The Tongue Tells All

The tongue is an amazing body part. It helps us speak, eat, keeps the mouth and lips moist and, by its condition, tells us our state of health. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), examining the tongue is one of the primary diagnostic tools. Yet in Western medicine it is largely ignored, with the physician using a depressor to hold it down to look past the tongue and at the throat.

The tongue offers TCM practitioners an unusual keyhole into which they can learn various things about the state of your organs, blood and interior body. It displays clues on its surface that reflect various things, such as relative degrees of blood movement, qi (energy) strength, dampness, heat, toxicity and so on.

These things manifest on the tongue precisely because the tongue first comes into contact with the food we eat, and this food changes our bodies on daily basis. The tongue, according to TCM theory, is also “the outlet of the heart.” As such the color of the tongue is related to the state of the blood. For example, a pale-colored tongue can indicate a basic blood deficiency or anemia.

When a TCM practitioner examines the tongue they are looking at such things as body color, texture, coating, cracks, lines, teeth marks and relative moisture or lack there of.

Following are examples of 10 different syndromes and the tongues they manifest, what they mean and what symptoms may be present.

Which Tongue Are you?

Normal—A normal tongue is pink in color, is moist, has no deep cracks or lines and perhaps a thin white coat or no coating at all.

Blood Stasis—A person experiencing blood stasis may experience such symptoms as cold limbs, varicose veins, painful legs, headaches, chest pain and liver spots and their skin may lack its normal luster. Their tongue body color will be purple and may have black spots on it.

Blood Deficiency—A person experiencing blood deficiency may experience symptoms such as dizziness, fatigue, palpitations, poor concentration and memory, insomnia and women’s health issues. Their tongue will be pale and have very little, if any, coating.

Qi Deficiency—A person who is experiencing qi deficiency may have such symptoms as fatigue, poor appetite, spontaneous sweating, shortness of breath, over-thinking or worrying. Their tongue body will be pale, have a few red dots on it, a thin white coating and have teeth marks on its edges.

Qi Stagnation—A person experiencing qi stagnation may be stressed, have a tendency to be depressed or upset, have a general unstable emotional state and experience premenstrual tension syndrome. Their tongue will have a thin white coating and its tip will be red.

Damp Retention—A person experiencing damp retention may have such symptoms as bloating, feeling of fullness in the chest, abdominal fullness and a feeling of being heavy or lethargic. Their tongue will be pink and swollen and the center will have a greasy white coating.

Heat—A person experiencing heat will feel hot, sweat easily, be thirsty, constipated, irritable, bad tempered and have skin problems. Their tongue body will be red and they will have a thin yellow coating on it.

Damp Heat—A person experiencing damp heat will usually have skin problems, urinary tract infections, clammy skin and be angry and uncomfortable. Their tongue will be red with a greasy yellow coating.

Yang Deficiency—A person with yang deficiency may easily feel cold, tend to need warming up, have a pale complexion, back pain, may panic easily, have low emotional feelings and possibly be impotence or infertile.

Yin Deficiency—A person experiencing a yin deficiency may have hot flashes, night sweats (as in menopause), insomnia, irritability, ringing in the ears and irregular menstruation. Their tongue will be red, have many cracks in it and have little or no coating at all.

Now that you have a basic idea of the ways in which various health issues manifest on your tongue, have a look at it. I examine mine in a mirror every morning to decide how my body is doing and what I should eat for breakfast and lunch.

My tongue tells me a lot about myself. What does yours say about your health?

—Dr. Mark Wiley

Can The Way You Sleep Cause Pain?

How To Position Your Body During Sleep for Less Pain

We all know why sleep is good for you. It relaxes the body, calms the nervous system, regulates breathing and induces the relaxation response. It allows the body some down time to repair itself.

The power of restorative rest and sleep is strong and wide reaching. In fact, symptoms of diseases like fibromyalgia, migraine headaches, chronic fatigue and the flu are decreased while we sleep. But did you know that improper sleep can be a cause of pain and suffering? Poor sleeping posture is the reason for this.

While there are many ways to sleep and many products that allow us to sleep in those ways, there are actually only two healthy positions for engaging in sound slumber. Before we look at those let’s review some of the more common sleeping positions and why they are harmful to the body.

Stomach Sleeping
Stomach sleepers, well… sleep on their stomachs. Usually they have one or both arms extended over their heads, their face turned either to the left or right side, and one leg is generally bent.

There are so many problems with this posture. First, sleeping with the arms extended over the head raises the shoulders into the neck, causing cramping, poor circulation and pain. It also skews the trapezius muscles and skeletal system, compressing the thoracic outlet where the brachial plexus of nerves from the neck travel down the arms to the hands.

Secondly, when the arms are raised the nerves are irritated and nerve function is either inhibited or excited. It’s a neurological and vascular response that affects the brachial plexus of nerves that travels from the neck and down the arms. The effect is tingling and/or numbness in the arms or hands. Ever make up with pins and needles in the hands or a “dead” arm? This may be why.

Third, sleeping with the neck turned to one side creates unbalanced muscles, wherein one side is hypertonic (contracted) and the other is hypotonic (extended). This leads to neck strain, cramping, pain and often headaches.

Fourth, the bent leg stretches one leg and hip all night, while the other remains prone. Again, we have imbalance that can lead to hip pain and leg pain.

And last, but certainly not least, stomach sleeping offers too little support for the abdomen, allowing the stomach to fall forward and the lumbar region of the back to sag. This can make your gut seem bigger than it is, simply because of poor sleeping posture. It also created spinal compression and lower back pain.

Comfortable or not; this position has got to go.

Back Sleeping
Back sleepers are onto something. The back is one of the two best ways to sleep because it can offer solid support for your entire musculoskeletal system.

