Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Calming Power of a Shoe

As I train for this year's pilgrimage to Zion National Park, there are only a few places that present with elevation changes in Illinois.  Training weekly around local forest preserves gives the feel of nature and allows my mind to quieting down.  When one becomes used to the speed of the Internet, the speed of rush hour tailgaters, the speed of getting taxes done right before deadline-you learn to always do things with speed.  It may be good for applying CPR but you can't apply speed to waking up, eating, spending time with loved ones....these activities are meant to be slow so the brain can secrete serotonin.  This hormone then bathes the trillions of cells to reset DNA, mitochondria, allow other hormones to cycle on, allow brain tissue to perform abstract thinking, problem solve.....or just fall in love.
Fight or flight hormones are useful for escaping danger.  The human hormone feedback loop is well established to start even as an embryo.  I remember watching the ultrasound of my son in utero when we had to get a sample of amniotic fluid for testing.  We localized where he was floating in mom's bag of water; as the doctor inserted the needle through moms abdomen we could see the needle tip pierce the wall of the uterus and immediately my son moved out of the field of vision on the machine!  When Antelope are born on the plains of Africa, within minutes, they can run with the herd if danger is sensed.  When a science frog has been pithed (inserting a needle into the brain to destroy higher function) it will still lift a foot up and away when held over a fire.  (sounds barbaric but this used to be how physiology class was run in college premed).   All this thanks to the reaction of every cell to adrenaline!!!
But this was not meant to see secreted every day of the week.  When rats get electrical shocks every day in a cage they tend to ignore the pain and withdraw into a depression like state.  When children are abused every day with no hope of a respite in sight; they too withdraw, become zombie like with no emotion and a very altered interaction with the world.  A study in the 90's on adult immune diseases went back and found the patients that experience Adverse Childhood Events where at higher risk for triggering disease later.  The big buzz word now is inflammation as the trigger for 80% of all the diseases treated in a doctors office.
A little inflammation and stress response is good (think of Robot from Lost in Space- "Warning, Warning!!!" alarming the crew of impending danger), too much inflammation and stress is not conducive to a peaceful life. (think of Dr Smith from the same black and white TV series throwing the crew into turmoil after every challenge).
One really has to practice the relaxation response since it is not part of American culture. Reflection/introspection in it's most popular form used to be practiced when you sat in the corner in silence as an act of penance.  Or if you fish, hike, used to include martial arts and yoga but I see alot of hybrid yoga and mixed martial arts places that just stress the movement and not the philosophy nowadays.   Even running is broken down into managing split times, hydrating, powergels, shuffling the ipod....and not just running  to lose yourself in the cadence of your foot strikes.  I just came back from a 30 minute resistance training routine where the only thing I was thinking was "almost done" I worked out like a madman banging my head to Metallica's Fuel.  So my argument is even in the activities we do to keep ourselves healthy, we still turn on the stress response.
I was blessed to have experienced the classes of Herb Benson/Harvard, David Simon/The Chopra Center, Andy Weil/AZCIM and of course Deepak.  These modern day sages translated true traditional healing into modern day medical terminology.  Through hours of learning, I developed my own form of eliciting the relaxation response in myself to help during times dealing with death, sarcastic orthopedic surgeons, the difficulty of starting a private practice......and aging.  I am still finding my technique but I feel more in control of my journey now than ever before.

So here I am hiking in Starved Rock, getting ready to ice climb and be one with nature.  Just listening to my crampons (steel foot spikes) crunch the ice with every step I take approaching the frozen waterfall puts me into "the zone".  I wield my ice axe like a warrior and dig it into the solid mass like a harpoon and develop a swing/strike/pull timing.  Axe/axe/crampon/crampon....up we go.  Serotonin is flowing, DNA is healing, oxytocin (the love hormone) is bathing my heart and brain!  I looked at some pics a stranger had taken and I got pretty high! (I didn't even care)  Then it all came to a screeching halt.  One of the last crampon kicks I gave with my left foot - kicked off my spikes!!!  So here I was "in the zone", high up on a frozen waterfall with only one operating foot.  I would normally just say "who cares" and forget the feet using full upper body strength like Tarzan hitting each Axe like a pendulum and work my way down.  But my "fight or flight","warning, warning" hormones started to rush out of my adrenal glands and took over every bodily function.  Brain started thinking "I am going to fall and impale myself on an axe";  heart started to beat distractingly fast; hands became sweaty in my gloves and gave me a sense of slipping off my axe grips, my remaining crampon/foot could not for the life of me get a good hold in the ice; the viking like swing of the axes became wiffle ball foul tips bouncing off the mammoth ice cube.  Well, I paused for a second, laughed at myself and thought "my shoe will do fine"....and with a renewed focus on smooth striking like the beak of a humming bird hit each mark-I stuck my axes and remaining crampon till I returned to ground.
The power of the mind to effectively change the outcome of an event!!!  With just me getting down from a frozen waterfall being a chore, think about someone trying to battle cancer, feeling great about the fight and then being told by a trusted specialist-we can't help you, good luck (fight or flight).  Versus being bathed by the love and support of a community and beating disease with lifestyle changes (relaxation response)
....if only we could teach meditative breath work in grade school!!  Or get medical insurance to cover a week at the Chopra Center!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Genie in a Bottle

