Category Archives: Treatments

Why You Get Migraines

It’s not just a headache, it’s extreme pain that explodes, causing light to be painful, pain if you touch it, and nausea just to start. Eating things like raw onions, red wine, being around cigarette smoke, and even hormone swings that you can’t just control through diet could all be contributing factors. For hormones, some find birth control effective, and there are some pills that are actually meant to prevent migraines, stress headaches, and other severe headaches like that.

Interestingly enough, for some, they try diet changes, activity changes, taking birth control and other pills, and none of that works. Still, they have headaches and migraines come up. There are some who even find that the pills that are supposed to prevent the headaches may actually be causing them. In these cases, sometimes something like acupuncture, which is obviously an unusual approach, can be used.

So how widespread is this? Headaches and migraines are by no means unusual. Over 30 million Americans currently live with chronic migraines. 45 million people deal with chronic headaches of some kind (tension headaches, migraines, or otherwise). However, many of these people try to just deal with the headaches on their own rather than seeking relief through acupuncture, a doctor’s visit, or something else.

The American Academy of Neurology and the International Headache Society have both looked to complete more research to fight and prevent these types of headaches. If you find that you are experiencing this, you can take Advil or other pain pills, but you may want to visit your doctor if they are chronic to see about preventative approaches.


Natural Ways To Prevent And Treat Headaches

Personally, I like Excedrin Migraine. It is the only thing that really handles my migraines, and what do you do. However, I know of at least one person who insists he just rubs some herbs on his forehead to handle headaches, even migraines. Frankly, yes, it’s stupid. This doesn’t mean that natural methods don’t work though. It just means that you should probably know a little bit more about what you’re doing if you’re going to rely on natural methods. There are a few basic things to consider.

  • Water – One of the most common causes of unnecessary headaches that are completely within your control is water. When you get dehydrated, you are more likely to suffer headaches. So if you keep yourself hydrated (8 glasses a day or whatever it is), you are less likely to get headaches.
  • Rest – Yes, a headache is often a sign that you are not getting enough rest and your body needs a break according to Elizabeth Loder MD, chief of the headache and pain division at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and President of the American Headache Society. A little nap may actually be quite helpful, but of course a full night’s sleep is optimal.
  • Small, Frequent Meals – Sometimes, the most basic cause of a headache is that your blood sugar is not regulated. I’m not talking about weight loss here. I’m talking about keeping your body’s basic hormones from spiking unnecessarily. If you haven’t eaten anything in a while, you may want to try magnesium rich foods such as spinach, tofu, olive oil, or pumpkin seeds. Especially if you have had other symptoms of low blood sugar, you may want to eat smaller and more frequent meals throughout the day rather than the 3 larger meals.
  • Ice Therapy – Think about it. When you have sore muscles, you often are told to use ice/heat packs. The same applies to a certain degree with headaches. Try applying a cold compress on your forehead and eyes, and it may help you to relieve a headache. It may even get rid of it entirely. According to Dr. Loder, it may be a counterirritation effect.
  • Take a Hot Shower – Again, the hot/cold effect comes into play. Sometimes, when you are feeling pain, heat can release that pain. Staying in bed until your headache goes away rarely works. If you get a little breakfast to get your blood sugar going and take a hot shower, the warm air could clear your nasal passages, which could be a big part of fighting your headaches.
  • Try a massage – A simple rub around the temples could actually be one of the most effective natural ways to fight a headache. Any type of basic massage could be a considerable part of this. In a study in New Zealand, people with migraines were able to improve their condition. Migraines were less frequent, and they slept better when the appropriate massage was involved. A 2010 Spanish study also showed that patients who used massage with recurring tension headaches were able to improve their psychological states, reduce stress, and experienced fewer headaches in just 24 hours after a 30 minute massage.
  • Look Into Accupressure – An old Chinese tradition, Accupressure is ultimately applying pressure to points between the thumb and index finger, and it can help to relieve headaches. You just need to squeeze the indentation between the thumb and index finger of your opposite hand, massaging in a circular motion for just 5 minutes. Then you can simply switch hands. It may also help to include ice therapy on this spot for a few minutes.
  • Lay Off The Alcohol – Yes, it’s obvious, and yet it’s not. When you drink more, it does dehydrate the body, and it actually makes hangovers (and the associated headaches) more likely. If you drink water (especially if it has additives as in some health waters, you can reduce the impact of a hangover and prevent unnecessary headaches.
  • Keep Your Weight Under Control – If you are obese or significantly overweight, you are more likely to have regular migraines. Accordingly, if you are able to maintain a healthy weight, you are less likely to experience regular migraines. This is especially true for white people, women, and people under 50 according to studies.
  • Reduce Stress – In a 2014 German study, researchers showed that people who have more stress in their lives are more likely to suffer headaches. Call it the stress effect. For those with more stress in the study, tension headaches increased 6.3% while migraines increased 4.3%. If you are suffering more stress, you may want to get involved in anti-stress activities while simultaneously taking a break from stressful activities when you have to deal with them.
  • Get a Little Caffeine – Of course, don’t go overboard. However, at the first sign of a headache, you can try getting a little bit of caffeine. Just don’t overdo it. If you drink too much, you could actually build up a tolerance over time that could make it less effective, or entirely ineffective. If you consume too much on a regular basis, you are likely to experience more headaches, but if you use just a little in the right situations, you can stop headaches in their tracks. Tricky.
  • Don’t Spend Too Much Time in the Sun – Have you ever noticed how sensitive you are to light when you have a migraine. I personally lock myself in a closet with a towel under the door to eliminate all possible light. It helps. If you spend more time in the sun, yes you can get dehydrated. Bottom line though, you are more likely to suffer severe headaches, your risk goes up by about 7.5% with every 5 degrees celsius. A little air conditioning and water goes a long way.
  • Regular Exercise – Another double edged sword, some migraines are actually triggered by more exercise. It depends on the person, and accordingly, it’s important to keep your own patterns in mind. Regular exercise could raise happy hormones while also helping you to maintain a healthy weight. Running is good, but things like hot yoga could actually be more likely to trigger migraines due to dehydration and other factors.

