Health and Disease, Lifestyle, Uncategorized

The Shamanic View of Mental Illness

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The Shamanic View of Mental Illness

ShamanicViewMentalIllnessFeature-720x377

 

Looking Through a Different Lens

I am reprinting this from an email I received from Malidoma Some, a West African Shaman whom I’ve had the privilege to meet, drive around Boulder with, and work for. Since I am going through what I believe to be a spiritual emergence, I am reading a lot on the topic. I want to continue to educate others. That what we sometimes call depression, bi-polar, psychosis, schizophrenia, might actually be a significant transformation in consciousness and a necessary stage on the path of human development. While this is a long article it’s well worth the read for those interested in the subject. Particularly if you have suffered from a mental illness or treat those with a mental illness. You might also like to read this short post Beyond Medication, Holistic Psychiatry.

 

What a Shaman Sees in a Mental Hospital

In the shamanic view, mental illness signals “the birth of a healer,” explains Malidoma Patrice Somé. Thus, mental disorders are spiritual emergencies, spiritual crises, and need to be regarded as such to aid the healer in being born.

 

What those in the west view as mental illness, the Dagara people regard as “good news from the other world.” The person going through the crisis has been chosen as a medium for a message to the community that needs to be communicated from the spirit realm. Dr. Somé comments:

“Mental disorder, behavioral disorder of all kinds, signal the fact that two obviously incompatible energies have merged into the same field”

Mental disorder, behavioral disorder of all kinds, signal the fact that two obviously incompatible energies have merged into the same field.

These disturbances result when the person does not get assistance in dealing with the presence of the energy from the spirit realm.

 

One of the things Dr. Somé encountered when he first came to the United States in 1980 for graduate study, was how this country deals with mental illness. When a fellow student was sent to a mental institute due to ‘nervous depression,’ Dr. Somé went to visit him.

“I was so shocked. That was the first time I was brought face to face with what is done here to people exhibiting the same symptoms I’ve seen in my village. “

What struck Dr. Somé was that the attention given to such symptoms was based on pathology, on the idea that the condition is something that needs to stop. This was in complete opposition to the way his culture views such a situation. As he looked around the stark ward at the patients, some in straitjackets, some zoned out on medications, others screaming, he observed to himself:

“So this is how the healers who are attempting to be born are treated in this culture. What a loss! What a loss that a person who is finally being aligned with a power from the other world is just being wasted”

Another way to say this, which may make more sense to the Western mind, is that we in the west are not trained in how to deal with, or even taught to acknowledge, the existence of psychic phenomena, the spiritual world. In fact, psychic abilities are denigrated. When energies from the spiritual world emerge in a Western psyche, that individual is completely unequipped to integrate them or even recognize what is happening. The result can be terrifying. Without the proper context for, and assistance, in dealing with the breakthrough from another level of reality, for all practical purposes, the person is insane. Heavy dosing with anti-psychotic drugs compounds the problem and prevents the integration that could lead to soul development and growth in the individual who has received these energies.

 

In the mental ward, Dr. Somé saw a lot of ‘beings’ hanging around the patients, ‘entities’ that are invisible to most people but that shamans and psychics are able to see. “They were causing the crisis in these people,” he says. It appeared to him that these beings were trying to get the medications and their effects out of the bodies of the people the beings were trying to merge with, and were increasing the patients’ pain in the process. “The beings were acting almost like some kind of excavator in the energy field of people. They were really fierce about that. The people they were doing that to were just screaming and yelling,” he said. He couldn’t stay in that environment and had to leave.

 

In the Dagara tradition, the community helps the person reconcile the energies of both worlds–“the world of the spirit that he or she is merged with, and the village and community.” That person is able then to serve as a bridge between the worlds and help the living with the information and healing they need. Thus, the spiritual crisis ends with the birth of another healer. “The other world’s relationship with our world is one of sponsorship,” Dr. Somé explains.

 

“More often than not, the knowledge and skills that arise from this kind of merger are a knowledge or a skill that is provided directly from the other world”

The beings who were increasing the pain of the inmates on the mental hospital ward were actually attempting to merge with the inmates in order to get messages through to this world. The people they had chosen to merge with were getting no assistance in learning how to be a bridge between the worlds and the beings’ attempts to merge were thwarted. The result was the sustaining of the initial disorder of energy and the aborting of the birth of a healer.

Drugs.jpg

Medication only compounds the problem and prevents the integration of the spirit.

 

“The Western culture has consistently ignored the birth of the healer,” states Dr. Somé.

“Consequently, there will be a tendency from the other world to keep trying as many people as possible in an attempt to get somebody’s attention. They have to try harder.”

The spirits are drawn to people whose senses have not been anesthetized. “The sensitivity is pretty much read as an invitation to come in,” he notes.

Those who develop so-called mental disorders are those who are sensitive, which is viewed in Western culture as over sensitivity. Indigenous cultures don’t see it that way and, as a result, sensitive people don’t experience themselves as overly sensitive . In the west, “it is the overload of the culture they’re in that is just wrecking them,” observes Dr. Somé. The frenetic pace, the bombardment of the senses, and the violent energy that characterize Western culture can overwhelm sensitive people.

