Thursday, September 27, 2012

Just Say No?
After a few months of very sporadic appointments, my case study client Mrs. R will be available again for weekly, 2 hour massages. I'm excited to make some progress, since the prolonged breaks in treatment have put us back in a routine of putting out fires, instead of making lasting holistic, structural improvements. Today's 2 hour session was just that- getting the neck moving again while trying to minimize inflammation caused by so much deep tissue work in that concentrated area. Then some back work focusing on loosening the tissues close to the spine.

Erik Dalton, PhD
When I started the case study, it was supposed to coincide with my home study course from Eric Dalton in Myoskeletal Alignment. I still haven't completed the quiz to become officially certified by the Freedom from Pain Institute, but I feel like I'm still learning plenty, albeit slowly. I've been reading sections of the text and trying to apply it to my clients in small doses, mixed with my tried and true techniques. With Mrs. R, because of her complex issues, I'm relying on the stuff I've used for close to a decade, not the specific techniques I've learned over the past few months. The Myoskeletal perspective, however, has been invaluable in helping me see through the complex strain patterns, to decipher where and how some of my old standby techniques should be implemented.

The question I have now, is how to approach the pharmaceutical element of Mrs. R's treatment. 
Gabapentin, Hydrocodone, and Meloxicam daily with over the counter migraine medicine when needed. That's what she has been taking for years now. One doctor tells her that she can't stop or lower the pain meds because the pain will come right back- essentially, she will be taking these powerful substances forever. A new doctor is creating a plan to ween her off the drugs because there is so much going on. The new plan should be explained to Mrs. R next week before I see her again. Aside from drugs, she says massage therapy has been the only thing to ever give her relief. While I am anxious to provide as much relief as soon as possible, because I know she is in a lot of pain despite the pharmaceutical pain killers, it's hard to condone doing deep tissue massage on someone who is so numb to sensory input. On the other hand, she couldn't handle the massage treatments as well without the medicine- it creates her baseline, it's a part of her now. We continue to have great communication during the massage and I'm confident enough in my work that I don't believe I'm doing any harm to her tissues. I feel similar tension everyday in other clients.

For example, Mrs. R drives, sits at a desk, and works at a computer, for long hours every day. The strain patterns produced by those prolonged postures clearly express themselves in her upper crossed syndrome, tight pec'd, tight scalene'd structure. All that stuff is on top of whatever disc issues are in there. I would know if I were poking my fingers into something that didn't belong, since I've worked on the necks of cubicle dwellers and long distance drivers for years now- thousands of them. I will continue to be very cautious with Mrs. R, and look forward to hearing a fresh perspective, but I sincerely believe my work thus far has been beneficial and not damaging.

There is also the somewhat pressing issue of motherhood. Mrs. R wants several children and can't take the pills while pregnant, so she needs a natural pain relieving therapy, at least while she's tending the cabbage patch, which may be 5-7 years. The goal is to find a way to provide therapy which will balance her soft tissue structures, to allow for optimum mobility and function, within her comfort level and with her doctor's blessing, that lasts a long time.

A few key background posts about the Mrs. R Case Study: Here, Here, and Here.

No Guts, No Glory

I just finished reading the 147 page book No Guts, No Glory: Gut Solution- The Core of Your Total Wellness by Dr. Steven Lamm MD and Sidney Stevens.
It was nice to read a book that covered a lot of ground but wasn't too bogged down with intensive data. Plenty of reputable research was cited, but the message of the book was more that we need to start paying attention to the wellness of our guts, instead of focusing solely on seemingly random symptoms and pain. The book is an overview of the complexity of the system, whatever you want to call it, that digests our foods, greatly influences our moods, hugely impacts our immune function, and generates our life-force and vitality. He refers to it as the "Gut."

There is a plan for improving our gut's functionality, but again, it was all phrased as a wake up call, more than a strictly scheduled diet and health regime, like so many self-help style books include. The tenets of the plan are eating foods based on highest nutritional content and least damaging content, detoxification from environmental and food sourced pollutants, use of enzymes, pre and pro-biotic supplements, and overall stress management.

The biggest eye opener to me was how the trillions of microscopic organisms inside our GI tract work symbiotically with our body to form an "Intelligent" system. When we take a course of antibiotics, they can wipe out years, even decades, of built up immune function inside that system. Research is leading doctors away from widespread antibiotic use, in favor of strengthening the beneficial bacterium in the gut, to promote the greatest health in their patients. If you have one weed growing in the middle of a golf course full of healthy turf, you don't use agent orange to kill it. Instead, you could fertilize the healthy grass more and don't water the weed.

There was also some talk in the book about the gut/brain connection. Research is still preliminary here, but so far the inner workings of our neurological functioning and how it creates the huge range of human feelings and emotion could all be tied to the interplay of food, our guts, and our brains. Fascinating stuff.

Overall, definitely worth the couple hours of informative reading.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Big Theories, Small Actions

I spend a lot of time reading books about health, fitness, and nutrition which frequently leave me feeling overwhelmed. That feeling is usually when I try to incorporate and intermingle several theories, philosophies, or techniques into one viable system for daily consumption. Lately I've been going much bigger with the fruit intake and veg juicing. By trying to incorporate more raw foods into my daily diet, some of the enjoyment of food has, in fact, waned.

To avoid the all or nothing mentality that challenges me in several areas, today I compromised with a quick, less destructive, yet extremely easy and accessible cooking technique for some fresh local produce. 

Blanching veggies simply means boiling them for a short duration, 3 minutes in my example today, then putting them in an ice water bath to halt further cooking. Like steaming, this maintains the fiber's integrity much  more than other cooking methods and doesn't break down as many nutrients. Check out for specific directions.

