Eat Healthy Without Breaking The Bank

If you’re like millions of people, you resolved to eat healthier in the new year. We have all tried, at one point or another, to eat healthier. But what, exactly, does that mean? How is healthy defined?

Some people say to eat more fruits and vegetables and less meats and sweets. Unfortunately, fruits and veggies that are sprayed with pesticides and herbicides are not healthy. But aside from the debate about the importance of eating organic food, what would a healthy plate of food look like?

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently converted its pyramid to “My Plate.”

myplate_green

The U.K.’s National Health Service recommends “The Eatwell Plate.”

eatwell-plate

And now, Harvard has come up with its own guidelines for healthy eating. And by my estimation, Harvard has hit a two-run homer in developing the “Healthy Eating Plate” and calculating “the cost of healthy eating.”

HEPApr2013

Healthy Eating Plate

In response to the perceived shortcomings of the USDA’s My Plate, nutrition experts at the Harvard School of Public Health, in collaboration with editors at Harvard Health Publications, developed the Healthy Eating Plate. This plate is a visual representation of what they believe a typical healthy meal should look like on someone’s plate. Here’s the gist:

  • 50 percent of your plate (or meal): Consists of vegetables and fruits. When choosing which fruits and vegetables to include, the general advice is to “pick from the rainbow,” including a diverse assortments of foods in as many colors as possible. When eating apples or peppers, eat a variety of colors: green, red and yellow.
  • 25 percent of your plate (or meal): Consists of whole grains. These should be in as close to their natural form as possible. In other words, skip the simple carbs derived from grains, the white flour, the “enriched” breads and pastas. These spike blood sugar and contribute to diseases like diabetes and obesity. Instead, go for whole wheat, quinoa, oats, brown rice and the like.
  • 25 percent of your plate (or meal): Consists of proteins. This means healthy cuts of beef and chicken, wild-caught fish, beans and nuts. Avoid heavily processed proteins and those with preservatives, nitrates and added chemical colors. (Omit standard hot dogs and bacon. Many stores now sell uncured, organic and nitrate-free hotdogs and bacon.)
  • Extras: Choose oils wisely, opting for olive, canola and sunflower oils and staying very clear of hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils. Drink plenty of water, and also drink tea and coffee. Limit sugary drinks and dairy products, including milk and milk products, to no more than two servings per day.

The Harvard experts say that staying active and adhering to the above guidelines will help you retain a healthy weight and reduce your risk of diseases like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes. I believe them.

The Cost Of Healthy Eating

While knowing what to eat and having the mind-set to do so are well and good, there are many people who simply think they can’t afford to do so. There is an urban myth that eating healthy costs so much more than eating crappy. A stroll through the aisles of Whole Foods can leave you wondering if you have enough funds to shop.

Well, fear not, friend in health. The great minds at Harvard have researched this, too. They conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of prices of healthier versus less healthy foods/diet patterns in 27 studies in countries across the globe. The results were published in the December issue of the British Medical Journal.

Basically, the researchers compared the global costs of healthy foods against their unhealthy counterparts. For instance, they contrasted lean cuts of meat with cheaper and fattier cuts of the same protein sources (e.g., beef, chicken). While the costs of grains, dairy and sweets showed little variance across nations, meats had the widest differences. Healthier meats cost an average of 29 cents more per serving. The way they calculated the costs is quite interesting; if you have time, click here to learn the details.

The results overall? According to Mayuree Rao, lead study author, “We found that the healthiest diets cost about $1.50 more per day, and that’s less than we might have expected.”

This comes to about $550 more per person per year. That is less than purchasing one cup of Starbucks coffee every day. In other words, healthy eating, according to Harvard, is only nominally more expensive than unhealthy eating.

Conclusion

Now that we know how to eat healthy and that healthy food is really not much more expensive than unhealthier options, where’s the hitch? Well, for me, the hitch in all this is not addressing the difference in cost between organic healthy foods and the so-called “regular” versions of the same foods that are sprayed with toxic chemicals, like pesticides.

My suggestion is to use Harvard’s new Healthy Eating Plate as a guideline. Know that this huge meta-analysis shows a small disparity between unhealthy foods and healthy foods, so let go of anxiety about that. Then turn to nutrient-dense, organic options of the healthier foods and see how you feel physically — and financially — in 90 days.

Reference: http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/3/12/e004277

Four Ways To Reduce Pain Naturally

Each year there are more than 150 million Americans suffering from chronic pain. This pain is costing the country an estimated $100 billion a year, including $50 billion in lost work productivity and $3 billion in lost wages. I would like to share with you four ways that you can reduce your pain naturally. By incorporating some of these tips into your daily routine you can feel better physically, mentally and spiritually.

Exercise The Body
Exercise is one of the most important things you can do for pain prevention and reduction. It encourages vigorous blood circulation, removes toxins, burns calories, stabilizes blood fats and sugars, improves strength and muscle tone, releases those feel-good hormones and keeps the mind alert.

Brisk walking is the best exercise for many chronic pain sufferers because the impact on the whole body is low. Once a new baseline is set, more vigorous exercises and activities can be enjoyed. Here’s why walking is so amazing:

Brisk walking is an aerobic activity, but since it is low-impact there is little wear-and-tear on the joints and little (if any) triggering of pain from the jarring action of the body as experienced in high-impact aerobic exercise or jogging. Although it is a simple activity, walking actually utilizes most of the muscles of the body to propel you forward and keep you on balance while increasing respiration, heart and lung function, blood and oxygen flow and the “burning off” of blood sugars and fats. It also helps in the removal of toxins and other wastes through sweat and improved eliminative functions.

Eat Pain-Relieving Foods
Food is a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to controlling inflammation and pain. The typical American diet consists of too much fat, tons of sugar, loads of red meat and a frightening amount of processed foods. By switching to an anti-inflammatory diet consisting of healthy whole foods, you can actually decrease inflammation and ease the pain and discomfort associated with it.

Here are eight categories of bad foods that should be avoided if you suffer pain or have inflammation: Animal milk products, hydrogenated oils, nitrates, processed sugars, night shade vegetables (potatoes, tomatoes, many species of hot and sweet peppers and eggplant are the most common), fast food, saturated fats and processed white flour foods.

A diet high in fiber and whole foods, low in preservatives and fat and infused with blood-invigorating aromatic spices can help reduce pain and inflammation. Here’s a list to get you started:

  • Wild Salmon.
  • Fresh whole fruits.
  • Bright colored vegetables (except night shades).
  • Green or white tea.
  • Purified or distilled water.
  • Olive oil.
  • Lean poultry (skinless).
  • Lean beef (filets).
  • Nuts, legumes and seeds.
  • Dark green leafy vegetables.
  • Organic oatmeal (regular, not instant).
  • Aromatic spices (turmeric, ginger, cloves, garlic, onion, coriander, ground mustard seed, cayenne pepper).

Get Adequate Sleep
Sleep is not only a fundamental human need, it is a necessity that no one who experiences aches or pains of any kind should ever take for granted. It is so important, in fact, that we naturally fall asleep when our body tells our brain that certain essential chemicals have been depleted and our muscles and ligaments are tired and in need of repair.

Here are some tips to get deeper sleep:

  • Do not consume ANY sugar or caffeine after 6 p.m.
  • Stop working at least two hours before bedtime.
  • Turn off the computer and television at least one hour before bedtime.
  • Make sure your sleeping quarters are as dark and silent as possible. Studies have shown that those in darker and quieter spaces tend to sleep through the night more deeply than others.
  • Establish a sleep/wake schedule and stick to it.
  • Make a set routine out of bedtime. Change into pajamas, brush your teeth, set out clothes for the morning, even jot down any last thoughts, but promise yourself to revisit them tomorrow, then turn off the light… breathe deeply, relax, sleep tight.
  • If a racing mind is nagging, slow your breath and focus on the sensation of air as it passes through your nose. This will derail those busy thoughts to help you drift off.

Reduce Your Stress
The negative and lasting side effects of stress are often manifested in the mind/body response. Since the mind controls and constructs perceptions and the emotions act and react toward threatening stimuli, the daily centering of mind and emotions is essential to prevention of psychosomatic illness.

Meditation is one way to do this. There are many benefits to the daily practice of meditation including improved concentration, enhanced focus, calmer emotions, inner fortitude, understanding of the self, objectivity, concentrated decision-making power and peace of mind.

Physiologically, you will experience a decrease in blood pressure, respiration and metabolism; the nervous systems calms; hormones and chemicals balance; and the body is allowed to return to its natural harmonious state of homeostasis. Talk about stress relief!

Here’s how to do it:

  • Sit or lie down in any comfortable position that allows your spine to be straight and your head aligned with it.
  • Close your eyes and take a few initial deep breaths to ease into the moment and begin to relax.
  • Focus your attention on your breath as it passes into and out of the tip of your nose.
  • As you inhale, merely OBSERVE, without mental comment, the sensation you feel as air passes the tip of your nose.
  • As you exhale, merely OBSERVE, without mental comment, the sensation you feel as air passes the tip of your nose.
  • When thoughts enter your mind, do not engage them, do not pass judgment on them. Merely ACKNOWLEDGE that they are there, and return to the task of observing the sensation of the breath on the tip of the nose.

Conclusion
Developing and maintaining a positive mental attitude will go far in helping you reach your pain-free-living goals. Think from the end and believe you are already halfway along your pain-free experience, and you will more easily accomplish the day-to-day things necessary to do just that. Have confidence in what you are doing because you know it will help.

Every time you walk a mile, refuse a milkshake, sleep for an entire eight hours and breathe your stress away, you will know that you are making positive steps in your wellness life.

–Dr. Mark Wiley

America’s Radioactive Risks From Japanese Nuclear Disaster

What a month it’s been. On March 11, 2011, Japan was hit with a series of severe life-changing natural disasters. An earthquake at Fukushima created a tsunami that caused vast destruction of lives, land, homes and businesses. And if that weren’t enough, it caused a nuclear plant disaster so severe it’s difficult for one to wrap his head around its scope.

As a former resident of Japan myself, with dozens of friends and some family members still living in the country, this disaster is especially close to me. Every day I receive multiple emails and Facebook messages from my friends there telling me what’s going on and offering insight into how what they see and hear on the news in Japan regarding the long-term health effects of the radiation differs from what they get from non-Japanese media sources.

According to Kyodo News, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano stated, "The possibility that the situation at the nuclear plant will deteriorate and lead to new leakage of massive radioactive materials is becoming significantly smaller."[1] Yet Japan just raised its nuclear crisis from a Level 5 to a Level 7. This is the highest severity on the international scale overseen by the International Atomic Energy Agency. And this raise in number would be an indicator to many that the Fukushima Dai-ichi disaster is at the same level as Russia’s 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

One can easily see how confusing these statements can be. Yet The Associated Press reported that the Japanese plant was not worsening; the number increase “rather reflected concern about long-term health risks as it continues to spew into the air, soil and seawater. Most radiation exposures around the region haven’t been high enough yet to raise significant health concerns.”[2] In fact, Fukushima has “only” emitted about 10 percent of the amount of radiation as did Chernobyl—yet that 10 percent is a staggering 10-times the level needed to reach the 7 scale.

Generations of lives already killed during the disaster are but a shadow of the extended deaths that will directly be caused by its aftermath. And those deaths may not be limited to Japan alone. Leading radiation health expert Dr. Chris Busby estimates that close to half-a-million people in Japan alone may die from cancer caused by these events.[3]

It’s been more than a month since the nuclear power plant disaster and residents of the United States are fearful that their health and even their lives may also be at risk. They fear radiation will travel across the Pacific by wind and into the Atlantic by water. Updated information on the possible negative health affects in the United States is available on the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) website.[4] Here are four key points offered by UCS relating to the negative effects of radiation.

