Treating Restless Leg Syndrome

21 Nov

Treating Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless leg syndrome is a neurological condition characterized by uncontrolled movements of the arms and legs. Caused by disruptions in the electrical activity of the nervous system, it can be extremely annoying and disruptive. And because symptoms are worse when you’re relaxed, sitting, or lying down, it often interferes with sleep. That’s why Dr. Whitaker wants to tell you about the therapies he has found to be most effective for treating restless leg syndrome.

In Dr. Whitaker’s clinical experience, when it comes to treating restless leg syndrome, Dilantin is your best bet. This anti-seizure medication calms the nervous system and eliminates uncontrolled electrical activity. To find out if Dilantin will work for you, take a 100 mg pill at bedtime or whenever you’re feeling “restless,” wait an hour, and see how you feel. It’s that simple. To learn more about this versatile medication, which is also effective for anxiety, depression, insomnia, tremors, and more, read Jack Dreyfus’ book The Story of a Remarkable Medicine (look for it online or call 800-810-6655 to order). Although Dilantin is safe, inexpensive, and effective, it may be difficult to get your physician to write a prescription, as few doctors seem to be aware of its off-label benefits.

Another promising treatment for restless leg syndrome is enhanced external counterpulsation (EECP). This therapy increases blood flow throughout the entire body and is extremely beneficial for treating restless leg syndrome.

Natural Treatments for Restless Leg Syndrome

As far as natural treatments for restless leg syndrome go, supplemental iron has been shown to reduce symptoms in people who are iron deficient. Since mild iron deficiency is common (especially in premenopausal women), Dr. Whitaker suggests you start with 28 mg of iron per day. If that doesn’t help after three or four weeks, get your iron levels tested before taking more.

Other natural treatments for restless leg syndrome worth investigating include calcium (500 mg) and magnesium (250–500 mg) supplements at bedtime and regular exercise (30–45 minutes most days of the week.)

Finally—and Dr. Whitaker know this sounds crazy—some of his patients swear by bar soap for treating restless leg syndrome and nocturnal leg cramps. Dr. Whitaker heard about this from a patient and did a little research on this himself, and this unusual cure is all over the Internet. Even though it is a little out of the box, it appears to work for a lot of people. The most common brands of soap mentioned are Ivory and Dial, but the exact brand doesn’t really seem to matter. Go ahead, slip a bar under the covers at the foot of your bed before you turn in for the night—and let us  know if it works for you.

Now it’s your turn: Have you had success treating restless leg syndrome?

Natural Sore-Throat Remedies

19 Nov


While there are lots of over-the-counter medications that can treat aching throats, there are also countless home and natural remedies to sooth the soreness for those who prefer more organic health care or just can’t make it to the pharmacy. Since it can often be difficult to separate the scientific fact from fiction, we’ve compiled a guide to the everyday affordable materials that have been shown to relieve the pain and wipe out early infections.

Licorice Root

Also known as “sweet root,” this perennial herb, commonly grown in southern Europe and Asia, has been used in medicine for thousands of years. Licorice is known to soothe and coat sore throats, and helps eliminate phlegm and mucous in the nose, throat and lungs. A 2009 study found that gargling with a licorice and water mixture gave patients with post-operative tracheal tubes less severe sore throats than those who gargled with just water.

Chicken Soup

Chicken soup is a staple food when it comes to being sick, but it turns out it is good for more than its comforting taste. Research suggests the chicken and vegetable combo helps reduce upper respiratory cold symptoms, including soothing sore throats.

Apple Cider Vinegar

This brown liquid is thought to have antibacterial properties that can help fight the infection causing sore throats. The acidity of the vinegar decreases the pH of tissue, which helps prevent bacteria from growing on its surface. Raw apple cider vinegar also has the prebiotic inulin, which may increase your number of white blood cells and T cells, and boosts your immune system.


Mixing warm water, honey and lemon is a time-honored tradition to treat aching throats in many households. A 2007 study from Penn State University found that honey was as effective as dextromethorphan, the active ingredient in over-the-counter cold medicines, at relieving cough symptoms, and was rated more favorably for symptom relief during sleep.

Other Options

Slippery Elm
The bark of this North American tree is often used to treat gastrointestinal disorders, skin ulcers, coughs and sore throats. More specifically, the tree’s mucilage – a sticky, gelatinous substance that contains protein and polysaccharides – has a demulcent effect, meaning it coats tissue and reduces pain and inflammation. Slippery elm is most often taken in the form of lozenges.

Pelargonium Sidoides

While the mechanism is unknown, this African geranium species is antibacterial and has been shown in clinical trials to reduce cold symptoms ranging from nasal congestion and headaches to fever and sore throats. The plant is a major component in many cold medicines, including Umcka ColdCare.

This bulbous plant is antimicrobial, says Dr. Asher, and therefore potentially useful in treating early-stage sore throats. Unfortunately, scientific studies haven’t linked directly linked the two, and you risk having horrible breath.

While these treatments can be useful in relieving pain, they can’t cure more serious infections like strep. Dr. Asher suggests making an appointment with your physician if you see white patches on the back of your throat, are so sore you can’t eat or drink anything, or have a fever of 102 degrees Fahrenheit or higher for longer than two days (less time for children).

Katherine Bagley

Natural Treatments for COPD

17 Nov

Natural Treatments for COPD


Nearly 13 million Americans suffer with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), an umbrella term for respiratory disorders that include emphysema and chronic bronchitis. COPD not only impairs quality of life, it is our third-leading cause of death. Although there is no known cure for this progressive condition, there are treatments for COPD—besides the steroids, bronchodilators, and frequent antibiotics conventional physicians typically prescribe—that improve symptoms and may even retard lung damage.

Natural Treatments for COPD: Mucus-Clearing Supplements

A common symptom of COPD is increased mucus secretion. In healthy people, mucus is constantly being produced but is cleared from the lungs by the action of tiny hair-like cilia that line the airways. The cilia beat rhythmically, creating vibrations that liquefy and move mucus up the trachea and throat, where it is swallowed or expelled. In COPD patients, however, overproduction of mucus overwhelms the system.

As mucus accumulates in the lungs, it not only blocks the airways but also becomes a breeding ground for bacteria and increases risk of pneumonia and other infections. Coughing is the most natural way to bring up excess mucus, and indeed a chronic, phlegmy cough is a hallmark symptom of COPD. As the condition worsens, however, shortness of breath makes it hard to muster up a productive cough.

That’s why oral agents that thin excess mucus by either liquefying it (expectorants) or breaking it down (mucolytics) are helpful treatments for COPD.

The Best Natural Expectorant and Mucolytic

Dr. Whitaker’s favorite natural expectorant is a liquid form of potassium iodide called SSKI, which has been in continuous clinical use for more than 100 years. When Dr. Whitaker was an intern at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, they routinely ordered SSKI for patients with lung congestion, and he continue to “prescribe” it to this day. The suggested dose of SSKI is 3–6 drops in water 2–3 times a day. Be aware that continuous use of SSKI requires periodic monitoring of thyroid hormones.

Mucolytics are even more promising when it comes to treating COPD. In fact, research suggests that they should be a first-line therapy. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in The Lancet, COPD patients treated with a mucolytic drug for a year had significantly fewer and less severe exacerbations, and their use of inhaled corticosteroids declined.

