Dr. Darshan S. Khalsa's Blog

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WHAT DOES STRESS DO TO US AND WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT STRESS? October 7, 2011

In our wellness practice we find long term chronic stress to be a major contributing factor to many health problems.  We find that up to 80% of the symptoms that patients initially present with are improved when stress is dealt with first.  We also find that the patient’s remaining symptoms become much easier to alleviate:  we see better digestion, less pain, less fatigue, better sleep, improved fertility, improved moods, and reductions to allergies when we deal with stress first.

How does stress affect us?

Stress initiates the “fight or flight” syndrome—our body energy goes to where it is needed for “fight or flight”: energy goes to the arms, legs, and short term mental functions.  Consequently our energy goes away from digestion, immune system and all of the body’s other “repair and restore” functions.  This has great survival value for short term “ fight or flight” type stresses; however, long term chronic stress is what most of our patients experience—rather than a short term “escape predator” situation, we experience days of unrelenting deadlines or other forms of work, relationship, or financial stresses.  In addition to impairing digestion, long term chronic stress has also been shown to raise blood pressure, stiffen arteries, suppress the immune system, and heighten the risk for conditions as diverse as diabetes and depression.  Worst of all, any of these health conditions can exacerbate our feeling of stress and set up a real downward spiral/negative feedback loop!

When stress is reduced, immune system function and digestion are automatically improved.  Good digestion in turn gives us the energy to heal. Also, we feel less stressed when we have more energy. This is why reducing stress results in improvements to so many other symptoms.

What are some specific symptoms that can accompany long term chronic stress?

  • Cognitive: memory problems, inability to concentrate, seeing only the negative, anxiety
  • Emotional: irritability, rapid mood swings, agitation, feeling overwhelmed, unhappiness or depression
  • Physical: aches and pains, digestive disturbances, rapid heartbeat, loss of libido, frequent illnesses, auto-immune disorders, high blood pressure
  • Behavioral: disturbed sleep, over or under eating, procrastination or neglecting responsibilities, substance abuse

 

What can be done about stress?

For our bodies to be in optimal health, there must be a balance between stress and relaxation.  We must manage our stress to keep ourselves in balance.  Stress management involves changing the stressful situations when possible, changing our reaction to the stressful situations when the situations can’t be changed, taking care of our health, and making time for rest and relaxation.

Common and effective stress reduction techniques include acupuncture, massage, moderate exercise, meditation, pleasant social interactions, and laughter.

One of the simplest and most profound ways to reduce stress and improve your health is with the practice of Long Deep Breathing.  I teach almost every patient this very simple technique and those who practice it benefit tremendously.   Long Deep Breathing is a wonderful relaxation technique and counteracts many of the negative effects of stress.

Long Deep Breathing is the simplest of all yogic breaths.  Simply inhale and exhale through the nose.  Fill the bottom of the lungs first, then the middle, then the top.  Hold the breath in for a second or two and then exhale:  top first, then middle, and then bottom.  You can do this breath while sitting on the floor, while sitting in a chair, or while lying down.  It is excellent to do before bed to help with sleep difficulties.

When we are stressed our breathing becomes short and shallow.  Likewise, when we are relaxed our breathing is naturally deeper and slower.  By cultivating the practice of Long Deep Breathing, we can induce a more relaxed state in our bodies.  It is when we are in this relaxed state that healing and rejuvenation of the body can take place.

Long Deep Breathing is easy to learn and easy to practice. Benefits come with very small amounts of practice.  Five minutes at a time is usually ample.  Five minutes, three times per day will have wonderful clinical effects.  In addition to a feeling of relaxation, there will be other effects such as lowered blood pressure, better ability to clear body toxins, and increase in energy levels.

Many of our patients have been able to reduce or eliminate their blood pressure medications simply from this practice of Long Deep Breathing.  If Long Deep Breathing could be packaged in pill form and patented by a pharmaceutical company, you would see it heavily advertised on TV!

There are of course many other stress reduction techniques as mentioned above, but none are as easy to do on your own or as always available as Long Deep Breathing.

I hope that these simple suggestions can help you reduce your stress.  Your personal situation or health condition may be very complicated, but by starting with stress reduction great improvements can be made to your health, happiness, and longevity.

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WholeHealth Wellness: the idea of balance June 24, 2011

When we talk about becoming healthier with WholeHealth Wellness, we talk a lot about balance.

Balance is a somewhat nebulous term and is often called harmony.  Our premise is that all human body processes are interrelated and they are in continual interaction with each other and with the environment.  A state of balance or harmony with these interrelationships is what we call health.  Disease is simply a pattern of disharmonies.

Symptoms and physical signs help the practitioner access what is out of balance and by helping to correct  the imbalances assist the patient to heal.  Imbalances can occur in many different forms, since we as humans are very complex and imbalances tend to be multi-factorial.