  1. Radioactive materials decay, releasing particles that can damage living tissue and lead to cancer. Some elements have different forms, called isotopes, which differ in the number of neutrons in the nucleus.
  2. The radioactive isotopes of greatest concern in a nuclear power accident are iodine-131 and cesium-137. Iodine-131 has a half-life of 8 days, meaning half of it will have decayed after 8 days, and half of that in another 8 days, etc. Therefore, it is of greatest concern in the days and weeks following an accident. It is also volatile so it will spread easily.
  3. To guard against the absorption of iodione-131, people can proactively take potassium iodine pills so the thyroid becomes saturated with non-radioactive iodine and is not able to absorb any iodine-131.
  4. Cesium-137 has a half-life of about 30 years, so will take more than a century to decay by a significant amount. Living organisms treat cesium-137 as if it were potassium, and it becomes part of the fluid electrolytes and is eventually excreted. It can cause many different types of cancer.

But is there a real threat to Americans? Well, Russell Blaylock, M.D., seems to think there is. According to Blaylock, if a radiation plume from Japan hit the U.S. west coast it could pose a threat to the nation’s crops and the people that eat them. As we know, levels of radiation in milk in three states have been recorded at much higher levels than normal, causing some to believe that the radiation has indeed hit the U.S. food supply.[2]

That sounds reasonable, and frightening. Yet, controversy looms. According to the UCS scientific community, wind patterns are likely to carry the plume eastward from Japan and the radioactive material will diffuse before reaching Hawaii, Alaska or the West Coast. Therefore, UCS thinks the threat is unlikely. In any case, UCS is quick to point out that even minute exposure to radiation poses life-threatening risks over time. The ‘good news’ is that the negative effects of radiation directly inhaled via such a radiation plume can be prevented or greatly reduced by taking potassium iodide (KI) pills.

Conversely, radioactive iodine could affect Americans through our food. According to Erin N. Marcus, M.D., associate professor of Clinical Medicine, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine: “Radioactive iodine could be ingested by dairy cows, for example, and then would be concentrated in milk. Potassium iodide, however, would not be effective in that situation.”[5] Since Federal and State authorities are testing for contamination, such affected products should be pulled from shelves in time to prevent harm.

News has surfaced that radioactive iodine has been found in East Coast water supplies. While this certainly gives reason for worry, Dr. Lyman of the UCS asserts that at this time there is no need for concern. However, he is quick to interject, “no level of radiation is safe, because the scientific consensus is that there’s no threshold to the carcinogenic effect of radiation, but the risk is proportional to dose, and the dilution that’s experienced as a plume travels many thousands of miles is highly significant.”[5]

Like I said in the opening of this article, the scope of this event and it continuing destruction is difficult for me to wrap my head around. The best advice I can give is to keep your eyes and ears open to all news sources that are verifiable.

Some quarters looking to push an agenda will either play up safety or present doom and gloom. Like anything else, things do not happen in a vacuum and everything can change in a second. The lessons from Fukushima show this clearly. While we don’t have control of much of this, here are a few things you do have control over:

  1. Do your best to check the food you eat if you suspect it may be contaminated
  2. Take KI pills to protect yourself if you live in an at-risk area of the country
  3. Boost your immunity by reducing stress, sleeping well, eating whole fruits and vegetables, and supplementing with antioxidants.
  4. Keep abreast of the situation through news sources from all parts of the globe.

And if you know something as an insider, please post it here in our discussion forum to keep the conversation going.

–Dr. Mark Wiley

References:
[1] http://www.news.com.au/breaking-news/radiation-risk-much-smaller-says-japan/story-e6frfku0-1226037306363#ixzz1JUkju548

[2] http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110412/ap_on_bi_ge/as_japan_earthquake

[3] http://theintelhub.com/2011/04/13/real-experts-speak-japanese-radiation-risk-in-us-400000-to-develop-cancer-in-japan/

[4] http://www.ucsusa.org/

[5] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/erin-n-marcus-md/japan-radiation-risks-_b_842128.html

The Three Causes Of Pain, Illness And Disease

Pain affects everyone, but in most cases it needn’t be a chronic health issue. Pain is not a disease; it is a symptom. Pain is not the problem; it is an indication that a problem exists.

The secret of alleviating pain and poor health is to understand where it begins. The basis of “The Wiley Method” (the self-directed wellness model I pioneered), is grounded in techniques of uncovering these “beginnings” and developing a protocol for relieving the acute health issue. You can then make changes in your lifestyle that make it better and create balance to prevent it from returning.

Regardless of your diagnosis, only three things cause pain, poor health and disease: Excesses, stagnations and deficiencies. To understand what is meant by these terms, let us first consider homeostasis—the body’s natural state of balance.

The Baseline of Health
Homeostasis is the body’s baseline of health and wellbeing. It is the state where we feel good, not too stressed, tired or excited. You are in a state where your digestion is working properly, your body is absorbing proper amounts of nutrients and oxygen and is expelling toxins through the skin, lungs and intestines. Our sleep and wake cycle is set, we work and exercise, we have a balanced social, work and family life. Life is good. But life often gets in the way and we don’t feel as good anymore.

Poor health, pain and disease are all felt in the body when it becomes off balance. It is no longer functioning at homeostasis. This happens when we experience excess (e.g., too much alcohol or sweets), a deficiency (e.g., not enough sleep or iron in the blood) or a stagnation (e.g., muscle spasm or constipation).

People suffer needlessly every day because they and their healthcare practitioners operate from a disease-based model of health. Mr. Smith, you have migraine headaches, so we will treat the pain of these headaches in this way. This approach does not work, obviously, because millions of people still suffer from migraines!

I propose that we view poor health, pain and disease as examples of being out of balance. We must seek to uncover what causes the imbalance, and this can only be the result of an excess, deficiency or stagnation. My wellness model of health corrects these imbalances and the ailment is eradicated by returning the body to homeostasis—its natural state of balance!

Here is a chart with some of this outlined for you.

esd-chartlg

Restoring Balance is the Key
One of the most common areas of poor health is rooted in how we deal with pain, illness and disease. When we don’t feel well or balanced, we tend to reach for various pills and liquids. The short-term use of such things is fine for quick relief, but long-term use allows the underlying cause or imbalance to continue, thus leading to chronic problems. Taking excessive quantities of painkillers, muscle relaxants and prescription medications of all kinds—even in low doses—causes problems.

It would be a mistake to assume that only one of these three causes is the root of any health condition. In fact, it is usually a combination of the three that makes a simple problem become chronic and seem incurable. The first “cause” of an issue could be singular (i.e., an excess), but when not approached with the wellness model of health (i.e., restoring balance), it becomes multi-faceted.

The way to rid oneself of a health problem is to consider it from my three-part perspective. If you can categorize where you are in excess you can then make changes toward decrease and balance. If you are able to list areas of deficiency you can then take steps to improve them. Where you find stagnations you can look for ways to “move them along.”

Returning the body to homeostasis can be difficult and challenging. You may have been polluting your body with toxins in foods, beverages and air and aggravating it with stress, tension, poor sleep and bad lifestyle choices for quite some time.

In order to re-establish homeostasis—natural wellness balance—the many toxins and stressors that tax the body must be removed or, in the case of psychosomatic triggers, dealt with in new ways. This includes reducing food triggers, correcting musculoskeletal triggers, regulating biological functions, reducing the effects of stress and anxiety, keeping the body in a perpetual state of proper hydration and engaging in regular exercise.

The Wiley Method entails lifestyle changes. But such changes are the only way to correct imbalances and remain in an optimal state of health.

I would like to help you along this journey and invite you to learn more about self-directed wellness. I wrote a 17-page report called, The 3 Secrets of Living Your Optimal Health that I would love for you to have. Simply visit my website www.DrMarkWiley.com, fill out the ‘sign-up’ box on the top right and then a PDF of this important wellness information will be delivered right to your inbox.

——Dr. Mark Wiley

How Your Daily Activities Aggravate Your Health

People generally describe the signs and symptoms of their pain, illness or health concerns in terms that they think the healthcare provider in front of them wants to hear.

For example, when facing their primary care physician they tell a story about issues related to the body like pain, itching, rashes and/or congestion. When meeting with their psychologist they may describe the same issue in terms of stress, anxiety, worries and how those things are connected. If meeting with a dietician they may try to relate a connection between what they are eating and drinking and the quality and level of their health concerns.

The one thing I always try to impress upon people is that wellness issues like pain, illness and disease cannot be divorced from every aspect of the person. Wellness must be addressed utilizing a systems view of health. In other words, it must be addressed with the understanding that the whole of one’s life is greater than the sum of its parts and that a change in one part affects every other part.

Therefore, limiting the description of a health concern to a small area that is of interest to a particular healthcare practitioner will derive a “management method” aimed at helping that one small area. Yet, when one considers that every aspect of their life affects their health—thoughts, sleep, diet, exercise, stress, habits, etc.—then in no way will addressing one piece change all the pieces responsible for causing the issue.

Everything is important when considering the triggers for ill health and for addressing a method of care, reversal and ultimately prevention.

When speaking to a specialist, many important things that can and do affect the patient’s health in the course of their activities in daily living (ADL) are omitted from the dialogue. The problem with this is that, in order to better understand and treat the patient, the doctor/therapist/chiropractor should know about all of the things one does and feels and thinks is related to their health concern.

We all want fast and effective relief from our body pains and illnesses. The way to go about finding the right approach toward relief—or even a cure—is to identify those things that do or may trigger, relieve or aggravate the pain and illnesses and then communicate these to every healthcare professional sought for treatment.

You may think there is no correlation between feelings of depression and the carpel tunnel you have from typing all day. Yet studies show that chronic body pain can lead to depression. In such a case, the best course of treatment for that depression may not be therapy or psycho-pharma drugs, but physical therapy or bodywork.

You may see a chiropractor or massage therapist and tell them of your excruciating low back pain. Their therapies may offer symptomatic relief. Yet, the problem persists because it may, in fact, be caused by dehydration.

Your work life may find you seated all day and drinking four or five cups of coffee to stay alert and keep working, then enjoying a few drinks at happy hour with co-workers to burn off steam. Both the coffee and alcohol are diuretics causing dehydration, and this may be the cause of the back pain. In such cases only reduction of diuretic beverages and increase in water consumption will relieve and prevent the back pain.

If you are suffering from acute or chronic conditions that affect your activities in daily living (ADL), then it just may be the ADL themselves that are causing the problem. There is no way to know this for sure, or to see how your ADL may play a role in your health and wellness, unless you speak of them to your healthcare provider when describing your symptoms. Some daily activities that are known to cause body pain and health concerns include:

  • Irregular sleeping patterns.
  • Skipping of meals.
  • Sitting for long periods of time.
  • Playing sports without warming up or cooling down.
  • Talking with the phone held between ear and shoulder
  • Repetitive motions of hands (typing, factory work, playing piano).
  • Cracking your own neck and knuckles.
  • Engaging in too much or too little sex.
  • Engaging in too much or too little exercise.
  • Sitting with one leg crossed over another.
  • Not washing fruits and vegetables before consuming them.
  • Having arguments with co-workers or loved ones.
  • Worrying night and day about things you have no control over.

While the above list is brief, it offers insight into some of the most basic things that one does during the course of their daily life that can, may or does in fact cause or aggravate their health conditions. It is therefore important to paint a complete picture of your life when speaking of your health issues.

With this information, your healthcare provider can better determine the best course of treatment… or refer you to another provider who can.

–Dr. Mark Wiley

Break Down Those Barriers To Health

Spring is here, and with it comes a time of growth and renewal. With this change of season comes blossoming of new life, new ideas and, hopefully, a spring-fresh dedication to health and wellness. So let’s remove the barriers to our health while embracing a renewed commitment to holistic well practices.

