This post is for my inner metrosexual, and my inner cheapskate, and my inner health nut. I spent a large part of my weekend reading this book, Slow Death By Rubber Duck. The book is about two environmentalists who used their bodys as experiments to see how toxic every day things are. They would do things like live extremely natural for a couple of days, take their blood, then start washing their hair and using regular commercial cleaning products, then take their blood again to see changes in levels of certain chemicals. The results were nothing sort of scary. (All the men out there, just look up what a class of chemicals called "phthalates" do to your testicles and you'll know exactly what I mean.) Needless to say, we are exposed to a myriad of new chemicals every year, and we probably don't know what many of them do to our physiology, and a few of them we damage our body... for sure.
My personal experience with this started with my wife, who had recently started using stuff like coconut oil for her moisturizer. I'm balding like a 30 year old, but almost everything else about me is teenager-ish. For example, when my wife and I were on our honeymoon, the cruiseliner wouldn't let us off the boat without written permission from our parents. That's how "old" I look. The downside of this is I still occasionally breakout with acne. Yeah, it's awesome.
Well my wife recommended I try washing my face with baking soda. My first question: Umm... how? Luckily I'm OK-smart and figured that out fairly quickly. What followed was a cleaner looking face than I could remember. This was a really, really cool find for a couple of reasons. The first being cost. Facial cleansers are crazy expensive when compared to baking soda and water (baking soda = 50¢ for a box!), the second being that baking soda most likely has a less toxic burden. Baking soda was a doubly whammy in the awesome scale! That made me ask, Are there any other household beauty products that I could simplify for my health and wallet?
So, for the next few posts I want to share a few tricks that I learned. Don't worry, I'm a clean guy. In other words, I don't want to ever, ever, ever smell hippy-ish (no offense meant). My job forces my to be dangerously up and close with my patients, and there's nothing worse than a chiropractor who smells of B.O. and garlic. If it doesn't pass this first, basic test, it won't get in my post. I hope you enjoy!
This post is for me. Read on if you want, but I did the research for myself. Every spring, I go off sneezing like a tommy gun for about two weeks. It's uber annoying to me and all those around me, and my patients. Who likes getting sneezed on when they're getting their neck worked on? Me! Meeee!
For some reason Farmington gets hit worse than others. Maybe it's a combo of all the energy production chemical waste in the air, and the fact that we're pretty windy and dry; but we get hit with the dirt and pollen like those test dummies in Alamogordo get dropped with nukes. It's wild. If in about 12 years you want to make a lot of money, start going to graduate school with the intent of getting your MD and then specializing in allergies with a target on setting up shop in Farmington. You'll have customers lined out the door.
If you don't want to be one of those customers, try these things:
1) Order a RAST test. See if there's anything you're eating that's tipping off your allergic reactions as well. Eliminating wheat or dairy may prove to help your hay fever during the spring. The technical name for this food allergy and hay fever connection is oral allergy syndrome.
2) Change your house's filter. Check the air filter in your house, buying a $6 filter may be the difference in circulating all those air borne allergens and cutting them down dramatically. Try it. Worse case scenario is that you wasted $6, but have cleaner air in the house.
3) Consider buying some indoor plants. This is related to number two. The principle is to keep your house's air cleaner, thereby reducing the load to your body whenever you're at home. I.E. control the variables you can control. You probably can't afford to go around and burn every pinon tree down to the ground in hopes that you'll stop sneezing (that would be bad for the environment as well), but you can have a small impact on the air that circulates in your home. NASA did some research (here and here) on which plants are the best at cleaning air. Due to various energy producing industries around here, I've been told that we have more problems with the famed BTEX compounds than other areas. As such, Farmingtonians may want a plant that is good at getting rid of xylene. May I suggest a "Red-Edged Dracaena" (dracaena marginata)? This plant is fantastic at dealing with the harmful organic compounds floating around out there, the only downside is that it requires a lot of light, so you can't put it in places that may need it that don't have a lot of windows.
4) If dealing with a plant isn't your thing, and you have disposable income that needs disposing off, you could consider an air filter. Consumer reports has already done most of the research here, you can read what they have to say about the products available here.
There's three simple tips to help you ward off the nasty onset of allergies that seems to hit a lot of us this time of year. Keep healthy, keep sneeze-less my friends!
