February 15, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Those are the words Reuben Greg Brewer used when blogging about the recent JAMA study which found that today’s baby boomers are sicker than their parents were at the same age, suffering from chronic illness and disability related to diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, and dependence upon prescription medications.
How often I have heard my own mother say (who is now 80 and who just underwent her third joint replacement surgery), “These pills are keeping me alive.”
While the gist of Mr. Brewer’s blog trumpets health-field related investment opportunities for the savvy (Weight Watchers, Nutrisystem, Pfizer, Procter & Gamble, Teva Pharmaceuticals, CVS Caremark), it really is a sad commentary on the general state of health in these modern times and a confirmation that chronic illness is big business in the Western world.
What’s wrong with this picture?
Research about the consequences of a sedentary lifestyle and stress is not new, by any means.
Why have we as a society bought into the illusion of “the magic pill?”
Why have the majority of people refused to take responsibility for their own health and wellness?
We are finite beings. We have limitations. We wear out.
What changes are you willing to make now, today, to improve your chances of aging well? Although your body is ready, willing and able to restore function and mobility, beware of waiting too long.
A final thought, will you invest in yourself and/or in health-related companies on the stock exhange, each offering a unique ‘golden opportunity’?
January 6, 2013 § 2 Comments
Yes, another year has rolled around and I find myself another decade older this time. For all you youngsters out there, you will eventually understand the reality of the often repeated phrase, “I don’t feel any older, I am the same person I have always been . . .” yet, truth be told, when I look in the mirror, I see the changes in my body and my face—gravity! Some days, my bones can be a little achy too. However, I am still as keenly interested in everything that makes like worth living: loving relationships, passion for learning, enjoyment of my surroundings, meaningful work and activity, and a good measure of health.
Last year at this time, I was preparing for a parathyroidectomy—the surgical removal of a parathyroid gland that had become dysfunctional. The parathyroid glands play such an important role in body chemistry, bone production, and health. I was fortunate to find an excellent surgeon with a crack team, Dr. Michael Yeh, at UCLA. The surgery was successful and I have been experiencing a good recovery. Surgery, like chronic pain or illness, is always taxing to the body and can be very depleting. My main concern was how to support the healing process and to optimize the healing of the surgical incision. As many of my readers know, scar tissue is a topic I am keenly interested in and I am happy to report that the therapies I used post surgery supported the optimal healing of my surgical incision, leaving few internal adhesions.
I’m so grateful to have accumulated so much experience in the holistic field of medicine which has helped me come back stronger than before. At the present time, my personal health recovery regimen includes chiropractic, acupuncture, herbal medicine, and movement and body alignment practices (Alexander Technique, Restorative Exercise, and Pilates). My goal this year is to become even more aware of my body alignment, knowing that the way I move in my body and how each part communicates with the next, will determine my capacity for regeneration and strength and will help me to correct and limit the patterns that underlie chronic degeneration. No matter what our age, isn’t that the best choice to make?
How will you support your self, your body, and your health this coming year?
P. S. I am so enjoying the gift that cumulative life experience brings to all aspects of my life!
November 23, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Dis-ease is a key precursor to illness.
It is a state of subtle energetic imbalance which may reflect deep-seated experiences of anguish, grief, distress, misfortune, suffering, or trial.
If relief is delayed too long, the energetics associated with these states of being may eventually materialize in the tissues of the body, towards a diagnostically identifiable state of physical disease. Hans Selye described this process as “the general syndrome of sickness” and identified energetic signs which usually preceded the appearance of an illness or disease related to loss of adaptation (one’s physiological capacity for stress regulation).
Diagnosing subtle energetic imbalances is a primary component of Oriental (Asian, Chinese, Korean, Japanese) medical theory and practice. A stand-alone system of health care, it utilizes four basic observations: questioning, listening, smelling, and palpation.
Palpation as a Preventative Tool
In Oriental medicine’s Hara diagnosis, abdominal palpation is used effectively to pick up on subtle energetic imbalances in body systems which have not yet shown up as symptoms of disease, such as a mass or tumor.
The hara is the body’s energetic and physical center, the core of a person’s vitality. All the primary meridians root in the hara so any tenderness on palpation, tightness, indentation, temperature variation, change in skin color or texture or swelling, indicates an imbalance in a particular organ and meridian system which responds rather quickly to treatment at this stage.
This diagnostic tool is highly valued as it can identify subtle changes even if a person’s tongue, pulse or lack of symptoms seem to fall in the ”normal” range.
