An Integrative Approach to Healing from Chronic Migraines

One doesn’t start a blog and then not write posts.  Unfortunately, that is what happened here.  I was struck down in early September with the Queen Mother of all migraines.  It lasted for seven weeks.  I made it to classes.  That’s about it.  So, let’s talk about migraines because Complementary and Integrative Medicine (CIM) has a lot to say about them.

What is a migraine?

Classification of migraine in standard medicine includes the classic migraine with aura, the common migraine without an aura, menstrual migraines, hemiplegic migraines (one-sided temporal headaches, sometimes with balance problems, dizziness and vertigo), opthalmoplegic migraines (pain in the eye orbit, sometimes with double vision, droopy eyelid, or other visual disturbance), basilar artery migraine (intracranial and involving the main brain artery), benign exertional migraine, and status migrainous (severe prolonged migraines requiring hospitalization, and often preceded by anxiety and depression). Vestibular migraine is a newer classification that is still poorly understood, but involves vestibular symptoms such as vertigo, imbalance and head-movement intolerance, as well as photophobia and phonophobia, although patients with these migraine symptoms are not necessarily experiencing vestibular migraine, and there is no definitive test for vestibular migraine. This type of headache could involve neuro-anatomical pathway abnormalities and this new classification is used to justify new technologies with laser which are not yet evidence-based.

Chronic headache syndromes often involve a number of types of headache causes combined into a more complex syndrome. Headaches can be distinguished by classification of cause as vascular, inflammatory, lesion generated, degenerative, traumatic, endocrine, and autoimmune. This is why the migraine and cluster headache syndromes are so difficult to cure. Both extracranial and intracranial tissues may be involved, as is evident from the success with a small percentage of patients who receive Botox injections extracranially and experience symptom relief, as well as patients who obtain much relief from soft tissue therapies and myofascial release. Muscle tension, or traction, headaches can be a migraine trigger, or secondary to migraines. Common inflammatory headaches include sinus allergy headaches, as well as fibromyositis, a chronic inflammatory condition of the muscle and connective tissues. Lesions in temporomandibular joint syndrome (TMJ) or tumor growths, may produce pressure and irritation on facial nerves, increasing the potential of a migraine trigger or episode. (Migraine and Cluster Headaches)

This is a basic description of migraine, but it gets the ball rolling.  What is important to note is that a migraine is not a “headache”.  Per Dr. Peter Goadsby, professor of neurology and director of the NIHR Wellcome Trust at King’s Clinical Research Facility in London, “Migraine is an inherited episodic brain disease. It’s a serious problem that doesn’t shorten life, but ruins it.”  There isn’t a sole cause for the disease either.  Five people may have five different causes ranging from chronic muscular constriction around the occipital nerve originating from a whiplash injury to sinus allergy headaches causing chronic inflammation around the trigeminal nerve.  Someone may have a mast cell disorder causing chronic meningeal inflammation resulting in intracranial headaches.

What are the traditional pharmaceutical migraine treatments available?

  1. Triptans are the go-to medication.  When used at migraine-onset, they act as an abortive stopping a migraine even in the prodromal phase.  They become much less effective if taken once a migraine has fully developed.
  2. Tricyclic antidepressants
  3. Anticonvulsant medications
  4. Beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers
  5. Muscle relaxers particularly for migraines exacerbated by tension headaches
  6. Occasional use of glucocorticoid drugs like methylprednisone
  7. Botox injected directly into muscle groups.  This is effective only for extracranial headaches.

How effective are these pharmaceutical interventions?

It depends.

I’ll use myself as an example because I have chronic migraine disease that occasionally remits for a month.  I have been prescribed every medication on the aforementioned list except beta-blockers and botox.  I also have a standing prescription for opiates and anti-emetics should nothing stop the progression of a migraine.  This prevents a trip to the ER which has happened numerous times.  During the last seven weeks, my neurologist prescribed a new round of steroids, a calcium channel blocker, and a new anticonvulsant in an attempt to arrest the migraine.  It did not help.  The headache stopped for a day and then returned the next day.  It became the Every Other Day Migraine.

So, what gives? Are there other effective treatments for migraine that have shown to be effective?

Yes with the caveat that nothing improves overnight.  It all depends upon what is causing your migraine in addition to what type of migraine you have, and this can be hard to parse out if you’ve had chronic migraines for years.

