Posts by DrLinda

Brain Research

Posted by on Feb 16, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

I’ve been reading some articles about the brain recently.   And whether you are looking at the possible risk factors associated with living in cyberspace, or intentional courses to enhance happiness, the bottom line is the same.  Brains learn.  They learn whatever it is they spend time doing.  Which should affect your choices of what you do with your brain!

Lets look at the cheerful news first, the studies on happiness.  One of the primary, early jobs of brains was to watch out for danger, to protect us.  And that is why brains seem to be naturally wired to pay more attention to bad things than good things.  Generally speaking, if something negative occurs, your brain considers it much more important than positive occurances.    We have an innate tendency to take the criticism to heart and brush off the praise.   But, brains learn, and they can learn to weigh the positive more.

Every time you use a circuit in your brain, you reinforce it.  Interconnections become more durable and efficient.  Every time.  So, the way to be more cheerful and optimistic is to repeatedly reinforce those circuits.   Studies have been done using the following 3 techniques, and all have improved happiness and reduced depression and stress in clinical tests.

“Three good things”:  At the end of each day, list three good things that happened, and think about them.  That simple.  Repetition is learning.  Focusing on good things teaches the brain to focus on good things.  People who did this for a week still reported improved states of mind a month later.

“Do a good deed”:  There are few things that are as reliable for raising your spirits as doing something kind for someone else.  Making it a practice to do something nice for someone, every day, keeps reinforcing those pleasure circuits, making it easier and easier for your brain to be happy.

“Mind your mind”:  Mindfulness meditation repeatedly proves itself in research as an effective way to become happier, calmer, and more centered.

Of course, repetition is always learning for the brain.  So if you are repeatedly being upset, angry, or sad over things, you are reinforcing those circuits, making it easier to get upset.  Since you don’t need to get super-proficient at being unhappy, when your brain moves to that reaction, try one of the happiness exercises instead.

What are most of our brains doing most of the time nowadays?  Staring at screens.  Teenagers (whose brains are actively growing and forming new pathways and connections) spend seven hours a day on a screen, more time than they spend on anything else, including sleeping.  Teenage girls send over 3,700 texts a month.  Everyone is online, nearly all the time.  And brains always rewire themselves to do whatever it is they spend time doing.

The internet became big around 1995, Google came along in 1998, the iPhone in 2007.  In less than 10 years, our brains have learned to respond to computer dings, tweets, rings, and vibrations with dopamine and adrenaline rushes that look, on an MRI scan, identical to a drug addict’s brain response to drugs.  Studies show that habitual use of the internet reduces cognition, concentration, and psychological health.  The areas of the brain that control speech, memory, motor control, and emotions, shrink in proportion to the amount of time spent online.

So what can you do?  I do not for a moment imagine that any amount of research will, at this point, get anyone to disconnect from the internet.  You are reading this online, after all!  But even considering that you will continue to live in cyberspace, there are things you can do to protect your brain.  Disconnect sometimes.  Go outside without your handheld devices, and walk, paying a lot of attention to your environment.  Allocate some time every week, if not daily, to pleasurable brain food that is not virtual – music, art, physical activities.  Learn something new in the real world – a language, a skill, a sport, but not a video game.

The brave new world of cyberspace is no different from every other innovation humans have come up with.  We do not think about the consequences of our actions.  Whether “progress” means industrialization, factory farming, or computers, we do not stop to consider the costs of pollution, toxic food, sedentary lives, etc.  So if you have learned to filter your water, or take supplements, or buy organic food, to reduce the harm done by the modern world, now add one more thing to the list.  Get off line on purpose often enough to allow your brain to function in a three dimensional, real environment.

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Prescriptions for Health – or Profits?

Posted by on Jan 29, 2013 in Blog | 1 comment

Perhaps you have heard some reports about the pharmaceutical companies trying to influence doctors to prescribe more drugs, for their benefit rather than the patient’s.  Well, now even the medical journals are looking at the situation.  The Annals of Family Medicine reported a study done by some anthropologists from Michigan State University.  The authors noted that spending on prescription drugs in the United States has risen nearly 6-fold since 1990.  The study focused on how medical doctors managed type two diabetes and hypertension, two of the most common chronic health conditions.

