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Say Goodbye to Headaches
June 13, 2005 07:25 PM
Say Goodbye to Headaches by Susan Weiner Energy Times, December 8, 1999
What's in a name? A headache by any other name hurts just as much. But categorizing your headache can be as overwhelming as finding an obscure breakfast cereal at the supermarket. Medical folks pigeonhole headaches as tension headaches, allergy headaches, morning headaches and sinus headaches, plus the organic, migraine, cluster, trauma, TMJ, eyestrain, rebound, exertion, hormonal and muscle tension varieties. You may also suffer the self-induced hangover and toxicity headaches.
Americans are no strangers to self-medication, and as a society we battle these headaches by consuming nearly 80 billion tablets of aspirin each year, about 20 million aspirins a day, according to Burton Goldberg, co-author of An Alternative Medicine Definitive Guide to Headaches (Future Medicine Publishing). And while we drown ourselves in over-the-counter and powerful prescription products, our tolerance, just like a drug addict's, grows. So what begins as a twodose headache slowly evolves into three, four or five doses, until you realize that no dosage can make your headache go away.
Unless you're fond of medieval practices such as ritualistic healings and bloodletting, drugs seem the only answer to headache misery. But even modern medicine has been unable to solve headaches. Rather than a cure, medications provide only temporary relief, and even that isn't guaranteed. Additionally, over-reliance on medications can lead to chronic head pain. According to Goldberg, rebound headaches often result from the consumption and withdrawal of drugs.
Halt Your Headaches
Rather than strive to simply eliminate headache pain, why not identify the underlying cause and prevent the headache? Almost always, every type of headache results from a health or lifestyle-related activity. In an ideal world, the best approach would be to eliminate the tensions, stress, frustrations, anger, insufficient sleep, excessive drinking and poor diet that contribute to your headaches. For better or for worse, however, you can't always: a. quit your job; b. ask your spouse to leave; c. sit on the beach all day; or d. all of the above. But you can make appropriate lifestyle changes and learn to express suppressed feelings.
This approach, lifestyle modification, is a treatment program based on a Loma Linda University study, originally published in Medical Hypothesis and the Journal of Women's Health and Gender-Based Medicine and later explained in No More Headaches, No More Migraines: A Proven Approach to Preventing Headaches and Migraines by Zuzana Bic, DrPH and L. Francis Bic, PhD (Avery). The program, conducted on a group diagnosed with chronic migraines, dramatically decreased the frequency, intensity and duration of headaches in nine of 10 headache sufferers. Rather than demand radical life changes, the lifestyle modification program introduces gradual changes in three specific areas: nutrition, exercise and understanding stress. The study doesn't expect you to change your entire diet, join a gym and eliminate everything that triggers stress, but teaches techniques to make subtle lifestyle changes and reduce the impact of daily stress. These same techniques can also improve sleep patterns, a factor known to affect headaches. The lifestyle modification approach clarifies that while very few headaches directly result from existing acute conditions, recurring headaches often derive from a larger lifestyle factor. If these issues are ignored, the body's natural defense mechanisms may kick into overdrive and become exhausted, leaving you susceptible to other chronic diseases. By finding and eliminating the cause of your headaches, you may be saving yourself from other eventual illnesses.
Willing to make some lifestyle changes and step away from medications? Try these remedies, courtesy of Nature's Pharmacy by Lynn Paige Walker, PharmD and Ellen Hodgson Brown, JD (Prentice-Hall).
For simple headaches, start with relaxation and neck stretches. Or try rubbing your forehead with peppermint oil, a natural antispasmodic and diuretic shown in German research to be as effective as acetaminophen in easing tension headaches.
Never underestimate the old-fashioned ice pack to the forehead as an effective treatment that works by constricting the swollen blood vessels that cause your head to ache. If the ice pack isn't enough, try putting your arms in icy water up to your elbows to constrict additional blood vessels. But if it's a sinus headache you're fighting, take the opposite approach and try hot compresses.
