How meditation may change the brain

How many of you have tried meditating, and find yourself trying to quiet your mind only to hear a little voice tell you that this is a waste of time?  A recent article in the NY Times suggests that meditation actually causes positive changes in the structure of the brain, increasing grey matter in the area of the brain related to learning and memory, and reducing grey matter in the area related to stress and anxiety.  Here is a link to that article:

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/28/how-meditation-may-change-the-brain/?src=me&ref=general

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Health benefits of fermented Tea

 

by Ann Zimmerman, LAc.

Fermented Foods and drinks are rich sources of probiotics…beneficial bacteria for humans.Our digestive tract’s ecological community contains more than 1,000 types of bacteria. Fermented foods help with nutrient and vitamin absorption, the breakdown of proteins, boosting immunity, detoxification, alkalizing our PH, and restoring balance to our homeostasis.

Consuming fermented foods is somewhat like consuming predigested food, our bodies do less work for more nutritional gain.  Familiar food ferments include; cheeses, yogurt, pickles, miso, tempeh, kimchi, and sauerkraut. In addition to fermented foods, we also have the medicinal category of fermented beverages: kombucha, vinegars(shrubs), wine, beer, cider, Jun, and many more.

Lets focus on the ever popular Kombucha(commonly fermented black tea and white sugar) and Jun(fermented green tea and raw honey). The perfect cold drink for a hot summer day in the Rogue Valley. Many people decide to try these fermented gems because they seek to alleviate various ailments.  However the way these drinks are able to help with ailments is not by curing diseases, but rather, by optimizing the bodies ability to run it’s immune system and physiological functions more efficiently.  Stress specifically is one of the most detrimental factors to our health and fermented teas can help us mitigate the effects of stress on our bodies.

These ferments are considered adaptogens. Adaptogens normalize the bodies ability to deal with stress. They are a good source of anti-oxidants, helping us to eliminate the free radicals generated by stress, while providing protection for our liver by reducing cravings for sugar and alcohol.  Kombucha and Jun support healthy digestion by increasing the acidity in the gut. Gut acidity eases digestion and absorption of nutrients, thus reducing symptoms of bloating and irritable bowel.

These ferments also contain bio-available  B and C vitamins…meaning the vitamins are in a form the the body can easily recognize and absorb(in contrast to many vitamin pills).The B vitamins help to stabilize the mood and improve concentration, while the C vitamin suppresses cortisol(stress hormone)levels, reducing the risk for hypertension and depression.

Kombucha is extremely popular,with good reason, for being such a healthy and tasty beverage. Finding locally made ferments is not hard in the Rogue Valley or you can try your hand at the “wall of Kombucha” in the grab and go sections of most groceries. For those of you who would like to try your hand at home-brew…..I can personally speak to the rewards of caring for these cultures and enjoying the benefits of home-brew. Whatever you relationship is with ferments, I encourage you to keep experimenting with adding a consistent variety of fermented goodies to your wellness plan.

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The Truth About Opioids

By Clark Zimmerman, LAc

My grandmother was never a fan of air conditioning.  I remember visiting her farm in the heat of summer and spending a lot of my time swimming in the pond, rather than sweating buckets inside the house.  Though my mom insisted it was because she had lived through the depression and didn’t want to spend the money, grandma insisted that air conditioning made you more sensitive to the heat.  “If you just learn to tolerate the heat, and drink iced drinks or go swimming” she reasoned, “than there is no real need for air conditioning.”  I thought of my grandma’s wisdom while reading a recent study by Peter M. Grace and Linda R. Watkins of the University of Colorado.  The study found that opiate pain medications, such as morphine, oxycodone, and Vicodin can have the “devastating consequences of making pain worse and longer lasting”.  Like my grandmother’s opinion of air conditioning, it seems that rather than effectively treating pain, opioids often can help us feel more comfortable in the short term, but can cause lasting sensitivity to pain.

As opiate addiction continues to grow in the U.S., and deaths from overdose by opioids become more common, people are beginning to ask if the benefits of opioids are worth the risks that are involved. This recent study is the latest bit of evidence that something needs to change.  The healthcare community is truly beginning to evaluate when to use opiate medications and when other treatment options would be more appropriate.  This latest research suggests that the conditions that can benefit from opiate use are not as numerous as we once believed.  In my practice, I have seen many people who began using opiate pain killers to treat a traumatic injury or a nagging condition with the belief that things would quickly improve and the pain medication would no longer be necessary.  When the pain lingers because their injury is not properly addressed or because their lifestyle that contributes to their pain is not altered, they become dependent on the medication.  This results in the unfortunate situation of needing more medication to achieve the same amount of pain relief, which can easily lead to opiate addiction.  Another thing worth mentioning is that the body experiences pain to help get your attention.  If, for instance, you tear a muscle lifting a heavy box, you feel pain so that we know to quit using that muscle until it heals.  If you cover up the pain with medication, sometimes it allows you to keep doing physical work that your body cannot perform.  This can often result in more damage to your body.

I believe that opiate pain medications are often prescribed when other treatments  such as ice/heat, rest, massage, acupuncture, chiropractic/osteopathic manipulations, physical therapy, or herbal preparations would be a better choice.  These treatments attempt to address the underlying problem that is causing the pain, rather than cover up the pain in general.  It seems that we are coming to a point as a society where this issue cannot be ignored any longer.  Opiate pain treatments do have a place, but only in very specific situations of severe and otherwise untreatable pain, and only under the close supervision of a skilled and attentive medical practitioner.  Not only is widespread opiate  medication creating problems in our communities, it now appears that it is largely ineffective.

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