FDA issues warning about common pain injections. What you need to know.

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One of the most popular treatments for neck, back, and joint pains —steroid injections—can be dangerous, and in rare cases can cause paralysis and death according to a warning issued by the FDA  in April, 2014.  Considering that approximately 4 in 10, or 75 million, Americans live with chronic pain (back pain, arthritis, joint pain, tendonitis, shoulder pain, nerve pain, overuse injuries etc) this warning should be big news, but few people know about the risks of these treatments.

The FDA is late to the game when it comes to concern about the safety of the shots when they’re injected into the spine. In other parts of the world tougher restrictions on the use of corticosteroids in the neck and back are already on labels. Patient advocates and researchers who have identified safety concerns with the injections have been pushing the FDA for years to take action.

As early as 2007, a survey of doctors in the journal Spine uncovered 78 cases of patients who received steroid injections in the neck suffering serious injuries, including 13 deaths. In other cases, the injections have been linked to loss of vision or paralysis in patients. The agency said in late 2011 that it was studying safety issues related to the shots and yesterday indicated it first became concerned in 2009. Yet it took five years to issue the 322-word warning.

Sandy Walsh, an FDA spokeswoman, said that the warning is the result of an ongoing effort to understand the causes of “serious neurologic events” with the injections and identify ways to minimize them.  Dennis Capolongo, a patient advocate who has been pushing for more aggressive restrictions on the steroids, said while the warning from the FDA is appreciated, it is too mild and comes too late. Doctors in the U.S. administer about 9 million epidural injections a year. “Many people have been harmed in the interim,” he said of the years the FDA has been studying the issue. Capolongo said organizations representing patients who have suffered serious side effects from the shots are pushing the FDA to require labels on the steroids indicating they should not be used at all for epidural injections.  The agency is also convening an advisory committee of experts to determine if further action is needed.

The FDA action also highlights a harsh reality. Conventional treatments for back, neck, and joint pains remain an imperfect science. Steroid injections and prescription medications provide mostly temporary benefits, and bring risks.  Surgeries, like spinal fusion, are more invasive, and don’t always work.

Alternative options such as Acupuncture and Biopuncture offer significant results with fewer side effects.

Be sure to leave thoughts, questions, and comments below!

Fall Squash Soup

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Chinese Medicine considers winter squash such as kombucha, delicata, seminole pumpkin, and butternut to be some of the healthiest foods around. They have special properties to balance the blood sugar, and taste great!  Here is one of my favorite recopies for squash soup.  It is very easy, and you can use any variety of winter squash you like.  My favorite is the Seminole Pumpkin because it is grown locally and organically by my friend Jim Hunter over at South Seminole Farm and Nursery.  I hope that you enjoy!

  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
  • 2 medium shallots, minced (about 4 tablespoons)
  • 3 pounds butternut squash, kombucha squash, or seminole pumpkin (about 1 large), unpeeled, squash halved lengthwise, seeds and stringy fibers scraped with spoon and reserved (about 1/4 cup), and each half cut into quarters
  • 6 Cups water
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
  • 1-2 teaspoons of grated fresh ginger (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon or nutmeg (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Heat butter in large Dutch oven over medium-low heat until foaming; add shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add squash scrapings and seeds and cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and butter turns saffron color, about 4 minutes. Add 6 cups water and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt to Dutch oven and bring to boil over high heat; reduce heat to medium-low, place squash cut-side down in steamer basket, and lower basket into pot. Cover and steam until squash is completely tender, about 30 minutes. Off heat, use tongs to transfer squash to rimmed baking sheet; reserve steaming liquid. When cool enough to handle, use large spoon to scrape flesh from skin into medium bowl; discard skin.
  2. Pour reserved steaming liquid through mesh strainer into second bowl; discard solids in strainer. Rinse and dry Dutch oven.
  3. In blender, puree squash and reserved liquid in batches, pulsing on low until smooth. Transfer puree to Dutch oven; stir in cream, brown sugar, and optional seasonings if desired, and heat over medium-low heat until hot. Add salt to taste; serve immediately.

Source:  Silky Butternut Squash Soup, from Cook’s Illustrated (subscription required)

Want to learn more about natural health, Acupuncture, or Chinese Medicine?  Visit us online at OrlandoAcupuncture.com

Research shows that Artificial Sweeteners increase blood sugar, May lead to Diabetes

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The journal Nature has recently published an article that shows that artificial sweeteners increase blood sugar, and may lead to type 2 diabetes as directly as eating sugar does. The use of artificial sweeteners has been a contentious topic for decades. The new research, from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, finds that differences in gut microbes may explain why some people can handle artificial sweeteners just fine while for others the sweeteners lead to blood sugar problems.

