Should Acupuncture Be Painful?

 

"The art of healing comes from nature, not from the physician. Therefore the physician must start from nature, with an open mind."
- Paracelsus

Does acupuncture hurt? This is a common question that I get asked on a regular basis. And for good reason—everyone has either experienced a shot by a medical doctor or simply getting stuck with a pin or needle. It hurts!

The first thing for you to understand is that acupuncture is a principle, not a technique. This means it is not about sticking needles in someone's body, but about various ways to stimulate specific points on the body that affect the nervous system to elicit a measured physiological response. This includes the use of needles, laser and pressure.

Over my almost twenty years of clinical acupuncture experience, I began to wonder why most of my patients found their acupuncture treatment not only relatively painless, but extremely relaxing while telling me how painful their previous experience had been. 

After some research, I believe I found the answer. Each style of acupuncture has different physiological goals, utilize different sized needles, and vary significantly in technique. The two most common forms of acupuncture are traditional Chinese acupuncture and Japanese acupuncture. Although they use the same points, the application and patient responses are quite different. 

To begin, Chinese acupuncture needles are larger diameter than those used in Japanese acupuncture. Logically, the larger the needle, the more pain noted during insertion. A painful sensation is actually desired in Chinese acupuncture. One of the main goals during Chinese acupuncture is to manipulate the needle to elicit what is known as "de qi" (pronounced Dah-Chee), which can be quite painful. Needles are also inserted deeper into the tissues and twisted to create a physiological response in the connective tissues. This combination of thicker needles, deeper penetration, and manipulation create the common painful experience many patients will experience with Chinese acupuncture.

Do not get me wrong. This does not mean it is not effective. On the contrary, traditional Chinese acupuncture has been a highly effective treatment for literally hundreds of millions of patients over thousands of years.

Japanese acupuncture, on the other hand, uses very thin needles that are also sharper, allowing them to enter the skin virtually painlessly. Needles are also inserted much shallower and are not manipulated. Where Chinese acupuncture involves deep penetration into the connective tissues (muscles, ligaments, tendons...), Japanese acupuncture focuses upon stimulating the  sensory nerve fibers just below the skin. That may sound painful, however, the vast majority of these nerve fibers do not function as pain receptors. Instead, they monitor sensory stimulation such as stretch, pressure, vibration, and temperature. Due to the connections of these fibers into the brain, Japanese acupuncture works by modifying the brain's response to any stimulation, including pain. 

As you may have guessed, I practice Japanese style acupuncture. Having personally experienced both with equal success, I have chosen the path of comfort for both myself and my patients. Please read some of our patient testimonials (here), including 10 year old Kimberly who called acupuncture her "favorite!" If you or someone you know has had a painful experience with acupuncture, they may want to give our office a try.

I have also been asked about dry needling, a technique many physical therapists now utilize. This treatment should not be confused with acupuncture. While Chinese and Japanese acupuncture styles may vary, both function through the stimulation of specific points that have been mapped over thousands of years and tested for their clinical effectiveness for a wide variety of conditions (see the official research publication by the World Health Organization). Dry needling, on the other hand, does not use traditional acupuncture points but instead targets tender areas in muscles.   

Dry needling specifically addresses pain related to myofascial trigger points.  Needles are deeply inserted directly into these trigger points with the primary purpose of stimulating a "twitch response," which is usually elicits pain as well. Many times an electrical impulse is connected to the needles to enhance this response. Once again, it can be very effective for pain, but many people find it very uncomfortable and would much rather receive the same results using acupuncture without the pain. While dry needling is specific for pain, acupuncture's benefits are much broader as perviously noted. Over the years, many patients have returned to our office after undergoing dry needling due to the comfort and effectiveness of our treatment.

Feel free to contact our office if you have any questions on how acupuncture may be of benefit to you. For those who may believe acupuncture is merely placebo, please read what my dog had to say about that in my article, "Dogs Never Lie: What My Dog Taught Me About Acupuncture."

