Archive for November, 2008

Continues Dec 6 …

Though we will build on our first class, anyone is welcome to drop-in. Tell your friends!

Come explore the experiential anatomy of Body-Mind Centering® with Doug MacKenzie and put your body in motion with Lara McIntosh of Wassa Dance®. In this two-hour class we will explore Body Systems (organs, glands, bones; muscles, nerves and fluids) as we play with patterns of our earliest developmental movement. While finding coordination, ease, and choice in the way we move, we recognize and learn. Shake out old habits! Move in the heart of rhythm.

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New product alert

One of the many things that I love about the Symposium isthe opportunity to see all of the faces behind the companies who products we sell everyday. This also gives me the chance to see the latest and greatest new “stuff” and get recommendations from other practitioners as well. Last years great find Local Herbs I have already blogged about. Check out a fav from 2008.

The first is Yin Care, which is an herbal wash. There is a long tradition in Chinese Medicine of decocting raw herbs. Aka: boiling them in water for several hours. This process is messy, stinky, and leaves a lots of room for human error. We prescribe herbs now in pill, liquid, and powder far more so, than the original “raw herb that must be boiled form.” The problem with this is that many times these formulas were boiled to be used topically for skin issues, gynecological problems, mouthwashes etc. We haven’t had a comparative Chinese herbal product that was user friendly until now!

Yin care is pre-decocted and highly concentrated. They tout themselves as  China’s most widely used topical/intravaginal wash for gynecological as well as general bacterial, fungal and viral skin complaints. That means it can be used for eczema, psoriasis, fungal infections, as well as yeast infections, vaginosis etc. Look for this one as one of our newest products. http://www.yincare.com/originalUsing.htm

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On the flight done here, I started reading “The Audacity of Hope” by Barak Obama. One section was particularly interesting which was discussing the return of politics from being about “business” to a “mission.” Coming here helps me reconnect with my mission. It help refuel the creative and intellectual juice. On day one we learned that 30 year veteran of the field Bob Flaws is retiring. Bob runs Blue Poppy Press and has been influential in providing good quality herbs as well as literature to the Chinese Medical community.

In his afternoon lecture he shared his Hallelujah Symptoms. These are signs that only mean one thing when seen clinically. A couple notables include night blindness and blurred vision which always indicate blood deficiency. While this class was interesting, I would have found it more useful a few years earlier in practice. As a side note we learned that Eric Brand will be taking over Bob’s business. We made sure to say hi to him at his booth after class. He’s speaking today, and I’d love to hear what he has to say. It is at the same time as Lonny Jarret though, we’ll see.

Ted Kaptchuck, author of the first book I ever read about Chinese Medicine spoke yesterday. What a character. His lecture about Cinnamon Twig Soup and couldn’t have been more different than Bob. All and all a great experience so far. There’s so much diversity in this profession!

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While the title of this post might seem disgusting to some, it’s an exciting breakthrough in perception of our immune systems. This Friday I will be attending the Pacific Symposium for the second year. It is one of the largest acupuncture and Oriental Medicine conferences in the country. World class, veteran practitioners and speakers attend and share information.

One of the highlights from last year was a lecture by Jean Giblette, the founder of Local Herbs. (localherbs.org) She talked about ecological production techniques that are now being used to farm Chinese herbs in the States. What does this mean? In her words, it means the following:

  • The ecosystem affects the medicinal properties of plants, a basic principle understood by ancient peoples of Asia and North America.
  • A more bio-diverse system, with higher levels of organization, supports a more complex expression of the plant’s capacities.
  • Biodiversity can be enhanced by the farmer;  small scale cropping systems are better suited to this goal.
  • No (or very few) amendments are added.  Fertility is maintained and enhanced through specific practices that recycle nutrients.
  • Wild-simulated medicinal plant cultivation involves a close approximation of natural conditions with minimal interference by the farmer.
  • Wild-harvesting on private rather than public lands is preferred.
  • Cooperative and local values support farmers, maintain the land, and build economies.
  • Sustainability, in localities all over the world, includes preservation of farmers’ knowledge.

In my words, she also talked in detail about the importance of bacteria for the health of a plant. Rather than using pesticides and herbicides to reduce the incidences of disease, adding in beneficial organisms to strengthen the plants immune system. We use to think of the five kingdoms plant, animal, monera, fungi and protista as fingers on the same hand. All are about the same size. We now know that a better model is that of a tree, where plants and animals are one small root and the vast majority of the rest of the tree is bacteria! We are literally swimming in them.

Beyond being exciting for the future of Chinese herb production in this country, I was excited about the parallels than I saw for human immune function. There is a concept in Chinese medicine of the Wei Qi. The Wei Qi is the bodies defensive qi (energy), which protects you from outside “evils” like colds and flu. We are starting to understand the importance of good bacteria such as acidophilusand bifidophilus on our gut and immune function. We add these into our diet as supplements as well as eating more fermented unpasteurized foods, and drinking Kombucha. (yum)

We also understand the role that “germs” plan on our skin as far as getting us sick.  We wash our hands with hot water and use antibacterial soap to kill the bad guys. Wait….isn’t that what the farmers are advocating against, adding in chemicals to kill the bad stuff? Won’t antibacterial soap kill good bacteria too? Interesting questions. Here’s an excerpt from an article “Is antibacterial soap any better than regular soap?” that offers some answers.

