physical problems first by doing lab tests and imaging studies.

Treating anxiety should focus on reestablishing a healthy sleeping pattern. Self-hypnosis tapes or discs are useful. Melatonin and valerian root have their place. Cognitive-behavioral therapy will help the patient to reestablish clear thoughts and minimize the anxiety symptoms. With this approach the patient will often be able to overcome anxiety. There are no instant solutions, but with time and persistence the patient will be able to take back control of his or her life.

Reference

Ref. 1: Dr. Datis Kharrazian: “Why Isn’t My Brain Working?” © 2013, Elephant Press, Carlsbad, CA 92011

Apr
25
2015

Rejuvenate With Stem Cells

We all age; but can we rejuvenate with stem cells? There is a limit to detoxification, to eating organic food, to exercising, to the effects of vitamins and supplements and even to the effect of bioidentical hormone replacements. The limit comes from our telomeres and from stem cells that get depleted in our body as we age. Some researchers report that in regions where we suffer from a disease stem cells are even more depleted than in the rest of the body.

We do not have all the answers yet. We would like to know why our stem cells in the fatty tissue or in the bone marrow do not migrate on their own into an aching back or a sore shoulder. There are all the aches and pains associated with old age. So, why do our own stem cells not help us? They seem to be locked away in fatty tissue and in bone marrow.

At the 22nd Annual World Congress on Anti-Aging Medicine in Las Vegas (Dec. 10-14, 2014) I learnt that there is a group of stem cell experts in California with affiliates all over the US. They simply take stem cells from the fatty tissue and sometimes also from the bone marrow, isolate the stem cells through a stem cell separator and infuse the stem cell rich fraction (minus fatty and connective tissue) in a bit of saline solution back into the vein of the patient. When the stem cells are in the blood stream, they get activated by the growth factors that are present in blood and can now find where they are needed and start the healing process.

Studies have shown that when stem cells are in circulation in the blood, they are very sensitive to signals from tissues that indicate that there is an inflammatory process. This is why stem cells will repair arthritic changes. The can repair a torn meniscus, a rotator cuff tear in the shoulder or repair a weak immune system. The interesting observation is that stem cells from fatty tissue, also termed mesenchymal stem cells, are pluripotent. This means they can develop into cartilage building cells (chondrocytes) and build up cartilage; this is badly needed in a person with severe osteoarthritis. But stem cells are flexible: they can turn into meniscus cells in a knee with a torn meniscus. They also can repair the damage and relief the patient of the chronic pain. In a shoulder with a rotator cuff tear they can turn into a tough ligamentous material mending the tear.

Some data even indicates that circulating stem cells can repair vital organs like the brain, heart, liver, kidneys and bone marrow; these latter observations were mostly done in animal experiments, but human data is starting to be published in the medical literature.

So, let’s examine what has been found useful with regard to stem cells that are taken from your fatty tissue or your bone marrow and injected into one of your veins.

Here is a website from Arizona that I am only showing as a typical example (I have no conflict of interest and no commercial connections to this group) of what I described above.

With websites like this it is also important to read the disclaimer: “Even though our treatments are done using autologous cells, our Stem Cell Therapies are not approved by the FDA. Stem Cell Treatments are not a cure for any condition, disease or injury, nor a substitute for proper medical diagnosis and care…” Another website from La Quinta, CA describes the use of mesenchymal stem cells for regenerative therapies.

Stem cell treatments are in flux. There is a large body of knowledge that has accumulated showing that with proper technique and aseptic conditions it is a safe procedure. The FBA has been watching this. There are publications regarding the safety of procedures with adipose mesenchymal stem cells; here is one example.

The next step is to show in clinical trials that a certain procedure with stem cells is effective in treating a certain condition.

Below I did a literature review, which are only a few examples, but does not claim to be complete; it highlights some of the problems with stem cell treatments.

