Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Stress and Aging, Telomeres and Qi Stagnation

Here is an interesting article on a scientific explanation of how stress may shorten lifespan and encourage diseases of aging. It focuses on telomeres, a name you probably remember vaguely from Biology classes and which determine lifespan in cells. The interesting connection is that stress hormones can interfere with the work of telomerase, causing problems in overall health.

Researchers at the University of California at San Francisco have discovered an enzyme that plays a key role in normal cell function, as well as in cell aging and most cancers. It's called telomerase, and it produces tiny units of DNA that seal off the ends of chromosomes, which contain the body's genes.

The DNA units are called telomeres, and among other things they work to protect the quality of the gene, and how often a cell divides which determines the lifespan of the cells. What's exciting about this discovery is the notion that telomeres can be lengthened to prolong cell life — and along the way treat age-related diseases like blindness, cardiovascular problems and neurodegenerative disorders.
I find this connection very interesting for its parallels in Chinese Medicine. The Chinese Diagnostic system says that stress blocks the free and easy flow of Qi (or energy) through the body. Where these blockages occur most densely, Blood can also be blocked -- often causing pain. Phelgm can accumulate -- causing adhesions or tumors. Over time, the body tissues are left unnourished and begin to fail in their functions. Heat can accumulate and begin to dry the tissues and burn away the body's Vital Essence (or Jing), leading to premature aging and the diseases of aging. This is a poetic description from doctors working thousands of years ago, and it sounds strange in our modern scientific culture, and, yet, to me it sounds much like a description of Telomeres shortening prematurely and millions of body cells failing in their function.

Looking at the situation from either perspective, the importance of stress control is clear. Whether you use exercise, acupuncture, meditation, herbs and supplements (including antioxidants and glutathione), or laughing with friends -- reducing stress can lead to a healthier and longer life.

Byron Russell

Monday, August 30, 2010

Yoga For Cancer Survivors

CNN Health recently put up a good article on the usefulness of gentle restorative Yoga for cancer survivors. Check out the full article here: Yoga for Cancer Patients

Here are the highlights:

1 Yoga can help cancer patients sleep better, feel more energized, cut back on sleep meds
2 Cancer patients often report having sleep problems after receiving chemo or radiation
3 31 percent who took yoga were sleeping soundly, compared to 16 percent of the control group

I think any form of gentle, contemplative exercise would help, including Tai Chi and Qi Gong Meditation. And, of course, I always recommend acupuncture!

Byron Russell

Friday, July 16, 2010

Easing Nausea Symptoms in Hospitals, Acupuncture More Effective

Here's a comment from a pediatrician from the NY Times Hospital Health Section on the effectiveness of acupuncture for treating nausea in children and adults. It is surprising that this safe effective treatment is not used more.
Re ''Answers Fall Short for Nausea After Surgery'' (Second Opinion, Oct. 3): As an academic integrative pediatrician often consulted to work with children suffering from postoperative nausea and vomiting, I read Denise Grady's piece this morning with great interest.

I was surprised, however, to see no mention of one of the more effective, evidence-based approaches to this troublesome and common complication. Acupuncture and acupressure, specifically applied to the P6 (Neiguan) point, has been demonstrated in both children and adults to be both a safe and effective treatment for postoperative nausea and vomiting, often with fewer side effects than conventional medication therapies.

Lawrence D. Rosen
Valhalla, N.Y.
The point Dr. Rosen mentions (P6 or Neiguan) is located on the wrist about 2 finger-widths above the wrist crease towards the elbow. Gentle self-massage can be helpful in easing nausea, and acupuncture much more helpful in longer-term control. In fact, studies have shown the effectiveness of strong needling at this point for controlling nausea and vomiting during chemotherapy treatment with cisplatin, as well as the prevention of chest pain.

There are a number of points on the hand (Large Intestine 4), lower leg (Stomach 36) and foot (Liver 3) that are considered more effective by acupuncturists for the treatment of nausea of many different types, including morning sickness.

Byron Russell, LAc

Dr. Andrew Weil on Acupuncture

Here is an excerpt from a brief article written by the very well-known Dr. Andrew Weil on the benefits of acupuncture for many different health conditions.
Acupuncture is not just about needles, but is a comprehensive traditional therapy focused on correcting imbalances of energy flow throughout the body. It can be employed effectively for a wide variety of conditions:

* Emotional disorders such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder
* Digestive complaints, including nausea, vomiting, and irritable bowel syndrome
* Pain syndromes due to an injury or associated with chronic degenerative diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis
* Neurological problems like migraines or Parkinson's disease
* Respiratory conditions, including sinusitis and asthma
* Gynecologic disorders and infertility (it has demonstrated clinical success when used in conjunction with in-vitro fertilization)
* Fatigue or low energy
* Addictions
* Chronic lower back pain

It can also be used as a rehabilitation strategy for individuals who suffered a stroke, can help control chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, and can help promote overall wellbeing.

