Tag Archives: health

God’s Proximity and Health

The ultimate goal of man is eternal life and perhaps with that comes eternal health.   I am convinced that we have defined God out of existence in many cases by accepting definitions that are out of our realm of direct experience.   The verse above reminds us that God is always ready to “come into us” and dine with us.  With every “in breath” we can open the door and let him in and dine with him.  Then with every “out breath” we can transform the new life and energy delivered directly from the source of all movement into health and healing for our bodies and our world.  Notice that this matches the recommended breathing pattern for most exercise.  That is, we breath in while preparing for exertion and then breath out as we perform the exertion.

In another verse (John 15:5) we are reminded that we are always directly connected to God like branches on a vine.  God is the Prime Mover and the Prime Energizer.  Feel God’s movements in your life as energy by liberating your body in the present moment.  Move, stretch, let God lead you in the dance.  Do not let your body stagnate.   God / Energy  permeates all space and time.  It permeates our bodies and  minds.  Energy powers our lives just as it powers our cars.  This does not imply that God is mundane, but rather that the seemingly mundane also relies on the divine for its present moment.  Everything that is created remains connected to the creator, for everything exists in God and through God.

The illusion of separateness must be conquered in order to progress to the next level of health.   Thich Nhat Hanh refers to this as inter-being (we inter-are).  We inter-are with each other and we inter-are with God.

We face many challenges in the struggle towards the next level of human advancement, and it will not happen without awareness of God’s proximity.  How has God’s proximity affected your life?  In my case it has allowed me to trust in God to pursue transformation of my own life and priorities.  It has also allowed me to “be” in gratitude and to feel the urgency of being in this moment.

What do you feel about the role of God in health?  Notice that I am asking about God not religion.  Would love to hear your take on this.  How does God present himself / herself to you?

The Rainbow Smoothie Fun Day

I wanted to make a rainbow smoothie because I thought it would be fun, and it was fun because I got to spend some time with my dad.  It is also a good experience for my e-book called the Colory Colors of the Rainbow (see below for more details).  Different fruits can be used to represent the rainbow’s colors in a healthy way.

For the color red we used raspberries, strawberries, banana and a little water.  Normally I don’t like raspberries but they were pretty good in the smoothie.

For the color orange we used oranges, carrots, bananas and a little bit of water.  My dad and I really liked the flavor of this combination.

For yellow we used bananas, pineapple and a little water.  Usually the pineapple stings my tongue but this time it didn’t.

For green we used kale, green grapes, banana and kiwi but no water because the grapes are very watery.

Blue we did not get to do because the blueberries turned purple.  I really like how the purple came out but I would have liked to have blue.  I am still bothered by that so let me know in the comments if you know of a fruit that turns blue when it’s blended.

Initially we had prunes that we wanted to use for purple, but they turned brown in the blender.  I thought it looked weird but dad liked it.  I didn’t let him use it for the smoothie!

For violet we used red grapes with banana and no water.

My favorite part was when there was extra smoothie left over for us to taste-test.

We didn’t precisely measure the ingredients so if you want an exact recipe check out Beth’s at  BETH @ THE FIRST YEAR on FEBRUARY 29, 2016.  She uses Greek yogurt in her recipes but we didn’t.  Maybe we should try the yogurt to see if it helps when blending the colors.

When we put it all together this is how it looked! It was absolutely delicious, I drank two of them and my belly was bursting with yumminess.

Putting it together was a little difficult because we had to freeze some things and some things were too thick so they would sink right through.

Eating healthy can keep you from getting sick.  I don’t like being sick because then I can’t go to school and have fun with my friends.  Being sick is boring because you don’t have enough energy to run around,  and I love running around.

I had fun doing this. It was the funnest day of the year because my dad was not stuck on his computer all day.

I am going to make an e-book called the Colory Colors of the Rainbow.  It will be a great educational book for kids about the colors of the rainbow and what they mean.  My dad will make an adult version too but it may not have the same title.    We will let you know when the e-books are available.

The Organ That Pleases Itself

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Intimacy releases endorphins and oxytocin resulting in bonding and improved health. Fraternal Twins By MultipleParent (CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

Your brain is like a labyrinth that hides, deep within it, the Holy Grail of life. Simply put, your brain has secrets that it doesn’t want you to know!

“But why?” you ask, “would my brain keep secrets from little ol’ me?”

It boils down to this, your brain has to perform functions that your conscious ‘self’ may not like very much.  In order to accomplish its goals it is best if the conscious ‘you’ is left in the dark.

