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Sunday, May 27, 2012

Do Plants Have Ears?

















As a naturopathic doctor and a nature-lover, I have great respect for the plant kingdom. Plants nourish us, heal us, and even shelter us.

But can they hear us too?

A new study published in the international journal Trends in Plant Science suggests that they can.

Researchers in Italy and the United Kingdom found that the roots of young corn plants produce and respond to sounds and vibrations. Scientists described the noises they make as "clicking" sounds.

They also observed that the roots, when suspended in water, grew toward sound vibrations emitted in the same frequency range of sounds made by the roots themselves.

The study concluded that "it is very likely that some form of sensitivity to sound and vibrations ... plays an important role in the life of plants."

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Selecting Supplements

I ask every new patient to bring any supplements they are taking with them to the first appointment because I like to see them in person. I look at the manufacturer, find the expiration date, and evaluate the full list of ingredients, including fillers and inactive additives.

Supplements are big business now and some manufacturers cut corners to increase profits. But quality always suffers.

If you don't have a naturopathic doctor to make recommendations, look for products that list the following information on the label:
  • The name and address of the manufacturer
  • A lot number or batch number
  • An expiration date
  • The scientific name, quantity and part of any plant ingredient
Also, to ensure that products have been tested by an independent lab, look for seals from organizations like:
  • The United States Pharmacopeia
  • The National Nutritional Foods Association
  • Consumer Lab
  • National Sanitation Foundation International
Certification guarantees that supplements contain what they are labeled to contain, but beware that it doesn’t ensure that manufacturers started with the highest quality raw ingredients or tested them in clinical trials.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Colonoscopy: Risk Versus Benefit

Colonoscopies are used to screen for colon cancer and remove suspicious lesions. They can be useful for finding cancer, but there are risks involved too. Complications and adverse effects may include pain, infection, blood loss, colon perforation, heart problems, and reactions to sedative medications like breathing problems, low blood pressure, and slowed heart rate.

A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that serious side effects were not uncommon after colonoscopy. Researchers concluded that 1 percent of patients went to the emergency room within 14 days of the procedure. They also found that adverse effects were seriously under-reported. After 6,383 endoscopies and 11,632 colonoscopies, there were 134 trips to the emergency room and 76 hospitalizations but physicians only reported 31 complications.

The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends colonoscopy screenings for adults every 10 years beginning at age 50, but age shouldn't be the only factor in determining screening recommendations.

Like any medical procedure or treatment, it's important to weigh the risks and benefits. And when it comes to colonoscopy, some people benefit more than others.

A published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that people with certain medical conditions are much more likely to have serious side effects after colonoscopy. They include:
  • Stroke
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Polypectomy (previous removal of polyps) 
  • More than one medical condition

Individuals who benefit the most from colon cancer screening are those who have the highest risk. These include:
  • Older adults (the older we get, the greater the risk)
  • African Americans
  • People who eat a low fiber diet
  • Sedentary individuals
  • People with a history of inflammatory bowel disease 
  • Obese and diabetic individuals 
  • People with a history of colorectal cancer or polyps
  • Individuals who have undergone radiation therapy directed at the abdomen (as part of cancer treatment, for example)
  • People who smoke cigarettes and drink alcohol
  • Individuals with inherited genetic syndromes like familial adenomatous polyposis and hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (also known as Lynch syndrome)
  • Anyone with a family member who developed colon cancer before the age of 60

So what's the bottom line?

The benefits of colonoscopy screening, once every 10 years between the ages of 50 and 75, probably outweigh the risks for people who have a high risk of colon cancer.


The risks probably outweigh the benefits for adults after the age of 75 and for anyone with a history of stroke, atrial fibrillation, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure, or polyp removal.

References:

Leffler DA et al. The incidence and cost of unexpected hospital use after scheduled outpatient endoscopy. Archives of Internal Medicine. 2010 Oct 25;170(19):1752-7.

Warren JL et al. Adverse events after outpatient colonoscopy in the Medicare population. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2009 Jun 16;150(12):849-57, W152.

Zauber AG et al. Evaluating test strategies for colorectal cancer screening: a decision analysis for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2008 Nov 4;149(9):659-69.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

DIY All-Purpose Healing Salve


This simple home-made salve can moisturize cuticles, soothe dry skin, and even hydrate your hair. It has a soft and silky texture because it's a combination of shea butter, which is very solid at room temperature, and almond oil, which is liquid at room temperature. The two together make a perfectly spreadable salve.  

(In New York City, find raw shea butter at the Harlem Market or head to 125th Street and buy it from one of several street vendors, 8 ounces for $3 or 16 ounces for $4.)

Apply this salve to dry lips, skin, and hair. I even use it on my face with great results.  To use, scoop out some salve and rub it between your hands until it melts, then work it in wherever you need it.

If you're applying it to your face, use only a light layer. If you use it on your feet, apply it generously and cover them with socks afterward for at least an hour. If you're applying it to your body, use a light layer and allow it to soak in before getting dressed. 

I like to use this salve after a hot bath and a good scrub, just before bed. I apply it to freshly exfoliated skin, toweled-dry, and allow it to soak in overnight. Then I wake up softer than ever. 

1 part almond oil
Pure essential oil, lavender or other, 10 drops per ½ cup of shea butter/almond oil mixture

Place a clean glass container (large enough to contain all of your ingredients) in a pan of shallow, slowly simmering water. Add the cocoa butter to the container and warm until almost melted. 


Remove the glass container from the water bath and stir in the almond oil until the mixture is smooth. Cool for 10 minutes, then stir in the essential oil.


Set aside to cool.


Once at room temperature, cover it and transfer it to the fridge to set. Chill overnight.


Allow the salve it to come to room temperature and apply as needed.

If you find that the texture is too soft or too hard, it's easy to adjust. Melt it again in a slowly simmering water bath, and if it's too hard, add more almond oil. If it's too soft, add more shea butter. If it's not fragrant enough, add more essential oil. Then repeat as before: mix thoroughly, cool to room temperature, chill thoroughly, warm to room temperature, and apply as needed.

A little bit of salve goes a long way, so if you make a big batch, share some with others. I tucked a jar into the Mother's Day package I sent my Mom this year.