The herbal, and original, form of aspirin is white willow bark. Used by Chinese practitioners 2,500 years ago, it contains salicin, nearly the same pain reliever found in aspirin. Other herbal aspirins include meadowsweet tea, just as effective as aspirin with few side effects. For migraines, Walker and Brown recommend feverfew and magnesium supplements, which reduce nerve excitability and migraine susceptibility. In fact, individuals with frequent headaches have been found to have low brain and tissue magnesium, says Julian Whitaker, MD, author of Julian Whitaker's Guide to Natural Healing (Prima). For all headaches, Goldberg suggests essential fatty acid supplementation with evening primrose oil (EPO), which improves circulation, helps regulate inflammation and relieves pain.
The CURSE of the Migraine
Migraines, a debilitating headache distinguished by a throbbing pain, may be humanity's oldest malady. The name is derived from the word the Greek physician Galen used to describe the disorder in 200 A.D. Six-thousand-year-old Sumerian writings refer to the ravages of migraines, and prehistoric skeletons bear testimony to a crude form of trephination-holes chiseled in skulls to allow the escape of pain-creating demons, according to Lifetime Encyclopedia of Natural Remedies by Myra Cameron (Parker Publishing).
In the common migraine, throbbing pain develops gradually from distended veins around the brain and may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light. These miseries can be preceded by 15 to 90 minutes of an "aura," which includes visual disturbances, distorted perception, hallucinations, flashes of light and temporary loss of sight or hearing. In fact, skeptical historians attribute some of the religious visions of the Middle Ages to the visual effects of migraine aura, according to Cameron.
Snacking on high fiber foods between three light meals each day helps stabilize blood sugar and prevent migraines. And while some doctors summarily attribute migraines to diet, other experts attribute at least half of all migraines to food sensitivities. The most common edible villains are aged cheeses, yeast breads, chocolate, cured meats, citrus fruits, eggs, fermented foods, wheat, milk, milk products, alcoholic drinks and food additives, including nitrates and MSG.
Suggested daily supplements for migraine-susceptible individuals include a multivitamin, one capsule of B complex to help maintain normal vascular control, 3,000 to 6,000 milligrams in divided doses of vitamin C with bioflavonoids to assist the production of anti-stress hormones, and 500 to 1,000 milligrams of magnesium to reduce nerve excitability and pain. At the onset of a migraine, says Cameron, try homeopathic remedies, dilutions of natural substances from plants, minerals and animals. For throbbing pain, take natrum muriaticum according to package directions. Other homeopathic options to explore include iris versicolar, lac defloratum and sanguinaria.
Take Charge of Your Headaches
Headache management involves managing your life. Practice relaxation techniques to reduce stress. Calmly discuss your feelings. Take a leisurely stroll at lunch. Walk your dog, or a neighbor's dog, after dinner. Keep a food diary. Sit and stand tall. Skip the fast food tonight. Join a yoga class. Take vitamins and supplements. Get a two-hour massage. Turn the television off earlier and sleep in a little later.
Taking the time to care may take effort, but it will soon become second nature. Invest in yourself. It's your most precious possession.
Summer Sports Nutrition Guide
June 11, 2005 03:54 PM
Summer Sports Nutrition Guide by Joyce Dewon Energy Times, June 18, 2004
If you're hooked on exercise you're probably just as hooked on using top-notch equipment when you work out. Those who are serious about staying in shape buy the best running shoes, carefully pick out the best bikes and tread on durable treadmills. But do you pay just as much attention to your nutrition?
Scientists who have studied exercise have found that what you eat before, during and after workouts is crucial to maintaining your health, getting into shape and staying fit. To achieve your best athletic performance without getting injured or sick depends on optimum nutrition. When you carefully plan what to feed your exercised body, it rewards you by feeling and looking better.
