Dr. Darshan S. Khalsa's Blog

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

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.

 

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.

 

PAIN, SUFFERING, AND THE ROAD BACK TO HEALTH July 23, 2010

Pain is one of the major reasons that people seek medical attention, and physical pain is responsible for about 25% of patient visits to our practice.  Pain is very mysterious… sometimes a small stimulus can lead to great pain and likewise, very simple treatments can often lead to great pain reduction.

For physical pain, I often use a technique called “Battlefield Acupuncture”; we insert small gold plated needles into the outer ears and pain intensity usually drops dramatically in a matter of minutes. We see this happening over and over again, even with people who have been in pain for months or years….how can this possibly work?  Read on for our explanation…

What is pain?  We know it when we feel it.   Pain is often defined as an unpleasant sensory or emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage.  In a larger sense, pain can include emotional suffering not specifically tied to tissue damage, but to damage of any sort.  Pain may come in all degrees of intensity, from mild to intolerable.  Duration and frequency of occurrence can increase our feelings of pain or suffering.

Pain can serve a very useful purpose to motivate us to withdraw from damaging or potentially damaging situations, protect ourselves while healing occurs, and to avoid the causes of pain in the future. Most pain resolves promptly once the painful stimulus is removed and the body/mind has healed, but sometimes pain persists despite removal of the stimulus and apparent healing of the body; and sometimes pain arises in the absence of any detectable cause.

The Western medical view is that physical pain is initiated by stimulation of nociceptors in the peripheral nervous system, or by damage/malfunction of the peripheral or central nervous systems. Traditional Chinese Medicine and other forms of Energy Medicine take a very different view:  We view pain as being primarily caused by a blockage of energy. There is an energetic network underlying our physical bodies. When this flow of energy is blocked or constricted for any reason, the body/mind senses this as pain. This applies to emotional suffering as well as physical pain.   (A classic statement of this concept for emotional pain is that attachment leads to suffering, but that is a topic for another day.)

On a physical level, pain causes our muscles to tighten, which in turn compresses the nerves and decreases blood flow.  The nerve compression can increase the feeling of pain, while the reduction in blood flow prevents tissue healing.  Pain caused by trauma is a little different since there is also an inflammatory component; in that case the swollen tissues can also reduce blood flow and compress the nerve endings.

Whatever the cause, reducing or eliminating the energy blockages reduces pain and speeds healing by increasing blood flow.  Emotional pain is more complicated, but restoring energy flow results in much the same results and reduces emotional suffering as well.

We use many techniques to remove blockages and restore energy flow in our practice: body acupuncture, herbs, homeopathy, electrical stimulation, yogic breathing, ear acupuncture,  and more.  We try to select the specific modalities that will result in the most rapid improvement for each individual.  For physical pain, I like Battlefield Acupuncture because of the often immediate and dramatic pain reduction it brings….please see our previous blog post about Battlefield Acupuncture for more specific information about this wonderful technique.

While no medical treatment works on everyone all the time, it seems clear to me that people are enduring far more pain and suffering than they need to.  Simple acupuncture techniques that restore energy flow can often dramatically reduce pain and speed recovery times.  Our own clinical results and twenty-five centuries of acupuncture history have demonstrated this over and over.

 

Another Long Deep Breathing Newpaper Article! February 26, 2010

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.
 

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.”

 

 

 

Our new Long Deep Breathing iPhone App is ready! November 22, 2009

Our new Long Deep Breathing iPhone application is now available on the iTunes App store! 

This link will take you to the iTunes store where the App is described and can be purchased:

 http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/long-deep-breathing/id337291691?mt=8

Of course you can experience the benefits of Long Deep Breathing without an iPhone or an iPhone App.  Many of you who are patients have already learned the technique and understand some of the benefits of Long Deep Breathing.  

Creating the App is a way to reach out to people far beyond our patient base.   We’re hoping that many people all over the world who  are experiencing stress can learn this simple Long Deep Breathing technique and derive many benefits from it.  Perhaps those who already know the Long Deep Breathing technique will be reminded to practice it more often.  The App does seem to make Long Deep Breathing  more fun, particularly as you work to slow down your breathing….it becomes quite easy to track and challenge yourself. 

We’ve already had sales in 14 countries!  For some reason, it seems to be selling well in Australia. In addition to the iPhone, the App will work on an iPod Touch.

Remember, our clinical experience is that people who practice Long Deep Breathing for 5 minutes, three times daily, will experience major health improvements!