Problems arise for back sleepers, however, when they do not place pillows under their knees. If you are lying on your back and your legs are straight, there is insufficient support for the lower back allowing it to arch too high.

If you sleep on your back with one leg bent, you probably experience the same hip, lower back and/or knee strain and pain as do the stomach sleepers who sleep in this way.

You should always place two pillows under your knees for support and one pillow under your head. Keep in mind, too, that pillows are for sleeping support, and not just for comfort. Your head should be placed squarely on your pillow, and the pillow should be pulled down enough so that it touches your shoulders. If your pillow is not touching your shoulders you run the risk of not supporting the cervical vertebrae and neck muscles and pain can result from spasm or nerve impingement.

Side Sleeping
Side sleeping gets my vote for best sleeping position… if done correctly. To begin, side posture should mimic the fetal position. That is, both knees bent and with hands held close to the body. This is a normal and inherent sleeping posture.

Errors in side sleeping occur when one leg overlaps the other. This causes an imbalance in the hips that can lead to tightness and pain in the hip flexors, IT band, low back and knees.

Another common error is sleeping with hands under or over the head and scrunching the pillow so your head is elevated. Symptoms from this can include neck and shoulder pain, stiffness, headaches, tingly or numbness in the arms or hands.

Side sleeping is the best because it allows the body to maintain a proper and corrective posture for several hours. What you should do is place a pillow between your knees to create proper distance between them, thus keeping the hips in proper balance. The legs must be parallel, so the hips remain square and there is no strain on the low back. A pillow should be placed under the head and pulled to the shoulder for optimal neck support. The hands should be parallel and below the eyes.

Who knew there was so much to sleeping posture? I’ll bet if you give these corrections a try then after a while your daily neck strain, shoulder pain, headaches, hip and low back pain and arm tingling may just start to correct itself.

Sweet dreams!

— Dr. Mark Wiley

Piriformis Syndrome Followup: Four Ways To Release The Lower Back

Last week’s article on piriformis syndrome, Your Lower Back Pain Or Sciatica Might Actually Be Piriformis Syndrome, created quite a bit of interest from readers wanting to know more. Indeed, it seems many people who think they are suffering sciatica or other lower back pain ailments are actually feeling the side effects of a tightened piriformis muscle. And while many physicians are quick to throw drugs and surgery at such problems, many times the answer is as simple as releasing lower back muscular constriction, which is in large part due to piriformis syndrome.

Today’s article is a response to the many queries we received on this syndrome and exercises that will help. Below I would like to share with you four sets of therapeutic corrective exercises you can do on your own.

If you can manage to perform these three times per day, in just a few days you will begin to feel lasting relief. After just a few weeks the body will self-correct and imbalances in posture due to muscular-skeletal issues related to piriformis syndrome should be corrected. Let’s look at each exercise now.

1. Pelvic Tilting
Pelvic Tilting

The purpose of this exercise is to warm up the area of the lower back by bringing heat and blood into the lumbar and sacral areas. Begin by sitting on a firm chair, toward the front with feet planted firmly on the ground (fig. 1). Allow your body to slouch slowly by titling your pelvis forward. Allow around three seconds to tilt to full slouch then hold that position for three seconds (fig. 2). Next, tilt your pelvis backward, swaying your low back to lift your upper body upward. Allow three seconds to reach full height then hold that position for three seconds (fig. 3). Repeat this slouch-and-sway movement set continuously for a total of 30 repetitions.

2. Piriformis & Hip Flexor Stretches
Piriformis & Hip Flexor Stretches

This next set of stretches works on releasing tightness in the piriformis and gluteus muscles in an effort to release compression on the sciatic nerve. Begin by sitting on a firm chair, toward the front with feet planted firmly on the ground (fig. 4). Place the ankle of your right foot over the knee of your left foot. Many of you will have very tight hips and using your hands to hold the leg in place will help here (fig. 5). Allow your hips to relax in this position for 10 seconds before pulling your knee toward your chest with both hands (fig. 6). Hold this stretch position for 10 seconds then release the knee slowly to its former position. Next, press your right hand down on your right knee, holding for a count of 10 seconds (fig. 7). Release and relax for 10 seconds, then press again this time counter-pressing your right knee into your right palm for 10 seconds (fig. 8). Release the contraction and relax in position for 10 seconds. Lastly, rest your forearms on the thighs of their respective sides and bed forward from the waist (fig. 9). Hold the forward position for 10 seconds then slowly return to the starting position (fig. 4). Perform this sequence, slowly and steadily, for a total of three repetitions.

Remember to repeat with the opposite leg.

3. Balanced Squats
Balanced Squats

Now that the previous exercises have warmed up the body and loosened the hips, we can continue with these squats. Stand up straight with feet a shoulder’s-width apart, toes pointing forward and holding onto a steady chair or counter for balance (fig. 10). Slowly and steadily bend your knees and flex your hips to lower your buttocks toward the floor (fig. 11). It is important to keep your knees behind your toes while lowering for balance and also to avoid straining the knees (fig. 12). Hold the lowest position to can maintain without using the chair as a crutch (it is for balance, not resting on). Hold this lower position for five to 10 seconds (fig. 13), then slowly and steadily rise to the starting position (fig. 10). Relax in the upright position for 10 seconds then repeat the squat for a total of three to six times, as your ability allows.

