Bipolar Disorder Treatment News: Bipolar Doesn’t Make You Stupid, You Make You Stupid

2012-12-29 / Mental Health / 0 Comments

Bipolar Doesn’t Make You Stupid, You Make You Stupid

I am sick and tired of people using their diagnosis, or alternatively their med’s side effects, as excuses for their rotten behavior.

Unless you are currently in the throes of the psychoses of mania or the delusions of depression, you do have control over your behavior – even if you are moderately depressed or hypomanic, because in these states, you are still in touch with reality. You may really want to break that window or abandon your family or tell your boss off or jump off a bridge, but you do have the capability to stop yourself. It may be very difficult, but you’re not too far gone to no longer have free will.

While the moods that come with bipolar disorder can make rotten behavior really tempting, that rotten behavior is not in and of itself the symptoms of bipolar. It’s the moods that make bipolar what it is. It’s what you do with those moods that ruins your life and signals to you and other people that perhaps you need to see a doctor or spend some time in the hospital.

Bipolar is a mood disorder, not a self-control problem. True, there are some people with bipolar who have pathological self-control problems, and if that’s the case, they should be alarmed by this lack of control and go get some help. Maybe they have attention deficit disorder. If you’re not seeking help, you either don’t think it’s a problem, and someone really should tell you so, or you don’t care – and not caring is not the same as a pathological problem with self-control.

I am now convinced – putting aside breaks in reality that come with Bipolar I – that there are stupid people with bipolar and there are smart people with bipolar. Bipolar doesn’t make you stupid; your choices make you stupid, or smart.

I’m not going to elaborate on what brought me to this conclusion, although if you really want to know, you can ask my husband. He knows. And he knows that he had the ability to make different choices than what he made. People do not need to do everything they feel like doing, at the time that they feel it. So, it makes you uncomfortable to not follow through on what you’re feeling? It may make your skin crawl, like you want to claw it off yourself, but you do have the ability to stop. You have the ability to walk away from the temptation, perhaps go for a jog. Better yet, call your doctor.

Not taking the opportunity, no matter how extremely difficult it is and I understand how difficult it truly is, is your problem – not bipolar’s problem. You cannot understand how truly strong you can be until you try to stop yourself from acting on every whim in your hypomania or every lethargic and self-hating urge in your depression. Truly, and I know I will infuriate some with this accusation, if you do not learn to stop yourself in those mood states – or head off the mood at the beginning with meds, therapy, or lifestyle changes, which is infinitely easier than trying to ride out the mood without doing any damage to you or your family – you are all those bad labels being thrown at you: You are lazy, you are selfish, you are a jerk.

After being stable for two years, at first on meds and later with just lifestyle changes and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), I’ve had a return of the mood swings this past month. It scares the crap out of me, so I swallowed my pride and saw my doctor today. Which brings me to this point, again…what do smart people with bipolar do when their symptoms worsen? They do something to try to get back to stable.

They amp up their CBT and lifestyle changes, comb through their mood charts for clues, go to the doctor, try new meds. The likely culprit for me is a hormone issue, so says my doc, so I got my blood drawn and will start a trial of progesterone supplements. They may work, or they may not. The point is, I didn’t feel well, so I sought help. Here’s another way people with bipolar look stupid – they settle for feeling unstable, they blame other people for their problems, they aren’t concerned enough by their symptoms to GO GET HELP.

You don’t want to feel stupid, and you don’t want others to think you’re stupid. No one does. So, empower yourself by taking charge of your life, your actions, your mood. Learn to assess your mood and then be able to feel your emotion without acting upon it. You are not bipolar; you are you, and you have bipolar. Bipolar is not your identity. Stop the rotten behavior that comes with your bipolar, whether you’re doing it by your own iron will, which I admit is exhausting, or much better yet, by meds and therapy and lifestyle changes. You have the full ability to make smart choices, even if you have bipolar disorder.

$3.7M program targets bipolar Hispanics

Mental health professionals with UT Medicine San Antonio and collaborating institutions are designing bipolar disorder treatments that will be relevant and culturally sensitive to Hispanics, thanks to a $3.7 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. Three research programs will target Mexican Americans, who represent the majority of U.S. Hispanics.

UT Medicine is the clinical practice of the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio.

“We will test for specific cultural factors that affect the response and engagement of Hispanics who have bipolar disorder,” said the study principal investigator, Dr. Charles L. Bowden. He leads a large group of experienced psychiatrists, psychologists and other scientists who will conduct the comprehensive program of research over the next five years.

Bipolar disorder, the sixth leading cause of disability worldwide, is a chronic condition characterized by rapid mood swings.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.

These shifts in mood and energy levels are more severe than the normal ups and downs that are experienced by everyone.

Annual prevalence of bipolar disorder among American adults is 2.6 percent, according to the NIMH. Prevalence of childhood-onset bipolar disorder is not well established.

The National Institutes of Health provided an Advanced Center award that is the first ever made for bipolar disorder research. One of the studies will test a novel design that has the potential to provide much more practical information to clinicians.

“This will aid clinicians in selecting specific treatments most likely to help an individual patient, rather than resorting to a trial-and-error approach that is currently often applied,” Bowden said.

Investigators will assess participants’ acceptance of treatment, their perception of side effects and their awareness of the illness. Innovative and culturally sensitive treatment approaches will be explored.

