Monday, October 26, 2009

Dispelling Health Myths: Fevers Are NOT Bad

Flu season has hit with a vengeance. I hear many people talk about how many in their family have fallen ill with the flu virus, and all the strategies they have used to get themselves and their loved ones through it. Almost inevitably, I hear about people using acetaminophen to lower a fever. This strategy is ultimately misguided, and blunts the body’s ability to heal itself. It may even cause an illness to last longer than it needs to.

A fever is the body’s way of killing off a bacterial or viral infection. It is, in the vast majority of cases, not a dangerous symptom to be frightened about. For children, a temperature of up to 105° is not a cause for concern; it is instead a sign that the body is mounting a healthy response to a foreign invader. This is particularly true if a child has a high fever, but otherwise shows little sign of illness. (For adults, a temperature up to 103-104° is healthy.) Indeed, in some cases, it may be beneficial to stimulate a fever if it is not high enough.

So how does a fever come about? If a flu virus, for example, is detected in your body by an immune cell called a macrophage, it eats the flu virus up, then sends a signal to the hypothalamus. This signal tells the hypothalamus (basically the control center of the body) to raise the body’s “thermostat.” You respond by shivering and feeling chills. You may also cover yourself up and try to warm yourself. This results in a fever.

Fevers are actually effective immune stimulants. When the body temperature is elevated, white blood cells are produced at a higher rate, and they are released into circulation more quickly. Antibody production is increased up to 20 times the normal rate as well!

Moreover, fevers provide an inhospitable environment for invading organisms. Many harmful bacteria cannot thrive in temperatures above the body’s normal temperature of 98.6° F, and growth rates of many viruses are decreased significantly.

Finally, fevers often decrease appetite, which is why you seldom see people with fevers craving food. This is a normal and important aspect of fighting colds and flus. The body expends 60% of its energy digesting food. When you fast for awhile (e.g., when you have a fever), your body suddenly has that much more energy it can put toward fighting an infection.

Knowing all this, is there a reason why you would want to decrease a fever? The answer should be, in most cases, “no.”

There are certain issues with fevers that should be addressed. If a fever does get too high, the best way to decrease it is to rub the body down vigorously with a tepid washcloth; this will allow blood to move toward the surface of the skin, releasing heat naturally. Also, febrile seizures are a cause for concern, but are usually the result of dehydration and/or an electrolyte imbalance; making sure someone who has a fever is drinking plenty of fluids with electrolytes often will prevent febrile seizures.

Indications for hospitalization include a fever in children that stays above 105° for prolonged periods (or in adults if it stays above 104°), or febrile seizures, particularly if they last longer than 15 minutes.


Do you have health issues that aren't being adequately addressed by traditional medicine? Naturopathic care may be the answer you're looking for. Visit my website for more information about naturopathic medicine, and begin your journey toward optimal health!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Mentos and Diet Coke

No, I don't advocate eating Mentos. I especially don't advocate drinking Diet Coke, for many reasons. At the top of the list is Nutrasweet. Also known as aspartame, Nutrasweet is made of two amino acids: phenylalanine and aspartate. Aspartate is well-known to increase the tendency of neurons to fire. In physiologic doses, this is perfectly fine, and indeed important for optimal neurologic function. But ingesting high doses of aspartate can actually lead to overexcited neurons, and may be linked to a number of neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease), Huntington's disease, and Alzheimer's disease. You can read Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills by Russell Blaylock for more information.

But throw Mentos into a bottle of Diet Coke, and the result can be quite effervescent. Enjoy this video and see what happens when this tendency is harnessed to create a neat fountain display.
(And as you'd imagine, it is an EXTREMELY bad idea to drink Diet Coke and eat Mentos at the same time!)

Do you have health issues that aren't being adequately addressed by traditional medicine? Naturopathic care may be the answer you're looking for. Visit my website for more information about naturopathic medicine, and begin your journey toward optimal health!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Eating 101 with Luciano Pavarotti

"One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating."

~~ Luciano Pavarotti, Pavarotti, My Own Story

Leave it to Pavarotti to extol the virtues of eating. The legendary operatic tenor, who died from pancreatic cancer at the age of 71 in 2007, struggled with his weight throughout his life. His appetite for food was nearly as well-known as his ability to sing beautifully and effortlessly. It may be tempting to just dismiss this quote. Of course, it's something that an avowed glutton would say, right? However, his sentiment actually shows great insight into how we should ideally eat.

