Science Says “Eat Your Spinach”

One of life’s great ironies is that the advancement of research often proves that, old wives tales notwithstanding, the sensible wisdom of old can be right on the money. The latest to be proven is the reason why we should be eating our spinach – a phrase many of us wouldn’t have heard since childhood when a parent weilded Popeye comics as an often ill-fated attempt to make us finish our greens. A recent study emerging from Japan has revealed that spinach may actually help protect our eyes from macular degeneration [1]. 

This study is significant as macular degeneration is the leading cause of sight loss for people over the age of 60. It occurs when the central portion of the light-sensitive retina, known as the macular, deteriorates.  It’s affects an estimated 1 in 7 Australians over the age of 50, making it 4 times more prevalent than Dementia [2].  

There are 2 forms of macular generation but the majority of sufferers fall victim to the ‘dry’ form. This is characterised by yellow drusen deposits in the macular which then lead to dimming or distortion, and eventually central blind spots as the condition advances [3].

The problem arises when macular pigment thins out and lets in types of light that can cause damage. One such type is the blue light which is encountered often in our modern, electronic-device rich lifestyle.

“Healthy macular maintains a yellow pigment that shields blue light. This might be compared to the macula having its own pair of sunglasses. This macular pigment is made up of three yellow carotenoids – specifically lutein, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin.

Towards the middle of the macula, zeaxanthin is more concentrated, reaching 75 percent. Away from the middle, the dominant component is lutein, with 65 percent or more of the total. Among all tissues, the macula contains the highest concentration of these carotenoids [Adams,1].”

What can happen when our consumption of carotenoids is low? The macular degenerates. This is commonly an age related issue, but it can also be seen among those with low levels of lutein and zeaxanthin in their diet [1].

Here’s where spinach comes in. Sometimes called the worlds healthiest vegetable, it is rich in carotenoids including the all too significant nutrients lutein and zeaxanthin [4].

The recent spinach study looked at 11 pairs of healthy eyes, all belonging to non-smokers. Over the course of 2 months, study participants consumed 75g of frozen spinach every day. This contained 10mg of lutein. The researchers found that the constant intake of lutein-spinach indicated some strong benefits for macular health. Over the course of the 2 month study, the macular pigment optical density and serum lutein concentrations both increased in participants. The researchers found that visual acuity actually improved in participants [5,1].

This echoes findings by another study hailing back to 2012. That double-blinded, randomised study took a larger sample of people over the age of 50. It found that macular pigment optical density increased significantly both in the group that received lutein supplements, and in the group that received lutein and zeaxanthin groups. The researchers stated that:

“There was a significant dose-response effect for lutein supplementation, and the changes in MPOD [macular pigment optical density] from baseline to 48 weeks were correlated negatively with baseline MPOD in all active treatment groups.

Among patients with early AMD [age-related macular degeneration], supplementation with lutein and zeaxanthin improved macular pigment, which played a causative role in boosting visual function and might prevent the progression of AMD [6].”

This adds to a growing body of knowledge linking green vegetables containing lutein and zeaxanthin to increased macular health [1]. Food, it seems, can be a powerful protector of health. Imagine that.

There’s a simple message in all of this: eat your spinach. It could help save your sight.

Concussion: The Movie, The Health Issue, The Reason We Should Be A Little More Concerned

It happens to boxers and football players. It even happens to most children over the course of childhood. It is the simple concussion. For many years, this hasn’t been a hot topic, but a new movie is shining a little light on what can happen when this occurs repetitively. “Concussion – the movie,” stars Hollywood heavy-weight Will Smith and is a dramatised account of Dr. Bennett Omalu who first shone the light on what was happening to American Football players as a result of repetitive concussions.  

The movie has already attracted a number of awards and nominations, with some calling this the role of Will Smith’s career. But it’s not all drama and accolades. The film covers an important issue: repetitive concussions can have some serious neurological repercussions over time.  

The concussion, or the ‘mild traumatic brain injury’, causes temporary loss of brain function, and a variety of cognitive, physical and emotional symptoms. Some of these can be quite subtle and, usually treated with rest and observation, most concussion sufferers report that they are better within days or weeks.

But Dr Bennett Omalu noticed something more sinister taking place in the lives of American football players who were suffering repetitive concussions.

His research resulted in the discovery of “chronic traumatic encephalophathy.” It all started with an autopsy on Mike Webster, a former Pittsburgh Steelers centre. Webster suffered for years under the weight of ‘cognitive and intellectual impairment, destitution, mood disorders, depression, drug abuse and suicide attempts [2].” Still, his death was sudden and unexpected. His brain looked normal at autopsy, but Omalu was curious enough to self-fund some tissue analyses.

Here is where it got sinister. His suspicion was that Webster was suffering from a form of dementia induced by repeated blows to the head. It was a condition previously found in boxers who were often called ‘punch drunk’.

The tissue analyses showed something rather concerning: Omalu found “large accumulations of tau protein in Webster’s brain, affecting mood, emotions and executive functions similar to the way clumps of beta-amyloid protein contribute to Alzheimer’s Disease [2].”

Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy is now an accepted medical disorder, and those at highest risk are athletes who take part in contact sports that involve repetitive concussions (think hockey, wrestling and boxing), but its links to domestic violence are also being investigated.

The movie covers the battle that Omalu had to go through to not only discover the link, but to make sure the world knew about it. Many efforts were made to silence him. He was, for certain, an underdog in the battle to make sure people knew the risks involved in repetitive concussion and high contact sports.

Interestingly, the movie seems to have opened up new dialogue about the issue, with the Harvard Lancet commenting:

“A history of multiple concussions has been associated with increased risk of neurodegenerative disease, in particular, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which is the subject of Concussion. Nevertheless, despite Hollywood films and endless news headlines about this illness, there remains remarkable confusion over the underlying pathology [3].”

The common explanation of the concussion is that the brain slams back and forth inside the skull. However, Smith and Stewart [3] argue that “the principal mechanical basis of concussion is likely to be head rotational acceleration.” One consequence of those rotational forces is thought to be “rapid deformation of the brain resulting in tissue damage, particularly to vulnerable white matter axons.” These white matter axons can usually stretch to twice their resting length and relax back into position, unharmed. It is the rapid stretching that is thought to result in “components of the axon becoming stiffer, resulting in breakage of axonal microtubules, a pathology known as diffuse axonal injury. Intriguingly, computational modeling suggests that the viscoelastic Achilles’ heel in axons is the microtubule stabilising protein tau.”

Where does the concussion or mild traumatic brain injury take us from there? Smith and Stewart put forward the following [3]:

  • Axonal transport is interupted because of microtubule damage.
  • This leads to protein accumulation in axonal swelling at the injury site.
  • This can result in dysregulation of sodium channels and impaired action potential,
  • We see decreased processing speed, memory disturbance, and loss of consciousness.
  • Accompanying this sodium influx is an increase in intra-axonal calcium, leading to activation of proteases and inevitable axonal degeneration.
  • As such, “the so called mild injury of concussion could result in permanent axonal loss [3].”

The rates and repercussions have prompted the American Psychological Association to call it “a growing public health concern, prevalent in both athletic and military settings [4].”

Smith and Stewart aren’t the only ones flagging the knowledge gaps we have about concussion, but there’s one thing for sure: the brain isn’t something to joke about. It is something to be nurtured and taken care of.

While the movie may focus on the David vs. Goliath battle it took for Omalu to present this health concern to the world, rather than the science behind a common yet concerning injury, it’s surely a good flick to add to your ‘must watch’ list.

Iodine: Research Reveals Supplementation Paradox

Iodine is a powerful element needed for the production of thyroid hormone, that it helps synthesize the hormones that regulate metabolism. Without it, the thyroid can’t function properly. Many of us are also aware that there’s an iodine deficiency problem in certain regions. There are actually estimates that up to 40% of the world’s population is iodine deficient. 

According to Dr David Brownstein, an author, physician and practitioner of holistic medicine, the problem could be far greater than the thyroid function of 40% of the population. “I’ve been interested in the use of iodine for approximately the last 20 years,” said Brownstein in a recent interview. In the first ten years of his practice, he saw so many thyroid problems that it tipped his curiosity. “It always came back to iodine at some point.”  

After finding tests that were clinically reliable, he discovered that the vast majority of his patients were deficient in iodine. His team has tested over 5,000 people and the numbers are frankly shocking. 95% of patients in his US-based clinic were moderately to severely deficient in iodine [1].

“I ask all the practitioners at my lectures ‘what percent of people do they think are walking around with thyroid issues?’ And invariably, the number comes up with usually a minimum of 50 and a maximum of around 75 to 80%. So we have 50-80% of our population with undiagnosed abnormal thyroid function. We’ve got a big problem in this country. We’ve got a problem that’s been driven, I think, in part from iodine deficiency.”

It’s no secret that iodine and thyroid function are inextricably linked. But according to Brownstein, it doesn’t stop there.

“Its not just the thyroid gland that has iodine. All glandular tissue does. The breasts, the ovaries, the uterus, the prostate and other tissues. The skin holds 20% of the body’s iodine. The fats and the muscle cells hold large amounts of iodine. Iodine is concentrated in every cell of the body. Every cell needs and utilises iodine. The white blood cells can’t function without adequate iodine. The list goes on and on.”

When iodine is insufficient, thyroid dysfunction usually follows, even if it’s on a subclinical level. The symptoms include goiter, hypothyroidism, and pregnancy related problems [3]. But Brownstein asserts that when iodine is insufficient, there are wide ramifications in the body. In fact, he speculates that there could be links between iodine deficiency and the increasing number of breast cancer, prostate cancer and chronic illness in the world today [1].

As we are dependant on diet for our supply of iodine, there are a number of possible causes of this deficiency: from soil depletion, to insufficient dietary intake of iodine rich foods, to exacerbated toxicity levels in the environment around us.

To many, the answer is simply to take an iodine supplement but research is now revealing a strange paradox. We have long known that hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone. While links between hypothyroidism and iodine deficiency remain true, new research has revealed an irony when people take too much iodine [2].

“Ironically, new research has shown that taking too much iodine may also lead to a subclinical version of the condition [hypothyroidism], which is a milder form that is often missed by laboratory tests. Along with sometimes exhibiting many of the same symptoms of hypothyroidism, such as fatigue and difficulty losing weight, people with subclinical hypothyroidism may have an increased risk of heart disease.

Some, however, may exhibit no symptoms at all.

