Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Debit System That Defines Your Health

Have you stopped and wondered why so little discussion of healing takes place in health care?  To many Americans, healing and health in general have become like a foreign film without subtitles, just engaging enough to ensure that we pay attention if we have to, but complicated to the point that it borderline demands that someone within the field – not limited to doctors, mind you, in this day and age of well-rounded, forward-thinking practitioners of various types – be a translator of sorts, offering guidance to ensure that health care continues its grassroots movement toward a greater number of sick people truly getting well and the genuine reform and loosening pharmaceutical grip that will come with it. 

Until greater change is made, the unfortunate truth for most people is that they are unlikely to learn much about health until they in some pronounced way become aware that they are no longer healthy.  A basic understanding of healing is paramount for everyone, especially as we collectively inch toward a more proactive paradigm, but it is particularly meaningful for the person reaching the fork in the road and making a very important decision to, like Neo standing before Morpheus in The Matrix, accept the figurative red pill en route to a fundamentally different paradigm for regaining and sustaining health or to accept the blue pill and find out how deep the allopathic (traditional medical) rabbit-hole goes.  Chronic illness and pain destroy more lives than all our other societal challenges combined and, when people have been through enough to learn that the most common solutions are often major parts of the problem, the path that they take at the fork in the road often becomes one of the defining moments in their lives.

Health is defined as a state of complete mental, physical, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity; put in a simpler way, health is basically like wealth.  When being educated about managing money, you are given the foundational knowledge that you cannot spend more than you have, as you will otherwise find yourself in a poor state of financial wealth, loosely defined as having a lot more than you spend.  Your body is like a bank account, trillions strong cellularly and with an innate potential expressed to such a degree of ad nauseum that it is taken for granted; it has the ability to create new cells billions of times per day, not just replenishing the stomach lining every quarter hour or the liver cells every month and a half, but also repairing a broken cut in mere days and a broken bone in mere weeks.  The most powerful and productive assembly line there has ever been, your body is fundamentally healthy, but enough debits even to a system that robust eventually take their toll. 

Confusion surrounding the basics of wealth or health management similarly create chaos, the difference being that virtually everyone knows that a massive hit to their financial well-being can be offset with more earning, whereas the fact that unmanaged stress is regarded as the leading cause of disease and that the annual leading causes of disability, death, and missed work/school days are mostly preventable suggest that we societally lack the equivalent level of health education.  No matter your diagnosis, in this day and age, the first suggested step to take on your so-termed road to recovery is prescription medication to subdue your symptoms, regardless of their cause and context.  Your body has built in warnings about too many debits being taken from your health account, but from an early age we are taught to ignore these initial heads-up, suppressing them near-constantly until we inevitably are on red alert.  Once that point is reached, it is not as easy to replenish the system, even when you finally know how. 

New cells are made of the food you consume, so consistently poor nutrition debits frequently from your health; traumas occur that create short-circuits within your own internal network, weakening organ function, and accordingly debit consistently from your health too; those same traumas induce shifts in the physical frame that slowly but surely debit from your musculoskeletal system the ability to hold firm its structural integrity; sedentary lifestyles at work and at home prevent the muscle movement that the body requires (structurally and internally), further debiting from and exhausting the once vast natural resources highly intelligently designed for thriving, not just surviving; negative attitudes and living your life around fear sour your soul by filling your mind with garbage, debiting from your health not just mental energy and hope (and the cascade of consequent effects from a lack thereof), but also normal neurologic rhythm (due to the ensuing fight or flight response from the stress); environmental influences also take from the health account, as does a constant bombardment of the system via pharmaceuticals; the average American family pays $833 per month just for “health” insurance premiums, so there is also financial stress to be considered.  The list of debits is enormous, but where are the credits?

When your health account is depleted indefinitely, you become unhealthy, no matter how good you may have felt before the debits mounted to the extent that you really noticed.  Healing, not just to feel better but to actually be better, involves accepting the fact that you are often starting close to square one with a significantly drained account (or even worse yet in debt) and that you have to learn how to replenish it with the restoration of balance and function, the adoption of persistent exercise, the daily improvement of attitude, the proper management of finances perhaps, the habitual pattern of eating clean, the reduction or elimination of medication necessity, etc.  The instant gratification mindset is not applicable to healing, as no more than you could expect to become wealthy in no time at all, you cannot expect to become healthy on the fast track either. 

It is as if we have previously been taught to think of our health as equivalent to being given a lump sum of money with the expectation that it would to some uncertain degree decrease until we expired, with limited opportunities to maintain or build up the bottom line.  Benjamin Franklin once said that an investment in knowledge pays the best interest; the further aware we become, of what it means to be healthy, of the realities of modern health care, and of what it takes to heal, the more clarity everyone will have, making these topics more approachable and making authentic change far easier to come by for those sick and tired of being sick and tired and the wellness-oriented alike. 