Short 'n Sweet
If you thought long exercise sessions were the only ways to get decent exercise benefits, take notice: small doses of exercise during the week can go a long way. " The important thing, apparently, is just do it," says Howard D. Sesso, ScD, author of an American Heart Association study on exercise and heart disease. In his study, exercisers demonstrated that several short sessions of exercise were as good for the body as a single long session (Circ 8/00; 102:975-80). " Short sessions lasting 15 minutes long appear to be helpful,"Dr. Sesso explains. Even walking about three miles per week, which is a moderate level of exercise, lowers your risk of heart disease by 10%.
Some people glorify in working up a sweat; others CURSE the dampness. But putting in extra effort in even short bursts of activity pays off: experts have found that intense exercise burns more calories than more relaxed sessions, more effectively reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease and helps stabilize blood sugar levels. In addition, it stimulates production of human growth hormone, which offsets some of the effects of aging (Exp Biol Med 2004 Mar; 229(3):240-6).
But don't go crazy if you haven't worked out in a long time. The intensity of the workout should match your physical fitness. According to the American Heart Association, when people exercise at a comfortable pace, their heart rate and level of exertion stay within a safe range, but still high enough to benefit their health. Strenuous activities, for those who can handle them, produce the most physiological bang for the jog. But brisk walking within your own level of fitness still offers significant benefits.
Feeding Your Muscles
When you exercise, you work and develop your muscles, which are made primarily out of protein. Despite this fact, many exercise experts have advocated high-carb diets for athletes. But, as John Ivy, PhD, and Robert Portman, PhD, point out in their book The Performance Zone (Basic Health), "[While] there is no doubt that aerobic athletes require more carbohydrate than strength athletes...we are now discovering that the addition of protein to a carbohydrate supplement offers significant benefits to aerobic athletes."
That is why researchers believe that consuming plenty of protein along with carbohydrates offers the best fitness benefits. Protein helps fuel activity more efficiently and aids in recovery after a session at the gym, allowing your body to repair muscle damage and build up muscle fibers.
During exercise, you break down muscle tissue. It is during recovery, after your exercise session ends, that muscles are rebuilt. At the same time, other cellular processes take place that adapt the body to working out.
According to Ivy and Portman, timing your intake of nutrients after exercise is crucial: "The ability of the muscle machinery to regenerate itself decreases very rapidly after a workout, so that the nutrients consumed more than 45 minutes after exercise will have far less impact in helping the muscles regenerate than nutrients consumed earlier."
Stresses and Tears
Engaging in athletics can cause microscopic muscle tears. These tears can cause a range of problems that, when you exercise excessively, can cause pain and injury.
Inflammation is the body's response to cellular damage. The damaged area can swell as the body sends white blood cells and other cells to repair the injured area. Unfortunately, the swelling can further damage the muscle cells.
Since inflammation can take 24 hours or more to cause the collection of cells in the injured area, it can be a day or two before the resulting muscle soreness reaches its peak painfulness and then starts to subside.
Cortisol, a hormone produced when you exercise strenuously, which can result in muscle fiber damage. Cortisol boosts protein breakdown, so it can be used to fuel muscle movement. But the more protein breaks down, the more potential exists for muscle fiber injury. Free radicals are caustic molecules that are created when the mitochondria (small structures in cells) create energy; these marauders can also cause microscopic shredding of muscle strands. As you increase your use of energy during exercise, you simultaneously increase the production of free radicals. This collection of free radicals can outstrip the body's antioxidant defenses, leading to extensive muscle damage and dampening of the immune system.
All of these cellular events can make you sore. They are also the reasons that athletes who overdo it day after day are liable to come down with nagging colds and a variety of infections.
Your muscles use different substances for fuel depending on what you ask them to do. Lift a heavy weight and muscles recruit two processes called the creatine phosphate system and glycolysis to generate a large amount of quick energy. These are known as anaerobic types of energy production.
But if you jog, swim, bike or perform any other aerobic activity, the cells use oxygen in what is called cellular respiration to supply energy to working muscles.
When you exercise aerobically for extended periods of time, the energy available is generally limited by how much oxygen your body is capable of taking in and supplying to the muscles, where it takes part in energy production. In athletic circles, this upper limit is known as your VO2max.
