Sunday, April 26, 2009

Swine Flu - Balance Fear With Information

Over the past few days the media has begun a blitz of sound-bytes and info-bytes regarding the outbreak of swine flu. It is alarming that the reports brought before us show a spreading, powerful strain of swine flu. The picture being painted on the main media outlets is that this strain is new and powerful - plenty of reason to be fearful. First in Mexico, and now in other countries as well the swine flu appears, at first, to be everything the alarmists are claiming it to be. The purpose of this short article is to provide some much needed perspective so we can put our fear into balance. The last thing we need to be doing is being fearful because negative emotional states act to immediately weaken our immune system and hamper our own well being. Please take moment to read the article below.

At this early stage already there is much alarm and dread in the media. While these swine flu deaths that have taken place are unfortunate,
we must be aware that every year in the United States over 36,000 people die from the flu. That is around 100 people each day! These flu deaths are just "normal" flu and are not afforded such frenzied media coverage. Clearly seasonal flu is an ongoing issue every year. Even at 9:00 am on April, 26th, 2009 there are only 20 infections so far in the United States. We are talking 20 infections out of 300 million people! Compare 20 infections, not fatalities, to around the usual 100 deaths a day. Obviously we are not at a point where our fear and hysteria are justified. We should keep asking questions and think for ourselves. Below I have attempted to highlight a philosophy of health that suggests what we call cold and flu symptoms are actually correct responses by the body to a viral infection. Rather than take medicine to suppress the symptoms, aren't we better off allowing the body to do what it needs to do? Hopefully we can all learn that symptoms are tools used by the innate intelligence of the body to restore health. We should not fight that. The body is fully aware of what to do and we should simply nourish it and get out of the way.

According to the CDC, the swine flu we are dealing with today is a "new" variation of swine influenza A. The fact that it is new should not alarm anyone. It is critical to understand that viruses change all the time. Science and medicine cannot even cure the common cold, one of the most simple sicknesses that we all encounter. The reason is not for lack of trying but rather that the virus is constantly in a state of evolution. Its like an ancient game of cat and mouse. The cold virus gets into our bodies and attempts to replicate. Our immune system is designed to monitor and remove such threats. So the cold virus is the mouse and the immune system is the cat so to speak. In order to make this point clearer, please consider the following point of view.

Each one of us has the cold virus inside our bodies. I understand that to mean at all times, even during times of great health, there is some cold virus within us. Its just that during those times of immune strength our bodies are doing an excellent job of keeping the growth of the virus down to minimum levels. Constant vigilance is the name of the game for our immune systems. Our immune system defends us all day, every day without us being aware of it at all. Such is the beauty and power of the human being. We could conceivably enjoy this period of health and immune wellness for many months and even years. There is no reason to believe we cannot live in such a state for long periods of time.

Now lets say for this exercise that we have become overly stressed, we found ourselves eating poor food, and we haven't been getting a lot of sleep lately (sound familiar anyone?). Remember that our immune system is always working to keep the cold virus, or any virus for that matter, under control. But when we experience stress - emotional, physical, and chemical - our immune system is the first thing to weaken. Now instead of having a virus under control, we have a virus that spreads systemically.

At this point we are not aware of being sick. Keep in mind that what we call sickness is actually the intelligence of the body responding to the threat. We call our symptoms the sickness. In fact, the real sickness is the fact that the cold virus has spread throughout our bodies due to the weakening of our immune function. We probably would not say we feel sick at this point. We might feel something coming on, but it would be too far in the background of our awareness. We just can't tune in at that level.

So now we are at a point where our body recognizes intelligently that the cold virus has spread to unsafe levels. The initial immune response was unable to keep it in check due to stresses placed upon the body which drain the vital energy needed by the immune system. But the body fights back at this point. This is the critical point in the process where most would now say we feel sick. The body knows that the virus lives and proliferates only in very precise environmental conditions. In other words, in order for the cold virus to spread it needs to have just the right temperature, pH, etc. Lucky for us the body can alter these factors and thus cause the virus to stop spreading and cause it to die off.

