Curcumin: The Natural Anti-Inflammatory Supplement

turmeric powder and capsule and roots curcumin on wooden plateSociety is finally starting to realize that medication isn’t the only option for treating any number of conditions. There are substances that can be consumed, whether in food or supplement form, that are 100 percent natural, non-addictive, non-narcotic and have no side effects.

Curcumin is a prime example.

Curcumin is a chemical found in the bright yellow pigment of turmeric, which is part of the ginger family and made from the Curcuma longa plant. Curcumin is the most active ingredient in turmeric, which is also the main spice in curry.

In Indian culture, curcumin has been recognized as a healing agent for centuries and is part of traditional Ayurvedic medicine. I use curcumin as an anti-inflammatory herbal supplement in clinical practice every day. Continue reading

Why Overuse Injuries in Young Athletes Are Frighteningly Common

Baseball Sports injuries in children Did you know the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons found that nearly half of all injuries sustained by middle and high school students during sports-related activities are overuse injuries? According to the American College of Sports Medicine, about half of overuse injuries in children and adolescents are preventable.

Here’s the scary part. More than one in five young athletes say they’ve been pressured to play with an injury, according to the National Youth Sports Safety Foundation.

I’m a big believer in telling kids, especially those younger than high-school age, to just go outside and play. Be active. Make up games. Exercise your body and brain. If you’re bored, figure out how to “unbore” yourself.

Unfortunately, a lot of young children are thrust into highly competitive sports environments before they’re even 10 years old. They play the same sport and participate in specialized training for that sport year-round. There’s no off-season. Continue reading

Why Losing Weight Just to Look Good Misses the Point

Woman in mirror trying to lose weightAs another summer draws to a close, a lot of people who have been obsessed with weight loss since spring are relieved that they made it through beach season. They probably relied on crash diets to lose weight with the hope of looking better in swimsuits, shorts, skinny jeans and other clothes that were buried in the closet all winter.

But what happens when summer ends? They typically shift from one unhealthy eating habit, the crash diet, to their former unhealthy eating habit, which will cause them to put the pounds back on.

At the end of the day, what have they achieved? Is it worth it to go through this mentally and physically draining cycle year after year? Continue reading

What Behavioral Economics Can Tell You About How You Approach Wellness

Behavioral economics kind of flies in the face of the traditional economics approach. This rational choice model is based on the notion that rational people make sound judgments by weighing costs, pros and cons. They have the self-control to stay on the right path to achieving their goals.

I wish this was true, but it’s not.

Behavioral economics uses a variety of factors – psychological, emotional, cognitive and social – to determine why we make the choices, financial and otherwise, that seem to defy logic and traditional economic models.

In reality, people tend to make impulse decisions based on instant gratification and exhibit little self-control. Goals aren’t achieved because people often make decisions that aren’t aligned with their goals. Continue reading

Why Cattle Farming Needs to Be Part of the Environmental Conversation

A big herd of cattle in outdoor feedlot in Colorado.Let me start by saying this blog post isn’t about global warming or climate change. Quite frankly, it doesn’t matter if you believe that it’s happening or that human activity is affecting it. Regardless of where you stand on those issues, everyone should be in favor of cleaner air, cleaner water, and cleaner soil.

That said, I hear a lot of arguments about the state of the environment and what can be done to reduce pollution. I hear about reducing emissions from cars and factories. I hear about focusing more on wind and solar energy instead of coal, oil and other fossil fuels. I hear about regulation and deregulation and the impact on jobs and the economy.

Those are all important debates to have. But I never hear anyone talk about the impact of cattle farming on the environment. Continue reading

Think Bottled Water Is Healthy? Not So Fast.

Bottle. Industrial production of plastic pet bottles. Factory line for manufacturing polyethylene bottles. Years ago, it started to become trendy to drink bottled water. In restaurants, I see people specify that they want bottled water, not tap water. In fact, soda sales in the U.S. have dropped for 12 consecutive quarters as more people have turned to bottled water and healthier beverages, according to a report from Beverage Digest.

While I’m happy to see that fewer people are drinking soda, I’m disturbed by the fact that people are still drinking anything from plastic bottles, including water.

Most water bottles are made from very cheap plastic. These kinds of plastics contain endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), particularly phthalates, which are banned in the European Union but legal in the U.S. Bisphenol A (BPA) is another common EDC found in tin food cans, plastic containers and cosmetics.