 

The Dangers of Antacid Medication

 
 
 
Figure 1

Figure 1

According to statistics, up to 30% of Americans have symptomatic heartburn that occurs at least weekly, and more than 40% have it to one degree or another. For those suffering, medication has been a life saver. Or has it?

If your smoke alarm went off in the middle of the night, would you simply disconnect the wires? That would be ridiculous, of course. You would search for the CAUSE of the smoke. With this in mind, if you have heart burn, why would you simply cover up the symptoms?

Most people have been told (by both the manufacturers and their doctors) that their problem is too much acid. Actually, the opposite is true. Let's take a look at this logically: 

1) Your stomach makes hydrochloric acid. This acid is essential for protein digestion, infection protection, and vitamin absorption. A lack of acid results in bloating due to protein purification in the stomach. This gas build up forces  the normal acid in the stomach back into your esophagus, resulting in the burning pain of reflux (Figure 2). The medication seems to work because the symptoms go away, but the problem is not solved (remember the smoke alarm?).

2) Research shows that as we age, we lose the capacity to make hydrochloric acid in the stomach (Figure 1). This being the case, young adults should have more problems than older adults. Therefore, most patients suffering from acid reflux actually need MORE acid, not less.

3) The stomach contains special cells that secrete mucous, protecting the delicate stomach lining from damage. If this layer becomes compromised, the protection is lost. Imagine you are a furniture refinisher that uses harsh chemicals to strip away old varnish. If you had holes in your gloves, would you water down the chemicals or get new gloves? In this case, the stomach's protective lining needs to be restored rather than reducing acid production. 

What's so bad about some harmless medication? The fact is, it's not so harmless. Here is what the medical research has shown:

Long-term use of proton pump inhibitors increases the risk of kidney disease(1), blood vessel calcification(2), nutritional deficiencies such as calcium, iron, zinc, B12, and folic acid(3), cardiovascular disease(4), infection(5), diarrhea(6), microbial disruption/dysbiosis(7), and bone fracture(8). In one particular study, taking these drugs in high doses was associated with a 2.6-fold higher risk of death(9). In a profoundly troubling study published in 2016, acid reducing drugs were associated with an increased risk of dementia(10).

If you suffer from acid reflux and require medication to control your symptoms, we can help. The first goal is to find out why you are having your issues; then, correct the underlying cause through natural means. This may include a variety of specific nutrients and botanicals that have been clinically proven to effectively treat acid reflux including zinc carnosine, marshmallow root, DGL-licorice, and betaine HCl to name but a few. 

Both the National Institute of Health and the World Health Organization recommend acupuncture as a safe and effective treatment for heartburn. Research has also shown that patients who failed standard medical treatment found resolution with acupuncture(11). 

Why continue to suffer or take medication that might be harmful? Give us a call today!