Stroke treatment with intravenous administration of bone marrow mononuclear stem cells

This study from India showed no statistical difference of stroke patients treated intravenously with bone marrow derived mononuclear stem cells (the experimental group) and the control group that did not receive such treatment. The investigators examined both groups with functional brain tests and performed PET scans to look at the healing of the brain lesions. Unfortunately the tests showed no statistical difference, but did show that the stem cell procedures were safe. It may be that the wrong stem cells were used (mononuclear bone marrow stem cells) when adipose derived mesenchymal stem cells may have done better. In stark contrast to the study from India is the stem cell treatment for a severe stroke in the former hockey player, Gordie Howe that has gone through the media recently. His procedure was done in Mexico. The stem cells were administered via a lumbar puncture approach as well as intravenously. As you can see from this case, stem cell treatment is even possible in patients who are in their mid 80’s with impressive results.

Parkinson’s disease

Here is a feasibility study from March 2014. A 71-year-old Asian man with progressive supranuclear palsy, an aggressive form of Parkinson’s disease was treated with adipose tissue-derived mesenchymal stem cells that were administered intravenously and intrathecally (to get stem cells into the cerebrospinal fluid that bathes the brain). A remarkable functional recovery took place.

Possible side-effects

This is a report of pulmonary embolism after administering intravenous adipose tissue-derived stem cell therapy. The blood clots in the lungs were treated with anticoagulant therapy. Repeat CT scans of his lungs showed later that the emboli were dissolved spontaneously. It is not clear whether this was a case where familial clotting problems pre-existed as a relative of this patient experienced a similar occurrence after stem cell therapy as well.

A case of chronic autoimmune thrombocytopenic purpura

A rare form of autoimmune disease exists where the body forms antibodies against platelets that help your blood to clot. Here is a paper from June 2009 that describes how a man with this disease was cured using adipose tissue-derived mesenchymal stem cells that were injected intravenously.

Renal transplant survival in type 1 diabetes patient

This case report from India shows that adipose tissue derived mesenchymal stem cells that were given at the time of a kidney transplant to treat end stage kidney disease. The treatment stabilized the condition of this patient after a kidney transplant. At the same time some of the mesenchymal stem cells differentiated into insulin producing cells, which made it much easier to control this patient’s diabetes. In this case stem cells were providing stability following an organ transplant (kidney) and some stem cells turned into insulin producing pancreatic cells.

Osteonecrosis of hip treated with adipose tissue derived MSC

In this study from South Korea dated January 2012 two cases of osteonecrosis of the hip, where the hipbone died (osteonecrosis) are described. The following stem cell protocol helped: The fraction that contained the stem cells (called stromal vascular fraction) was mixed with platelet rich plasma and hyaluronic acid. Using a long needle this mixture was injected into the affected hip joint. Conventional medicine has nothing to offer except a total hip replacement. But here are two cases that showed complete resolution of their pain, regained hip function completely, and healing could be documented with the help of MRI scans.

Treating heart attack patients with stem cells

Here is a paper from The Netherlands, published in June 2014 that describes the problems with stem cell treatment in humans. It points out that much has been learnt from animal experiments. The problem following a heart attack is that there is a massive inflammatory response in the infarcted heart muscle, which makes it difficult for stem cells to establish themselves in the injured heart muscle. However, stem cells have been shown to prevent the development of cardiomyopathy that follows a massive heart attack and often is the cause of death. More refinements are needed for successful treatments, such as the ideal timing of stem cell injections in relationship to the time of the heart attack, the best treatment approach and what number of stem cells to inject are all questions that still need to be answered.

MS model in mice shows promise with adipose mesenchymal stem cells

Experimental encephalitis in mice is used as a model for MS in humans. It helps to preselect potentially effective treatments for MS in humans. In this 2013 paper from Australia researchers used mesenchymal stem cells from adipose tissue and injected them intravenously. To their surprise the mesenchymal stem cells were able to penetrate the blood/brain barrier and end up in the myelin lesions inside the brain. In contrast, bone marrow derived stem cells were unable to do that. The researchers stated that adipose mesenchymal stem cells should be considered “as a cell therapeutic that may be used to treat MS patients”.

A group from Iran published this paper in February 2015 further emphasizes that mesenchymal stem cells would be a logical way to treat MS in humans.

Immunosenescence

As we get older the immune systems weakens because of a process called immunosenescence.