Also called xenoestrogens, EDCs affect the endocrine tissues that produce hormones They mimic natural hormones such as estrogen and androgen and bind to receptors in human cells, which prevents the body’s natural hormones from doing so. As a result, the body is unable to properly respond to stress and injury, regulate energy, and control growth and development.

This affects everyone – men, women, children and even unborn babies. Continue reading

Flawed Research Gets It Wrong on Gluten-Free Eating

Gluten Free yellow warning highway road sign Yellow warning highway sign with words Gluten Free with stormy sky background, 3D Illustration

One of the reasons why my role as a health educator is so difficult is that I constantly spend time exposing bad information when I’d rather be sharing good information. This blog post is a prime example of that dilemma.

A member of the Natural Healthcare Center team forwarded me an article from an extremely popular media outlet that suggested a gluten-free diet could have “unintended consequences.” The article was based on a study that found people who ate gluten-free had higher levels of toxic metals in their systems than people who ate gluten.

False. Or, at the very least, extremely misleading. Here’s why.

Suppose you replace food that contains gluten with highly processed foods that are marketed as gluten-free replacements or substitutes, such as gluten-free breads, pastries and pastas. All you’re doing is replacing something inflammatory with something that’s slightly less inflammatory – but still inflammatory. Continue reading

What All of Us Can Do to Stop the Opioid Epidemic

Senior male doctor opioidsIn the previous post, I discussed the real reasons for the opioid epidemic in our country. A letter was published in a highly respected medical journal that discussed flawed research about the risk of addiction when using prescription opioids for pain management. This led to several other similarly flawed studies.

Of course, big pharma capitalized on this by lobbying hard to ease restrictions on the use of opioids for non-cancer pain. In just 16 years, the number of opioid overdoses quadrupled, leading to the epidemic we face today.

While heroin, an illegal opioid drug, is a very serious problem, the overprescription of legal opioids, such as Oxycontin, Vicodin and Percocet, causes the vast majority of overdoses and deaths.

In fact, a National Safety Council survey found that 99 percent of doctors who prescribe narcotic painkillers give their patients prescriptions that exceed the three-day dosage recommended by the federal government.

99 percent. Let that sink in for a second.

The study found that nearly a quarter of doctors prescribe month-long dosages. Only a third ask about the patient’s family history of addiction, and only 5 percent offer help to patients when signs of abuse are detected.

Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has rolled out strict prescription guidelines and the FDA has ordered the use of warning labels, the opioid crisis continues to be a real stain on the fabric of our healthcare system. The very industries that exist to help us stay healthy are the ones that created this epidemic.

I see the sad effects of this every day in clinical practice.

I believe my job as a healthcare provider is to identify solutions for treating pain, inflammation and muscle spasms that don’t involve the aggressive use of medication, injections or surgery.

Now I’m not naïve. My patients need surgery from time to time. Thank God we have surgeons. Thank God we have epidurals. Thank God my wife had pain medication when she went through five C-sections. There’s a time and a place for pain medication, but only when used sparingly and temporarily.

The safer, healthier approach to treating pain is non-medical and non-pharmaceutical. It involves chiropractic care, physical therapy, acupuncture and therapeutic massage. It involves customized clinical nutritional protocols, exercise programs and stress management. If necessary, treatment might involve nutraceuticals such as natural anti-inflammatories, natural muscle relaxers, and natural painkillers. I use them every day in clinical practice. For example, curcumin, turmeric and fish oil can be used to treat acute and chronic pain and inflammation.

A Medicaid pilot project in Rhode Island found that an integrated chronic pain program consisting of chiropractic, massage, acupuncture and stress reduction produced fantastic results for participants. Opioid prescriptions, emergency room visits, and total claim costs dropped significantly. A survey of participants found that 92 percent agree or strongly agree that their pain level was reduced, and 82 percent believe their quality of life has improved.

If you’re having a painful episode, such as headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome, sciatica, or pain in your back, neck, shoulder or leg, seek treatment that views medication and surgery as last resorts. Even if your pain is related to an organ, like Crohn’s disease or irritable bowel syndrome, you don’t have to look for relief in a bottle.

To fix the opioid epidemic, doctors need to stop overprescribing opioids. As healthcare consumers, we all need to become educated about not just the brand names that appear on the label, but the ingredients and the risk they create. We need to resist the urge to rely on the “non-addictive opioids” that, as I write this, big pharma is testing and trying to get approved for sale to medical offices. Instead, we should look for treatment methods that stimulate the body’s natural healing ability.

Health literacy is the key to longevity. We all need to understand what we put in our bodies so we can make better decisions and take control of our health.