As mentioned the body fights back and it does this one way by raising the internal temperature. This occurs with an increase in immune cell activity and creates an unfavorable environment for the virus. By elevating the temperature the body causes the virus to slow down and denature, while at the same time giving the immune response added energy to disable and remove the virus. The fever is a natural intelligent response by the body. It should be seen as such. It is the correct response in order to remove the viral infection from the body. Yet this perspective is not widely acknowledged. We are raised to think that feeling sick is "bad" but in fact the sickness we feel is just Mother Nature doing her best to keep us alive.

After altering the internal environment and energizing our immune system our body fights off the virus and we are again returned to health. Of course during this period of fever, loss of appetite, and low energy we certainly didn't feel good. But that is the price we had to pay for returning to health.

We have established that the body's response to the cold virus is not really "sickness" but is an intelligent method of riding the body of an infection. While it is unpleasant to undergo these experiences, we should support the body's efforts by eating the most nutritious of foods, usually soups in this case, and provide it with ample clean water. We must acknowledge that the sick feeling is actually the curative process. It has to hurt if its to heal. Covering up the pain with drugs and poison is working against the body. Sometimes a fever is necessary. It may be uncomfortable to cough and feel sick but the body is working intelligently, flawlessly, perfectly the whole time.

The cold virus is always changing. Other viruses like the flu are always changing as well. It is just a fact of life. By always morphing into something new the viruses are constantly challenging our immune system. Our bodies are perfectly capable of keeping us healthy for extended lengths of time. But when we are down, our immune system is one of the first things to go. And like the old saying goes "when the cats away the mice will play". The viruses spread quickly when the immune system is weakened. Keep the body nourished, keep the spine healthy, and keep the body energized and we will all reap the benefits.

Yours in Health,


Thursday, April 16, 2009

When All You Have is a Hammer...

Using surgery and pharmaceutical drugs, tools best suited to address medical emergencies, as a means to produce a healthy society is a misguided approach. It is like someone trying to grow a garden in their backyard using only two tools - a pair of shears and some insecticide. Obviously the complexities of growing a garden necessitate the use and consideration of many things like proper sunlight, water, soil chemistry, nutrients and fertilizers, etc. If our neighbor claimed only two-tools could yield a healthy garden, would we take that person seriously?

Now consider that the human body is like a very, very complex garden, replete with varieties of micro-organisms which all seek harmony and homeostasis. The body needs a wide array of support from nutrition to emotional well-being. It makes no sense to limit the care of the human being to two tools - drugs and surgery. All too often we become biased by the tools on our belt. Remember, when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail!

The consequence of the narrow approach, of using emergency intervention in the majority of cases, is a misdiagnoses of the needs of patients. Patients may needed emergency care and medical crisis management at certain points. Yet what is need by the patient, and lacking in the medical model, is a holistic, patient-centered approach. The missing diagnosis in the surgery/drug model is the realization that the patient is a whole person, with all the qualities and complexities inherent in an individual. Patients are people with symptoms, not symptoms with people attached.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Firefighters & Architects -- Who are You Gonna Call?

Lets start this by asking a few questions: what is health? Is it the absence of pain? Or is it the presence of something else? Do we need emergency care specialists or should we be seeing preventative care experts?

While those are big questions, I believe chiropractic philosophy can help find an answer. I believe that chiropractic care is the key to unlocking your body's potential. Think of your dream home. Now imagine it has caught fire. Do you call the architect or carpenter? No, you call the fire department because that is an emergency. It is the same with your body. If you find yourself in a health emergency, you need to go to the hospital, to the emergency room. But lets say your dream home has a cracked foundation, some walls and door frames are not square, and a little water leaks in during rain storms. You wouldn't call fire fighters. You would turn to experts who deal with structure and function.

Now it is the same when we talk about chiropractic and health. Chiropractic is to you what an architect or carpenter is to your house. You can live in a crooked house, but would anyone recommend it? You also can live with chronic subluxations (spinal misalignments), but would anyone recommend that? Now consider the human body, its a little more complicated than a house. And if structure is important for your house, imagine how important it is for your health. Proper alignment of the skull and spine allows for proper functioning of the nervous system, which in turn increases health across a broad spectrum. Chiropractors use their hands and simple tools to move bones and tissues back into proper alignment. We don't use drugs, and we don't use surgery. Your body knows how to heal itself, and we respect and understand that.

Health is really a direction. Everything we eat, drink, think, and do affects our health. Chiropractic helps people of all ages, from all walks of life, to deal with the challenges we all face living day to day. Its all about your quality of life, and with chiropractic, you receive care that enhances your overall well-being.

