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.

Mental Illness in America

We’ve come a long way as far as cultural perception and stigma surrounding mental illness are concerned. As far back as ancient Egypt, Greece, and Rome, mental illness was viewed as divine punishment or unholy possession, and this perception continued on through the Middle Ages. In America, by the time the 18th century rolled around the perceptions had changed but the stigma had not. Although supernatural factors were no longer believed to be the common cause of mental illnesses, the lack of understanding and preconceived ideas about mental illnesses perpetuated the desire for the confinement of these individuals.

The first major move in the treatment of mental illness in America came from Dorothea Dix, an American teacher and author turned activist who sought to expose and change the horrific conditions of the mental institutions that existed throughout the nation. In the 1800s, the stipulations for institutionalization were vast and arbitrary. On top of the horrific terms on which people could be committed, the conditions in these places were shockingly terrible. One example of this occurred at Auburn Prison in 1821where the majority of 80 male patients in solitary confinement either broke down mentally or committed suicide. Dorothea saw the injustices these people faced — in her words, being kept “in cages, closets, cellars, stalls, pens! Chained, naked, beaten with rods, and lashed into obedience!” —and pledged to help them the best she could.

Over a 40-year period, Dorothea was directly responsible for the United States government’s funding of 32 state psychiatric hospitals across the country. While her work did wonders for the advancement of people who are mentally ill, it also lead to mass institutionalization where any people seen as public nuisances or were viewed as dangerous were committed to these institutions.

The early 1900s offered some strides as well as some fallbacks. The use of electroshock therapy became widespread in the treatment of mental illness, often without the use of anesthesia. Patients were also subjected to frontal lobotomies and hydrotherapy where patients were submerged in or blasted with water as means of treatment. However, in the 1950s, new medications that could help stabilize unstable patients mixed with funding cuts to large, scandal-ridden state hospitals lead to deinstitutionalization which dramatically reduced the number of patients being held at these centers.

Stay tuned for Part 2 in the series of Mental Illness in America.

Be Kind To Your GI tract: Understanding Prebiotics VS. Probiotics

You’ve seen them at the drugstore. Boxes and boxes of probiotics that make claims about helping all manner of the stomach, gastrointestinal issues from supporting digestive immunity to straightening out digestive issues. It’s all a bit confusing, but this discussion offers a primer on both:

What Are Probiotics?

Probiotics naturally live in some foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, Kimchi, pickles and other dairy products, but they can also be prescribed or purchased in a pill form. People are often advised to take them to combat the gastrointestinal side effects of some medications such antibiotics. Some people also opt to take them as a daily supplement to replace the good bacteria in their digestive tracts that can disappear for a variety of reasons. Studies have shown that probiotics have the ability to combat some gastrointestinal disorders but must not forget about prebiotics, which also is very important.

What is a Prebiotic?

A prebiotic is classified as a specialized plant fiber that encourages the nourishment of good bacteria that is already in the digestive tract. While probiotics produce good bacteria back into the digestive system, probiotics are in a sense a fertilizer for the good bacteria that already resides there. Studies show that by using prebiotics to increase the good to bad ratio of bacteria has a positive effect on well-being including digestive function, brain function and more.

In short, here is a comparison of the two:

Probiotics:

  •      Control the growth of harmful strains of bacteria in the GI tract.
  •      Hundreds of available brands.
  •      Live in yogurt, fermented foods, and pills.
  •      Can be killed by stomach acid, heat, or time.
  •      Have been shown to induce remission of Ulcerative Colitis US when refractory to medication
  •      Reduce the frequency of diarrhea in patients with stable, active Crohn’s Disease (CD) however postoperative CD has not benefited

Prebiotics:

  •      A special form of non-digestible dietary fiber that helps grow the good bacteria in your GI tract.
  •      Comes in powder form or in some foods like bananas, oatmeal, asparagus, bran, psyllium husk, and more.
  •      Chicory Root has the highest density of prebiotics.
  •      Nourishes the good bacteria in the gut.
  •      Have been shown to be effective for some chronic GI disorders such as ulcerative colitis.

