Meeting Dr. Joseph Pizzorno

Meeting Dr. Joseph Pizzorno

Last month I was in San Diego attending a week long conference of the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine (AIHM). What a refreshing gathering of so many different health specialists and generalists, truly representative of my ideal in holistic and integrative care of patients.

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Dr. Joseph Pizzorno at the AIHM conference 2016 – Looking dapper as ever despite three consecutive lectures without break!

One of the highlights for me was to attend a set of lectures given by Dr. Joseph Pizzorno and then to meet him for the first time. He is one of the founders of Bastyr University. I’ve been in touch with him for the past couple of years now because of his kind willingness to pen the foreword of my first book in the Every Body’s Guide to Everyday Pain series, Volume One – Put Out the Fire. Until now we had only corresponded remotely and so this was the first chance I’d had to meet in person this man I’m so grateful to.

I was in disbelief for quite some time that this natural health care giant was willing to associate his name with a project like mine – very much still in its infancy.

What I’ve learned about him during the process is how generous, gracious and humble he is and all of this was just confirmed by our in-person meeting in San Diego. He was practically mobbed by eager attendees after his lectures and despite being worn out from travel and an unusually long consecutive series of lecture hours without a break, he responded with patient kindness to everyone’s questions.

The topic of Dr. Pizzorno’s most recent research and writing work is environmental health.

The area of study referred to as “environmental health” concerns itself with the effect that inorganic compounds in our environment  exert on our overall well-being, whether those be naturally occurring or human-made.

It is an essential piece to the puzzle when considering the three possible triggers of everyday pain.  Exposure to these compounds can be one of the significant influences responsible for triggering an imbalance in our biochemistry – the precise factor that can add to our inflammatory toxin load and set us up for pain.  When chemistry is out of balance it can profoundly change our emotional coping and in turn our mechanical stressors as we translate emotion into posture.

Environmental toxin exposure is an awesome topic demanding supreme command of the research which Dr. Pizzorno clearly has with unique affinity.  He is in the process of preparing for the release of a new book on the topic:

The Toxin Solution: How Hidden Poisons in the Air, Water, Food, and Products We Use Are Destroying Our Health, and What We Can Do to Fix It

And there is another book in the works for a few years down the road of a more didactic nature.  I’m very excited to see both and will be heavily referencing this work for Volume Two – Fix the Fire Damage of my pain book series.

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Taking My Own “Medicine”

Taking My Own “Medicine”

Dobbins'_medicated_toilet_soap,_advertising,_1869When you’re a chiropractor, what does it mean to “take your own medicine” ?

“Walking my own talk” consists of more than just making sure I receive chiropractic care myself.  It’s about seeking balance in all areas of health.  With balance in sight, the need for professional treatment decreases.

My motivation is maybe a bit more intensely fueled than for most people because my body is my essential work tool.  If mechanical, biochemical or emotional balance is off, it directly affects the ability to fulfill my commitment to patients which in turn could potentially risk my livelihood.  This is an intense interdependence that I would never trade for anything but it can be more than stressful to be even just a little bit laid-up.

In last week’s post I alluded to a recently renewed return to health by restoring balance to my own life, after a year of pushing to get my book out, followed by the release and adventures in promotion.

Block Quote 4I cannot emphasize enough how much this pursuit of balance can differ from person to person.  I am taking a moment to briefly outline what this looked like for me at this particular juncture, to give you a very general idea of the factors to consider when thinking about your own balance in wellness.  In particular I want to illustrate some of the principles outlined in my book (Every Body’s Guide to Everyday Pain, Volume One – Put Out the Fire). Don’t wait until you’re in pain to find your true healthy balance. The everyday variety of pain is always a sign that something has fallen by the wayside in one of the three main categories (mechanical, biochemical or emotional) but things can be “off” long before pain strikes.

In my case, this time I needed first to focus on returning to a more regimented sleep/wake schedule.  I’ve learned that my body and mind operate optimally with 6,1/2 – 7 hours of sleep per night and this means I need to exercise a little discipline about getting to bed on time because I am not willing to get up late.  The morning hours are treasured time and important to my emotional well-being.  I’m very lucky to have good sleep hygiene and my body cooperates well when put to bed.  For times when that’s not the case (as everything ebbs and flows), I reach for homeopathic remedies, herbal teas or magnesium to calm the nervous system before bed.  A controversial trick that isn’t advisable for everyone but that works well for me, is to have a small bite to eat before bedtime as well.