The new study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, revealed that study participants taking relatively higher doses of supplemental iodine — 400 micrograms a day and more – paradoxically began developing subclinical hypothyroidism. The finding highlights precisely why you need to be very careful with taking supplemental iodine, as taking too much can lead to health problems.”

To this end, Dr. Mercola recommends optimising iodine through diet rather than through supplementation. Among these dietary sources, sea vegetables like kelp are known to contain high levels of iodine [4]. According to Brownstein, the purer the source, the better, as toxins can bind to iodine receptor sites and inhibit iodine [5]. Organic cranberries, strawberries, yoghurt, navy beans, and potatoes also feature on the list of iodine sources [4].

So while iodine supplementation may be necessary in some cases, this new research provides an interesting note of caution on a very common condition.

 

Sleep Is Important In Detoxifying The Brain

We all know we need it and we know we don’t function well without it but neuroscientists have only recently discovered why it’s so important for human beings to sleep. It’s our brain. That is, we now know that at least one of the reasons sleep is important is because without it, our brains would cease to function properly. 

 So why is it that we’re groggy and irritable if we don’t get a good night’s sleep? Neuroscientists have discovered that when we don’t sleep, the toxic waste build up in our brains increases. When we sleep, it decreases. 

Every cell in the human body produces waste as a byproduct.  But more importantly every cell has a waste disposal system. When waste builds up, it becomes toxic. Our lymphatic system acts somewhat like our household plumbing, taking all of the waste and getting rid of it. It’s a sophisticated network of vessels, which collects protein and waste from the spaces between our cells. It then transfers it into the blood for it to be disposed of.

But the brain isn’t like a regular organ or other cells in the body. Up until now, we didn’t know how the brain disposed of its toxic waste. Sure it has a rich supply of blood vessels, bringing freshly, oxygenated blood and nutrients to the brain cells, but until recently, it was believed that there is no lymphatic system in the brain. So how does the brain remove waste?

Neuroscientist Jeff Iliff, who explores the unique functions of the brain, has been researching that very question. They knew that the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that cushions the brain from the skull was the main waste disposal pool for the brain. But they had no idea how the waste travelled from the brain cells to the CSF surrounding the brain.

Performing MRIs on the brain they noticed that during the day, when a person was awake, the CSF, appearing as a bright green liquid, encased the brain. Almost no CSF was found inside the brain, save a few green dots penetrating the outer layer.

However at night, when the person was asleep, it was a different story. Something quite remarkable happened. As the night progressed, the green dots of cerebrospinal fluid started to increase inside the brain. As sleep continued the dots increased in number until they became an indistinguishable haze of green, flooding the brain. The CSF had moved into the brain, like a green mist, bathing each and every cell in the brain.

Iliff noticed the CSF was using the capillaries that brought the blood supply to the brain, to access the brain tissue. Instead of the CSF traveling inside the capillary, it was running down the outside of the capillary. Much like rain runs down the outside of downpipe, the CSF was using the outside structure of the capillary to make its way between the cells in the brain.

Moreover, the MRI showed the brain cells themselves had shrunk, in order to increase the space between the cells. This gave the CSF more surface area to cover.

The CSF, having collected the cellular waste then returns it to the main pool of CSF surrounding the brain, which then dumps the toxic waste back into the blood.

So what happens if you don’t sleep? Or you don’t sleep enough?

Firstly, the amount of CSF rushing into our brain is significantly reduced. This means that toxic waste isn’t clearing from our brain. Brain cells produce a protein called amyloid-beta. Neuroscientists have measured how much of this protein is cleared from the brain when it is asleep compared to when it’s awake. The difference is startling, the clearance of amyloid-beta is much more rapid in the sleeping brain. Alzheimer’s patients have an accumulation of amyloid-beta that builds up and aggregates in the spaces between the brain cells. This build up of amyloid-beta is what is thought to be one of the key elements in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

As Iliff quotes,

“Like our housework, it’s a dirty and a thankless job, but it’s also important. In your house, if you stop cleaning your kitchen for a month, your home will become completely unlivable very quickly. But in the brain, the consequences of falling behind may be much greater than the embarrassment of dirty countertops, because when it comes to cleaning the brain, it is the very health and function of the mind and the body that’s at stake.”

Sustained sleep deprivation makes it hard to think, everything gets jumbled up. Concentration is poor, co-ordination is poor, memory is poor. If we don’t sleep, we don’t get rid of the build up of toxic waste, and even simple tasks can become overwhelming. It’s like trying to make a cup of tea in a kitchen over run with dirty dishes, piled up on countertops. Almost impossible.

It’s precisely why after a good nights sleep we feel more alert, emotionally stable and clear headed. We’ve essentially done a load of dishes, wiped down the counter and mopped the floor. Everything is cleaner and it’s far easier to make that cup of tea.

Data Backs The Connection Between Emotional And Physical Health

One of the foundational concepts of chiropractic is the connection between the brain and the body. This notion that the brain and body affect each other in profound ways is cemented into our everyday practice. Yet for the most part, western medicine has been a little slower to embrace the connection between mental, emotional and physical health. Therefore, it’s encouraging that more and more recent studies are starting to show a high correlation between emotional distress and primary care visits.  

It’s hardly shocking information for us in chiropractic, which has always espoused the holistic nature of the body, and the beauty of this body of work is that the numbers paint a compelling picture.  

Psychology Today reports that approximately 80% of primary care visits result from emotional distress, and that another recent study demonstrated that workplace stress “accounted for up to 38% of differences in longevity across workers in different professions [1].”

The inference is clear. Stress kills.

Psychology Today also published a rather concerning finding from the Boston Deaconess Hospital. “Only 3% of non-psychiatric physicians teach their patients stress management techniques [1].” This led them to ask a very valid question: “Why is there such an enormous disconnect between the root cause of many illnesses and the way doctors treat patients?”

An analysis of Google trends over the course of a decade showed a correlation between depression or bipolar disorder and a vast range of other illnesses. Another study cited by Psychology Today made note that 65% of patients with mental disorders also suffer from one or more ‘medical’ problems [1]. Which comes first? The physical illness or the mental illness? This remains to be seen.

“Even if it turns out that mental illness predominantly grows out of physical illness, not the other way around, such statistics suggest a very strong mind-body linkage, that, at a minimum, indicates that mental health should figure prominently in treating physical illness. And vice versa. Surveys of mental health care show that psychiatrists often under-appreciate and under-diagnose physical causes or triggers of emotional and behavioral problems.”

“Dr. Ryan Hall of the University of Central Florida has found that as many as 47% of problems for which patients seek treatment have a physical cause. So whether mental problems cause physical diseases, or physical diseases cause mental problems (or both), it appears likely that psychiatrists are underestimating the importance of medical illnesses, and primary care doctors are underestimating the importance of mental problems [1].”

The point of raising all of this is not to critique the allopathic system of sickcare, but rather to point out that data backs our paradigm: mental and physical health are inextricably connected. Place stress on one and the other will follow. We’ve long known it. Now data backs it.

Dr. James Chestnut, in his book ‘The Wellness and Prevention Paradigm’ speaks at length on the impacts of sustained stress on the sympathetic nervous system, the adrenals and the rest of the body. He states simply that “the reason humans, and every other species, move away from a state of health is because we are exposed to stressors that originate from the external, rather than the internal, environment of our cells.” That is, that stress moves us into a state of adaptive physiology where we must respond to the challenge around, that even our mental attitude or state can affect this change.

It’s a concept that appears to be gaining traction in the world of allopathic medicine and research. In fact, Harvard [2] has just announced a new centre which will be devoted to the study of how ‘being happier can make people healthier.’

The goal of the center is to advance scientific understanding of the link between a positive mindset and a positive social environment — things like close relationships with family and friends, a meaningful job, healthy exercise, enjoyable hobbies — with good physical health. Likewise, researchers hope to understand how negative social and mental circumstances — such as poverty and lack of relationships or meaningful employment — can impact health or longevity. Harvard scientists hope that the center’s findings will eventually help influence health practice and policy.

We can’t wait to see what emerges from the centre. In the meantime, big data already available is telling us that focusing on stress, and the connection between mental, emotional and physical health, is a worthy pursuit indeed.

Should Early Scoliosis Checks Be Routine For Parents And Health Professionals?

 “How could I not have noticed her back was like this before?” a parent asks, “What could I have done?” 

Almost every parent of a child who is diagnosed with scoliosis utters similar words. It’s a common scenario – a parent unfamiliar with what scoliosis is, how to notice the warning signs in their children, or what to do about it if they do notice something. The fact is, scoliosis is not on people’s radars until it’s too late.  

This June has been officially designated as International Scoliosis Awareness Month. It’s a month focussed on uniting scoliosis patients, families, physicians, health professionals and institutions to promote public awareness, education, and advocacy of scoliosis. This year, the Scoliosis Research Society (SRS) has highlighted the importance of early scoliosis detection and the effectiveness of bracing as early, non-surgical care.

Latest scoliosis research shows:

  • The prevalence in the at-risk population (children 10 to 15 years of age) is estimated at 2 to 3% [1]
  • The prevalence of scoliosis increases rapidly from 11 to 14 years of age [2]
  • High rates of scoliosis are observed amongst dancers and gymnasts. Research has shown adolescent dancers are at significantly higher risk of developing scoliosis than non-dancers of the same age [3]
  • Early detection delivers more favourable prognoses [4]
  • That spinal pain is in fact a prevalent condition in AIS patients, further supporting the need for early detection and screening to minimise potential pain and suffering [5]
  • Specialised scoliosis bracing when prescribed for high-risk patients, can prevent the need for surgery in most cases [6]

Scoliosis may be going undetected in children and adolescents in your local area, some of which you may already know. The time to screen our children and adolescents in the at risk age groups, is now.

As a chiropractor, you are well placed to recognise the early indicators of a possible scoliosis and you can also help parents by telling them to be aware of:

  • Uneven shoulders
  • One more prominent shoulder blade
  • Uneven waist line
  • A noticeable curve in the spine
  • A family history of scoliosis

During the month of June, in partnership with health professionals from all over the globe, ScoliCare aims to reach the goal of screening 1000 backs. We will offer free screenings each week at our own clinics, work with trained health professionals in the community conducting their own screenings, and invite health professionals across all disciplines to take advantage of our free confidential review service for any patients they may have concerns about.

It’s time to spread the word. Let’s let June set the stage for the year ahead, and make early scoliosis detection a focus for all. And if you’re interested in helping us reach our target this year, please go to www.scolicare.com.au/ourgoals

The Golden Circle: How To Inspire Action

“People don’t buy what you do. People buy why you do it.”  