 
Figure 2

Figure 2

 
  1. Lazarus B, Chen Y, Wilson FP, et al. Proton Pump Inhibitor Use and the Risk of Chronic Kidney Disease. JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176(2):238-46
  2. Fusaro M, Noale M, Tripepi G, et al. Long-term proton pump inhibitor use is associated with vascular calcification in chronic kidney disease: a cross-sectional study using propensity score analysis. Drug Saf. 2013;36(8):635-42
  3. Howden CW. Vitamin B12 levels during prolonged treatment with proton pump inhibitors. J Clin Gastroenterol. 2000;30(1):29-33
  4. Shih CJ, Chen YT, Ou SM, et al. Proton pump inhibitor use represents an independent risk factor for myocardial infarction. Int J Cardiol. 2014;177(1):292-7
  5. Bavishi C, Dupont HL. Systematic review: the use of proton pump inhibitors and increased susceptibility to enteric infection. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2011;34(11-12):1269-81.
  6. Janarthanan S, Ditah I, Adler DG, et al. Clostridium difficile-associated diarrhea and proton pump inhibitor therapy: a meta-analysis. Am J Gastroenterol. 2012;107(7):1001-10
  7. Lo WK, Chan WW. Proton pump inhibitor use and the risk of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth: a meta-analysis. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2013;11(5):483-90
  8. Cai D, Feng W, Jiang Q. Acid-suppressive medications and risk of fracture: an updated meta-analysis. Int J Clin Exp Med. 2015;8(6):8893-904
  9. Maggio M, Corsonello A, Ceda GP, et al. Proton pump inhibitors and risk of 1-year mortality and rehospitalization in older patients discharged from acute care hospitals. JAMA Intern Med. 2013;173(7):518-23
  10. Gomm W, von Holt K, Thome F, et al. Association of Proton Pump Inhibitors With Risk of Dementia: A Pharmacoepidemiological Claims Data Analysis. JAMA Neurol. 2016;73(4):410-6.
  11. Dickman R, Schiff E, Holland A, Wright C, Sarela SR, Han B, Fass R. Acupuncture vs. doubling the PPI dose in refractory heartburn. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2007

 

 

 

Now, About My Colonoscopy...

 

Can I be blunt? I mean really lay it out there. I'd like to talk about my colon. If that makes you uncomfortable, I understand. Just think how it makes me feel. It's MY colon we're talking about, not yours. And who knows, with social media these days, my colon will hopefully get thousands of LIKES on Facebook! 

So let's talk about a subject that is a bit taboo for some or at least slightly uncomfortable for many. As toddlers, we spoke freely of peeing and pooping to the point of telling our potty tales to anyone who might listen (including guests at the dinner table if necessary).  Then in elementary school, bodily functions became a focus of humor, at least as far as little boys go. Sometime during the teen years, we became a bit more self conscious, embarrassed to speak of anything related to our biology. Unfortunately, adulthood does not alter these (mis)perceptions and we continue through life making sure we keep "our private things private." That's all well and good, unless those private things can kill you.

As a physician that professes to practice holistic, preventative health care, I have been a bit of a hypocrite. I know the 2016 U.S. statistics for colorectal cancer according the American Cancer Society:

  • 95,270 new cases of colon cancer
  • 39,220 new cases of rectal cancer
  • 49,190 expected deaths 

I am also very aware of the fact that early detection of pre-cancerous polyps or stage I colon cancer can lead to remarkable treatment outcomes. As with many of us though, being informed of the facts does not always motivate us to take action. I procrastinated, knowing that the prep was pretty crappy (pun intended). So here's what got me motivated. I told you I was going to be blunt, so here it goes.

One Monday morning in early May, I went to the bathroom as usual. To my horror, the toilet paper was filled with bright red blood. Worse yet, the toilet was an eery shade of crimson as well. I can assure you, that finding will snap you right out of your morning doldrums. Knowing that bright red blood is usually not a common finding in serious conditions like colon cancer, I tried to relax. About an hour later, another trip to the bathroom revealed the same, a few more teaspoons of blood. Now I was a bit more concerned.   

My mind started racing. "I should have known better. Why didn't I get that colonoscopy done four years ago when I turned fifty? Am I going to pay the ultimate price for my delay?" This went on for about fifteen minutes. "Now just relax," I finally said to myself, "No need to jump to crazy conclusions." My initial panic settled into a generalized anxiety. "Let's see how the day progresses," I thought, as if giving advice to a patient. Unfortunately things continued unchanged for the next few hours, but the bleeding did eventually stop around noon. To ease my mind a bit, I was able to get an appointment with an excellent gastroenterologist that afternoon through the recommendation of a good friend who specializes in Internal Medicine. They were wonderful and scheduled my colonoscopy that following week.

Although I was apprehensive about the findings, I was not worried. Bright red blood is usually indicative of a ruptured blood vessel rather than colon cancer. However, I knew I would not be at ease until the procedure was completed, curious to know if I may have tempted fate. 

