Online Therapy

Psychotherapy is a great tool in mental health and is often used to combat the symptoms of depression, anxiety, panic disorder, schizophrenia, and many other mental health issues. However, for some people accessing a therapist just isn’t feasible, whether due to transportation issues, disability, or physical limitations, meaning that traditional therapy likely isn’t an option. Fortunately, there are new ways to access the same care received with talk therapy without even needing to leave your home through online therapy.

A major benefit the American Psychological Association (APA) has seen with online therapy is the comfortability level of being online rather than face to face. Patients, especially young adults, find that sharing their personal thoughts and concerns with a stranger is less intimidating via email, text, and even video calls.

There is still much to be pioneered in the future of online therapy. One of the most recent developments has been the tool named the  Mind Elevator. “A client enters a thought or feeling, hits submit and the tool evaluates that thought or feeling on a colorful scale that is like a big rainbow with sad and happy faces. The tool then provides a sentence of feedback and encourage the person to modify that thought or feeling to make it more positive, less self-critical or less negative or pessimistic. It also keeps track of several successive entries, so it responds to a whole chain of thoughts and feelings, not just the one that was most recently submitted,” as described by Dr. Sherry Benton in her article titled Reducing mental health disparities through online therapy. Artificial intelligence tools such as this can help aid those who are in need when a friend or a therapist isn’t available. They are specifically beneficial to patients with low-intensity needs and high motivation for engagement.

There are a few factors to be cognizant of when beginning your online therapy. In the United States especially, laws regarding psychiatry, psychology, therapy, and counseling differ from state to state. It is important to check the licensing of any “professional” you seek out as it is easy for someone to imitate these types of professionals online. Because of this, many insurance companies do not support this type of mental health care, therefore will not cover the cost. Just like starting at any other doctor’s office, make sure you do the proper research because the benefits you reap from online therapy can be extremely rewarding.

Integrative Medicine in Pediatric Care

Integrative medicine is being practiced more and more regularly as a part of a holistic approach to medicine for adults, and recently it has begun making waves in pediatric care as well. 1 in 10 children receive integrative medicine, and more than 50% of children with a chronic illness partake. As I am not a pediatrician but internal medicine doc, and realize toddlers are not just little people I do respect the opinion of those that have been trained in this tender age group. Most recently our son came down with a cough which lasted a bit longer than a few days, and I was strongly recommended by the many women in our family to take our young son to the urgent care “just to make sure” there was nothing else making him ill given my limitations. I was nicely surprised when the pediatrician recommended tea with honey to relieve a post nasal drip cough which was the final diagnosis. Therefore, it is vital to understand how integrative medicine works and why it can be useful for parents to incorporate it. In order to understand the positive effects, let’s look at some examples.

Massage

Nobody is going to complain about getting a massage, but did you know massages do more for your body than simply make you feel good? Livestrong posted an article about the positive effects of massage therapy. Some of the most common include decreased stress, pain relief, increased circulation, and immune system function. All of these benefits are good for anyone at any age, but starting massage therapy at a young age can increase the benefits as time goes on.

Nutrition

Diet is an important part of everyone’s life, and instilling good diet habits early can set a child up for a healthy, happy life. It is shown that a poor diet has lasting negative consequences in children. This includes both physical and mental troubles, which can range from obesity to depression. Poor nutrition can also correlate to a number of eating disorders down the line, and studies have shown that eating disorders are popping up in younger children all the time. In order to combat diseases down the line, stick to a well-rounded nutritional plan.

Yoga

Exercise is good for everyone, but yoga is a specific type of exercise that incorporates flexibility, strength, and mental focus. The physical benefits of yoga can often be greater in children than in adults, as children are continuing to grow. Furthermore, yoga can be incorporated with meditation to provide an outlet for calm introspection, which children may not naturally have.