4. Gravity Leg Hanging
Gravity Leg Hang

Now that the muscles and tendons are looser and blood is moving we can move on to the final “stretch” exercise in this series. Begin by lying on your left side close to the edge of the sofa, with a pillow under your head for support (fig. 14). Create an X-shape by reaching back with your right hand to grab the cushions (or bed sheets) for balance. Slowly slide your right leg off the sofa, stretching the quadratus lumboratum (fig. 15). Allow the leg to drop as it will—do not strain—and allow gravity to work. Because this is a “passive” stretch, the muscles in the lower back will release quickly as your body will sense little threat to the position. Hold for one minute before slowly returning to the starting posture. Next, lie with your back facing out, grabbing a cushion (or sheets) for balance (fig. 16). Slowly allow your right leg to slide backward off the sofa, stretching the psoas muscles to balance the frontal stretch (fig. 17). Again, allow gravity to do its things as you relax in this position for one minute. Do this only once then change sides and repeat with the left leg.

As a rule, even though pain is felt in a specific area or a diagnosis for something has been given; other areas are also responsible for the imbalance. With regard to sciatica and lower back pain, piriformis syndrome is often the likely candidate.

However, stretching only the piriformis muscles will not in itself be the answer to the problem. Other muscles like the tensor fascia latte, quadratus lumboratum, gluteus medius and maximus and the psoas also play a role in creating imbalances. While it is the piriformis muscle that compresses the sciatic nerve, it does not become tight or in spasm on its own. The other muscles must also be released from spasm and returned to normal resting position to allow the piriformis to also relax. By taking 10-15 minutes to do the above simple stretches at least once, but ideally three times per day, you will feel relief in no time; without drugs and without surgery.

— Dr. Mark Wiley

Your Lower Back Pain Or Sciatica Might Actually Be Piriformis Syndrome

How often do you hear yourself saying things like: “I have hip pain,” “My lower back hurts,” “Pain is shooting down my leg,” “There’s numbness and/or tingling on the top of my foot,” “I have sciatica,” and so on…

Well, you’re not alone. In fact, these are frequently recited phrases in doctors’ offices, physical therapy clinics and healing centers the world over. When patients present their symptoms to me they offer many of those descriptions and curative measures they’ve been instructed to carry out. Their physician has told them to take anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprophen, or to use ice. Sometime the doctor recommends physical therapy, wherein the therapist designs a series of strengthening exercises to solve the problem.

By the time the problem reaches my office, the patient has already swallowed the over-the-counter pills and gone through a lengthy course of physical therapy or chiropractic care… all with little lasting effects. Sometimes the problem has become worse.

When I hear phrases like those mentioned above, I already know what the person has “tried” prior to seeing me. I also know that they will tell me the problem is not “fixed.” If it was they would not be here. The first thing I do is perform a series of orthopedic tests on their piriformis, a muscle largely overlooked by the mainstream medical community.

The Piriformis MuscleThe piriformis muscle originates at the front of the sacrum (the part of the spinal column that is directly connected with or forms a part of the pelvis). It passes out of the pelvis through the greater sciatic foramen. It inserts into the upper border of the greater trunchanter (ball) of the femoral shaft (thigh bone). It is used to rotate the thigh laterally when such a motion is called for.

What this means is that this one muscle, if dysfunctional, has the ability to negatively affect a number of places on the hip, low back, legs and feet. Since the piriformis attaches the femur to the sacrum, if it is hypertonic (tight, contracted, in spasm) it can cause the foot to splay. That is, the foot of one or both legs will tend to point outward when walking. And this causes pain in the hip.

If the piriformis is contracted it can compress the sciatic nerve, thus causing what is described as “shooting leg pain.” Often, those who are diagnosed with sciatica actually have piriformis syndrome. Sure their X-rays may show some disc herniation, and the doctors will tell the patient that is the cause and recommend surgery. But this is not necessarily the case.

People live the entire lives with disc herniations and have no pain from them. So the presence of herniation uncovered by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) when sciatica is present is a correlation and not necessary a cause and effect situation.

When the piriformis tightens it can also cause the hips to rotate either to one side or diagonally, thus causing the pelvis to be askew, which can be a cause of both lower back pain and hip pain.

On the other hand, if the piriformis is too loose or flexible (hypotonic), it will cause slack in the connection of bones and allow play to occur. This can irritate nerves and muscles and cause severe pain.

So how does the piriformis become too tight or too loose? Well, the most common cause is sitting for prolonged periods of time. The human body was designed to stand and walk, not sit with 90-degree flexion at the hips and knees. When sitting, the muscles, tendons and ligaments in the front of the pelvis become hypertonic (shortened), and those on the rear become hypotonic (elongated). Elongated muscles tend to contract naturally as a defense against poor posture and this results in spasms.

Sitting for prolonged periods at a desk or while driving a car also reduces the amount of blood and body fluids moving through the contracted areas of the waist. In Chinese medicine we call this “stasis” or blockage of blood, fluids and energy. And where there is no free flow there is pain. Conversely, where there is free flow there is no pain. If you want to get rid of the pain you need to release the tension and allow flow.

I see hypotonic (hyperextended) piriformis in some yoga practitioners who are either too eager in the stretching exercises or are under the misguidance of an unqualified teacher. Muscles should be stretched only within their normal range of motion. When stretched too far they can become torn or slack and this causes pain and injury.

And while strengthening exercises such as those used in physical therapy are good, strengthening a muscle that is hypertonic is asking too much of it while in its dysfunctional state. It is better to go through a regimen of stretching, Thai yoga massage, muscle energy technique or tui-na Chinese bodywork to first work out the hyper tonicity before strengthening the muscle.

The next time your low back, hip, buttocks, leg, shin or foot is bothering you, ask your physician/healer/therapist about the possibility of the piriformis being the culprit. It just might be, and getting a jump on it early on will shorten the healing process and prevent the problem from becoming chronic.

— Dr. Mark Wiley

What’s In Your Food?

You’re in the food store and get lost in all the claims about what is healthy and not healthy for you. So you make your way to a vitamin shop or Whole Foods and try your luck there. But when you grab a bag of this, or a bar of that and turn it to check out the label… you are just as lost. What IS all that stuff in there?

