No, You Do NOT Need to Improve Yourself For the New Year

No, You Do NOT Need to Improve Yourself For the New Year

rogi__gorski_kotar__croatia_-_panoramioThere is nothing wrong with you.

When you start believing that you are not inherently bad or defective, that is when resolutions for change actually can have lasting effect.  All we ever need to do both in life and in health is to get out of our own way.  Eliminate the obstacles.  Like a log jam in the river – moving the logs is much easier than trying to push the river uphill.

It’s true that you might be more comfortable in your body if you exercise regularly or eat fewer inflammatory foods, but you are still a valuable human being regardless of what you choose to do about this.  If you see your intrinsic value, you would probably choose less punishing behavior, and less time would be wasted spinning in unproductive guilt when things don’t go exactly as you planned.

Letting go of the idea that there is anything “wrong” with who we are opens the door to making good choices.  Connecting with our value lets us put aside harsh judgement and shame over the choices we make when they are not ideal.

The self-improvement frenzy of the new year’s resolution tradition is dangerously destructive because it feeds all sorts of unhealthy thought patterns.  We all know that most of these “resolutions” don’t stick and it’s because they tend to be rooted in unrealistic expectations and stem from faulty assumptions that we are “broken” in some way.

There is nothing wrong with resolving to remember to do good and be good whatever “good” means to you, but please remember that goodness is a natural inclination.  So, really, you’d be resolving to be more of who you naturally are.  If anything, we should all take a moment to reflect on what is keeping us from letting our optimal potential and natural happiness surface.

When the attitudes shift from a place of self hatred to self love and acceptance the natural flow of wellness is allowed to resume.

Let’s embrace what is and who we are just as we are.  You don’t need improvement this year or any year. You are perfect just the way you are.

Now go do something healthy just for the love of it!


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What IS “Integrative” Healthcare?

What IS “Integrative” Healthcare?

By The U.S. Army (2012 Warrior Games) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

“Integrative medicine” is a term that has become very trendy in the health and wellness industry.  It’s an approach inspired by some of the leaders in the Functional Medicine movement.  As soon as it became evident that patients demand it which means there are big dollars at stake, even mainstream medicine is coming on board.  Cleveland Clinic has opened a dedicated wing for Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine  as has Johns Hopkins with their Integrative Medicine and Digestive Center.

So, what is it exactly?

It’s healthcare designed to treat the whole person (shocker). Many of us in the natural healthcare industry who have been practicing with this mindset for decades can’t help but roll our eyes a little bit at this “new” movement, but it is one to celebrate.

It feels to me like the general public is just catching up with how I’ve been living for most of my life personally, and now professionally for close to 25 years.  What we see in the integrative circles of healthcare is a coming-together of East and West, an acceptance of the interdependence of both sides.

“Integration” refers to the coordination of care between mainstream Western medicine and traditional or “alternative” methods including but not limited to acupuncture, chiropractic, massage therapy, yoga, meditation and other lifestyle modifications. You can find “Functional Medicine” on Wikipedia defined as: medical practice or treatments that focus on optimal functioning of the body and its organs, usually involving systems of holistic or alternative medicine.  

The functional medicine movement was started by a chiropractor with a PhD in biochemistry – Jeffrey Bland.  He bravely championed the long held old-world wisdom of viewing health and disease not as a linear process between one cause and one effect, but rather a complex symphony with multiple orchestral sections that all depend on each other for harmony.   Now people like Mark Hyman MD and a slew of others, straddling mainstream and traditional methods, have embraced this much needed common-sense approach.

Integration? Or Collaboration?

What we are seeing and hearing increasingly from numerous medical centers and hospitals, as many of them move to offer these kinds of approaches under one roof, is validation of this kind of wisdom-medicine for use in the Western model.

This week’s national news headlines on ABC’s GMA morning programming included a story highlighting the benefits of integrative medicine for cancer patients at all stages of care.  The use of acupuncture, movement therapy like yoga, massage and meditation were given as examples of treatment methods used to address the emotional, spiritual and physical needs together.

Some of you who follow this blog know that, just a few weeks ago, I attended a conference held by the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine (AIHM) where I met medical doctors, physician assistants, nurses, naturopaths, acupuncturists and other chiropractors.  All of us together acknowledging the role of each other’s specialties in the full care of a patient while remembering to also live the path that we advocate for by indulging in some reflective self care.

In conversation with someone over breakfast at this AIHM conference I shared that I am a chiropractor in solo practice. I was met with “So you don’t actually practice integrative medicine…”

This took me aback a bit because I believe I actually do the ultimate integrative practice.   This exchange made me consider that perhaps the confusion is with the concept of “collaborative” vs. “integrative”.  Solo practice means I run a one-woman-show but does not preclude my patients from receiving collaborative (or “integrative”) care.  In my opinion collaboration is essential to integrative approaches.

This meeting of two worlds, in my opinion, can happen just as effectively in a more expansive community setting and not just under one roof. Successful collaborative care for the whole person is much more about the attitudes of providers than a physical facility with a name. I see my job as more of a healthcare traffic cop of sorts.

With the training that every chiropractor receives – to serve as a primary / portal of entry provider  – we are charged with the responsibility of knowing when chiropractic will serve our patients and when other modalities are more appropriate or needed in conjunction with our work.  Who better then, to assess and help patients prioritize treatment methods and direct them to the right practitioners?

I am extremely comfortable with my limitations as a practitioner and for true whole-person healthcare I think it’s essential to beware the delusion that any one of us can be everything to everyone.

For patients who don’t yet have a healthcare team, I regularly bring their attention to physiatry, physical therapy, massage, acupuncture, psychotherapy, and whenever needed, direct them back to their mainstream medical provider or any  number of medical specialists.

Do you have a healthcare team of alternative and mainstream providers?  Are you enjoying the integrative medicine movement?  You deserve to.  Status quo is changing.  Expect more.

 

 

 

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.