Byron Russell, LAc

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Acupuncture effective in reducing pain

From today's Wall Street Journal:

The compound adenosine is key to acupuncture's effectiveness, according to a study in Nature Neuroscience. Despite acupuncture's 4,000-year history, little is known about the biological pathways that enable carefully placed needles to relieve pain in many patients. Researchers mimicked acupuncture in mice by placing and gradually rotating a needle at a point just below the knee, for 30 minutes. Levels of adenosine, a neurotransmitter, rose 24-fold in the tissue fluid surrounding the needle. Mice injected with an inflammatory substance in their paws and given acupuncture displayed fewer pain symptoms than mice that didn't get acupuncture. But mice genetically engineered to lack a certain adenosine receptor didn't benefit from the acupuncture session at all—further evidence of adenosine's role. Blocking enzymes that break down adenosine made the acupuncture much more effective, tripling the level of adenosine near the needle and extending pain relief from about one hour to about three hours.

Caveat: As with any animal study, it's far from certain that these findings can be replicated in humans.

Byron Russell

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Nausea Home Remedies

Nausea can have many causes , from morning sickness or food poisoning to motion sickness, over-eating or even hangover (not that any of my patients would ever have that problem). And, when you are feeling sick, over-the-counter medications or prescriptions can be too strong or have side-effects that make you feel worse (constipation, headache, muscle spasm). So, here are a couple tips for mild relief of the unpleasant symptoms of a sick stomach.

1. Ginger tea, or Ginger Beer. Fresh ginger can be great for calming the stomach and eliminating gas pains. Fresh ginger is less “hot” to your system than the dried variety, and is preferred for this use. Just take a couple of slices of ginger root and soak in hot (not quite boiling) water for 5 to 10 minutes, and then drink as a tea. In Chinese Medicine, Ginger Root (Sheng Jiang) is said to warm the Stomach and Spleen, clear the head and prevent sea sickness. Some people use small slices of ginger externally for motion sickness (taped below the ear, or to the wrist). Ginger Ale or (nonalcoholic) Ginger Beer is the remedy I grew up with, and it can work well, if you aren’t concerned about the high levels of sugar found in most commercial brands.

2. Mint and Ginger Tea. Ginger and Mint are a nice combination; Ginger is very warm and Mint is cooling. This balance can be very soothing to the body and help ease conflicting symptoms which are common with stomach upset – feeling overheated or sweaty one moment and chilled the next. In Chinese, Mint is known as Bo He (peppermint), and is used in many formulas for mild illnesses such as colds, headaches, and upset stomach. It is an important addition when headache is a feature of the illness.

3. Orange Peel. Interestingly enough, tea made from dried Tangerine Peel (Chen Pi) is quite strong for treating bloating and a feeling of stagnation in the bowels. It gently increases smooth muscle contractions in the intestines. This is a great choice when over-eating (just after a big Thanksgiving meal, for instance) is the problem. Other citrus peels have a similar effect though they may not act as strongly.

4. Cardamom Seeds. Called Sha Ren in Chinese medicine, this spice is used to stop vomiting and diarrhea and is specifically mentioned for use in morning sickness. Crush one teaspoon of the seeds and soak in hot water for 2-4 minutes and then drink as a tea. It is the volatile oils that are useful, so don’t boil the herb or steep for too long a time.

There are many other herbs used for the treatment of digestive illness, but I picked these because they are remedies found in most kitchen cupboards. If you are interested in a more formal herbal approach to this problem, the traditional patent formula for treating stomach upset is called Pill Curing. The version I use in my clinic is Quiet Digestion from Health Concerns. It is based on the Pill Curing formula and Bao He Wan (a traditional formula for indigestion). This formula can produce amazing results in 10 to 15 minutes in many situations, especially nervous stomach, chronic stomach distress, hangover, over-eating, mild stomach virus. Many of my Irritable Bowel Syndrome patients find it extremely helpful in controlling and eliminating symptoms with regular use. This is a great formula to keep in your cupboard for emergencies.

Byron Russell

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


Here is an excerpt from an article by Mark Hyman, M.D., on the importance of Glutathione as an antioxidant, with some tips on how to maintain your Glutathione levels. I've found that a combination of Glutathione, N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine, and Lipoic Acid is the single most important supplement I take. It has a profound effect on energy level, fatigue, and stamina. Dr. Hyman's article is called: Glutathione: The Mother of All Antioxidants.
It's the most important molecule you need to stay healthy and prevent disease -- yet you've probably never heard of it. It's the secret to prevent aging, cancer, heart disease, dementia and more, and necessary to treat everything from autism to Alzheimer's disease. There are more than 89,000 medical articles about it -- but your doctor doesn't know how address the epidemic deficiency of this critical life-giving molecule ...