In this article I’d like to discuss the worst and the best ingredients in the so-called healthy bars and drinks. I hope you will find this information helpful in your healthful shopping adventures for the healthiest foods for you and your family.

MSG—These initials mean Monosodium Glutamate. It is the main flavor enhancer in your local Chinese take-out place. Like Mrs. Dash, MSG enhances flavor especially in frozen and processed foods… and causes people who are allergic to it to experience headaches, rashes and muscle pains. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics removed MSG from all products for infants under the age of one after injections into lab animals showed nerve cell damage!

Despite the fact that MSG has been proven a poisonous substance, it is so widely used that you might not even think where it might be. Cans of tuna? You bet! Turkey breast cold cuts? Absolutely, in some brands! And the result: an increase in neurodegerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, a serious rise in cases of asthma, Parkinson’s disease, migraine headaches and heart trouble.

Bottom line: Stay away from MSG. Check the label of everything you buy and avoid the brands that include it. And when ordering food from a restaurant, they are obligated by law to NOT include MSG if you specifically tell them you are allergic. Sounds like a plan.

Maltodextrin—Maltodextrin is essentially a powder derived from potatoes or corn and when combined with other spices and ingredients it becomes a tasty coating for snack foods. This powder food additive is found in items like flavored potato chips, pretzels and crackers.

While the FDA says this chemical is “safe,” it does not label it as being either healthy or unhealthy. That is, the content amount found in food is so low that it barely counts. Yet, in large quantities it is not healthy. So what is “non toxic” in one bag of chips may not be so healthy when one eats several bags of chips, pretzels, crackers in the course of a week, a month or a year.

And while the matodextrin processed in North America is derived from potato and corn, the Asian equivalent is manufactured from wheat and is thus not gluten free. This means that if you are prone to migraine headaches, candida or have Celiac disease… you should stay away from snacks imported from Asia.

Again, check the labels. If an item contains maltodextrin it will say so and if it contains the wheat-based form, this must also be noted on the package. In moderation, the sweet or savory aspect of this additive can be delightful. But over-consumption is unhealthy. Not just because it is a chemical but because the foods it is used to flavor are, themselves, not on the diet plan of any serious wellness program!

High Fructose Corn Syrup—This sweetener has been called the main culprit in the rise in childhood obesity in the United States… but has been given a clean bill by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Talk about bipolar! No wonder we don’t know what is going on with our health. Well, here’s the scoop…

High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is corn syrup that has undergone enzymatic processing to convert its glucose into fructose. This fructose has then been mixed with regular corn syrup, which is 100 percent glucose, and the result is a sweet liquid known as HFCS.

This liquid is the sweetener found in just about every cold beverage in your local convenience store, including iced tea, sodas and energy drinks. Not only that, but it is also found in so-called healthy foods like tomato soup and yogurt, and less healthy items such as salad dressings and cookies.

Yes it’s true that the FDA did a 30-year study and found a correlation between HFCS and obesity and that it is worse for your health than plain sugar. Yet the Corn Refiners Association has launched an aggressive advertising campaign to counter these criticisms, claiming that HFCS "is natural" and "has the same natural sweeteners as table sugar.”

Well, if you have any questions, just look to two of the largest-consumed beverages, Pepsi and Snapple. Both have ditched the nasty stuff and gone back to sweetening their drinks with plain old sugar. Stay away from the HFCS, it will make you fatter than sugar!

Partially Hydrogenated Oils—Whatever you do, stay clear of hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils. They are unnatural and very unhealthy. You see, the original oil is subjected to hydrogenation, which changes its molecular structure. This allows the oil molecules to harden thus giving it a longer shelf life, which is why manufacturers like it. But the changed oils are actually closer to plastic than to oil, and the hydrogenation process kills the omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids, which are the healthy parts of the original oils.

What this means is that the body does not get the desired antioxidant affect of consuming oils, and the new hydrogenated oils are then treated in the body as fatty foods that the bloodstream can’t process. The result is fat stored in the body. Excess storage of fat in the body and arterial plaque build-up, then, are the big issues with partially hydrogenated oils.

Avoid foods containing partially hydrogenated oils at all costs. Check the labels on spreads, crackers, cookies, cakes and even some so-called fruit snacks.

The bottom line is you should eat natural foods and fresh foods and always read the labels. When in doubt, write down the ingredient and do an online search. You just might be surprised at what you find!

The ones listed above are the worst ingredients found in the foods you eat. These are the “foods” that the FDA says are okay to feed Americans. Yet, we are becoming sicker faster than ever before and suffering long, slow deaths from heart disease, obesity and high cholesterol levels.

Now I want to tell you about the best ingredients to look for in the foods you eat. These are among the best foods you can eat and should be included in your daily diet. Let’s take a look at what they are.

Whole Grain–­Before we get to whole grain, let’s first look at “enriched flour” products. These are the breads and rolls and pastas that are first stripped of their outer grain portion, removed of their nutrients and bleached of their natural color. The product is so poor and so value-less that they are “enriched” with vitamins and nutrients. Ridiculous! Forget these products, they are scams and unnatural.

What you should be grabbing for are whole grain products. These are carbohydrates that are made from the entire grain and contain the original vitamins, nutrients and fiber and are thus good for digestive regularity, normal blood sugar levels, healthy cholesterol levels and optimal brain function.

When checking out the ingredients on carbohydrate products, looks for those where the first ingredient listed says whole grain, whole wheat, whole meal or whole corn. These will be in the form of bread, pastas, hot cereals, brown rice, bulger, buckwheat, spelt and wild rice. The United States Department Of Agriculture (USDA) suggests that each of us get at least three servings of whole grains every day.

