Dr. Darshan S. Khalsa's Blog

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Preventive measures for H1N1 Swine Flu August 25, 2009

Yesterday the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology issued their estimate of the possible impact of H1N1 swine flu on the American population:  Up to half the population infected and up to 1.8 million hospitalizations required!  This is much more than a normal flu season—we’ll find out in the next few months how accurate their estimate is.  This H1N1 flu variety is relatively new and people have built up less immunity.  Unlike most influenzas, predictions are that older people will have more immunity and that this flu will disproportionately infect younger school age people. 

Here’s a link to the Center For Disease Control’s H1N1 Swine Flu site with lots of good information:  http://www.cdc.gov/H1N1Flu/

I’m certain the mainstream media will be sufficiently alarmist so the real issue becomes what should we do to prepare for the impending flu season.  Disease is always an interaction between the strength of the pathogen and the strength of our immune system.   How can we strengthen our immune systems to better resist these new pathogens?

The vaccine which may help prevent infections won’t be ready until the flu season is well underway.  Vaccines have their own problems as well, and I’ll discuss these in a future blog post.

 The basic recommendations for strengthening the immune system are still primary:     stress reduction,   regular acupuncture,    good diet along with steps to improve digestion,   good hygiene (frequent hand washing, etc…)

I also teach patients various acupressure techniques that are effective for immune building and disease prevention.  In addition, I’ve been dispensing two different supplements to patients to help build their immunity and one supplement to keep in reserve at home in case a cold or flu starts.  We dispense only to current patients since no formula is indicated for everyone.

Two supplements that we often give to patients to boost the immune system:

The first supplement is a Chinese Herbal Formula called Yu Ping Feng Wan, “Jade Wind-Screen Pills”.  This is a very old formula in continuous use at least for the last 700 years in China.  It contains Huang Qi (Astragalus), Fang Feng (Siler), and Bai Zhu (Atractylodes).  The action of this formula is to build up your immunity, hence the name:  create a precious (Jade) Screen around your body to shield you from pathogenic influences (Wind).  Yu Ping Feng San is a good formula for almost everyone to take as we enter cold and flu season. 

We also sometimes give patients another good modern formula that combines enzymes, Chinese Herbs and Western Herbs called ProSol™ Immune.  Here are some of the ingredients of this formula:  PHysioProtease™ is an enzyme blend that activates the immune system to promote healing and seeks out areas of inflammation and tissue damage.  Astragalus root extract – An antioxidant that helps protect the liver, has many known immune stimulating properties.  Goldenseal root – Contains several alkaloids shown to have anti-microbial and antibacterial properties. Echinacea angustifolia root – Has antiviral, anti-fungal and immune-stimulating effects

What do we do when our immune boosting preventive measures are not adequate and we feel ourselves starting to get a cold or flu? 

I’ve been recommending to patients a Chinese Herbal Formula called Gan Mao Ling to keep on hand for just that time.  This formula has antibacterial and antiviral properties and can be very effective at helping the body overcome an initial disease onset.  This formula is not as effective at building the basic protections as Yu Ping Feng Wan or ProSol™ Immune, but is more effective for initial disease onset.  Here are the ingredients of Gan Mao Ling Wan: Ge Gen (Pueraria Root); Da Qing Ye (Baphicacanthus Leaf); Bo He (Mint); Ju Hua (Chrysanthemum); Jie Geng (Platycodon); Xing Ren (Apricot Seed); Lian Qiao (Forsythia) Gan Cao (Licorice).  Gan Mao Ling Wan, if taken at the onset of a cold or flu, can often help your immune system throw the disease off quickly.

Be prepared for flu season!   If you wish to maintain optimal health through this coming flu season, please schedule an appointment.  We dispense only to our patient base, so if you are not already a patient, you will need to make an initial appointment.  Our best wishes for your good health this flu season!

