Whole Body Health

August 25, 2010 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

One of the chief differences between conventional and holistic medicine is how a patient is viewed in relation to their disease. Allopathic physicians tend to focus on the symptoms reported to them. So if you go in complaining of heartburn, you’re likely to walk out with a prescription for a medication that addresses GERD-like symptoms. Naturopathic physicians will often take a broader view of the same symptomatology. They might ask questions about your diet, stress levels or supplement regimen. Anything that could possibly affect your body and mind are potential fodder for holistic healers. When the latter is properly applied, it’s a surprisingly effective and thorough way to reestablish wellness.

Using the model of holism, I’ve selected several studies to highlight today. Five of the most pertinent elements of natural healing will be on display: diet, exercise, the mind-body connection, nutritional supplementation and sleep quality. Please have a look at the following research and see if you might be able to incorporate some of the strategies into your own health care program.

A new study from the Institute of Aging Research and Harvard Medical School offers a suggestion about how to reduce the risk of hip fractures in middle-aged men and women. Their conclusions may surprise you. It seems that eating higher amounts of animal protein may protect against hip fractures *if* combined with a large intake of calcium – > 800 mg/day. But the reverse is true *if* you consume lower levels of calcium. The summary of the study states that, “calcium intake modifies the association of protein intake and the risk of hip fracture in this cohort, and may explain the lack of concordance seen in previous studies”. (1)

A recent publication in the medical journal PLoS ONE reveals that lifting heavier weights isn’t required to build muscle. According to researchers from McMaster University, what’s important is working out to an extent that provokes muscular fatigue. Fifteen young men were asked to perform different set of exercises that required the use of weights that were either 30% or 90% of the maximum that they could lift. In practical terms, the 90% exercises allowed for 5 to 10 repetitions. The 30% exercises lead to repetition counts of at least 24. Various markers of protein synthesis were taken 4 and 24 hours post workouts. The end results indicate that “low-load high volume resistance exercise is more effective in inducing acute muscle anabolism than high-load low volume or work matched resistance exercise modes”. (2)

The latest edition of the journal Neuroscience Letters shines a positive light on the use of acupuncture in the senior population. The current investigation involved a group of young adults and elderly subjects. All of the participants took part in 6 sessions of acupuncture that focused on three specific acupoints – LI4, SP6 and ST36. Blood tests and psychological measures were taken at baseline and after the completion of the intervention. The good news is that anxiety, depression and stress levels were reduced across the age continuum. Immune function also improved as assessed by increased T-cell proliferation. But the best news of all is that the immune boosting effects of acupuncture were most significant in the elderly study volunteers who presumably needed it more. (3)

Mean Pain Scores (VAS) at Baseline, Race Start & Race End

Day 1 (Baseline) Day 7 (Race Start) Day 8 (Race End)
Placebo 6.1 ± 7.9 8.0 ± 9.6 45.3 ± 20.5
Cherry 16.1 ± 15.9* 10.6 ± 11.8 22.6 ± 12.6**
Between groups: * p < 0.05; ** p < 0.001
Source: Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2010, 7:17 (link)

For as long as dietary supplements have been around, experts have been debating whether or not they’re “as good as Nature”. A trial presented in the journal Osteoporosis International may add fuel to that fire. In it, researchers from the Netherlands compared the relative effects of sun exposure vs. Vitamin D supplementation in a group of 232 “non-western immigrants” – a population which is at risk for Vitamin D deficiency. The participants were randomly assigned to one of three treatments: 1) 800 IUs of Vitamin D daily; 2) 100,000 IUs of Vitamin D every 3 months; or 3) recommended sunlight exposure during the months of March to September. After 6 months of treatment, those receiving 800 IUs/day achieved serum Vitamin D levels of 53 nmol/l. The 100,000 IU group reached a 25(OH) D status of 50.5 nmol/l. The sunlight exposure patients reported a reading of 29.1 nmol/l. The average starting level of D was 22.5 nmol/l. The concluding remarks explain that, “Vitamin D supplementation is more effective than advised sunlight exposure for treating Vitamin D deficiency in non-western immigrants”. (4)