A research group from Austria published a paper in December 2011 that is typical for the thinking that mesenchymal stem cells from fatty tissue have properties that help the immune system to get stimulated. Based on this human data it should be possible to stimulate the immune system by giving stem cells from the fatty tissue to the same person intravenously. This publication shows that this process, which would benefit people above the age of 50 or 60 when the immune system gets weaker, will indeed stimulate the immune system. However, at this point we do not have the data of large clinical trials where this would have been done with measurements of the immune function before and on several occasions after stem cell injection to get a feeling for how long the effect would last. We also do not know whether this procedure is associated with longevity.

Rejuvenate With Stem Cells

Rejuvenate With Stem Cells

Conclusion

Stem cell therapy is definitely coming and many applications are already established as I discussed in a prior blog. It is only recently that physicians are no longer worried about creating tumors with stem cell transfer. Now we are in a phase where various stem cell transfer methods (intravenous, intrathecal, interstitial) are being tested as a treatment for various illnesses. It looks like stem cells from fatty tissue may soon be used intravenously, but I have not seen any such trials when checked on PubMed. The activation of stem cells by laser light has only been mentioned sparingly in the literature. This combination (laser activated, intravenous mesenchymal injection) has the potential for being useful for a multitude of chronic illnesses like fibromyalgia, MS, generalized arthritis, just to mention a few. Mesenchymal stem cells are anti-inflammatory, and they can mend defects without leaving scars.

Sep
07
2013

Preserve Your Muscles And Joints

Our ancestors were hunters and gatherers, constantly on the go. They did not have to think too much about their muscle and joint health, they simply moved them. In our society this has changed a lot. At work we spend hours sitting at a desk, and then we use computers and watch television at home. Instead of walking to the neighborhood store, we use our car.

Here I will review what we can do to keep our joints and muscles in top shape until a ripe old age.

Brief intro regarding the anatomy of joints and muscles

Our joints are designed to give us full mobility. But the joints cannot do it alone. The muscles are designed to allow the joints to move in a full range. Without exercise the muscles will shrivel up (medical term “atrophy”) within only 2 to 3 weeks. So without regular exercise your joints won’t do you any good. Besides the joint capsules need regular stretching in full range exercises to produce the lubricating fluid (synovial fluid) that nourishes the joint surfaces and the menisci of the knees. Think of muscles and joints as being a functional unit designed to move you about.

Our joints have aerodynamic designs to do the most optimal job for our body. For instance the knees have more of a hinge design that includes menisci for shock absorption while the shoulders and hips have more of a ball and socket type construction.

Wear and tear with aging

It is usually thought that injuries and aging wear down the joints. But there are other factors such as the wide spread use of statins that can contribute to muscles weakness. Ironically statins are taken to protect the heart, but side effects can interfere with the ability to exercise your heart because of aching muscles and joints.

With optimal nutrition and avoidance of wheat and wheat products to prevent autoimmune arthritis (lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, dermatomyositis) your joints can stay young for much longer (explained further below). But your joints and muscles need to move through a full range of motion regularly to keep the blood circulation and nutrition of their tissues in top shape.

What causes joint deterioration?

Aging, weight gain, diabetes, smoking and lack of exercise all are known to cause a worsening of arthritis, particularly osteoarthritis, but also rheumatoid arthritis. The wrong diet with lots of sugar and starch and trans fats (hamburgers, pasta, sugar soda drinks) causes hyperinsulinemia (insulin overproduction, like in type 2 diabetes) and is almost guaranteed to make you sick with arthritis, obesity and diabetes.

There is also evidence that wheat causes inflammation and arthritis by stimulating your pancreas to produce too much insulin. This has been proven for dogs and for humans. A good diet book to follow is Dr. William Davis “Wheat Belly Cookbook” (Ref. 1) with 150 recipes. If you are overweight, these recipes will also help you to lose some weight effortlessly.

A caution to marathon runners: the constant pounding of prolonged jogging can cause osteoarthritis of hips and knees decades down the road. You may want to switch to different exercises before this happens.

Preserve Your Muscles And Joints

Preserve Your Muscles And Joints

What helps joints?