Test tubes science backgroundRe-balancing my biochemistry is something that I dedicated the better part of two consecutive months to. Resetting my organ systems and aiding the natural detoxification, involved some herbal and food therapy.  I returned to eating simply by avoiding my known sensitivities: dairy, all animal protein, simple starches (sugar), nightshades and a few other specifics that I’ve come to recognize over the years as taxing to my system.  I’ve since then slowly returned to more variety based on what my appetite dictates.

Block Quote 2Some signs that will tell you about your sensitivities can be as subtle as an increase in heart rate within 1/2 hour of eating. Sometimes it’s just a little tickle in the back of the throat that passes quickly but is still a significant sign of intolerance.  Other times it can be a generalized increase in mucous production and that might be harder to spot.  The need to clear your throat or blow your nose in the morning might be signs of excess mucous production in response to a food trigger from the day before.  The point is that foods (sometimes very delicious food), not overtly considered as “allergenic” like peanuts, can still be considered by your body as a burden for your biochemistry.  So, it’s always important to pay attention to subtle reactions.

When I commit to helping my body unload excess waste, I also utilize dry sauna sweats, infrared if possible and pay extra attention to optimizing kidney and bowel function.  This makes a big difference in the associated discomfort of “detox”-related headaches and body aches that can happen when large amounts of waste are mobilized throughout the body for elimination.

My herbal and nutrient based regimen was also targeted, in part to facilitate elimination via the kidneys, liver and colon.  There are many different philosophies on which herbs are most appropriate and this is something that is best done with the advice of a natural health care doctor.  Focusing on aiding natural elimination is the best way to help decrease your body’s chemical burden from exposure to complex molecules in our air, food and water.

Balancing RocksFor me, restoring mechanical balance can’t happen without first adequate rest and attention to nutrition.  After re-setting sleep and nutrition I found my energy returning and started to increase activity based on that, but not until then.  If fuel or rest and recovery are lacking, then the exercise output ends up adding stress to the system instead of strengthening it.  This is why sleep and nutrient intake is first priority. It sets the stage for successful return to exercise.  Without this in place, workouts are pointless and counterproductive, potentially resulting in inflammation-causing stress.

Block Quote 3What my body and mind are willing and able to do changes with the seasons, years and stages in life.  This Spring, yoga was the doorway back to physical empowerment.  It helped me begin to feel able to return to swimming and weightlifting.  Now, my routine includes one yoga class per week and two other days of gym workouts which consist of a warm-up swim followed by an upper body or lower body weight resistance workout.  That’s three days a week of 1-2 hours of exercise. They are strategically spaced from my days with patients so that I am not too sore to be effective in the office, but also to avoid muscle fatigue related injuries.

There’s nothing rigorous about this current exercise schedule which is what makes it completely sustainable.  When starting a new routine, being consistent is more important than making a huge impact.  Come wintertime, it’s possible that my needs will change and I will change my exercise accordingly.  Perhaps in a future post I will take some time to address the how of tuning in to your own changing needs from season to season or depending on life and work situations.  It’s mostly a lifelong process of trial and error.

It can be tricky to walk the fine line between the intended exertion of exercise and inescapable demands of work life. But as you slowly increase physical activity, what always holds true is that you increase your body’s capacity for emotional, chemical and physical stress to keep from rebounding into exhausted inactivity.  It must be done in a loving way. Self-care routines are best implemented with gentle caring instead of harsh reprimands.  If you’re someone who thrives on hard line tactics for motivation – find a trainer or someone outside of yourself to play that role.

Even though it’s not an easy daily practice for many, being loving and yes even permissive with yourself makes room for healthy choices.  Remember real health can and does exist in imperfect bodies everywhere.  It’s about balance, not perfection.

Block Quote 1Lastly, you should know that it takes at least two full months – often three months – of consistent activity in order to surpass the “transition reaction” of new exercise.  When introducing a change in routine or physical demands, the brain and body will express themselves by exhibiting physical sensations that aren’t always 100% comfortable.

