Huh? Actually, this is a pretty interesting article (linked to above) which is another example of how important healthy bacteria is to our health. Most of what we hear about is our gut bacteria which numerous studies have shown to be important. But whether we like it or not bacteria live pretty much everywhere in our bodies. And this story reports on a study that found that our mouth bacteria is also important. So mouthwash indiscriminately kills these bacteria causing things not to work quite as well. Similar to how antibiotics mess with our gut bacteria. So the takeaway is to be kind to your bacteria!
Since we are seeing an uptick in sciatica patients lately I wanted to cover briefly how we treat it. We have developed our own method of treating sciatica by treating hundreds of patients with this issue over 15 years. We do 4 things that we feel are, together, an effective protocol. With acupuncture we treat the path of the pain, the lower back (whether it hurts or not) and use auricular (ear) acupuncture to also treat to root of the problem which is usually a disk issue in the L3 to L5 area of the spine. We then use cupping along the path of the pain and also in the low back area to release the muscles and reestablish proper blood flow. The results of doing these things are usually quick and effective. Most patients feel a good deal better after a couple of visits. In tough cases we will often add a favorite Chinese herbal formulation to speed up healing.
Just a short note to say that it is once again 'sciatica time'. What this means is that this time a year, we at the Acupuncture Center usually see a significant uptick in cases of sciatica. We have noticed this pretty much every year since we have been in business (14 years). We are not positive as to the cause, but it does seem to be consistent, some years worse than others. We do have a couple of ideas as to why this is happening, but our best guess is that it is the weather. In Chinese medicine we think that the weather can effect our body. You probably know someone who's knee hurts when it’s about to rain. In this same way the damp environment can cause sciatic pain. So it is the damp and hot conditions we have toward the end of summer that are causing more cases of sciatica.
The news on vitamin D goes back and forth. One day its a miracle cure and the next study says it's bad for you. I personally have had what I feel to be very good results with vitamin D. I won't go into it deeply here but I feel that vitamin D brought back my immune system from the brink. If you have met me you know that I am quite pale skinned. For years I hid from the sun. And I feel this lack of D compromised my immune system. After taking D for a while I recovered. So I am a fan. And I tend toward believing that D is essential. Certain chronic diseases manifest more in higher latitudes, this is know. Mostly (and I follow it closely) the research results are good. If you can somehow get enough sun exposure to keep your levels high enough that is the ideal way. But as we age our skin is less able to make vitamin D from the sun. Keep this in mind. And also if you have darker skin it also harder to get enough sun exposure to keep your levels up.
Interesting article I found at medicalnewstoday.com saying that the use of antibiotics may be linked to an increased risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis. And the article states that other autoimmune diseases may also be contributed to the use of antibiotics - especially during childhood. I had a stomach issue for years that I contribute to taking antibiotics as a kid, specifically erythromycin. This type an issue is being seen more and more. Of course we must sometimes take antibiotics and they can be lifesavers. But some say that we should take probiotics along-side antibiotics. I'm not an expert in this so do your research. We treat rheumatoid arthritis quite often and the results are usually really good. This is one of those things that respond very well to treatment with acupuncture and Chinese herbs..
Continuing my summer review of books, I want to highly recommend Flow by Mihali Czikszentmihalyi. Flow is that condition of mind and body where we are lost in an activity. There are certain activities that are designed to help us to achieve flow such as many games, sports or activities such as reading. But we can learn to make most activities flow experiences. The author found in his studies that the times we are in flow are the most enjoyable times in our lives. He also found that times that we usually equate with happiness like vacations or free time are not necessarily our happiest of times. But, using the methods in this book, we can increase the pleasure we get from our free time. The methods are backed up by science. I have used this book over many years to choose activities in my life that help me achieve flow, and to make the things that I have to do flow activities.
Ok, maybe I discuss intermittent fasting (a form of calorie restriction) a bit much, but the research is rolling in that shows that this is a really good, cheap (free - less than free?) way to improve our health to a significant degree. So this article that says that even thin people can benefit from calorie restriction, just eating a bit less. Here are the results:
Specifically, "Calorie restriction caused a persistent and significant reduction from baseline to 2 years of all measured conventional cardiometabolic risk factors," write the authors. This included changes in low density lipoprotein cholesterol, high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
Also, "calorie restriction resulted in a significant improvement at 2 years in C-reactive protein." This is a marker of inflammation that scientists have linked to heart disease, cancer, and cognitive decline. Insulin sensitivity and markers of metabolic syndrome also improved.
Update: yet another study showing the benefits of intermittent fasting. This is something we can all benefit from to some degree. And its such an easy thing to get used to. Plus many of us can use it also as a way to take off a few pounds - and this benefits pretty much all the body's systems including the musculo-skeletal.
Since I am opposed to reinventing the wheel, I will often use my blog to link to an article or a video that I think you should check out. So, the above link takes you to an article that is a personal account of someone's experience with intermittent fasting. She talks about how she got started and the problems she encountered as well as why she decided to do it at all. Intermittent fasting is something most of us should do to some extent in order to be healthier. I really believe that the evidence shows this.
We all know from personal experience that getting enough sleep is very important to how we feel during the day. So its not too surprising that sleep might be really important for regulating many things like, for instance, our metabolic health. This article reports on findings that found that having a more regular sleep schedule can directly effect our health in a very positive way. Good metabolic health translates to better cholesterol numbers, better blood pressure and better weight. So this is an easy and inexpensive way to improve your health and feel better as well. Most of us will agree that a regular sleep schedule makes us feel better than varying when we go to bed. And most studies that I have seen (plus Chinese medicine) say that going to be early is more healthy that going to bed late.
Here is a quick definition of insulin resistance: An impaired response of the body to insulin, resulting in elevated levels of glucose in the blood (a key component of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome). As most of you know who read this blog I recommend and also participate in intermittent fasting. There are may benefits to fasting and this study added to the growing evidence. In our county the problem is not a lack of food - mostly the opposite is true. So getting away from 3 meals a day has shown, since ancient times, to be good for your health. This study, which you can find a review of here showed that fasting can prevent insulin resistance, which is often a precursor to diabetes. Fasting is free, in fact you most likely will save money by doing it. What a great way then to reduce your chances of diabetes. What a great way to reduce the healthcare load on our society (many billions a year?). And think of the human toll diabetes extracts on our world, the suffering, the early death. Please start intermittent fasting!
Monte Jackson, owner Acupuncture Center of Richmond