Here's why I feel it is vital for me to tell you of my experience. One of the challenges of having a colonoscopy is the 24 hour fast. The afternoon before my procedure, I had a lovely patient come to see me. As many of you know, my practice has a very personal feel. When you walk through my door, you become part of my family. That being said, when April asked how my day was going, I mentioned she may hear some rumblings in my stomach as I was in the midst of my pre-colonoscopy fast. Upon my disclosure, her face become quite serious as she expressed her sincere appreciation for my decision to go through the process.

"Let me tell you a story," she began, speaking in a very solemn tone. "Four years ago my father went in for a routine colonoscopy. The doctor said there were some abnormalities present and that he should return for another checkup in a year. He never went back. Earlier this year he started having problems going to the bathroom, noticing some bleeding as well. The results of his next colonoscopy would reveal stage IV colon cancer. My father now has a colostomy bag and his future is quite uncertain." 

I thanked her for sharing and told her that regardless of my findings, I was going to spread the word. Colon cancer is one of the most preventable and treatable of all cancers. According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year survival rate for stage I is approximately 92 percent. For stage IV, the rate drops to 11 percent. These survival numbers do not include people who have precancerous polyps removed prior to the disease even appearing, which also significantly improves longevity. They can be attended to immediately and monitored effectively before cancer ever rears it's ugly head. Left undetected or untreated, though, this disease is unrelenting as it drains the life from it's host.

After some of the best sleep I can remember, I was gently awakened by the nurse. Feeling like I had slept for days, I was still in a bit of an anesthesia stupor. Yet I can clearly recall the doctor telling me that all was well and he saw nothing suspicious in the least. I was told to return in 10 years for a follow-up and am counting on technological advances to make the process a bit less invasive by the year 2026.

So, if you are over the age of fifty or have a family history of colon cancer, make it a point to get checked. It may sound funny, but I feel I like I got a bit of a second chance. Fortunately for me, this experience was more like a bad dream. For people like April's father, however, that bad dream has become a living nightmare. Wake up while you still have time. This is one case when sleeping in may cost you your life. 

 

  

 

Keys to a Healthy Pregnancy

 

I cannot think of a more joyous time in my life than my wife telling me she was pregnant with each of our two children. As with so many other expecting parents, we were both excited and anxious. It was our desire to everything we could to keep my wife and babies healthy throughout the pregnancy.

The internet is both a blessing and a curse. Never before has information on virtually ANY topic been available at the click of a button. But information is simply that...information. It will vary in quality and trust depending upon the source (This is more than evident when it comes to political views!).

Unfortunately, it is also true in regards to health information. Unlike searching the internet on how to set up your phone ring tones, guidance on maintaining a healthy pregnancy requires a level of deep trust regarding the source. When it comes to my continuing search for the most current health information, I ask a simple the question: "How do you know?" That is, does the resource have proven research behind their claims or merely the opinion of some so-called experts.

As a physician, I feel obligated to serve my community with integrity, providing them with the best care possible. That means I hold myself to the highest level of accountability. If the research regarding a topic is questionable, I will always advise my patients to err on the side of caution. Without solid research that is supported in the scientific journals, it will not pass my test. Testimonials are nice, but be fore warned, they are NOT research!

So let's get to the reason for this article—what can you do to optimize the health of both mom and baby during pregnancy?

Books have been written on this subject (and some of you have likely read many of them), so my goal today is to discuss some of the key nutrients.

The first nutrient is folate. This vitamin is necessary for cell division and the production of new DNA. Many prenatal vitamins contain folic acid. Folic acid can mask B12 deficiency. Folate absorption requires adequate zinc, a common deficiency in the industrialized world. However, too much zinc interferes with copper. We use a zinc taste test to help monitor zinc levels.

