WHO Says Acupuncture Works

All Chinese healing practices are based on the idea that energy flows through the body in channels called jing-lou (channels and collaterals), later termed by the French as “meridians.” These channels transport energy and life essence from organ to organ. Where there is low energy, or energy or fluid blockage, there is pain and soon, disease.

Acupuncture, one of the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) modalities, is an ancient system of medicine in which fine needles are used to pierce the skin on specific points to a depth of a few millimeters and are then withdrawn after a period of about 28 minutes. The needles can be likened to an antenna that draws in bioelectric energy into a very small port on the body, which then regulates the functions of the meridian system.

Using a correct “prescription” of points, the practitioner can, in effect, change the energy in a patient, open his channels and help his energy move more freely. Again, when energy moves freely,  there is no pain or disease.

Acupuncture is no longer the backroom healing art of Chinatown immigrants to the West. On the contrary, it is now so commonly known that it is not only a household word, but it is extremely popular among women in their 40s and 50s and sports competitors. Moreover, acupuncture is becoming increasingly commonplace. Some mainstream medical doctors are now offering it in their offices as an adjunct to their own practices. Indeed, it is a core component of what is termed complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).

But many people are still leery of this 5,000-year-old tradition. They wonder if it is real or just marketing hype. Well, rest easy. The World Health Organization (WHO) has vetted this ancient Chinese healing tradition and has publicly announced that acupuncture is suitable for treating dozens of conditions.

According to their website, “The diseases or disorders for which acupuncture therapy has been tested in controlled clinical trials reported in the recent literature can be classified into four categories…”

I list here the first of those categories Diseases, symptoms or conditions for which acupuncture has been proved — through controlled trials — to be an effective treatment:

  • Adverse reactions to radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy
  • Allergic rhinitis (including hay fever)
  • Biliary colic
  • Depression (including depressive neurosis and depression following stroke)
  • Dysentery, acute bacillary
  • Dysmenorrhoea, primary
  • Epigastralgia, acute (in peptic ulcer, acute and chronic gastritis, and gastrospasm)
  • Facial pain (including craniomandibular disorders)
  • Headache
  • Hypertension, essential
  • Hypotension, primary
  • Induction of labor
  • Knee pain
  • Leukopenia
  • Low back pain
  • Malposition of fetus, correction of
  • Morning sickness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Neck pain
  • Pain in dentistry (including dental pain and temporomandibular dysfunction)
  • Periarthritis of shoulder
  • Postoperative pain
  • Renal colic
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sciatica
  • Sprain
  • Stroke
  • Tennis elbow

For more information from the WHO on what studies have been carried out and where they found acupuncture to most successful, go here.

So forget the naysayers and see how acupuncture can work for you. For pain relief, disease treatment, health maintenance, physical performance… it just may be the “missing piece” in your wellness puzzle.

–Dr. Mark Wiley

The Wireless Revolution is Here… and It’s Killing Us!

For many, the idea of there being such a thing as harmful electromagnetic frequency (EMF) smog has never crossed their minds. If you cannot see it, it does not exist, right?

Well, no. This smog is all around us: everyday, everywhere we go. It originates from the frequencies of cell towers, Wi-Fi in cafes, cell and cordless phones, High-Definition televisions, laptop computers, microwaves and especially in our vehicles. EMFs are making us ill and killing us slowly by breaking down the very structure of our cells. There is no escaping it.

Here’s what Martin Blank, Ph.D., of Columbia University has to say about it: “Cells in the body react to low level EMFs and produce a biochemical stress response. Our safety standards are inadequate. People need to sit up and pay attention.”

Where the prevention and correction of ill health is concerned, I have always been a proponent of the idea that “the cure is found in the prevention.” Moreover, when we are feeling ill or in pain, the best route is to take the natural, holistic and least invasive path toward removal of symptoms and toward a cure. In other words, don’t mask the symptoms; correct the imbalance that is at the root of the issue. Yet, when the root cause of the imbalance is the unseen electromagnetic frequencies attacking us in every direction, how can a correction of the cause happen?

Before embarking on that answer, I’d like to make the argument that such a problem exists and let you know how bad the experts think it really is. According to the internationally acclaimed Bioinitiative Report: A Rationale for a Biologically-Based Public Exposure Standards for Electromagnetic Fields, we live in an invisible fog of EMFs. This is not something new. In fact, 2,000 peer-reviewed studies show that EMFs expose us to serious health risks including breast cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, immune system and neurodegenerative disorders, disruption of brain function and cancer.

As it turns out, extremely weak electromagnetic signals, some 1,000 times smaller than formerly estimated, can have serious physiological consequences. As the European Parliament concluded in 2008, “The limits on exposure to electromagnetic fields which have been set for the general public are obsolete.”

We are immersed in a sea of EMF radiation­­. It comes from cordless phones and base stations, cell phones and towers, electrical appliances, computers, fluorescent lighting, Bluetooth devices, Wi-Fi installations and more than 2,000 satellites for GPS and TV and radio communications.

If we don’t act now to resolve this and legislate new standards, warns the Bioinitiative Report, outdoor WiMax transmitters with ranges of up to two square miles may turn the core of North America into one huge EMF hot spot, making an untold number of people sick… or worse.

Medical epidemiologist Samuel Milham, M.D., M.P.H., has this to say about it:

“New research is suggesting that nearly all of the human plagues which emerged in the 20th century, including leukemia in children, female breast cancer, malignant melanomas, immune system disorders, asthma and others, can be tied in some way to our use of electricity.”

Here’s a breakdown of the negative health effects of prolonged EMF exposure. That is, exposure over a scant two milligauss…

  • Interferes with our body’s intracellular communications and cell membrane function.
  • Reduces hemoglobin surface area and interferes with blood’s ability to carry oxygen and nutrients into our cells and take the waste products out.
  • Activates proto-oncogenes (which can cause cancer).
  • Increases permeability of the blood-brain barrier and affects intra-cerebral pressure, which some believe seems to bring on Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, autism, multiple sclerosis and other neurodegenerative disorders.
  • Causes DNA breaks and chromosome aberrations.
  • Increases free radical production.
  • Causes cell stress and premature aging.
  • Causes changes in brain function, including memory loss, learning impairment, headaches and fatigue.
  • Reduces melatonin secretion.  Melatonin is responsible for sleep patterns and helps protect the body against cancer, among other things.
  • Causes many microorganisms living in the human body to generate increased levels of their own toxins, affecting people’s health in a myriad of ways.

In a nutshell, each of our cells is surrounded by something called a phospholipid bi-layer membrane, commonly known as the cell membrane. Embedded in the cell membrane are numerous proteins that act as receptors for various molecules, including enzymes. These receptors translate the positive/negative signals on the cell’s exterior into its interior, and these signals then trigger various biological processes.

What happens when we’re affected by external electromagnetic fields is that the high-speed positive/negative polarity switching within these fields, from hundreds to millions of times per second, interferes with our cells’ internal signaling process. Basically, it confuses them and they become paralyzed.   

“Cells in the body react to EMFs,” says Blank. “The DNA recognizes electromagnetic fields at very low levels of exposure and produces a biochemical stress response. The scientific evidence tells us that our safety standards are inadequate. We should sit up and pay attention.” 

Related to this, a number of experiments have shown that magnetic fields can affect calcium ions, in particular, which are present across the cell membrane.  Calcium ions regulate many important functions of the cell; thus, the interaction between calcium ions and magnetic fields may be an important mechanism of reaction relating to electromagnetic fields. Could this be why so many people, women in particular, are being affected by osteoporosis?

To cite an occupational study by Johns Hopkins: The incidence of brain tumors among 4,500 telephone company line cable splicers was almost twice as high as that of office workers, and their leukemia rate was seven times as high.  Also, an increased risk ratio of 10 was found for brain cancer among East Texas Utility workers. Scary stuff!

“It is important that all of us restrict our use of cell phones, limit exposure to background levels of Wi-Fi, and that government and industry discovers ways in which to allow use of wireless devices without such elevated risk of serious disease. We need to communicate to decision-makers that ‘business as usual’ is unacceptable.” That is no small statement, considering it comes from David Carpenter, M.D., professor of Environmental Health Sciences at the State University of New York in Albany, NY.

So if the root cause of many of our health issues, or at least the worsening of them, is unavoidable EMF radiation, what can we do about it? That’s a difficult question, and short of moving out of metropolitan areas and going back to old-school phones and wired keyboards and mice, a solution is found in the strengthening of our cellular structures.

A product recently permitted into the United States claims it can do this in only eight minutes, two to three times a day. It’s called the MRS2000, and is a German-engineered medical device that uses pulsed, healthy EMFs to counter the debilitating effects of today’s EMF smog and help bring people to optimal health.

It turns out (much like the discovery of both good and bad cholesterol), that certain EMFs are actually good for us. In fact, we can’t live without them. As a result, much research has gone into refining pulsed EMF therapy and the results are impressive.

Paul Rosch, M.D., of New York Medical College, went on record to say, “While EMFs are responsible for quite a bit of damage, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Pulsed electromagnetic (PEMF) therapies have been shown to be beneficial for stress related disorders, for anxiety, insomnia, arthritis, depression and more. They also may be safer and more effective than drugs.”  

Thousands of clinical studies are proving its value, and PEMF therapy is beginning to get the recognition it deserves. While experts may not all agree on what EMF exposure levels cause what health issues, the dearth of evidence out there suggests we would be foolish not to apply the precautionary principle and reduce our exposure. Using the MRS2000 is a big step in the right direction.

I recently borrowed this device from James Grapek of LifeEnergyRx. After using it I felt so good that I ended up purchasing one for my family. To learn more about EMF radiation and the MRS2000, visit www.lifeenergyrx.com.

–Dr. Mark Wiley

Stem Cells Repair Spinal Discs… Permanently!

While the United States government, scientists and the religious right continue to fight over the moral issues involved in stem cell research, the United Kingdom has already made strides toward medical cures with stem cells.

Back pain resulting from degenerated, damaged or herniated intervertebral discs (IVD) is now completely curable as a result of stem cell research and its scientific application. This news is huge, especially when one considers the sheer statistics related to back pain.

Back pain is the most common reason Americans visit their primary care physician each year. In fact, more than 26 million Americans between the ages of 20 and 64 experience frequent back pain. With this comes millions of dollars per year spent out-of-pocket on pain killers, prescriptions, surgery, chiropractic and acupuncture treatments and massage therapy. It also accounts for a sizeable portion of the 50 billion annual lost workdays and $3 billion in lost wages.

While most back pain treatments like pills, physical therapies and surgeries try to address the symptoms of pain, inflammation and stiffness, they do nothing to correct the underlying problems that cause the issues in the first place. While it is true that surgery is thought to correct the problem (e.g., herniated disc), the truth is that 80 percent of all back surgeries are unnecessary and do not help the patient in the long run. What’s more, the trauma and scar tissue associated with the surgery often leaves the patient in worse condition than the original back pain.

Is back surgery a waste of time? Well, I used to think that in most cases it was a scam. Now, however, I have changed my mind. While I am still not in favor of surgery per se, I have come to know of a minor surgical procedure developed in the United Kingdom that not only helps the symptoms of back pain associated with disc injury or degeneration, but can actually cure it.

In 2006, Dr. Stephen Richardson of the University of Manchester’s Division of Regenerative Medicine uncovered a method whereby stem cells are used to completely regenerate damaged intervertebral discs (IVD) with no rejection from the patient’s body. In collaboration with Arthro Kinetics — a German biotech company — and the well-respected international Spinal Foundation, Richardson developed the procedure of using cell-based tissue to regenerate IVD at the damage site.

With it he is able to combine the patient’s own mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) with a “naturally occurring collagen gel” that can then be surgically implanted into the affected area. The invasion is minimal and therefore appealing to my sense of holism, as it reduces the chances of post-surgical trauma and side effects.

