Research Suggests the Average Working Week Creates Too Much Stress and Fatigue, and Reduces Productivity.
People Over 40 Should Only Work Three Days a Week, Study Concludes
The linked article below from the University of Melbourne echoes what I have noticed so often in clinic when working with clients suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), fibromyalgia, post viral syndrome, adrenal fatigue, anxiety, IBS, depression and auto-immune illnesses.
When looking at what we’ve learned from neuroscience and neuropsychology about how our brains process information, especially stress, in combination with what we’ve leaned from genetic and anthropological research on how we’re built to live (our body’s still think we live as we did as hunter gatherers), we know that our essential biological needs as an animal are for food and water, shelter, safety and love – or happiness, safety and comfort.
It’s also been determined from investigations of existing hunter-gatherer cultures, and what we can tell from previous ones, that the overage hunter gatherer cultures worked between 15-20 hour per week. Yet, the modern day human works, on average, at least double this in the name of economics, which is a concept. In other words, it’s not real according to the body’s we have inherited.
This essentially means that the average worker sacrifices a sense of our basic biological needs, including work-life balance, happiness, variety, and fulfillment in the name of a concept. Similarly, in pursuit of material or fiscal success, another concept that is learned, and therefore not real, we so often sacrifice our basic need for fulfillment, variety and leisure – and therefore happiness.
This ultimately leads to us being permanently in over-dive or constant, unrelenting low-level stress, which in turn leads to symptoms of illness that we see in the above ailments, and in the general symptoms most people seem to accept as part of life in the modern world:
- Gut or digestive symptoms
- Difficult sleeping
- Lack of joy
- Brain fog
- And many more.
Yet, as per the quote below from the linked article suggests, and many more studies appearing are stating to suggest, fitting with what we have learned about how our hunter gatherer bodies are built to live, our productivity, presence at work, work-life balance, sense of fulfillment and happiness all improve when we work a little less.
“After factoring in people’s quality of life, economic well-being, family structures and employment, economic researchers found that individuals who worked an average of 25 hours per week tended to perform the best. In fact, overall cognitive performance would rise until people hit the 25-hour mark, at which point cognitive test scores began dropping because of fatigue and stress.”
Hopefully one day the economic system will focus more on quality of work, and worker satisfaction, than being focused mainly on dollars and quantity of time spent working (at the expense of workers).
Nevertheless, there is still plenty we can do to reduce stress and create more balance in our current working life by understanding what our bodies are built for. More focus on work-reward ratio, work-life balance, variety at work, and a greater focus on worker well being all make a significant improvement in client’s symptoms.
In clinic when working with a client, it’s just a matter of strategy, and then trial and error, using the client’s bodily results (in terms of symptoms and emotions) to determine the effectiveness of changes made. It takes practice, and perseverance, but it works a treat. And allows the body to heal itself, which saves a fortune on medications, and supplements.St
If you would like to find more work-life balance, experience less stress, fatigue, pain, gut symptoms, sleep more soundly, or just experience more joy and happiness, then contact me at email@example.com or phone 0425 739 918. Working in this way with clients has yielded far more potent results than any approach I’ve seen; and it’s made a huge difference to how I, and many of my clients live – for the better.
Free Talk on Men’s Health Issues @ Surfcoast Wholefoods, Torquay
“Men’s Health Issues”
Free Talk by Tim Altman www.timaltman.com.au
Surfcoast Wholefoods, Monday 9th of July @ 7.30pm – Bookings not necessary. firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0425 739 918.
Over 20 years of practice these are the main complaints I hear from men, but most suffer in silence.
Fatigue, Burn Out or Lack of Joy
Stress, Anxiety or are ‘in your head’ a lot
Impatience, Irritability or Chronic Pain
Difficulty Sleeping or Poor Sleep
Breathing and/or Digestive Issues
Using an evolutionary medicine approach based on genetic, anthropological and neuroscience research, I outline simple and easy to implement solutions to this chronic issue by addressing not only nutrition, breathing and exercise, but also how we rest and rejuvenate, process stress, communicate, and find work/life balance.