The carbohydrates your body burns for energy during aerobic activity are taken from blood sugar and carbohydrate reserves called glycogen. (The muscles store glycogen, as does the liver.) During a workout session, your glycogen supply is limited to what is stored with your muscles. But blood glucose can be boosted by carbohydrate drinks, energy gels or bars.
Most people who work out have enough glycogen and blood sugar to fuel moderate aerobic activity for about two hours. After that, the body turns mostly to fat and protein stores to fuel exercise.
Fat Into the Fire
In contrast to the body's quickly diminishing supply of glycogen and blood sugar, fat can last for hours and hours of exercise. According to Portman and Ivy, a 200-pound man with 15% body fat has, theoretically, enough fat energy to run from Washington DC down to Miami Beach-and still has enough energy left over to jump into the ocean.
But using fat for energy is complicated; fat is stored in fat tissue and not readily available to working muscles. Plus, to burn fat for energy, the body needs carbohydrate-it cannot burn fat all by itself. What's more, the conversion of fat into energy doesn't go as quickly as carb conversion.
Protein is also used for energy when carbs run low. But the more you use protein for energy, the more you risk soreness as muscle fibers break down.
Prepare to Energize
To maximize your energy during exercise and minimize soreness, Portman and Ivy recommend some simple nutritional steps:
Taking protein and carbs while working out can limit muscle damage and curtail soreness. Carbs apparently drop your cortisol levels, and thereby limit muscle injuries linked to this hormone. While the mechanism that helps protein limit muscle soreness is not completely understood, it is possible that taking in protein while working out keeps the body from shredding muscle tissue in search of fuel.
Supplements that contain antioxidants such as natural vitamin E and vitamin C (Portman and Ivy think you should take these during exercise) may limit free radical damage to muscle fibers.
Muscle Reconstruction Plan
If you want to help your exercise plan make you stronger, you should focus your after-exercise sports nutrition plan on these steps:
The protein part of the equation is vital: don't merely indulge in only carbs after exercising. A recent study found that while carbs could help muscles rebuild, adding protein can make a big difference in improving your fitness (J App Phys 2/04).
This combination of nutrients stimulates the pancreas so that it releases insulin. The release of insulin is the key, initial step that sets off a cascade of physiological events that speeds muscle recovery. Although many people think of insulin as an undesirable hormone-if you never exercise, too much insulin may help drive your blood sugar down and cause other problems-for exercisers, this hormone plays a crucial function in benefiting from exercise.
By eating carbohydrate and protein soon after working out and stimulating insulin, according to Ivy and Portman, you help your body boost its synthesis of protein by:
Drinking for Exercise The most obvious nutrient you lose during intensive exercise is water in your perspiration. However, that perspiration also contains an array of minerals known as electrolytes. So, for optimal performance and health, experts recommend you replace both the water and its minerals.
Merely drinking water-instead of electrolyte-filled sports drinks-during prolonged aerobic activity can be dangerous. It leaves you vulnerable to a condition called hyponatremia, which can occur when your blood levels of sodium and other electrolytes drop, but your blood volume stays steady or increases because you drink lots of water.
According to Edmund Burke, PhD, in his book Optimal Muscle Performance and Recovery (Avery), one out of four athletes who seek medical attention after a long race are suffering hyponatremia.
" Typically," he says, "conscientious athletes get in trouble because they adhere too diligently to one recommendation: the need to drink lots of fluids. They tend to ignore another recommendation: The need to keep electrolytes up...for most endurance athletes the real problem is drinking too much water." Dr. Burke warns that you can possibly suffer hyponatremia even if you don't drink a lot of water.
