Healthy Brains Equals Healthy Bodies

I had discussed in my last newsletter about the concept of how the brain plays a vital role in physical modalities like acupuncture, chiropractic, massage therapy and even aromatherapy. I explained that by stimulating particular areas of the body we are actually directly stimulating the brain. The brain then responds to that stimulus which creates immediate and specific affects back out into the body. This is why needling a point on the hand can have positive affects in the abdomen for example. My teaser at the end of that last article brought up the concept of why acupuncture or any of the other modalities might work better for some people and not others, or why they might work better for you on some days more than others. I hope to answer this question here. You will find that the answers are often time quite simple. And reading this article may just allow you to gain more benefit from your particular modality of choice, in which case I will feel that I have done my job. The idea is to extract the most benefit out of what we do and how we choose to heal.

As you all probably know by now I use quite a bit of blood chemistry with my patients. Using blood chemistry as a tool I am able to find many different things that are causing stress to the body. I use much narrower reference ranges than the average MD which are called "Functional Ranges." There are a few factors in a blood chemistry panel that when out of range Functionally speaking, can have dramatic affects on brain function and other bodily functions alike. Blood sugar for example is one factor that is often times overlooked because the mainstream ranges that are used are so very broad and based upon an illness model and not a wellness model. But it is important to understand that blood sugar only needs to be out of range slightly to begin to have negative impacts on the body.

So it is important to consider three major factors when thinking about brain health and optimal brain function. I have listed them here:
The first is stimulation. This is really quite simple... Use it or lose it! People who do not continuously stimulate their brains with new information or challenging tasks tend to suffer mental decline quicker than those who do engage in these activities. It is one thing to be really great at something, but to keep your brain healthy you will need to find new things to learn or ponder. Learn a language for example. Learn to play an instrument. Dance. Exercise. All of these things challenge the brain and help maintain good brain health.

Second is healthy blood sugar. The brain, unlike most other tissues in the body, can only use sugar for it's energy. If the brain tissue is not getting an adequate supply of blood sugar, function declines and so does brain health in general. I see poor blood sugar scenarios in close to 75% of the people that I do blood chemistry work-ups with. So I can tell you that this is one area that is wreaking havoc for a lot of people, brain health or otherwise. I either see reactive hypoglycemia, or sub-clinically low blood sugar, meaning the doctor won't pick up on it. This is a fasting blood sugar under 85. Or elevated blood sugar which is a fasting blood sugar over 99. In this case there will be insulin resistance and the cells simply cannot take in the sugar floating around in the blood. The sugar is there, it just can't be used adequately. So either way the cells of the brain (and body) are not able to get adequate sugar supply and therefore health and function decline. Poor blood sugar equals poor brain function.
Lastly the brain needs a healthy supply of Oxygen. This is an obvious one. Without oxygen to our brains we die! But really what I am talking about here are conditions like anemia where the red blood cells cannot deliver adequate oxygen to the cells of the body, brain included. Or this could be something like poor circulation due to arterioscleroses, or the clogging of the blood vessels. Look for things like cold hands and feet, hair loss on the lower part of the leg which often times gets brushed off as, "my boots rub on that area." Or look for nail fungus. Smokers are also prime suspects for poor circulation. All of these things may be indicators that inadequate oxygen is making it to your brain and is therefore hindering function and supporting mental decline.

So going back now to my original concept of acupuncture working better for some people and not others, or better on one day vs. the next. Considering the above three brain health concepts you can see how some people may have all three of these things out of whack. Knowing that healthy brain function is vital for good acupuncture results you would want to make sure that the above mentioned concepts are in order to maintain the best results from your particular modality of choice. Let's consider a 65 year old man who is overweight and a smoker. He sits around on the recliner chair all day watching Jerry Springer while drinking his 2 liter bottle of Pepsi. How well do you think this guy's brain is working? How well do you think that his acupuncture results for his knee pain would stack up against a 30 year old athlete who eats well and is going through a Ph.D. program in astrophysics for example? But forgetting that for a second, how well do you think that you would respond if all you had for breakfast that morning was a cup of coffee and you roll into your acupuncture appointment at 1pm? Let me tell you... You would get more for your time and money if you squeezed in at least some eggs that morning. Stable blood sugar is the key.

So to reiterate, brain function is everything. Without it we have nothing. Our brains are our link to the outside world. Without healthy brain function we lose our connection with our surroundings and we lose the ability to maximize the benefits of the healing energy around us. I urge you to keep brain health in the forefront of your concerns. Not only will doing so ensure a long and healthy life ahead, but will have dramatic impacts on your life today. You will be happier, healthier, and have the ability to enjoy things more fully. You will be stronger, have better balance, have a better sex life, have better memory and you will maximize the benefits of medical modalities like acupuncture, chiropractic and massage therapy. I work worth people on customizing healthy brain plans. This is the kind of work that I do. To embrace Functional Medicine means to find out what is hindering optimal health. And we all, MD's, acupuncturists, Chiropractors and Massage Therapists alike need to think more about the health of our patient's brains. Without doing so we cannot achieve the superior and lasting results our patients expect from us.