If you are having problems with maintaining pregnancies, I recommend testing for a genetic variant known a MTHFR. This may limit your body's ability to absorb folate. With this information, a properly designed folate supplement can be prescribed. Hemochromatosis is another genetic variant that impairs the ability to remove excess iron from the tissues. It is a common cause of miscarriage as well. Once diagnosed, it can be easy controlled. Left untreated, it can lead to severe organ damage.

Next is choline. This nutrient is essential because a deficiency in choline is linked to neural tube defects. Higher choline intake is associated with improved cognition in babies and children born to women with higher choline status (since only 14 percent of women get adequate choline in their diets, it is a common deficiency). Here are some choline rich foods.

Next are vitamins A, D3, and K2. I have put these together because they are synergistic, working together for the greater good. It is also essential to have them all in adequate amounts to prevent toxicity. Many women are cautioned regarding vitamin A supplementation during pregnancy due to potential toxicity. This is true. However, when supplemented with D3 and K2, toxicity becomes less likely.

Vitamin B12 is also essential for optimal nervous system development and deficiency has been associated with infertility. As previously noted, B12 levels can be adversely affected by folic acid supplementation. If you are vegetarian, be aware that B12 is only found in animal sources. Please make sure that you are receiving adequate supplemental levels. A simple blood test can help monitor B12 deficiencies.

Finally I want to mention omega-3 fatty acids, particularly what is known as DHA. DHA is essential for proper brain development. It concentrates in the grey matter of the brain and the eyes, protecting these delicate tissues from oxidative damage. All omega-3 fatty acids are not the same. Although flax contains high levels of omega-3's, they are in the form known as ALA. ALA must be converted through a number of chemical reactions to become active DHA. Unfortunately this is a very inefficient process. Many sources of DHA are from cold water fish. You must be very careful when it comes to supplementation. Many sources are highly oxidized and contain heavy metals such as mercury because these companies want to save money due to the cost of purification. When it comes to your health and the health of your baby, shop quality over cost.

As you can see, many nutrients can have interactions that can be either good or bad. Do not supplement individual nutrients without proper guidance from a health professional trained in nutrition. You should be receiving the vast majority of your nutrients from real food. That is why my first priority is to make sure moms-to-be are eating properly. This means daily intake of colorful fruits and vegetables (servings: five is fine, nine is divine!). Do your best to eat organic when possible (follow the Environment Working Groups "Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen" for recommendations). That being said, research shows the health benefits of even eating non organic outweighs the possibility of toxic exposure. To minimize pesticide residue, make sure you wash your produce well. Avoid processed foods and refined oils along with sugar and high fructose corn syrup. I don't think I have to mention alcohol or smoking, but I will...DON'T!

Pregnancy can be overwhelming, but remember, you are not alone. Find a good team of health professionals that can bring their particular skills to your service. This includes someone with specialized education in the realm of nutrition. Please call us if you need some assistance in making sure all of your bases are covered. We would be honored to help!

"Healthy Mom for a Healthy Baby!"

 

Helping Preschool Kids Stay Healthy

 
 
 
 
A healthy outside starts from the inside.
— Robert Urich
 

Here are the findings—Overall: 30% Fewer Days Absent From Daycare. At first I was astonished. Then, it actually made me a bit angry. Those numbers are staggering. Why weren't these findings known by every parent of young children? If a drug showed this significant a benefit, it would be front page news! On top of that, why wasn't this common knowledge amongst pediatricians?

Here are the details of the findings revealed in the prestigious journal Pediatrics. Researchers proved the benefits of probiotics for the reduction of cold and flu-like symptoms on 326 healthy children aged three to five. This was a very well designed study that compared specific strains of a high quality probiotic versus a placebo. As you can see, the author's conclusion was nothing less than extraordinary:

Daily dietary probiotic supplementation for 6 months was a safe effective way to reduce fever, rhinorrhea (runny nose), and cough incidence and duration and antibiotic prescription incidence, as well as the number of missed school days attributable to illness for children 3 to 5 years of age.
— Pediatrics: 2009 Aug


Now here is where you must take caution—all probiotics are not created equal. I cannot stress this point enough. Quality counts. Medical research is always performed using the highest quality nutrients to ensure accuracy of findings. Would you use inferior materials to build your house just because they were cheaper? Of course not. The same should go for your nutritional supplements. Probiotics are live organisms and quite variable in both quality and quantity. What is essential to note is that this study was done using a very specific bacteria combination. They are Lactobacillus Acidophilus NCFM© and Bifidobacterium.

