Dr. Darshan S. Khalsa's Blog

THOUGHTS ON WHOLEHEALTH WELLNESS…..VISIT US AT WWW.KHALSAMEDICINE.COM TO LEARN MORE

Did you know that acupuncture improves your chances of success with In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)? October 1, 2010

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.

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BATTLEFIELD ACUPUNCTURE AND THE ARC OF ACCEPTANCE September 5, 2010

My previous blog post was about a pain reduction technique  called Battlefield Acupuncture.  At Khalsa Integrative Medicine we utilize both the beginning and the advanced Battlefield Acupuncture techniques and the pain reduction results have been outstanding! I believe that this technique will move much closer to mainstream acceptance within the next few years.

New ideas or medical therapies typically go through a three-step process as they move into mainstream acceptance.

The first step is to be ignored; the second step is strong opposition from mainstream medicine, and the third step is acceptance.

In the first step, therapies are often ignored when they don’t fit into the mainstream ways of thinking (It couldn’t possibly work, so why bother investigating?)

In the second step, there is some acceptance or success with the new idea, so the entrenched way of thinking begins to strongly oppose the idea. (The idea couldn’t possibly work and here are all the reasons why it couldn’t possibly work, the results must be phony, etc…, etc…)

The third step begins when there is enough success with the new idea or therapy that people many people want to use it regardless of whether it fits into mainstream medical thought. (We know it works, even if we don’t yet understand all the reasons why it works.)

An article last week in the military newspaper Stars and Stripes about Battlefield Acupuncture illustrates this three-step process very well.

Here’s the link:  http://www.stripes.com/military-turns-to-acupuncture-as-alternative-to-prescription-painkillers-1.116167

Here’s some of the article:

“As the number of prescriptions for opiate painkillers skyrockets — and more troops admit abusing those drugs — the military has been forced to look beyond conventional ways to treat pain.

“This is a nationwide problem,” said Brig. Gen. Richard Thomas, assistant Army surgeon general. “We’ve got a culture of a pill for every ill.”

In June, the Army surgeon general released a report addressing the lack of a comprehensive pain-management strategy, suggesting alternative treatments including meditation and yoga.

Even though some in the medical field maintain that acupuncture has never been proved effective, the Air Force sees it as one of the more promising alternatives to combat pain.”

The article goes on to quote many patients and doctors saying what great results they are getting with alternative techniques in general and Battlefield Acupuncture in particular, and other doctors saying it can’t possibly work and therefore it doesn’t work.

It looks like we are somewhere between steps two and three in the arc of acceptance—the technique has had enough success that it is no longer ignored, and it is now accepted by some and strongly rejected by others.

Over the years, I have seen the same arc occur with acupuncture in general, organic foods, yoga, meditation, herbal medicine, energetic medicine, kinesiology, and many other modalities.  This gradual acceptance is part of the process we go through individually and collectively when we are exposed to new ideas.

I am very gratified to see such a conservative and traditional institution as the military begin to embrace alternative therapies.  In this the military is beginning to exemplify the highest form of conservatism:  a practical examination of what works and what doesn’t work.  Then, if it works let’s use it more, if it doesn’t work let’s try something else.

 

Sunlight, Vitamin D, and Heliotherapy May 4, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized,wellness — Dr. Darshan S. Khalsa @ 9:58 am
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It is well established science that our bodies manufacture Vitamin D when exposed to sunlight and that Vitamin D serves many important health functions with our cells and organs. It is becoming well established science that supplementing with Vitamin D has numerous benefits. It is not yet established science (but I believe that it someday will be) that receiving sunlight is far superior to taking Vitamin D supplements.

First some background: Vitamin D does not meet the technical definition of a vitamin as something that is essential to human health but that cannot be produced by the body. Vitamin D is essential to our health (used in calcium and phosphorous metabolism, a strong role in the immune system, anti-cancer properties, and much more); however it can be produced by our bodies when we are exposed to the UVB rays of the sun. This role of sunlight was not known when the substance was first discovered and named. Once something is named, the name usually sticks, so Vitamin D it is and will remain.

Cholecalciferol or Vitamin D3, is the natural form of vitamin D for humans. Vitamin D3 is produced in the skin with sunlight exposure. Vitamin D2, known as ergocalciferol, is a compound produced by irradiating yeast with ultraviolet light. As a supplement, Vitamin D3 is much easier to metabolize than the D2 form.

