Sunday, January 13, 2013

Health, is an inside job.

It's time to rethink our model for "Health".

The current model we follow is an above-down and outside-in approach.  Doctors are in the position of authority, dictating what's healthy and what's not (above-down) and primarily prescribing medications to manage the symptoms of the problem at hand (outside-in). 

Health is currently defined as the absence of a disease, and no care is given until a diagnosis has been determined.  The outcome of this approach has been rising numbers in obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.  While our average lifespan has increased, our quality of life has decreased. 

What if we turned the current system upside down?  What if we defined health as optimal function instead of absence of disease?  Instead of doctors dictating our health we took responsibility for our own health and educated ourselves on the factors that increase true health instead of simply treating symptoms.  Doctors would become "Health Coaches" that in addition to alleviating symptoms, educated you on the things to do to increase health and prevent the problems in the first place.

Our office has a wealth of health information we share daily on our website and via Facebook and Twitter.   Want to know what your health indicators are via blood test?  There are websites you can go to and order your own blood tests and check your results for optimal ranges rather than just the presence of a disease.  Want to know how well your brain is functioning or how susceptible you are to Low Back pain and other musculoskeletal problems?  You can check cerebellum function via a simple android app.  Want to know how your stress levels are affecting your heart health?  There's an app for that too.  If you have questions, our office is always ready to answer questions and point you in the right direction with lots of other patient health resources.  If you do come to our office, you can have access to your health records anytime in "the cloud" via our certified EHR (electronic health record).  Just contact us for details and your password. 

If we paid attention to the 3 health stresses (chemical, physical, emotional) and took steps to control them, we would then be practicing an inside-out approach to health.  This would be cheaper, more effective and increase our quality of life as well as prevent the big 3 of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

Get going, and take charge of your health from the inside out.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Our Toxic Environment and 5 things you can do to protect yourself

It seems that every day we are learning about toxins in our environment.  From pesticides in our food, mercury in HCFS (High Fructose Corn Syrup) and even fog, to Brominated Vegetable Oil in Gatoraid and other drinks.  It seems every day we swim in a chemical soup of toxins that are bad for our health.  In my opinion (and others) we have reached a point of environmental toxin levels that it's virtually impossible to limit ALL exposure and we need to turn our attention to increasing our body's ability to eliminate/minimize the effects from toxins. 

The majority of these toxins have one thing in common.  What makes them toxic is that they rev up free radical production and promote inflammation.  So, if we want to remain healthy and keep our children healthy, we need to focus on free radical/inflammation reduction and toxin elimination. 

Here are 5 things you can do to increase the removal of toxins from the body:

1.  Avoid it in the first place:  This one seems obvious but bears repeating.  Educate yourself of the toxic elements in your environment and avoid them as much as possible.

2.  Direct Current Foot Baths:  All Detox Foot Baths operate through a process called electrolysis. This is done by generating the proper amount of current in the foot bath water causing the molecules of H2O to divide producing negative ions. Once the negative ions are present in the water, the body absorbs these ions through osmosis and these ions remove free radicals.

3.  Increase Glutathione in the body:  Glutathione is the workhorse of the body's toxin elimination system.  It provides detox effects at many different levels.  Increasing your body's levels of this element improves your body's ability to detoxify.  There are several different ways to elevate glutathione in the body. 
4.  Infared Sauna:  Probably the biggest toxin eliminating system is your skin and the process of sweating.  So getting a good sweat 1-2 times/week is a good way to make sure you're eliminating toxins. 

5.  Breathing:  Another way your body removes toxins is breathing (oxygen in and toxins out) so making sure you're using proper deep breathing mechanics is a must. 

These five things can go a long way in increasing your body's ability to remove toxins naturally.  In today's toxic environment, we need to do everything we can if we want to live a long healthy life.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Brain Fog: How air pollution is robbing us of our focus

I was stationed in LA for 2 years while in the Marine Corps, so I know what uncontrolled air pollution looks like.  Even on the clearest of days there was a greenish haze over the city.  I got used to the smell since there were many competing smells at the Port of Long Beach.  Whenever I got out of the city, to the desert or off shore (I was part of the Marine Detachment aboard the USS New Jersey) I notice my outlook improved as did my thought process and focus. 

Turns out research is now looking at the connection between air pollution and brain function, and it's not good.  As with most problems, you can see it's effects first in the very young and the very old.  Decreased cognitive function in senior exposed to air pollution has been shown in addition to the problems with respiratory function and heart problems.  In children, an increased risk of Autism development has been linked with air pollution exposure.  Theories are even being explored of a link with decreased sun exposure due to pollution, causing lowered levels of Vitamin D.  This also leads to decreased immune function in general.

Seems fresh air and sunshine are good for us in more ways than one.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

"Late development of the frontal cortex in teenagers" or "Why does my teenager act brain-dead sometimes?"

Anyone who is the parent of a teenager has undoubtedly at times searched their memory to identify any incidences of dropping them on their heads as infants. What else could possibly explain their behavior? I'm convinced my own teenager, must have played bumper cars with the kitchen cabinets using his head (all on his mother's watch of course).

