Dr. Darshan S. Khalsa's Blog

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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?

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Stress and digestion: how they interact and simple ways to make improvements

In our practice we find long term chronic stress and poor digestion to be the two health conditions at the root of most other problems.  Furthermore, long term chronic stress and poor digestion interact to make each other much worse.

We find that up to 80% of the symptoms that people initially present with are improved when stress and digestion are dealt with first.  We also find that the patient’s remaining symptoms become much easier to alleviate:  we see less pain, less fatigue, better sleep, improved fertility, moods improved, and reductions to allergies when we deal with stress and digestion first.

How does stress impair digestion?

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.

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 simultaneously reducing stress and improving digestion results in improvements to so many other symptoms.

What can be done about stress?

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, many of which we utilize in our practice, but none are as easy to do on your own as Long Deep Breathing.

What can be done to improve digestion?

Reducing stress is one key; eating in a pleasant environment in an unhurried way is another.  Beyond that, digestion can be improved by avoiding highly processed foods and by avoiding foods grown on soils with heavy fertilizer and pesticides use.  These food production practices result in nutritionally deficient foods.  Our bodies have to work harder to draw nutrition from these foods.

In our practice we also frequently recommend supplementing with digestive enzymes:  Digestive enzymes are what our bodies use to break down the foods we eat.  As we get older our bodies produce fewer enzymes; supplementing can result in great improvements to digestion.  In clinical practice, there are many additional steps that can be taken.

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

 

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.

 

Today’s front page in the Washington Business Journal is about the new Long Deep Breathing iPhone App December 4, 2009

Today’s Washington Business Journal put us on the front page!  Here’s the link:
 
 

Holistic medicine practice puts deep-breathing app on iPhone to draw in new customers and revenue

Washington Business Journal – by Melissa Castro Staff Reporter

Joanne S. Lawton
Dr. Darshan Khalsa has launched a “Long Deep Breathing” mobile application to spread holistic medicine techniques.

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A Reston-based alternative medicine practice is launching ancient spiritual concepts into the frenetic world of iPhone apps, in yet another sign of technology’s steady march into pretty much every fiber of our existence.

Dr. Darshan Khalsa and his wife, Carol O’Donnell Khalsa, went live this month with their first app, “Long Deep Breathing.” It’s a stress relief technique that is part of the Kundalini yoga that Darshan Khalsa has practiced since the early 1970s.

The Khalsas’ collaborative project hints at the limitless opportunity behind smart phones and the app craze, a no-barriers-to-entry industry that has made millionaires out of entrepreneurs peddling everything from flatulent noisemakers to imaginary farms that sell imaginary seeds for genuine money.

If expelling air can make big bucks, there has to be a market for inhaling.

“Apps,” or applications, are tiny software programs that give smart phones the power to find a restaurant, hail a cab and identify the song playing on the cab’s radio.

Khalsa, a quiet Sikh convert whose gentle hazel eyes and impossible stillness of being inspire healing in his 1,500 or so patients at Khalsa Integrative Medicine, is an unlikely prophet for technology and social media. He rises at 4 a.m. to do yoga and pray for world peace, then tends to 10 or 12 patients a day.

If Khalsa were left to his own devices, “I’d have just four or five patients — she’s the one who brings in the patients,” he said in his Reston office, surrounded by Chinese herbs, maps of the body’s energy meridians and dozens of certificates affirming his training in alternative and Oriental medicine.

O’Donnell Khalsa handles the marketing for her husband’s practice with a muscular New York brassiness that grabs you by the collar and demands your attention. She has her own long history with alternative medicine, but that’s not the contribution she makes to their relationship. “My background is health care marketing, yours is healing the world and together we co-create that,” O’Donnell Khalsa said to her husband.

Thanks in part to his wife’s tenacity, Khalsa could soon have millions of patients from around the globe, although none will pay more than a dollar for his advice.

In just five days — despite snafus in the initial launch — the breathing app had already been downloaded 46 times. Without a single act of marketing by either Khalsa, iPhone users from as far away as Australia have downloaded the breathing app.

Even the app’s developer, George Churchwell, the president of Herndon-based Tech 2000 Inc., was surprised by its early success. “If they had asked me my opinion, I would have said, ‘Eh, I don’t know. Do people really need to learn how to breathe?’” Churchwell said. “But Darshan hit on something that resonates with many people.”

While Long Deep Breathing is no iFart Mobile — which has been downloaded half a million times since December 2008 and has frequently pulled in as much as $10,000 a day — it’s a reminder of the app craze’s unlimited opportunity for entrepreneurs.

“This is the third wave,” said Churchwell, who launched Tech 2000 as a software and computer training company in 1984. (The company started writing apps in January.)

Before Google’s search engines, Churchwell says, most companies were invisible on the Internet. After Google took over the Web and began charging for prominent placement in its search results, “the big guys crawled to the top and owned the Internet again,” Churchwell said.

But Apple Inc.’s App Store has leveled the playing field once more, creating a space where placement is based on the number of downloads and the level of positive feedback an app has received.

If you’re creative and already tech-savvy, it could cost you as little as $99 to write your own app and put it in the App Store. Last summer, Churchwell’s Tech 2000 trained high school students at Woodson High in Northeast Washington to create a basic

iPhone home page for their schools.

Not only does Churchwell believe anyone can write an app, he’s also developed a business model to prove his own theory true. By creating engines that can easily program apps for any sort of educational content, Churchwell is now willing to develop any well-conceived app for anyone, free of startup costs. Instead, Tech 2000 takes a 50 percent cut of all sales revenue left over after Apple takes its own 30 percent slice of total revenue.

“We’re like mini-venture capitalists,” Churchwell said.

The Khalsas’ breathing app didn’t fit into the existing templates offered by Tech 2000, so it was built from scratch and paid for on a flat-fee basis. (The Khalsas declined to say how much the app cost to develop.)

The Khalsas are already working on developing their next two holistic health apps, including a wellness assessment that will be a free download.

At its current sales clip, the Churchwells expect that Long Deep Breathing will pay for itself within six months. But that’s hardly the point.

It’s more about seva — the Sanskrit word for selfless service. “The cost is irrelevant — it’s about putting our energy into something,” O’Donnell Khalsa said. “The goal of our relationship is to transform the health of as many people as we can.”

 

 

 

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.

 

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.