It’s definitely not brain surgery!

Seemingly every day, science finds more evidence to prove that what we THINK is critical to how we FEEL, physically as well as emotionally. To a great degree, our thoughts can, and do, regulate our health. While intelligence is distributed throughout the entire body, the brain is the central processing location, the “Grand Central Station ” of the network of nerve impulses. We teach this to our patients when describing the benefits of chiropractic, acupuncture, or other neurologically based health care.

It would probably be a good idea, then, to make sure they have some basic information on how they can maintain and improve brain health at all stages of life.

John H. Byrne, Ph.D., professor and chairman of the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy at the University of Texas Health Science Center (UTHealth) at Houston Medical School, studies the neuronal and molecular mechanisms underlying learning and memory. Here are three tips he offers for maintaining and improving brain health. Giving this list to your patients will be one more way you can help them live longer, healthier lives.

1) Exercise

“Everyone knows that exercise is good for the heart, but what they may not know is that exercise also appears to be good for the brain,” said Dr. Byrne, the June and Virgil Waggoner Chair. “There is a lot of recent evidence demonstrating that exercise itself promotes neurogenesis — the generation of new nerve cells in the brain. It had long been believed that once you lose nerve cells, they are gone for good and the brain cannot regenerate them, but exercise appears to inspire the brain’s ability to generate nerve cells.”

2) Diet

“There are certain ‘brain foods’ that seem to have a benefit on the brain,” Byrne said. “New research shows that Omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in salmon and other fish, may build the brain’s gray matter. Foods and beverages that are rich in antioxidants may also help keep the brain sharp. For brain food, consider a glass of red wine, some salmon, blueberries, a little bit of chocolate or a cup of green tea. Foods, indeed, can play a role in brain health, but remember, everything in moderation. Research shows that those who are obese have a higher incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and other diseases that affect the brain. Staying slim appears to promote brain health, so exercise, watch your calories and eat the right types of food.”

Naturally, there are some “qualifications” to that advice. Taking the cue from Byrne’s counsel “everything in moderation,” a glass of red wine is good… a bottle isn’t. Dark or raw chocolate is good… milk chocolate isn’t. Salmon and selected other fish in small quantities is good… mercury-laden species or fried fish isn’t.

3) Brain activity

“You’ve heard the saying,’Use it or lose it.’ It’s true,” Byrne said. Those who are intellectually active have a lower incidence of Alzheimer’s. You must exercise your brain cells just as you exercise your muscles, so read a book or do a crossword puzzle. Those types of activities can protect your brain. There is also evidence that social activities help to promote brain health. Interacting with others stimulates the brain.”

SOURCE: University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston

Pass the chocolate

One of the staff members of the newspaper I founded and publish, The Chiropractic Journal, gave birth to a healthy son last month. We all cheered the occasion, knowing that this child will grow up in a world that has discovered the true meaning of health and wellness.

It’s incredible to think that the work we do now, educating the public about the dangers and risks of drugs and invasive medical procedures, will improve the lives of generations to come. In that infant’s lifetime, we’ll make astounding advancements in what is now being called the “new biology,” and in the field of energy healing.

Most wellness practitioners, including chiropractors, fully understand that stress is the key factor in most — if not all — chronic illnesses, since it effectively shuts down the immune system. In a study appearing in the current online edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers concluded (not for the first time) that stress increases the inflammatory activity that is part of our immune system’s natural response to potentially harmful situations. “Frequent or chronic activation of the system may increase risk for a variety of disorders, including asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and even depression,” stated lead researcher George Slavich, a postdoctoral fellow in the UCLA Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology. Also included in the list of diseases that could be triggered by stress were certain types of cancer. (Abstract available online

What many people don’t know — including some doctors — is that the stress levels of pregnant women can affect the health of their unborn babies. In 2007, a study published in the journal Clinical Endocrinology, Stress revealed that high stress levels during pregnancy may affect the unborn baby as early as 17 weeks after conception, with potentially harmful effects on brain and development. Another research study linked stress during pregnancy to premature and low-weight births.

Obviously, stress reduction is critical for all people wanting to maintain a high level of health — but it’s even more important for pregnant women. After all, they’re pumping stress hormones for two!

On a lighter note, several research studies have found that eating some types of chocolate (dark and raw chocolate particularly) during pregnancy can be beneficial to the child, partially because it tends to alleviate some of the woman’s stress.