We have a sick kid.
Our poor little sick kid, he won't be able to . . .
You don't know what it's like to have a sick kid, you must have to . . .
If I went to the store and was shopping in the milk aisle, if there was a large red and black sticker with a skull and crossbones, I would do a double-take on that. You can be sure as hell I wouldn't buy that particular carton of milk. Such is the power of a label. That label told me, even without directly telling me, that there was something wrong about that milk, as a result, I treated it differently.
Labels extend far beyond the poison control into our health destinies. Does this sound familiar? ADHD. OCD. Dumb. Slow. Dyslexic. Short. Weak. And the one I hate the most: sick.
We've become a culture that labels sickness as a part of who we are instead of recognizing it as a state in a dynamic system. My boy had a food allergy that we were unaware for some time, on top of that he contracted a virus (hand, foot and mouth) that made him flare up and develop extremely sensitive skin. Luckily, he had a great allergist who gave him medication to get him over his extremely inflammatory slump, and -- I'm going to toot his parents' horn here -- then he had a couple of parents who understood health enough to provide his body with the raw materials it needed to be able to be healthy.
But, a label has stuck.
I've heard this more than once, and it drives me bonkers. How's your sick kid?
Let me tell you the ways that question is wrong. First off, the wording. I am always careful to say Your child is fighting a sickness, not Your child is sick. It's a subtle change that can have big effects. Calling a young, developing mind a "sick kid" over and over again, and that label becomes a part of them instead of accurately describing a passing phase. That label can even come so much a part of a young mind that he/she begins defending that label of sickness because they have come to identify themselves with it. You've met those people that are in this phase, those people that gladly own their sickness and wear it like a merit badge; these are also the same people that -- despite seeing the most expensive doctors around the country -- can't find "help" for their "illness", because deep down inside they don't want to be cured. Being cured would mean losing a part of them that they believe makes them unique and special from everyone else, and everyone needs to feel unique and special -- but holding on to a disabling label isn't the healthiest way to do this.
On the flip side, you can witness the exact opposite in those stalwart soles who have an honest-to-goodness challenge in their life that can't be worked away with healthy lifestyles, and you see these people thriving because they refuse to accept their "label". People like this guy.
Truth be told, my "sick" boy is far from sick. Many occasions I think he's too healthy, and I wish he'd back off a little bit on the vibrant life energy. Sheesh. He has more energy than a caffeinated chihuahua, picks up more words than should (What did you just say?!), and can operate an iPad. The foods he are allergic to are mostly foods that you shouldn't be eating. Period. Imagine a child that only ate fresh fruit and vegetables, and wild, organic meats? Umm, that's my boy. His sensitivities to dairy, peanuts, and soy have only forced our family to eat healthier. Our boy is a blessing.
Oh that poor soul, he can't eat that diabetes-inducing ice cream like all other healthy children?
Yeah, you nailed it. Watch those labels.
First off, don't take that line as a write-off to do exercises in general. Lately I've been turned on to the research of James Levine, from the Mayo clinic. He's an expert in obesity, and the past few years he's looked at the effect of being a couch potato who exercises. This is that person who wakes up, goes for a 30 minute run in the morning, then sits at a desk for the rest of the day. There may even be some psychological okay that says, "Oh, don't worry, you can take it easy, you exercised today."
This is very, very wrong.
According to Levine, strong bouts of exercise aren't enough to overcome the devastating health consequences from a sedentary lifestyle. If humans are to be healthy and strong, their overall life activities must increase as well. Taken in the light of evolutionary biology, this makes sense. Human beings were constantly moving, climbing, hunting, foraging, with a few bouts of intense physical activity mixed in. The research shows that we should mimick this.
How, do you ask?
MY QUICK-FIX LIST TO INCREASE OVERALL ENERGY PRODUCTION
1) Buy a pedometer. Here's a nice german one that is Prime Eligible (free two day shipping!). That which we measure, we improve. Watch how many more times you take the stairs instead of the elevator when you have one of those things in your pocket. It's like a mini-coach, silently whispering in your ear that you can do more, move more. If you want a Rolls Royce of pedometers, check out the FitBit -- it adds in sleep tracking and a social component as well, and has a sexy, Nike-esque look to it as well.
