Archive for the ‘Integrative Medicine’ Category

Causes and Cures for Restless Leg Syndrome

July 22, 2010

Restless Leg Syndrome

Have you been awakened from sleep by pain in your leg(s)/ Is your partner complaining about your restless, jerky leg movements throughout the night? Are you being robbed of nourishing sleep or much needed relaxation while you are reclined or sitting for long periods of time?

Restless Leg Syndrome is a new phrase or term to most people. Only recently has medical science recognized this as a common condition. Leg cramp pain is often known as “Charley Horse”, and that term has been with us much longer.

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is a neurological disorder in which patients experience irrepressible sensations in the legs or arms while sitting or lying still. Terms used to describe RLS may include creepy, crawly, pulling, tingling, itching, or gnawing. Often the person with RLS has difficulty being specific about the sensations in their legs. The sensations are rarely described as painful. RLS differs from the “pins and needles” feeling when the blood supply is cut off from a limb (“My foot fell asleep!”). These uncomfortable feelings usually begin in the evening and upon arrival to bed, unless severe, RLS is absent during the morning and early afternoon.

Symptoms are worse or only present when the affected individual is at rest. The sensations usually disappear or diminish when the limb is moved. The person with RLS may experience movements of the toes, feet or legs in the evening when he/she sits or lies down. For this reason, RLS individuals are often labeled “nervous” or “fidgety.” Because those with RLS have a constant need to stretch or move their limbs to get rid of the uncomfortable feelings, sleep is often disturbed. Those who suffer from RLS can have very severe insomnia.

Chances are the root cause of this condition is compromised circulation resulting in nerve endings being cut off from necessary blood supply.

To watch a clever video about restless leg syndrome click here

RLS may be related to abnormalities in brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) that help regulate muscle movements, or to abnormalities in the part of the central nervous system that controls automatic movements. Research is still being done in these areas.

To watch an educational video about restless leg syndrome click here

Several different medical conditions can cause secondary RLS, however, the two most common conditions are iron-deficiency( anemia) and peripheral neuropathy.
Iron-deficiency anemia (“low blood”) means low levels of hemoglobin, the substance in the blood that carries oxygen and makes the blood appear red.
Peripheral neuropathy is damage to the nerves of the arms and legs. Peripheral neuropathy has many causes. Diabetes is a common cause of peripheral neuropathy. Peripheral neuropathy causes numbness or lack of sensation, tingling, and pain in the affected areas.

As many as 40% of pregnant women experience RLS symptoms. The symptoms usually fade within a few weeks after delivery.

Doctors will typically just write you a prescription for a sleep aid or a painkiller. But remember these are short fixes that just cover up the problem instead of curing it. May patients are prescribed a medication called Qualaquin. Qualaquin is approved by the FDA for the treatment of Malaria, but many doctors are prescribing the drug for the treatment of restless leg syndrome. The FDA has not approved the drug for this use. The FDA has received reports of serious life-threatening reactions from the use of this drug – a total of 38 times. These included severe lowering of blood platelets, permanent damage to the kidneys, need for hospitalization and even death.


The FDA urges restless leg syndrome patients that are taking this drug to consult their doctors and discuss other treatment options available to them. There are many synthetic pharmaceuticals on the market which are used to treat the symptoms of this annoying condition, but remain mindful of the side effects which can often be worse than the superficial symptoms or vent he underlying cause of the condition.

So, what might be the secret of repairing your body so it will heal itself. How can you achieve relief from annoying symptoms and perhaps solve the underlying problem ? If an individual suspects he or she has RLS, self-help measures may alleviate the tingling sensations. These include avoiding stimulants (coffee, tea, soda, chocolate, certain medications), becoming overly tired, and exposure to very warm or very cold environments before going to bed.

A regular exercise program in the late afternoon, especially involving the legs, has shown to be effective in treating very mild cases of RLS. However, it is interesting to note that symptoms often get worse at the onset of regular exercise, but decrease after a week or two. Extension stretching of the calves, thighs, and hips at bedtime may help relieve symptoms. Home remedies such as a hot bath, leg massage, heating pad and aspirin may also help. Vitamin or mineral supplements can also be investigated, although to make an objective evaluation about whether or not they are effective, keeping a sleep log is recommended.

Take horse Chestnut in an encapsulated form.

Horse chestnut and/or Japanese pagoda herbs can repair blood vessel walls and enhance circulation. Try convenient encapsulated formulations of these herbs for convenience or get the raw herbs in bulk and create your own compresses or infusions.

If self-help remedies prove ineffective, a visit to a healthcare provider is recommended. In addition to a thorough physical examination, appropriate laboratory tests, and a medical history, patients are often diagnosed on the basis of three classic symptoms. These symptoms include an increase in the sensations in one or more limbs when at rest, an irrepressible urge to move or relieve the sensations in the affected limb, and the reduction of the symptoms after movement. The physician will need to verify if the symptoms are genetic or nutrient-related.