The human digestive system is home to millions of microbes, largely bacteria, that help digest food and play a major role in one’s health.

Eran Elinav, who studies the link between an individual’s immune system, gut microbes and health at the Weizmann Institute admitted that his research has soured him on sweetening the coffee he needs to get through his day.  “I’ve consumed very large amounts of coffee and extensively used sweeteners, thinking that they were at least not harmful and perhaps even beneficial,” Elinav said at a telephone news conference Tuesday. “Given the surprising result we got in our study, I made a decision to stop using artificial sweeteners.”

Artificial sweeteners are not digested, so it was assumed that there would be no way for them to lead to diabetes. Microbes commonly found in the human gut, however, seem to be affected by these indigestible sugars.  In a series of experiments in mice and people, the researchers examined the interaction between gut microbes and consumption of the sweeteners aspartame (found in NutraSweet and Equal), sucralose (found in Splenda) and saccharine (found in Sweet’n Low). Depending on the types of microbes they had in their intestines, some people and mice saw a two to fourfold increase in blood sugars after consuming the artificial sweeteners for just a short time. These increased levels of blood sugar can easily lead to diabetes over time.

Researchers began by testing the three widely used sweeteners in mice. Some mice got one of the artificial sweeteners in their water, and others got sugar water or just water. After 11 weeks, researchers gave all the mice a dose of sugar and monitored the response in their blood sugar levels.

“The magnitude of the differences were not just a few percentages. These were very dramatic differences,” said Eran Segal, a study co-author who is a computational biologist at the Weizmann Institute.

A diet study of 400 people found that those who consumed the most artificial sweeteners were more likely to have problems controlling blood sugar.

In another part of the study, researchers gave seven individuals a high dose of saccharin, 5 milligrams per kilogram of body weight, the Food and Drug Administration’s maximum daily intake, for 6 consecutive days.  Four of these individuals also began showing signs of glucose intolerance.  The researchers report suggested that artificial sweeteners “may have directly contributed to enhancing the exact [diabetes] epidemic that they themselves were intended to fight.”

So next time you want a diet drink reach for a water and add a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime.

Want to learn more about Acupuncture, Chinese Medicine, Health, or Natural Pain Relief in Orlando? Check out our website: OrlandoAcupuncture.com

sources: Karen Weintraub,  USA TODAY 9/18/14  Nature.com

Hidden Health Risks in Beauty Products

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Europe’s regulatory system bans close to 1,400 ingredients in cosmetic products, including carcinogens like parabens and toxic chemicals that can cause reproductive and developmental-health risks. The United States bans 11. Here are the top few on the watch list from Consumer Reports, found in their publication, ShopSmart.

  • Formaldehyde releasers and 1,4 dioxane, both possible carcinogens, may be found in some anti-wrinkle creams, mascaras, makeup removers, hair conditioners and body washes. They can contain preservatives that release formaldehyde over time when mixed with water. Avoid products with quaternium-15 and DMDM hydantoin listed as ingredients.
  • Phthalates. Diethyl phthalate (DEP), which is found in fragrance, and dibutyl phthalate (DBP), a plasticizer in nail polish, have both been deemed toxic by the Federal Hazardous Substances Act. Steer clear of products with ingredients lists that include the word “fragrance,” and look for nail polishes that do not have DEP or DBP in the ingredients lists.
  • Triclosan and Triclocarban. Found in hand and body washes, deodorants, toothpastes, and some cosmetics, these antibacterial agents can affect reproductive growth and developmental systems. Choose products that do not list triclosan or triclocarban on their ingredients list.

 

Solution: Lisa Freeman, the editor of Consumer Report’s ShopSmart Magazine, says the easiest way to avoid phthalates, formaldehyde, nanomaterials and other potentially harmful chemicals is to shop for health and beauty aids at Whole Foods Market.Toxic Chemicals

Meaningful Labels

The terms “natural,” “dermatologist tested,” and “hypoallergenic” aren’t meaningful because they aren’t independently verified. Below are some examples of terms and seals that are legit according to ShopSmart’s safety experts:

  • USDA Organic. Requires that at least 95 percent of the ingredients be organically grown and prohibits the use of all potentially harmful synthetic ingredients.
  • Natural Products Association Certified (NPA) and Design for the Environment (DfE).Standards include bans on triclosan, phthalates, formaldehyde, and formaldehyde releasers.
  • Non-GMO Project Verified. The product contains no genetically engineered ingredients. 

Beauty Product Shopping Apps

When shopping for beauty products, ShopSmart recommends using these free apps to evaluate ingredients and help narrow down choices: Think Dirty, Skin Deep Cosmetics, and GoodGuide.

