Anti-Aging With Cosmetic Acupuncture

Anti-Aging With Cosmetic Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a form Chinese Medicine, over 2,500 years old, that promotes healing and rejuvenation in the body. Acupuncture is growing more and more popular, both in mainstream society and medical research, for its efficacy in treating conditions such as pain, insomnia, headaches, and a huge list of other ailments.

The insertion of thin needles into certain points on the face produce an increase in circulation, oxygen, and collagen to the area, as well as a release of endorphins. The result is an a reduction in wrinkles, fine lines, a lifting of sagging skin and improved skin color and texture. As reporter Frances Childs says after 3 treatments, “My skin is rosier and clearer, my cheeks plumper. The lines around my mouth are less visible, and my forehead unfurrowed.” In addition to feeling more relaxed overall and sleeping better.

Cosmetic Acupuncture has been gaining a ton of popularity over the years, especially with stars Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Jennifer Aniston utilizing it to for their youthful glow.

A person’s exterior, including their face, is affected directly by the overall health of their internal organs. So a typical Cosmetic Acupuncture session not only involves inserting fine needles on the face to tone and beautify the skin, but also the insertion of needles inserted elsewhere on the body to heal the internal organs.

The procedure is relatively painless, with most needle insertions feeling like a tingling sensation. It’s a great alternative for those that just don’t want Botox, or if someone is already utilizing Botox then cosmetic acupuncture can compliment it. As one cosmetic acupuncturist put it, “Botox targets specific fine lines and wrinkles, where cosmetic acupuncture improves the look and health of your skin.”

Most results are seen within 3 – 5 treatments. But most facial acupuncturists recommend a series of 10 successive sessions (every week or twice a week) with monthly follow-up sessions for maintenance. Each session lasts about an hour.

If you're interested to know more or want to schedule an appointment you can reach Dr. Whitney on our Contact Page

- Travis Whitney, NMD, MSc

 

Developing Childhood Immunity - Microbes, Not Antibiotics

Developing Childhood Immunity - Microbes, Not Antibiotics

It's that time of year again. The time of year where everyone starts catching flus and colds. Hand sanitizers and antibiotics are generally overused, but around this time of year they are particularly. Antibiotics are one of the most misused medications and this has contributed to the emergence of resistant bacteria. Many child doctor visits end with an antibiotic prescription for a viral infection. It's important to wash our hands and teach our children proper hygiene. But what I'm discussing is the liberal use of hand sanitizers, antibacterial soaps, and antibiotics.

Antibiotics are well known for killing strains of harmful bacteria. However they also kill the life of microbes (gut flora) inside our digestive tract that are responsible for lots of beneficial reasons. Our healthy gut flora is known to:

  • Neutralize toxic by-products of digestion
  • Reduce harmful substances (i.e. toxins and carcinogens)
  • Discourage 'bad' bacteria and yeasts
  • Stimulate the digestive process
  • Aids in absorption and produces nutrients, such as Vitamin B and K 

Constant use of antibiotics and antimicrobials can have a profound effect on our child's immune system. According to many immunologists and microbiologists we're raising our children in a hyper-hygienic environment, and it's contributing to an increase of ailments, including allergies and obesity. Furthermore, by not exposing our immune system to bugs we're not allowing our cells to learn how to kill them.

According to microbiologists Marie-Claire Arrieta and Brett Finlay, co-authors of a book called Let Them Eat Dirt: Saving Our Children from an Oversanitized World, "When we’re born we do not have any microbes. Our immune system is underdeveloped. But as soon as microbes come into the picture, they kick-start our immune system to work properly. Without microbes our immune system can’t fight infections well." By keeping our immune system from being exposed to microbes we're not allowing it to train and build properly. And research shows this is contributing to a host of problems. 

Epidemiological evidence shows that kids who are growing up on a farm environment have way less chance of developing asthma. Kids born via C-section, which doesn't expose them to the microbes of their mother's vaginal flora, are at an increased risk of developing type 1 diabetes, Crohn's disease, multiple sclerosis and allergic diseases, such as asthma, allergic rhinitis, and atopic dermatitis. Studies have also shown that cleaning everything that goes in baby’s mouth increases their chances of asthma. The incidence of developing asthma is decreased if the pacifier is cleaned in the parent’s mouth. 

The microbiologists conclude that, "we should not stop washing our hands, but we should do it at a time when it is effective at preventing disease spread — before we eat and after using the restroom. Any other time it is not necessary. So if your child is out in the backyard playing with dirt, you do not need to remove that dirt. There’s no benefit from doing so. There has to be a balance between preventing infection, which is still a real threat in society, but also promoting this microbial exposure that is healthy."

Author's of a separate study summed up an approach nicely as to decreasing these risks associated with being hyper-hygienic: "Evidence suggests a combination of strategies, including natural childbirth, breast feeding, increased social exposure through sport, other outdoor activities, less time spent indoors, diet and appropriate antibiotic use, may help restore the microbiome and perhaps reduce risks of allergic disease."

So get outside and play with your kids! You'll bond more and it'll help out you and your child's health in the long run.

Travis Whitney, NMD, MSc

Chewy Brown Butter Cookie Delights

Chewy Brown Butter Cookie Delights

It's the holidays and the best time, in my humble opinion, to treat yo self. I know this may be a weird post for a naturopathic doctor to put up, since the recipe is so high in sugar. So you're only allowed to eat a cookie post exercise. I tried substituting powdered Stevia for the sugar but they come out more like biscuits. So play around with the recipe, I'm sure it's doable to make it a sugar-free or sugar less option. Also try using oat flour if you're concerned with raising your blood sugar levels. I found this recipe from a blog called The Domestic Rebel and love it! The browned butter puts these cookies on a whole new level. Try adding browned butter in your other holiday dishes. 

