Category: Practical Tips

Practical Tips for Alternative Medicine: Tai Chi

Tai chi is an exercise based in mindfulness with roots in martial arts that originated in China around the 12th century. This practice illuminates the need for a natural balance between the two opposites, yin and yang. In tai chi, movements are oftentimes slow and there is a heavy focus on breathing: the sometimes laborious, but more often expansive, maintenance of that natural balance. 

It is best to learn tai chi from an instructor, as tai chi is an exacting practice with distinct postures and movements. There are five styles of tai chi, each with their own pacing and distinctive rhythms.

  • Wu style tai chi is very slow and utilizes small, micro-movements to engage the muscles.
  • Chen style tai chi combines fast and slow movements. The complexity of this style might be difficult for people just beginning tai chi. 
  • Sun style tai chi has many overlaps with chen style tai chi. Sun style tai chi might be easier on the body as it is a less rigorous practice.
  • Yang style tai chi emphasizes slow movements and relaxation. This style of tai chi is great for beginners.
  • Hao style tai chi does not usually garner mainstream attention. The focus of this style is positioning and internal strength. 

People with chronic illness and pain conditions can benefit greatly from tai chi, but this practice can improve mobility and strength in people without illness as well. Tai chi strengthens aging muscles to prevent falls, helps people who are generally less active transition into more physical activity, and improves range of mobility. 

The benefits of tai chi are numerous and help to solidify its legitimacy as an alternative medicine. Tai chi can assist with anxiety relief, improved sleep, and weight loss. Many people seek out tai chi as a mood booster to alleviate stress. A regular tai chi practice can help patients manage symptoms of fibromyalgia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Tai chi is a wonderful source of exercise for people with coronary heart disease that does not overexert the heart. This practice can also reduce the number of falls for patients with Parkinson’s by improving leg strength and balance, and provide pain relief for different types of arthritis. 

Tai chi is not a cure for chronic illness, but a regular tai chi practice can improve symptoms and quality of life. Beginners might experience normal aches and pains following their first tai chi sessions. Improper tai chi practice can result in injury. It is best to practice tai chi under the tutelage of an instructor. 

Practical Tips for Alternative Medicine: Reiki

Reiki is a type of energy therapy. The most widely practiced form of reiki is Usui reiki, founded by Dr. Mikao Usui in 1922. “Rei” means universal, and “ki” means life energy. Reiki’s energy relief is similar to that of acupuncture, but practitioners use their hands to transfer energy instead of needles. 

Reiki is not a cure for any disease, illness, or condition. Instead, the practice assists in relaxation and pain relief. This energy transfer promotes well being by managing symptoms, easing natural bodily processes, and alleviating emotional stress. Some patients seek out reiki for mood boosting. Practitioners can help soothe the various sources of pain a patient might carry into the session.  

Each reiki session is unique to the patient. A reiki session usually lasts for 20 to 90 minutes. Traditional reiki does not involve crystals or other items. The exception to this rule is distance healing, in which a practitioner uses crystals to help heal a faraway patient. Patients can prepare for a reiki session by wearing comfortable clothing and hydrating.   

After a short introductory conversation, the patient lies down on a mat or table. A practitioner will use their hands to tend to the patient’s energy fields. The practitioner’s hands are placed either on or just above the patient’s body throughout the session. That introductory conversation allows patients to pinpoint areas that need extra attention. The practitioner will likely pay longer attention to a wound, holding their hands in a specific position until the energy has finished transferring and stopped flowing. Reiki is the management of this qi, or universal energy that runs throughout the body. Practitioners can infuse, beam, clear, or center a patient’s energy, as well as rake the aura or remove harmful energy. Patients might experience tingling, heat, or visualizations during the energy transfers. These sensations can contribute to feelings of relaxation and relief.    

Anecdotal evidence from reiki patients point to the practice’s benefits. More research is needed to solidify whether or not reiki can actually heal patients of existing conditions. The physical and mental relief that patients experience is real, but studies show that reiki cannot be used as a cure. 

However, there are no risks or side effects of a reiki session. Patients can experience an improved quality of life from reiki even if an underlying condition is not fully healed. Ultimately, patients should seek out reiki for pain relief and symptom management, not as a cure. 