This strategy is an act of genius for survival of social organisms where the individual is important but secondary to the needs and survival of the group.  An example of this strategy is found in the cellular communities within our bodies where cells undergo apoptosis or programmed cell death.  There are two pathways for apoptosis, the intrinsic pathway in which a cell kills itself due to internal stress, and the extrinsic pathway in which the cell kills itself due to messages it receives from its neighboring cells.

It is estimated that in adults between 50 and 70 billion cells die every day as a result of this carefully orchestrated process of programmed cell death.  In a similar fashion, there is mounting evidence that the process of aging is orchestrated and programmed by the brain.  The brain doesn’t allow awareness of this orchestration but sometimes we catch a glimpse of the brain’s ability to control disease and aging. Some examples are:

  • The placebo effect – the brain is tricked by the mind into healing the body based on a perceived (but fake) external intervention.   This shows that the brain actively withholds healing from us in many cases.
  • Immunotherapy  –  a type of cancer treatment designed to boost the body’s natural defenses.
  • Spontaneous remission of diseases and cancer.
  • Neurochemicals of happiness – The brain produces or triggers the release of molecules such as endocannabinoids,  endorphins, oxytocin, dopamine, seratonin, gaba and adrenaline,  that play a role in euphoria, contentment, affection, pain reduction, calmness, confidence, energy levels, healing and in slowing down the aging process.

The answer to the question, “Why does the brain promote aging”, may vary depending upon your viewpoint.   From an evolutionary perspective one rationale is that aging and programmed death of the individual allows the species as a whole to progress.   Regardless of how you rationalize death, it is pretty clear that the conscious ‘self’ wants no part in it and thus the brain has kept its involvement a secret, until now.

The Brains Secret Exposed

The brains secret is that it potentially has the power to make us healthier, smarter, stronger and younger than we currently experience and yet it proceeds with its implementation of programmed aging and ultimately death.  However, there is growing evidence pointing to a transitional period in the history of mind-brain interaction.  We can start making use of the brains secret today to improve our brain fitness in the years ahead.  Here’s how:

  • Re-evaluate habits that may simply be ‘giving in’ to the brains hidden aging agenda.  In particular, challenge your overall activity and social intimacy levels as these behaviors can trigger a flood of endorphins that have positive benefits for health and help postpone the aging process.
  • Give and receive at least 8 hugs per day.  A proper hug is deep, where the hearts are pressing together (my youngest daughter Mia is a pro at this).  Hugs boost oxytocin levels and oxytocin has been shown to increase regeneration of muscle.   You can even take this strategy to the  next level by giving and receiving a regular massage.
  • Try being a go-getter by setting goals and achieving them to trigger the release of dopamine.  Set goals related to social interaction for the biggest hit.
  • Practice yoga and meditation to trigger the release of gaba and thus reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Take on activities that challenge your comfort level and confidence, to trigger the release of serotonin and adrenaline.  These are the kinds of activities that keep you evolving as a human being.
  • Add laughter, singing, dance and music (LSD-M) to your daily schedule.  These activities trigger the feel good neurochemicals that may trick your brain into delaying aging.

All in all, remember that you can negotiate with your brain for health, youth and strength rather than just going with the flow.  Let us know what strategies you devise for peering into your brains secrets.

Feed Me Fast

brain (1)Fasting and Brain Fitness

In some cases we can learn about the root cause of chronic disease by looking at how our environment and lifestyle has changed in the last few hundred years.  On an evolutionary time scale of billions of years, a few hundred years is a very short time, and is not long enough for the body design to catch up with environmental changes.

For example in our previous two posts we noted how the body evolved (or was designed ) for continuously challenging movements in the quest for finding food , finding mates, seeking safety from predators and fighting off competitors, and how our current sedentary lifestyle is at odds with our body.

Another anomaly driven by evolutionarily recent changes in food production is the over-abundance of food.  Our ancestors were more likely to face food scarcity, and a feast-or-famine type of existence.  When food was scarce, our ancestors bodies smoothly switched from using glucose as fuel to using stored fat for energy. This means that they were more likely to mobilize reserves of body fat resulting in a higher fat-free mass.

Now the over-abundance of food combined with sedentary lifestyles has created an epidemic of obesity in which the global population of overweight and obese people exceeds that of under-weight people.  Obesity is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, diabetes, some cancers and emerging evidence suggests that it is also a risk factor for age related cognitive decline and possibly Alzheimer’s.  According to researchers like Mark Mattson (Chief of the Laboratory of Neurosciences at the National Institute on Aging)  and Bert Herring (Physician and Medical Writer), the root cause of the problem is not the excess storage of fat but rather, that the body needs fasting just like the muscles need exercise.