If you’re having trouble sleeping, you might consider drinking some cherry juice or supplementing with cherry extract before retiring. So says a June 2010 paper in the Journal of Medicinal Food. A randomized, double-blind, crossover study assessed the sleep enhancing effects of tart cherry juice over a 2-week period. A total of 15 older adults with chronic insomnia took part in the trial. When given the cherry juice, the participants found “significant reductions in insomnia severity (minutes awake after sleep onset)”. How is this possible? Cherries naturally contain melatonin, serotonin and tryptophan which can contribute to improved psychological health and sleep quality. This assertion is further validated by a brand new trial which found that simply eating Jerte Valley cherries was capable of increasing actual sleep time and elevating the levels of melatonin (6-sulfatoxymelatonin) in the blood of middle-aged and elderly test subjects. (5,6,7)

Before signing off today I want to clarify a philosophical point which may sometimes get lost in my message. I’m not antagonistic toward allopathic or conventional doctors. I sometimes wish they’d practice medicine in a different manner. However, that doesn’t mean that I view them as the enemy. In fact, one of my sincerest hopes for this site is to help improve the level of communication between patients and physicians so that we might all benefit. I want every kind of doctor to practice more compassionate, evidence-based medicine. So if you currently have a physician who is stuck in a symptom-based reality, try to encourage her/him to look outside of her/his paradigm. You can achieve this by respectfully voicing your desire for a different type of care and by providing information about how that can be achieved. The cold, hard fact is that we’re not all blessed with an ideal health care team. But we can all do our best to improve the healers we do have and the patients that we currently are.

Be well!

JP

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Posted in Alternative Therapies, Bone and Joint Health, Exercise

10 Comments & Updates to “Whole Body Health”

  1. Nina K. Says:

    Good morning, JP ☼

    great article, you are summing up lots of important facts, great ☺ Thx for the time and energy you spending to do this blog!

    Nina K.

  2. Mark S Says:

    The use of tart cherry juice or eating fresh cherries to enhance sleep was very interesting. I take a daily supplemet(pill) of tart cherry for joint health. I assume that a supplement like this does not contain any of the useful ingredients to work on sleep patterns and is only available in juices or fresh.

  3. JP Says:

    Thank you, Nina! I really appreciate your contributions to this site and all of your support. I’m grateful! :)

    Be well!

    JP

  4. JP Says:

    Mark,

    You might try taking your cherry extract just prior to bedtime to see if it affects your sleep quality. Just a thought. If you try this technique out, please share your impressions with us.

    Be well!

    JP

  5. CW Says:

    “In fact, one of my sincerest hopes for this site is to help improve the level of communication between patients and physicians so that we might all benefit. I want every kind of doctor to practice more compassionate, evidence-based medicine.”

    I appreciate what you’re saying. But as the token skeptic amongst your readers, I’ll just briefly summarize why there are many who are concerned about people who endorse alternative medicine.

    I think what becomes an issue is ultimately the “evidence” in evidence-based medicine. Why many skeptics of alternative medicine are skeptical is that often times the evidence for alt-med claims are rooted in fallacious reasoning (Western medicine conspiracies, anecdotal testimonials, argument from authority, and argument from tradition). Also, many alt-med claims reference studies that are often times uncontrolled, unblinded or single-blinded, or contain small sample sizes (which bias the statistics). And when the better studies are replicated by other independent researchers, the results can be quite different. And lastly, it seems that alt-med claims often avoid negative studies (null hypothesis).

    With that being said, I appreciate this website, because I think you provide a gray area between alternative medicine modalities and alt-med skepticism. You cite evidence and studies very well. I think it’s good when you clarify when studies are in pilot stage, or animal testing stage. I don’t know if you’ve ever mentioned that a majority of studies that make it through animal testing do not ever make it past human trials.

    I think it would be nice to offer some evidence that may not support alt-med claims or treatments, in order to illustrate where the specific alt-med hypothesis is still in question (or controversial).

    All in all, I think it’s important to remind people that allopathic medicine typically requires a substantial burden of proof. It’s not perfect, and it is slow to adopt new ideas on treatments. But I think medicine (and overall, science itself) works best this way. Maintain a high burden of proof, requiring multiple lines of independent and robust evidence before accepting.