Whether you suffer stress or back pain, headaches or PMS, tendonitis or something else altogether, the prescription medications helped a bit, for a while. But when they wore off, you had to take more… and more still. And now you are seeing an acupuncturist, a chiropractor, a massage therapist or some other holistic therapist and are finding that the requirements to do what is asked of you (even attending the frequent appointments), is just not quite fitting into your busy daily schedule.

Taking personal responsibility for your own health is difficult. It requires dedication and patience. Life is tough. Personal suffering is worse. It seems we all, in our quest for health, wellbeing or simple pain relief, encounter the same set of barriers. These are things that seem either to be in our way or fall along our path as we traverse it toward a better quality of life. And while each person’s barriers are of different sizes and shapes, the following three are by far the most common.

Barrier 1: Time
Perhaps the most obvious barrier to achieving optimal health is time. There is only so much of it in a day, a week, a month and a year. We can’t add time, and when we finally do find a free moment it quickly gets eaten up by unanticipated sources, like work, housework, family obligations, events, projects, you name it.

Something always seems to get in the way of doing our exercises; driving out of the way to purchase organic whole foods; eating balanced meals; getting a healthy amount of sleep; taking those supplements as directed; or drinking enough water or exercising. After a while, people start to think that going the “alternative” route to relief may be a bit overbearing. You have to visit the practitioner, perhaps several days per week for several weeks or months. You have to take herbs or supplements—and handfuls of them several times per day. You have to do a series of stretches or exercises between office visits… and sometimes even on the same day! Who’s got time for all that?

The main difference between mainstream medicine and alternative therapies is that the practitioners and products of alternative “medicine” are working toward healing you, not patching you up. And healing takes time. And I’m here to tell you that time is no true barrier to health!

Look, I know you’re busy. You’ve got kids, a demanding job and a hectic family schedule. But if you need to exercise you can prioritize 20 minutes at a time, three days per week.

Forget Seinfeld reruns; do your stretches instead. Better yet, why not do the exercises while watching your favorite sitcom or the evening news? Why not skip reading the morning paper and go for a walk instead. Avoid the take-out lunch and go to the farmer’s market on the way home from work, then prepare a healthy lunch in advance.

There are always sets of minutes in a day that can be “constructed” into health minutes. You simply need to prioritize your day, your week, your life—and establish the time. If you don’t, and your ills become chronic or life threatening, what good is your time then?

Do yourself, your family and your loved-ones a favor and break down that Time Barrier. It doesn’t exist; it’s an illusion. Time is an abstract concept, but its utility can be physically modified on the fly. Only laziness and lack of creativity makes time short. And we both know you’re neither lazy nor uncreative!

Barrier 2: Money
The second most common barrier to achieving perfect health is money. That is, having the financial means available to buy the best organic or free-range foods, receiving the best holistic treatments and taking only the highest quality herbs and supplements available.

A personal trainer costs money. A weekly massage costs money. Acupuncture gets expensive. Herbs are cheap, but their protocols are long so their costs add up. The main thing is to prioritize your wellness dollars.

If you are spending X amount on health each month, how can it be maximized? And if you are spending money on extra cable TV channels, expensive dinners and unnecessary clothing, then why not cut back on these and allocate the money for your health instead?

Despite what you were told in the 80s, it’s not how you look, it’s how you feel that counts! One of the best things you can do is to learn methods of reducing stress and some stretches and exercises you can do by yourself at any time of day or night. This will allow you to reduce your massage frequency and you will derive greater benefit from the herbs and acupuncture you are receiving.

I recommend consulting your holistic practitioner to get a clear picture of how many visits over what length of time will be required of you. You also want to know what herbs or supplements you may need to take and over what period of time. With this information you will know ahead of time (no pun intended), how much money you will need to allocate for your natural therapy.

With this information, you can begin to budget your wellness dollars accordingly. I highly recommend you not begin a course of treatment until you have the means to attend every required visit and to purchase whatever additional things are needed along the way.

There’s no sense in wasting money on half a therapy. And while you’re pulling resources together, work on your sleep/wake cycle, stress relief and diet. With clarity of costs and allocation of money in place, money will no longer be a barrier to your health.

Barrier 3: Beliefs
The third most common barrier to health is you own level of belief in what it is you are doing (or receiving) and what the result of that will be.

Are you on a fast? If so, do you believe it will do you good and deliver on the expected results?

Are you receiving CranioSacral therapy or Rolfing? Do you think the sessions are helping, or will help if you follow them through their prescribed course of treatment?

My point is, many people who begin and then drop out of holistic therapies do so because they lose faith in the method of care they are receiving. This either happens because the practitioner has made unrealistic promises or the patient was expecting different results than the ones gained. And most Americans want fast and easy results. Managing goals and expectations is the key.

By their very nature, alternative therapies are not fast—but they are generally safe, holistic, non-invasive and, if followed through, their results can be long lasting and life changing. When working with alternative therapies of any kind, you must obtain a clear picture of what may and may not happen, and over what period of time.

Managing your goals (e.g., “I want to be pain free by July 4″) and your expectations (e.g., “At the very least, I expect to be gardening again in April”), you will be able to ‘hold the course’ as the treatment progresses.

The best way to overcome the belief barrier is to discuss the therapeutic method at length with the practitioner who is offering the service. Ask for reading material. Ask for case studies. Talk to other patients. Put Google to work for you, too.

By doing this you will empower yourself with enough information to know that the program is either not the right one for you, or that you can rightfully dedicate time, money and effort to it.

In closing, I want you to know that I understand that you may be at the end of your rope. You have already spent huge sums of money, time and effort trying to get better, to become pain free, to lead the life you desire. But your life isn’t over and there is plenty of time left to truly live. All you have to do is redouble your courage, dig your heels in and: 1) make the time, 2) allocate the money, and 3) believe in the outcome.

By breaking down the barriers to health, nothing can block your path to the healthy pain-free life you so rightly deserve!

— Dr. Mark Wiley

Tackling Disease Through Prevention

It was like music to my ears. It was the action statement I have been hoping to hear for decades. The recently created Federal program, the National Prevention, Health Promotion and Public Health Council, released its new “disease prevention strategy.” Finally! Well… fingers crossed that it makes sense and does what it intends.

The problem many holistic wellness professionals, such as myself, have had with the current health care system is its focus on “after-the-fact” treatment of illness symptoms. That is, allopathic medicine (our mainstream medical model) is based on the treatment of disease, wherein people see a physician after they are already sick.

This is the proverbial dog chasing its tail. The dog will never get ahead of its tail and treating pain, illness and diseases and their symptoms after the health concern has taken hold in the body will never cure even one of the problems because the system is reactionary… not proactive. But then, this is what can be expected of a disease-based model of health.

Prevention is the only way to reduce the occurrences of pain, illness and disease and the only way to reduce the amount of money spent on health insurance, research and development, studies and work days lost. But prevention is not an easy road; it requires self-discipline and… knowledge.

Indeed, without the understanding of what the pillars of wellness are, and how to support them, how can people be expected to practice prevention? Moreover, we are all taught to take aspirin when we have a headache, to use a heating pad for a bad back, to use ice on inflammation, to rehab a torn muscle, to inject prescription medications to ease the effects of everything from diabetes and heart disease to premenstrual syndrome and sinusitis. For prevention to become our fundamental theme of wellness, the education program and sound bites need to change from “do this for that” to “do this to prevent that.”

Well, the good news is that there is an unprecedented shift in the Federal government’s view of health care. Focus has changed from its extant disease-based model of health to a wellness-based model steeped in prevention and wellness strategies.

The Federal wellness strategy promises to equip the public, private and nonprofit agencies, organizations and individuals with a disease-prevention program. It aims to put in place strategies for reducing America’s overwhelming occurrences of needless and preventable diseases and disabilities and needless preventable death.

Read President Barack Obama’s Executive Order on this here.

Now we have a government program to prevent disease. And the National Prevention, Health Promotion and Public Health Council promises a lot with its new policies and programs. The aim is simply to help Americans of all ages live healthier, longer lives.

In the words of Georges Benjamin, M.D., executive director of the American Public Health Association (APHA), “With this national strategy we are, for the first time as a nation, saying that we want to be one of the healthiest nations on the planet. The National Prevention Strategy can be thought of as the blueprint for converting our approach to health from one which is sick care to one that is well care.”

In addition to creating the national strategy, the National Prevention, Health Promotion and Public Health Council provides coordination and leadership among all executive departments and agencies with respect to prevention, wellness and health promotion practices. And it’s not just the health department that is involved in this shift in health care consciousness.

“It’s not just the health department that is involved now,” Benjamin said. “This is really a look from the top at health in all policies—an attempt to get every part of our nation focused on health for all the places in which health intersects in our society.”

Has it been successful in its early days? Well, according to a report by Jenny Backus, former acting Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, “The Strategy’s impact will be significant because it will take a community health approach to prevention and well-being—identifying and prioritizing actions across government and between the public and private sectors. Both the forthcoming Strategy and the ongoing work of the new Council present a historic opportunity to bring prevention and wellness to the forefront of the nation’s efforts to improve the health status of all Americans.”

What I find interesting (and maybe a bit disturbing) is that the government is trying to do a good thing in lighting a path toward prevention. Yet, it is using the existing disease-based allopathic medical model to do it. The strength of this model, again, is addressing pain, illness and disease after it has occurred. Time will tell if medical schools and CEU education classes will change their focus to support a true prevention model. I look forward to that day.

For more information on the Federal prevention health care model and its policies, visit www.HealthCare.gov

–Dr. Mark Wiley

The “Skinny” On High-Fructose Corn Syrup

If you’re like me, you’ve heard a great deal of conflicting talk about the naturalness, goodness, badness, healthfulness and harmfulness of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

The FDA says it can be labeled a “natural” product because it is made from corn. Yet, a percentage of the corn it is manufactured from is known as GMO or has been genetically modified. That doesn’t sound so natural to me.

The corn people tell us that HFCS is the same as sugar and is healthy in moderation. Yet, HFCS is much sweeter than regular table sugar or the sugars found in fruit. So the definition of what is “in moderation” for HFCS is different than that for white processed sugar. They neglected to tell us that.

There has been a good deal of noise about HFCS being responsible, in part, for the current rise in childhood obesity. After all, HFCS has replaced sugar in a large number of packaged foods and beverages kids (and adults) consume on a daily basis.

A study presented at the American Society of Nephrology’s 42nd Annual Meeting found that the rate of obesity has increased sharply since the development of HFCS and that the prevalence of HFCS in processed foods may have something to do with it. It’s been reported that Americans now consume 30 percent more fructose than they did 20 years ago.

Yet, the website sweetsurprise.com claims that high fructose corn syrup does not contribute to obesity any differently than sugar. In support of this assertion they quote from a 2007 study:

“An expert panel, led by Richard Forshee, Ph.D. of the University of Maryland Center for Food, Nutrition and Agriculture Policy, concluded that “the currently available evidence is insufficient to implicate high fructose corn syrup per se as a causal factor in the overweight and obesity problem in the United States.” The panel’s report was published in the August 2007 issue of Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition.”

Hmmm. We all know that studies are designed in different ways and that their results can often be spoken of in a way that supports opposing claims. But a visual assessment of childhood obesity and even obesity among the college-age population shows weight is on the rise. A peek at the ingredient labels shows a definite move from sucrose and fructose to high fructose corn syrup. But correlation does always indicate causation.

The question is, is there science behind how the body breaks down and responds to HFCS versus sucrose or fructose? The answer is, yes.

In the March 2011 issue of Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism it was shown that cortical control areas in the brain responded differently to the infusion of fructose than they did to glucose.