What Your Hair Tells You About Your Health

healthy-hair1Alopecia can happen for a variety of reasons ranging from simple vitamin deficiencies to cancer and the related treatments. (Don’t assume you have cancer because you’re losing hair). If you read the fashion magazines though, you might have an idea of the many things that your hair can tell you. If your hair is thick or thin, shiny or dry, etc can give you an idea of your overall health.

Most of the time, unless you buy certain hair sprays, your hair will never actually look like the well glossed, long hair you see in the commercials. Don’t dismay though, you don’t have to be afraid to look in the mirror or panic. Just know what kind of risk factors to look for.

Lots of Hair Loss

You could lose up to 100 hairs a day on an average day, and when I lived with one roommate in particular, I’m pretty sure she lost 1000. It depends on the person. However, if you are actually noticing whole fistfuls of hair coming out of your head without major pulling incidents, you should be concerned. It could be a sign of something called PCOS or Polycystic ovary syndrome. PCOS essentially tels your ovaries to produce more androgens (male sex hormones), contributing to what may look like male pattern baldness.

What do you do?
Up to 1 in 15 women may struggle with this problem. For most though, eating whole, unprocessed foods, exercising for 30 minutes a day, and losing weight can balance out hormones and help you to stop the hair loss. Taking birth control may also help you to regulate your period, controlling hormones, etc. Finally, of course, make sure to use a good quality shampoo to maintain a healthy scalp.

Fine & Limp

If your once thick hair has suddenly become thin and limp (it’s different if it was always that way), it could be hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. In other words, something could be wrong with your thyroid, a tiny little butterfly shaped gland in your throat. You may be familiar with this group of diseases, because everybody and their dog likes to blame their thyroid for their problems with excess weight. Kids, it goes both ways. An overactive thyroid could make it extremely difficult to lose weight or even maintain weight, and when your heart is suddenly racing, it’s pretty scary. Likewise, when you are always cold, your heart skips beats, and you feel sluggish all the time, it’s also pretty scary. Most thyroid disorders (which are rare anyway) are mild, and a thyroid disorder severe enough to cause bulging eyes, extreme weight changes, or even hair loss are even more rare.

What do you do?
If you find your hair becoming limp and thin, don’t automatically assume you have anything. It might just be getting older, or you may just need a new shampoo. If it is combined with other symptoms though such as being tired all the time, being hot or cold all the time, strange heart rhythms, depression, etc, you should go see your doctor. Again, DO NOT automatically assume thyroid disorder, let alone pass that onto your doctor. Let them do their job. This is just a possibility.