A Yale study published in Epidemiology, May 2008, claimed chocolate during pregnancy reduces the risk of preeclampsia, a major pregnancy complication. Another study — this one published in Early Human Development back in 2004 — found that babies born to women who ate chocolate every day while they were pregnant were more active and “positively reactive” (meaning they smiled and laughed more). They also showed less fear of new situations than babies of stressed women who didn’t indulge their sweet tooth in chocolate!

So, forget the meds … pass the chocolate!

40 percent of malpractice claims are for diagnostic errors

By Terry A. Rondberg, DC

Journal of the AMA - logoA commentary published in the July 28 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) revealed that diagnostic errors are the single largest contributor to medical malpractice claims, accounting for about about 40% of all claims and costing approximately $300,000 per claim.

The authors — Mark Graber, MD, of Stony Brook University Medical Center; and Hardeep Singh, MD, MPH, of Baylor College of Medicine — pointed their fingers at everything BUT the practitioners themselves.

“The great majority of diagnostic errors have root causes that derive from the properties of the healthcare setting, organization and practice,” Dr. Graber said. “By working together, cognitive scientists, informaticians, clinicians, and human factors engineers have a unique opportunity to decrease the likelihood of diagnostic error to the extent that the five principles we outline in JAMA can be incorporated into every new medical home.”

The authors discussed a new model of primary care, called the patient-centered medical home, developed and endorsed by the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Physicians, and the American Osteopathic Association.

The model facilitates partnerships between individual patients, their personal physician, and, when appropriate, the patient’s family. Care is assisted by physician “extenders,” nurse empowerment, information technology, and other means to assure that patients get care when and where they need and want it in a culturally and linguistically appropriate manner.

The medical home model places emphasis on team-based care, and primary care teams could include not only physicians but also nurses, allied health professionals and personnel, the authors explained.

In this model, the medical doctor would be the gatekeeper and decide what role the “allied” health professions would have. “The physician could take a leadership role, while the entire group collectively takes care of the patient,” explained Dr. Singh.

It’s always heartening to see the medical profession recognize and admit the problems inherent in the current disease-oriented system, such as misdiagnoses, prescription errors, unnecessary surgeries, etc.

Still, I’ll continue to work toward the time when we supplant the old paradigm of labeling and treating conditions and symptoms with the new holistic view of the human body as a complex system of energy patterns that responds to non-invasive care such as chiropractic and other “energy medicine” approaches. And I especially look forward to the time when we don’t label all wellness and healing modalities as “medicine!”

Now, there are “fake” pills for kids!

By Terry A. Rondberg

Placebos for kidsIn recent years, researchers have piled up the proof that many of the prescription and OTC pills sold to “treat” colds and flu in kids are ineffective. Even worse, they all have potentially negative side effects. One study, conducted by researchers at Penn State, found that placebos were just as effective as OTC drugs in suppressing coughs due to colds.

“Consumers spend billions of dollars each year on over-the-counter medications for cough,” said Ian Paul, assistant professor of pediatrics, Penn State Children’s Hospital, Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. “Our study showed that the two ingredients used in most over-the-counter medications were no better than a placebo, non-medicated syrup, in providing nighttime relief for children with cough and sleep difficulty as a result of upper respiratory infection… The desire to ease symptoms is strong for both parents and clinicians. This study, however, questions whether over-the-counter medications have a place in the treatment of these illnesses for children.” (“Effect of Dextromethorphan, Diphenhydramine and Placebo on Nocturnal Cough and Sleep Quality for Coughing Children and Their Parents,” July 2004 issue of Pediatrics.

Another study showed a significant percentage of children with attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder improved when placebos replaced some of their daily meds.

“In ADHD, you can reduce the dose of the real medicine, substitute placebo pills and get the same effect on ADHD,” Walter Brown, MD, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Brown University and Tufts University School of Medicine, stated.

One theory is that the caring and hopeful attitude of the parents or caregivers has a powerful effect on the child. If the parent and child have a strong belief in the efficacy of the remedy, it will work. In the tests, participants had no more “faith” in one pill over another, so they all worked about the same. That’s the very definition of placebo effect.

You’d think that, given this evidence, parents — and their medical doctors — would be convinced that grabbing the pill bottle isn’t the best response to sniffles and sneezes.

But that’s not the way some people see it. Now, there’s a new pill being marketed to parents for use on their kids: a chewable, cherry-flavored tablet called Obecalp. You guessed it: that’s placebo spelled backwards, and the pill is nothing but sugar.

