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What Survivors of Major Illness can Teach us

Blog post written by Dr Jerry Thompson, author of newly released Curing the Incurable: Beyond the Limits of Medicine.

Could we have underestimated our ability to heal ourselves from even the most serious of diseases? Could our innate powers of recovery be far greater than we realise?

This book examines healing from an unusual angle: it looks at those remarkable people who have recovered against the odds? I believe they have something absolutely crucial to tell us. Whether we have a serious illness or we just want to keep illness at bay they have information that can make a profound difference.

But how did they succeed? What did they do after their doctors told them they had an incurable disease?

I have been fascinated by these people that I call “survivors” for years. This book explores their stories and what they did. Recovering from a life-threatening illness is no small feat and you can be sure they did not get better by chance. They achieved it by following certain fundamental principles of health. And it is these fundamental principles of health that this book explores.

They used four main strategies, typically in combination. The book covers each one.

Few will be surprised that one of those principles, eating healing foods and avoiding harmful ones, was a popular and successful strategy amongst survivors. Combining information from case studies, research on the effects of food extracts on cancer cells and population studies this section gives us a useful guide on using food to heal.

Many know that our minds can powerfully impact on health but can mind power cure a life-threatening illness? In fact it can and there are many examples using many methods. We can use our mind to up-regulate our immunity, to go into healing mode or to create health. The case histories in this section are some of the most extraordinary in the book. The methods may surprise you and many are simple to use.

Mainstream medicine largely ignores toxicity but survivors cannot afford this luxury. How many carcinogens and neurotoxins do we meet in an average day and where do they come from? Which are the most dangerous? How can we reduce our and how can we excrete our accumulated chemical load. All this is covered in the book.

Changes in our energy field precede disease. They also precede healing. So understanding energy makes sense.

Again the stories could surprise: cancers the power of groups to bring about extraordinary healing, how lethal cancer can be cured from thousands of miles away, cancers disintegrating in minutes, and energetic blocks to healing that could prevent a good treatment working.

What emerges from these many remarkable accounts of recovery from major disease are basic and powerful principles of health and healing. Using them can make the difference between health and disease and many of are surprisingly easy to put into practice.

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The Health Benefits of Going Alcohol Free for Dry January

To coincide with the public health campaign ‘Dry January’, which urges people to abstain from alcohol for 31 days, we bring you three brief extracts from Hammersmith Health Books which touch upon just a few of the reasons for avoiding alcohol:

Drug and alcohol misuse

Drug and alcohol abuse can cause great distress, leading to social isolation, low self-esteem, loss of work or school, and estrangement from family and friends – all events that can build a core of stresses that may lead to suicidal thoughts and contemplation. Substance abuse also can increase impulsiveness and decrease inhibitions, making the teenager more likely to act on suicidal thoughts.

Overcoming Self-Harm and Suicidal Thoughts: A practical guide for the adolescent years
By Liz Quish

Alcohol always leaves an acidic residue in the body and aggravates many conditions. It has no place in the health seeker’s diet. Alcohol has been proven over time to be a potent destroyer of bone structure. Alcoholics have a four-times greater incidence of osteoporosis than the normal population. In addition to rotting the bones, it causes considerable damage to liver and brain cells.

Make no mistake: alcohol is a drug, and a rather dangerous one at that. In addition to destroying liver and brain cells via its breakdown pathway which produces acetaldehyde (chemically similar to formaldehyde), it has been demonstrated to be exceptionally damaging to bone health. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), alcohol interferes with calcium and bone metabolism in several ways. Acute alcohol consumption can lead to a transient parathyroid hormone deficiency and increased urinary calcium excretion, resulting in a loss of calcium from the body.

Love Your Bones: The essential guide to ending osteoporosis and building a healthy skeleton
By Max Tuck

Hazards to Human Health – Alcohol

‘Alcohol’, or rather ethyl alcohol (ethanol), refers to the intoxicating ingredient found in wine, beer and spirits. Alcohol arises naturally from carbohydrates when certain micro-organisms metabolise them in the absence of oxygen, in the process called fermentation.