Mineral Guide

Minerals Why it’s Needed Where it’s Found More Effective With 
Calcium Builds strong bones and teeth. It helps to calm nerves and aids in insomnia. Helps in normalizing blood clotting and helps regulate the heartbeat. Milk, and milk products, cheese, sardines, salmon, soybeans, peanuts, green vegetables. Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorus. 
Chromium Helps in carbohydrate utilization, involved in metabolism of glucose (for energy) and the synthesis of fatty acids and cholesterol. Unsaturated fats (such as corn oil), meats, clams, brewer’s yeast, liver and whole grain cereal.  
Copper Assists in the formation of hemoglobin, builds up blood quality, and increases resistance to stress and disease. Liver, whole grain products, almonds, green, leafy vegetables and most seafood’s. Iron, Zinc 
Iron Necessary for production of hemoglobin, builds up blood quality, and increases resistance to stress and disease. Liver, lean meats, eggs, whole grain breads, and cereals, fruits, vegetables, and brewer’s yeast. B-12, Folic Acid 
Magnesium Key substance in proper functioning of nerves and muscles and healthy maintenance of bones. Anti-Stress mineral. Nuts, whole grain foods, dry beans and peas, dark green vegetables, and soy products. Vitamin B-6, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Calcium, Phosphorus. 
Manganese Needed for protein, carbohydrate, fat production. Necessary for normal skeletal development. Helps maintain sex hormone production and nourishes the nerves and brain. Egg yolks, sunflower seeds, wheat germ, whole grain cereals, dried peas and beans, brewer’s yeast, and bone meal with Vitamin D. Vitamin b, Vitamin E, Calcium 
Phosphorus Essential for utilization of carbohydrate, fats and proteins for growth, maintenance, repair of cells, and energy production. Necessary for proper skeletal growth, tooth development, kidney functioning and transference of nerve impulses. Meat, fish,, poultry, eggs, whole grains, and nuts. Vitamin D, Calcium, Vitamin A, Iron, Manganese. 
Potassium Essential for muscles, nerves and heart. Aids in proper maintenance of mineral balance of blood. Works with sodium to regulate body’s water balance. Vegetables (especially green leafy), oranges, whole grains, sunflower seeds, potatoes (especially peels), and bananas. Vitamin B-6 
Selenium Along with Vitamin E, it works in some of its metabolic processes and aid in normal body growth and fertility. Bran, wheat germ, broccoli, onions, tomatoes, and tuna. Vitamin E. 
Zinc Necessary for healing and developing of new cells. Aids enzymes in digestion and metabolism. Important to general growth, reproductive organs and normal functioning of prostate gland. Brewer’s yeast, bone meal, wheat germ, beans, nuts, seeds, meat. Vitamin A, Calcium, Copper, Phosphorus. 

How to Stop Snoring: The Secret of Weight Control

Do you snore? Do you sleep in the same room as someone who does? Can’t remember the last time you had a peaceful sleep, uninterrupted the long and loud drones of the snorer next to you? If the answer is yes to any of the above questions, then you have a problem on your hands that needs fast corrective action before it disrupts your entire life. But don’t worry, for there may be a solution to that noisy problem that has another beneficial side effect as well. 
Get this! Losing weight could be the answer to your snoring problem! By “your” snoring problem, its meant that either you snore or your partner snores, either of which ends up being your problem. When a person is overweight they will often also snore. The reason for this is because some people hold excess weight around their chests and neck areas. The added pressure weighs the muscles down and hence they snore. As they gain weight the snoring problem may worsen to the point that their spouse has to leave the room to sleep elsewhere. This can and often does ultimately affect the way you see your partner, both physically and emotionally. 
Eating a healthy diet is always a good idea. When we consume healthy foods in moderation our bodies will react by slimming down. Realizing that by accomplishing a weight loss goal you may also be ending the problem of snoring, can bump up your willpower a great deal. So what you need to do is to get a weight check done to ensure that for your age and height, you are in the right BMI bracket. BMI stands for body mass index and is a measure of your height to weight ratio. 
Changing eating habits and getting out and exercising are natural and healthy ways to combat the snoring. By looking at the weight problem as a solution to the snoring problem it can be a strong factor in convincing a person that they truly are killing two birds with one diet, so to speak. And remember, losing weight does not have to be about drastically restricting calories and exercising for hours each day. In the end you’ll find yourself with not only a great looking outside but with a quieter inside. Snoring is a problem that can be stopped and wanting to do that for not only yourself but those who have to be subjected to the noise night-after-night is a great way to give the gift of silence. 