This is the statement that lies at the heart of Simon Sinek’s groundbreaking book “Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action,” and his Ted Talk on the same topic. Both works are grounded in Sinek’s analyses of great leaders and commercial successes. In a world that seems flooded with messages of ‘buy this, buy that,’ Sinek provides a refreshing how-to guide on cutting through the noise.  

In 2006, Sinek made a discovery that profoundly changed his worldview: there was a pattern in the communication styles of the world’s greatest leaders. From Martin Luther King to the Wright Brothers, there were similarities threaded through their words and actions. “It’s the complete opposite to everyone else. All I did was codify it, and it’s probably the world’s simplest idea,” said Sinek of the concept that made him famous. He called it the Golden Circle [1]. 

The Golden Circle is essentially this: any communicator will tell you about the ‘what.’ We know what the product is. The ‘how’ is also an easy message to communicate. Commonly, people talk in terms of the what, and then the how. If they’ve still got your attention after all that, they might get to the why. Sinek just reversed the order of those three big questions. ‘What, how, why?’  became ‘Why, how, what?’

Starting with why means that people connect to what you believe, instead of getting defensive about being sold something. After all, the civil rights movement didn’t congregate around Martin Luther King’s ‘plan.’ It gathered around his dream, his belief – his ‘why.’ This inspired action even in the face of great adversity.

In a chiropractic context, our ‘what’ might be the body’s ability to self-regulate, heal, grow, repair and adapt, maintaining proper function. Our ‘how’ might be the subluxation and the adjustment. But according to Sinek’s paradigm, this isn’t where we need to start.

 

We need to start with ‘why’

“The goal is not to do business with everybody who needs what you have. The goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe,” says Sinek [1].

If we can successfully communicate why we believe what we believe, and why we do what we do, we cease to become another person selling a product. The why becomes a connection point and a reason for people to jump on board.

“Here’s the best part: None of what I’m telling you is my opinion,” says Sinek. He argues that the make-up of our brain echoes the golden circle, and that his theory is rooted in biology and not psychology. How does this work? It’s the interplay of the neocortex and the limbic brain.

“Our newest brain, our Homo sapien brain, our neocortex, corresponds with the ‘what’ level. The neocortex is responsible for all of our rational and analytical thought and language. The middle two sections make up our limbic brains, and our limbic brains are responsible for all of our feelings, like trust and loyalty. It’s also responsible for all human behaviour, all decision-making [1]. “

Of course, the limbic brain has no capacity for language. It deals in the biochemistry that creates emotion. Ever heard the term ‘Gut feeling’? According to Sinek, that’s where it happens. Although there are those who’d argue the gut feeling has more to do with the billions of neurons that exist in our enteric nervous system (the literal gut), he could be onto something. If we experience something that triggers a response from our limbic brain, we may not necessarily have the words to describe it.

If someone has a gut feeling that you are trying to tell them something, they’ll likely put the walls up. If someone has a gut feeling that you are telling them the truth, and sharing your belief and motivation with them, it can be a very different story.

Sinek isn’t the only one to draw on the power of the neocortex and the limbic brain in his work on human behaviour. Dr. Joe Dispenza also talks about the power of the neo-cortex and the limbic brain in resetting our habits [2]. If neurons that fire together wire together, then there are powerful ways our two brains can work together for us. Dispenza’s work takes us into our own mind. Sinek’s shows us how we can better communicate and engage with the world around us.

 

What you do simply proves what you believe

“If you don’t know why you do what you do, and people respond to why you do what you do, then how will you ever get people to vote for you, or buy something from you, or more importantly, be loyal and want to be a part of what it is that you do?” asks Sinek [1]. It’s a very good question, and a challenge to anyone who has found themself on autopilot, or weighed down under the confusion of dwindling practice success.

Sinek recounts the stories of two pioneers in aviation. Samuel Pierpont Langley was well connected, holding what many may think was a recipe for success: a seat at Harvard, connections with the Smithsonian, and a considerable monetary grant from the War Department [1]. His charge was to figure out this thing called ‘powered flight.’ Who knows what his ‘why’ was. Perhaps riches. Perhaps fame.

Meanwhile in Ohio, the Wright brothers were financing their passion for powered flight using the proceeds from their bicycle shop. “The difference was, Orville and Wilbur were driven by a cause, by a purpose, by a belief,” says Sinek. The people who joined them joined their cause, working not for the paycheck but for the belief. History remembers the Wright brothers. It doesn’t remember Samuel Pierpont Langley so well.

People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. If you talk about what you believe, you will attract those who believe what you believe,” emphasises Sinek [1].

 

There is a tipping point

Why does Sinek’s theory matter? Because there’s a tipping point when a new idea or an obscure idea becomes a mainstream idea. “The first 2.5% of our population are our innovators. The next 13.5% are our early adopters. The next 34% are your early majority, your late majority and your laggards. The only reason these people buy touch-tone phones is because you can’t buy rotary phones anymore,” says Sinek. Each of us will sit at a different place on this scale depending on our passion, or resistance to an idea or product. That’s okay. What matters is what happens alongside this scale.

“If you want mass-market success or mass-market acceptance of an idea, you cannot have it until you achieve this tipping point between 15 and 18 per cent market penetration. Then the system tips,” says Sinek.

How are we tracking when it comes to this tipping point? Year by year, are we crawling a little further towards our tipping point? Perhaps now is not the time to focus on the numbers, but on the motivation behind what we do.

It can be tempting to sink our teeth into the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of chiropractic. But Sinek’s work provides us with an inspiring look at why our motivation and passion matters more.

What you do simply proves what you believe.

 

Chiropractic Missions

The desire to contribute to something that is bigger than yourself is something that seems hardwired into the human psyche. For as long as history remembers, people have found humanitarian missions an incredible way to answer this need. It opens eyes and instills a deep sense of satisfaction as you make a contribution to a person, a family or a community in need. Yet when looking for opportunities to best serve, it can be easy think ‘What can I do?’ Who would I volunteer for anyway?’ It may surprise some to know that there are very specific ways that chiropractors can contribute abroad. 

Jennifer Luu was in her fifth year of chiropractic when she joined a chiropractic volunteer team to Cambodia as part of her placement. It was an experience that moved her deeply, prompting annual returns every year and leading her to establish ‘To Love and Serve.’ The latter is an organisation set up to recruit and help fund health care professionals onto volunteer medical teams working in disadvantaged communities in developing nations.  

It was founded on the Parker principle, ‘loving service is my first technique’ and built on the core belief that everyone should have access to care. She set up the organisation in her first year out of university, “Because I didn’t have enough on my plate already.”

Since 2013, Dr. Jen has been working with humanitarian organisation “Restore One” with a powerful mandate: to work on restoring one family, one village, one community at a time. “It’s very similar to how we see our role as chiropractors,” says Dr Jen. “We restore one individual at a time, we work with one family, we work in one community at a time.”

Restore One now runs medical and build volunteer teams into the nation of Cambodia, with the next one scheduled for August this year. Volunteers range from builders and trade professionals, to medical professionals or even families and students. There are a variety of community needs that teams are put together to answer. Thankfully, support for the program is incredible. “I’m really fortunate to have practitioners knocking on my door every week.”

In terms of the medical teams that Jen works to recruit, chiropractic is actually the most highly requested services. “For a country that is so struck with poverty, they are actually quite forward thinking in terms of their health. Whenever we take a medical team over, they request a chiropractor. Many of these villagers are farmers earning around a dollar a day, yet they will give up an entire day to come and get adjusted because they know they need their bodies to work.”

 

So what does a day in the life of a Restore One Volunteer Trip look like? 

According to Dr. Jen, it’s an extremely moving and empowering experience, one that always results in volunteers understanding the power of chiropractic to a much greater degree. Yet every day is different:

“We jump into a clinic van and head off to one of the islands or villages off Phnom Penh or in rural Cambodia. [Restore One’s] mission is all about restoring one village at a time. So rather than spending bits of money on various different projects, they work on getting one village self sustaining and then move on from there.”

“All the trips are so different. During a day we will jump out in the vans and head out into the villages and run a mobile chiropractic clinic. You’ll adjust from 8-4 and see as many people as you can in that day before the monsoon rains hit. But on another day you might be picking up a hammer and some nails and actually constructing a house for a homeless family that the village chief has nominated.”

It’s resulted in some pretty memorable moments for Dr. Jen and her fellow volunteers.

“In 2014, I was there to open the Restore One primary school. Three hundred kids who hadn’t had a chance to go to school now had that chance. And before they started school, they got adjusted from me. That was very cool. When we took a team of 13 last year, they got to adjust a whole school, and build a hearing impaired classroom. You are part of a medical team, but you do other things as well.”

 

It’s an experience that widens your scope. 

In terms of symptoms and conditions, its very different than what you’d see in Australia.

“You see things you’d only see in textbooks. It really widens your scope. Some of these villages have never seen a health professional before. It really enhances your strength in terms of diagnosis and referral. It makes you a better chiropractor,” says Dr. Jen.  “If you are ever unsure about your value in chiropractic, go on one of these trips.”

“I always say to people, if you are unsure of what we do and need clarification of what we do, come over. Every chiropractor that has come with us, student or professional, has said if ‘I was ever unsure of what I do in clinic or practice, I’m never unsure now.’ It’s something you can’t explain. You just need to come on a trip.

Even the referral system is something that reinforces the profound impact of chiropractic in Cambodia. “One village will tell another. You’ll arrive into a new town and have a line up and it wont even be 8am.”

This August, another missions trip will land in Cambodia. Along with the medical aspects of the trip, volunteers will be building year 7 and year 8 classrooms. This builds on previous efforts that saw the primary school opened in 2014. Now, those students will be able to further their education and nourish their brains.

 

Memorable moments make it an experience worth its weight in gold.

It’s almost impossible for Dr. Jen to pick just one memorable moment from chiropractic missions. There have been many over the years.

“We do revisit, I often get tapped on the shoulder by kids I haven’t seen in a year, and presented with a bunch of flowers. I’ve got photos of two or three years in a row of these kids growing up. We see malnourished kids one year, and then they’re a little fatter next year. You see them one year with brown hair (which is a sign of malnutrition), and then the next year you come back to jet-black hair. It’s really beautiful.

She also recounts an experience when the Governess of the district, a position not unlike a Mayor, travelled with them for three days and got adjusted every day. At the end of that mission, the Governess gave them a memorable video message. “She wasn’t talking about symptomatic pain. She was talking about how she felt relaxed, and how her mind was at ease. She requested that more chiropractors come to love and serve. She asked if they could come for three weeks and serve her community.” Such was her belief in chiropractic and its power to impact her district.