Recent studies show that moderate use of alcohol, especially red wine due to its reservatrol content, may have a beneficial effect on the coronary artery system. In general, for healthy people, one drink per day for women, and two drinks per day for men, would be the maximum amount of alcohol consumption to be considered moderate. This is pretty impossible to implement, because most people drink for the relaxing effect, which generally takes more than one or two glasses to work.

Nature Cures: The A-Z of ailments and natural foods
By Nat H Hawes

 

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Back Pain: Myths and Misconceptions

Chapter 4

Myths and Misconceptions

Back pain, as the statistics demonstrate, is extremely common. In the same way that everybody has a view and advice to give on the best way to cope with and eliminate the symptoms of a head cold, personal experiences of back pain also bring forth theories and guidance without necessarily the professional knowledge to support it. From this inevitably grow myths and misconceptions which, although given with good intention, give rise to a great deal of conflicting information and confusion.
There is also much evidence to suggest that the way in which we overwork our spines and the connecting muscles can do us a great deal of harm. Add this to the many misunderstandings about back care and we not only inhibit our ability to recover speedily from injury, but can also subject ourselves to unnecessary weakening of our back muscles. How to assess the risk involved in a manual task and carry it out safely is more fully discussed in Chapter 8; here I will tackle the most common misunderstandings about what is good and bad for backs.

‘Put your back into it’

Seldom do the sayings and proverbs of past generations convey anything but good sound advice but one such phrase, ‘Put your back into it’, can certainly be misinterpreted. This saying might suggest that increasing physical effort by using enormous force to push, pull or lift something, will help the desired task to be better achieved. It is more likely, however, to have the opposite effect and even give you an injury. Its inference, that the spine is always the strongest part of the body, sometimes leads us to undertake physical effort far beyond our safe capability.

The following commonly believed myths and misconceptions lead many of us to take the wrong sort of action. This is usually at a time when we most need to follow the best possible advice.

‘You should sleep on a hard mattress’

How often have we been enticed to purchase an extra firm ‘orthopaedic’ mattress, believing it to be good for our backs? A mattress that is too hard and does not yield slightly to the contours of our spine can put considerable strain on that small area in the lower lumber region which is left with no base on which to rest. The back muscles, when they should be completely relaxed, are therefore given the work of supporting the weight of the lower organs of the body throughout the night. This can result in stiffness and pain in the mornings. A slightly gentler mattress, therefore, will not only provide consistent support along the length of the natural curvature of the spine, but will aid more restful sleep.

It is important when buying a mattress to take plenty of time to try it out for comfort before making your choice. Lie on the bed. All good stores provide shoe protection on their display beds. Mattresses should be neither too hard nor too soft. Slide a hand under the small of your back and feel if there is a gap. Lie on your side or in the position which you normally find most comfortable at night to establish whether the whole line of your body is straight and will be adequately supported during the hours of rest and sleep. A mattress which sags is equally bad for you. Spending many hours curved like the shape of a slice of melon will mean that you will not only start the next day with a stiff, aching back but with lethargy as well from insufficient quality sleep.
It is a very good idea to try a range of beds from different manufacturers before making your choice. A bed should be one of our most important purchases, especially as we spend almost one third of our lives in bed, so don’t be afraid to be fussy. You will be spending many hours of every day either appreciating or regretting your eventual choice.

‘I hurt my back because I got tired’

One fact which often causes surprise is the time of day when you are most likely to strain your back. It is not always in the late evening when you are tired, but more likely to be in the early morning before the muscles have had time to warm up. The pain, however, may not be felt until later in the day or even when you eventually sit down to rest. Unfortunately, before embarking on household tasks or ‘DIY’ jobs, we seldom consider that we should ‘warm up’ our muscles like a sportsman. It may seem a little extreme to be stretching and carrying out a few exercises before hanging wallpaper or digging the garden, but it can be the difference between a successful day and one which results in misery.