Adopting the Elite Athlete's Mindset: Preventing Injuries and Improving Performance

The foundational philosophy behind modern medicine as we have come to know it is referred to as allopathy, which is defined as the treatment of disease by methods that produce the effects opposite of symptoms.  Our pharmaceutically-driven healthcare system has pierced to its core the societal perception of what it means to be healthy.  We have been indoctrinated by a paradigm that strips away the control that we can and should maintain over our own bodies, all while preaching the virtues of faulty theories that, if the history of healthcare is any indication, will eventually be disproven in favor of the next generational hypothesis; the vast majority of us consequently take our health for granted, as evidenced by seven out of ten Americans taking prescription drugs but only one out of ten consistently eating quality food.

In our quest to take back control of our health, we would be wise to take a peek inside the minds of elite athletes, who embody that which health is really all about: being the best version of ourselves.  They work hard to achieve and sustain peak physical and mental conditioning; when an aspect of their game is weak, they seek the necessary help to make it a strength, be it through counseling to manage stress, coaching to maximize nutritional efficiency, training to enhance athletic performance, or chiropractic care to optimize their structural integrity and functional resiliency. 

Focusing on that final point, it is of note that only 10% of Americans seek chiropractic care and that, of those 10%, the vast majority go for a limited time in order to address only a specific symptom (or diagnosis), rendering the practice a more natural version of drug-therapy.  By comparison, “I would estimate that at least 90% of world class athletes use chiropractic on a regular basis to prevent injuries and to improve their performance,” Sean Atkins, who holds a PhD in Exercise Physiology, has stated. 

The science of chiropractic often gets scrutinized in the medical community for its lack of studies set against specific conditions.  Though such studies do exist and often produce profound results in helping people with diagnoses like hypertension and multiple sclerosis, especially in the upper cervical specialty, the historical focus of the chiropractic profession has not been on treating disease, but rather optimizing the body’s ability to heal itself.  Thus, research abounds when studying the chiropractic paradigm’s effectiveness in helping athletes.  For instance, one study concluded that collegiate baseball players were more effective statistically and healthier physiologically after Upper Cervical Care.  Another found that chiropractic helped injured female long distance runners both recover quickly and post personal bests in subsequent races.  

One of the key elements that separates an elite athlete from an average one is reaction time.  In soccer, for instance, a striker breaking free into open space needs a teammate to pass the ball at the right moment so that the striker can run onto it behind the defense without being called offside and have a breakaway opportunity for a goal; reaction time, in this example, is the ability to see the streaking striker and to make the necessary pass literally within a second.  Several years ago, research showed that athletes under Upper Cervical Care had a reaction time 15% faster than their peers.  Extrapolate that data out into the general population and think of how it might positively affect your ability to drive or to make quick, important decisions to simply (and literally) get your head on straight.

From Arnold Schwarzenegger to Jerry Rice to Michael Jordan to John Stockton to Wayne Gretsky to Serena Williams to Usain Bolt to Aaron Rodgers (whose dad is a chiropractor), athletes have become increasingly aware of chiropractic’s effectiveness for decades. 

Traumas occur throughout our lives (especially during youth) that disrupt the delicate balance between the head and the upper neck, the proper alignment of which is foundational to our structural integrity and the misalignment of which begins a head-to-toe compensatory domino effect that causes the body’s natural biomechanics (how it moves) to change.  The widespread physical adaptation prompts the muscles of the body to pull against each other instead of work together, creating a destructive dynamic that makes the body more prone to injury and various symptoms of distress (pain among them).  That same misalignment also compromises the brainstem, the organ responsible for routing the communication between the brain and the organs, muscles, and tissues like a cell tower in a phone network; a lack of normal function internally has a globally detrimental effect on the body. 

Most people address fundamental problems with their health, such as the upper cervical misalignment and its cascade of side effects, long after they become symptomatic; this is largely because our health system has taught us to be reactive.  Elite athletes, on the other hand, have been taught to be proactive. 

Jerry Rice, an NFL Hall of Famer and Upper Cervical advocate, once said, “Life requires the edge that chiropractic provides.”  Upper Cervical Care keeps the structural frame balanced and keeps the brainstem free of neurologic distortion to allow for top notch internal networking, resulting in optimal heart, lung, and musculoskeletal function among a great many other benefits.  Athletes desire that edge because it helps them to train harder, recover faster, and perform better.  Why are the rest of us not following their lead, collectively tweaking our mindsets toward health in order to become the best possible versions of ourselves?

The Similarities Between March Madness and Your Health

One of the most frequent topics of conversation I have with you, face-to-face, is about how well you are managing your health amidst the other responsibilities in your life.  As mentioned in our New Patient Orientation Class, I consider stress management to be the most underrated vital aspect of healthy living and, since unmanaged emotional stress is the leading reason why patients lose their Upper Cervical corrections, I not only discuss it with you often because I want you to be the best versions of yourself possible, but also because it typically has such a direct effect on how well you will maintain the foundational work that we're doing at TUCC. 

For me, the primary stress management tool in my playbook is sports.  There is a lot going on in the world that presents us with daunting challenges to overcome, the core issues with American healthcare certainly at the top of my list of wrongs I am taking personal responsibility to help right during my time on this earth; honestly, if the only thing I did was think about our big picture problems and how to solve them, I imagine I would feel pretty consistently lost and overwhelmed, so sports provide me an outlet to lose myself in something of a (mostly J ) constructive distraction.  Today, I want to blend the seriousness of healthcare with the more youthful-type joy that I still find in sport, conveying this month's newsletter-led message for your consideration with an analogy befitting of the month of March. 