Signs of hyponatremia can be similar to those of heat exhaustion. But, while resting and cooling down can help alleviate heat exhaustion, that doesn't help hyponatremia. " To protect yourself against hyponatremia, start by paying attention to how much you sweat," Dr. Burke says. If your sweat seems very salty, burns your eyes or leaves an evident, white residue on your skin, you may be losing a great deal of sodium and should be diligent about eating salty foods. " You can also make sure you're getting enough sodium by drinking sports drinks instead of plain water during long (exercise) events," Dr. Burke notes.
Of course, no matter what you decide to eat or drink while exercising, the most important factor for your well-being is to get out to the gym, onto the track, or just on to the sidewalk, and do something, even if you only want to go out for a walk. No matter how old you are or what kind of shape you're in, you'll benefit from exercise.
" It's solid evidence that across-the-board declines occur when people stop exercising," says Charles Emery, PhD, professor of psychology at Ohio State University (Health Psychology 3/04).
Don't decline or remain supine. Let your fitness climb.
Guggul – New Benefits for Heart Health
May 11, 2005 09:00 PM
Gum Guggul–New Benefits for Heart Health from an Age-Old Herbby Richard Conant, L.Ac., C.N.
The 1990's have seen a growing interest in herbs from India's ancient Ayurvedic tradition. One Ayurvedic herb in particular, "gum guggul," stands at the forefront, thanks to its rather remarkable benefits for the heart and cardiovascular health. A relative of myrrh and frankincense, gum guggul is a resin tapped from India's Commiphora mukul tree. Known more commonly in the Far East as simply "guggul," the herb has proven to be one of the most effective natural cholesterol-lowering agents ever discovered. Cholesterol reductions with guggul can be twenty percent or higher, and the herb also raises HDL, the more beneficial form of cholesterol. Studies also show guggul may help prevent atherosclerosis, by retarding the formation of fatty, cholesterol-laden deposits in blood vessel tissues.
Recent research on guggul has revealed that guggul also blocks the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, by acting as an antioxidant. LDL, which carries cholesterol from the liver to the rest of the body, is generally regarded as a key element in the development of atherosclerosis. But only when it is oxidized by free radicals does LDL accumulate in arteries. It its unoxidized or "native" state, LDL is more or less benign. Checking LDL oxidation is vital to keeping blood vessels free of plaque.1 (This is one of the major reasons why antioxidants are so important.) Guggul, by both lowering blood cholesterol and acting against LDL oxidation, now stands out as one of the world's most valuable herbs for heart health.
Guggul first caught the attention of the scientific world in1966, thanks to an Indian medical researcher who submitted a doctoral thesis on gum guggul.2 Her interest had been kindled by references to the herb in a centuries-old Ayurvedic text. Apparently, poor cardiovascular health and atherosclerosis were a problem back then just as they are today. Translated from Sanskrit, this text describes, in elegant detail, a condition called "coating and obstruction of channels." The cause, according to the ancient writers? Faulty metabolism due to overeating of fatty foods and lack of exercise. Death was said to be the end result of leaving this condition uncorrected. The recommended treatment plan emphasized diet and herbs, chiefly gum guggul.3
References to guggul in ancient literature actually go back even farther. The herb is mentioned in the Vedas, the holy scriptures of India believed to be anywhere from 3,000 to 10,000 years old. One stanza is translated as follows: "Disease (consumption) does not afflict and the CURSE never affects whom the delicious odor of the healing Guggul penetrates (spreads). The diseases also flee away in all directions from him like horses and deer, O Gugulu! Either born from Sindhu or from the sea. I chant your name for the removal of diseases."3
Struck by the obvious similarity between "coating and obstruction of channels" and atherosclerosis, the Indian researcher decided to study gum guggul's effect on blood fats in rabbits. Over a two-year period, the animals were fed hydrogenated vegetable oil to artificially raise their cholesterol levels. Guggul was administered to one group of rabbits, while the rest served as controls. At the end of the study the rabbits given guggul had normal cholesterol and blood lipid levels. Their arteries showed no fatty streaks or plague deposits. This caught the attention of the Indian scientific community, and numerous clinical trials ensued, both on animals and humans. In study after study, guggul consistently produced substantial reductions in cholesterol and triglyceride levels, while raising HDL.
