Archive for May, 2018

Photo: Lauren Naefe

Migraines affect 40 percent of the population, and those living with migraines understand the feeling of living with fear and anxiety over the next attack. Since the age of 19, I have suffered with migraines and am very familiar with the aura, the pain, and the aftermath. I see many patients with frequent migraine attacks that can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days. Some are particularly hard to break, so I work with them to identify triggers, address nutrition, influence lifestyle choices, and guide them with treatments that would be most effective. Suffice it to say, migraine prevention can be a journey.

In addition to being a neurologist, I have taken that journey myself. I have worked hard over the years to not only learn the mystery of migraines but also to understand what my body and brain need to ensure fewer migraine attacks. Here is what has worked for me and for many of my patients:

1. I get regular sleep.

My family will tell you how rigid I am regarding my sleep. I go to sleep around the same time each night and wake the same time each morning. (Yes, even on the weekends.) Getting the same number of hours of sleep each night is important, but just as important is that those hours are on the same schedule. So eight hours of sleep between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. is not the same as eight hours of sleep between 1 a.m. and 9 a.m.

2. I avoid food triggers.

I ran some tests on myself and learned that I am sensitive to tyramines found in soy, aged cheeses, and fermented or pickled foods. I removed these foods completely from my diet. My testing proved I was completely tolerant to gluten. A plant-based diet works for me, and I make sure to include healthy fats like avocado and seeds, which make the brain happy. Find out what foods work best for your individual body with an elimination diet and/or food sensitivity testing.

3. I stay well-hydrated with water and electrolytes.

Healthy kidney function will allow you to excrete fluids to maintain a healthy salt and water balance in the body. To maintain good hydration, add electrolytes to your water. Luckily, it’s super easy because electrolyte tablets that you can just drop in your water bottle are available all over the place.

4. I regularly exercise.

I am super busy with family and work and used to use that as an excuse to exercise less often. But facing frequent migraines taught me that it cannot be an excuse. I wake up a little earlier four to five days a week to run or take a yoga class. It starts my day on a really positive note and keeps my headache frequency way down.

5. I juice each morning with turmeric and ginger.

These roots have some major antioxidant and anti-inflammatory power, helping to reduce chronic inflammation and keep me in tiptop shape. I add lemon, cucumber, and a pear for taste and extra hydration. Here’s the full recipe for the brain-boosting tonic I drink every morning.

6. I manage stress with meditation and deep breathing.

Meditation has been shown to reduce nervous system tension and response to internal or external stimuli. Deep breathing helps improve oxygen delivery everywhere, including the brain.

7. I take select supplements.

People with migraines are often deficient in nutrients like magnesium and riboflavin. I also add important herbal nervines for further nervous system support and stress management.

8. I have a migraine action plan.

When I feel a migraine coming on, I drink a large glass of ice cold lemon and ginger juice, drink a black cup of coffee, and may even take an ibuprofen.

These changes in my life have helped significantly to not only lower the frequency of my migraines but also shorten the duration and decrease the severity. I often share these recommendations with patients and, over time, the majority find these changes help them reduce their need for medications. And remember, please always speak to your doctor if you suffer from new or changing headaches!

Source: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/how-integrative-doctors-prevent-migraines

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Immunizing girls against human papillomavirus (HPV) doesn’t increase their risk for autoimmune diseases, according to new research from Canada.

HPV is the world’s most common sexually transmitted disease, affecting up to 75 percent of sexually active people and is the main cause of cervical cancer. Gardisil, the quadrivalent HPV4 vaccine, protects against up to 90 percent of strains that cause cervical and rectal cancer.

“Despite demonstrated effectiveness in real-world settings, concerns continue to persist regarding the safety of the HPV4 vaccine,” said lead study author Dr. Jeffrey Kwong. He’s a senior scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Toronto and at Public Health Ontario.

“In light of these concerns, we wanted to study the HPV4 vaccination since it was being offered free to all grade 8 girls in Ontario through school-based clinics,” Kwong added.

To see if the vaccine triggered autoimmune conditions such lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis, Kwong’s team reviewed data on 210,000 girls aged 12 to 17 who were eligible for vaccination between 2007 and 2013.

Of nearly 181,000 girls who were vaccinated, about 680 were diagnosed with an autoimmune disease between one week and two months later.

