Chinese Medicine considers preventative care as important as treating the disease itself. If we cultivate our health we can prevent illness and injury from occurring and minimize their consequences when 'disease evils' do attack us. Join Kath Bartlett, MS, LAc as she shares thoughts, news articles, recipes & tips derived from a wide variety of source material, as it relates to Chinese medicine and cultivating optimal health for the body, mind and spirit.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Vinegar & Acids Help Lower Blood Sugar

The "Really?" column in today's Science Times (NY Times)
reports on studies showing that including vinegar in a meal will help lower blood sugar.
One Italian studies showed including vinegar as salad dressing with a meal that includes bread and other carbs will reduce blood sugar by 30%. The results were verified in another study by the American Diabetes Association. You can check the results yourself by eating 2 identical carb meals. With one, add 2 teaspoons vinegar with the other do not use vinegar. Check your blood sugar after each meal, and see if there's a drop in the meal eaten with vinegar.

The author's of the ADA study concluded that:

The data indicates that vinegar can significantly improve postprandial insulin sensitivity in insulin-resistant subjects. Acetic acid has been shown to suppress disaccharidase activity (3) and to raise glucose-6-phosphate concentrations in skeletal muscle (4); thus, vinegar may possess physiological effects similar to acarbose or metformin. Further investigations to examine the efficacy of vinegar as an antidiabetic therapy are warranted.

These findings help explain why Dr. Richard Tan's recommendation of drinking lime water throughout the day lowers blood sugar for diabetics.

To do this, juice a lime and pour the juice in a bottle of water and sip throughout the day. Apparently the 'white part' is important, so keep the pulp. Dr. Tan says that within 3 months blood sugar levels will drop. I have a current patient who is using key limes and after 3
weeks has been noticing lower blood sugar levels.

Reporter Anahad O'Connor astutely points out in the aforementioned Really? column that amongst other perils of the Holiday Madness season, are the difficulties diabetics face navigating social gatherings and work place break rooms during the last 6 weeks of the year.

Here are a few abstracts of other studies relating to vinegar and blood sugar levels by the authors of the cited study. KB

J Am Diet Assoc. 2005 Dec;105(12):1939-42.

Vinegar and peanut products as complementary foods to reduce postprandial glycemia.

Johnston CS, Buller AJ.

Department of Nutrition, Arizona State University, Mesa 85212, USA.

Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 2009 May;84(2):e15-7. Epub 2009 Mar 9.

Preliminary evidence that regular vinegar ingestion favorably influences hemoglobin A1c values in individuals with type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Johnston CS, White AM, Kent SM.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Studies Show Meditation Reduces Heart Attacks, Strokes & Hypertension

Two recent studies have demonstrated that meditation reduces heart attacks, strokes and hypertension. Many past studies have shown health benefits of meditation, including decreased depression, anxiety and improved sleep and ability to handle stress. These two studied the effects of the Transcendental Meditation technique. I have posted the NY Times report about the studies and abstracts of them below.

Here's a little bit about TM from Wikipedia:

The Transcendental Meditation technique, or TM technique is a form of mantra meditation introduced in India in 1955[1][2][3][4] by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (1917-2008).[5] It is reported to be the most widely researched and one of the most widely practiced meditation techniques in the world today.[6][7][8][9] Taught in a standardized seven-step course by certified teachers, the technique involves the use of a sound or mantra and is practiced for 15–20 minutes twice per day, while sitting comfortably with closed eyes.[10]

In 1957, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi began a series of world tours during which he introduced and taught his meditation technique.[11] In 1959, he founded the International Meditation Society and, in 1961, he began to train teachers of the Transcendental Meditation technique.[11][12] From the late 1960s through the mid 1970s, both the Maharishi and the TM technique received significant public attention in the USA, especially among the student population.[13][14] During this period, a million people learned the technique, including well-known public figures. . . .

Beginning in 1968, a number of celebrities such as Donovan, The Beatles, members of the The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones, Doug Henning, Clint Eastwood, Deepak Chopra, Andy Kaufman, Jane Fonda, Mia Farrow, Shirley MacLaine, Joe Namath, Stevie Wonder, and Howard Stern . . .

The Beatles, of course, were the most famous of these. They stayed at the Maharishi's ashram in India for more than 8 months from August of 1967 to April of 1968. A well known riff developed btwn them, causing the Beatles to leave. The time spent with the Maharishi was a prolific one for the Beatles. The Maharishi helped them to get off LSD: Lennon had a heavy user. While they were with him, and after they returned to England the Beatles wrote and recorded the 30 songs on the double "White Album".