 

Sources: http://www.courant.com/business/connecticut/hc-bottom-line-cosmetics-hazards-20140721,0,7142273.column – The Courrant – 7/21/14, http://pressroom.consumerreports.org/pressroom/2014/07/my-entry-2.html – Consumer Reports – 7/15/14

Poor Posture May Lead to Lack of Confidence and Additional Stress

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What can cause poor posture?

Cell Phones: The hunched-over position of the typical electronic-device user is of particular concern, and is sparking new back and neck-pain problems in teenagers. A study of 6,000 Finnish adolescents found frequent use of computers, mobile phones, videogame players and television was associated with greater rates of neck and lower-back pain.

Weight & Shoes – Lordosis, or swayback, is where the lower spine curves inward, toward the front of the body, and the butt is thrust backward. Overweight people often display this posture, as do women wearing high heels.

Computers: One of the most common posture problems, called kyphosis, is a direct result of spending too much time in front of a computer, experts say. The shoulders hunch forward, the pectoral muscles in the chest tighten, the neck and head extend toward the computer screen, and the spine is no longer vertically aligned.

What is proper posture?

Good posture doesn’t just mean standing with the shoulders thrown back. More important is maintaining good alignment, with ears over the shoulders, shoulders over hips, and hips over the knees and ankles. Body weight should be distributed evenly between the feet

What can poor posture cause?

Pain – incorrect posture will place additional strain on all parts of your body, particularly on your lower back and neck. If you keep correct posture, you will be protecting your spine, organs, joints, muscles and bones, helping to prevent the onset of conditions such as arthritis.

Depression – New research is also demonstrating links between body position and mood. It has long been known that depression can lead to a slumped posture. But new evidence suggests the reverse is also true—that slouching can spark negative emotions and thoughts

How does poor posture lead to stress?

Bad posture restricts breathing, and reduces the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain. Without regular oxygen to the brain, you cannot always think straight, making it easier to feel panicked or overwhelmed.

Can good posture lead to more self confidence?

This picture from the Washington post illustrates what happens to our spine when we type on a keyboard and stare at a computer. Along the bottom are exercises you can do to improve posture

Sitting - Washington Post

Top: X-ray illustration of the effects on the spine from prolonged sitting. Middle: Illustration of proper way to sit in a chair. Bottom: Exercises used to help improve posture

 

Sitting 2

Woman in pain after a long day of sitting at a workstation

Yes, no matter what you feel inside, if you stand tall, the feelings will likely follow. Just as the simple act of smiling can release serotonin even when you are depressed posture can trigger a better mental attitude. You might even enter a positive feedback loop, where other people respond to you in such a way as to confirm these initially faked emotions. Also note that an erect posture inspires a sense of power, a sense of control, boosts testosterone, and sooths nerves by turning down the anxiety-linked hormone known as cortisol.

Sources: Wall Street Journal Article June 23, 2014 http://online.wsj.com/articles/how-bad-sitting-posture-at-work-leads-to-bad-standing-posture-all-the-time-1403564767, Psychology Today Article June 19, 2013 http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-winner-effect/201306/can-your-posture-make-you-feel-in-control-and-less-stressed How Good Posture can Relieve Stress, Above Stress.com, February 9, 2012, http://abovestress.com/stress-relief-community-what-good-posture-can-do-for-stress-levels.html, Spine and Health.com, August 6, 2012 – http://spineandhealth.com.au/is-your-stress-giving-you-bad-posture  

Acupuncture keeps Pitchers in the game

Acupuncture Pitcher
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As acupuncture becomes more mainstream even the Texas Rangers are going with acupuncture to keep pitcher Yu Darvish in the lineup. Davish was Scratched from baseball due to neck pain and stiffness, but he used acupuncture to get back on the mound. There is plenty of research that explains why acupuncture is so popular among professional athletes. A study of 60 patients with cervical spondylosis responded with a 98.3% total effective rate as a result of acupuncture treatment. A total of 43 of the 60 patients were completely cured. Another 16 patients demonstrated significant improvement. The researchers concluded that acupuncture is effective for the treatment of cervical spondylosis and is both “reliable” and “worthy of promotion.”

Acupuncture has been found to improve muscle mass. Research demonstrates that acupuncture “recovered the skeletal muscle mass” and “ameliorated skeletal muscle atrophy by affecting mRNA” Texas Rangers pitcher Yu Darvish is following a time honored sports tradition and is staying ahead of the competition by using the most appropriate medicine possible to keep his arm in shape. He is not the only pitcher to get the acupuncture advantage.

A.J. Burnett waited to sign with the New York Yankees until they agreed to hire a team acupuncturist. Burnett knows how to protect an investment – his arm! He went from from one of baseball’s most injury-plagued players into one of its most reliable, a drastic change he attributes to his use of acupuncture. On a pitching staff that featured renowned grinders such as CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte, Burnett was the only member of the Yankees rotation who didn’t miss a single inning to injury. “I found that I responded really well to the acupuncture, how that treated my body and my nerves, and the release of stress,” Burnett said.