‘I’ve put my back out’

Another misconception is that a sudden, severe onset of back pain is always as the result of a ‘slipped disc’. Intervertebral discs do not just carelessly slip out of position and in fact less than 5% of all back pain suffered is the result of a disc becoming displaced or squeezed between the bones of the spine. The vast majority of back pain is caused by the distressing spasm resulting from over-stretched muscles.

However, if the symptoms appear more serious than just muscle spasm with generalised aching, and involve leg pain, severe immobility or numbness/pins and needles down the legs, then the possibility of a prolapsed disc should be considered. This should be examined by a medical practitioner as the situation requires accurate diagnosis before embarking on any programme of rehabilitation. Very occasionally, as the result of severe trauma such as a fall or sporting injury, a fracture dislocation is possible, but this is a matter requiring urgent medical attention.

‘I need to lie on the floor for six weeks’

At one time, when back pain struck, it was common practice to lie on the floor for perhaps up to six weeks, or to go to bed and stay there until the pain subsided. Although initially rest and analgesics (pain-killers) for a day or two will help to relax the injured muscles and relieve spasm, prolonged bed rest has now been proven to worsen the pain and delay recovery. Walking and gentle exercise should be resumed as soon as they can be tolerated. If the spasm is so bad that walking is too painful, frequent stretching and rotation of your ankles will help to stimulate the circulation to your legs and lower part of your body.
‘I’m too young to get back ache’

A popular misconception held by young and fit individuals is that they cannot harm their backs because they are supple and their muscles well-developed. Although youth and fitness are of enormous benefit, nobody can be said to be exempt from a back injury. A single movement repetitively carried out, such as stooping to polish a car, or maintaining an awkward position, for example, sitting slumped in a chair, can bring about the first signs of weakness.

Contrary to common belief, back pain is not infrequent in 30-50 year olds. This is often a time when poor posture and inappropriate lifting techniques which have persisted during the earlier years eventually reveal a physical weakness in the back muscles. Good practice learned in childhood is the best protection against harm. In later years, although natural degenerative processes are responsible for a slight shortening of the spine, reduced muscle tone and decreased bone strength and thickness, elderly people are less likely to over-estimate their ability to move or lift a heavy item. Young men in particular are often reluctant to ask for assistance with a heavy load, perhaps fearing that to do so may appear weak in the presence of their peers.

‘I hurt my back once, so I know it is weak’

Back problems developed in youth or middle age do not have to be an indication that it is the start of a slippery downhill slide into a world of disability, walking sticks or wheelchairs. Strengthening exercises, improved posture and more accurately assessing the tasks to be carried out, will help to prevent recurrence.

‘If I ignore it, it will go away’

Back pain is not something in your imagination or which can easily be ‘worked off’ by persevering with a strenuous physical task. All pain is real and a symptom that something is wrong. By ignoring the pain and continuing with the activity in the hope that eventually it will go away, will more likely exacerbate the problem and delay healing of the strained tissues.

‘An operation is the only answer’

Unfortunately there is no ‘quick fix’ for back pain. Surgery to the back does not guarantee to cure all types of back pain in the long term. Statistics show that up to 30% of patients may suffer in some way from the effects of the surgery or may not even gain adequate relief from their original backache. Your orthopaedic surgeon will discuss both the need and implications of any kind of invasive procedure to make sure that you fully understand the anticipated outcome of such surgery. He will also want to be sure that all other more conservative treatments have been thoroughly explored first.

‘You can see that I am in pain’

There are very few signs, if any, to the casual observer that someone is suffering from constant, nagging back pain. Recovering from back pain can take anything from a few days to several weeks. This sometimes means that sympathy and patience can wear a little thin, even drawing accusations of laziness or being ‘workshy’. Back pain is not, however, a problem that you have to live with. There are many solutions, appropriate to individual circumstances, including both orthodox medical treatments and alternative therapies, which can be very helpful.