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks (1 cup) butter (salted or unsalted; if using salted, omit salt from recipe)
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 2 cups all-purpose or oat flour
  • 1 cup dark chocolate chocolate chips
  • Optional: 24-26 caramel-filled chocolate candies, caramels, soft butterscotch, coconut, pecans....whatever you feel like. 

Instructions

  1. In a medium saucepan, add the butter over medium-low heat. Melt the butter, stirring occasionally, until smooth and melted. The butter will start to bubble up and foam, so continue to stir it. Eventually the butter will become darker in color and smell slightly nutty. Stir and cook until amber in color and immediately remove from the heat. Do NOT over-cook! It burns quickly, so keep an eye on it. Cool the butter completely.
  2. Mix In the bowl or stand mixer, combine the browned butter (including the brown bits in the pan!), brown sugar and sugar and beat with whisk/paddle attachment for about 1 minute or until creamy. Add in the egg, egg yolk and vanilla and beat well. Lastly, add in the baking soda, salt, cornstarch and flour until a soft dough forms. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  3. Cover and refrigerate the dough for AT LEAST 4 hours, preferably overnight. This is mandatory.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Let the dough sit out on the counter while the oven preheats, just so it comes closer to room temperature and isn't so cold. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners.
  5. Using a 2-Tablespoon-sized cookie dough scoop, scoop out a ball of cookie dough. Flatten it slightly in the palm of your hand. If you're placing anything in the middle, like caramel or butterscotch, do it now. The wrap the dough around it. Place on the baking sheet 2" apart. Or add some coconut, cinnamon, or course sea salt on top.  
  6. Bake for approx. 8-10 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking time to ensure even cooking. Cool on the baking sheets.

Enjoy!

Travis Whitney, NMD, MSc

Stress and Anxiety Management

Stress and anxiety is something all of us experience and typically gets a bad wrap. For the most part the stress we refer to is self-induced and inherit in the way we live. We're fast paced, tend to prioritize work, eating fast and hurried, are success oriented, worry about our health and the health of loved ones. And that's all fine and good, many times stress comes from the rigors of being healthy and productive. Like taking care of kids or working hard on our fitness and eating healthy by preparing all your meals. 

Stress isn't necessarily bad. A tree grows stronger branches and deeper roots if it's constantly barraged from wind. Our muscles grow bigger and stronger when stressed with exercise. So there's good and bad stress. As Douglas Malloch wrote in his poem "Good Timber":

Good timber does not grow with ease:
The stronger wind, the stronger trees;
The further sky, the greater length;
The more the storm, the more the strength.
By sun and cold, by rain and snow,
In trees and men good timbers grow.
— Douglas Malloch

If there's an emergency and your bodies flight-or-fight response kicks in, that's a good response to stress. The issue comes when the stressor is chronic, or perceived as bad stress, and we have the wrong response to it. I say "perceived as bad" cause what is good stress for one may not be good stress for another. The stress of a few rounds of boxing sounds fun to me but my mother would not like that stress at all! 

Anxiety is a sensation in the body that something isn't right. Resulting in a chemical cascade produced the body that causes a general feeling of uneasiness, rapid heart beats and rapid, shallow breathing, a choking sensation, tightness in the chest, and many more symptoms. Just like stress, anxiety can be normal. Standing up to talk in front of a crowd can cause anxiety. According to The Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in America. Anxiety disorders occur earlier in women versus men, and women are more likely to have multiple psychiatric disorders during their lifetime. The most common occurrence with anxiety is depression.  

Stress and anxiety are completely manageable, even without one of the 84 or so anti-anxiety medications. A unique perspective from Jacob Teitelbaum, MD on healing applies especially well to stress and anxiety. He states there are 4 key domains to healing and complete healing is unlikely to occur unless all areas are addressed:

  1. Biochemistry: Herbals, nutrition, and medications
  2. Structural: Physical manipulation, surgery, breathing, and exercise
  3. Biophysics: Acupuncture, yoga, chakra work, qi gong, tai chi
  4. Mind-Body-Spirit: Understanding how the body is a metaphor for what is occurring at a deeper level

I love this perspective cause this is where I approach and treat stress and anxiety. Because I KNOW it works. I emphasize "know" because I like to point out how we know something. We say we know something cause we experience it or we've heard about it from an authoritarian source. You know what grass is cause you've seen it, touched it, smelled it, experienced it. You may say you know Saturn is a planet, but have you seen it, touched it, smelled it, or experienced it? Likely not, but you've heard it from an expert of some sort so you know it. My favorite way of knowing is combining both of these, experiencing something and having validation from an expert. I KNOW these approaches to managing stress anxiety work cause I've experienced them work on myself and patients, and have spent countless hours reading research on them.

Chronic stress wrecks havoc on our bodies biochemistry, elevating cortisol which leaves it depleted to do other functions and levels to low can trigger anxiety attacks. Chronic stress and anxiety are known risks factors for so many conditions, including heart disease, obesity, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, stroke, decreased immune function, and even cancer. 

So what are these slayers of stress and anxiety abolishers? Interestingly I've noticed everybody responds a bit different to stress and anxiety therapies. I use a combination of herbs, nutrition, exercise, and meditation as my go-to approach. Sometimes it takes a little more digging to unmask the culprit. Balancing one's biochemistry can by an overt issue, such as balancing thyroid hormones, progesterone in women, testosterone in men, and addressing adrenal fatigue. Improving blood sugar levels can have a profound effect on anxiety. There's been numerous studies on exercise being just as or more effective the pharmaceuticals when treating anxiety. There are many, many herbs that treat stress and anxiety, both on a biochemical level and energetic. Herbs can help us adapt to many stressors. Meditation studies have shown it balances the hormones and neurotransmitters that cause us to feel anxious and stressed. There are so many natural ways with far fewer side effects compared to drugs prevent stress and anxiety wrecking havoc on our health.