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Why Do So Many Patients Exhibit Sensitivities to Wheat? August 23, 2009

Filed under: allergies,food sensitivities,stress — Dr. Darshan S. Khalsa @ 2:37 pm
Tags: , , ,

What is it with wheat?  Why are so many of our patients now testing sensitive to wheat and wheat products?  Wheat is by far the most common food sensitivity we encounter when testing patients.  (Other very common food sensitivities are milk/dairy products, soy products, peanuts, and eggs.)  By simply removing wheat products from the diet, we often see great clinical results, particularly with children.

Wheat probably couldn’t always have been so allergy inducing.  Is it the way wheat is grown and processed in this country?   I’ve had patients who were highly sensitive to wheat here, but who were able to go to Europe and eat the European bread while there with no problems.  Was it just because they were less stressed when on vacation and therefore their digestion performed better?  Or is there a difference in the wheat itself?  When I went to India recently, the wheat there tasted much better than anything I remember having here.  Their wheat was grown locally and probably freshly ground (they were harvesting while I was there); their method of preparation used hot steel and fire and this also probably helped counteract the “damp” producing effects of wheat.  (Damp is a Chinese medical term roughly equivalent to congestion.)

I have read that the type of wheat we are mostly eating today is much higher in gluten than what was historically grown—in other words, the wheat has been bred to be much sticker and starchier than what we historically ate.  The highly refined nature of the wheat and the possible presence of genetically modified wheat are not helpful either.

In addition to the way our USA wheat is grown, stored, and processed, there are probably other environmental stressors that we experience here.  Our country has experienced a vast increase in asthma over the past twenty years.  The same cofactors are probably creating the increase in wheat sensitivities that we see today.  Our overall air quality is much better than in many parts of the world, and yet we are seeing an increase in allergies and asthma.  Why is this?

More on this later….

 

Healthcare Policy from a Practitioner Standpoint August 16, 2009

Healthcare legislation is presently being considered by Congress and the White House and some policy reforms are expected within the next few months.  I expect that the details will be highly complex and the final thousand page proposals will probably contain many surprises.  We are all familiar with the unsustainable growth in the cost of health care and health insurance, so some changes are necessary.  In addition, the present system produces a lot of unnecessary anxiety which drives up overall health care costs.  Our present per capita health care costs are higher than any other country, and our average outcomes put us well behind most other advanced countries.

I am by no means an expert but I’ll give my simple take on the basic problem:  There are no major institutional parties in this country that have a real interest in health.   Treating acute or chronic disease is the focus of our healthcare system.  Indeed it would better be called a sick-care system than a health care system.   Western medicine is wonderful at treating acutely ill cases and trauma, but not particularly effective at preserving and expanding health.

Individual people are of course interested in promoting their own health, but the major institutions involved in health care are not interested in promoting good health.   The private insurance companies pass on all their costs and make extra profits by denying claims and cherry picking only healthy customers; the hospitals make their money doing acute care; individual MD’s generally mean well but are not reimbursed for time spent on educating patients and are themselves focused on acute care; and the pharmaceutical companies main interest is to have people take their drugs for long periods—healthy people are not good pharmaceutical customers.

I am hoping that the final legislation will include a strong “public option” and that this will eventually lead to outcome based standards determining which medical procedures are cost effective.  These outcome based standards could in turn create a motivation to do more preventive medicine:  “ A stitch in time saves nine” and “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” are two common proverbs for good reason:  with more preventive care, the country could achieve much better health outcomes at a lower cost.  If true outcome based standards are put into place, the utilization of alternative and integrative healthcare will increase, and overall health care costs will decrease.  Right now the institutional incentives are all working the other way.  There was an interesting article in the New Yorker recently discussing local health care differences and some of the institutional pressures driving up health care costs. http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/06/01/090601fa_fact_gawande 

Of course, the real change that needs to happen is in the overall consciousness and understanding of people regarding wellness.  For now, there are many individuals interested in health and wellness, but many Americans are still looking for the quick fix, the magic pill that will fix everything.  After a few years, they come in to see us because they are taking six or seven pharmaceutical medications and feeling terrible.  It would be far less costly to change behaviors and avoid the problems in the first place.

On a public policy level, most people want unlimited acute health care for a limited cost, and this is barely being addressed in the current proposals.  It will be interesting to see what comes out of the legislative process with all the competing interest groups contending.  I’m hoping for some improvements, even if the improvements are minor.