Eating nowadays is often just an afterthought. How did your breakfast go today? Did you wolf down an apple while driving to work? Nibble at a muffin and gulp coffee during the morning's meeting? How about lunch? A quick drive-thru meal? Or something eaten at the desk while trying to work on that project before the deadline? And dinner? Something thrown together or even microwaved quickly and quickly devoured while watching the evening news?

Unfortunately, the above scenarios are often the norm, rather than the exception. We don't sit down intentionally, relax, and fully concentrate on eating. Life in the 21st century is often hectic, and it seems like setting aside time to eat mindfully often falls lower and lower on the list of priorities. Yet it can be one of the most delightful experiences to "stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating." Just sitting, enjoying good company in a relatively quiet environment, and deliberately savoring each bite of food can make an otherwise frantic day more handleable.

But beyond being merely pleasant, there is a more physiological reason why, when we eat, we should be so single-minded about it. Digestion ideally occurs when the body is at rest - in a state called the parasympathetic state. It's the exact opposite of the sympathetic state we all know as the "fight or flight" state. In fact, I prefer to think of it as the "rest and digest" state.

In a sympathetic state, our body is alert and primed for action of some sort. Breathing becomes deeper and quicker, the heart pounds, and blood is shunted to the muscles to provide oxygen, should we need to fight off that metaphorical saber-toothed tiger or run from danger. Or, to put it in modern terms, we enter this state when someone swerves in front of us and we slam on the brakes at the last minute to avoid an accident, or when our boss yells at us for missing that deadline. The body expends very little energy on digestion at this point, and any digestion that does occur is bound to be less effective. Considering that we derive all of our nutrition from the food that we eat and digest, it behooves us to avoid this sympathetic state.

Conversely, in a parasympathetic state, breathing slows down and becomes shallower, the heart relaxes, and blood becomes concentrated in the core of the body. The stomach is more prone to secreting acid to help digestion, and the liver and pancreas both tend to secrete more of their respective digestive juices, too. The intestines engage in more peristalsis - that is, they churn more effectively, making sure that the contents of the food we ate can be more readily absorbed. This enables us to get the most out of eating, nutritionally speaking.

So how do we most optimally get into this parasympathetic state and eat effectively? Here are some good ideas.
  • Tonight, sit down at the dinner table and resist your usual routine of reading the newspaper, watching television, doing homework, or getting into negative emotional discussions. In other words, "stop whatever it is you are doing, and devote your attention to eating." Simply focus on enjoying the experience of nourishing yourself.
  • Establish the habit of experiencing genuine gratitude for whatever the food or beverage is before you. Or, in simpler terms, say grace before each meal. Who are we to take for granted the bounty which surrounds us in our uniquely blessed culture? It is essential to feel your gratitude here, not to just think it fleetingly, for thoughts which we attach feeling to become emotions and emotions influence every cell of our being. (A good source of pre-meal blessings is John Robbins’ book May All Be Fed: Diet for a New World.)
  • Notice your breathing as you reflect on your good fortune and begin to draw deep slow breaths from low in your abdomen, feeling your stomach relax as it rises and falls with each breath. Notice how this type of deep relaxed breathing feels inside.
  • Notice the aroma of your food, and if you do not find it appealing, add your favorite natural herbs and spices to enhance its appeal. Be creative! You owe it to your soul to experience the dozens of delightful and healthful herbal and spice seasonings available in our culture’s diverse marketplace. Whole healthy foods can taste marvelous. Make the time to master this art. You will have no regrets.
  • Place a reasonable amount of food on your plate, and if you are still hungry when you are done, wait five minutes. If you are still not satisfied inside on a gut level, you may then eat more.
  • Throughout your meal, listen to your stomach – not just your taste buds – and do what it tells you. Notice when you are satisfied or when foods do not agree with you.
  • Chew each bite 42 times and swallow it before you place more food in your mouth. Digestion of all food actually begins in the mouth where it is reduced to small enough particles for your digestive enzymes to get at and continue the process. Important salivary enzymes also begin their work here when provided the opportunity as per the above suggestions.
  • Drink only pure water with your meals and only as necessary, between swallows of food – not with them. Excessive fluids may dilute valuable digestive enzymes, minimize chewing, and therefore serve to negate salivary digestion. The most disruptive beverages are those which are alkalizing (acid-neutralizing), such as milk, which can interfere with digestion in the stomach. Learn to satisfy your thirst between or before meals to minimize any possibility of interference during the meal.
Do you have health issues that aren't being adequately addressed by traditional medicine? Naturopathic care may be the answer you're looking for. Visit my website for more information about naturopathic medicine, and begin your journey toward optimal health!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Music: "Ave verum corpus" by W.A. Mozart

