Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine ● Longevity Nutrition

Monthly Archives: November 2009

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, pernicious anemia falls under an extreme example of the category Blood deficiency and Spleen Qi deficiency. The conventional medicine explanation is a deficiency of vitamin B12 either from an inability to absorb it or simple insufficiency.  The ensuing drop in red blood cells hinders the body’s ability to deliver oxygen to tissues. The resulting symptoms include shortness of breath; dizziness, especially when standing up; headache; coldness in hands or feet; pale skin, gums, and nail beds; heart palpitations and arrhythmias.  Over time, the body will tap into reserves from the bone marrow and nerve myelin resulting in more severe symptoms such as neuropathy, wasting and tremors. 

This is not an uncommon condition in elderly people and conventional physicians will often prescribe B12 injections.  The problem is that many of these people no longer make the enzyme, intrinsic factor, which necessary for B12 absorption.  In this situation, no amount of B12 will rectify the situation without replacing this crucial enzyme which is made in the stomach. It’s possible that formulas like Gui Pi Wan offer some improvement of pernicious anemia perhaps by enhancing the production of various enzymes including Intrinsic Factor. 

When treating pernicious anemia adding B12 with intrinsic factor to any Traditional Chinese Medicine treatment protocol is like magic!  Unless there is an autoimmune condition in which the body attacks intrinsic factor, there will always a significant improvement.  As a general rule, any time you see a case with symptoms of Blood deficiency, B12 supplementation will almost always produce fast and marked improvements. 

General Recommendations

  • Cyanocobalamin – 2000-3000 mcg per day for six weeks
  • Intrinsic Factor 20mg per day
  • Always include at least 800 mcg of folic acid and 25mg of B6.
**It’s important to keep in mind that B12 works with folic acid and vitamin B6 for effective methylation and detoxification in the liver.  If there is a deficiency of B12 there is likely a deficiency of folic acid and B6 as well and I recommend including both of these. 
  •  If you are dealing with a patient who clearly had lack of development as a child (smaller body, hands, cognitive or learning disabilities etc) there is likely an absorption problem along with a conversion problem in the liver.  In these cases, I find hydroxocobalamin 3000-5000 mcg for six to eight weeks then a smaller maintenance dose to be very effective. 
  • If the condition has resulted in nerve symptoms such as tremors or neuropathy a combination of methylcolbalamin and cyanocobalamin 3000 mcg of each per day for six weeks.  Then 1000-2000 mcg of each per day until the condition has resolved. 

If the patient is on ProCrit, I have found no problems with adding the above. 

Herbs

Along with your primary formulae here are some helpful guidelines.

  • Small doses of Suo Yang and Bu Gu Zhi can be very helpful for quicker recovery
  • Dang Gui and Huang Qi combination in doses from 15-30g are extremely effective
  • Caution with He Shou Wu – this is often thought of as a blood tonic but in this case where you have poor methylation in the liver, He Shou Wu can actually be a little toxic and may result in unexpected problems.  In this case it can actually result in elevated liver enzymes.
  • Ji Xue Teng – Strange herb.  Very helpful if you are seeing signs that the body is tapping into its marrow reserves BUT if the patient is already having dizziness when standing, this herb can exacerbate the problem.  In elderly people I would use this with extreme caution and start with small doses.  Do not use this herb if they are on blood thinners.
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As an herbalist, I have strong concerns about the growing popularity and widespread use of the ancient herb, Mucuna pruriens, as an herbal and dietary supplement.  Mucuna pruriens has an almost magical ability to improve motivation, well being, energy and sex drive along with decreasing the tendency to overeat.  These properties are a result of its contents of natural L-dopa, a direct precursor to the neurotransmitter dopamine.  Dopamine is always present in the nervous system.  Ultra-low levels (or dysfunction of dopamine receptors) lead to conditions like Parkinson’s.  Normal levels maintain proper function of the nervous system, promote normal motivation and sex drive and help to regulate the appetite.  We experience a stronger sense of well-being when dopamine is released in response to activities such as engaging in something novel or seeing a beautiful sunset.  We release even more if we accomplish a long-term goal or have a profound experience.  Dopamine is artificially elevated in response chemicals contained in alcohol, cigarettes, cocaine, crystal meth and heroin as well as from overeating.  Excessive exposure to dopamine results in dopamine receptors not working properly.  As the nervous system needs higher and higher levels of dopamine to produce the same response, an individual seeks out more and more of the stimulating substance or activity.  This is the heart of addiction.