If you or a loved one experience bad stress, anxiety, panic attacks that are difficult to get under control then set up an appointment. 

What approaches to stress and anxiety have worked best for you? Comment below on your stress success. 

Travis Whitney, NMD, MSc

 

 

What Makes Us Happy?


What Makes Us Happy?

Before you go any further, think about the question for a bit. Just take a second or two and ponder what you think makes you happy. It could be something you have now. Or something you want more of. There literally is a science of happiness and researchers have been studying, for years, what makes us happy.

The following is a lecture I adapted from Chris Vedeler, L.Ac. of Oasis Acupuncture in Scottsdale, AZ and my own research. So hopefully you've spent a bit thinking about what makes you happy. Some of the research you may find surprising, and some not so much. 

First we'll look at things that do NOT make us happier (that we think might) and then things that DO make us happier. 


What does NOT make us happy (that we think should)


1.     Money

Yeah, you're reading that right. Money DOES NOT make us happy. Kinda. What researchers found was that at around $75,000 our happiness ratings leveled off. If you look at the chart below you'll notice there's a steep curve from $0 to $20,000. Duh, right? If you have absolutely no income and you jump to $20,000 you're going to be pretty happy about that for a bit. Money can give us a quick happiness but not lasting. But our society tends towards a "the more money you make the happier you are" mentality. And that's what this research showed to not be so true. Look at the difference between $30,000 and $130,000. There's only a ONE point difference between making $100,000 more dollars. 

While some of the research looked at happiness, others have looked at decreasing negative emotions, like nervousness, hopelessness, ore restlessness. According to David Clingingsmith, author of the paper and associate professor at Weatherhead School of Management, "We know from the results that changes in family income are impotant drivers of people's emotional lives". Similar to the happiness reports above, the difference the marginal dollar makes in reducing negative emotions starts to fall off around $70,000, is very low around $160,000, and hits zero around $200,000.  

When one woman was interviewed after selling her company to Microsoft, for 35 million, she was ecstatic. A year later she was interviewed again and report that she was no happier than she was before she made the deal. Many will say that if I have money I can by "X" (material thing) and it'll last longer then doing "Y" (some experience; a trip to somewhere). However experiences actually provide more lasting happiness and value. We adapt to the material possessions we have and then just need new stuff. 

2.     Sex (physical sex)

This may be one of those surprising ones, but research shows having more sex doesn't always mean more happiness. Simply having more sex doesn't equate to more happiness, partly because increased frequency leads to decline in wanting sex and enjoyment of sex. 

"Instead of focusing on increasing sexual frequency to the levels they experienced at the beginning of a relationship, couples may want to work on creating an environment that sparks their desire and makes the sex they do have more fun," said Krishnamurti, a Carnegie Mellon research scientist. 

3.     Education

Education doesn't always mean more happiness either. You'd think more education would lead to a lot of things that would make you happier like a better job or being smarter then people. Inspired by the strong association between mental illness and poor education, researchers from Warwick medical school looked at education levels and reported happiness. They found the odds of happiness were equal through all levels of educational attainment. Great! I'm glad I found that out after 5 degrees. I'm still happy though!

4.     High IQ

Interestingly being clever or smart doesn't make you happier either. This one may seem similar to the one above, but remember even a D student can graduate with a degree and be considered "educated". This one looked at actual IQ scores and found that individuals with high IQ's were no happier than others. If you're interested to know more, David Robson of the BBC did an extensive article titled "The Surprising Downside of Being Clever". 

Bell Curve showing IQ's and percentages of people (Note: this is not a IQ and happiness graph)

Or you can predict IQ and happiness from this highly scientific graph

5.     Youth

Can you guess what age happiness peaks at? According to research from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and other research, the peak age of happiness is around 74 years young. Notice, this isn't "being happier makes you biologically younger". Which is a whole other article. But it is interesting since many ads and trends, in America especially, point to people having to look and feel young in order to be happy. 

Now we'll look at what does make us happy, and further down, what we can do to adjust our happiness. I won't elaborate much, but let you reflect on them on your own. 


What DOES make us happy


1.     Genetics

According to some we have a "Set Point", a genetically determined point to which we always return to happiness. Similar to our bodies weight, we develop a set point that requires extra attention to adjust. We may get super happy from something, a raise, marriage proposal, birth of a child, but we tend to revert to out happiness set point after. Similarly we get sad for a bit, death of a loved one, a failure of some sort, The Bachelor not picking the girl we wanted him to pick but after awhile we return back to our set point. Research of twins separated at birth showed that no matter their environment they shared a set point for happiness.  

We'll look at what to do to change this "Set Point" below.

2.     Having a community

Need people around us that are similar and share ideals.

3.     Friends, Intimacy, and Love

We talked about sex earlier not truly making us happier. But what we really want is sex-intimacy. We find more happiness involved with sex when there's more intimacy with another. 

4.     Helping others/Gratitude

If you think you’re unhappy or having a problem, then go visit a pediatric burn unit, or a child in a cancer unit. 

5.     Having survival needs met

This one seems a bit obvious. Take away somebody's basic survival needs and their happiness levels drop.

6.     Religion or spiritual practice

Many religious and spiritual practices fulfill the other listed items. Such as having a community, helping others, making friends, and even providing the survival needs of others.

