Archive for the ‘Diet & Nutrition’ Category

Menopause Symptoms – they just don’t have to be that bad, because menopause is not a disease

Thursday, April 30th, 2015

I believe I have some good news for people struggling with this issue.  You don’t have to have the symptoms or at least the severity of the symptoms.

I have met many women who feel quite trapped by the situation.  They feel trapped between the choice having a low quality of life or feeling better with HRT but then having an increase risk of cancer later.  Or they feel somewhat hopeless against the power of family history and genetics.  They may not realize how much their own lifestyle choices can improve the problem.  They do not know that they have capacity to make changes for the better, as they are guilty about prior failures.

It is my opinion that menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, anxiety and insomnia, while common, are an abnormal response to a normal change.  This issue is not such a hard presentation compared to say blood loss – everyone with very low blood counts will feel awful.  But with hormones, a women with low numbers may not even notice anything.  Basically, issues like anemia are diseases, but menopause is not a disease.

For urban African and Asian women, only 40% have symptoms and a high proportion of these people do not report severe symptoms. 60% to 75% of Caucasian, urban Latin American and African American women report trouble and a high number have a significant reduction to quality of life.  Yet the actual hormone levels in different cultures are not significantly different over all.

I have seen daughters’ of really afflicted moms avoid trouble simply by taking better care of themselves and receiving treatment at my clinic.  Genetics may be the hand we are dealt, but how we play that hand is sometimes more important.

Western medicine does not have a clear definition of health in general practice.  They usually define health as an absence of disease yet have no measure of how hard the body is working to remain symptom free.  A person in balance has the metabolic resources to change without problems or without severe problems.  The idea of ‘balance’ and the Chinese Medicine view of balance relies on a personal relativity, which science as yet has difficulty studying.  Individuality by definition implies qualities not easily averaged.

But aspects of being in balance are making the news.   The home-based care advice given to patients for centuries in China and the last 10 years in Eugene by myself is, in the 21st century, now supported by the biomedical research.  You can play the game better, you can feel better.

Meditation in some studies knocks hot flash rates down 50%.  The presumption is that the thermo-regulation center in the brain is near to the brain areas reacting to adrenalin exposure.  Other practical methods of reducing adrenalin and stress help as well. Non-smokers or quitting smoking is a major factor.  Clearing excess alcohol and changing the standard american diet (sugar, fat, salt, caffeine) also improves outcomes in the research.

Now I must be cautious here – my reaction to remedies via lifestyle change is “Thank goodness the solution exists and it is all so simple” but many folk feel that the issues in the last paragraph are already major sources of guilt and an otherwise insurmountable obstacle. Try not to worry – I can help you make the process of change manageable and guilt free.  You may even become pleasantly surprised to find that even a 10-25% change is enough to get the job done and have a full night’s sleep, or the Chinese medicine is able to handle on it’s own.  In fact some patients only need to spend time and effort on the problem till the adjustment happens and then they don’t need the tools anymore – especially in cases where the symptoms arise because of the relative change of hormone levels, not the absolute blood levels.

Some women’s constitution may not even need the lifestyle adjustment.  Their system is strong enough that herbs or acupuncture alone is enough to leave the symptoms behind.  The simplest cases I have seen needed only about 3 weeks of acupuncture to get them feeling normal again.

As usual in my experience, and for regular readers of my blog, the best results in most cases happen when the problem is surrounded on many fronts.  Make a big impact on the system at the start, tail off as the problem fades.   Remember that menopause is not a disease and the annoying symptoms represent a difficulty adjusting to change.  Not many hot flashes can survive an onslaught of individually tailored herbs, acupuncture and adrenalin reduction.

 

 

Try this simple way to reduce colitis, IBS, weight gain, metabolic syndrome.

Friday, February 27th, 2015

Intestines

Emulsifiers may possibly be causing or promoting your symptoms, especially E466 (carboxymethylcellulose) and E433 (polysorbate-80).  See reference below.

Research findings in mice do not always apply to humans, and good science needs to reproduced independently before coming to firm conclusions.  But the latest research about emulsifiers in food suggests such a simple, cost effective diet change that I think we can try this experiment on ourselves.  Try a few weeks to months avoiding foods that contain either of these additives.  See how you feel.  You are at absolutely no medical risk if you try this, there is no nutritional value to these E numbers.  The only risk is you may have to change ice cream brand or similar.

This approach follows some very sensible advice  –

If you do not recognize the ingredients in the list on your packaged food or if they sound like chemical names, don’t eat it.

Follow this standard and with very few exceptions you will be eating whole foods.  While its possible that some additives are safe, the research is rarely sufficient for people at risk for inflammatory disorders.  The E numbers mentioned above have been “approved” for years but the fine, detailed research is obviously still happening.  Since these additives are not crucial to sustain life there is no real point in consuming them.  The take home message is that when it comes to the food industry, approval happens faster than research.

Reference:

Dietary emulsifiers impact the mouse gut microbiota promoting colitis and metabolic syndrome  http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature14232 

 

Autumn ~ Healthy choices to enhance longevity

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

Autumn

 

Saying goodbye to summer and embracing the cold…

There is a basic question that Chinese medicine tries to answer with all seasonal advice.  That is “How can I adapt to a new climate without draining my reserves?”