Hair Falling Out Only in Patches

If you specifically find yourself losing dime and quarter size patches of hair, it could be classified as alopecia aratha. Experts believe that this is an autoimmune disorder. Your immune system sees healthy cells as somehow threatening and therefore attacks. It could be proceeded by something like pregnancy or some kind of serious illness. The problem for many is that even when patches grow back in, another bald patch will appear.

What do you do?
In some cases according to experts, something as simple as a cortisone shot could help. DO NOT give yourself any treatments beyond a new shampoo or conditioner including cortisone shots. It is essential that you consult with your doctor. It could be as simple as your personal response to stress, or it could be more serious. Your doctor has done years of research and work, and he or she will have a better idea than you or I what is going on with your body. He may just tell you to sign up for yoga or meditate once a day.

Going gray

If you’re young and you suddenly start seeing gray or white hair, it’s probably just genetic. Some people get speckles, some get patches, and no, it is NOT true that you get a white patch of hair when you get scared. It’s usually perfectly natural. However, if you are under the age of 35 and you have a lot of gray hair, you might want to try a Vitamin B12 or folic acid supplement. Some studies have suggested you may be short. You should be able to get the right amounts of these and other essential vitamins in a basic multivitamin from your local grocery store.

What to do?
Like I said, take a multivitamin. If vitamins aren’t your think, try eating more red meat, shellfish, eggs, poultry, and milk for vitamin B12. In addition, try eating more greens, beans, and fortified grains to get a little more folic acid.

Dry, Flaky Scalp

The most obvious problem would be dandruff. It’s embarrassing, and unfortunately, we don’t have one core cause. You could definitely buy head and shoulders or another dandruff shampoo, but they aren’t meant to be used long term. Most experts recommend finding the underlying causes whether that be stress, you’re not scrubbing your scalp well enough, or numerous other issues.

What should you do?
Do a little experimenting to figure out what the underlying problem is. Try taking an omega supplement or eat more salmon and sardines to get your omega fatty acids. Try scrubbing your scalp a little more when you wash. Take a minute to relax and de-stress every day. Doing little things like this might help you with more problems than you might think.

Strands that break

Vegetarians and vegans are especially at risk if not taking care to get enough protein. Your hair is made up of a protein called keratin, and since meat has the easiest source of protein…. If you are getting plenty of protein or enough, it could be that your hair is suffering from too much styling. If you’re straightening, curling, etc your hair every day, your hair could be feeling the pain.

What should you do?
Try to get at least 68g of protein throughout the day in your diet. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, try eating more nuts, tofu, and other sources of natural protein. Get a soy protein supplement or even a rice protein blend. You can also use protein shampoos, but from what I’ve seen, the results are somewhat questionable. In addition, turn down your styling tools heat settings. Prevent damage and fortify your hair a little more at the same time, and you should be fine.

Benefits of Meditation

meditation20 minutes a day of crossing my legs, closing my eyes, and sitting alone with myself and my thoughts doesn’t sound so appealing. I know people do it every day, and many claim it’s relaxing. Being Asian and a Buddhist, I almost feel like I should be more mature and in touch with the meditating vibes, but I’m not.

There are some people who would automatically poo poo it as a natural waste of time. On the other hand, some doctors recommend this activity for their heart patients. As far as the science goes through, it may not be as sketchy as we once thought.

New studies are showing that regular meditation may relieve stress obviously and even symptoms of chronic pain. The actual mechanisms have been unclear, but now experts at MIT and Harvard may have found the answer.

Published on April 21 in the Journal of Brain Research Bulletin, this study showed that over 8 weeks, when trained to meditate, meditation effected brain waves called alpha rhythms.

According to Christopher Moore, an MIT neuroscientist, These activity patterns are thought to minimize distraction. Our data indicate that meditation training makes you better at focusing, in part by allowing you to better regulate how things that arise will impact you.

A 1986 study focused on Buddhist monks, showing that those who meditated regularly had higher alpha rhythms as well. Of course, don’t all Buddhist monks meditate? The control group would be what, stressed out businessmen who don’t meditate?

Any related studies are going to be small. The MIT study included only 12 subjects who had never meditated before. 6 were trained in mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) while the other 6 were told not to meditate. These subjects were told to meditate for 45 minutes a day.

Scientists took brain scans before and after and 3 weeks in. These subjects did not suffer from chronic pain, but researchers believe that those who do can “turn down pain signals.” They can focus their attention on other things than their pain.

Meditators claimed to feel less stress than non-meditators, and they were able to handle more stress. Researchers are currently planning more followup. I was surprised to see Harvard and MIT at the helm with something that seems so subjective, but these are not the only studies.