The best natural mucolytic is N-acetyl cysteine (NAC). This inexpensive supplement has been shown to reduce COPD-related inflammation and improve lung function and clinical outcomes. In one trial, study participants who took 1,200 mg of NAC daily had better inspiratory capacity and forced expiratory volume (standard tests of pulmonary function), as well as improved exercise endurance—a noteworthy outcome because physical activity is compromised in patients with this condition. The recommended dose of NAC is 1,200 mg per day, taken in divided doses.

Natural Treatments for COPD: Restore Antioxidant Defenses

In addition to improving lung function, NAC is also a powerful antioxidant that boosts levels of glutathione, the hands-down front-line defender against oxidative stress in the respiratory tract. Concentrations of glutathione are more than 100 times greater in the lungs than in the blood serum! In fact, some researchers believe that the reason NAC is one of the most effective natural treatments for COPD is because of its antioxidant properties rather than its mucolytic effects.

This is logical because oxidative stress is the underlying cause of COPD. Long-term exposure to irritants—from smoking in most cases but also from secondhand smoke or environmental pollutants—creates a storm of free radical damage and inflammation that narrows the airways and destroys the alveoli, the tiny, honeycomb-like sacs in the lungs where the capillaries pick up oxygen and release carbon dioxide.

Treating COPD With Glutathione

You’d think that boosting glutathione levels would be an obvious goal when treating COPD, but it isn’t. Glutathione is a natural antioxidant, and that alone causes it to be overlooked by most physicians when they’re considering effective treatments for COPD. Furthermore, it’s hard to deliver it where it’s needed. Oral glutathione doesn’t raise levels in the blood, let alone the lungs, and intravenous administration is surprisingly ineffective at targeting the respiratory tract. There is, however, one proven method, and that is to inhale it directly into the lungs via a nebulizer.

Nebulizers are devices that break liquids into tiny droplets that can be inhaled. When nebulized glutathione is administered in five- to 10-minute treatments a couple of times a day, it boosts antioxidant concentrations in the lungs, reduces free radical damage, increases oxygen saturation, and improves pulmonary function. Although inhaled glutathione isn’t a conventional treatment for COPD and most of the studies on this therapy have involved patients with cystic fibrosis, it has developed a loyal following among many patients and physicians.

Inhaled glutathione requires a prescription and is available from compounding pharmacies such as McGuff Compounding Pharmacy and Wellness Pharmacy. The usual starting dose is 300 mg of glutathione (200 mg/cc, draw 1.5 cc and place in nebulizer) twice a day. Note: Patients with cystic fibrosis and other respiratory disorders can benefit from this therapy; however, it may cause bronchoconstriction in those with sulfite-sensitive asthma.

Additional Treatments for COPD

Other natural treatments for COPD include magnesium, which relaxes and opens the airways; fish oil, which reduces inflammation; and vitamin C, which raises glutathione levels. Suggested doses are: 500 mg of magnesium once or twice a day, 2,000–5,000 mg of high-quality fish oil daily, and 500–1,000 mg of vitamin C several times a day.

Women should also consider bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, as estrogen improves lung function. And every patient should rule out sleep apnea, which often overlaps with COPD.

Most people with COPD aren’t diagnosed until at least 50 percent of their lung capacity is gone, and this degree of damage makes it an uphill battle. But given the scarcity of conventional treatments for COPD, these natural therapies are certainly worth a try.

Now it’s your turn: Have you or someone you know ever tried any of these natural treatments for COPD?

Acupuncture Treats Peripheral Neuropathy

12 Nov


Peripheral neuropathy describes damage to the peripheral nervous system, which transmits information from the brain and spinal cord to every other part of the body. Peripheral means ‘situated on the edge.’ Neuropathy breaks down into two separate words, both of which originate from the Greek language. Neuro means ‘relating to nerves or the nervous system,’ and pathy means ‘disease condition’ or ‘suffering.’ Nerves serve as pathways of communication between the brain and the rest of the body. When something interrupts this process, signs of peripheral neuropathy may occur.

Common signs of peripheral neuropathy include tingling, numbness, loss of sensation, muscle weakness and pain. For some people, it is experienced as the uncomfortable sensation of “pins and needles”, or burning pain (especially at night) of their hands or feet. Others may suffer even more extreme symptoms such as muscle wasting, paralysis, or organ or gland dysfunction.

In most cases, peripheral neuropathy is secondary to another condition. There are many factors that can bring about peripheral neuropathy including diabetes, malnutrition, drugs, viral and bacterial infections, alcoholism and poison exposure. Other causes of peripheral neuropathy include compression or entrapment (such as carpal tunnel syndrome), direct physical injury to a nerve, fractures or dislocated bones, penetrated injuries, and pressure involving superficial nerves that can result from prolonged use of crutches, staying in the same position too long, tumor, intraneural hemorrhage, exposure to cold, radiation or atherosclerosis.


What causes peripheral neuropathy?

Peripheral neuropathy may be either inherited or acquired. Causes of acquired peripheral neuropathy include physical injury (trauma) to a nerve, tumors, toxins, autoimmune responses, nutritional deficiencies, alcoholism, and vascular and metabolic disorders. Acquired peripheral neuropathies are grouped into three broad categories: those caused by systemic disease, those caused by trauma from external agents, and those caused by infections or autoimmune disorders affecting nerve tissue. One example of an acquired peripheral neuropathy is trigeminal neuralgia (also known as tic douloureux), in which damage to the trigeminal nerve (the large nerve of the head and face) causes episodic attacks of excruciating, lightning-like pain on one side of the face. In some cases, the cause is an earlier viral infection, pressure on the nerve from a tumor or swollen blood vessel, or, infrequently, multiple sclerosis. In many cases, however, a specific cause cannot be identified. Doctors usually refer to neuropathies with no known cause as idiopathic neuropathies.

Physical injury (trauma) is the most common cause of injury to a nerve. Injury or sudden trauma, such as from automobile accidents, falls, and sports-related activities, can cause nerves to be partially or completely severed, crushed, compressed, or stretched, sometimes so forcefully that they are partially or completely detached from the spinal cord. Less dramatic traumas also can cause serious nerve damage. Broken or dislocated bones can exert damaging pressure on neighboring nerves, and slipped disks between vertebrae can compress nerve fibers where they emerge from the spinal cord.

Systemic diseases — disorders that affect the entire body —often cause peripheral neuropathy. These disorders may include: Metabolic and endocrine disorders. Nerve tissues are highly vulnerable to damage from diseases that impair the body’s ability to transform nutrients into energy, process waste products, or manufacture the substances that make up living tissue. Diabetes mellitus, characterized by chronically high blood glucose levels, is a leading cause of peripheral neuropathy in the United States. About 60 percent to 70 percent of people with diabetes have mild to severe forms of nervous system damage.

Kidney disorders can lead to abnormally high amounts of toxic substances in the blood that can severely damage nerve tissue. A majority of patients who require dialysis because of kidney failure develop polyneuropathy. Some liver diseases also lead to neuropathies as a result of chemical imbalances.

