Issue #31, November 2010
In This Issue:
Realizing What Counts – Chronic Illness & the Terrain – Building Resilience
JoAnne’s Motivational Minute: Realizing What Counts
By JoAnne Boettcher-Verigin
Time seems to go so slowly when youre a kid, especially as the holidays approach. Remember when the time between Halloween and Thanksgiving seemed like months, and from then til Christmas or Hanukkah seemed like forever?
When I was a girl, my family’s yearly great adventure was a trip to Seattle just after Thanksgiving to see the wonderful decorations in the big department stores. We didn’t have a lot of money to spend in those stores, but the holiday spirit was a gift in itself.
Also exciting was the arrival of the Sears Christmas catalog. My sister and I would spend hours going over the toy section in minute detail, making x’s alongside those things we just didn’t think we could do without.
TV was still in the future, and holiday movies in the theaters were few and far between (and when they were around, cost a whopping 25 cents for a kid to see, plus 10 cents for popcorn). But there was holiday programming on the radio, and it was magnificent.
Old time radio has been called the theater of the mind because it inspired listeners to use their imagination. With one click of the dial, you could be transported anywhere – from Pine Ridge, Arkansas for Christmas with Lum and Abner or 79 Wistful Vista with Fibber McGee and Molly, to the North Pole to soar over Santa’s workshop with Superman or Victorian England for Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Or you could simply enjoy holiday songs on any number of music and variety programs. (Be sure to click the links to hear some episodes for yourself!)
Christmas Eve was when the fun really began. Once the men finished the milking and other chores, family began to flood the house – first for supper and then, at last, opening presents! It was never long before the room was knee-deep in torn wrapping paper and tangles of ribbon.
Even more family arrived on Christmas Day for the big feast and time to enhance the family bonds that give a kind of security no other bond does. We kids played and argued and ate all the candy we could. The men helped the kids with the electric trains, and the aunts helped dress the dolls with clothing they had made throughout the year. Meanwhile, Mother, in her Christmas apron, reigned over the old wood cookstove that produced the perfectly roasted turkey and all the trimmings.
As I look back, I realize how even though times weren’t so easy – it was the Great Depression, after all – the holidays were spent in great joy and celebration. Today’s times are none too easy either. The days of extravagant shopping and spending for holiday gifts are gone for many. But maybe that’s a good thing, a hidden blessing, an opportunity to realize that the most important things in life aren’t things at all but people.
That may sound like a cliche, but consider this: When you think about how you spent your most memorable holidays, what do you remember first and best, the gifts you got or gave, or the people you shared the holidays with?
Happy holidays to you all! May they be filled with joy!
It takes community to maintain a human. – Earon Davis
Dr. Verigin’s Comment: Healing as Process – Understanding the Biological Terrain’s Role in Chronic Illness
By Gary M. Verigin, DDS, CTN
The multiple chemical sensitivity case history I shared with you in the last issue of Biosis generated quite a few comments and questions from clients and other subscribers, as well as phone calls from people seeking help for MCS or similarly enigmatic illnesses.
As I mentioned before, there are no silver bullets.
The best question to begin with is not “Are mercury fillings the problem?” but “What are all the factors that may be contributing to the illness or dysfunction?” This helps us identify all potential sources of homotoxins, whether of dental origin or otherwise. It also can cue us to the possibility of dental foci – the source of many chronic and degenerative diseases, recurrent illnesses, allergic reactions and unclear ailments such as chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia.
And as the case history showed, taking this kind of approach means that healing is not a one time event but a process.
Indeed, Kathy’s healing will be ongoing – in Reckeweg’s terms, a regressive vicariation guided by the Physiological Defense System, or what Pischinger alternatively called the body’s Basic Regulative System. Regardless of the name, the task is the same: removing homotoxins or compensating for them and the damage they do.
And this is the thing that gives us hope and optimism, for it means that the progression of illness is not inevitable. Illness can be reversed. The body can be encouraged to heal itself; right-to-left movement from illness to health, induced.