Schizophrenia and Foreign Energy

With schizophrenia, there is a special “receptivity to a flow of images and information, which cannot be controlled,” stated Dr. Somé.

 

“When this kind of rush occurs at a time that is not personally chosen, and particularly when it comes with images that are scary and contradictory, the person goes into a frenzy”

 

What is required in this situation is first to separate the person’s energy from the extraneous foreign energies, by using shamanic practice (what is known as a ‘sweep’) to clear the latter out of the individual’s aura. With the clearing of their energy field, the person no longer picks up a flood of information and so no longer has a reason to be scared and disturbed, explains Dr. Somé.

Then it is possible to help the person align with the energy of the spirit being attempting to come through from the other world, and give birth to the healer. The blockage of that emergence is what creates problems. “The energy of the healer is a high-voltage energy,” he observes.

 

“When it is blocked, it just burns up the person. It’s like a short-circuit. Fuses are blowing. This is why it can be really scary, and I understand why this culture prefers to confine these people. Here they are yelling and screaming, and they’re put into a straitjacket. That’s a sad image.”

 

Again, the shamanic approach is to work on aligning the energies so there is no blockage, ‘fuses’ aren’t blowing, and the person can become the healer they are meant to be.

It needs to be noted at this point, however, that not all of the spirit beings that enter a person’s energetic field are there for the purposes of promoting healing. There are negative energies as well, which are undesirable presences in the aura. In those cases, the shamanic approach is to remove them from the aura, rather than work to align the discordant energies.

 

Alex: Crazy in the USA, Healer in Africa

To test his belief that the shamanic view of mental illness holds true in the Western world as well as in Indigenous cultures, Dr. Somé took a mental patient back to Africa with him, to his village. He says:

“I was prompted by my own curiosity to find out whether there’s truth in the universality that mental illness could be connected with an alignment with a being from another world”

 

Alex was an 18-year-old American who had suffered a psychotic break when he was 14. He had hallucinations, was suicidal, and went through cycles of dangerously severe depression. He was in a mental hospital and had been given a lot of drugs, but nothing was helping. “The parents had done everything–unsuccessfully,” says Dr. Somé. “They didn’t know what else to do.”

With their permission, Dr. Somé took their son to Africa. “After eight months there, Alex had become quite normal,” Dr. Somé reports. “He was even able to participate with healers in the business of healing; sitting with them all day long and helping them, assisting them in what they were doing with their clients… He spent about four years in my village.” Alex stayed by choice, not because he needed more healing. He felt, “much safer in the village than in America.”

To bring his energy and that of the being from the spiritual realm into alignment, Alex went through a shamanic ritual designed for that purpose, although it was slightly different from the one used with the Dagara people. “He wasn’t born in the village, so something else applied. But the result was similar, even though the ritual was not literally the same,” explains Dr. Somé. The fact that aligning the energy worked to heal Alex demonstrated to Dr. Somé that the connection between other beings and mental illness is indeed universal.

After the ritual, Alex began to share the messages that the spirit being had for this world. Unfortunately, the people he was talking to didn’t speak English (Dr. Somé was away at that point). The whole experience led, however, to Alex’s going to college to study psychology. He returned to the United States after four years because “he discovered that all the things that he needed to do had been done, and he could then move on with his life.”

The last that Dr. Somé heard was that Alex was in graduate school in psychology at Harvard. No one had thought he would ever be able to complete undergraduate studies, much less get an advanced degree.

Dr. Somé sums up what Alex’s mental illness was all about: “He was reaching out. It was an emergency call. His job and his purpose was to be a healer. He said no one was paying attention to that.”

After seeing how well the shamanic approach worked for Alex, Dr. Somé concluded that spirit beings are just as much an issue in the west as in his community in Africa.

 

“Yet the question still remains, the answer to this problem must be found here, instead of having to go all the way overseas to seek the answer. There has to be a way in which a little bit of attention beyond the pathology of this whole experience leads to the possibility of coming up with the proper ritual to help people.”

 

Dr. Malidoma Patrice Somé.

Dr. Malidoma Patrice Somé.

Longing for Spiritual Connection

A common thread that Dr. Somé has noticed in “mental”  disorders in the west is “a very ancient ancestral energy that has been placed in stasis, that finally is coming out in the person.” His job then is to trace it back, to go back in time to discover what that spirit is. In most cases, the spirit is connected to nature, especially with mountains or big rivers, he says.

In the case of mountains, as an example to explain the phenomenon, “it’s a spirit of the mountain that is walking side by side with the person and, as a result, creating a time-space distortion that is affecting the person caught in it.”  What is needed is a merger or alignment of the two energies, “so the person and the mountain spirit become one.” Again, the shaman conducts a specific ritual to bring about this alignment.

Dr. Somé believes that he encounters this situation so often in the United States because:

“Most of the fabric of this country is made up of the energy of the machine, and the result of that is the disconnection and the severing of the past. You can run from the past, but you can’t hide from it”

 

The ancestral spirit of the natural world comes visiting. “It’s not so much what the spirit wants as it is what the person wants,” he says. “The spirit sees in us a call for something grand, something that will make life meaningful, and so the spirit is responding to that.”

