The Truth About Inflammation

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Are you dealing with pain, obesity, ADD/ADHD, peripheral neuropathy, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, migraines, thyroid issues, dental issues, or cancer? If so, then you are dealing with inflammation in the body. Inflammation affects every aspect of the body and is the leading cause of many diseases.

Now, inflammation alone isn’t a bad thing. It serves a purpose when you sprain your ankle or get a cut on the skin. It is the bodies natural way of defending itself. So, what are we doing that is causing it to always be in defense mode? Well, the majority of inflammatory diseases start in the gut with an autoimmune reaction which progresses into systemic inflammation. The gut is made up of an incredibly large and intricate semi-permeable lining. Every time we eat something we are bringing the outside world of toxins, viruses, yeast, and bacteria into the body. If our gut lining is damaged (this is known as Leaky Gut Syndrome ) these particles pass through that lining and end up in the blood stream. Because these particles do not belong in the blood stream your body views them as foreign invaders and starts to attack them. Your body then responds with inflammation, allergic reactions, and other symptoms that are related to a variety of diseases.

This will then cause your immune system to become overburdened, and these inflammatory triggers are cycled continuously through your blood where they affect nerves, organs, connective tissues, joints, and muscles. You can probably begin to see how diseases develop.

To truly be effective at managing or hopefully overcome a disease it needs to be addressed on all levels. Taking a look at where this process starts is the key. However, most doctors are utilizing pharmaceuticals in lieu of getting to the root cause.

Since inflammation is commonly mediated by the gut it is a logical starting point in the evaluation process of any patient. There are seven common areas that should be considered when looking at causes of leaky gut which create the environment for chronic inflammation. They are listed below along with key triggers within the category of evaluation:

  • Diet: Alcohol, Gluten, Casein, Processed Foods, Sugar, Fast Food
  • Medications: Corticosteroids, Antibiotics, Antacids, Xenobiotics
  • Infections: Such as Yeast or Bacterial Overgrowth       (Candidiasis) or Viral or Parasite Infections
  • Stress: Increased Cortisol, Increased Catecholamines
  • Hormonal: Thyroid, Progesterone, Estradiol, Testosterone
  • Neurological: Brain Trauma, Stroke, Neuro-degeneration
  • Metabolic: Glycosylated End Products (inflammatory end products of sugar metabolism), Intestinal Inflammation, Autoimmune

The truth of the situation here is that FOOD MATTERS. That’s right, it’s not just a movie (which by the way you should all watch!). Hyper-permeability of the gut, regardless of whether you can feel it or not, is often a significant cause of an extremely long and ever growing list of conditions. The inflammatory cascade that takes place by any inflammatory trigger (diet, medications, infections, stress, hormonal, neurological, or metabolic) can break down the intestinal permeability and allows for the leaky gut mechanism to initiate.

Inflammation is rampant. In fact the research says that 1 in 12 women and 1 in 24 men are dealing with full blown autoimmune mediated inflammation. The number of undiagnosed people is going to be much higher.

If you are dealing with inflammation then you should get a comprehensive evaluation to look at what is perpetuating your personal inflammation. Here are three things to start paying attention to:

  1. Lifestyle: Remove adverse mechanisms (Stress, over-exercising, poor Sleep, blood sugar dysregulation, poor social behaviors.) Lifestyle factors are huge! The stress response triggers immune markers which is the fast track to Autoimmunity.
  2. Lifestyle: Restore beneficial mechanisms: Create conditions of love and appreciation, keep positive attitudes, maintain proper exercise, have adequate sleep, receive acupuncture for stress relief, restore blood sugar balance, and facilitate healthy social interactions.
  3. Dietary Support: Stabilize blood sugar, remove food Autoimmune triggers, and promote intestinal integrity with proper flora and nitric oxide and glutathione pathways. Include fermented foods and supplement appropriately as may be needed.

Remember, a wide array of health problems, including but not limited to: chronic pain, obesity, ADD/ADHD, peripheral neuropathy, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, migraines, thyroid issues, dental issues, and cancer are all rooted in inflammation, which must be properly addressed if you wish to be healed.

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The Skinny on Bone Broth

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Bone broth, or soup as I call it, is one of my favorite diet recommendations to give to patients.  I have been recommending it for years and it is finally hitting the mainstream consciousness.  One reason why I recommend this to so many people is that it is an easy way to add a lot of nutrition to any diet.  It is also loaded with good fats, and is easy to digest, which makes it a perfect food to promote healthy weight loss.