Hormonal imbalances can disturb normal metabolic processes and cause neuropathies. For example, an underproduction of thyroid hormones slows metabolism, leading to fluid retention and swollen tissues that can exert pressure on peripheral nerves. Overproduction of growth hormone can lead to acromegaly, a condition characterized by the abnormal enlargement of many parts of the skeleton, including the joints. Nerves running through these affected joints often become entrapped.

Vitamin deficiencies and alcoholism can cause widespread damage to nerve tissue. Vitamins E, B1, B6, B12, and niacin are essential to healthy nerve function. Thiamine deficiency, in particular, is common among people with alcoholism because they often also have poor dietary habits. Thiamine deficiency can cause a painful neuropathy of the extremities. Some researchers believe that excessive alcohol consumption may, in itself, contribute directly to nerve damage, a condition referred to as alcoholic neuropathy.

Vascular damage and blood diseases can decrease oxygen supply to the peripheral nerves and quickly lead to serious damage to or death of nerve tissues, much as a sudden lack of oxygen to the brain can cause a stroke. Diabetes frequently leads to blood vessel constriction. Various forms of vasculitis (blood vessel inflammation) frequently cause vessel walls to harden, thicken, and develop scar tissue, decreasing their diameter and impeding blood flow. This category of nerve damage, in which isolated nerves in different areas are damaged, is called mononeuropathy multiplex or multifocal mononeuropathy.

Connective tissue disorders and chronic inflammation can cause direct and indirect nerve damage. When the multiple layers of protective tissue surrounding nerves become inflamed, the inflammation can spread directly into nerve fibers. Chronic inflammation also leads to the progressive destruction of connective tissue, making nerve fibers more vulnerable to compression injuries and infections. Joints can become inflamed and swollen and entrap nerves, causing pain.

Cancers and benign tumors can infiltrate or exert damaging pressure on nerve fibers. Tumors also can arise directly from nerve tissue cells. Widespread polyneuropathy is often associated with the neurofibromatoses, genetic diseases in which multiple benign tumors grow on nerve tissue. Neuromas, benign masses of overgrown nerve tissue that can develop after any penetrating injury that severs nerve fibers, generate very intense pain signals and sometimes engulf neighboring nerves, leading to further damage and even greater pain. Neuroma formation can be one element of a more widespread neuropathic pain condition called complex regional pain syndrome or reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome, which can be caused by traumatic injuries or surgical trauma. Paraneoplastic syndromes, a group of rare degenerative disorders that are triggered by a person’s immune system response to a cancerous tumor, also can indirectly cause widespread nerve damage.

Repetitive stress frequently leads to entrapment neuropathies, a special category of compression injury. Cumulative damage can result from repetitive, forceful, awkward activities that require flexing of any group of joints for prolonged periods. The resulting irritation may cause ligaments, tendons, and muscles to become inflamed and swollen, constricting the narrow passageways through which some nerves pass. These injuries become more frequent during pregnancy, probably because weight gain and fluid retention also constrict nerve passageways.

Toxins can also cause peripheral nerve damage. People who are exposed to heavy metals (arsenic, lead, mercury, thallium), industrial drugs, or environmental toxins frequently develop neuropathy. Certain anticancer drugs, anticonvulsants, antiviral agents, and antibiotics have side effects that can include peripheral nerve damage, thus limiting their long-term use.


Infections and autoimmune disorders can cause peripheral neuropathy. Viruses and bacteria that can attack nerve tissues include herpes varicella-zoster (shingles), Epstein-Barr virus, cytomegalovirus, and herpes simplex-members of the large family of human herpes viruses. These viruses severely damage sensory nerves, causing attacks of sharp, lightning-like pain. Postherpetic neuralgia often occurs after an attack of shingles and can be particularly painful.

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS, also causes extensive damage to the central and peripheral nervous systems. The virus can cause several different forms of neuropathy, each strongly associated with a specific stage of active immunodeficiency disease. A rapidly progressive, painful polyneuropathy affecting the feet and hands is often the first clinically apparent sign of HIV infection.

Lyme disease, diphtheria, and leprosy are bacterial diseases characterized by extensive peripheral nerve damage. Diphtheria and leprosy are now rare in the United States, but Lyme disease is on the rise. It can cause a wide range of neuropathic disorders, including a rapidly developing, painful polyneuropathy, often within a few weeks after initial infection by a tick bite.

Viral and bacterial infections can also cause indirect nerve damage by provoking conditions referred to as autoimmune disorders, in which specialized cells and antibodies of the immune system attack the body’s own tissues. These attacks typically cause destruction of the nerve’s myelin sheath or axon (the long fiber that extends out from the main nerve cell body).

Some neuropathies are caused by inflammation resulting from immune system activities rather than from direct damage by infectious organisms. Inflammatory neuropathies can develop quickly or slowly, and chronic forms can exhibit a pattern of alternating remission and relapse. Acute inflammatory demyelinating neuropathy, better known as Guillain-Barré syndrome, can damage motor, sensory, and autonomic nerve fibers. Most people recover from this syndrome although severe cases can be life threatening. Chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP), generally less dangerous, usually damages sensory and motor nerves, leaving autonomic nerves intact. Multifocal motor neuropathy is a form of inflammatory neuropathy that affects motor nerves exclusively; it may be chronic or acute.

Inherited forms of peripheral neuropathy are caused by inborn mistakes in the genetic code or by new genetic mutations. Some genetic errors lead to mild neuropathies with symptoms that begin in early adulthood and result in little, if any, significant impairment. More severe hereditary neuropathies often appear in infancy or childhood.

The most common inherited neuropathies are a group of disorders collectively referred to as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. These neuropathies result from flaws in genes responsible for manufacturing neurons or the myelin sheath. Hallmarks of typical Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease include extreme weakening and wasting of muscles in the lower legs and feet, gait abnormalities, loss of tendon reflexes, and numbness in the lower limbs.
With more than 100 types of peripheral neuropathies in existence, each with its own characteristic set of symptoms, pattern of development, and prognosis, the symptoms can vary as much as the cause. Nevertheless, peripheral neuropathy is a symptom for many different patterns of disharmony within the body and is a condition that can be managed with regular acupuncture and Oriental medicine treatments.

Oriental medicine teaches that peripheral neuropathy is due to dampness moving to the limbs, where it obstructs the flow of Qi (energy) and blood within them. The treatment is twofold: to treat the underlying factor that is causing this dampness to accumulate, and to directly facilitate the circulation of Qi and blood in the affected area. By improving circulation, the nerve tissues of the affected area can be nourished to repair function and reduce pain.

Peripheral neuropathy is a symptom for many different patterns of disharmony within the body. Oriental Medicine aims to treat each individual uniquely depending on what caused the neuropathy and how it manifests.

Your acupuncturist may do an interview and ask questions about how, what, where and when you feel pain, perspire, sleep, eat, drink and exercise, to name a few. The practitioner may also feel the pulse and observing the tongue. This interview and physical examination will help create a clear picture on which your practitioners can create a treatment plan specifically for you.

In addition to acupuncture, other methods such as transcutaneous electronic nerve stimulation (TENS), which uses small amounts of electricity to block pain signals, cutaneous acupuncture, herbal and physical therapy may be combined to achieve faster results.

What will an Acupuncture Treatment feel like?