I know people with chronic migraines who have throbbing, dull pain that ceases to relent.  They can function, but it wears them down and causes dysfunction over time simply because the pain is consistently present.  It takes a toll.  My pain, on the other hand, comes on fast and hard.  It will become a 10 on the pain scale within an hour of onset and vomiting will co-occur if untreated which means I must carry triptans at all times, or I will be visiting my local ER.  Why are there such different manifestations? Different causes.

So, put on your thinking caps, and let’s talk about what is happening in the body when a migraine occurs:

“Recent research has revealed the role of neurotransmitter and ion channel dysfunctions in the pathophysiology of migraine syndromes. For instance, fMRI and PNMRS brain studies show that migraine patients experience lowered magnesium levels in the brain (a common ion, or charged molecule) during the migraine attack, but not when the migraine was not occurring (Ramadan et al; Headache Jun 2005; Vol29(9): 590-3). This suggests a role of ion channel regulation dysfunction. Such studies have also found that glutamergic neurotransmitters (GABA regulation) were abnormal in key areas of the brain (anterior cingulate cortex and insula) during the interictal (time between migraine attacks) (Prescot et al; Molecular Pain 2009; 5:34). While the exact mechanisms of disease are still poorly understood, most experts now agree that hyperexcitability of neural membranes in the brain is central to the pathology, and that the main excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain, glutamate, is central to this dysfunction. An imbalance of glutamate receptor types, especially excess of NMDA glutamine receptors, may be central to the triggering of the neurovascular migraine chain of events. This may explain the apparent sensitivity of migraine patients to monosodium glutamate and the wide array of glutamate molecules now used in processed food to stimulate desire, or addiction, to the food.

Research has also revealed that the most common direct cause of migraine headache is temporal arteritis, which is inflammation of the small cerebral extracranial arteries under the temple, although the extent of this condition is usually mild and episodic, and a host of other contributing causes may participate, triggering the neuronal hyperexcitation and spreading cortical depression. These inflamed arteries are often running with superficial nerves, which are irritated, leading to the migraine episodes. The occipital nerve is another focus of research, and may be inflamed or compressed, often with myofascial contracture and syndrome underlying, triggering the blood vessel spasm. The prodrome, or aura, that precedes a classic migraine results from cranial vasoconstriction, and both temporal arteritis and occipital vasoconstriction, as well as myofascial contracture at the neck, base of the skull, and scalp, may contribute. This aura typically develops over 10-30 minutes and varies in intensity and manifestation, with the patient potentially experiencing light flashes, anxiety, numbness and tingling, dizziness, slight confusion, sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, and a throbbing headache in the classic syndrome.” (Migraine Headaches and the Importance of Knowing Which Type you have and Treating the Underlying Causes as well as the symptoms)

When I read something like this, I often wonder if there are other treatment approaches available other than more pills.  In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), there is the concept of the Origin and the Manifestation.  We want to treat the manifestation particularly if the manifestation (or symptoms) are severe.  More important, we always want to diagnose the Origin and treat it.  In this way, the superficial signs of the pathology will decrease and homeostasis will return.  According to this principle, the migraine is the manifestation of an underlying origin.  What then is the origin, and how might we treat this?