“The goal is to optimize treatment outcomes of bipolar disorder by considering characteristics of the communities in which people live,” Bowden said.

Two investigators will address the personal experiences of study participants. This will provide a biographical sense of the challenges that confront these patients in relationship to bipolar disorder and its impacts on their lives, families and community experience.

One of these investigators, Bryan Bayles is a cultural anthropologist, and the other, John Phillip Santos, is a nationally acclaimed writer on Hispanic migration to the U.S. Santos is a San Antonio native and faculty member of The University of Texas at San Antonio.

The research program involves collaborative work with the Center for Health Care Services, which is the primary organization charged with treatment programs for medically indigent persons with severe mental disorders in Bexar County, and the bipolar disorder research programs at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center at El Paso and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio.

Dr. Mauricio Tohen, a native of Mexico, is associate director of the overall program, which is titled “Optimizing Outcomes in Bipolar Illness Interventions in Hispanic Communities.” Jim Mintz, leads the statistical unit, and Dr. Vivek Singh and Jodi Gonzalez lead the major treatment studies.

Bowden recently was the sole North American author on a large international study that showed bipolar disorder features were more frequent in patients with major depressive episodes than indicated by existing criteria used by psychiatrists.

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Anxiety Treatment News: Anxiety Help for Fears and Phobias

2012-12-23 / Mental Health / 0 Comments

Anxiety Help for Fears and Phobias

Looking for anxiety help? If you struggle with panic attacks, chronic worry, social phobia, generalized anxiety disorder, phobias or obsessive compulsive disorder, here’s help that’s practical and powerful.

Anxiety disorders are generally very treatable, but when you experience one, you probably find it hard to overcome. The reason is that, while you have the ability to recover, anxiety literally Tricks you into using methods which make your fears worse rather than better.

This is the most natural thing in the world. Anxiety often feels like something that has invaded your life, something you have to resist and oppose. However, the worst problems come from our efforts to resist and remove anxiety, rather than from the anxiety itself.

People don’t get fooled by this trick entirely on their own. All too often, well meaning friends, doctors, and therapists get fooled by it as well, and unwittingly suggest methods to their patients which make the situation worse.

For instance, there’s a well publicized technique called “thought stopping”, in which snapping a rubber band against your wrist is supposed to help rid you of anxious thoughts. This is not the kind of anxiety help you need! It doesn’t work, because the more you tell yourself not to think something, the more you’ll think about it.

If you want a quick demonstration right now, take two minutes and don’t think about dancing elephants.

See what I mean? Don’t even think about thought stopping!

When anxiety Tricks you, you get fooled into using recovery methods which actually make your fears stronger and more persistent. The more you fight an anxiety disorder, the more it grows. It’s like putting out fires with gasoline.

People who struggle with chronic anxiety often say “the harder I try, the worse it gets”. This scares them, and makes them think they can’t recover. What it really means is they’ve been using methods that made it worse, and they need new methods.

Here on this site, you’ll find anxiety help that works. I’ll show you the anxiety treatment methods I’ve used in Chicago to help people overcome fears, phobias, and panic attacks for the last 20 years. You can use these therapy methods to outsmart the Anxiety Trick and achieve your own recovery from anxiety disorders.

Anxious, Fatigued or Depressed? Pills, Exercise or Diet Shouldn’t Top Your List of Treatments

Anxious, fatigued or depressed? You are not alone — one in five Americans is popping pills for these issues — but pills, exercise or diet shouldn’t top your list of treatments, says Bay Area author, founder of and integrative medicine physician Dr. Lissa Rankin.

“What if I told you the medical profession has it all backwards?” Dr Rankin asked in her recent TEDx Talk.

“We’re suffering from an epidemic that modern medicine has no idea what to do with. People suffering from this epidemic are fatigued, anxious, depressed and suffering from vague physical symptoms…”

At a time when one in five Americans is taking prescription medication for these maladies, there is no question that there is an epidemic happening, and even more so among women.

According to a report from MedCo, a pharmacy benefit manager, one out of every four women has a prescription for some form of mental health medication.

In fact, these medications are the most widely prescribed of all medications here in the U.S. according to a Wall Street Journal article:
Psychiatric medications are among the most widely prescribed and biggest-selling class of drugs in the U.S. In 2010, Americans spent $16.1 billion on antipsychotics to treat depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, $11.6 billion on antidepressants and $7.2 billion on treatment for ADHD, according to IMS Health, which tracks prescription-drug sales.

Statistics like these make me wonder whether our ideals about “mental health” might not just be skewed. They also make Dr. Rankin’s claim that she has a better solution all the more interesting. In fact, she says she has already had success in diagnosing the root cause of why her patients are depressed and anxious. She uses a wellness paradigm she calls the Whole Health Cairn, which helps patients evaluate their whole health in a paradigm-shifting way.