Art/Dance/Music

Art and music are some of the most popular forms of self-expression. There are numerous studies about the positive effects in children, at Arts.gov recently there was a published study linking art and music involvement to lower alcohol and marijuana consumption, higher optimism about attending college, and less engagement in delinquency. Dance is also lumped into the arts, and even better it has the added benefit of exercise.

Integrative medicine is a large topic that includes many categories. Not every category is right for every child, but exploring the possibilities can allow you to make the best decision on what is right for your family. At the end of the day, it is crucial to understand and acknowledge that integrative medicine is an important part of life and it is unlikely to go away.

The Health Benefits of Massages

They release stress and anxiety: Modern life is full of stress, but massages make you feel calmer and more relaxed. If your life has you feeling overwhelmed, schedule an appointment with a massage therapist today.

They relieve pain: Messages relieve many forms of pain, including chronic back pain, chronic neck pain, fibromyalgia pain, pain from osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, and postoperative pain.

They reduce muscle tension: Muscle tension can lead to muscle pain, back pain, and stiffness. Getting a massage relaxes your muscles, helping to alleviate these symptoms and leaving you feeling looser and happier.

You exercise better after a massage: If you work out or participate in a sport, a massage can put you at your peak performance.

They help you sleep better: If you suffer from insomnia, or just have been feeling tired lately, a relaxing massage can help you get the rest you need.

They improve your heart health: Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of deaths in Americans. But by reducing stress and improving your circulation, messages can make your heart healthier.

They improve balance in older people: Misaligned joints and stiff muscles can cause older people to feel off-balance, which can cause pain and difficulty walking, and put them more at risk for falls. A massage can improve balance for a short period of time, and regular massages can have longer-term effects.

They improve flexibility and range of motion: If you’re struggling to touch your toes, a massage can improve your flexibility by reducing pain and muscle stiffness.

They help people with cancer: Cancer patients can benefit from messages. Cancer treatment is extremely stressful, and massages can help alleviate that stress. Additionally, massages may help reduce the nausea that results from chemotherapy.

They reduce headaches: If you experience frequent tension headaches, or even migraines, the frequency of these headaches will decrease after a massage.

They improve your mental health: Just by reading the other health benefits on this list, you can probably see how a message can be great for your mental health. If you’re sleeping well, feeling good during exercise, less stressed, pain- and tension-free, and just feeling overall healthier, your mental health will improve. And for older patients, regular massages can even temper the effects of dementia.

They boost your immunity: People who get massages are less likely to fall ill when cold and flu season hits the workplace, by reducing risk factors such as stress and insomnia, and increasing levels of oxytocin in the blood which has an impact on mood.

Consume your Way to Fight Inflammation

Our body is devised with an amazingly astonishing mechanism: when an alien object tries to enter your body, it works to shield itself from the foreign element. 

The immune system of our body is designed in such a way that, when it fights off invaders like plant pollens or chemical elements of a microbe, the body reacts to the process in multiple ways. One of the reactions is inflammation.

Inflammation is the defense process of our immune system in which a part of the body becomes red and begins to swell. This is a perfectly natural reaction to an infection or an injury, as your blood cells rush to the area to assist in healing. However, if the inflammation persists chronically, the repercussions can turn life threatening. 

Sometimes inflammation occurs without an infection or a bruise caused by external factors, and that is when you need to start paying attention. Inflammation can be a gateway to a number of fatal illnesses like cancer, heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, depression, and even Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. 

Remedies to combat inflammation lie in our kitchens. Many experimental studies have concluded that consuming right nutrients can actually influence the onset, or stymie the occurrence, of inflammation in the human body.

Here are some of the most dangerous foods to consume for their role in causing inflammation:

  • Overconsumption of refined carbohydrates like white bread, pastries, and white rice to name a few examples.  If the bread is soft and easily compressed most likely it’s going to quickly turn into sugar in one’s body.
  • Fried foods and other pre-prepared packaged junk foods such chips that are excessively consumed can speed up the occurrence of inflammation.
  • Sugar-laden and sweetened beverages, drinks, sodas, and over consumption of alcohol.  The liquid consumption of sugar causes other health hazards too, besides inflammation and fuels the metabolic syndrome affecting many today.
  • Processed meat like hot dogs, sausages, salami, bacon, luncheon meats.
  • Corn fed red meat like steaks, burgers, and other “meat pie” dishes.
  • Spreads of animal fat origin like margarine, lard, and shortening.