“BOLD signal decreased in the cortical control areas during fructose infusion (p = 0.006), corresponding with increases of plasma fructose and lactate. Neither glucose nor fructose infusions significantly altered BOLD signal in the hypothalamus.”

The cortical control areas surround the hypothalamus which is a key player in appetite levels and control of metabolic hormone production.

In essence, glucose and fructose are both simple sugars. Yet the body does not process them in the same way. In 2002, the Department of Nutrition at the University of California­—Davis conducted a study on fructose, weight gain and the insulin resistance syndrome. Here is part of the abstract:

“Because fructose does not stimulate insulin secretion from pancreatic ß cells, the consumption of foods and beverages containing fructose produces smaller postprandial insulin excursions than does consumption of glucose-containing carbohydrate. Because leptin production is regulated by insulin responses to meals, fructose consumption also reduces circulating leptin concentrations. The combined effects of lowered circulating leptin and insulin in individuals who consume diets that are high in dietary fructose could therefore increase the likelihood of weight gain and its associated metabolic sequelae.”

What’s more, in a large 2009 study looking at the connection between HFCS and hypertension, Diana Jalal and colleagues from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center recruited nearly 4,600 adults over the age of 18. They found that individuals who consumed more than 72 grams of fructose each day were between 26 percent and 77 percent (depending upon the blood pressure threshold) more likely to be hypertensive than those who eat few foods containing added sugar.

These studies do not show HFCS in the same light as being “just the same as sugar.” In the wake of all this hoopla, Snapple beverages have discontinued their use of high fructose corn syrup and have returned to the use of sugar in their iced tea and other fruit flavored drinks.

It would be a safe bet for all of us to read the labels and choose healthier options. Where sugar is the ‘healthier’ option, of course it is just a distinction between the lesser of two evils.

–Dr. Mark Wiley

References:
Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism March 2011; 13(3): 229-234 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1463-1326.2010.01340.x/abstract

http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/711790

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 76, No. 5, 911-922, November 2002
http://www.ajcn.org/content/76/5/911.full</

The Essential Piece Of The Wellness Puzzle

There are many elements that are required to achieve optimal health. We all know that ample sleep, exercise, water, stress reduction and diet are the basic components. Within each of those categories are found sub-categories and specific recommendations.

Within the realm of diet, weight loss alone is not the answer. One must eat the correct food to support health and avoid the carcinogenic, fattening and processed food to prevent illness. Fiber is a food that holds a special place among diet and wellness.

Fiber is interesting because although it is a food and we eat it, we don’t digest it. In other words, it doesn’t enter into our bloodstream and instead just passes through our digestive tract until it is excreted. Yet, fiber is special in that it both promotes wellness while also reducing the risk of chronic disease.

Dietary fiber is an essential piece of the wellness puzzle. It provides bulk, suppresses appetite, binds with cholesterol, lowers blood sugar and speeds removal of toxic wastes from the bowels, thereby reducing the risk of constipation, high blood sugar, hemorrhoids, diabetes, cholesterol, heart disease and some cancers.

Found in many natural and whole sources like fruits, grains, legumes and vegetables, dietary fiber is found in two types: soluble and insoluble. When taken together, mixed fiber intake is essential to good health and must not be passed over for processed simple carbohydrates that are so utterly bad for you. Let’s now take a look at the fiber types, their function and where to find them.

Soluble Fiber forms into a gel-like substance when combined with fluid. If you have ever stirred some Metamucil into a glass and left it alone for a minute you saw what this looks like. What’s good about this gel is that it creates bulk which not only binds fatty acids but also stabilizes blood sugar, slowing down the time it takes food to empty from the stomach and its sugars to break down. This is good news for diabetics, hypoglycemics and anyone looking to lose weight naturally. As such, soluble fiber reduces the risk of heart disease and diabetes while lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol.

Insoluble fiber does not form into a gel but passes through your digestive tract largely intact. It works to provide bulk to move toxic waste through your intestines, thereby aiding in digestion, promoting regular bowel movements and preventing constipation. Its bulk controls and balances pH (acid/alkaline balance) in the intestines, which helps reduce the risk of colon cancer. Insoluble fiber also helps bind cholesterol in the digestive tract, thus lowering cholesterol and the risk of heart disease, diabetes and colon and rectal cancers.

Where To Get Dietary Fiber
Now that we know how vital it is to eat more dietary fiber, we need to know the best places to get it. No, breakfast cereals and fiber bars are not the best place. When thinking of diet in terms of health promotion and disease prevention, going to the whole source is always best.

Sources of soluble dietary fiber include oatmeal and oat bran, nuts, flax seed, psyllium husk, barley, dried beans and peas, carrots, berries and grapes. It is also found in pectin in the skins of fruits like oranges, apples and pears.

Sources of insoluble dietary fiber include dark green leafy vegetables, green beans, whole grains (and their products), wheat and corn bran, celery, carrots, seeds, nuts and brown rice.

Clinical Trials Prove Fiber’s Essential Value
According to the results of a clinical trial, “People who eat more dietary fiber have a lower body weight than people who eat less fiber. Potential mechanisms include greater feelings of satiety, reductions in food intake, changes in blood glucose, insulin, or gut hormones.” [1]

According to a university study, “For every 10 grams of fiber consumed, the risk of heart attack or other coronary heart disease (CHD) decreased by 14%. The risk of dying from CHD dropped 27%. But they also found… that the relationship between fiber consumption and healthy hearts is strongest for fruit (a 30% drop in deaths for each 10 grams of fruit fiber) and grains (a 25% drop in deaths), but indiscernible for vegetables.” [2]

Most Americans eat a diet low in complex carbohydrates, and thus low in fiber. It’s no wonder we are among the least healthy countries despite spending more than any other country on health care. We keep chasing for cures to things that make us ill instead of changing our lifestyle and dietary choices to prevent them; pain, illness and disease from taking hold in the first place

Consuming 20 to 35 grams of mixed dietary fiber daily is recommended for optimal health. Currently, it is estimated the average American only consumes 15 grams per day.  Couple this with eight to 10 glasses of water each day to keep the fiber moving along and hydrating the body, and good health is on its well.

–Dr. Mark Wiley

 

References:
[1] http://www.clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00889993
[2] http://www1.umn.edu/news/features/2004/UR_17371_REGION1.html

Self-Fulfilling Defeat And Energetic Abundance

I see several hundred patients a month and the most frequent things I hear is: "Oh, poor me." This self-defeating mantra actually comes in two forms: Self-defeat and hopelessness.

Mantras Of Self-Defeat

  • "I’m so sick."
  • "My pain is so bad."
  • "No one suffers like me."
  • "I can’t do anything."

Mantras Of Hopelessness

  • "No one can help me."
  • "I’m not expecting this to work."
  • "The doctors don’t know what’s wrong with me."
  • "I try everything and nothing works."

I can’t express how sorry and frustrated I get when I hear statements like these. To be fair, I fully expect to hear them on the first visit or two. Most people, when seeing a new health care provider, tend to focus on their pain or illness… to spotlight it. They do this in an effort to express the degree to which it affects their quality of life.

But after a few visits, therapeutic intervention and motivation, when I again ask patients how they feel they tend to regurgitate what they said on the first visit. The self-defeating and hopeless statements have become their mantra, their self-fulfilling prophecy. They have come to define themselves as being in poor health, as one who suffers, as one whose condition is beyond repair. Yet, when I review their list of signs and symptoms, a strong percentage are either gone or no longer troubling them to the same degree.

What is happening is the person has been suffering for an extended period of time. And to date, nothing they have "tried" has worked wonders for them. And what I often find on further questioning is that while many patients give things like acupuncture, herbal medicine, meditation, diets and so forth "a try," they drop out of the program when results are not felt or seen quickly. Yet these health modalities are long-term methods to rebalance the body where change is manifested over time. So quitting too soon, when "soon" is not how they work, will only result in the method not working.

It can be said that the self-fulfilling prophecy of defeat is already set in motion before the wellness treatments began.

"I know this won’t work, but my friend says to try it." And when they don’t feel better right away, it’s proof that it "didn’t work," and that their health concern "can’t be fixed."

This doesn’t have to be the case.

Universal Abundance

The first thing that needs to be understood is that the universe is made up of vibrations — in other words, energy. And energy frequencies are either harming or healing, depending on the condition. There is an abundance of energy in the universe because every single thing has it and all cells and atoms are nothing but energy that is vibrating at specific frequencies.

As an analogy, a flower, knowing only flower things such as growing, absorbing water, absorbing the sun’s rays… is living in harmony with the abundant energy of the universe. The gardener, eating preserved food, drinking high caloric and caffeinated beverages and staying up late at night, is living in disharmony with abundant energy.  The flower blooms when nature calls it to bloom. The gardener tries to work too much to make things (money, jobs) happen faster than they should. The result is sickness.

If people can realize that the universe is full of abundance and all they have to do is to align themselves with nature and ask for that abundance, then what they ask for will manifest. A closed mouth doesn’t get fed, and so you will get nothing without asking. A closed door permits no entry so even if abundance comes, if you are not ready to accept it, it will pass on by.

What this means is, if you are ill and want to get better you must open your mind and heart to the healing process. And healing is a process.

First, you must set your mind not only to try a healing modality, but to see it through the prescribed duration. And by committing to the duration of the method you are allowing it take hold and make change in your body by keeping the door open. It takes time to realign energy to correct illness and to allow wellness to manifest.

Second, you must discard the self-defeating and hopeless mantras that have become your habit. You must accept the good and the bad and change the frame of your thoughts to positive ones that allow abundant healing energy to come to you. Here are some examples:

"I am certain this will work, if I allow it to work."

"While I am still sick, my back no longer bothers me as much."

"Yes my cholesterol is still high, but it is 5 points lower this week."

"I trust my healer, I trust myself, I seek wellness and I ask abundance to bring healing energy to my body."

With the right outlook, the right energy and trust focused on yourself and the process of healing, you will be at once open to receive abundant healing and able to ask for it with unyielding purpose. Focus on the small steps, keep asking for abundance in healing, and self-defeating words will no longer rule your life or keep you from your goal of achieving renewed health and vitality.

–Dr. Mark Wiley

The DIY Approach To A Supple Spine

The spine plays a vital role in pain relief. Impulses from the brain travel through nerves that exit the spinal column and bring feeling into every part of the body. When the spine is supple and the paraspinal muscles are relaxed, nerve impulses are sent without interruption or agitation. When the spine is out of alignment or the muscles around it are contracted, there can be nerve irritation and/or compression. If the nerve signal is interrupted the brain cannot get a clear idea of what the body needs, and this can lead to pain, inflammation, tingling and numbness.

Many people reach for pain-relieving analgesics and toxic anti-inflammatory medications to bring relief from the pain and/or inflammation. For the tingling and numbness, they ask for a prescription of muscle relaxants or go for chiropractic or massage care. As a last resort, many opt for surgery.

While each of these options can offer some relief, they also have their drawbacks. When it comes to the spine, it is best to always begin with a do-it-yourself approach. Doing it yourself is easy and requires less time than the commute to the docs.

And if you stretch the entire spine from head to hip, you will have hit all the places where imbalances occur. With time the symptoms in your back, neck, arms or legs may disappear altogether. 

Neck And Upper Back Stretches
To make the neck supple you will want to stretch the cervical spine in four directions. Following are four exercises to accomplish this. In all cases, use gentle pulls and only go to the point where discomfort is first experienced. Hold each stretch for 15 seconds, then return to normal position before starting the next stretch. Repeat the series three times.

Chin to chest: Place your hands behind your head and gently pull your head downward, trying to touch your chin to your chest.

Ear to shoulder: Put your left hand in your pocket (if standing) or under your buttocks (if seated). Reach your right hand over your head, placing your fingers above your left ear. Gently pull your head to the right side, trying to touch your right ear to your right shoulder. Repeat on the opposite side.