The hallmark of the TM technique is it's reliance on an mantra or sacred sound. From Wiki:

During the initial personal instruction session, the student is given a specific sound or mantra. The sound is utilized as a thought in the meditation process,[23] allowing the individual’s attention to be directed naturally from an active style of functioning to a less active or quieter style of mental activity.[23]

An important distinction between the Transcendental Meditation technique and other practices that involve mantras is in the way the mantra, or sound, is used. In Transcendental Meditation the mantra is not chanted—either verbally or mentally, but is instead a vehicle on which the attention rests.[24][19]

According to Russell, the sounds used in the Transcendental Meditation technique are taken from the ancient Vedic tradition.[24] Maharishi Mahesh Yogi explains that the selection of a proper thought or mantra "becomes increasingly important when we consider that the power of thought increases when the thought is appreciated in its infant stages of development".[25] William Jefferson in The Story of the Maharishi, explains the importance of the "euphonics" of mantras. Jefferson says that the secrets of the mantras and their subsequent standardization for today's teachers of the technique were unraveled by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi after his years of study with his own teacher, Guru Dev (Brahmananda Saraswati) so that selection is foolproof, and that the number of mantras from the Vedic tradition, which could number in the hundreds, have been brought by Maharishi to a minimum number. . .

In 1975, Time Magazine reported that each TM meditator is instructed to keep their mantra private. Each TM teacher assigns each student's mantra based on a formula that is presumed to include temperament and profession. The article says that there are 17 mantras.[13] In his 1997 book, The Sociology of Religious Movements William Sims Bainbridge wrote that the mantras given for Transcendental Meditation are "supposedly selected to match the nervous system of the individual but actually taken from a list of 16 Sanskrit words on the basis of the person's age".[28]

The 1995 expanded addition of Conway and Siegelman's Snapping: America's Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change describes a teacher of Transcendental Meditation who says: "I was lying about the mantras — they were not meaningless sounds they were actually the names of Hindu demigods - and about how many different ones there were — we had sixteen to give out to our students".[30] In the 1977 court case Malnak vs. Yogi (see below), an undisputed fact in the case was that the mantras are meaningless sounds.[31]

In a speech the Maharishi gave in Kerala, India, in 1955, he mentions a connection between the mantras and personal deities and occasionally similar references can also be found in his later works.[32][33] More commonly, the Maharishi describes the mantras as working automatically.[33]

Jonathan Shear in his book The Experience of Meditation: Experts Introduce the Major Traditions, characterizes the mantras used in the TM technique as independent of meaning associated with any language, and are used for their mental, sound value alone.[18] A 2009 article published in the International Journal of Psychophysiolgy says that "unlike most mantra meditations, any possible meaning of the mantra is not part of Transcendental Meditation practice".[17]

In his book Alternative Religions: A Sociological Introduction, author Stephen Hunt says that the mantra used in the Transcendental Meditation technique has no meaning but that the sound itself is sacred.

I don't believe that you must do the TM technique to gain health benefits from meditation. In fact, a current patient has a 15y history of hypertension. After 4-6 weeks of guided meditation she saw her blood pressure return to normal during a period of high stress.

The important thing is to begin a regular practice. In the beginning, the discipline of sitting regularly and listening to the mind chatter is difficult. But if you stick with it, you'll find in time the mind will calm. This can take years, but you will reap the rewards of your continued effort.

Commonly breath meditation is done, where one focuses on the in and out breath as a mechanism to calm the mind. Especially worriers and those experiencing much stress and anxiety have particular difficulty with this because the mind chatter and dramas continue to play. For those people I recommend beginning with a guided meditation recording, or even just beginning by listening to quiet, relaxing music and concentrating on the notes and sounds.

Over time, one works through the disturbing memories and emotions that come up during meditation and begins to tire of the repetitive tape of the mind chatter. Then one becomes more able to reject the drama of the mind and increases the ability to quiet the mind. This process can take years, but the effort is worthwhile. Once mastered, meditation becomes a way to leave the daily stresses and come into a calm peaceful state of mind. I have found that more regular meditation helps to keep the mind calm. I notice a difference when meditating twice a day verses once daily, or between daily meditation and meditating several times a week or weekly.

If you have difficulty developing the discipline of the practice, you might seek out a group of mediators in your area to sit with. Wednesday nights seems to be a common meeting time for meditation and spiritual groups. KB

Here's the NY Times article about the TM studies on reducing heart attacks:

Here's the one of the studies sited in the Times article presented at the American Heart Association:

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Chinese Medicine for Cold and Flu Prevention

I've been getting questions about flu vaccines and Chinese herbs for flu.