7.     Sense of purpose, meaning, and respect

Sense of why you’re here. Having a sense of purpose makes it easier getting through the storms of life. This one is strong for me. I've noticed during times of unhappiness I often find myself questioning my sense of purpose. Meditation helps me immensely with this.

Speaking of mediation, let's look at what we can do to move that "Set Point" discussed in the above genetics section. 


How do we move our set point?


1.     Gratitude

There’s always something to be grateful for.

2.     Meditation

There's a myriad of ways meditation can make you happier. You could meditate on gratitude for instance. Meditation balances your hormones, producing more serotonin and decrease out stress hormones. Another way that's less heard of is conditioning us to react appropriately.  Leading to less anger, hatred, judgment, and poor decisions that result in unhappiness. Similar to Skinner's Box made famous by the father of Operant Conditioning B.F. Skinner, we tend to react immediately to a stimulus, with little control of our response. The discipline and intent of meditation buys you the space to control your response.

3.     Give up anger and judgment

“Anger is like grabbing a hot coal to throw at somebody, you’re the one getting burned."

Anger is a poison to happiness.

4.     Give up desire to be perfect

Attempting to be perfect is the road to unhappiness. If you want to set up a path to being miserable then be a perfectionist. When we fail as a perfectionist, the self-judgment is overwhelming. Perfectionist repels connection.

And perhaps the greatest roads to happiness is a path we seem lost on, our connection we have to other living beings.

Thanks for reading. Share with others so we can all be connected and happy.

Travis Whitney, NMD, MSc 


What do you think? Were you surprised by some of the research? Would you add anything to any of the lists?


Prolotherapy for Healing Pain


Prolotherapy for Healing Pain

Have you noticed a decrease in your game as an athlete? Are you rehabbing an injury that just doesn’t seem to heal? Many injuries are very overt, they come while playing or training in our sport of choice or from accidents. Some are not so easy to recognize, like ligament laxity or osteoarthritis. This article is dedicated to all the golfers and others experiencing pain, as well as other athletes looking to improve their sport or quality of life. 

Significant athletic injuries that hinder a person in playing their sport are almost always ligamentous or tendonous in nature, not muscular.  Ligaments and tendons are called connective tissue, they’re tissues in our body that connect parts together. Our Ligaments connect bones to other bones and tendons connect muscles to bones. When there is an injury, even a small one, the injured ligament can often not repair itself as fast as we’d like or fully heal, since connective tissue doesn’t have a rich blood supply bringing healing components like oxygen and nutrients. And while some pain is caused by too much activity, some can be caused by too little. Ligament laxity is when our ligaments become to loose from not enough movement and strengthening. When this happens our body’s nerve cells in the ligaments send pain signals to the brain if the ligaments are stretched to far. 

Prolotherapy (sometimes referred to a "prolo") is a method of injection treatment designed to stimulate healing and regenerate tissue.  Many different types of musculoskeletal injuries and pain lend themselves to prolotherapy treatment including low back and neck pain, chronic sprains and/or strains, whiplash injuries, tennis and golfer’s elbow, knee, ankle, shoulder or other joint pain, chronic tendonitis/tendonosis, and musculoskeletal pain related to osteoarthritis. Prolotherapy works by raising growth factor levels or effectiveness in connective tissue ligaments and tendons to promote repair or growth. It works by causing a temporary, low-grade inflammation at the site of ligament or tendon weakness thus “tricking” the body into initialing a new healing cascade. Prolotherapy lends itself very well to sports injury and pain because most sports related injuries involve ligaments and tendons. Prolotherapy can be used years after the initial pain or problem began, as long as the patient is generally healthy.  

prolotherapy/injection

The most common injury reported by the amateur and professional golfer alike is in the low back/lumbar spine/sacroiliac region pain. Second most common site of injury is the wrist and hand, third is shoulder for professionals.  For the amateur, the second most commonly injured area is the elbow, followed by the wrist or hand, and then the shoulder. Knee, ankle, elbow, shoulder, and low back are all common areas of pain related to sport injury, chronic use, exercise. These areas are also the most highly treated areas for prolotherapy. The American Academy of Pain Medicine reports low back pain as the most common type of pain. So not only does prolotherapy treat pain from direct trauma such as sports injuries, automobile accidents, or falls, but it also treats pain from conditions such as age related joint loss and osteoarthritis. 

The most common types of prolotherapy are Dextrose, Platelet-rich plasma (PRP), and Stem-Cell with typically increasing costs and efficacy (sometimes) in that order. Although many practitioners and patients get great results from Dextrose prolo, usually a complete resolution of pain and increased function, PRP is becoming more popular. You may have heard of prolotherapy from back in 2008 when Pittsburgh Steelers  wide receiver Hines Ward received PRP for a medial collateral ligament tear (knee injury) and got him back to playing through the playoffs and Super Bowl. They went on to win the Super Bowl that year. Ward credits the PRP allowing him to be able to return so quickly. Many athletes, including Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant, and many others use prolotherapy to recover from injuries, pain, and improve in their sport and stay healthy. 

Check out these prolotherapy before-and-after X-rays:

Go over to the Contact page to reach Dr. Whitney for any questions you may have regarding prolotherapy. Leave a comment if you've have any experience with prolo!

By Travis Whitney, NMD, MSc

 

Chinese Medicine for healing and longevity


Chinese Medicine for healing and longevity

Acupuncture is a healing technique of Chinese Medicine over 2,000 years old. Through the insertion of fine, sterile needles into specific anatomical sites, acupuncture improves the body’s functions and promotes the natural self-healing process. Hundreds of clinical studies on the benefits of acupuncture show that it successfully treats conditions ranging from musculoskeletal problems (back pain, neck pain, and others) to nausea, migraine headache, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and infertility. The list goes on. There are even protocols to increase longevity. This could be one reason Asian nations consistently have the highest average life expectancy in the world.