It is not a revelation that most of the food items mentioned above are associated with diseases like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity since inflammation is an underlying cause of each of these diseases.

What must be consumed to keep inflammation at bay?

Take a look at some of the best fresh foods, preferably organic, you can consume to reduce inflammation:

  • Fibrous green leafy and cruciferous vegetables like spinach, collards, lettuce, swiss chards, kale, broccoli trying to go for various colors of the rainbow
  • Tomatoes, which contain anti-inflammatory compounds such as lycopene.
  • Almonds, walnuts, and cashews
  • Fruits, including citruses, like oranges, cherries, strawberries, and other berries
  • Fatty fish like sardines packed in water or olive oil, mackerel, wild salmon and, herring, and black cod. If eating these fish is not possible than take a high quality fish oil supplement
  • Lets not forget about the mushrooms.  If available in your area maitake, shiitake, enokitake, and oyster mushrooms provide powerful health benefits.
  • Beverages like green or white tea, matcha, and coffee have anti-inflammatory benefits too, but mind the additives, which can negate the benefits.

The Mediterranean diet, which is composed primarily of plant, healthy fat and protein consumption, is said to be an ideal and healthy dietary lifestyle if one wishes to lean towards anti-inflammatory eating.

3 Common Complementary Health Practices

In healthcare you’ll often hear the words “alternative”, “integrative”, and “complementary” being used, sometimes interchangeably, but they each denote a different practice of medicine. “Alternative” medicine is the term for when you substitute conventional treatments with unconventional or non-mainstream ones, using the unconventional method in place of standard practice. “Complementary” medicine practices involve supplementing conventional practices with non-mainstream practices. Finally, “integrative” health practices are ones that bring together conventional health practices with complementary ones in order to give the most holistic solutions for and picture of health.

Incorporating these practices into your daily life doesn’t have to change your entire world, but the impact that taking better care of your mind and body could have can be life-changing. Here are a few common complementary health practices you can integrate into your daily life.

  • Deep Breathing

    • When we’re experiencing situations of high-stress or pain, one of our bodies’ natural reactions is to hold our breath during the incident. However, deep breathing not only helps to relax you but can help you fight pain and reduce your stress levels. During periods of stress, practicing deep breathing can help you retrain your body to control its release of stress hormones which, long-term, have damaging effects on your body. Whether you suffer from stress often or rarely at all, anyone can benefit from controlled and mindful deep breathing. The 4-7-8 breathing method is one that I highly recommend using.

  • Yoga

    • Yoga uses poses, meditation, and breathing exercises to bring the mind and body together. The practice is thousands of years old, with the word “yoga” translating from Sanskrit as “union.” It is a relatively low-impact and safe means of exercise, especially for those who may not be able to participate in high-impact workouts. In the United States, yoga is the sixth most commonly practiced complementary health exercise and has been proven to aid in the relief of a number of health concerns. It has been shown to help reduce the severity of anxiety, insomnia, and depression. It’s also linked to lower stress levels, lower heart rate, and increases your overall flexibility, balance, and strength. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) is also actively supporting research that looks into the effects that yoga may have on diabetes, PTSD, multiple sclerosis, HIV, and the immune system.

  • Massage

    • As frivolous and extravagant as treating yourself to a massage can feel, they can actually provide a number of benefits that go beyond simply feeling relaxed; it has been proven effective in reducing stress, relieving pain, and releasing muscle tension. Although further study is needed to prove the benefits conclusively, some reports show that it may also prove beneficial for those suffering from headaches, anxiety, sports injuries, stress-related insomnia, digestive problems, fibromyalgia, and more.