Can I use either one to replace medications for stomach disorders?

No, you should never stop taking any medication without consulting your doctor. Studies on both prebiotics and probiotics are very preliminary, but they may help alleviate some symptoms.

Can I take both probiotics and prebiotics?

Yes, it’s safe to take both at the same time, but it’s still advisable to speak to your doctor first before doing this.

Do things like soy and almond milk contain probiotics?

No, most of them do not contain probiotics.

When should I take prebiotics or probiotics?

Any time is a good time to try taking them to see if they make a difference to the functioning of your digestive system and support your general health.  Again, studies are still in the early stages, and our knowledge of the GI microflora is still in its infancy.  That being said, there is a large amount of anecdotal evidence from patients that say they do help tremendously, and anticipation of clinical data is eagerly anticipated.

Who should not take probiotics?

Immunocompromised or critically people should, for the most part, avoid probiotics. Please check with your doctor as each case is unique.


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.

Opioid Use in the United States

The use of opioids is widespread and common in many first-world countries and is only globally second to cancer medicines in the rate of usage. Hundreds of millions of pain prescriptions are written each year, for various reasons, and the market for opioids is around $24 billion, an astronomical amount. While you would think that this number would be distributed throughout the world, it’s unfortunately mostly concentrated in the United States. This number works out to around 80 percent of opioids being used in the United States.

Lack of limitations

One of the reasons that the United States leads with the amount of opioids prescribed and used is likely the past lack of limitations on the drug. Previously, people who used opioids for pain relief were easily able to get multiple prescriptions from different doctors or have prescriptions renewed before they should be in an effort to take more medications. Another difference between the United States and other countries in opioid prescription is medical culture.  American doctors were much more willing to prescribe the pills for people suffering from acute and chronic pain. In other countries, opioids are only prescribed in extreme trauma cases, like childbirth, severe burns, and end-of-life care. Studying in Europe it was rather rare to see patients ask or receive the various potent opioids inappropriately.  Conversely, when I started my training nearly ten years ago the culture was to liberally give out opioids at the slightest whimper.  Since U.S. doctors were more willing to prescribe opioids, less serious medical conditions were and sometimes are treated with opioids.  Only now is the pendulum swinging the other way and there have been new regulations limiting opioid prescribing.  

Amount of prescriptions

According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), a number of opioids prescribed has quadrupled, with close to 300 million prescriptions written in 2012, “which is enough to provide every American adult with a bottle of opioid pills”. Not every American adult has a bottle of opioids, which is even more concerning because it means that others have lots of different opioids they’re constantly taking. While it may be still fairly easy to acquire a prescription from a doctor, many people also receive their opioids from family members or friends who have their own prescription.

High risk of addiction

Opioids whether legal or illegal can be extremely addicting, which is why it’s so concerning at the rate they’re being used in the United States.  In this document, ASAM breaks down a lot of the numbers associated with opioid use and addiction. People are willing to share pain medication, especially when they receive it for less serious medical conditions and then end up having pills or prescriptions left over that they can give to loved ones suffering from chronic pain, or to sell. Unfortunately, opioids are also a gateway to heroin usage. Many people initially start taking opioids and then work their way up to heroin, because they’ve become addicted to their prescription pills and need to get that high. It’s important to limit, or at least carefully monitor, the amount of opioids being consumed in the United States.

Dr. Gregory Burzynski Tips on How to Stay Mentally Healthy

 

Enjoying mental health means having a sense of well-being, being able to function during everyday life and feeling confident to rise to a challenge when the opportunity arises.

Just like your physical health, there are actions you can take to increase your mental health. Boost your wellbeing and stay mentally healthy by following a few of these simple steps outlined below.

Dr. Gregory Burzynski mental health

Connect with others

Develop and maintain strong relationships with people around you who will support and enrich your life. The quality of our personal relationships has a great effect on our wellbeing. Putting time and effort into building strong relationships can bring great rewards.