2) Consider a standing desk. I'm writing at a desk right now. Thanks Microsoft, I'll blame my arteriosclerosis on you. We can't avoid the pitfalls of extreme comfort. We still have to use computers, but there's ways we can make those sedentary activities less sedentary. Standing is the number one, easiest way to do it. This doesn't have to cost a dime: pile some books on top of each other to raise your laptop or place your laptop on the kitchen counter.
3) Have an activity timer. Get an egg timer, set it for an hour, when an hour goes off, do ten pushups, or 20 standing squats, or 15 burpees if you're a masochist. How long did that take? 30 seconds? How's your energy levels? Heart rate? Do that throughout the day and you'll be a new person.
Pain is amazingly complex, and I must first give the disclaimer is that there is much we are still learning about pain. This post isn't about what we do know, it's about what we know and probably know, and how this conflicts with a popular mis-understandings about pain.
Myth: Damage In Your Body = Pain
Few things are clearer than this, pain does not come from nerves, or pain pathways; bain is a brain output, not an input. I repeat (because this is absolutely vitally important, if you get nothing else from this post, get this): pain is a brain output, not a brain input. Yes, there are neurological pathways that get activated when the body gets an ache, a sprain, a cut, but activation of these neurological pathways causes pain in some subjects, and no pain in others. This explains why one person is out of work for the afternoon with a papercut and the next may be coming into work with a broken leg. Pain is a vary individualized brain expression dependant on more factors than just the activation of some neurons.
A pioneer in these field is a man by the name of Melzack, and his research paper regarding what goes into expressing pain can be downloaded and read in full from HERE. His theories are summed up in the graphic below:
What's hopeful about more accurate description of pain is that is provides hope for those dealing with nasty, chronic pain that can't be pin pointed with any x-ray, MRI, or labwork. People who suffer with chronic pain hear this all the time, and it makes me furious: "Umm, you're MRI must be fine. It's probably all in your head."
This makes me want to slap someone. Of course it's all in your head! Everything is all in your head! The misconception is that because pain is sometimes expressed in the absence of anything visibly messed up on imaging or lab work (i.e. no tumor pushing on stuff, or no pinched nerve in the spine), that we can't do anything about it. WRONG. Look at the image above, how many other variables can we can we manipulate that feed into the nervous system, other than just rx'ing ibuprofen for inflammation? I'll give you a hint: try to label all the variables that are targeted with pharmaceuticals. OK, good. Now, how many variables does that leave untouched if we stop there. Answer: a lot.
The good news is that this myth is slowly being overturn by the masses of healthcare providers, but we still have a long way to go. I'll leave you with two great resources to delve into the subject of pain even further:
1) The guys who are basically at the forefront of this research have a website, go to that website here. Abso-friggin'-lutely jam packed with amazing research... for free.
2) An amazing book that is worth its weight in gold. Literally, reading and understanding pain may prove to be one of the most effective therapies in treating pain in the long run. Here is the book, if you struggle with chronic pain, dish out the cash and give it a read.
Here's to kickin' pain in the face.
Your heart. What more ironic and appropriate than to talk a little bit about the organ of your existence. Sadly, much of what you know about it is false. It does not look like the silhouette of buttocks with pointy, arrowhead underside. I have no idea where this symbol came from.
It's a hard worker. Approximately 42 BILLION beats per year, give or take a million. It never sleeps. Its going when you're not going.
And, statistically, its failing is the reason you, as an American, will die. Way to be a bummer for Valentines, Josh! I'm not trying to be a Debbie Downer, only trying to illuminate the possibility that your heart may need some extra love.
So I leave you with a thought and a book: 1.) That soda pop is probably more dangerous to your heart than the hamburger. 2.) The Cure For Heart Disease.
I hope you have a great rest of the day, that you eat some chocolate sugary goodness today (even if it isn't the best for you), and that you take better care of your heart in the year to come.
Ack, I'm sore all over. My bones hurt. My teeth ache. I'm moody. Do I have fibromyalgia?
Maybe. But something you should check before you spend thousands of dollars on eight different doctor's appointments is: your vitamin D levels!