Adapting to the change of season requires energy to be spent by our metabolism.  We may notice everyday examples like a burgeoning preference for hot chocolate over summer’s ice cream, or how our pets are napping more even though the weather is not extreme yet.  I noticed how 50 degree weather this morning made me reach for a hat and coat, but I also remember last February when a 50 degree day seemed almost t-shirt weather.  Same temperature, different metabolic setting.

The ancient physicians thought that this multitude of tiny adjustments our bodies make can be made as efficiently as possible, or not at all.  If transition happens harmoniously, less stress is incurred and we stay healthy.  Otherwise we increase the probability of getting sick or otherwise drain resources best used for healthy aging.

The details may vary a little with individual health situations, but the following are very commonly good ideas for most folk:

  • Cover up.  It’s time for long sleeves, long trousers/ dresses hats and light scarves that cover up the acupuncture points GB 20 and Du 14, 16.  Doing this now before the real cold will harmonize the “wei qi 卫气” assisting the immune system to get ready for the winter viruses.  Right now it’s better to sweat into cloth than have the wind get down to the pores.
  • Warm up the digestion.  Main meals should not be raw salad dominant, but should focus on roasted or stewed seasonal vegetables.  Curried food is pungent and warming and perfect for the seasonal change.  Stay away from chilled, iced foods.  Soup is ideal – all that ‘digestion’ on the stove is that much less energy your body has to spend on the meal’s transformation, leaving the body lighter and quicker to adapt.
  • Spend a lot of time outside.  The more you can experience the seasonal changes around you, the more your own system takes the hint.  Have you ever noticed how outdoor cats get thicker, longer lasting coats compared with indoor-only cats who shed all year round?  My cat already has her winter coat, but I’ve seen indoor cats with summer thicknesses yet.  Be an outdoor cat.
  • Catch up on your sleep.  Sleep is where the maintenance happens.  If you’ve been missing sleep, try to nap or go to bed earlier so that you make up about 1/3 of the lost sleep.  A nap is totally worth the time as an investment in your health right now.
  • Exercise to clean the Lungs.  Focus mainly on cardio, qi gong, dance or anything that calls for lots of regular, deep breathing.
  • Cultivate your inner world.  We are naturally less physically active in the colder, darker months, so it is a good idea to spend more time on things your mind enjoys.  Creative writing, music, study, politics, art – try to add a little more to your week.  This slows down ‘cabin fever’ type stresses or seasonal affective disorder, but clinically I see another advantage as well, in relation to the Chinese idea of longevity.  I treat many people in their 80’s and 90’s who feel quite bereft at how physical limitations decrease their quality of life, yet their minds are are totally fine.  Or even younger folk who are injured and can’t play the way they would prefer.  I see that those folk with a lifelong, rich connection to their inner world are healthier and more content.  If your focus all year has been on external activity, this season, start to find out what inspires you on the inside and cultivate a rich relationship with it.

 

 

Improving Your Diet: why its hard, why patience and neuro-plasticity will help

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

‘Why do we eat food that creates trouble for us?’

We frequently create a nutritional culture based on how recipes make us feel in the short term. The meal size, the textures, and certainly the flavors, feel nourishing and efficiently banish hunger for at least a few hours. But unhealthy meals often make us denser, providing a strong feeling of fullness that can push away awareness of more subtle physical or emotional sensations.
This meal is like an antidepressant, and in fact, junk food alters brain chemistry along the same pathways that cocaine does. Our feelings of boredom or stress; feelings that we have given too much to others or that we deserve a treat for hard work or for dealing with difficult circumstances – these frequently make us reach for the sugar, fat and salt that successfully trigger our brains’ pleasure centers. Our brain is trained to place value on this experience. The numb feeling provides a nice distraction from the troubles. Real stress can be created when lose this distraction.

‘How does a person even know which meal is fulfilling the priorities of our health needs?’

Without any immediate food sensitivities in the body, the effects of diet on our health appear very slowly. In fact, the conventional wisdom that says steamed vegetables and fish is “healthier” than a bacon cheeseburger came from over a hundred years of scientific research looking into the food behaviors of tens of thousands of people. The immediate benefit of ‘healthy food’ is very difficult to perceive in an individual in a short span of time. Give an average, healthy person a fish and another person a cheeseburger, measure their vital signs then re-check in a few hours. Both would be absolutely fine. No wonder making the change is difficult. On a meal by meal basis one needs blood analysis to see any difference.

‘How does change happen?’

As we begin to make a diet change, we rely on our intellect to understand that our diet is not nourishing our health needs. We read or hear lectures about what foods foods are currently thought to be disease promoting or disease preventing. We frequently hear conflicting information as well, just to add to the difficulty. In the beginning, we simply do not have the direct experience of cause and effect. And of course there can be frequent feelings of guilt or even shame as our intellect is found to be insufficient to fight all the emotional energy around leaving the old ways behind.

But after a time a new feeling happens. We have more energy, our digestion improves, our bodies feel lighter and we work more efficiently. Symptoms of inflammation improve. Weight can be lost. As we experience the reality of cause and effect, our emotions change. Instead of placing value on the numbing, short term effect of unhealthy food, our minds learn a new way of perceiving value. This happens by a process scientists call neuro-plasticity, the ability of our minds to be reshaped by experience.

Our emotions now relate to time in a new way. The experience of feeling great over the course of several weeks outweighs the immediate gratification of numbness. We have changed the part of ourselves that responds to food from one that enjoys the break from feeling bored or stressed to the part that feels forward looking and healthy.

So the moral of the story is be patient and observe, your brain will handle the rest.