Another experience involved “adjusting amongst the cows.” The mobile clinic had been set up in a rural district but it was approaching 4pm. Jen and her team were trying to pack up and beat the monsoon rains. “Then we saw a man hurrying in with his child. We could see the villagers signaling him to run faster.” Dr. Jen recalls how this man handed his child to a volunteer, and through a translator they heard his heartbreaking story. Years previous, this youngster contracted meningitis. Due to a number of factors including distance and finance, they couldn’t get to the hospital early enough. Years on, this child was rigid, unable to see or speak, and communicating only in grunts and cries. He had missed most of his milestones and was physically suffering and in pain.

The whole community watched on as the volunteer adjusted this child. “You could have heard a pin drop” said Jen. “Everyone knew his story. Through the course of the adjustment give out a big yawn and fall asleep. He was just so calm. When we handed him back to his dad, his dad was crying. I looked over my shoulder thinking ‘where did the volunteer go?’ and she’s hiding behind a cow, crying. So I cried too. The whole village felt that.”

Dr Jen concedes that getting out of the clinic to do a mission can be a challenging thing, but still very much worth the investment. “One of the hardest things as a chiropractor is to actually leave your practice. Do I get a locum? There are considerations like that. Not everyone can leave a practice easily.”

To this end, To Love and Serve receives donations and sponsorships that makes it possible to cover some of the costs. Many clinics get behind their chiropractors missions trip, by donating toothbrushes, undies, soap and other supplies that can help with the health and hygiene classes run on the missions trips. This makes it a community-building experience even back home.

Jen’s dream is to build a chiropractic clinic over there, which would be the central point for all of the charity’s chiropractic care. She’d also love to eventually do a mission in Vietnam, in honour of her mother who fled the war in 1981 and arrived as a refugee on Australian shores. “She’s a little ticked off that I haven’t done a mission there yet,” laughs Jen.

If you’re interested in a holiday with a difference, and if you’re interested in increasing certainty, then perhaps a chiropractic mission is for you.

“It’s about trusting your hands and your heart, loving the person in front of you. It’s such an important message and it really travels far. Just restore one person at a time. If you had any doubts, you don’t come home with any at all. It’s a beautiful message, because every time the team leaves we say “its never a goodbye. It’s a see you soon.” And volunteers almost always do come back soon.

The friends you make on a trip tend to be friends for life because you’ve shared something really powerful.

Keep up to date on activity with To Love & Serve via their Facebook page.

Self-Compassion May Help Fight Inflammation

A study recently published in the Journal of Brain, Behaviour and Immunity reveals an interesting link between our view of ourselves and our levels of interleukin-6, a pro-inflammatory cytokine instrumental in the human inflammatory response. 

The study took 41 healthy, adult participants and exposed them to some psychosocial stressors that most of us find pretty nerve-wracking: maths and public speaking. After performing the tasks, all undertaken in front of judges, their blood was drawn and analysed for the presence of the pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-6 [1]. The findings were interesting:

“It turned out that the group with the highest measured levels of self-compassion before the study—the ones who had acceptance of themselves—had the lowest IL-6 (inflammation) response to the stress [2].”

Why does this study matter? Research has revealed that “psychosocial stress has been shown to elicit an inflammatory cascade similar to that elicited by illness or injury… Although properly regulated inflammation is required and adaptive in certain contexts, elevated levels of inflammation can increase the risk of a range of diseases, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease [1].”

Other research cited by the authors of the study reveals that “psychosocial stress is especially likely to elicit increased peripheral inflammation, as well as other potentially maladaptive biological responses, when it involves threats to the self encountered in social evaluative contexts.” What does this mean? If the situation involves other people witnessing our stress, and we interpret it as threatening, our body increases inflammatory markers.

There are other studies that have shown a link between self-threat and inflammation. Specifically, research showed an increase in tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF- α) when specific stressors (i.e. public speaking or maths tasks) were carried out in front of people. Nasty business indeed.

Interestingly, increased inflammatory markers were not noted in participants who carried out the tasks without anyone watching [1]. So there you go: it appears tanking at a difficult maths equation has more repercussions if someone sees you do it.

It turns out the participant’s internal responses to the psychosocial stressor had a significant bearing on inflammatory markers. In a world where psychosocial stress seems more pervasive than ever before, this study provides some insight into at least one mental protective factor we can all benefit from.

Enter the concept of self-compassion. While it sounds a lot like self-esteem, it is actually quite distinct, and appears significant in a physical and mental/emotional sense.

So, what is self-compassion anyway? Dr. Kristin Neff, a pioneer in this field of research, has some words of wisdom on the topic. “Instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies or shortcomings, self-compassion means you are kind and understanding when confronted with personal failings – after all, who ever said you were supposed to be perfect? [3]”

She goes on to contrast self-compassion with self-esteem. At its heart, self-esteem is how much we like ourselves, or perceive ourselves as valuable. Neff argues that self-compassion isn’t based on such evaluations. Rather, it’s based on a belief that “all human beings deserve compassion and understanding, not because they possess some particular set of traits (pretty, smart, talented, and so on). This means that with self-compassion, you don’t have to feel better than others to feel good about yourself [4].”

For the sake of the study, self-compassion was defined as a self-attitude that involves “treating oneself with kindness and nonjudgmental understanding [1].” An individual with healthy self-compassion is likely to experience reduced levels of shame and self-criticism. They may also be less emotionally reactive in heightened situations.

It turns out this trait has the potential to reduce the level to which a stressor is viewed and experienced as threatening. Additionally, the study suggests it may weaken the length and level of the inflammatory response that follows the threat. The authors concluded the following:

“Individuals who are higher in self-compassion may be buffered from increased inflammation following unfamiliar psychosocial stress, whereas individuals who are lower in self-compassion may be especially vulnerable to the adverse effects of this form of stress.

Efforts to help people cope more effectively with acute stress and reduce disease risk should seek not only to relieve negative emotions and appraisals but also to foster positive emotional states such as self-compassion.”

So there you have it. The age-old wisdom that tells us not to be so hard on ourselves could be worth more than face value. It can actually go a long way to keeping us healthier.

Ideas That Spread

“It’s the best thing since sliced bread!” 

How many times have you heard that expression? The humble invention of pre-sliced bread seems to have become the benchmark for good ideas in modern times. Perhaps you’d find it interesting to know that for the first 15 years in the life of sliced bread, no one bought it. It was, by definition, a complete failure. It actually took fifteen years for someone to figure out how to get that idea to spread [1].  

For generations, marketers have focused on the masses. They targeted their efforts at finding the average customer and making products for them. According to marketing guru Seth Godin, it was all about going for the centre. But that’s not a strategy he recommends anymore. Why? The average customer is getting better and better at ignoring those marketing messages. And why wouldn’t they? The sheer amount of product thrust at them through TV, radio and the internet on any given day is astronomical.  

So what does Godin recommend instead?

“The strategy we want to use is to not market to these people because they’re really good at ignoring you. But market to these [other] people because they care. These are the people who are obsessed with something. And when you talk to them, they’ll listen, because they like listening — it’s about them. And if you’re lucky, they’ll tell their friends on the rest of the curve, and it’ll spread. It’ll spread to the entire curve [1].”

This little concept is called idea diffusion, or the spread of an idea from person to person through a group. According to Godin, it comes right down to ‘remarkability.’

“The thing that’s going to decide what gets talked about, what gets done, what gets changed, what gets purchased, what gets built, is: ‘Is it remarkable?’ And ‘remarkable’ is a really cool word, because we think it just means ‘neat,’ but it also means ‘worth making a remark about.’ And that is the essence of where idea diffusion is going [1].”

This concept of ‘remarkability’ can apply to any industry: from hospitality, to manufacturing, to design and yes, even to health. If our offering is remarkable, it gets people talking. The key, according to Godin, is to “Find a group that really, desperately cares about what it is you have to say. Talk to them and make it easy for them to tell their friends.”

In a chiropractic context, this challenge contains two facets. The first is the patient’s own experience. Was it remarkable? Making it remarkable can be as individual as the practitioner. Is it the clinic, the adjustment, the atmosphere, the information they received or the way they felt post-adjustment? That all comes down to the individual practice or practitioner.

The second facet of this challenge rests on all of our shoulders: how do we make it easy for them to tell their friends? The science that backs chiropractic is growing, yet we face regular media campaigns that try to shout down our message. We could dump all of our science onto the patient in the hopes that they retain some of it to pass on to their friends, but we run the very real risk of overdoing it and making it too hard to pass on. Or we can take a different approach: making the patient more and more confident in the benefits of the adjustment at every visit, helping them articulate the difference it has made in their own life, and placing simplified research information into their hands when we can. These are just some of the ways we can vary our communication and make it easier to pass on.

If Godin’s wisdom gives us any encouragement, it is to ignore the detractors and to find our tribe. There are many people who are obsessed with chiropractic’s paradigm of health and wellness. These are the people who are listening. These are the people who matter. If we make it easy for them to articulate what chiropractic means to them, we have a captive audience we haven’t even set eyes on.

It could be easy to think ‘if only chiropractic was a beige, mainstream profession that attracted no opposition.’ But then it would lack one powerful advantage: it wouldn’t be remarkable. To Godin, mainstream isn’t safe anymore.

“The riskiest thing you can do now is be safe. The whole model of being [like one of the mass market companies] is always about average products for average people. That’s risky. The safe thing to do now is to be at the fringes, be remarkable.

And being very good is one of the worst things you can possibly do. Very good is boring. Very good is average. It doesn’t matter whether you’re making a record album, or you’re an architect, or you have a tract on sociology. If it’s very good, it’s not going to work, because no one’s going to notice it.”

Our challenge is therefore simple: aim for remarkable, and make it easy for people to tell their friends. Our tribe is out there, and they have their own voice. All we need do is connect them with something worth saying.

Neurological Snapshot Of The Subluxation

Time and time again I have read articles in both the indexed literature and popular press that in one way or another address the subluxation. From Rome’s work on the nearly 300 synonyms for the subluxation to the various institutions that consider the subluxation to be only a historical concept and should be abandoned for clinical practice. Let me take a stab at the topic and see where we end up. I’ll try not to bore you with a litany of scientific references as you can easily find those in the Subluxation Summit that I participated in a few months ago (I & 2) but rather motivate a more visceral response in your thinking.  