  • The antibacterial components of soaps (usually triclosan or, less commonly, triclocarbon) need to be left on a surface for about two minutes in order to work. Most people are not this patient, and end up washing off the soap before the antibacterial ingredients can do their job.
  • Some scientists theorize that bacteria may develop a resistance to bactericidal agents over time.
  • Some bacteria actually benefit us. The normal population of bacteria on our bodies not only eats our sweat, but also helps defend us against truly harmful, invasive bacteria.
  • Many common diseases are viral in nature, anyway, and are therefore not prevented by antibacterial products. http://www.howstuffworks.com/question692.htm

So by killing all the bacteria on you skin (or just partially wounding them) you could potentially weaken you immune system. I think I’ll stick to regular soap and hot water.

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 Vitamin D deficiency is quickly emerging as one of the greatest risk factors for a wide variety of diseases. It is also one of the most common deficiencies, especially here in the Northwest. It is however, easily remedied.

Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to at least 17 forms of cancer, neurologic diseases such as multiple sclerosis, skin issues, calcium and bone metabolism issues, muscle pain and weakness, macular degeneration, mental illness, cardiovascular disease, inflammatory bowel disease, periodontal disease, stroke, diabetes, hypertension, colds and flues, and the list goes on. It seems to play no small part in many of these diseases.

For instance, people with adequate levels of Vitamin D have a 30 – 50 percent less likelihood of developing many types of cancer. For those people who did develop cancer, one study even showed that in most types of lung cancer, people with the highest Vitamin D intake had double the 5-year survival rate than those with the lowest!

Musculoskeletal pain, especially low back pain, is also common in people with Vitamin D deficiency. One study found that chronic pain was three times more common among those people with the lowest Vitamin D levels. Additionally, many geriatric units across the country are now supplementing Vitamin D to their patients because they’ve found that it helps to prevent muscle weakness, thereby significantly reducing the amount of falls in their facilities.

Vitamin D deficiency has also been associated with depression. People with the highest levels of Vitamin D had a “higher overall sense of well-being,” according to one study. Who couldn’t use that?

One fairly recent discovery is Vitamin D’s role in maintaining a healthy immune system. It is believed that one reason people get sick more often in the wintertime is secondary to a seasonal deficiency in Vitamin D. One study found that supplementation with 2000 IU (International Units) of Vitamin D per day “virtually eliminated self-reported incidences of colds and influenza.”

How We Get Vitamin D

Our bodies obtain Vitamin D from sunlight exposure, diet, and supplementation. When fair-skinned people sunbathe in the summer, they produce approximately 20,000 IU of Vitamin D in less than 30 minutes. Obviously, sun exposure is a very efficient way to obtain Vitamin D. However, sun exposure does increase skin aging and burning increases rates of melanoma.

Diet provides about 250 – 300 IU per day. Fish oil, liver, and milk are some of the richest sources. However, you would need to drink about 30 glasses of milk per day for three months or more to raise the average person’s levels up to healthy, disease-preventing levels.

Supplementation with Vitamin D is another way that we can obtain adequate levels, of course. Most adults need 2000–4000 IUs per day to raise and maintain Vitamin D at healthy levels. This is more than most conventional doctors recommend or are comfortable with, but this is what the research is showing. There have been no credible incidences reported in the literature showing toxicity with up to 10,000 IU per day of Vitamin D. What few incidences have been reported were from faulty industrial production, labeling errors, dosing errors, and in patients treated medically with high doses of synthetic Vitamin D, called ergocalciferol. (Most Vitamin D and the kind you should take is called cholecalciferol.)

Incidence of Vitamin D Deficiency

Most people have blood levels of 10 – 18 ng/ml in the wintertime, or if they spend the majority of their time out of the sunlight. Major decreases in cancer and other diseases have been shown when blood levels are at least 30 ng/ml. For instance, levels of 33 ng/ml were associated with a 50% reduction in the risk of colon cancer, and levels of 52 ng/ml were associated with a 50% reduction of breast cancer. Natural levels, that is, levels found in humans who live or work in the sun, are approximately 50 – 70 ng/ml.

Many factors influence one’s levels of Vitamin D, including geographic location, skin color (darker skin people produce less Vitamin D from sunlight exposure than do lighter skinned people), use of sunscreen, weight, age, diet, digestion, etc. Blood testing is recommended to find out what your levels of Vitamin D are and to monitor therapy. The test you want your doctor to run is called 25-hydroxy-Vitamin D.

Having adequate levels of Vitamin D is one of the biggest factors in preventing a wide variety of serious diseases. Vitamin D deficiency is extremely common; in fact, most people are deficient, especially in the wintertime. Blood testing is an easy and relatively inexpensive way to find out what your levels are. And supplementation with Vitamin D is a very inexpensive and easy way to help ensure optimal health.

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