The researchers said this rate is consistent with the rate of diagnosed cases among all girls in this age group.

The report was published May 28 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

“These findings add to the body of evidence on the safety of the HPV4 vaccine and should reassure parents and health care providers,” study co-author Linda Levesque said in a journal news release. Levesque is on the pharmacy faculty at the University of Toronto.

More information

Learn more about HPV vaccine from the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

SOURCE: Canadian Medical Association Journal, May 28, 2018

Source: https://consumer.healthday.com/sexual-health-information-32/misc-sexually-tranmitted-diseases-news-609/no-link-between-hpv-vaccine-autoimmune-diseases-study-734243.html

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Closing coal and oil plants may lead to fewer premature births and improved fertility in neighboring communities, according to two new studies.

Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley found that preterm deliveries dropped 20 percent to 25 percent in California after eight power plants closed down between 2001 and 2011.

“We were excited to do a good news story in environmental health,” said study lead author Joan Casey, a postdoctoral fellow.

“Most people look at air pollution and adverse health outcomes, but this is the flip side: We said, let’s look at what happens when we have this external shock that removes air pollution from a community and see if we can see any improvements in health,” Casey said in a university news release.

Researchers compared premature births and fertility rates in women two years before and one year after the closures. The facilities included San Francisco’s Hunters Point Power Plant, which was retired in 2006. The women’s age, socioeconomic status, education level and race were also taken into account.

Next, the researchers divided the neighboring areas into three rings that measured 3 miles wide. Then they analyzed state birth records to identify trends in premature births within each ring.

The most significant improvement occurred in the ring closest to the plant — within 3 miles, the researchers said.

Overall, the team found that preterm births — before 37 weeks of pregnancy — dropped from 7 percent to about 5 percent.

Among black and Asian women, premature deliveries fell more significantly — from about 14 percent to a just over 11 percent, the study showed.

Casey said the 20 to 25 percent drop in preterm birth rates was larger than expected, but in keeping with other research tying birth problems to air pollution around power plants.

“It would be good to look at this relationship in other states and see if we can apply a similar rationale to retirement of power plants in other places,” Casey said.

The researchers compared their findings to an analysis of eight power plants that were still operational and found preterm rates remained the same. They said this supports their conclusion.

The findings appear May 22 in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

A separate study was published May 2 in Environmental Health. For that work, UC Berkeley researchers examined similar data and found that fertility improved around coal and oil power plants once they closed.

But as in the first study, only an association was seen between plant closings and birth outcomes.

“We believe that these papers have important implications for understanding the potential short-term community health benefits of climate and energy policy shifts and provide some very good news on that front,” said study co-author and professor Rachel Morello-Frosch.

“These studies indicate short-term beneficial impacts on preterm birth rates overall and particularly for women of color,” Morello-Frosch added.

More information

Columbia University has more on how fossil fuels affect children’s health.

SOURCE: University of California, Berkeley, news release, May 22, 2018

Source: https://consumer.healthday.com/respiratory-and-allergy-information-2/air-pollution-health-news-540/closing-fossil-fuel-plants-tied-to-fewer-preterm-births-734135.html

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Photo: @Ipinchuk

The results of a new study showing that fasting for 24 hours boosted the stem cell activity in mice recently blasted the headlines of every major news outlet. And while the actual study is a bit dense and difficult for anyone who’s not a doctor or researcher to understand, being familiar with what stem cells are, why you might want more of them, and natural and safe ways to boost your own stem cell activity are timely topics that all of us should know.

So what are stem cells, anyway?

Stem cells are a type of cell that has the potential to develop into different cell types in the body. Because of this, these types of cells can serve as a repair system and theoretically divide without limit to replenish other cells for as long as you are alive. When a stem cell divides, each “daughter” cell has the potential to either remain a stem cell or become another type of cell with a more specialized function, such as a heart muscle cell, a red blood cell, or a brain cell. In theory, we might want to simply boost stem cells while we are young and then use them to keep our heart, hips, brain, and other parts our body healthy as we age.

How can we boost stem cells?