Richardson found that he was unable to utilize IVD cells to regenerate themselves. However, after years of research, he found that MSCs, which are located in the bone marrow, have the ability to grow into a range of different cell types, including muscle, fat, bone and cartilage. He developed the ability to combine the MSCs with a collagen gel and to then implant the combination into the damaged IVD tissue. Richardson and his team were soon able to see the damaged discs regenerate themselves.

In Richardson’s own words:

“The gel used, produced by Arthro Kinetics, is based on a collagen that is a component of many tissues within the body, a totally natural product that is similar to the gel already used clinically for the treatment of articular cartilage defects. The ability to re-implant this within the body with an arthroscopic procedure — similar to an endoscopy, in which a camera is inserted through a narrow tube into the body — means that there is only a very small scar on the back and the patient could hopefully return home on the same day or the day after the surgery. Once implanted, the differentiated MSCs would produce a new NP [nucleus pulposus] tissue with the same properties as the original and would both treat the underlying cause of the disease and remove the painful symptoms.”

The procedure is finishing clinical trials and will soon be available as a treatment in the UK. The result of such a successful and minimally invasive approach to traumatic back pain treatment is enormous. Billions of dollars will be saved in lost productivity and workdays, pain suffered, pills taken and useless surgeries.

For those suffering back pain as a result of degenerated or damaged intervertebral discs, utilizing your own stem cells to repair your own body is a blessing you may soon experience.

— Dr. Mark Wiley

References:
ScienceDaily http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/11/061130191403.htm
BBC News http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/6196644.stm

What Type is Your Pain?

Pain is no joking matter… but neither is it something to describe vaguely.

If I had to name the first reason that some people experience faster pain relief than others, I would say it’s because of “specifics.” By this I mean how specifically one is able to describe their pain or condition to a practitioner — or to themselves.

Challenges for healthcare practitioners and take-charge pain relief seekers arise when non-specific words are used to describe symptoms of their condition. Specifics are always what are needed to lead one in the right direction for relief or cure. This is derived in part from an extensive physical examination and patient consultation.

Part of this health history and health assessment is based on types of sensations felt in the body, either as constant pain, throbbing or distension, etc. And each of these holds different meaning in our understanding of the problem and formation of a diagnosis.

Thus, general adjectives like “painful” and “hurting” just don’t give enough insight into what you may actually be suffering. And the type of pain points the way to the type of treatment best used to alleviate it.

For faster results, you must come to know your pain by “examining” it. Take some time to “feel” it or “listen” to it or “fully experience” it without a distracted mind. Of course, there are many types and causes of pain and stiffness. To give you a hand, let me describe seven of the most common. I sincerely hope this list will better help you understand your own pain… and thus be better equipped to find a reliable therapy.

Inflammation: This generally occurs around the joints and involves stasis (a slowing or stoppage) of fluids (water retention) or reaction to stimuli (sprain or strain). Inflammation can be caused by heat syndromes, blood count changes and fluid deficiencies.

Swelling:  This generally occurs around the ankles or wrists, but can also occur on the face or any part of the body. Its symptom is stasis, or collection of fluids leading to puffiness. The area may be either hot and reddish or cold and whitish… depending on whether the swelling is due to heat or cold. 

Numbness and Tingling: This is caused by a lack of circulation in the body. It will occur when blood flow is deficient either from an external obstruction, or from some anemic or biological blood deficiency. External causes can be from compressed nerves in the spine, from holding a limb in a fixed position too long or from sleeping on or resting against a limb for an extended period of time.

Heaviness and Stiffness: These are characterized by a dull and nagging sensation in the body. It’s an achy feeling that is made worse by cold and damp weather and when circulation in slow… such as in the morning hours. It mostly affects the joints, neck and back, and is often temporarily relieved by hot showers or baths, where blood is able to circulate better.

Distending and Throbbing Pain: These types of pain are like something is pushing from the inside out. It’s a pressing and exploding pain that tends to beat in tandem with the pulse. It is mostly caused by qi or energy stagnation, wherein energy is moving but going nowhere — except up and down in one location. Thus, you get a fixed pain that throbs and causes distension of an area.

Stabbing Pain: This type of pain is caused either by blood stasis or both qi (energy) and blood stasis (sluggishness). Since blood promotes energy and energy is the motive force behind blood, stabbing pain generally includes problems with both. Think about a muscle spasm in the neck or shoulders that feel worse with pressure.

Dull, Lingering Pain: This type of pain is not so severe, yet it doesn’t seem to go away. Migraine sufferers and sciatica sufferers generally describe a dull pain that lingers after their acute symptoms have subsided. Dull pains tend to become worse with exhaustion and when hunger is present, as the body is weakening and the pain tolerance system is low. Dull pain is caused by a general deficiency of energy and/or blood, such as follows a lingering illness or injury.

I hope these descriptions of pain types and their general causes will be useful the next time you try to understand your own trouble and need to find a product or program to help it, or when attempting to describe your condition as specifically as possible to your health care provider.

So now it’s up to you. For your own sake, no more vague generalities. Leave those to the poets and the artists!

— Dr. Mark Wiley

Organic Food No Better Than Regular?

We all know how expensive it is to “eat right.” A simple trip to Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s will eat up an entire paycheck. But we want to be healthy, and eating organic, so we are told, is the way to do it. Or is it?

Well, it seems consumers in London have been complaining about the huge financial disparity between ordinary food and organic food. They clamored and wanted to know if there were true health advantages for their financial investment in the organic stuff.

Researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine conducted a systematic review of more than 160 scientific papers and studies published in the leading journals over the past half-century. Their study, “Nutrition-related health effects of organic foods: a systematic review,” was published in the July 2010 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Here’s the abstract:

BACKGROUND: There is uncertainty over the nutrition-related benefits to health of consuming organic foods.

OBJECTIVE: We sought to assess the strength of evidence that nutrition-related health benefits could be attributed to the consumption of foods produced under organic farming methods.

DESIGN: We systematically searched PubMed, ISI Web of Science, CAB Abstracts, and Embase between 1 January 1958 and 15 September 2008 (and updated until 10 March 2010); contacted subject experts; and hand-searched bibliographies. We included peer-reviewed articles with English abstracts if they reported a comparison of health outcomes that resulted from consumption of or exposure to organic compared with conventionally produced foodstuffs.

RESULTS: From a total of 98,727 articles, we identified 12 relevant studies. A variety of different study designs were used; there were 8 reports (67%) of human studies, including 6 clinical trials, 1 cohort study, and 1 cross-sectional study, and 4 reports (33%) of studies in animals or human cell lines or serum. The results of the largest study suggested an association of reported consumption of strictly organic dairy products with a reduced risk of eczema in infants, but the majority of the remaining studies showed no evidence of differences in nutrition-related health outcomes that result from exposure to organic or conventionally produced foodstuffs. Given the paucity of available data, the heterogeneity of study designs used, exposures tested, and health outcomes investigated, no quantitative meta-analysis was justified.

CONCLUSION: From a systematic review of the currently available published literature, evidence is lacking for nutrition-related health effects that result from the consumption of organically produced foodstuffs.

Hard to believe, isn’t it? I mean… wow! Not what we have been led to believe in all cases. Yet, the studies indicate there is no difference. Disturbing, really. Let’s consider some of the information for a moment.

In the article, their findings showed that "a small number of differences in nutrient content were found to exist between organically and conventionally produced foodstuffs, but these are unlikely to be of any public health relevance," said Alan Dangour, one of the report’s authors.

Dangour went on to say: "Our review indicates that there is currently no evidence to support the selection of organically over conventionally produced foods on the basis of nutritional superiority."

Sure, research shows that the nutritional content of chemically-treated food is almost the same as organic food… But who cares?

The reason people turn to organic food is to avoid the herbicides and pesticides that commercial farmers use to improve crop output and kill crop-eating insects.

We choose organic so that we won’t get cancer from eating an apple or salad that was grown in chemically-heavy soil or sprayed with toxic chemicals that will then enter our blood stream.

Recent reports showed that children who ate fruit grown with everyday commercial chemicals presented with traces of pesticides in their urine! And after a mere five days of switching to organic fruit, the toxic levels dropped drastically from their blood.

So you can save a few bucks by consuming commercially grown foodstuffs, and you may actually receive the actual nutrients found in their organic counterparts.

But beware, having money in your pocket and nutrients in your system in no way reflects the toxic chemical levels you are also living with. Life is too short and too valuable to play games with. Buy organic and live healthier.

— Dr. Mark Wiley

Seven Natural Ways to Ease Nighttime Pain

Nighttime pain is a cause of distress for millions of people. It seems that in the evenings when people are worn out from their long day and the body is shutting down its defenses, pain seems to jump front and center. And without the ability to ease the pain, inflammation, tightness and stress… getting a deep, sound sleep is next to impossible.

Without deep sleep the body cannot properly heal and recharge itself… and the next day you will undoubtedly feel worse. Here I would like to give you some easy tips and a little education about how you can ease your nighttime pain naturally, over time.

Watch Your Diet
The food we eat is a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to controlling inflammation and indigestion, which themselves cause pain. The typical American diet consists of too much fat, tons of sugar, loads of red meat and a frightening amount of processed foods — all of which are likely to increase inflammation and indigestion. By switching to an anti-inflammatory diet plan consisting of healthy whole foods, you can actually decrease inflammation and ease the pain and discomfort associated with it.

Eating plenty of whole grain and complex carbohydrates, as well as consuming ample fresh water, will help your stools move, decrease constipation and limit indigestion. Adding more of the aromatic spices to dishes (like ginger, garlic, onion, turmeric and curry) also aid the body in naturally fighting inflammation and pain and helping to expel toxins. In addition, avoiding the nightshades (tomato, potato, eggplant) will help, as these have been shown to increase inflammation which increases discomfort and pain.

Have a Good Laugh
The notion that laughter is good for the body has been around for thousands of years — certainly as far back as the Old Testament. Proverbs 17:22 says, "A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones."

Seventeenth century English physician Dr. Thomas Sydenham remarked, "The arrival of a good clown exercises more beneficial influence upon the health of a town than of 20 asses laden with drugs." Or, as the master Groucho Marx put it, "A clown is like aspirin, only he works twice as fast."

A study published in the Journal of Holistic Nursing reported that patients who were told one-liners after surgery and before painful medication was administered perceived less pain when compared to patients who didn’t get a dose of humor as part of their therapy.

Another study, this one published in the Journal of Applied Behavioral Analysis, found that young girls with burns who were shown cartoons during very painful hydrotherapy said they felt less pain than similar patients who were not exposed to cartoons during the same procedure.

Aside from distracting us from pain, laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the chemicals in the brain that can make us feel good. So make it a point each day, and especially each evening, to laugh. Read something funny, watch something funny, think of something funny or talk to a funny person. Not only will this distract from pain and reduce nighttime pain, but it will also help relieve stress and help get you a new focus on your life.

Reframe Your Mind
Reframing the way you think of your pain is easy and it shows you that your outlook on life has a lot to do with the life you lead. Pain is simply a form of communicating information within your body.

You may say to yourself, "My back hurts, I have weak knees, they stop me from doing things and this gets me down." What you are doing is letting yourself know you have all of these problems. By focusing on the problems, you are actually reaffirming a negative cycle. Reframing helps break that cycle to bring on relief.

Step one is identifying the problem. Why is it happening? (e.g., you have had a disc problem; you were sleeping in a new bed). When is it happening? (e.g., while doing something that always sets it off). What is happening? (e.g., what kind of pain is it?). And how is it happening? (e.g., are making it worse? Is it fear-based pain where you are worried that it will get bad so you get in the mindset of being in pain?)

