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Welcome to Natural Health by Karen Vaughan, MSOM, Science writer, Licensed Acupuncturist, and Registered Herbalist (American Herbalists Guild) A photo of Acupuncturist Karen Vaughan

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EMR Protection

I have been concerned about electromagnetic radiation for some time, long before the cell towers and cordless phones invaded our lives. I live in an old house with unshielded wiring. I have been using MRET technology and tubular cell phone headsets to shield my family and clients.

Read about it on Karen"s EMR Protection Page.

Focus and Dreamwave Entrainment CDs and MP3s

I love these programs which let you use your dreams consciously, develop your insight and improve your focus, all with tones that entrain you and no words.

Dreamwalk Program CD

Insight Program With Gentle Rain MP3

Insight Program With Ocean Sounds MP3

Focus Program With Rain

MP3Writer's Mind CD

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Six Month Update on the Stem Cells

Diseases and conditions where stem cell treatm...

Diseases and conditions where stem cell treatment is promising or emerging. Bone marrow transplantation is, as of 2009, the only established use of stem cells.                                                 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As many of you know I had a stem cell implant in January at StemGenex in La Jolla California.  I had been somewhat discouraged by the effect on my Parkinson’s disease but two different people in the past week have spontaneously remarked that my tremors have reduced. The tremors have spread to the other side, but are less intense.  So it may well be that I am not the best judge- I only pay attention when the tremors are active.

I want to say right off that even if I’d had no effects whatsoever from the stem cell implant that valuable information would be derived from the study.  We need to learn who responds and who does not.  There are considerations of the effects on insulin resistance and gut bacteria, as well as vagus nerve stimulation that affect the success of stem cell implants. We need more experimentation on how and where to administer the cells and what activities will impact their proliferation.  (Too bad for nonresponding participants who pay out of pocket but good for science.)

It is true that I haven’t had the dramatic changes that I expected. And I might have done better with stem cells taken from the cord blood of a newborn rather than my own adipose (fat) cells. When you are fat, the fat cells can be hypoxic and less vital. One doctor I spoke with in Mexico said he prefers cord blood because the stem cells are more active, even if there are considerably fewer of them.  If you are heavy and are considering stem cell implants you might consider using cord blood.  Cord blood is not available in the US, but there are reputable firms outside of the country.

Do I think losing weight prior to a stem cell implant might have helped?  Only with a few years lead time and lots of detoxification.  The problem is that fat stores toxins to protect the body from the harm they can cause.  I have tested high for lead, strontium, DDE and other endocrine-disrupting compounds. Weight loss can dump toxins into the blood stream and tissues as fat cells are broken down or deflated, which is why I have gotten sick every single time I lost weight, even slowly.  I did a course of herbal detox  and DMPS, EDTA, and Olestra (1) chelation prior to the stem cell implant to reduce toxins but stopped a month before the implant to let my body normalize.  Chelation cannot be done after the implant until the cells have finished multiplying.

A friend tells me that our neighbor is still experiencing improvements 2 years after his stem cell implant – and it took a while to build up.  He saw the greatest improvement after he started getting deep massage and using a vibration platform late in the first year. So there is still hope. It has been only 6 months. One woman with MS who was going through the implant with me for the third time said that the first time there was no change until 6 months and suddenly she was able to raise her legs two feet instead of two inches.  Pazienza, Karen!

Confidence Fitness Vibration Platform. http://amzn.to/1Ge8Ifw

Confidence Fitness Vibration Platform. At http://amzn.to/1Ge8Ifw

I was advised by a colleague with Parkinson’s to get a vibration platform to increase the stem cell activation and to reduce Parkinson’s symptoms. I used one last week while visiting my parents and it definitely activates qi and blood, affecting not only circulation but eliciting a strong stretch-reflex contraction in muscle fibers.  It is a very efficient anaerobic form of resistance training and they claim that 10 minutes of platform exercise is like 60 minutes of regular exercise.  Vibration platforms for the home run between $200- $6000.  While the pure platforms without handholds look like they give a stronger vibration and certainly fit better in a NYC apartment, the design looks risky for someone with Parkinson’s.  The $250 Confidence Fitness machine has over 700 five star reviews on Amazon.  I am saving up for it now.

Handhold- less dual motor vibration plate (what do you do with the remote while shaking?

Handhold- less dual motor vibration plate (what do you do with the remote while shaking?)

  1. Ronald J. Jandacek, James E. Heubi, Donna D. Buckley, Jane C. Khoury, Wayman E. Turner, Andreas Sjödin, James R. Olson, Christie Shelton, Kim Helms, Tina D. Bailey, Shirley Carter, Patrick Tso, Marian Pavuk.Reduction of the body burden of PCBs and DDE by dietary intervention in a randomized trial. The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 2014; 25 (4): 483 DOI: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2014.01.002

 

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Why do I have spasms and what do I do about them?

 

Why do I have spasms and what do I do about them?back-pain-921

 

There are many reasons you might have spasms and the hard, painful clenching of contracted muscle can hurt enough to wake you up in pain.  What you do is not the same for everyone

 

Overuse or overtraining can cause your body to go into spasm, especially if a nerve is involved.  This serves two purposes: it gives you temporary if somewhat distorted support and gets you to stop what you are doing.  Use an analgesic that reduces pain and moves blood like aspirin or Dr. Christopher’s Antispasmodic formula or a Chinese martial arts dit dat jiao trauma formula.

 

A dit dat jiao is a liniment or topical tincture made up of herbs that increase circulation (including microcirculation of the capillaries), release the muscle layer and relieve pain. If there is a lot of redness and swelling a cooling effect can be added with mint or menthol the first day since this relieves inflammation without the bad effects of ice.

 

There has been controversy about using ice when a spasm first starts.  Don’t.  In Chinese medicine ice has always been proscribed because it drives the pain in deeper while giving surface relief.  Blood can congeal (clot) deep inside, blocking the circulation necessary to nourish the tissue, so it takes longer to heal the spasm.  Heat both increases circulation and relaxes the spasm.  Western medicine has finally caught up with Chinese medicine, although some trainers and doctors have not yet caught up with the research.

 

Related to overuse is poor functional posture which over time stresses some muscles and produces weakness in others that ought to work together.  An example of this is “computer neck” where the SCM, trapezius and other neck muscles become rigid because the head is held too far forward.  Yoga, Pilates and MELT classes can work on correcting posture while structural integration can  separate conjoined fascia so that muscles can work independently. While nutrients and herbs can reduce pain it is important to improve the functional posture to eliminate the cause.

 

Lack of magnesium which is an endemic condition in America can also affect cramping. Dietary magnesium is down 50% in the last 30 years as soil has been depleted by industrial farming and erosion.  Oral magnesium is difficult to absorb and I have been able to reach good testable levels using Jigsaw Sustained Release capsules twice a day plus topical magnesium oil from the ancient Zechstein inland sea.  I also do periodic soaks in Epsom salts or Magnesium Chloride salts.

 

Lack of iron is also a cause of spasmodic leg shaking but should not be supplemented unless blood tests low.  The Chinese cure would be to eat liver for such Liver Wind conditions.

 

The widespread use of statins for cholesterol has led to a wholesale depletion in Ubiquinone (Coenzyme Q10,) the body’s natural antioxidant.  While statins have tested as useful for males who have had heart attacks, the usefulness for anyone else is unclear.  Cholesterol is the body’s natural bandage for inflamed arteries and is the building block of steroid hormones and brain tissue, so there are good reasons to not lower it.  Statin use is known to frequently lead to muscle pain and more rarely rhabdomyolysis, a severe condition which affects the muscles.  The most common signs and symptoms of rhabdomyolysis include:

 

  • Severe muscle aching throughout the entire body
  • Muscle weakness
  • Dark or cola-colored urine

 

The higher the dose of statins, the higher the risk of rhabdomyolysis becomes. The risk also increases when taken in combination with certain drugs.

 

Low B vitamins can also cause spasms. Try methylfolate instead of folic acid and methylcobalamin instead of normal B12, particularly if you know you have the MTHFR gene snip.  (If you don’t know I’d take these forms anyway.) Low doses three times a day are best and take a methylated B complex.

 

Although it does not seem intuitive, eating gluten can cause muscle and joint pains. Once the inflammatory proteins get past a leaky gut they circulate with the blood all over the body, causing pain

 

Diseases like Parkinson’s and Essential tremor can cause hard spasms due to the continual shaking.  Work on increasing liposomal glutathione, CoQ10, Vitamin C and Folate as well as a full component of minerals, detoxification and exercise.

 

Body work is very important. Deep massage, myofascial work, bonesetting tuina or chiropractic can make a great impact on nerve-related or muscle work.