Nose to underarm: Turn your head to the right and reach your right arm over the center of your face so that your forearm divides your face and your hand holds the back of your head. Pull your head diagonally downward, trying to touch your nose with your underarm. Repeat on the opposite side.

Head backward: Place your right fingers on your right temple area and gently push your head back toward the left side, trying to touch the left base of your skull with your left collarbone. Repeat on the opposite side.

Mid-Back Stretches
Stretching and rotating movements are necessary to keep the mid back supple. Here’s what to do.

Backhand press: Clasp your hands so your fingers of each hand are inserted between each other. Hold at chest level and slowly press your hands forward. It should feel as if something is expanding in the space between your arms pushing your arms/hands away from your body. This will round your back for a gentle stretch, hold for 15 seconds.

Palm press: Repeat as above, this time rotating your hands as you press out so that your palms face outward. This provides a deeper stretch of the mid spine.

Modified cobra: Lie face down on the floor, arms bent and palms flat, as if in a push-up starting position. Slowly flex your neck, curling it upward and to the back.

Keep flexing your spine in sequence from neck to upper back to mid back to lower back, until much of your torso is lifted up off the ground. Your hands are only used for balance and not for pushing. The stretch is in the flexing of the spine. Hold in full flex for five to 10 seconds, then slowly and gently extend back to the neutral starting position. Repeat six times.

Lower Back Stretches
The lower back is where most people feel their pain. This pain is generally caused by limited range of motion and muscle contraction from sitting all through the day. Bending and twisting motions are needed to make it supple.

Supported squat: Hold on to the back of a chair (weighted down) or a stable surface — like a desk or countertop — with legs shoulder width apart and feet pointing forward. Slowly and gently bend down.

You are essentially squatting here, but using the support to control speed and how far you go down. Only go as far as you can until the first sign of pain is felt. Hold for three seconds at the low position, then stand back up and repeat 10 times. Each time should bring you closer to the ground.

Thigh hug: While standing, bend your knees and grasp your thighs, like hugging them with your arms. Simply relax and hold this position for 20 seconds without moving, and your lower back will start to release its grip and let go. Slowly stand back up and repeat twice more.

Pretzel twist: Sit on the floor with your feet together, arms by your side. Place your left foot on the floor on the right side of your right leg, by the knee. Drape your right arm over your left knee, then twist to your left, using your left hand for support. Repeat on the other side.

These are just a few examples of hundreds of stretches you can use to begin to help make the length of your spine supple. Some of these are found in yoga and others in physical therapy and other bodywork schools. The main thing is to begin a DIY regime and use books, the Internet and practitioners to take you from there.

Some of my patients have complained that they are in so much pain they cannot actually do some of these stretches. For acute pain and inflammation I always suggest taking a natural approach by adding aromatic spices to the diet (e.g., turmeric, ginger, cloves, mustard), drinking 10 glasses of water per day, walking to keep the blood moving and engaging in mindful breathing for stress relief. 

Once you are able to get over the acute pain hump, these spinal stretches will do wonders to remove the imbalance causing the pain and keep you supple and your nerves sending proper signals to the brain. The cure is found in the prevention.

–Dr. Mark Wiley

When Exercise Hurts, Do This…

The top three excuses for why Americans are not getting enough exercise are: 1) There’s not enough time; 2) A lack of stick-to-it-ness; and 3) exercise hurts. The issues of time management and sticking with something are personal choice issues. Why and how to make those choices are a topic of another column. In this article, I’d like to address the pain issue.

A little stiffness and soreness is both expected and healthy after exercise. When the muscles are placed under stress, the bones placed under a load and the lungs made to kick into high gear, the body is strengthening itself. Inflammation comes as part of the healing response, protecting the area and sending signals to the brain that healing (repair) needs to be done.

Prolonged soreness and pain, however, is not good. Chronic inflammation and delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) are two examples of bad exercise pain. The body remains inflamed when repair is not happening as a result of too much physical stress, depth of injury or simple lack of adequate rest. DOMS occurs when muscle tissue has torn and is in need of repair. Both occur when wrong exercise is carried out.

Exercise should not lead to lasting or chronic pain. If pain associated with exercise or any physical activity is common for you, then you are doing something wrong. Even too much of a good thing is bad. Here are some things to be aware of…

Keep your cardio training within your target heart rate. If you are wheezing and huffing just to say hello to the person next to you, or experience burning in the lungs, then it is best to ease off the strain until pain subsides. If you are jogging, slow down. If on a treadmill, decrease the incline.

If you are weight training and usually feel pain in specific areas after workouts, you may be overtraining strong muscles at the expense of weaker ones. Many people choose to keep adding weight to their bench presses to increase the size of their pectoral muscles. However, they neglect their back and neck muscles and then experience shoulder and neck pain.

The key is to work the weaker muscles to build them up while backing off the stronger ones for a period of time. Muscular balance is the key to creating healthy physical scaffolding.

If your body hurts, you are doing something very wrong and may need to hire a trainer or fire the one you have. If you experience exercise aches and pains that don’t seem to go away, then you need to address the inflammation response.

With chronic inflammation comes pain, stiffness and limited range of motion. None of these are healthy. Here are seven simple ways of reducing exercise-induced inflammation and pain:

  • Reduce exercise levels to more reasonable ones.
  • Proper warm-ups and cool-downs.
  • Drink plenty of fresh water.
  • Do light stretches before a workout and deeper stretches after the body is warmed and the blood is moving.
  • Have a full body massage to help move lactic acid and relax muscle stiffness. Thai massage is high on my list for this purpose.
  • Avoid consuming foods that cause inflammation, and consume more of those that help reduce inflammation. For more information about what these foods are, click here.
  • Apply ice and/or heat to the painful areas. Since this is a widely debated topic and incorrect use can make a situation worse, let’s discuss it!

The answer is simple even though the debate can be heated. But there can be no debate when one understands the mechanisms behind pain, spasm and inflammation and how the application of cold and heat affect them.

When an injury happens (such as a sprain) inflammation occurs to protect the affected site. When the nervous system senses an injury, it sends signals to the brain that interprets them as “pain.” The new signal is sent to the injured area, telling the muscles to reduce blood supply in an effort to reduce swelling. However, this blood deficit causes more pain, swelling and spasms.

In response to the physical trauma and inflammation, the body sends white blood cells to the area to begin the healing response, which includes the removal of waste products at the area and, thus, pain reduction.

There are several types of white blood cells and two are important in this discussion. Neutrophils release chemicals involved in the inflammatory response while also recruiting other inflammatory cells and protecting the injured area from infection. Basophils release two chemicals at the injury site, histamine and heparin. Histamine relaxes blood vessels and heparin helps prevent clotting. Both aid in the free movement of blood to help heal the damaged tissue site.

If left unchecked, chronic inflammation can result in fewer red blood cells, less oxygen and fewer nutrients available at the site to begin the healing process. This cycle of pain, elevated white blood cells, lower red blood cells, excess waste material, more pain and inflammation can continue for days, weeks, even years if not treated properly. Correct application of ice and heat is the method of treating soft tissue injuries, pain, spasms and inflammation. Incorrect application, however, can prolong the problem and make it become chronic.

While at opposite ends of the temperature spectrum, heat and cold both create a healing response. If you think of your stove and your freezer, you can easily see the result of either. Heat melts and increases surface area. Cold constricts and prevents expansion of fluids. Heat moves things along while cold keeps them in a state of suspended animation. So how do these temperatures affect the body?

Heat causes the body to circulate more blood and to remove toxins. This allows more fresh oxygen and nutrients to the injured area, which begins and continues the healing process while removing the toxins that cause scar tissue and chronic pain. Cold, on the other hand, retards swelling and reduces pain.

Within limits, both temperature extremes shut off pain signals; heat by relaxing the affected nerves and cold by numbing them. This is good because when pain signals are not sent to the brain there is no response signal generated telling the muscles to contract (spasm) in order to protect the injury site.

After proper application of heat or cold over time, the pain-spasm-inflammation cycle is broken and effective healing of the area can begin.

So… to determine whether it’s better to apply ice or heat to an injury, you must first determine whether the pain you are experiencing is caused by inflammation or muscle constriction (spasm). Once this is determined, follow these three rules:

  • If an injury is acute (caused by new trauma, like a twisted ankle or pulled neck muscle), it is best to apply cold within the first five minutes to reduce swelling, inflammation and pain. Ice packs, ice cubes, a frozen bag of peas or cold gels can be applied. Apply ice for 20 minutes, remove it for 20 minutes, then repeat as necessary.
  • When swelling is down and the pain cycle is broken, stop the cold and apply heat. This will bring oxygen and nutrient rich blood to the area to relax muscles, remove waste products and promote healing.
  • Never heat an inflamed area and never ice a constricted area. Inflammation is an expanding reaction and needs to be reduced, so cold is the answer. A spasm is a constriction that needs relaxing, so heat is the answer.

Now that you have several tools to help you prevent pain and inflammation related to exercise, why not give it a try again? The results can be life changing.

–Dr. Mark Wiley

UPDATED

How To Beat The Flu: Simple, Natural Approach Does The Trick

You think the flu is harmless? You’re wrong. In fact, influenza kills more people than AIDS, lung cancer and heart disease combined. Here’s a sobering thought: Every year you run a 50/50 chance of contracting this disease. You’ve probably had it before; even many times before. Perhaps you even suffered from it last winter. Luckily, if you’re reading this letter, you obviously survived.

The World Health Organization tells us more than 25 percent of the world’s population gets hit with the flu virus every year — that’s about 1.5 billion people. Now granted, most of those 1.5 billion will get better. That much you probably expected. But more than 15 million people will not. In fact, many of them are dead within a week of first falling ill.

The Chilling Facts
The chilling truth about the world’s deadliest disease is simply that there are literally hundreds of thousands of different viral strains — each mutating and multiplying into killer bugs, some as quickly as once every 20 minutes.

That fact is chilling enough. But did you know that it takes three to four months after a new virus emerges for an effective vaccination to be manufactured and dispersed? And once you get the virus, the vaccine is of no use at all. Of course, the loss of life is the real tragedy.

Among those who survive, the flu epidemic sickens enough of the U.S. workforce each year to drain more than $10 billion in lost wages and production from the U.S. economy. And again, that’s just the loss here in the U.S.

Not to mention the money Americans spend trying to beat the sniffling, sneezing, aching, hacking, feverish symptoms of the disease — more than $3 billion every year. That’s many times more than the economies of some Third World nations. No wonder there are more than 100 different brands of flu medicine.

Right now, all the over-the-counter flu drugs are pretty much the same. Drugs like Sudafed®, Alka-Seltzer, Robitussin®, Theraflu®, Dimetapp® and NyQuil®. But not one of them actually prevents the flu. They all just treat symptoms. And you know by now that treating symptoms will never prevent the onset of anything.

You may be thinking that a flu shot will get you through the season unscathed, if you get it in time. Not so. Flu vaccines are only 30 percent effective in preventing the virus. According to Dr. Richard Judelsohn, medical director of the Erie County (N.Y.) Department of Health, 30 percent of those vaccinated against the flu or pneumonia get no protection whatsoever from their shot.

The news only gets worse. Among the elderly or those suffering from health conditions that weaken the immune system, the flu vaccines may be useless up to 50 percent of the time.

Prevention Is The Best Medicine
While there’s no way to completely protect yourself from the viruses that cause colds and flu, you can take all-natural measures to prevent them from nailing you. Strengthening your immune system is the way to do it.

I personally use a combination of Chinese patent herbal formulas to build my immunity during cold and flu season. These include Gan Mao Ling, Zhong Gan Ling, Chuan Xin Lian, and Yin Chiao tablets. Each of these can be purchased in Chinatowns nationwide, and are also easily found on-line through a simple keyword search. 