There seems to be little sensitivity to the insertion of acupuncture needles. They are so thin that several acupuncture needles can go into the middle of a hypodermic needle. Occasionally, there is a brief moment of discomfort as the needle penetrates the skin, but once the needles are in place, most people relax and even fall asleep for the duration of the treatment.

The length, number and frequency of treatments will vary. Typical treatments last from five to 30 minutes, with the patient being treated one or two times a week. Some symptoms are relieved after the first treatment, while more severe or chronic ailments often require multiple treatments.

Acupuncture and Oriental medicine aims to treat each individual uniquely, depending on what caused the neuropathy and how it manifests. In addition to seeking acupuncture therapy, there are a few things you can practice at home:

Adopt Healthy Habits
Healthy habits such as maintaining optimal weight, avoiding exposure to toxins, following a physician-supervised exercise program, eating a balanced diet, correcting vitamin deficiencies, and limiting or avoiding alcohol consumption can reduce the physical and emotional effects of peripheral neuropathy.

Boost Circulation with Massage
Massage can help boost circulation, which is generally poor and leaves these areas vulnerable to trauma. You can stimulate your feet, lower legs, hands and arms with gentle massage using light pressure.

Relax to Reduce External Triggers
Consider relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, self-hypnosis or biofeedback. These can help you learn to control the external factors that trigger pain.

Soak for Pain Relief
A warm foot bath with Epsom salt may also help relieve pain. If there is loss of sensation in the hands or feet, you should avoid extreme temperatures, as you may not feel the damaging effects.

Do you or someone you know suffer from peripheral neuropathy? Call today to find out what acupuncture and Oriental medicine can do for you!

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There are so many references here for this article but it started with my acupuncturist and her monthly email mailing.  Christina Sarlo LMT, L.Ac., NCCAOM

Top Supplements for Preventing Memory Loss and Boosting Cognitive Function

10 Nov

Top Supplements for Preventing Memory Loss and Boosting Cognitive Function


Preventing memory loss and cognitive decline—particularly Alzheimer’s disease—is a common concern as we get older. The good news is research has shown that there are several safe, effective ways to prevent memory loss and improve cognitive function. They include eating a Mediterranean-type diet, engaging in regular exercise (mental and physical), and making sure you get a good night’s sleep.

There are also several nutrients and other targeted supplements that have been demonstrated to support cognitive function and help prevent memory loss. Here are a few of Dr. Whitaker’s top recommendations.

Omega-3s Are Critical for Preserving Cognitive Function

Omega-3 essential fatty acids play a crucial role in optimal neurological function. Low levels of DHA, the dominant omega-3 in the brain, are associated with more rapid cognitive decline and increased risk of dementia. This partly explains why following a Mediterranean-type diet is effective at preventing memory loss—it includes fish, which is one of the best dietary sources of omega-3s. So, unless you eat cold-water fish several times a week, your best bet is to take a quality omega-3 supplement.

B Vitamins Are Also Essential for Preventing Memory Loss

B vitamins also have an important place in preventing memory loss and boosting cognitive function. Folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12 reduce levels of homocysteine, a toxic amino acid linked with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. In a placebo-controlled study, scientists gave older volunteers with mild memory problems high doses of these vitamins. Repeat MRIs two years later revealed marked reductions in brain atrophy (shrinking of the brain characteristic of dementia) in the participants who had taken B vitamins, and they also scored higher on tests of cognitive function.

Prevent Memory Loss and Improve Cognitive Function With Curcumin

Inflammation is a key contributor to Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative disorders. Researchers have discovered that curcumin—the most active constituent of the culinary spice turmeric and an exceptionally potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant—can cross the blood-brain barrier and help reduce neuro-inflammation, improve brain function in healthy adults, and discourage the buildup of amyloid-beta, the primary component in the plaques that junk up the brain in Alzheimer’s. Curcumin actually helps clear amyloid-beta from the brain!

The only problem with curcumin is its poor bio-availability. Manufacturers have come up with several ways to get around this issue. Some combine turmeric or curcumin with piperine, the main constituent of black pepper since it has been shown to significantly improve bio-availability. Meriva, a brand we use at Whitaker Wellness, binds curcumin to phosphatidylcholine, which dramatically increases blood levels. Longvida, which is the formula selected by UCLA scientists in their Alzheimer’s disease research and that we also use at the clinic, is specially encapsulated with lipids and has been proven to cross the blood-brain barrier. These advanced systems boost delivery of free curcumin and require much lower dosing.

Get Started Today

Since some research suggests that decline in cognitive functioning can begin in your 40s and preventing memory loss is obviously better than trying to treat it, Dr. Whitaker strongly suggest adding these supplements to your daily regimen. You should also make a point to incorporate the other measures that have been shown to help prevent memory loss and maintain optimal cognitive function.

Dr. Whitaker

After trigger point dry needling, a runner’s injury heals. But did the technique do it?

7 Nov


When an old Achilles tendon injury flared up and prevented me from running, I tried all my previous tricks — ice, rehab exercises, rest. At my wits’ end, I sought advice from a physical therapist, who suggested “trigger point dry needling,” a technique in which thin needles are inserted through the skin and into so-called trigger points in the muscle.

Desperate for relief, I was soon facedown on the exam table with needles going into my calves. The procedure didn’t last long, but it felt like electric-charged spikes jabbing my nerves. My calf muscles reacted by twitching and seizing into a prolonged cramp. The next day, they were so sore I could barely walk. A few weeks later, my Achilles problem had healed enough that I could run again. Did the needling help? I have no idea.

The experts aren’t certain, either. On a scale of zero to 10, with 10 being absolute certainty about its effectiveness and zero being no supporting evidence at all, “I’d say it’s probably in the 6 range,” says Edo Zylstra, a physical therapist and owner of Kinetacore in Brighton, Colo., which trains medical professionals in the technique. “The evidence on it is improving all the time — every month there are new studies.”

One recent study randomly assigned people undergoing total knee replacement to receive either trigger point dry needling or a placebo treatment while under anesthesia (neither patients nor their health-care providers knew who was in each group) and found that people who had been needled reported less pain than the controls during the first month after the surgery. A 2005 review published by the Cochrane Collaboration concluded that dry needling may be useful when added to other therapies for chronic low-back pain.

Although it uses the same needles as acupuncture, trigger point dry needling is an entirely different technique based on neurophysiology, says Jan Dommerholt, a physical therapist at Bethesda Physiocare who teaches seminars on the technique. “We share a tool, but that’s it,” he says. “Trigger point dry needling has nothing to do with Asian medicine or meridians and energy flow.” Where acupuncture needles remain close to the skin’s surface, dry needling pushes the them farther into the muscle and thus requires an intricate understanding of anatomy.

The technique arose from observations of muscle injections made as far back as the 1940s. There seemed to be trigger points where injections provided pain relief, regardless of what was in the needle, Dommerholt says. “That suggested that it’s not what you inject, but the mechanical stimulation of the needle that does the trick.” Since then, the technique has been widely studied, but “we still don’t really know how dry needling works,” he says.

Trigger points are like knots in the muscle; when you inject a needle into them, it sparks a change in chemistry inside the muscle. “The environment in these trigger points is extremely acidic, and because of the acidity, there are lots of chemicals released in the muscle that don’t belong there,” Dommerholt says. “We know that within minutes of needling, these chemicals are gone — that’s been shown in humans and rabbits — but we still don’t know why dry needling does that.”