Turns out there's a perfectly valid reason that teenagers act the way they do. To understand it, we have to understand a little about evolutionary brain development.

Inside our skulls is a story of our evolution displayed the pigment of neurons (nerve cells) and their connections. Three distinct layers of brain structures trace a history of brain development. The "Reptilian Brain" which mainly consists of the brain stem. The "Mammalian Brain" which consists of mainly the Thalamus (a sensory relay station) and the Limbic System which is the seat of our emotions. Finally is the "Neocortex" or "new brain" which is where we humans come in. In this Neocortex the biggest portion (and the part that separates us from the "beasts of the field") is the Frontal Lobes. All of your executive reasoning, logic, and planning takes place in these frontal lobes.

From the time we are conceived till adulthood, our brain development retraces our evolutionary trail. Before and at birth, the reptilian brain is developed first, which controls our heart rate, breathing, digestion and an array of primitive reflexes for our protection and survival. With parent interaction comes the development of the mammalian brain with regulation of emotions, and non-verbal communication. The next step is walking and talking and development of the neo-cortex which continues and is refined throughout our lives.

Herein lies the rub, dear readers. Seems that the frontal lobes don't fully finish maturing until early to mid 20's. Which means a teenager is like a jet fighter plane, with a full tank of jet fuel (hormones) and the pilot is asleep at the wheel.

So the next time your teenager does something that makes you swear they were dropped on their head, respond with a little patience that only a fully developed frontal lobe can provide.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Myths, Misconceptions, and Options in ADHD

ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, has become an all too common diagnosis these days. In fact, according to the CDC, nearly 1 in 10 children (9.5%) had been diagnosed with ADHD in 2007. With the diagnosis growing at a rate of 5.5% per year on average, the number of cases is well above that today. Unfortunately, that increase in incidence has not been followed by an increase in understanding of the disorder, and there are still many myths and misconceptions concerning the causes and available treatments.

The first myth is that ASD's (Autism Spectrum Disorders) are a purely genetic disorder. Up till now, most research into ASD has been directed at finding the genes involved in the hopes of developing more effective treatments. Some progress has been made in this area and genes controlling development of dopamine regulating systems in the brain have been implicated as part of the problem, but no definite "smoking gun" gene, or set of genes, have been found as yet. Furthermore, the dramatic increase in cases we have today would tend to discourage the idea of a purely genetic cause.

Another myth is that this epidemic increase is due to better diagnostic tools. However, a study in California showed that the increase in ASD cases could not be credited to better diagnosis alone and we needed to better identify the environmental factors involved.

Misconceptions abound as to what exactly is happening in the brain of these kids. What we can see on imaging is that there are certain parts of the brain that are under-developed and some areas that are over-developed, leading the unevenness in skills commonly seen. Some consider the problem to be a dopamine shortage in the brain, and this is the basis of the main form of current treatment, Methylphenidates (Ritalin and others). While the drugs are a useful tool in controlling the disorder, it is not a cure. These kids are on the drugs for years and their symptoms return once they are discontinued. Furthermore, prolonged use of them has been associated with unwanted side effects of growth suppression.

One theory that is gaining ground in the research is the idea of ASD's as a form of "Functional Disconnect Syndrome". In this model, there is a relative underdevelopment of connections in one hemisphere of the brain (usually the right in ADHD and Autism) and a corresponding over-development of connections in the other hemisphere. This leads to poor gross motor skills, focus, and reading facial emotions/eye contact (all relative right hemisphere functions) and normal or overdeveloped fine motor skills, attention to detail, and repetitive movements, actions or thoughts (all relative left hemisphere functions). The deficient gross motor skills explains the missed developmental milestones we often see in kids with these disorders such as sitting up, crawling, and walking. The overdeveloped left hemisphere explains the Savant Syndromes we sometimes see we see in autism.

This new theory of the mechanisms involved in ASD's is leading to new options for treatment of them as well. The brain grows and develops through sensory input. New treatment options based on this model include "multi-modal" brain stimulating exercises in the hopes of creating growth in the underdeveloped circuits of the deficient hemisphere. These "Hemisphere Specific Remediation" exercises focus on the deficient hemisphere only and can include motor/balance input, light and sound inputs, in addition to cognitive behavioral therapy. The initial results of research of these treatments are positive and encouraging.

As the ADHD/Autism epidemic continues to grow, it's good to know that science is starting to provide some answers to what is causing it, and providing some possible new options in treating it. As is the case in most things, being informed is the best defense for both our own families and society as a whole.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Daddy, I want to be like you!....

This was what my youngest child said to me the other day that got me thinking. How much of our children's reality is shaped by that of their parents?

Realities, yours and mine, are created by us, through our thoughts, words, and deeds. Our predominant thoughts, both conscious and unconscious, influence the words that we speak and the actions we take. So if I'm constantly thinking that people don't like me, I will tend to reflect this in my conversations and actions which in turn will cause others to not like being around me. Most people don't want to be around the "poor, pitiful, me's" of the world. Not for extended lengths of time anyway.