“The German 3-year human clinical trial at Essen University proved that a simple uniform acupuncture treatment reduced frequency and intensity of migraine episodes as well as an intensive course of pharmaceuticals. The combination of magnesium and potassium aspartate, CoQ10, riboflavin B2, P5P (active metabolite of Vitamin B6), and inositol hexacotinate, an active metabolite of Vitamin B3 niacin, was also proven effective in Germany for a high percentage of migraine patients if taken for a prolonged period. Each year, more and more scientific proof of a holistic therapeutic protocol is emerging, allowing patients to successfully integrate TCM/CIM for better and safer results, and preventing the medication overuse syndromes of rebound migraine…While no direct therapy can easily correct this dysfunction, a combination of specific electroacupuncture stimulations and use of herbs with effects that calm neuroexcitotoxicity, such as Huperzine A and Vinpurazine, as well as a combination of L-Glutamine, inositol hexacotinate and P5P, may eventually correct these neurotransmitter dysfunctions. Studies of the brain with fMRI have demonstrated the remarkable specific effects of certain acupoints on these key areas of the brain, demonstrating for instance that stimulation of the P6 and GB34 points resulted in considerably lowered activity of the anterior cingulate cortex, and electroacupuncture at ST36 and SP6 significantly modulated activity in the insula (JNM 2012 July; 18(3): 305-316). Such research provides more specific treatment protocols to try in the course of treatment with acupuncture, herbal and nutrient medicine….In Germany, large trials in 2006 proved that acupuncture was a viable, and in fact superior, treatment for the migraine headache, performing at least as well as pharmaceutical therapies, with no adverse effects, and no risk of rebound headache syndrome (see the study link cited below). In 2013, a long-term randomized and controlled human clinical trial of 100 patients with chronic migraine syndromes was completed at the University of Padua, Italy, Department of Neurosciences, and here too, a course of simple standardized acupuncture treatment (20 sessions) outperformed pharmaceutical therapy in the long term. This study utilized what we know about acupuncture therapy for migraine syndromes, persisting with a longer course of therapy, and showing that outcomes may be better with pharmaceuticals in the short term, but at 6 months, the group receiving acupuncture consistently scored better on pain relief scales and subjective evaluation of pain intensity, and were able to reduce their use of triptan medications for migraine episodes significantly, compared to the standard protocol of daily use of a medication that included valproic acid (see study link below). In addition, the pharmaceutical course recorded adverse health effects, or side effects of medication, in nearly half of the participants, while no adverse effects of acupuncture therapy were noted. In fact, the side effects of acupuncture therapy is improved overall health and vitality. This human clinical trial clearly shows patients that a 10 week course of professional acupuncture therapy will result in an actual improvement in underlying health and causative factors, with lasting benefits. When combined with professional herbal and nutrient medicines, individualized for each patient, and taken in the proper step-by-step manner to correct the pathophysiological mechanisms responsible for these headaches, the results should be magnified greatly, insuring long-term reduction of debilitating migraine pain.” (Understanding the evidence for acupuncture and herbal nutrient medicine in the control and cure of migraine and cluster headaches)

Going further:

“Since these landmark studies that provided sound evidence that acupuncture stimulation does work to decrease migraine pain and frequency, and can be effectively used in short repeated courses within a broader holistic protocol of herbal and nutrient medicine to achieve lasting benefits, the study of specific acupuncture treatments has accelerated to provide clinical guidelines. For instance, in 2014 experts at the Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, in Chengdu, China, used randomized controlled PET-CT studies of the brain to determine the best treatment points and meridians, and types of stimulation, for migraine patients. This study showed that a combination of electroacupuncture and manual stimulation at Shaoyang (GB/SJ) meridian points, including SJ17, SJ8, and GB33 both decreased migraine pain and increased increased brain glucose metabolism in key areas associated with migraine pathology, such as the mid-frontal gyrus, postcentral gyrus, precuneus, parahippocampus, middle cingulate gyrus and cerebellum. Non-specific points used as a control did not produce this increase in brain function in these areas, but did provide some subjective pain decrease. Such studies will help guide professional acupuncturists in clinical practice (PMID: 25496446). Such treatment should be performed in short courses with frequent treatments, at least 2-3 times per week for a few weeks per course. The frequency of these courses over time is determined by the patient schedule, the severity of the symptoms, and the progress that is seen, but this allows for an inexpensive and easy treatment protocol within a broader and more holistic treatment plan, with herbal and nutrient medicine, avoidance of triggers of the migraine, and sensible alteration of medication protocols to prevent or decrease the potential for rebound migraine syndrome.” (Understanding the evidence for acupuncture and herbal nutrient medicine in the control and cure of migraine and cluster headaches)

What I want to point out here is that what appears to be effective is an integrative approach to treatment, and I emphasize this because there are many people in my program who are all or nothing in their healing paradigm.  They vilify conventional medicine while putting all complementary medical protocols on a pedestal going so far as to judge people for taking prescription medications or vaccinating their children.  This is unwise and unfair.  Thus far, the studies that elucidate the most effective treatment for migraine disease involve an integration of both conventional and complementary treatment protocols using pharmaceutical, nutraceutical, and herbal supplementations along with acupuncture and other body work such as myofascial release, physical therapy, nutritional counseling, and long-term lifestyle changes to reduce stress.  Chronic migraine disease involves the whole person.

I highly recommend these articles particularly if you are looking to heal from chronic migraines:

Complementary and Integrative Approaches to Therapy – an Holistic Approach

The Need for a New Approach to the Treatment of Migraines and Cluster Headache Syndromes

Understanding the Types of Migraine and Cluster Headache Syndromes to Individualize Therapy for Optimum Results

Additional Information and Links to Scientific Studies

 

What’s the Big Deal about Carrageenan?