But there is something more to palpation that is equally as intriguing—the energetic exchange that occurs between practitioner and patient when acupoints are palpated. Research has demonstrated that acupoints along the meridians exhibit distinctive electrical qualities. Palpation of an acupoint prior to inserting a needle affects the qi of the point, helping the practitioner achieve the best results via depth of insertion, angle, direction, and location.
That’s why I love what I do!
Hara Diagnosis: Reflections on the Sea by Kiiko Matsumoto & Stephen Birch
November 18, 2012 § Leave a Comment
The study linked four visible signs of aging to an increased risk of heart disease and heart attack:
- Balding on the top of the head
- Loss of hair at the temples
- Fatty deposits on the eyelid
- Vertical crease on the earlobe
What fascinates me about this study is that researchers found that an individual’s risk (both men and women) increased with the number of aging factors present, whether or not they were smokers, had high cholesterol, or high blood pressure.
An interesting puzzle, won’t you agree?
October 23, 2012 § 3 Comments
Simply put, mobility is what separates the living from the dead. That’s why cultivating and retaining it should be a primary focus of healthy aging. However, the gradual loss of movement is so subtle that we are taken completely by surprise when one day, basic movements like looking over our shoulder, bending over, unscrewing the lid of a jar, or buttoning up a shirt become hard to do. Further, loss of mobility is often coupled with chronic joint and muscle pain, putting a damper on one’s efforts to stay active. Two key factors that herald this downward spiral are the loss of adaptation and compensation.
Adaptation and Compensation
Adaptation is the term coined by Hans Selye, who explored homeostasis and stress regulation in the 1970s. More recently, this concept has been expanded to include Sterling’s concept of allostasis, which describes the body’s capacity to adjust moment-by-moment to internal and external changes in the body or stressors in the environment. This process may involve phases of tissue breakdown or tissue repair. Over time, the body’s ability to effectively adapt to insults or challenges diminishes, losing its capacity to compensate mentally, emotionally, and physically.
Bodily compensation refers to the ways the body changes its structure and function to accommodate chronic changes linked to inflammatory conditions, injuries, or surgery, in an effort to stabilize and protect important structures like arteries, organs, spine, and brain. These changes are easily seen in myofascial tension or strain patterns which are often multi-layered, reflecting the cumulative nature of compensatory patterns.
How do myofascial tension patterns affect tissue mobility and function over time, impacting one’s health and well-being?
Multi-layered myofascial tension patterns and bodily compensation work hand-in-hand to keep us going after our body has suffered structural changes.
Fascia is the ubiquitous connective tissue matrix that gives our body structures and organs their shape. Myofascial tension patterns develop as ligaments, tendons, and fascial tissues are recruited to act as guy wires (to brace) or struts (to resist compression) to stabilize and support the body.
Patterns may manifest as a torsion or twist, as hips or shoulders attempt to counterbalance each other, one in the anterior plane and the other displaced in the posterior plane. Or, there may be a top/bottom pattern, often seen in whiplash injuries, where the forward displacement of the neck is counterbalanced by tension in the low back. This pattern is also associated with years of computer-related head-forward posture. Adhesions related to scar tissue can also induce abnormal motility patterns in visceral organs, reducing normal patterns of excursion.
Eventually, trigger points form, creating patterns of referred pain, further altering normal neuromuscular function by reducing range of motion. Finally, nerve entrapment contributes to movement-induced chronic pain.
Time, wear and tear, inactivity, and reduced range of motion become the turn of the screw that leads to decompensation, phase four of Selye’s general adaptation syndrome. Decompensation occurs when the body no longer has the resources or raw material (reduced hormones, strength, and function) necessary to sustain compensatory patterns. Joints, discs, and bones begin to breakdown, muscles and visceral organs lose their tone and torpor sets in, accelerating the aging process.
Not a pretty picture, yet it is the common pattern facing us all. Make the choice today to enhance your chances of aging well.
Aging well involves the foods we choose to eat, our activity level, social support, thinking patterns, movement practices that support functional anatomy (Feldenkrais or the Alexander Technique), as well as the support of practitioners who can help us improve and maintain our mobility: acupuncture, myofascial release, frequency specific microcurrent, craniosacral therapy, or rolfing.
What are you doing to age well?
October 1, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Whether a teen or an adult, cellulite is the bane of all women. If fact, one statistic I came across claimed that the percentage of cellulite in women compared to men is 90:10, respectively. That’s estrogen for you! On top of that, many women feel so much cultural pressure to look a certain way that changes in appearance can become quite distressing. What’s a girl to do?