That call, which we don’t even know we are making, reflects “a strong longing for a profound connection, a connection that transcends materialism and possession of things and moves into a tangible cosmic dimension. Most of this longing is unconscious, but for spirits, conscious or unconscious doesn’t make any difference.” They respond to either.

As part of the ritual to merge the mountain and human energy, those who are receiving the ‘mountain energy’ are sent to a mountain area of their choice, where they pick up a stone that calls to them. They bring that stone back for the rest of the ritual  and then keep it as a companion; some even carry it around with them. “The presence of the stone does a lot in tuning the perceptive ability of the person,” notes Dr. Somé.

 

“They receive all kinds of information that they can make use of, so it’s like they get some tangible guidance from the other world as to how to live their life.”

 

When it is the ‘river energy,’ those being called go to the river and, after speaking to the river spirit, find a water stone to bring back for the same kind of ritual as with the mountain spirit.

“People think something extraordinary must be done in an extraordinary situation like this,” he says. That’s not usually the case. Sometimes it is as simple as carrying a stone.

HoldingRock

Simply connecting with a mountain or river spirit through an artifact helps us align.

 

A Sacred Ritual Approach to Mental Illness

One of the gifts a shaman can bring to the Western world is to help people rediscover ritual, which is so sadly lacking. “The abandonment of ritual can be devastating. From the spiritual view, ritual is inevitable and necessary if one is to live,” Dr. Somé writes in Ritual: Power, Healing, and Community.

“To say that ritual is needed in the industrialized world is an understatement. We have seen in my own people that it is probably impossible to live a sane life without it”

Dr. Somé did not feel that the rituals from his traditional village could simply be transferred to the west, so over his years of shamanic work here, he has designed rituals that meet the very different needs of this culture. Although the rituals change according to the individual or the group involved, he finds that there is a need for certain rituals in general.

One of these involves helping people discover that their distress is coming from the fact that they are “called by beings from the other world to cooperate with them in doing healing work.” Ritual allows them to move out of the distress and accept that calling.

Another ritual need relates to initiation. In Indigenous cultures all over the world, young people are initiated into adulthood when they reach a certain age. The lack of such initiation in the west is part of the crisis that people are in here, says Dr. Somé. He urges communities to bring together “the creative juices of people who have had this kind of experience, in an attempt to come up with some kind of an alternative ritual that would at least begin to put a dent in this kind of crisis.”

Another ritual that repeatedly speaks to the needs of those coming to him for help entails making a bonfire, and then putting into the bonfire “items that are symbolic of issues carried inside the individuals… It might be the issues of anger  and frustration against an ancestor who has left a legacy of murder and enslavement or anything, things that the descendant has to live with,” he explains.

“If these are approached as things that are blocking the human imagination, the person’s life purpose, and even the person’s view of life as something that can improve, then it makes sense to begin thinking in terms of how to turn that blockage into a roadway that can lead to something more creative and more fulfilling.”

The example of issues with ancestors touches on rituals designed by Dr. Somé that address a serious dysfunction in Western society and in the process ‘trigger enlightenment’ in participants. These are ancestral rituals, and the dysfunction they are aimed at is the mass turning-of-the-back on ancestors. Some of the spirits trying to come through, as described earlier, may be “ancestors who want to merge with a descendant in an attempt to heal what they weren’t able to do while in their physical body.”

“Unless the relationship between the living and the dead is in balance, chaos ensues,” Dr. Somé says.

 

“The Dagara believe that, if such an imbalance exists, it is the duty of the living to heal their ancestors. If these ancestors are not healed, their sick energy  will haunt the souls and psyches of those who are responsible for helping them.”

 

The rituals focus on healing the relationship with our ancestors, both specific issues of an individual ancestor and the larger cultural issues contained in our past. Dr. Somé has seen extraordinary healing occur at these rituals.

Taking a sacred ritual approach to mental illness, rather than regarding the person as a pathological case, gives the person affected–and indeed the community at large–the opportunity to begin looking at it from that vantage point too, which leads to “a whole plethora of opportunities and ritual initiative that can be very, very beneficial to everyone present,” states Dr. Somé.

 

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The Truth About Heartburn Medications

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The Truth About Over-The-Counter Medication: Heartburn Medications

While these medications are tested and found to be “safe”, they add to the imbalance in our bodies. When heartburn occurs, it can be tempting to chew a tablet and wait for the sensation to pass. This is actually damaging to our body’s ability to heal. Many of these medications contain harmful chemicals, such as polyethylene glycol which can be contaminated with dioxane or antifreeze, and aluminum which has been connected to Alzheimers. Other medications like Omeprazol or Zantac which stop acid production are now being associated with vitamin deficiencies, kidney problems, and DEMENTIA!!! Instead of listening to the cry for help, we mute it with an acid-eliminating tablet. This causes our bodies to react more strongly the next time we consume the offending food and makes us reliant upon the medication. Instead of correcting the problem, we mask the symptoms and continue a life of imbalance.