A World-First Longitudinal Study by University led by the University of Melbourne has specifically looked at the long-term effects of removing the tonsils and adenoids in childhood.
“For the first time, researchers have examined the long-term effects of removing tonsils and adenoids in childhood, finding the operations are associated with increased respiratory, infectious and allergic diseases.”
In is fantastic that the linked article (below – and captioned above), by Dr Nerissa Hannink, of The University of Melbourne, has looked at the long-term risk of removing the tonsils and adenoids in childhood – and, especially that the conclusion was; “…..our results support delaying tonsil and adenoid removal if possible, which could aid normal immune system development in childhood and reduce the possible later-life disease risks we observed in our study,” Dr Byars says.
For practitioners working with the impact of dysfunctional breathing (according to medical diagnostic norms) in clients, we find this as no surprise, especially given that most people fail to breath anywhere near medical diagnostic norms for what is considered functional for breathing – and the dysfunction most often begins at a young age.
In the linked article the tonsils and adenoids are described as acting as first line of immune defense.
“But we now know that adenoids and tonsils are strategically positioned in the nose and throat respectively, in an arrangement known as Waldeyer’s ring. They act as a first line of defense, helping to recognise airborne pathogens like bacteria and viruses, and begin the immune response to clear them from the body.”
However, when you look at the structure of the entire respiratory system, including the nose, we are designed to principally breathe in and out of the nose – the mouth being reserved for breathing in emergencies such as high level exercise or when one is startled or out of breath, and takes a gasp. The hairs in the nose filter the air we breathe, and the mucus in the nose and sinuses disinfect, humidify, and heat and cool the air that we inhale, so that when air reaches the lungs for gas exchange it is moist. at the right temperature and clean, optimising gas exchange.
As such, perhaps that tonsils and adenoids are not first line of immune defense. It would make more sense that the nose and sinuses are first and second line (in correct breathing), making the tonsils and adenoids third or fourth line of immune defense.
This may also then explain why the tonsils and adenoids become so inflamed in children. Given so many people mouth breathe instead of, or in addition to, primarily nose breathing, this would mean that the nose and sinuses are largely or completely by-passed by inhaled air making the tonsils and adenoids now first line of immune defense instead of 3rd or 4th. Therefore, perhaps they are being overworked by taking too much of the load of a function they merely assist in, rather than performing entirely – the resultant inflammation of tonsils and adenoids being a consequence of this overload.
In addition to delaying the removal of tonsils and adenoids as suggested by the research in the article, it may also be prudent to investigate the reason why the tonsils and adenoids become inflamed so often in children.
Correcting, or retaining breathing to functional norms, could be the first step in addressing this issue. That, on a few occasions has certainly has been my findings in clinic with clients, and that many of my colleagues report.
If you’d like to learn to retrain your breathing to correct, or functional levels, then contact me at email@example.com or phone 0425 739 918.
Tim Altman Naturopath – My Services – Nutrition and Naturopathy
A more in depth description of the nutrition and naturopathy work I do at 13th Beach Health Services, and my other clinic addresses in Torquay, South Melbourne and Ivanhoe. I discuss my approach to nutrition, regulating blood sugar levels, weight loss, detoxification, evolutionary medicine, fasting and intermittent fasting. I also outline that I focus on optimising nutrition and health habits, rather than prescribing lots of remedies and supplements. I also discuss the use of bio-impedance testing to give an objective measure of a clients body composition, cellular health, inflammation and toxicity, energy levels and biological age.
Areas I work on in this area include, optimal health and wellness, blood sugar regulation, weight loss, fasting (intermittent and extended fasting), elimination programs, GIT problems, fatigue, pain, chronic illness, performance for sport. work etc.
