Archive for July, 2009

Cranial Pain Primer: Types of Headache

Friday, July 24th, 2009

headache imageUh oh, you can feel it coming- the throbbing ache, the sensitivity to light, the pain creeping its way deep into your skull- another headache is on its way and you just don’t have time to deal. An estimated 3 to 5 percent of adults worldwide experience chronic daily headaches. Millions more suffer less frequent headaches, but we can all agree that one headache is one headache too many. Stay tuned my unfortunate headache-prone reader for an introduction on cranial pain, types of headache you may be suffering from and how to manage.

Most people have headaches from time to time. But if you have a headache more days than not, you may be suffering from chronic daily headaches. For headaches to be considered chronic they must occur more than 15 days per month and for more than 3 months. The unrelenting nature of chronic headaches make them particularly hard to deal with. But with aggressive initial treatment and steady, long-term management may reduce overall pain and lead to fewer headaches.

These types of headache can be divided into 4 main subcategories: Chronic migraine, Chronic tension-type headache, New daily persistent headache, and Hemicrania continua. Symptoms vary for each type of headache. If you’re not sure which type of chronic headache that you’re suffering from, below is a guide on headache symptoms according to the Mayo Clinic website.

Chronic migraine

• Usually evolves from episodic migraine without aura
• Includes at least two of the following — affects only one side of your head, pulsating or throbbing pain, moderate to severe intensity, aggravated by physical activity
• Includes at least one of the following — nausea or vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound

Chronic tension-type headache
• Usually evolves from episodic tension-type headaches
• Typically hurts on both sides of your head
• Mild to moderate pain, often described as pressing or tightening
• May include mild nausea or sensitivity to light or sound

New daily persistent headache

• Starts suddenly and occurs daily within three days of onset
• Hurts on both sides of your head
• Feels like a tightening or pressing sensation, not throbbing
• Mild to moderate intensity
• Sometimes includes one of the following — mild nausea, sensitivity to sound or sensitivity to light

Hemicrania continua
• Hurts on only one side of the head and pain never shifts sides
• Daily and consistent, with no pain-free periods
• Moderate intensity, interspersed with brief instances of severe pain
• Includes at least one of the following — tearing or redness of the eye on the affected side, nasal congestion or runny nose, swelling or drooping of the eyelid

Although it’s not completely understood why these types of headache occur, doctors have narrowed down a few underlying conditions that may cause constant cranial pain:

• Inflammation or other problems with the blood vessels in and around the brain
• Infections, such as meningitis
• Intracranial pressure that’s either too high or too low
• Pinched nerves in the neck
• Brain tumor
• Traumatic brain injury

In most cases chronic daily head pain doesn’t have an underlying physical cause. They may occur, though, if you develop a heightened response to pain signals or if the part of your brain that suppresses pain signals isn’t working properly. Doctors also believe that people who take pain medication too frequently may suffer from constant cranial pain. If you are taking pain medications, even over the counter analgesics, more than two days a week then you’re at risk of developing rebound headaches.

Whatever the reason that you may be suffering from chronic headaches, it is best not to self-diagnose. Make an appointment with your doctor today and find out what’s really going on in your head. Your life is too busy and too precious to worry about constant cranial pain.

MSG Monosodium Glutamate and Your Health

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

Something menacing in your food awaits and it’s called MSG. MSG Monosodium Glutamate is a salt of the amino acid Glutamic Acid (glutamate) and has been found to cause harmful reactions in many people who consume it. The unfortunate part of this story is that MSG is hidden in many of the foods that we consume on a daily basis.

MSG is a flavor enhancer that is commonly added to Chinese food, canned vegetables, soups and processed meats. It can also be found in most cheese powders, broths, dressings, and processed foods made with “natural flavoring”. It tastes like salty meat and offsets the metallic-tasting deposits that find themselves on your food if stored in cans for an extended period of time. MSG Monosodium Glutamate is processed food’s best friend.

The Food and Drug Administration has classified MSG as a food ingredient that is “generally recognized as safe”, however the use of MSG remains controversial. Monosodium Glutamate has been linked to autism and chronic stomach pain. It’s also associated with obesity due to its addictive qualities.