 

Acupuncture is very good for spasms, on both a local and distal level.  It is not necessary to needle directly into a spasm, but if the spasm is not too hard or sensitive,

 

 

local needling can increase circulation into the spasm.  But needling on the opposite side, along the meridian or into special points can signal the brain to release muscles or endorphins.

 

 

 

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Cloak Food to Keep Your Diet

If you have food allergies, diabetes, are gluten sensitive or are eating paleo you may need to bring your own food to eat in a way that supports your health. One of my teachers in acupuncture school developed the concept of “cloak food’, food that fits in the pockets of your cloak.  It should be small, light weight and substitute for your dietary pitfalls.

 

For instance if you are prone to joining in for a soda, a packet of Eboost, Wellness Fizz, Emergen-C or Calm can add flavor and fizz to your water, not to mention some awesome herbs, minerals and vitamins.

 

Nuts, pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds make a good low carb snack for the afternoon blahs.  Add some cacao nibs or dried goji fruit for a healthy trail mix that will beat out anything the vending machine has to offer.

 

Shake packets can store easily in your pocket, purse or desk drawer and a pint sized jar with a lid will substitute for a no-fuss blender.  If you  make up your own in baggies you can add superfood powders.

 

More suited to a backpack or briefcase, a few sheets of nori make a gluten-free, mineral rich substitute for a wrap or sliced bread. I carry around a pack in my backpack. Place a few slices of roast beef or spoons of humus in the center and roll it up.  (It gets soft if you do it in advance.)  If you are not too sensitive, order a sandwich, ditch the bread and put the inside in the nori. No one said only sushi should be wrapped in nori!

 

If you need a non-dairy milk in your coffee, get an individual sized aseptic pack of coconut milk or whatever you drink.  I will carry the ones with a screw cap in my purse for the day or leave the packs with straws in my office refrigerator.  They stay fresh a bit longer than dairy milk after opening.

 

Nori, geröstete Blätter aus Algen, die vor all...

Nori, roasted sheets of seaweed used in Japanese cuisine for sushi but fillable with any sandwich filling. The smaller ones are already seasoned with sesame oil and spices. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Boiled eggs can survive for a week without refrigeration and you can bring a salt pack from the deli or learn to love the plain flavor.  Jerky, especially salmon jerky also provides a protein-rich snack.

 

Fruit that is not too tender is also easy to carry.  If you need fewer carbs, slices of zucchini, celery, fennel, baby carrots or a small endive can fit in a ziplock baggie. The main idea is that you think ahead to protect your dietary needs while having a few dry alternatives if you forget.

 

Don’t forget your water bottle.  I like to make overnight infusions, very strong teas, of nettles or oatstraw. (How to at the link.) 2

In the morning I strain them out and put my day’s dose in my water bottle to sip during the day.  Don’t worry, these will hydrate you as well as water and will add a phytonutrient benefit.

 

 

 

 

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How to tincture medicinal mushroooms

Lingzhi or Reishi

Ganoderma, also known as Lingzhi or Reishi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Medicinal mushrooms are in great demand because of their adaptogenic effects and their actions against cancer. They improve the immune system, balance the hormones of the HPA axis, are anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, tonify the heart, protect the liver and soothe the nerves.

Taking them in an effective way is not so easy.  Eating  medicinal mushrooms like shitake or maitake doesn’t release the medicinal value (except perhaps the Vitamin D.)

If you want to take them as a tea (decoction) you need to simmer them for at least an hour to separate the medicine from the chitin. (Yes mushrooms have chitin, like sea shells.) This is the traditional way used in Chinese medicine.  Chris Hobbs suggests keeping a pot warm on the back burner at all times, periodically adding water, astragalus, cinnamon and orange peel so you only need to make it every few weeks. Cooking herbs daily can be a bit much and decoctions only last a few days in the refrigerator but it works and I have used this kind of decoction to make ganoderma coffee.

Tinctures  or liquid extracts are portable, let you taste them which makes them more effective than capsules, but are not simple to make.  You can’t just soak the  mushrooms, either fresh or dried in alcohol. The chitin still locks up the medicine.  The most important fractions of the medicine are polysaccharides like beta􀀁-Glucens or Mannogalactoglucan which don’t survive even medium levels of alcohol.

Polysaccharides clump together when exposed to alcohol and become inert. Below 30% the alcohol is not strong enough to percipitate out the polysaccharides.  The triterpenes like Ganoderic Acid in reishi are also medicinally important and require a high alcohol percentage to be extracted. So to get the most medicine, you need to follow a two step process and combine them with 25-20% alcohol to make a liquid extract.

For 250 grams, slightly over 1/2 pound of mushrooms you will want to make 1 1/4 liters of liquid extract.  It will be 30% grain alcohol or 375 ml and  875 ml of decoction.

The first stage is to decoct the the given weight of dried mushrooms in Cordyceps militaris shotswater. You need to simmer below a boil for at least an hour after they rehydrate, longer is better. The bigger the mushroom chunks the longer- Chinese herbal pharmacies sell reishi in thin slices which I usually spin in the Vitamix., but before I had access to those I would chunk as small as possible then run in the Vitamix mid cooking when the mushroom was a little softer. Chaga can be obtained through Mainley Chaga in a coffee grind (but for the medicine decoct it- don’t just run through your coffee maker!)  If you wildcraft, slice thinly before the mushroom dries and dry it gill side up in the sun for maximum Vitamin D.

Start with your ground dry mushrooms. Cover with water and let it absorb.  Add more water so the mushroom chunks can freely swim.  Cover and simmer for an hour or overnight.  Strain and squeeze out, measure the decoction in a Pyrex container to see if you have enough, 875 ml in this example, and cook down the decoction to the quantity you need or top up with water. Freeze until the tincture is ready. (Squeeze it out really well.)

Take the strained out marc (which has had most polysaccharides removed) and add Everclear/ grain alcohol to get the triterpenes. For 250 gr mushrooms use 275 mililiters of Everclear. (Because the mushroom pieces will have absorbed water, you need less alcohol than if you were to tincture in alcohol directly and lose the absorbed alcohol.) Store in a dark place for 1-3 months, shaking perodically and strain out really well, squeezing the spongy marc.  Mix the finished tincture with the defrosted decoction very slowly, stirring well to get a 30% alcohol level.

(Some just stabilize the decoction with plain 95% grain alcohol but it won’t be as strong. You can also use two batches of mushrooms, one for alcohol and one for decoction in water. You need 7 parts decoction to 3 parts Everclear tincture. It will cost more and you will need more Everclear but it is convenient.)

Ganoderma 3 You can also find Chinese dried granules to rehydrate with warm water, but it won’t have the triterpenes.  These can be combined with other Chinese herbs in a formula, although I find granule formulas somewhat less effective than raw herb formulas.  (They are convenient however.) And Mushroom Harvest makes a well-done steamed granule that you can put into smoothies.  If you purchase tinctures call the company that makes them and find out how they make the tincture- there is a lot of inert or very weak medicinal mushroom tincture out there.  You can do better by following these instructions.

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What Herbs Can I Take for Anxiety While Breastfeeding

English: catnip , Nepeta cataria ;leaf

English: catnip , Nepeta cataria ;leaf (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

<< Does anyone routinely use any calming herbs often enough to know if they  are safe for nursing mothers?  I was thinking of Valerian, hops and  passionflower for my sister’s second child (the oldest still wakes during the night)…>>

The time after giving birth is normally somewhat anxiety producing.  A new mother who typically had interrupted sleep follows what might be the most physically challenging event of her life with insufficient sleep and the overwhelming  responsibility of a helpless new baby (particularly if the baby has colic. )

Catnip might work as well as valerian and is definitely fine for the baby.  In fact you can give it to the baby directly.  Valerian is listed as safe during lactation, but make sure she gets fresh root tincture rather than dried capsules because the dried herb can be stimulating instead of sedative and calming. I prefer teas to tinctures for breastfeeding moms because fluid keeps up the milk supply, which makes catnip, which can be dried, preferable.

Mints are fine, fennel is good for the milk, fenugreek is too but can make you fertile sooner, astragalus is good if you need an immune booster.  Garlic is good although some babies don’t like the way it makes the milk taste- but others adore it.  Oat straw is a nourishing nervine.  Carrot juice will help, especially if anxiety makes your milk supplies lag.