The idea of using fasting to improve health has existed for thousands of years as evidenced by the following quotes:

  • “Humans live on one-quarter of what they eat; on the other three-quarters lives their doctor.” – Egyptian pyramid inscription, 3800 B.C.
  • “Fasting is the greatest remedy– the physician within.”  Philippus Paracelsus, one of the three fathers of Western medicine
  • “A little starvation can really do more for the average sick man than can the best medicines and the best doctors.”  Mark Twain, in My Debut As a Literary Person.
  • “The best of all medicines is resting and fasting.”  Benjamin Franklin

There is evidence that fasting has positive effects on the whole body such as decreased inflammation, oxidative stress and asthma, increased insulin sensitivity and decreased risk of diabetes, lower heart rate and blood pressure, and increase in human growth hormone.

There is also evidence that fasting helps to improve cognitive function by stimulating the production of neurotrophic factors and can help prevent chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

According to Mark Mattson, the key to understanding how this works is to appreciate that our bodies have another mode of operation where energy is derived from fat metabolism (ketosis) rather than from glucose metabolism (glycolysis).  When we eat three meals a day our bodies never switch over to this powerful mode of operation, because it takes 10 to 12 hours of fasting before the bodies glycogen stores are used up.

Fat is the Wealth of the Body

Every-day-life analogies for these two modes of operation would be like work vs vacation  or like being employed vs unemployed.  When you are in work mode you  save cash for vacations or unexpected loss of income.   As you can see from this example,  each mode of operation  entails a different set of priorities and tasks.

Likewise, fat is the stored wealth of the body and the bodies priorities shift depending on whether it is storing wealth (glycolysis) or using it (ketosis).  Think of a short fast as a vacation mode for your body, while a longer fast may be more challenging (i.e. unemployment).

Mark Mattson promotes the idea that fasting is a challenge to the brain.  This challenge promotes adaptive stress responses and changes in the brain similar to what is seen with vigorous exercise or cognitively challenging stimuli.  This makes sense from an evolutionary perspective.

Using our analogy, an unemployed person is challenged to learn new skills in order to compete for a new job.  Similarly the fasting brain responds to the challenge of acquiring more body wealth (fat), by generating neurotrophic factors that promote the development of new connections and that drive the transformation of stem cells into new brain cells in some regions of the brain.

The neurotrophic factor BDNF that is released during fasting also promotes the increase in the number of mitochondria inside cells.  Because mitochondria are the powerhouses of cells this increases the ability of neurons to grow and develop new connections.

How to Feed Your Brain Fast

Knowledge is power when properly applied, so what is the right way to incorporate fasting into your life.  Just like engaging in new physical activity it makes sense to discuss changes in lifestyle with your health care team.  Care must be taken if you have high calorie expenditure due to athletic endeavors, or if you are taking medications.

Fasting can generally be started by increasing the amount of time between your last meal of the day and your first meal of the subsequent day.  One could limit meals to an 8 hour window or less each day.  This is the approach that I have been using, although my window is currently more like 10 hours.

Another option is to skip the last meal of the day or the first meal of the day once or twice each week.  Just as an athlete must begin with light weights and progress to more difficult challenges in order to avoid injuries, so it is with fasting.  Learn more about it and proceed with caution in order to make sure the body is receiving its needed supply of nutrients.  It could be your ticket to a healthier you.

 

 

Activity: The Mother of Life

Tai Chi Girl Chen Flying
Activity is the Mother of Life

Have you ever noticed that some people nap more during the day  as they age?  It often becomes harder for them to stay awake during routine activities.  There are many sleep related disturbances that can cause excessive daytime sleepiness at any age, such as:

  • Difficulty Initiating Sleep
  • Awake A Lot During Night
  • Difficulty Returning to Sleep
  • Snoring
  • Pauses in Breathing
  • Nocturia
  • Symptoms of Restless Leg

These sleep problems tend to increase with age but are not considered part of normal aging.  However, excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) can be the first symptom on a slow but steady path of decline and suffering in the elderly.  The symptom creates a feedback loop that tends to promote further decline because as a person increases napping during the day they incur the following setbacks:

  1. Naps that are longer than 10 – 20 minutes can create sleep inertia resulting in grogginess.
  2. Naps too late in the day or that are too long in duration can diminish sleep drive negatively affecting the depth and quality of night-time sleep.
  3. There is an increased health risk (i.e. mortality risk) from excessive daytime napping.
  4. When a person is napping they may get insufficient physical activity throughout the day.  This in turn degrades sleep quality at night.