If a more mainstream approach is your cup of tea, consuming a hot cup of ginger green tea each day can do wonders in preventing this debilitating illness. Green tea is full of anti-oxidants and ginger is a diaphoretic (promotes sweating). Sweating out the dampness and phlegm — that get infected and provide an environment for viruses to live — is essential to prevention.

Doubling the recommended daily doses of vitamin C and zinc starting a month before cold and flu season will also boost immunity. Adding more garlic to your diet is great. Garlic acts as an anti-bacterial… and can also be taken in supplement form. Altering your diet during cold and flu season will also do wonders. Here’s the good and bad of it.

Here are some healing foods to include in your diet: Stews and soups (that are not milk or cream based), ginger, brown sugar, green tea, walnuts, scallion bulb, peanuts (Steamed or Boiled), egg whites, garlic, watermelon and tomato juice, pears, apples, raisins, mung beans, rice, radish, Chinese date, water chestnut extract, eggs stewed in vinegar, carrots, and lotus root.

Here are some foods to remove from your diet while experiencing symptoms: All animal milk products (milk, cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, ice cream), excessive oil consumption, refined white sugar, high fructose corn syrup, coffee, black tea, sodas, bananas, and butter.

Stress… less!
Finally and most important: Lower your stress. Stress is terrible for you, causing tight muscles, headaches, belly fat and high blood pressure and it weakens your immune system. In fact, nearly 75 percent of people who get colds each year are found to be under heavy levels of stress.

So relax, smile, eat some garlic, take some supplements… and you may be able to take a vacation from this year’s cold and flu epidemic. Happy winter!

–Dr. Mark Wiley

Yoga: Ancient Pain-Relieving Practice

More than half the American population is said to suffer some form of chronic pain. This pain interferes with quality of life by affecting sleep, emotional states and ability to work. In fact, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) report that pain is the single most common reason that Americans seek medical attention. So bad is the pain epidemic that Congress has called the first 10 years of this Millennium the “Decade of Pain Control and Research.”

And while the biotech and Big Pharma industries are spending trillions of dollars in search of super drugs to hide the pain and lessen suffering, their efforts have shown no great lasting benefit. Yet, it seems that a centuries-old Indian practice, known as yoga, proves not only safe but also quite effective at reducing pain.

Yoga is an ancient practice of health and well-being. As an exercise, it involves holding and moving between various postures, specified breathing methods and altering states of consciousness through meditation. While the broader aim of traditional yogic practices is unifying mind and body with spirit, in the West it has come to be seen as a relaxing or muscle-toning physical activity, depending on yoga style.

One of the basic tenets of chronic pain is that it has both mental and physical origins and manifestations. It is a mind/body phenomenon that requires a mind/body approach. Yoga seems to be the perfect practice to relieve this health issue. Here’s why…

One of the causes of pain is the hypertonicity (tightness) of muscles that constrict blood flow, reduce the amount of fresh oxygen and nutrients in circulation and allow toxins to accumulate in muscle tissue. Yoga is structured around the practice of physical movements that gently move the body. These movements are within the normal ranges of motion and thus do not require great exertion or flexibility and will not cause sprains and tears while being performed. When the muscles are supple and the blood is moving, pain is reduced and the mental anguish and physical restrictions of that pain are diminished.

Regardless of which method of yoga is practiced, studies have confirmed its healing properties. In fact, many studies have found that regular practice of yoga can reduce blood pressure by as much as 15 mm/Hg. With extended practice of yoga, a level of fitness is achieved and weight loss experienced which is also responsible for additional lowering of blood pressure and reduction of the effects of daily stress. Reduction of stress, lowering of blood pressure, calmness of mind and slowed breathing are all tools that help reduce pain.

Yoga can be an effective method for decreasing pain by its ability to induce a deep calming effect and slower breathing which assists in the relaxation of muscles and reduction of trigger points and systemic inflammation. This ancient practice brings down the stress-induced fight or flight response, thereby reducing the levels of the hormones adrenaline and cortisol that are pumping through your system.

Yoga practices, especially those with a spiritual component, are also able to offer practitioners an emotional experience along with their physical movements. These often foster feelings of love, kindness, compassion and forgiveness. These feelings alone reduce the way people react to daily stress and the people around them. Stress causes pain, so less stress means less tension in the body and therefore less pain.

The body has learned ways of reacting to stress with protective measures like tension and pain. To overcome those ingrained responses, one needs to retrain the body’s response to the mind. Practicing yoga on a weekly or bi-weekly basis has proven effective at doing this. It gives the mind and the body a new pattern of relaxation and quietness. Yoga teaches one to use his mind to observe his body, to control posture, to regulate breathing… all in an effort to allow him to take control of his experiences and how these experiences take hold in the body.

The on-going practice of yoga is transformative. It changes stress and pain responses into healing responses. Over time, it brings one to feel a sense of self empowerment, vitality and relaxed, stress-free living.

Pain and energy drain comes from tight muscles and tense minds. When the mind is tense, the muscles also become tense. When muscles become tense, it restricts blood flow, decreases range of motion and can cause trigger points. Trigger points are painful dime-sized “knots” deep in the muscle tissue that can cause pain for weeks on end.

Easing mental stresses and physical muscle contractions is a must if you are striving for pain-free living. When you are relaxed, very little energy is consumed, which allows the body to recharge and repair. These periods of regeneration, just like when sleeping, are vital to proper pain-free functioning.

One natural way of relaxing both mind and body is through regular practice of yoga. By assuming the yoga postures, known as Asanas, one is able to relax, stretch and tone the body at the same time. How?

Each posture is held for a period of time. This allows toning of the muscles necessary to hold the posture. However, since the postures are all designed to be assumed within the body’s normal range of motion, there is little stress or strain. And with low stress comes slow breathing which relaxes both the mind and the body. Thus, in each moment the yoga Asanas are held, the person’s mind and body relax and recharge. Just like while sleeping, but with the added benefit of gentle, strain-free toning.

When the muscles are toned, they are better able to hold the body in correct posture throughout the day. You see, an imbalance in muscle tone or muscle suppleness is a cause of chronic body pain. If muscle A is strong and muscle B is weak, then A carries the load and B suffers injury while along for the ride. Moreover, neck pain on one side is a sign that the muscles on one side of the neck are either weaker or tenser than the muscles on the other side of the neck. Pain is the result.

What we are talking about are muscle imbalances. A safe and natural way of correcting poor posture derived from muscle imbalances is through the practice of yoga postures. The breathing and meditative aspects of yoga also help relax the mind and reduce stress. Try relaxing with yoga. You may feel better than you ever thought you could.

– Dr. Mark Wiley

Salt, Fructose and Soft Drinks: The High Blood Pressure Axis Of Evil

Diet is a crucial component of any hypertension reduction and prevention strategy. For many patients, particularly those with diabetes or pre-diabetes, it needs to be the fundamental focus. Correcting poor food choices is the easiest way to get a handle on blood pressure and diabetes. Where food is concerned it is pretty clear which foods needs to be avoided and which foods should be center stage in your diet. Here are three of the worst food items. You should avoid them if you are at risk or have high blood pressure.

Reduce Your Salt Consumption
Salt is the archenemy of normal blood pressure. When we consume too much sodium our body retains too much water. This increase in water retention increases our overall circulatory volume, which is the load our blood vessels must handle when doing their job. Just like lifting a heavier object increases the load on our arms and strains our muscles, this fluid load increases the strain on our hearts and blood vessels. Increased strain and pressure cause hypertension.

While doing some additional research on this subject I looked into dozens of studies and articles, from the academic to the more popular. I was amazed at how many Internet writers dismissed the role of salt in raising blood pressure, given the abundance of clinical trials that clearly point to a direct connection between the two. While we know why salt causes blood pressure to rise, it is only from recent studies that scientists understand how salt adversely affects blood pressure.

Scientists from the United States and Japan have uncovered the physiological process that explains how salt raises blood pressure. According to the study, available on the University of Maryland website, it has something to do with a hormone known as ouabain that is secreted by the adrenal gland.[1]

Total sodium intake must be reduced to help reverse and prevent hypertension. The easiest way to begin reducing salt intake is to stop adding it as seasoning to foods after they have been prepared. In other words, some salt for cooking as usual but then no extra salt added at the table (or restaurant) once the food is served. Once you get used to that reduction, then you can reduce the amount of salt you use while cooking or preparing foods. What’s more, simply choosing “low salt” versions of your favorite snacks, like pretzels or chips, is another fast way to reduce salt consumption right away without completely changing your eating habits all at once… which is often the cause of failure of most diets.

Limit Your Intake Of Fructose
Fructose is a simple sugar, or monosaccharide, that is derived from fruits and vegetables. In doses that are naturally consumed while eating, unprocessed whole fruits and vegetables, fructose is safe for your body. However, in high doses like those found in processed foods and beverages, fructose has been linked to increased blood pressure. In fact, a new study finds that a diet high in fructose increases the risk of hypertension, or high blood pressure.

Over the last century processed food purveyors have begun adding more simple sugars to their products in an effort to add flavor. During this period the number of Americans suffering from high blood pressure has skyrocketed.

A study presented at the American Society of Nephrology’s 42nd Annual Meeting found that the rate of obesity has increased sharply since the development of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), and that the prevalence of HFCS in processed foods may have something to do with it. It’s been reported that Americans now consume 30 percent more fructose than they did 20 years ago.

The study showed that a diet of more than 74 grams of fructose a day led to dramatic increases in risk of hypertension for those with slightly higher blood pressure. Participants who had a blood pressure level of 160/100 had an 87 percent higher risk of developing hypertension.

The adverse is also true. Wherein consuming more fructose can raise blood pressure, reducing its consumption has also been clinically proven to lower blood pressure. Results of a recent University of Colorado at Denver study suggest that hypertensive individuals may be able to naturally lower their blood pressure by consuming a diet low in added fructose.

For the current study, lead author Diana Jalal and her colleagues from the University’s Health Sciences Center recruited nearly 4,600 adults over the age of 18 and had them fill out dietary questionnaires regarding their average daily consumption of processed fruit juices, soft drinks, bakery products and candy.

After taking into account other risk factors the researchers found that individuals who consumed more than 72 grams of fructose each day were between 26 percent and 77 percent (depending upon the blood pressure threshold) more likely to be hypertensive than those who eat few foods containing added sugar.

As part of your program for reducing and preventing high blood pressure it is important to avoid consuming food high in fructose and high fructose corn syrup. While it is best to read the labels of foods before buying or consuming them, here is a list of foods that are generally found to be high in fructose:

  • Breakfast cereals.
  • Canned soups.
  • Processed cookies.
  • Processed baked goods.
  • Prepackaged sauces.
  • Many sweets.
  • Fruit snacks and juices.
  • Prepackaged gravies.
  • Diet beverages.

Consume Fewer Soft Drinks
Individuals who are looking to lower their blood pressure without taking medication may be able to do so by moderately reducing their intake of sugar-sweetened beverages, according to a new study.

For the 18-month study, which was published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, a research team from the Louisiana State University Health Science Center recruited 810 adults with early stage hypertension who drank an average of 11 ounces of sugary beverages each day, well below the American average of 23 daily ounces.[2]

At the end of the study, participants who reduced their soft drink intake by at least half lowered their systolic blood pressure by an average of 1.8 points and their diastolic blood pressure by 1.1 points.

"We found a direct dose-response relationship," said study leader Liwei Chen. "Individually, it was not a big reduction. But population-wise, reducing total consumption could have a huge impact."

According to background information included in the report, a three-point reduction in blood pressure can lower heart disease mortality risk by as much as 5 percent.

The correlation between lower blood pressure and reduced soft drink intake remained after accounting for weight loss and other risk factors. If ever there were more reason to stop drinking soft drinks than weight loss and chemical toxins, the ability to lower blood pressure by avoiding them is it!