Beating Anxiety: How to be 100% Okay With `Who’ You Are in Social Situations

If you could be totally 100% okay with who you are, would you have anything to feel anxious about? If you were 100% confident about who you are, would you be worried about what other people think? As it turns out, anxiety disorders can make otherwise confident people feel uncomfortable and paralyzed. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is characterized by 6 months or more of chronic, exaggerated worry and tension that is unfounded or much more severe than the normal anxiety most people experience. People with this disorder usually expect the worst of every situation. While exercise can combat anxiety symptoms, you’ll likely need to come up with a way to personally cope. Here is some additional information about anxiety.  
Anxiety Attacks 
What Is an Anxiety Attack? Also known as a panic attack, an anxiety attack is characterized by intense episodes in which the sufferer experiences such symptoms similar to a heart attack such as heart palpitations, chest pain or discomfort, sweating, and psychosomatic paralysis.  
Managing Social Anxiety in Children With Autism 
As a parent with an autistic child, you want to do everything you can to protect your child. We don’t want to place our children in circumstances that scare them, however, setting your child up in a program or providing them with social activities can significantly improve their anxiety. 
How to Cope With Stress and Anxiety 
Among the hardest parts of living in the modern world is stress and anxiety. With worries about work, the environment, the economy, natural disasters, terrorism, and the general state of the world, it seems that there is nothing going right. You’ll need to come up with your own coping mechanisms, whether that means a regimented self-care routine or consistent exercise. 

Diet – Anxiety & Panic 
There’s an old saying that says you are what you eat. It’s true. When you eat junk, you feel bad. When you eat good foods, you feel better. Eating healthily can improve many symptoms of anxiety. 

 Piano Playing and Performance Anxiety 
Repetitive and involved hobbies, like playing the piano, can significantly reduce symptoms of anxiety. That said, it can open up a new door to anxiety: performance anxiety. However, if you incorporate piano playing into your anxiety treatment, you don’t have to perform for anyone! 

Completely In Canal (CIC) Hearing Aids

Completely in the canal hearing aids (also known as CIC hearing aids) are, as the name suggests, hearing aids which fit entirely within the wearers ear canal. These revolutionary devices are the smallest hearing aids on the market and are invisible to the average observer who doesn’t know they are there. Most major hearing aid brands and manufacturers now offer this inconspicuous alternative to traditional behind the ear, or BTE, hearing aids. 
CIC hearing aids are custom made to fit deep inside the individual wearers ear canal and are said to mimic the natural auditory process more closely than any other style of hearing aid. They are best suited to people with a mild to moderate hearing loss. There are several advantages and disadvantages that should be taken into consideration when deciding between CIC hearing aids and the BTE models. 
For audiologists, otologists, speech therapists and other hearing professionals, the primary appeal of CIC hearing aids are their acoustic advantages. They can closely simulate environmental, and more importantly, speech sounds, patterns, nuances etc. This is imperative to a hearing-impaired individual’s competency with the spoken word. Additionally, since CIC hearing aids are worn closer to the eardrum then their BTE counterparts, their microphones are better able to amplify and therefore give a boost to any residual hearing the wearer may have. The advantage that is most often touted by the wearers of CIC devices, however, is their cosmetic appeal and inconspicuousness. 
Conversely, it is important to keep in mind that CIC hearing aids also have some drawbacks. If financial constraints are a part of the picture, it should be noted that completely in the canal hearing aids are somewhat more expensive to purchase then behind the ear hearing aids are. Another issue that may make them cost prohibitive to those on a tight budget is that increased susceptibility to ear wax build up puts CIC hearing aids at higher risk for damage, therefore necessitating pricey repair bills or replacement hearing aids. 
Whereas BTE hearing instruments are appropriate for almost all hearing impaired individuals regardless of the type or degree of hearing loss, CIC hearing aids are not recommended for individuals with certain kinds of hearing loss. They are also unlikely to be prescribed or advised for children. First of all children tend to be less able to tolerate the discomfort and irritations that sometimes come along with the use of CIC models, especially in the beginning. 
Plus children’s ear canals aren’t done growing, so they will need to be refitted and replaced much more often for them then for adults. The size of CIC hearing aids and their even tinier batteries make them difficult to manipulate for the elderly, arthritis sufferers and others with conditions and diseases which effect fine motor control. Feedback and no volume control are two more drawbacks often mentioned by CIC hearing aid users. 
Audiologists are the best resource hearing impaired individuals have to help them objectively decide whether CIC or BTE hearing aids are better for them. They can also point wearers in the direction of the best CIC hearing aids provider. Research on the pros and cons can also be done at the library or on the internet. 