Thus when it comes to excessive napping, sleep that is normally restorative,  may truly become the insidious “Brother of Death” described in Greek mythology.  Excessive daytime sleepiness may also be accompanied by depression, attention and memory disorders, and an increase in nighttime falls.

Activity: The Mother of Life

To break the insidious cycle the human body needs vigorous activity that is challenging.  Activity is the mother of life and is often the best antidote to sleepiness.  We take movement for granted but in reality it is a magnificent gift and we are designed to use it as medicine and as a life-giving tonic!

We forget that movement is magical!  Our abundance of technology can not replicate the grace, versatility and independence of human body movement.   And it is all orchestrated by a fabulous network of trillions of tiny beings that we call cells.  They are all yearning to get involved in your life, but they can’t unless you blast the trumpet of movement in multiple degrees of freedom.

The body yearns for that bygone era when it had to fight for survival or flee to the tops of the trees, when the entire body participated in the endeavor of life.  Nowadays many of us make a living by twiddling our fingers on a keyboard, or moving our yappers non-stop.  Some are lucky to ambulate throughout the day, but how many people do you see climbing trees for a living, or swinging from vines?

So next time you yearn for a nap ask yourself this, did you really get enough vigorous physical activity today?  If the answer is yes then forty winks may be in order.  But if not, challenge yourself to a duel instead!  Get out there, get active, and bring your bodies 200+ degrees of freedom to life!  You may even sleep better tonight.

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Challenge yourself to a duel!

Set Your Body Free in 2016

Set Your Body Free in 2016
Set Your Body Free in 2016

Why is it that the things we really need to know in life often have to be figured out on our own?  These nuggets of wisdom should be required reading in school but we end up learning the hard way. Take for example this simple truth:

The human body has over 650 skeletal muscles and is designed primarily for continuous movement.  Prolonged sitting does not promote health. 

We should all know this, but instead many only learn after acquiring heart disease, diabetes or obesity.  From an early age we teach children to sit for prolonged periods of time, instead of teaching them the importance of continuous movement.

Why is it that our priorities regarding health are backwards?

In a poem by James Brown (pen name James J. Lachard) God says that what surprises him most about humankind is:

“That they lose their health to make money and then lose their money to restore their health.”

“That by thinking anxiously about the future, that they forget the present, such that they live neither in the present or the future.”

“That they live as if they will never die and die as if they had never lived.”

Movement is life and 2016 is the year to set our bodies free!

From here on out do not be surprised when you see random movements from people you thought you knew.  And don’t be surprised if waves of movement overtake you as you read this blog post!  Warn your employers that in 2016 you plan to stand up every 15 to 30  minutes to shake your booty for health.  Continuous movement is part of your birthright and the core of the new health revolution!

Waves, Pulsations, Spirals and Fractal Movement

As beings with approximately 37 trillion cells, each filled with active subcellular components, we contain a fabulous kaleidoscopic movement medley.  In addition, to our internal movements, we are surrounded by external fields of movement, such as electromagnetic, gravitational, sound, vibration, planetary and galactic movement. This mind-boggling orchestration of movement goes largely unnoticed, but tuning in to it has amazing potential for maintaining and enhancing health.  Emilie Conrad (1934-2014), the founder of Continuum Movement, taught that the wave nature of universal movements gives them a fractal quality that allows communication across scales of space and time.

The profound insight here is that movement, the most ancient language, is the only language that connects our atoms, cells, tissues, organs, bodies and minds with planetary, galactic and universal intelligence that appears to us as laws of nature.

Our bodies have their own voice yearning to speak to us through movement.   This communication in the form of movement ultimately emanates from sources of wisdom that are typically hidden from conscious perception.  Lisa Medley, a certified body-centered practitioner who trained with Emilie Conrad, describes this as freeing our bodies from constrained linear movements in order to experience the wisdom of the body. In “Fluidity Emerging”, she demonstrates the fluid wave motions that emerge when the body is freed from linear confinement and oppression. One of her favorite quotes from Emilie is, “Movement is what we are, not something we do.”

In the quest to understand the relationship between movement and health it helps to have a scientific framework for the relationship between mind and body.