There is some controversy over the optimal amounts of Vitamin D. The 400 IU amounts of Vitamin D found in many multiple vitamins are usually sufficient to prevent severe deficiencies but are usually not enough to provide optimal amounts. 2000 IU is usually taken as a safe optimal daily dose when supplementing; the only way to know for sure is have your Vitamin D levels tested. Blood levels of Vitamin D less than 20 ng/ml (nanograms per milliliter) is considered deficient while somewhere between 40 ng/ml and 70 ng/ml is considered optimal

Now for sunlight: 30 minutes of summer sunlight can produce up to 20,000 IU of Vitamin D for someone exposed to the mid-day sun while wearing a bathing suit without sunscreen. However, at our latitude, little or no Vitamin D will be produced by sunlight exposure from November through March. I had my Vitamin D levels tested in early April which should be somewhere near the annual low—mine was at 17 ng/ml which is just below the minimum recommended 20 ng/ml. Now it is May, and sunlight is abundant so I expect my levels by the fall will be quite high again. I think I’ll get retested then just to see…

The latest research shows that the dangers of too little sunshine exposure with subsequent low Vitamin D levels far exceed the dangers of too much sunlight exposure. (Don’t get sunburned though!) This leads to the following question: Why not simply supplement with vitamin D3 and not worry about getting sunshine? To me, this is similar to the question of why not just supplement with vitamins and ignore what we eat. I think that just as we are discovering that there are many previously unknown micro-nutrients that our bodies need in foods, we will discover that sunshine helps our bodies produce far more than simple Vitamin D.

Science is beginning to show this. Here’s a link about a study showing that the effects of sunlight were greater than the effects of Vitamin D in reducing the incidence of multiple sclerosis symptoms: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2010-03/uow-sel032210.php

Over time, I think that many other studies of this nature will be performed. In the meantime, heliotherapy (therapy with sunshine) has a long and successful history of promoting wellness and curing disease. Sunshine is cheap and abundant this time of year, so get out in the sun! Start with 15 or 20 minutes at a time with no sunscreen, but don’t let yourself get sunburned. For most of you, 90 to 150 minutes per week of direct mid-day sun should be sufficient. You will feel so much more relaxed!   In October, when the sun starts to get lower in the sky, I’ll recommend some vitamin D3 supplementation for many of you.

 

Updated IPhone App version coming soon February 26, 2010

Filed under: stress,Uncategorized,yogic breathing techniques — Dr. Darshan S. Khalsa @ 7:11 pm
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An updated version of our Long Deep Breathing Application will be available soon…

In response to your requests, we will be including a way to do more advanced breathing exercises (called pranayams in the yogic tradition) by individually adjusting the inhale, hold-in, exhale, and hold-out times.  I’ll let you know when it is ready.

There are many wonderful ways to do breathing exercises and each has slightly different effects.  The simple and basic Long Deep Breathing exercise remains the best for beginners and those who want to reduce their stress levels, lower blood pressure, and improve their overall health.

Here are some instructions on how to do Long Deep Breathing:

Sit with your spine straight or lay on the floor with your spine straight. All inhaling and exhaling is through the nose.
Exhale all the air out of your lungs through your nose by contracting your navel point back toward the spine. Now inhale deep, pushing the navel point out and expanding the lower one-third of your lungs. Then consciously expand the middle portion of your lungs by expanding your chest. Finally expand the upper third of your lungs. Your collarbone will lift slightly and your shoulders may go back slightly. Once you have reached the full inhale, hold for a second or so, and then reverse the process. Exhale first the top, then the middle, finally the bottom. At the end of the exhale, immediately begin the next inhale.
This process will feel very natural after a little practice.
If the breath feels jerky, you are probably trying too hard. Just relax and continue practicing. Here is a simple fix: put a finger about four inches in front of your torso. As you breathe, move your finger smoothly up and down, from the level of your navel to your chin. Let this be a guide, raising the finger as you inhale and lowering as you exhale. You will soon be breathing smoothly. Think of a big pitcher slowly filling with water, starting at the bottom and slowly filling to the top, with the opposite on the exhale.

 

Another Long Deep Breathing Newpaper Article!

This article form the Fairfax Times actually came out in December, 2009.   In addition to talking about the Long Deep Breathing App, it talks  about our practice.