A Different Standard for Healing

Chinese Medicine postulates that a balance between body, mind, emotions, spirit, energy, and activity promotes a healthy life. Our bodies work hard to restore balance, which diverts energy away from the other aspects of our being. When we feel this imbalance, instead of walking down the aisle of the grocery store for the latest heartburn remedy, reflect on your diet and see what might be needed in order for you to heal. Interestingly, heartburn can be caused by not enough acid as well as too much acid. As we get older, this is a more common cause of heartburn.

Supporting Your Body During the Process

The best way to promote wellness inside and out is to allow your body to heal itself. By tuning into signals like heartburn and acid reflux, we learn which foods are damaging to our bodies. These are often starchy white foods. You may still experience symptoms for up to a week after you stop eating them; however, eliminating these foods has provided relief for over 90% of my patients!

It can take time to get used to reading these signals from your body, and I encourage you to be extra gentle and patient with yourself. Pay attention to any uncomfortable sensations, and note which foods you consumed prior to the flare-up. Rely on healthful, soothing teas and supplements when needed. Peppermint is a cooling, helpful herb that is a wonderful remedy for soothing a bout of heartburn. Ginger harmonizes all the organs and is particularly good for your stomach and digestion. Other herbs work with your body to heal instead of simply dulling pain.

You CAN end your addiction to over-the-counter heartburn medicines. Make a few changes to your diet and substitute herbs for your favorite medicine. You’ll be supporting your health both today and in the future!

Heartburn medications can cause heart attacks and death!

 

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Health and Disease, Lifestyle, Uncategorized

Interview with Dr Andrew Weil. Are you taking too many medications?

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Integrative-medicine pioneer Andrew Weil, MD, talks about why Americans are taking too many drugs.

 

When Andrew Weil, MD, was growing up in the 1940s and 1950s, doctors wrote prescriptions in Latin. To fill that prescription, “you had to hand it to a pharmacist who stood behind a high counter intended to prevent you from seeing what he did,” Weil writes in his new book, Mind Over Meds: Know When Drugs Are Necessary, When Alternatives Are Better — and When to Let Your Body Heal on Its Own.” The upshot? Patients had no idea what medications they were taking.

 

Although times have changed and the Internet has made health information widely available, Weil notes, people still do not ask enough questions about the medicine they’re prescribed. That’s just one reason, he says, why prescription drug use in the United States has increased tenfold in the past 50 years, and over-the-counter drug use has skyrocketed as well.

 

Drugs are certainly life-saving in critical and acute illnesses, Weil notes, but when it comes to chronic illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and GERD, lifestyle changes such as dietary change, exercise, and stress relief are critical. “Taking a drug just because a doctor says so is not necessarily a good idea,” he counsels. “Always try to understand why you need it.”

 

To get a better sense of when to take drugs — and when to look for alternatives — we spoke to Dr. Weil. Here’s what he had to say:

Dr. Weil, you’ve spent the majority of your career in integrative medicine, using lifestyle-based approaches such as nutrition, movement, and mind-body medicine to tackle the chronic-disease epidemic. Why do you think prescription drug use in the United States has increased so dramatically in the past 50 years?

 

Andrew Weil | Drug makers have had a profound influence on both physicians and the general public. The information that doctors rely on when prescribing typically comes from industry rather than objective sources. For example, pharmaceutical companies commonly fund research. In these studies, drugs are typically pitted against a placebo, almost never against diet and lifestyle changes that may work as well or better. The results drive clinical practice.

 

Advertisements paid for by Big Pharma are the major revenue source for medical journals, a situation that compromises editorial objectivity. The current medical school curriculum and the influence of Big Pharma condition doctors from their first days of training and throughout years of practice to have more faith in the power of prescription drugs than in the healing power of nature.

 

Regarding the public, direct-to-consumer marketing by drug companies has increased demand for their products. Due in part to this type of advertising, people have a strong desire to be medicated, believing it to be the only or the best way to effectively treat disease. Direct-to-consumer marketing by Big Pharma should be banned.

 

Lastly, many people prefer the “quick fix” of popping a pill. Nondrug therapies, such as lifestyle modification, require motivation and active participation on the part of patients and may take time to produce desired results. And the pill, as opposed to safe and effective nondrug approaches, is usually covered by insurance.

 

AS | When it comes to chronic disease, why do so many doctors prescribe drugs as a first-line treatment instead of using lifestyle modifications?

 

AW | Current medical training is heavy on high-tech treatment options, including drug therapy, and neglects the power of prevention, the impact of positive diet and lifestyle changes, and evidence for the safe and effective use of natural remedies and complementary therapies. With little or no background in these areas, healthcare providers are left to rely almost solely on medication. The circumstances outlined in question No. 1 further complicate matters.

 

My colleagues and I at the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine are working to improve medical education so that future healthcare providers enter practice with an understanding of how to support and optimize a patient’s innate healing capacity. Of course, drug therapy is an important method for maintaining health and treating disease — but it’s not the only method.

 

AS | What are the consequences of overmedication?

 

AW | Safety is the biggest concern – polypharmacy (being on multiple medications) increases the odds for adverse reactions, drug interactions, and the unintended worsening of health problems.