Beans in the boil.
Beans in the ice.

Yesterday's Lunchtime Salad
Another challenge I've faced in the past with vegetarian or whole/raw habits is a longing for hot foods, especially in colder months. Salads are great, but sometimes, I want a fat baked potato to feel full and satisfied. The blanching method allows for hot food without prolonged baking or microwaving. Today I had such a craving for something filling and warm but not fatty and heavy, so I went for some carrots and green beans from the local farmer's market.

In about 15 minutes of prep time, I had 2 big bowls of veggies which will last the Wifey and me a couple days.

Today's Warm and Heartier (by comparison) Lunch
Clearly something was lost in the process, but once the water is thoroughly cooled, it will go into my herb wagon to recycle the nutrients and keep me from just pouring it down the drain.

 For more than you ever wanted to know about my fascination with green beans and their health benefits, I posted that earlier...

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Not So Fast

Last night I watched the BBC Horizon documentary "Eat Fast and Live Longer." It was certainly an interesting take on fasting to improve overall health and longevity. In it, documentarian Michael Mosley set out to figure out how to live longer with less morbidity.  
He started out at the London marathon looking for the oldest participants. After quick interviews with several robust 70 and 80 year olds, he found an alleged 101 year old man participating. Mosley met the man again at the finish line after about 7 hours of walking, and he was in no way feeble or devastated physically. When asked what he eats, the 101 year old man replied, through the translation by his son, that he eats a "Simple Punjabi farmer's diet." That means fresh, simple foods and in half sized portions, compared to his family members. He has no signs of  heart disease, takes no medications, and has never had a surgery. The man's birthday is April 1st, so even with a cynical eye to avoid being the fool, it's a very impressive feat for the man to finish the marathon at all. He's clearly old enough to be considered an intriguing interview on aging, whether 101 exactly, or not.

National Institute on Aging/NIH
The theme of the rest of the documentary was calorie restriction for longevity. According to a very recent Wall Street Journal article covering a study by the U.S. National Institute on Aging in Baltimore, "Calorie restriction confers health benefits on monkeys but doesn't increase their life span, a new study suggests, undermining some people's belief that a sharply restricted diet could help them live longer." More health may not equal longer life in years, but who wants long years without consistent health? It's the "years in your life vs. the life in your years" argument. As Dr. Martin Luther King said, "The quality, not the longevity, of one's life is what is important." I agree.

Lately I've been watching you tube videos by DurianRider and Dan The Life Regenerator. Durian Rider, whose real name is Harley Johnstone, promotes an unlimited calorie diet, as long as it's raw vegan, and follows the 80/10/10 (carbs/fat/protein percentages) formula with great success- as evidenced by his brilliant cycling and running hobbies. Dan McDonald is also into raw, vegan, living food including lots of green juices. He speaks frequently about fasting and detoxing to improve quality of life. Both men are constantly preaching how our society's perspective on appropriate amounts of protein consumption is completely skewed. This was also a theme in Eat Fast and Live Longer. Eating higher levels of protein promotes production of IGF-1, or Insulin-like Growth Factor, which is naturally occurring in the body, but is linked to several disease processes, like cancer. Eating less protein, and less total food, puts the body into a repair mode versus a building mode. 

Vegetarians and Vegans are constantly harassed by questions of how to get complete proteins. Dan the Man explained in one (at least) of his videos, I'm still looking for the exact one for the link, that the body doesn't need continued barrages of complete protein to function on a daily basis. His analogy was that when you build a house, you have raw materials trucked into the sight. After you build the house with those complete pieces, like bricks and lumber, you just need electricity and fuel to live there. If you're a normal sized person doing normal activity, you just need carbs for energy and small pieces of protein (separate aminos found in veg) to do maintenance type repairs- think spackle. If you're doing a remodel, like focused body building or healing from a major injury, you might need a shake full of complete proteins.

The real problems arise when you keep delivering bulky raw materials to your house and have nowhere to put them. I don't want to move a palate of bricks off my couch so I have room to sit down. Excess protein and fats just build up and get in the way, in the body- which brings us back to fasting.

Fasting allows the body to catch up- physically, energetically, and spiritually. Since we're on the physical subject, I'll stay there today. The last segment of the documentary shows Mosley implementing his favored formula of fasting, after arriving back home from his research travels. 5/2 Feast days/Restricted days. On the 5 feast days a week, he eats whatever he wants in whatever quantity he wants- high fat, high sugar- whatever. The other 2 consecutive days of restriction still allow for 500 calories of food- that's a fast even my Wife says she can handle! He ate eggs, ham and a bowl of strawberries for breakfast on his fast day. After a set time of following this 5/2 system, his bloodwork indicated great improvements in all of the health indicators they were following. 

What would I do? Instead of eggs and ham, which are not filling and contain comparatively high fat and therefore a lot of calories, I would stick to a raw vegan leafy green diet of 500 calories on my 2 fast days. Raw kale, for example, has 34 calories in 1 cup. If I ate nothing but Kale, that allows for almost 15 cups to equal 500 calories! Say 6 cups of kale, spinach, and romaine with some broccoli and cabbage and carrots on top, dressed with lemon juice and crushed ginger- twice in a day. That's a ton of food for a day of "fasting."
Something like this- 2 bunches in my 5 cup Blender

Shopping for food this way would be easy too. Since I'm already going to the farmer's market once a week, I could just buy two days worth and "Fast Salads" and have the freshest produce possible. Forget Meatless Monday- lets do 2 raw vegan days a week. I'm currently only eating about 3-4 leafy green salads on a good week anyway, so why not consolidate them in 2 days to magnify their value? Overall it sounds like an easy way to keep the diseases of excess at bay- even for just a little bit longer.