There are a few well-known methods for accessing your stem cells that can be used for serious medical conditions. Keep in mind that these would not be used for just any health and wellness program but under medical supervision and for a specific medical issue. They are:

  1. Bone marrow stores, which can be harvested by drilling into bone for a biopsy.
  2. Fat cells, which can be harvested by liposuction.
  3. Blood extraction by apheresis, a machine in blood banks that looks like a dialysis unit.

In the recent study published on fasting and stem cells, the research team fasted mice for 24 hours and then harvested stem cells from their intestines. They grew the stem cells in a culture and measured their activity. They found that the regenerative capacity of the stem cells doubled compared to mice that did not fast. The science fits well with the large body of evidence that nutrition—or absence thereof during fasting—has profound effects on the behavior of cells and the maintenance of health. One of the researchers, Omer Yilmaz, indicated that “fasting had many effects on the intestine, which included boosting regeneration as well as potential uses in any type of ailment that impinges on the intestine, such as infections of cancers.”

Although mice may show some changes in stem cell activity in 24 hours, in humans, studies indicate prolonged fasts can be used to trigger stem-cell-based regeneration that rejuvenates the immune system. This hopeful idea was studied by the team at University of Southern California led by Valter Longo, Ph.D., and initial findingswere published in 2014. Using two to four days of a fasting-mimicking diet (FMD) in patients undergoing chemotherapy for various cancer diagnoses, patients demonstrated protection from the toxicity of treatments. The study has profound implications for accessing healthier aging as immune cell function and protection from disease declines with age. Using fasting to kill older and damaged immune cells and replacing them with stem-cell-derived new ones opens doors to a practical method to make your stem cells work for you. Dr. Longo commented that “we could not predict that prolonged fasting would have such a remarkable effect in promoting stem-cell-based regeneration.”

Can we all use prolonged fasting to boost stem cell production?

According to research published in early 2017, you can. The study involved 100 healthy subjects that completed the fasting-mimicking diet (800 to 1,100 calories daily of a plant-based diet low in protein and simple carbohydrates that is commercially available) for five consecutive days a month for three months. Compared with the control group, the participants using the prolonged “fast” had a reduction in body weight, abdominal fat, blood pressure, inflammation, and a tumor marker called IGF-1 while enjoying a significant boost in stem cells circulating in the bloodstream. Even when the participants were reassessed three to four months after finishing the three cycles of the FMD, there were sustained benefits including maintenance of 60 percent of the weight loss.

Are there any other natural ways to activate stem cells?

Photo: @Ipinchuk

So we know that fasting can help stimulate stem cell production, and that raises the question: Are there are any other natural activators of stem cells? Although the work is preliminary, there are data that the polyphenols and antioxidants found in blueberries, green tea, pomegranates, goji berries, and even spirulina can increase circulating bone-marrow-derived stem cells. Research indicates that the response to bouts of acute exercise includes increases in stem cells in the circulation.

As a personal testimonial, after completing three months of the FMD in early 2017, I found that a sore right shoulder and a right foot plantar fasciitis had resolved and to this day remains at bay. This was accompanied by the perk of an 18-pound weight loss and a similar drop in systolic blood pressure. While I cannot be certain it was the regenerative activity of stem cells repairing damaged cells, it is good to know that we all have ways to utilize our natural reparative pathways and get ourselves back to optimal health!

Source: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/what-stem-cells-really-are-how-to-boost-them-naturally

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Photo: Thais Ramos Varela

Many years ago, I was sitting with a couple in my office, marveling about what a “perfect fit” they were: They were both into healthy living, rescue dogs, and hiking. They didn’t argue, their facial expressions were kind, and their nonverbal signals showed they cared.

Despite this, they were talking about ending their relationship. They couldn’t describe what was wrong, but both felt the relationship was empty. I followed the usual process: We looked for places of trouble, which were few, and explored the good parts of their relationship, which were many. However, it was as if a spark between them was never lit. In the end, they felt it was best to part amicably, which they did.

That session was followed by an hour with another couple who didn’t stop arguing from the moment they walked in the door. They had been waiting all week to “tell on the other,” i.e., talk about the agreements each had broken and the far-reaching arguments about washing the dishes or sex, all with a plethora of eye-rolling and grimacing. However, the passion between them was palpable; under the power struggle, there was a lot of interest and passion. We worked hard for months, and they were eventually able to break their destructive loop and spend more time living with the pleasure they found in each other.

