From the monthly archives: "May 2008"
Warning: Using toad venom aphrodisiac can kill you. You heard me right. Licking the toad before sex can be a fatal mistake, even if it does make you horny. Reports out of New York City tell of a 35-year-old man who ingested a hard, brown substance purchased as an aphrodisiac and died as a result.

The product is apparently being sold under the names Piedra, Love Stone, Jamaican Stone, Black Stone and Chinese Rock at sex shops and neighborhood stores. It resembles a hardened resin and is made from the venom of toads of the Bufo genus. The venom contains chemicals that can disrupt heart rhythms. It is banned by the Food and Drug Administration.

OK, first off, my heart goes out to this guy’s family. I can’t imagine how painful it must be to lose a loved one to horny-toad venom. But can I ask a question? How stupid can a person be to buy and ingest this type of substance? I know, I know, people do it all the time when the buy illicit street drugs. But that I understand. Those people are addicted to dope, man. How do you explain horny toad venom? Couldn’t get it up after 20 drinks? Wanted to “surprise” my girlfriend with my new superpowers? Wanted to get the most out of my Netflix porno subscription? Wouldn’t a simple hit of Viagra have done the trick? I guess asking the doctor for Viagra is too embarrassing. But rushing to the ER after smoking horny toad venom isn’t? Oh no, perfectly normal. Yeah, right.

Just so you know, stupidity rarely walks the streets alone. New York City officials report that the same type of product killed a 40-year-old man in Brooklyn in 2002 and at least four New Yorkers in the early 1990s. A 17-year-old boy also fell seriously ill, but survived following hours of aggressive treatment. Following that outbreak, city investigators went looking for the poison and found it was being sold sporadically in grocery stores, smoke shops and from street vendors.

Listen, there’s one simple take home lesson from this post: don’t buy any of this crap off the street, out of a sex shop, or anywhere else for that matter. While you’re at it, stay away from Chinese herbs, teas and tinctures, and anything else not given to you from a licensed acupuncturist, Oriental Medicine doctor, or other licensed health care professional. Only take “health” products prescribed by somebody who can be held accountable if you up and croak, or blow out your liver or something like that. Duh! What were they thinking?

They say that the Japanese are the healthiest people alive. They live on average 74.5 years in health, and 86 years thereafter. The Japanese diet–high in fish, rice, and seaweed–is said to be the main reason. Cancer rates are low and heart disease is pretty much held in check. Bravo to the Japanese, especially in honor of their 6th Healthy Food Expo held last week in Tokyo. When it comes to diet and nutrition the Japanese are, without a doubt, ahead of the game.

But if any of you have read my latest book, The Six Keys to Optimal Health, you know that diet is just one factor determining a person’s health and longevity. Multiple factors play a role, each having a profound effect on health and life expectancy. One of these factors is a balanced mental and emotional life–that is, one’s mental health.

When it comes to mental health, then, the Japanese may not be so ahead of the game after all. According to a government report released last week, suicides from work-related stress has doubled in the last five years. And the number of people developing work-related mental conditions such as depression has reached a record high of 268 in 2006 (the last year of complete statistics on the subject). Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the world–32,160 people killed themselves in 2006. People in their 30s and 40s were most prone to stress due to working too many hours or personal relationships at work. Some of the people attempting suicide worked 160 hours of overtime a month. 160 hours overtime! The typical work week in Japan is 40 hours.

Dang! That’s whole lot of workaholism. And you thought Americans were bad. Listen, what difference does it make if you eat well and are nutritionally healthy if you drive yourself into the grave by overworking? Just doesn’t make sense. I get that there are pressures: one-third of these poor people were working between 80-100 hours overtime a month! Put this in perspective: That’s twelve or more hours a day for five straight days every week. That’s damn near chiropractic hours. Sheesh. What family time? What social life? What time for personal hygiene (I know if that was me, I’d probably quit cutting the ol’ toenails to gain a few minutes every week). And throw in a little cultural mind trip–many people don’t discuss their stress in order to not seem weak–and you’ve got a severe mental health issue at hand.

