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Screening for Colorectal Cancer
By Nellie Grose, M.D., M.P.H.

Menopause: Myth and Misconceptions
By Nellie Grose, M.D., M.P.H.
Infertility in Women: The Chinese Medicine Perspective
By Eric Grose, L.Ac.
What is Acupuncture?
Introduction to Acupuncture
Acupuncture and Hypertension
Erectile Dysfunction and Acupuncture



Health News.  

Your Gut Microbiome & Health
Meditation, Not Medication Part 2

Recent studies
Praluent, the New Drug for Lowering Cholesterol
Addyi - the "Female Viagra"
Unhealthy Vaginal Flora and Preterm Birth
The Health Risk of Chronic Proton Pump Inhibitor (PPI) Use

Your Gut Microbiome & Health

Not a day goes by without a paper about our gut microbiome, the 100 trillion bacteria that inhabit our gut and the rest of our body. Increasing research suggests that the colonies of bacteria and other microbes in our gut may play a very important role in health and disease.

What is the gut microbiome?
It is the colonies of various microbes that reside in your gut that are unique to you. They talk to your genes and are active in many biological functions, including the immune system, neurological and metabolic systems, detoxification and gut integrity.

How is it established?
A baby acquires the microbiota similar to its mother's as it passes through her vaginal canal, but if the baby is born by C-section, it acquires the microbiota of its mother's skin. Early life exposure to breast or formula feeding, antibiotics, physical environment, stress and use of probiotics all affect the diversity, abundance and balance of the microbiota. From childhood to advanced age, our diet, overuse of antibiotics and other drugs, stress and selective enrichment with pre- and probiotics play a big role in the balance. We often talk about "good" or "bad" bacteria, but the term is inaccurate because what is necessary is the proper balance of the beneficial bacteria.

What conditions are associated with an imbalanced microbiome?
This is a sampling but not an exhaustive list: At the gut level, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, gastric cancer, lymphoma and recurrent C.Difficle infection. At a systemic level, autism, autoimmune disorders, heart disease, fatty liver, obesity and metabolic syndrome, mood disorders, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's disease.

How can you optimize your microbiome?
Lifestyle is the foundation for a healthy microbiota. Diet strongly influences your mirobiota. What you eat and your stress level are key factors in maintaining a healthy microbiota.

1.Your diet strongly influences your microbiome. Include fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi and kefir and soluble fiber in your meal plan. Avoid processed foods, high bad fats and excessive sugars. Go to the Nutritional Corner on Page 6 for a list of prebiotic rich foods.
2. Support with selective probiotics if your diet is less than ideal and especially during and after a course of antibiotics. Join us for the seminar to learn more about choosing probiotics.
3. Avoid unknowingly harming yourself by ingesting genetically engineered foods and animal meats that are fed low-dose antibiotics.
4. Avoid the indiscriminate use of chemicals such as antibiotics, proton pump inhibitors (the likes of nexium and omeprazole) and NSAIDS that can create imbalance in the microbiome.
5. Manage your stress. (top)

Meditation, Not Medication Part 2
, Eric Grose, L.Ac.

In the last issue, we discussed meditation and its benefits as a health technique. We also discussed some of the concerns people have about it. What can you do if you don't have the time to sit and meditate? Or, what do you do when you're stressed, and it's not practical to take some quiet time? How do you maintain the calm while doing activities? The answer is you can still meditate.

The brain is composed of two minds: the working mind and the thinking mind. The thinking mind is the part of the brain that worries, has anxiety, overthinks, and lumbers over the past. It's the revolving hamster wheel. The working mind executes an action and is task-oriented. It's the one that picks up the pitcher and pours a glass of water, while the thinking mind worries about dropping the pitcher, spilling the water, and whether the cup is dirty. While driving to work, the working mind has you turn, slow down and speed up. The thinking mind is yelling at the person for going too slow, stressing out about being late, and irritated about the weather. For daily life, the working mind is very important; the thinking mind, not so much.

As we discussed in the last article, the purpose of meditation is to engage the working mind so as to block out the thinking mind. This is done through using a mantra, song, or prayer of your choice. Continual repetition of the mantra engages the working mind and keeps the mind clear, allowing the body and nervous system to fall into a deep state of peace.

So how does one do it in daily life? It's simple. Just use the same methods while doing activity. Whether jogging, brushing your teeth or working, you can gently recite your mantra. In the beginning, you can begin reciting the mantra and stop when you have to speak or think a thought. When finished speaking, just start the mantra up again. With practice, the mantra will become automatic, running quietly in the background, enabling you to do any activity while keeping clear and calm.