This is true healing.
Despite what you might read on various websites or Internet forums, removing amalgam fillings, root canal teeth and so on is not the be-all, end-all of biological dentistry, let alone achieving wellness. Biological dentistry is a total, whole-systems approach – organic and comprehensive.
Every day, we’re confronted with the fact that chronic disease is epidemic in this country. It consumes vast amounts of medical resources and affects nearly every adult by middle age. According to the CDCs most recent data, almost half of all adult Americans have at least one chronic disease, and 70% of deaths are due to chronic disease – mostly heart disease, cancer and stroke.
We spend more and more on health care, and what do we have to show for it? A life expectancy lower than that of most other developed nations. A health care system that ranks 37th in performance among WHO member nations, between Costa Rica and Slovenia. In terms of overall health, the US ranks 72nd (PDF) – a step below Argentina, a step above Bhutan. The Commonwealth Fund ranks the US last in quality of health care among similar countries, despite its costing the most.
In light of such statistics, it’s no surprise that so many of our incoming clients are clearly frustrated with the way the medical establishment has treated their chronic conditions. They see physicians as attacking symptoms while ignoring root causes and failing to address the patient as a whole human being. They don’t see them striving for wellness, let alone optimal health. They see them trying to stop symptoms with a prescription pad and a 10 minute office visit.
This approach feeds another phenomenon: fear-driven medicine. Doctors are burdened by two rivaling fears: 1) the fear of making a mistake and being sued by the patient; and 2) the fear of punishment by their boards the authorities who supervise and license them if they dare depart from accepted standards of practice, regardless of whether those standards are actually sound or even helpful to the patient.
These fears are real, and they root deep in a person’s psyche. It’s classical conditioning, where the threat of losing your license eventually evokes a reflexive fear response. It’s a short step from here to becoming Pavlovian in your decision-making. You start to practice defensive medicine. You over-test and over-treat, and this drives costs even higher. New technology, tests and treatments only add to the cost over time.
The impact of this affects more than just patients’ pocketbooks. It impacts their health. Treating symptoms instead of root causes often leads to the rise of new symptoms – euphemistically called “side effects” – which then require treatments of their own.
The illness then becomes a convolution of more symptoms. The physician prescribes yet more medicine, and up goes the risk of these different symptoms becoming another disease as the initial condition morphs into others.
The treatment of disorder causes even greater disorder. Recovery becomes more difficult. Further diagnosis of the root cause becomes impossible.
This is what happens when you treat symptoms instead of whole people and the root causes of disease. And the same holds for so-called “alternative” dentistry and medicine, too. While removing mercury fillings may be an important step on the healing path, it’s not sufficient. Just like drug therapy, it addresses a part of the problem while remaining ignorant to the whole.
In past newsletters, we’ve looked at the concept of what Pischinger called the Basic Regulative System and what old school German medicine called “uncoupling” – a concept more familiar to us how as “homeostasis.” Homeostasis – from the Greek homois, meaning “same,” and stasis, meaning “standing still” – is the state of inner balance and stability maintained by the human body despite constant changes in the external environment. Nearly every bodily process involves keeping this balance – from kidneys filtering the blood and removing carefully regulated amounts of waste to the lungs working with the heart, blood vessels and blood to distribute oxygen throughout the body and remove waste. The word was coined in the early 20th century by Walter Bradford Cannon, elaborating on Claude Bernard’s original concept of the milieu intrieur (interior environment), or what we call the “biological terrain.”
A healthy, resilient biological terrain is the foundation of health and wellness. Any therapy that fails to address the condition of the terrain is one that focuses on symptoms instead of causes, the parts instead of the whole.
Currently, no US dental schools teach that root canal filled teeth can adversely affect one’s health, though they are now beginning to teach the relationship between gum disease and conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and stroke. Mainstream dental research is also showing that certain microbes found in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients can only be found in one other place in the body: periodontal pockets in the mouth the areas we measure when we probe your gums at each of your regular preventive maintenance visits.