The bottom line is this: If you strive for good health you can’t neglect your mental and emotional wellbeing. Eating well is essential, but so is balancing one’s mental perspective. You ain’t gonna do that by working non-stop for extended periods. You need rest, social time, creative time, family time, and simply time to be alone with your thoughts. Sometimes we forget how important alone time actually is. And even if you do all this stuff regularly, you need a vacation every once in a while, too. Trust me when I say that burning the candle at both ends when it comes to work is the quickest way to burnout, and worse. Just ask the Japanese–it a national tragedy over there.

I keep an eye on health-trends. Some trends are good, some interesting, others simply silly. What I try to caution people against is jumping on any trend that is unproven. Nanotechnology is one of those trends. Current research shows that nano-fibers–needle-like fibres that are already in commercial use–led to lesions similar to those caused by asbestos.

Experiments conducted at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland showed that carbon nanotubes resulted in the same type of inflammation and scarring of the mesothelial lining (called granulomas) of the lungs, heart, and abdomen as asbestos does. Granulomas are lesions indicative of the cancer mesothelioma. A large body of research already exists about the potential of nano-fibers to attack the lungs, but this is the first study to show that carbon nanotubes can have the same damaging impact on the mesothelium.

Nanotubes hold great promise for applications in medicine, electronics and especially new materials. However, they may be inhaled in the work place and quite possibly even from products containing nanotubes. According to co-author of the study, Andrew Maynard, who predicted that within half a dozen years the market for carbon nanotubes would be worth billions of dollars, “We are at the very, very beginning of using these materials commercially. Great caution must be exercised before introducing such products into the market if long-term harm is to be avoided.”

All I can say is that we must always be careful before jumping full-force into any new technology. Should nanotechnology be studied and applied where useful?–heck yes. Should we put these particles in everything from tennis rackets to cosmetics before knowing everything we can about them? Uh, not! (please be aware of cosmetics companies jumping on the nano-trend–see what thinking minds have to say). I’m the biggest advocate for new technology, but I also believe that we must practice caution with anything that can enter our precious bodies. Don’t you?

Every day we get more and more information on the importance of sleep. I am certain it is one of the Six Keys to Optimal Health. If you don’t get enough sleep, thereby depriving your body of it’s vital recuperative and reparative functions, it will go through a series of mini-aborts to carry out it’s processes while you push it to the limit. So says a study published in the latest issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

According to the study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, a brain deprived of sleep–even for one night–becomes unstable and prone to shutdowns akin to power failure. Sleep deprived people “alternate between periods of near-normal brain function and dramatic lapses in attention and visual processing.” In the study they did brain imaging studies of 24 adults performing simple tasks involving visual attention when they were well rested and when they had missed a night’s sleep. They found significant, momentary lapses in several areas of the brain when the people were sleep deprived, but not when well rested.

This study goes to show that the body’s recuperative and reparative functions are so substantial that it will do what it needs to in order to carry out these essential processes, even if that means doing it piecewise. The brain will override its conscious command center little by little until shutting itself down completely when the sleep deprivation goes on for lengths which compromise the integrity of the whole. Bam! Out for the count. A truly amazing feat of self preservation.

As I always say: The human body is an incredible self-healing, self-regulating system. It will do what it needs to for survival. Push it too hard and it will shut down for repair. The best thing is to not let yourself get to that point. But if you do–don’t worry–your body will do what it needs to. Just pray it doesn’t abort while you’re driving down the highway.

I finish the first chapter of my book, The Six Keys to Optimal Health, with the following line: Although this book is not intended as a guide for curing any particular disease, people suffering from ill health can still benefit from the practices contained within.