The active ingredients in guggul are a group of natural plant sterols. Among these, substances called "guggulsterones" are the most important ingredients for the cholesterol and blood fat lowering properties of guggul, with the other sterols acting as a synergistic supporting cast.4 A number of mechanisms are suggested, although not definitely proven, for how the herb works; these include reducing the synthesis of cholesterol in the liver, enhancing cholesterol removal from the gut, stimulating thyroid function and increasing the number of receptors in the liver for uptake of LDL.3,5
Guggul extracts are now standardized for guggulsterone content. The herb naturally contains about 2 percent guggulsterones. Quality extracts contain a minimum of 2.5 percent, which assures the user is getting a product potent enough to produce results. Since the late 1980's clinical trials have used the standardized extract.6,7,8 The product is readily available in the U.S.
The ability of guggulsterones to prevent oxidation of LDL was discovered in a 1997 study done by scientists at the Central Drug Research Institute in Lucknow, India.9 This study sheds light on how guggul works against "coating and obstruction of channels." Remember that oxidized LDL forms the plaque that coats and eventually obstructs blood vessels. The researchers mixed LDL from human blood with a free radical promoting agent, either alone or in combination with guggulsterones. Samples were then analyzed for the presence LDL oxidation byproducts. The results showed that guggulsterones strongly protect LDL from being oxidized. Guggulsterones block the formation of hydroxyl radicals, a potent type of free-radical that attacks cell membranes.
Guggulsterones may also help keep the heart muscle itself healthy. When the heart muscle is deprived of oxygen, a condition known as "myocardial ischemia," it can be severely damaged by free radicals. The body tries to counter this with SOD, a key enzyme present in cells that neutralizes free radicals. SOD levels are significantly reduced in damaged heart tissues. Guggulsterones have been found to reverse this decrease by more than two-fold.10
Like the writer of that age-old verse found in the Vedas, contemporary herbalists hold gum guggul in the highest regard. Backed as it is by scientific research linked to centuries of traditional use, gum guggul has a bright future as a natural resource for maintaining normal cholesterol and blood fats, and for protecting heart health.
1. Heinecke, J.W. Free radical modification of low density lipoprotein: mechanisms and biological consequences. Free Radical Biology & Medicine 1987;3:65-73.
2. Satyavati, G.V. Effect of an indigenous drug on disorders of lipid metabolism with special reference to atherosclerosis and obesity (Medoroga) M.D. thesis (Doctor of Ayurvedic Medicine). Banaras Hindu University, varanasi, 1966.
3. Satyavati, G. Gugulipid: a promising hypolipidaemic agent from gum guggul (Commiphora wightii). Economic and Medicinal Plant Research 1991;5:47-82.
4. Dev, S. A modern look at an age-old Ayurvedic drug-guggulu. Science Age July 1987:13-18.
5. Singh, V. et. al. Stimulation of low density lipoprotein receptor activity in liver membrane of guggulsterone treated rats. Pharmacological Research 1990;22(1):37-44.
6. Nityanand, S., Srivastava, J.S., Asthana, O.P. Clinical trials with gugulipid. J. Ass. Physicians of India 1989;37(5):323-28.
7. Agarwal, R.C. et. al. Clinical trial of gugulipid-a new hypolipidemic agent of plant origin in primary hyperlipidemia. Indian J Med Res 1986;84:626-34.
8. 'Gugulipid' Drugs of the Future 1988;13(7):618-619.
9. Singh, K., Chandler, R. Kapoor, N.K. Guggulsterone, a potent hypolipidaemic, prevents oxidation of low density lipoprotein. Phytotherapy Research 1997;11:291-94.
10. Kaul, S. Kapoor, N.K. Reversal of chnages of lipid peroxide, xanthine oxidase and superoxide dismutase by cardio-protective drugs in isoproterenol induced myocardial necrosis in rats. Indian Journal of Experimental Biology 1989;27:625-627.