These two stories point to one of the most important truths my 35 years of working with couples has shown me. Though we know many of the qualities and skills that make a great relationship—most of which can be learned—there is no rule book for what makes two people work. Sometimes people just know their relationships are over; other times, even though it’s hard, they are willing to do the work to make it good again.

There are times you MUST leave—if there is ongoing abuse or if you are in danger of physical harm, you should only consider staying safe. Repeated bouts of addiction, cheating, emotional badgering, and severe financial abuse need to be handled with extreme care as well. That means finding a safe way to leave is the only sensible possibility. Of course, each of those issues can find resolution, but a partner who is unwilling to change their destructive behavior will only harm you.

Outside of these, there are situations in which you just don’t know if you should leave or stay. Here are three things to pay attention to if you are facing the dilemma of working on your marriage or ending it:

1. Don’t make decisions when you are in an intense emotional state of discouragement, anger, or despair.

Remember that love is a feeling and that relationships come and go. My mother—who was married for over 55 years—once said to me, “No one knows what hate is until they have been married 50 years.” Her marriage was full of deep love, companionship, and joy, but she understood that there are moments when living with someone else is impossible. Then we feel we would do anything to flee.

Just remember that love is a feeling and that a relationship is an agreement that has many seasons. We disappoint one another, hurt one another, and sometimes even bore one another. However, those times that seem impossible in the moment can give more trust and resilience to the relationship overall.

2. Learn about the ongoing arguments, which I call emotional loops.

Often, people think they want out of the marriage when they really want out of a loop. In my experience, most women fear emotional disconnection, while many men feel criticized in relationships. An emotional loop can begin in either place. When one person feels abandoned, she may criticize her partner. This drives him into withdrawing, which in turn makes her more critical. After a while, these positions seem permanent, but I am happy to say that they are not. It is possible to break the loop and find joy in your relationship again.

3. Understand your role in the dynamic.

I have seen so many people leave relationships thinking that the problem was the other person. They discover someone new, and for a while, everything is wonderful. A few years into that relationship, however, they find that the same issues are back. As a very clever book title says, “Wherever you go, there you are.” We bring ourselves with us, and our part of the problem will still be there in the next relationship.

The antidote to this is to do your part of the work on understanding your problems, even if your partner is not willing to. If you are in a relationship that involves unproductive arguments, find a way to stop your side of them. If you cope with your troubles by being defensive, practice being more open and more vulnerable. When one person changes, often their partner does unwittingly.

So unless you are in danger, slow your decision down. Remember, a relationship is a dynamic between two people. The most important outcome is that you heal—and free yourself—from your part of what makes your relationship unhealthy. Your partner may or may not do their side of the work, but your actions will clear the way for a decision based on strength and intuition rather than a reaction to an issue that might later be resolved.

Many relationships can overcome challenges when both people are willing to learn to practice the skills. It not, at least you won’t be continuing the same patterns with someone else. And that’s a step in the right direction.

Source: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/how-to-know-when-its-time-to-walk-away-from-your-marriage

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Photo: Andrey Pavlov

It’s the unofficial first weekend of summer, which means we’ve officially entered the season of sunburns. No one is immune to the excitement that accompanies a sunny three-day weekend—for many, it means a little too much time spent in the sun without enough protection or vigilance. Boom—you wake up with a sunburn that’s far worse than it looked the night before.

There is plenty of information online that focuses on prevention, and rightfully so. Sun damage isn’t just an aging concern—it’s scary. In addition to feeling painful, itchy, and uncomfortable, sunburns can cause sun poisoning and can increase your risk of getting skin cancer. That’s reason enough to reapply on the hour! But let’s assume you did all the prep work you could in good faith, and yet the damage has been done—how do you remedy a sunburn?

1. Take an oral anti-inflammatory.

Holistic dermatologist Cybele Fishman, M.D., said she advises her patients to take an oral anti-inflammatory at the first signs of a bad burn. Try ibuprofen, or if you want something more natural, Zyflamend by New Chapter, she said.

2. If you think it’s verging on severe, give your derm or doctor a call.

You might need to take different measures if you’re at risk for worse burns or sun poisoning. If you and your medical professionals have determined over-the-counter care is strong enough, over-the-counter cortisone will help.

