Dr. Darshan S. Khalsa's Blog

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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.

 

Energy Medicine September 7, 2009

Underlying the material structure and physiology of our bodies is an energetic level.  Our sensory perceptions of the material forms of our bodies and our surroundings are somewhat illusory:  to our senses everything seems very solid and distinct, but actually what we are perceiving is mostly empty space with energetic connections.  Our understanding from modern physics and ancient spiritual teachings is that what we term matter is interchangeable with energy and that matter is simply a more dense form of energy.  Clinically we can view the material form of our bodies as a lower frequency version of our energetic nature. 

Disease begins at the energetic level long before it can be detected physically, and healing usually begins at this same energetic level.   When body energy is flowing correctly and in the right quantities, the chemical/structural aspects of the body come into alignment with the body energy and healing proceeds rapidly.   We see this over and over in the clinic. 

Our understanding is that chronic disease or pain states usually occur on an energetic level first; when these imbalanced states persist for periods of time ranging from weeks to years, a physical change occurs that reflects this.  It is at this point that the Western Medicine diagnostic methods can usually identify the problem. 

So many times patients have gone to Western medical doctors with various symptoms and been told that the lab tests do not show any problems.   However, as time passes and the patterns become frozen into physically detectable forms, treatment becomes much more difficult.   If imbalances are treated in their earlier energetic phases, balance is much easier to restore and most physical symptoms can be avoided.  It is these energetic imbalances that we focus on discovering and correcting with our WholeHealth WellnessTM techniques.

Coming soon:  The four predominant historical  systems of Energy Medicine.

 

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
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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.

 

Welcome! July 29, 2009

Welcome to Khalsa Integrative Medicine’s WholeHealth WellnessTM  blog.  I hope you discover that these thoughts are both interesting and useful.    My intent is to create a handbook for patient health and longevity. Some ideas I explain to almost every patient and since it is hard to absorb everything the first time, this is the place patients can go to for more explanation or a repeat explanation.    Eventually I will be expanding these entries and gathering them in a more organized and coherent way for a book.

 Over the last few years I have assembled a group of techniques that have enabled the surprisingly successful treatment of a wide variety of health conditions. This collection of protocols is called WholeHealth WellnessTM.

 The key to WholeHealth WellnessTM is our application of the oldest healing method in the world: Discover what aspects of the body/mind are out of balance.  Use various therapies to bring the unbalanced aspects into balance.  The body/mind will then heal itself.  Allow this healing to occur and repeat the entire process as needed.

 When the sources of symptoms are reduced or removed, healing can happen relatively quickly. Although the basic concept is very simple, finding and reducing imbalances can be somewhat complex.   As we practice this WholeHealth WellnessTM technique, the application includes acupuncture, yogic breathing techniques, enzyme therapy, herbal medicine, homeopathic medicine, kinesiology, energy psychology, and various bioenergetic clearing methods.

I will be discussing all of these and more in upcoming entries.   Please feel free to leave comments.  If you have a question, please leave a comment or e-mail me at DSK@KhalsaMedicine.com.

 

Long Deep Breathing

Filed under: stress,yogic breathing techniques — Dr. Darshan S. Khalsa @ 7:23 pm
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Much of what I have to say has been said before, and probably better, by others.  Still, this information may be new to you, or presented in such a way that it registers just right for you.   My hope is that you will find these entries useful in helping to improve your health, longevity, and happiness.

 One of the simplest and most profound ways to 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, 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 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 advertised on TV 15 times a day!

 

Battlefield Acupuncture

Filed under: acupuncture — Dr. Darshan S. Khalsa @ 7:12 pm
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I’d like to introduce you to a great new pain reduction technique that I learned recently.  It is called the Battlefield Acupuncture Technique and it uses a type of acupuncture called auricular acupuncture.   Tiny gold plated steel needles are inserted into the ear and remain there for three days.   Usually five or six needles are inserted and in many cases the reduction in pain is immediate and lasting.

 This technique was developed by Dr. Richard Niemtzow of the US Air Force based on earlier work by Dr. Paul Nogier of France.   Dr. Nogier’s discoveries were later incorporated into a Chinese system of ear acupuncture in the 1970’s and on.   Like body acupuncture, ear acupuncture has been done for centuries.  However, these refinements are relatively new.  Dr. Niemtzow’s protocol is now being taught to medics and doctors in the armed forces for use on critical missions.

 The ear is incredibly sensitive for no apparent reason.   There are about as many nerves going to the outer ears as to the hands; however the outer ears do not need the fine motor coordination of the hands.   Why so many nerves?   That is a topic for another day.  For now it is enough that there is a wonderful technique that often brings dramatic and immediate pain reduction.