Houseplants to Help You Breath Easily

The average adult American spends 8.8 hours a day working and 7.8 hours a night sleeping. That means that nearly 16 hours each day or two-thirds of our lives are split between only two spaces where we work, socialize, eat and drink, and most importantly, breathe. This means that any allergens, dust, pollen, and chemicals that wind up in the air of your home or workspace are being filtered through your lungs constantly during those hours. The levels of airborne pollutants can be anywhere from two to 100 times more concentrated than levels outdoors. Cleaning products,      even things that are fire retardant or waterproof can contain chemicals that are able to leech into the air and thus, into our bodies.

These airborne toxins and chemicals can lead to health problems like headaches, sinus pressure, nausea, difficulty breathing, and can even exacerbate existing medical conditions like asthma, respiratory conditions, and allergies. Fortunately, it’s easy for you to do your part to help keep the air you breathe cleaner and healthier; all you need are some potted plants!

Plant life converts CO2 into oxygen through photosynthesis, and it filters the air around it in the process. Keeping a few specific plants around your home and office can help remove chemicals and toxins. To help you breathe easier and healthier, here are a few houseplants to keep around that will help filter your air.

Spider Plant – Chlorophytum comosum

Bromeliad – Bromeliaceae

  • If you want a functional plant that doesn’t require too much maintenance and will also liven up the room, bromeliads are a good choice for you. They actively work to clean the air at night, and are hearty enough that they don’t require much water or sunlight to do so. Oh, and they’re incredibly vibrantly colored.

Aloe VeraAloe Vera

  • If you sunburn easily, chances are in the summer months you’ve eased the pain with some sort of aloe vera-based lotion. Aloe vera’s use dates back to 2100 BCE, and its mineral-and-vitamin-rich composition has kept it relevant ever since. It’s used in everything from lotions to cosmetics to even food (where the list of the plants’ benefits extends even further), and it also made NASA’s list of plants that help improve air quality. Like the spider plant, aloe vera also removes formaldehyde from the air.

Bamboo Palm – Dypsis lutescens

  • The third most effective at overall purification, the bamboo palm needs a bit more room than some of the others but will definitely make up for it with the benefits it provides. NASA found that bamboo is effective at not only removing formaldehyde but also benzene, a chemical found in gasoline and crude oil, and trichloroethylene, a chemical often found in solvents. As a bonus, it doesn’t require too much water and sunlight.

Aside from purifying the air, houseplants can provide your home or workspace with other benefits. Because plants undergo transpiration during which they emit water vapors, they can also work to help you control the levels of humidity in your room or home.

There are countless benefits to incorporating houseplants and greenery into your home, office, and life.

The Link Between Obesity And Cancer

In a world where processed foods, sugar-laden desserts, and the high-fat fast food is easily and readily available, it’s no wonder that obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the U.S., as in some other countries. Obesity is a struggle for many people, and now there is, even more, reason for alarm as the scientific community has discovered a link between obesity and certain types of cancers. According to the World Cancer Research Fund, about 20% of cancers diagnosed in the United States are in some way related to obesity, poor nutrition or physical inactivity, meaning that they are largely preventable.

abdominal-obesity

Being overweight has been clearly linked to an increased risk for the following types of cancers:

  • Kidney cancer.
  • Breast cancer.
  • Colon and rectal cancer.
  • Pancreatic cancer.
  • Esophageal cancer.
  • Endometrial cancer.