Step two is separating the intention from the learned behavior. In other words, you slow down to really talk to your subconscious mind about a better way to deal with the problem at hand. You might say, "Okay, I know I am having pain, but it’s not an injury, I am not my pain, it just happened today because I have been sitting all day and not moving." Thinking and acknowledging in this way keeps you focused on getting to step three.

Step three is setting the positive way forward. You can even thank your body for the message of pain, as it focused you to work with a better intention of achieving your health and long-term life goals.

You can reframe in many ways, just look at the positive view of the situation and let your mind work for you.

Get Deep, Restorative Sleep
While it is a catch-22, deep sleep is necessary to relieve pain. Yes, nighttime pain will keep you awake, but finding ways to reduce pain and over time getting the sleep you need will do wonders in the long run. During sleep, the body works to repair itself. The liver purifies blood, the muscles repair, serotonin increases. Without ample sleep, these things do not happen at optimal levels.

In our natural circadian rhythm, or biological clock, sleep is set to take over during the evening hours. We are genetically programmed to get up and lie down with the sun. So it was the invention of artificial sources of light (candles and bulbs) that began our stressed-out drive for more working hours at the expense of much-needed rest.

What’s the big deal, you ask, if you sleep only a few hours per night? You can always drink coffee, take No-Doz® caffeine pills, cat naps… life is good. Well, not really. Did you know that in clinical tests rats die within a few short weeks of sleep deprivation? And it’s not just rats at risk.

Chronic fatigue, adrenal fatigue, attention deficit disorder, chronic migraine and headache, body aches and pain, mental illness, depression and anxiety are all in part caused — or made worse — by lack of sleep. And no caffeine pill or taurine-laced energy drink can cure these dangerous side effects of our global-economy-size workloads.

Here are seven ways to help you fall asleep and repair:

  1. Do not consume ANY sugar or caffeine after 6 p.m.
  2. Stop working at least two hours before bedtime.
  3. Turn off the computer and television at least one hour before bedtime.
  4. 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.
  5. Establish a sleep/wake schedule, and stick to it.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

— Dr. Mark Wiley

Nature, Dolphins and Depression

The Taoist have philosophy based on the concept of Yin & Yang. It is based on the observation of nature and living in harmony with it. The seasons come and go. Night becomes day and then night again. But we humans have all but separated ourselves from the nurturing of Mother Nature (yin) and the action of Father Time (yang). It is a philosophy of being at peace, of being at One with Nature.

Woody Allen summed it up humorously when he stated, “I’m two with nature.” Although Steely Dan’s album title “Two Against Nature” might be a closer description of how we have come not only to live out of tune with nature but also to fight against it.

We fight the day/night cycle by staying up late into the evening and even into the wee hours of the next morning; and this alters our own inborn circadian rhythms — our body’s time clock. We deprive ourselves of essential nutrients found in whole fresh foods, instead replacing them with a diet heavy in unnatural preservatives and hydrogenated oils and corn syrups. Is it any wonder our society is chronically ill? Sure we live longer, but what for?

One of the prevalent health issues of our day is depression. And in our way of dealing with everything, we step outside of nature to find an answer. And the answer we came up with is therapy and drugs. And still people suffer depression daily. So how about we turn to nature for some help?

Well, it seems that some people are more attuned to their surroundings and environmental helpers than most. And groups of them have been healing their depression… by swimming with the dolphins in Honduras.

The objective was “to evaluate the effectiveness of animal facilitated therapy with dolphins, controlling for the influence of the natural setting, in the treatment of mild to moderate depression.”

The results were so satisfying and promising that the study of the curative effects of depression after swimming with dolphins was reported in the June 26, 2005 issue of the British Medical Journal.

For the study, 30 patients diagnosed with mild or moderate depression were sent to Honduras for some water fun. Prior to the study, all 30 people were taken off their medications and discontinued psychotherapy. Then 15 people enjoyed water snorkeling and fun amongst themselves while the other 15 swam with dolphins. At the study’s conclusion, the group who engaged in water sports with dolphins found the severity of their depressive symptoms to be markedly more reduced than the group that snorkeled without animals.

According to BMJ: “The therapy was effective in alleviating symptoms of depression after two weeks of treatment. Animal facilitated therapy with dolphins is an effective treatment for mild to moderate depression, which is based on a holistic approach, through interaction with animals in nature.”

It looks like water swimming, at least the leisurely kind, did help in both groups. However, water exercise with dolphins showed better results. Researchers contribute the healing effects of animal-facilitated therapy to the emotions raised by the interaction with the dolphins. From this they suggest that interaction with animals in general can be as effective as or more effective than drugs and psychotherapy in treating mild to moderate depression. And we already know that blood pressure drops in those who pet or stroke their cat. 

Perhaps it’s not the animals per se that is helping, but that during the time we are with them we allow ourselves to return to our center, to relax and to join with the rhythms of nature.

My son Alex and I recently interacted with dolphins in Florida, and not only did we bond, but I for one hadn’t felt so relaxed in years.

Reference:
Antonioli, C. & Reveley, M.A. (June 27, 2005). “Randomised controlled trial of animal facilitated therapy with dolphins in the treatment of depression.” British Journal of Medicine, www.BJM.com

—Dr. Mark Wiley

Is ‘Bad Blood’ the Cause of Your Pain?

You know blood circulates in your body and that without it you could not live. What you may not know, however, is that aside from being a vital nutritive substance blood can also be a cause of pain. In fact, many forms of pain, illness and disease can be linked to, or are caused by, what I refer to as “bad blood.”

Bad blood is when blood is in a state that can harm the body. These states are found in the form of “excesses” (e.g., too many toxins), “stagnations” (e.g., trigger points), and “deficiencies” (e.g., low levels of oxygen). The following list of common ailments related to the quality of blood paints a picture of how many different issues are related to the quality of our blood.

  • 25.1 million Americans live with heart disease
  • 32 percent of Americans suffer hypertension
  • 12 percent of females over age 20 are deficient in iron
  • 16 percent of adults have high-cholesterol
  • One in six Americans contract arthritis
  • 26 million Americans, between ages 20 and 64, suffer back pain

Pain is among the top reported reasons patients visit their primary care physicians. In fact, 150 million Americans suffer chronic pain annually. The chronic experience of pain is responsible for the billion-dollar nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) industry. (These are pain relievers like aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen.)

There are many causes of pain including stress, injury, tight or pulled muscles, a sedentary lifestyle, inflammation, acid/alkaline imbalance and trigger points. All of these affect the quality and motility (or spontaneous movement) of blood and/or can be caused by bad blood.

Blood is an essential body fluid that serves two purposes. It rejuvenates cells by bringing to them substances like oxygen and nutrients and it cleans cells by carrying away their toxic waste products. When body processes are hindered by incorrect diet, lack of water, stress, high acidity levels, trauma or disease, then blood’s role in maintaining homeostasis (body balance) is hindered… and pain, including back pain, is the result.

Food is such an important piece of the good blood equation. Blood plasma is a liquid component of blood that contains sugars, proteins, minerals and other substances. A diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables and high in whole grains will do much to provide depth of nutrients to build blood. But blood also needs soluble fiber to clean it and insoluble fiber to remove toxins from the body through the stools.  A nutrient deficient diet can cause bad blood which then can cause back pain.

Water is also an important component of good blood because plasma, which is 90 percent water by volume, actually comprises 55 percent of the blood fluid. Drinking plenty of fluids is a holistic way of relieving and preventing back pain.

But not all fluids are created equal. Beverages like coffee, tea, energy drinks and sodas are loaded with caffeine, sugars and chemicals that not only act as diuretics (transporting too much fluid from the blood) but are also high in toxins. These toxins, if they remain in the blood, cause bad blood — stagnations in blood motility (movement rate) via inflammation while also causing blood to become too acidic.

Indeed, maintaining the proper acid/alkaline equation (or pH balance) in the blood is an essential component to the blood/back pain connection. When blood acid levels are too high, muscle contractions can result. When muscles contract they cause limited range of motion and put pressure on nerves, prevent fresh blood, oxygen and nutrients to enter the tissue and prevent the efficient removal of carbon dioxide and other toxic substance from it. All of this causes pain.

If blood alkaline is raised and acid reduced, then muscle relaxation occurs. This allows for pain relief through the proper absorption of nutrients and transportation of waste products from the blood and tissues. Maintaining a blood pH of 7.4 is an essential component of pain-free living.

The negative effects of stress are also a leading cause of bad blood in pain. Stress constricts muscles in the body, lowers the amount of oxygen and increases acidity levels in the blood and tissues in the body. Deep breathing relaxation techniques not only reduce stress levels but also control pH. Stress causes shallow breathing and limited respiration, thus causing pain. Breathing exercises reverse this process.

Many chronic pain sufferers are fast to grab over-the-counter NSAIDs for temporary relief; and doctors advise their use. Yet these actually cause more long-term harm than short-term good. NSAIDs leave toxins in the blood, causing bad blood. They can also cause intestinal bleeding and are harmful to those suffering high blood pressure and kidney disease. Other painkillers, like acetaminophen, are harmful to the liver (which cleanses the blood) and the kidneys (which help move toxins out of the body) and do not reduce inflammation — three reasons to avoid taking it.

So what are the solutions to correcting bad blood in those suffering pain? The answer is found in a comprehensive overhaul of diet (food and water), breathing exercises for stress relief and oxygenation of blood and regular exercise to stimulate blood flow and removal of toxins. Along the way, safe temporary relief can be found by visiting massage therapists, acupuncturists and other bodywork practitioners, as well as engaging in yoga, tai chi and meditation. In the end, keeping your blood clean and moving in the tissues are positive steps toward back pain relief and prevention.

— Dr. Mark Wiley

10 Ways to Beat Fatigue

Each day more than 2 million Americans complain of feeling fatigue in addition to the 4 million who have been diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. With this chronic tiredness often comes lack of focus, feelings of being overwhelmed, flu-like symptoms, memory loss, chronic aches and pains, restless sleep, short temper and even depression.

While many people accept their tiredness as part and parcel of their daily lives, it needn’t be the standard way of life. Yes, we are more overworked and under more stress than ever, but that doesn’t have to be the case.

The following 10 lifestyle changes can make all the difference over time, if embraced as a new lifestyle approach to wellness.

1. Eat four to six times per day — In the past 10 years the idea of ditching the “three square meals a day” plan has proven successful. In its place is the three-hour diet, or eating something every three to four hours. Eating more frequently prevents one from overeating at one sitting, which zaps energy and retards digestion. Eating smaller meals more frequently also helps sustain a steady level of energy throughout the day, which helps avoid the “two o’clock crash.” 

2. Consume energy-giving foods — While eating more frequently is a great way to stay energized, eating the wrong foods over and over will take the wind right out of you. To get the best energy results from food it is important to eat plenty of fiber, which helps clean fats from blood and create bulk to move stools — this frees up energy in the body. Consuming complex carbohydrates like whole grain breads, seeds and pasta provides glucose for brainpower and sustained fuel for physical energy. Eating lean protein also adds fuel for the body. And where carbohydrates are fast-burning (instant energy) fuel, proteins provide slower burning (continuous energy) for the day. Drinking plenty of filtered or distilled water keeps the body hydrated, helps move toxins from the body and aids the kidneys.

3. Avoid energy-sapping foods — Food is certainly the main source of energy for us humans, but consuming the wrong types of food can drain and waste energy faster than we want it to. The basic idea is to avoid all foods that create an instant energy rush as a sudden energy crash is soon to follow. Energy-zapping foods include caffeine, soda, coffee, chocolate, sugar and simple carbohydrates like white bread, rice and potatoes. The energy derived from such foods is fast to come and go, is harassing to the metabolism and wreaks havoc with one’s energy. In short, they cause fatigue.