A new mother can experience anxiety if she does not know what herbs are safe for other conditions she may experience during the breastfeeding period.  Other herbs listed as safe during lactation are:

Adaptogens:  borage flower, nettles

Analgesics: valerian root, passionflower, lavender

Alteratives:  nettles, red clover, alfalfa

Antidepressants:  vervain leaf, melissa, lavender, borage, lemon verbena, vitex if due to hormonal imbalance postpartum (also dong quai, red clover)

Antiemetics:  black horehound, raspberry leaf, melissa (lemon balm), chamomile, ginger

Antimicrobials: garlic, corn silk, echinacea, shitake mushrooms, thyme (go easy)

Antispasmodics: cramp bark, valerian root, chamomile

Astringents: yarrow, witch hazel, periwinkle

Bitters: chicory root, dandelion, chamomile, burdock

Carminatives:  peppermint, fennel, anise, dill, ginger

Demulcents: marshmallow, slippery elm (also can be fed to infants)

Diuretics:  dandelion (good for breast abscesses), corn silk

Galactogues: fennel, anise, nigella, milk thistle seed, vervain leaf

Hepatics: dandelion, lemon juice

Nervines: oatstraw and oats, catnip, St. Johnswort, melissa, skullcap

Relaxants: chamomile, skullcap, lemon balm

Tonics:  astragalus, dong quai (for blood), ginseng, eleuthero (Siberian ginseng)

Vulneraries: chamomile, plantain, St. Johnswort

First off I would see that she gets ton of liquids.  Catnip tea is especially good for calming and colic, and if the mother drinks it, her milk will reflect it.  A quart per day is not unreasonable.  Better yet, she could make an overnight infusion which contains 1/2 ounce oatstraw with heads (avena sativa) and 1/2 oz. catnip, put in a quart jar, pour on boiling water, cap and strain in the morning.  It is easy- she can boil the water while she is brushing her teeth and it will help protect her bones and build the child’s.  It is also a nutritive nervine.

Milk production is primarily related to the amount of liquid consumed, the suckling of the child which stimulates milk and stress.  If she has other children and a non-sleeper, she should be getting help during the day so she can nap whenever the baby does.  It is worth the money- and not just for milk production!

Milk production is normally cyclic and usually reflects the baby’s hunger patterns, which may change.  They seem to go on milk binges just before growth spurts and when teething- and the teething pain seems worse when the teeth are cutting through the internal gum layers, long before they emerge.  Probably not the issue now, but I know of two babies who were born with teeth, so you never know.  Having a bit extra breast milk is good in a pinch (and a caregiver can give it to the baby when the mother is exhausted and needs a nap or a break.)  Airplane trips, as an aside, are great times to pump extra milk because the air pressure makes it easier- so if she has any trips coming up she can bring a pump and cooler.  😉  Just make sure that the milk is NOT heated in a microwave because it kills off the antibodies, is hard to digest and the baby will not thrive.

When the baby is a bit older she can give it catnip tea as well, by bottle.  I’d wait until the second month, and make sure that it does not displace the milk consumption.  1/2 bottle per day under 6 months and a bottle after, in divided doses, as required.  The oatstraw/catnip infusion would be particularly good.

The mother can take fennel, fenugreek  or mint teas as well.  Mothers Milk tea by Traditional Medicinals is good.  She should watch her diet (broccoli, onions and other foods high in sulfur are common foods to cause colic but again depends in the baby.)

I would also encourage the mother to sleep with the baby when she feels anxious or overwhelmed.  The baby is more likely to sleep, less likely to awaken and  can learn to nurse while the mother sleeps.  (He’ll even learn to help himself after a few months.)  I firmly believe that it makes it much easier on the family if the parents take the baby to bed.  Everyone sleeps better, there are fewer SIDS deaths (unless she sleeps with him in a waterbed), the father gets to cuddle more than usual and the baby feels more secure.  They do outgrow it and the parents usually kick them out when they insist upon sleeping sideways.

If she hasn’t read them lately, the La Leche League has two excellent books “The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding” and “The Family Bed”.  The information is not just basic stuff, and bears re-reading if it has been a few years since we usually remember what applied to the first child if it was read then.  La Leche can give her advice and provide lactation counselors who do more than help make sure there is enough milk.

Note:  The list of safe herbs probably derives from one developed by herbalist Amanda McQuade.  I have been using and adapting it for years and am no longer certain of its provenance.

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Attorney General Enshrines Bad Herbal Product Test with GNC

supplementsRecently the press was transfixed when NY State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office announced that the vast majority of herbal supplements tested by the AG’s office had none of the herbs claimed. This followed a Canadian Guelph University study from the developers of a novel DNA testing process that claimed a huge percent of herbs tested were bogus.  That study was so poorly done that the American Botanical Council asked for it to be retracted.  Their title said it all:

Science Group Says Article on DNA Barcode Analysis of Herbs Is Flawed, Contains Errors, Creates Confusion, and Should Be Retracted:  Methodological Flaws, Statistical Inconsistencies, Taxonomic Confusion, and Unreliable Conclusions Require Paper in BMC Medicine to be Corrected, Revised, and Re-peer-reviewed

Nonetheless the specter of a relatively inexpensive new test in an industry everyone assumes is unregulated was irresistible to the AGs office (and besides everyone knows DNA is scientific!)  This new DNA barcode test is different from forensic DNA tests which is what people think of when they hear “DNA test.”  Now GNC has signed a premature consent agreement and the AG’s offices in 14 states are planning to follow suit based on technically misleading testing.

As a clinical herbalist for over 25 years and a professor of herbal medicine I need to point out that the press has given a free ride to the validity of new DNA barcode testing which purported to show that 79% of herbs from Target, GNC, Walgreens and Wallmart were adulterated or missing the herb claimed. The high figure should have given the AG’s office pause.  Verification including microscopy and validated chemical test methods, like those found in official pharmacopeias for these seven herbs, should have been conducted to confirm the DNA findings.

When the initial 2013 Canadian DNA barcode study came out it was clear that it was oriented to the sales of a testing method and had poor application to prepared herbs. DNA barcoding is less expensive than traditional herbal tests and that of course would be a great new market for the test developers. Raw herbs before extraction can be identified by DNA. It has proven itself with foods where whole plant products are being tested. But the test only tests the presence of DNA. Unless I am growing herbs, the least useful compound is DNA:  instead I want to extract the medicinal secondary metabolites, the minerals, polysaccharides, polyphenols, sesqueterpenes and flavonoids.

A typical Chinese formula has 7-9 grams per herb and 5-9 herbs, so say has 50 grams of herbs daily. You would need at least 20 large 400 mg pills- too much, which is why herbs are extracted to find their most medicinally useful components. DNA isn’t one of those and it is usually degraded by extraction. However there is a need to add something like rice flour to keep the powdered extracts from clumping and that doesn’t need to be extracted, so its DNA is present. The DNA barcode test doesn’t test concentration so it looks like the herbal capsule is free of the herb and adulterated when, in fact, it is properly made.

Now encapsulated herbs are perhaps the least effective form since you can’t taste them. (Taste and smell are not merely aesthetic experiences- they engage body feedback systems.) Powders can oxidize rapidly. I wouldn’t buy my herbs from Target, Walmart, Walgreens or GNC.  I want higher quality. But it begs credibility that 79% of products were free of the herbs claimed. You can visit wholesale herb markets to see the tonnage of herbs at reasonable prices. GNC is in the business of selling herbs and they need to have a certain level of quality (if only because people like me will bite into the capsules and can taste whether the herb is present.)

So it was not accurate to say that 79% of supplements lacked the herbs claimed, instead 79% did not have DNA present.  It might have other medicinally useful constituents from the herb in question, and in fact subsequent industry-standard testing found herbs in all samples. It was not accurate to assume there was substantial adulteration, only that excipients were usually used. Some 90% of herbs are sold in extract form, unlike the foods that work with DNA barcoding.

There is a need for quality control, especially in the bodybuilding and weight-lifting sectors of the industry where ConsumerLab has identified real problems. I do use suppliers of international herbs who use HPLC and heavy metal testing, but I also purchase whole herbs directly from US growers I know, where I can taste and smell the herbs and make my own extracts.  The American Botanical Council has been in the forefront of protecting against adulteration, intentional or accidental. The ABC-AHP-NCNPR Botanical Adulterants Program, is being conducted by ABC with the nonprofit American Herbal Pharmacopoeia (AHP) and the NCNPR, a FDA Center of Excellence lab at the University of Mississippi.

GNC couldn’t afford a shadow over their business so signed the consent requirement. They will have ample evidence they used the herbs claimed but are likely to miss the DNA barcoding target unless they add powdered herb to the excipient. But the spotlight will be off by then.  By all means make major retailers stand behind their herbs, but do not enshrine a novel DNA test just because it is cheap.

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Stem Cell Update

I couldn't have walked out here before

I couldn’t have walked out here before the stem cell implant (and I live for nature.)