Giving a child a sugar pill is definitely an improvement to giving them chemical medications. But this still teaches the child that health can be delivered in pill form from outside. Why not skip the pill altogether and try activities such as yoga or meditation, both of which can be presented as a game or healing action? Health comes from INSIDE and the sooner we truly understand that, and share that understanding with our kids, the sooner they’ll take control of their health and wellness.

Eating healthy — a new disease?

Allopathic medicine has a long history of “inventing” diseases and giving them fancy Latin names — all in order to come up with a pill or treatment to “cure” it.

Healthy foodsBut this one gets the absurdus maximus award — a Californian doctor, Steven Bratman, has “medicalized” a strong conscious desire to eat healthy, nutritional foods as a mental disorder! And, of course, he’s given it a name: orthorexia nervosa.

These poor demented souls are, as reported in The Guardian, “solely concerned with the quality of the food they put in their bodies, refining and restricting their diets according to their personal understanding of which foods are truly ‘pure’.”

They follow crazy behavior, like trying to eliminate refined sugar, salt, caffeine, alcohol, or other food groups from their diet. And they rebuff foods that have been in contact with pesticides, herbicides or contain artificial additives.

Granted, there are people who get a bit neurotic about food safety and base their dietary choices on fear rather than good sense. But the idea of turning food concerns into a mental health disease is just one more instance of medical manipulation.

While an anti-orthorexia drug hasn’t been developed — yet — Bratman quickly cashed in on his “disease” by writing a book called, “Health Food Junkies.”  I’m gratified to see it didn’t make much of a blip on the sales lists and got a dismal review score on Amazon.com (just 3 stars out of 5, with one person echoing my own feelings, saying, “So it is now a fixation to ‘obsess’ about healthy food? This is the most stupid, irresponsible drivel I have ever heard of. Ok, let’s NOT obsess about food, let’s keep eating meat, and dairy, and preservatives, and chemicals, let’s eat genetically modified food, let’s NOT read labels, let’s NOT think about what’s in our food, let’s keep getting diabetes, cancer and heart disease which NO DOCTOR has ANY CURE FOR!!! Just treatment, NO CURE. Let’s do that. Because doctors are so good at curing diseases. That’s why we are such a healthy nation! Mind-numbingly irresponsible, for a physician to write this.” I swear, I didn’t write that (but wish I had!). Here’s the Amazon page, just so you can read some of the other scathing reviews!

Not surprisingly, Bratman’s ideas have been picked up by the British medical community, which seems intent on destroying everything that isn’t totally aligned with the allopathic paradigm, be it homeopathy or, now, healthy eating!

Ursula Philpot, chair of the British Dietetic Association’s mental health group, told The Guardian: “The issues underlying orthorexia are often the same as anorexia and the two conditions can overlap but orthorexia is very definitely a distinct disorder. Those most susceptible are middle-class, well-educated people who read about food scares in the papers, research them on the internet, and have the time and money to source what they believe to be purer alternatives.”

(Interestingly, the main goal of the association appears to be acceptance by the medical profession, and, in the group’s words to “act as a specialist within a multi-disciplinary team … (and) act as a consultant to other health professionals advising on nutritional aspects of care.” Sounds much like those chiropractors and other alternative health providers who used to be willing to medicalize their professions in order to gain the approval of MDs. By now, most of them realize that’s not going to happen!)

Getting back to the dread “orthorexia nervosa” disease, Wikipedia further explains: “The subject may avoid certain unhealthy foods, such as those containing fats, preservatives, man-made food-additives, animal products, or other ingredients considered by the subject to be unhealthy; if the sufferer does not eat appropriately, malnutrition can ensue. Orthorexia sufferers have specific preferences about the foods they are eating and avoiding. Products that are preserved with additives can be considered dangerous. Industrial products can be seen as artificial, whereas biological fruits and vegetables can be seen as healthy.”

So, unless you relish an apple with a thick coating of pesticide residue, a fast food burger with 80 grams of saturated fat, or a TV dinner with a list of unpronounceable (and unidentifiable) ingredients, you may want to make an appointment with the nearest shrink. You could be a very sick mind (although chances are, you’ll have a heck of a lot healthier body than most!).

The friend who sent me this information — a guy who has a PhD in molecular biology and is finishing his last year interning as a psychiatrist — had a novel suggestion: “How about we come up with a term for a syndrome where certain sciences over-classify and are slaves of the pharmaceutical industry? Maybe inservio supervacuus (superfluous slave).”