Sometimes the transition to a better balance in life includes re-visiting old pain that might feel like re-injury as we work to strengthen around these old vulnerabilities.  This is why it’s important to line up some outside help during these transitions either via massage, acupuncture, or chiropractic.  It’s the time when I see the greatest need for support in my patients.

Food for thought while you consider your own healthy balancing act: When we act in reaction or opposition to an idea or a feeling, we set the stage for inevitable failure. When we act out of caring and acceptance for the imperfection that is, we make good and sustainable choices.


Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons, Fotolia

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Tissue Acidity is Real. Debunking the “Debunkers”.

Tissue Acidity is Real. Debunking the “Debunkers”.

strumenti laboratorio chimicoThe controversial issue concerning the role of pH in health is one with heated opinions on both sides of the fence. But what are those sides of the fence? Well, there is a strong cohort opposed to the concepts that acidity or alkalinity (measured on a scale of pH) is in some form or another related to health and, in particular, that the food we eat has any bearing on our body’s pH value. The other side is preoccupied with promoting products like pH-regulated water that will supposedly “cure” you of all diseases. Neither position on the matter is doing justice to the facts.

I write about the influence of pH in my book Every Body’s Guide to Everyday Pain. There is no scarcity of research to support the fact that low tissue pH (acidity) is associated with inflammation, which can lead to pain.1-6 This is an extremely relevant point when considering the paradigm shift necessary to recognize early indicators of dysfunction and imbalance — these will help us learn to avoid the perplexing everyday variety of pain that often seems to appear out of nowhere.

Block Quote #1The science of pH in human physiology is complex. There is no easy cause-and-effect scenario to follow, and no straightforward way exists to measure pH in the body in real time. For example, urine pH values do not accurately represent the pH values in your joints and tissues, and salivary pH is not directly representative of your intestinal pH status because normally food is processed by your gastrointestinal tract and, in doing so, the composition of what you ingested has changed. The reality is that the acid/alkaline status of your body is a moving target and is not uniform across all systems.  These crude measurements (urine and saliva) act as red herrings and provide—at best—educated guesses about what the body is actually going through at any particular moment.

One very important truth that every pH “debunker” gets right is that blood pH does not fluctuate. This tight control over blood pH levels is essential to keeping us within the very narrow parameters needed by our cardiovascular system to keep us alive. Keeping our blood pH from fluctuating is so important that, when we are exposed to acidifying influences that could disrupt our blood chemistry balance, an elaborate biochemical dance occurs in all other body systems in an effort to “take the hit” for us. Our body copes in other ways to handle the stress and temporarily becomes compromised in some way to protect the blood pH from potentially life-threatening fluctuations.

What sorts of things cause this kind of pH-shifting biochemical stress? Anything that our cells are exposed to in the course of daily life can cause a shift—air, food, and water act as the three main vectors. Our air is filled with byproducts of industrial exhausts and at different times of the year with complex plant proteins that become airborne and act as allergens. Food comes in many formats in our society of “now” and modern conveniences. Packaging, processing, and preservatives introduce chemical compounds that our bodies were not Block Quote #2designed to tolerate on a regular basis, and what we think of as water is no longer just H2O (two molecules of hydrogen and one of oxygen). Water is generally considered safe, but the measures needed to create safe drinking water in developed countries may also introduce miniscule amounts of foreign molecules into the water supply.

The key realization here is to understand that the issue isn’t necessarily exclusively about the pH value of these substances themselves, rather that, in large part, it’s the body’s protective responses in the face of biochemical stressors that change our tissue chemistry

Let’s look at a common response to biologic “invaders”: Histamine. Histamine is an irritant produced in response to a wide array of allergens, and evidence suggests that histamine itself presents an acidifying effect.7-9 These inevitable acidic influences have to hit us somewhere and, if not the blood, then where?

An important distinction often missing from these discussions about pH is that blood pH is not the same as tissue pH. Tissues are bathed in interstitial fluid made up of lymphatic and cellular materials (amino acids, hormones, sugars, fatty acids, coenzymes, neurotransmitters, salts, and cellular waste)—none of which equates to blood. In processing biochemical stress from any source—whether dietary, environmental, or emotional—it turns out that the tissues of the body, not the blood, are the most affected.