Trying to assess changes in an intermittent disease is not easy and just this experience has given me a great appreciation for the difficulty in developing measuring yardsticks that researchers face. For instance Parkinson’s tremors are intermittent, happening mostly when I am resting, stressed or overtired. I rarely have them while needling but they come on while riding the subway or just as I drop off to sleep. I suppose that one could invent a wrist monitor that would measure tremors per day and perhaps group them, but I have to rely on memory to fill out the Parkinson’s questionnaire, and that is not exactly reliable. Still people around me tell me that tremors are reduced. Stamina is up too- also hard for me to quantify but I wasn’t walking up to the park before or along boardwalks as I did in St. Petersburg between hyperbaric treatments.

Now some people show evidence of change right away- like the Canadian hockey coach I wrote about- and others may see nothing for 6 months. I seem to be mostly in the delayed category. It has after all been only 2 1/2 months, but this is an interim report.

I had been haunted by the size of the syringe of unused stem cells that was leftover and extracted from the IV when my small veins had given out.  After consulting with StemGenex they pointed out that of the 600 billion stem cells extracted, 99% had been used.  Those in the IV were diluted with platelet rich plasma, unlike those directly injected. It looked like more than 1% though.  I still wish they had found a second IV site, but at least I got most of the cells and more than average.

I saw some immediate improvement in my foot but it didn’t stand up to reinjury from the deformity. The tremors are down and my stamina is up, both of which are significant. I don’t type as many extra symbols when I use my laptop and that makes writing easier. And my win rate for solitaire which is a proxy for both brain function and manual dexterity is up by 1%. I will have bloodwork and eye test results later.

Anyway, I thank all of you who helped me with the stem cell implant and after care. I’ll keep you up to date as the cells proliferate and things develop.

And if you would be so kind as to continue with support:  Help a Healer

 

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Oxygen Therapy Conclusion

St Pete hyperbaricI was fortunate enough to be provided access to a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, thanks to the generosity of Robert Linde and his very helpful staff. Acupuncture & Herbal Therapies of St. Petersburg has an extraordinary array of services from TCM and CCM acupuncture, herbal medicine, NAET, hyperbaric oxygen, massage, classes in qigong, herbal medicine and an acupuncture externship. They even have a functional medicine doctor with a nutritional IV lounge and access to tests we can’t get in the medically backward state of New York. The whole experience has been significantly helpful and if you need services in St. Pete I highly recommend their services.

Of the three hyperbaric chambers I have used, I like this one the best. Unlike the first soft chamber it was white so I could see to read and it was tall enough to sit crosslegged. Unlike the clear 100% oxygen chamber I could sit up, move around and bring in electronics like my iPad for music or internet and my cell phone, They also gave me a walkie talkie so I could radio for help (like cooling the air if it got too hot) or to get out. The mask would get hot but I hit upon removing the tube and sticking it directly in my mouth to get the oxygen. That combined with frequent checks by the helpful staff and my coconut water (with that anxiety-quelling vanilla bean) during the depressurization stopped the anxiety. And the ear seeds Bob applied didn’t hurt!

Even if the 100% oxygen clear chambers might appear to be stronger, the discomfort reduces respiration, and that minimizes how much oxygen gets into the blood.

I am told that pressure beyond 2 atmospheres as in the clear chambers doesn’t greatly add to effectiveness. There might be an advantage to using the 100% oxygen in the entire chamber for nonhealing sores, but even those respond to breathing it in through the mask, So of all the hyperbaric chambers I used, I liked this best and felt better with the treatments,St Pete hyperbaric Karen

 

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More adventures in Hyperbaricland

Hyperbaric New FocusAs I wrote previously hyperbaric oxygen helps the stem cells proliferate after insertion and it looks like the mechanism is an increase in Nitric oxide.  Dr. Marshall Ravden, the stem cell implant surgeon gave me a prescription for 40 sessions of hyperbaric oxygen, necessarily taken over a narrow period of time to consolidate the stem cell benefits.  They suggested renting or purchasing a unit, but I could just see telling Larry that our apartment dining room was to be taken over by a 7’x4′ diameter inflated hyperbaric chamber and that the cat would need to be relegated to the bedroom! Not gonna happen.

The good 100% oxygen chambers almost all seemed to be in hospitals where they only took insurance (at $2000 a pop!) but I found one in Queens and another,  New Focus Hyperbaric in Great Neck where a GroupOn special was going on.  The chamber, shown above, was clear, had a television to distract me, was not quite as large as I had hoped but had a full-time compassionate attendant so I wouldn’t be deserted as happened in the Manhattan soft chamber.  Sessions last about 2 hours.

Now I occasionally suffer from claustrophobia in airplanes, but it is easily remedied by sitting in an aisle seat so I can walk around and I use Stand-Up MRI if I need radiology, so it rarely happens to bother me.  I used to scuba dive so I knew what pressure felt like and how to clear my ears.  So I got my required chest X-ray and was cleared by the resident neurologist.  But the second trip in threw me into a tizzy:  the bottom of my foot itched, it was in hard spasm and annoyingly Bobby Jindall was being endlessly interviewed on CNN.  I had the attendant talk me down a few times then came out to relax before going in again.  I went in for another try but didn’t spend much time at full pressure.  The next day I had a panic attack on the subway which I have been riding without incident for 35 years so cancelled my session.  I felt claustrophobic lying in bed surrounded by my comforter or when listening to dissonant New Music on NPR- the claustrophobia was leaking into my life.  (At least it gives me more insight into what patients are going through!)   I asked for suggestions on Facebook and my wonderful friends gave suggestions in troves.

The suggestions ran the gamut from sedatives to acupuncture treatments, homeopathics to cell-level visualizations, prayers to reiki, breathing patterns to a reminder that this was a First World Problem I was lucky to have .  A few people suggested that I was repressing something -honestly I think it is just that I fill up a chamber more than a smaller person and can move around less.  Three people jumped in instantly with the words from Frank Herbert’s Litany of Fear, when I requested it.  I  did EFT tapping and bled my UB luo point, inserted needles at LI2 and H5, did breathing exercises gave myself a shot of a skullcap formula and liberally breathed in essential oil of lavender.  I also requested a prescription for a sedative and asked for puppies and kittens instead of the news on TV.  Animal Planet was unaccountably playing the World’s Filthiest Jobs that day which included scraping hides at a tannery, so that didn’t work.  This time I spent a half hour at full pressure plus 15 minutes of pressurization.  The attendant decided to lower the wedge and ditch the knee pillow so I would have more room next time. And he cleared me to bring in a sippy cup which I filled with coconut water and a vanilla bean found to decrease claustrophobia in a German study,

And the sedatives, with more space, made the difference.  I still reminded myself that it was a First World Problem and tried chants, prayers and breathing patterns.  I whistled songs.  I sipped.  And I relaxed. I might not be a pill person but I need the oxygen more than I need to be an herbal purist. It has worked twice.

 

 

And if you would be so kind as to help fund my Parkinson’s stem cell transplant and hyperbaric treatments: http://www.gofundme.com/eg4ymk

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Is Your Blood Pressure High Enough?

English: Blood pressure measurement.

English: Blood pressure measurement. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For most of my life my blood pressure has been on the low side of normal.  Considering that fat people are told that this is desirable, I was never cautioned by a doctor that I might want my blood pressure at the higher end.  But several things caused me to wonder whether this conventional wisdom was valid.

When I was in college and stressed, I assumed that stress translated to hypertension and took a physical education class based on the ideas of Hans Selye using breathing to lower my blood pressure, which it did.  I realized that I always felt worse after class, dragging myself home and feeling sleepy for hours.

As a budding herbalist I learned that European doctors often diagnose and treat low blood pressure whereas US physicians rarely do.  I find no difference in official guidelines today where 90/60 is the accepted lower level except for trained athletes in both locales.  Unless one is in shock, fainting or frequently dizzy there is no official concern about low or borderline low blood pressure. Still American doctors are more concerned about hypertension than hypotension.

Wikipedia lists low blood pressure symptoms, many of which are related to causes rather than effects of hypotension:

  • chest pain
  • shortness of breath
  • irregular heartbeat
  • fever higher than 38.3 °C (101 °F)
  • headache
  • stiff neck
  • severe upper back pain
  • cough with phlegm
  • prolonged diarrhea or vomiting
  • dyspepsia (indigestion)
  • dysuria (painful urination)
  • adverse effect of medications
  • acute, life-threatening allergic reaction
  • seizures
  • loss of consciousness
  • profound fatigue
  • temporary blurring or loss of vision
  • connective tissue disorder Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome
  • Black tarry stools

When I was doing my EMT training on oxygen therapy it occurred to me that many of the symptoms I felt were symptoms associated with oxygen hunger.  Was it possible that with my borderline low blood pressure, blood wasn’t delivering enough oxygen to my brain?  After all blood needed to get through the contracted muscles and  herniated discs in my neck. This was reinforced by my experience in acupuncture class where walking briskly around the block during break kept me more alert than going across the street for hot coffee.