Take time to enjoy

Set aside time for activities, hobbies and projects you enjoy. Let yourself be spontaneous and creative when the urge takes you.

Participate and share interests

Join a club or group of people who share your interests. Being part of a group of people with a common interest provides a sense of belonging and is good for your mental health.

Contribute to your community

Volunteer your time for a cause or issue that you care about. Help out a neighbor, work in a community garden or do something nice for a friend. There are many great ways to contribute that can help you feel good about yourself and your place in the world. An effort to improve the lives of others is sure to improve your life too.

Take care of yourself

Being active and eating well helps maintain a healthy body. Physical and mental health are closely linked; it’s easier to feel good about life if your body feels good. Having a physical and mental balance radiates health.

Exercise can help raise serotonin levels. It helps you feel physically better and more in touch with your body. Combine physical activity with a balanced diet to nourish your body and mind and keep you feeling good, inside and out. Try yoga, a local fitness class, or spinning. Start slowly as going from zero to 100 can be counter-productive.

Meditation is another important factor in mental health. Daily practice can train the mind to relax and relieve stress.

 

Creative Treatments for Anxiety Patients

To be clear, every now and then everyone experiences anxiety and stress; that is normal. Examples of anxiety are worries or fears we have about facing an examination or an interview with a potential employer. These emotions are normal; however, when anxiety interferes with your sleep or work, then it becomes a problem. To state anxiety more clearly, anxiety happens when a reaction of ours is out of proportion with what might be normally expected in a situation.

Besides accepted and well-used ways to treat anxiety, there are other more creative ways that can help such as with Yoga or acupuncture. Yoga works for some because it combines breathing techniques, meditation and stretching; all of which can help you relax and lessen your feelings of anxiety. Acupuncture has long been used to help with depression and other health concerns. Acupuncture also treats anxiety. Many think that acupuncture works by stimulating natural painkilling chemicals in the brain. In addition, it is also helpful in reducing or eliminating anxiety.

There are also nutritional supplements that lessen anxiety such as B-12, Chamomile in tea and the Passionflower supplement. Most importantly, creative arts therapies are an effective way to treat anxiety. Creative arts therapies can be given individually or in a group therapy setting. For example, music therapy for children lets children use musical play to express and regulate emotions, listen to relaxation music to lessen their stress and allow them to communicate their feelings to others.

Another creative way to treat anxiety is with dance/movement therapy. With dance/movement therapy, those suffering from anxiety can develop a deeper awareness of themselves, their emotions and how to manage their body and mind responses to situations that are anxiety provoking. For example, a dance movement therapy session will sometimes bring in role-play often throughout the activities.

Then, there is art therapy. Art therapy works for some because it provides opportunities in self-expression, improved self-regulation and development of coping strategies. Most importantly, art therapy enhances deeper communication into anxiety producing situations by encouraging creativity and then verbally describing how it feels to the therapist.

Other ways to lower anxiety are to exercise, avoid smoking and alcohol, eat a balanced diet, drink more water, get plenty of sleep and massage your muscles.

To conclude, everyone experiences anxiety now and then; however, when it becomes chronic, seek out ways to calm the anxiety, such as those listed above and find relief from anxiety!

References: https://www.cnnh.org/addressing-anxiety-in-creative-arts-therapies/

Meditation Offers a Powerful Integrated Treatment Option

Meditation has been a common spiritual and religious practice for thousands of years. More recently, the practice has been making its way into mainstream and secular use as a strategy to improve stress management, mindfulness, and overall quality of life. Researchers are beginning to take note as meditation becomes increasingly popular and shows promise as an integrative treatment option. Currently, 8% of Americans engage in meditation, and 11% spend time practicing deep breathing. Almost 1 out of every 10 Americans do yoga, which is considered by most to be a form of meditation, and 45% of those who don’t say they are interested in trying it.