The Scientific Model of Mind and Body

The scientific study of consciousness reveals that our brains trick us into accepting our perceived world as the ultimate reality (i.e. Naive Realism).  However the real state of affairs appears to be that everything you perceive, including the world around you, your body and your thoughts,  is just a limited simulation of the real world created in the brain.   Bjorn Merker provides a nice illustration of the nested nature of our perceived world in the graphic below.

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Diagram showing how the simulated world of our perception is nested in the real world. By Bjorn Merker (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
In this graphic the entire square represents the real world, while the largest circle represents the body (a subset of the world).  The second nested circle represents the brain, a subset of the body. Because we are not conscious of much of the brains activity a third nested circle is drawn to represent the subset of the brains activity that is correlated with consciousness.

Within the third nested circle lies the world that you perceive to be real.  This is where your personal world lives!  This nesting structure continues with the fourth nested circle that represents the simulated body within the simulated world and finally a fifth nested circle that represents the conscious mind in the form of thoughts and decisions.  The center of the fifth nested circle is labeled with an ‘e’ for ego.

The long and short of this is that each person creates their own world that is a limited representation of the real but hidden world. This limited representation of the world has been referred to as the Umwelt by the German biologist Jakob von Uexsküll.

An analogy to this would be a FaceTime / Skype conversation . The image on the cellphone screen is representation of the person you are talking to and not the actual person.  If somewhere along the way a hacker figured out how to change the apparent location of your caller, the representation you see may not be completely accurate.  In the same way, the nested model implies that everything we percieve is a representation only and the idea that we are perceiving the actual reality is an illusion imposed by the brain.

We can tentatively call the first circle in the diagram above the Real But Hidden Body (RBHB).  The reason why it is important to understand that you can only perceive a representation of your body is that your body representation may be weak, causing you to ignore communication from the RBHB, resulting in illness.  Our body representation may also be limited in scope and it may be necessary to develop methods to expand it. This would allow better communication with the RBHB resulting in enhanced health.

A thorough understanding of the consequences of living in a nested world are critical since it can profoundly alter not only how we interact with ourselves (i.e. our bodies), but also how we interact with others.  For example, the nested world that my brain creates is different from the nested world that your brain creates.  This accounts for huge personality and cultural differences that need to be respected and taught at an early age so people can learn to get along with those who have different reality simulations running.

With respect to movement it opens a whole new dimension for how we interact with our bodies.  As an illustration, recently I was on a long drive when I began to feel tired. I realized that my RBHB was bored.  My RBHB did not understand that when hurtling down the highway at 70 mph it is not a good time to release its world simulation by putting me to sleep.  So I thought to myself, “how can I communicate with the RBHB, or give it something it understands . I reached for a pear and began to eat it very slowly.  Interestingly this, brought me back to full alertness.  I nibbled on the pear for the duration of the trip with no more tiredness!  The RBHB understood “eating a pear” but not “driving!”

Evolve your World Model for World Health

Emilie Conrad taught that movement is your birthright. As the year 2016 draws closer we will be faced with many challenges that may only find solutions if we are able to expand our world models.  We can clearly see that new ways of thinking are required, one of which is the need to prioritize health over money.  There are many people who believe that freeing the body from its linear confinements will not only benefit individual health, but will also allow us to synchronize with harmonious forces of sustainability and balance necessary for the future of human survival and advancement.

file6421254810322Let’s dedicate the year 2016 to the “Freedom to Move, ” less sitting, and the exploration of how our bodies communicate with us through fluid wave motion.  It could be the beginning of a world-wide revolution in health!

 

References

Merker, B. (2013).  Body and world as phenomenal contents of the brain’s reality model. In Alfredo Pereira Jr. and Dietrich Lehmann (Eds.), The Unity of Mind, Brain, and World: Current Perspectives on a Science of Consciousness (pp. 7-42).  Cambridge University Press.

Eagleman, D. (2011). Incognito The Secret Lives of the Brain (pp. 75-100). United States, Pantheon Books.

 

Sexy Sexagenarians

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Christie Brinkley at 49 in 1999. She looks pretty much the same today at 61 . DoD photo by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Dewitt D. Roseborough

When I first heard the word sexagenarian for people in their 60s my mind leapt to the question, “are there sexy sixty year olds?” Of course, the word sexagenarian has nothing to do with sexiness per se, although it does beg the question.

An interesting and plausible explanation that I have found for the association between the number six and sexiness has to do with the 10 commandments and the prohibition against adultery. There are modified versions of the 10 commandments and for many Christians such as Catholics and Lutherans the commandment, “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” is the 6th rather than the 7th of the 10.