 

The Real Reasons for the Opioid Epidemic

Senior male doctor opioidsAccording to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), opioids were involved in 33,091 deaths in 2015. From 1999 to 2015, the number of opioid overdoses quadrupled. In New Jersey, the number of opioid overdose deaths increased by 16.4 percent from 2014 to 2015. The vast majority of these cases resulted from the abuse of legally prescribed drugs, not illegal heroin.

To truly understand why we have an opioid epidemic here in New Jersey and across the country, we need to look at the history behind it. When you look at the history, these frightening statistics start to make sense. Continue reading

5 Changes that Will Improve the State of Health Care in Our Country

US Healthcare reform v Health Insurance ReformIn an earlier post, I discussed why the conversation about health care reform needs to change. We need to talk less about health insurance and more about making people healthier. We need to prioritize proactive disease prevention rather than reactive disease treatment if we’re ever going to reverse the chronic illness epidemic in our country and get costs under control.

1) Create a New Layer of Health Care

I discussed this in my last post about health care reform. In addition to the emergency and traumatic care layer and the fragmented layer of specialists, we need a layer that focuses on preventing and reversing chronic illness.

Board certified functional medicine practitioners would help people get to the root cause of their problems, provide the education required to make better health decisions, and develop individualized plans to restore and maintain health and wellness. Continue reading

The Silent Liver Disease Epidemic that Nobody Is Talking About

Fatty Liver Disease You can’t live without your liver. The liver sits below your rib cage to the right of your abdomen and has the critical job of ridding the human body of toxic substances.

Liver disease can be genetic. It can also be caused by viral infections caused by Hepatitis A, B and C, and by overuse of pain killers like acetaminophen. Most people associate liver disease with alcoholism, which causes scarring and cirrhosis of the liver.

Fortunately, the liver is one of the few organs in the body that can replace damaged tissue with new cells instead of just scar tissue. Of course, if the liver continues to be overwhelmed by toxic substances, like alcohol and fast food, it won’t be able to repair itself. Continue reading

Sitting at a Desk Is No Excuse for Poor Ergonomics and Posture

Man with poor posture at deskIn a recent post, I talked about how “text neck” is becoming an epidemic in our country. More and more people spend hours each day with their head down, staring at their smartphones and tablets. The farther you tilt your head forward, the more strain you create on your neck.

Text neck is just one example of how poor ergonomics and posture can lead to musculoskeletal pain and tension, which most commonly occur around the base of the skull, the temples, the upper shoulders, between the shoulder blades, and the lower back.

This is the result of what we call mechanical distortion in the human body. As Nobel Prize winner Roger Sperry said, the more mechanically distorted a person is, the less energy is available for thinking, metabolism, and healing. Continue reading

To Truly Reform Health Care, We Need to Change the Conversation

the high cost of chronic illness It happened again in Washington.

After spending seven years pointing fingers and the past few weeks trying to craft legislation that would appease various political factions, our elected officials failed in their attempt at “health care reform.” That’s in quotes because the American Health Care Act, much like the Affordable Care Act, had little to do with reforming health care. It had everything to do with reforming health insurance.

Think about who was involved in this process – politicians, health insurance executives, big pharma, and plenty of lobbyists.

Where were the doctors and researchers? Did anyone bother to mention the chronic illness epidemic that’s responsible for seven in 10 deaths each year and 86 percent of our nation’s health care costs? Continue reading

Startling New Data About Alzheimer’s, and a Familiar Silver Lining

New Data About Alzheimer’sPBS recently debuted a documentary titled “Alzheimer’s: Every Minute Counts.” The documentary includes some sobering statistics and realities about Alzheimer’s disease, which has become one of the most serious public health issues affecting our country.

For people with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers and families, it’s not just an illness. It’s a crisis. Consider the numbers as laid out in an article from Mercola.com:

  • The number of people affected by Alzheimer’s is expected to triple by 2050.
  • Every 33 seconds, someone in our country will develop Alzheimer’s disease.
  • The costs to care for those with Alzheimer’s are forecast to exceed $1.1 trillion by 2050.
  • Though 5.2 million of 5.4 million Americans with Alzheimer’s are age 65 and older, 200,000 people have younger-onset Alzheimer’s.

Continue reading

Are Bogus Food Marketing Claims Finally Losing Steam?

Food MarketingIf you see “organic” in a product label, there’s a good chance it’s not organic. If you see “natural” in a product label, there’s an excellent chance it’s anything but natural.