I propose that borderline low blood pressure which is currently classified as “asymptomatic” often leads to low brain oxygen, brain fog, cold and tingling extremities, and what we call in Chinese medicine yang deficiency.  It probably interferes in the desire to exercise, the levels of possible exercise and the benefits of exercising.  Chances are that it is a factor in at least some patterns of obesity.

Look for low capillary refill when you press on a fingernail. pulse oxymeter readings below 95%, cold hands and feet, brain fog, and poor memory.

Then there is the common sense issue. Obesity adds miles of blood vessels. For every ten pounds of fat gained, your heart has to pump blood through an additional 35 miles of blood vessels, and ten pounds of muscle has about 65 miles.  So it makes sense that some degree of elevated blood pressure might be needed to push nutrient and oxygenated blood through them.  Shouldn’t a 250 pound person have more pressure than a 150 pound person to get through an extra 550 miles of blood vessels?

Note I am not suggesting that the extra burden of pumping through blood vessels isn’t hard on the heart or kidneys. The negative cardiovascular effects of hypertension are well known.  What is less understood is the adverse effects of low blood circulation on the brain with lowered delivery of oxygen and other blood-borne nutrients.  In the obese, elevated blood pressure may be the body’s way of compensating for oxygenating extra mileage.

There is currently a special standard based on age but very little addressing constitution.  According to JAMA’s 2014 evidence-based guideline for the management of high blood pressure in adults: report from the panel members appointed to the Eighth Joint National Committee:

There is strong evidence to support treating hypertensive persons aged 60 years or older to a BP goal of less than 150/90 mm Hg and hypertensive persons 30 through 59 years of age to a diastolic goal of less than 90 mm Hg; however, there is insufficient evidence in hypertensive persons younger than 60 years for a systolic goal, or in those younger than 30 years for a diastolic goal, so the panel recommends a BP of less than 140/90 mm Hg for those groups based on expert opinion.

Still two persons of the same age might have different optimal blood pressures. One who demonstrates what Chinese medicine calls Heat- inflammation, red skin, rapid pulse and a scarlet tongue probably needs blood pressure controlled more vigorously than one who demonstrates Cold signs like cold extremities, a slow pulse, a pale tongue and pale skin.

I also need to point out that too-small blood-pressure cuffs in an increasingly obese population will tend to overdiagnose hypertension and will engender treatment when not needed.  IOW ask for a large cuff if you are heavy or you may make things worse.

This doesn’t mean that anything goes.  You don’t want to stroke out.  I am talking about expanding the marginal limits of what is acceptable in blood pressure standards at both ends.  In other words blood pressure should be high enough to circulate blood trough the tissue, and when it gets higher, an individualized consideration of how high is acceptable should be undertaken.

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How Long Does it Take After a Stem Cell Implant to See Results?

Diseases and conditions where stem cell treatm...

Diseases and conditions where stem cell treatment is promising or emerging. (See Wikipedia:Stem cell#Treatments). Bone marrow transplantation is, as of 2009, the only established use of stem cells. Model: Mikael Häggström. To discuss image, please see Template talk:Häggström diagrams (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How long does it take before I will see the results of the stem cells? The short answer is that it varies considerably, as stem cell proliferation and concentration increases.

One woman in my group was so pleased with the turnaround in her  30 year MS that she came back for more, In her first treatment she had absolutely no improvement for 6 months, when all of a sudden she could raise her leg two feet instead of two inches. She subsequently went from not being able to turn over in bed to being able to drive herself to the gym and work out and she has retained her improvements for several years. But she went through the treatment with another woman with longstanding MS whose improvements mostly happened the first month.

So far my improvements are subtle. My foot spasms which have interfered with exercise are significantly reduced, I am told that I look livelier. My win rate at Solitaire (hand and mind) is up 5 points. And my blood sugar is somewhat reduced.  After three months I will have my blood retested and after 6, my vision evaluated. My stamina is notably improved:

(The first day of hyperbaric treatment in Great Neck I was let out of the bus at the bottom of a steep hill with no center in sight. I phoned and they told me to walk up the hill and turn left. That left me in the LIJ hospital parking lot where I questioned a guard only to find that that I had climbed the wrong hill and needed to walk back down again and climb an even steeper hill. It would be fair to say I couldn’t have done that before.)

You can’t smoke anything:  a single cigarette or joint during the initial month can knock out the new proliferating cells.  And you can’t drink at all for 9 months.  They told us of a COPD client who went on a $15,000 bender,wiping out all of his progress.  We are to eat a whole food diet high in flavanoids.  I have added huperizia and vinoceptine supplements to oxygenate my brain and wear my SomaPulse electromagnetic frequency pulse generator which was designed to proliferate stem cells.

I am still fundraising. I have 40 sessions of hyperbaric oxygen at $200-$250 a pop and they need to be done together, which cuts into my income, I have a Groupon for the first 5, but after that I don’t have the money. This is necessary to cause the stem cells to proliferate.

I am including a link to a tremendous story on stem cells helping a stroke victim, former Redwings hockey player Gordie Howe. This is from a different company, Stemedica Cell Technologies of San Diego, and they injected the cells directly into the spinal fluid which had to take place in Mexico. He got up and walked at once. http://blogs.windsorstar.com/…/howe-makes-phenomenal-recove… Let’s hope this technique gets approved here!

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Getting Through the Blood Brain Barrier

BBB and nose limbic systemPeople have been asking how the stem cells go past the blood brain barrier to get to the substantia nigra where dopamine is made. Stem cells are not supposed to be able to cross the BBB, which is why early stem cell treatment for Parkinson’s was not broadly successful.But it seems that the Blood Brain Barrier is less a barrier than a regulator which can at times be selective in what it lets through.Now it isn’t clear to me whether the stem cells actually go through the BBB or just signal cells on the other side but it does appear to make a significant difference clinically.  I think they do get through based on the research cited below.

 There are three primary sorts of barriers of the BBB, the vascular brain barrier, blood-CSF barrier, and the specialty CNS barriers such as the blood-retinal barrier.  They transport molecules in by pores, the opening of tight junctions and receptors. (1) One can also bypass the BBB by going through the nose or injecting directly into the cerebral spinal fluid. This even works for larger molecules like peptides and other proteins.(1) Injecting insulin through the nose has been helpful for Alzheimer’s for instance. And they injected stem cells into the middle turbinate of my nose as one form of administration. It was weird but topical lidocaine prevented pain.

BBB and junctions

Ways through the Blood Brain Barrier

However researchers also found that mannose IV infusions open pores in the BBB and increase enzyme passage 10 fold (2). In fact mannose infusion has become a standalone therapy as well as a way of getting drugs to the brain.

StemGenex, the center that performed my stem cell administration, started using mannose infusions long before they started using intranasal injection. It increased the success for neurological conditions. Their mannose solution increases the diameter of pores for 20 minutes, so it is immediately followed by injected and IV stem cell administration.

English: The Blood Brain Barrier and Astrocyte...

English: The Blood Brain Barrier and Astrocytes type 1 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you are academically inclined, the following articles give the science behind getting through the BBB. Our understanding of the BBB is growing every day.

 

 

And if you would be so kind as to help fund my Parkinson’s stem cell transplant: http://www.gofundme.com/eg4ymk

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The Stem Cell Implant

Karen Rita Alexander and Dr RavdenSo I had the procedure yesterday. In the morning they took blood and did the mini liposection. I was sedated without loss of consciousness. It was laparoscopic with two tiny incisions, filled with saline and epinepherine then fat cells were extracted. They wrapped my abdomen in a stiff binder and took me to the recovery room. After recovery, while the cells were processed, laser and enzyme activated and mixed with Platelet Rich Plasma, they gave me an infusion of mannose to open the blood brain barrier. Apparently they started this practice before having used the intranasal administration and found great improvement in neurological patients.

The cells came back in a mini IV bag of pink liquid and a group of syringes, one for each of the points we had selected and a catheter for the bladder (the only real painful procedure.) I prevailed upon him to stick me at St. 36 for stamina and he was already using Liver 3 for my toe that has been bursting through the cartilage since the Parkinson’s Walk two years ago.

The IV was somewhat curtailed since I have small veins. The nurse decided that I already had a few billion stem cells, so she drew it out of the IV tube into the syringe. I considered self-injection (and ought to have asked for the doctor to inject more into my chronically stiff neck. )

There is more and the staff was interested in how acupuncture can reduce scars and deal with neurological conditions. The medical director said she was told by a Chinese acupuncturist that acupuncture stimulates the activity of stem cells (albeit at a lower concentration.) Silberstein, M. (2009). The cutaneous intrinsic visceral afferent nervous system: A new model for acupuncture analgesia. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 261(4), 637–642. doi:10.1016/j.jtbi.2009.09.008

 

And if you would be so kind as to help fund my Parkinson’s stem cell transplant: http://www.gofundme.com/eg4ymk

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Gut Bacteria, Parkinson’s and Stem Cells

350px-stem_cell_treatments-svgI found two exciting pieces of research this week that will affect my treatment. If you have been following me you will know that I am fascinated with the gut bacteria and the other tiny creatures that account for 90% of our DNA. The gut/brain interface is more fascinating than you might imagine!