4. Exercise 30 minutes per day — While it may seem counterintuitive, exercising each day creates more energy in the body. It requires energy to exercise, and the result of exercise in increased energy. Exercise creates feelings of wellbeing because one is able to let off steam, get out anger, move the blood, sweat out toxins and help the body release chemicals like endorphins, serotonin and dopamine. And mixing up the daily routine between running, walking, weight training and aerobics keep things interesting and fun.

5. Compartmentalize your time — One of the main reasons people feel overworked, stressed out and unhappy is because they do not prioritize their time. They often feel a greater obligation to their job than to their family, themselves or their friends. This is draining physically, spiritually and emotionally and can lead to an unpleasant home life. The key to maintaining harmony and prevent burnout is to set time each day for work, family, social occasions and for your own quiet time. All of these areas need to be met to maintain a whole life that is full of love, happiness and energy.

6. Derail the burnout — There are times when taking time for yourself or leaving the office on time is not an option. In these cases, where burnout and fatigue can just drain you dry, you must derail the freight train and create energizing blocks of minutes. A few suggestions include standing up and doing jumping jacks, walking a few laps around the building or parking lot, talking to someone in the office or on the phone who makes you laugh, splashing cold water on your face and taking some deep breaths.

7. Break the stress each night — It is important not to allow stress to grip you firmly all day and night. This leads to too much tension in the body, which takes up energy. Engaging in deep breathing, taking yoga or Pilates, watching sports or listening to music you enjoy are easy things you can do to relax and break the stress. Above all, it is important not to go to bed and then wake up stressed out or you will have a very difficult time waking up and making it through the day.

8. Cut out the cancer — In this sense, “cancer” is any person, place or thing that is in your life that saps your energy and spirit. If you don’t remove these things, then your energy will be drained each day. You know those friends or co-workers who expect too much from you and always ask too much of your time? Set clear boundaries and don’t allow them instant access to you or your time. Does your email fill up too fast? There is no reason to read and answer every correspondence right away. Create email folders and prioritize which ones you read and respond to, and when. Don’t allow work to interfere with personal time. Pay bills on time. Avoid unnecessary arguments. Let go of old grudges. All of these tips will cut out the old and free up stores of energy that have needlessly been wasted and made you tired and fatigued.

9. Set your sleep/wake cycle — The power of restorative rest and sleep is one of the most essential things one can do for rejuvenating the mind and body. Many people feel overly tired even at the start of each day because their sleep is not restful. They work late into the evening, lie awake in bed worrying and often awake after only a few hours of deep REM sleep. To be energized while also repairing your muscles and tissues, setting a firm bedtime and wake-up time is essential. Sleeping from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. is said to be the best time for our body clocks.

10. Express love and gratitude — One of the easiest ways to free up energy and reduce stress and fatigue is to express your love and gratitude as often as possible. Each day you can tell those around you how grateful you are for their help, work, friendship, etc. You can tell your spouse or children or parents how much you love them. Acting with love and feeling grateful for even the smallest of things makes life worth living. And with purpose to each day and gratitude for the work we do, it seems less a burden. When life burdens and we thank it for the lessons or experience we are less apt to become overwhelmed, cranky and resentful… and without these, we have more energy available for living life to its fullest.

 — Dr. Mark Wiley

Scared to Take Chinese Herbs? Here Are the Basics!

Herbology is the study of the properties of herbs, their collection, preparation, effects, dosage, administration, combination and contraindication. Chinese herbs are a main feature of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). The study, use, gathering, preparation and administration of herbs for the treatment of illness and disease is thousands of years old.

Traditional Chinese medicine is concerned with the theories of Yin and Yang, Five Elements, Meridians and Pathogenic Factors causing disease. Specific methods are used to treat disease, such as acupuncture, massage, energy work, muscle scraping and herbal medicine. In China, herbs are clinically used to treat diseases according to the basic theories of TCM.
 
Homeostasis and Chinese Herbs
The goal of TCM is to return the body to homeostasis: That is, its optimal balanced functioning state. When the body is at homeostasis there is no room for disease. It is only when the body is out of balance (something is deficient, excessive or stagnating) that pain, illness or disease can occur.

It is for this reason that the Western application of synthetic drugs and natural herbal supplements can never hope to cure disease. Their application is based not on returning the body to homeostasis (removing the problem and balancing the body) but rather on dealing with the symptom (e.g., pain, vitamin deficiency).

The application of Chinese herbal therapy is able to balance the underlying cause(s) of pain, illness and disease, but only after a proper pattern identification has been diagnosed by a competent TCM practitioner. Patterns of disharmony (imbalance) include such things as Spleen Qi Deficiency, Heart Blood Stagnation, Liver Qi Stagnation, Excess Phlegm Damp in the Channels, Interior Heat Syndrome and so on.

These patterns describe syndromes occurring in the body, not merely the symptoms associated with disease. They refer to underlying imbalances in the body causing the body to manifest symptoms you may be experiencing. And many seemingly unrelated symptoms can be caused by the same underlying pattern of disharmony.

Let’s take “Interior Heat Syndrome” as our example. Symptoms associated with this syndrome include diarrhea, eventual constipation, abdominal distension, eczema, acne, bloodshot eyes, urinary tract infection, genital herpes, cold sores, insomnia and eventual blood stasis, among other things. By recognizing that this list of things is in whole or in part caused by too much heat in the interior of the body (as opposed to a fever, which is heat that has moved to the exterior of the body), they can then be treated at the same time.

Once the Interior Heat is resolved, that is, once the body’s internal temperature is balanced, the symptoms associated with the problem will go away. This happens because the body has been returned to homeostasis and no longer supports an environment conducive to prolonging the symptoms.

How to Take Chinese Herbs
There are many ways to take Chinese herbal medicine. Raw herbs can be prescribed, decocted and drank. This method generally offers the strongest effects, as the herbs are fresh and their grams and combination can be precisely decided by an herbalist to match your syndrome. Moreover, the liquid is easily absorbed into the body. However, the preparation generally has a bad smell and the taste is often not liked by Westerners.

Herbal powders are also available in single form or in common formulas. These are like instant coffee in that a measured spoonful will dissolve in a mug of hot water to be drank in one sitting. Again, this is effective and fast, but leaves much to be desired in the area of taste.

Perhaps the most common way of taking Chinese herbs in the West is what is known as the Patent Herbal Formulas. These are prepackaged herbal formulas that have been found effective for specific syndromes. Examples include taking You Gui Wan for Kidney Yang Deficiency or Tao Hong Si Wu Wan for Blood Stasis or Bu Zhong Yi Qi Wan for Uplifting of the Central Qi. These are little black pills the size of BBs that are generally taken in quantities of six, eight or 12 pills at a time, three times per day.

There are several ways of determining how long it takes the herbs to work. Since we are talking about changing an underlying condition in the body, as opposed to symptomatic relief, times do vary. In general, six weeks is a minimum amount of time it will take for the herbs to build up in the bloodstream to a level necessary to effect a strong change in the body. Three months time is about average. For some diseases, nine months is not uncommon. For chronic cases, a general rule of thumb is one month of herbs for every year the problem has been in the body.

For best results, Chinese herbal medicine should be used under the direction of a qualified practitioner. Your condition (pattern) should first be identified, and then herbs prescribed accordingly. They are a great and gentle way of balancing the body.

Just keep an open mind and remember, they will be less effective if used in the allopathic way — that is, taking them to remove a symptom as opposed to correcting an imbalance.

— Dr. Mark Wiley

Exercise Your Breathing for Better Health

Oxygen deprivation, which is often caused by improper or obstructed breathing, is among the main causes of our everyday pain and ill health.

For starters, along with the intestines, bladder and skin, the lungs play a major role in toxic elimination. Proper breathing expedites the lung’s ability to expel carbon dioxide and toxic gases from the body while also diffusing fresh oxygen into the blood. When breathing is restricted, cellular activity is distressed and toxicity is increased. Since life is sustained primarily by adequate intake of oxygen, water and food, breathing properly is essential to good health.

There are innumerable ways in which one can benefit from the practice of deep breathing exercises like those taught in yoga, qigong and bio-feedback. Engaging in breathing exercises improves blood circulation and enriches the blood with more red blood cells. This increases the supply of oxygen to the tissues and promotes healthier tissues and organs.

The greater supply of oxygen enables the heart to pump slower while still providing enough oxygen to the body. Imbalances such as high blood pressure and rapid heart rate can be brought back to normal with prolonged, proper practice of breathing exercises.

When beginning a formal or informal program of deep breathing exercises it is essential that you remain relaxed and focused throughout each breath. Breathe slowly and steadily, physically expanding and contracting the respective areas of the body, as dictated by the exercise. I will share a few simple ones here.

To begin, stand comfortably, shoulders relaxed, with legs a comfortable shoulders-width apart and knees pointing straight ahead. Your arms should hang at your sides and your arms, hands and neck should be relaxed. (You may also do these while seated).

Chest Breathing
The chest breathing exercise helps the respiratory system and may be performed for five minutes at a time. Do not take big or loud breaths. Exhalations should last just slightly longer than the inhalations.

To begin chest breathing, pull the breath and fresh air into your lungs by expanding them to full capacity as you inhale through your nose slowly, quietly and steadily. Make sure to inflate the chest only. You may feel your stomach suck in slightly.

As you exhale, push the breath and stale gases out through your mouth slowly, quietly and steadily. Slowly contract your chest and lungs to their least capacity. You may feel your chest getting concave. Repeat for five minutes, and then stop.

Upper Stomach Breathing
The upper stomach breathing exercise helps the digestive system. Begin by inhaling through your nose slowly, quietly and steadily to pull the breath into the area between the navel and diaphragm. Expand your upper stomach (only) between the ribcage and navel to full capacity, making sure to keep your chest and lower stomach in or flat.

Exhale through your mouth slowly, quietly and steadily. Pull or suck in your upper stomach as you push your breath and stale energy out. You may feel your lower stomach pull in ever so slightly as well.

This is generally a difficult area for people to isolate in movement but becomes easier over time. Stay loose, relaxed and focused throughout the breaths and isolate movement only in the upper stomach.

Lower Stomach Breathing
The lower stomach breathing exercise helps the reproductive and urinary systems. Begin by inhaling through your nose slowly, quietly and steadily. As you inhale, pull the breath into the lower stomach — only from the navel down. Expand the pelvic area, and drop the breath to the pelvic floor. As you inhale, inflate your lower stomach (only) between the ribcage and navel to full capacity, making sure to keep your chest and upper stomach flat and deflated.

Next, push the breath and stale air out and pull or suck in your lower stomach as you exhale through your mouth slowly, quietly and steadily. You may feel your upper stomach pull in ever so slightly.

This can also be a difficult area for people to isolate in movement. Again, stay relaxed and focused throughout the breaths and try to isolate movement in the lower stomach. With continued practice you will progress.

Comments
If these three breathing exercises seem too difficult, then do not despair. What is important is the concept of breathing slowly and deeply into the lungs with steady, relaxed breath cycles. Since most of us breathe only with the top third of our lungs thanks to stress, anxiety, fear and sheer busyness… even something as simple as lying down, focusing intention on the navel and breathing deeply for a few moments before drifting off to sleep can garner positive health results over the long run.

— Dr. Mark Wiley

How To Avoid Those Rebound Headaches

The other day a patient emailed me complaining of the “worst headache she’d ever had.” On my recommendation she attempted to stop drinking coffee. But the first day she got such a horrible headache she had to leave work and could not attend a function later that evening. She asked why, if coffee was bad for you, she became ill when she stopped drinking it?

The answer is that her body responded to the lack of the daily stimulus that it was accustomed to receiving. The headache was a rebound from the lack of coffee/caffeine consumption that it was relying on for daily energy and stimulation.

What generally happens, especially with consumers of caffeinated, sugar-laden and alcoholic beverages, is a vicious cycle of needing more and more to prevent the side effects of rebounding. Rebounding is the pain and other symptoms people feel when their body is trying to return to homeostasis by detoxing the harmful chemicals from the system. Here’s how the problem magnifies with coffee, as an example.