Soy Lecithin—A product of soybean oil and also extracted from soya beans, soy lecithin is used as an emulsifier in prepared foods. It keeps chocolate from crumbling or splintering, helps dough rise in baked goods and keeps spreadable “butters” and cheeses from separating.

This product has passed the muster of the American Dietetic Association. It was found not only safe, but also good for you. As a result, soy lecithin also comes in supplement form. You see, it’s packed with choline, which is found in eggs and is known to boost brain development while also preventing heart disease, lowering cholesterol and helps treat dementia. Not too shabby.

The bottom line is, the USDA says soy lecithin is a safe emulsifier. And keeping your intake below 3.5 grams per day will yield no known side effects. So if you have to grab a bite of a processed food, look for this as its ‘hold it together’ ingredient. Better yet… go for whole, unprocessed foods instead.

Disodium Phosphate—The liver and gallbladder are so important to your health and wellness. They help purify blood and break down toxins and fats. As far as food preservatives go, disodium phosphate is one of the better ones. In fact, it helps maintain proper pH levels in the body as well as metabolizing cholesterol.

Disodium phosphate is found in products such as frozen hash browns (to keep their brown color), canned tuna (for buffering and chelating), poultry and pork (as a scalding agent) and potato products (as a sequestrant).

On the whole it is best to avoid preservatives in foods as they are generally toxic to the body and harmful to the liver. However, disodium phosphate actually supports liver and gallbladder function and has properties that foster good health. So, go ahead and eat limited amounts of preserved meats, fish and potato products—just be sure they are preserved with disodium phosphate and nothing else.

Riboflavin—Who doesn’t know how vital the B vitamins are to the body? Like magnesium, the B-complex vitamins are essential to so many vital functions of the body. And riboflavin (B2) is among the most important of the group.

In fact, a deficiency of riboflavin can cause nervous system disorders and lesions on the skin and digestive tract. This water-soluble vitamin helps maintain normal cell function and proper metabolism and aids in the production of energy.

Vitamin B2 is found in both plant and animal tissue. As such, if you eat a well-balanced diet there will be no need to take a supplement containing this vitamin. Riboflavin can be found in meat, green vegetables and dairy products.

In conclusion, there are many healthy and unhealthy foods out there. But even among prepared foods, there can be healthy options. The choice is yours to make. So next time you are out shopping, or running to grab a quick snack, check the labels. Look for those foods containing whole grains, soy lecithin, disodium phosphate and riboflavin. They can do a body good!

Dr. Mark Wiley

How Traditional Chinese Medicine Can Help You

I am often asked by patients, friends and acquaintances whether or not I think traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) can help them with their problem. My answer is always a resounding yes. Help comes in many forms and many levels, and TCM offers health rewards in abundance. Here is how TCM can help you and why you should look into it.

To begin, traditional Chinese medicine offers, as its foundation, the promise of homeostasis. That is the understanding that the body wishes to exist in balance, that only imbalance causes pain, illness and disease, and that uncovering and balancing the imbalance is the only way to truly “cure” one’s self of anything.

Did you every wonder why ibuprofen worked for your pain yesterday but today it seems to do nothing? Have you ever wondered why sometimes you get headaches at the front of your head, while at other times it’s on top or on the sides of the head? Why last month your pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) had you buckled over with cramps yet this month there is little cramping but lots of headache pain?

That is because the imbalances in your body are different at different times, and pain and illness are born out of those imbalances. Thus, taking the same medicine for a frontal headache as one at the base of the skull is nonsensical. Treating PMS this month the same as you did last month, even though the symptoms are different, just doesn’t add up. And when you do find relief it’s only temporary and the problem comes back another day.

TCM can help you with this. Actually, knowledge of TCM theories or an examination at the hands of a qualified practitioner can help you. This branch of medicine helps by identifying the specific imbalances in your body that are allowing the health symptoms to exist. Once the imbalances are identified they are viewed and understood as a pattern. And these patterns have different signs and symptoms attached to them. What’s more, the methods used to balance the pattern of imbalance are different. And it is these specific pattern-identifiable methods that will eradicate the health concern.

You might think it is difficult, in the throws of innumerable signs and symptoms that have persisted over many years or decades, to be able to identify a pattern. I often hear the following: “I have no pattern. I watch my health and there is no pattern of why or when the symptom arises, like when it rains or I don’t get enough sleep.”

That’s not the type of pattern I am speaking of here.

For TCM, pattern means a grouping of signs and symptoms that are matched with the patient’s specific pulse and tongue geography, skin tone and complexion, etc. It’s like opening the cupboard and finding crackers, soup cans, tuna and cereal, and opening the refrigerator and finding salami, milk, mayonnaise, bread, celery, mustard and butter.

The untrained eye would say there are a lot of unrelated things. The trained eye would see a complete recipe (pattern) for a tuna salad sandwich and soup and crackers amongst the clutter. TCM practitioners are trained to identify patterns of imbalance from the clutter of signs and symptoms.

Once the pattern is identified the practitioner can be certain of the underlying cause of the health symptoms, be they hemorrhoids, osteoporosis, insomnia or PMS. Once a pattern is discerned the signs and symptoms are intellectually set aside and focus is placed on what is needed to balance the imbalance, to return the body to homeostasis. That is, to make the body healthy.

Methods of healing are then prescribed such as medicated diet therapy (knowing which foods to eat and which to avoid to help the situation); Qigong energy work (self-regulating exercises and clinically administered treatments) to balance energy in the body; herbal therapy in the form of teas and pills to balance organs, blood and fluids, resolve masses and remove obstructions from the body; stretching and strengthening exercises to correct somatic imbalances that cause pain; mind/body exercises to quiet the mind, center the spirit, induce the relaxation response, reduce stress and so on.