 Many of us have discussed at one time or another the impact of traumas, thoughts, and toxins on neurological health and well-being. Maybe those weren’t the exact words used but I think you’ll get the gestalt. If we focus on “thoughts” for a moment, how do thoughts affect our nervous system. Well, for one, negative thoughts can elevate the rates of our heart and lungs, decrease our digestive secretions, and increase the tone in our flexor compartments. While on the other hand positive thoughts can relax our heart and lungs, increase our digestive secretions, and relax the hypertonic flexors. This has been shown in multiple studies across the indexed literature.  

With the above being said, let’s get back to the subluxation and for a moment let’s pontificate on the idea that we are being adversely stressed either by finances, work, or a less than optimal relationship. How does that affect our autonomic nervous system? Would our thoughts be considered negative or positive? I’m hoping that most of you would reason towards a heightened sympathetic nervous system and lean towards the notion of those thoughts being negative.

Now, to continue with the bigger picture and stay within the concept of a snapshot, elevated respirations would require increased muscular activity and energy expenditure. We would facilitate the sternocleidomastoids and scalenes to assist with respirations, thereby increasing tone, adversely causing change in position of the head and then the cervical spine upon the cervicothoracic junction, and then causing vestibular compensation as a result of the pelvo-ocular response with an anterior pelvis. So, help me out, have any of you reading this had a patient with forward head posture, fixated upper costals, and subluxations throughout the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spines? Pretty good bet that their respirations, heart rate, and digestive secretions were not where they optimally should be. But you let me know what is common to your practice. Anyone have patients with chronic fatigue, sleep apnea, irritable bowel, leaky gut, brain fog, peripheral neuropathy and NO subluxations????

Back to the snapshot idea, bones form joints, muscles move joints, and nerves control the tone of muscles, right? One approach would be – adverse stress shifts the focus to a more negative health outcome, with an increase in muscle tone that alters the normal angulation of the articulation, this we call subluxation. Subluxation can represent the downstream manifestation of negative or adverse stress. Subluxation is associated with abnormal joint function, muscle tone, and blood supply. The patient may complain of somatic discomfort or not. Whether they do have complaints or not should not be the driving factor behind wellness. A subluxation represents interference in the normal function of the nervous system. A properly trained chiropractor knows the importance of detecting and correcting subluxations wherever they may be. Now the challenge is two-fold, one – will the adjustment make the change the body needs, and two – what is the causation to the subluxation? If the adjustment does not hold to a reasonable measure established by the chiropractor then he / she is driven to find out why and seek additional means to establish the goal. What is the causation of the subluxation will be a greater challenge. Are your patients adversely stressed, sleep deprived, sedentary, sitting too much, malnourished, or spending too much time behind an electronic screen? This is where you make the call. Your patients, your practice – there are too many subluxations and not enough chiropractors!! Subluxations represent interference, chiropractors remove subluxations.

by Professor Michael Hall

The Impact Of Screen Time On Children

In many ways, today’s child is growing up in a vastly different world to that of their parents. The majority of us who spent our childhoods prior to the advent of technology grew up in a world that was rich in play, imagination, activity and nature. It was low on tech and high on all things sensory. If we dreamed of being a chef, we ‘baked mud pies.’ If we dreamed of being an explorer, our backyard was transformed into an untamed wilderness in the world of our imagination. If we dreamed of being a princess, we raided the dress up box and so began our adventures.  

Today’s child still has all of these idyllic play options at their fingertips, but there is one competing factor that’s raising concern across the developed world: screen time. From television, to computers and hand-held devices, the temptation is everywhere. It’s an easy babysitter, but its effects can be quite far reaching. 

Research is now showing direct links between screen time and obesity, with the South Australian Department of Health stating that “TV viewing may contribute to overweight and obesity through electronic media displacing other activities such as free play and structured physical activity, increased snacking or increased demand for energy dense foods which are heavily advertised [1].” It also pointed to a study of pre-schoolers aged 1 – 4 that showed a child’s risk of being overweight increased by 6% for every hour of television watched per day [1].

But the weight concern isn’t the only concern associated with screen time. Poorer sleep, social skills, and cognitive skills are also concerns along with the physiological impacts such as poor posture, injuries to the thumbs, wrists and elbows, and deteriorating eyesight [2]. “Research now indicates that for every hour of television children watch each day, their risk of developing attention-related problems later increases by ten percent. For example, if a child watches three hours of television each day, that child would be thirty percent more likely to develop attention deficit disorder [1].

So just how many kids watch more than 2 hours TV per day? Apparently it’s half of all 5-15 year olds and up to 92% of 12-17 year olds in Australia [2]. In one UK study, it was found that:

  • 37 percent of parents surveyed said that their child spent between one and two hours a day playing with tech gadgets
  • 28 percent said between two to three hours were spent on tech gadgets
  • 38 percent of 2 – 5 year olds owned an android tablet
  • 32 percent owned an iPad
  • Almost of a third of those kids also had a mobile phone
  • More than 35% of parents interviewed said they use tech gadgets to entertain their childen because they are convenient
  • 23 percent said they use tech gadgets to entertain their children because they want their children to be tech-savvy.

Additionally, “A 2015 survey of 1,000 British mothers of children aged 2 to 12 found that 85 percent of mums admit to using technology to keep the kids occupied while they get on with other activities. The AO.com survey pointed to children spending on average around 17 hours a week in front of a screen – almost double the 8.8 weekly hours spent playing outside [3].”

Psychologist Dr. Aric Sigman remarks that, “whether it’s Facebook, the internet or computer games, screen time is no longer merely a cultural issue about how children spend their leisure time, nor is it confined to concern over the educational value or inappropriate content – it’s a medical issue [3].”

Dr. Victoria Dunckley, an integrative child psychiatrist, wrote on the matter for Psychology Today and focused on what happens when the child becomes a teenThe article drew together concerning research on excessive screen time and specifically internet/gaming addiction in teen boys. In it, she gave a strong directive to parents:

“In short, excessive screen-time appears to impair brain structure and function. Much of the damage occurs in the brain’s frontal lobe, which undergoes massive changes from puberty until the mid-twenties. Frontal lobe development, in turn, largely determines success in every area of life – from sense of well-being to academic or career success to relationship skills. Use this research to strengthen your own parental position on screen management, and to convince others to do the same [4].”

She is referring to brain scan research findings in screen addiction [4]. Some of the findings include grey matter atrophy, compromised white matter integrity, reduced corticol thickness, impaired cognitive function, cravings and impaired dopamine function. This has the potential to impact everything from planning and organisation to impulse control and social functions. This may sound extreme, but other studies are showing just how anxious a teen can get when separated from their smart phone or electronic device [5].  

So what do we do about all of this? Go slow, say the experts. It takes time to change habits, and it’s important for parents to lead by example [6]. Among the strategies for reduced screen time are [6]:

  • Unplugged bedrooms, where TV’s computers or devices aren’t allowed.
  • Unplugged mealtimes, where families sit and talk to each other rather than binging on the nightly viewing.
  • Screen time schedules, which include no screen time in the hour before bed.
  • Encouraging other activities like reading, board games, puzzles, or outdoor activities.
  • Talking to older children about smart choices with regard to TV, media and the advertising on it.

It’s a problem we’d never have to tackle a generation ago, but technology is here and its here to stay. Avoiding screen time altogether might be a difficult or even impossible task given the myriad of tech-gadgets that intersect with us through-out the day, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t make some positive steps to protect the young brains in our care. It all starts with information.

Good luck!

 

Personality Styles And How To Communicate With Them

  1.  

Personalities: we all have them. They all vary. Some we click with, and some we don’t. As health practitioners, the art of communicating effectively with all of our practice members is essential. This can mean the difference between having an important health message hit home and potentially seeing a life changed for the better, or having the person misunderstand or disengage potentially at the cost of their health. 

Kim Morrison has studied the art of communicating with personality types and developed some keen insight into what makes each of us tick. It hails back to the work of Hippocrates some 2500 years ago, and is echoed in nearly every personality test that we see today. “We all come at it in different ways, but my way is a little more playful.” says Kim, who stresses this is about understanding and connection rather than boxing anyone in.  

You might have heard of Hippocrates Four Humours, or the Four Personality Types by Florence Littauer that grew out of that doctrine. To Kim, understanding these key personalities and being able to speak to the needs in each of them is a huge asset to any health or wellness practitioner, as it helps health messages hit home and helps people and practitioners connect.

“I personally believe that we were born with one dominant personality type. So 60% of who we are is made up of that. You only have to look at families with more than two children to learn that you can be raised in the same home and yet vary on discipline and what we have to have as part of the family unit. It’s always different.

The last 40% is based on upbringing, circumstances, behaviours, teachers, coaches or experiences we have had in life. What can happen through life is that we can grow and develop into a personality that’s actually not us – based on pleasing others. We all have this fundamental desire to please people. That’s human nature.”

It is this 40% that gets interesting, and can sometimes make it hard to see or connect with the person in right front of you.

“Sometimes our personalities become what we call masked. It’s not until we get older that we are having these dysfunctional relationships, unhappy times, feelings of not being ourselves or what some call the mid life crisis or mid life awakening. We have all these things that suddenly rattle us to the core, that cause us to really search within and find out who we are.”

Hippocrates originally theorised the four humours based on the presentations of his patients. Centuries on, we still see the pressure of masked personalities (or more likely the stressors that lead to that) wearing down on people’s health. Each personality type has certain tendencies and fundamental needs that, if understood, can help us connect better.

 

What are the key personality types? 

The Powerful Personality: 

Hippocrates called it the ‘black bile’ humour. Littauer called it ‘Choleric.’ Kim calls it the powerful personality. This is the born leader – dominant, decisive and driven to get things gone. This personality type is clearly seen in the Donald Trumps and Oprah Winfreys of the world. They are outgoing and happiest at the helm, often crossing over into bluntness or arrogance as they focus on the outcome they are after. If this person were to be involved in a stage play, they’d be the director.

The Playful Personality: 

Hippocrates called this the ‘blood’ humour. Littauer called it ‘Sanguine.’ Kim calls it the playful personality. This type of person is predisposed to socialise, connect and entertain. They chat, love a good story, and are excitable. They are possibly not the most reliable of the personalities as they are distractible and always looking for fun. If you’re looking for a sanguine personality, look to the life of the party. Think Jim Carrey, Chris Rock or Amy Poehler. If this person were to be involved in a stage play, they’d be the actor.

The Peaceful Personality:

Hippocrates gave this humour the oh-so-glamorous title of “phlegm.” Littauer called it ‘Phlegmatic.’ Kim calls it the peaceful personality. They are laid back and desire a peaceful environment above all. They hate conflict and often avoid decision-making. They tend to be quite loyal, and are good mediators as they are unexcitable and even-keeled. In the stage-play scenario, they’d be the audience.