I've been studying Dr. Holick's work recently. The man doesn't look like it at all, but he's one of the world's leading experts in the sun and the harmful and beneficial effects of radiation on human beings. Such work has made him an expert in vitamin D.
Maybe you've heard of vitamin D. Your doctor probably said you should take a calcium supplement with D in it for your bones. Your doctor was right! But have you ever wondered why? Why do I need to take vitamin D? What's it all about?
No, you haven't? Oh... well, it's so important that I'm going to blog about it anyways.
First off, vitamin D is the the Daylight vitamin. UVB rays hit your skin, and a chemical cascade goes underway that ultimately raises blood levels of vitamin D.
Secondly, vitamin D is responsible for hard bones. You see, vitamin D is the gatekeeper that allows your body to utilize calcium. Without vitamin D, all the calcium from your gallon challenge is urinated out without ever being deposited in your bones. Sturdy, hard bones are something a chiropractor is concerned with; I'm concerned over this.
The crazy thing about vitamin D is that it acts more like a hormone than a vitamin, and that all sorts of cells have receptors for this hormone from your brain cells to your fat cells. Mess up this hormone's levels, mess up those cells... basically. In areas where people don't get daylight (i.e. they don't get vitamin D), cancer levels go up. But people have been so scared by dermotologists into getting skin cancer that everyone is lathering up on the sunscreen and making what little outside time we get practically useless as far as vitamin D is concerned.
So, how can you fight this raging vitamin D deficiency that may be making you have bone pains and a greater chance for internal cancers? First, get outside. You don't need to be outside all the time, but get some tanning time 1 to 2 times a week. If you're doing this outside, it must be from 10AM to 3PM to get UVB rays to activate vitamin D. UVA are the main rays present outside of this time window, and just mess up your skin without the vitamin D benifit. Also, November through January are difficult times to build up vitamin D levels because of the angle of the sun's rays and how the ozone is situated just right as to bounce UVB rays away during these months. How do you survive winter, then, without vitamin D? By building up vitamin D storage in your fat cells, like the hibernating bear, during summer months.
What if you're not able to get outside? Take vitamin D orally. According to Holick, 2,000 IU's/day if you're an adult, 1,000 IU's/day if you're a small kid. We carry a great vitamin D, suspended in organic olive oil, 1,000 IU's per two drops of oil, 500 servings in a bottle, for $25.99. Buy ours if you're worried about quality control. Now, sunshine is a better way to get D than supplementation, but supplementation is great insurance just in case you can't get outside. It's impossible to get vitamin D toxicity from sunlight exposure, and only a very, very, very slim chance of getting d-toxicity from supplementation. Honestly, you're probably ravagingly deficient in this hormone anyways. Which brings me to my next point.
Test the sucka'! I've phoned around Farmington, and yes! -- there are labs that will test blood levels of vitamin D. The cost is$50, and results take 2 weeks to get. Spend the money, take the test, and treat yourself for 3 months, and then re-test. I LOVE testing, treating, and re-testing; it takes the guess work out of it all and provides the patient and the provider with greater certainty. Don't wait until you're a 50 year old osteoporotic female until you get your vitamin D levels evaluated and taken care of... the damage is already done by that point! Yes, you can supplement without testing, but how much more committed would you be to taking your vitamin D on a daily basis if you had the lab work in your hand saying you had crazy-low blood levels of the stuff? A little more committed, no? Sometimes having the paperwork is worth its weight in gold.
You know how I'm always freaking out about omega-3 fatty acids? Well, the more I read about vitamin D, the more I think that it is an "omega-3" level of a supplement. Meaning, that everyone should be making sure that this is taken care of so their body can perform the processes it needs to.
Two cool things I noticed when watching The Olympics:
(1) The fastest man in the world getting "adjusted" by his chiropractor. This is cool, it shows that this service isn't just for pain, but for performance. You don't need to be in a car accident to get your musculoskeletal system checked, and you may want to get checked just to get the upper "edge" against the competition.
(2) The k-tape returns to volleyball! The first time I saw k-tape was at the last summer olympics when USA's female beach volleyball team was all taped up in pink. "That's weird... probably nonsense." It wasn't until years later, when I had a sprain in my leg from running that I was able to experience how "magical" (Lance Armstrong called kinesio-tape "magic" tape) this tape was for myself. If you're an athlete, find someone who is experienced in k-tape application, and test it for yourself. It works. (Want to know some of the "How" it works, this man wrote a great article about it here) You really should experience it yourself next time you've got an injury.