Positive conclusion

Back pain that is not actively challenged is unlikely to be a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ event. It is important to keep that in mind – it is not a myth! However, when life is back to normal and full mobility restored, the whole event and its accompanying misery may be quickly forgotten. Do not drop your guard – it is a recognised fact that following one episode of back pain, you are three to four times more likely to suffer its wrath again. Therefore, as soon as full mobility has been restored is the time to make the conscious decision to improve your everyday posture and lifting techniques. This makes muscle-strengthening exercises (see chapter 12) all the more important to prevent that recurrence. First, however, we will look at the causes of back pain.

This blog is taken from ‘The Smart Guide to Back Care’ by Janet Wakley.

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How food influences your mood

How Food Influences Your Mood

Learning to feel differently about food includes recognising the link between nutrition and mental wellbeing. There is no point in achieving a slimmer body if the price is depression and increased anxiety. Scientific researchers suggest people should be cautious in how they reduce their calorie intake while attempting to slim down as research findings show that sudden changes in nutrition, or reducing certain nutrients in a diet, can result in a worsening of depressive symptoms. (Sathyanarayana et al, 2008)

A study in the British Journal of Psychiatry (Akbaraly et al, 2009) also found evidence that eating a wide range of real foods versus processed foods of poor nutritional quality increased the likelihood of depression.

When people abruptly stop eating large amounts of processed foods containing unhealthy fats, and loaded with sugar, they can often experience withdrawal symptoms similar to those of going “cold turkey” from drugs. The withdrawal symptoms can last for several days and for some people the symptoms of headache, muscle pain and feeling below par can be powerful enough for them to return to their old eating habits just to make them feel “normal” again. Stick with the process, though, as the rewards will far outweigh any temporary discomfort.

Other nutritional deficiencies have a part to play in feeling low or even depressed. These include deficiencies in zinc, omega-3 fats, B vitamins, B6 and B12 especially, and vitamin D.

Missing meals can cause a dip in blood sugar levels, resulting in the release of adrenaline which increases feelings of anxiety and can even be a trigger for raised levels of anxiety generally.

Disordered eating often involves binge eating. This causes physical discomfort but can also often be a trigger for feelings of despair and shame. If overeating happens late at night, the inevitable bloating can interfere with the ability to sleep, again lowering mood.

Following a restrictive diet where carbohydrates are eliminated has an impact on serotonin levels in the brain that can lead to feelings of depression. We encourage eating a balance of complex, unrefined starchy carbohydrates such as vegetables and protein and healthy fats to maintain a positive mood, and promote satiety.

Making changes towards healthier food choices is obviously beneficial on many different levels. The changeover can happen during a radical period when mass changes are made, or one meal at a time, gradually reducing the amount of processed sugars and high fat foods that are eaten. How this is tackled is down to personal choice, and what best suits each individual.

In essence, a healthy diet will not cause ecstatic happiness but a poor diet could be a contributing factor to feeling low, so it’s important for mental wellbeing to eat a wide variety of real foods.

This blog is taken from How to Feel Differently About Food by Sally Baker and Liz Hogon. You can read the first chapter here!

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Sleeping for Health

We love bed times. Nothing beats a good night’s sleep, but it isn’t always so easy to get one so we’ve put together some of our favourite sleep facts and tips from three of our health books. If you’re catching more AAAAAH!s than ZZZZZZs we hope this blog can help you find the sleep of your dreams.

 

Prepare to snooze or prepare to lose

Ensure that you don’t eat within three hours of bedtime – easy to say, possibly harder to do. I know many people who snack in front of the TV in the evenings. Watching TV late in the evening can interfere with your sleep patterns, and we need that surge of human growth hormone that occurs shortly after we fall into deep sleep. Reading, or meditation, to calm the mind prior to going to bed allows the body to go into sleep mode more naturally. Eating too close to bedtime also causes a surge in cortisol, the stress hormone that we know is bad for bones, so don’t fall into this trap. If you have trouble sleeping, try a camomile or valerian tea before bed. These herbs are non-addictive and have no adverse side effects.