A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology discloses that the more healthy lifestyle habits cancer patients adopt, the better their health-related quality of life (HRQoL). In 2006, the American Cancer Society recommended that cancer patients get at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-strenuous exercise, or an hour of strenuous physical activity every week; eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily; and quit smoking. According to the study’s results, many cancer patients neglect to follow these recommendations–only 5 percent were meeting all three requirements, while 12.5 percent were meeting none. Those people following one or more of the recommendations not only did better in HRQoL, but had lower mortality and recurrence rates. Very nice!

I find this study particularly interesting because I’m naturally curious about the people who have the least compliance–what makes them neglect adopting healthy lifestyle habits. Of the 9,105 cancer survivors surveyed, only 15-19% were eating at least five servings of fruit and vegetables daily, while only 30-47% were getting the recommended amount of exercise. Not great, especially in light of how crucial both activities are for all people.

I think that if I’d just had what I’d imagine is a pretty frightening “get me in touch with my own mortality” moment, I would probably become Euell Gibbons. But that’s just me.

Maybe cancer survivors who don’t adopt healthy lifestyle habits think it’s too late for them. Or maybe they think health–and ultimately life–is not within their reach; not in their destiny. I can’t imagine it’s carelessness or laziness or self-destructive behavior. Small percentage, maybe; but not in those numbers. I really think it’s a disbelief in one’s own powerful ability to heal. This study, however, gives great evidence of our self-healing, self-regulating capabilities.

So here I say to everybody–cancer survivors and all–you can reach your full potential of health by practicing the six key habits outlined in my book. Research proves everyday how powerful the human body is, and since everybody and everything in your life is connected to your physical being, then you may as well do the things that keep you functioning optimally. Beating cancer is like being given a second chance. Take advantage of it. Give your body what it needs and it’ll repay you multiplied.

Ever had a sprained ankle? A real one–not a twisted or rolled ankle, which hurts too, but not in the same way a sprained ankle does. Sprained ankles are not fun. They hurt worse, in my opinion, than some broken bones, which hurt much less once they’ve been set. Not sprained ankles, though; they keep hurting for weeks, months, and for some even years afterwards. Ouch!

A new study published in The American Journal of Medicine showed that, although people who suffered ankle sprains got back on their feet quickly–some within two weeks–some continue to have problems for months or years following the injury. Being the most common sports injury, very little is known about the recovery process of sprained ankles, at least according to the study. Huh!?! Further, the risk of re-injuring the ankle was as high as 35%–the highest risk group being people highly active in sports.

Very, very interesting conclusions out of Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Being a chiropractic sports physician, I’m a bit amazed at the uncertainty of long-term ankle sprain prognosis. I don’t find any of the results unusual. Many, many ankle sprains are due to heightened risk caused by foot dysfunction. People who have gait abnormalities due to foot dysfunction have a tendency to roll their ankles. Throw these people on a basketball court–like your’s truly–and you increase the risk of ankle sprain exponentially. The solution–a pair of custom-made orthotics.

Orthotics are support devices that fit in the shoes. They correct for common dysfunctions of the foot and ankle–overpronation, oversupination, failure to extend the big toe, and so forth. Correct these dysfunctions and the incidence of repeat sprained ankles goes way down. I’m shocked there was nothing mentioned about orthotic support in the study’s report. I know the incredible results obtained through orthotic support personally–been wearing them for years, never another sprain–and professionally. If you’ve had a sprained ankle or have never fully recovered from one, find a qualified health practitioner, and have you feet evaluated for dysfunction. And if you need them, get a pair of custom made orthotics–they’ll change your life.

I told you, keep your eyes peeled: Marijuana is once again being fingered as a serious health threat. The Federal Government last week released a report stating that marijuana use among teens can lead to depression and–gulp–suicidal tendencies. According to the report provided by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, “A teen who has been depressed at some point in the past year is more than twice as likely to have used marijuana as teens who have not reported being depressed—25 percent compared with 12 percent.” And “teens who smoke pot at least once a month over a yearlong period are three times more likely to have suicidal thoughts than nonusers.”