The third month of the year brings to the forefront the state of North Carolina's crazed obsession with college basketball; no state, in fact, embodies the spirit of March Madness to a greater extent than we do.  The 2018 NCAA Tournament is underway!  Among the most impressive things in sports, to me, is the psychology of winning consistently in college basketball, due to the fact that the star players can leave for the professional ranks so quickly after high school, as opposed to the rules in football that keep kids in college until three years removed from their high school graduation.  To build a program like Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K) has at Duke or like Bill Self has at Kansas is fascinating really; the discipline that goes into established routines through every aspect of the operation offers a life lesson on success, no matter the endeavor. 

If we were to compare, then, the success of a college basketball program to your health, the coach would be the equivalent of the brainstem.  Facilitating the connections to the entire body, it is the quality of the “coach's” decisions that lay the foundation for victory; its organizational skills in combination with the brain, similar to an athletic director, are vital to the health of the systems in place designed to make winning an expectation.  The organs, muscles, and tissues (all made of cells) are the players, the heart, lungs, digestive system, and immune system regularly among the figurative leaders in scoring, rebounding, assists, and defense, all under the direction of the coach's game-plan, with the nerves acting as the assistants to ensure all the players know their responsibilities for improving the well-being of the team.

To round out the analogy, the director of basketball operations would equate to structural alignment, without which the balance necessary to ensure a winning culture would simply be made far more challenging than it needed to be; the training staff takes care of the exercise necessary to ensure the body is in peak physical condition; and, finally, practice would serve as the comparison to stress management, in that there is a strange assumption among some circles that practice is not actually necessary to achieve optimal results – even a team with all of the innate talent in the world would not be able to win the ACC Championship and a #1 seed in the Big Dance without practice. 

The piece that ties a winning program together that will be the primary focus of our educational efforts this month is recruiting, college basketball’s version of nutrition.  Contemplate how frequently the cells (players) that make up the organs, muscles, and tissues of the body are produced and recycled.  Every 6-8 minutes, the cells of your stomach lining are replaced; every 4-6 weeks, your liver cells are renewed; every four months, you have fresh blood cells.  Our bodies make new cells with the food that we consume, so the quality of our cells is dependent on the quality of the materials that we feed our bodies.  Would you rather “recruit” new cell production from a fast food restaurant (for you fellow basketball aficionados, a 1-star player) or would you rather “recruit” a higher caliber player of the 4-to-5-star variety (i.e. non-GMOs, real food, fruits, vegetables, etc.)?   

Wellness and winning are an expression of the efforts put forth in each area of health.  Unquestionably, the coach and his assistants, the AD, the director of basketball operations, and practice regimens (i.e. the optimal function of the brainstem/brain/nervous system, structural integrity, and stress management skills) lay the groundwork for a top-tier, extraordinarily healthy college basketball team, but recruiting is just as important.  How well – and, most importantly, how consistently well – your cells are replenished is a major part of the difference between elite health (28-5 year-in and year-out with deep runs in the tournament periodically), above average-to-good health (20-10, fringe tournament team), or just plain mediocre (18-15) or poor (10-20) health. 

Excellent health is a desire we hope to cultivate in all of you, even those of you who have underlying circumstances that make becoming the Kentucky basketball of mental, physical, and social well-being far more challenging.  Remember, some of you begin your journey toward changing your life when your “program” is in shambles, in need of revamping at every level (think Wake Forest this decade); some of you are looking to regain your powerhouse health position after a couple of down years (think Ohio State); some of you have more limited resources (think Wichita State or Gonzaga); some of you struggle to maintain the necessary better habits to sustain your health (think Texas Tech); all of you, though, have the ability to put together a winning formula.

Clarifying Concussions: What Should I Do If I Get One?

As the world has been made increasingly aware over the past several years, concussions – otherwise known as mild traumatic brain injuries – are scary.  The more they are studied, the scarier they become.  Until recently, the conversation about concussions centered primarily on the sport of football, but alarming statistics once muted in the discussion by lack of awareness are now getting the spotlight.  For instance, more than twice the number of concussions were diagnosed last year compared to the number of new cases of diabetes; of those concussions, 39% could render the concussed more likely to have a catastrophic head injury leading to neurologic disability if coupled with multiple concussions.

Though half of the reported concussions happen in youth sports (only an estimated half of all concussions are actually reported), the other half are due to common traumas that most experience throughout life, with prevalence by far the highest from ages 3-13, when balance, coordination, and strength are still being developed.  Common symptoms starting immediately after until around two days following a concussion include brain fog, difficulty concentrating, dizziness, emotional symptoms (anxiety, depression, confusion, irritability, etc.), fatigue, headaches, nausea/vomiting, and sleeping problems. 