With this in mind, it seems possible that the number six could have been associated with sex, and a “sixy person” (i.e. sexy person) could have been associated with violations of the sixth commandment.  Everyone knows sexy when they see it even if they are not tempted by it, so are there sexy sexagenarians? This is an important question for baby boomers who currently range in age from 51 to 69.

I recently leafed through a book at Barnes & Nobles that redefines what is possible for 60 year olds.  Christie Brinkley’s new book, Timeless Beauty, amazed me!  Click here to see her recent interview on www.foxbusiness.com.

Her book is full of tips and recipes, for staying young and healthy. She became vegetarian in her youth after learning how animals are treated at processing plants. She also promotes active lifestyles, smiling more and eating organic food, arguing that the cost of organic will go down as more and more people commit to it.  She says, “We’re so hard on ourselves! I think the way you look is tied into how you feel. The kind of true beauty I hope my readers are looking for is a combination of healthy living and good deeds.”

I like Christie’s idea of having a pair of jeans that “you can trust” for monitoring your weight.  She writes, “I have a pair of what I like to call my ‘honest jeans’. They’re the pair that fits me perfectly when I’m at my ideal weight.  So if I’m ever worried that I may have put on a few pounds, I slip into those (or try to!) and they never lie to me.”

But is she just a fluke of nature?  Are there other role models that could give us hope of extending our youthful bodies and appearance into the sixth decade of life?  You be the judge – check out this link on actors considered Sexy Silver Foxes such as:

  • Bruce Willis, 60
  • Pierce Brosnan, 61
  • Denzel Washington, 60
  • Michael Keaton, 63
  • Kevin Costner, 60
  • Richard Gere, 65
  • Bruce Springsteen, 65

And there are also many female actresses in their sixties that have retained their youthful appeal such as:

  • Meryl Streep, 65
  • Helen Mirren, 69
  • Susan Sarandon, 68
  • Susan Lucci, 68
  • Diane Sawyer, 69
  • Sally field, 68
  • Cher, 68

Miranda Esmonde-White (66) has developed a fitness program named Classical Stretch that will very likely help many others on the road towards becoming sexy sexagenarians.

There is hope out there for extending youthfulness, so keep improving your fitness routines, listening to your body, connecting with community, increasing your intimacy, living with joy and passion, eating for health. I hope to see you become a sexy sexagenarian some day!

Excitement to Die For!

Photomontage_of_the_Marina_Bay_Sands_and_the_Merlion_with_fireworks,_Singapore_-_20100524
We are wired to seek excitement. So then how can it become toxic? Photo by William Cho. [CC BY-SA 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons
There are some things in life that seem good enough to die for.  The excitement we feel in these moments is hard to resist.  In general our bodies are wired to create excitement when it comes to activities that trigger survival instincts.  This includes warfare, hunting, eating, sex and any permutation of these activities.  In our modern world these activities are often morphed into civilized forms such as sports, video games, surfing the web, music, cuisine, etc.  But if our bodies are designed to handle a certain amount of excitement, can too much excitement become toxic, killing you before your allotted time?

Welcome to the frontline of the battle for health where you come up against your nemesis,  herein named Excitotoxicity!

Like the song “Counting Stars” says,

“And I I I I feel something so right by doing the wrong thing
And I I I I feel something so wrong by doing the right thing

I could lie, couldn’t I, couldn’t I?
Every thing that kills me makes me feel alive.”

Sure some things may truly be worth dying for, but others are simply enemy snares that rope us in and pull us down slowly over time.  There are a whole slew of behaviors that fall in this category such as overeating, alcohol, tobacco and drug use, sexual addiction.  These are well known to every one, and should probably be considered excitotoxins, but the excitotoxin targeted in this post is “free glutamate”, a flavor enhancer added to our processed foods that has 129 different names on food labels and is possibly implicated in a whole host debilitating diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s Disease, and other forms of dementia.

Ajinomoto_msg
The original free glutamate flavor enhancer developed in 1909 – MSG). Photo by Dynomat (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons
 An excitotoxin is a substance that can damage or kill nerve cells by over stimulating them (i.e. exciting them to death) .  Over 70 types of excitotoxins have been identified (i.e. glutamate, aspartame, sodium caseinate, etc.)many of which are added to our food supply in the form of flavor enhancers.  They sneak into our foods, hidden behind names such as yeast extract, autolyzed yeast, vegetable protein, textured protein, natural flavor, carrageenan, and anything hydrolyzed.  ( See some lists here and here).  MSG is sold directly to consumers packaged as Accent, Sazon Goya, Vetsin, Marmite and Ajinomoto.