Molecularly distilled omega-3 fatty acid helps to prevent inflammation of your joints. Vitamin D3 will help your bones to be strong to support the tendons and ligaments. Chicken cartilage can build up joint cartilage within a few weeks! So, if you feel pain in your joints use 3 capsules of omega-3 (the strong, molecularly distilled ones) twice per day. This will help your joint inflammation within 3 to 4 weeks. If this alone is not enough add chicken cartilage from the health food store, which will help to build up the hyaline cartilage within your joints. For those who are questioning the effect of chicken cartilage, here is a 1993 chicken cartilage Harvard study proving it.

Below are more general steps that will help your joints, ligaments and muscles.

Maintaining health of joints and muscles

a)    It starts with good nutrition.

Hamburgers and deep fried French fries will not do the trick. Muscles require protein from meat, fish, poultry and dairy products. If you are a vegetarian you need to become knowledgeable on what essential amino acids are and what combination of vegetables will give you the amino acid composition to build up a full protein.

Joints need ingredients from cartilage, which you find in chicken cartilage (available in health food stores as fikzol (type II cartilage). I you prefer, chicken soup would also give you the ingredients to build up cartilage, but it would require a lot of regular chicken soup consumption to achieve this.

Sugar and starchy foods, which are broken down within half an hour after a meal into sugar in your blood, cause an insulin response from your pancreas. This in turn can cause inflammation in your joints and tendons. It is interesting to note that type 2 diabetes and arthritis are associated. A ketogenic, low sugar/starch diet will prevent arthritis and diabetes as it reduces the insulin level in the blood, which in turn turns off inflammation in the joints.

b)   Supplements:

Omega-3 fatty acids will help control any inflammation including the inflammation from arthritis (you need 3 capsules of the concentrated, molecularly distilled fish oil twice per day to achieve this).  DMSO gel, available in health food stores in the US, can also be used to rub onto inflamed joints. It will penetrate tissues rapidly, is nontoxic and helps control inflammation along with the omega-3 fatty acids. Regular anti-inflammatory pain relievers (NSAIDs) are harsh on your kidneys and can irritate the gastric lining causing bleeding gastric erosions, so definitely not recommendable.

Glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, or a combination of both is available in the health food store and has been shown to help with osteoarthritis. I contributes to building up hyaline cartilage.

c)   Watch your weight:

It has been shown that the rate of degenerative arthritis (=osteoarthritis) in obese people is much higher when compared to slim people.

d)   Exercise:

You need to move your joints, ligaments and muscles every day to maintain their strength and range of motion. A daily workout at home or in a gym is best. I recommend 30 minutes of a treadmill or equivalent (jogging, Stairmaster etc.) as aerobic exercises. Then you need 30 minutes of isometric exercises like a circuit on exercise machines in the gym or dumbbells and expanders (resistance bands) at home. I consider this as the basic fitness routine every day.

Ballroom dancing and Latin dancing or Zumba is also a good combination exercise, which I would recommend on top of the basic exercise. Dancing helps to maintain your balance as well, which is something the older population tends to lose. In addition dancing stimulates your brain cells and makes you less vulnerable to develop dementia in old age.

Other aerobic exercises that can be recommended are walking (brisk walk) and/or intermittent jogging. Swimming has the advantage particularly for arthritis sufferers that you are floating. It allows you to exercise your leg and arm muscles, even if you have some arthritis pains.

e)  Pain relief: What could you do for pain relief? I do not like NSAIDs as this will damage your kidneys on the long-term and cause gastric erosions that can bleed massively. Electro acupuncture is very useful for muscle and joint pains and has no side effects. Physiotherapy treatments are useful to recondition your muscles and build up the range of motion of your joints. Chiropractic treatments for back and neck pain will also help. Instead of narcotics, why not try low dose Naltrexone (LDN). It has been shown to help with the pain of fibromyalgia.

Conclusion

In this brief review I have attempted to show you that your body is not on a one-way street in the direction of disability and death. There is a lot we can actively do to prevent this from happening prematurely. Just eat right, supplement (if you have symptoms), exercise and be active. Soon you will no longer be aware of your previously achy joints or muscles, as the pain tends to melt away when you are reconditioned.

More information on fitness: http://nethealthbook.com/health-nutrition-and-fitness/fitness/

References:

1. William Davis, MD: “Wheat Belly Cookbook. 150 Recipes to Help You Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health”. HarperCollins Publishers LTD., Toronto, Canada, 2012.

