Monday, September 27, 2010

Our Task: Loving Self-Expression

By Lise Alschuler, ND, FABNO
AANP Past-President

Photo by David 23 via Flickr, used under the Creative Commons License.
It continually amazes me how easy it is to become completely ensnared with daily challenges in our lives. As we strive to create perfection in our work, our relationships, even our creative outlets, things can get tough.

Last week, after several busy days of work, I was running late one morning. I was irritated that I was late and, as can happen, my irritation distracted my attention from how I was carrying my coffee. I spilled it all over my pants on my way to the car. I had to head back into the house, figure out a whole new outfit, change into it, and then get back into the car. By then I was really late, plus I was missing my coffee. As I drove to work, it seemed that every slow and nonplussed driver was in the fast lane. My frustration started to rise, my expletives escaping my clenched teeth.

Then, suddenly, grace interceded. In a moment of clarity, I saw all this for what it was – just silly superficial things that had nothing to do with the true purpose of my day. I was able to smile, relax my grip on the steering wheel, and relax into the truth and beauty of the moment.

Later, upon reflecting on this change of heart, I recalled some words that my father once shared with me. These words were received by him from his spirit guide:

What is a new adventure for you is for us a continuation of the same learning problem. It is new for you because it is a different situation, in a different place, with different opportunities and constraints. These are the surface manifestations, but natural focal points for people with bodies, connected so intimately with the Earth. We, on the other hand, are deprived of your distractions. We cannot see those things. Thus they are of little concern to us. What matters from our limited, in its own way, point of view is the degree to which heartfelt feelings are expressed in loving ways, the degree to which those feelings are translated into actions that improve the Earth, the home of our children, and how much closer you come to us in spirit.

I find these words to be both soothing and admonishing. With life so precious and so alarmingly short, our ability to express ourselves in loving ways for the good of all is exactly the task at hand.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Final Convention Thoughts and Planning for the 2011-2012 Fiscal Year

By Carl Hangee-Bauer, ND, LAc
AANP President

The next Board meeting will take place this November at Bastyr University in Washington.
It’s hard to believe it’s September already! After a very busy summer leading up to the AANP convention in Portland, it’s been nice to wind down and catch our breaths before moving into Fall.

For those of you who joined us in Portland, it was a fun and busy week. Great presentations, great food, great friends - our 25th convention/celebration met all of our goals as we looked back on what we’ve accomplished and look forward to our future. Some of the highlights spots for me were:

  • Hearing Dr. Jim Sensenig, our 1st AANP President, speak to our community at the banquet.
  • Learning from Dr. Steve Austin about nutrition updates.
  • Laughing with Jacob Schor, ND, and Rena Bloom, ND, in their Gelotology presentation.
  • Celebrating with a few hundred of my closest friends and colleagues.
  • Reflecting on our history with Dr. Jared Zeff and Dr. Joe Pizzorno.
  • Getting a glimpse of the big picture from Josephine Briggs, MD, Director of NCCAM.
There were many moments like these for all of us. As usual, I returned home reinvigorated, refreshed and ready to apply the lessons I learned in my practice.

Results of our elections were announced and I am pleased to welcome Dr. Michael Cronin as our next President-Elect and Dr. Joe Pizzorno, Dr. Holly Lucille, Dr. Keri Marshall, Dr. Cindy Breed, and Carrie Runde, ND (Cand.) as our new Board members. Their terms begin January 1, 2011. I am extremely impressed with the knowledge, professionalism and experience these doctors bring to the AANP Board, and look forward to working with all of them over the next few years.

As you know we had the first competitive elections for President-Elect in the AANP’s history and were fortunate to be able to choose between two well-qualified candidates, Dr. Michael Cronin and Dr. Tim Birdsall. I want to congratulate Mike for his campaign and election and will work closely with him as he takes on a greater leadership role, and I want to acknowledge and thank Tim for his service to the profession and his leadership over the years. We are fortunate to have these doctors representing naturopathic medicine and serving our profession in the many ways they do.

Our outgoing Board members Bill Benda, MD; Tabatha Parker, ND; Michelle Clark, ND; Sara Thyr, ND; and Lise Alschuler, ND, have given so much to the AANP and the naturopathic profession during their time on the Board, their accomplishments are too numerous to mention here. Dr. Benda is a bridge-builder who sees the big picture of where we need to move forward and reminds us of how to live this in our daily lives. He has truly been the soul of our Board. Dr. Parker reminds us of the global impact of our medicine and the opportunities we have to affect true healthcare change; she has been our visionary. Dr. Clark is our expert on state licensing and political trends; she has guided us in politics and policy. Dr. Thyr has organized and guided the educational offerings at our conventions and has thus served as our teacher. And finally, Dr. Lise Alschuler has been the heart of our Board. Through her term as President and all of the various roles she’s played, Lise has been steady, reliable, dedicated, and impassioned to see the naturopathic profession become a credible piece of the health care system. We have been so fortunate to have these people step up for naturopathic medicine. They will be sorely missed and we wish all of them well in their future endeavors. Please thank them for all of their hard work and dedication the next time you see them.