 

Another worry is cost — the markup on pharmaceutical drugs is greater than on any other commodity in the marketplace. Big Pharma justifies this by citing the high cost of research, but that represents a small fraction of what they spend on advertising and promotion.

 

There are also environmental concerns — we get exposed to drugs that are excreted from the body or thrown out because they accumulate in our water supplies, in the soil, and in the foods we eat.

 

Overmedication also contributes to the pervasive notion that drugs are the only answer, but drug therapy is often best at hiding symptoms. Drugs alone do not address the root cause of disease.

 

AS| You have a very evocative statement in your book: “No difference exists between a drug and a poison except dose.” What do you mean by that?

 

AW | All drugs become toxic as the dose is increased. Doctors generally believe that the best medications are those that are powerful and work quickly. Unfortunately, concentration of pharmaceutical power inevitably concentrates toxicity. These potent agents are necessary in cases of severe illness, where benefit outweighs risk, but they are now used for almost every disease condition, even mild ones.

 

Strong reliance on these isolated, purified chemical compounds produces a high incidence of adverse reactions, ranging from mild discomfort to multisystem failure and death, even when the drug has been prescribed appropriately. Herbal remedies are far safer because the active components are present in a complex natural balance and in low concentrations.

 

AS | You write in your book that you want people to become wise consumers when it comes to medicine — to know when pharmaceutical products are really needed. So when are they needed?

 

AW | Use of pharmaceuticals should be limited to those situations where they are clearly indicated — critical care, terminal care, and the management of severe disease. I would like to see them play a smaller role in the treatment of common conditions where the risks are not justified. For chronic disease management, drug therapy should be offered in the context of comprehensive care that also includes lifestyle modification and nondrug therapies. Both doctors and patients need to become knowledgeable about less expensive and less dangerous interventions that are safe and effective.

 

AS | Are there any heartening trends afoot? What will it take, in your opinion, for more doctors to adopt a lifestyle-first strategy to tackle the chronic disease epidemic?

 

AW | We are faced with the growing realization that over-reliance on prescription-drug therapy has come at a terrible price — worsening antibiotic resistance and an unprecedented opioid addiction and an epidemic of serious adverse drug reactions are some of the most disturbing developments. Doctors are responding by prescribing fewer antibiotics for viral illnesses such as colds and the flu (antibiotics do not work against viruses), and by recognizing that narcotic medications are only indicated for short-term pain management following acute injury or surgery — they are not effective for the relief of chronic pain. In contrast, positive lifestyle changes such as an anti-inflammatory diet and healthy stress-management practices, as well as complementary therapies including acupuncture and mind-body techniques, are safe and effective ways of managing chronic pain.

 

Crisis offers opportunity. In these challenging times, my hope is that as a country we see the wisdom of integrative medicine and the lifestyle habits it encourages as part of the solution to our healthcare crisis.

 

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Health and Disease, Lifestyle, Uncategorized

Heart Healthy Lifestyle Tied To Lower Drug Costs

heartdisease

Heart-Healthy Lifestyle Tied to Lower Drug Costs

People with heart disease spend a lot less on medications when they take steps to lower their risk of complications by doing things like getting enough exercise, avoiding cigarettes and keeping their blood pressure in check, a U.S. study suggests.

For the study, researchers focused on adults diagnosed with the most common type of heart disease, known as atherosclerosis, which happens when fats, cholesterol and other substances build up on artery walls.

 

When these patients did as much as they could to avoid so-called modifiable risk factors for heart disease – inactivity, obesity, smoking, high cholesterol, elevated blood pressure and diabetes – their total average annual pharmaceutical expenditures were $1,400, the study found.

But patients who did little to modify these risk factors had total average annual pharmaceutical expenditures of $4,516, researchers report in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

 

“Individuals who are unwilling to modify their lifestyles so as to have a favorable risk factor profile would most likely resort to medications to control the risk factors,” said lead study author Dr. Joseph Salami of the Center for Health Care Advancement and Outcomes at Baptist Health South Florida in Coral Gables.

 

“A person getting little or no exercise has a higher risk of obesity,” Salami said by email. “Someone obese is more likely to have diabetes, high blood cholesterol and hypertension.”

 

For the study, researchers examined 2012 and 2013 data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, a national snapshot of spending based on surveys of almost 76,000 American patients, families, doctors and employers. The total pharmaceutical costs, reported in 2013 dollars, include patients’ out-of-pocket fees like co-payments and co-insurance as well as the portion of the tab covered by insurance or other sources, Salami said.

Among the survey participants, 4,248 adults aged 40 or older had atherosclerosis, representing about 21.9 million people in the U.S. population. They were 68 years old on average, and 45 percent were women.

 

Overall, average annual drug costs for each participant were $3,432. About a third of this was for cardiovascular disease drugs and another 14 percent was spent on diabetes medicines.

 

The remaining expenditures – more than half of the total – were for non-cardiovascular disease and non-diabetes drugs and were significantly associated with the modifiable risk factors, the study team notes.

Nationwide, this adds up to annual drug spending of $71.6 billion for patients with atherosclerosis, researchers estimated.