Practical Tips for Alternative Medicine: Melatonin Supplements

Melatonin supplements are commonly used as a sleep aid, managing jet lag, high-blood pressure, endometriosis, anxiety, and certain other situations. It even works as a sunscreen. Generally speaking, there’s a popular misconception that because melatonin is a “supplement” and because it’s naturally-occurring in the body, that it’s relatively harmless. Nothing could be further from the truth.


Even apart from a list of side effects that includes headaches, daytime drowsiness, dizziness, cramps and irritability, it’s hard to know exactly how your body will react. Made by the pineal gland, melatonin is a hormone that’s a little like but not quite a neurotransmitter. It definitely has an effect on the uptake of neurotransmitters including serotonin. Melatonin can have complex physiological effects based on its ability to affect other things in the body.


Now, we’re not saying that the benefits won’t outweigh the adverse effects. Moreover, there is something you can do to make smarter choices about your long-term melatonin use:


  • Practical Tip—Your thyroid is one of the things that can be affected by melatonin use and chronic use in particular. This can be a good thing for one person and a bad thing for the next person. So next time you’re at the doctor’s office, and ideally before starting a regimen of melatonin, have your thyroid levels checked. This should give you something of a baseline to measure future thyroid activity, a notoriously difficult thing to track.



Practical Tips for Alternative Medicine: CBD Oil

CBD oil is an increasingly popular alternative medicinal substance. Cannabidiol, known colloquially as CBD, is one of the many compounds (cannabinoids) in the cannabis plant. Until recently, the best-known compound in cannabis was delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC, the most active cannabinoid in marijuana. Recently, researchers have been searching for therapeutic uses of CBD. Unlike THC, CBD is not psychoactive; it does, however, appear to produce significant changes in the body, suggesting medical benefits.


CBD offers a natural alternative to pain relief and anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Advil and Ibuprofen. Authors of a study published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine found that CBD significantly reduced chronic inflammation and pain. The research also suggested that the non-psychoactive compounds in marijuana, including CBD, could constitute a new treatment for chronic pain.


Researchers have also discovered a link between CBD use and certain conditions characteristic of epileptic seizures; a low dose of CBD may ease seizures. In fact, in June of 2018, the FDA approved CBD for the treatment of Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome, two rare and severe forms of epilepsy. The most common side effects were very mild, including sleepiness, sedation and lethargy, elevated liver enzymes, and decrease appetite.


Several studies are ongoing regarding the potential effect of CBD on certain neuropsychiatric disorders, as well as a variety of anxiety disorders. According to a review from Neurotherapeutics, CBD may reduce anxiety-related behaviors in people with panic disorders, PTSD, general anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.


Most recently, researchers have begun to unpack the connection between CBD and Gastrointestinal disorders, such as IBS. While these studies are in their preliminary stages, early findings suggest that CBD can play a vital role in the neuromodulatory function of the GI system. Certain reactions can lead to inhibiting the secretion of digestive fluid and inflammation. While these studies are far from complete, we are looking forward to the results.


Practical Tips for Alternative Medicine: Chiropractic

Chiropractic is perhaps one of the most well-known and wide-spread forms of alternative medicine. The practice if primarily concerned with the diagnosis and treatment of mechanical disorders, especially those associated with the spine. The primary chiropractic treatment technique involves manual therapy—spinal manipulation therapy (SMT) and manipulations of other joints and soft tissues.