MSG image Here’s an example of MSG’s addictive nature- when you eat sugar, your pancreas produces insulin to neutralize the sugar. The insulin tells the cells in your body to absorb the excess sugar. The problem is that MSG causes an insulin response but MSG isn’t a sugar. So the MSG-induced insulin produced by your pancreas tells the cells in your body to absorb sugar. Within an hour or two you are low in sugar and your body thinks that you’re hungry again. So you eat something but the food you eat has more MSG in it and you produce more insulin than you need again. A perpetual cycle of eating and feeling unfulfilled caused by MSG.

According to the Mayo Clinic a comprehensive review of all available scientific data on glutamate safety sponsored by the FDA in 1995 acknowledges that some people may have short term reactions to MSG. These reactions include:

• Headache, sometimes called MSG headache
• Flushing
• Sweating
• Sense of facial pressure or tightness
• Numbness, tingling or burning in or around the mouth
• Rapid, fluttering heartbeats (heart palpitations)
• Chest pain
• Shortness of breath
• Nausea
• Weakness

The only way to prevent a reaction is to avoid foods containing MSG. The FDA requires that when MSG is added to a product that “monosodium glutamate” be listed on the label or on the menu, in restaurants.

But watch out, oftentimes MSG is hidden under other names so as not to be as easily identified. Here are a list of different pseudonyms, names and ways that MSG can find itself on your plate from an article published on healthy-holistic-living.com.

Food Additives that ALWAYS contain MSG: Monosodium Glutamate, Autolyzed Yeast, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein, Hydrolyzed Protein, Hydrolyzed Plant Protein, Plant Protein Extract, Sodium Caseinate, Calcium Caseinate, Yeast Extract, Textured Protein (Including TVP), Hydrolyzed Oat Flour, Corn Oil

Food Additives That FREQUENTLY Contain MSG:
Malt Extract, Malt Flavoring, Bouillon, Broth, Stock Flavoring, Natural Flavors/Flavoring, Natural Beef Or Chicken Flavoring, Seasoning, Spices, Maltodextrin and Whey Protein

Food Additives That MAY Contain MSG: Carrageenan, Enzymes, Soy Protein Isolate, Soy Protein Concentrate, Whey Protein Concentrate

The only way to curtail the side effects and potential long-term effects is to stay away from processed foods often found in boxes and bags. Dr. Gerard Guillory of The Care Group in Denver, CO reaffirms that eating local and organic is the only way to go, “We need to get back to eating food, the whole food, and nothing but the food.”

By purchasing pure and natural foods, consumers have an advantage in the fight against processed foods and MSG. We do the buying, which means we can eventually change the market. It is time that we take some responsibility in what we consume and focus our efforts on putting healthy foods in our bodies instead of the alternative.

Natural Remedy Healing and the Inside Scoop on Chiropractic Care

Friday, July 17th, 2009

Sometimes going to the doctor just doesn’t cut it. Sure if you have the flu or a toenail infection it’s important to get the proper vaccine or topical solution needed to get you back on your feet. But what exactly do you do when it comes to aches and pains, muscular fatigue, reproductive system problems or even addictions? Research suggests you may want to visit a chiropractor.
chiro image
What is Chiropractic?
Chiropractic is an alternative approach to health care which concentrates on the relationship between the body’s structure and it’s functioning, primarily focusing on the spine. Chiropractic medicine is concerned with the relationship between the spinal column, neurons, and the entire nervous system. It is the belief of chiropractic practitioners that the misalignment of the spinal cord or disturbances to the nervous system affects other parts of the body which can create pain, disease, and other musculoskeletal abnormalities. Chiropractors perform adjustments to the spine or other parts of the body with the goal of correcting alignment problems and supporting the body’s natural ability to heal itself.

The human body is an astonishing and complex machine. Chiropractic care recognizes this and rather than just feeding the body artificial remedies it relies on your body’s innate ability to heal itself from physical, mental, and emotional stress and trauma. Chiropractic is a natural remedy healing art that focuses on human health and prevention of disease through spinal biomechanics as well as musculoskeletal, neurological, vascular and nutritional wellness.