Dr. Mark Wiley

References:

[1] http://www.umm.edu/news/releases/salt_hypertension.htm

[2] http://www.emaxhealth.com/1275/cut-soft-drink-consumption-reduce-blood-pressure.html

Cardio Kickboxing: Healthful Or Harmful?

Seen any TV lately? If so, you would have certainly noticed the plethora of health-related networks, investigations, exposes and infomercials bombarding us with products, advice and promises.

You have undoubtedly seen Billy Blanks’ Tae Bo Workout infomercials that make their way into our homes a half-dozen times a year. Tae Bo has sold millions of units to date, becoming the country’s best-selling workout video in the process. Following on the coattails of Tae Bo, many fitness centers like Holiday and Gold’s Gym have adopted similar martial art aerobic programs to their roster of classes. In addition, martial art schools around the country now offer some form of aerobic martial art class.

Sure, Billy Blanks’ video has sold millions of copies. Sure, aerobic gurus like Kathy Smith have churned out cardio karate videos in the wake of Blanks’ success. Sure, martial art schools are once again booming as a result of this new craze. But are these programs healthy and can you actually learn to defend yourself in the process of jumping around in spandex?

Many think so. But are they sure? After all, we all know smoking and drinking alcohol is bad for us, but they are advertised everywhere and many of us consume them anyway.

I was watching “Fit TV” one afternoon when they offered a “martial arts fitness” segment. Their “expert” guest was certainly in shape and spoke the lingo — a sign that he knew what he was talking about. Then he went on to demonstrate what he called a basic “side kick,” as the male and female co-hosts followed along. In actuality, however, this “expert” performed what is known as a “roundhouse kick,” as he did not pivot his hips enough to allow the leg to shoot out to the “side” in line with its target (as in a side kick), but rather it arced at its imaginary target (as in a roundhouse kick). Clearly, he wasn’t a martial artist.

After doing the movement incorrectly, one of the hosts asked if it was important to know the proper body mechanics of the kick before attempting to do it. The “expert” replied that without a doubt proper mechanics was a must or injury would prevail. I found this especially annoying since the “expert’s” supporting foot was still facing forward when he turned his body sideways, which, if the kick was delivered with force or speed, would certainly have injured his knee.

Recent TV exposés have shown that Billy Blanks’ Tae Bo Workout was in fact causing many people harm. The claims against it stem from not having enough warm-up time to insufficient explanation of proper (and safe) ways to punch and kick. On another TV report, emergency room doctors explained that since the cardio kickboxing phase caught on they have been seeing at least two injured patients per day with specific sprains or torn ligaments that they did not commonly see in the past. When asked how the patients injured themselves in such an awkward way, they invariably answered “during martial art aerobics” class.

Health clubs offering martial art aerobics classes of some kind is not a bad thing. The problems arise when aerobic trainers attempt to cash in on the cardio kickboxing craze and offer classes without proper kicking or punching (i.e., martial art) training, or when participants think that they are also learning techniques that will help them if attacked.

Despite the negative press, unqualified trainers and false advertising, studies indicate that while there are certainly negative effects to practicing martial art aerobics, it is here to stay. So, if you’re interested in joining a class or remaining in the class you are in, I offer some advice:

  • Ask if the trainer has a martial arts background. Chances are, if he/she doesn’t, they will not know the proper method to throw a punch or kick, which will then cause class participants to sprain or break their joints or tear muscles or ligaments.
  • Be sure to warm-up and stretch properly and sufficiently before the start of class. If not, you will increase your chances of pulling a muscle or tearing a ligament.
  • Take your time and ease into it. If you try to go to fast to hard to soon, you will undoubtedly injure yourself.
  • Don’t mistake a martial art cardio program for a proper martial art or self-defense class. If you think you can learn to defend yourself by punching and kicking the air or a target other than human, you will only build false confidence.
  • Check with your local hospitals, rehab centers or doctors’ offices to see if more of their injured patients come from a specific school or class. If so, avoid that one.

–Dr. Mark Wiley

Syndrome X: Is It Silently Killing You?

Despite advice from doctors and nutritionists, the expansion of organic food mega stores and fitness gyms and television program, Americans are getting fatter and fatter. By 2006, obesity rates for United States adults ages 20 and older rose to 34 percent. [1] According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, overweight and obesity are associated with increased mortality rates in adults as well as elevated risks of heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer.[2]

Syndrome X just might be the cause.

Syndrome X, also known as insulin resistance syndrome and metabolic syndrome, is a terrible health condition that seems to sneak up on us as adults. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute:

“About 47 million adults in the United States (almost 25%) have metabolic syndrome, and the number continues to grow. The increasing number of people who have this condition is linked to the rise in obesity rates among adults. In the future, metabolic syndrome may overtake smoking as the leading risk factor for heart disease.” [3]

The risk factors associated with Syndrome X are sometimes difficult to discern. You see, Syndrome X is not a disease, it is a syndrome. This means it is comprised of a grouping of related symptoms that present at the same time. Risk factors of Syndrome X include the following:

  • Excessive Belly Fat: This is often termed “apple shaped obesity” or “abdominal obesity,” and is an indicator of elevated risk of heart disease.
  • Elevated Blood Sugar: Raised blood sugar levels over time can lead to diabetes and obesity.
  • Elevated triglyceride levels: These are the fats that are found in the blood.
  • High Blood Pressure: Blood pressure above a 120/80 reading is considered high and can lead to hypertension and heart disease.
  • Low HDL cholesterol levels: This is the “good” type of cholesterol needed to help remove the bad (LDL) cholesterol from our arteries. Low HDL increases your risk of developing heart disease.

Individually, these symptoms are bad enough, but when combined they are an indication that you may have Syndrome X. And while Syndrome X is not a disease, any one of its symptoms can cause diseases that are potentially life threatening. The best advice is to see your physician to be tested for the five above-mentioned symptoms of Syndrome X.

You can also ask yourself the following questions to see if it is necessary to make a doctor’s appointment:

  • Do I feel sluggish after eating?
  • Do I gain weight easily and have difficulty losing it?
  • Am I still hungry even after eating a well-balanced meal?
  • Am I always tired or sluggish, regardless of how much sleep I get?
  • Do I crave carbohydrates, sweets, sugars?
  • Is my blood pressure and “bad” cholesterol slowly rising?

If you answered yes to the above questions, you may want to play it safe and talk to your physician. Additionally, experts agree that the best way to reverse the effects of, and in fact prevent, Syndrome X is through two basic lifestyle changes.

The first thing to get a hold of is your diet. Excessive consumption of simple carbohydrates is the main cause of Syndrome X… in addition to obesity, hypertension and diabetes. Foods like bleached and enriched breads, pastas, breakfast cereals, cookies, sodas break down and turn to glucose (blood sugar) in your system too fast. This causes the pancreas to release too much insulin into the blood stream, which causes more cravings for simple carbs, weight gain, energy drops and eventually, diabetes.

Controlling insulin is the key to controlling Syndrome X. Insulin is a hormone that not only converts starches and complex sugars into usable energy but also regulates the metabolism and the storage of blood sugar. The excess sugar not utilized by your body is converted into glycogen, a sugar polymer that is stored in your liver and muscle tissues. This is extra fuel that is converted back into glucose as needed when your blood sugar drops. This system, when working properly, is a natural system of checks and balances for energy, appetite, cholesterol, hormones and essential body fluids.

When things are not in balance, as a result of a diet dominated by consumption of simple carbohydrates and sugars, Syndrome X can be the result. What happens is these foods break down too quickly, which leads to the release of too much insulin to normalize the blood sugar. Over time, the body is not able to properly (healthfully) utilize the glucose and it is instead stored for later use as body fat. What’s more, when insulin levels are too high for prolonged periods, it causes the hypothalamus to signal that you are hungry when you are not! This can lead to insulin resistance syndrome… another name for Syndrome X!

What this means is that your body, by virtue of over-active processes, is causing Syndrome X. However, it is poor dietary choices that send normal body processes into overdrive. Controlling diet by staying away from simple carbohydrates like white and enriched breads, sweets, soft drinks and sugars and replacing them with whole grains and natural sweeteners is a way to change this.

Engaging in exercise of at least 20 minutes duration daily is another sure-fire way to reduce weight and reduce blood sugars. In essence, the reversal and cure for Syndrome X is found in lifestyle choices regarding diet and exercise.

If left unresolved, however, Syndrome X can lead to free radical cell damage and potentially life-threatening diseases like diabetes, hypertension and heart disease. Moreover, there is compelling research that points to an increase in Alzheimer’s disease and some types of cancer as a result of an overactive pancreatic system. [4]

When the reversal and prevention of such a devastating syndrome is as easy as regulating insulin by virtue of dietary changes and increased exercise, it seems too good to be true. But it is true, and easy.

So why not exchange the simple carbs in your diet for complex carbs and increase physical activity for 20 minutes per day? These two simple lifestyle changes can make you healthier, more vigorous and able to live with a better quality of life.

–Dr. Mark Wiley

 

References:

[1] CDC, 2009. Health United States, 2008, Table 75.

http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hus/hus08.pdf

[2] CDC, 2009. Health United States, 2008, page 32.
http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hus/hus08.pdf

[3] http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/ms/ms_whatis.html

[4] Challen, J. et. al. (2000). Syndrome X: The Complete Nutritional Program to Prevent and Reverse Insulin Resistance. John Wiley & Sons.

Acai Berry: Weight-Loss Miracle or Hoax?

Weight loss supplementation is a billion dollar industry. Every supplement known to man has come and gone, from laxatives to metabolic boosters to fat trappers. Some work and others only drain the wallet. The new kid on the block is acai berry, and Oprah and Rachael Ray are its biggest fans.

The acai “berry” is actually a fruit. But its shape, size and color remind people of grapes. Unlike grapes, however, it doesn’t contain very much pulp. Also, the acai contains a single large seed, like the pit of a plum. The fruit grows on trees, with approximately 800 fruits per panicle (which is something like a branch). Acai are harvested and are a staple food in under-developed regions of the world. In fact, in a 1999 study of three ethnic groups in the Brazilian Amazon, acai palm was found to be such a major part of their diet that more than 40 percent of their meals contained this fruit.

Acai juice, extract and pulp are consumed today in various blended drinks, smoothies, ice creams, liqueurs and even in sodas. In the south of Brazil, it is consumed in a bowl mixed with granola. In addition to the above-named popular talk show hosts, respected physicians such as Dr. Nicholas Perricone have publicly called it one of Earth’s super foods.

It’s true that acai is nutritionally dense, but does taking acai supplements or enhanced juice beverages actually lead to weight loss? To be honest, the claim doesn’t seem to be true. As of today, there have been no controlled studies carried out to support its weight-loss miracle claim.

In fact, according to ABCNews.com, "Companies used the fact that Oprah and Mehmet Oz talked about the acai berries on their shows to create the impression that Oprah and Oz were selling these products—and endorsing them," said David Schardt, from the Center for Science and Public Interest. The Center for Science and the Public Interest says there is no evidence acai actually helps you lose weight.

However, research has found (to varying degrees) that acai does contain high levels of antioxidants. It is touted and marketed in the United States as being able to simultaneously decrease appetite, increase energy, remove excess waste from the body, cure constipation, decrease bloating and water retention, relieve muscle cramps, aches and pain, lower cholesterol, reverse diabetes and improve heart and digestive health while cleansing the system. Wow!

So if acai can’t shed those pounds like the natural miracle berry it’s been hailed to be, at least consuming it can help you remain healthy and strong by virtue of its antioxidant power!

–Dr. Mark Wiley

Healing is an Art… Be an Artist!