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

Aug
03
2013

Treating Symptoms Not Effective, Find And Eradicate Causes

When you see a physician about a health problem, he or she general listens to your symptoms, examines you, comes to a diagnosis and then treats the symptoms. Medicine has been evolving since, anti-aging medicine has become more prominent and comprehensive medical practitioners have started to treat differently. The changing approach is best explained with some examples below. This is important as many general practitioners continue to treat symptoms and neglect to search for causes. Big Pharma is trying to keep the medical system in the “status quo” (the way it is), because they make big money by having general practitioners try out different ineffective medications (this way the profits keep on coming in.) One example is the cholesterol story. Only 50% of heart attacks are caused by high cholesterol, but physicians keep on prescribing statins whenever high cholesterol is found to prevent a heart attack. But the finding of high cholesterol could be caused by hypothyroidism (when the thyroid gland does not produce enough thyroid hormone). Diet can also play  a role, if the patient eats too many helpings of fatty meats and drinks alcohol regularly. Just prescribing statins to lower cholesterol is not the answer, treating the cause is!

I am going to describe 5 examples where usually symptoms are being treated instead of the causes. If you are in a hurry, just read example 3 below (gastritis and duodenal ulcer). After that you can skip forward and read the conclusion, where I will summarize what I think we should learn from this.

Treating Symptoms Not Effective, Find And Eradicate Causes

Treating Symptoms Not Effective, Find And Eradicate Causes

1)  Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease where autoantibodies attack the joint surfaces. It is a multifaceted disease and typically requires a rheumatologist to get involved in the treatment. The standard treatment for RA is summarized in this link. Before engaging in these toxic treatments, it is very worthwhile to study this link and see, if any of your food components may have triggered your arthritis. Various agents in the food can contribute to the development of autoantibodies, such as wheat, soy, MSG, even salicylates. An elimination diet approach could pinpoint if there is any food component that may be the cause of your RA.

Dr.Lichten, in treating many RA cases has found (Ref.1, p. 85 and 86) that many patients had hormonal deficiencies, particularly a lack of DHEA when blood tests were done for this. DHEA is known to treat immune deficiencies and T cell responses were observed to raise 10-fold after DHEA supplementation; IGF-1 levels (an indirect measure of human growth hormone) increased and muscle mass improved when exercised as well along with DHEA replacement. RA patients responded well to relatively low doses of DHEA (25 mg daily for women and 50 mg daily for males). When other hormone tests are done to look for deficiencies, Dr. Lichten found sometimes thyroid deficiencies requiring hormone supplementation. Similarly when saliva tests are done to look for sex hormone deficiencies, there may be progesterone and/or estrogen deficiency in women and testosterone deficiency in males that needs to be replaced with bioidentical hormones. In RA patients there may be adrenal gland deficiency setting in, which can be diagnosed by a four-point saliva cortisol hormone test. Only these cases of true hormone deficiency will benefit from small doses of cortisol (the original bioidentical human hormone) given four times per day.

Here is a summary of the usual recommendations for home remedies for treating rheumatoid arthritis. Using electro acupuncture can be very useful for controlling chronic pain, but you still need to work out the cause for your particular case of RA.

2) High Blood Pressure

Most cases of high blood pressure (hypertension) are simply there without a particular cause. It used to be called “essential hypertension”, a fancy name meaning “essentially, we do not know the cause”. The doctor will start treatment with drugs to bring high blood pressure down. Before that the doctor is supposed to ask you to make a good effort to change your life style (cutting out additional salt, exercising, weight loss), but this is often glossed over and drugs are used right away. Drugs for hypertension are not harmless; here are some of the side effects.

The medical textbooks are not very clear on what causes high blood pressure. With renal causes (narrowing of a renal artery) a stent can be placed, the cause is treated and the blood pressure normalizes. As indicated, essential hypertension is the name for the majority of other cases of high blood pressure where officially no cause is known. Patients are usually put on life-long antihypertensive medications, often several drugs in combination, to bring the blood pressure down to 120 over 80.

Despite the notion that we do no know the cause of high blood pressure, we do know that a number of factors can contribute to developing high blood pressure: too much salt in the diet, too much nicotine from smoking and too much alcohol consumption.

