Sunday, July 29, 2007

In Sickness, Look to Spirituality to help you Cope, Find Meaning in Your Illness, and Heal Your Mind and Body.

"Man is not destroyed by suffering; he is destroyed by suffering without meaning."

Victor Frankl

As a physician, I have seen fear in the faces of the sick. Being human, we are scared when we come face to face with our sickness. However, fear is our worse enemy in times of illness. To give treatment chance to work, we should develop coping mechanisms. The value of spirituality is that it gives us a medium through which we can search for the meaning of suffering, give us hope and help us build resilience. By abolishing stress, we allow our body to heal.

We now know that religion and or spirituality form the basis for meaning and purpose in many patients' lives. Physicians struggle with how to help their patients to find meaning in their illness. This is even worse in terminal illness, especially in the hospital or hospice setting. In the hospitals, there are chaplains who can take care of these patients and counsel them.

In the outpatient setting where time is short, many physicians do not have time to explore their patients' spirituality with them. However, some may gently explore the issue by asking about their patients' source of hope. If they are open to let their healthcare providers discuss their source of hope with them, the physician has the chance to open discussions on the patient's spirituality with her. However, some patients are not comfortable in discussing these issues. Read more

Sunday, July 22, 2007

New Study Suggests Diet and Exercise are Keys to Long Life.

“Our findings put a mechanism behind what your mother told when you were growing up—eat a good diet and exercise, and it will keep you healthy.”Morris F. White

A new study that appeared in the Science Magazine shows that sensible eating and exercises are keys to longer healthy life. Insulin is a hormone that keeps the blood sugar under control. Based on previous studies on fruit fries and round worms that suggested that reducing the activity of insulin in the body can prolong life, Morris F. White and his colleagues from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute decided to investigate the results of removing one or both copies of the insulin receptor substrate (Irs2). The Irs2 governs the activity of the insulin in the cells.

They conducted the study on a mutant mouse that was made to overeat and gain weight. Mice lacking one copy of the gene in the brain lived 18% longer. When the Irs2 was almost completely deleted, the results were similar. Read more and give us your opinion.

Spirituality - A Healing Formula for Your Mind and Body.

Life gets barren without the awe, bliss and comfort that come with the practice of spirituality. I stumbled on this article which is insightful in highlighting spirituality and its importance in our lives. Please, read and share your thoughts with us.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Should Doctors Address Their Patients' Faith to Heal the Mind and Body?

I found this interesting article about a physician who incorporates faith in his medical practice. His patients seem to appreciate that gesture. What do you think?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Food is Medicine. Eat the Right Food to Keep Your Mind and Body Healthy.

"He that takes medicine and neglects diet, wastes the skill of the physician."
- Chinese Proverb"

The wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessing. Let food be your medicine."
- Hippocrates

That we are what we eat is a fact. Many of my patients are trying to maintain their weight or lose weight. Sometimes, they go about it the wrong way, either by not eating or by eating the wrong foods. The original US food pyramid did not help because the base of the pyramid contained foods that are not healthy.

The recently modified food pyramid based on the Harvard School of Public Health’s modification is better. The base of the pyramid recommends daily exercises and weight control. This is an important component of health maintenance. Exercise is an antidepressant and hence in addition to making you physically healthy and helping you maintain or lose weight, it prepares you mentally to follow healthy eating habits through its effect as an antidepressant.

The second level is whole grains at most meals and plant oils such as peanut, olive, corn and granola. The third level consists of vegetable in abundance and fruits 2 to 3 times a day. The fourth level consists of nuts and legumes to be eaten about 1-3x per day followed by fish, poultry and eggs 0 to 3 times daily. Take dairy or calcium supplements one to three times dairy.

The tip of the pyramid consists of white bread, potatoes and pasta that you should take sparingly. Daily vitamin supplements are useful. Drink alcohol in moderation. With this balanced diet and regular exercises, you should live a healthy life.

Reference: Healthy Eating Pyramid

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Exercise is a Vaccine for a Healthy Mind

"Better to hunt in fields, for health unbought,
Than fee the doctor for a nauseous draught,
The wise, for cure, on exercise depend;
God never made his work for man to mend."
John Dryden

On these pages, I have tried to show how the mind influences the body. Thus, maintenance of the mind is important to the well-being of the body. Experimental rats exposed to stress and increased stress hormone corticotrophins have decreased brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and may lead to atrophy of the hippocampus. People with chronic depression have also shown these features.

Studies show BDNF increases in the brain with treatment of depression, exercise and participation in intellectual activities. It now appears that vigorous physical activity in the form of exercise can even be better than drugs in helping the brain maintain its function. A recent study showed that aerobic workout for 3 months in humans was enough to coax an area of the brain called hippocampus, just under the brain, to form new cells. Until now, scientists working in this field thought this phenomenon was impossible. The hippocampus is involved with learning and memory. Thus, the growth of new cells rewires the hippocampus to rejuvenate and maintain memory to reverse the effects of aging on the brain.

During exercise, the muscles send chemicals (IgF-1) that travel to the brain to help produce brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) that causes growth of new cells. Though new cells cannot grow throughout the brain, studies have found that in aging brains some parts of the brain cells rewire themselves with exercises.

Brain scanning studies by Arthur Kramer, a psychologist, showed that the frontal lobe, where decision making and planning take place, increases in size with exercise such as brisk walking. The subjects also improve on psychological tests. Anatomically, what happens is increase in the growth of new blood vessels and increase in the chemicals involved in transmitting information from cell to cell called neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin and nor-epinephrine. These chemicals are involved in depression and may explain why exercise improves depression. Exercising therefore is like taking Prozac or Ritalin.

To benefit from the positive effect of the exercise, you have to continue exercising regularly because the new brain cells will not stay around forever. Neither will the neurotransmitters like serotonin. Studies have also shown beneficial effects in children. At school, children’s test scores have improved before examination after exercising. Hence, physical education should be mandatory for all kids in school as it helps to build their brain.

In Alzheimer disease, the hippocampus is one of the first areas of the brain to suffer damage. Does it mean that regular exercises can postpone or prevent Alzheimer disease? Time will tell. Meanwhile, it will appear that since exercise is an antidote to shrinking of the brain, you should give yourself the benefit of this elixir to fertilize your brain and keep it younger and healthier.

"The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but instead will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, in diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease."
Thomas Edison


1. Wikipedia

2. Newsweek

3. The New Scientist