Who uses Chiropractic and for what ailments?
It is believed that nearly 15 million Americans look to chiropractic medicine ever year to heal physical injuries like lower back pain, neck pain, and certain internal disorders. Chiropractic also is affiliated with orthopedic medicine and osteopathy and is an excellent alternative for those who want to avoid surgery for injuries such as loose discs in the neck, slight scoliosis, and out of place vertebrae. In addition, chiropractic medicine has become associated with many addiction centers because of the positive effects it can have on patients suffering from the withdrawal symptoms of addiction. Chiropractic medicine benefits children, adolescents, adults, and the elderly.

Chiropractic has become the second largest primary health care field in the world and is more widely accepted than any other natural remedy healing. Hospitals have chiropractors on staff regularly and there are a large number of medical doctors who practice chiropractic medicine as well. This development is huge for the chiropractic field as it serves to lessen the tension between western and eastern medicine. Insurance companies and health maintenance organizations are also recognizing patients of chiropractic for financial health benefits.

Stats
Here are a few interesting stats on the chiropractic industry provided by the National Center of Complementary and Alternative Medicine:

  • Nearly 30 percent of the U.S. population, aged 18 and older, have used chiropractic, according to The Gallup Organization. 1991.
  • Nine of ten chiropractic users felt their treatment was effective, according to The Gallup Organization, 1991.
  • In a two-year study completed in 1990 Britain’s Medical Research Council, chiropractic treatment was found more effective than hospital outpatient care for low back pain.
  • According to records from the 1986 Worker’s Compensation Fund, the average medical patient was paid ten times more compensation than the average chiropractic patient for the treatment of low back pain.

Mood Help: Quick and Natural Mood Boosters

Friday, July 10th, 2009

We all feel down from time to time but if your case of the crankies has overstayed its welcome it might be time to take control of your mood…naturally. Here are a few tips for simply and organically lifting your spirits. Because after all life is too short to waste it being in a bad mood.

Get your heart pounding-Get up and get moving! Take a walk, ride a bike or take the dog for a run. Physical activity is great mood booster. It can burn calories and reduce body fat making you feel more accomplished, active and alive. natural mood boostersAccording to a study by researchers at Dalhousie University, a 30-minute walk is effective at reducing tension, anxiety, and mood disturbances and increasing energy and vigor. Getting out of the house has additional benefits. Natural light stimulates the brain which produces the neurotransmitter, serotonin, which can significantly improve your mood.

Get Plenty of Sleep-
Your body and its natural processes depend on you getting enough sleep on a daily basis. Sleep is important for concentration, memory formation and repair of damage to your body’s cells during the day. When your body is sleep deficient, it goes into a state of stress. The body’s functions are put on high alert which causes an increase in blood pressure and a production of stress hormones. Time.com estimates that you should get between 6.5 and 7.5 hours of sleep per night. Citing that getting too little as well as too much sleep can be equally unhealthy.

Listen to music-By playing your favorite tunes you can change your mood in an instant. According to Good Housekeeping, listening to music has a powerful effect on people’s moods. In one study by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, listening to music reduced stress hormone levels up to 41 percent. Whether you prefer to bust out your favorite records or jam to your I-Pod, it’s the music itself that positively affects mood rather than the lyrics. So make sure to listen to something with an upbeat rhythm and melody. Listening to your favorite songs from years past can be nostalgic. By triggering vivid memories and nostalgic feelings you can also improve mood and lower stress. Just make sure that the memories they evoke are pleasant ones.

Chocolate makes everything better-Everybody’s favorite sweet indulgence is also proven to be a mood elevator for many people. Chocolate contains phenylethylamine which is a mood-regulating chemical found naturally in the brain. The high levels of sugar found in chocolate, triggers your body’s release of serotonin which is a natural antidepressant. Chocolate is a good mood booster in moderation. Since it’s loaded with sugar and fat a little self-control is necessary. Try nibbling a little chocolate while you treat yourself to something else you enjoy, like a funny movie or a good book. Go ahead; it’s OK, spoil yourself a little!