A lack of nitrates from green vegetables can cause high blood pressure as well. Nitrates are necessary for the body to produce nitric oxide, a powerful messenger that dilates blood vessels lowering blood pressure. It is produced every second by the lining inside the walls of your arteries. Greens and vegetables, particularly beets, provide nitrates for nitric oxide production.

Nitric oxide, along with omega-3-fatty acid and prostaglandins are important in relaxing the arterial walls, thus lowering high blood pressure.

We also know that in diabetes and obesity high blood pressure is very common, because inflammatory substances circulate in the blood, which interfere with the normal production of the blood pressure lowering nitric oxide.

Treating high blood pressure with the conventional drugs will mask the real underlying causes.

The DASH diet has helped a lot of people to get their blood pressure under control. However, the limiting point in that diet is the amount of grains that are allowed. In my opinion, wheat and grains, starches and sugar are all empty calories and only stimulate your appetite because of the high leptin and gliadin content from wheat and wheat products. According to the cardiologist, Dr. William Davis, cutting these out will cure not only many cases of hypertension, but also diabetes and obesity. Many physicians have criticized him, but in my opinion his work is on solid researched ground. If a patient honestly gives lifestyle changes a try, many side effects and deaths from antihypertensive drugs could be avoided.

3) Gastritis and duodenal ulcer

You see your doctor, because lately you regurgitate acidy stomach contents. You may be diagnosed with gastritis and get a prescription for an acid suppressive drug. But before you take proton pump inhibitors (PPI) study the side effects here.

The interesting part is that many chronic gastritis cases are associated with a bacterium called H. pylori. Unfortunately it is now known that cimetidine, ranitidine and particularly PPI’s are treating the acid problem (the symptomatic treatment of acid suppression seems to work), but on the longer term they encourage H. pylori to grow more, particularly in the stomach. The bacterium undermines the lining of the stomach and the duodenum and interferes with the production of the protective mucous production, which is meant to protect you from gastritis and ulcers. Dr. Murray explains that the cause of gastritis, gastric ulcer and duodenal ulcer is the breakdown of the mucosal barrier (Ref. 3, p.73-75). So the symptomatic treatment of the H. pylori infection with triple therapy (2 antibiotics and a PPI) may be the medical treatment commonly accepted as the norm, but it does not cure H. pylori in many cases. Some patients develop diarrhea from a Clostridium difficile super infection as a result of the antibiotics from the triple therapy requiring even more expensive antibiotics for that condition. This only happened, because the patients’ symptoms were treated instead of the cause. The cause of gastritis and duodenal ulcers is a weakening of the lining in the stomach and the duodenum resulting in a breakdown of the mucous barrier. In some people dietary habits play a role, like too much cereal and wheat consumption with too little alkaline vegetables in the meals to neutralize the acid formation (see Ref. 2 for more details). However, when a simple licorice compound (DGL, which stands for deglycyrrhizinated licorice) is given, the symptoms from gastritis, acid reflux, and ulcers in the stomach or duodenum disappear. DGL supports the lining of the stomach and duodenum and reestablishes the defense against the acidy milieu. Not only that, but after a few weeks of DGL treatment all of the findings on endoscopy such as inflammation and ulcerations disappeared. Dr. Murray states that he has not encountered a case of gastritis or ulcer that would not have responded. It appears that the cause of gastritis and ulcers in the stomach and duodenum is not from too much acid, not from H. pylori infection, which appears to just be a concomitant infection, but actually is due to a breakdown of the barrier in the lining of the stomach and duodenum, which responds to DGL. The other interesting thing is that you can buy DGL in the health food store; the dosage is two to three chewable tablets on an empty stomach three times per day. According to Ref. 3 it needs to be taken 8 to 16 weeks, after which there is a full therapeutic response. Pepto-Bismol is another coating substance that is available over the counter and works well for minor stomach upsets.

4) Chronic back pains and insomnia

Many people see their chiropractor for chronic recurrent back pains and their physician for insomnia to get sleeping pills. It all depends what the underlying causes are of back pains and insomnia.