Most products found on the grocery shelves (for example: Walmart, Target, Walgreen's and GNC) are cheaper for a reason—they contain lesser quality ingredients. To make matters worse, they may also contain potentially harmful substances as noted by the New York Attorney General's Office. My suggestion is to only use high quality supplements. Inferior ingredients will ALWAYS lead to inferior results. The products available through most health professionals or true health food stores undergo stringent testing and third party certification to assure quality, purity, and effectiveness. 

If you decide to shop on your own, do your homework. Evaluate the companies thoroughly and learn about their manufacturing and research standards. Because independent certification can be costly and quality ingredients are more expensive, many companies will try to sell consumers inferior products based on a cheaper price. Remember that probiotics are live organisms that are temperature sensitive. Improper shipping or storage can result in significantly diminished effectiveness. Take the time and investigate your options. You and your family are worth it! 

For those interested, I personally recommend Metagenics UltraFlora® Children's. It contains the highest quality probiotics that ensures effectiveness. Best of all, it tastes great so kids will look forward to taking it. For parents, the Metagenics online store makes ordering easy. Simply create an account and products are shipped right to your front door for FREE! The link below will take you right there:

 

The Power of Fasting

 
 
 
Everyone can perform magic, everyone can reach his goals, if he is able to think, if he is able to wait, if he is able to fast.
— Hermann Hesse
 

Fasting, by definition, is the willing abstinence from food or drink. Nearly every religious text will call for periods of fasting as a spiritual practice. Some fasts include all food and liquids, others allow for water and possibly light caloric broths. Fasting lengths can also vary from 12 hours to a matter of days.

Beyond the spiritual benefits, current research has shown there may be some significant health benefits. These include reducing inflammation, improving blood sugar regulation, reducing oxidative stress, improving the body's ability to handle stress, and modifying body composition (losing body fat!). Although both calorie restrictive diets and intermittent fasting may both result in weight loss, research appears to show that those who fast will maintain a greater percentage of lean mass. This is extremely important to understand. Many people who lose weight by restricting calories will lose both fat AND muscle. Fasting may allow for more significant percentages of fat loss. Win/Win!

Energy levels can also be enhanced through fasting. This occurs as a result of an increased insulin sensitivity. Insulin is essential for proper blood sugar regulation as well as energy availability and utilization. Elevated levels of insulin create inflammation and stimulate the body to store fat regardless of caloric intake. The mitochondria, the powerhouses of the cells, become more efficient and keep energy stores high when insulin is well controlled. 

There are countless forms of fasting that have been practiced for centuries throughout the world. Two types of fasting that may be of most benefit are Intermittent Fasting and what I will call the 5:2 Fast (two non-consecutive 24 hour fasting days during each week). Because our body's have been trained to burn sugars through the modern diet, we tend to crave them on a regular basis. Fasting forces the body to burn fat as the primary fuel source. Because it contains twice the calories of carbohydrates, fat is a much more efficient source of energy. Please understand that fasting in not a diet, it is a pattern of eating. It's a way of scheduling your meals so that you get the most out of them. Fasting on it's own doesn't change what you eat, it changes when you eat.

Intermittent fasting consists of limiting food intake for an extended window each day. This generally involves a 12-14 hour time period of caloric restriction. Although this may sound somewhat extreme for some, it actually mimics what our ancestors likely experienced. More specifically, much of the world's population still eats this way. Unlike in many Western cultures, instantaneous access to food is limited for most people in the world. Although great value can be realized by making this a daily practice, even completing three days a week can prove beneficial.