You are tired and drink coffee to perk up. Yet by late afternoon another cup is needed to remain awake. However, this cup keeps you up at night and makes it difficult for you to wake up in the morning. So, the next day or week you find yourself drinking two cups in the morning and one in the afternoon and/or early evening.

This vicious cycle is made worse by coffee’s diuretic action, which causes excess perspiration and urination, leading to dehydration. Extended dehydration leads to constipation which, in an effort to move the bowels, you drink more coffee.

This remedy may work for a while, but then your intestines become so dry that days pass between bowel movements. During this time toxins build up, leach back into the bloodstream and spread in the body. The result: headaches, aches and pains, fatigue, stiffness and red and irritated eyes.  All of these symptoms are side effects of the rebound effect.

Generally, when someone comes to me for health advice at such a time, I tell them to stop drinking coffee. And they say, “I am so tired. If I don’t drink coffee I have no energy. And when I don’t drink, then I get a headache and I can’t go to the bathroom.”

They are right to a point: The caffeine is giving them energy but at the same time it is also sapping their energy.

Caffeine and sugar drinks offer the body a false or “empty” energy. It is not real. So when the fake energetic means of moving through the day drops out (you feel like crashing), the body returns to its normal state. But that normal state is one that is worn out and exhausted, since its energy depleted long ago and it has been moving along on legal yet addictive stimulants. It’s akin to a car whose battery is nearly dead yet the car is being towed from place to place. As a result of the constant “towing” of the body at the stimulation of coffee (for example) it starts to cry out in pain.

The body says, “I hurt. I am exhausted. I am dehydrated. My nerves are inflamed.”

As the body is normalized by detoxing and returning to homeostasis (balance) you feel the pain, the throbbing, the aches the headaches that were always there but just hidden under the stimulant effects of the coffee (or soda or alcohol or drugs or cigarettes).

Rebound pain and rebound headaches are so-named because they occur as the body “rebounds” from over-consumption or withdrawal from too many analgesics or prescription medications, coffee or caffeinated soft drinks, elevated adrenaline levels, sleep disorders and so on.

Like migraine and cluster headaches, rebound headaches are vascular in nature and characterized by steady pounding or throbbing on both sides of the head caused by constricting and dilating blood vessels. This type of vascular headache is in theory the easiest to prevent, but since it is directly triggered by poor lifestyle choices, it may be the most difficult to eliminate.

In essence, rebound headaches are a recuperative measure by the body that is telling you something is wrong and is forcing rest and a change in behavior by way of head pain. They occur commonly as a result of toxic build-up of medication, alcohol or caffeine in the system, as well as from prolonged periods of physically draining activity, such as cramming for finals or that wild 72-hour weekend party.

The best way to avoid rebound headaches, then, is to refrain from daily over-stimulation: Late nights and early mornings, coffee all day, drinking all night, excessive partying, hours and hours of studying and too much fat or sugar in the diet.

The rebound pain (and sometimes accompanying stupor) only comes after the heightened activity is removed and the body has to adjust back to normal. It is better to slowly wean off coffee — or stimulant drinks and foods and recreational drugs — than try to cut them out cold turkey.

Regarding coffee, if you drink three cups a day, reduce to two for a day or two. If you can manage, drop down to one cup and one cup of half-caffeine/half-decaf. It is important to find a weaning “formula” that you can manage and that works for you over a short period of time.

And when the rebound headaches come, usually a small dose of the item (a few sips of coffee, for example), two glasses of water, a hot shower and rest will return the body to a livable state until the next day when it has rebalanced itself again.

— Dr. Mark Wiley

Are You Sick Or Are You Tired?

As a person who suffered from excruciating headaches and musculoskeletal pain for the better part of 30 years, let me assure you that sound sleep is a wonder pill nobody can do without.
 
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 bodies tell our brains that certain essential chemicals have been depleted and our muscles and ligaments are tired and in need of restoration.

The growing problem is that many of us rely on legal stimulants like coffee, tea, soda and energy drinks to force ourselves to continue plugging away. Work, after all, can’t be held back by pleading. There are just not enough hours in the week. The result? We stay up too late, we get up too early, and to do this we consume unhealthy amounts of toxic substances — night after day after night.

The net result? For the better part of our adult lives we, and our coworkers, believe we are sick when actually we are tired. Tiredness, however, causes sickness. Without sleep the immune system wears down and cannot protect and repair the body. Let’s look at some of the damage we’ve done to ourselves simply by not going to sleep when we were tired.

Lack of sleep causes poor concentration, slower reaction times, decreased performance levels, less ability to learn and compartmentalize new skills and knowledge, more frequent memory lapses, increases in simple injuries and accidents, adverse changes in moods and behaviors, increased frequency of headaches, neck and shoulder pain, backaches, fatigue and an overload of toxic beverage consumption.

Why does this happen? During sleep our body is actually working to repair itself. The liver purifies blood, the muscles repair, serotonin increases. Without ample sleep these things do not happen at optimal levels.

In our natural circadian rhythm — or biological clock — sleep is set to take over during the evening hours. We are genetically programmed to get up and lie down with the sun. It was the invention of artificial sources of light (candles and bulbs) that began our stressed-out drive for more working hours at the expense of much-needed rest.

What’s the big deal, you ask, if you sleep only a few hours per night? You can always drink coffee, swallow energy drinks, take caffeine pills, cat naps… life is good. Well, not really. Did you know that in clinical tests rats die within a few short weeks of sleep deprivation? And it’s not just rats at risk. 

Chronic fatigue, adrenal fatigue, attention deficit disorder, chronic migraine and headache, body aches and pain, mental illness, depression and anxiety are all in part caused — or made worse — by lack of sleep. And no caffeine pill or taurine-laced energy drink can cure these dangerous side effects of our global economy-sized work loads. 

It’s not just office workers at risk, either. Did you know that it has been proven in numerous studies that sleep-deprived children learn at slower rates and are less social than their well-rested counterparts?

And let’s talk about motor accidents. Sleep-deprived drivers — especially truckers — make up 25 percent of all roadway accidents… and are even more likely to result in death or serious injury than drunk driving!

How about those unfortunate people who have attempted suicide in their lives? It has been found that their sleep is fraught with tension and nightmares. These disturbances, of course, lead to further lack of sleep, which causes lower levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin, resulting in greater depression and the return of suicidal thoughts. A vicious cycle.

You say, for you, it isn’t a crazy work schedule? You just have trouble drifting off and staying asleep? Well then, here are some tips for those who may suffer from insomnia. Follow them and see how much better you’ll feel each day as you get your eight hours:

  1. Do not consume ANY sugar or caffeine after 6:00 p.m.
  2. Stop working at least two hours before bedtime.
  3. Turn off the computer and television at least one hour before bedtime.
  4. 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.
  5. Establish a sleep/wake schedule, and stick to it.
  6. 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 and sleep tight.
  7. If a racing mind is nagging, slow your breathing and focus on the sensation of air as it passes through your nose. This will derail those busy thoughts to help you drift off.

And for those who exercise at night… flip the schedule. It’s keeping you up by moving blood and energy through your system. Researcher at Stanford University School of Medicine found that adults aged 55 — 75 who engaged in 20-30 minutes of low-impact exercise (like walking) every other day in the afternoon were able to fall asleep in half their normal time. What’s more, their sleep duration increased on average by one full hour.

What does all this mean? Good health begins as easily and naturally as going out for a walk and putting in plenty of sack time. Try, if possible, for a straight eight hours of sleep.

And maybe think about buying a new set of sheets to celebrate the new healthier happier sounder-sleeping you.

 — Dr. Mark Wiley

Release the Mind, Relieve the Pain!

There are more causes for pain other than physical injury, as you well know. Why is it that despite high-tech surgeries and low-tech massage, weekly handfuls of pain killers and structured physical therapy routines, people are still suffering and their pain continues?

The answer may well be found within the mind itself and the hold it has over, not only our thoughts and emotions, but the quality of our physical bodies. When the mind (psycho) and the body (soma) come together in adverse ways to manifest pain, inflammation, rashes and muscle spasms, it is called psychosomatic illness.

In decades past the term psychosomatic was primarily used by psychologists to identify pain or illness that were “all in the mind” and “not real.” This outlook is dated and false. Yes, the seed of the physical condition is in the thoughts and emotions of the person affected by them. But these symptoms are not “imaginary.” They exist in very real forms — like rashes, swelling, spasms and trigger points. In other words… pain.

If you suffer some pain — most notably low back, shoulder, neck and headaches — and have tried everything, please, keep reading. If you have exhausted mainstream medicine, physical therapy, massage, chiropractic, acupuncture and surgery — yet the pain persists — I would like to suggest you consider the possibility of the mind and emotions playing a key role in your chronic condition.

Indeed, if the physical body has been treated in every safe way imaginable but to no avail, perhaps looking at your thoughts and emotions — a psychosomatic cause — may well be the next logical step for you. Below we look at three of the safest, easiest and most powerful mind/body systems for eradicating chronic pain and associated symptoms.

Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS)
In the field of mainstream medicine there is one shining hero of the chronic pain sufferer. His name is John Sarno, M.D., and he spent decades specializing in pain; specifically back pain, using both mainstream and alternative therapies in his very busy New York practice. Today Sarno treats pain with only education and therapy — and he does so successfully.

He dumped the massage, the weights, the physical therapy and the drugs. He found that misaligned vertebrae, slipped or bulging discs, pinched nerves and so on are not necessarily the cause of pain. He found that most people actually have these issues, yet are not in pain. His research led directly to the mind and to the mental and emotional components of pain.

Sarno calls pain conditions with a psychosomatic cause Tension Myositis Syndrome (TMS). Sarno says that “in most cases what is causing the pain is not a structural problem, but a mild oxygen deprivation that causes pain in the affected muscle.”

TMS affects not just the upper back or lower back, but also the neck, the knees or even the feet. For instance, oxygen deprivation in the sciatic nerve is what Sarno believes causes numbness, tingling, pain and weakness in the leg; this is in contrast to the traditional understanding of sciatica which is assumed to be due to a structural cause, such as a herniated disc.

According to Sarno, oxygen deprivation is a side effect of how people cope with some emotional issues. Indeed, our dysfunctional responses to stress cause self-induced tightness, spasms in the muscles and poor breathing which results in a lack of oxygen being carried through cells into muscles. Repressed anger, resentment and even love can cause this syndrome. Then when we feel pain, we worry about it, stress over it… which spins us into an even-worse spiral of oxygen deprivation and tension in the muscles (tension myositis).

Sarno’s method for relieving pain is to educate people on how to release their repressed emotions and then release the chronic pain. Sarno has written several books and has a website full of free information. You can check it out here.

The Sedona Method
Pioneered by Lester Levenson, The Sedona Method® is a powerful yet easy-to-learn technique that teaches you how to “let go” of unwanted emotions in an instant. It is these emotions that cause ill-health, pain and suffering. In essence, The Sedona Method® consists of a series of questions you ask yourself that lead your awareness to what you are feeling in the moment and gently guide you into the experience of letting go.

This method is easy to do because there are only a few steps necessary to accomplish the release of new or decades-old pent-up negative emotions. With so many successes, this again points to the vital role that the mind and emotions play in the pain and ill effects we suffer in our bodies — those psychosomatic illnesses.

The effectiveness of The Sedona Method® has been validated by respected scientific researchers at major universities and the MONY Corporation. In fact, if you’re not feeling happy, confident and relaxed at least 90 percent of the time, chances are your ailments are the manifestation of these less-than-great emotions.

