Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Low birth weight, depression, of mother, of child, brain lateralization

Low birth weight (LBW) of a baby is often associated with depression. But whose depression? The pregnant mother or the child when he/she grows up? The following are research articles on this subject.

Mother's depression associated with LBW of the baby:

LBW associated with depression when the baby grows up:
Interestingly, this research shows that only girls, not boys, are affected. However, there's conflicting research in this respect, which is the next article.

LBW not associated with depression when the baby grows up:
Even more interesting is that this same-year (2007) research was conducted by researchers at the same university, University of Southampton. (I don't know whether and how this group communicates with the other.)

Another aspect of LBW relevant to mental health is its connection to lateralization of brain function ("division of labor", so to speak, of the two brain hemispheres). And again, the Southampton scientists pioneered this research:
which is published in a 2011 issue of Public Library of Science.
In short, LBW is associated with more right brain activity. According to Wikipedea, the right brain is responsible for pragmatic and contextual language capability, and the prosodic aspect (speech), but not grammar or vocabulary of it, and (not shown in the table on the page) depression.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

What is the B.E.S.T. Chiropractic Method?

The following is a guest blog by "Allison Brooks". If you have any question, please send it directly to naturallie23 at gmail dot com.

What is the B.E.S.T. Chiropractic Method?
How the Bio Energetic Synchronization Technique works

Chiropractic therapy is thought to be easy identified, and when most talk about this therapy the first thought is “bone cracking”; but this should not be the case. There are over 20 different types of chiropractic techniques that are used to identify and correct glitches in neuromusculoskeletal functioning. There are many hands-on manipulations and muscle mobilizing movements used to correct issues, and one of these is called the Bio Energetic Synchronization Technique (B.E.S.T.).

B.E.S.T. is a great mixture of energy healing and chiropractic manipulation and was developed in the mid-1970s by chiropractor, Dr. Milton Ted Morter, Jr. It is practiced all over the world, especially in cultures that focus on mind/body healing because it balances the systems and energies of the body. B.E.S.T does not focus on physical correction like the other forms of chiropractics, but instead uses gentle pressures to resynchronize misaligned energy fields. The Bio Energetic Synchronization Technique can be used in a physical or emotional way.

Physical B.E.S.T. utilizes light pressures and stimulating pressure points to address certain imbalances. It is a non-invasive way to counter the stress and discomfort patterns surfacing from certain ailments or chronic conditions. Normally during a session, the practitioners apply pressures to troublesome muscles, spine, skull, and other noted points to remove the pain and restore healthy bodily patterns. Many patients claim to feel immediately relieved of painful symptoms after a B.E.S.T. session.

Emotional B.E.S.T. is another way patients can rid the body of stress and muscular pain. Since the brain controls every function of the body, negative or painful thoughts can actually affect how the body functions. When emotional thoughts like worry, fear, or jealously begin to override the memory, the interference of patterns becomes the body’s status quo. This interference can hinder the natural healing capabilities of the body. Emotional B.E.S.T. identifies what the emotional interference is and resets it, so that the body can focus on current situations and not the past. This in turns, promote healing and overall wellness.

Most practitioners suggest patients to take B.E.S.T. sessions when undergoing stressful conventional therapies or incorporate them with their daily wellness programs. Since the Bio Energetic Synchronization Technique focuses on managing pain and stress levels it is the cure-all for many symptoms. Many patients suffering from an unfavorable prognosis either for a chronic condition or an aggressive cancer, like non-hodgkin’s lymphoma or mesothelioma, swear by this chiropractic technique. Doctors recognize the capabilities of B.E.S.T. and other chiropractic techniques, and recommend them to cancer patients to relieve the symptoms of chemotherapy and/or radiation.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Trainability of body parts

For a long time I've had the notion that some parts, or organs, of the human body can be trained to function better, be stronger and more disease-resistant, while the others cannot. The heart and the lung can be trained by aerobic exercises, or made stronger by eating dark chocolate, or drinking a small amount of red wine. Muscles of course can be trained to be stronger, and by the same exercise for muscles, bones can be made denser, less prone to fracture in old age. Even the brain has plasticity, so that cognitive ability can be improved with seemingly monotonous drills such as learning to play the piano, or logical thinking such as playing crossword puzzles, or learning a foreign language.