Well, this discussion is going to take us beyond the aesthetics of appearance to consider how cellulite is actually a visible clue of deeper levels of change in the body related to health and function. Choosing to stay healthy is a powerful motivator which can help us manage cellulite in a way that goes beyond vanity towards improving both our appearance and our health! We begin by discussing four key factors in the development of cellulite: collagen, fat, estrogen, and circulation.
The Big Four: Collagen, Fat, Estrogen, and Circulation
Collagen is a chief constituent of the connective tissue matrix (ECM or fascia) that forms the skin, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Cellulite is the adipose fatty tissue component of the fascia which lies between the skin and the muscles. While the matrix gives the body its shape and allows structures under the skin to slide past each other, fatty adipose tissue serves to insulate the body from cold or heat, stores energy and nutrients, and cushions the body and organs against impact. Estrogen, a hormone circulated in the blood, has been implicated in the formation of cellulite, either due to a lack of it or an excess of it in the body. Aging and obesity lead to reduced microcirculation of blood, depriving the ECM 0f necessary nutrients for the adequate production of collagen fibers to support the structure of the matrix. Dehydration and thinning of the matrix causes the skin to lose its elasticity and tone, allowing underlying fatty deposits to expand and push up against the skin’s surface, creating cellulite’s signature orange peel appearance.
Naming Cellulite as a Problem
According to Scientific American, cellulite first began to be considered a problem in the 1970s. Research has linked it to smoking, stress hormones, endocrine imbalance, genetics, contraceptives, edema, a sedentary lifestyle, and poor diet. We could probably add exposure to estrogenic chemical compounds to the list too.
Unfortunately, rising numbers of young people are succumbing to obesity due to the Standard American Diet (S.A.D.). The appearance of cellulite at younger and younger ages signals dysfunction in the body related to excess intake of fat, endocrine dysfunction, poor circulation, and loss of collagen, something that should alarm us all.
Today, the cultural anxiety surrounding cellulite has fueled an explosion of products and treatments to address the condition. To counteract the breakdown of tissue in the body, increase circulation, and balance hormone production, dermatologists, researchers, and clinicians suggest the following approaches:
• Increase circulation to the area – cupping and gua sha are very effective
• Flush toxins – lymphatic drainage
• Strengthen collagen – exercise, walking, dancing, stretching, vitamin C
• Reduce dietary fat — add more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, water
As they say, knowledge is power. Hopefully these tips will help you manage cellulite by addressing the underlying conditions that promote it.
To your health!
September 24, 2012 § 2 Comments
Does it feel as if time is slowing down?
Have you recently had moments when time seemed to stand still?
What about your thoughts and activities? Have you noticed a subtle shift away from doing towards a deeper level of contemplation, towards being?
Or perhaps you feel more tranquil, experiencing an expanding sense of harmony and well-being in spite of a busy schedule?
If you can relate to these questions, then you are becoming attuned to the seasons. Attunement is that wonderful feeling of being in sync with the natural rhythms and cycles of life around us. Each season brings forth new possibilities, presenting unique opportunities to reassess ourselves on many levels, and if needed, to realign our life path to better attain our goals.
Late summer is a powerful transitional time for the earth and all the creatures living on it. A kind of metamorphosis occurs as yang energies phase into yin energies making it the season for rooting into the earth, grounding, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine’s Five Element Theory.
In TCM, late summer is assigned to the Earth element which represents the Stomach/Spleen/Pancreas zang-fu organs and meridian pathways of the digestive system. These organ systems sustain our life, freeing up nutrients to sustain the body’s qi or energies so that body systems can function, repair, and thrive. Abundant qi also strengthens the body’s wei qi energies associated with immunity. Finally, the digestive system forms our literal core or center, the internal place from which we move out into the world.
Foods Tips for Late Summer
Paul Pitchford, renown author of Healing With Whole Foods, recommends that we choose harmonizing foods that represent the center between summer and winter. The foods should be prepared simply, without too much seasonings. Here is a partial list:
- sweet potatoes, squash, cabbage, corn, garbanzo beans, peas, yams, potatoes, soybeans, tofu
- rice, sweet rice, amaranth
- cantaloupe, apricots
- filberts, chestnuts
Fasting and Detoxing
Many people choose late summer/early fall to do a short fast or follow a detox program to ready themselves for winter. Speak to your health care practitioner to determine the best approach for you.
Be resolved to take time for yourself through this seasonal change. Make it a priority to stay connected or to reconnect with your own internal rhythm and pace–it’s the basis for long-term health and healthy aging.