Sedona literature puts it this way:

“It is our limiting emotions that prevent us from creating and maintaining the lives that we choose. We abdicate our decision-making ability to them. We even imagine that our emotions can dictate to us who we are supposed to be. This is made apparent in our use of language. Have you ever said to someone, ‘I am angry,’ or, ‘I am sad?’ When we speak like this, we are saying to those around us and to ourselves, without realizing it, that we are our anger, or we are our grief. We relate to others and ourselves as though we are our feelings. In fact, we even invent whole stories of why we feel the way we feel in order to justify or explain this misperception of our identity.”

If you’ve tried other mental techniques such as therapy and meditation you know that it is difficult to create a change. But The Sedona Method’s® “releasing” operates on the “feeling” level, so it’s easy. It teaches you to “let go” of years of mental programs and accumulated feelings in just seconds.

There is a great book on this method available at book stores, and plenty of websites are dedicated to the method. Please, take a look and see how easy a great life can be.

Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT)
Based on a method known as Thought Field Therapy and also on acupuncture theory, its methods relieve pain and illness by addressing the connection between your body’s subtle energies, your emotions and your health.

This therapeutic method is similar to TMS but goes deeper in its explanation of what causes the emotional imbalances. Advocates of the Emotional Freedom Technique believe that it is disturbances in your energy field that are actually causing the negative emotions which then cause your ill-health symptoms

Essentially, EFT teaches methods of looking in specific directions, touching and pressing your face and arms in certain places to open the energy channels and rebalance what is out of balance. This then allows your body to return to normal functioning and for your signs and symptoms to disappear.

It appears that anyone can learn and use EFT by taking a course, reading a book or going through the tutorials on the websites. Experience EFT’s results for yourself. After you read the free basic instructions you can perform your first “rounds” of personal tapping in only a few minutes. It sounds simple and effective, and it is.

I know that you are suffering. I, too, suffered chronic pain for nearly 30 years. And I can honestly tell you that the role of the mind — the emotions — is central to perpetuating and holding that pain in the body. If you have not tried them before, or have tried and failed at them, I urge you to take a fresh look at the healing methods based on psychosomatic causes of pain and illness. You just may find the release and relief you have been looking for.

— Dr. Mark Wiley

Hypertonic Pain: What It Is And How To Overcome It

What do headaches, shoulder pain, hip pain, tight quadriceps, pulled muscles, cold limbs, knots on the back, restricted breathing, plantar fasciitis, fibromyalgia, knee pain and chronic fatigue all have in common? Hypertonic muscles.

Hypertonicity of muscles is a common problem in our modern American society. Hypertonicity implies an excessively constricted muscle or, in layman’s terms, tight muscles.

Muscles constrict, or become tight, for many reasons. Included among them are: a lack of exercise or too much exercise; sitting, lying or standing for prolonged periods of time; everyday walking; lack of stretching; abundance of toxins in the body; stress, worry and anxiety; blood stagnation; exposure to cold and various psychosomatic triggers.

In order to understand why stretching is so important and how not doing it causes pain and ill health, we must first understand the basic composition of related areas in the body.

Understanding The Body
In terms of stretching and pain related to not doing it, the body consists of bones, joints, ligaments, muscles and tendons.

Bones are the basic framework of the body and give it its form. Joints are joining points between bones that allow motion and give the body its motive function. Joints are stabilized by ligaments. These are elastic bands that connect bone to bone and prevent joints from moving incorrectly. Motion in the joints is made possible when muscles contract.

Connective tissue is the binding structure of the body and is what makes up fascia, tendons and ligaments. Connective tissue is constructed of collagen and elastin fibers. It is these fibers that hold the many structures of the body in place.

Collagen fibers (such as make up tendons) are rich in protein and are non-elastic—that is, they cannot be stretched. Elastin fibers (such as make up ligaments) consist of elastin protein and these both elongate and return to its normal resting length.

Muscles are the things that both voluntarily and involuntarily contract to move the body. Muscles have a tendon of origin and insertion that crosses a joint. It is when a muscle is contracted that the tendon pulls over the joint and causes movement.

Most important is the muscle resting length. This is the correct and natural length the muscle should assume when at rest. This is important because understanding it is the first sign of recognizing how and when problems occur.

How Problems Occur
While the body is generally able to adapt to its environment, chronic misuse can cause the tendons to tear, ligaments to overelongate and muscles to become cramped or to tear.

Tendons can tear when a load is placed on them that is too great, such as when jumping or running without first warming up and stretching. These tears cause acute pain and if left to chance will take a very long time to heal, if they heal at all. Many athletes and weekend warriors will experience a tear and think it is a muscle pull and aggravate the situation by not taking care to heal the injury. This is how chronic pain occurs.

Ligaments can become over-stretched through prolonged misuse and this prevents them from constricting back to their normal resting length. The causes of such over-lengthening of ligaments are common and include stretching too much or stretching incorrectly.

One of the major problem areas I see in my practice is with yoga. So many yoga studios are run by well-intentioned people who only spent a short amount of time understanding their practice and have little to no basic anatomy education. This leads to overstretching and a holding of the overstretch of certain postures that cause the ligaments to elongate and not return to their normal length. Thus, the joints that the ligaments held in place are now able to move in directions they are not meant to, causing friction, wear-and-tear, nerve irritation and chronic pain.

Chronic hip and low back pain are conditions I see regularly from my patients who practice yoga. (Just to be clear, I am a fan of yoga—just not incorrect yoga.)

Muscles become “pulled” when we engage in any activity (including walking) at a time when our muscles are not at their resting length. In most cases people are not aware that there is a “resting length” of muscles and assume that tightness is common to the human body. This is not so (though it may be a chronic experience of the human condition).

When the muscles are hypertonic (shortened and not at proper resting length) while the body is inactive and then we attempt to do something requiring motion, the muscles cannot sufficiently elongate and problems occur. Actually, muscles don’t “stretch.” What actually occurs is myosin and actin proteins of the muscle myofilaments cross one another and allow muscles to elongate.

When we begin an activity with the muscles already in a shortened state and expect the body to allow us to run, jump, climb, kick, stretch deeply and even walk, we are looking for trouble. How can the body effectively elongate the muscles to accommodate the activity while the body is cold, inelastic, existing in blood stasis and beginning at a muscle movement deficit? It cannot.

Yet we do it all the time. We sit in a chair at the office all day and then walk. Chronic sitting causes the piriformis muscle to shorten and this can cause the hips to rotate. And walking without ever stretching causes chronic tightening of the calf muscles which is a ready cause of both knee and low back pain.

I am regularly appalled when I hear seasoned athletes and therapists alike claiming that you don’t need to stretch before an activity. They say, “Just do some jumping jacks and then run or bike or play tennis. After you’re finished and the muscles are warmed up, then stretch.” How absurd.

Running “cold and tight” causes tight thigh muscles and biking “cold and tight” causes tight hip flexors.

Yes, you must stretch after an activity. But you must stretch before an activity so that the muscles begin from a proper resting length and the activity does not cause harm. So the proper order is for you to first warm up, then stretch and then engage in the activity. If you don’t, you will be the cause of your own injury.

And many people try to “just work through” the pain, by lifting more, running more, getting a massage, doing more yoga. But these things will never correct the problem, as the problem is caused by engaging in activities while the muscles are at improper resting lengths. That is, doing any activity while muscles are tight. And this includes walking.

Another problem is than many people don’t know how to stretch.

Basic Stretching Guidelines
Since the beginning of every American physical education class, every martial art class and every dance class, we’ve been taught the improper way to stretch. That is, we’ve been taught stretches that were put in place before the science of sports medicine showed us the flaws to such methods as well as the proper ways to stretch. Unfortunately, we are creatures of habit, and it is easier to continue to teach incorrect stretching than to do some continuing education to learn and disseminate the up-to-date information.

In short, proper stretching allows a fresh supply of blood, nutrients and heat to move into a muscle to allow it to become supple and able to move past its resting length and then to return to its resting length.

For information on safe stretching, please click here.

—Dr. Mark Wiley

How You Can Prevent Hypertension

High blood pressure—or hypertension—is one of the most prevalent health issues affecting Americans’ quality of life.

The blood’s pressure is a measurement reading of the amount of force the heart generates while pumping blood through the arteries. There are two numbers involved in the reading of blood pressure, systolic and diastolic.

The systolic number is listed first and it represents the amount of force expended by the heart as it fills the blood vessels. Diastolic pressure, on the other hand, is a quantification of the resistance to that force. When taken together, the systolic and diastolic numbers provide an indication of how successful your heart is at getting the blood to the tissues in your body.

Hypertension is indicated when the blood pressure reading is consistently above 140/90 mm Hg (milligrams of mercury). A blood pressure of 120/80 mm Hg is considered to be a normal blood pressure reading

Hypertension is an “excess” state to be in. It is unhealthy and stresses the flow of blood to important organs such as the brain, heart and kidneys. When left untreated, hypertension leaves the body in an excessive state of undue stress and can cause stroke, heart attack, arterial aneurysm, hardening of the arteries or kidney failure. All of these conditions are potentially life threatening.

The scariest thing about hypertension is that it can kill without showing initial signs of being present. In fact, it has been described as “the silent killer,” especially since its symptoms include headache, blurry vision and dizziness. But these are general symptoms and not specific only to high blood pressure, which is why it is often detected too late. And when hypertension is present with other conditions, such as obesity and diabetes, it is nearly impossible to treat.

Western bio-medicine has developed some fine drugs for treating hypertension. These include diuretics, angiotensin converting enzymes, angiotensin receptor blockers, alpha blockers, beta blockers, calcium channel blockers and vasodilators. These pharmaceuticals respectively increase the elimination of sodium, inhibit the hormones that cause blood pressure to rise, alter the involuntary nervous system to force a decrease in pressure, reduce blood vessel constriction and dilate arteries to decrease overall pressure.

The problem with prescription medications is they are often used too late, more than one are generally used in combination, they must be taken for the remainder of one’s life and are only prescribed “after the fact.” The best way to avoid the health risks of hypertension is to prevent it from occurring in the first place.

High blood pressure does have a genetic component so people whose parents have it are more likely to get it. Men are also more likely to develop it at an earlier age than women. And blacks are more likely candidates than are Caucasians to develop it.

However, lifestyle choices play a major role in the development of hypertension over the course of one’s life. This means that we have the ability to both cause and prevent this condition. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Obese and overweight people are at a higher risk. It has been repeatedly shown that losing weight can lower your blood pressure by about 5 mm Hg per 10 pounds of weight loss.
  • High sodium intake puts you at risk. Your kidneys simply can’t process excessive salt consumption. Reduce your salt and your blood pressure will also reduce.
  • Alcohol is another villain in the hypertension equation. It has been shown that consuming more than three drinks per day will increase your pressure. If this is your case, reduce your consumption and the pressure will also reduce.
  • Smokers place themselves at risk every time they inhale a cancer stick. Smoking temporarily elevates blood pressure by 5 mm Hg to 10 mm Hg for about a half-hour. If you smoke a pack a day, and already have high blood pressure, you are exponentially increasing your risk of death.
  • Exercising is one of the best options for curing this disease. Lack of exercise increases not only your risk of hypertension, but also of developing obesity and heart disease. So exercise, shed some weight, release some endorphins and reduce that blood pressure.

Prevention is the best medicine. Take control and live a happy, healthy life.

Dr. Mark Wiley

The Healthy Obese? One Study Thinks So…

More than 129 million Americans are overweight. That’s 64.5 percent of the United States population and more than double the entire population of France.

More specifically, 40 million Americans are obese or seriously overweight. That’s double the entire population of Australia. Three million of them suffer from life-threatening obesity, otherwise known as morbid obesity. That’s 60 times the number of soldiers who died in Vietnam.

What’s more, according to former U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher, “overweight and obesity may soon cause as much preventable disease and death as cigarette smoking.”

Obesity is a curable and preventable epidemic disease. Today’s fast food restaurants, processed foods and soft drinks, poor eating habits and lack of exercise have contributed to this abundance of body fat.