According to Dr. Rankin:
Cold, hard scientific evidence in reputable medical journals clearly proves that to be truly healthy both mentally and physically, it’s not enough to eat right, exercise, sleep eight hours a night, see your doctor for regular check-ups and take your medicine. This is why my Marin County integrative medicine practice was full of well-intentioned health nuts who were still depressed, anxious and sick.
When asked in an interview about her thoughts on antidepressants, she told me:
At least 75 percent and in some studies, up to 100 percent, of the effect of anti-depressants has been proven to be attributable to the placebo effect — which I believe is good news. This means that the potent cocktail of hope, positive belief, the support of a medical practitioner who cares and the physiological self-healing mechanisms that get triggered by the body when it wants to heal, are ever-powerful. Some studies even suggest that placebos work when the patient knows it’s a sugar pill. So why do we need the pill? Sure, every doctor will report some case studies where it’s truly a biochemical process, and once the biochemical disorder is reversed pharmaceutically, everything else falls into place. But I’d argue that most of the time, even if there is a biochemical component, it’s not purely biochemical.

This is shocking to me as one of the “25 percenters.” My Zoloft saved me from a bone-crushing bout of postpartum depression and I can assure you it wasn’t a placebo effect. I was sure Zoloft would not work for me. I had read those reports, but with three children to care for I was willing to try anything. For my family’s sake and with much grumbling, I resorted to popping my blue pill.

I remember the day I noticed it was working.

Another friend of mine also says she knows exactly when her antidepressants kicked in. She was driving in a busy mall parking lot, rushing to make a return with two yipping dogs in her car, when someone rudely rushed into the parking spot she had been waiting for. She says, she thought to her self, “Oh well” and kept looking. Then she stopped her car in shock. This kind of thing would have normally led to obscenities being screamed out the window, at the least.

So, we may be the exceptions to those reports of the placebo effect, however, could we be helped more by Dr. Rankin’s approach? Would looking at the whole of my life and figuring out my root cause eliminate my need for the little blue Zoloft pill I am terrified to stop taking?

To this Dr. Rankin says, “Patients know their bodies better than any doctor. If the patient tells me taking psychiatric medications is what they need in order to heal, I’m all for it. I’m just not a fan of treating every negative emotional state or vague physical symptom with psychiatric medications to the exclusion of helping patients diagnose and treat what’s underlying the depression or anxiety.”

According to Rankin, to know for sure whether or not I indeed “need” my Zoloft, I would need to look at my whole life — love life, professional life, creativity expression, spirituality, sexuality and see if there is anything out of balance. Once diagnosed and “the root cause underlying depression or anxiety” was found, her next step is “helping patients create an intuitively-driven, patient guided step-by-step action plan aimed at healing what is out of balance.”

The number one question she asks patients is: “What do you need in order to heal?”

And the answers they give are often shocking. Such as:

• I need to leave my husband.

• I need to move to Santa Fe.

• I need to finish my novel.

• I need to hire a nanny.

• I need to eat a vegan diet.

• I need to switch careers.

• I need to quit drinking.

According to Dr. Rankin, “Once the patient makes the diagnosis and writes ‘the prescription,’ the challenge lies in implementing the changes necessary to heal from the core.”

But not all doctors agree. One psychiatrist I spoke to about this subject wasn’t sold on Dr. Rankin’s approach, saying that “she’s simply presenting a PowerPoint of the obvious.”

“Yes, doctor, we would all prefer ‘healthy relationships, healthy professional lives, creative expression,’ but what interrupts that? It’s not so easy to simply talk/wish/guilt/’whatever’ ourselves into ‘changing.'”

But Dr. Rankin says she has had success with her program, as paradoxically simplistic and difficult as it may be.

One of her patients credits Dr. Rankin with newfound energy and relief from both malaise and physical illness, saying:

“When I first came to Lissa I had a myriad of mysterious medical maladies and zero mojo. I had invested six years of my life into various medical tests, treatments and failed plans of action… I (now) have boundless energy… and never have I been so happy.”

According to Dr. Rankin, “You can medicate someone all you want, but unless you’re helping her heal what underlies her depression or anxiety, you’re just putting a sad Band-aid on her soul, and the results will be limited.”

Well, I’m not quite ready to tear off my sad little band-aid, but I am happy to know there is an alternative for the growing number of pill poppers like me.

Fearless Youth: Prozac Extinguishes Anxiety by Rejuvenating the Brain

Once adult lab mice learn to associate a particular stimulus—a sound, a flash of light—with the pain of an electric shock, they don’t easily forget it, even when researchers stop the shocks. But a new study in the December 23 issue of Science shows that the antidepressant Prozac (fluoxetine) gives mice the youthful brain plasticity they need to learn that a once-threatening stimulus is now benign. The research may help explain why a combination of therapy and antidepressants is more effective at treating depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than either drugs or therapy alone. Antidepressants may prime the adult brain to rewire faulty circuits during therapy.

Nina Karpova, Eero Castrén and their colleagues at the University of Helsinki’s Neuroscience Center created and extinguished fearful behaviors in mice. First, Castrén placed mice in a cage and repeatedly played a tone just before electrically shocking their feet. Soon the animals froze in fear whenever they heard the tone, at which point Castrén put them through “extinction training.” He moved the mice to a different cage and played the same tone again. This time there was no electric shock.

Researchers have previously shown that young mice less than three weeks old quickly learn that the tone is no longer a herald of danger and stop freezing in fear. But adult mice are harder to put at ease. Even if the adults become less fearful during extinction training, their relaxation is not permanent—a week later the tone turns them into statues again.