My hope is that over time, the dental establishment will continue to move in this direction, understanding and appreciating the connection between the mouth and the rest of the body, the whole guided by the state of the biological terrain.
In the meantime, we’re left with the reality of chronic illness that confronts us daily in our office.
Both the Journal of the American Medical Association and the Journal of the American Dental Association have run editorials encouraging front-line physicians and dentists take as many classes as possible so they can be on the cutting edge and better able to treat the increasing numbers of chronically ill patients, even as they acknowledge the difficulty in treating them, due to the multiplicity of symptoms.
Over more than four decades of practicing dentistry here in Escalon, California, I have consistently pursued a greater understanding of what could be referred to as “whole-body dentistry” – a journey described in one of the first articles we placed on our website, “Evolution of a Practice.” Our office is focused on acknowledging the parts in the course of addressing the whole.
In our next issue, I’ll discuss the situation of clients who contact us for second and even third or fourth opinions on their health conditions; who have had their silver fillings, root canals or other problem dental work removed yet don’t feel better and have been told that the problem wasn’t with the treatment but that they are just “resistant” to treatment – a statement akin to that of establishment physicians who tell these complex patients that their illness is all in their head or just a problem they must live with, an illness that must be “managed” for the rest of their life.
Of course, being able to diagnose true resistance means recognizing and resolving blockages in the biological terrain. The dentist unfamiliar with this must be able to refer his or her patients to other natural, integrative health professionals who have insight and expertise different from that of the dentist. Then the dentist can be a catalyst for positive change in the lives of patients.
We cannot attempt to cure one part of the body without treating the others. We cannot attempt to cure the body if we forget the Soul. – Plato
From Our Blog:
Understanding Stress & Mental Fitness: Techniques for Building Resilience
By Jaymie Meyer, CWP, ERYT-500
Fr. Stephen, MSC/Flickr
Corporate and other wellness programs primarily focus on aspects of physical health, but mental fitness is an area worth exploring. While it may be hard to imagine we can directly affect this aspect of our being, current studies reveal that we have much more control than previously thought when it comes to brain health.
The four main pillars of brain health are physical fitness, proper nutrition, stress management and mental stimulation. This article is concerned with the third pillar, stress management, which is not overlooked but is often misunderstood. We know that long-term stress contributes to heart disease, depressed immune function, digestive problems and back and neck pain, but we now know that stress also kills neurons and is one of the most damaging factors to brain health, affecting crucial functions of memory and mental performance. This makes an even more compelling case for alleviating it.
One of the key aspects of stress management is helping people understand that not all stress is bad. This may seem obvious, but the truth is, stress has such a bad rap that people often dont understand that it serves an important role in helping us to achieve our goals, as well as save our lives in the rare instances when we may be truly threatened.
But understanding “good” and “bad” stress is not enough. Because we are all wired differently and have unique ways of coping (or not coping), helping people understand their unique stressors is crucial to any successful stress management program. People know that uninterrupted stress over a long period of time has damaging implications for health, but most are unaware of the myriad and subtle ways stress presents itself in their lives until they think about it objectively. Emotional, behavioral and physical responses to stress: these are just a few of the areas that can be examined and provide valuable clues to a persons unique stress response.
Once stressors are better understood, people can choose from a variety of techniques that can literally stop stress in its tracks. These include breathing practices, movement and other forms of exercise, and progressive relaxation.
One of the most effective ways to combat stress and build lifelong resilience is meditation. But meditation is often misunderstood. A big misconception is that it’s for people who are not fully engaged in the world. Many people roll their eyes at the mention of the word and think that they need to be secreted away in a cave or otherwise withdrawn from society to practice. Or they think that meditation is a fad or “New Age.” These practices come to us from Asian traditions (India, Japan and China), and they are far from new: they have existed for centuries.