One popular case report is of a 66-year-old woman that suffered from trigeminal neuralgia, a nerve pain syndrome with severe one sided face pain. Pain occurs from touching, talking, eating, and even brushing one’s hair.  It should be noted that pain from this condition often, unfortunately, leads to suicide from the poor quality of life. After trying drugs and nerve blocks she was treated with acupuncture. After the fourth session she was almost pain free, by the sixth week she was completely pain free and remained pain free at the end of six months.

Acupuncture.jpg

 

Other Chinese medicine healing techniques include Chinese herbal medicine, moxibustion, tui na (a form of physical manipulation therapy), meditation techniques, and cupping. You likely remember gearing a lot about cupping during the Olympics when athletes, such as Michael Phelps, were seen with cupping marks all over their body. Cupping involves placing glass, bamboo or plastic jars on the skin and creating a vacuum by suctioning out the air, with an attached pump or by holding some fire in the cup for a few seconds. The underlying tissue is raised, or sucked, partway into the cup. The purpose of cupping is to enhance circulation, relieve pain, remove excess "heat", and remove toxins that linger in your body's tissues. If cupping is good enough for Olympic athletes to use for their health, that says a lot about it’s efficacy. It's a simple technique that can treat many conditions, from the common cold to injuries. 

Cupping

Cupping

Moxibustion, or Moxa for short, is an ancient form of heat therapy that originated in China. Moxa uses the ground up leaves of the medicinal plant Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris). Moxa increases the production of white blood cells, red blood cells, hemoglobin, and improves the circulation of blood and lymph. The folklore surrounding moxa and longevity is that a farmer applied moxa to a certain acupuncture point to increase his life. It’s said he and his ancestors all lived to over 200 years old. In modern times, Doctoer Shimetaro Hara did the same and lived to over 100 years old.

Moxibustion

Moxibustion

If you've never experienced acupuncture, or any other form of Chinese medicine, you should look into it!

Travis Whitney, NMD, MSc

Slowing Down Cognitive Decline As We Age


A mild decline in learning and memory is a normal part of aging, and opinions will vary on what’s “normal” or not. But generally as we get older we tend to be a bit more forgetful, or it becomes harder for us to learn new things or concentrate. There are a host of things that can contribute to this besides aging alone. Some things that can effect our cognition are medications, diet, environment, and genetics (which drugs, diet, and environment can influence changes in out genes).

Normal cognitive decline consists of mild changes in the rate of information processing and new learning, as well as mild changes in memory. Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) is a decrease in cognitive function while still being able to function in daily life. Dementia, now called Major Neurocognitive Disorder (MND), is when loss of cognitive function impacts a person’s ability to function independently. Dementia, or MND, is postulated to affect 5% of people 65 years of age, and increases to as high as 50% in people 85 years of age and older.

Drugs that are thought to impair cognition include antihistamines, chemotherapy, anticonvulsants, analgesics, sedative-hypnotics, psychotropics, anticholinergics, muscle relaxants, and statin drugs. That’s a pretty broad list of commonly prescribed drugs.

So what are some ways we can approach slowing down cognitive decline?

I’m currently studying Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and according to TCM cognitive health is governed by 3 different organs: the heart, the spleen, and the kidneys. The heart nourishes the mind – that part that thinks coherently and remembers long-term events. Many people with MND retain some aspects of long-term memory, even if spotty. The spleen houses the intellect – the ability to concentrate, study, and memorize. Maintaining proper gut function throughout life can strengthen spleen function into the aging years. The kidneys house will-power, and produce bone marrow (which nourishes the brain); short-term memory also stems from the kidneys. Adrenal function is linked to kidney health, and deficient kidney Qi (pronounced as ‘Chee’; in TCM our Qi is essentially our life force) is often linked to MND.

Acupuncture has a profound effect on the brain.

Our diet and lifestyle, of course, can dramatically prevent and treat cognitive decline. Regular exercise, adequate sleep, and an active mental and social life are simple approaches to slowing cognitive decline. Our diet can be more difficult due to the wealth of information out there on what a healthy diet should be. I’ll point out some commonly agreed on foods and supplements but I advise speaking with me or another Center for Natural Healing physician before starting any.

Supplements that have been popular and are well researched for healthy brain function include omega-3 fatty acids and lecithin. Both of these come from healthy fat sources such as eggs, seafood, and meat. Speaking of eggs, eggs are high in choline as well. Choline is the precursor to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. Loss of cholinergic neurons is associated with impaired cognitive function, particularly memory loss and Alzheimer disease (AD). Other sources of healthy fats include, fish, flaxseeds, and chia seeds. A general consensus is that diets low in sugar and refined carbohydrates are best. 

Some of the more commonly used amino acids include acetyl-L-carnitine (or L-carnitine), phosphatidylserine, phosphatidylcholine, inositol, N-acetylcysteine, S-adenosylmethionine, L-glutamine, and L-tyrosine. Again, I wouldn’t advise taking these unless you talk to your doctor or me about dosage and interactions.

I’m a huge advocate of herbs! They can be very safe and very effective. And luckily there are lots of herbal options.  Some popular herbs helping with cognitive function include rosemary, ginseng, turmeric, and many, many more. I include these herbs cause they’re easy to add to food dishes, but there are lots that can be added to tincture formulas (I like to call them potions). Herbs can increase neurotransmitters, help grow new brain cells, increase blood flow to the brain, and reduce oxidative stress in the brain. For instance, Bacopa monnieri is an herb fromsouthern India known to prevent aging, reestablish youth, prevent disease, promote health and longevity, and strengthen life, brain, and mind. It increases the neurotransmitter acetylcholine which is essential for learning and memory. 