On the other hand, most organs of the body cannot be trained. You can't directly train your stomach to have better digestive power, unless you improve your health in general, which indirectly improves the function of the stomach. (Chickens eat pebbles to help digest, which may be the way they directly train their stomachs. But humans are not chicks.) The liver cannot be trained. Can you drink a modest amount of wine every day to improve the function of the liver, in the same way immunization works? As far as I know, even a tiny amount of alcohol is harmful to the liver, although the little harm may be outweighed by the benefit to the heart and blood vessels.

Surprisingly, whether an organ is trainable is or will be identified unambiguously, a clear yes or a clear no. But there's more to it. An old Chinese doctor on TV claimed benefit of moving eyeballs. I always thought eyes belong in the untrainable category. But he says his good eyesight is due to his daily eye exercise, including rotating eyeballs counter-clockwise dozens of times, and then clockwise (with eyes closed), followed by kneading a few acupuncture points around the eyes. Unfortunately, like almost any TCM doctor, he has not done any controlled test, which is the gold standard in modern medical science. While I still believe an organ is either trainable or not, as time goes by, more organs may move from the untrainable to the trainable. Brains used to be thought to be fixed and rigid around age of 10 or younger. But discoveries in neuroplasticity throw doubt on it. Eyes may move to the trainable group in the future, and we're expected to prolong the onset of near- or far-sightedness, macular degeneration, glaucoma, etc.

I have yet to find published materials discussing this classification of human organs. Unless it turns out that all organs are trainable (or all untrainable), I believe this classification will prove to be a useful concept in health science.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Magnetic field inversely correlated with dream bizarreness

Sweet dreams are made of geomagnetic activity, published on April 1, 2009, doesn't sound like an April Fool's Day joke. The academic article associated with that mass media report is An association between geomagnetic activity and dream bizarreness, in the July 2009 issue of Medical Hypotheses[note].

So, this guy, a psychologist by profession, recorded his 2387 dreams and personally rated the bizarreness (how weird or unrealistic) each dream was, and correlated with the local geomagnetic index in Perth, Australia, where he lived. It turned out that the stronger the magnetic field, the less (not more!) bizarre his dream.

I'm curious about his finding and would like to expand on this research, by Internet search and book reading only though. It was documented before that if you take pills of melatonin, the hormone your pineal gland would naturally secrete during deep sleep, you'll have a very vivid dream or nightmare (see e.g. p.302 Dr. Rosenfeld's Guide to Alternative Medicine). If we consider a positive correlation between vividness with bizarreness, and combine the two correlations, we may conclude that magnetic field strength is inversely associated with the amount of melatonin. That is, the stronger the magnetic field, the less melatonin produced, and the less bizarre (or more realistic) the dream is. Since melatonin induces sleep (often used to fight jet lag as well as insomnia), it follows that the magnetic field disturbs sleep, and a vivid, bizarre dream is connected with the deeper sleep than a realistic dream or no dream at all.

The correlation I added as a hypothesis here, that magnetic field is inversely associated with endogenously secreted melatonin, can be easily tested, not involving any subjective measurement. I hope to see a study published by a researcher some day.

[note] While some researchers might reject articles in Medical Hypotheses as unworthy, they won't reject the fact that great discoveries in history often germinated from meer hypotheses, and the hypotheses in this journal definitely contain some science element to make further, well-controlled, research easier.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Tibetan medicine: first impression

CCTV's Chinese Medicine program is excellent. This time it's about the amazing Tibetan Medicine (TM). I'm no stranger to Traditional Chinese Medicine's diagnostics (checking tongue, pulse, etc), acupuncture and moxibustion, herbs, ... TM has most of it, but some are modified. A TM doctor makes an extraordinarily long and detailed analysis on the patient's urine, checking its smell repeatedly, stirring it occasionally. Moxibustion looks more violent than in TCM; the skin will get burned, which is taken care of separately. Living at a high altitude causes elevated hemoglobin level, and an effective treatment is bloodletting, of the "bad" blood as they call it. Making the precious "seventy-component pearl pellet" involves mercury, and toxicity control is crucial.