In Castrén’s study, adult mice that took fluoxetine while they went through extinction training behaved much like young mice—they lost their fear much faster than mice that were not taking the drug, and their anxiety did not return. In contrast, mice that were given fluoxetine but never went through extinction training remained anxious.

Castrén makes an analogy between these findings and the consensus that antidepressants in combination with therapy are almost always more effective than either antidepressants or therapy alone. Scientists know what most antidepressants do at the molecular level—they change the amounts of neurotransmitters in the spaces between neurons, for instance—but how these changes treat depression remains an open question. Research has not supported the idea that antidepressants treat depression simply by correcting chemical imbalances in the brain. More recently, researchers have hypothesized that depression kills neurons whereas antidepressants like Prozac encourage new neural growth in the brain. Castrén’s study suggests Prozac returns regions of the brain to an immature state in which neurons make or break more connections with one another than is typical of the adult brain. In other words, Prozac increases brain plasticity.

Castrén looked for characteristic electrical and molecular signs of plasticity in the brains of mice that received fluoxetine and in those that did not. Specifically, Castrén looked in the amygdala at neural circuits responsible for fear responses. He found that fluoxetine increased levels of a cell-adhesion molecule associated with young neurons and decreased the levels of a transporter protein associated with adult neurons. He also found greater changes in membrane potential in neurons from the brains of mice that had learned to relax. These neurons were also better at synchronizing their communication through a process called long-term potentiation, which is crucial for learning and memory.

“We know that a combination of antidepressant treatment and cognitive behavioral therapy has better effects than either of these treatments alone, but the neurobiological basis is not known,” Castrén says. “We show a possible mechanism is bringing the network into a more immature and plastic state.”

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Pain Management News: Ohio attorney general: Last pain management clinic closed down in county hit hard by addiction

2012-12-22 / Pain Management / 0 Comments

Ohio attorney general: Last pain management clinic closed down in county hit hard by addiction

The last pain medication clinic in a southern Ohio county plagued by painkiller addictions and overdose deaths was shut down Tuesday, the Ohio attorney general announced Tuesday.

Greater Medical Advance in Wheelersburg, with just one doctor, doled out 14,000 prescriptions in nine months, Attorney General Mike DeWine said in announcing the closure and four indictments.

“At one point there was over a dozen pill mills in Scioto County,” DeWine said in a phone interview. “As of this morning, there are zero. So we’re very happy about that.”

The Drug Enforcement Administration has said the southern Ohio county is one of the worst places in the country for painkiller abuse.

Tuesday’s announcement came the same day the first defendant in another so-called pill mill case pleaded guilty to illegally shuttling painkiller prescriptions to pharmacists willing to fill them.

James Sadler pleaded guilty on Tuesday to one count of diverting controlled substances at a hearing in federal court in Cincinnati. Sadler is free on his own recognizance. His attorney did not immediately return a phone message Tuesday.

A 2010 indictment against Sadler and other operators of Ohio Medical and Pain Management in Waverly alleged that in some cases, customers traveled more than 200 miles round trip to be treated at the southern Ohio clinic.

In the Wheelersburg case, a county grand jury indicted four people with charges including engaging in corrupt activity, drug trafficking and drug possession, DeWine’s office said.

The clinic’s doctor, Victor Georgescu, and its operator, George Adkins, were each charged with engaging in corrupt activity, conspiracy to engage in corrupt activity, funding drug trafficking and permitting drug abuse, according to DeWine. Georgescu was arrested in Centerville in suburban Dayton on Tuesday.

Georgescu and Adkins were not booked into the county jail by early afternoon and information about their attorneys was not immediately available. A message was left at the clinic for Georgescu; a home listing for Adkins was not functioning.

Stopping the abuse of powerful prescription painkillers has become a top priority for Ohio officials.

In 2007, drug overdoses, led by an increase in prescription painkiller addictions, surpassed car crashes as the leading cause of accidental death in Ohio. It’s a trend also seen in several other states.

In May, Gov. John Kasich signed into law a bill cracking down on pain management clinics, dubbed pill mills by their critics and blamed by health officials for contributing to hundreds of overdose deaths in Ohio each year.

The law requires the State Board of Pharmacy for the first time to license pain clinics as distributors of dangerous drugs.

The law also puts limits on how many pills a doctor could dispense directly at a clinic and tries to reduce the illegal distribution of prescription painkillers by creating a statewide system for collecting unused supplies of the narcotics.

The DEA has recently suspended the prescription-writing powers of physicians in a part of southern Ohio plagued by painkiller abuse.

More than 1,300 people died from accidental drug overdoses in 2009 in Ohio, according to the most recent data from the Ohio Department of Health. The number of fatal overdoses has more than quadrupled from 1999, when the state recorded 327 accidental deaths, according to the department.

The numbers are particularly bad in Scioto County in Appalachia, where high unemployment rates and a profusion of pill mills have led to growing addiction rates.

2011 Consensus Panel Issues New Guidelines for Intrathecal Pain Management

A panel of experts has recommended changes to the guidelines used to determine treatment via intrathecal administration for patients suffering from severe chronic pain. The 2011 Polyanalgesic Consensus Conference (PACC) brought together a group of national leaders in chronic pain management for the purpose of updating their current algorithm to standardize decision-making among providers and improving the technical quality of care in chronic pain.