I reported on the increased attacks on cannabis consumption last year in a couple of posts (here and here) and I said then that I believe the heightened attention has to do with the explosion of medical marijuana dispensaries across California. Now, legality or no legality, it seems odd to place so many ill effects (unproven if I may add) to this mostly benign substance. But the Puritanical powers that be see pot smoking as public enemy number two, right after tobacco use.

What is important in this story is that we really need to distinguish between the concepts of correlation and causation. Correlation is a mutual relation of two or more things. It means that we tend to see a relationship among certain things. Causation, on the other hand, means one thing causes another. So the fact that smoking pot causes one to get high is a definite causation. But smoking pot causing one to become depressed and even suicidal is really stretching the truth. The adage in science and statistics is “correlation does not imply causation.” Period.

Although our Puritanical roots may lead our government to see nothing but the ills associated with marijuana use, as attested by research conducted by our Centers of Disease Control (CDC)*, British research shows something different. According to Bruce Mirken, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project, an organization that advocates the decriminalization of marijuana, “This very week the British government’s official scientific advisers on illegal drugs issued a report saying they are ‘unconvinced that there is a causal relationship between the use of cannabis and any affective disorder,’ such as depression.

Like I said before, there is a real battle going on and it ain’t gonna be pretty. But if certain factions persist, you may see some changes in policy in the near future.


*I’d also like to point out that the CDC probably has data only on dysfunctional individuals who present with a variety of problems. I’m certain they have no data on the thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of totally functional citizens who consume cannabis on a regular basis. Why would they? It’s still illegal, isn’t it? Boing!

Chalk one up for humans. In the battle between man and machine, it appears that man has an advantage. When it comes to healing, there’s power in the human touch.

A study out of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago showed that when training stroke survivors to walk again, they did much better when trained by a physical therapist than they did being trained by a robot. That’s right–walking speed doubled in patients who were assisted by humans compared to those who were assisted by a robotic device. Additionally, the time that patients were able to stand on one leg–a measure of progress–improved significantly only in the group treated by the physical therapist.

This is no surprise to me as I see the miraculous improvements every day in patients I treat with chiropractic care–the ultimate hands-on therapy. I see it in patients who’ve been on short and long-term drug therapy, as well as many who have already gone through surgeries. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes those treatments are valuable and necessary, but overall, there really is no substitute for the human touch.

And it’s not just seen with hands-on therapy, either; simply interacting with patients has healing benefits, as well. It’s one reason that chiropractic patients report better overall satisfaction rates than with the standard five-minute doctor-patient interactions found in most busy doctors offices (check this one out too)–something that medical clinics should be paying attention to.

This phenomenon may be due to psychological factors or there may actually be energetic exchanges that occur between living organic beings. I touch upon these ideas in my book, The Six Keys to Optimal Health. If you haven’t gotten a copy yet, I highly recommend it. We are uncovering a lot with regard to human health and healing, and we are finding that many of our old and outmoded ways are just not cutting the mustard any more.

So chalk one up for the humans. At least for now it seems that, when it comes to healing, you just can’t beat the human touch.

Here goes something interesting: I’ve been experiencing an unusual pain in my midsection for about a month now. It’s not the first time, either. I started experiencing the same thing several months ago, but it went away. So, naturally, being a chiropractic sports physician, I’m wondering what the heck is going on.

First, I thought it might be tight hip flexors since I do a lot of sitting when I write and my chair is not the greatest; that means, like everybody, I start to slouch as I get tired. So I see my chiropractor and have some hip flexor work done, but the pain doesn’t go away.

Then I realize that I haven’t been working out my abdominal muscles lately, as I’ve been focusing on my core. But, guess what? A strong core doesn’t mean the abs can be neglected. Ah yes, I see. Much of what I learn about the body I learn on myself. Abs are important.

I’ve worked on my abs for years, understanding their function. Yet, for some reason, over the last several months I’ve neglected them assuming that my abdominal core workout would be sufficient. Big mistake. I’ve revisited my usual abdominal workout and, lo and behold, my midsection pain has gone away. Interesting.