I'm a great music lover. More than anything, I sing - in the car, in the shower, with a karaoke machine, in a choir, wherever. For a while, I even considered majoring in music in college and becoming a music director or a conductor. But life had other plans for me. Still, it's perhaps my favorite activity outside of helping people become healthy.

Music has well-documented effects on human physiology, even though its most basic effects don't need to be proven in a laboratory. Place anyone trying to study in a room filled with blaring rock music, and they probably don't accomplish nearly as much as someone trying to study in a room where unobtrusive, calming classical music is playing.

One of my favorite songs of all time, Mozart's Ave verum corpus, powerfully demonstrates the ability of music to calm the soul and put one at ease. In college, I would often meditate, and then listen to this song by candlelight to peacefully mark the end of the day. On bad days, it could be the highlight of the whole day.

Give it a try. Turn the lights down, make sure you're in a quiet room where you won't be disturbed, and close your eyes and just listen to this piece. It may be a wonderful way to begin or end meditation or prayer time as well.

I may write more on the healing power of music in another blog post, but for now, I couldn't wait to post this song and hopefully pass on a wonderful gift to you all.
Do you have health issues that aren't being adequately addressed by conventional medicine? Naturopathic care may be the answer you're looking for. Visit my website for more information about naturopathic medicine, and begin your journey toward optimal health!

Friday, October 2, 2009

SIGG Water Bottles and Bisphenol A

SIGG is a Swiss company that prides itself on manufacturing environmentally sound water bottles, made from either aluminum or stainless steel. Backpacker magazine has dubbed SIGG “The World’s Toughest Water Bottle” after putting a series of water bottles through a rigorous test, including being pummeled by golf balls shot from a cannon. Aluminum SIGG water bottles have been tested repeatedly to ensure that aluminum does not leach into the water.

SIGG water bottles also have a plastic coating on the inside that prevents them from building up a smell or residue. According to their website, these bottles “exceed FDA requirements and have been thoroughly tested to ensure 0.0% leaching – so they are 100% safe.”

However, on September 7, 2009, the CEO of SIGG, Steve Wasik, publicly apologized about not disclosing that the plastic linings of the popular SIGG stainless steel water bottles contained bisphenol A (BPA). This came as a surprise and a disappointment. SIGG has marketed itself as a great alternative to plastic water bottles. Many consumers who chose SIGG water bottles did so intentionally to avoid further exposure to BPA.

I have already written about the links between BPA and many diseases, including breast cancer, obesity, and diabetes. In my video, I even show a SIGG water bottle that I drank from regularly. It’s a shame that Wasik did not feel that BPA exposure was not a pertinent issue for the consumers who chose SIGG water bottles. He has risked the trust of these consumers and the stability of the company. But to his credit, he has apologized numerous times, and has taken action accordingly.

SIGG began to produce water bottles with a lining that does not contain BPA in August of 2008. The company has also offered a voluntary exchange program for anyone who bought a water bottle prior to August 2008, and who would prefer to have a BPA-free water bottle. This exchange program will be effective until October 31, 2009.

Whether or not the lining does leach contaminants of any sort, it appears that BPA may not be necessary to make an effective lining for water bottles. And this can only be good for the health of consumers.

Ideally, you should drink from water bottles that are BPA-free. Even better, consider avoiding plastic water bottles across the board. Pure stainless steel water bottles (SIGG does sell these) and even glass containers are still the best, healthiest, and most environmentally sound water bottles around. But as an acquaintance pointed out, glass may not be the best choice for children due to its being relatively fragile. So stick with stainless steel for children, and go with either for adults.


Do you have health issues that aren't being adequately addressed by conventional medicine? Naturopathic care may be the answer you're looking for. Visit my website for more information about naturopathic medicine, and begin your journey toward optimal health!