The 2011 PACC guidelines for management of nociceptive and neuropathic chronic pain by intrathecal drug delivery recommended ziconotide, among other drugs, as a first-line intrathecal treatment. The panel recognized that ziconotide should be titrated in a low and slow manner. Ziconotide was also recommended by the 2011 group as the preferred option for intrathecal administration compared to opioids when there is a concern for recurrent granuloma. [please see important safety information and product indication at the end of this release]

The expert panel recommendation was based on an extensive literature search and an expansive survey with more than 15,000 clinicians worldwide since the last update in 2007. The panel also reviewed changes in the FDA status of medications and their combined clinical expertise to inform their recommendations

“The Consensus Conference was convened to review the importance of drug selection in patient outcomes; to review issues concerning granuloma detection, prevention and treatment; to consider trialing methods and candidates and to consider best practices to reduce morbidity and mortality,” said Tim Deer, MD, president and CEO, The Center for Pain Relief and Clinical Professor of Anesthesiology, West Virginia University School of Medicine, Charleston, WV.

The expert panel of 29 clinicians and the faculty of the North American Neuromodulation Society was convened by Tim Deer, MD, Joshua Prager, MD, MS, Center for the Rehabilitation of Pain Syndromes (CRPS) at UCLA Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA; and Robert Levy, MD, PhD, Northwestern, University, Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, IL. The results were presented during the North American Neuromodulation Society Annual Meeting, Dec. 8-11, in Las Vegas, NV.

“The importance of selecting the best drug options for intraspinal drug delivery to treat those in severe pain cannot be understated,” added Deer. “We must continue to keep all our colleagues informed of the best treatment practices in pain management and routinely evaluate treatments and patient data. Best clinical practices, experience, data and overall better patient outcomes will remain at the core of the Polyanalgesic Consensus Conference.”

Neck and Shoulder Massage Device Poses Strangulation Risk, Agency Says

The FDA has issued a new warning to consumers against the use of a massage device called the ShoulderFlex Massager, which was recalled earlier this year after it was blamed for causing at least one death.

According to the FDA, the distributor, King International, has gone out of business since the firm recalled the massagers on Aug. 31, 2011, and many stores that sell the device may not be aware it is dangerous.

Likewise, the FDA says many people who purchased the massager may be unaware that it is dangerous and that King International’s 800 number established for the recall has been out of service.

The ShoulderFlex Massager is a personal massage device sold in retail stores, via catalogs, and over the Internet. It is intended to provide a deep-tissue massage to the neck, shoulders, and back area, while lying down.

But the FDA says hair, clothing, and jewelry can become entangled in the device and cause serious injury or death from strangulation.

There have been reports of one death and one near-death, due to strangulation, associated with the use of the ShoulderFlex Massager.

“The ShoulderFlex Massager poses serious risks,” Steve Silverman of the FDA says in a news release.

Silverman, director of the FDA’s Office of Compliance in its Center for Devices and Radiological Health, says, “consumers should stop using this device, health care providers should not recommend it to their patients, and businesses should stop distributing and selling the device.”

The FDA says it discovered during a recent compliance audit that King International had gone out of business and that it had not followed through with recall procedures.

The FDA warning includes a recommendation to “safely dispose” of the massagers. It says the massage fingers should be removed and disposed of separately from the device, and the power supply disposed of separately, as well.

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Alternative Medicine News: San Jose Alternative Medicine Specialist Eternal Health Wellness Center Offers Seminar for Staying Healthy

2012-12-21 / Alternative Medicine / 0 Comments

San Jose Alternative Medicine Specialist Eternal Health Wellness Center Offers Seminar for Staying Healthy

Eternal Health Wellness Center will offer a seminar for staying healthy on Dec. 19 at 6 p.m.

Dr. Quli Zhou, L.A.C., M.S. will be conducting a seminar at Eternal Health Wellness Center, a San Jose alternative medicine provider, on Dec. 19 at 6:00 p.m. presenting information about staying healthy through Traditional Chinese Medicine(TCM).

Dr. Zhou, a licensed Acupuncturist, has 25 years of experience in the field of Traditional Chinese Medicine. She will discuss the real causes of swine flu, and how to use practical methods such as eating certain foods, adjusting one’s lifestyle and pressing energizing points to keep one’s body in perfect balance and remain healthy.

Dr. Zhou will also teach about relieving stress and pain, increasing energy, balancing hormones, reducing weight, feeling better and staying healthy.

“If you read the stories on H1N1 influence written by the mainstream media, you might incorrectly think there’s only one anti-viral drug in the world. Actually, Traditional Chinese Medicine has been used effectively to prevent and treat flu for thousands of years. Many herbs have the effect of being anti-viral and anti-bacterial. Or just simply use acupressure points to strengthen your own immune system to keep yourself from getting sick,” said Dr. Zhou.

“That’s astonishing to hear,” continues Dr. Zhou, “because the world is full of anti-viral medicine found in tens of thousands of different plants. Culinary herbs like thyme, sage and rosemary are anti-viral. Berries and sprouts are anti-viral. Garlic, ginger and onions are anti-viral. You can’t walk through a grocery store without walking past a hundred or more anti-viral medicines made by Mother Nature. Tamiflu is made from the star anise herb that’s been used for over 5,000 years in Traditional Chinese Medicine? TCM maintains that the flow of Qi energy determines the health of an individual. If there is abundant, smoothly flowing Qi, they are in good health and strong immunity. If they are ill, it is because of a blockage or interruption in the Qi flow. Some of the compounds have been used for centuries in TCM to fight the effects of colds and flu.”