For future reference, if you or a loved one experiences signs of a concussion, the following will walk you through the steps to ensure an optimal recovery:

Step 1: Pretend that you sprained your ankle or tweaked your back, and just rest.  For the few hours following a suspected concussion, remain awake under supervision and refrain from driving.  Then, sleep for 2-3 hour periods if possible, having someone periodically wake you in order to ask basic questions that will help rule out a more significant brain injury.  Rapid onset of more serious symptoms (severe headache, slurring, unconsciousness, repeated vomiting, etc.) would be the cue to seek emergency medical care. 

Step 2: It takes 95 G's of force to cause a concussion, but only 4 G's of force to injure the upper neck, making it impossible to suffer a concussion without also having an underlying neck injury.  The upper neck is where the brainstem, which is responsible for coordinating your internal functions, is located; the importance of having the upper neck evaluated by an Upper Cervical Practitioner far outweighs the lack of awareness on the subject.  Have the upper neck issue corrected as soon as possible, as it otherwise becomes akin to having a pebble in the shoe on the side of a sprained ankle, only this pebble compromises the hub of your nervous system.  Then, be re-evaluated consistently for at least a few months. 

Step 3: Just as walking on a sprained ankle is ill-advised, so too is a lot of stimulation (driving, exercise, school, screen-time, work, etc.); if you want your brain to heal, you have to give it time.  For 3-4 days post-concussion, continue to stay home in a dimly lit space and avoid stimulation.  Proceed to the next step once symptom-free.  If, after 4-5 days, symptoms remain, go back to see the Upper Cervical Practitioner for a sooner re-evaluation. 

Step 4: Simple mentally-stimulating activity (reading, listening to low volume music, etc.) may resume for no more than about an hour throughout one entire day and, so long as symptoms do not reoccur, it is then OK to proceed to the next step. 

Step 5: For half a day, return to school or work, but get a ride and avoid stimulation beyond your standard, in-person task list.  Students are advised to avoid tests and homework, recess, or gym class; adults should do no heavy lifting, operate dangerous machinery, or perform manual labor.  If symptoms arise during any step, return to the previous step; if consistently asymptomatic, proceed to the next step. 

Step 6: Return to school or work for a full day, being mindful to stay away from over-stimulating things like loud music or screen-time and over-stimulating environments that involve large crowds or critical thinking.  Alert whomever it may concern of a need to take more frequent breaks and of an expectation for roughly two-thirds production in your normal workload. 

Step 7: Take your time, but steadily return to your normal activities of daily living, removing one above-suggested restriction per day (one day gym, next day full study regimen, for instance).  The more the steps are rushed, the slower the healing process.  Seek re-evaluation from an Upper Cervical Practitioner a week to ten days post-concussion. 

Step 8: Get back to your normal routine, beginning with driving, then your typical class or workload and, assuming you are still asymptomatic afterward, vigorous exercise. 

After symptoms subside, there is still about a month-long window within which another even small impact can do greater harm.  For optimal healing, your brain requires normal blood and cerebrospinal fluid flow in combination with the cell tower of your internal network, the brainstem, being able to properly regulate the nervous system's response to stimuli, hence the role that the Upper Cervical Practitioner plays in balancing and stabilizing your upper neck.

If the above steps are followed immediately, healing time is shorter and long-term affects can be minimized. 

Sources: The CDC, The Headcase Company, Upper Cervical Health Centers of America


It is possible that, in order to move to the next phase in the grassroots process to change American healthcare, further pulling it out of its multi-decade long downward spiral, we may have to draw a clearer line of distinction between healthcare as it ought to be and the disease management system that currently and unfortunately dominates American healthcare to the tune of outrageous costs and statistically dreadful results.  There is so much circular talk in our society today that rarely yields the results that we need, so perhaps instead of trying to, with natural, holistic health principles, infiltrate a broken system and how the public views it, we should spend that energy creating a new, separate system altogether that, in time, the general population would learn to understand through long-term education and experience.

Health should be taught right alongside reading, writing, and arithmetic so that we can rebuild the general knowledge-base necessary to properly take care of ourselves; if it was, then kids would, by the time that their ages hit double-digit years, be able to grasp the essentials of healthy living as easily as they would be able to read instructions or divide thirty by three.  Such fundamental education would organically shift people, generation by generation, toward approaching health like they would other necessities instead of prioritizing it like a luxury, simultaneously moving societal momentum away from our modern trends toward letting our bodies break-down for years without consistent attention paid to maintaining optimal health and later hoping for an instant gratification-based quick fix when various levels of suffering begin. 

To those ends, it would be helpful for all of us in the holistic health community, patients and practitioners alike, to simplify our collective definition of health and to organize our overall comprehension of the things necessary to obtain and maintain health; it would be a key step in the direction of uniting the various schools of thought. 

The World Health Organization defines health as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease and infirmity; let us build off of that.  Each of the three core elements can be broken down into sub-categories.  Take, for instance, the integrity of the human frame, including the bones and the muscles that allow them to move, as a sub-category of physical well-being; the health of the musculoskeletal system dictates, in part, how physically active we can be and how optimally we feel, meaning therefore that poorer health of the bones and muscles ultimately causes corresponding symptoms and less physical activity.  Were we to define the integrity of the human frame as a state of structural balance, proper movement, normal tone, and minimal symptoms, then we could start to better reason how to ensure it and to properly designate the practitioners most helpful in each area. 