For those of us who don’t aspire to lead an ascetic life (most of us), meditation prepares us to be in the world and to approach life with energy, balance and creativity. Modern science has been putting meditation to the test for years. Studies show dramatic and effective results in its countering stress and improving cognitive functions such as attention. In a 2007 study by Posner, participants practicing IBMT a form of body-mind meditation – showed not only improved attention but reduced cortisol levels. This is significant because its the continuous elevation of cortisol that contributes to impaired cognitive performance, blood sugar imbalances, higher blood pressure and lowered immunity. An April 2003 study cited in Psychology Today reports that meditators experienced significant improvements in mental health, productivity, being less bothered by external stressors and feeling more successful.
So how do you find a method of meditation that’s appropriate? What may be beneficial for one person can truly be harmful to another. If one kind of meditation doesn’t seem accessible, a qualified teacher can guide you towards an appropriate technique.
Unfortunately, many people begin a meditation practice and give up after a short period of time. This can often be attributed to a teacher who insists that students meditate in a certain way. A private client I work with was so irritated after attending a workshop in which the teacher shamed her so much for not “doing it correctly,” she experienced more stress from the class that she did from the original stressor! It took her time to be willing to try again and find a technique that worked for her.
There are many different types of meditation: concentration, mindfulness, visualization, open-eye, laughter and breathing, to name a few. Surprising to some, meditation is not necessarily a sedentary practice. In fact, for people who find a seated meditation difficult, moving practices like walking a labyrinth or tai chi can be very effective.
Using visualization or imagery techniques are closely related to meditative practices and are also effective in reducing stress. As in meditation, imagery exercises are best if they are geared to the individual. For instance, if you don’t swim, a guided imagery practice that places you in the sea or a body of water (however idyllic) would potentially be stressful.
While practicing visualization, taking time to experience all the senses (sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch) can be extremely powerful and restorative. People practicing imagery techniques, even for the first time, are often surprised at the ability of their minds to transport them far away.
One of the most effective ways to learn meditation or visualization is in a group setting, over a period of time, meeting at least once a week for 4 to 6 weeks. People undergo different challenges (internal and external) when they are beginning a daily practice, and coming together one a week to discuss their experiences allows them to feel less isolated while building good habits.
In the corporate world, many forward-thinking companies have dedicated “quiet rooms” in places of work, where employees can go during a break to spend a few minutes meditating or practicing visualization techniques. This kind of brief but empowering respite from our busy lives becomes even more valuable as we find it increasingly challenging to unplug from technology. Taking a few moments to refresh gives people more vigor and new insights when they reenter their workspace.
As with any new practice, starting small is advised. Just a few minutes a day can start one on a path towards life long practice. The practice of meditation requires consistency over a period of time, but the rewards in increased resilience and well being are significant.
An earlier version of this article was published in the March 2010 issue of Corporate Wellness Magazine.
Jaymie Meyer, CWP, ERYT-500, is a wellness educator with certifications in stress management, bereavement counseling, yoga therapy and Ayurveda. She is also a Reiki Master. Her company, Resilience for Life, has been delivering wellness programs for over 9 years at work sites and educational institutions including the National Institutes for Health (NIH), Coby Electronics Corporation, Columbia University, IBM, Jewish Guild for the Blind and Martha Stewart Living. She is an on-going faculty member at Yogavilles Integral Yoga Academy, teaching the Stress Management TT each summer. In February, she will be participating in the YogaHubs 2nd Virtual World Yoga Conference. To coincide with the conference, Jaymie will be releasing a full length CD on breathing practices that help individuals increase energize and reduce stress. She is a member of NWI, NSA, IYTA and IAYT. Website: www.resilienceforlife.com
For more articles like this one, as well as health news, tips and video, visit our blog, Know Thy Health.
There is only one you for all time. Fearlessly be yourself. – Anthony Rapp