The first study from the University of Helsinki found that the gut bacteria- the microbiome- of people with Parkinson’s is different than that of healthy people.  We have more of some bacteria- which increase the worse the symptoms get and others have gone missing, relatively speaking.

The more Enterobacteriaceae we have, the more severe the symptoms. A lack of Prevotellaceae bacteria in Parkinson’s sufferers could mean these bacteria might have a property which protects their healthy hosts from the disease. This seems strange since I generally consider Prevotellaceae to be a sign of inflammation. Or does this discovery merely indicate that intestinal dysfunction is part of the pathology? It might be a result of Parkinson’s disease.

The second piece of research in Blood, the Journal of the American Society of Hematology, shows that people with more gut bacteria do better with stem cell transplants. The more diverse the microbiome, the better the stem cells take. This of course gets me questioning the pre-op antibiotics that StemGenex recommends. Next stop is sending them the research!

Now given that a healthy gut should have some 10,000 species according to Martin Blaser’s book Missing Microbes  and a functioning biofilm, taking a probiotic with a maximum of 13 species of lactobacillis and bifidobacteria isn’t going to make it. I do like to take Saccharomyces boulardii which tends to be under-represented and soil based probiotics  for the same reason. And to eat Jerusalem artichokes which help them grow.  So I am onto my fermented food regimen which allows for unnamed wild species: full fat unsweetened yogurt from different animal milks, olives, miso of various sorts, blue cheese, kombucha, fermented veggies, kimchee, pickles, refrigerated sauerkraut and raw milk products.

Here is the summary of the research:

Gut Microbiota and Parkinson’s Disease:  Connection Made

 

And if you would be so kind as to help fund my Parkinson’s stem cell transplant:  http://www.gofundme.com/eg4ymk

 

 

 

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Safety Update on Hyperbaric Oxygen Soft Chambers

Portable mild hyperbaric chamber, 40 inch diameter

Portable mild hyperbaric chamber, 40 inch diameter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I spoke to someone who is in the business of leasing and selling hyperbaric chambers and running hyperbaric clinics who deals with a variety of brands. The single person sit-up chamber is apparently not as durable as the other ones- not something you want for a unit under pressure. (He was personally in a unit that failed and doesn’t recommend it!)

And when I did a web search on hyperbaric chamber safety and read the FDA report I found that not only did the Grand Dive bell chamber fail during its first warranty period but the replacement unit failed within 3 weeks. Those were used as directed but I also found that the soft units that go up to 7 psi use air concentrators designed for waste management and put much to much pressure on seams and zippers. The one I used last week went that high.

The chamber I used was 32″ in diameter and one could not sit even cross-legged like the 40″ chamber shown in the photo.  And it was not translucent since it was covered in blue vinyl.  Also we need to wear masks to breathe in the oxygen, but that is probably wasn’t sufficiently photogenic.

He did say that in the mild hyperbaric chamber where you breathe 80-90% oxygen through a mask in a compressed air chamber with 25% oxygen is different from a hospital unit with 100% oxygen where you cannot use electronics. And that people can safely use laptops or music sources. Hmm.

But he tells me that there is something like an 80% increased proliferation in stem cells after 40 biweekly sessions. Of course a NYC apartment is no place for a 8′ x 3′ diameter horizontal unit. So the search is still on for a place with a sit up chamber, preferably of the shared type.

See also:  Hyperbaric Oxygen?

 

Please help me fund stem cell therapy (plus safe hyperbaric oxygen to secure it):  http://www.gofundme.com/eg4ymk

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Hyperbaric Oxygen?

Mhbot-howonday I started my pre-implant regimen of hyperbaric oxygen. This is recommended both before and after the stem cell implant. Fat cells, especially the swollen ones in the obese, are often oxygen-starved. The idea of pre-treatment is that the fat cells used to provide the stem cells will be less hypoxic with this treatment and therefore stronger, akin to those of a younger person.

An online friend, the late Dr. Ignacio Fogel, used to sing the praises of hyperbaric oxygen which he used for patients and the Argentine Olympic team alike. At the time the only hyperbaric oxygen I could find was in hospitals, often used for nonhealing sores or scuba diving accidents. Today, with the advent of portable units there are a variety of units in medical practices and spas. I’m a little afraid of claustrophobia, but I have had a hunger for oxygen since my EMT training days.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy puts oxygen in your fluids in a concentration that differs from say deep breathing exercises, an oxygen bar (which just uses compressed air) or oxygen tanks. The increased oxygen in the blood and body fluids bathes your cells with extra oxygen and has an anti-inflammatory effect on the par with 40 Motrin without the side effects. Apparently President Reagan used it to treat his cancer.

I promised to document both the positives and negatives.  I called Downtown PMR which had a lie down chamber that looked like the blue one illustrated. A delightful young lady gave me forms to fill out and agreed to tell the doctor that I had awakened with some vertigo and suffer from mild claustrophobia.

The chamber was an inflatable blue vinyl lie-down chamber with two small portholes near the head. It has the ability to go to 1.5ATA or the equivalent of 7.35 pounds per square inch of pressure. That is about the equivalent of diving 15 feet down, but without the scenery. There are hyperbaric chambers that only go to 3psi, but less oxygen gets into your plasma. And hospital chambers get more pressure and higher oxygen than the 80% used here, but are available only for limited uses. You spend an hour and twenty minutes in the chamber, with one hour at full pressure.  Most independent places charge $100-$120 per session.

The way it usually works is that most of the oxygen circulating in your blood is carried by hemoglobin with a small amount in the plasma. Under atmospheric pressure the oxygen gets smaller, more concentrated and significantly permeates the plasma, so you have much more circulating oxygen after a chamber session or “dive”.hyperbaric-oxygen-therapy

The size was about 7 feet long but no more than 36″ in diameter, perfect for a tall skinny person. (They say a child could sit at one end but it would need to be a tiny child and I’m betting the illustration is of a larger chamber than this was.) The oxygen comes in through a face mask but the chamber is inflated and pressurized with air. You are zipped in and a bunch of oversized seatbelts are attached around the chamber. There is an inside zipper for emergency exits but an attendant would need to unlatch the belts.

They suggested chewing gum or airplane earplugs to help clear the ears. (It might be good to have suggested bringing it in advance!) You can read although the light isn’t very good but no electronics or batteries are allowed around the oxygen which meant no music, cell phone or hypnosis mp3s.

The PT promised to stay in the room and told me that she would stay in the room and would check on me. All I needed to do was to bang on the side of the chamber. Given that a woman was unable to get out of a chamber at a spa in Chelsea earlier this year without an illicit (and potentially dangerous) phone call for help I expected they would be vigilant.

The chamber seemed like an oversized sleeping bag but did expand as it inflated. It was pretty dark since the vinyl was blue (there is a white unit on the market that is translucent and more expensive hard sided plexiglass units.) The noise was loud but not intolerable.

My claustrophobia did kick in. I did a lot of yoga breathing, tried going to my favorite hypnosis imagery, read a little from two different books, tried to sleep and made a conscious effort to keep my mind in the present. The PT had stopped checking on me and I could tell she wasn’t in the room since the only chair out of sight was full of my clothing and backpack. To be fair there was nothing much for her to do there and she probably had the door open. But when I started banging on the side so I could find out how much time I had left, she was nowhere to be found. By the time she showed up I only had 5 minutes left but was in no mood to stay. It hyperbaric belltook several minutes to depressurize.

These are the things that would have made it better: a translucent unit or one with larger portholes. A clock within sight of the unit would have helped me calibrate my energy. Music or video just outside the unit would have distracted me. An attendant with work to do in the room would have helped when I needed assistance. And since the oxygen was drying, I should have had something to drink either before or during the dive. And for me, not wanting to trigger claustrophobia, a seated “diving bell” style unit would have been better, just as I always use a Standup MRI when I need an MRI.

Now I am sorry that my diving certification lapsed because I’d rather scuba dive to compress the oxygen!

However if you know of a sit-up hyperbaric chamber around NYC, let me know.