Dry needling is akin to rebooting your computer when it’s trapped in the spinning ball of doom, says Charlie Merrill, my physical therapist at Merrill Performance in Boulder, Colo. “You’re causing micro-trauma in that part of the muscle,” he says, which triggers increased circulation, an inflammatory response and biochemical changes (like the ones Dommerholt mentioned) that help the muscle heal. “When it comes back online, things are working more normally again,” he says.

Needling is not a fix-all solution, Merrill says. “It’s usually only a piece of the puzzle, and often a very small piece.” He says he almost never gives a patient dry needling alone. Instead, it’s one tool in a larger treatment plan that might also include exercises, range-of-motion drills and stretching.

Dry needling is most often done by physical therapists, but doctors, nurses, chiropractors and acupuncturists who have been trained can also do it. If you try it, look for a practitioner who has had specific training in the technique (typically a weekend class), and be sure that your clinic keeps needles sterile.

While the American Physical Therapy Association does not have an official position on dry needling, it recognizes that the technique “is within the professional scope of practice for physical therapists,” says Erin Wendel, the association’s senior media relations specialist.

When done by a physical therapist, dry needling is considered a regular part of physical therapy so patients (and insurers) aren’t charged added fees for it and practitioners don’t have the lure of extra income tempting them to use the technique inappropriately. However, in Idaho, New York, South Dakota and Tennessee, concerns raised by acupuncture advocates about which health-care professionals should be allowed to use needles have led to prohibitions on physical therapists providing dry needling. If you live in one of those states, you’ll have to seek the treatment from a physician.

When I told Merrill how much pain I’d had the day after the treatment, he wasn’t surprised. “It’s not like massage, where you’re going to feel good today,” he says. “It’s a feel-worse-today-to-feel-better-in-a-week-or-two sort of thing.” Dry needling is most painful in the calves and the glutes, Merrill says. When I received the treatment for hip pain on another occasion, it didn’t hurt a bit. But I’m still wondering whether it helped.

The problem I have assessing an intervention such as this is that I can’t know how my injury would have done without the procedure. If it was going to resolve itself on its own over those same few weeks, perhaps its greatest benefit was that it gave me a distraction — and a new pain to deal with, temporarily, and the feeling that I’d done something proactive — while nature ran its course.


What is Dry Needling?


Dry needling is the use of either solid filiform needles or hollow-core hypodermic needles for therapy of muscle pain, sometimes also known as intramuscular stimulation (IMS). Acupuncture and dry needling techniques are similar.

What is Trigger Point Dry Needling (TDN)?
TDN is an effective therapy to treat muscular tension and spasm which commonly accompanies conditions such as arthritis, nerve irritation, muscular strain, ligament strains and herniated discs.  It is called “Dry” Needling because there is no solution injected as with a hypodermic needle during a flu shot.  With Dry Needling, the needle itself and the effects it produces within the tissue is the treatment.

When an injury occurs from repetitive use or acute trauma, inflammation will be produced from the damaged tissues.  The damaged tissues will also go into a protective tension state or contracture to guard against further damage from utilizing the injured tissue.  This contracture and inflammation inhibit microcirculation which limits both the oxygen rich blood reaching the injury and the waste products leaving the injury.  The injury site becomes hypoxic (decreased in oxygen) which stimulates the body to produce fibroblasts, a cell that produces fibrosis or scar tissue.  This fibrosis and scarring builds up around the muscles and tissues limiting the tissues ability to fully function (lengthen/shorten) and can also cause compression and irritation of nerves (such as carpal tunnel syndrome) – all of which inevitably lead to biomechanical disturbances in gait and function.

TDN uses a small, solid filament needle which is inserted in a contracted painful knotted muscle to create a local twitch reflex which is both diagnostic and therapeutic as it is the first step in breaking the pain cycle as research shows will decrease muscle contraction, reduce chemical irritation, improve flexibility and decrease pain.  When a needle is inserted into muscle it will also produce a controlled lesion and will cut between three to fifteen thousand individual muscle fibers.  The body considers the needle as a foreign invader and will activate the immune system as a response.  The cut muscle fibers also produce an inflammatory reaction that your body will respond to not just locally but all over the body to reduce inflammation systemically.

Mechanical effects

  • Dry Needling may mechanically disrupt a dysfunctional motor end plate
  • Needling results in a Local Twitch Response (LTR)
  • The LTR results in an alteration to muscle fiber length as well as having an inhibitory effect on antagonistic muscles

Neurophysiological effects

  • Baldry (2001) suggests that dry needling techniques stimulate A-nerve fibers (group III) for as long as 72 hours post needling
  • Prolonged stimulation of the sensory afferent A-fibers may activate the enkephalinergic inhibitory dorsal horn interneurons, which implies that dry needling causes opioid mediated pain suppression
  • Another possible mechanism of dry needling is the activation of descending inhibitory systems which would block noxious stimulus into the dorsal horn
  • The LTR may also utilize the excessive ACh in the tissue which previously was triggering increased firing of localized fibers

Chemical effects

  • Studies by Shah and colleagues (2001) demonstrated increased levels of various chemicals at sensitized motor end plates such as: Bradykinin, Substance P and CGRP (regulator of Calcium and Phosphate balance). These chemicals were reduced immediately post a LTR.
  • CGRP enhances the release of ACh from nerve terminals, which results in increased ACh receptors at the neuromuscular junction
  • Needle penetration will cause micro-trauma and micro bleeding (localized inflammation) and hence the introduction of PDGF into the area to help promote healing

Is Trigger Point Dry Needling Acupuncture?

FDMNo, Trigger Point Dry Needling is based on Western medical research and principles, whereas acupuncture is based on Traditional Chinese Medicine.  The main similarity is that the same sterile, disposable solid filament needles are used.  Although Dr. Mulhall is a Fellow for the International Association of Medical Acupuncture (FIAMA) and also practices acupuncture, he was trained through two separate organizations (The American Dry Needling Institute and KinetaCore) to provide detailed and specific TDN therapy and each therapy is a separate and distinct in their methodology, perspectives and practices.



What Types of Conditions Can TDN Assist?

  • Neck/Back Pain
  • Shoulder Pain
  • Tennis/Golfers Elbow
  • Headaches
  • Hip and Gluteal Pain
  • Knee Pain
  • Achilles Tendonitis/Tendonosis
  • Plantar Fasciitis
  • Sciatica
  • Muscular Strains/Ligament Sprains
  • Chronic Pain
  • Athletic Performance


Does TDN hurt?
You may or may not feel the insertion of the needle. The specific needle manipulation is intended to produce a local twitch response that can elicit a very brief (less than a second) painful response some patients describe as a deep ache or cramping sensation.  Again, the therapeutic response occurs with the elicitation of the local twitch response and is a desirable reaction.

What can I do to prepare for my therapy?
Eat a light meal 1-2 hours prior to your visit and wear loose, comfortable clothing that can be rolled up or down to access your areas of concern with the greatest ease.

What can I expect after treatment?
We are looking to get improvements even from the first visit such as increased range of motion, ease of movement and decreased signs/symptoms.