But how much of our reality effects and molds that of our children? Far more than we think or are comfortable with in most cases.

Behavior modeling has been well established as a primary influence in how our children behave. Children will do what we do and act how they see us acting regardless of what we tell them to do. So if you don't want your children to belch loudly after a meal in a public restaurant, you shouldn't do so at home. Because chances are, they are going to do so when your boss or your pastor is sitting in the booth next to yours.

This also goes for our speech as well. You smash your finger and utter a word they've never heard in their lives and they choose
that word repeat over and over every time you're in public for the next week. They do the same thing internally (subconsciously) when you tell them they are "getting chunky", "goofy looking", or "stupid", and this shapes their self image for the rest of their lives.

A parent's thoughts would not seem to be high on the list of potential problems for their children. However, recent research into epigenetics shows that the stress levels of the parents, profoundly effect the genetic expression of their children's ability to handle stress. So how you handle stress not only effects you and your health but effects your children's genetic expression and ability to handle stress in their lives. This has profound implications for our children's lives.

Ghandi said we have to "be the change we want to see in the world" and this applies to our own children as well. We need to change the way we create our realities through our thoughts, words and deeds to help our children change theirs. We can do this by controlling our Thoughts, Words and Deeds.

  1. Thoughts: Thoughts and their attached emotional responses can be controlled through Mindfulness Training and Breathing Exercises.
  2. Words: Be more mindful of how we talk to ourselves and our children. The purpose of Mindfulness training is to enhance our emotional control so we don't speak on our feelings before we think about them.
  3. Deeds: Lead by example in how we respond to stress. Get yourself and your children checked for Subluxations by your Chiropractor to reduce the effects of stress on you and them. This one thing effects all the other efforts as well.

The time to do these things ideally would be before conception but anytime is a good time to start changing you and your children's reality.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Good News and the Bad News...

In the field of Neuroscience recently, there is good news and bad news.

The good news, according to Barbara Strauch, ( author of The Secret Life of the Grown Up Brain, and the health/medical science editor for The New York Times ) is that at middle age we have the BEST brains of our entire lives. The bad news is that our lifestyle choices are robbing us of it.

Barbara Strauch recently spoke at Stanford University about how changes to the middle aged brain make it the best brain of our entire lives. This may sound counter-intuitive to those of us who can't remember where they put their keys or what they were going to do in the first place. Yes, levels of neurotransmitters are lower and short term memory starts to have problems. However, in cognitive tests, 40-60 year old people did better than their 20 something year old counterparts on the most important functions. In the areas of inductive reasoning and problem solving, social expertise and financial judgments, the middle age brain does much better. In those at middle age, experience has shaped their brains to be better at sizing up situations, people, and making better decisions. Experience counts and most especially in these areas.

Now for the bad news. For most people in America, our lifestyle choices are robbing us of the best brain of our lives.

The American diet has created a nation of overweight people. Over one quarter of the US population can be considered obese according to the CDC. Obesity has recently been linked with brain shrinkage and Dementia. Other recent news indicates that 1 in 10 people suffer from Diabetes in America and that number is predicted to be 1 in 3 by the year 2050. Hypoglycemia has been associated with losses of declarative memory (places people and things), and insulin resistance has been associated with Alzheimer's.

Our sedentary lifestyle and lack of exercise has been implicated in both increased diabetes and decreased brain function. According to brain scientist John Medina, exercise increases brain function and learning in every way we know how to measure it. Exercise not only increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain, but it has been shown to work as well as SSRI's (Prozac ect.) for depression.

Finally, our stress levels and inability to deal with stress are a major factor in brain degeneration. Stress levels are at all time highs in the US and have been associated with decreased learning along with hippocampal volume (the part of brain responsible for learning). Our Sympathetic Nervous System, or our "fight or flight" system, is designed to quickly aid us in fighting, or fleeing from,a perceived threat (real or otherwise) and then shut down to allow the Parasympathetic system to digest food and heal the body. Our Sympathetic System reacts the same to a deadline at work as it does to a tiger trying to eat us. The problem is that the former situation is much more common, and in today's society these constants stresses keep our Sympathetic System ON constantly. This not only doesn't give the body time to rest and repair itself but degenerates the body as well as the brain.

So what do we do to claim the full promise of our middle aged brains?

  1. Eat a healthy diet to maintain a healthy body weight and decrease your chances of diabetes. A good general diet with foods low on the glycemic index along with portion control will accomplish both of these tasks.
  2. Get out and exercise. As little as 30 minutes a day is enough to claim most of the benefits to brain and body. Running, walking and other various exercises (without weights) are all you need.
  3. Control your stress. Breathing and mindfulness exercises work great for this. As little as 10-20 minutes a day to start is fine.
Taking these simple little steps can make the difference between a healthy middle aged brain and standing in your living room trying to remember what you came in there for.