“The seminar on Dec. 19 will be from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m., and the cost is $15.00. Refreshments will be served. Empower your own healing! Bring a friend, and both you and your guest are free,” said Dr. Zhou.

Eternal Health Wellness Center offers free consultation and testing, a $125 value, plus the first 10 callers receive a full beam ray light treatment. They also offer free pulse diagnosis from 5 to 6pm.

Studying alternative medicine with taxpayer dollars

Thanks to a $374,000 taxpayer-funded grant, we now know that inhaling lemon and lavender scents doesn’t do a lot for our ability to heal a wound. With $666,000 in federal research money, scientists examined whether distant prayer could heal AIDS. It could not.

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, or NCCAM, also helped pay scientists to study whether squirting brewed coffee into someone’s intestines can help treat pancreatic cancer (a $406,000 grant) and whether massage makes people with advanced cancer feel better ($1.25 million). The coffee enemas did not help. The massage did.

NCCAM has also invested in studies of various forms of energy healing, including one based on the ideas of a self-described “healer, clairvoyant and medicine woman” who says her children inspired her to learn to read auras. The cost for that was $104,000.

A small, little-known branch of the National Institutes of Health, NCCAM was launched a dozen years ago to study alternative treatments used by the public but not accepted by mainstream medicine. Since its birth, the center has spent $1.4 billion, most of it on research.

A Chicago Tribune examination of hundreds of NCCAM grants, dozens of scientific papers, 12 years of NCCAM documents and advisory council meeting minutes found that the center had spent millions of taxpayer dollars on studies with questionable grounding in science. The cancer treatment involving coffee enemas was based on an idea from the early 1900s, and patients who chose to undergo the risky regimen lived an average of just four more months.

The spending comes as competition for public research money is fierce and expected to get fiercer, with funding for the NIH expected to plateau and even drop in coming years.

“Some of these treatments were just distinctly made up out of people’s imaginations,” said Dr. Wallace Sampson, clinical professor emeritus of medicine at Stanford University. “We don’t take public money and invest it in projects that are just made up out of people’s imaginations.”

“Lots of good science and good scientists are going unfunded,” said Dr. David Gorski, a breast cancer researcher at Wayne State University, who has been a vocal critic of NCCAM. “How can we justify wasting money on something like this when there are so many other things that are much more plausible and much more likely to result in real benefit?”

The director of the center and other advocates say it is worthwhile to use taxpayer dollars to study certain alternative treatments.

“They deserve scientific attention,” said NCCAM Director Dr. Josephine Briggs, who noted that the center’s $128-million annual allotment amounts to less than half a percent of the total NIH budget.

Briggs, a respected NIH researcher and physician who has headed NCCAM for nearly four years, said in an interview that she is dedicated to evidence-based medicine and that the center, under her leadership, is committed to rigorous scientific studies.

The center’s recently adopted strategic plan focuses on studies of supplements and other natural products along with the effect of “mind and body” therapies like yoga, massage and acupuncture on pain and other symptoms. In fiscal years 2008-11, NCCAM funded more than $140 million in grants involving mind-and-body therapies, including $33 million for pain research in fiscal 2011.

The new strategic plan “reflects real change or an evolution in our mission,” Briggs said. “We are not your grandmother’s NCCAM.”

Studies of energy healing or distant prayer probably would not get funded by NCCAM today, she said.

Yet many mind-and-body treatments that are being studied, like qigong and acupuncture, also involve the purported manipulation of a universal energy or life force, sometimes called qi — metaphysical concepts unproved by science and incompatible with the modern Western understanding of how the body works.

In an email, Briggs wrote that it wasn’t necessary to invoke qi or other ancient concepts to study therapies that may benefit people with chronic pain, a significant health problem.

NCCAM’s continuing interest in acupuncture comes even though many of its studies have found that acupuncture and similar therapies work no better than a placebo treatment at easing symptoms like pain and fatigue.

Responsible alternative medicine

Trine Tsouderos’ article on NCCAM is off base. Applying rigorous research to evaluate therapies that are widely used but not a part of mainstream medicine is not only a wise use of resources; it is also good science and essential for providing optimal clinical care.

Many people suffer from ailments, such as chronic pain, for which our conventional medicines do not provide significant help, and they seek relief from therapies such as acupuncture. Lab research and studies using the latest high tech imaging such as fMRI and pet-scans, funded by NCCAM and others, have resulted in a better understanding of the mechanisms of action of acupuncture, showing that it releases endorphins and other neurotransmitters that are the brain’s natural painkillers. NCCAM’s support of large clinical trials, such as one our team conducted and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, has shown acupuncture to be more effective than sham acupuncture and conventional care alone for relieving pain and improving function among sufferers of knee osteoarthritis. Furthermore, their support of the Cochrane Collaboration (an international organization dedicated to evaluating all medical therapies) an independent nonprofit organization that conducts reviews of clinical trials) Complementary Medicine Field has meant that data has been pooled from research studies worldwide, indicating acupuncture, while not a panacea for all problems, is safe and effective for a number of pain-related conditions including headaches, osteoarthritis and chronic back pain.