So listen to what I say here: A strong core also needs conditioned abdominals; otherwise, too much pressure is placed on the hip flexors and the other muscles of the abdominal core. You don’t have to experience it on your own to get it. Learn from my experience. I make it my business to understand the human body as best I can. And I can then pass that info on to you. So work out your core and your abs. That’ll keep you working well for years–guaranteed.

Check this out: If you’re a smoker–and a woman–and you quit, you’ll reduce your risk of dying from a smoking related condition significantly over the next five years. You’ll also cut your chance of developing a smoking related cancer by 20% within that same time period. So says the Nurses’ Health Follow-Up Study that looked at 104,519 female participants covering the period from 1980 to 2004. Nice.

I’m really not that much of a “you better quit smoking” person. Weird, huh? Being a doctor and not feeling adamant about banning smoking. Well, I just don’t. I smoked for 20 years and I know its got it’s draw. I also know that cigarette smoking isn’t the only thing that can kill you–pretty much everything can. I mean, we’re all going to die, aren’t we? Case in point: More women who didn’t smoke died in the study (4,485) than both smokers (3,602) and former smokers (4,396) during 1980 and 2004. Yes, this study is ongoing, and has been since 1976, so many of the non-smokers who died were probably older. But that’s not my point: we all die.

For me, dying isn’t the most important issue, though; it’s quality of life. And I can assure you that the quality of my life has improved dramatically since I quit smoking cigarettes. I have more energy. I’m sick less. I can work out harder. My lungs feel stronger and full of air. The list goes on and on. If you smoke, and you have since your childhood like I had, then you won’t know what I’m talking about until you quit. It’s better, trust me.

But, hey, some people can smoke occasionally (very few). If you only smoke once in a while, then you probably get the best of both worlds (kudos, cigar aficionados). But for most people tobacco is addicting, and they’ll enjoy a better quality of life by kicking the habit. And if you really do give a hoot about quantity of life, then you’ll be happy to know that according to the study: being smoke free for 20 years reverts a person to a physiological state of having never smoked at all. Isn’t the human body amazing?

You know what I never get? The one-dimensional exerciser. You know who I’m talking about–the buffed guy who never does cardio; or the panting and sweaty guy who does an hour on the treadmill (get off, man–people are waiting!) and nothing else. Even so, most people have the sense that they’ve gotta mix it up from time to time. But now, my friends, we’ve got proof.

A recent study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology looked at athletes who participated solely in one fitness activity–either endurance or strength training–and found that people who do cardiovascular exercise (endurance training) have an increase in size of both their right and left heart ventricles, while those who do strength training have excessive growth in their left ventricle only. Additionally, the ability of the left ventricle to fully relax between beats–the diastolic function–is enhanced in endurance athletes, while it worsens in strength trainers.

The heart ventricles pump blood away from the heart. The right ventricle pumps blood to the lungs and the left ventricle pumps blood to the rest of the body. It doesn’t take a rocket surgeon, then, to figure out why cardiovascular training increases growth in both ventricles–cardio pumps blood to the lungs as well as the working muscles of the body. And it’s not brain science understanding how strength training increases growth in the left ventricle excessively. Pumping iron requires massive amounts of blood moved to the working muscles. Heart muscle, like any other muscle, increases in girth when exercised. Pumping iron=pumping blood=buffed heart. That’s a heavy workload for the left ventricle to supply the muscles of the body all by its lonesome–but it does.

Unfortunately, an enlarged left ventricle can present a problem. It’s called left ventricular hypertrophy and can lead to things like shortness of breath, chest pain, sensation of rapid, fluttering or pounding heartbeats (palpitations), dizziness, fainting, or rapid exhaustion with physical activity. Therefore, it’s probably not a good idea to neglect your cardiovascular training. If you read my book, The Six Keys to Optimal Health, you’ll see how all three pillars of exercise–resistance training, cardiovascular training and stretching–work together to enhance each other. So you’ve really got to do each one in balance.