Overall, TM has similarity to TCM, only more brutal, primeval, archaic. In spite of the effectiveness, smelling each patient's sample will have the problem of desensitizing the doctor's nose, limiting his accuracy in diagnosing the patients that come later in the day. Bleeding is, according to a Han-looking Tibetan doctor, the only way to cure hyperhemoglobinemia. I'm sure TM has certain authority on this disease but I wonder if it's really the only treatment. The most appalling scene to me is the use of a large quantity of mercury in preparing the pearl pellets. As far as I know, mercury is proved to have absolutely zero benefit and a great deal of harm to our bodies. I seriously doubt that the current science and technology has not had a replacement for it in the preparation process. Mercury's uniqueness lies in the fact that it's metallic and stays in liquid form at room temperature. If that's the property being made use of, gallium, if memory serves me right, does the same, with much lower toxicity. If I live in Tibet, I'll definitely refuse to take this traditionally highly cherished "sacred" medicine.

I believe TM and TCM will learn from each other more than ever, thanks to the Internet and much improved transportation between Tibet and the rest of China. Diagnostics by the smell of urine may be an important contribution to TCM, as well as the bleeding as treatment of hyperhemoglobinemia. One of the most urgent changes to TM, as far as what's shown in this program so far, should be complete removal of mercury in the pearl pellets, a commonly prescribed medication. Sadly, no mention of this change is made by anyone interviewed.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

New born baby's weight related to later IQ and mood

The Influence of Birth Size on Intelligence in Healthy Children, 2009, Pediatrics:

"After controlling for multiple confounders for every 1-cm increment in birth length, 1 kg in birth weight, or 1 cm in head circumference, there was a corresponding increase in IQ of 0.49 points (P for trend < .001), 2.19 points (P for trend = .007) and .62 points (P for trend = .003), respectively."

Evidence for Developmental Programming of Cerebral Laterality in Humans, 2011, Public Library of Science:

"Risk of depression and enhanced stress responsivity, with their consequent risks for ill health including cardiovascular disease, is increased in people who were small at birth."

(Science Daily report about the latter article)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

You don't have to eat fresh fruits or vegetables

Common advice is that you must eat fresh fruits and vegetables. I've long wondered why fresh, other than they seem to taste better and look better. Do they offer more nutrients? Belgian scientists' 2007 research shows that nutritional value varies with time of storage, but not necessarily always going down. See Figures 2 and 3 of the article for six kinds of fruits or vegetables. The only one that almost constantly loses antioxidants may be bananas. The take-home message is that you don't have to eat fresh, as long as they're not rotten.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Toxicity of herbs

It's not uncommon to hear people say herbs or Chinese herbs have no side effects, or even, are not toxic. The Chinese article 中药使用者 安全意识待提高 (Chinese herb users need better awareness of safety) is excellent for technically inclined laymen (the type of people capable of reading an encyclopedia of a specific field of science). Better informed herb users may say mineral types of Chinese medicine could be toxic but herbs are generally OK. The said article dismisses that too. Toxicity may be inherent to the medicine itself, or express it when combined with others, or it has negligible toxicity alone, but happens to be used with another that has the same specific toxicity, so the end result adds up.

One good way to avoid toxicity, or at least minimize it, is to take less. If you can take the medicine by means other than orally, seriously consider it. I once concocted my wrist pain "soup". I looked up all individual herbs I used and knew that 细辛 (Manchurian Wildginger) is toxic. Since it's used on the skin, not taken orally, and with below limit amount, I consider it completely safe.