 

If you read food labels or the side of soy or almond milk containers, then you’ve likely come across the word ‘carrageenan’.  It’s a weird word.  It’s an even weirder word in the context of “carrageenan-free”.  My first response to reading something like that on the back of a food product is: “What is carrageenan, and why is it a selling point that it’s not an ingredient?” Fair point.

So, what is it anyway? Dr. Andrew Weil very succinctly answers this question;

“Carrageenan is a common food additive that is extracted from a red seaweed, Chondrus crispus, which is popularly known as Irish moss. Carrageenan, which has no nutritional value, has been used as a thickener and emulsifier to improve the texture of ice cream, yogurt, cottage cheese, soy milk, and other processed foods.

Some animal studies have linked degraded forms of carrageenan (the type not used in food) to ulcerations and cancers of the gastrointestinal tract. More worrisome, undegraded carrageenan – the type that is widely used in foods – has been associated with malignancies and other stomach problems.

In 2012, Joanne K. Tobacman, MD, who has published multiple peer-reviewed studies that address the biological effects of carrageenan, addressed the National Organic Standards Board on this issue and urged reconsideration of the use of carrageenan in organic foods. According to Dr. Tobacman, her research has shown that exposure to carrageenan causes inflammation and that when we consume processed foods containing it, we ingest enough to cause inflammation in our bodies. That’s a problem since chronic inflammation is a root cause of many serious diseases including heart disease, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseasesand cancer.

Dr. Tobacman also told the board that in the past, drug investigators used carrageenan to cause inflammation in tissues to test the anti-inflammatory properties of new drugs. And she reported further that when laboratory mice are exposed to low concentrations of carrageenan for 18 days, they develop “profound” glucose intolerance and impaired insulin action, both of which can lead to diabetes. She maintains that both types of carrageenan are harmful and notes that, “degraded carrageenan inevitably arises from higher molecular weight (food grade) carrageenan.” Research suggests that acid digestion, heating, bacterial action and mechanical processing can all accelerate degradation of food-grade carrageenan.

Despite such findings, carrageenan is still approved by the US Food and Drug Administration as an additive and remains widely used in many food products. In fact, in 2015, the Joint Expert Committee of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and World Health Organization on Food Additives announced that carrageenan was “not of concern” when used in infant formula at concentrations up to 1000 milligrams per liter—even though the European Union has banned it for this use.

All told, as far as carrageenan safety goes, I recommend avoiding regular consumption of foods containing carrageenan. This is especially valuable advice for persons with inflammatory bowel disease.” (Is Carrageenan Safe?)

If you pay attention to food politics, then you probably know that the question of carrageenan’s safety has been somewhat of a lightning rod issue.  In 2007, the Joint Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and World Health Organization Expert Committee on Food Additives advised against the use of carrageenan in infant formula, and it is now banned in infant formula in Europe.  The USDA, however, decided that carrageenan is safe.  That’s not the first time that this kind of disagreement has happened.

Different governments seem to have different ideas about what is and isn’t safe concerning chemicals and additives in the food that humans ingest or in the products we use, and it’s a complex issue.  For example, the United States did not ban Red Dye No. 40, Yellow Dye No. 5 and No. 6 while the U.K. banned all three in 2014 citing health concerns specifically where children are concerned.  As for the rest of Europe, all products containing these three dyes must carry labels warning of the dyes’ potentially adverse effects on children’s health.  What about other chemicals like atrazine, formaldehyde, or even lead-based interior paints? Europe banned lead-based interior paints in 1940, and it took the United States another 38 years to finally make that leap even though the long-term adverse effects of lead exposure were well-documented.  So, what’s the deal?

It comes down to policy most notably the U.S. Toxic Control Substances Control Act (TSCA) which requires a high burden of proof of harm of a substance.  The European equivalent, Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals, (REACH) “aims at ensuring a higher level of environmental protection through preventative” decision-making. In other words, it says that when there is substantial, credible evidence of danger to human or environmental health, protective action should be taken despite continuing scientific uncertainty.” (Banned in Europe, Safe in U.S.)