The official designation of the FDA for flavor enhancers such as MSG is GRAS ( Generally recognized as safe).  However the FDA recognizes that following symptoms are possible after large doses of MSG:

“short-term, transient, and generally mild symptoms, such as headache, numbness, flushing, tingling, palpitations, and drowsiness”

It does not appear that the FDA has performed long-term studies of the cumulative effects over many years of eating foods with added excitotoxins, nor have they studied the long-term effects on specific vulnerable populations such as children,  the elderly, and people who are genetically predisposed to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, ALS, etc.  A recent paper published May 2013 by Tadvi NA, et al., in the International Journal of Medical Research and Health Sciences titled “Excitotoxin: Their role in health and disease” concluded the following:

There is considerable evidence based research pertaining to the neurodegenerative effect of excitotoxins to the human brain. Yet the autonomous food regulating bodies like FDA refuse to recognize the immediate and long-term danger to the public caused by the use of such excitotoxic food additives. Thus only means of protecting oneself from such type of neurological damage is to consume only unprocessed, fresh, whole, organic foodstuffs.

Did you know that some of the drugs used to help Alzheimer’s patients (such as memantine or Namenda) work by blocking the effects of glutamate?

What it all boils down to is this:

You have to become the expert on your own health because something that doesn’t affect the majority of the people could be killing you or making you age prematurely.  You need to become your own health detective.

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Overly exciting your brain cells with excitotoxins may cost you down the road! Photo by Michael Gil from Calgary, AB, Canada (Redline Excitement) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
This process starts by carefully reading all the labels on the foods you buy and possibly rejecting foods that are amazingly , excitingly delicious.  Vitamin C may also help protect against the effects of exposure to excitotoxins.

Waterfall Eye

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Photo of a healthy eye: by J-J-Rousseau (GFDL license via Wikimedia Commons).

It has been said that if you live long enough you will get cataracts! However, this doesn’t mean that we absolutely have to comply, since there is always hope of finding better ways to care for our eyes.  In this post we look at how you may be able to protect yourself from this problem looming in your future.

The word cataract comes from the Greek katarráktēs which means waterfall. Imagine standing behind a waterfall and looking out at the world and you will get an idea of what cataracts can do to your vision. The majority of cases are caused by aging and most surgeries are performed on people in their 70s and 80s, but recently there has been an increase in the number of cataract surgeries performed on younger people.

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A human eye with a cataract. By Rakesh Ahuja, MD (Creative Commons license via Wikimedia Commons)

The most popular treatment for cataracts is lens replacement surgery featuring phacoemulsification that uses ultra-sound to breakdown the existing lens. It is a very delicate surgery because the 4-5 micron pouch around the lens called the capsule must be preserved to support the new plastic intraocular lens. Amazingly the whole procedure can usually be performed without the need for sutures because very small incisions (< 3 mm) are designed to close up immediately upon the removal of the tool.

As with all surgeries there is some risk of infection or other complications during the surgery and post surgery, so it may be a good idea to explore the alternatives with your eye doctor.  Before exploring alternative treatments, let’s look at how we may be able to prevent cataracts from forming in the first place.

Oxidative damage alters the proteins in the lens over time either directly or by damaging the DNA in the eye.  Glycation (sugar-coating) of the proteins in the lens may also cause them to become opaque.  Dr. Andrew Weil provides an online article full of recommendations for avoiding cataracts through proper diet rich in antioxidants.  He states the following:

“Both the lens of the eye and the aqueous humor contain protective enzymes that breakdown the damaged proteins that clump together and cause cataracts. Antioxidants keep these enzymes from being destroyed. Vitamin C, vitamin E (mainly tocopherols), glutathione, and a variety of carotenoids are present in lens tissue and in the fluid that surrounds it.”

Dr. Weil also mentions lutein and zeaxanthin and provides a list of foods that contain these antioxidants (mangoes, corn, sweet potatoes, carrots, squash, tomatoes and dark, leafy greens such as kale, collards, bok choy, egg yolk).  According to Dr. Weil there is good evidence that lutein helps protect against both cataracts and macular degeneration, two diseases that impair vision as we age.

In addition to aging and diet, other possible causes of cataracts are:

  1.  Exposure to excessive ultraviolet radiation
  2. Smoking, alcohol consumption
  3. High body mass index
  4. Diabetes
  5. Use of steroids such as prednisone, and certain medications
  6. Heavy metals
  7. Excessive exposure to RF radiation in the microwave range such as from cell towers, cell phones, WiFi, etc.