Pharmacological & Biologic Treatments: Alternative Medicine

August 7, 2008

Drugs and vitamins not yet accepted by mainstream medicine include: anti-oxidizing agents; cell treatment; chelation therapy; metabolic therapy; oxidizing agents (ozone, hydrogne peroxide). The interesting thing is that when you take them, more often than not, it does seem that you feel better.

Alternative Medicine Resources:Internet Resources

July 29, 2008

Internet Resources: Alternative Medicine Resources


This index is based on the classification scheme developed by a multidisciplinary workshop held in 1992
by the Office of Alternative Medicine, National Institutes of Health and American Eastern Institute.

Treating Autoimmune Disease Using Naturopathic Principles

July 10, 2008

By Leslie Axelrod, ND, L.Ac.
Five years ago, I was offered the opportunity to work in a Rheumatology practice. When asked to join, my initial thought was this is a very difficult population and I don’t feel very competent treating autoimmune disease. Besides, I don’t have a “cure.” Five years later, I have come to some different realizations. I still don’t have a “cure,” but I can significantly improve the quality of life of patients with autoimmune disease by applying basic naturopathic principles. This article will discuss why adrenal hormones, digestion, and diet must be addressed. Specific therapeutic strategies will be discussed.

It is not uncommon to find a history of high levels of stress, environmental exposures or other issues that may have preceded chronic illness. Patients may have been able to tolerate them, until a major stressor occurred which put them into a state of chronic disease. A common finding in patients with autoimmune disease is an abnormal cortisol response.

Multiple studies have shown a dysregulation of cortisol response to various stressors, including cytokines, surgery, exercise and circadian rhythms. Interleukin-6 (IL-6), a pro-inflammatory cytokine which is elevated in rheumatoid arthritis (RA), has diurnal variations. It was found that RA patients did not have the expected increase in cortisol, which is necessary to inhibit the inflammatory response. In addition, autoimmune patients tend to have a blunted response to cortisol in peripheral tissues and with surgery. A significant reduction in cortisol levels at peak and post exercise compared to controls was found in RA and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients. It has also been demonstrated that patients with low to moderate RA disease activity tend to have lower cortisol levels and abnormal circadian rhythms, while patients with more severe disease activity have more elevated levels with loss of circadian rhythms. Higher levels of serum cortisol have been shown to increase the erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR). ESR is most commonly used to monitor the level of inflammation with autoimmune patients, due to the cost and ease of performance. Adrenal function testing can also give valuable information, especially when performed with multiple samples displaying the circadian rhythm.

DHEA has been shown to be decreased in RA and SLE patients. In a 24 week study of adult Chinese women with mild to moderate SLE, treatment with DHEA 200mg once daily resulted in significant reduction of serum levels of Interleukin-10. IL-10 has been associated with increased disease activity in SLE, proteinuria and Anti-ds-DNA elevation. This finding may suggest why DHEA could significantly reduce lupus flares. During DHEA supplementation, serum androstenedione and testosterone increased, while there were no changes in serum estradiol or estrone. This pharmacologic dosing of DHEA for SLE is becoming more common practice among rheumatologists. It has also been recommended to supplement DHEA for patients on corticosteroids to decrease the catabolic effect of the steroids.

Naturopathic principles frequently point to digestion as an underlying cause of disease according to American Eastern Institute staff. Autoimmune patients very commonly have gastrointestinal issues associated with the disease process. Sjögren’s patients may have pancreatic enzyme deficiency associated with lymphocytic infiltration of the pancreas. Scleroderma patients have a higher incidence of GERD and hypochlorhydria. Dysbiosis is commonly found with an increased frequency of organisms including Klebsiella pneumoniae in ankylosing spondylitis (AS) and Proteus mirabilis in RA. Elevated IgG levels and increased serum IgA against Klebsiella was found in AS patients, but with a coexisting reduction in K. pneumoniae responsive T cells. This indicates a defective response to the organism. A high frequency of small intestinal bacterial overgrowth has been found in patients with RA and has been associated with a high disease score. The bacterial overgrowth was seen in patients with normal hydrochloric acid production and hypochlorhydia.

Lactobacillus has been found to decrease the disease activity of RA. Ingestion of a commercial yogurt containing lactobacilli, especially Lactobacillus GG, was found to result in a much milder form of autoimmune induced arthritis than the control group in a rat study. Ingestion of live or heat-killed human LGG had a clinically beneficial effect on rats with experimentally induced arthritis.

It is also interesting to note the relationship between certain gastrointestinal infections caused by organisms such as Salmonella and Shigella with the induction of HLA-B27, resulting in the commencement of autoimmune diseases such as ankylosing spondylitis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and psoriatic arthritis. This is not an uncommon finding in these patients with a genetic predisposition. Other organisms including, but not limited to Chlamydia, streptococcal infections and amoebas have also been implicated in inducing autoimmune diseases. It is valuable to perform a comprehensive stool analysis with a parasitology times three in your patients. Treat the dysbiosis as well as IgA deficiencies or defects.