Well, and one other little loophole associated with the Food Additives Amendment of 1958 signed by President Eisenhower.  “While FDA approval is required for food additives, the agency relies on studies performed by the companies seeking approval of chemicals they manufacture or want to use in making determinations about food additive safety, Natural Resources Defense Council senior scientist Maricel Maffini and NRDC senior attorney Tom Neltner note in their April 2014 report (Banned in Europe, Safe in U.S.), Generally Recognized as Secret: 

The 1958 law exempted from the formal, extended FDA approval process common food ingredients like vinegar and vegetable oil that are “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS). It may have appeared reasonable at the time, but that exemption has been stretched into a loophole that has swallowed the law. The exemption allows manufacturers to make safety determinations that the uses of their newest chemicals in food are safe without notifying the FDA. The agency’s attempts to limit these undisclosed GRAS determinations by asking industry to voluntarily inform the FDA about their chemicals are insufficient to ensure the safety of our food in today’s global marketplace with a complex food supply. Furthermore, no other developed country in the world has a system like GRAS to provide oversight of food ingredients. (Generally Recognized as Secret

Did you catch that? If a company wants to use a new ingredient in a food product, then the FDA relies on said company’s study and results.  In other words, if a company comes to the FDA and says, “Hey, I’d like to use Chemical X in this awesome new drink, but we already tested it and it’s safe.  It’s all good.”  Then, that’s all that is required.  More than this, it doesn’t matter who does the testing.  The CEO’s BFF could do the testing or not do the testing and say that he did.  There is little oversight.  That’s what this loophole is about.

So, what of carrageenan then? Dr. Weil gave us the lowdown on what it is and the potential health risks associated with it.  Europe has banned its use in infant formula.  We now know that companies in the U.S. wishing to use questionable ingredients do not have to submit them to rigorous study or much study at all.  In fact, ingredients that could cause harm are still free for use in food products in the U.S. as indicated by how U.S. policy is implemented.  It isn’t a black and white issue though.  Believe it or not, “the global Carrageenan Market was worth USD 762.35 million as of 2016. Carrageenan has around 13.3% share of the global food & beverage hydrocolloids market.” (Carrageenan Market-Trends and Forecasts 2018-2023)  This is incredibly significant particularly if you’re a carrageenan farmer, exporter, or importer.  “World Carrageenan production exceeded 56,000 tons as of 2013, and it has a very competitive market in Argentina, Canada, Chile, Denmark, France, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Portugal, North Korea, South Korea, Spain, Russia and the USA. The Carrageenan market has witnessed a CAGR of 5.2% in the last three years and is expected to grow consistently.” (Carrageenan Market-Trends and Forecasts 2018-2023) .

When we think of such a ubiquitous food product ingredient like carrageenan, I don’t know that we connect it with actual people supporting their families.

Lambda Carrageenan Supplier - Drying.jpg
Carrageenan farmers in Indonesia

In terms of economics, carrageenan makes sense.  This is a viable crop.  It’s sustainable.  And, in April 2018, the USDA agreed:

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture decided against the recommendation of its own National Organic Standards Board and renewed carrageenan’s status on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances (National List), according to an April 4 posting in the Federal Register. The ruling means carrageenan, which is not certified organic, may continue to be used in organic food items.

“We commend the U.S.D.A. for taking seriously its responsibility to review the N.O.S.B. recommendation and make a decision based on the facts and science,” said Michiel van Genugten, global product line manager, Seaweed Extracts & Colors, for DuPont Nutrition & Health, Wilmington, Del. “This will allow organic food producers to continue to use a safe, versatile ingredient they rely on, and for consumers to enjoy the foods they know and love.”

Consumers Union, the Washington-based advocacy division of Consumer Reports, disagreed with the ruling.

“Today’s decision by the U.S.D.A. represents a troubling precedent that undermines the integrity of the organic label,” said Charlotte Vallaeys, senior policy analyst with Consumers Union. “Current law requires the U.S.D.A. to base the National List of allowable ingredients for organic food on the recommendations of the National Organic Standards Board, which are developed after extensive public engagement and stakeholder input. The U.S.D.A.’s decision to ignore the N.O.S.B.’s recommendation raises serious concerns about the future of the organic label.” (Food Business News)

But…is it harmful? Well, I’ve provided you with a list of studies to peruse.  I’ll let you come to your own conclusions.  What I can tell you from my own personal experience is this: When I eat anything with carrageenan, I experience very unpleasant GI symptoms–for hours.  Like many, many people.  It may be that I am susceptible to gastrointestinal upset caused by carrageenan due to a certain genetic vulnerability.  The studies are there as is the trend–Europe bans it first because it’s potentially harmful.  Eventually, the U.S. does, too.