If I can’t find one I might be back, sedated with skullcap and kava, bearing a clock and an iPad with music to play outside of the window.  Or perhaps with a dog to share the chamber with.

hbot dog………………………………………………………….
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Watermelon and Papaya for Parkinson’s

Incidentally I have found two new foods that diminish Parkinson’s tremors: watermelon and papaya. I learned about them from a Parkinson’s blogger who calls herself Aunt Bean (after the fava and mucuna beans she grows for PD.) Apparently the late pope used fermented papaya and Aunt Bean has a recipe here. I started out fermenting them. Watermelon was easy: I scooped the pulp into a blender, liquified it and added water kefir grains. It soon turned into a bubbling sour drink. The papaya was harder: I mashed the pulp and fermented it but needed to dry it on fruit leather trays which I don’t have for my dehydrator.

California Papaya grown in Indonesia, cut into...

California Papaya grown in Indonesia, cut into half (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But I also read comments that the unfermented food worked and I noticed that raw watermelon and papaya seemed to reduce tremors. Fermentation does reduce sugar and add probiotics but it doesn’t keep very long. So my dehydrator is going, full of papaya slices  (the watermelon is done.)

Now I had no idea why watermelon and papaya work, and they are hardly a cure. But it was tasty and easy to incorporate into a daily diet. I still take the fava beans (note that dopamine medication could interact) but I don’t take them every day any more.

So I went on a search.  In Chinese Medicine watermelon is considered a cold medicinal herb, used to drain heat out of the body through the urine and to replenish fluids. Xi gua (watermelon) is known to clear heat, replenishes fluids, regulate urination and expel jaundice- it is used in hepatitis treatment. While the materia medica says that it goes to the Heart, Bladder and Stomach but not the liver, the attributes or meridians named after organs are not identical with those attributed to organs by Western medicine   The jaundice and hepatitis indications made me think of the liver and I guessed that glutathione production might be affected. And in fact while I still needed to check scholarly sources, Dr. Oz cites watermelon as a rich source of glutathione. And although short-lived and poorly absorbed from pills, glutathione does reduce tremors.

Watermelon provides 28 milligrams of glutathione per 100 gram portion. A perusal of PubMed shows that watermelon extract can mitigate oxidative damage from X-rays or genotoxicity and neurological balance. To use or make glutathione we need water which is in abundance in watermelon. If we are dehydrated we may not make as much glutathione as we could.

Now papaya fruit is not in the Chinese Materia Medica, but I checked PubMed using “Papaya and Glutathione” as search terms.  And, Bingo!  “A glutathione S-transferase inducer from papaya: rapid screening, identification and structure-activity relationship of isothiocyanates.”  Papaya induces glutathione.

Seedless watermelon Purchased Feb. 2005 in Atl...

Seedless watermelon Purchased Feb. 2005 in Atlanta, GA, USA The tag had the following information: mini me (TM) AYACO FARMS PERSONAL SEEDLESS WATERMELON #3421 PRODUCT OF NICARAGUA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Glutathione, a compound containing three amino acids, glutamate, cysteine and glycine, is the body’s master antioxidant and when its production is damaged a variety of things can go wrong including tremors. IV glutathione is given in a push to stop symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease but the IVs are recommended 3-7 times a week, not covered by insurance.  The landmark glutathione Parkinson’s study, Reduced intravenous glutathione in the treatment of early Parkinson’s disease., was done by the Department of Neurology, University of Sassari, Italy in 1996. In this study all patients improved significantly after glutathione therapy with a 42% decline in disability.  Neurologist Dr. Daniel Perlmutter has been giving it to PD patients since 1998. 

Now I would not be so reductionist as to say that it is only glutathione that makes watermelon or papaya work.  Watermelon hydrates which provides the a matrix for the hydronium ions that carry qi through fluids,  It is high in flavanoids Vitamin A, Vitamin C, B vitamins, and potassium, not to mention cirtulline and lycopene, One slice of watermelon (485 g) contains 152 calories, 3 g protein, 34.6 g carbohydrates, 2.4 g fiber, 560 mg potassium, 176 mg vitamin A (RE), 47 mg vitamin C, 8..5 mg choline, 0.1 mg riboflavin, and 0.96 mg niacin.

Papaya contains enzymes that induce glutathione S-transferase. Papaya latex contains at least four cysteine endopeptidases and other constituents including hydrolase inhibitors and lipase.  It has rather high levels of potassium and significant levels of calcium and magnesium. Vitamin C, Vitamin A. A small fruit (157  g) contains 67 calories, 0g protein, 17 g carbohydrates, 2.7 g fiber, 286 mg potassium, 1531 IU vitamin A (RE), 86.5 mg vitamin C, 15 mg folate and 0.5 mg niacin. Since the enzymatic effect is important one should avoid irradiated papayas to get the best effect.

There is evidence that a yeast fermented preparation of papaya is more effective than fresh or dried papaya.  It reduces oxidative stress and has been found to protect the brain from oxidative damage in hypertensive rats.  Pope John Paul ll was prescribed an experimental treatment made from a fermented papaya to ease symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, I suspect that the fermentation makes a difference compared to dried or raw papaya.

So incorporating watermelon and fermented papaya is an easy way to reduce symptoms. Other fruits that also have glutathione and are rich in antioxidants are berries, oranges, pomegranate, apricots, prunes,  avocado, grapefruit, strawberries, peaches, cinnamon, asparagus,  legumes, nuts, spinach and bell peppers. Or eat cysteine-rich food including dairy products such as cheese,yogurt and chicken breast since cysteine is used in glutathione synthesis. Add a couple of  Brazil Nuts for selenium (or tuna, beef, walnuts, eggs, cottage cheese, or turkey) and we are set!

 

See Also:

Experimental Treatment for Parkinson’s

Nutrition for Parkinson’s Disease- Part 1

2

Eating Watermelon for Parkinson’s Symptoms

Papaya and watermelon

Papaya and watermelon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

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Is Gluten Sensitivity Real?

English: Wheat (Triticum aestivum) near Auvers...

I get tired of seeing poor research cited as “disproving” non celiac gluten sensitivity. Wheat (Triticum aestivum) near Auvers-sur-Oise, France, June 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Letters to a NY Times article on Non Celiac Gluten Sensitivity seem to regularly cite a study by Gibson et. all which is somewhat misleadingly entitled “No Effects of Gluten in Patients With Self-Reported Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity After Dietary Reduction of Fermentable, Poorly Absorbed, Short-Chain Carbohydrates.” The study was widely reported to have “disproved” gluten sensitivity, especially since the authors had previously written an article suggesting that non-celiac gluten sensitivity might be real. This small study does not disprove gluten sensitivity at all, but rather expands the things one might be sensitive to.

 

Gluten sensitivity can either be an early stage of celiac (the diagnostic test requires a significant amount of gut damage) or an entity of its own.  In addition there can be sensitivity to other lectins in grains,  wheat allergies, mechanical difficulty digesting wheat and sensitivity to fermentable, poorly absorbed short-chain carbohydrates (FODMAPs).

 

Many people report sensitivity to American but not European gluten-containing products, citing suspected reasons like pesticides, GMOs (escaped, not permitted), milling and short fermentation procedures and reaction to the high protein hard spring and winter wheat that makes up 70-80% of the American wheat market.

 

Gluten is a bit like glue in its ability to cause inflammatory actions in the human gut.  Inflammation of the intestines can cause injury to the probiotic lining of the gut wall, the wall itself and finally cause gaps in the intestinal tight junctions which cause “leaky gut.”  Gluten and other lectins in wheat are difficult to digest, possibly for all people, but a strong immune system generally initiates recovery.  However the gliadin in wheat activates zonulin signalling which modulates the permeability of tight junctions between cells of the wall of the digestive tract.  This allows larger molecules to leak into the blood stream where they elicit a cascade of antibodies and either a low immune system or repeated inflammation makes this a chronic condition.

 

English: Diagram to show the different stages ...

English: Diagram to show the different stages of Coeliac Disease. Drawn in adobe photoshop 7.0.1 for use in the Coeliac Disease article. Drawn by me, User:WikipedianProlific for exclusive use on Wikipedia. Please do not add this diagram to another wiki without seeking my prior consent. This image is for use in the English Wikipedia. WikipedianProlific (Talk) 14:52, 12 September 2006 (UTC) Deutsch: Diagram zur Veranschaulichung der verschieden Stadien (Marsh-Kriterien) einer Zöliakie. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The symptoms of gluten sensitivity as well as sensitivity to other lectins or certain FODMAPs can be frustratingly vague.  Because this is a systemic reaction not all symptoms are found in the gut and may not be noticeable there at all.  Besides gas, bloating , reflux and diarrhea, one might have migraines, mind fog, depression, aches and pains, autoimmune diseases and a vast array of other conditions. Since diagnostic food sensitivity testing has up to a 30% inaccuracy rate, elimination and possible rechallenge are the gold standard in identifying sensitivity. The glue-like nature of wheat and similar grains means that an elimination diet may require 1 1/2 to 2 months before the symptoms go away.