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Allergies Treatment News: Peanut Allergies: Breakthrough Could Improve Diagnoses

2012-12-20 / Allergies / 0 Comments

Peanut Allergies: Breakthrough Could Improve Diagnoses

“Caution: This product may contain nuts.” It’s an increasingly common warning on food labels of all kinds, given the recent heightened awareness of the dangers of nut allergies. Roughly three million Americans suffer from peanut allergies; yet current diagnostic methods don’t detect every case. New findings by University of Virginia scientists, however, may allow for the development of more sensitive diagnostic tools and a better understanding of nut allergies.

The study, “Structural and Immunologic Characterization of Ara h 1, a Major Peanut Allergen,” appeared in the November 11 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Rethinking the Proteins
In the study, researchers determined that the emerging cutting-edge use of a recombinant, or artificially produced, protein in diagnostic tests may not be a suitable replacement for the natural protein Ara h 1, one of the major peanut allergens. This new insight will be critical in the effort to accurately diagnose peanut allergies and better understand their mechanisms.

“In allergy diagnostics, using a recombinant protein is thought to reveal more consistent results, as they are more homogenous than natural proteins. Individual protein molecules purified from a natural source show much more variation at a molecular level from one another,” says Wladek Minor, PhD, professor of molecular physiology and biological physics in the UVA School of Medicine and study co-leader.

“However, people are exposed to allergens from natural sources, not recombinant protein,” he continues, “and people develop antibodies to different fragments of natural allergens. If there is a significant difference between a natural source and the recombinant allergen used for allergy diagnosis, the recombinant allergen is not a good replacement in the test, because different types of allergies can be overlooked.”

In their analysis, researchers also found strong similarities in the structure of the Ara h 1 protein and those of other plant-seed proteins, which could help explain why patients with peanut allergies frequently also have allergies to tree nuts such as walnuts, almonds, and cashews.

Allergy Detection Could Save Lives
For children and adults who suffer from these serious allergies, accurate and early detection is critical. Allergic reactions to peanuts and tree nuts are the number-one cause of food-induced anaphylaxis, a life-threatening condition that develops rapidly after consumption. Armed with an accurate diagnosis, however, allergy sufferers can learn to avoid certain foods and equip themselves with a portable injection of epinephrine, the lifesaving treatment for anaphylaxis.

The team’s next steps in their research will be to determine exactly why peanut-allergic patients are often allergic to tree nuts as well, and to explain why peanut and tree-nut allergies are extremely difficult to outgrow, usually lasting a lifetime.

In addition to Minor, the international research team included Maksymilian Chruszcz, a member of Minor’s UVA research group; Soheila Maleki, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture; and Heimo Breiteneder, from the Medical University of Vienna. The multidisciplinary study included structural, bioinformatics, and immunological research on Ara h 1. Some methodology used in the project was developed as part of the NIH Protein Structure Initiative, and in particular the New York Structural Genomics Consortium.

Your guide to seasonal allergies

Ah, December! The month when the temperatures finally dip below 100 degrees and many of us prepare for the season by rushing out to stores, cash and credit cards in hand, looking for those perfect items for the tree.

Unfortunately, the season is allergy season, the items are antihistamines and decongestants, and the tree is the mountain cedar — a (sadly) drought-resistant evergreen that produces the pollen that makes many of us miserable from mid-month to late February.

The first time a particular type of pollen travels across your nasal membrane or through your lungs, your body kicks into gear and develops allergic antibodies to that pollen trigger, says Dr. Jackee Kayser, pediatric allergist at ‘Specially for Children and Dell Children’s Medical Center. When your body encounters the pollen trigger again, your immune system is waiting with the pre-formed antibodies. Histamine and other mediators head into a battle of overreaction, causing the classic allergic and even asthmatic symptoms.

Kayser says some research suggests that the immune system has to be exposed to at least two allergy seasons in order to produce an allergic reaction, which could explain why some people who have lived here for years without symptoms might suddenly find themselves affected.

Summertime’s grasses and fall’s ragweed join winter’s mountain cedar and spring’s oak pollen in testing our love for Central Texas, not to mention the molds and dust present year-round. Mountain cedar can be a bad pollen for patients, but not necessarily the worst, Kayser says, recalling an oak pollen season a few years ago when we were all driving around with the allergen covering our cars.

Prevention is the first step to battling seasonal allergies. Keep windows and doors closed. Launder pillowcases frequently, because pollen can collect in hair and be transferred to pillowcases to be breathed in throughout the night.

But once the telltale signs appear, the first step in treatment is determining whether you have a seasonal allergy or the common cold. Nasal congestion or runny nose can occur in both conditions, Kayser says, as can headaches.

One way to rule out a seasonal allergy is to remember that “cedar fever” is a misnomer. “A fever should not really accompany an allergic flare,” Kayser says. If you’re a generally allergic person and your allergy medication provides no relief, that can be another sign that allergens are not to blame.

Allergies can cause fatigue, because sufferers often don’t sleep well. But severe, flulike body aches should not result from allergies. “True muscle aches makes me concerned that there’s something else going on,” Kayser says.

It can be confusing. That’s why she recommends that patients consult an allergist. Hypersensitivity skin testing is one way to find out which environmental triggers or pollens, if any, are the cause of allergic symptoms.