Mediation’s growing popularity is easy to understand. Anyone can practice, anytime, anywhere. Meditation requires no special equipment or training. Although teachers and classes certainly exist and techniques vary, practicing meditation can be as simple as spending 15 minutes a day quietly focusing on your breath. Practitioners swear by these simple methods, with many reporting that they feel calmer and more relaxed throughout their day, more compassionate, and better equipped to handle difficult interpersonal situations. Many also report benefits in the form of new perspective and mental clarity, increased intuition and creativity, an ability to live in and appreciate each present moment, and an overall increase in happiness and wellbeing.

Meditation water fall

Scientific and medical research on the effects of meditation are still in the early stages, but a growing body of data promises a strong future for the use of meditation as a healthy, available, drug-free integrative medical treatment option.

Americans today face an epidemic of stress, and meditation may offer a powerful source of relief. Stress-related health problems are at the root of up to 80% of doctor appointments and make up the third highest health care expenditures, behind only heart disease and cancer. Given these numbers, it is shocking that only 3% of doctors attempt to address stress reduction techniques with their patients. A recent study suggests meditation goes a long way to address the problem.

People who participated in a meditation based relaxation program found that they required 43% less medical services compared to the previous year, and the newly relaxed patients enjoyed health care savings from $640 to as much as $25,500 per year. Also indicative of the success of such programs is that Aetna, a health insurance provider, offered its own employees a mindfulness program as an experiment of their own. The company itself enjoyed an increase in worker productivity of over an hour each week, or $3,000 yearly – a 1:11 return on their investment. The employees reported 28% less stress, 19% less pain, and 20% better sleep.

In a similar vein, mindfulness meditation is a natural match for treating both garden variety anxiety and patients suffering from Generalized Anxiety disorder. Based on her research, Dr. Elizabeth Hoge, a psychiatrist at the Center for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Disorders at Massachusetts General Hospital and an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, recommends mediation for anyone “dealing with distracting thoughts that have too much power” and “nagging worry that has no benefit.”

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New research suggests that the positive shifts in subjective emotional states that mindful meditators have been reporting for years may even have an objective, traceable physical basis. Harvard neuroscientist Sara Lazar has been studying the effects of meditation on the brain, and she is reporting some fascinating results. After just an 8 week meditation program, brain scans showed increased grey matter in the frontal cortex, an area of the brain associated with memory and decision making.

They also found thickening in the left hippocampus, which is associated with learning, cognition and emotional regulation, as well as areas which assist with perspective taking, empathy, and compassion. Most notably the amygdala, a brain structure famously called the “fight or flight” center and closely linked to fear, anxiety, and stress, shrank considerably in people who had practiced meditation for 8 weeks. Finally, Lazer found that 50 year old meditators had grey matter density in the prefrontal cortex that rivaled an average 25 year old, instead of the shrunken cortex she would expect to find in someone at that age.

Researchers continue to study and learn about the myriad effects of meditation, but you can start reaping the benefits right now. Even 10-15 minutes a day spent meditating is thought to improve quality of life and reduce stress and anxiety. Meditation certainly can’t cure everything, but it can serve as a powerful tool alongside other therapy and treatment, or simply help to improve your stressful day.

 

 