What they found was a significantly lowered diagnostic threshold for these diseases.  Which means, it has gotten easier to be diagnosed with them.  In 1998, the fasting glucose level that meant “diabetic” was lowered from 140 to 126.  This resulted in an additional 10.3 million people being defined as diabetics.  The definition of “pre-diabetes” was changed from 110 to 100.  These changes meant that those millions of people would now be put on prescription drugs.

In 1993, the blood pressure definition for hypertension was lowered from 160/95 to 140/90 (in non-diabetic patients).  In 1998, hypertension for diabetics was set at 130/80.  These changes resulted in about 22 million additional hypertension diagnoses – and prescriptions.

Now, is this a bad thing?  The committees and organizations that set these standards have substantial pharmaceutical industry ties.  Doctors are monitored and evaluated on if they treat by these standards.  The important question is if these lower standards benefit patients or just make profits go up for drug companies.  If medical doctors were treating diabetes and hypertension by encouraging patients to eat healthier diets, exercise more, and take nutritional supplements, it would probably be a good thing.  But they are treating with drugs which have side effects and risks.  Two- thirds of patients report symptoms from their diabetic and hypertension medications.  Furthermore, 89% of these patients are taking multiple drugs, averaging 4 or 5 drugs which they are told to take “permanently”.

The authors of this study found that drug companies setting the standards by which their products are sold is not in the best interest of patients. They urged that organizations with financial conflicts of interest be banned from guideline writing panels.  And they called for physicians to be discouraged from seeing drug representatives.

The worst part of this story is that the biggest money makers for the drug industry do not fix the problem.  They “manage” a chronic condition.  And diabetes and hypertension are both treatable by lifestyle changes!  So by only offering patients a prescription, doctors are actually keeping people sick when they should be working with them to make them well.  You hear a lot in the news about how these problems keep worsening, and about the social and economic costs involved.  But maybe the blame lies with a system in which medicine is run by a multi-billion dollar drug industry.

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Preventing Breast Cancer

Posted by on Jan 8, 2013 in Blog | 0 comments

Like all cancers, breast cancer has gone from very rare to incredibly common, in recent years.  A woman’s lifetime risk has nearly tripled in the past 4 decades.  The right question to ask is why.  What causes breast cancer?

The biggest cause is the least “proven” because there is no funding or career advancement in research that challenges industry.  But there is no real doubt that decades of manmade toxic pollution has turned our previously life-supporting environment into a cancer causing environment.  The list includes, but is not limited to, pesticides, solvents, polyvinyl chloride (added to plastics to soften them), bisphenol-A (the lining of food cans), dioxin, flame retardants, food additives, methyl mercury, chemicals in air fresheners, cleaning products, cosmetics and deodorants, new car interiors, construction materials, styrofoam, and plastics.  Living near a paper mill,  gas station, chemical factory, airport, mine, electrical substation or golf course increases your exposure to carcinogens.  No amount of “looking for the cure” will matter as long as we keep pretending that this is not the issue.

There are other things that can increase your risk.  Breast cancer grows faster in higher concentrations of estrogen – that is why it is much more common in women than men.  Things that elevate estrogen levels include hormone replacement therapies, and exposure to manmade estrogen-like chemicals in plastics.

Working the night shift increases the risk of breast cancer.  Night work reduces melatonin levels, and normal melatonin levels appear to be important in normalizing other hormone levels.

Excess weight and inactivity increase risk.  The World Health Organization claims that weight loss and exercise could prevent 25 – 30% of breast cancer cases.

Pretty far down on the list of causes, certain genetic mutations increase breast cancer risk.  I say pretty far down, because these mutations are found in less than 1 to 5% of women with breast cancer.  Therefore, the US Prevention Services Task Force recommends against routine genetic screening.

Prevention?  First, I have to point out that “prevention” means before the problem occurs.  Wearing a helmet can prevent head trauma for motorcyclists.  When medical doctors talk about “prevention” they are generally talking about mammograms, which detect, but do not prevent, cancer.  Some tumors are detected by mammograms, some are not.  Estimates range from 25% to 80% detection.  And up to 83% of “suspicious” areas turn out to be non-cancerous.  Overall, the benefits of screening have been exaggerated.