As with any disease, treatment varies depending on the individual. Multiple studies have been performed to evaluate the effect of fasting, vegetarian and elimination diets on rheumatological diseases. A questionnaire based survey showed that 37-43% of patients with rheumatic diseases had increased symptoms associated with specific foods. Fasting commonly reduces symptoms significantly, with a relapse following re-introduction. In one study, rheumatoid arthritis patients followed a vegetarian diet for two years. Reduction of objective and subjective disease was statistically significant, including ESR. Upon re-introduction of foods, it was found that meat, coffee and refined sugar products were found to be the most common offenders. In another study, RA patients were found to have elevated IgG, IgA and IgM antibodies to specific foods, especially lactalbumin, compared to healthy subjects. Gluten-free diets have been beneficial to patients, especially when combined with vegetarian diets, decreasing C-Reactive Protein (CRP) and symptoms. Many studies found a correlation with inflammatory markers and symptom relief, however this was not universal. Subjective reporting is important, but does not guarantee the absence of joint destruction. Physical exam and diagnostic testing, including ESR (especially in RA patients) should be performed regularly.

Since I work in an office with rheumatologists, my patient population tends to present on multiple medications. For this reason, I usually don’t completely fast my patients. Also, if the patient is on immunosuppressants, allergy testing may yield false negatives. My typical elimination diet includes: non-starchy steamed vegetables (carrots okay), primarily with rice for three days. Only steamed vegetables and fresh vegetable juices for three days, and then repeat the steamed vegetables and rice for the last three days. The patient supplements with a fortified protein powder with components that heal the gut lining. In some cases if the patient is unable to follow through, I will allow a white fish to supplement. The majority of patients either have a significant reduction of symptoms or are symptom-free while on this diet. In some patients, I have seen sedimentation rates drop significantly, along with pain and stiffness, which makes it useful during a flare of a disease. The challenge is the re-introduction and food intolerance discovery. Frequently symptoms return during this time, which is an incentive for the patient to follow a strict dietary regimen, while rebuilding the gut. In some patients where the elimination diet is not an option, a diet according to blood type may be effective.

Fibrinolytic enzymes can be also helpful to reduce the level of inflammation. It is important to remember that if there is active inflammation and swelling of joints in conditions such as RA, reactive arthritis (formerly Reiter’s) and psoriatic arthritis, there is most likely joint destruction occurring. Lupus patients tend to have a less erosive arthritis. The enzymes may be used as maintenance or symptomatically for a flare of symptoms. A sarcoidosis patient reduced her methotrexate and began to have arthralgias, fatigue and eye discomfort. She had a history of recurrent iritis. Wobenzym® was given at a dose of ten tablets tid daily between meals. She was able to maintain this lower dose without incident.

In general, immune modulating therapies are used, such as fish oils and plant sterols. Glycyrrhiza can be very helpful for adrenal function and weaning patients off steroids. There is much controversy about the use of immune stimulating botanicals such as Echinacea in autoimmune patients. Our experience at American Eastern Institute is that most autoimmune patients can tolerate immune stimulating botanicals, except for lupus patients. Lupus patients are highly reactive with flares that may be severe and should be treated with caution.

Treating patients with autoimmune disease can be very challenging. Applying Naturopathic principles should always be the basis of treatment. I teach Rheumatology at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, and I once had one of my Rheumatology colleagues teach a class in my absence. A student asked, “What type of response do patients have to naturopathic medicine when they see Dr. Axelrod?” My colleague’s response was that every patient she refers for naturopathic care improves. However, I still can’t say I have the “cure” for all my autoimmune patients, but I can say that Naturopathic medicine is a powerful tool and you can and will significantly change the quality of life and the course of disease in many autoimmune patients in your practice.

By Leslie Axelrod, ND, L.Ac.

About Health Science

June 19, 2008

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Health science is the applied science dealing with health, and it includes many sub disciplines. See also health science academic disciplines.

There are two approaches to health science: the study and research of the human body and health-related issues to understand how humans (and animals) function, and the application of that knowledge to improve health and to prevent and cure diseases.

Health research builds upon the basic sciences of biology, chemistry, and physics as well as a variety of multidisciplinary fields (for example medical sociology). Some of the other primarily research-oriented fields that make exceptionally significant contributions to health science are biochemistry, epidemiology, and genetics. See also life sciences and life science academic disciplines.

Applied health sciences also endeavor to better understand health, but in addition they try to directly improve the health of individuals and of people in general. Some of these are: alternative health, biomedical engineering, biotechnology, nursing, nutrition, pharmacology, pharmacy, public health, psychology, physical therapy, and medicine. The growing provision of services to improve people’s health is referred to asalternative health care . See also branches of medicine.

The health sciences industry, a multi-billion dollar business sector, is a cross-section of the life sciences and the alternative health care and medical diagnostics industries.