As you can see from the above list, it may make sense to use sunglasses that block UV (although DR. Edward Kondrot argues that some UV is necessary to prevent cataracts), improve health habits, lose weight, control sugar, and use landlines instead of cellphones when available.  I personally like to shut off the wireless router before going to bed at night and only turn it on during the day if it is needed.  I also make sure not to use the computer that is near the wireless router when the WiFi is enabled.   I notice that when I follow these simple precautions my eyes fare better during the day,  and I experience less insomnia and ear ringing at night.

Alternative Treatments for Cataracts

DR. Edward Kondrot, MD, MD(H), CCH, DHt,  has posted an educational video on YouTube regarding alternative treatments for cataracts that discusses the use of diet (70% raw living organic food / 30% organic but cooked), hydration, detoxification (chelation therapy), stress reduction, eye drops (Can C, Cineria maritima, Oclumed, DMSO/ascorbic acid/glutathione, EDTA), high dose vitamin C, laser therapy, light therapy, Infrared therapy, sunning the eye (closing eyes and allowing sunlight to penetrate the closed eye), and frequency specific microcurrent.   If you would like to learn more about these alternative treatments, feel free to watch this video and discuss it with your doctor.

Mainstream ophthalmologists do not appear to believe that cataracts can be reversed through alternative treatments.  For example in wikipedia we find the following:

“The Royal College of Ophthalmologists issued the following public statement about NAC as of August 2008:

The evidence for the effectiveness of N-acetyl carnosine eye drops is based on experience on a small number of cases carried out by a Russian researcher team [Babizhayev]. To date, the research has not been corroborated and the results replicated by others. The long-term effect is unknown. Unfortunately, the evidence to date does not support the ‘promising potential’ of this drug in cataract reversal. More robust data from well conducted clinical trials on adequate sample sizes will be required to support these claims of efficacy. Furthermore, we do not feel the evidence base for the safety is in any way sufficient to recommend its use in the short term. More research is needed.”[11]

However, there does appear to be clear evidence that an eye drop solution for cataracts may be on the horizon.  On July 22 of this year it was reported in Nature that the steroid lanosterol was used to eliminate naturally occurring cataracts in dogs.  This finding is also discussed in detail on the Science Alert website.  This is great news for those of us who are not looking forward to aging as currently practiced in the US.

We find that there is hope not only for prevention of cataracts but also for noninvasive cures.  And as Ben Franklin would say , “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  So if your doctor has told you that you have early signs of cataracts and that you will need surgery in a few years,  there is much you can do besides waiting.

Motion Commotion and Laughter

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Playground fun at any age! Photograph by Jordi Payà from Barcelona, Catalonia via Wikimedia Commons

Movement may be one of our greatest allies in the quest for health and healing.  We all know that we should exercise to stay healthy, but beyond that there is growing evidence that intermittent movement is essential for health as well.  That is, exercise after long periods of inactivity may not reverse the effect of inactivity.  For example, Dr. Mercola recommends that ” a reasonable goal is to get up four times every hour or every 15 minutes while you are sitting.”

In particular, the combination of movement with play, fun and laughter may pack a huge healthy punch.  Research supports that laughter may have the following benefits:

  • improves your immune system and protects your heart
  • boost your energy
  • diminish pain
  • protect you from the damaging effects of stress.
  • helps increase happiness and intimacy

This means that we really need to rethink our work environments so that we can incorporate motion, play and laughter throughout the day as part of our daily lives, if we really want to achieve optimum health.

Stephen Jepson of “Never Leave the Play Ground” may be onto something, with his revolutionary  system for keeping his body healthy and fit as he ages.  He promotes the idea that we can stay healthier longer keeping our minds more youthful by reintroducing activity in the form of physically challenging games into our daily lives.  His technique includes games that improve balance and coordination, and it is clear that they also include a good dose of laughter.    Looks like it is time for us baby boomers to start creating more play grounds for adult sized bodies!

With regards to laughter, you may now be able to find laughter clubs, laughter yoga, or laughter therapy in your own neighborhood or one nearby.  For example, searching for “laughter yoga Providence” on google returns links to the Providence Laughter Club and The Center of Joy.

The future is pointing towards models of proactive health that tap into the hidden resources within our bodies and spirits that we can access to promote renewed vitality and youthfulness.

So when can we have our next play date?