Bacopa

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Whitney call the Center for Natural Healing at 480.970.0077 or contact him at www.innatehealthcarellc.com/contact/

By Travis Whitney, NMD, MSc

References

Bekinschtein P, Cammarota M, Katche C, et al. BDNF is essential to promote persistence of long-term memory storage. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008;105(7):2711-2716.

Brondino N, Re S, Boldrini A, et al, Curcumin as a therapeutic agent in dementia: a mini systematic review of human studies. ScientificWorldJournal. 2014;2014:174282.

Calabrese C, Gregory WL, Leo M, et al. Effects of a standardized Bacopa monnieri extract on cognitive performance, anxiety, and depression in the elderly: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Altern Complement Med. 2008;14(6):707-713.

Diseases & Conditions: Dementia. Cleveland Clinic Web site. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases_conditions/hic_Types_of_Dementia. Accessed September 15, 2015.

Khalsa KP, Tierra M. The Way of Ayurvedic Herbs: A Contemporary Introduction and Useful Manual for the World’s Oldest Healing System. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press; 2008.

Mazza M, Capuano A, Bria P, Mazza S. Ginkgo biloba + donepezil: a comparison in the treatment of Alzheimer’s dementia in a randomized placebo-controlled double-blind study. Eur J Neurol. 2006;13(9):981-985.

Mishra S, Palanivelu K. The effect of curcumin (turmeric) on Alzheimer’s disease: An overview. Ann Indian Acad Neurol. 2008;11(1):13-

Poly C., et al. The relation of dietary choline to cognitive performance and white-matter hyperintensity in the Framingham Offspring Cohort. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2011. Dec;94(6):1584-91

Tierra L. Healing with the Herbs of Life. Berkeley, CA: Crossing Press; 2003.

Wang R, Yan H, Tang XC. Progress in studies of superzine A, a natural cholinesterase inhibitor from Chinese herbal medicine. Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2006;27(1):1-26.

Witte AV, Kerti L, Margulies DS, Floel A. Effects of resveratrol on memory performance, hippocampal functional connectivity, and glucose metabolism in healthy older adults. J Neurosci. 2014;34(23):7862-7870.

Wu A, Ying Z, Gomez-Pinilla F. Dietary curcumin counteracts the outcome of traumatic brain injury on oxidative stress, synaptic plasticity, and cognition. Exp Neurol. 2006;197(2):309-317.

 

Garlic Decreases Risk of Stomach and Colon Cancer


Garlic is an amazing plant, loved in the herbal and nutritional medicine world for it's antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. Its ability to neutralize free radicals makes it a great choice for adjunctive cancer care and as a preventative approach. Previous research as shown that the higher intake of garlic decreases the risk of colon cancer considerably.

A recent study published in the journal Nutrition and Cancer conducted a meta-analysis that reviewed 145 studies on garlic and stomach cancer and picked the 17 with the best methodology. They found results similar to that of garlic consumption and colon cancer, the more garlic intake the more decreased risk of stomach cancer. Compared to individuals that ate no garlic, people that ate the most garlic had only half the risk of the disease. 

How much garlic is enough though? Is raw, cooked, or supplemental best? These answers are a bit more elusive. Another meta-analysis done on garlic and cancer prevention in 2000 stated the highest garlic consumption was around 18 grams per week, or about 6 cloves of garlic per week. These researchers found similar results in reduction of stomach and colon cancer risk with more consumption of raw and cooked garlic. 

So keep that cancer and those vampires at bay and enjoy your hearty doses of garlic!

By: Travis Whitney, NMD, MSc

Kodali, R.T. and Eslick, G.D. Meta-Analysis: Does Garlic Intake Reduce Risk of Gastric Cancer? Nutrition and Cancer

Fleischauer, AT, Poole, C, and Arab, L. Garlic consumption and cancer prevention: meta-analyses of colorectal and stomach cancers. 2000 Oct; 72(4):1047-52.

 

Food As Medicine


We live in a fast, modern society. Just look how much as changed and improved over a decade or two. I can remember having to type in the DOS prompt commands on our Commodore 64 to tell my computer what I wanted it to do, now I click on a little icon and “poof” a calendar pops up. Along with these improvements come expectations for speed and efficiency.

The same expectations are applied to our thoughts on medicine. We want fast results, and if we don’t get them we tend to immediately dispel whatever we’re taking as useless. This especially applies to our nutrition in regards to our health. For some reason the latest, most expensive drug that only treats symptoms is relished over buying organic whole foods due to organics costing to much. A $6.00 fast food “value” meal is way more expensive than a $9.00 organic salad with chicken on it. “Wait, did I read that right. This guy clearly doesn’t know numbers.” The reason it’s cheaper is because in the long run you’re going to be paying so much more in medical care expenses from eating unhealthy ‘cheaper’ foods than if you ate healthy and used your food as medicine.

In this article I picked a couple common conditions that I’m going to highlight research, cases, and evidence supporting how food can address these conditions, relieve symptoms and even prevent diseases. Be sure to consult anything below with your doctor.

Type 2 Diabetes

Diabetes is one of the fastest growing conditions in America, and throughout the world. A couple years ago I was studying public health and infectious disease in Tanzania, on the east coast of Africa. I learned Type 2 Diabetes (T2D) and obesity was becoming more prevalent in third world countries. Why is a disease that’s usually attributed to an excess of food occurring so much in a place where food is scarce? It’s because it’s more about which foods are eaten and how much these certain foods are eaten. I could easily write this entire article food and diabetes, but then you’d miss out on a lot of other cool info!