These are just a couple of issues that the Federal Trade Commission seems to have on its radar as a crackdown on bogus marketing claims may finally be underway. In 2016, false advertising suits challenged marketing claims made my makers of oatmeal, fruit juices, deli meat and other products, according to Advertising Age.

In fact, Quaker Oats was sued when pesticides were found in its oatmeal even though it was marketed as “100% natural.” The lawsuit says the claim was false and misleading. Gee, you think so? Continue reading

Had Enough of GMOs? Wait ‘Til You Hear About Gene Editing.

Gene Editing Food manufacturers have been using genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, for years. A GMO is a plant, animal or other organism that had its genes modified in a science lab, typically by having the genes from another organism’s DNA artificially forced into it. This is usually done to make crops resistant to herbicides and pests and enable crops to produce their own pesticide.

More than 35 countries have banned genetically modified crops and more than 60 countries require GMO labeling on food products. The U.S. finally got around to requiring GMO labeling in 2016. Sadly, the vast majority of crops grown in our country are GMOs and are present in most processed foods. Soy, corn, cotton, canola and sugar beets are common examples of genetically modified crops.

There is no health benefit, but GMOs have been linked to infertility, immune problems and gastrointestinal issues. Actually, the Alliance for Natural Health recently reported that studies have shown that GMOs with Monsanto’s Roundup could eat holes in your stomach. By the way, this product has also been linked to liver and kidney problems, fertility issues, tumors, fatigue, paralysis and allergic reactions. Continue reading

The Only Way to Stop the Unhealthy Blame Game

billion-dollar food companies play the blame game as a way to run up profitsWhen I hear big food manufacturers and lobbyists deflecting responsibility for the chronic disease epidemic around the world, I’m often reminded of childish playground conflicts. You know, the almost instinctive responses from kids when they’re busted for doing something they know is wrong.

I didn’t do it! It wasn’t my fault! He started it! She made me do it!

With kids, it can be kind of funny, at least when nobody gets hurt and the damage isn’t too severe. After all, kids will go to great lengths to avoid punishment, whether that means blaming someone else or trying not to get caught altogether.

When billion-dollar food companies play the blame game as a way to run up profits by selling unhealthy products that make people sick, there’s nothing funny about it. It’s tragic. Continue reading

Are You and Your Kids Becoming Part of the Text Neck Epidemic?

Text neck treatmentNext time you walk outside or down the hall at work, notice how many people are hunched over while they walk or sit, or even when they’re carrying on a conversation. If you were to go to a college campus or high school, you would probably find most kids with their heads down.

It’s not that everyone is trying to hide or slouching because they’re sad. They’re just obsessed with the smartphones, tablets and other gadgets that they just received as holiday gifts.

They’re emailing, texting, chatting, posting on social media, playing video games, checking the weather, getting caught up on the news, and doing everything else that mobile applications make it possible to do from the palm of their hand.

Here’s the problem. When you tilt your head forward, you increase the gravitational pull on a delicate area of the spine. The more you tilt your head forward, the heavier the load, and the more strain you put on your neck and the muscles that support it. Continue reading

Don’t Make a Resolution. Make a Plan.

Don’t Make a Resolution. Make a Plan.Did you know the term “New Year’s Resolution” is actually in the dictionary?

According to Merriam-Webster, a New Year’s Resolution is a promise to do something differently in the new year.

The MacMillan Dictionary is a bit more specific. It says a New Year’s Resolution is a decision that you make on the first day of the year about the things that you intend to do or stop doing during that year.

There are a ton of surveys about top New Year’s Resolutions, mostly from companies trying to peddle their products and services. But the most popular resolutions always fall into three categories:

  • Losing weight and becoming healthier
  • Making or saving more money
  • Enjoying life to the fullest

All of these categories of “resolutions” have one thing in common. If you want to reach your goal, you need to do more than make a promise or a spur-of-the-moment decision.

You need a plan.

Continue reading

What Is Functional Neurology?

Functional Neurology

I’ve written and spoken extensively about functional medicine, which I believe is critical to fixing our broken healthcare system. Functional medicine is personalized care that focuses on preventing disease and attacking the root cause of health issues rather than reactively treating symptoms.

The goal is to maintain or restore balance among the body’s various systems. This balance helps us function at an optimal level so we can live as many quality, disease-free years as possible.

One area of functional medicine that is finally starting to get the attention it deserves is functional neurology, which is focused on making sure the brain functions at an optimal level. Continue reading