The Precise Personality:

Hippocrates gave this the title “Yellow bile” humour. Littauer called it “melancholy”. Kim calls it the precise personality. This personality is the thinker. They love lists. They assess and evaluate. They like facts, maps and charts. They are intelligent, but they often fall into the paralysis of perfectionism. In the stage play scenario, they’d be the scriptwriter. Famous precise personalities include the likes of Van Gogh and Ernest Hemingway.

This is a very brief overview of a topic that touches every aspect of life. Time forbids us to go into every area, so let’s jump right in to how the health-practitioner benefits from understanding them.

 

How do you get through the masking? 

The ability to speak on a level your practice member understands, and to receive feedback in a way that isn’t personal, is essential to all of us. When it comes to the health context, it’s the difference between the health homework getting done or ending up ignored.

Ultimately people can be a combination of these personality types, with many people having a dominant and a subdominant type. The way to discover which one you are isn’t necessarily by looking at behaviour and tendencies, which can help but can also be masked, but by discovering your fundamental emotional needs.

“When you learn to talk into the needs, you stop taking things personally. As a chiropractor you would be seeing a lot of people all day every day. They all have different needs and desires. The beauty of this work is that suddenly you’ll be able to understand their physicality, or what you need to say in order for them to do their homework. When you know who is on your table, you’ll know what you need to do.

It is this personality masking that can make it so difficult to get through sometimes, and yet at the heart of each personality type is something that each one needs. When asked how you get through the masks, Kim answers,

“With a lot of questioning, with observing the language. It’s a lot of layers. That’s how you get through all the BS. I say to them, ‘When you are really, really stressed, when everything is overwhelming you and you can’t cope, what do you need?’ ”

The core needs of the four personality types look like this:

  • Attention, affection, acceptance and approval. Do they need to talk to people, to talk it out or cry it out? If this is what they need in tough times, you are dealing with a playfulpersonality. If you want to get them to do their health homework, you’ve got to make it fun.
  • Space, silence, sensitivity and support. They don’t want people to abandon them, but they need space to think about it. If this is what they need in high stress times, you are dealing with a precise personality. To get them to do their health homework, you need to give them a list. They’ll follow it to the letter.
  • Credit for their accomplishments, loyalty in the ranks and control no matter what. If these are the core needs, then you are dealing with a powerful personality. Talk to them about outcomes and the process needed to get there, and they’ll be on board. But be direct. They hear best when you are up front and honest.
  • Do they find that they need to be valued for who they are, not what they do? Do they need peace and quiet in order to process things? This person is a peaceful personalityThe best way to communicate with them is at their pace. Take it one thing at a time. Be their partner in health.

Extroverted

Choleric/PowerfulSanguine/Playful

Melancholic/PrecisePhlegmatic/Peaceful

Introverted

Over her time researching and studying these personality types, Kim has observed a trend: in stress and especially prolonged stress, the personalities tend to flip to their opposite. A precise may start presenting as blunt, bossy and defensive – which can be traits of the powerful under stress. But the precise person isn’t comfortable here. They are acting out of defence. A playful personality may disengage and become flat – which can be traits of the peaceful personality under stress. Once again, this isn’t their best self. It isn’t where they are comfortable and functioning optimally.

The key to getting through is to ask the questions and find the needs. Only then can you guide people in a way that they understand, and partner with them to find their best selves.

It’s a topic too big for one blog post, and it has the potential to increase understanding and restore balance to so many aspects of our lives and the lives of our people. For more information, check Kim’s work out at www.twenty8.com

 

BIO: Kim Morrison is a health and lifestyle educator, environmental health coach, author, aromatherapist and founder of Twenty8 Essentials chemical-free skincare and essential oils.  Kim developed her skills in aromatherapy alongside tactile therapies, homeobotanical therapy, fitness consulting and personal training. 

It is her mission to see people acknowledge their strength and beauty, take responsibility for their health and well-being, constantly challenge their potential and take good care of themselves. And although she gets told everywhere she goes that the two biggest reasons why people don’t take care of themselves is because of time and money she knows it is actually more about making yourself a priority.  

Justifying Your Guilty Pleasure: Chocolate Is Good For The Brain

So you pack your food with high quality fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds. You buy the meat that’s been fed the right kind of feed, and you stay away from highly processed foods or anything laden with food additives or sugars. But you’ve still got this one Achilles heel – you just can’t resist the pull of chocolate. 

Stress less, friend! You are not alone and, as a longitudinal study from Maine now reveals, it turns out your guilty pleasure is actually associated with better cognitive function [1]. In fact, chocolate has been associated with a range of health benefits for about as long as history books can recall.  

Chocolate’s cardiovascular benefits have been well-researched over time too, with certain studies showing improvements in insulin sensitivity, blood pressure and cerebral blood flow [2, 3]. However, the effects of chocolate on behaviour and neuro-cognition have been a little less famous until now.

That’s what this research may help to put right. The study, titled The Maine-Syracuse Longitudinal Study, was a cross-sectional analysis of nearly 1000 participants aged from 23 to 98 years old and drew on data collected over more than thirty years. It was a community-based study looking at cardiovascular risk and cognitive function in adults.

Here are some key findings [1]:

  • “Habitual chocolate intake was related to cognitive performance, measured with an extensive battery of neuropsychological tests.
  • “More frequent chocolate consumption was significantly associated with better performance on the Global Composite score, Visual-Spatial Memory and Organization, Working Memory, Scanning and Tracking, Abstract Reasoning, and the Mini-Mental State Examination.
  • “With the exception of Working Memory, these relations were not attenuated with statistical control for cardiovascular, lifestyle and dietary factors.

It might not surprise you that women consumed more chocolate than men. It also might not surprise you that those who ate chocolate on a weekly basis had higher total and LDL-cholesterol levels. This should effectively put the breaks on any chocolate binges you have planned as a result of this blog post, but still the cognitive benefits are noteworthy.

Positive effects include lower hypertension and Type 2 Diabetes in regular chocolate consumers. Additionally, from a dietary perspective, “those who ate chocolate also consumed more energy overall, and more daily serves of meat, vegetables and dairy foods, but significantly less alcohol.”

All cognitive scores were significantly higher in those who consumed chocolate at least once per week, than in those who never/rarely consumed chocolate.”

The key areas of cognitive benefit included significant positive associations with visual-spatial memory and organisation, working memory, scanning and tracking and abstract reasoning. The researchers went on to remark that:

“Chocolate intake was positively associated with cognitive performance, across a range of cognitive domains in this dementia-free, community-dwelling population. The associations between more frequent weekly chocolate consumption and cognitive performance remained significant after adjustment for a number of cardiovascular risk factors, including total and LDL-cholesterol, glucose levels, and hypertension. Associations were not attenuated with the addition of dietary variables (alcohol, meats, vegetables, and dairy foods), indicating that chocolate may be associated with cognition irrespective of other dietary habits.”

So it turns out that giving in to the pull of chocolate isn’t the worst thing you could do for your health. However, it is important to note that the study didn’t load people up with the high-sugar commercial chocolate bars we see at the supermarket. They were consuming drinks containing cocoa flavanols (plant-based phytonutrients). It is these nutrients that are thought to protect the brain against age-related cognitive decline [4].

Cocoa flavanols appear in much higher concentrates in dark chocolate. If you’re a milk chocolate or white chocolate lover, you might want to reconsider your preference in order to gain maximum benefit.

“According to a 2003 analysis by the USDA, a typical 100g bar of dark chocolate contains 53.49mg of cocoa flavanols, and milk chocolate contains an average of 13.35mg. In one of the studies from which this study gathered data, the participants who showed the most cognitive improvement consumed a drink containing 993mg of cocoa flavanols daily for 8 weeks [4].”

If you’re eating that much chocolate, your brain might be doing a whole lot better but your body probably won’t be that happy. But for now, maybe you can feel a little less guilty about the odd chocolate indulgence. Science says so. You’re welcome.

 

Communicating Chiropractic Through Research

On the day we first sent the Spinal Research blog live, we ran a piece on “Communicating Beyond Pain” with Brandi MacDonald. It was no accident this article ran first. Communication is integral to the success of chiropractic and it’s a challenge every chiropractor, chiropractic assistant and person in our practice plays a part in.  

We’ve got a long way to go before the world truly understands the power of the chiropractic adjustment, and fully grasps the concept that it isn’t an analgesic for pain but something far greater. It’s a task that we simply must tackle. 

“We’re really good at fixing pain or being an analgesic for pain, but what we haven’t told the patient is that we haven’t treated their pain at all,” said Brandi MacDonald in that first interview. “What we’ve done was restored normal physiology to the body by removing interference to the master computer that runs the human body – the brain and central nervous system. Because we did that, then their symptoms went away.“

As simple as that statement might be, it’s one that couldn’t be made with confidence without the tireless work of the chiropractic researchers who have backed the profession for decades now. You could argue that we are now in the information age, with social media and the internet making it more possible for consumers to interact with information.

This can be good. This can also be bad. That’s why chiropractic research paired with strong communication skills matter now more than ever. 

Dr Heidi Haavik has dedicated the last fifteen years of her life to a crucial cause: understanding the underlying mechanisms of chiropractic so that we can confidently say why and how it works.

“My vision is, if I can use my strengths effectively to communicate the science of chiropractic, and if I can teach people how to do that, it will become more of an option for the public,” said Heidi Haavik in a recent interview with Spinal Research. “This is why a major focus of my current work is educating people on how to interpret and communicate research. It’s about knowing what you can claim and what you can’t.”

One drive behind this focus is the issue of under-claiming and over-claiming, an issue that has had the potential to create a certain polarisation within the profession.

“In the past one of two things has happened. Either we’ve gone down the science end, conducted clinical trials without taking into account how chiropractic works; and these have often become under-claimers. Or we’ve gone down the philosophy end, without wanting to do research; and these have become over-claimers. These polar ends of the profession have fought bitterly. I am still hopeful that the basic science research will bridge this gap, because the basic science really can explain these different perspectives, if we invest in it enough.”

We know that research doesn’t come cheap. The billions of dollars that go in pharmaceutical research remains a far-off dream for the world of chiropractors, but Haavik is undeterred. In addition to the valuable support from the New Zealand College of Chiropractic, the Centre for Chiropractic Research runs on donations from the profession and “invaluable support from operational grants such as the Australian Spinal Research Foundation.”