Some people think that if they just do their weight training at a quick pace then they’re getting their cardio in. Uh, no, sorry. Cardio is cardio. Try this. Moderately paced and continuous aerobic exercise (weight training is anaerobic) that makes you sweat. That’s it. That’s cardio. It’s not window shopping, walking through the parking garage to your car, or resting for only one minute instead of two between sets at the gym. Uh uh. Nope. Gotta keep moving for 15, 20, or 30 minutes. And if you do it regularly, you’ll gain strength, balance, and endurance in your muscles, lungs, and heart. Now ain’t that worth the added sweat?

Oh the pain, the pain…

75 million Americans are in pain every day. So says a study published in the medical journal The Lancet. 29% of all men and 27% of all women in the U.S. suffer some sort of pain at any given time. This translates to $16 billion a year spent on pain remedies and about $60 billion a year in lost productivity for the country. Wow!

Some other interesting facts:

  • poor people reported more pain than wealthier people
  • less educated people reported more pain
  • pain increases in intensity as people age, although it plateaus between 45-75 years old, then increases again
  • $14 billion spent annually on prescription pain meds and $2.6 billion spent on over-the-counter pain medications.

Let me repeat–wow! With only 10% of the population taking advantage of chiropractic care, these numbers are truly flabbergasting. Why aren’t more people seeking out physical remedies that have been shown to work wonders? If you are a chiropractic patient and you’ve experienced the miraculous healing powers of the art, please tell your friends. No, insist they go. It seems simple to me. In light of the billions spent on drugs every year that don’t seem to be reducing the numbers of people in pain, doesn’t it make sense to try something different? something natural? something effective?

We are in a period of grave concern over health care spending. Why aren’t more doctors, insurance companies, and legislators touting the benefits of physical remedies like chiropractic, acupuncture, massage, or physical therapy? Why do the powers that be keep pushing the same old tired non-solution? I don’t know…but we can change that. Tell your friends and your loved ones about your positive experiences–they’ll listen. They’ll listen because people listen to those they trust. And you’ve seen chiropractic work wonders for you. Pass the word and help change the world. It’s that big.

You are a social climber, aren’t you? No? Are you sure? Pretty much everybody is. So say the recent findings out of the National Institute of Mental Health.

According to the study, a region of the brain known as the “reward center” is stimulated when people process information about social status. This area, called the striatum, is also stimulated when people receive a monetary reward. Interestingly, a second study out of the Japanese National Institute for Physiological Sciences in Okazaki, Japan, has shown the reward center to also be stimulated when people receive praise–as in the form of a compliment.

The importance of these studies is that they show we humans have a complex neurological system, which drives us to act in socially beneficial ways. We are actually hard-wired to interact socially–that is, we have a “need to belong”. And why not? Sociability is one of the greatest survival strategies we have–it has allowed us to excel well beyond the other species on the planet, and to become the dominant life force on Earth. For good or bad, we have evolved civilization through our ability to socialize. And now we know it’s due, in part, to our biology. Interesting, huh?

Although the link between neurology and sociology has been made, I won’t dismiss the possibility of a spirituality influencing human drives and interactions. I definitely believe there is more to man than simply flesh and blood. It seems to me that if humans have conceived that they might be spirit as well as material, and that this intuition has been a part of human consciousness from the very beginning, causing every civilization to form some sort of spiritual belief and practice, then I’m certain there’s something to it. Every civilization of man cultivating the same intuitive beliefs, independently, is no accident. We know, yet we don’t know.

I believe that biology is an expression of spirit–it’s a manifestation of spirit on the material plane. Although we will certainly find the neurology to explain every behavior, drive or motivation, our bodies are simply the machinery, and not the originator. Biology alone cannot explain our individuality with regard to our drives and values–the elements that make us truly unique (not the DNA alone). And the more scientists search, the more they will likely discover evidence in support of that.

Our need to belong has definite advantages to survival–it has helped us persist and thrive. But I also believe it is a function of our energetic–or spiritual–connections. Only time will tell what this means in the bigger picture.

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