Many patients report being sore after the treatment in both the area treated and the area of referred symptoms.  Typically this soreness lasts between a few hours and two days and there is occasional bruising.  Soreness may be alleviated by applying ice or heat to the area and performing specific stretches for the treated muscle.

Here are 10 facts you should know about the illegal and unsafe practice of acupuncture under the term

“dry needling:”

1. “Dry needling” is acupuncture.

“Dry needling” was first described over 2,000 years ago in China’s earliest and most comprehensive extant medical treatise, the Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic (Huangdi neijing), where it discusses in detail using tender or painful points, also known as “trigger points” or “motor points,” to treat pain and dysfunction, particularly of the neuromusculoskeletal system. Simply described, “dry needling” involves inserting an acupuncture needle into a tender or painful point and then appropriately manipulating (rotating and/or pistoning) it for therapeutic purposes.


2. Tender or painful points, also known as “trigger points” or “motor points,” are acupuncture points.

Tender or painful points are located in muscles and connective tissues, and, as their name suggests, are identified through tenderness or pain on palpation. This was, in fact, one of acupuncture’s earliest forms of point selection. China’s preeminent physician, Sun Si-Miao (581–682 C.E.), called these tender or painful points “ashi” points. In Chinese, ashi means Ah yes! (That’s the right spot.). So, when the tender or painful point is pressed, the patient feels an unexpected local and/or referred “wince-pain” and says Ah yes! That’s the right spot. Incidentally, in a 1977 study published in Pain (the official journal of the International Association for the Study of Pain), Melzack, Stillwell and Fox established that “every trigger point [reported in the Western medical literature] has a corresponding acupuncture point.”* A number of studies subsequently published in the Western medical literature have reached this same basic conclusion.


* Source: Melzack R, Stillwell DM, Fox EJ. Trigger points and acupuncture points for pain: correlations and implications. Pain. 1977 Feb;3(1):3–23.


3. “Dry needling” is not “manual therapy;” it is acupuncture.

It is important to emphasize that “dry needling” is an invasive, acupuncture needle intervention (that is, it is acupuncture, a specialized form of minimally invasive surgery), whereas manual therapy is a noninvasive, hands-on intervention (for example, massage, mobilization/manipulation). Manual therapy certainly does not include the practice of surgery in any form.


4. “Dry needling” is not a “technique;” it is acupuncture.

To make clear, the act of inserting an acupuncture needle into the body, under any pretense, or for any purpose whatsoever, is the practice of acupuncture.


5. Physical therapists and other allied health professionals who are not licensed by law to practice acupuncture cannot legally purchase acupuncture needles.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classified acupuncture needles as Class II medical devices subject to strict regulations under the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) and FDA’s regulations. Individuals purchasing or receiving acupuncture needles who are not licensed by law to practice acupuncture are directly violating both civil and criminal provisions of the FDCA intended to protect public safety. 21 U.S.C. § 331(a)–(c), (g). These include the FDA’s requirements that acupuncture needles can only be sold to “qualified practitioners of acupuncture.” 61 Fed. Reg. 64616 (December 6, 1996). FDA prescription labeling requirements themselves specifically prohibit the sale of acupuncture needles to anyone who is not a qualified practitioner of acupuncture. The required FDA prescription labeling on the package from which acupuncture needles are to be dispensed states: “Caution: Federal law restricts this device to sale by or on the order of qualified practitioners of acupuncture as determined by the States.” 21 CFR § 801.109(b)(1) (emphasis added). Any individual who is not licensed by law to practice acupuncture is directly violating the FDCA and FDA’s civil and criminal prohibitions when they purchase or receive acupuncture needles for use in “dry needling.”


6. Physical therapists and other allied health professionals who are not licensed by law to practice acupuncture are using acupuncture needles to perform “dry needling.”

Physical therapists and other allied health professionals who are not licensed by law to practice acupuncture would have you believe that they are not using acupuncture needles to perform “dry needling,” when they are, in fact, using acupuncture needles, which are clearly labeled as such on the dispensing package.


7. Physical therapists and other allied health professionals who are not licensed by law to practice acupuncture are not qualified to perform “dry needling.”

“Dry needling” is far outside both physical therapists’ and other allied health professionals’ scope of practice and their scope of education and training. In most states, to become a licensed acupuncturist, an applicant must complete a minimum of 1,905 hours of education and supervised clinical training (1,245 hours of education and 660 hours of supervised clinical training). Yet physical therapists and other allied health professionals who are not licensed by law to practice acupuncture are inserting acupuncture needles (up to four inches or more in length) into unsuspecting patients with as little as a weekend workshop in acupuncture.


8. There are real risks associated with the use of acupuncture needles by physical therapists and other allied health professionals who lack the education and supervised clinical training of licensed acupuncturists.

These real risks include, but are not limited to, blood vessel, nerve and organ injury from inappropriate acupuncture needle angle and depth of insertion or from inappropriate acupuncture needle manipulation; and infection and cross infection from non-sterile acupuncture needles, poor hygiene in acupuncture needle handling, and inadequate skin preparation.


9. There have been recently reported cases of injury or harm from the use of acupuncture needles by physical therapists and other allied health professionals who lack the education and supervised clinical training of licensed acupuncturists.

In one such case, Emily Kuykendall, a high school teacher from Maryland, had suffered nerve damage from the use of acupuncture needles by a physical therapist. In another such case, Kim Ribble-Orr, a former Olympic athlete from Canada, had suffered a punctured lung and a pneumothorax (the presence of air in the cavity between the lungs and the chest wall, causing collapse of the lung) from the use of acupuncture needles by a massage therapist.

*If you or someone you know has suffered injury or harm from the use of acupuncture needles by a physical therapist or other allied health professional who lacked the education and supervised clinical training of licensed acupuncturists, we want to hear from you. Our phone number is 775-301-5255.


10. It is illegal for physical therapists or any other providers to submit claims for payment to Medicare for “dry needling” (a non-covered service) as “physical therapy” (a covered service).

Since “dry needling” is acupuncture, it is not a covered service. Use of acupuncture needles is not a covered service, whether an acupuncturist or any other provider renders the service. 42 U.S.C. § 1395y(a)(1). Its billing under Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes 97112 (neuromuscular reeducation) or 97140 (manual therapy techniques) is a misrepresentation of the actual service rendered and is considered fraud by Medicare. 31 U.S.C. §§ 3729–3733.

*If you suspect Medicare fraud, call the Medicare Fraud Hotline at 1-800-HHS-TIPS (1-800-447-8477). TTY users should call 1-800-377-4950.

*Information on this page is used with consent from the National Center for Acupuncture Safety and Integrity

Personal Opinion

I would rather not experience pain to heal.  With acupuncture there may be a momentary pain in a “hot point” but it quickly dissipates or the needle is removed.  I do not have to use ice or heat afterwards. I do not have to wait six weeks for results. Acupuncture from licensed professionals works naturally with your body to help it heal.