The main things TCM can help you with are identifying what environment within your body is allowing ill health to remain there, and what you can do specifically and synergistically to return the body to homeostasis and live at optimal health.

Yes, the theories and concepts of traditional Chinese medicine are foreign and seem odd to Westerners. Yes, it takes an open mind to listen to a practitioner of these healing systems tell you about your health in terms you may not understand.

However, if you allow yourself to listen and then do research based on what you are told, you may find that the seemingly strange-sounding syndromes espoused in TCM are actually simple paradigms of health that can be shifted and resolved toward better health.

—Dr. Mark Wiley

No Difference: How Marketing Claims Don’t Hold Up

You heard the news and you bought the product. The promise of a liquid soap that can kill bacteria—99 percent of bacteria—was too good to pass up. Billions of consumer dollars later, and now experts say the claim is false.

According to the Associated Press (AP), a federal advisory panel found anti-bacterial soaps to be no more effective than regular soap and water.

Companies manufacturing these hand soaps are now being warned: Prove your claims or remove them from the packaging.

Hard to believe, isn’t it? Years of promoting liquid anti-bacterial soap as the answer to killing disease-causing germs—and now without the need for water! Some brands offer the type that is loaded with alcohol and dissolves dry right on your hands!

Yet an 11 to 1 vote by the panel that advises the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concluded that they “saw no added benefits to anti-bacterials when compared with soapy hand washing.”

The irony? The advisory board also said that these anti-bacterial soaps are made from synthetic chemicals that could actually contribute to the growth of a strain of bacteria that is resistant to antibiotics.

That’s right; the soap that bills to kill 99 percent of germs is causing new super germs that our antibiotics can’t handle! Each year the flu virus gets worse and “anti-bacterial” soaps and cleaners just may be one of the causes.

Yet the advisory panel made no suggestion to the FDA to remove the products from consumer shelves. Their argument for allowing the products to remain is that their true risks versus benefits have not yet been determined.

But Dr. Alastair Wood, chairman of the Nonprescription Drugs Advisory Committee, said: “There’s no evidence they are a good value.”

And Dr. Mary E. Tinetti, another panelist, said unless these products can show benefits over soap and water there could be a strong movement to remove them from the market.

For now the FDA is considering what action to take. The so-called anti-bacterial soaps actually do clean your hands. And they are just as effective in doing so as regular soap and water. Yet, whether they kill 99 percent of bacteria and whether they are safe isn’t the problem. So, the FDA may vote to have such claims simply removed from the packaging for now.

You see, where anti-bacterials kill germs on the spot, soap and water separates them from the skin for rinsing down the drain. But they both do the same job of cleaning. Neither is more effective than the other.

And while the manufacturers of such products state that their benefits are better than soap and that consumers at home and at work need “choices” when deciding on what they clean with, they offer no proof to substantiate their claims.

And so the FDA is awaiting industry members to present substantial evidence that the anti-bacterials do as they claim and are not harmful to the consumers using them.

Until then, the choice is yours. And here’s another choice: mass produced vs. organic food.

A recent study suggests that organic food is no better than mass produced food… at least in terms of nutrients.

According to the latest long-term study of organic food versus mass-produced food, it seems there is no nutritional difference. It seems consumers in London have been complaining about the huge financial disparity between ordinary food and organic food and wanted to know if there was true health value for their financial investment.

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 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.”

So what do I think of this? It makes no difference at all.

Sure, their research shows that the nutritional content of normal food is almost the same as organic food. So what? The reason I (and others) turned to organic food was 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. Again, the choice is yours.

What’s it gonna be?

—Dr. Mark Wiley

Fat-Burning Foods for Weight Loss

I hear it all the time: “I try to eat right and work out regularly, but I just can‘t seem to lose all the weight I want.” For some people, it’s the last 10 pounds and for others it’s the first 10. So what’s the deal?

Well, weight loss and the breakdown of food are linked to a properly working metabolism. That is, your body’s process of converting food into fuel. Some people are naturally lean, and chances are they have a “fast metabolism.” Other people just smell French fries and seem to put on weight; and they have what is called a “slow metabolism.”

One of the secrets to weight loss and continued weight management, then, is to obtain and maintain a fast metabolism. The first step to this is identifying those things that slow down your metabolism, and these include:

  1. Low levels of physical activity—Healthy weight loss depends on moving the body to increase heat to burn calories and invigorate digestion to break down food.
  2. The gradual loss of lean muscle tissue from that lack of exercise—While muscle weighs more than fat, it is healthy and also helps burn fat! For healthy weight loss you must increase your lean muscle mass, and this can easily be done with walking and doing simple chores about the house, like vacuuming and ironing.
  3. Not eating regular well-balanced meals—Every time you eat your metabolism is jump-started. Food is fuel, and eating starts processes in motion in the body for breakdown, digestion and elimination. Not eating regularly sends your body into starvation mode, where it begins storing fat!
  4. Fasting or dieting that restricts caloric intake for extended periods—This is unhealthy as it deprives the body of the essential nutrients it needs for optimal survival. Restricting calories depletes lean muscle tissue and when the diet is over people overeat in reaction to being “starved.”
  5. Insufficient daily protein consumption—Whether animal or plant as its source, it is advisable to consume protein every day. It gives energy and burns slower than carbohydrates, thus extending energy and stabilizing blood sugar levels.