Although T2D cases continues to rise, it’s actually been known for quite a long time how to prevent and reverse the disease. And it all starts with food.

In 2002 the Diabetes Prevention Program Research Group tested 3,234 pre-diabetics to see what effect diet and exercise had compared to Metformin (a drug that lowers the body’s glucose production). Those that changed their diet and exercise lost more weight and had a lower rate of developing diabetes than those on Metformin. Multiple studies have shown that decreasing sugar and refined carbohydrates prevents and can lower a person’s blood sugar to normal levels even after they’ve been diagnosed with diabetes. It’s all about what, when, and how you choose to eat.

Cinnamon has been shown to lower blood sugar levels in T2D, depending on the dosage and duration it’s taken. A study showed that taking 1 gram, less than ½ a teaspoon, for 40 days improved blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels by 20%.

If we’re looking at medicine for T2D, we want to find something that will normalize a person’s blood sugar and there’s been no better track record then doing that than with food.

Heart Disease

The most common cause of death in America is Heart Disease, and it’s also one of the most treatable, preventable conditions that can be addressed through our diet. Diets contributing to heart disease and preventing heart disease are one of the most controversial and confusing issues in healthcare. One nutrient that has gotten a bad rap over many years is dietary fat. Researchers compared 21 different studies that measured if decreasing saturated fat would decrease the risk of heart disease, such as having a stroke or developing coronary artery disease.  The results of the analysis showed no significant association between high intake of saturated fatty acids and an increased risk of coronary heart disease, stroke or cardiovascular disease. 

The PREDIMED study was a landmark study on diet and heart disease. The study had 77,447 persons at high risk for cardiovascular disease assigned to 3 different groups. Two of the groups ate a variety of the Mediterranean Diet, a diet high in healthy fats from extra virgin olive oil and nuts. The other group was advised to decrease dietary fat intake. The researchers noticed a 30% reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease. There was such a difference between the Mediterranean Diet group and control group that the trial had be stopped, since it could be unethical to keep exposing one group to such a healthy diet and the other group to one that could make them worse (the low-fat group).

Another interesting study was done by Eric Westman from the Lifestyle Medicine Clinic at Duke University Medical Center. He had 50 patients eat meat and leafy green vegetables for 6 months. The results: improved cholesterol levels and they lost weight.

There are also a multitude of studies demonstrating how a lower carbohydrate diet can result in decreasing the risk or heart disease by improving risk factors related to heart disease, such as LDL and HDL cholesterol, blood sugar levels, and other lab results.

One great food choice for your heart are beans, the darker the better. Beans are high in folate. Folate converts homocysteine, an inflammatory heart diseases risk factor, into a compound called methionine, which is a compound that doesn’t damage our arteries.

The above two conditions are just a glimpse of some of the research out there in preventing and treating diseases with nutrition, and is not nearly an exhaustive example. Each year there are thousands of research papers published on nutrition, and it is up to medical professionals and medical researchers like myself, to interpret the data and apply it clinically. Nutrition can address a wide variety of conditions other then above mentioned, such as prevention and treatment of arthritis, cancer, obesity, skin, neurological, conditions, and many more. I emphasize discussing nutrition and/or taking supplements with your healthcare expert such as a Naturopathic Doctor, this can help your health as well as your pocketbook.

By Travis Whitney, NMD, MSc

 

References

Appel, L.J., and Van Horn, L. Did the PREDIMED Trial Test a Mediterranean Diet? N Engl J Med 2013; 368:1353-1354.

Diabetes Prevention Program Group. Reduction in the Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes with Lifestyle Intervention or Metformin. New England Journal of Medicine 2002; 346:393–403.

Duke JA. The Green Pharmacy Guide To Healing Foods. New York, NY: Rodale; 2008.

Estruch R, et al. Primary Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease with a Mediterranean Diet. N Engl J Med 2013; 368:1279-1290.

Siri-Tarino PW, Sun Q et al."Meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies evaluating the association of saturated fat with cardiovascular disease." Am J Clin Nutr. 2010; doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2009.27725.

Taubes, G. Why We Get Fat and What to Do about It. Alfred Knopf: 2011.

 

Food Dyes: Are These Colorful Culinary Addition Cancerous?


Food Dyes: Are These Colorful Culinary Addition Cancerous?

Food dyes have been with us in America since the turn of the 20th century. Chemists found out how to synthesize beautiful blues and ravishing reds from coal tar, and later from petroleum, to make certain foods look more appealing.

In Roman civilization people used saffron, beets, flowers, carrots and other natural products to color food. Dyes used in American foods today are mostly made from oil or synthetic materials. 

That's right, that tasty little snack you and your kid just shared is partly made from the same stuff gasoline is made from. Think that strawberry milkshake from a certain popular fast food chain gets its pretty pink hue from strawberries? Nope, that's Red #40. But you don't go to fast food chains, "Haha, medical blog! Me and my fam don't eat fast food, we just had macaroni and cheese with yogurt and a pickle!" Sorry, all are known to have food dyes. Though some companies are moving towards using natural coloring like turmeric and paprika due to the reputation dyes have developed. 

Thousands of foods use food dyes, they can be found in cereals, candy, snacks, beverages, vitamins, pickles, salad dressings, boxed foods, chips, and even cosmetics and health products like tooth paste use dyes. 