My favorite way to make bone broth is the method I learned during my nutrition class in Chinese Medical School.  You basically take a whole organic chicken and several slices of ginger and simmer these in water for 2-4 hours.  At the end you need to cut up the meat and add any mushrooms or veggies you want and soy sauce for flavor, but that is pretty much it.

I try to make broth every week or two, and keep it in the refrigerator.  Sometimes I use it as soup, but mostly I like to use it to replace water in cooking rice, steaming veggies, etc.  I find that it adds good flavor to pretty much any recipe.

The importance of getting bones from non-toxic (organic or free range) animals is vital for good results from bone broth. This is true both for the taste and the nutritional value or the broth. These days I usually get the organic chicken from Costco, although I noticed that Trader Joe’s has these at a great price as well.  I also like to simmer the organ meat that comes with these chickens when making soup as it adds to the overall nutrition of the soup.

The most complete resource on Bone Broth, that I know of, is the book, Nourishing Broth,  by Sally Morell.  (It’s available online at amazon.)  This book is loaded with information on the health benefits of bone broth.  Dr. Mercola also has a great article about bone broth including a couple of recipes which you can find here.

Visit our website if you want to learn more about Chinese dietary therapy and how it can help you achieve permanent weight loss.

The Secret to Permanent Weight Loss

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Before writing this post I did a quick web search for news about weight loss, diet, and exercise.  I was amazed by what I found. Here are the headlines from articles that are based on research that came out in the last three months: “Exercise is good…but it won’t help you lose weight“, “Exercise beats dieting for Weight Loss“, and “Diet and Exercise are not enough”  Wow talk about confusing!  No wonder people struggle with weight loss.

The truth is that all three of these headlines and articles are true, but need to be understood a little deeper.

The first article is making the point that no matter how much you exercise if you eat a diet full of sugar and other refined carbohydrates you will not lose weight. Unfortunately, this is exactly what comprises the standard American Diet (or SAD). As the author of the study says, “You cannot outrun a bad diet.” The authors also correctly conclude that a diet high in fat and low in sugar and carbs is best for weight loss.  Let me repeat that; a high fat diet, low carb diet is best for weight loss.

The next headline, “Exercise beats Dieting for Weight Loss”, is talking about data that shows that as people age they usually become less physically active.  Most Americans do not reduce their food intake so this inactivity seems to lead to weight gain. The conclusion that if you don’t exercise you will tend to put on unhealthy weight (such as increased BMI and waist size) is correct, but by not explaining WHY this happens this article misses something very important.  Guess what else changes as we age, our hormones.  And are hormone levels affected by exercise?  You bet!  So the actual mechanism for this weight gain is that as hormone levels go down unhealthy weight goes up.

Now the third headline makes sense.  The authors of this study conclude that Diet and Exercise are not enough because there seems to be a “biological cause” that limits the effectiveness of diet and exercise in some individuals.  Hormone imbalance is the biological factor that can make weigh loss very stubborn. One of the most common hormones that can be out of balance and lead to difficulty losing weight is Thyroid hormones.  The stress hormone cortisol is another.

So to lose weight you do have to eat well, exercise regularly AND have healthy, balanced hormones.

If you have questions about Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture, or if you have struggled with weight loss and want to see if your hormones might be the reason why, visit us at Orlando Acupuncture.com

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

Exercise is better than drugs for 3 of the top 4 causes of Death in the US

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It is obvious and amazing at the same time.  Obvious because we all know that exercise is “good for us”.  Amazing because prescription drugs are often the first thing prescribed for most of these conditions, and not exercise.  The kicker is that not only does the exercise work as well if not better, the potential “side effects” of exercise are pretty much all good ones, more energy, less stress, improved physical appearance, etc.  Whereas, most prescription medications have many possible negative side effects.  I thought this was a great study when it came out in Oct, 2013 and below is a copy of the Health Report I put out in my clinic about it.