So what does the research tell us in regards to intermittent fasting?

"Salk scientists fed groups of adult male mice one of four diets: high-fat, high-fructose, high-fat and high-sucrose, and regular mouse kibble. Some of the mice in each dietary group were allowed to eat whenever they wanted throughout their waking hours; others were restricted to feeding periods of nine, twelve or fifteen hours. The caloric intake for all the mice was the same.

Over the course of the 38-week experiment, some of the mice in the time-restricted groups were allowed to cheat on weekends and eat whenever they chose. A few of the eat-anytime mice were shifted to the restricted windows midway through the study.

By the end, the mice eating at all hours were generally obese and metabolically ill, reproducing the results of the earlier study. But those mice that ate within a nine or twelve-hour window remained sleek and healthy, even if they cheated occasionally on weekends. What’s more, mice that were switched out of an eat-anytime schedule lost some of the weight they had gained."

(See the attached link to view the graphic to give you a better visual).

The other form of fasting is know as 5:2. You eat regularly for five days in a weeks span, interspersing fasting two whole non-consecutive days (which consists of limiting caloric intake to about 600 calories for men and 500 calories for women). Here is what one study revealed:

"Researchers at the University of Manchester found that when overweight women followed a 5:2 approach, they lost more weight and body fat and improved their insulin resistance compared with women who followed a more traditional diet of limiting calories seven days per week. One explanation for the success of the 5:2 dieters could be that a day of mini-fasting can lead to a diminished appetite. There may be an evolutionary explanation for this because humans (and other animals) have fasted intermittently for much of our time on Earth. As a recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences notes, "The most common eating pattern in modern societies, three meals plus snacks every day, is abnormal from an evolutionary perspective."

Although fasting can be an effective way to reset your metabolism, eating nutrient dense, unprocessed food as well as eliminating sugar are essential if you want to optimize your health. Some of the research notes that improvement was seen regardless of nutritional quality of the foods consumed. In my opinion it would make no sense to undergo fasting to improve your body composition while eating foods that wreck your health by stimulating oxidation and inflammation. Why not incorporate lots of fresh vegetables, some fruit, healthy fats such as coconut oil and olive oil as well as nuts and seeds? Add in organic eggs along with organic sources of meats. While you're at it, lose the dairy and the grains! I assure you, within a month you WILL notice a difference in your health.

Would you be interested in adding more fuel to the fasting fire? Include some exercise. Any exercise will help, but I am a big fan of high intensity exercise. This does not mean it has to use heavy weights, it simply requires increasing the intensity of your activity to get your heart rate up to higher levels. This type of exercise is of a much shorter duration, but much greater intensity (awesome news for those where time is a challenge!). As you have likely heard before, always check with your doctor to see if high intensity exercise would be appropriate.

To summarize, here are a few reasons why I believe fasting is of benefit:

  • Improved mobilization of fat for fuel.
  • Rejuvenation of the mitochondria (cell powerhouses).
  • Stabilization of blood sugar.
  • Improved insulin sensitivity.
  • Resets the hunger stimulus threshold.
  • Research shows calorie restriction increase life span.
    • (fasting stimulates these same mechanisms without feeling like you are starving yourself)

If you are interested in incorporating fasting into your routine, check with your doctor. With my patients, we incorporate an in-depth blood chemistry that reveals nutritional imbalances that may need to be supported prior to fasting in order to maximize health. This also allows us to retest and monitor physiological improvement. Here is an example of the 20 page Doctor's Choice Functional Health Report our patients receive at no additional cost. I can assure you that it will be like no other lab report you have ever seen!

The use of fasting as an alternative to calorie restriction is more than a fad diet, although it is important to remember that one size does not fit all. I would not recommend fasting if you are pregnant or for children unless under qualified supervision. As for the rest of you, give it a month and see how you feel. What have you got to lose except a few pounds?