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3. Wear loose clothing.

There’s nothing worse than the rub of tough denim or form-fitting leggings on a bad burn. Jun Lee, avid surfer and founder of EiR NYC, a line meant to remedy skin after time spent outdoors, will go the extra mile to wear loose clothes if she’s feeling any heat from a sunburn. It’s a good idea to think about this if you’re packing for a sunny vacation!

4. Stay hydrated—not just with water.

This may seem obvious, but after spending too much time in the sun, you should put extra effort into staying hydrated. Dr. Fishman said it’s important to drink water, but it’s even more important to add in hydrating fluids that contain electrolytes, “which get out of whack with a sunburn,” she explained. Harmless Harvest coconut water is a great, organic, fair trade, replenishing option, but in a pinch, a low- or no-sugar Gatorade will do the trick.

5. Take a lukewarm bath with colloidal oatmeal.

A particularly holistic tip is to take a bath with colloidal oatmeal, an ingredient that’s proved to be particularly helpful in repairing a compromised skin barrier. As noted by Dr. Fishman, a regular old cereal oatmeal bath won’t work—when added to water, colloidal oatmeal creates a jellylike, viscous substance that soothes irritated skin. Pro tip: Dial down the temperature of your bath if you’re suffering from a sunburn! Dr. Fishman recommends Aveeno Eczema Therapy moisturizer as well, which contains colloidal oatmeal.

6. Apply aloe gel without any added chemicals or fragrance.

Aloe vera is a powerful plant-based medicine that’s been used to heal cuts, burns, and sunburns for ages. Dr. Fishman warns against using a store-bought gel that has chemicals or synthetic fragrance added because they can actually make the burn worse. Try to find a gel that is made of 100 percent pure aloe fillet. Herbivore Botanicals’ after-sun soothing aloe mist is a great option for mild burns.

Lee added that she’s included lavender in some of her after-sun products, which has been shown to help severe burns in some cases.

Source: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/sunburn-relief-how-to-treat-a-sunburn

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Obesity was linked with an increased risk of postmenopausal breast cancer, endometrial and kidney cancer in women, especially if that weight gain occurred rapidly. (Dimitri Vervitsiotis / Getty Images)


Compared to women of normal weight, those with obesity are 24% more likely to develop one of a handful of cancers linked to the condition, and their chances of developing cancers of the kidney or endometrium were around twice as high as those of normal-weight women, new research has found.

In a Norwegian study that tracked 137,205 women between 30 and 70 years old, researchers also found that those who gained more than 22 pounds over a period of five to eight years were nearly twice as likely as those who maintained a stable weight to develop pancreatic cancer.

For women with such a substantial weight gain over just a few years, the risk of endometrial cancer and post-menopausal breast cancer increased by an average of 40% and 36%, respectively.

The new research capitalized on Norway’s universal healthcare system and its meticulous record-keeping to analyze women, their weight and their cancer status over 18 years. The results will be presented Thursday at this year’s European Conference on Obesity (ECO) in Vienna, Austria.

In a range of studies, researchers have linked obesity with higher rates of 13 different types of malignancies: cancers of the breast after menopause, the colon and rectum, the endometrium, ovary, pancreas, kidney, gallbladder, gastric cardia, liver, esophagus, meningioma, thyroid and the blood cancer multiple myeloma.

The new study found that ovarian and rectal cancers were not linked either to excess weight or rapid weight gain among the women tracked — something of a surprise. And while rates of colon, rectal and kidney cancers were higher among obese women than normal-weight women in the Norwegian study, those differences did not reach statistical significance. In short, they were small enough that they might have been due to chance.

The links between obesity and heart disease, and between obesity and diabetes, have long dominated discussion of the health effects of excess weight. But obesity and lack of physical activity are collectively considered the second-most-common risk factor for cancer, behind smoking.

Still, researchers are in the relatively early stages of teasing out the relationship between obesity and cancers, and the Norway study will help contribute to that.

Among the lines of research it will likely help stimulate are explorations of the mechanisms by which carrying — or in some cases, gaining — excess body fat contribute to the risk of certain cancers. In the cases of breast and endometrial cancer, for instance, scientists have focused on the penchant of stored fat to perturb sex hormones.

Source: http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-obesity-cancer-women-20180523-story.html

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