Thursday, March 18, 2010

Qigong Basics: The Breath & Calming the Mind

By Eric Aufdencamp, D.O.M.

Qi is the vital life force that animates all living things. In Chinese medicine, the breath is one aspect that allows us to create Qi.

Qi from a Chinese Medicine perspective:

1. Provides warmth
2. Keeps blood in the vessels and organs in their proper place
3. Acts as the catalyst for the production of blood
4. Protects the body from external influences (i.e. bacterial and viral influences)
5. Provides movement for the fluids in the body

Qigong means to acquire benefit through being in harmony with one's life energy, or Qi. Exercise and relaxation techniques are ways you can regulate the flow of Qi in your body. If you tend to be tense and always on the go, then relaxation practices are very important. If you tend to have a sedentary lifestyle, movement practices such as tai chi, yoga, swimming, and other low-impact exercises, are important.

Regardless of your activity level, quieting the mind is an essential practice for better health.
  • To begin your practice, first sit and simply observe your breath. Is it shallow, rapid, slow, or constricted? Do you breathe only in your chest or do you breathe deeply into both your chest and abdomen?
  • Next, breathe through your nose with your mouth closed and the tip of your tongue gently resting on the border of your upper teeth and palate. This creates a circuit in the body that assists the movement of Qi. Breathe from your diaphragm, or from the area around the middle of your torso. As you fill up the area of the diaphragm, your chest may slowly rise as a natural consequence.
  • It is best to breathe from deep in the belly, because chest breathing may cause you to feel anxious or lightheaded. When inhaling, breathe deep in order to fill up the entire cavity in a 360-degree radius. Feel as if there were a balloon in the center that is being filled up in all directions. Remember that breathing should always be gentle and not forced.
Over time, your breathing will become slower and deeper without effort. Eventually, you can let go of the focus on your breath and just notice the sensations in your body and the sounds surrounding you.

It is ideal to not shut out sounds, but instead make them a part of your practice. It is a practice of accepting or surrendering to what is both in our bodies and our minds. This practice is excellent for reducing anxiety, promoting restful sleep and slowing down our thoughts.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Reading The Research Regarding Supplements

By Mary Cissy Majebe, OMD

Each month I receive a newspaper entitled, Family Practice News. It refers to itself as “The Leading Independent Newspaper for the Family Physician.” I look through it as a way of keeping myself up to date with Western medicine, as well as with what the Western medical press may be reporting about alternative or complementary medicine. During the week of December 1, 2008, on page 32, the headline at the top of the page read:

“Prescribed Drugs, Supplements Tied To Liver Injury”

It went on to state: "Single prescription medication was the likely cause of the liver injury in 73% of cases. Multiple prescription medications or a combination of prescription medicine and dietary supplements were the cause in 18%. Single or multiple dietary supplements were the cause in the remaining 9%.”

Needless to say, I was distressed, so I sought out the research citation: “Causes, Clinical Features, and Outcomes From a Prospective Study of Drug-Induced Liver Injury in the United States.” Gastroenterology 2008: 136: 1924-1934. After reading this article, I had a much different picture.

The article’s headline listed both pharmaceuticals and supplements. However, of the total 300 patients in this study, 270 of these liver injuries were linked to either one or multiple pharmaceuticals. Only 30 of these liver injuries were linked to a supplement, and 2 of these 30 were linked to a pharmaceutical and a supplement. In other words, 90% of the liver injuries in this study are associated with pharmaceuticals and 10% to supplement usage. Of the 10% with liver injuries due to supplement usage, 65% of these were using supplements for weight loss and muscle building.

Furthermore, 73% (217 patients) of the liver injuries were due to pharmaceuticals, while 18% (55 patients) were linked to multiple pharmaceutical and supplement usage. Of these 55 patients, 2 of them used a supplement that was also listed as a probable causative agent, including Cell Tech, which is a muscle-building agent for body builders, and a Source of Life multivitamin supplement. For 53% of the 55 patients, they were using multiple pharmaceuticals. For 9% (28 patients), they were linked to supplements. Of these 28 patients, 19 were using supplements geared towards body building or weight loss.

All of the liver injuries that resulted in death (11% or 18 patients) were attributed to pharmaceuticals. No liver injuries in these 18 patients were attributed to supplements. Eight of the patients who were in this study received a transplant. One of these was attributed to an over-the-counter weight loss supplement, CVS Spectravite.

My concern with this type of reporting is that often, I, like many other health care professionals, only read the titles and highlights. Of the total 30 patients who were taking supplements, there were also no indications whether they had been prescribed to them by a Licensed Health Care Practitioner or a Trained and Educated Health Care Practitioner.

I find the article in Family Practice News to be reflective of the bias in the media and in allopathic research, which often highlights aspects of wholistic medicine, rather than focusing on the consequences of an over-medicated society. A point of interest is that all liver injuries due to Acetamenaphin were excluded from this study. I wonder how much smaller would the percentage have been for supplements, if all Liver injuries were included in this report.