At UC Davis, researchers reported in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology showed that regular meditation could actually increase something called telomerase in the white blood cells. These researchers claim that telomerase reduction leads to disease and aging. In other words, they see telomerase as a sort of fountain of youth when it comes to things like dementia.

In a study specifically on caregivers, they took blood samples and had half meditating while the other half simply took time to relax. After meditation, 68 different genes were different and telomerase was higher. Inflammation went down, meaning pain might actually go down (among other things). Subjects who meditated were actually less likely to suffer from viral infections.

The Samantha study, also conducted at UC Davis, taught some experienced meditators intense meditation. Those who practiced intense meditation saw improvements in visual perception, meaning you might get a more complete picture of the world around you.

I am a skeptic, and I would’ve never personally studied the effects of sitting around and focusing. Luckily, I’m not the one deciding what studies get done and which ones don’t make it. Fortunately, there are a lot of people doing that depending on the area. I suspect though that more studies will be done.

Weird Symptoms Explained

doctorThere are many things the average citizen can’t explain. I couldn’t tell you how big the universe is, why people have cancer and others don’t when they live the same lifestyle, etc. Doctors and scientists often can though, and they’re trying to pass that information onto us. Whether just inconvenient or seemingly serious, here are a few basic explanations of symptoms you might have:

  1. You get light headed when standing up too quickly
    You could be dehydrated, or you could have postural hypotension. In other words, blood rushes down to your feet away from your head when you stand up too quickly. If you have low blood pressure, you are more likely to experience this problem. If you want to fix this, drink plenty of water, maybe even more than 8 glasses a day, and of course, stand up a little more slowly and grab a chair or something to stabilize yourself. If you get dizzy or something anyway, sit back down. If you actually faint, you should see a doctor.
  2. Your pee smells
    You would think this would be a given, pee and poo stink. However, in most cases, the odor shouldn’t be that strong. If it is, you’ve probably eaten asparagus recently, or you may be taking a new medication or even a multivitamin. If it smells bad even after you finish peeing and flush, it may be a UTI. Try drinking plenty of water. If this does not work and you are not eating asparagus or taking something new, you should probably see your doctor. UTI’s can spread and become quite serious. If it keeps happening, it could also be a sign of kidney problems or diabetes.
  3. Swelling under your arm
    The most likely cause of this problem is actually an ingrown hair or plugged hair follicle in the armpit. It could also be a swollen lymph node associated with an infection. Try putting a heated compress on it for a few days, and it should go away. If it does not go away, or if it gets worse and hurts more, then it could be a breast infection, cyst, or a tumor.
  4. Nighttime foot cramps
    This could be something as simple as an electrolyte imbalance or mild dehydration. Drink a little more water, get up and walk around, and generally it should relax the muscles. I would even try massaging the feet a little. If it’s happening during the day, you might be experiencing symptoms of diabetes or a blood clotting disorder or nerve damage. That is when you should see your doctor.
  5. Leg jerks as you fall asleep
    Generally, these are mis-firing in the body as you get ready to go to sleep. According to Clete A Kushida MD, An interruption in your brain’s signal to your body to relax can cause the limbs and head to jerk. There’s really not much you can do. If they happen every night though, you should see your doctor to see if it’s sleep apnea or periodic limb movement disorder.
  6. Ringing in your ears
    I think every one of us experiences this every once in a while. It’s probably something called tinnitus. Things such as allergies, antibiotics, aspirin, and earwax can cause this kind of issue, which is generally easy to fix. Clear out your earwax, sometimes wait for the body to adjust to meds, take a claritin, etc. Some also find that biofeedback can be helpful. If this ringing comes with vertigo, facial weakness, or balance issues, this could be a lot more serious, and you should see your doctor as soon as possible.
  7. A Cracking Jaw
    The joint can crack when it isn’t moving correctly or fitting correctly. In most cases, it should correct itself. You can put ice packs or heat packs on it or take an aspirin. If your jaw is locking, go see your doctor. It could be TMJ, and he can give you a jaw protector among other things to help you out. Otherwise, it could turn into arthritis or other serious joint damage.
  8. Floaters in your eyes
    Little white specks floating across your eye are most likely tissue that has strayed. In most cases, it is not a problem, it will not affect your vision really, and your eyes will reabsorb them. If you see it with flashing lights though, it might be a retinal tear, and you should check with your doctor.
  9. Itchy Mouth, Tongue, or Gums
    This is most likely an allergic reaction, and you shouldn’t be eating whatever it is you’re eating. This is more of a warning and a mild reaction. It could easily get worse though, even turning deadly. Mild symptoms should go away within a few minutes, but if things start swelling, then you need to get to a doctor, quick! Foods like milk, nuts, soy, and fish are extremely common as well as gluten, but you can be allergic to anything including water in rare cases. If it’s mild, I would go to your doctor and get an allergy test.

