Friday, February 29, 2008

Foot Swelling

My mom's wound care nurse advised my mom to see a doctor about swelling in her feet and also advised her to lay off the salt.

An appointment yesterday yielded little more than a clean EKG and referrals to three other specialists. My mom wanted to find another doctor that would work with her more directly and not just refer her out to multiple specialists.

I talked to Dr. Rodier today and he asked, first and foremost, is the swelling in one foot or both? It's more noticeable in one foot. Dr. Rodier advised that my mom have an ultrasound to rule out clots in that leg. To rule out organ failure causes, Dr. Rodier would run blood tests for the kidney and liver (Chem 20) as well as the heart (B-Type Natriuretic Peptide or BNP).

Dr. Rodier went on to say that edema is all about having leaky arteries, which are due to TOIL (toxicity, oxidation, inflammation, and lack of mitochondrial energy).

I talked to my mom about getting on the Paleolithic (detox) diet that Dr. Rodier prescribes to all his patients:
  • Weeks 1 & 2 -- Nothing but lean chicken, fish, eggs, raw nuts, and fresh veggies
  • Weeks 3 & 4 -- Addition of fresh fruit
  • Weeks 5 & 6 -- Addition of legumes
  • Weeks 7 & 8 -- Slow re-introduction of grains, noting any sensitivities

Fo my mom, it's going to be about a lot less salt, a lot more veggies, more water -- and a few blood tests to make sure there's not something mechanical wrong. Edema is really not something to ignore.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Mindfulness for Health - Coming in May

My friend and colleague, Pam Weiss, has accepted an invitation to teach our first Mindfulness for Health series in May (first three Thursdays)!

I am thrilled because I consider Pam an incredibly wise and compassionate person. Pam is also someone who struggled very directly with issues of health -- juvenile diabetes and a lifetime of managing insulin levels requires constant and very conscious diet and lifestyle choices.

Pam brings a rich background in mindfulness work, trained first in the Zen tradition for two decades and more recently invited to become a teacher in the Vipasanna tradition by Jack Kornfield (founder of the Insight Meditation Society and Spirit Rock Meditation Center).

We will record the series and make it into a CD and an audio download online so any of our members can benefit from Pam's teachings and support in developing a personal mindfulness practice. The three topics that Pam will teach and explore with participants include:

  • Basic Meditation - the healing benefits of following the breath

  • Mindfulness through Body Scans - countering stress and pain through structured process for sensing into different parts of the body

  • Metta Meditation - infusing one's life with the healing energy of loving intention
There will be time to practice together and to ask questions and share individual experiences with the group. If there is interest, the group that signs up may opt to continue to meet to support one another in practicing mindfulness for better health.

I am so grateful to have Pam's support on this important new offering to our members. Let me know if you're interested in participating in our first Mindfulness for Health series. We will keep the cost quite modest - $20 for the series including a CD or $15 for the CD if bought separately.

Although this series will take place in May, with space limited to 25 people, it will fill up quickly, so drop a line to me if you want to be on the early registration list.

Those of you who read my blog entries get first dibs on open spaces. Thank you for reading my blog, by the way! :-)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Winter Blahs: Fish Oil, D3, Vitamin C

It's sunny again here in Park City, after some whiteout conditions on Sunday and later on Monday.

I had lunch with my dear friend, Dr. Hugo Rodier, yesterday and confessed to having the winter blahs. I attributed it to lack of sunshine.

Hugo asked about my vitamin D and omega 3 fish oil intake. Okay, so I slacked off while I was in Florida with my mom. Hugo recommended 5000 IU of vitamin D3 (I was only taking 1000-2000 IU previously and thought that was great, but with the blahs, more is recommended) . Hugo also advised that I be more conscientious about taking 4 grams of fish oil daily.

It's tough hiding anything from an integrative physician like Hugo. Get a little off course and he's there to gently remind you that your cells need a little more support. I appreciate that, of course.