Must Reads:

NDRC Report: Generally Recognized As Safe

 

Is Coconut Oil Good for You…or Not?

I’d like to introduce you to Dr. Tania Dempsey:

“Dr. Tania Dempsey is an expert in chronic disease, autoimmune disorders, and mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS). Dr. Dempsey is sought after internationally for her knowledge of chronic immune dysregulation, and has attracted patients from Israel, England, Thailand, and France. Dr. Dempsey uses integrative medicine to get to the patient’s root cause(s) of their illness.  Her purpose is to understand why people get sick and to help patients understand their body and why it fails them when it does.

Dr. Dempsey received her MD from The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and her BS degree from Cornell University. She completed her Residency at NYU Medical Center/ Bellevue Hospital and then served as an attending physician at a large multi-specialty medical practice in White Plains, NY, before opening Armonk Integrative Medicine. Dr. Dempsey specializes in autoimmune disease, MCAS, and chronic illness.  She is an active staff member of Greenwich Hospital in Greenwich, Connecticut. She is also a member of the Institute for Functional Medicine (IFM) and the American College of Physicians, and holds a certificate in Vanguard Endocrinology. Dr. Dempsey is Board Certified in Internal Medicine and a Diplomate of the American Board of Integrative and Holistic Medicine.” (Dr. Tania Dempsey)

Her blog is very informative and helpful and exemplifies what an integrative medical approach should look like.  Dr. Dempsey wrote a rebuttal to the recent study published stating that coconut oil is perhaps bad for your health.  It is worth reading.  Also, it elucidates the fact that food politics are alive and well even in the medical community.

Why You Need to Ignore the Latest Flawed Study Demonizing Coconut Oil

Welcome to My Blog

 

I have been a blogger for almost a decade, and it has been one of the more rewarding experiences I’ve had.  I didn’t anticipate that it would amount to much other than providing an outlet for putting thoughts and ideas to “paper”, but it expanded my life and social circle in ways I could never have dreamed when I logged in to WordPress.com for the first time.

I met one of my closest friends in the blogosphere.  I fell in love in the blogosphere.  I enjoyed community and found support during some of the hardest times of my life in the blogosphere.  I am a die-hard supporter of blogging.  So, it only makes sense that I would turn to blogging now that I’m pursuing a PhD in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) while, at the same time, trying to deal with a newly diagnosed blood disorder–Mast Cell Activation Syndrome.

I have come to strongly believe that the only way forward in terms of true healing is an integrative approach.  What do I mean by that? Well, if we were to compare conventional or Western medical treatment modalities to a toolbox, then we would have a very cool kit full of awesome looking tools.  Western medical protocols are effective particularly for acute trauma injuries.

Now, if we were to look at complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) treatment protocols as a toolbox, then we would also find a very interesting toolbox albeit a much older looking one.  Perhaps not as slick and shiny looking, but CAM modalities are often tried and tested with thousands of years of documentation recording their use across cultures.  Think TCM and Ayurveda.  Ponder what would happen if we were to integrate CAM and conventional medical treatment approaches in order to attain the best possible results for patients.  What might happen? Suddenly, the toolbox would get a whole lot bigger, and this is what I mean by an integrative approach to medicine–the biggest toolbox available for the best and most effective treatment protocols.

And, this is what I’m studying.  This is also what this blog is about.  We humans are not just our bodies, and modern medicine in the West is starting to accept this idea even though it still holds onto the Cartesian view of human experience and, consequently, illness and disease.  I firmly believe that there is a way to heal from chronic conditions be it chronic mental health conditions, autoimmune conditions, and even acquired issues like PTSD and viral and bacterial infections, but it requires a paradigm shift.  Our diet, relationships, and lifestyles are our primary and sustaining interventions, and medical treatment is the secondary treatment that enhances our primary interventions.

This is my hypothesis, and, as luck would have it, I get to test out my hypothesis on myself! There is a shift occurring in the West around medicine and health largely because there is also a crisis occurring.  Healthcare costs are exorbitant.  People are sicker now than they ever have been, and the class wars rage on leaving medical care out of reach for those who need it the most.  For the time being, I’ll share what I learn as I make my way through grad school in hopes that it will affect a change for the better for anyone out there who might benefit from the information.  We arrive at our destination faster and in better spirits when we go together (most of the time anyway).

Cheers, MJ

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