 

One limitation of the study is that it might overestimate expenditures because it’s possible some people prescribed medications for heart disease might be taking them for other reasons, the authors note. Researchers also lacked data on the type of insurance patients’ had or for individual characteristics of patients, doctors or pharmacists that might influence drug costs.

 

Costs should be considered in the context of how well treatments work, and the study doesn’t address this, noted Dr. Aaron Kesselheim, a researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston who wasn’t involved in the study.

 

“In some cases, the benefit that patients get from these non-pharmacologic therapies may be much more substantial than the benefit that drug therapy can offer,” Kesselheim said by email. “In other cases, the drug might be more helpful.”

The study also isn’t a controlled experiment designed to prove that people will spend less on drugs when they make lifestyle changes to reduce their risk of heart disease, said Julie Schmittdiel of the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Division of Research in Oakland.

 

“It does suggest there is promise that addressing modifiable health behaviors will reduce costs,” Schmittdiel, who wasn’t involved in the study, said by email.

 

Knowing this might help motivate some patients to make changes, said Stacie Dusetzina, a pharmacy researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who wasn’t involved in the study.

 

“I think many of us realize how hard these risk factors are to modify,” Dusetzina said by email. “But having incentives that include feeling better and saving money may help with motivation.”

 

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Rx to Wellness, Uncategorized

How Statins Degenerate Your Brain Health

statins

 

How Statins Degenerate Your Brain Health

 

Tens of millions of people are taking drugs to lower their cholesterol levels. Most of those medications are in a drug class known as statins. Some doctors are even starting to recommend children use statin drugs to control their cholesterol levels.1 I couldn’t disagree more.

 

The challenge with statin drugs is that they address surface issues with cholesterol in a simplistic manner. But your body is a complex organism that uses cholesterol every day to build new cell walls, in the formation of vitamin D and in the production of hormones.

 

Statin drugs are HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors. They function by blocking the enzyme in your liver that naturally produces cholesterol for your bodily functions.

 

The drug essentially reduces your total cholesterol number, without addressing your high-density lipoproteins (HDL), low-density lipoproteins (LDL), very low-density lipoproteins (VLDL) or triglyceride levels.

 

While your total cholesterol number gives you a general overview, it isn’t the information needed to evaluate your risk of cardiovascular disease. Instead, you’ll need to compare your HDL, LDL, VLDL and triglyceride numbers against your total cholesterol.

 

Statins May Trigger Neuromuscular Disease

 

Statin drugs are notorious for causing side effects like muscle damage and weakness. What has been less publicized is a potential link between statins and a progression of muscle wasting that may lead to a diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

 

The World Health Organization (WHO) Foundation Collaborating Centre for International Drug Monitoring receives safety reports associated with statin medications and has noted a disproportionately high number of patients with upper motor neuron lesions among those taking statin medications.2

 

The lead researcher, Ivor Ralph Edwards, is an expert in toxicology, acute and chronic poisoning and adverse drug reactions.3 He also is the senior adviser at the WHO Uppsala Monitoring Centre in Sweden, and he says:4

 

“We do advocate that trial discontinuation of a statin should be considered in patients with serious neuromuscular disease such as the ALS-like syndrome, given the poor prognosis and a possibility that progression of the disease may be halted or even reversed.”

 

Researchers from Johns Hopkins Medical School cautioned patients that although they discovered a link between taking statins and the development of a rare neuromuscular autoimmune disease, this condition could be treated with steroids and other immunosuppressive drugs.5

 

The researchers stated there was no need to fear this popular “fantastic medication.”6

 

Dr. Andrew L. Mammen, a neurologist who treats patients with statin-associated myopathies at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, is quoted in a Johns Hopkins press release saying, “Statins save a huge number of lives. They dramatically reduce the risk of strokes and heart attacks.”

 

The implication is you need statins in order to reduce your risk of heart attacks and strokes, and you should take them despite the risk for developing a degenerative neurological disease for which you will require medication to suppress your immune system.

 

This despite the knowledge that total cholesterol numbers are not indicative of your overall risk for cardiovascular disease. I would advise you to seriously evaluate the risks and benefits and consider your alternatives before you start taking a statin drug.

 

More Adverse Effects of Statins

 

 

 

In 2012 Golomb was recognized for a study she led on muscle and tendon adverse events linked to statins, which showed that muscle problems were related to the strength of the statin being taken.8

 

Other studies concur that side effects from statin drugs may be different for different patients depending upon your past medical history, the particular statin and the dose used.9

 

Research from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine suggests that research results have been “cherry-picked” so the results presented the best possible light for the drug company.10 According to Pacific Standard:11

 

“Sometimes the negative side effects of statins are downplayed, and conclusions can be skewed by the limited parameters of the trials. As a 2007 Scripps Mercy Hospital study noted:

 

‘The incidence of statin-induced rhabdomyolysis (acute breakdown of skeletal muscles) is higher in practice than in controlled trials because of the exclusion of potentially susceptible subjects.'”

 

Another study found 17 percent of patients suffered side effects that included muscle pain, nervous system problems and nausea.12 Two-thirds who reported side effects stopped taking the drugs and approximately half stopped at least temporarily.