We definitely do need to transition from our present sick care system to a true health care system.

 

Chinese Herbal Medicine August 7, 2009

One of the most effective modalities within WholeHealth WellnessTM is the use of Chinese Herbal Medicine.  The term “Chinese Herbal Medicine” describes formulas which are made mostly from plants but can sometimes include mineral or animal products.  Depending on the herb, the roots, stems, bark, leaves, seeds, or flowers of plants both wild and cultivated may be used.  There are many hundreds of herbs and other medicinal substances that have been commonly used for almost two thousand years.  In school we learned about 400 of the most commonly used, but there are hundreds more. 

Chinese Herbal Medicine is very safe when properly applied, and usually much gentler in action than most pharmaceuticals.   When the right formula is used in the right way to correct imbalances, good results are often felt in days.  However, as with anything else, care must be taken.  For instance, a powerful purgative formula used on someone with a weak constitution would probably do more harm than good.  One of the great strengths of Chinese Herbal Medicine when properly applied is that the formula is individually fitted to the patient’s constitution as well as to their symptoms.

Herbs are generally decocted into teas or prepared in pill form.  For some conditions, they may also be used on the skin in the form of liniments, ointments or plasters.   For convenience, I mostly dispense herbs in pill form.  A few people receive bulk herbs to be prepared into teas.  Preparing herbal teas is actually the most effective way to take herbs and a way to tune the formula to a person’s very individual condition.  This is the traditional way that the formulas were prepared.   Ask to see some of the herbs we use the next time you are in the practice for an appointment.

While single herbs are sometimes used, usually an herbal formula will be composed of ten or more herbs carefully blended together to synergistically combine for very specific purposes.  One herb may be the principal herb, and other herbs may help guide that herb to specific areas of the body.  Over the two thousand year written history of Chinese Herbal Medicine some formulas have been used so often that they have been named and are commonly available in ready made pill form.   These are what we usually dispense. 

Some of these have very colorful names and poetic names.   Here are some of my favorites:

Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang — Tonify the Middle, Increase the Qi Decoction

Jin Gui Shen Qi Wan — Kidney Qi Pills from the Golden Cabinet

Xiao Yao Wan — Free and Easy Wanderer Pills  

Tian Wang Bu Xin Tang — Heavenly Emperor’s Formula to Tonify the Heart

Shi Quan Da Bu Tang — Ten Flavors Great Tonification Decoction

Si Jun Zi Tang — Soup of the Four Gentlemen

Yu Ping Feng San — Jade Windscreen Powder

More on each of these and many other formulas in future postings.

 

Do Blood Pressure Medications Lead to Diabetes? August 4, 2009

Do Blood Pressure Medications Lead to Diabetes?

I saw an interesting short article about a Johns Hopkins University study the other day in the May 2009 issue of the Townsend Letter:  “Potassium Loss from Blood Pressure Drugs May Explain Higher Risk of Adult Diabetes”.  Here is a link to the article:

 http://www.jhu.edu/~gazette/2008/15dec08/15potassium.html

Basically, one of the side effects of taking diuretics over the long term to control blood pressure may be mineral imbalances and consequent creation of other health problems.  This Johns Hopkins study identified a problem with type 2 diabetes; however blood pressure medications could be creating many other problems that were not searched for in this study. 

This is yet another example of how treating one system without considering the effects on the whole system can lead to many unforeseen problems.  From our standpoint it is much better to deal with the root causes of the problem.  Stress is almost always a contributing factor in high blood pressure and Long Deep Breathing can almost always reduce stress and lower blood pressure readings.   Five minutes of Long Deep Breathing almost always produces a ten to fifteen point reduction in blood pressure readings.   With repeated practice of Long Deep Breathing, the lowered blood pressure readings become more stable; the blood pressure is permanently lowered.  And the other side effects of Long Deep Breathing are all good! 

Pharmaceuticals may sometimes be needed, but they should be used primarily in acute cases where more benign therapies have not worked.