Aspirin – A Treatment for Everything

Thousands of years old, and aspirin is showing up the competition, yet again. Commonly used as a pain reliever, aspirin has also been used in skin masks, as a heart health agent, and in many other areas that you might not necessarily expect. In fact, doctors recommend that some patients take something as simple as a daily dose of baby aspirin (a smaller dose of the same thing). Apparently, even if you don’t have a heart condition, an aspirin a day might keep the doctor away, better than an apple.

There are multiple studies coming out and rising in popularity that show that just 75mg of aspirin a day could cut your risk of developing colon cancer by as much as 28%. In the same area, researchers are finding that it can actually reduce the risk of dying from colon cancer by as much as 40%.

In addition to that, an aspirin a day may protect you from memory loss, improving cognitive function in older adults according to a study in the BMJ Open. What would we give for a treatment for Alzheimer’s or Dementia, and yet a cheap pill that can slow the progression has been at our fingertips this whole time! According to studies, taking 1 aspirin a day could cut your risk of Alzheimer’s by as much as 55%. That’s incredible! How did we miss this?

The History of Aspirin

I’m still lost. Aspirin, which is actually derived from a natural plant known as acetylsalicylic acid (salicylic acid might sound familiar to acne sufferers) dates back a whopping 2000 years! It has been used by Egyptians and many other cultures to treat fevers, and it can be found on Egyptian papyri. Hippocrates, the “father of medicine” recommended salicylic acid or willow bark (often named white willow bark in natural supplements) to treat women going into labor for their labor pains.

Lewis and Clark used aspirin to treat fevers during major expeditions, and the modern aspirin we use every day or at least once in a while was actually developed by German Chemist Felix Hoffman way back in 1897.

As a society, we haven’t missed everything. As I said in the beginning, doctors recommend taking an aspirin a day for heart patients. We see commercials for this every single day. We hear about the Mayo clinic studies, which prove that an aspirin a day interferes with the clotting of the blood, helping to control blood pressure and prevent clots that may lead to heart attacks. It doesn’t prevent clotting altogether, but it is not recommended for people with any blood clotting issues or those taking prescription medications that thin the blood. As far as patients with cholesterol problems, doctors don’t necessarily recommend it. They leave it up to the individual patient, but some recommend it to patients with a family history, personal history of heart attack, those with a family history of colon cancer, men with diabetes who are over 50, women with diabetes over 60, and others.

There are other uses for aspirin, and it’s changing every day. If you have a medical condition though, the best thing to do is to check with your doctor before you make any changes, including something as simple as aspirin, to your regimen.

New Hypodermic Needle Like Porcupine Quill

porcupineIt’s not like we haven’t had a hypodermic needle developing many lifesaving treatments for years, even centuries. And of course, we have had many upgrades, changing it to fit our needs and keep up with modern technology. The latest change has been a mimicry of the porcupine quill! Much like a bullet that expands, making it hard to remove, the porcupine quill as many who have encountered one know, gets stuck in the skin due to little barbs found in the quill.

A scientific paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences states that porcupine quills contain something called microscopic backward-facing deployable barbs. As you or your dog may know, this makes the quills incredibly painful. You might imagine a needle would do the same thing. In this case though, it seems to “enable penetration and high tissue adhesion” according to experts responsible for this study.

In other words, for those who need long term IV’s, these needles are less likely to slip and cause more damage. It could be used to keep a wound from “splitting.”

These newer needles were officially tested on pig skin and raw chicken meat, measuring how much effort it took to push the needles into the skin and pull them out. You can guess which one worked better?

Researchers are still looking for ways to improve on this already superior model and of course get patients the best possible options. Study co-author James Ankrum of MIT stated, If you can still create the stress concentrations, but without having a barb that catches tissue on removal, potentially you could create something with just easy insertion, without the adhesion.

In other words, he wants a needle that is easily inserted and removed to lessen the pain, period. So far, Smithsonian reports say that these needles “work like a charm.”