Studies are still being conducted to see if there is a direct link between obesity and an increased risk for other cancers such as liver, cervical, prostate, and other types of cancer. Science has also shown that having an excess amount of belly fat increases the risk of getting colon or rectal cancer, in addition to other types of cancer. Although the connection between excess body weight and increased cancer risks are quite complex and not entirely understood yet, it is believed that excess weight on a person’s body can affect cancer risk by:

  • Hindering the immune system function and increasing inflammation.
  • Increasing certain levels of hormones.
  • Affecting factors that affect cell growth.
  • Affecting how the body uses certain hormones.

weight-loss

So what can you do to decrease your cancer risk? Although the research on weight loss and its effect on cancer risks is still in its infancy, overall health risks associated with obesity are certainly well-documented, so it’s beneficial from multiple standpoints to try to eliminate obesity. Here are some things that might help aid in weight loss:

 

  • Exercise at least 30 minutes a day at a moderate pace.
  • Increase consumption of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
  • Cut down on foods that are high in sugar and fat.
  • Consume healthy oils like olive oil instead of animal-based oils.
  • Work with a trained diet or nutritionist who can help create a diet and exercise plan that might work best for your lifestyle and body type.

To learn more about how Houston Concierge Medicine & Wellness Center can develop personalized diagnostic and treatment plans using integrative medical care, call 713-333-6464 or schedule an appointment online.

Six Superfoods That Might Help Boost Your Brain Power

In today’s fast-paced world, it’s easy for your brain to get overstimulated, overwhelmed and overworked. If you need a bit of a brain boost, finding help may be as easy as making a trip to the supermarket. Recent studies have shown that eating certain superfoods have brain benefits like helping with memory, energy, and concentration. Here is a closer look at six superfoods that may help boost your brain power.


  1. Walnuts: Lots of nuts are healthy, but walnuts pack a special punch of energy thanks to the omega-3 fatty acids that they contain. In fact, they contain more of these fatty acids than any other nut. These essential fatty acids protect brain cells and help neurotransmitters function more effectively which can help with impaired cognition and memory. They also contain healing B6 vitamins and magnesium and fight inflammation and improve blood flow in the brain.
  2. Dark Chocolate: This sweet treat is more than an absolutely delicious dessert or snack. Dark chocolate is jam-packed with antioxidants which help with mental acuity and other functions that help protect the systems in your body. Dark chocolate also helps improve concentration and blood flow, so add a little of this sweet stuff to your daily dessert menu.
  3. Coffee: One of the mornings best companions and one of the most popular caffeinated drinks, coffee has been shown to improve mental clarity and its rich antioxidants help maintain good brain health. Some research even suggests that it may help treat depression, but the science is still not solid on this point yet. 
  4. Avocados: This creamy and delicious green fruit (that many mistake for a vegetable) is one of the healthiest fruits on the planet thanks to its high level of monounsaturated fats. With monounsaturated fat levels similar to those found in the olive, avocadoes help improve blood flow not only to the brain but to all of the vessels in the body while also helping to lower bad cholesterol levels.
  5. Lentils: These tasty seeds can be added to a soup, salad, or chili to make for a delicious, healthy addition to your meal. This legume is loaded with folate, a particular B vitamin that helps improve brain power. They also lower levels of amino acids that can impair brain functioning, so load up on some healthy lentils.
  6. Olive oil: Healthy not only for dietary purposes, olive oil is also a superfood that can give you super brain power. It’s a great source of monounsaturated fats, like the avocado, and has been proven to actually slow brain aging. It’s anti-inflammatory properties can help combat brain fog, memory loss, and other conditions that are a result of chronic inflammation. Olive oil is also part of the Mediterranean diet which is widely considered one of the most healthy diets in the world.

To learn more about how Houston Concierge Medicine & Wellness Center can develop personalized diagnostic and treatment plans using integrative medical care, call 713-333-6464 or schedule an appointment online.

Struggle with Sleep Apnea: Three Exercises to Try

Sleep disorders are common in the modern age, and many struggle with sleep apnea, a condition where breathing stops and starts repeatedly as people sleep. People with sleep apnea are commonly recognized by a loud snoring and daytime fatigue. Luckily, there are a few exercises people can try to ease the symptoms of sleep apnea:

Throat exercises

One great exercise for sleep apnea victims is to chew gum (or practice chewing gum) for a few minutes. While performing this exercise, people should pay keen attention to make sure they are doing the exercise correctly:

  • Make sure molars touch. The molars should touch slightly and move apart a little on both sides.
  • Keep mouth closed. Lips should be touching throughout the whole exercise.
  • Make humming sounds. The throat opens better when making humming sounds while chewing.