Structural balance is the most basic piece of the healthy human frame's puzzle, as proper movement, normal tone, and minimal symptoms cannot be sustainably achieved without it.  Thus, it is vital that human anatomy be taught to everyone in a way that directly associates it with being healthy, specifically as it pertains to one of the most commonly misinterpreted aspects of the body: the location of its structural foundation.  The human body being built from the brain-down, the foundation of the body is at the top instead of the bottom.  Now, if we want to merely assess structural balance, we can observe whether or not the orientation of the shoulders, hips, and legs are equal, and we can also measure whether or not weight is carried comparably, left vs. right.  If not balanced, though, we have to go back to the top link in the chain, which is the positioning of the head and the neck. 

The head and the neck meet at the junction between the skull's base and the top vertebra in your spine, the latter nicknamed the “atlas,” in reference to the Greek mythology figure who upheld the world; the atlas is the one bone in the entire body that is not locked securely in place, dramatically increasing its mobility but weakening its stability and making it more likely to shift detrimentally as a result of a trauma, be that trauma as severe as a major accident or as minor as an early childhood face-plant while learning to walk.  The skull/head rests on the atlas, so if the atlas shifts, it takes the head off level, engaging an instinctive reflex that prompts the rest of the body to compensate to return the head to balance; the body uses your eyes being level and the equality of your inner ear fluid to establish equilibrium, so without that reflex and its consequent physical adaptation, you would be consistently dizzy or disoriented.

In the adapted state, the other spinal vertebrae, the shoulders, the hips, and the legs are all forced out of their normal positions, altering muscle tone, disrupting motion, and essentially creating a body at odds with itself.  Minus the means to support itself as designed, the body breaks down quite prematurely, long before age becomes the factor it is often professed to be in catch-all fashion.  Signs of breaking down often include headaches, acute and chronic pain throughout the body, numbness, and tingling, then disc and joint degeneration and even a closing down of spinal nerve canals (stenosis), all of which only amplify the original symptoms.  Traced step-by-step back to their origins, these signs began, in part, with a structural, foundational problem stemming from trauma that went unaddressed.

Connecting this discussion back to the definition of general health (which is inherently based in proactivity) and emphasizing the importance that everyone (the health-conscious, chiropractors, the sick and sicker, medical doctors, kids, physical therapists, athletes, massage therapists, etc.) understand the role that head and neck alignment plays in being healthy, at present time, the primary, secondary, and tertiary reasons to have structural balance assessed are obvious signs of physical health already in a perpetual state of decline; until we unite on such basic principles as the head and neck needing to be balanced in order for the body to maintain structural integrity (health's equivalent of 2+2=4), the change we want to see in healthcare will stall from our inability to integrate the awesome things that have propelled the holistic movement to this point and widespread suffering will continue.

It is easier to keep a well person healthy than to get a sick person well; even if our society is many years away from embracing that principle, our health system must at least set its intention to make that principle one of its core tenets.  In our current system, spending keeps rising as outcomes keep dropping, with catastrophic problems inherent to it that make change crawl along at a slower pace.  We have to get back to basics and, if creating a new system altogether is the most efficient route to the change we need in the big picture, then so be it.

How To Get Everything You Want Out Of Life

Stop and think sometime, if only for a moment, about the fact that literally every great idea before or since the wheel came from someone just like you, born of the awesome combination of an intended goal, the subsequent motivation to make it happen, and a positive mental attitude.  Think about 1900 BC, when it is thought that the world's first joke was told; one person said something that elicited laughter out of another person, recognized it, and figured out that the right mixture of words about something humorous earned more laughter, and of course the happiness that accompanied it.  Basketball, the cell phone, the sanitation system, the novel, the robot vacuum cleaner, etc. join comedy in the incredible and infinite list of things in our world that came from motivated people taking abstract concepts and turning them into realities. 

What would you like to achieve? 

How about adequately hydrating yourself on a daily basis or inventing a piece of safety equipment to make car seats more secure or committing to weekly lunches with just you and your kids or starting an online fundraiser for a cause that you are passionate about or scratching that itch to try community theater or buying the car that you have wanted for a decade or cutting sugar out of your diet or finding a more rewarding job?  The possibilities span every aspect of your life, and they are endless. 

Intention, or what you want, lays the foundation for achievement; it is a major part of what allows the Law of Attraction to work in your favor, whether you believe in the farthest reaches of the philosophy or just simply acknowledge that what you think about, you bring about.  It is a powerful exercise to merely sit down and write out goals and ideas, as it is a subtle form of commitment which takes a goal or an idea to the next phase of its natural process, sparking a fire later stoked by your intention-reflecting actions.  The more specific you are about your intention, the clearer the path to success becomes, so review your notes and expand on them until you have a firmer grasp of exactly what you want.  Re-read your intention frequently and you will have essentially made an agreement with yourself to pursue your goal; let that agreement be known to the most supportive people in your life and the likelihood of success grows even more. 

Once the groundwork is set, you can build your plan and start putting it into action.  Motivation, then, is the fuel to your fire, the psychological process of harnessing the same basic instinct that makes you eat when you are hungry and sleep when you are tired into taking full ownership of your mind and pointing it directly toward what you want out of life. 