One living example of using meditation in daily life comes from a group of monks who live on Mount Athos, a remote mountain in Northern Greece that is home to 20 Eastern Orthodox monasteries, housing thousands of monks. These monks have dedicated themselves to God, going to an eight-hour mass daily and sleeping only a few hours. In order to enhance their connection to God, they are engaged in active prayer, or praying without ceasing. The prayer they use is called the Jesus prayer, which is repeated without ceasing, all day, even while doing chores. These monks report a deep peace and joy, almost a blissful state throughout the day, and it's because their thinking minds are very inactive, allowing them to enjoy their spirituality.

Remember, meditation is customizable and can be modified to fit anyone's needs. You can count numbers, recite a phrase of meaning, chant a verse, or watch the breath. It’s the practice that will make the difference.

It's also flexible. If you start out the day jogging and meditating, and then realize that it's the end of the workday and you forgot to do it, don't stress about it, and just pick it up again when you remember. With practice it will get easier and easier and will sustain itself for longer periods. Your mind will calm, thoughts will become clearer, the world will slow down, and you'll find it easier to enjoy life.

For some who find starting out to be hard, coming in for an acupuncture treatment to calm your nervous system may help jumpstart your meditative practice. (top)

Praluent, the New Drug for Lowering Cholesterol?
The FDA recently approved Praluent (alirocumab), a PCSK9 inhibitor for the treatment of familial hypercholesterolemia and lowering of LDL cholesterol levels for patients who have had a heart attack or stroke. It is a monoclonal antibody that causes the breakdown of LDL receptors that bind LDL. It comes as a self-administered injection, costs about $1200 a month and requires that the patient take it for the rest of his or her life. The side effects include memory impairment, flu-like symptoms, eye problems and nasal congestion.

Comment:This drug has only been tested on 3499 patients and not over a long time. If you take it, you will be part of experimentation for the drug. It has only been shown to reduce cholesterol but not to prevent heart attacks nor to improve the quality of life. It is worrisome, as the potential downstream effects on other physiological pathways have not been discussed. Stay away from it; lowering cholesterol is not the only way to achieve heart health. (top)

Addyi - the "Female Viagra"
It is with a lot of controversy that Addyi has been approved for use in premenopausal women with low sex drive. It is not effective in all premenopausal women and not approved for postmenopausal women. The study was carried out on about 3000 premenopausal women; about 1700 took the medicine for six months and about 850 took it for one year. As compared to a placebo, it increases the number of satisfying sexual events by 0.5 to one per month. Furthermore, the benefits are only seen after four weeks of daily treatment. The serious side effects include drowsiness, low blood pressure and syncope, and should you consume alcohol while taking it, you may pass out more easily. It also cross-reacts with certain commonly used drugs.

Comment: This is a small study with minuscule results. The risks outweigh the potential benefits. Low sex drive is a symptom; one needs to look systemically for the underlying causes. Stress plays a major role; hormone imbalances as well. Each person deserves a holistic approach. (top)

Unhealthy Vaginal Flora and Preterm Birth
The composition of the vaginal flora may predict preterm delivery, as reported in a study of 49 women who were followed during pregnancy and after delivery. The observation was that those women with Lactobacillus-poor and high Gardnerella-rich vaginal flora may be particularly susceptible to preterm delivery. The same holds true with Ureaplasma-rich and Lactobacillus-poor vaginal flora.

Comment: Though this is a very small study, and we cannot read too much into it, it supports the current research that our microbiome has a lot to do with our well-being. We know that C-section babies who did not have a chance to be inoculated by the mother's vaginal flora have an increased risk of developing allergies. It is important to follow up with the correct probiotics during and following antibiotics for bladder or vaginal infection. (top)

The Health Risk of Chronic Proton Pump Inhibitor (PPI) Use
Many people are using the likes of Nexium and Omeprazole for reflux for years, never questioning an alternative approach or the risk of long-term use. In a data mining study, the investigators reviewed 16 million clinical documents on 2.9 million individuals and found a 16% risk of heart attacks on patients who had reflux and were exposed to PPIs.

Comment: While this is not a prospective study, we can take this information and reflect on the long-term effects of drugs on our bodies. Most often we do not know, and we become the living laboratory for the medications. Remember that long-term use of PPIs can affect your microflora negatively. (top)

Nellie Grose, M.D., offers and maintains this website to provide information of a general nature about conditions requiring the services of a holistic family physician. The information is provided with the understanding that Nellie Grose, M.D, is not engaged in rendering medical advice or recommendations. Any information in the publications, messages, postings, or articles on this website should not be considered a substitute for consultation with a board certified family physician to address individual medical needs. This information is meant for residents of the State of Texas and any others who read it do so at their own risk.