Keep watching The Olympics, take notes. These are some of the fittest human beings on the planet, see if there's anything you can change in your own life to treat yourself like an Olympian.
I've been reading an often horrifying book called "Our Daily Meds: How The Pharmaceutical Companies Transformed Themselves into Slick Marketing Machines and Hooked the Nation on Prescription Drugs." From the title, it is fairly apparent what this book is about. It's also fairly apparent that it's not pro-Big Pharma.
With its biases aside, the book is still a scary read. The fact that USA is one of only two developed countries that allows direct-to-consumer advertising for drugs is scary. The fact that a new drug gets unlimited chances to prove its worth in clinical trials is scary (meaning that if a drug failed scientific testing 7 times out of ten, as long as three tests showed it did something, it can be produced and sold). The fact that a new drug does not have to prove efficacy beyond meds currently available is scary. Yeah, that three dollar bottle of Aspirin may still be better than the expensive scrip for the new anti-inflammatory in a shiny color . . . but you or your doctor just aren't aware of it.
I'm a capitalist, so I don't blame these companies for trying to make a profit, but there's something unethical about literally making up diseases to sell a product (overactive bladder, anyone?), or marketing Ritalin to 6 year olds (remember, Ritalin is basically cocaine's slightly less lethal little brother).
Luckily, tides are changing. More and more people are taking efforts to stay away from this multi-billion dollar marketing trap that steals dreams and crumples lives – have you ever tried to reach your potential while hooked on oxycontin? Be aware of this. Realize drug companies are trying to make money like the rest of us, and sadly, their product doesn't generate profits when you're healthy. In most cases, your doctor most likely wants to work with you get rid of any long-term drug dependency – make them your ally, not your enemy.
This is the second post in a series, to view the first post click here.
"Eukanuba [makers of dog food] is putting omega-3 in puppy food. I find it sad we're giving it to our puppies but not to our babies." -Dr. Barbara Levine, professor of nutrition, Cornell University
The slow fall of omega-3's from the Western Diet happened something like this:
- In 1897 the French chemist Paul Sabatier describes how oils harden when mixed with the presence of a metallic catalyst. For this he later wins a Nobel Prize in 1912. This process is hydrogenation.
- Three years later in America V.D. Anderson makes the first screw press to extract oils from seeds. These are much better than the hydraulic presses used before, but still leaves most of the oil in the meal, still allowing rancidity to occur. They needed less oil.
- 1903 a German chemist Wilhelm Norman takes out a patent for the "conversion of unsaturated fatty acids . . . into saturated compounds" by hydrogenation.
- All of this leading to the world's first manafactured oil, "Crisco," on 1911. From here the natural next steps were margarine and other nutrient-less oils. Great, Crisco can stay fresh in your pantry for years — well if the bugs and bacteria won't eat it... maybe there's a reason.
- Come back to 1972 were a scientist named Crawford presents first evidence that DHA is important to brain function, and we have a bit of a problem. The status quo of hydrogenated oils in our food supplies has already firmly been entrenched. There's no going back. 
Recently, this has begun to change. Baby formula has begun to catch up to dog food. Go down any aisle down in your grocery store and you'll see the new claim is now omega-3's. Fortified with omega-3s! Rich in DHA for your child's brain and vision!
This is all good, because the first step in raising a healthy brain in your child is to supply the raw ingredients your brain needs to make itself. You must supply omega-3 fatty acids, especially the omega-3 fatty acid DHA.
Step One: Breastfeed Instead of Formula Feed
Even though formula is starting to catch up to the science, breastfed is still better. Two studies were done, and although they were comparing older formulas that didn't have the amounts of omega-3 fatty acids that present day formulas do, the results are still worth discussing.
Researchers at Cambridge looked at 300 pre-term infants who were fed through a tube either formula or breastmilk. Then, 8 years later, IQ's were measured. The breastfed infants scored an average of 8.3 % higher. Can you imagine taking all your tests in elementary school with a 8.3% handicap?