Motivation comes in so many forms.  Spirituality, the performing arts, our peers, sports, books, etc. offer several distinct sources from which to draw motivation, but also bring awareness to remaining in the moment so that you can experience day-to-day, less overt examples of inspiration; a student exhibiting knowledge that you facilitated, your eleven year old dog cuddling up to your five year old child, someone taking the time to thank you (an amazing motivator no matter the reason), your two year old kid or grandkid looking up at the moon at dusk and saying, as if it is the most amazing thing ever, “Look, it's an egg in the sky,” a random act of kindness...these little things are hugely important in the grand scheme of goal realization because they are the sun that shines brightly upon and enriches your world, presuming that you will allow them to do so. 

As the ancient Greeks wrote in the Temple of Apollo, “Know thyself,” and the deeper you get into your journey toward achieving your goals, the more imperative that becomes.  The world is going to keep on moving, so embrace the process that it is your life.  Learn about yourself by paying close attention to your habits and patterns in order to develop strategies that help you figure out when and from where you need boosts of motivation.  While pushing yourself further toward your intended goals and into uncharted waters, you may feel sometimes like you are on a ship in the middle of rough seas, where it is harder (but not impossible) to steer well enough to maintain your course; it just reinforces that finding multiple sources of motivation is important, the integrative approach to health and well-being manifesting itself once again, this time in a different part of your life. 

In the recipe for success of any kind, your intention determines what you want to do, your motivation determines if you will actually do it, and your attitude determines how well you do it; a good attitude is the ingredient that gives you the ability to navigate the inevitable challenges along your path, allowing you to see them in more constructive ways and to subsequently choose how you will react to them with the clarity influenced by your intention and motivation.  Genuine positivity can be cultivated into an emotional response mechanism that will keep you focused on remembering that your goals are bigger and more important than their associated challenges, and that will provide a subconscious reminder that you can, for instance, take control of your health and know that you will end the year far better physically and emotionally than when you started it, even in the face of adversity.  

Of course, it is not always so easy, setting and achieving goals, small, medium, or large, but if your intention is clearly set, if you are powered by proper motivation, and if you have a good attitude, you can resolutely stand firm in confidence that anything you desire to achieve is possible.

Should We Avoid Microwaves?

90% of American households regularly use a microwave oven to cook or reheat food, so it is quite possible that you have never been made aware of the controversy surrounding it.  In certain circles, microwaves are thought to be very detrimental to your health for a variety of reasons that their supporters vehemently refute.

The controversy stems from the methodology of the device, which emits microwave radiation to essentially boil water molecules within food to the point that the consequent steam heats the food from the inside-out; for contrast, when you put your food into the traditional oven or cook on the grill, what heats the food is the internal environment within the space.  Microwave ovens raise two primary questions, the first about their effect on the food and the second regarding the potential hazards of the microwave emissions themselves.

It may well be the case, frankly, that the microwave debate is similar to that of insecticides on crops or fluoride in the water supply, in that its detractors see what they believe to be very logical concerns that are swiftly contended by scientific studies which are intended to put to rest any angst; the defense rests, so to speak, and supporters point to the research as proof of safety, but the other side tends to zero in on the minute details such as, according to the FDA, “Less is known about what happens to people exposed to low levels of microwaves.  Controlled, long-term studies involving large numbers of people have not been conducted to assess the impact of low level microwave energy [like from the microwave oven] on humans.”

There is a very “ready-FIRE!-aim” mentality when it comes to how we utilize the results of research in the United States.  Seen very commonly with the pharmaceutical industry and extending to many other fields, as well, something like the microwave oven will be evaluated with the scrutiny to ensure that it can meet current regulations, and then it will hit the market.  The fact that many scientific questions about the long-term effects of low-level microwave exposure are not yet answered – questions that extend to cellphones and other wireless technology that use microwaves by the way – makes it difficult to ignore when safety issues are brought to the forefront.  Is it just the mere appearance of impropriety when consistent exposure to microwaves becomes linked to, among many other things, insomnia, night sweats, and various sleep disturbances; headaches and dizziness; swollen lymph nodes and a weakened immune system; impaired cognition, depression and irritability; nausea and appetite loss; vision and eye problems; frequent urination and extreme thirst?  Or is it a case of fire being where smoke is located?

When it comes to microwaving food, plenty of immediately detrimental effects have been scientifically documented in reliable sources by reputable researchers.  To name a few, The Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture revealed that microwaved broccoli loses 97% of its anti-oxidant (cellular damage-preventing) qualities, The Journal of Nutrition published that microwaving garlic inactivates its cancer cell-destroying properties, and The Journal of Pediatrics reported that microwaving breast milk eliminated most of its disease-fighting agents that infants rely on while their immune systems are developing.

Just as alarming, if not more so, is what we are beginning to learn about the mere exposure to microwaves.  Martin Pall, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Biochemistry and Basic Medical Sciences at Washington State University, has helped the lead the way to our understanding of what microwaves do to the human body on a cellular level.  He posits that it takes considerably less than the current safety standard of microwave radiation to activate within our cells, of the nervous system (brain, brainstem, spinal cord, and nerves) especially, a process of gradual breakdown; in other words, just as it has been suggested that microwaving food basically destroys nutrients from the inside-out, consistent exposure to microwave radiation kills our cells from the inside-out.  Pall has compiled over 100 studies that reinforce his conclusions.