With its naturally-occurring L-dopa, Mucuna can be carefully used as a natural remedy to treat conditions such as addiction, obesity, dopamine-related depression or Parkinson’s.  However this MUST be done in conjunction with rehabilitation of the dopamine receptors.  Otherwise, it actually exacerbates the problem and causes further damage.  If given to people who suffer with depression from low serotonin, Mucuna can actually make the depression more severe by further lowering serotonin levels.  (Dopamine tends to suppress seretonin)

The addition of Mucuna to general dietary supplements and even to some multivitamins is completely irresponsible.  It has great capacity for misuse and in the long term could have health consequences.  Because of the seemingly magical effects of L-dopa, almost all people notice they feel better on these supplements and notice they feel worse when they stop them.  This is no different than creating another addiction.

Because of its effectiveness, I also have concerns about other herbalists and health care practitioners carelessly prescribing it without fully understanding its mechanism of action.  I am pro-education and anti-regulation.  I think Mucuna pruriens is a natural substance that practitioners need to actively educate themselves and the general public about.

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In my last post I discussed some of the evolutionary aspects of darkness and addressed humans’ psychological issues around it.  Here I would like to shed some light on one tiny example of how altering our environment has a direct effect on our own health and longevity.

A large body of research demonstrates that the master hormone, melatonin, has a powerful influence on the development and growth of cancer cells. Melatonin, which is one of the few hormones that is present in all animals and some plants, is produced by the pineal gland in response to darkness.  It plays an indispensible role in the regulation and coordination of circadian rhythms, hormone levels, reproductive cycles, feeding times and neurotransmitter levels in all animals.   We’ve known for a long time that melatonin suppresses tumor growth by altering the cell’s use of fatty acids.  The evidence also suggests that it alters estrogen sensitivity of cells helping to slow or arrest the growth of breast, prostate and uterine cancers.  Small disruptions in the amount of light an organism is exposed to can result in significant drops in the production of melatonin.  A study conducted by R.T. Dauchy et al. demonstrated that very small amounts of light (.2 Lux which is that of a full moon under clear conditions or that of a door cracked into a lighted hallway) suppressed melatonin production in cancerous rats by 87% with a corresponding increase in tumor growth.  Rats that were exposed to 24 hours of light had only a slightly higher reduction in melatonin levels.  Another well-done study demonstrated that melatonin levels were affected by light spectrum more than intensity (lux).  Light emitted at shorter wavelengths, similar fluorescents and LEDs, resulted in almost a two-fold reduction in melatonin levels.  Light emitted at shorter wavelengths similar compact fluorescent or sodium bulbs had a lesser effect.

There are literally thousands of studies showing the strong link between cancer rates and melatonin levels.   A large study even showed a statistically significant reduction of hormone-sensitive cancers in blind men and women.

 Everyday our bodies develop hundreds, if not thousands, of cancer cells.  Along with our immune systems we have several lines of defense, like melatonin, that serve to slow growth and destroy these cells before they develop into tumors.  Out of the illusion of safety, light pollution has become a pervasive force in the developed world and darkness is becoming a precious commodity.  As we in the Northern Hemisphere approach the winter solstice, might I suggest that we take steps to bring the safe and lovely darkness back into our lives. 

  • Turn off  unneccesary exterior lighting – is any of it really necessary?
  •  Keep indoor lighting to a minimum as darkness falls.
  • Consider implementing one night per week with minimal light exposure and go to bed early.
  • Draw your bedroom shades. 

For more information on other things you can do including lighting that has a lesser effect on you and the ecosystem that you are a part of,  please visit The International Dark Sky Association.

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New ideas regarding human evolution are blossoming from 6 million year old fossils found in Ethiopia.  Nova’s three-part series, “Becoming Human” debuted November 3rd on Nova on PBS.  Even if you missed the first one the rest will most certainly be  illuminating, with discussions at every level of our ever-evolving  planet.  It may also give the adventurous some interesting travel ideas.  Enjoy!