Click here to check out some downloadable guided meditations

Beyond the Pill: How Integrative Medicine Provides Holistic Care

Doctors Looking to Treating the Whole Person
Going to the doctor can be no fun. So much so that many people avoid it like the plaque. What if there was a doctor that did more than just looked at the problem and tried to fix it but got to know their patients as a person instead. They looked at the whole person, the whole being instead of individual parts. This is called being holistic and is the idea behind integrative medicine.
According to Katherine Kam, the goal of integrative medicine is to “treat the mind, body, and spirit, all at the same time.” Some of the ways integrative medicine goes beyond pills is by teaching their patients about different treatments. These treatments could include yoga, herbal medicines, messages, and tai chi. Naturally, the doctor will not be able to do all of this for the patient. Therefore, the therapists to work together with the doctors, all focusing on helping the patient get better in every aspect. In order to achieve this, each member of the team must be respected and valued.
It is important to note that the number one advocate in the group will be the patient themselves. They must be sure to eat healthy, workout, and get enough sleep. Western society can make this difficult; however, working with the proper team can leave a patient, and their physician, feeling better than they did to begin with and with little to no help from the expensive pharmaceutical system. This has benefits and drawbacks. One of the drawbacks is the potential for the holistic remedies will take longer than traditional medicine. This means forgoing our desire for instant gratification. At the same time, Dr. Sheldon T. Ceaser reminds Melody K. Hoffman that, “They (the patient) are not going to be able to buy a twenty or thirty dollar product and expect it to turn around major chronic illnesses” (p. 15). Another drawback is the cost of eating healthier; however, growing produce can help offset the cost. The benefits may outweigh the drawbacks as a patient feels better in every aspect of their health.
Integrative medicine is changing the face of the medical community. Hospitals in the United States offering complimentary therapies have more than doubled while twenty-four percent of hospitals plan to add these therapies in the future (webmd). The number one advocate for our health is the patient, as they search for the type of doctor such as Dr. Ceaser, that will treat the whole person and not just the problem.

Resources:
Hoffman, M.K. (2009, August 10). Healing Held in Holistic Health. Jet, Vol. 116 (4), pp. 14-15.
Kam, K. (2009, April 16). What is Integrative Medicine? Retrieved from: http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/features/alternative-medicine-integrative-medicine#1

Understanding Mind Mastery for Complete Mental Health

Today’s society focuses so much on success and material possessions that we often lose sight of our initial goals and aspirations. As a medical professional, I am used to working long hours, rarely taking breaks and pushing myself to extremes.

I’m the first to know the stresses that a busy work life can have on your mental health and overall well-being. This is why I would like to take some time and share with you the importance of re-calibrating your mind and balancing out your life for the better.

What is Mind Mastery?

Mind Mastery is a concept based on tools set in place to help you gain control of your mental state and to achieve personal well-being. This form of elevation stems from our brain and the power that it possesses throughout day-to-day activities. Ferris Jabr of Scientific American talks about the importance of the brain when trying to achieve mind mastery and the importance of slowing down when working in a high paced work environment.

For clarification, mind mastery is not about intelligence or “getting smarter”. It is more about using your brain in a way that brings you peace and tranquility. Those who practice mind mastery learn how to stay both physically and mentally relaxed under pressure while taking on the forces of the world.

An Etymological Map of the Brain

An Etymological Map of the Brain

 

What Can Mind Mastery Do For You?

Whether you are a top executive or serial entrepreneur, mind mastery has many things to offer you. Tania Kotsos author of The Adventure of I talks about the advantages of achieving mind mastery, specifically how to become aware of your “real self”. This idea allows you to re-claim the immeasurable power of your mind, under the direction of your will, which then enables you to say ‘I THINK therefore I AM therefore I WILL’.

In a hectic work environment, this skill is important to obtain because you are the controller of your own thoughts, feelings, and consciousness. We’ve all had moments where we wanted to blow up at work, but the purpose of mind mastery is utilizing the abilities of your mind to get through the day.

By utilizing your mind power at higher degrees of awareness, you wake up from the auto-piloted mode that is behind what appears to be the randomness of your life. In turn, you get to direct your life in ways you’ve never thought was possible.

Philosophy of Yoga

Philosophy of Yoga

Mind Mastery Techniques

Understanding the importance of mind mastery can make or break your success as a business professional. Learning ways to properly align your mind at the end of each work week will relieve stress, promote productivity, and get you back in touch with your passions. Try some of these simple techniques that’ll have you ready to start the work week.

(the following techniques will help you come up with new ideas and charge your mind with natural energy boosters)

  • Frequent meditation
  • Visualizing your goals
  • Yoga
  • 20-minute breaks of physical movement or productive meditation which increase creativity which fosters new ideas
  • Physical Movement
  • Good posture and body language, specifically power posing
  • Going outside for fresh air, and taking deep breaths, specifically 4-8 breathing techniques