Exercise is as effective as medications for preventing diabetes and repeat heart attacks, and it is potentially better than medication for averting additional strokes, according to an analysis published in 2013. The large-scale investigation found doctors had a better chance of preventing death in patients recovering from a heart attack or stroke by prescribing light fitness instead of pills. It is the first time scientists have compared the benefits of exercise with heart medication such as statins and beta blockers. Examining data on 340,000 patients who had been diagnosed with heart disease, chronic heart failure, a stroke or diabetes, the findings published in the British Medical Journal have been touted as revolutionary.

Researchers analyzed previous studies and found no marked change between the outcome of exercise and drugs for people who have diabetes or heart disease.  For stroke victims, the research swung overwhelmingly in favor of exercise, showing it was far more likely to prevent death than drugs. The study leader Huseyin Naci, of LSE Health and Harvard Medical School, said more people are consuming prescription drugs but far fewer are exercising. “Exercise is a potent strategy to save and extend life in coronary heart disease and other conditions,” said Mr. Naci, “We think exercise can be considered or should be considered as a viable alternative or in combination with drug therapy.”

The results showed that in three of the four conditions studied, exercise was as effective as, or possibly more effective than, drug treatments. This wasn’t the case for heart failure, a progressive weakening of the heart’s ability to pump blood to the rest of body. Exercise has also been shown to be helpful in the short term in a number of other conditions, including depression, cognition, blood pressure and cancer treatment. Mr. Naci and his colleagues plan to study some of these other diseases in future work. He cautioned that patients with existing health conditions should talk to their doctor before stopping medication.
Sources: New York Times online, Wall Street Journal Online, and CDC.gov  http://www.bmj.com/content/347/bmj.f5577   – BMJ study.

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

 

3 Ways to Make Exercise Fun

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Everyone has heard that exercise is good for you.  The web is filled with articles about the many health benefits of exercise, and new research finds that light exercise is even better than treatment with prescription drugs at preventing 3 of the top 4 causes of death in the US.  So why don’t more people exercise regularly?  I think that for most people exercise is seen as a chore, something they do not like to do.  The idea that exercise is no fun is exactly what needs to change!

Before we look at ways to make Exercise more fun let’s look at why exercise has all of these heath benefits.  Everybody knows that our bodies are made up of cells and these are organized into functional units, or tissues such as muscles, tendons, and organs.  Each one of these cells and tissues gets its nutrition from blood.  So in very simple terms better blood flow equals better health.  And guess what exercise does?  It activates our built in pump (the Heart) to increase blood flow.

Three keys to make exercise more fun:

1) Relax

The benefits from exercise come from increased blood flow.  Guess what happens when we are stressed?  We tighten up our muscles, decreasing blood flow, and limiting our physical and mental performance.  Can exercise be relaxing?  Of course!   Even in the most intense and difficult athletic endeavors such as professional sports and the Olympics you hear the best athletes say that they are at their best when they can “relax” and get into their groove.  So have a relaxed attitude when you exercise to get the most out of it.

2) Pick your favorite activity and make it exercise.

So many things can be exercise.  Simple things such as walking the dog, biking, doing yard-work, etc.  My favorite exercise is Chinese Qi Gong, or energy exercises that are the basis for what most people know as Tai- Chi. (For more info on this topic see flowing zen.com)  I like this type of exercise because it strengthens the entire body and makes you feel refreshed and energized afterwards, not tired or worn out, and it can be done indoors or outside without any equipment.

Other great ideas for exercise include going outside and playing with your children.  Simple activities such as shooting a basketball, throwing a Frisbee, etc. are great exercise. By the way, the exercise is good for you and your kids.  Here in Florida swimming is an exercise that I recommend to lots of patients because is it very low impact and can be done without aggravating joint injuries.

If you like a structured, group activity there are lots of classes at local gyms, but my favorite is to look for a local meetup group that does a sport that you enjoy, such as volleyball, racquetball, or tennis.  Activities such as Yoga can also be done in a group or individual setting.

3) Enjoy!

Once you have selected your favorite exercise or two be sure to enjoy it!  If you enjoy the activity you are much more likely to keep doing it, and guess what makes all exercise better for you?  When you actually do it! So smile when you exercise and truly enjoy it.  And if that changes, pick up something else.  Just keep going so that your exercise becomes a regular part of your daily life.  This way it will become a good, lasting habit.

So yes, I know that many of us are stuck indoors with the bitter cold of Winter right now, but Spring is just around the corner and many fun, indoor activities are excellent exercise too.  So chose your favorite physical activity, do it regularly, and enjoy!

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