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We, as human beings have somehow lost our sense of place in this ever-evolving, currently-expanding, Universe. I call this “The Illusion of Separation”. In these pages I present discussions from a generalist’s perspective on topics ranging from Trans-humanism, physics and astronomy, to consciousness, longevity, and Traditional Chinese Medicine to reveal a deeper understanding of humankind’s connection to Nature.
 
 

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DSC_0064Modern Western society has risen and thrived around the idea of “doing” and “accomplishing”.  Those of us who have grown up inside this paradigm are always looking to the next thing we are going achieve.  Reflecting upon the Law of Accelerating Returns we look back on human history and can see the pattern of our achievements in which we are now approaching the “knee of the theoretical curve”.  However, like the rhythms in everything that is a part of our world, we must consider the curves within the curve. The constant dance between light and darkness and the natural cycles that are driven by it.

Many of humankind’s greatest minds found their inspiration not by “doing” but by “being”.  By allowing inspiration to come, these moments of genius have brought creative and profound change to our species from the beginning of time. Think back on your life to those times that we have all had.   When you sunk into a single moment with a sudden certainty and understanding that wasn’t there the moment before.  These times often come when we allow ourselves to open up and “be”, if only for a tiny second.

For those of us living in the northern hemisphere, we are approaching the winter solstice, the darkest time of the year.  Think about what is happening to everything else on this part of the Earth.  Everything is going inside itself, slowing down, resting more.  It’s a time of regeneration.  There is darkness, silence and solitude.  In Traditional Chinese yin-yang theory we are approaching the most yin time of year.  Like the trees that put all their resources in the ground to be able to bloom again in the spring, we have the same opportunity with our bodies and with our minds.

How do we allow some of the stillness to enter our lives so we can make room in ourselves for new inspiration?  One way is through respiration.  When we focus on our breath we bring ourselves back to the very fundamental rhythms that encompass all of nature which we are a part of.

Below are several simple, effective breathing and meditation exercises that help you to tap into the parts of yourself that can bring about inspiration.

For those of you who have taken up residence with your PC or Mac there is a great meditation and napping program called Pzizz.

Any amount of breathing or meditation exercise can be life-changing.  Like anything the more you practice the easier it becomes.  When you start out it can often takes several minutes for the mind to calm down enough to become present.   For some people it takes several sessions.  It is recommended that you allow yourself at least twenty minutes or the amount of time it takes for you to notice a shift in the activity of your mind.  You will absolutely know when you achieve this.  For anyone who finds it very difficult to focus on your breath, you might consider simply doing nothing for a few minutes per day.

Exercise 1: First, sit or lie comfortably with your eyes closed.  Inhale deeply through your nose intoyour upper chest.  Exhale somewhat forcefully through your mouth.  Try to focus completely on the process of breathing.  Repeat this part 10-15 times.

Second, inhale and exhale slowly through your nose into your lower abdomen (the area below your naval).  As you do this, allow your tummy to naturally rise and fall.

Exercise 2: This one is a little more challenging but with practice you can gain a new appreciation and understanding for your body.  Sit or lie comfortably with your eyes closed.  Take a few deep breaths to get centered and relaxed.  Exhale deeply and allow your body to inhale on its own.  Practice allowing your body to breathe on its own, as if you are an observer, watching a child breathe as it sleeps. The more you practice this, the more you will relinquish your need to feel the illusion of control.  Enjoy!

Exercise 3:  This meditation is a little more active and can be helpful if you find that you have difficulty focusing on your breath.   It has the additional benefit of activating the parasympathetic nervous system.  This part of the nervous system is normally active if we are calm.  It brings circulation to the digestive system, promotes relaxation, calms the mind and enables sexual function.  It also enhances healthy weight loss in the abdominal area, balances neurotransmitters and promotes cleansing of the intestines.  It’s exceptionally helpful for people with chronic constipation.

Instructions:  Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and your knees slightly bent.  Place your hands on the lower abdomen below the naval bringing your attention to this area.  Breathing naturally while exhaling, pull the lower abdomen in, imagining that you are trying to touch your naval to your spine.  Then, exhaling, press the abdomen out as far as you can.  Repeat 50-200 times.  The repetitions can be done fairly quickly averaging about 1 every 3-4 seconds.  You can also do this exercise while driving or lying down.

*Note:  The first few times you do this exercise you may experience more gas and more frequent bowel movements.  This is a very good sign and should resolve after a couple of days.

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