Balancing the above five issues will help you turn a slow metabolism into a normal metabolism. But a normal metabolism is generally not sufficient for many people’s fat-burning goals. A fast metabolism, on the other hand, will help you reach and maintain an ideal weight and ratio of fat to muscle. And the basic ways of improving metabolism include:

  1. Weight and strength training to increase muscle tissue. The more muscle you have the more calories you burn throughout the day.
  2. Regular physical activity will turn up the heat and melt the fat calories away. Regular fitness is best, but even small things like taking brisk walks, raking leaves and cleaning the house at a faster pace… can burn more calories than taking an easier route.
  3. Keep hormones and blood sugar levels stable by consuming whole grain and low sugar foods while watching your saturated fat intake. Supplements can also help.
  4. Drink plenty of water to keep the system working optimally. Water, pure and simple, can flush those toxins that make the metabolism sluggish.
  5. Eat more frequently, but less each time. By consuming something every three hours you will maintain a steady level of energy while also keeping your blood sugar levels from dropping out. When blood sugar drops, unhealthy food cravings emerge.
  6. Eat foods that stoke your metabolism!

That’s right, there are actually foods and spices that can turn up your internal temperature, improve the breakdown of food and fat, remove toxins and increase your metabolism. The list includes drinks, foods, spices and supplements.

  1. Drinks… German researchers have proven that drinking 17 ounces of ice water daily can raise your metabolism by as much as 30 percent. This happens because it requires about 100 calories of energy to re-heat your body once it is cooled down. Just don’t drink it with food, or the food will sit in your stomach while your body tries to re-heat itself!
     

    On the other end is drinking hot green tea. The antioxidants in this tea will help eliminate toxins that cause metabolic sluggishness, and the drink itself has been shown in studies to also increase metabolism.

  2. Foods… Eating plenty of protein for energy and whole grain carbohydrates will do much to maintain energy, blood sugar levels and elimination schedules. The grains remove cholesterol from the blood and help maintain bowel function while the protein gives you sustained energy for exercise.
  3. Spices… Some people complain that healthy foods do not taste good. To them, I say: Spice it Up! Thermogenic spices, like the aromatics, stoke the metabolism while making plain food taste great. These pungent spices heat up your body, causing it to sweat and burn fat. So include plenty of chilies, mustard, allspice, ginger, garlic, onion, curries, turmeric, cloves, cayenne and other aromatic spices to your diet and your metabolism will speed up by around 40 percent for roughly the next two hours.

So there you have it; ways to balance and boost your metabolism for weight loss and optimal health. Avoid the pitfalls that contribute to a sluggish metabolism while at the same time doing what you can to increase metabolic functions. There’s never been a more tasty way to do it!

—Dr. Mark Wiley

Congress Attacks Natural Supplements!

I spent another afternoon in disbelief, reading over a dozen emails regarding Congress’ improper use of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA). They misappropriated the act to pull Ephedra from the market. And now they’re trying to oust vitamin E!

Next stop… the rest of the alphabet.

In fact, there are so many levels to this issue that I have included many valuable links for you to get the full story from all sides. And since the story is so vast, I will present it as an ongoing series. This is just the first installment.

Since the beginning of America’s founding we citizens have been avid users of natural products for health. At the same time, we’ve been clamoring for our government to keep the bad stuff off our shelves. And while the times of dishonest “snake oil salesmen” are mostly gone, the day of the government ban is on the horizon.

But this has not always been the case.

With Best Intentions…

In 1958, the FDA added the Food Additive Amendment to the Federal Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act (FD&C). This was done to ensure consumer safety against unsafe supplements and their untrue labeling or misrepresentation of their benefits. We Americans spoke up for the protection of our health and lifestyle choices and our cries were heard.

In 1995, former President Bill Clinton signed the 1994 Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA). It was another amendment to the FD&C. In essence, the Act makes sure that since natural supplements are considered “food” as opposed to “drugs,” they remain available to consumers who wish to include them as a part of their healthy lifestyle choices. And since Congress cannot control how many carrots you eat, it shouldn’t control the amount of vitamin A you consume, either.

The passing of DSHEA was thus considered a massive victory for consumers. The act was Congress’s answer to consumer concerns about their health. In fact, Clinton stated, “The passage of this legislation… speaks to the diligence with which an unofficial army of nutritionally conscious people worked democratically to change the laws in an area deeply important to them.”

With the Riches Come the Spoils

It seems the passing of DSHEA also created a loophole for non-health-friendly members of Congress and the FDA to take our health choices from us.

You see, while these bills appear to protect the public, they actually make it easier for government agencies to control supplement use… or take them off the market completely! And it seems that while it’s the FDA’s job to protect consumers from fraudulent claims being made against the guise of “studies,” it has done nothing in the case against natural herbal, vitamin or mineral supplements.

At least five bills have been introduced in Congress in recent years that would affect your right to access dietary supplements. In fact, only the Hatch Harkin Bill S.1538 proposed the FDA should support the DSHEA rather than fight against it, or merely stand by and do nothing. However, the bill recognized that the FDA requires more money to do its job. It proposed $100 million in funds be allocated for this purpose.

The most recent bill is the Dietary Supplement Safety Act S.3002, introduced in February by Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.). The bill would change existing mandatory serious adverse reporting regulations, requiring even minor adverse effects to be reported so that the FDA could arbitrarily pull supplements off the shelves or reclassify them as drugs, according to jbs.org.

Opponents of the bill say the regulations would be ripe for abuse, with minor, unrelated or trumped-up evidence of adverse effects leading to supplements being classified as drugs and pulled off shelves.

Trumped-up “evidence” and certainly misuse of herbals was the cause of the Ephedra ban. Ephedra, known as ma huang in traditional Chinese medicine, has been a staple in formulas used to treat asthma, bronchitis and other lung diseases. In the proper dose and for the proper use (inducing sweating to relieve damp heat in the lungs), ma huang is a strong and natural aid for health. But when formulated in much higher doses for use as a metabolism enhancing agent in weight loss supplements… serious problems occurred. And now, because of misuse, the herb is off the market in the U.S.

In fact, the Washington law firm, Hyman, Phelps, and McNamara, P.C. believes the Ephedra rule will endanger all vitamins. Read their “Legal Opinion Regarding FDA’s Ephedra Rule.”