Managing Diabetes with Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

5 Nov

It is estimated that 25.8 million men, women and children in the United States have diabetes, a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy needed for daily life. The cause of diabetes continues to be a mystery, although both genetics and environmental factors such as obesity and lack of exercise appear to play roles.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 1 in 4 people remain unaware that they live with diabetes. Sometimes the body will give warning signs that help your physician or acupuncture and Oriental medicine practitioner make an early diagnosis. It is important to get a diagnosis as soon as you suspect that diabetes may be a problem for you, as untreated diabetes affects the whole body and can lead to other medical problems, including heart disease, kidney failure, blindness, peripheral neuropathy, digestive disorders and periodontal disease.

In order to manage this condition, it is essential for people with diabetes to make healthy lifestyle choices in diet, exercise and other health habits. Another important factor when treating diabetes is creating a support team of health care professionals, including a licensed acupuncturist.

Diabetes According to Oriental Medicine

Acupuncture and Oriental medicine have been used to treat diabetes for over 2000 years. According to Oriental medicine, diabetes is caused by an imbalance of the cyclical flow of Qi within the meridians and organ systems. This particular imbalance produces heat that depletes the body’s fluids and Qi, causing symptoms such as extreme fatigue, lethargy, unexplained weight loss, excessive thirst, excessive urination, excessive eating, slow healing of cuts and wounds, infections, irritability, tingling or numbness in the extremities, and blurry vision.

Offering a holistic approach that is beneficial in the treatment of diabetes, acupuncture and Oriental medicine provides a treatment plan specifically tailored to the needs of each individual to provide relief of the symptoms associated with diabetes. Acupuncture and Oriental medicine can assist the body by helping it return to its normal healthy functioning state.

In addition to acupuncture, a variety of techniques may be used during treatment, including bodywork, lifestyle/dietary recommendations, energetic exercises and herbal medicine. The treatment for diabetes will focus on regulating the circulation of blood and Qi and balancing the organ systems to improve pancreatic function and address internal heat and the depletion of fluids.

Christina Sarlo LMT, L.Ac., NCCAOM

Reduce Estrogen Dominance

3 Nov

Jennifer's Story: Hormone Havoc Resulting in a Lifetime of Needless Thyroid Dysfunction

Quicker Excretion = Reduced Estrogen

Probiotics, consumed as either fermented foods or in supplement form, nourish the gut bacteria and help improve all of our digestive processes, from absorption to excretion. This is important because estrogen levels are directly affected by bowel transit time (the time it takes for waste to move through the intestinal tract).

A normal transit time allows excess estrogen to pass with the stool and out of the body. When the stool remains in the bowel for longer periods of time, as with constipation, the excess estrogen is re-absorbed and placed back into circulation.

The lengthier transit time also allows for the reabsorption of other waste material and toxins, which intensifies the workload of the liver even more. (The liver is responsible for breaking down excess estrogen and bundling it for excretion.) These are just a couple of reasons why being regular is so important.

One way to reduce bowel transit time—and thereby the amount of estrogen in your body—is to add fiber to your diet. 

We’ve known for a long time that our diet influences estrogen levels, with specific research linking the highest rates of breast cancer with women who eat diets high in fat and low in fiber.

Soluble fiber breaks down into a gel-like consistency and slightly delays stomach emptying, helping with weight loss and blood sugar control. Soluble fiber also feeds the microflora in the bowel. It’s one of the many reasons I like fresh ground flax, hemp, or chia seeds, and include at least one of these in my morning protein shake.

Insoluble fiber, primarily from vegetables or from the hulls of fresh ground seeds like those above, gently stimulates the intestinal tract and starts peristaltic actions. (Unfortunately, the typical Western diet is almost void of vegetables unless you want to count potatoes. French fries have now become the most-consumed “vegetable” in this country.)

A second option for improving transit time is to eat more fermented foods and/or to take a quality daily probiotic supplement. Upping your consumption of probiotics will help maintain the optimum balance of bacteria, which in turn stimulates the digestive process and promotes regularity.

Lower Glucuronidase Activity = Reduced Estrogen

A second link between probiotics and estrogen dominance involves the enzyme Beta-glucoronidase.

This enzyme, which is produced by gut bacteria, breaks the bond between estrogen and glucuronic acid. Once freed, the hormone can be reabsorbed back into circulation.

Studies have shown that excess glucuronidase activity in the gut is associated with an increased cancer risk—particularly estrogen-dependent breast, prostate, and colon cancers. However, researchers also have demonstrated that fermented foods and probiotic supplements containing the Lactobacillus acidophilus species can decrease the activity of this enzyme fourfold, enabling the body to rid itself of more estrogen.

It seems like every day we learn about some new way the mircroflora in our gut dramatically influence our health. I think anyone who isn’t taking a quality probiotic supplement on a daily basis is missing out on one of the best health prevention tools and longevity supplements ever.

Obviously, probiotics are not the sole answer for estrogen dominance; many other factors also influence this health problem.  But tending to your digestive health is certainly a good place to begin addressing the situation.

This is the story of Jennifer in her words:

All of my symptoms persisted until September 2013, when I met David. He told me that Synthroid addressed only T4 and that I was probably severely low on T3. And that was exactly what it was.

Unfortunately, my doctors kept insisting that my T3 was in the normal range. They argued against putting me on Armour, which addresses both T4 and T3. But, I stood my ground and finally got them to write me the prescription. I felt better within the week I took the first dose.

Then it became a dog fight over increasing my dosage to the optimal level. They did not want to do that and kept telling me that I needed to go back on the Synthroid. I finally got them to agree to test my blood monthly (my medical bills were outrageous) so that I could keep increasing the Armour until I felt like my old self. I am now on 90 mg twice a day. But, it took me nearly nine months to get to that level because of the fight I had with my endocrinologist, who had been my doctor for over 12 years.

One Giant Misdiagnosis

Ultimately, I ended up with a thyroid problem as a result of inadequate attention to the real problem. When David and I talked about my medical history and everything that had happened, he picked up immediately on the fact that I have been estrogen dominant most of my life. That is the reason I made all of the adenomas, the masses on my ovaries then the uterus, and finally, the masses on my thyroid.

The real problem—estrogen dominance—had never been addressed, and it kept escalating with the removal of each organ, because the uterus and the thyroid have the main stores of progesterone, which is the hormone that counteracts and helps to balance the effects of estrogen. I was probably making progesterone (obviously I was able to get pregnant three times and I never had a miscarriage), but I was estrogen dominant. (The May 2014 issue of Alternatives covers the topic of estrogen dominance.)

Conventional medicine compounded my problem. If doctors had addressed the original issue of the breast adenomas and the heavy periods when I was a teenager, I would never have lost my thyroid. So, once David got my thyroid to function at a normal level with the right medicine, he addressed the original problem that I still had. He put me on natural progesterone to balance my high estrogen. This has helped clear up the residual acne and the hormonal imbalance. I take it twice daily orally.

The whole experience has been a 28-year ordeal. It has been resolved for approximately three months. I have not made any new breast adenomas or any masses anywhere else. And, I am extremely lucky that I did not get breast cancer as a result of this imbalance.

Dr. Williams

Astaxanthin Benefits: Heart Health, Inflamation and More

31 Oct

Astaxanthin Benefits: Heart Health, Inflammation, and More


Have you ever wondered what makes salmon, shrimp, and flamingos pink? It’s a carotenoid called astaxanthin. In addition to giving these animals their pinkish hues, research has shown that for us humans there are multiple health benefits of astaxanthin.