Professor Magda Havas, PhD, of Trent University in Ontario, Canada, has added further perspective to Pall's research, confirming that microwave radiation directly affects the heart.  She stated about her findings, “This is the first study that documents immediate and dramatic changes in both heart rate and heart rate variability caused by an approved device that generates microwaves at levels well below federal guidelines in both Canada and the United States.”  Havas has raised another red flag in stating that microwaves leak radiation.  “They aren't meant to,” she has stated.  “They have a metal mesh that's supposed to protect the waves from leaking, but I've tested over a dozen of the most popular brands, and every single one that I've tested has leaked.”

A simple internet search will demonstrate scientific counter-arguments to each of the above but, contrary to popular belief, when it comes to health and the potential deleterious effects that devices like microwave ovens have been shown to cause, the burden of proof is on the proponents to establish microwave safety beyond a shadow of a doubt, instead of the burden falling on what could be referred to as the “anti-microwave movement” to substantiate a lack thereof.  Meanwhile, as further data is gathered by the scientific community, would logic not dictate the use of other, more traditional cooking methods that do not raise the same volume of concerns?

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Lost Art of the Discussion

We have reached a point in our society’s history when a lot of very serious discussions need to be had about how we are doing things and whether or not existing patterns are working well enough to be continued.  In order to have those discussions, however, we are collectively in need of setting different parameters for communication than the ones used in recent years because, simply put, the discussion has become a lost art. 

In today’s world, it is difficult for a discussion not to instead become an argument and, in many cases, an assumption is made that arguing and discussing are the same thing.  So, let us begin by reaffirming the difference.  A discussion is defined as the action or process of talking about something, typically in order to reach a decision or to exchange ideas; an argument, conversely, is defined as a reason or set of reasons given with the aim of persuading others that an action or idea is right or wrong.  The difference, then, is that while an argument leads frequently to one side feeling as though it has won a debate, a discussion is designed to facilitate a middle ground. 

Synonyms for both terms further emphasize the disparity – argument/disagreement/dispute/fight vs. discussion/conversation/negotiation/dialogue.  This line of distinction is important because, when a topic is up for debate, if one side argues while the other attempts to discuss, the end result is often anger and frustration instead of progress toward resolution.  Given that all of the serious discussions that we need to have as a society are about polarizing issues, the lack of clarity on discussing vs. arguing has become a significant weakness to our society’s ability to implement changes to things that are not working.  From our highest political positions to social media platforms, the bottom line is that an argument implies straightaway that someone has to lose or to be wrong when, in fact, the really important issues weighing on our society demand give and take that should transcend such petty squabbles; and, sadly, there has been way too much arguing for far too long. 

Having a discussion requires both sides to distance themselves from all or nothing thinking.  Even when the rules of communicative engagement are well-defined, if one side comes into a discussion already convinced that there is only one right answer to any given question, then no discussion will ever really be had and progress will be arduously slow.  We see this quite often, for instance, with the vaccine debate in the United States.  It is challenging to say the least to create any sort of environment in which vaccine discussion can take place without it quickly devolving into a heated argument because both sides think they already know the right answer.  Unfortunately, the pro-vaccine side especially is notorious for adopting an accusatory tone with anyone who tries to present information that may conflict with their previously-established opinion; how is one to ever offer insight on the matter if the dominant, opposing stance is so strongly rooted in “vaccines are safe and necessary and anyone who does not vaccinate is a danger to us all”? 

The greatest danger of black and white thinking is that it makes everything polarizing.  Obamacare is either good or its bad; the proliferation of mass shootings is either a gun control problem or a mental health issue; vaccines are safe and necessary or unsafe and unnecessary; and the list goes on and on.  In each instance, there is plenty of room for discussion so long as there is a realization on both poles that such issues are not black and white at all. 

A discussion requires a suppression of the urge to get defensive; the moment that righteousness takes a foothold, the readiness to listen immediately decreases and constructive communication becomes less and less likely.  Be attentive, be open-minded, be honest about the potential limitations of your own opinion, be eager in your desire to find common ground, be cognizant of when a discussion should end or be paused, be thoughtful of other points of view (ask yourself questions to further entertain opposing ideas), and be willing to agree to disagree. 

Thomas Jefferson once said, “In matters of principle, stand like a rock; in matters of taste, swim with the current.”  With society’s modern complexities, it would be fair to state that deciphering which matters are of taste and which are of principle is no longer so easy.  Life is fluid and its challenges on a grander, societal scale have and will continue to shift over time.  To stand hard and rigid like a rock lays the groundwork for a fixed and finite mindset that is an enemy of collective and personal development.  Perhaps, then, while respectfully acknowledging the virtues in Jefferson’s quote, it would be better in 2017 to, “In matters of principle, stand like a tree” – to stand tall and firm, but to remain capable of growth and to allow yourself to sway in the face of necessary change.  If we can all agree to that, then we can start having necessary discussions.           