  6. JP Says:

    CW,

    First and foremost, thank you for your thoughtful comments and kind words. I sincerely appreciate them.

    I think there’s great room for improvement in allopathic and alternative medicine. My hope is that I can contribute to the responsible and successful integration of the two camps. After all, I recommend and use both!

    Several years ago I actually left the alt-med field because I was uncomfortable with many of the hyperbolic claims and unethical sales techniques I witnessed. But part of the reason I returned, on my own terms, was to dispel many of the faulty notions that occur on the other side of the fence as well.

    Unfortunately, it seems as though medicine in general is often no better than politics when it comes to truthful reporting. A case in point is the mainstream stance about carbohydrate intake in relation to blood sugar disorders. Dr. Richard Feinman did an excellent job of presenting this issue in a recent interview that appeared on my site.

    http://www.healthyfellow.com/588/dr-richard-feinman-interview-part-one/

    http://www.healthyfellow.com/595/dr-richard-feinman-interview-part-two/

    http://www.healthyfellow.com/616/dr-richard-feinman-interview-part-three/

    If you ever read one of my columns and find it to be too soft in its coverage of a topic … please let me know. I promise that you’ll have a friendly forum to express your thoughts here. Such constructive comments only serve to make me and this site better.

    Be well!

    JP

  7. Betsy Says:

    JP -
    How very fortunate I feel to have found your site today. I am a pharmacist of over 20 years, turned yogi for the past 10 years, where my world of allopathic medicine was turned upside down. I am now stepping back into the practice, but in a more alternative fashion…functional medicine,. This seems to be along the lines that you are educating folks about…alternative medicine, complimenting some of the more allopathic traditional methods and evidence based. My take on what I am learning about from my functional medicine teachers is that we offer the greatest service when we use all remedies judiciously and look at each person as an individual, encouraging lifestyle changes, supplementation, sound nutritional guidance and allopathic medications in the lowest possible doses only when all other remedies have been exhausted. I know I will be visiting your site regularly, as it meets my needs in so many ways. Thank you for doing the amazing detective work that begins to free others of us up to support clients with the many parts of this fascinating puzzle.

  8. JP Says:

    Betsy,

    Thank you for sharing your inspiring story. I’m happy to know there are healers out there like you! Please visit and comment often. You are most welcome here! :)

    Be well!

    JP

  9. Dr Synonymous Says:

    I appreciate your information which I retweet often on Twitter. As an allopathic physician, though, I strongly disagree with the comment: “Allopathic physicians tend to focus on the symptoms reported to them. So if you go in complaining of heartburn, you’re likely to walk out with a prescription for a medication that addresses GERD-like symptoms.” Look at texts on clinical decision making such as How Doctors Think by Groopman, Medical Problem Solving by Arthur Elstein (ancient in 1976) or journals such as JAMA, NEJM, Journal of Family Practice, the American Family Physician, or a hundred others and see how information from the biosphere to the atomic level (allopathic evaluation of the Japanese people will include thinking about cellular response to radioactive atoms and many will be tested for radioactivity) is considered at various times in allopathic clinical encounters,depending on the context, the story and the Physical Findings when the patient is examined physically. I’m a holistic family physician with several alternative and complementary therapies in my skill set. It’s disappointing to read a sentence that is so misaligned with reality about a huge group of people. The evidence isn’t there to support the outrageous claim. You have wonderful information about so many issues. What happened? Pat, MD

  10. JP Says:

    Good day, Pat. I appreciate your support on Twitter and your leaving this comment here today.

    Strictly allopathic physicians, in general, tend to rely too heavily on medications to address symptoms, IMO.

    Just to clarify, by allopathic, I meant the use of conventional medicine – the opposite, if you will, of alternative and/or complementary therapy. A combination approach being “integrative” medicine.

    (n) allopathy (the usual method of treating disease with remedies that produce effects differing from those produced by the disease itself)

    http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn?s=allopathy

    The sales figures for medications used to treat GERD suggest to me and others that the practice I described above is an unfortunate reality:

    http://www.consumerreports.org/health/best-buy-drugs/heartburn_ppi.htm

    Be well!

    JP

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