What Is Astaxanthin?

Derived from microalgae called Haematococcus and used extensively in aquaculture (it’s fed to farmed salmon to enhance color), astaxanthin is in the same carotenoid family as beta-carotene, lycopene, and lutein. Astaxanthin is also an ultra-potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that possesses several remarkable properties.

For starters, astaxanthin’s antioxidant power is up to 550 times stronger than vitamin E and 10 times more potent than beta-carotene. It is also one of a few nutrients with the ability to not only cross the blood-brain barrier but the blood-retinal barrier as well. That’s why it’s not surprising that astaxanthin benefits encompass many aspects of health.

Astaxanthin Benefits: Heart Health

When it comes to astaxanthin benefits, it is a shoo-in with regard to cardiovascular protection. In addition to preventing lipid oxidation, a Japanese study revealed that daily supplementation with astaxanthin significantly reduced triglyceride levels and raised notoriously hard-to-increase beneficial HDL cholesterol.

Astaxanthin Benefits: Inflammation

As mentioned earlier, astaxanthin is an extremely potent natural anti-inflammatory. Human trials have shown that it reduces symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and muscle soreness.

Astaxanthin Benefits: Eye Health

Another one of the health benefits of astaxanthin is vision support. More specifically, because it can cross the blood-retinal barrier, astaxanthin is uniquely equipped to prevent age- and UV-related damage to the eyes, making it an effective way to ward off macular degeneration and other causes of vision loss.

Other Astaxanthin Benefits

Additional studies have found that the health benefits of astaxanthin include improved endurance and effective treatment for H. pylori, the bacteria that causes ulcers. Because of its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, it’s also protective against neurodegenerative diseases. Animal studies suggest that astaxanthin possesses powerful antimicrobial and immune-modulating properties as well.

How to Reap the Health Benefits of Astaxanthin

Astaxanthin is naturally present in wild salmon, rainbow trout, and shellfish, and can also be found in very small amounts in red-colored fruits and vegetables (red peppers, carrots, tomatoes, and radishes). But to obtain all of the health benefits of astaxanthin, supplements are the way to go. For general antioxidant and anti-inflammatory support, Dr. Whitaker recommends take 2–8 mg per day. To help control blood lipids, Dr. Whitaker recommends take up to 16 mg in divided doses.

Now it’s your turn: Which of these astaxanthin benefits is most appealing to you?

Dr. Whitaker

Benefits of Massage Therapy

29 Oct


It’s time to stop thinking of massage as a luxurious indulgence, but rather a research-backed tool that can improve your health.

“The notion that massage is ‘just an indulgence’ is antiquated,” says Brent A. Bauer, M.D., director of the complementary and integrative medicine program at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. “There are over 1,000 studies and published reports that offer scientific evidence on the health effects of massage therapy. There are certainly direct effects like changes that happen at the muscle level and pain pathways and a reduction in stress hormones, such as cortisol. But there are also indirect effects like being in a comfortable setting and a compassionate human presence that can all lead to profound effects on our stress levels and emotional state.”

Don’t just take Dr. Bauer’s word for it. Here, research reveals five health benefits to a good rub down.

1. Massage decreases stress, depression and anxiety.
When you’re anxious and feeling the pressure, your body pumps out the stress hormone cortisol. Unfortunately, this just makes you feel even more stressed and anxious. Here’s where a massage can help. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, studied patients who had undergone open-heart surgery. They compared the benefits of massage and quiet relaxation time and found that those in the massage group were significantly less anxious and tense. They also reported significantly less pain. Other studies confirm these results. “Similar efforts in thoracic, breast and colorectal surgery led to widespread implementation of massage therapy in our hospitals,” explains study author Bauer.

2. A rub down reduces lower back pain.
Oh, your aching back! If lower back pain is making life, well, really painful, a little rub down may be just what the doctor ordered. Researchers at the University of Miami School of Medicine conducted a five-week study on people who had been suffering from lower back pain for at least six months. They found that those who got 30 minutes of massage therapy twice a week had less pain and more mobility and range of motion in their lower backs than those who had relaxation therapy during that time. Added bonus? The massage group also felt less stressed!


Reduce Stress

3. You’ll sleep better.
Many of us have trouble falling asleep at night and nearly 10 percent of Americans suffer from chronic insomnia. In the same lower back pain study conducted at the University of Miami School of Medicine, study participants in the massage group also said they slept better than those in the relaxation group. Another study in the Journal of Clinical Rheumatology compared the benefits of massage to those of relaxation therapy on people who have fibromyalgia. After five weeks of twice- weekly 30-minute massages, those in the massage therapy group slept longer and more soundly than those who had relaxation therapy. Plus, people in the rub-down group also found their pain level decreased and they had fewer tender spots on their bodies.

4. Massage may ease knee pain.
Osteoarthritis of the knee means there’s been a breakdown of cartilage, ligaments, joint lining or underlying bone, which can be a real pain in the knees. But massage may help. A study at both Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center in Connecticut and University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey found that weekly Swedish massages decreased knee pain in those suffering from osteoarthritis. In the eight-week study, some participants had 60-minute Swedish massages once or twice a week, while the others had shorter or less frequent treatments or no massage at all. Those in the 60-minute massage group had less pain and more function in their knees.

5. The therapy alleviates carpal tunnel syndrome.
With more of us logging longer hours in front of our computers, wrist pain is a problem many can relate to. In more serious situations, you may have carpal tunnel syndrome, which is when the median nerve that runs through the wrist becomes trapped, causing pain and tingling. A gentle massage may help. One study reported in Rheumatology International divided carpal tunnel sufferers into two groups. One group got hand massages in addition to wearing wrist splints, while the other group just wore the wrist splints. At the end of the study, those in the massage group had better grip strength and less pain. A second study in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies had carpal tunnel patients do self-massage daily and get a professional massage weekly for four weeks compared to a control group. The massage group had less pain and anxiety and better grip strength than the control group.

Pain can negatively affect your quality of life if left untreated. The American Massage Therapy Association shares how massage therapy is proven to manage pain associated with a variety of injuries and conditions.

1. Low-back pain. Several studies have shown that massage therapy may be effective for certain kinds of chronic low-back pain, especially when combined with exercise and other types of rehabilitation. By helping to reduce chronic pain, it may decrease reliance on anti-inflammatory drugs for pain control.

2. Neck pain. Massage therapy can help decrease particular types of neck pain. A recent study showed that multiple massages per week could help decrease chronic pain and improve some day-to-day functions.

3. Arthritis. Those suffering from osteoarthritis with chronic pain or limited mobility may find that massage helps their pain and improves their function.

4. Fibromyalgia. While the cause of fibromyalgia is uncertain, massage is one form of treatment that has found short-term success with some individuals. It may help improve pain and quality of life, especially when combined with other treatments.

5. Sports injury and recovery. Massage therapy may be of benefit to athletes of all fitness levels. Some studies have indicated that massage therapy may help reduce muscle soreness, stiffness and fatigue and may be related to improved recovery after certain types of exercise.

A qualified massage therapist can help you develop a custom plan based on your needs and your health and wellness goals. Talk to your doctor before starting massage to make sure it’s safe for you.

Dr. Oz


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