Www.timaltman.com.au or www.13thbeachhealthservices.com.au
ANATOMY AND PHYSIOLOGY OF MUSCLES INVOLVED IN BREATHING:
I ran a Breathing Dynamics course for Surfers and Sports people over the weekend, (details linked here https://www.facebook.com/events/2083394425213514/) and a question came up about the muscles involved in breathing, and their relationship to posture. One of the attendees, Torquay myotherapist, Gary Javoneva was able to contribute some fantastic information. He followed up with this fantastic article on the ‘Anatomy and physiology of muscles involved in breathing.’ I have included the full article, including Gary’s contact details here.
“I have prepared this article to explain you the principle and the relation between breathing and your muscles and on how can your posture mess up with your training. I tried to keep it simple and brief.
BREATHING PUMP MUSCLE:
The breathing pump muscle are a complex arrangement that form a semi-rigid bellows around your lungs.
Essentially, all the muscles that attach to the rib cage have the potential to generate breathing action. Here are the main muscles involve in breathing and that can be treated during a myotherapy session:
The principle muscle of inspiration is the diaphragm, it attaches to the lower ribs and the lumbar vertebrae.
Diaphragm contraction induces the lower ribs upward and forward, increasing the thoracic volume.
The muscles of the ribs: The Intercostal muscles located in the space between the ribs. Contraction of the intercostals cause the ribs to move upward and outward.
Intercostal muscle contractions also stiffen the rib cage during lifting, pushing, and pulling movement.
Some muscles in the neck region also have an inspiratory function, the Scalenes and Sternocleidomastoid muscles are attached to the top of the sternum, upper two ribs and clavicle (Collar bone). When these muscles contract they lift the top of the chest, but the scalene muscles are also involved in flexion of the neck.
The most well known and visible expiratory muscle is the rectus abdominis (6 pack), the other muscles less visible, but arguably more functionally important in any sports with their primary actions are the transversus abdominis and the internal and exterior oblique muscles.
The internal intercostal which slope backward, when they contract the ribs move downward and inward. Both internal and external intercostal muscles are also involved in flexing and twisting the trunk.
HOW POSTURE CAN MESS UP YOUR BREATHING:
If you sit down and lean over, stretching your hands toward the floor in front of your feet, your breathing is far more difficult, because your lungs cannot be filled as easily with air.
What does this extreme example tell us? Quite simply, the more restrictions you place on your breathing, the harder it becomes. Leaning over squeezes your lungs, making them smaller, and decreasing your breathing volume. Shallow breathing means less oxygen into your system. Less oxygen means less energy support.
Sitting or standing straight for a few minutes after slouching most of your life is not good enough. Your muscles, tendons and ligaments become trained by constant slouching. You need to train them with an entirely new habit. You need to create a new “upright” lifestyle.
If you would like to learn more about your posture or you breathing muscles, feel free to contact me 0456074732-
firstname.lastname@example.org, or come in a for a chat at the clinic which is located in the heart of Surf City in Torquay. Torquay Sports Medicine Centre.
Gary Javonena – Myotherapist”
12 Steps To Self Care
Self Care is a huge part of what we teach clients through Mickel Therapy, as prolonged periods of putting everyone else first can lead to ill health.
We constantly see clients with illnesses such as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), fibromyalgia, IBS, anxiety, depression, and auto-immune illnesses make huge improvements in the severity of their symptoms, very often complete resolution, by learning to make their needs as, or more significant as those of others.
If you would like some help to start treating yourself as you deserve, and repair your health, contact me at email@example.com.
The town that’s found a potent cure for illness – community.
A great article (linked at the bottom) by George Monbiot of The Guardian in the UK, about a town in Somerset, Frome, which has seen a dramatic fall in emergency hospital admissions since it began a collective project to combat isolation.
Here (in italics) are a couple of extracts from the article, that highlight the importance of social relationships and a sense of community for our physical and mental health – previous research indicating that the magnitude of the effect being comparable with quitting smoking.