Armed with these facts about pH in the body and its association with inflammation, it’s compelling to consider the following possibility: It seems that every food theory that aims at decreasing inflammation and enhancing gut and brain health (based on the acidity/alkalinity of your food or not) are successful to at least some degree. Could the true reason for this be because of the net effect on tissue pH? Well, it’s not quite that simple. There’s a catch: People report a wide variety of results. So, does that mean all this food hype is bunk?

It’s certainly not “bunk,” per se, but it’s worth remembering that, if no measurable correlation exists between the acidifying influence of the food itself and a particular person’s body pH, then any results seen (whether good or bad) are likely a factor of that person individual’s biologic response based on his or her unique genetic profile. So, what does that mean? It means that results are highly variable.

Which foods or airborne particles do your cells consider to be allergens (ie, foreign)? Firstly, this is something that changes as we age; secondly, it’s dictated by your genetic profile; and, thirdly, to complicate matters, outside influences (environmental, including stress) can change the responses of your genes to allergens.

These are the facts:

  1. In general, inflammation is at the root of dysfunction and disease.10
  2. Tissue acidity provides an environment conducive to inflammation.11

If we can avoid providing the perfect playground for pain and disease, then why shouldn’t we try? Exploring the foods and substances that expose your cells to the least amount of acidifying stress is a very personal journey. The array of widely touted food theories may be appropriate for some people and represent a good place to start, but you may find you’ll require some guidance from a natural medicine practitioner at some point to help you pinpoint what your specific situation calls for and the individual needs of your body.

For professionals in the dietetics field or those in the food industry to claim that what we eat doesn’t affect our health in this way seems a bit ironic and counter to the mission. I hope the conversation continues for the sake of shedding light on ways to minimize biochemical stress—whether that be through dietary changes, lifestyle modification, or in other ways—with the ultimate goal being to increase quality of life for all.

 

References

  1. Bray GE, Ying Z, Baillie LD, Zhai R, Mulligan SJ, Verge VM. Extracellular pH and neuronal depolarization serve as dynamic switches to rapidly mobilize trkA to the membrane of adult sensory neurons. J Neurosci. 2013;33(19):8202-8215.
  2. Ugawa S, Ueda T, Ishida Y, Nishigaki M, Shibata Y, Shimada S. Amiloride-blockable acid-sensing ion channels are leading acid sensors expressed in human nociceptors. J Clin Invest. 2002;110(8):1185-1190.
  3. Wu WL, Cheng CF, Sun WH, Wong CW, Chen CC. Targeting ASIC3 for pain, anxiety, and insulin resistance. Pharmacol Ther. 2012;134(2):127-138.
  4. Birklein F, Weber M, Ernst M, Riedl B, Neundorfer B, Handwerker HO. Experimental tissue acidosis leads to increased pain in complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). Pain. 2000;87(2):227-234.
  5. Lin CC, Chen WN, Chen CJ, Lin YW, Zimmer A, Chen CC. An antinociceptive role for substance P in acid induced chronic muscle pain. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 2012;109(2):E76-E83.
  6. Steen KH, Steen AE, Kreysel HW, Reeh PW. Inflammatory mediators potentiate pain induced by experimental tissue acidosis. Pain. 1996;66(2-3):163-170.
  7. Uvnäs B, ed. Histamine and Histamine Antagonists. New York: Springer-Verlag; 1991.
  8. Hiller A, The effect of histamine on the acid-base balance. J Biol Chem. 1926;833-46.
  9. Rocha e Silva M, Rothschild HA. Histamine. Its chemistry, metabolism and physiological and pharmacological actions. Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg GmbH. 1966:233.
  10. Cohen S, Janicki-Deverts D, Doyle WJ, Miller GE, Frank E, Rabin BS, Turner RB. Chronic stress, glucocorticoid receptor resistance, inflammation, and disease risk. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012;109(16):5995-5999.
  11. Jankowski JA, ed. Inflammation and Gastrointestinal Cancers. New York: Springer; 2011.

Are You Eating Your Inflammation?

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Photo Credit: Fotolia

If you’re in pain, you are inflamed. No question. Inflammation is your body on fire (read more about that in this post on my blog-to-book project site Stop Everyday Pain).  To put out this fire, you need to first of all, stop throwing kindling on the flames. Then find a way to put the fire out altogether – smother it or douse it with water.