Generally speaking, when we get 10 percent above our normal weight we are considered obese. The government has determined what our ideal weight should be. Determining whether we are obese is done by determining our Body Mass Index (BMI). To find your BMI (and to see if you’re “government approved”) go to the website of the Center for Consumer Freedom, and type in your height and weight.

There are a number of different causes of obesity including genetics, constitution, age, diet, emotions, level of daily physical activity and lifestyle. Of these, genetics pose the problem in terms of how we develop. However, lifestyle plays the major role. How much we eat, when we eat, what we eat, how much we exercise and so on can all make us obese. But can one be obese and still remain healthy? A recent study suggests it’s possible.

At the annual Endocrine Society meeting held June 19, in San Diego, Dutch research was presented that weight is not as important as metabolic profile. The study, consisting of more than 1,300 obese participants, found that 90 of them did not have heart disease, diabetes or high blood pressure. Moreover, those same people showed no history of stroke and their cholesterol levels were within normal range without medication. Researchers followed up with the 90 metabolically healthy obese participants and found that only one of them developed cardiovascular disease.

For more information on the study and presentation, click here.

While the Dutch study may offer solace to those who are overweight, I would like to contradict that notion. To begin, let’s discuss how one is determined to be obese. To do this we must return to the BMI calculation.

I, for one, have never thought it reliable. For example, athletes whose muscle density and size are not related to body fat offer “false” readings of being overweight. Additionally, many of the serious side effects of obesity, like heart disease and diabetes, are linked to belly fat. Thus, depending on where one holds his fat, he may not be at risk for those collateral illnesses.

With this in mind the Dutch study did not consider muscle density or fat location and missed the fact that obesity is unhealthy, period—regardless of the additional life-threatening diseases it may or may not cause. The elephant in the room, of course, for the Dutch metabolically healthy participants is that only 7 percent of the entire group of obese participants were considered so. That is way too small a number for anyone to get their hopes up.

The new obesity calculation being used is called the Weight to Height Ratio (WtHR). It takes fat location into consideration. The WtHR is calculated by dividing your waist size by your height. It also adjusts for men and women in its numbers. To learn more about WtHR, go here and here.

Being overweight is unhealthy. Not only can it cause high blood pressure, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, it also wreaks havoc on the bones and joints. Moreover, its psychological affects can be debilitating. The good news is that obesity is reversible and also preventable.

The answer, then, is to maintain an attitude of temperance when it comes to everything. Don’t engage in too many stressful events that can cause you to eat or drink in excess. Don’t eat too late at night. Be physically active enough every day to burn off what you put in.

In the end, what we have here is a new definition of obesity. Where we once associated this term with people who are “huge,” we now know that even those of us with a gut or who are overweight but “hold it well” are actually also considered obese. Thus, we must also have temperance when it comes to comments directed at others. And while we change our perceptions on this disease, let us drink plenty of water and avoid sweets and greasy foods in the process.

—Dr. Mark Wiley

Hydrate Your Way to Health: The Dehydration-Illness Connection

It is vital that every human being drink ample amounts of water every day—especially those who suffer headaches.

Since water makes up roughly 75 percent of the human body and 85 percent of the brain, it only makes sense that no tissue, organ or gland can function properly without an ample supply of this natural fluid. It is the improper functioning of the digestive system, lungs, liver and kidneys that not only contributes to and triggers headaches, but also makes us ill. Indeed, we humans would surely cease to exist without the magic elixir known as water, which, next to oxygen, is the most vital substance on Earth.

Drinking ample quantities of water every day is so important that for centuries many traditional cultures have used its healing qualities to cure and prevent various illnesses and diseases. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), for example, recognized the healing powers of water more than 3,000 years ago.

Even Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, was said to have drank and bathed in water to benefit from the healing properties of its mineral content. Indeed, the mere consumption of this fluid can help restore the body to its natural state of homeostasis (balance) by clearing toxins, cleansing the colon, flushing the liver and kidneys and emptying the bowels—all necessary elements to removing and preventing a number of headaches.

With the abundance of water available in the United States and the sheer necessity of it to our health and well-being, it is a wonder that the many illnesses and ailments are actually caused or aggravated by simple dehydration. The leading researcher of our time on illness and diseases caused by dehydration is Dr. F. Batmanghelidj, an internist trained at St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School of London University and one of the last students of Sir Alexander Flemming, the discoverer of penicillin. In his book, The Body’s Many Cries for Water, Dr. Batmanghelidj asserts: “Chronic, unintentional dehydration is the origin of most pain and degenerative diseases in the human body.” (1)

It was while spending several years in an Iranian prison that Batmanghelidj came to discover the healing powers of simple water—including decreased occurrence and symptoms of heartburn, lupus, arthritis and peptic ulcers—and the negative effects of dehydration. So how does dehydration cause pain and illnesss?

As the water content of tissues falls to a certain point as a result of dehydration the bi-layer membranes that surround cells contract, forming a barrier that prevents further water loss. This obstructs the free movement of molecules so that metabolism and elimination are limited. Slow metabolism and elimination lead to build-up of toxins in the blood which can manifest as a chemical-induced headache.

It is important to understand that regardless of the quantity of your daily water intake, its percentage in urine remains constant at around 95 percent. When the hypothalamus detects a lowering of water volume in the body it signals the pituitary gland to release the antidiuretic hormone (ADH) into the bloodstream which increases the capacity of the kidneys to re-absorb and recycle water.

In essence, when the body moves into survival mode by contracting the bi-layer membranes, the kidneys keep recycling and concentrating the urine in an effort to maintain sufficient hydration. Thus the less water put into the body the less the body’s ability to cleans itself of poisonous toxins through elimination via urine, feces, perspiration and the breath. And since waste products left to accumulate in your tissues create chronic pain, headaches and many diseases, water intake is necessary to facilitate the effective elimination of the toxic build-up.

It is in part due to the overtaxing of the colonic track by overeating, ingesting foods high in nitrates and other chemical content, in addition to an abundance of sugars or alcohol, that one feels exhausted, lethargic, experiences seemingly unending dull headaches, catches colds easily or becomes seriously ill. It is precisely the absorption of the nutrients in the colon and intestines from the food we eat that prevents, causes or cures what ails us.

In fact, research has indicated that a thorough flushing of the mucus folds in the colonic tract where toxins and wastes generally remain will cleanse the system and keep the body healthy and the immune system strong. At the same time, quantities of water are known to revitalize the kidney and liver. Thus, by drinking ample quantities of water the colon will become more effective, thus increasing the quantity and supply of fresh blood that can then move throughout the body.

It is vital that every cell, tissue and organ in your body be sufficiently hydrated for your body to return to and maintain its natural state of homeostasis. It is only in this state that the chemical toxins that have built up in the body can be properly processed and eliminated. Water is the only substance that can properly hydrate the body; not caffeinated coffees and teas, carbonated sodas or sugar-filled fruit drinks.

Only water, pure and simple as it is, will keep you healthy and help the body eliminate many of the underlying triggers affecting your health daily. So how much water is enough?

There is much written about specific quantities of water that are needed by the body to function properly. Drinking a single glass of water at lunch or dinner will not do the job. While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends six 8-ounce glasses of water per day, other experts suggest consuming 8 ounces of water per 20 pounds of body weight.

But remembering math and numbers throughout a busy day can be difficult. In order to reap the full health benefits from water one must think in terms of water as therapy and drink copious amounts throughout the entire day. If you drink water from a bottle throughout the day, after a period of hydration you will find yourself making frequent trips to the restroom to relieve yourself.

A continuous flow of water through your body that is continually washing away the toxins in your system and keeping them from building up is exactly what you want. This way your kidneys will not become over-taxed and forced to concentrate urine in an effort to maintain proper levels of hydration in your body.

When urine is concentrated as a result of dehydration its color becomes dark. Therefore, if you find yourself drinking throughout the day, but it has been a while since your last glass, check your urine. If it is colored, it is a sign that you are becoming dehydrated—and this happens quickly when consuming caffeinated diuretic beverages like coffee and soda—and it is time for another glass or two of water.

I always keep my bottle of spring or filtered water filled and at my side. In this way, I will never forget to drink from it and I will not be forced to consume chemically treated tap water in whatever location I happen to find myself.

In summary, we have established the undeniable fact that keeping the body properly hydrated helps remove toxins from the body while maintaining proper blood flow and organ, muscle and glandular functions; and that drinking water throughout the day, as dictated by urine color, is the best way to maintain proper hydration.

Your body will never feel as light or as clean and unpolluted as it will once it is properly hydrated. And in the process, a large portion of the on-going headache triggers that have attacked you in the past will be eliminated.

—Dr. Mark Wiley

Reference

  1. Batmanghelidj, F. (1996). Your Body’s Many Cries for Water. Falls Church, VA: Global Health Solutions, p. 11.

The Seven Causes Of Pain And Poor Health

We all experience pain, illness and disease. And we know that there are many reasons for this—some of which we have control over and some we don’t. But did you know that most people’s poor health is commonly caused by seven factors?

These factors include: imbalances, climate, emotions, diet, activity level, stress and sexual activity. Of course, this list does not include those serious conditions caused by physical trauma or viruses. However, with regard to our daily aches, pains and ailments the list is an adequate representation of causes. By considering your signs and symptoms in these terms you will be able to identify the causative factors of your pain, illness or disease and administer or receive the proper corrective therapy.

Let’s now look at some of the more prevalent illness-causes that people tend to overlook because they are prone to them every day.

1. General Imbalances
Pain, illness or disease in the body are the result of either an excess of something (e.g., too much alcohol or sex), a deficiency of something (e.g., not enough calcium or iron in the blood), or a stagnation of something (e.g., muscle spasm or constipation). The main point of any wellness program, then, should be to identify and to correct the imbalance(s). Moderation is the key, in all aspects of life… if wellbeing is to be maintained.

2. The Climate
The six climatic changes found in nature include Wind, Cold, Summer Heat, Damp, Dryness and Fire (mild heat and high heat). Under normal circumstances they do not produce adverse changes in the body. However, each sort of climate does invade the body via the skin, mouth or nose…. and in extremes can cause unbalanced (poor) health.

For example, on damp and rainy days you might feel cold and chilly and pasty; on hot summer days, you risk getting sunstroke or feeling overheated, dehydrated and tired; on cold winter days you can catch a chill, have a runny nose, experience muscle aches and pains. If left untreated (i.e., out of balance), these simple inconveniences may lead to conditions like pain, numbness, nausea and infection.

3. Your Emotions
Emotions play a vital role in both wellness and illness. While emotions are natural and important parts of life, in excess they can be damaging to the body. We are talking here of excessive feelings of joy, anger, melancholy, anxiety, grief, fear and fright.

Under ordinary conditions emotions are normal reactions to events in daily life. However, if emotional frustration is extremely abrupt, intense or persistent, and so exceeds an individual’s normal endurance, it may then produce functional disorders of the organs by upsetting the harmonious balance of energy and blood. At extremes, emotions then become the pathogenic factors, bringing on diseases.

4. Dietary Choices
In terms of diet, a way of life that allows the consumption of too much fatty and sweet food can generate internal heat and result in excessive adipose tissue (fat), phlegm and congestion, cholitis, irritable bowel syndrome.

Excessive consumption of raw or cold food can cause harm to the stomach and spleen. The cold and damp qualities of these foods may lead to the abdominal pain and loose stools.

For more on diet, you can find Dr. Wiley’s articles here, here and here.

5. Physical Activity
Normal levels of physical exertion and exercise are helpful to digestion, the movement of blood and removal of toxins and, of course, the toning of the body. However, excessive physical or mental exertion or over-indulgence in sexual activity or a lack of physical work and exercise may cause illness.