Before we get into some of the hard science findings, think about this before you start taking dyes to lightly. There were originally around 80 different dyes being used in foods, soaps, and cosmetics, between 1906 and 1938 fifteen of those were eliminated due to recurrent adverse health effects. Today only 7 are allowed by the FDA. And as you'll see, some of these clinical findings are alarming and makes you wonder why 7 are even allowed. Furthermore, many countries have banned or require warnings on products due to the known effects of these dyes. 

So what is the extent of damage these food dyes can do? A 2012 meta-analysis showed food dyes as being linked to hyperactivity and attention deficit disorder in children. And multiple studies indicate the same results. Food dye and it's effects on children are definitely a serious issue, but I was curious about the big serious "C" word. Cancer. As it turns out there's quite a bit of research on food dyes and cancer. 

In 2010 the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) concluded the FDA approved dyes are likely carcinogenic, are inadequately tested for, and cause behavioral problems in children (And in my opinion, probably in adult children too). in their report Food Dyes: A Rainbow of Risks which you can read here. For those of you that prefer not to read a 40 page scientific article I'll summarize. To be purely objective, it seems some food dyes are at the moment more cancerous than others. They found the dye Red 40, the most commonly used dye, may speed up immune system tumors in mice. Yellow 5 was not found to directly cause cancer, but the authors state the testing wasn't adequate. They did find it may trigger behavioral problems in children. Yellow 6 was found to cause adrenal tumors in animals. Red 40, Yellow 5, and Yellow 6 account for around 90% of dyes used in food. Blue 2 caused brain tumors, Green 3 increased bladder and testicular tumors in rats. Some of them were not found to cause any cancers, but the researchers point out there's limited testing done on dyes. 

It seems there's some evidence that dyes may cause cancer. And even though there's not an abundance of peer-reviewd, large clinical human trials, that show it does, why would we need them if there is some evidence it may and there are safer options. Some, if not most, of the evidence on dyes and health is considered anecdotal. 

An issue with studies done on dyes is almost all of the toxicological studies on dyes were commissioned, conducted, and analyzed by the chemical industry and academic consultants. These studies need to be done by independent researchers to so as to avoid any bias. Another issue is testing usually involves one dye, where as many foods combine multiple dyes which may have a synergistic effect. 

One good way to avoid food dyes is to learn to red the label. While it's vital to study the macro nutrients of a food label, the carbohydrates, sugars, protein, ect..., it's also important to check for any additional ingredients and preservatives. Or just don't buy anything that needs to have a label on it. If it has enough extra stuff added to it that it requires a label to list them it's likely not the whole food option you want. 

Dyes found on a food label. 

What do you think about dyes being used in food and cosmetics? Have you had any experience removing dyes from you or your families diet? Know any cool research on dyes and health you want to share? Let us know! 

By Travis Whitney, NMD, MSc

References

Kobylewski, S. and Jacobson, M. Food Dyes: A Rainbow of Risks. Center for Science in the Public Interest. 2010. http://cspinet.org/new/pdf/food-dyes-rainbow-of-risks.pdf

Potera, C. DIET AND NUTRITION: The Artificial Food Dye Blues. Environ Health Perspect. 2010 Oct; 118(10): A428. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2957945/

Hennessey, R. Living in Color: The Potential Dangers of Artificial Dyes. 2012. http://www.forbes.com/sites/rachelhennessey/2012/08/27/living-in-color-the-potential-dangers-of-artificial-dyes/#236be0443213

Borrell, B. Where Does Blue Food Dye Come From. Scientific American. 2009. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/where-does-blue-food-dye/

Can meditation help you learn?


Can meditation help you learn?

Can meditation help you learn a new task quicker via increasing a growth factor responsible for nerve cell growth? 
My vote is "definitely!", and that's what my thesis study alluded to as well.

The pilot study examined the effects of a 30-minute meditation intervention on BDNF levels, a protein that is responsible for the growth, survival, and maturation of our nerve cells like the ones in our brain, and cortisol production in a healthy sample of 7 experienced meditators compared to 7 non-experienced meditators.

BDNF levels and cortisol were compared in both groups prior to and following a 30-minute meditation session. Since we were measuring the protein responsible for nerve growth (BDNF), and cortisol, a hormone that can kill nerve cells if it's chronically elevated, we explored whether meditation improves cognitive performance, as measured with a computer application called Lumosity. We used the Lumosity games to introduce a new task to each person, then measured how much their scores improved after 30 minutes of meditation.

So what did we find? On average the experienced meditators had a higher BDNF level before the meditation. Interestingly, the non-experienced meditators had a slightly higher level of BDNF after meditating. So it's possible people that meditate daily, or almost daily, have more of this protein being produced that keeps our brain cells alive and well. And the act of meditating may also promote more BDNF to be made, especially if you're new to meditating.

As for that stress hormone cortisol, both groups experienced a significant decrease in cortisol after meditating.

What about the learning part? Will meditating help me learn something better? It seems that way. The experienced meditators scored higher on almost all their Lumosity brain game scores after meditating, and some of scores were dramatically higher. While not a huge study with glaring results, it has some interesting findings. And can you really argue that meditation is NOT good for you!

Parts of your brain that become more active or less active during meditation. The active areas are associated with attention span, emotions, memory, and learning.

There's other reasons why meditation may help you be able to learn better and faster. It's well researched that meditation activates areas of our brain that help us focus on one particular thing. Which is understandable since many types of meditation call for focusing on a single task such as clearing your mind of thoughts by focusing only on your breathing. This study used a simple Qigong meditation, and I'd be willing to bet that most forms of meditation would get the same or 'bigger' results. Especially moving forms of meditation since exercise is another popular way to increase BDNF levels.

So take a couple minutes to relax your mind and listen to your breath before that next study session, test, or meeting. Your body will love you for it!

- Travis Whitney, NMD, MSc