There are two things to keep in mind when looking into a holistic health program. First, alternative therapies and holistic wellness programs are art forms, not sciences. Second, to be most effective, all natural wellness approaches demand the daily involvement of the person in need of the care.

Alternative therapies are an art because, unlike science, precise results cannot be repeated over and over. This is not a sign of anything lacking in the so-called alternative methods of healing, but simply because your health issue almost certainly has more than one simple cause (and perhaps a half-dozen symptoms) and will need a shifting strategy of therapies to finally resolve. 

Let’s say you are receiving care from a chiropractor for neck pain. He adjusts your cervical vertebrae and the pain subsides. However, when you return a few days later and the same area is adjusted, the pain doesn’t go away. Is this a failure of the treatment? No, because the chiropractor, having palpated you prior to the adjustment, also knows that your thoracic spine is subluxated (misaligned). Thus, on this day he adjusts two locations to alleviate the pain, whereas the other day only one adjustment was necessary.

Another example finds you seeking help for insomnia in the office of an acupuncturist. After the initial examination, the acupuncturist puts together a “point prescription” or list of acupoints that will be used to treat your sleeplessness. Today’s points may be selected to calm the liver and heart. But tomorrow the same insomnia may require the use of points to balance the heart and kidneys. You see, while you are still suffering from the same sleep disorder, the underlying cause of it keeps changing due to a variety of related factors, not the least of which is changes in daily stressors and lifestyle choices.

These are merely two small examples of how the art of holistic healing makes it possible to continue the healing process by looking for, expecting, allowing and making modifications in treatment from changes in the body that often confound a more scientific yet less healthy method of care.

Our second issue is that the effectiveness of any holistic program necessitates the active involvement of the person in need of the care. This is true of nearly every holistic healing method I can think of. In my own practice, I try to maximize time and effort in an attempt to make the problem “go away” as fast as possible with the least amount of fuss. Synergistic care is the only way I have found to truly do this.

A person had come to me complaining of severe insomnia, anxiety, fatigue and weight gain. A primary care physician might look at these as separate issues; deal with each of them individually by prescriptions and then referral to a dietician or nutritionist. However, in my holistic practice I see these various health problems as being part and parcel of an overall wellness imbalance. And it is this imbalance that must be corrected or else the person’s conditions will continue to exist, no matter how many pills are swallowed.

I suggested to this person that he take some Chinese herbal formulas and said that a change in diet was necessary, as were changes in daily activities, including a need for regular exercise — in addition to receiving hands-on energy treatments. Clearly most of these methods become the sole responsibility of that person to manage his own life by establishing a ritualized sleep/wake cycle, by eating protein at every meal and eating three to six times per day to maintain energy levels, to avoid all foods and drinks that spike blood sugar or lead to weight gain or dampness retention, to get out and walk at least 20 minutes per day if prolonged gym exercise is not an option, and so on.

The healer’s art lies in seeing that sleep deprivation is both caused by and is also a cause of anxiety; that weight gain is due to improper diet and emotional issues; that insomnia is a result of anxiety and poor food choices and lifestyle choices and jobs that lead to stress and organ-energy imbalances. There is something in the body “allowing” these ailments to thrive. Uncovering that imbalance is an art. Following the progress of the ailments and adjusting to them over time is also an art, one that both the healer and the patient come to share.

If you do not understand this fundamental responsibility to yourself, you may never achieve optimal health. And while prescription drugs can take away the pain as long as you use them, the underlying mechanism causing the pain is still working night and day in your body. The only way to truly be “cured” is to remove the cause of the pain (or illness) and then to balance the body so it is able to resist on its own. And the best way is to choose to walk a holistic path, to forge ahead by utilizing a synergistic program that requires your own passionate personal involvement.

So the pair of linked concepts that always need to be considered when looking into medical alternatives is that true healing is an art and that you, personally, hold much of the responsibility for reaching your wellness goals. The healer will point the way, will provide the hands-on work and will furnish you with educational material and traditional knowledge. But it is you, the fellow artist, who must stay on the path and do the walking.

–Dr. Mark Wiley

The Man-Made Nature of Cancer

The overriding theme of the wellness model I subscribe to is that pain, illness and disease are man-made. More specifically, those diseases for which one is not genetically predisposed, those ailments not caused by a traumatic injury and illness or not related to unknown contaminant are caused by… you. That is, they are self-induced.

That may seem harsh, but the fact is, we are each able to control our own wellness at all times. Whether we own up to that or work our way through existing problems is another issue. If you know coffee causes you headaches, then stop drinking coffee. If working late into the wee hours of the morning leaves you exhausted in the morning, then alter your schedule or plan for a different job or vocation.

Do you experience feelings of nausea, dizziness, headaches, insomnia, lack of energy… and happen to live in an area that is buzzing with electro-magnetic frequencies from towers and Wi-Fi hotspots? Then you need to outfit your home with devices that normalize the electric and magnetic field (EMF) radiation, or move. And while we may have no control over others and the workloads that get placed on us, we can learn and practice stress-relief techniques, get adequate sleep and consume foods high in nutrients. These are choices. Difficult choices at times, for sure, but choices nonetheless.

I have not yet placed cancer within the self-induced model (aside from lung cancer), because the popular research had shown there to be biological markers or defects associated with it. However, new research out of Manchester University in the United Kingdom, suggests otherwise.

The Manchester study sought to find if cancer was indeed a man-made disease and determined that, in fact, it is caused by man-made environmental factors, such as pollution and diet. Here is the study brief:

“In industrialized societies, cancer is second only to cardiovascular disease as a cause of death. The history of this disorder has the potential to improve our understanding of disease prevention, etiology, pathogenesis and treatment. A striking rarity of malignancies in ancient physical remains might indicate that cancer was rare in antiquity, and so poses questions about the role of carcinogenic environmental factors in modern societies. Although the rarity of cancer in antiquity remains undisputed, the first published histological diagnosis of cancer in an Egyptian mummy demonstrates that new evidence is still forthcoming.”

Scientists from Manchester’s KNH Centre for Biomedical Egyptology studied remains and literature from two ancient cultures — Egypt and Greece. Among an investigation of hundreds of Egyptian mummies, the researchers found evidence of cancer in only one. This single find, combined with scant references to the disease in ancient documentations, proves to these scientists that “cancer was extremely rare in antiquity.”

Indeed, during the Industrial Revolution where man-made progress was in full bloom, the cancer rate rose “massively,” particularly in children. This, the scientists claim, proves that cancer does not just occur in people as they age and their bodies and immune systems weaken.

“In industrialized societies, cancer is second only to cardiovascular disease as a cause of death,” states Rosalie David, professor at Faculty of Life Sciences and the study’s co-author. “But in ancient times, it was extremely rare. There is nothing in the natural environment that can cause cancer. So it has to be a man-made or ‘man-induced’ disease, down to pollution and changes to our diet and lifestyle.

“The important thing about our study,” she explains, “is that it gives a (sic) historical perspective to this disease. We can make very clear statements on the cancer rates in societies because we have a full overview. We have looked at millennia, not one hundred years, and have masses of data.”

That data include evidence of cancer in animal fossils, non-human primates and early humans. It shows that cancer was quite rare, occurring in only a few dozen cases overall. Is it possible that the proof of cancer just was not preserved in these mummies and fossils, making it difficult to find its evidence?

Not according to study co-author Michael R. Zimmerman, whose experimental studies indicate that mummification actually “preserves the features of malignancy and that tumors should actually be better preserved than normal tissue.” Moreover, he clearly explains, “Radiological surveys of mummies from the Cairo Museum and museums in Europe have also failed to reveal evidence of cancer.” 

The study was published in the journal Nature. In conclusion of the findings, David had this to say: “Yet again extensive ancient Egyptian data, along with other data from across the millennia, has (sic) given modern society a clear message: Cancer is man-made and something that we can and should address.”

Not only must we “address this,” but we each need to control our own lives and wellness choices. We suffer for our choices. The best way to avoid contracting this man-made modern disease is to find a way to create a life in an environment low on pollution, carcinogens, stress and processed food, and one where it is simultaneously filled with fresh, whole foods, exercise, joy and love.

–Dr. Mark Wiley

 

Reference:
http://www.nature.com/nrc/journal/v10/n10/full/nrc2914.html

Controlling Your Weight Means Controlling Disease

More than 130 million Americans are overweight. That’s nearly 42 percent of the U.S. population and more than double the entire population of France. Even worse, 40 million Americans are clinically obese or “seriously” overweight. That’s almost double the entire population of Australia. Three million Americans suffer from life-threatening obesity, otherwise known as morbid obesity. That’s 60 times the number of soldiers who died in Vietnam.

Obesity is a life-threatening epidemic. Today’s fast food restaurants, processed foods and soft drinks, poor eating habits and lack of exercise have contributed to American’s abundance of body fat. According to U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, “overweight and obesity may soon cause as much preventable disease and death as cigarette smoking."

That’s correct. He said “preventable disease and death.” Obesity is not a disease; it is a self-induced health problem that causes disease and death. And because is it self-induced, it is reversible, preventable and, therefore, curable.

There are different causes of obesity, including genetic predisposition, constitution, age, diet, emotions, level of daily physical activity and lifestyle choices. Our lifestyle choices play the major role in obesity. You see, how much we choose to eat, when we choose to eat, what we choose to eat, how much exercise we choose to engage in or we choose to avoid… often determine how much weight we gain, carry and maintain.

The answer, then, is to maintain an attitude of temperance when it comes to everything. In other words, don’t engage in too many stressful events that can cause you to eat or drink in excess. Choose not to eat too late at night. Make the decision to exercise enough every day to burn what you put in. And the list goes on.

In short, controlling food and exercise levels will provide the greatest results toward preventing or reversing obesity, and avoiding serious diseases associated with obesity, like heart disease and diabetes.

In terms of exercise, brisk walking for at least 30 minutes per day is a great way to begin. For those who have more time, joining a gym or hiring a personal trainer will help you create a program based on your personal needs. Where diet is concerned, the answer to what NOT to eat should be obvious by now. However, there are foods you should eat more of that not only make you healthier and more livelier, but also assist in weight loss.

Water is so very essential to every aspect of optimal health. It is the liquid substance of blood, keeps the body cool, the skin moist, the fluid in the synovial capsules between the joints, the digestive fluid in the stomach and intestines, urine for toxin elimination and fluids to counter dehydration from exercise and diuretic beverages. You need to consume two quarts (a half-gallon) of purified water every day for weight loss and optimal health. Iced teas, sodas, beer and so on do not count toward this quantity!

Soy products are a good way to get enough protein and are also a good substitute for fattening dairy products like milk, cheese, yogurt and ice cream.

Cooked green leafy vegetables are wonderfully dense in nutrition and also help restore proper alkaline levels in the body. They are high in iron and fiber, so they help strengthen the blood and eliminate toxins through the bowels.

Cherries, grapes, raspberries and beets are all good sources of vitamins and minerals, and don’t spike blood sugar levels. (High blood sugar is a cause of weight gain.) These foods also help purify blood.

Lean beef broths and soups are terrific sources of natural protein and enzymes. By eating beef in soups, you get the benefit of the protein but eat less of it than when consuming it as the main meal focus itself.

Ginger is a great dietary addition, as it aids digestive function. It is also a diaphoretic, which means it induces sweating and breaks up phlegm and mucus.

Garlic is also great, as it works on the stomach, blood and small and large intestines and strengthens the immune system.

By eliminating weight-gain foods like sugar, dairy and fatty and processed foods, by eating more of the foods that support wellness and bodily functions and also engaging in daily exercise, you can lose weight. In fact, you can reverse and prevent obesity. Again, obesity is not a disease; it is the cause (the preventable cause) of serious life-threatening diseases like heart disease and diabetes.

–Dr. Mark Wiley