Several controlled clinical studies or chiropractic treatments have been conducted, but results are often conflicting. Spinal manipulation, though potentially ineffective at treating conditions, may be a cost-effective for sub-acute or chronic lower back pain. However, there is not sufficient data to establish the safety of chiropractic manipulations.


Chiropractic is very established in North America and Australia, often overlapping with other manual-therapy professions like massage therapy, osteopathy, and physical therapy. Most seek chiropractic help for back and neck pain, which are considered to be the specialties of the practice. In the past twenty years, it has gained legitimacy and greater acceptance among conventional physicians and health plans in the United States.


In 2009, a review published in Prev Med stated that spinal manipulation was routinely associated with considerable harm, further reporting that there was no compelling evidence to indicate that it adequately prevented symptoms or diseases. In 2012, a systemic review found that the risk of death from manipulations to the neck outweighed any potential benefits. These statements, though bombastic, should not be disregarded. If you enjoy chiropractic, we recommend that you do so in limited quantities; rather than seeing a chiropractor every week, consider switching your appointments to every month to reduce the risk of injury.


Practical Tips for Alternative Medicine: Fish Oil Supplements

Fish oil is the third most commonly taken supplement in the U.S., but is it worthy of such popularity and widespread use? We do think there’s enough evidence to use fish oil—and other omega-3 supplements—as a dietary supplement for targeted results, but to simply say that fish oil is good for your heart and good for weight loss isn’t good enough. And depending on how it’s presented, it can be downright misleading.


While there is some evidence to suggest that fish oil can be good for overall heart health, the big thing it can do for you is to lower your triglyceride levels. (Triglycerides are a kind of fat cell in the blood that the body can use to store energy.) This alone should have some benefit in promoting a healthy heart and metabolic system. Still, it’s a long way to go from showing lower triglyceride levels to showing better health outcomes overall.


Take weight loss, for example. Studies show that fish oil may not help you lose weight so much as prevent and mitigate abdominal weight gain in particular. In other words, if you struggle with weight in your midsection, fish oil may be a smart supplement to take in combination with a leaner diet and healthier exercise routine. (For men and women alike, abdominal obesity is the most dangerous kind in terms of health outcomes and mortality rates.)


The studies and claims made surrounding cancer, mental health, and other health conditions are mixed and inconclusive. For cancer, in particular, you can find studies that suggest fish oil increases your risk of some cancers and decreases your risk in others. Looking for a roundup of various studies on fish oil? Check out this news resource.


Still, alternative medicine isn’t isolationist medicine. We do think taking a fish oil supplement can be right for a lot of people. On the other hand, many people also have limited resources. It might make more sense, for example, to spend your disposable income on higher-quality foods that are rich in omega-3. But maybe you can’t stand fish and aren’t all that crazy about other sources of omega-3 (walnuts, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, and soy). The best use of a fish oil may not be as a diet “supplement” so much as a diet “substitute.”


The Chemistry of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

There are two main types of omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). This article does a good job of explaining the different health benefits between the two acids. Although EPA is better for many of fish oil’s purported health benefits, especially as an anti-inflammatory, it’s the less well known DHA that’s likely better for stroke prevention and brain health, as it’s believed the longer DHA chain does a better job in maintaining a healthy brain. The article also reminded us that both EPA and DHA are shown to reduce triglyceride levels, which may help explain why this effect is so widely observed.


Don’t Overdo It

There aren’t a lot of acute dangers with taking in a bunch of omega-3 fatty acids, but you still don’t want to overdo it. Excessive amounts can lead to heavy bleeding and anticoagulant properties. Rash and nosebleeds are another potential side effect. Daily consumption of up to 3 grams of omega-3 fatty acids is generally recognized as safe. But again, it’s also important to account for the omega-3 that’s already in your diet.


  • Practical Tip—Burping, bad breath, heartburn, nausea, and diarrhea are also potential side effects with fish oil. Look to eliminate these side effects by freezing and/or taking the supplements with a meal. If you still experience negative side effects, you might try krill oil or isolated EPA or DHA supplements. You may also want to talk to your doctor about the trade-offs and alternative supplements and medications that can help you achieve comparable health benefits.