The decision to vaccinate is a personal one. One must weigh the risks of side effects from the vaccine against the risk of contracting the flu. For those who are weak, frail or immune deficient there is a stronger argument to vaccinate. Those who are healthy and could mount a strong defense against the flu might want to forgo the vaccine and the risk of side effects incurred.

Chinese medicine can support you in 2 ways:
  1. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can strengthen your overall health and immune function, better preparing you to ward off an attack.
  2. Chinese medicine can treat the flu symptoms should you contract it. Patients are generally pleased, even amazed by the results of acupuncture and herbs in treating colds, flu and other respiratory conditions.
I have a few formulas that have been advised in Beijing for use in treating H1N1. All are to be taken upon suspected contact. One is a gargle for sore throat that could be used for any sore throat. The others are specific for the most venerable patient populations: children, seniors and pregnant women. These formulas could be used prophylactically for any suspected contact with cold or flu. They are only to be used for 4 or 5 days as a preventative upon contact.

One frequently used preventative formula for any cold, flu or respiratory illness, including allergies is called Jade Windscreen. It is comprised of 3 herbs (astragalus is one) that are considered a precious (hence the word 'jade') formula to boost immune function and ward off viruses, bacterias and irritants brought in from the external environment (wind-screen). It is often begun in August or early September, 6-10 weeks before the flu or allergy season, and continued through the winter for those who frequently contract colds, flu and allergies or sinusitis. Generally the herbalist will add other herbs to build a constitutional formula suitable for the individual patient being treated.

Periodic acupuncture treatments strengthen the immune system and alleviate stress, which depletes immune function.
Making sure you eat well, get adequate rest, don't overwork, exercise regularly and engage in stress reduction activities will keep your body and immune system healthy and strong.

When disease symptoms occur, acupuncture and Chinese herbal formulas can effectively treat the symptoms and strengthen the bodies ability to mount an defense against the attack. KB

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Study Shows Qi Gong Effective for Cancer Patients

A recent study published in Annals of Oncology shows that medical Qi Gong improves the quality of life, mood and inflammation in cancer patients.

There is no definition given for medical (vs non-medical?) Qi Gong, but I understand that the patients in the study practiced 2x/week with an instructor and were asked to do additional practice at home between classes. If you are interested in taking qi gong classes with a teacher be sure to tell the instructor about your disease and purpose for learning qi gong so that more specific instruction can be tailored to your needs. In fact, a private or series of private lessons, interspersed with group lessons might be optimal. If for whatever reason working with an instructor in person is not an option for you, then look for a Qi Gong DVD.

Qi Gong is meditation exercises, preformed slowly in repetition, designed to build, cultivate and move one's qi. The term 'qi gong' literally translates as qi work. Just as acupuncture circulates one's qi, so do these relaxing exercises. Qi gong builds qi, eliminating fatigue. The meditative quality of the exercises hones, focuses and calms the mind. All cancer patients are under a tremendous amount of stress and can thus benefit from these gentle exercises. KB

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Boundaries Create the Ego

create the ego.

Or put another way: the ego is comprised of boundaries between self and other.

To weaken or destroy the ego, one must first dissolve the boundaries, carefully. The id and ego do not take well to threats, and due to this fear will fight hard to protect their existence. This inner struggle can be quite difficult to endure. KB

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Study Shows Acupuncture as Effective as Drugs for Carpel Tunnel Syndrome

A study published in May 2009 in The Clinical Journal of Pain compared acupuncture to the steroid drug prednisone for treatment of pain in carpal tunnel syndrome. The study concluded that:

Short-term acupuncture treatment is as effective as short-term low-dose prednisolone for mild-to-moderate CTS. For those who do have an intolerance or contraindication for oral steroid or for those who do not opt for early surgery, acupuncture treatment provides an alternative choice."

This is big for a western medical study to recommend acupuncture as an effective alternative to drug therapy. For the symptoms of night time awakening due to pain and for motor function, the acupuncture group had better results. I've included an abstract of the article below.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is a repetitive use injury, commonly ca
used by excessive computer use (typing on the keyboard). The carpal tunnel is the hole that the (median) nerve travels through, located on the inside of the wrist where the wrist and hand meet. When the wrist is flexed, the carpal tunnel compresses, and the ligament on the roof of the tunnel presses on the median nerve, causing pain. The median nerve controls the thumb, index and middle fingers and the thumb (radial) side of the ring finger. Carpal tunnel patients experience pain in those fingers and palm area, not the pinkie finger as the median nerve which travels through the carpal tunnel does not affect the last finger or the pinky (ulna) side of the palm. Pain can also radiate into the arm. KB