Here’s the link:

http://www.fairfaxtimes.com/cms/story.php?id=779

Here’s the article:

by Gregg MacDonald | Staff writer

Shamus Ian Fatzinger/Fairfax County Times
Darshan S. Khalsa, of Reston’s Khalsa Integrative Medicine, LLC, displays the iPhone application he helped design to lead users through a series of deep breathing exercises.
A Reston alternative healer has teamed up with a Herndon software developer to create an iPhone software application that helps people practice holistic deep breathing techniques — and it is selling all over the world.
 

To Vaccinate or Not Vaccinate? October 16, 2009

Patients have been asking me lately about whether or not they should get the flu vaccinations, both regular seasonal flu vaccination and the H1N1 swine flu vaccination.

I think the short answer for most of my patients is no.  However, this is not a simple question, so I’m going to take a round about way of answering it, and first discuss vaccinations in general.

Even if every bad thing you have ever heard about the effect of vaccinations on individuals is true: (vaccinations contribute to autism in children, they can cause auto-immune disorders, people often get sick immediately after getting vaccinated, some of the additives in vaccines can contribute to cancer or neurological diseases); even then, from a public health perspective, vaccinations are still often beneficial. The benefits to the general public of not getting epidemics outweigh the individual negatives. Over the course of the 20th century vaccinations have apparently helped reduce the incidence of infectious diseases such as smallpox, whooping cough, and polio. At the same time, for most individuals there seems to be very little immediate negative effects from getting vaccinated.

So what we have to do is find a reasonable balance between the severity of the epidemic threat, the effectiveness of the vaccine against the epidemic threat, and the potential harm to the individual from getting vaccinated.

At this time, for the regular seasonal flu vaccine, there is little or no evidence that the flu shot is even effective at reducing the incidence of flu. You can see a very interesting article in this month’s Atlantic magazine, titled “Does the Vaccine Matter?” (Available online at: http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200911/brownlee-h1n1 ).  The years that the flu vaccine has been a good match for the seasonal flu have no difference in outcomes from the years in which the flu vaccine has been a poor match. No large scale double blind testing has ever been done. There is a widespread belief that flu shots reduce the incidence of flu, but very little evidence that this is true.

For the H1N1 swine flu vaccination (now just starting to be available) here is the situation: While the virus spreads easily, the sickness itself is so far relatively mild and most people have developed no lasting problems. At the same time, the effectiveness of the vaccine is unknown and the risk of potential harm from a new, relatively untested vaccine is higher than normal.

So it seems that for both seasonal flu and H1N1 swine flu, there is very little benefit from getting the vaccinations and very little risk incurred from not getting the vaccinations.  This is why I have been recommending that patients not get flu shots and that patients instead take other steps to build their immune systems naturally.

Aside from the lack of benefits, there are potential downsides to getting the flu vaccinations. These downsides apply to most other vaccinations as well, and that is why vaccinations should be individually evaluated for benefits and risks.  There is no effective treatment that doesn’t potentially cause some problems.

Here is a partial listing of some of the potential downsides of vaccinations:

Mercury in the form of Thimeresol is used as a preservative in many vaccines. Mercury is a known neurotoxin and can combine with other factors to induce neurological and auto-immune disorders.

If you are already sick, getting a vaccination may throw your immune system further out of balance and cause long lasting problems. Never get a vaccination when you are feeling sick. This is a particular problem with young children since their immune systems are not fully developed. Likewise, receiving multiple vaccinations at once is not a good idea. Children in this country receive far more vaccinations than in other countries with some evidence that their overall health is worse.

Introducing an infectious agent directly into the blood stream means that it is not mediated by the normal immune protections. In addition, some vaccines contain aluminum, formaldehyde and other toxic substances. These substances can cause allergic reactions that can lead to auto immune disorders in those who already have compromised health. Even non-toxic vaccine additives such as squalene or egg whites can induce allergic reactions when introduced directly into the blood.

There are many more potential downsides. Some people will develop either immediate or long term problems after getting vaccinated. Of course, most relatively healthy people will have no problems whatsoever with the vaccines.

In the case of the seasonal flu or H1N1 flu vaccinations, the risks of getting the vaccine are not balanced by the potential rewards.

The answer for other diseases or for future pandemic diseases could be different.

 

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.