Eyes open 430am, my brain thinks I better get more sleep.  Mind says get up, make some tea, go push some weights and get my yoga on.  500am I am ready to start the day and no sun out, no activity on the road, Facebook says a few people liked my Detox blog but no activity.  As I make my way to the local Planet Fitness, traffic lights are all in my favor....this is like a dream.  I get there thinking it would be just me and the desk attendant and there are a whole bunch of people, even this guy on a treadmill that is just jacked up.  Probably running 7 minute miles, great form, blank stare recalling floating past the 13 mile aid station at the Chi-town marathon.
So how do I get this energetic attitude, so ready to take on the challenges of the day?  How to others seem so alive at this hour?  How can I insure my adrenal gland gets stimulated like this every morning, and how to turn on the part of the brain responsible for elation?  If I could just bottle the hormone proportions floating in my blood stream at this present time; take it out and inject it when I need it!!!!   How to then inject it into others I work with, patients I see with major illness, strangers that are suffering?  If only we could pull some blood out when happy, transfuse it back in when we are challenged with daily commuting, office deadlines, hunger from not eating properly, angry insomnia from lamenting on the "asshole encounters" from the day.
Western medicine and the pharmaceutical industry thought they could about 20 yrs ago when they found receptors in the brain for serotonin where empty in people with depression.  The answer: make a medicine that allows more serotonin to be present in the blood stream and the deficiency with be cured!!!  It worked but people were a little blunt faced, emotionless, zombie like, sleepy....and heavier.  (I guess they just assumed giving medicine would cure the disease without behavioral therapy to fix the abnormal introspection...just like cholesterol medicine without changing the diet doesn't stop the heart attack, just slows it down)
So I tried to go through an inventory of my schedule/diet/activity for the last few days and found one thing. Repetition; I was waking up for a few days straight, really pushing the plant strong foods, trying to keep up with meditation in the morning (as my Chopra Center Guru Davidji says-Rise-Pee-Meditate every am and it will make you bullet proof for the challenges of the day!)  In my Detox blog from DrRic Frequently Asked Questions, I mention that if you are trying to break bad habits and begin a new lifestyle, it is easier to set the body on a ritual/rhythm with Thinking Eating and Activity.  As your hormones are thrown into the blender of an emotional tornado, forcing the digestive system/musculoskeletal system/endocrine system into a regimented 12 hour sleep wake cycle will guide the haphazard glands into a uniform secretion.
Providing a good parachute of proper nutrients, moving muscle, engaging conversation, restful sleep and a little supplementation is important.  Everyone is a little different as to what deficiencies need repleting but most Americans need the aforementioned activities. The one drawback of ritual is some people may not see that the ritual they adopt for short term change, will also act as an anchor and hold back the journey.  A goal is always important to set but at every detox (even if it's as short as a day or two) when your mind is clear-contemplate a new pilgrimage
In the end, it isn't the need for an injection during times of challenge, it is the need to inject "healthy choices" into everyday of your life before the challenges happen.  The miracle of your body/mind/soul can let loose a tsunami of serotonin but it wont just let you pull out "calm" from your adrenal gland when you don't practice a daily lifestyle of longevity.  For most Americans (myself included) challenges begin to avalanche at about 30-40 years of age.  If you wait until that time to practice a healthy lifestyle, you will always be playing catch up and eventually western medicine and surgery will step in to place a halt on damage until you decide to start reversing disease......if you still can.  

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Evil Triumphs when Good Men do nothing.....

My steady paycheck comes from working for hospitals in a few "10 minute clinics", where docs are judged by productivity and if you spend too much time with patients= waiting room gets backed up, patient complains, administration says "speed it up".....doc feels pressured, pressure gets pushed onto patient, fast diagnosis is made and pills are prescribed without treating the cause.  I can easily work for a corporation, be the face of primary care, get a salary, follow the rules and retire at 63years of age as a burned out professional but......

My calling is to empower people to heal from the inside.  Unfortunately, spending 60 minutes to learn about what makes patients "tick" and getting reimbursed 70 dollars an hour/ but having to pay 50 dollars an hour for malpractice insurance doesn't add up.  (Don't forget taxes, rent, staff, utilities).  This is why I opt out of taking medical insurance in a small cash practice a few hours a week.  If I don't send bills to insurance companies, I don't need an office clerk; if I don't draw blood in the office, I don't need a lab tech; if I don't have staff, I don't need an office manager; if I don't sign contracts with the government, I don't have to buy expensive electronic medical records and I Don't Have To Spend My Time Asking Insurance Based Questions vs figuring the reason why they came to me. I can't put into words how rewarding it is to see people come in with multiple diseases and leave with hope and a plan for change.

I see first hand how patients are given a diagnosis but not given the keys to reversing the problem.  It just takes a few minutes to empower patients to make a change.....but if you are under the gun to see volume, being 5 minutes behind in the morning can translate to 2 hours behind by evening.....and that will lead to complaints and the whole cascade of administrative events outlined above.   As dualistic as it seems, my regular hospital paycheck involves giving patients band aid medicines and my cash clinic fixes the band aids placed by my colleagues.   (....and yes by me but for each prescription I write, I always suggest an herbal supplement or "what to do next time" videos-see

So for now I have to "keep my day job" and pay the mortgage, college tuition....and occasionally bills from my Integrative Medicine Clinic (The Center of Healing).  If I don't venture away from the mainstream medicine, some person from this planet will die frustrated, suffering, with no hope and probably pass issues to the family.