Another group did in Houston did the same thing, only with full-term infants. They took 204 infants at age three. These infants were of normal birthweight, with similar backgrounds, except for feeding. Some were bottle fed, others breast fed. All infants were tested for intelligence, breast-fed babies scored an average of 4.6 points higher.
In a more recent study, Birch et al compared children on a formula that had been supplemented with omega-3's with those that had been breastfed. He looked at visual acuity and intelligence. Still, despite have a formula supplemented with omega-3's, breastfed babies scored better.
How much should you supplement? If you're breastfeeding or pregnant, you should have a supplement that has 300 mg of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid is the long name). If you have an infant and want to know how much you should be giving your infant, the World Health Organization recommends 20 mg of DHA for every 2.2 pounds of body weight. If you want to be natural, eating one ounce of sardines per day would supply the necessary amount. Yeah, I didn't think you'd like that.
Three things to look for in your supplement:
1.) Anti-oxidants. Omega-3's were taken out of the food supply because they go rancid so quickly. The supplement does the same. If you take a rancid fish oil, you are doing more harm to your body than good. Anti-oxidants help keep your fish-oils fresh.
2.) "Ultra-purified" on the label. If you want to do a test to see if your fish oil is ultra-purified, bite into it. It should not taste or smell fishy. It may give you oily burps when you eat it, but if it smells like fish it isn't purified, and you could be giving yourself more mercury than necessary. Or, if it tastes like fish it is rancid. My daughter reminds me every day, "Dad, I haven't had my fatty acids yet today." I kid you not. And yet, she can't say her "th" sounds. Weird. Anyways, she takes a capsule in her mouth, bites it, sucks out the oils, and puts the capsule in the trash. She literally craves this supplement.
3.) Dark container, or stored in refrigerated section away from light. UV rays quickly deteriorate omega-3's. If yours isn't protected by a dark colored container, chances are that it's bad before you ever take it off the shelf.
I use a product by Innate Choice called Omega Sufficiency. It meets this entire checklist, and is even strawberry flavored for the kiddos. It doesn't have a fishy smell or taste, just the oily texture. It's also made from sardines, which I like, since sardines don't bio-accumulate as much mercury as other fish. This company also does random 3rd party testing of their product to make sure what they say is in it is in it — a major plus in the current unregulated vitamin industry. Plus, it's affordable. I like it so much that I carry it in my office and sell it at wholesale — it's that important.
OTHER WAYS TO GET OMEGA-3'S
Buy eggs at the store that are "omega-rich." Usually, the chicken's feed is mixed with some flax seed. Chickens then take the flax seed fatty acids and convert it to DHA for you. These eggs are usually only around $1 more expensive, and they're totally worth the investment.
Sprinkle some flax seed. Use it over your cereals, over your salad dressings. Make sure it is ground, not whole so that your body can absorb the necessary nutrients. Although not rich in DHA, flax is rich in a pre-cursor that can be converted to DHA. Sadly, honestly, clinically, most people aren't that good at converting to DHA. Eating an animal that has already done the conversion for you is better. Which brings me to my next to tips:
Eat wild game and grass fed beef instead of commercial meat. This is a wallet-breaker, I know. Wild game grazes on nuts and seeds instead of commercial feed that is mostly corn and soy (very omega-3 deficient), and as a result has more omega-3's in them. A cheap way to get wild meat is to befriend a hunter. Just make sure you're not eating bullet shards, as well.
Eat sardines at least once week. A can of sardines is cheap. Yes, it'll make you smell nasty. Yes, it will stink up the office trash can. But such is a small price to pay to have a better brain. Be that weirdo that eats fish on friday, maybe you'll start a fad.
Having an omega-3 rich brain is good, but it isn't the only thing on needs to have a healthy brain. We'll discuss other vital ingredients to your kid's cognition as we continue in our next post.
- pp. 153, 154. The Queen of Fats. Susan Allport. 2006 ↵
- Lucas, A. et. al. Breast milk and subsequent intelligence quotient in children born preterm. Lancet; 339(8788): 261-264, 1992.↵
- Birch. et al. Visual acuity and cognitive outcomes at 4 years of age in a double-blind, randomized trial of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid-supplemented infant formula. Early Human Development. 2007 May;83(5):279-84↵