One of the things we do to feed the fire of inflammation is to eat things that keep the body chemically irritated and inflamed. What are these things that cause and add to inflammation? Processed foods, preservatives, sugar etc. are all evil but that’s yesterday’s news. Did you know that you might also be stoking the fire of inflammation simply by not eating in a balanced way. We might be eating technically well with all the right whole foods and organic meats and unprocessed naturally packaged snacks, but if the proportions are off, then our acid/base balance is also off and too much acidity is what leads to inflammation.

You’ve all heard of Omega 3 fatty acids. We’re all trying to get more in our diets because of all of the health benefits – one of them being anti-inflammatory. Chickens are even being fed omega 3s so that their eggs can be packaged and labeled as “Omega 3 Eggs”. This seems a little extreme doesn’t it? But this is what it’s come to.

Let’s take a quick look at a couple of important things that are getting overlooked in our crush to gobble up fish oil and flax seed as our main sources of Omega 3 supplementation in our quest for relief from pain and inflammation.

Is Your Fish Oil Making You More Toxic?

First of all, if we mega-dose on Omega 3 oils then there is a possibility that the body will become overwhelmed and unable to properly metabolize the oil via our natural anti-oxidative processes. So, it becomes equally — if not more – important to take in foods that will help with breaking down the inflammatory free-radicals that can accumulate from high doses of Omega 3 supplement sources. If high doses of “good” oils are allowed to accumulate in the body they can pose an inflammatory oxidative stress on our tissues – completely counteracting our good intentions.

Are You Eating More Inflammation-Kindling Than Inflammation-Dousing Food?

Secondly, there needs to be a very important ratio balance between Omega 3 fatty acids and Omega 6 fatty acids. These are both essential to us for survival so we have to eat them – our body does not make them. The problem is that research shows that when we have too many of the Omega 6 variety and not enough of the 3 variety, the result is inflammation and disease. Well, wouldn’t you know it, this is exactly what the average modern diet provides! We are all eating our inflammation by having too much Omega 6 and not enough Omega 3.

If you’re having trouble keeping those two straight you’re not alone. Think: “Omega Three will Set You Free” and whether you’re superstitious or religious or not – you’ve probably heard of the number six associated with “the devil” (666) – well, you can think of Omega 6 as just a little bit (just one third) on the evil side. It’s still important to our health but the 6s are just too easily abundant and tempting.

Here is a really quick over-simplified synopsis of where you find which Omega:

Omega 3 – to “set you free”, you’ll find in one form or another with the following

  1. leafy greens
  2. flax seed or oil
  3. fish

Omega 6 – just a little bit evil, is what you’ll get when you eat the following:

  1. grains
  2. most seeds
  3. vegetables that store energy in the form of seeds like the squashes and some nightshades

The realistic take-away is to do your very best to eat as much from the first group (leafy greens, fish and flax) as you can and just think about it before you stuff yourself with the other.

Some good online sources for more detailed discussion about Omega fatty acids: Dr. Ben Kim’s website and Acupuncturist Chris Kresser’s site

I have no personal or business affiliations with either individual.  I just found their handling of the material to be fair and balance.

Follow along on my blog-to-book site Stop Everyday Pain to discover other unexpected ways we often contribute to the fire of inflammation when we’re in pain.

References:

[i] pH => pain: Bray GE, Ying Z, Baillie LD, Zhai R, Mulligan SJ, Verge VM. Extracellular pH and neuronal depolarization serve as dynamic switches to rapidly mobilize trkA to the membrane of adult sensory neurons. J Neurosci. 2013;33(19):8202-8215. Ugawa S, Ueda T, Ishida Y, Nishigaki M, Shibata Y, Shimada S. Amiloride-blockable acid-sensing ion channels are leading acid sensors expressed in human nociceptors. J Clin Invest. 2002;110(8):1185-1190. Wu WL, Cheng CF, Sun WH, Wong CW, Chen CC. Targeting ASIC3 for pain, anxiety, and insulin resistance. Pharmacol Ther. 2012;134(2):127-138.

[ii] Simopoulos AP. The Importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids. Biomed Pharmacother. 2002 Oct;56(8):365-79.