Hugo will sometimes look at a person's nails and if there are any blotches whatsoever, he shakes his head and gives advice on immune system support. He will sometimes take someone's hand and notice redness in the fingers or coldness and recommend things for a healthy gut.

Another winter cycle involves periodic nosebleeds for me. Once upon a time, I would have chalked this annoying experience up to high altitude and extremely dry air, but Mike Ciell, an avid vitamin C buff and integrative pharmacist (actually, he prefers to go by "clinical biochemist" these days), advises bolstering vitamin C intake to support collagen production and thus eliminate nose bleeds.

I don't always take into account stress that hikes my body's vitamin C needs, but it just takes one nosebleed and I start boosting my intake before going to sleep. Works every time.

Why do I allow myself to get lazy on occasion, especially when supplements are my business? When my immune system is doing well and I'm not catching colds and I feel basically good -- and I get busy -- well, I confess, I slack off at times. My body reminds me most of the time, and when it doesn't, Hugo pitches in to help. :-)

With more omega 3's and vitamin D up again, I'm feeling better. It's also sunny and bright, and I can't help but be happy with so much stunning sunlight.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Cranberry Protein in the News

Cranberry protein? Indeed. A complete protein with a full amino acid profile, a few essential fatty acids, fiber, antioxidants, and more, cranberry protein is making the news.

It's interesting to note how manufacturers compare cranberry protein to soy and dairy proteins, which are known to have allergenic issues for many people. No mention of non-allergenic rice protein, the party's wallflower, but that's marketing for you.

While cranberry protein is not as concentrated of a protein (only 23-30 percent by weight) as the more usual suspects, cranberry protein is chock full of both soluble (5-20%) and insoluble (40-47%) fiber as well as "46% more powerful antioxidants than cranberries" themselves.

Hmmm. What shall we dream up using cranberry protein? :-)

Sleepiness, Strokes, Parkinson's

My mom spent a lot of time sleeping when she was in the nursing home. Thankfully, it was mostly boredom and that hasn't been a problem since she has been home.

New research from the Northern Manhatten study indicates that significant involuntary dozing is correlated with 4.5 times more strokes.

And a study published in Neurology in 2005 linked daytime sleepinesss and subsequent development of Parkinson's disease (men with daytime sleepiness were more than three times more likely to develop Parkinson's).

The difference between the healthy versions of sleep (choosing to curl up with a cat and nap) and the unhealthy versions (can't stay awake during a show that one wants to watch) is often vascular health.

If you or a family member involuntarily falls asleep during the day on a regular basis, it's an important piece of information to share with your doctor.

Wound Healing & My Mom's Progress

My mom's wound continues to heal, albeit slowly. She was sent home from the nursing home on January 31st and has been doing well at home on her own, with daily wound care treatments from a visiting nurse.

My mom's wound was still quite deep almost 4 months later, and unfortunately it had started to heal the wrong way -- from the outside-in instead of the inside-out. So she had to have it debrided on Wednesday, no fun for her, but necessary for healing.

I spent eight days in Florida with my mom, helping her get some new furniture, a washer and dryer (she had never seen the need for one before and had used laundromats), a couple of new canes (one with four prongs for greater stability), a donut-shaped pillow to sit on to relieve stress on her wound when she sits, a new mailbox (so she wouldn't have to collect mail at her PO box), better shoes (more stable and more comfortable), etc.

I worried about my mom's diet, pushing fresh veggies and fruits and raw nuts in place of a diet heavy in meats and breads and salty frozen entrees. My mom's nurse had warned her about reducing her salt, as my my mom's ankles and feet were visibly swollen.

When Stephen suggested meeting him at the Cracker Barrel for lunch, I was chagrined to see my mom order what I dubbed a "salt bomb." Chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes, chicken dumplings, and something else starchy (egad!). I suggested the trout lunch, but my mom didn't bite on that one. Stephen chuckled more than once (he had something equally unhealthy) at my hapless attempts to steer the lunch choices.