Although an easy exercise, it can make the jaw a little sore. Slowly adding time to the fake chewing can make the transition less exhausting. People can also ease their mild to moderate sleep apnea by learning how to play the didgeridoo or practicing singing.

Tongue exercises

Most of the time when people with sleep apnea snore, the tongue collapses and blocks the airway. One way to remedy this is by sticking out the tongue and holding it place for a few moments. They should do this repeatedly shortly before bedtime.

People should also try to slide the tongue from the back of the teeth to the back of the mouth and hold it in place about ten times before bed. This will help strengthen the tongue and prevent its collapse while reducing the symptoms of sleep apnea.

Yoga exercises

The breathing techniques associated with yoga are great ways to reduce stress and, in turn, improve sleep quality. A subgenre of yoga, Yoga Nidra, promotes sleep.

These breathing exercises help to increase lung capacity (which increases oxygen capacity) while helping the body to relax. Sleep apnea victims should perform these exercises in the evening before sleep.

Conclusion

Sleep apnea is a difficult sleep disorder to overcome. However, there are many exercises to make sleeping through the night more comfortable. Those who suffer from sleep apnea could also benefit from making some lifestyle changes. They should aim to exercise regularly, quit smoking, avoid drinking alcohol, and (possibly) lose weight. They should also stay on a regular sleep schedule and avoid ingesting caffeine around bedtime.

Sleep deprivation: Some unexpected consequences and how to avoid them

I talked in my previous blog about the importance of sleep and how to ensure you’re maximizing the utility of the time you spend sleep by setting regular bedtimes for yourself, reducing your blue-light intake close to bedtime, exercising regularly, and some other activities that will make certain you’re well rested. However, what are the consequences of not getting enough sleep? If all you risk is having to drink a little extra coffee, no worries, right?

As it turns out, there are some serious medical issues that could arise as a result of not getting enough sleep. Not only will your body suffer, but your cognitive capabilities and interpersonal skills will take a hit when you skimp on quality sleep. Here are some maladies you can avoid easily by sleeping regularly.

  • Bone health: In a 2016 study published in the Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery and Research, Xu et al discovered that rats subjected to sleep deprivation suffered a significant loss in bone density and an impaired ability to rebuild damaged bones. In order to prevent potentially irreversible osteoporosis or other bone conditions, get plenty of rest to let your body handle much-needed maintenance.
  • Leadership abilities: A 2016 study out of the University of Washington indicates that business dynamics suffer when participants lack sleep. Leaders lack charisma when they haven’t rested enough, and those following the leader fail to exhibit enthusiasm when they haven’t had enough sleep. For the sake of office dynamics and effective teamwork, all parties need to be well-rested.
  • Reduced empathy: The University of Calgary studied the effects of sleep deprivation on people’s capacity for emotional empathy. As was their hypothesis, sleep-deprived brains did not react nearly as strongly to stimuli that elicited an empathetic response from well-rested brains.
  • Snacking and weight-gain: While you’re asleep, your body secretes hormones that tell your brain that you’re full and don’t need to keep eating, but when you don’t sleep enough, the production of that hormone decreases, while the hormone that tells your brain that you’re hungry is produced more rapidly. This imbalance may make you feel “snacky” and lead to weight gain.
  • “Microsleeps” throughout the day: According to a study from the University of Pennsylvania, your body makes up for a lack of sleep by taking tiny “microsleeps” throughout the day. These can last for up to 30 seconds at a time, and though your eyes may remain open, most of your other senses, particularly sight and hearing, are severely impaired if not completely turned off. Especially if you’re driving while sleep deprived, this can be extremely dangerous.