Any model or theory of health or disease is just a model and not what is actually there.  It is a simplification so we can analyze and act. The old saying is that “the map is not the territory”. Still, maps are very useful symbolic representations and can help us find our way from here to there.

Chinese medicine has various models for how we look at the world and what can be out of balance.  “Yin and Yang” is one of the most useful models.   Yin and Yang originally denoted opposite sides of a mountain.  In the morning, one side was in shade, the other in sunlight.  Later in the day, the sides reversed.  Yin and yang describe the continuous force of change and the intertwined nature of things; they symbolize balance and harmony in our perpetual interplay with our internal environments and our exterior environments.  Yin and Yang relationships are more than just opposites:  they support and require each other.  The traditional, circular yin and yang symbol shows the interrelated nature of yin and yang, where each flows into the next and each has a component of the other within.

Examples of yin and yang pervade the universe and illustrate that one cannot exist without the other.  Male and female, hot and cold, up and down, activity and rest, day and night, inside and outside, front and back….there is no end to the examples.  One can think of the action of a wave at the ocean with its ebb and flow.  More technically, think of the sine wave, where positive and negative polarities oscillate in rhythmic frequencies.

Some yin and yang examples:

Yin                                            Yang

Cold                                           Hot

Rest                                         Activity

Lower body                           Upper body

Inner body                             Outer body

Chronic diseases                  Acute diseases

Deficiency conditions         Excess conditions

When yin or yang dominates, disharmony and disease result.  Paying attention to yin and yang helps to assess balance and harmony, and also gives the practitioner insight into how to assist in restoring harmony.

We can go back to the Buddhist idea that attachment leads to suffering.  When this natural flow of yin to yang and back is blocked in some way (attachment), disharmony results and suffering or disease occurs.

The acupuncture meridian system is another very useful model of looking for patterns of disharmony.  Qi is the basic life energy or life force referred to in many traditions.  It can be considered the sum of all your body’s electrical, chemical, magnetic, and subtle energies.  Your body is nourished by, cleansed by, and dependent upon the flow of Qi.  Normal flows of Qi (and its yin counterpart blood) are the basis of good health.

The acupuncture meridian system consists of fourteen major channels and numerous minor channels.  These are interconnected and flow is normally continuous from one meridian to the next.  When the flow is blocked for some reason is when problems occur.  The meridian system provides a means for the body to balance itself between inner and outer, left and right, and up and down.  Acupuncture points are like switches and can be used to regulate the flow of energy along the channels and to their associated organs.

A very useful model that I use often is called “Eight Principals” in Chinese Medicine.  The eight principals are four yin-yang pairs of conditions:  excess/deficient, inside/outside, hot/cold, and damp/dry.  Chinese medicine uses these eight principles to access the location and nature of an illness.  Once this is known, the treatment often becomes obvious:  if the condition is too hot, cool it down; if the condition is too damp, dry it out.

Excess/deficient:  these terms describe too much or too little of some component of nature, disease or the patient.  Sudden illness comes from excess, chronic illness suggests deficiency.  Symptoms of excess are usually stronger than those caused by deficiency.  A severe sore throat suggests excess (viral and yang) while a persistently scratchy throat implies heat caused by a deficiency of coolness or moisture (yin).

Inside/Outside:  Does the disharmony originate from outside (yang) or inside (yin)?  Is it some exterior pathogenic factor such as airborne viruses, or a bacterial infection?  Exterior factors can penetrate the body and become interior diseases if our defenses are not strong or if we have created an interior environment open to the pathogenic factor.  However, some diseases are primarily interior creations and result from deficiency, emotions, or other forms of stagnation within the body.

Hot/Cold:  Hot and cold pairings refer to more than just relative temperatures.  A heat symptom could be something like hyperactivity or inability to rest and may not be reflected in body temperature.  Heat suggests an oversupply of Qi or an inadequacy of the body’s cooling system.  Cold suggests the opposite:  under-stimulation, poor flow, Qi deficiency or weak metabolic function.  Of course we can usually find examples of both present in the same person:  some aspects or regions will be too hot and some too cold.

Damp/Dry:  All life is dependent on moisture but too much is also not optimal.  Excessive dampness inside the body gives pathogenic factors such as bacteria or fungi an opportunity to multiply.  We see this excess moisture in the form of swollen tissue, water retention such as edema, or excess phlegm.  Dryness is the opposite and demonstrates a scarcity of fluids.  In dryness, there is not enough moisture to harmoniously sustain life; dryness can be both the cause and result of blood or yin deficiency.  So when conditions are too dry, we try to help them become more damp; if too damp, we try to make them more dry.

Whatever the pattern of disharmony, our role as a practitioner is to help bring the body/mind back to harmony.