 

A review of the literature, published in the American Journal of Cardiovascular Drugs, evaluated 900 previous studies looking at the adverse effects of statin drugs.13

 

Adverse effects are dose-dependent, and your health risks can be amplified by a number of factors, such as taking other drugs (which may increase statin potency), metabolic syndrome or thyroid disease. Some of the consequences of taking statin drugs in strong doses or for a lengthy amount of time include:14,15,16

 

Headache

Difficulty sleeping

Drowsiness

Bloating

Gas

Constipation

Rash

High blood sugar (type 2 diabetes)

Vision changes

Bladder pain

Difficulty breathing

Dry mouth

Lower back or side pain

Loss of consciousness

Swollen joints

Blistering or peeling skin

Weight changes

Cognitive loss

Neuropathy

Anemia

Acidosis

Frequent fevers

Cataracts

Sexual dysfunction

Pancreatic dysfunction

Immune system suppression

Polyneuropathy (nerve damage in hands and feet)

Liver dysfunction

Increased risk of cancer

Degenerative muscle tissue (rhabdomyolysis)

 

 

If You Feel You Must Take Statins You Need to Take Ubiquinol or CoQ10

 

Statins work by inhibiting the enzyme your liver uses to produce cholesterol. However, the same pathway may promote the suppression of the precursor to coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10), an antioxidant your mitochondria uses to produce energy. In theory, when your body is deficient in CoQ10, mitochondrial energy production is depressed, which may trigger or accelerate neuropathies like ALS.17

 

If you take statin drugs without taking CoQ10 or the reduced form, ubiquinol, your health may be at serious risk. Unfortunately, this describes the majority of people who take statins in the United States. The loss of energy at the cellular level can damage your mitochondrial DNA and set into motion a vicious cycle of rising free radicals and mitochondrial damage.

 

CoQ10 is an effective adjunct treatment for heart failure, an important piece of information as statins may decrease the function of your heart muscle.18 In this study researchers found the control group, those who were not taking statin drugs to protect their cardiovascular health, fared better.19 They concluded, “Statin therapy is associated with decreased myocardial function as evaluated with SI (strain imaging).”

 

The importance of your mitochondrial energy function can’t be overstated. Statin Study Group, led by Golomb, concluded the malfunction of mitochondrial energy production due to the interference of statin medications was the underlying causative factor in all of the adverse effects associated with the medication.

 

After reviewing the evidence, if you choose to take a CoQ10 supplement it’s important to take the form your body can easily assimilate.20 CoQ10 can typically be used by people 30 and younger. However, if you are over 30 you’ll want to consider ubiquinol, the reduced version of CoQ10, as it is far more effective.

 

LDL Particle Number More Important Than Total Cholesterol

 

It is likely the focus on lowering cholesterol has missed the boat completely, as high total cholesterol is not the cause of heart disease, unless it’s over 300. Other risk factors are much more powerful. One of the more important tests you may consider to determine your real risk of heart disease is the NMR LipoProfile, which measures your LDL particle number.

 

This particular test also includes markers to determine if you are insulin resistant, a primary cause of an elevated LDL particle number. When your insulin secretion rises, so does your cholesterol production. Elevated insulin levels, or a decrease in insulin sensitivity, is related to the foods you eat and your exercise. Two other blood test ratios that will tell you more about your cardiovascular disease risk are:

 

HDL to total cholesterol ratio. This is a fasting test and should be higher than 25 percent. It measures the amount of HDL you have against your total cholesterol number.

Triglyceride to HDL ratio, which should be below 2.

Health officials in the United States urge everyone over the age of 20 to have their cholesterol tested once every five years. Part of this test is your total cholesterol, or the sum of your blood’s cholesterol content, including HDL, LDLs and VLDLs.

 

Keep in mind these are still simply guidelines, and there’s a lot more that goes into your risk of heart disease than any one number can tell you. It was only after researchers found total cholesterol was a poor predictor of heart disease that HDL and LDL cholesterol were measured. They give you a closer idea of what’s going on, but they still do not show you everything.

 

Naturally Improve Your Cholesterol Levels

 

The only time there is a real reason to take medications to control your cholesterol level may be if you suffer from familial hypercholesterolemia. This is a genetic condition, passed down through your family. It begins at birth and affects your LDL levels, sometimes causing heart attacks at an early age.21

 

In other instances, your cholesterol can be controlled by making different lifestyle and nutritional choices. The fact is that 75 percent of your cholesterol is produced by your liver, which is influenced by your insulin levels.22,23 This means if you optimize your insulin levels you will also be optimizing your cholesterol levels. In order to safely regulate your blood sugar, insulin sensitivity and cholesterol levels it is important to modify your diet and lifestyle choices.

 

Optimize Your Vitamin D Levels

 

Sensible sun exposure will help normalize your cholesterol levels and prevent heart disease.24

Don’t take Vitamin D without talking to a healthcare professional about the type and amount you need to take for YOU.  If they don’t know, they will tell you to take anything you want. Also, ask is there anything you need to take with Vitamin D, because Vitamin can never be taken alone.