Vitamin E is the target of a similar smear campaign. Yes, that’s right, the same vitamin E used in skin care products and as an immunity aid against free radicals. The government is now calling it “risky.” Yet the cases presented as “proof” were people who suffered pre-existing diseases.

You see, these bills include the Adverse Event Reporting (AER), which is not necessarily bad. However, AER is now being used by dishonest people (in the government and outside of it) as an excuse to bring the industry (and our rights) to its knees. Anti-vitamin stories are surfacing as “proof” that supplements should be banned. These include deaths not related to supplements, but the people happened to also be taking supplements of some kind. And this is the gist of the vitamin E situation.

United We (Must) Stand

It is imperative that we not allow Congress, the FDA, the media or unscrupulous individuals to keep us from seeking and maintaining optimal health by regulating or banning natural supplements. They are only food in another form. They are part and parcel of the daily health choices we make that come with America’s freedom.

The implementing of AER for herbs, minerals and vitamins is as nonsensical as implementing it for a turkey sandwich! The FDA is more worried about the amount of vitamin E we take than the true and severe side effects of synthetic pharma drugs. I find that disturbing. And if this passes, perhaps hundreds of thousands of people could start blaming supplements for their ailments. And the resulting class action lawsuit would be devastating not only to supplement manufacturers’ insurance costs, but to the accessibility of such supplements in the future.

Our only hope is to fight back and stand up for our health rights. Imagine, no more One A Day®, no more calcium tablets, no more B-complex.

In response to the actions of Congress, the Nutritional Health Alliance has activated the Save and Strengthen DSHEA campaign. Visit the NHA site and access the names and addresses of your Congressmen and Senators. Sample letters are there to view, as well as necessary phone and fax numbers.

We need your help. You need your help. Let’s all take a few moments and do our part before it’s too late.

—Dr. Mark Wiley

How Stress is Killing Us… And 10 Things You Can Do About It

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.

Any one of these things by itself can trigger any number of different types of illnesses. But when these forces of antagonism are combined (as they generally are when triggered by stress), the health problems often become chronic and insufferable.

The Psychology of Stress

Stress is an interesting phenomenon. It means different things to different people. What we each individually consider to be stressful is largely a matter of our perception. Indeed, our perceptions are our realities and so what we think is posing a threat is actually doing so by virtue of our established belief system. Moreover, there are many kinds of stressors—physical (the response to being frightened), emotional (loss of a loved one), psychological (obsessive thoughts), spiritual (loss of faith) and psychosomatic (the need for attention).

Physiologically, stress is responsible for initiating the fight or flight response in the face of perceived danger. This means that when we are confronted with a danger, our body automatically prepares us to deal with the coming stressful situation by focusing our attention, pumping more blood into our muscles and sending adrenaline through our system to ready it for action. It is precisely this response that helps protect the body and return it again to homeostasis. However, too much stress, or stress left unresolved for too long a time, can lead to biological damage.

You see, at the onset of perceived danger the body is quickly jolted into fight or flight mode, which means stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol are pumped into the bloodstream. However, at the conclusion of the danger episode, the body does not as automatically calm down and return to homeostasis. In fact, it takes a great deal of time for the body to return to so-called normal conditions. But often this cannot happen because another stressor may present itself (e.g., sitting in traffic, standing in line at the bank, missing a deadline) and this will send our body into “code red” mode all over again.

The effects of such prolonged or recurring stress is that it keeps the autonomic nervous system from balancing, which can lead to problems with the gastrointestinal tract, the digestive system, the respiratory system and the neuronendocrine system. Stress can also lead to depression, anxiety, muscle tension and insomnia. All of these are known triggers of various mental and physical (mind/body) illnesses and diseases.

A Stressful Example

The vicious cause and effect cycle of stress is readily seen in our workforce, wherein productivity and the meeting of deadlines and bottom-line expectations lead us down a harrowing headache path. Consider the average day in the life of a corporate worker: Wakes up early, skips breakfast and rushes to the office; begins harboring stress and anxiety while watching the clock sitting in traffic; sits all day at the computer and talking on the phone; takes breaks not to stretch and take deep breaths of fresh air, but to artificially stimulate the body to work harder through taking a cigarette and coffee break. After that it’s back to work pushing productivity in an attempt to meet expectations wherein stress and tensions rise and take hold of the body; after work, to relax—office co-workers are joined for happy hour—wherein the body is nourished with more caffeine, cigarettes and now alcohol. Round and round, day after day, until the body rebels and “tells” you something is very wrong by way of an ulcer, gastrointestinal disorder or chronic pain in some manifestation.

Stress is killing us!

Ten Stress Busters

The idea behind living a stress-free life is to remove the things in your life that are causing you to be stressed. Of course this is easier said than done, but it is truly the only way to not have stress. Here are 10 simple things you can do on a daily basis to reduce the symptoms of stress.

  • Walk outside for at least 20 continuous minutes every day.
  • Take the stairs whenever possible.
  • Take 10 deep belly breaths every hour.
  • Drink plenty of pure water—at least 10 glasses a day.
  • Avoid sugar and caffeine in all forms.
  • Regulate sleep and wake cycles to a consistent daily routine.
  • Prioritize your life, work, family and personal time and activities.
  • Do six shoulder shrugs whenever you are tense.
  • Realize that when people criticize and judge they are labeling an “image” of you and not you personally.
  • Realize that you are worth so much more than the sum of your titles, money and belongings.

A good stress-relief program should be sought and followed. Good programs generally include various forms of meditation, visualization, qigong, yoga, acupressure and bio-feedback. Not all programs contain everything, but engaging in any or some of these will go a long way to reclaiming years for your life.

—Dr. Mark Wiley