Inadequate physical work and exercise can result in low energy and slower blood flow. These can cause loss of appetite, lassitude and feebleness in the limbs, listlessness, phlegm and damp retention, obesity, as well as shortness of breath, spontaneous sweating and other secondary illnesses.

For more on physical activity, you can see Dr. Wiley’s article here.

6. Stress
Stress is one of the leading causes of illness in the United States. Indeed, nearly 66 percent of all signs and symptoms presented in doctors’ offices in the U.S. are stress induced.

The effects of stress include nail biting, anxiety, a racing mind, obsessive thoughts, compulsive behavior, unending worry, muscle tension and spasm, poor appetite or too great an appetite, digestive disorders, constipation, insomnia, poor blood flow, belabored breathing, neck pain, shoulder tension and the possible onset or continuation of bad habits such as dependence on alcohol, drugs, painkillers, food and caffeine.

For more on stress, you can read Dr. Wiley’s article here.

7. Sexual Activity
Excessive sexual activity undermines the life "essence" and kidneys. The result is general debility with aching and weakness in the lumbar region of the back and in the knees, dizziness, tinnitus, lassitude, hypo-sexuality, nocturnal emissions, premature ejaculation and impotence.

For more on sex you can read Dr. Wiley’s article here.

As you can see from the above examples, there are many things we do and don’t do on a daily basis that tax our health and affect our wellness. We could even say that much of the chronic, daily pain and suffering we experience is, in fact, self-induced. That is, it is caused or made worse by our actions, habits and emotional states.

The good news is, once you understand what is causing your non-life-threatening (yet chronic) health issues and start being mindful of your daily life, you can remove most pain and illness from your life.

—Dr. Mark Wiley

Walking And Standing: The Two Best Exercises

I am often asked what type of exercise regimen one should begin as part of a health restoration program. There are so many different types of exercises available and so many places to do them that beginning such a program can seem daunting. This is especially true for those who have lived a sedentary lifestyle for a few years.

The thrust of the advice I espouse is one of prevention by means of self-direction. This means that it is not necessary to join a gym or purchase a treadmill in order to restore health through exercise.

Indeed, immediately joining an aerobics class or churning out miles on a treadmill can actually cause pain if you are not currently “in shape.” And since we are more concerned here with changing lifestyle patterns and outlooks, it is best to start slow. Then you can build to more challenging activities as your body grows stronger and your interest grows.

I don’t personally enjoy lifting weights, jogging or aerobic exercises. However, I do train in the martial arts and engage in a regular program of qigong standing and brisk walking as mind/body exercises. Since any health approach should incorporate an integrated mind/body theme, this must be an essential component of the physical activity you choose as exercise.

In this way, in addition to burning calories, increasing oxygen intake, stabilizing blood fats and sugars and releasing those feel-good hormones, you will also develop a mind/body center that will help focus your thoughts, emotions and spirit and help reduce the stress and anxiety that often accompany ill health.

Let’s look at two exercises that are easy to do, enjoyable and will get you toned and in shape while also offering a means of connecting your mind and body. These are Brisk Walking and Qigong Standing.

Brisk Walking
If done correctly, brisk walking can be one of the safest, most beneficial and enjoyable of exercises. 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 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. It also increases respiration, heart and lung function, blood and oxygen flow and the “burning off” of blood sugars and fats. It facilitates the removal of toxins and other wastes through sweat and improved eliminative functions.

Walking is so simple and ordinary, yet in one 30-minute session you can raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL)—the good—cholesterol levels, increase respiration within safe limits, sweat out toxins, release feel-good hormones called endorphins, improve heart function, begin reducing weight, reduce stress, promote relaxation and improve overall endurance and body tone. Amazing.

Many of the triggers that attack our health can be reduced or eliminated simply by walking. And this activity only requires time, as no special place need be made to do it—though it is preferable to walk in a park as opposed to a busy city sidewalk.

Though walking in and of itself is a common activity, few of us do it properly. In fact, walking as we naturally do will do little for our purposes. You must look to walking as a mind/body activity, wherein your mind is clear, emotions calm, respiration steady, body properly aligned and relaxed and each walking step even and balanced. If you are able to integrate each of these components while briskly walking for at least 30 minutes a day, then your walks can be considered a microcosm of an integrated mind/body approach to health and wellness

Qigong Standing
Qigong is an ancient Chinese mind/body discipline that seeks to establish a healthy body by developing the so-called three treasures and three regulations. The three treasures are known in Chinese as jing (essence), qi (vital energy) and shen (spirit).

Jing is simply the body’s energy that is derived from glucogen and turned into glucose that is used to propel the body during any physical activity.

Qi has a number of meanings, many of which are esoteric and difficult to comprehend in Western terms. However, all of these meanings and definitions involve the coordination of breath or respiration with concentration.

Shen encompasses the many functions of the mind and your emotions and disposition.

Qigong, then, is primarily concerned with focus, intention and thought, as it is the intention that leads the breath to develop energy to power the body to then help make us healthy.

I have found that despite the hundreds of qigong practices, they all have a similar theme. Therefore, the more simple the qigong system the better (especially for busy Americans).

I have chosen to describe here the method known as zhanzhuang, or simply the “standing pole” method. It requires only enough space to stand still, and it is so simple that you will not be distracted by having to remember specific sequences of movement.

In a nutshell, this practice is as easy as standing with your legs a shoulder’s width apart with the knees bent only one or two inches and with both arms bent and held at the same level. Below are three standing postures for you to do in sequence.

1. Hand Floating On Water Hold your arms out to their respective sides, palms facing down. Try to visualize that your palms are floating on water. Be sure to keep them in place and not move them during the exercise.

2. Hugging A Tree From the previous posture, slowly raise your arms to chest level while pulling them inward. You want to feel as if you are hugging a tree, which is a mental image to keep your arms from coming too close to the body. Relax your hands and elbows and wrists, again like they are floating on water.

3. Holding Up The Sky From the previous posture, slowly rotate your palm outward while lifting your arms upward. The final position should find your hands at about forehead height, extended slightly forward and upward, as if holding up the sky from falling.

Once each posture is assumed, do the following steps:

  • Quiet the mind by not stressing over distracting thoughts that may come—simply allow them to go freely without passing judgment.
  • Regulate respiration by quietly breathing in and out at a steady relaxed pace. Now enjoy yourself for the next nine minutes.
  • After nine minutes, slowly move your arm position to the next posture. Do not excite your mind or move your legs as this will distract your energy and intention.

Sounds simple, but so much is going on. Here is a quote from Traditional Chinese Therapeutic Exercises—Standing Pole, by Wang Xuanjei and J.P.C. Moffett:

“Standing pole is an exercise of the whole body. As the outer form of the body is not moved, all the internal organs settle, while all metabolic functions increase. This develops movement within non-movement, that is, unhindered internal activity and movement within external stillness. It is a non-violent and non-overburdening exercise, simultaneously providing rest and exercise, easily adaptable to any condition and encouraging development of the body’s innate strengths and abilities in a natural way.”

You see, while it appears as if you are doing nothing at all, in actuality the body is engaged in a process of physical activity. While quieting the mind and regulating respiration you are reducing stress, relaxing the cerebral cortex and rejuvenating the central nervous system. You are also working muscles by virtue of maintaining an isometric posture wherein the knees and elbows are bent, the arms are raised and this position held steady without release until the end of the session. This elevates heart rate without overtaxing the heart, improves the circulation of blood and oxygen throughout the body and increases metabolic functions while releasing toxins and tension from the body.

You’ll be surprised to find how difficult merely standing still can be. To be honest, most people have difficulty standing still (unmoving/frozen) for more than five minutes. Whether you think you’re already fit, or in need of more tone… give qigong a try. The results may surprise you.

Go ahead and take a brisk 30-minute walk and later that day or the next day, stand still for 30 minutes. You may find you’ve never felt better.

—Dr. Mark Wiley

How To Stretch… Correctly!

Regular stretching is necessary for optimal health. The cause of many avoidable aches and pains is lack of suppleness and excess tightness in the muscles. Not stretching is a problem, yet stretching the incorrect way is also a problem.

Many athletes and active people stretch before or after their activity yet still experience muscle pulls and tendon tears. The problem is they’ve been taught the wrong way to stretch since childhood. Incorrect stretching can lead to pulls and tears of muscles, tendons and ligaments. And most people, when they feel their muscles are painful or tight, will (incorrectly) stretch them more in the hopes of stretching through the problem. But they are only exacerbating it.

In this article I am going to give you guidelines for stretching correctly. I will explain two different methods to do so: one for lay people who want to feel good and the other for more active people or athletes whose activities require flexibility.

Stretching To Feel Good
For people with any kind of localized or general acute or chronic pain, stretching is a must. Sitting on a chair all day—whether at a desk, in a car or on the couch—leads to shortening of various muscles in the body.

The position of sitting often shortens the piriformis muscles, which lie underneath the gluteus muscles. Tightened piriformis can make the pelvis rotate off center, which can cause hip pain, leg pain and low back pain. Sitting slouched on the sofa or chair can cause pain across the mid back rhomboids and also the levator scapula and trapezius muscles. Sleeping with your head placed incorrectly or typing or reading while looking down can cause tightening of the many neck muscles.

The simple fact is that even without engaging in athletic activities, the muscles of the body tighten as a result of our daily activities. And chronic tightening can cause chronic pain, tension and soreness. Stretching is the answer.

Stretching for the purposes of wellness (as opposed to athletic activity) should be done slowly, rhythmically and quietly. In this regard you stretch to feel good, not to gain flexibility. Here are the guidelines:

  1. Isolate the muscle or muscle group you want to stretch.
  2. Find the position where you feel the very first sign of tightening or pulling in the muscle group.
  3. Remain still and wait patiently for that sensation to disappear.
  4. Only then do you lean or bend further in the direction of the stretch.
  5. Again feel the first sign of the stretch, and repeat the steps above.

There are many good books on the market that give the positions for stretching. Most of them should suffice, as long as there is no undue pressure put on any joint. You are probably safe doing some basic techniques you already know. To stretch correctly you must not rush, must not push to where it hurts and you must patiently await the muscle’s natural release of tension.

Stretching For Flexibility
Athletes often injure themselves by stretching improperly. Either they warm up a bit before engaging in their activity and then stretch afterward, or they stretch too much in the beginning and not enough at the end of it.

It is imperative that athletes warm up thoroughly and then stretch properly prior to the activity and after the activity. Athletes must warm up to stimulate blood flow and increase body temperature to allow the muscles to become supple.

Then stretching to elongate the muscle resting length can begin so the activity does not tear anything. After the activity the athlete should stretch in order to soothe the muscles and help prevent them from cramping.

Sounds time consuming, I know, but doesn’t chronic pain take more time from you?

For athletes I recommend a method of stretching called muscle energy technique (MET). This is similar to proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF), but is not as rigorous and potentially damaging to the athlete if done incorrectly. And remember, correct stretching is what is important. Here’s what you do:

  1. Isolate the muscle or muscle group you want to stretch.
  2. Find the position where you feel the very first sign of tightening or pulling in the muscle group.
  3. Apply resistance for that muscle in the opposite direction you are trying to stretch into.
  4. Only apply 20 percent of your strength in the resistance. Maintain a steady pressure at that level for seven to 14 seconds.
  5. Release the resistance, but do not allow your stretching limb to change position by either flexing or extending. Wait five seconds.
  6. Slowly glide deeper into your stretch, until you feel the next level of pull, and repeat the above steps.

While many of the MET stretches require a partner, enough of them can be done alone. Since PNF stretches are gaining more publicity these days you can pick up a book or video on them. But use the MET method above.

Essentially they are the same, but PNF requires more force for a longer duration and from deeper positions. MET is the way to go, especially if you are not properly trained in PNF and want to avoid injuries. Moreover, simply relaxing into the stretch is too time consuming for athletes who need the extra time to warm up and cool down.

—Dr. Mark Wiley