Lend a Hand-Nothing re-energizes your soul like the feeling of accomplishment and making a difference that you get through volunteerism. When researchers analyzed 37 studies on volunteering, they found that people who offered their time had a better since of well-being, were happier with their lives, and were less likely to feel sad and anxious. Volunteers have also been found to recover more quickly from surgery, sleep better and have healthier immune systems compared to people who do not volunteer. Doing something nice for somebody else can run the gamut from organizing a book drive to helping an elderly neighbor out around the house. Doing good ultimately leads to feeling good so give of yourself and reap the benefits today.

Summertime and Sunscreen Use

Friday, July 10th, 2009

Swimming, picnics, green grass and lemonade-summer has officially arrived! The season of fun and sun is upon us. However, it’s essential to also recognize the hazards associated with our favorite season. Sunscreen use is critical. If not protected, long and lazy sun-drenched days can quickly turn to uncomfortable burning, cracking, peeling or worse. Here are a few tips on sunscreen use that can help keep you and your family happy and protected this season.

When should I use sunscreen?
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends that, regardless of skin type, sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays is water resistant and yields a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15 should be used year round. Sunscreen should be applied every day to exposed skin, regardless of if you’re in the sun or not. And don’t let the clouds fool you either, up to 80 percent of the sun’s ultraviolet rays can pass through the clouds. Alternately, sand reflects 25 percent of the sun’s rays and snow reflects 80 percent of the sun’s rays.

What are UVA and UVB rays?
Two types of harmful rays are found in sunlight- ultraviolet A rays and ultraviolet B rays. UVA rays penetrate deeper into your skin and are known to lead to signs of premature aging of the skin causing wrinkling and age spots. UVA rays can also pass through window glass. Alternately, UVB rays cause sunburn and are blocked by standard window glass. However, excessive exposure to both UVA and UVB rays can lead to the development of skin cancer.

What is SPF?
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. Sunscreens are rated by the strength of their SPF. The SPF numbers found on sunscreen can range from 2 to 50. This number refers to the product’s ability to deflect the sun’s burning and harmful rays.

According to the AADsunscreen use, the SPF ranking is calculated by comparing the amount of time needed to produce sunburn on sunscreen-protected skin to the amount of time needed to cause sunburn on unprotected skin. For example, if a sunscreen is rated SPF 2 and a person who would normally turn red after ten minutes of exposure in the sun uses it; it would take twenty minutes of exposure for the skin to turn red. A sunscreen with an SPF of 15 would allow that person to multiply that initial burning time by 15, which means it would take 15 times longer to burn, or 150 minutes. Even with this protection, sunscreen rubs off with normal wear, so it needs to be reapplied at least every two hours.

How much and how often should sunscreen be applied?
Apply sunscreen 15-30 minutes before going outdoors and make sure to smear generous amounts to all exposed areas, paying specific attention to your face, ears, hands and arms. And don’t forget your lips! Put on lip balm that includes sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher. A good rule of thumb is one ounce (equal to about one shots glass) is needed to adequately cover the exposed areas of the body.
Reapply sunscreen every two hour, after swimming or sweating profusely. Water resistant sunscreens even lose their effectiveness after 40 minutes in the pool so it’s important to remember to reapply. Sunscreen rubs off as well, so if you towel-dried at some point, you’ll need to reapply afterward.

Other Easy Ways to Protect Yourself from the Sun

Wear protective clothing-Wear long-sleeved shirts, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses when possible.
Seek shade-Don’t set up camp right in the sun, try the shade. And remember that the sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If your shadow is shorter than you are, seek shade.
Protect children-Play in the shade, wear protective clothing, and always apply sunscreen.
Avoid tanning beds-Ultraviolet light from the sun and tanning beds can cause skin cancer, wrinkling and premature aging. If you prefer a bronzed look try using a sunless self-tanning product, but continue to use sunscreen with it.
Regularly assess yourself-Take notice of anything changing, growing, or bleeding on your skin. If you see anything visit your doctor or dermatologist. Skin cancer is very treatable when caught early.

More than 1 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States every year. With just a little bit of knowledge and preparation, your summer can be care-free, burn-free and cancer-free.