In addition to the many hours spent in the nitty-gritty of research work, writing the findings up for publications and treading the stage at conferences and seminars the world over, Heidi has had another project burning away. ‘Haavik Research’ is a company specifically set up to generate yet more research opportunities. Haavik Research takes into account the groundbreaking studies and collaborations that the Centre for Chiropractic Research churns out, and focuses on translating this scientific information into a language the chiropractic community and the lay public will understand.

“Haavik Research focuses on the communication and dissemination of the research findings – from social media downloads, to simple videos showing how to interpret various work. The Haavik Research company’s mission is to ‘enlighten the world about the science of chiropractic’ and through this raise more dollars for research.”

They’ve achieved so much already, with Heidi Haavik frequenting the international speaking circuit and communicating to both sides of the political divide. But there is a world of work ahead, and it’s something that requires the support of those whose work this research backs up so vocally.

“I heard an example in the USA that blew my mind. If 20,000 chiropractors gave $20, can you imagine how much money we’d have? We calculated our average study costs and its about $200,000. We can get away with less if we design the study with the equipment, software and expertise that we already have.  We can’t always do this but we try. In some cases, we could get away with maybe $60,000 per study. But other studies, for example some of the ones in the States have budgets of up for $3 or 4 million. Can you imagine that? Can you imagine what we could do with that kind of money?”

Heidi Haavik believes in the power of the adjustment, and she recognises that our challenge lies in communicating this in a way the world understands, and in a way that is congruent with the current scientific understanding about how the body works.

It’s about presenting chiropractic in a way that breaks down the barriers that have surrounded the profession for so long. It’s an important cause, not just for chiropractors but also for the many, many people who may benefit from all that chiropractic has to offer.

Spinal Research has a long history of collaborating with Dr. Heidi Haavik to enable valuable research to take place. Studies that have been enabled by the Spinal Research-Heidi Haavik partnership include:

Tech Advances: The FitBit

Ten years ago, the pedometer was the peak fitness device inspiring people to get moving. It had one function: to measure how many steps you took. This gave people a good, hard look at how much they were or weren’t moving and the results were shocking for some.  

Now there’s a second wave in technology that is delivering these and more truths – the FitBit. It’s been hailed as one of the most sophisticated and well-rounded health tools on the market. From tracking your sleep cycles and waking you up gently to counting your steps and how many calories you’ve burned, the FitBit is an impressive little piece of machinery. Used in combination with the accompanying app, this little wizard you wear on your wrist can tell you a lot about your health.  

In fact, the FitBit is already making its way into clinical practice. The Wall Street Journal cites examples of specialists using the gadget to track the heart rates of patients they are treating [1]. David Cook, an anesthesiologist at the Mayo Clinic, used the FitBit to study cardiac patients post surgery. “The researchers found that patients who moved more the day after surgery were more likely to be discharged sooner. The findings prompted the hospital to dispatch physical therapists to study patients who weren’t moving as much, said Dr. Cook. He said doctors are “largely blind to what happens to patients when they are not directly under our care. We have no idea how much a 70-year-old moves [1].”

This is just one example of how the FitBit could fill in the knowledge gaps that occur after the person leaves the practice. Indeed, the possibilities introduced by the insight this gadget yields are endless, prompting some medical professionals to claim it could “transform medical care [1].” However, at this point in time only around 15% of doctors had been asked by a patient to incorporate their FitBit data into medical records.

 

FitBit Basics – what you need to know

For those who haven’t heard of the FitBit, here are the basics. The FitBit is a wearable health tracker that sits inside sleek watchbands so users can track their day’s activities. The FitBit is used in combination with smartphone apps where users can plug in extra information to help form a clear picture of their lifestyle. It takes in the following:

  • Information on sleep patterns, including when the person goes to sleep, wakes up, or experiences restlessness and wakefulness.
  • Active minutes, including the tracking of exercise and steps
  • Heart rate information, when at rest and during peak exercise
  • Basal Metabolic Rate
  • Calories burned
  • Caloric intake (when users plug in their dietary information)
  • Water intake
  • Food plans
  • Current Weight (when the user plugs this information into the app)

Many users find that the FitBit inspires them to get moving as they see their data. Furthermore, it can spur them to best themselves, or to compete against friends who also use the FitBit.

In today’s desk-dominated society, sedentary lifestyles are best combated using any method that works. If the FitBit just gets people focused on upping their active minutes, then it is doing a great thing.

We are yet to see how the FitBit may make its way into chiropractic practice, as the breadth of data available isn’t well tailored to our profession as yet, and many health professionals still have a certain level of reticence surrounding the use of patient-generated data [3]. Still, the possibilities for research and for motivating healthier lifestyles are indeed encouraging. It might not be able to tell you what may be going wrong in the person’s life, but it can certainly hint at where your line of questioning can start.

 

The Possible Downsides

There are many good things that can come from the use of the FitBit. Here’s the potential flipside of that coin – the FitBit runs on Wifi technology. Some concern exists around the long-term impact of electromagnetic fields and wireless technology on health when devices are worn on the body. So far, the research has been largely inconclusive. Canadian Author and Chiropractor Dr. Jennifer Harrison said [5]:

“In 1996, the WHO established the International Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) Project to look at scientific evidence of possible adverse health effects from electromagnetic fields. To date, the research that has been evaluated has been inconclusive, meaning that some research has shown apparent links between cell phone use and head and neck cancer while others have not. However, the research has prompted the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) to classify electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans.”

While this is not a prompt for panic, it’s surely a prompt for thought. Until the data shows us some conclusive evidence of the net effect of electromagnetic fields like Wifi, we are going to remain in the dark on this one.

Another commonly cited concern surrounding the use of patient-generated data is privacy. The concern around the emotive issue of data-privacy reached fever pitch in August when American Senator Chuck Schumer released a statement saying: ““Personal fitness bracelets and the data they collect on your health, sleep, and location, should be just that — personal. The fact that private health data — rich enough to identify the user’s gait – is being gathered by applications like FitBit and can then be sold to third-parties without the user’s consent is a true privacy nightmare [6].” Although FitBit’s Privacy Pledge says they will never sell user data, it then goes on to say in the Privacy Policy that, “De-identified data that does not identify you may be used to inform the health community about trends; for marketing and promotional use; or for sale to interested audiences [7].”

This is a contradiction indeed. This could be disconcerting to some users, and perfectly acceptable to others. Never the less, there is no opt-out available to concerned users.

 

Possible Fit-Bit Future Uses

So far, users of the Fit-Bit are vocal in their praise of the device, and there are those who claim it will transform healthcare. Already, some are praising its ability to motivate using good old-fashioned competition.

But where can it go in the future? There’s only so long users will find health numbers like calories and heart rate interesting. FitBit needs to keep innovating, especially with its app interface, if it is going to keep users engaged. There are a number of competitors on the market, just as the jawbone, the Apple watch, and the Leaf (which measures peak fertility for women tracking their cycles), that FitBit needs to stay ahead of in order to maintain their current market share.

Could this include prompting users to schedule their chiropractic appointments once certain milestones have been ticked off? Quite possibly. It all depends on how app developers work with the data the Fitbit makes available.

There are also distinct possibilities in the field of research, with applications pertaining to heart rate variability making up just one of the many potential fields.  For the first time, we may have the ability to look into the life of the person long after they have left the clinic. The ability to access health data en masse may provide researchers with a wealth of information previously unavailable to them.

Only time will tell what Fitbit will do, but we can’t wait to see.

Good News For Pessimists: It Could Be Good For Productivity

As science continues to back the connection between mind and body, it might be easy to think that if you tend towards pessimism it’s all bad news. Science is showing us that health and personality are linked, but there are certain ways in which a healthy dose of pessimism, can actually improve things.  

Sure, optimists may tend towards lower cholesterol, lower risk of stroke and stronger immunity, but the news isn’t all bad for those who don’t tend strongly towards the sunny side [1].

Back in the 1980’s when Gabriele Oettingen started researching optimism, she found something interesting. She took a group of women who were trying to lose weight and followed their progress and mindset as they set about their goals. What she found might not have been that predictable: the pessimists actually lost more weight than the optimists [2]. Later research would see the same filter applied to job offers, romantic relationships and even hip replacement surgery recovery.

It appears that if you are all optimism, this can be counterintuitive. A little pessimism can actually be advantageous in certain circumstances because it allows us to foresee what could go wrong, but then plan our way through those roadblocks.

This started Oettingen, now a professor of psychology at the Universities of Hamburg and New York, on a journey of ‘rethinking positive thinking.’ In fact, this later became the title of her book on the topic. “Rethinking Positive Thinking provides scientific research suggesting that starry-eyed dreaming isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. The book then examines and documents the power of a deceptively simple task: juxtaposing our dreams with the obstacles that prevent their attainment.”

The result is a straightforward system of thinking that combines the best aspects of both optimism and pessimism. It is summed up in one word.

 

WOOP! 

Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, Plan [3]. If you wanted to hunt it down in the scientific literature, it goes by another name: Mental Contrasting with Implementation Intentions or MCII.  It comes from 20 years’ research and has been “proven to be effective across ages and life domains [4].” According to the research done on the WOOP/MCII process, it strengthened mental associations, lead to better energy and better performance.

Other research hints that pessimists may live longer due to lower risk taking, and they may have more durable relationships [1]. There are also hints that pessimists may be better gamblers, but you know, take that one with a grain of salt.

 

New Research Links Curcumin And Cognition

Story at-a-glance

  1. Australian research establishes the neuroprotective factors in curcumin (a compound found in tumeric).
  2. This compound may inhibit a type of degenerative brain plaque (found in Alzheimer’s sufferers).
  3. It also appears to protect against oxidative stress, reduce inflammation and improve the function of neurotransmitter systems.

From a chiropractic paradigm, life should be lived fully, throughout every part of our lives. A number of signs and symptoms of aging are associated with extended life. For those who live in the sickness-care paradigm, the focus remains on minimising the negative effects of aging. For those of us who live and breathe wellness care, it all comes down to how we enable successful aging. What is successful aging? It’s when we greet our older years with social, physical and mental wellbeing intact. 

There are many blights that can befall the elderly, as we all well know. Among the neurological symptoms are things such as Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease. A recent study is likely to be the first looking at curcumin, cognition and mood in a healthy older population. The results are in, and it looks like the power of the curry doesn’t lie just in its flavour.

The study, titled “The effects of solid lipid curcumin on cognition and mood in a healthy older population” was published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology in May 2015, and emerged from Australia’s own Swinburne University [1].