When we were done, I didn't get why we had to go to the store to pay. My mom pointed to crusted sugary praline pecans and I started to get it. I opted for the chocolate-covered pecans (they seemed healthier), and I couldn't help but browse the frothy retro merchandise. I spied a tee-shirt I thought my mom would like and ended up buying her three.

Mystery solved. Pay for your lunch in the store and you end up buying more stuff.

Groceries were an easier proposition. Buying fresh and organic provoked no fuss as there was no country fried food smells wafting our way. My mom drinks rice milk now, dropping her dairy habit, snacks on raw nuts, and is watching her salt a bit better (of course, I'm not there to nag, so who knows, but the cupboards are stocked with things that make healthy choices easier).

We have two pillboxes packed with supplements for a.m. and p.m., and my mom is committed to her Constant Health drinks (she has seven blender bottles in her kitchen, with her powder measured out a week in advance, so she can track her drinks). She says she feels better, has more energy when she takes her daily drinks.

Those chocolate-covered pecans, nevertheless, disappeared within days, even though my mom asked me to put them "up high" where she couldn't reach them. My mom is only 5'2" but she has a cane, which apparently is good for knocking down treats stashed on otherwise out-of-reach shelves. I had to laugh.

While I was in town, I did some painting, cleaned her garage out, and bought her three dogs their very own dog beds, which they took to immediately (alas, they also take to digging in the dirt and enjoying nuzzling into cool, sandy soil).

I like dogs but they tend to stink and track dirt everywhere, so I'm forever a cat person at heart (sorry dog lovers). My mom's gigantic orange tabby, Tyler, on the other hand, endeared himself to me, talking up a storm and following me around the house.

However, around midnight one night, after a nice evening out with Stephen and Kelly and her parents, Tyler was making a play for the same spot on my mom's bed as she was. Not so swift Tyler desperately clawed, trying to regain his balance on my mom's bed, and he accidentally struck a large vein on my mom's left hand. We weren't sure whether my mom would need stitches, but clearly she had to go in for a tetanus shot, as she hadn't had one in over 10 years. We spent the rest of the night in a freezing cold emergency room, finally seeing the dusky sky again around 4:30 a.m.

During the week, I took my mom to various doctors' appointments (the waiting just about kills you, doesn't it?!) and encouraged her to drive her car again for the first time.

Fear made my mom's mouth go dry, but she made it the short drive from a shopping center we were in to her local Sam's Club (her old membership had expired). I could understand her concern, as traffic in South Florida during the winter tends to back up in every direction, and my mom hadn't had to pay so much attention to anything in many months (nursing homes are rather dull, after all).

My mom did great though, and she felt elated to have her freedom again, saying "I'm just not ready to stop living yet!" Go mom!

Lest you think that I'm a hero, since October, my brother quietly worked on my mom's house and did daily runs to her nursing home room and her house to take care of her three dogs and two cats, so it's been a joint effort.

I couldn't ask for a better brother, really, even if he does make fun of my every choice in life (food, movies, music, etc.). Perhaps just part of the job description as a brother.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Telemedicine Ponderings

Back in November, the FCC granted a total of $417 million to fund high-speed network connections to rural communities around the country that don't have access to medical specialists.

Out here, the University of Utah's School of Medicine, with its over 1000 specialists, serves an area that spans four states and over 500 miles. Last night, I heard some touching stories about the progress in telemedicine, which includes saving millions and millions of commuter miles and associated greenhouse gases.

I heard about stroke victims getting world-class consults at rural emergency rooms and getting meds prescribed within the critical window of time that prevents brain damage from clots. I heard about children with burns who are being treated in their hometowns -- without enduring long and traumatic transports to Salt Lake City to see burn specialists.

And, a particularly sweet story was about a father serving in Iraq who was able to see his baby girl being born via secure videoconference from his hometown hospital in Utah.

The stories made me think of my dad. I remember my dad's decision to move back to the states from Mexico. He had this lovely home overlooking the Pacific ocean but it was a bit remote and he felt like he was too far from a good medical center and emergency services. Little did he know that the county hospital in Camden, SC would be scarcely any better, even if closer to his home.