What is it? I'm talking about the mother of all antioxidants, the master detoxifier and maestro of the immune system: GLUTATHIONE (pronounced "gloota-thigh-own").

Dr. Hyman points out that a large percentage of the population lacks the genes required to produce and maintain Glutathione levels. I've had the genetic testing done, and I am one of those people, which is why this supplement has such a profound effect on my life. One-third of the population has a reduced ability to recycle Glutathione in the body.

Glutathione is important for detoxification, supporting the immune system, and preventing illnesses like cancer and chronic fatigue. For an athlete, it is critical in supporting training and stamina.
Research has shown that raised glutathione levels decrease muscle damage, reduce recovery time, increase strength and endurance and shift metabolism from fat production to muscle development.

The supplement I use is called Thiodox by AllergyResearchGroup. I recommend it for many of my patients, 1-2 tablets per day.

9 Tips to Optimize your Glutathione Levels

These 9 tips will help you improve your glutathione levels, improve your health, optimize your performance and live a long, healthy life.

Eat Foods that Support Glutathione Production

1. Consume sulfur-rich foods. The main ones in the diet are garlic, onions and the cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, kale, collards, cabbage, cauliflower, watercress, etc.).

2. Try bioactive whey protein. This is great source of cysteine and the amino acid building blocks for glutathione synthesis. As you know, I am not a big fan of dairy. But this is an exception -- with a few warnings. The whey protein MUST be bioactive and made from non-denatured proteins ("denaturing" refers to the breakdown of the normal protein structure). Choose non-pasteurized and non-industrially produced milk that contains no pesticides, hormones, or antibiotics. Immunocal is a prescription bioactive non-denatured whey protein that is even listed in the Physician's Desk Reference.

Exercise for Your Way to More Glutathione

3. Exercise boosts your glutathione levels and thereby helps boost your immune system, improve detoxification and enhance your body's own antioxidant defenses. Start slow and build up to 30 minutes a day of vigorous aerobic exercise like walking or jogging, or play various sports. Strength training for 20 minutes 3 times a week is also helpful.

Take Glutathione Supporting Supplements

One would think it would be easy just to take glutathione as a pill, but the body digests protein -- so you wouldn't get the benefits if you did it this way. However, the production and recycling of glutathione in the body requires many different nutrients and you CAN take these. Here are the main supplements that need to be taken consistently to boost glutathione. Besides taking a multivitamin and fish oil, supporting my glutathione levels with these supplements is the most important thing I do every day for my personal health.

4. N-acetyl-cysteine. This has been used for years to help treat asthma and lung disease and to treat people with life-threatening liver failure from Tylenol overdose. In fact, I first learned about it in medical school while working in the emergency room. It is even given to prevent kidney damage from dyes used during x-ray studies.

5. Alpha lipoic acid. This is a close second to glutathione in importance in our cells and is involved in energy production, blood sugar control, brain health and detoxification. The body usually makes it, but given all the stresses we are under, we often become depleted.

6. Methylation nutrients (folate and vitamins B6 and B12). These are perhaps the most critical to keep the body producing glutathione. Methylation and the production and recycling of glutathione are the two most important biochemical functions in your body. Take folate (especially in the active form of 5 methyltetrahydrofolate), B6 (in active form of P5P) and B12 (in the active form of methylcobalamin).

7. Selenium. This important mineral helps the body recycle and produce more glutathione.

8. A family of antioxidants including vitamins C and E (in the form of mixed tocopherols), work together to recycle glutathione.

9. Milk thistle (silymarin) has long been used in liver disease and helps boost glutathione levels.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Food Inc-- the Movie

Here's a tip on a movie I can recommend to everyone: Food, Inc. It will definitely change the way you look at food and the American food industry. I'm certain that you will be shocked by the information they provide on the way the majority of our food supply is processed and handled.

Though I have always kept to a relatively healthy diet, this movie prompted me to really work harder at eating fresh organic foods, and making restaurant choices that support that desire. One point made in the movie is that every time you purchase food at a grocery store or restaurant, you are voting for the kind of food you want. And, that the food industry responds to the choices that we, as consumers, make. Choosing fresh, toxin-free food is definitely a good choice for health and for a healthier environment, and if you consider the cost of illness and poor health, it is worth the price.

The official site has a number of options on getting involved in issues like supporting healthier food for school lunch, supporting nutrition and food-source labeling, and increasing education on nutrition and health, pesticides, environmental impact, and food shortages. Please take a look.

Byron Russell