If there is a misalignment in the spine, a chiropractor doing manipulation would be a reasonable approach and the back pain symptoms often disappear. However, thyroid deficiency or adrenal gland insufficiency or adrenal gland fatigue may be the cause of back pains and muscle cramps. Unless the underlying cause is treated (in the case of hypothyroidism treatment with thyroid hormones), the back pains will stay. In fibromyalgia where muscle pains are all over the body, the standard treatment with antidepressants and pain pills just will not do it on the long-term. These patients require a detailed work-up with analysis of the hormonal status. Often they are suffering from a lack of thyroid hormones, a lack of sex hormones (in women a lack of estrogen and progesterone, in men a lack of DHEA and/or testosterone). But they may also have weak adrenal glands and a lack of growth hormone. An anti-aging physician (A4M) can order the appropriate tests and treat the underlying causes.

Fibromyalgia patients often have insomnia (sleep disorders). Dr. Lichten (Ref.4) recommends GABA in small doses (125mg to 250 mg) at bedtime along with 500 mg of L-tryptophan. He also recommends 4000 IU – 5000 IU of vitamin D3 (as often insomnia patients are deficient in vitamin D3) as well as 500 mg to 1000 mg of magnesium. If this alone is not sufficient, melatonin, 1 mg to 3 mg at bedtime will be beneficial. Dr. Lichten cautions that GABA leads to tolerance quickly, so it should only be taken 5 days out of 7 to allow the body’s receptors to recover. This alternative approach to treating insomnia will prevent many patients from getting addicted to sleeping pills (hypnotics).

5) Asthma symptoms

Not every case of asthma needs steroid inhalers and salbutamol or other bronchodilator inhalers as treatment. This link shows that low thyroid can also cause asthmatic symptoms of wheezing and shortness of breath. It is important to listen to the patient’s symptoms, but the treatment will only be successful when the cause is treated. Dr. David Derry described in this link how many of his severe asthma patients had iodine deficiency and low thyroid hormones and no longer had to see him when iodine treatment and desiccated thyroid hormone replacement was given as treatment. This goes against what the standard recommendation for asthma treatment is, but it seems to get patients unhooked from dependence on steroid inhalers.

Steroid dependency from anti-asthmatic inhalers can suppress the adrenal glands and lead to adrenal gland insufficiency.

The adrenal glands are vital for coping with stress as the more stress you are under, the more your pituitary gland produces ACTH hormone, which in turn stimulates the adrenal glands to produce cortisol. However, a significant percentage of patients with asthma that been on corticosteroid inhalers for a long time, experience a suppression of the pituitary gland and the adrenal glands cannot produce the required stress hormones; in other words, adrenal fatigue or adrenal insufficiency can set in.

This is an example where during the treatment of asthma symptoms were controlled with corticosteroid inhalers, but the stress hormone circuit was undermined to the point where the patient experienced another disease (called a “iatrogenic disease”, a disease from the side-effects of drugs). Treatment of adrenal fatigue is described in this link.

Conclusion

Medicine can become quite complex as these examples show. Many times physicians tell their patients that the cause of their symptoms is not known. However, this is not always true, but conventional medicine continues to hold onto the old dogmas. With the third example above (gastritis and duodenal ulcer), until the mid 1980’s the original theory in medicine was that too much acid production would be the cause of these conditions and treatment concentrated on suppressing acid production. Then the new theory came up that H. pylori, a bacterium would be the cause of chronic inflammation, which together with too much acid would cause the condition. That is why physicians now treat it with the triple therapy, a good deal for Big Pharma, but a bad deal for many patients. They still do not get cured, but develop a worsening of their conditions as H. pylori growth proliferates, particularly from the PPI’s, which undermines the lining of the whole stomach. As pointed out above DGL, a simple licorice compound, which is available in health food stores, can strengthen the lining of the stomach and duodenum, which at the same time gets rid of the H. pylori problem without any other drugs.

The problem with conventional medicine is that in many cases physicians still treat symptoms instead of treating known causes. Big Pharma supports this, as it is expedient for them to protect their multi billion-dollar industry. Patients need to demand that the causes of their diseases are being treated rather than the symptoms.