The study was doubled blinded, randomised and placebo controlled, taking 60 healthy adults aged 60-85. It looked at the effects across three time spans: 1-3 hours after a single dose, after 4 weeks of treatment, and 1-3 hours after a single dose following 4 weeks of treatment. The dosage was 400 mg of Longvida ® solid lipid formulation*.

The results are exciting. “One hour after administration, curcumin significantly improved performance on sustained attention and working memory tasks, compared with placebo. Working memory and mood (general fatigue and change in state calmness, contentedness and fatigue induced by psychological stress) were significantly better following chronic treatment [1].” Additionally, when participants were assessed 1-3 hours after a single dose following four weeks of treatment, significant effects on alertness and contentedness were observed.

There was good news for cholesterol as well. “Curcumin was associated with significantly reduced total and LDL cholesterol and had no effect on haematological safety measures.”

Professor Andrew Scholey, director of human psychopharmacology at Swinburne University and a leader in the world of neurocognitive research on the effects of lateral product supplements and food components, was one of the study’s three authors [2]. In a recent interview with The Wellness Guys, he expressed his enthusiasm for the area of study, and gave some background to the work.

“There are a number of things that have lead to this. The pharmaceutical approach to brain function and particularly to cognitive enhancement and preventing cognitive decline with aging has really not worked. It’s very hard to think of a drug that you would take to try and prevent cognitive decline particularly during normal aging. This has lead to a search for natural products that may improve cognitive function. It turns out that many treatments that have been used traditionally, or even ones that have been discovered recently, seem to have these complementary properties which means they can improve brain function and cognitive function that is linked in with that,” said Professor Scholey in an interview with the Wellness Guys (episode TWG 224 if you missed it).

So what is curcumin? It is a compound found in turmeric, making up about 2-3% of the spice.

“Curcumin is one of several types of botanicals we looked at. It is a polyphenol and its found in turmeric, which is a spice that’s used in curries. It’s the spice that tends to give curries their bright yellow colour. There has been quite a lot of evidence that people who eat more curry, and this might be counterintuitive, but people who eat more have a number of health benefits. One of these seems to be that they are a little bit less likely to get dementia. A word of caution of course: we aren’t talking about binary effects here “eat more curry and you wont get dementia,” but there is certainly a pattern that suggests that those people who eat more curry are a little bit protected against cognitive decline and dementia.”

Professor Scholey offered a second caution that there could be other factors that affect outcomes. Still, the results were encouraging. Scholey noted that the level of curcumin that was effective was about 80mg, which you could get from half a tablespoon of powered turmeric, but flagged that bioavailability was an issue if turmeric was consumed alone. There are extracts available that claim much higher bioavailability.

The following were among the study’s findings [3]:

  • Curcumin may inhibit amyloid pathology (a type of degenerative brain plaque found in Alzheimer’s sufferer’s).
  • It may protect against oxidative stress
  • It may reduce inflammation and improve the function of neurotransmitter systems
  • And it is neuroprotective.

Professor Scholey praised curcumin’s ability to assist with working memory, speed of processing and fatigue, and noted that curcumin may assist with the low level inflammation that often goes with aging.

This study adds to a body of knowledge that covers the impact that specific foods and supplements can have on our cognitive and general wellbeing. It’s certainly encouraging to hear leading researchers highlight that what we find in our food can indeed act as powerful supports to health, wellbeing and aging.

*The authors disclosed that Longvida sponsored this research. They are independent researchers, but funding often does come from industry.

New Scientific Discovery: The Brain Does Have Immune Cells

Story at-a-glance

  1. Contrary to prior thinking, research now shows that there are immune cells present in the brain under normal circumstances.
  2. This presents a major shift in theory and reinforces the link between brain and body.
  3. It may lead to further research on neurological dysfunction and how it relates to the immune system and the body overall

For a long time, the medical and scientific textbooks stated plainly that the brain was the only major organ that lacked direct connection to the lymphatic system. However, that’s not what Antoine Louveau saw when he looked through his microscope. After imaging and dissecting the meninges, he found something that was so well hidden that it had managed to elude researchers for decades [1]. There is a lymphatic vessel in the brain. 

It is possible that this somewhat mysterious vessel managed to stay hidden for so long because it was tucked behind a major blood vessel [1]. Louveau’s study was primarily undertaken on mice, so the next step for the neuroscientist is to further investigate this in human brains, but the discovery still has the science world reeling.  

Imagine, the brain and the immune system are connected. That supercomputer that is the brain really is connected to everything.

“If you go into the literature, 20 years ago, the idea was that if you see immune cells in the brain, something must be going wrong,” said Jonathan Kipnis, of the University of Virginia School of Medicine where the study was undertaken [2]. “Now we know that we see immune cells in healthy brains. . . . It’s part of normal physiology; it should be there. Immune activity in the brain is not always pathological.”

Kipnis also commented that:

“These structures are bona fide vessels—they express all the same markers as lymphatic vessels in every other tissue, and they drain the CSF, the cerebrospinal fluid, from the brain and the spinal cord into the deep cervical lymph nodes. So there’s a direct connection between the CSF and the draining lymph nodes [2].”

Kevin Lee, chairperson of the neuroscience division at the University of Virginia had this to say on the discovery [3]:

“They’ll have to rewrite the textbooks. There has never been a lymphatic system for the central nervous system, and it was very clear from that first singular observation — and they’ve done many studies since then to bolster the finding — that it will fundamentally change the way people look at the central nervous system’s relationship with the immune system.”

 

What does this mean in layperson terms?

“This is life changing because all the textbooks say that those structures that we discovered are supposed to be absent of [sic] the Central Nervous System. We actually found that they are there,” said Antoine Louveau [4].

“We think that this discovery is highly significant because… the brain is a privileged organ. Usually when you have an immune response in the brain it’s considered to be a bad thing. What we know from several years now, is that there are immune cells in your brain under normal conditions and this is actually good for your brain. The big question we still had was how those cells get in and get out of that system. The system we discovered is actually the way those cells get out of the brain and do what they are supposed to do.”

In this early stage, the discovery certainly leads to more questions than answers. It does now show us that supporting the immune system matters, not just for the body but also for the brain.

The Role Of Technology In Chiropractic Care

Story at-a-glance

  1. David Fletcher discusses the use of technology in chiropractic care, and its role in bringing certainty and objectivity to detection of vertebral subluxations
  2. Much of the currently available technology doesn’t just measure the spine itself – it also plays a role in demonstrating that the nervous system is involved further afield.
  3. Fletcher illustrates how we can use technology to communicate structure, function and the role of stress in the world we live in..

Following Parker Gold Coast, Spinal Research sat down with a number of our keynote speakers to discuss research, subluxations, and paradigms in practice. David Fletcher was one of those keynotes. Dr. Fletcher’s company, the Chiropractic Leadership Alliance, reflects his passion to bring certainty and objectivity to the assessment and correction of the subluxation. 

While he is a regular on the speaking circuit, Fletcher has chosen not to leave practice. He describes it as his “’living laboratory’ where innovative healing programs can be created while the development of best practice procedures can be ‘true tested.’ “ 

To Dr. Fletcher, use of technology in chiropractic in 2016 can help bring about the objectives of chiropractic.

“I would say that for the common path of anybody in subluxation and clinical practice, it all depends on certainty. When we decide how we want to evaluate the subluxation, where it moves it from being this regional structural event, which might be (in the patient’s mind) pain-based, technology allows them to see what’s going on in a deeper, more environmental way. [Technology allows them to see how] the entire globalist aspect of the person’s health could be impacted through this neurological system. Technology takes it from being a regional, localized subluxation of the spine and builds it into a change in the person’s health. … I always try and push the point that the intent of a chiropractic experience is to change lives, not spines.”

When we get them into the neurological array and we put them into this idea, for the patient and for the doctor, that you are changing at a level that is profound, then the technology that you use should be designed to not limit itself and be valid for pain-based care, but also to show the impact of it going deeper and further into the neurological processing.”

Much of the currently available technology doesn’t just measure the spine itself; as well as focusing on some parameters around the spine, technology plays a role in demonstrating that the spine is involved further afield. To Dr. Fletcher, this comes back to structure, function and the body’s response to the stressors of the world we live in.

“We live in a gravitationally dominant experience, and so the spine is the perfect system to look and see how the motor system and the structural systems are coping with the stressors of gravity. You have to recognize the interplay between structure and function. We can’t just live as cells, we have to live in a gravitational world of cells, and so we have to have balance and reorganizing structure for the capacity of the neurology to be expressed. I always describe it as this glove in hand relationship. You have to have a perfect fit between structure and function and in this case, the neural function and the neural structural function of the spine.

Since the inception of chiropractic, there have been a number of forward leaps in terms of chiropractic technology and research. No longer are we talking about a bone out of place pressing on a nerve. We are talking about a broader definition of the word “subluxation,” and it impacts the structure and function of the brain, and the way the body is able to express health.  Just as research and understanding has moved forward, so too has the technology that aids our certainty and objectivity as practitioners.

“I think a game changer, when it came to technological interface with the subluxation, was the heart rate variability. Heart rate variability has been around for a long time in interprofessional discussions. All of a sudden we get a chance to look at the adaptive response, which may be blunted because of the accumulative stress that has been going on. But for the first time we get a chance to look at this balance between the sympathetic and the parasympathetic.

I think that an enduring message that I would like everyone who’s listening (or reading) to understand is the simple message that a fully charged and well-balanced nervous system is optimal. I know that sounds rather simplistic, but when you use heart rate variability, you have the capacity to look at that.

When we do non-provocative resting heart rate variability, that person is at rest and they think that they are at rest. We can watch and see that those stress hormones of cortisol and adrenaline are pushing to the sympathetic side. We also can watch and see that if that progresses, if that doesn’t revert, then there is this blunted vagal response, which means that no longer can that person put the brakes on, and this stress response thing becomes a runaway train. When somebody is so sympathetic and they have that loss of balance and they’re in a very compromised capacity within their ability to even have neural function, they’re not far from death. They’re one shovelful away from having a heart attack.

David Fletcher is clearly painting a picture of technology as a great aid to communication, saying, “Subluxations are a very real indicator of the person’s future. In other words if they don’t get this neural function cleaned up, they’re going to lead a much less dramatic life. Not just a happy life, but perhaps even a shorter life.”

Time will show us how technology advances into the future. The entire drive of the chiropractic profession was well summed up when he said that the intent of the chiropractic profession is to change lives, not spines. Fletcher’s work shows us that one way to aid certainty, and to add clout to our communication of just how important chiropractic is, comes in the form of the right technology used in practice in the right way..