Yours in Health,


Sunday, April 5, 2009

Allergic Disease Linked to Spinal Misalignment

In a study published in The Internet Journal of Orthopedic Surgery in 2004 titled Relationship Between Vertebral Deformities and Allergic Disease, researchers drew a clear connection between disease and vertebral structure. This study emphasized that there exists a relationship between disturbances in sympathetic nerves and visceral disease. More specifically, the researchers highlighted what chiropractic has long known to be true - that structure is highly related to function.

It was demonstrated that vertebral misalignments of the thoracic spine (what chiropractors would refer to as hypokyphosis or akyphosis) were present in 98% of a total of 1028 patients who suffered from allergic disease. Now this is interesting on two levels. First this study clearly looked at the spine from a structural point of view and found a very high correlation between disease and what they call "spinal curvature disappearance". Next the researchers go on to reveal that the misalignments were very consistent in each individual, occurring at the T8 - T10 level of the thoracic spine. This is important because it links a specific area of the spine with a given disease process and set of symptoms.

What we have at this point is a set of symptoms or allergic diseases, such as atopic dermatitis and bronchial asthma, that are shown to directly correspond with what the chiropractic sciences term a subluxation (flexed or laterally flexed vertebra) of a hypo-to-akyphotic thoracic spine. That is, asthma and auto-immune inflammation is directly related in this study to subluxations of the thoracic spine. For chiropractors and students everywhere, this is an important reinforcement of the importance of chiropractic coming from scientific research. But wait, we are not done yet.

[Note: the term subluxation has been substituted for the original phrase
"chronic vertebral misalignment" used by the researchers. The study clearly identifies flexed and laterally flexed vertebra of the thoracic spine and associated disk narrowing as the cause for vertebral misalignment. This definition is congruent with this author's understanding of the term subluxation.]

The question we need to ask now is how does a subluxation in the spine cause things like bronchial asthma and atopic dermatitis? The researchers in this study addressed this question well when they state:

"When the intervertebral disk is compressed forward and downward by changes in the vertebra, further downward pressure will thin the front area of the disk [subluxation]. The direction of the spinous process becomes horizontal due to the inclination of the front side of the vertebra in a downward direction. The upper articulating process that is causing the changes in the vertebrae is pushed forward and can penetrate the intervertebral foramina in the upper part of the changed vertebra" (emphasis added)

The important piece of information here is that the superior articulating process encroaches into the foramen and it is here that nerve interference is present. The sympathetic nerves of the autonomic nervous system originate from the T1-L2,3 level of the spine. It is through a disruption of these nerves at the T8 - T10 spinal segment level which causes altered adrenal cortex function which the researchers claim is related to allergic disease. Thus it now makes sense how a compromised thoracic spine can inflict changes to the body in areas far removed from the site of the subluxation.

Another impressive aspect of this study concerns the treatment of 906 bronchial asthma patients. In particular these scientists highlight the T2-T4 thoracic segments as being directly related to bronchial asthma. They pointed out that the more severe subluxations at the T2-T4 level resulted in more severe asthma. There appears to be a connection between not only the presence but also the magnitude of the subluxation and the severity of the symptom. These patients were treated for their chronic vertebral misalignments [subluxations] and reacted very well, with improvement rates ranging from 80%-93% over a four to ten month period. Clearly such high numbers suggest that treating the spine for allergic disease yields beneficial results. Chiropractors have long claimed that adjustments help with allergies and asthma, and here is a study that is in complete agreement.

What this study has shown is that chiropractic is an important tool in all of our lives. This was one study looking at just a small area of the spine. Yet despite the focus upon small areas of the spine, the researchers were able to connect the dots and clearly show the complex, integrative, big-picture effects of spinal problems. This is suggestive of a more holistic approach and less reliance upon over-specialization and myopic thinking. I believe it is this broader focus that is lacking in our health care system today. This study out of Japan is encouraging to the entire profession of chiropractic. There is one thing we need more of and that is independent, peer-reviewed science to validate the clinical and case-study data gathered over decades by the chiropractic profession.

Here you have it - structure and function cannot be separated and they play a role in all of our lives. Finals begin tomorrow and there is much work to be done.

Yours in Health,