Experts in telemedicine believe that the driver for expansion to telehealth networks will increasingly be consumers, who want more choice not only in where they live but also in who treats them.

As I learned more about the FCC's recent grants (69 applicants around the country received funding for their Rural Health Pilot Programs), I began to ponder the need for access to one of those most rare specialties -- good integrative medicine practitioners.

I'm interested in learning more about how integrative practitioners can be leveraged in mainstream care through the telemedicine network, which continues to expand around the country with help from the FCC.

Coincidentally, Dr. Rodier sent me a note last night about his willingness to do group as well as individual telephone consults for our members.

My question to you is whether you would value being on a group consultation call with Dr. Rodier? Drop me a line if you have comments.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Metabolic Syndrome & Insulin Resistance

Researchers at the Joslin Diabetes Center identified insulin resistance in the liver as a key factor in metabolic syndrome and associated artheroschlerosis disorders.

Good to see this little insight hitting the mainstream press at last:

“This is one of the first true insights into the role of the liver in the metabolic syndrome and provides guidance for future therapies,’’ said senior investigator Dr. Kahn, an internationally recognized researcher in diabetes and metabolism. “Showing this connection between atherosclerosis and insulin resistance is one of the most dramatic findings I’ve seen in 35 years.’’

My friend, Dr. Hugo Rodier, has been successfully treating metabolic syndrome patients for years by addressing insulin resistance and liver health, but he's consistently ahead of his time clinically.

Meanwhile, did you know that metabolic syndrome affects approximately a quarter of all Americans and a growing number of children, all of whom suffer from diverse maladies because, at the cellular level, insulin signalling has gone awry?

What to do? Drop the weight. Increase exercise. Improve your diet. And, also, increase your intake of protective agents that reduce inflammation and support liver health and healthy cellular communication.

Protein, Casein & Gluten-Free

Eric Alban -- a pilot, snowboarder, and neighbor in Park City -- wrote to me a couple of weeks ago about my blog entry on protein. and a recent newsletter where we talked about a University of Washington School of Medicine study showing diets with 30% protein and less than 20% fat resulted in significant weight loss.

Eric had read The China Study by T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D., and wondered why we were promoting protein for waist watchers in a recent newsletter, since Dr. Campbell's major point is that diets with higher protein are strongly correlated with higher cancer rates.

For perspective, I sent the following from the forward to The China Study:

"We found that not all proteins had this effect. What protein consistently and strongly promoted cancer? Casein, which makes up 87% of cow's milk protein, promoted all stages of the cancer process. What type of protein did not promote cancer, even at higher levels of intake? The safe proteins were from plants, including wheat and soy..What made this project especially remarkable is that, among the many associations that are relevant to diet and disease, so many pointed to the same finding: people who ate the most animal-based foods got the most chronic disease. Even relatively small intakes of animal-based food were associated with adverse effects."

Perhaps our newsletter on post-holiday weight management tips should have mentioned that plant proteins are preferable to animal proteins, with casein, from dairy protein, being the ultimate bad boy protein linked to higher cancer rates according to The China Study.

After answering Eric's note, I did a little more research and came across an interesting alternative perspective on The China Study by Chris Masterjohn (on The Weston A. Price Foundation's web site):

"Campbell exercises caution when generalizing from casein to plant proteins, but freely generalizes from casein to animal protein. He entirely ignores the role of wheat gluten, a plant product, in autoimmune diseases, so he can emphasize the role of milk protein, an animal product."

As someone who suffers when I don't watch my intake of gluten, I appreciate Masterjohn's analysis, although not his "thumbs down" rating for The China Study.

Meanwhile, Bill Henderson, author of Cancer-Free: Your Guide to Gentle, Non-Toxic Healing weighed in on this topic in our recent teleseminar (maybe you enjoyed Bill's talk last week?!).

In that call, Bill endorsed both The China Study's vegetarian conclusions and also a gluten-free diet for anyone with or worried about cancer.

So, protein itself is not the issue, it's the type of protein that matters.