 

Cross-reactions may occur in the sensitive where similarly shaped molecules fit into gluten receptors on antibodies.  The most important ones are dairy products including whey.  You may see extensive lists based on the Cyrex Labs Array 4 which is commonly used to test further reactions to foods by the gluten sensitive but the test was not designed to test for cross-reactivity and includes a broad array of foods that do not cross-react.  A well-documented discussion of this by Christina Graves is found here.

 

Back to the Gibson Study.  37 people, self-described as “gluten sensitive” without celiac disease were put on a low FODMAP diet then transferred to a variety of diets (high-gluten, low-gluten and  low whey, low whey, or “control” high  whey  diets) for 1 week, followed by a washout period of at least 2 weeks. They assessed blood and fecal markers of intestinal inflammation/injury and immune activation, and fatigue. Twenty-two participants then crossed over to groups given gluten, whey, or control (no additional protein) diets for 3 days.

 

In all participants, gastrointestinal symptoms consistently and significantly improved during reduced FODMAP intake, but significantly worsened to a similar degree when their diets included gluten or whey protein. Gluten-specific effects were observed in only 8% of participants. There were no diet-specific changes in any biomarker. During the 3-day rechallenge, participants’ symptoms increased by similar levels among groups. Gluten-specific gastrointestinal effects were not reproduced. An order effect was observed.

 

The study could not rule out non celiac gluten sensitivity. Do you see the problems?

 

  1. Gluten cross reacts with whey so there was no real control
  2. People may be sensitive to many things, not just one
  3. Rechallenge took place in 2 weeks when it might take 2 months to clear out
  4. Elimination rather than “reduced gluten” is necessary to stop the inflammatory cascade
  5. All patients were worse with gluten or whey
  6. The notion of a “gluten specific effect” is undefined since effects are systemic but the study looked primarily at GI symptoms, fatigue and blood markers for celiac disease
  7. They tested IGA, IGG, and IGE but not IGM- not a complete measure of sensitivity (and there may be IGs we have not yet defined.) These tests are not highly accurate
  8. Absence of evidence is not itself evidence of absence.  The conclusions were overstated
  9. The study involved only 37 subjects and only 22 finished
  10. Patients were self diagnosed and could have included people with carbohydrate intolerance, sensitivity to other lectins, FODMAP sensitivity, candida, or mechanical digestive problems, This is a real problem in a small study for a condition that affects millions
  11. There are other things than gluten in glutinous grains and if elimination works it doesn’t matter from the patient’s point of view why

 

 

 

What the study did show was that there are other things than gluten that could cause reactivity and elimination of other dietary constituents may help

 

So why is there more gluten sensitivity today? Food allergies have increased about 50% in children since 1997.

 

  1. Significant changes in the gut microbiome
  2. Increases in early formula feeding which can sensitize babies
  3. High gluten and dairy in breastfeeding moms’ diets
  4. Breeds of wheat which differ from historical breeds and have more gluten
  5. Milling changes which break down the bran and germ into smaller particles capable of entering the bloodstream
  6. With the new milling changes in the 1870s flour was rarely freshly ground
  7. We eat more processed food with injurious additives, including gluten
  8. We have an overall higher toxin load which stresses the immune system and raises the inflammatory load

 

 

 

Note that grains are the biggest source of FODMAPs in most people’s diets, and maybe secondarily dairy and beans.  Stanford University’s list of low FODMAP foods are found here.  Note that they suggest the quantity of FODMAPs is critical- unlike gluten sensitivity where any amount causes inflammatory cascades, so that except for diagnostic purposes this is not a list of foods to totally exclude.  A GAPS diet will also exclude sensitizing foods.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Experimental Treatment for Parkinson’s

Diseases and conditions where stem cell treatm...

Diseases and conditions where stem cell treatment is promising or emerging. (See Wikipedia:Stem cell#Treatments). Bone marrow transplantation is, as of 2009, the only established use of stem cells. Model: Mikael Häggström. To discuss image, please see Template talk:Häggström diagrams (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease 6 years ago. I am working as an acupuncturist, herbalist and health writer, which all require a steady hand. I have been helping run free clinics since 9-11 and do a lot of public health education on Facebook and my blog Natural Health by Karen and teach as an adjunct professor at NY College for the Health Professions. My private practice specializes in complicated conditions which is rewarding but not lucrative. At best this is a breakeven proposition so my funding for treatment is limited. I have mastered the art of ambidextrous needling and the tremor only happens at rest but the tremor is starting to spread to the other side and it will eventually affect my ability to treat patients.

I have found a promising experimental stem cell trial by StemGenex in La Jolla, California that has a special affinity for Parkinson’s and other neurological diseases. Unlike most stem cell treatment centers they use an intranasal administration to get stem cells to the brain, either traversing or signalling beyond the blood brain barrier.The treatment was pioneered for Alzheimer’s and works for that disease. They do this along with intravenous and direct injections and their internal statistics on Parkinson’s patients are much better than others since getting the stem cells into the brain is difficult. I would like to participate in the trial for this promising procedure.

I have been pre-approved for treatment but insurance will not cover experimental procedures (and trials on procedures are not covered by drug companies!)

The cost of treatment is $15,900 plus air fare of $800 and $1000 for a course of hyperbaric treatment as aftercare.

I will write in detail about the experience, documenting it with video and making medical information available regardless of outcome. This will help others considering stem cell treatment. I will focus on what can be done to enhance the treatment, based on interviews with patients, doctors and my own experiences.

If you know someone with Parkinson’s, would like to advance the medicine, want to help me or just want to do a mitzvah, I would be very grateful. If you know someone else who might help please pass this on.

Thank you for reading this far. I must acknowledge that I am a bit bewildered by this new way of dealing with health care (and hope it doesn’t sound tacky to ask for help,) but I appreciate your interest.

Donations to Paypal at ksvaughan2@aol.com  or Go Fund Me

See also:

Nutrition for Parkinson’s Disease- Part 1

2

Watermelon and Papaya for Parkinson’s

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How Sunlight Lowers Blood Pressure

Sunshine Coast Sunrise

Sunshine Coast Sunrise (Photo credit: Jiaren Lau)

And this isn’t about Vitamin D.

Lower Blood Pressure: Surprising New Study

Ronald Grisanti D.C., D.A.B.C.O., D.A.C.B.N., M.S.
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There is now a new natural weapon to combat against the growing population of high blood pressure sufferers.

Now this new weapon is as close as your backyard.

What I am talking about is good old sunlight.

Blood pressure levels are commonly higher during winter months.

The question you may ask is what is the mechanism that allows sunlight to lower blood pressure?

British researchers have figured out why.

The answer is nitric oxide (NO).

Nitric oxide is known to reduce blood pressure by evoking vasodilation either directly by causing relaxation of vascular smooth muscle or indirectly by acting in the rostral brainstem to reduce central sympathetic outflow, which decreases the release of norepinephrine from sympathetic nerve terminals.

Basically, nitric oxide increases the elasticity of the artery walls and helps to normalize high blood pressure.

An increasingly large body of literature suggests that alterations in the NO system may play an important role in the development or maintenance of clinical hypertension. 

What they found is that nitric oxide stored in the top layers of the skin reacts to sunlight and causes blood vessels to widen as the oxide moves into the bloodstream. That, in turn, lowers blood pressure.

According to researcher Martin Feelisch, a professor of experimental medicine and integrative biology at the University of Southampton, exposure to ultraviolet light might help reduce the risk for heart disease.

“This new study finds that UV light exposure to the skin induced nitric oxide release and modestly lowered blood pressure, suggesting that this may play a role in modulating blood pressure,” said Fonarow, a spokesman for the American Heart Association.

In 2009, a team led by the University of Edinburgh’s Richard Weller showed that human skin and the dermal vasculature contain significant stores of NO—much more than can be found circulating in the blood—and that these stores could be mobilized by UVA (long-wave UV) irradiation.

“This study provides suggestive evidence that skin-derived NO metabolites may have a role in modulation of blood pressure upon UV exposure,” Thomas Michel, a professor of medicine and biochemistry at Harvard Medical School.

 

Reference:

Donald Liu, Bernadette O Fernandez, Alistair Hamilton, Ninian N Lang, Julie M C Gallagher, David E Newby, Martin Feelisch and Richard B Weller, UVA Irradiation of Human Skin Vasodilates Arterial Vasculature and Lowers Blood Pressure Independently of Nitric Oxide Synthase, Journal of Investigative Dermatology  20 February 2014

The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information from the research and experience of Dr. Grisanti and his functional medicine community. Dr. Grisanti encourages you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with a qualified health care professional.

Compliments from Functional Medicine University  www.FunctionalMedicineUniversity.com

** Read my past articles:
http://www.functionalmedicineuniversity.com/public/department88.cfm

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