We're all used to looking up chemical, biological, physiological properties of meterials, chemicals, or medicines on Wikipedia, which, unfortunately, sometimes fails to document toxicity, as in the case of Ginkgo. It *is* documented at Baidu Baike in Chinese. If you only read English, more reading is needed. One of Dr. Weil's articles talks about its high-dose side effects.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Tilapia may harm more than help

Dr. Weil's short note warns against eating farm-raised tilapia. It's said that tilapia contains little Omega-3 but a lot of Omega-6, which our bodies already have too much of to strike a balance with Omega-3. He recommends salmon, especially the wild Alaskan type. His comment corroborates with Wikipedia which probably cited this 2008 arcitle. That aritlce says (my bold text), "This analysis revealed that trout and Atlantic salmon contained relatively high concentrations of n-3 PUFA, low n-6:n-3 ratios, and favorable saturated fatty acid plus monounsaturated fatty acid to PUFA ratios. In contrast, tilapia (the fastest growing and most widely farmed fish) and catfish have..."

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Frequent shoppers are healthier

An interesting article published in the April 2011 issue of J Epidemiol Community Health, Frequent shopping by men and women increases survival in the older Taiwanese population, is not too surprising. I didn't see the full article (not published yet?). But I think the reason frequent shoppers are healthier may be that they walk and use brains a lot, contributing to improvement of physical and mental health. What's a little surprising is the finding that "Highly frequent shopping may favour men more than women". Is it because shopping frequency varies much more among men than among women?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Sun UV to trigger Vitamin D and skin cancer: intensity matters?

I've never read a report about this but I have had this suspicion for a long time. On the one hand, we need to expose our skin to the sunlight, preferably on a daily basis, in order to let the body synthesize enough vitamin D. On the other, we don't want so much exposure as to cause skin cancer. All reports or articles I know simply advise moderation in exposure time. But I have a hypothesis that intensity, or rather, local intensity multipled by time of exposure, matters more. Suppose the UV light coming to your skin is x lux's in intensity and it lasts y seconds. The chance of you getting skin cancer on that spot is proportional to x*y. If this hypothesis is true, then we have a good strategy to achieve both goals at the same time, getting enough UV and avoiding skin cancer: alternate the part of your body exposed to the sun, and never let the sun light come to one small part of the skin for an extended period of time.

Also see

Is there too much radiation from X-ray exams?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Western and Chinese medicine studying acupuncture: Difference

For a long time, I've noticed one big difference betweeen traditional Chinese medicine and western medical science in studying acupuncture: the latter almost always fails to specify the acupuncture points. People with basic knowledge of acupuncture, in fact, both acupuncture and moxibustion (AM), know that different acupuncture points serve different purposes, much like different drugs treat different diseases. Since western science publications list herb names when they're used in the research, and names of the AM points are already internationalized, I don't see why the names are not generally listed in equally scrutinized research papers.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Effect of Light at Sleep on Health

I'm interested in two issues related to light at sleep: lower limit in intensity of light not affecting child's growth, and effect on risk of cancer. I didn't find an article directly discussing the relationship of light to secretion of growth hormone (GH). But since GH and melatonin secretions are related ("Melatonin stimulates growth hormone secretion through pathways other than the growth hormone-releasing hormone"), and the effect of light intensity on melatonin is regularly studied, we can focus on the latter. This letter, by Steven Lockley, a Harvard Medical School doctor, shows the change of melatonin suppression in relation to light intensity (see Fig 1(B)). You can see when the light intensity reaches 50 lux, the level of melatonin quickly starts to be suppressed until about 200 lux.[note] In plain English, if you need a better night sleep, and growth for the child, the light should be kept below 50 lux. According to Wikipedia, 50 lux is about the light intensity you get at your "Family living room". So I believe unless there's direct light shining on your eyelids, as those from your night lights or street lights, you should have a piece of mind. If you must have some light, such as that on your digital clock, make sure it's red, which is at almost the exact opposite of blue in visible light spectrum. Again according to Wikipedia, the blue light has the most detrimental effect on melatonin secretion. Now you know why those clocks are red.

Light at sleep is also known to increase the risk of cancer, the most studied type of which may be breast cancer. See Dr. Weil's short note, and this 2005 article.
[note] Other researchers did similar experiments, e.g., J.M. Zeitzer et al. in Am. J. Physiology in 2005. See its Fig 1(B). Their melatonin suppression onset started earlier at about 10 lux. But they had fewer data points.