You can’t avoid all toxins, but you can avoid some.  As much as possible, obtain organic foods, and do not eat too much fish.  Avoid trans (hydrogenated) fats.  Eat whole, real foods rather than processed, prepackaged foods and fast foods.  Don’t use pesticides around the home.  Don’t smoke.  Avoid artificial air fresheners, dryer sheets, and other synthetic products made of hormone disrupters.  Take probiotics and limit your use of antibiotics.

Cancer causing foods include refined grains and sugars – pasta, white bread, pies, cakes, candy, French fries, margarine, soda pop.  Cancer fighting foods are fresh fruits and vegetables, non-industrial poultry and meat.

Deficiencies in vitamins all correlate with increased cancer risks, so vitamin supplements help.  This includes Vitamins A, the B’s, C, D, and E!  Minerals – calcium, magnesium, zinc, etc., are protective.  So, the good news is that all the things that you want to do to be healthy in general – healthy diet, exercise, and supplements – will help lower your cancer risk, also.  And to make cancer the rarity it was 50 years ago, we need to stop manufacturing carcinogens.

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A Rare Guest Post by Sophie (the receptionist) Dog

Posted by on Dec 15, 2012 in Blog | 3 comments

I am writing this because I was watching my human, you know her as Dr. Linda, doing yoga on her mat in the living room.  I like my human, don’t get me wrong.  But sometimes she misses the mark by a mile.  She says she does yoga for “inner peace”.  So naturally I offered to contribute by licking her face while she is on the floor, and believe it or not, she pushes me away.  While talking about inner peace!  It is nonsensical stuff like that that made me realize the need for some basic canine wisdom here.

I’ve watched and listened to my human and her friends long enough to grasp the kinds of emotional and psychological handicaps humans operate under, relative to dogs.  Watching and listening is what your dogs and cats do, you know, except for those precious moments when you are playing fetch or tug with us, or feeding us.  We watch and listen and can barely believe our eyes and ears.

As near as I can tell, and incredible though it sounds to dog ears, the basic issue is that humans do not experience wholeness as their normal reality.  And a whole slew of problems spring from that one.  I’m talking about the illusion that each human is an individual, disconnected from other humans, and nature.  If you are a human, you are so sure you are an isolated, unique soul that you don’t even recognize this as the most basic error.  If you are a dog, well, we can hardly conjure up that unique identity thing with all our imagination.  Still, I think you can learn better, so take heart.

Here is what your dogs know to be true.  The same life force flows through every living thing.  It doesn’t matter if you have fur or feathers, paws or fingers, scales or shells.  I’m not saying the same kind of life force, I’m saying the same life force.  Imagine a huge tree with a million massive limbs.  Each limb has a million branches, and each branch a million twigs.  All connected to one vast trunk.

Each twig ends in a leaf.  If the leaf is human, it looks around and sees the other leaves, but never looks down at the branches that connect them.  These human leaves imagine they are separate, not connected to anyone, much less everyone.

Dogs and cats, and most everyone else, sees the twigs on the branches on the limbs on the tree trunk.  We are all leaves on the same tree.  We are all as connected as that.  We are all the same soul.  Trust the dog, she knows.

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What Does Chiropractic Do?

Posted by on Dec 13, 2012 in Blog | 0 comments

In one study, 1,504 patients were given questionaires.   These were all chiropractic patients being treated for musculoskeletal pain.  What the study found was that the patients reported positive side effects besides pain relief 23% of the time.  Adjusting the spine to relieve pain also helps organs and tissues work better.  Positive effects were found in the respiratory system, digestive system, circulation, and eyes.  The patients reported that it was easier to breathe, they had improved digestion, clearer vison, lowered blood pressure, and relief from ringing in the ears.

Chiropractors don’t find this surprising!  The nerves are the communication lines between the brain and every organ and tissue in the body.  So if you improve nerve function, by releasing pressure from misalignment, you will benefit everything that nerve communicates with.

Compare these side effects to the ones listed at the ends of drug commercials!  Aren’t these the sorts of side effects you’d rather have from your health care?

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