There are many other models within Chinese medicine: the five elements is a major one that I don’t often utilize.  The twelve organs is a model that I do often use.

The point is that most models or maps have their uses. If the maps are accurate and are applied correctly, the patients find their way to better health.  Ultimately that is how we judge the usefulness of any theory:  does it help produce the results we want?

 

Cold and Flu Prevention November 8, 2010

Late October/Early November is the traditional start of flu season. Here is what usually happens:  The schoolchildren eat excessive amounts of Halloween candy.  The extra sugar acts to suppress their immune systems.  At the same time, cool, damp weather begins and the children are inside more.  Soon various forms of flu are spreading from child to child in a receptive environment and from there the flu spreads to the adults.

How do we prevent the flu? The general 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 Wan 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!

 

 

Preventing Cancer October 8, 2010

In a sense, we all have cancer.   We all have a small proportion of cancer cells among the trillions of cells that make up our bodies.  The normal healthy immune system easily deals with these, breaking down the cancer cells harmlessly while performing all the other immune functions.  What is normally called Cancer, (groups of cancer cells that become large enough to diagnose) usually occurs after a long period of immune dysfunction.  Allergies, inflammation, poor diet, stress, genetics, poor digestion, exposure to environmental toxins and inability to detoxify all can contribute to this immune system dysfunction.

Our task with WholeHealth WellnessTM is to do everything we can to maintain healthy immune system function before cancer can develop. It seems significant that to my knowledge no patient who has had regular care using WholeHealth WellnessTM has ever been diagnosed with cancer. This is probably not statistically significant and will undoubtedly change at some point; still it is very comforting both for patients and for me as a practitioner.

Acupuncture, herbs, enzyme therapy, homeopathic detoxification, stress reduction, and bioenergetic clearings are all components of WholeHealth WellnessTM .   Using these modalities, we seek to balance and enhance your immune system so that cancer and other diseases never develop in the first place.

Remember the old saying:  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

 

 

Did you know that acupuncture is often used to relieve the side effects of chemotherapy?

The National Cancer Institute recently compiled numerous studies showing the beneficial effects of acupuncture on chemotherapy patients.  Reduced pain, less fatigue and less nausea are the main effects. Patients who receive acupuncture while undergoing chemotherapy experience reduced pain, less fatigue and less nausea than patients receiving chemotherapy alone. There is also an enhancement of immune function that occurs with those who receive acupuncture.

Here is the link to the National Cancer Institute compilation about acupuncture and chemotherapy:

http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/cam/acupuncture/HealthProfessional/page5

In addition to acupuncture, our chemotherapy patients often receive digestive enzyme supplements to help with healing and energy.  We generally do not give herbs while a patient is receiving chemotherapy since there could be some interactions with the chemotherapy and we view our role in cancer treatment as an adjunct to the Western Medicine primary care.  However, once the course of chemotherapy is completed, there are many wonderful herbs that can help patients to recover rapidly.

Of course prevention is always easier and more effective than treatment after an illness has occurred.  The true and higher calling of our medicine is to prevent illnesses from occurring in the first place.  I’ll discuss how this applies to cancer in the next post.

 

 

Did you know that very popular heartburn/reflux medications contribute to osteoporosis? October 1, 2010

From an article in Health Daily News on May 25, 2010:  “Blockbuster heartburn medications such as Prevacid, Prilosec and Nexium will now carry a warning on their labels linking the drugs to a heightened risk for fractures, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced.”

Here’s a link to the rest of the article:

http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=116609

While these heartburn medications are advertised as harmless, in fact long-term use significantly impairs your ability to metabolize proteins and minerals.  The most obvious result we see in our practice is fatigue.  However, it is now apparent that reduced bone mass is another long-term side effect.   You need your stomach acid to digest your foods!

We have a better way.  Acupuncture along with some of our herbs and enzymes can dramatically improve your digestion and eliminate reflux symptoms.  Plus you will feel more relaxed!

 

Did you know that acupuncture improves your chances of success with In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)?

Filed under: acupuncture,stress,Uncategorized — Dr. Darshan S. Khalsa @ 1:12 pm
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We have helped many women increase their fertility and have babies, both with and without IVF. Acupuncture helps both by decreasing stress and by redirecting blood and energy flow to the reproductive system.

Here’s a link to a summary of seven NIH studies on this issue of fertility and IVF:

http://nccam.nih.gov/research/results/spotlight/020808.htm

Other recent studies have shown that elevated stress markers were inversely correlated with fertility. This makes a lot of sense…when we are stressed, energy is going to arms, legs, elevated heart rate, short term mental activities and other functions that we would need for “fight or flight”. Therefore our body energy is going away from our reproductive system, our digestive system and all of our other “repair and restore” functions.