 

Normalize Your Weight and Reduce Carbohydrates, Especially Fructose

 

Normalize your weight using a plan of eliminating grains and sugars in your diet. Take special care to get no more than 25 grams of fructose each day. These products spike your insulin level and trigger the development of cholesterol. Ideally, you’ll also want to consume a good portion of your food raw.

Include Heart Healthy Foods

 

Make sure you are getting plenty of high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fats. Other heart-healthy foods include olive oil, coconut and coconut oil, organic raw dairy products and eggs, avocados, raw nuts and seeds, and organic grass-fed meats.

Increase Your Daily Movement and Exercise Regularly

 

While I strongly recommend incorporating Peak Fitness exercises, which also optimize your human growth hormone (HGH) production, non-exercise movement may be even more important. Ideally, stay active as much as you can each day. I recommend standing up at work, and try to get as much walking in as possible. Then, in addition to that, aim for a comprehensive fitness program that includes strength training and high intensity exercises.

Reduce Your Stress Levels

 

Each of us experience stress in a fast-paced life. You may consider addressing your emotional challenges using my favorite technique for stress management, Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT). You can easily learn to use these techniques at home and incorporate them even when you’re out and about.

Improve Your Sleep Quality

 

High quality sleep helps reduce your stress levels, normalize your insulin levels and function optimally through the day. If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep you may want to try some of the strategies in my previous article titled, “Want a Good Night’s Sleep? Then Never Do These Things Before Bed.”

Avoid Excessive Alcohol or Tobacco

 

Alcohol is high in net carbohydrates, which affect your insulin levels. Tobacco has an effect on your arterial system, temporarily raising your blood pressure.

Replace Vegetable Oils

 

Replace harmful vegetable oils and synthetic trans fats with healthy fats, such as olive oil, butter and coconut oil (remember olive oil should be used cold only; use coconut oil for cooking and baking).

Include Fermented Foods

 

Include fermented foods in your daily diet. These will not only optimize your intestinal microflora, which will boost your overall immunity, but will also introduce beneficial bacteria into your mouth. Poor oral health is another powerful indicator of increased heart disease risk.

 

Don’t Quess, ASK!

 

If you have any questions or need a healthcare plan just for you, then call us, set up an appointment and let us work together on this.

Health and Wellness Associates

Archived : JM

  1. Carrothers

312-972-WELL

Rx to Wellness, Uncategorized

Grapefruit, Oranges, Marmalade and Medications

medsandgrapfruit

Why Grapefruit and Medications Can Be a Dangerous Mix

 

Before you cut into that grapefruit ( or tangelos or seville oranges )or down that glass of juice, be sure to check whether it is safe to pair grapefruit with the medications you are taking.  This includes vitamins and supplements.

 

Both the juice and the fruit itself can interact with more than 50 drugs, such as cholesterol medication and all statins, high blood pressure medication and allergy, cold and flu medications, cardiac meds including coumatin/warfarin, and all injectibles.

 

Grapefruit and medications could cause problems in two ways.  First, grapefruit can block a key drug-metabolizing enzyme in your body, which in turn could lead to increase in the blood levels of certain drugs.  IF that happens, it increases the risk of experiencing a side effect from that drug.  On the flip side, it can also block absorption of certain drugs in your intestines.  In that case, you could have less of the drug in your bloodstream than what you need, so the drug in your bood stream than what you need, so the drug might not be as effective for its intended purpose.

 

Surprisingly it does not take much of the fruit for a grapefruit and medication interaction to happen.  As little as 1 cup of juice and two wedges of the fruit can be enough to cause problems.

 

If you regularly eat grapefruit or drink its juice find out if your medication interacts with the fruit.  Some medications, but not all medictions will be labeled ” Do Not Take With Grapefruit”, or on the inserts when you pick up your medications.  These labels will not be on injectibles.  Injectibles are sometimes given in a clinic or office, and many times the personnel giving the injection does not know chemical interactions.  Dr. David Bailey of University of Western Ontario was the first chemist/pharmacologist to identify this problem with all injectibles.

 

Watch out for These Grapefruit and Medication Interactions

 

Besides some of the medications listed in the article

watch out for:

 

Lipitor, Pravachol, simvastin, Zocor, and all cholesterol medications

 

All high blood pressure medications, including Afeditab and Procardia

 

Organ Transplant medications :  cyclosporin, Neoral, Sandimmune,

 

All auto-immune medications for Multiple Sclerosis and Rheumatoid Arthritis

 

Anti-anxiety medications, including alprazolam, xanax and prozac

 

All cardiac medications, including amiodarone, Cordarone, Nexterone

 

All allergy medications, including diphenhydramine ( Benedryl), Allegra and Claritiin

 

All cough and cold medications

 

It is also recommended to stop eating tangelos and seville oranges, used to make orange marmalade, because these also affect the same enzyme as grapefruit.

 

Ask your healthcare worker or the pharmacist if there is another medication that does not act with these fruits.  You might find out that they dont know about the tangelos or seville oranges.  You Do!

 

But it is always best, just not to eat the fruits.

 

Health and Wellness Associates

Archived Article

Steve Mitchell

  1. Carrothers

312-972-Well