Kayser usually starts with the skin prick device, which she calls “a very friendly, little device” that precludes the use of needles. A bit of the allergen is placed on the patient’s skin. Fifteen minutes later, both the bump and redness it produces are measured. Those results determine the patient’s sensitivity to that particular allergen. Once that’s known, a course of treatment can be prescribed.

In addition to prescription solutions, “nasal saline rinses and neti pots are a fantastic, nonpharmacological, therapeutic way to approach allergies,” Kayser says. In fact, she often recommends that patients use these systems before applying nasal sprays so that the sprays aren’t blocked by all of the mucus that’s being produced.

“In patients that really have significant disease, it’s usually not the sole option, but it’s a fantastic addition to helping with allergies.”

Kayser says that when patients find the typical nasal sprays and oral antihistamines ineffective (or their side effects unbearable), allergy shots help decrease sensitivity to allergens.

“It definitely is something that patients have to want to do, because it does require weekly participation for quite a while and it is a shot,” she explains. “But we know it works. If patients are just miserable and their allergy medications are not working, there’s an option out there.”

And there are other new options on the horizon.

Kayser says there is a lot of research on oral immunotherapy — popular in Europe — taking place here. Formulations containing small amounts of the problem allergen are placed under the tongue, where the substances can be quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. Although the practice has not yet been adopted as an effective therapy by the United States medical community, homeopathic remedies such as Cedar Allergy Mix can be found locally at People’s Pharmacy. It comes in drop, spray and tablet form and contains allergic agents in homeopathic dosages.

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Health Care News: Court schedules week of health care arguments

2012-12-19 / Health News / 0 Comments

Court schedules week of health care arguments

The Supreme Court has announced that it will use an entire week’s worth of argument time to decide the constitutionality of President Barack Obama’s historic health care overhaul.

The high court announced Monday that it will hear health care arguments on March 26th, 27th and 28th..

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act aims to provide health insurance to more than 30 million previously uninsured Americans

Justices will hear arguments on Monday the 26th over whether court action is premature because no one yet has paid a fine for not participating in the overhaul. Tuesday’s arguments will be over whether Congress overstepped its authority with the law. Finally, on Wednesday justices will hear whether the rest of the law can take effect even if the health insurance mandate is unconstitutional.

Rotech Healthcare Inc. Announces Acquisition of Home Medical Businesses

Rotech Healthcare Inc. ROHI
+5.17% , one of the largest
providers of home medical equipment and related products and services, announced today its acquisition of three home medical entities. The acquired businesses are Best Care HHC Acquisition Company LLC, NeighborCare Home Medical Equipment of Maryland, LLC and NeighborCare Home Medical Equipment, LLC.

Rotech anticipates that these acquisitions will contribute approximately $11 million in projected annual revenue in 2012.

“We expect the acquisition of these NeighborCare home medical entities to have a positive impact on Rotech’s financial performance in 2012 and beyond, as well as to expand our presence in the Philadelphia, Baltimore and other East Coast markets,” said President and Chief Executive Officer Philip Carter.

About Rotech Healthcare Inc.

Rotech Healthcare Inc. is one of the largest providers of home medical equipment and related products and services in the United States, with a comprehensive offering of respiratory therapy and durable home medical equipment and related services. The Company provides home medical equipment and related products and services principally to older patients with breathing disorders, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD), which include chronic bronchitis, emphysema, obstructive sleep apnea and other cardiopulmonary disorders. The Company provides equipment and services in 48 states through approximately 425 operating locations located primarily in non-urban markets.

CMS selects 32 final Pioneer ACOs

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) today announced the final list of 32 Pioneer Accountable Care Organizations (ACO) to start in the new year. CMS estimates that care coordination between hospitals, physicians and other care givers under the Pioneer ACO model could save Medicare up to $1.1 billion.

Among the list are Banner Health Network in Arizona, Dartmouth-Hitchcock ACO in New Hampshire and Eastern Vermont, Monarch Healthcare in Orange County, Calif., as well as Beth Israel Deaconess Physician Organization, Partners Healthcare and Steward Health Care System, all in Massachusetts. CMS chose 32 out of a pool of competitive applicants through a lengthy and open process, according to CMS.

“Pioneer ACOs are leaders in our work to provide better care and reduce health care costs,” said Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “We are excited that so many innovative systems are participating in this exciting initiative – and there are many other ways that health care providers can get involved and help improve care for patients.”

As the forerunner to the Medicare Shared Savings Program, the Pioneer ACO model will allow those organizations and individual providers that already are experienced in coordinating care to reap the benefits earlier and more of them. These groups will move more rapidly from a Shared Savings model to a population-based payment model, according to the press release. Differing from the Medicare Shared Savings Program, starting in year three of the initiative, those organizations that have earned savings during the first two years will be eligible to move to a population-based payment arrangement and full risk arrangement that can continue through an optional fourth and fifth year.

“We know that health care providers are at different stages in their work to improve care and reduce costs,” said Marilyn Tavenner, acting Administrator of CMS. “That’s why we’ve developed a menu of options for Medicare to meet doctors, hospitals, and other healthcare providers where they are, and begin the conversation of how to enhance the care they are offering to people with Medicare.”

The first performance period of the Pioneer ACO model will start Jan. 1, 2012.

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