Sweet Revenge

 
 
 
I give you bitter pills in sugar coating. The pills are harmless; the poison is in the sugar.
— Stanislaw Jerzy Lec
 

If you come to understand the next sentence, it will change your life. Food is not fuel, food is information. Food is not fuel, food is information. No, this is not a typo. I wrote that sentence twice because it is essential for you to understand when it comes to forming a healthy relationship to food. Yes, it is a relationship!

For earlier generations, food was fuel. You ate whatever you could hunt or gather. Obesity was not an issue unless you had some sort of glandular endocrine disease. My how times have changed. Processed foods have been the driver of the obesity epidemic. These foods have become refined to make them last longer and taste better.

For many years, researchers believed that calories were calories. Carbohydrates (sugars) and proteins were 4 calories/gram; fats were 9 calories per gram. Therefore, the more fat, the greater the caloric burden and potential weight gain. To complicate things more, fat intake became linked to heart disease. Enter the age of "fat-free" foods.  

However, fat tastes good. So simply removing the fat would significantly dull the taste. What was the food industry to do? Add sugar! Unfortunately, the past two decades have been a terrible science experiment. Although our supposed calories were decreasing by removing fat, our society was getting sicker and sicker. Chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease continued to rise. The culprit...sugar.

Let's get back to the fuel/information idea. What happens when you consume refined sugar? Your blood sugar rises quickly, causing your insulin levels to rise. Insulin removes the sugars from the blood for utilization by your cells. This is a normal/healthy response. But when blood sugar levels remain continuously elevated due to dietary intake, a deadly cascade begins. As insulin levels increase, your cells are told to store fat. As the body systems continue to become stressed, inflammation is triggered as a protective mechanism. This chronic inflammation causes other chemical messengers to be released, leading to damaged blood vessels (heart disease) and abnormal cell development (cancer). 

Eventually your pancreas, which secretes the insulin, begins to burn out due to over stimulation. To make matters worse, the cells of the body become resistant to the insulin. This causes blood sugar to rise even more. This excess blood sugar binds with proteins, resulting in what are called advanced glycated end products (AGEs). These AGEs are like gunky oil in you car, damaging the organs. 

Sugar is inflammatory, it is as simple as that. Now for some more bad news. Sugar has been replaced by a cheaper sweetener called high fructose corn syrup. This is like putting sugar on steroids. Major organ damage ahead. So what about artificial sweeteners? Research now shows how they fool the brain into thinking it is receiving something it does not get. This triggers the hunger signal and you end up actually eating more.

So what is a person to do? First, everything in moderation. According to the World Health Organization, it is recommended to keep free sugar consumption to less than 5% of caloric intake or roughly 25 grams (6 teaspoons). Take a look at some of the common foods where hidden sugar resides (Prevention Magazine). Next, use healthier alternatives such as stevia (make sure it has no added ingredients!). Finally, think of sugar as a drug, because it is. It creates certain feelings and emotions. That is why you crave it like you do.

You need to become familiar with the terms glycemic index and glycemic load and the measures of some common foods (Harvard Health Publications). The glycemic index is a measure of blood sugar response to particular foods while glycemic load relates to the insulin response. Choose low glycemic load foods. Here is why they are different. An eight ounce glass of water and a one gallon jug of water containing one teaspoon of sugar have the same glycemic index. However, one ounce of water from the glass will have significantly more sugar than one ounce of water from the jug, leading to a greater spike in insulin.

Decide to make a change. It will be challenging, but you can do it. What you will notice is that as each day passes, the cravings lessen. Beware that when emotional stresses hit, you will be tempted to get your "fix." You must be prepared. Have some healthy snacks like nuts, some fruit or crunchy veggies. It might not be the same, but realize that you will be healthier for it. Also, engage a friend, family member, or co-worker for your journey. There is power in accountability and emotional support. They will be healthier for it as well.

We must all suffer from one of two pains...the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. Choose wisely.