Now that the dust has settled, we get back to work. This Fall, the Board and staff will focus on the AANP work plan and budget for 2011-2012, evaluating and improving internal processes as we prepare for 2012. The work plan and budget are key areas where the Board and staff work together to plan for and prioritize our near-term goals. The Board sets the strategic vision and goals, emphasizing areas to focus our intention upon. The staff takes this input and translates it into action steps with budget allotments. There is much back-and-forth in this process, and it is some of the most important work we do in our annual planning process. Our next Board meeting will be at Bastyr campus on November 13-14th.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A Comedy of Foxes

By Jacob Schor, ND, FABNO

Photo by Ciaran McGuiggan via Flickr, used under the Creative Commons License.
Every so often a fox pokes his head from a storm sewer opening just a few blocks west of our home on the corner of Dahlia and 22nd Street. I doubt he lives there but instead suspect he uses the city's storm drains as an underground passage way, a fox-style subway system. Early one morning last winter, a good hour before dawn, I saw him emerge and trot down the sidewalk south toward Montview Boulevard. Rather, I should say, we saw him emerge as, our dog Poppy has generally been with me for these various sightings. Suffice to say that our usually mellow dog is now obsessed with this storm drain opening, and has to sniff at it every time we pass by on our morning and evening walks on the off chance that the fox might be there.

I am contemplating my dog's habit of 'looking for the fox' as I think about my own habit of late: talking to my patients about Hirojme Kimata’s study published last June. Something about the implications of this paper keep drawing my mind back to it for another sniff whenever the opportunity presents itself.

This particular paper is one in a series of studies that Kimata has conducted and published over the last year on the effects of watching humorous movies on health, typically on allergic sensitivity. He has shown that viewing humorous movies has beneficial effects on a wide range of physiologic reactions, ranging from asthma and eczema to testosterone levels and erectile dysfunction. This June’s study is the most intriguing one to date.

This study looked at the effect of watching humorous movies on the polyamine levels found in stool samples of 24 patients with atopic dermatitis. Polyamines are fermentation products of particular bacteria that live in the human gut. In general these chemicals are considered undesirable, actually carcinogenic and potentially toxic. This past summer, French researchers reported that lowering polyamine levels in men with advanced prostate cancer significantly slowed disease progression.

It has always been considered difficult to change polyamine production in the gut. To do so requires changing the ambient bacterial flora living in the intestines, a process that involves eradicating unwanted bacteria and then encouraging desirable bacteria to colonize the area. This takes time to make happen, periods of time measured in weeks and months... or at least that is what we thought.

Kimata reported that having the patients in his experiment watch a humorous movie for an hour a day for a week was enough to make significant changes in the intestinal bacterial flora of his subjects and significantly lower polyamine levels in their stools.

There may be some of our readers who do not appreciate just how significant this is. Just by changing the moods of these people for a few minutes a day was enough to change a significant risk factor, polyamine production, for cancer development and progression.

Our patients put so much effort into eating healthy diets and taking the right supplements and exercising with the appropriate frequency and intensity... and in the end the greatest influence may simply be their moods. A little laughter may have greater impact on their health than what they eat or take.

It's this thought that I keep coming back to for another sniff. If this is true, why do we put so much emphasis on eating right or swallowing the right pills? Well, because these things help. But maybe they don’t help nearly as much as having a good laugh.

Over the years we've watched cancer support groups come in and out of vogue. In some studies, they seem to be useful in prolonging survival statistics. In other studies, no benefit is measured. Could the variance in benefit have little to do with deep emotional processing, but simply the character of the various groups? Groups that encouraged good humor and in which members wasted meeting time telling jokes might have been the ones whose members benefited the most. Those groups that spent their time in serious and weighty discussions, whose members were too serious to crack a joke, could those be the groups that did little to prolong the lives of their members?

Or circling back again for another sniff at this study, could those people who we typically diagnose with dysbiosis simply have an undeveloped sense of humor? That if they were to laugh more often and harder, might find their gastrointestinal flora rebalanced and then find themselves cured?

Once one starts wondering about things like this, it's hard to stop. How much of our lives are spent in serious endeavors versus comedic interludes? It's hard to let these questions drop and get this blog thing written. It's like my dog. Once she gets a sniff of that fox, even if it's only a distant memory from last winter, she can't let go of the idea. Nor can I let go of this newest Kimata study.

It may be that something as simple and natural as laughter may be key to improving the health of many of our patients.

Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2010 Jun;22(6):724-8.

Modulation of fecal polyamines by viewing humorous films in patients with atopic dermatitis.

Kimata H.

Department of Allergy, Moriguchi-Keijinkai Hospital, Osaka Prefecture, Japan.


BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVE: Alteration of intestinal flora was involved in the pathogenesis of atopic dermatitis. Patients with atopic dermatitis were less colonized with Lactobacilli or Bifidobacterium, whereas they were more colonized with Staphylococcus aureus or Enterobacteria. Consequently, fecal levels of bacterial metabolite (polyamines) were reduced. In contrast, stress also induced intestinal mucosal dysfunction against bacteria and impaired intestinal barrier function. We studied the effect of relaxation by viewing humorous films on fecal flora and fecal levels of polyamines.

METHODS: Twenty-four healthy individuals and 24 patients with atopic dermatitis either viewed seven control nonhumorous films or seven humorous films sequentially for 7 days. Before and after viewing, feces were obtained, and fecal flora and fecal levels of polyamines were assessed.

RESULTS: Neither viewing humorous films nor viewing control nonhumorous films had any effect on healthy individuals. In contrast, viewing humorous films (i) increased colonization with lactobacilli and bifidobacterium, (ii) decreased colonization with S. aureus and Enterobacteria, and (iii) increased fecal levels of polyamines; whereas viewing control nonhumorous films failed to do so in patients with atopic dermatitis.

CONCLUSION: Viewing humorous films may modulate fecal levels of polyamines by restoring intestinal flora in atopic dermatitis.

PMID: 19543102