Love Your Bones: the essential guide to ending osteoporosis and building a healthy skeleton by Max Tuck

 

Food, water…sleep?

Humans evolved to sleep when it is dark and wake when it is light. Sleep is a form of hibernation when the body shuts down in order to repair damage done through use, to conserve energy and to hide from predators. The normal sleep pattern that evolved in hot climates is to sleep, keep warm and conserve energy during the cold nights and then to sleep again in the afternoons when it is too hot to work and to hide away from the midday sun. As humans migrated away from the Equator, the sleep pattern had to change with the seasons and as the lengths of the days changed.

After the First World War a strain of Spanish ‘flu swept through Europe killing 50 million people worldwide. Some people sustained neurological damage and for some this virus wiped out their sleep centre in the brain. This meant they were unable to sleep at all. All these unfortunate people were dead within two weeks and this was the first solid scientific evidence that sleep was as essential for life as food and water. Indeed, all living creatures require a regular ‘sleep’ (or period of quiescence) during which time healing and repair take place. You must put as much work into your sleep as your diet. Without a good night’s sleep on a regular basis all other interventions are undermined.

Prevent and Cure Diabetes: Delicious diets, not dangerous drugs by Sarah Myhill and Craig Robinson

 

Sleep and mental health

When sleep requirements are not being met on an ongoing basis, teenagers will present with fatigue, low energy, exhaustion, and a lack of motivation. It is generally recommended that teenagers get eight to 10 hours’ quality sleep a night. This is vital for the body to relax, repair and refuel. Lack of sleep has a domino effect and impedes mental and physical wellbeing, inviting the onset of self-defeatist syndrome. As I have said already, parents are advised to take their child to a GP to rule out any organic causes of fatigue. In instances where no organic cause is established it is highly likely that the Gremlin has moved in. The Gremlin loves and thrives on the darkness. It becomes alert and active, coming out to play its evil games at night when we are programmed to relax, unwind and fall into a peaceful slumber. The Gremlin is very powerful and demanding, wanting to keep us awake, bolstering and encouraging negative thinking, which leads to rumination, tossing and turning and feeling like our head is going to explode! Thoughts are negative, racing and exhausting. It is vital that teenagers who have been taken hostage by the Gremlin receive appropriate support and professional intervention so they may be facilitated in developing the tools and techniques needed to evict the Gremlin.

Overcoming Self-Harm and Suicidal Thoughts: a practical guide for the adolescent years by Liz Quish

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Longer GP visits will save the NHS money

Both the British Medical Association and Glasgow researchers have reinforced the Society of Medical NLP’s claims that longer sessions for patients visiting a GP will save the NHS money.

In Magic in Practice (London:Hammersmith), the authors, Garner Thomson and Khalid Khan, point out that patients who were allowed to express their “uninterrupted story” to a doctor who was trained to address the context of the complaint as well as the content would dramatically reduce the number of visits required to resolve the issue.

Four GP practices in Glasgow offered  patients with complex chronic conditions (of the kind specifically addressed by Medical NLP) consultations lasting 30 minutes or more. Not only was the condition diagnosed, but personal problems were dealt with and care plan devised and suitable goals negotiated with the patient – similar to the “Ko Mei” format of Medical NLP.

The result was a measurable drop in “negative wellbeing” and a significant increase in quality of life.

The results are published here in the journal BMC Medicine.

The BMA has also called for the rigid 10-minute timetables to be replaced with a more a flexible system enabling doctors to spend more time with patients with more complex needs.

To learn more about Medical NLP read Magic In Practice: Introducing Medical NLP by Garner Thomson with Dr Khalid Khan, and let us know what you think about saving the NHS @HHealthBooks on twitter.