References

1. Dr. Edward M. Lichten: Textbook of bio-identical hormones. ©2007 Foundation for Anti-Aging Research, Birmingham, Michigan, USA

2. William Davis, MD: “Wheat belly. Lose the wheat, lose the weight, and find your path back to health.” HarperCollins Publishers Ltd., 2011.

3. Michael T. Murray, ND: “What the drug companies won’t tell you and your doctor doesn’t know”. Atria Books, New York, 2009.

4. Dr. Edward M. Lichten: Textbook of bio-identical hormones. ©2007 Foundation for Anti-Aging Research, Birmingham, Michigan, USA

Last edited Aug. 3, 2013

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Apr
01
2008

Short Daily Exercise Helps Chronic Pain Patients

Chronic pain can be an affliction that turns normal living and functioning upside down. Quality of life will be negatively affected, and often depression and anxiety are resulting mental problems. Effective pain relief is crucial, but often there are undesirable side effects to pain medication, and the patient will explore other avenues that bring a measure of relief. Amy Burleson, Psy.D. of the Cleveland Clinic’s chronic pain rehabilitation program found that chronic pain patients were physically deconditioned due to chronic pain and a chronic lack of physical activity. Depression and other mood disorder also were very common. A 10 minute exercise program was added to the treatment of a group of 28 patients who suffered of various chronic pains: back pain, fibromyalgia, neuropathy and migraines. Patients started a simple routine of walking on a treadmill, starting with a low speed of 1 mile per hour and increasing the speed every few minutes, till they walked at a speed of 3 miles per hour, a speed which was manageable for all patients. After 3 weeks patients found that their physical endurance had increased. They also experienced less depression and anxiety. Even more remarkable was the fact that the patients’ pain perception had diminished.

Short Daily Exercise Helps Chronic Pain Patients

Short Daily Exercise Helps Chronic Pain Patients

Likert scale scores which were used in the assessment of pain perception showed a drop from 7.32 in the beginning of the program to 2.75 at 3 weeks. It is obvious that even mild exercise has benefits for patients with chronic pain: the overall well being receives a noticeable boost through an approach that has no pharmacological impact, no side effects and has no high cost of health care.

More information on the right dose of exercise: http://nethealthbook.com/health-nutrition-and-fitness/fitness/right-dose-exercise/

Reference: Pain Medicine, Volume 9, Issue 1, Page 88-141 (January/February 2008)

Last edited November 3, 2014

Feb
01
2006

Chronic Pain A Cancer Risk

Chronic pain can be an undermining force in people’s well being. Often it is more perceived as a nuisance or an inconvenience. How serious it really is as a health risk, has been emerging only in more recent observations.
Two well designed, population based studies in the UK are showing that there is an increased risk in people with chronic pain to die prematurely or to develop cancer.
In a study by J. Mc Farlane, MD individuals with chronic back pain or patients suffering of fibromyalgia show an increased risk for premature death and cancer. Often pain sufferers have not only one pain condition but also multiple ones. Mc Farlane quoted an excess risk of 30% for premature mortality in pain patients. At the same time he states that the risk is “relatively modest”. Another study noted that patients who suffered of widespread pain over a 10-year period had a 50% increased risk of developing cancer than those who were pain free at the baseline. Statistically it means that 2.5% of patients with widespread pain over a time of 10 years will develop cancer, which remains a small percentage.
The author notes that there is no reason to feel overly threatened by these results. More research will tell more. For the practical application the results point to the need for effective treatment and pain control before chronic pain patterns become detrimental to the patient’s health.

Chronic Pain A Cancer Risk

Chronic Pain A Cancer Risk

More information on:

Pain can affect many areas:  http://nethealthbook.com/neurology-neurological-disease/pain/

Cancer risks: http://nethealthbook.com/cancer-overview/overview/epidemiology-cancer-origin-reason-cancer/

Reference: The Back Letter, December 2005,Vol.20, Nr.12, page 139

Comment on Nov. 11, 2012: Chronic pain can indicate that the patient may be hormone deficient. When hormones are tested, some patients may be hypothyroid, others may lack steroid hormones like testosterone, estrogen, progesterone or DHEA as is normal with the aging process. In these cases often restoration of the hormone balance with bio-identical hormones can treat the pain condition successfully and can prevent cancer by restoring normal immune function.

Last edited October 30, 2014