A History of Bias Against Chiropractic

Have you ever encountered a person (or have you been the person) that, when the topic of chiropractic is brought up, becomes awash with obviously negative thoughts?  Against what I do, there is unquestionably strong bias, the history of which dates back nearly one hundred years. 

BJ Palmer, the developer of the chiropractic profession and, specifically, the developer of the Upper Cervical specialty, took the idea of chiropractic and shaped it into something viable, specific, and scientific.  Prior to, it was something new to the mainstream and in dire need of development.  As with the invention of the airplane around the same time, chiropractic required a lot of trial and error before its fledgling practitioners fully figured it out and realized the potential of what it could mean on a larger scale.  The public’s initial reaction, of course, was skeptical. 

Once Palmer developed a repeatable system for chiropractic and began teaching it to greater numbers, then greater numbers of people were being helped by it with more consistency.  During the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, chiropractic dominated traditional medical methods in helping people survive and recover.  Chiropractic patients, of which there were nearly 50,000 under care for Spanish flu, died at a rate of about 1 in 900.  Medical patients were dying at a rate of 1 in 15.  The staggering discrepancy upset the status quo and, rather than embrace chiropractic for its ability to help people, medical men had chiropractors thrown in jail for practicing medicine without a license.

So began the rocky relationship between chiropractic and medicine.  Dr. Palmer struggled for years trying to legally separate chiropractic from medicine in both practice and principle.  During a series of federal court hearings in 1958, he drew a line in the sand philosophically.  He stated that, in opposition to the medical mindset that disease is caused by things from outside the body and that only external remedies can cure the disease, chiropractic is governed by what he called the Law of Life, meaning that most diseases are caused by problems that arise inside of the body due to its inability to properly regulate itself and that, by finding and correcting the cause of that dysfunction – a major component of which is interference that fundamentally prevents the brainstem and brain from performing optimally their vital, routine processes – then normal regulation would resume and most diseases could be healed by the body’s own innate recuperative properties; a sound concept to anyone with a basic understanding of physiology and human potential.  A medical physician with a Senate seat said to Palmer, upon hearing of the chiropractic principle, "If I had to do it over again, I would have come to your school and studied under you."

Nevertheless, the larger, better known, and more influential medical industry sadly helped breed a stronger bias beyond that which was born of the natural human response to fear the unknown.  The American Medical Association, in particular, was eventually found guilty in federal court of a “lengthy, systematic, successful and unlawful boycott” designed to damage chiropractic.  For several decades, medical physicians were actively encouraged to demean chiropractic to their patients or even carry anti-chiropractic literature on-site.  The kind of pessimistic response you sometimes get when attempting to educate people about Upper Cervical has often been passed down through the generations; prejudice is horribly well-ingrained in our culture and no single federal court ruling, however important, could have ever undone such wide-scale undermining.

It has not helped that the chiropractic profession itself has been integral in proliferating the bias.  Despite Dr. Palmer successfully leading the way to amendments in federal law confirmed by the Senate that separated chiropractic and medicine definitively, something happened in the years that followed that hurt chiropractic and continues to hurt it to this day.  Anxious to gain acceptance, chiropractors started practicing like medical physicians with medical philosophies, simply replacing pharmaceutics with spinal manipulation.  They carved their niche as lower back pain specialists and presented themselves to the public as such.  Thousands of chiropractors followed suit (and there are only 77,000 total in the USA, a tenth of the total number of medical doctors). 

The adoption by insurance companies of covered chiropractic services only helped drive the bias against the profession further because, since insurance is designed for medical treatment, to be covered under the insurance umbrella means chiropractors have to practice like traditional medical physicians, treating symptoms instead of maximizing the body’s ability to heal itself.

Imagine for a moment a world in which nutrition was considered an alternative for medicine (and some might posit that such a world already exists), that instead of eating well because it is allows your body to thrive, you were encouraged to eat well until your digestive system stopped showing symptoms of poor health.  Anyone with even the slightest knowledge of the value in proper eating habits would recognize how limiting it would be to think of nutrition as an alternative for medicine, as a treatment in place of a fundamental life choice.  Chiropractic was never intended to be an alternative to medicine either.  Structural balance and proper nervous system function rank right alongside nutrition as necessary components for optimal health (the reimplementation of which should be a first-option for sick people, not the last). 

I’ve read a great deal about Palmer over the years and have great admiration for what he sacrificed; his picture hangs on the wall adjacent to my correction table.  He was well-known for winning over the critics of chiropractic and the Upper Cervical specialty – from researchers to medical doctors to the general public – with passionate education and clinical expertise. 

We should never dwell on history, but we should acknowledge it and learn from it.  Since the day the Triad Upper Cervical Clinic opened, I have sought to bring awareness to my profession by teaching its basic tenets to the public and fellow practitioners of the healing arts alike and then letting the logic of it, the science behind it, and the results achieved by it speak for themselves.  However, it would not be hyperbole to suggest that, for every one person or practitioner that gets it, there are fifty or more that still do not.  The task at hand remains substantial, and knowledge of that fact helps to remind that change takes time, especially in the face of such historical misconception.