San Francisco Giants pitcher Randy Johnson had one of the longest baseball careers in history and received acupuncture from the team acupuncturist. Morten Anderson, former field goal kicker for the Atlanta Falcons, received two acupuncture treatments per week as part of his ongoing healthcare program. He retired from professional football at age 48 as the NFL’s leading scorer. How many people can last that long in the NFL? Acupuncture helped to maintain the integrity of his priceless foot.

Gymnast Nastia Liukin took home a gymnastics women’s all-around Olympic gold medal after using acupuncture for the treatment of an ankle injury. Other athletes using acupuncture during their professional careers include: Joe Montana, Michael Strahan, Dwayne Wade, Shaquille O’Neal, Jason Kidd, Vladimir Radmonovic, Fred Couples, Gary Player, Kevin Johnson, Steve Nash, Charles Barkley, Hot Rod Williams, Jeff Hornacek and Grant Hill.

Want to learn more about Acupuncture, Chinese Medicine, Health, or Natural Pain Relief in Orlando? Check out our website: OrlandoAcupuncture.com

Sources: India Song-Jie. “Analysis acupuncture shoulder and neck muscles to treating the starting and ending point.” Clinical research 6 (2014).
Li. “Vertebral artery type cervical spondylosis clinical observation 60 cases electro-acupuncture treatment.” TCM Clinical Research 7 (2014).
Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications. Volume 410, Issue 3, 8 July 2011, Pages 434–439. Acupuncture ameliorated skeletal muscle atrophy induced by hindlimb suspension in mice. A. Ondaa, et al
http://www.healthcmi.com/Acupuncture-Continuing-Education-News/1319-texas-rangers-back-with-acupuncture#sthash.2ohOepFi.dpuf
http://www.nj.com/yankees/index.ssf/2010/05/yankees_starter_aj_burnett_cre.html

Chinese Medicine and Restless Legs

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Restless Leg Syndrome, an irresistible urge to move one’s body to stop uncomfortable or odd sensations. The symptoms from RLS can range from just annoying to a serious health issue because it disrupts one’ normal sleep cycle.  This Blog looks at the causes of Restless Leg and the Chinese Medical approach to treatment.

Why do people get Restless Legs Syndrome?

Understand that the terminology used by Chinese Medicine to describe the physiology (functioning) of the human body in is slightly different than Western Medicine, but the conclusions are the same. In Chinese Medicine, RLS  is an example of Feng or “Wind” disease caused by too much Re, “Heat” and/or not enough Xue, “Blood”. So what does that mean in English? It means that there is an imbalance in the neurotransmitters (chemicals that control muscle function). Either there are too many stimulating neurotransmitters such as Acetylcholine (too much “Heat”), and/or not enough inhibitory neurotransmitters such as GABA (“Blood deficiency”)

How Does Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture help Restless Legs Syndrome?

If you have the excess (too much “Heat”) type of RLS or PLMD, Acupuncture can help to balance or reduce the neurotransmitters that are causing the excess muscle movements and pain. This balancing effect also helps if you have the deficient type of RLS, although supplementation may be needed to get the levels of inhibitory neurotransmitters back to normal. Sometimes nutritional supplements such as Natural Calcium, Iron, or Magnesium may be very helpful for RLS patients who are low in these nutrients. Other times a Chinese Herbal formula may be needed to resupply the nutrients needed to make enough inhibitory neurotransmitters to get rid of the restless leg problem.

Are there any studies that show Acupuncture can help?

Yes there are!

In one study titled, “Observation on therapeutic effect of acupuncture on Restless Legs Syndrome” 158 RLS patients were randomly divided into 2 groups. Of the 79 patients who received acupuncture plus a Infrared therapy (which is commonly used during acupuncture treatments at Orlando Acupuncture). 42 patients were deemed “cured”. Another 30 cases treated with the acupuncture were deemed, “effective”. The other group was treated with L-Dopa. Both groups received treatment for 30 days. At the end of the study, the group on medication had a 30% effectiveness rate, while the acupuncture group had a 91% effectiveness.

Another study, done by YL Shi and YM Wang in 2003, had 120 RLS patients. This study also compared acupuncture therapy to western medications given over a 30 day period. The findings here were that the acupuncture group had a 48% “cure” rate (all symptoms were gone), and a 75% effectiveness rate, meaning some or all symptoms were gone or reduced.

Links to these studies are available on my website OrlandoAcupuncture.com  Want to learn more about Acupuncture, Chinese Medicine, Health, or Natural Pain Relief in Orlando? Check out our website: OrlandoAcupuncture.com