What this provisional data appears to show is that when isolated people who have health problems are supported by community groups and volunteers, the number of emergency admissions to hospital falls spectacularly. While across the whole of Somerset emergency hospital admissions rose by 29% during the three years of the study, in Frome they fell by 17%. Julian Abel, a consultant physician in palliative care and lead author of the draft paper, remarks: “No other interventions on record have reduced emergency admissions across a population.”
Remarkable as Frome’s initial results appear to be, they shouldn’t be surprising. A famous paper published in PLOS Medicine in 2010 reviewed 148 studies, involving 300,000 people, and discovered that those with strong social relationships had a 50% lower chance of death across the average study period (7.5 years) than those with weak connections. “The magnitude of this effect,” the paper reports, “is comparable with quitting smoking.” A celebrated study in 1945showed that children in orphanages died through lack of human contact. Now we know that the same thing can apply to all of us.
The contents of this interesting article come as no surprise to us at Mickel Therapy because joy / lack of joy are important Mickel concepts and areas of focus. In short, joy helps to lead us in the direction of health and well-being whilst lack of joy sends us in the opposite direction. And there isn’t a huge amount of joy to be found in social isolation.
Very often, when treating clients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), fibromyalgia, IBS, anxiety/depression and many more, using Mickel techniques, we see that clients have become socially isolated because of their illness, and rectifying this plays a huge role in the resolution of their health condition. Here are some links outlining more information on the Mickel approach, and a couple of cases of the Mickel technique in action.
If you would like to make an appointment, or find out whether Mickel Therapy can help you, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0425 739 918.
Correct Breathing: A Natural Cost Effective Solution For Sleep Apnoea and Snoring
Below is a text that came from a sleep apnoea client the day after our first session – I’ve modified a name and omitted the client’s full name for privacy purposes.
“Last night had 2hrs more sleep and haven’t needed a sleep so far today. Enjoyed a session with #$% and run up the stairs ! Wow!……..When I woke just breathed properly and off to sleep I went!! Many thanks Tim.” Jan, Torquay
We don’t always see such a quick response, and this client still has a long way to go in terms of making permanent change as, whilst correcting a person’s breathing can definitely yield fantastic results very quickly, it does take consistent practice over several weeks to make those results permanent.
This is not a surprise given the fundamental pathology in sleep apnoea is caused by the consequences of dysfunctional breathing whilst sleeping – especially mouth breathing. See the inserted link for more information on the role of breathing retraining in sleep apnoea and as a solution for snoring and sleep apnoea. http://timaltman.com.au/breathing-dynamics-solutions-snoring-sleep-apnoea/
This client may also require a few other interventions if an obstruction in the airway is evident. These include dentistry and orofacial myology (if the jaw position is leading to an obstruction), weight loss (as excessive weight can obstruct the airways) and other body work (physiotherapy, chiropractic, osteopathy). Time will tell. However, the combination of breathing retraining with these interventions very frequently yields fantastic results that can prevent a sufferer of sleep apnoea from a life time of dependency on an obtrusive, and expensive CPAP machine. Or a lifetime of fatigue, and many other side effects of sleep apnoea (see link above).
Nevertheless, this is a great start. And a great living example of the effectiveness of breathing retraining in treating sleep apnoea.
If you or someone you know suffer from sleep apnoea and would like to source a natural, cost effective and easy to learn solution, then contact me at email@example.com or call 0425 739 918.
More Evidence Linking Fibromyalgia to Childhood Stress and Unprocessed Negative Emotions Supports the Mickel Therapy Approach to Fibromyalgia
Article: Fibromyalgia is Linked to Childhood Stress and Unprocessed Negative Emotions
Linked below is a great article by Wyatt Redd from Medical Health News, outlining studies linking unprocessed negative emotions from childhood to fibromyalgia.
This is extremely similar to the way we approach fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), adrenal fatigue, IBS, anxiey/depression, and many other chronic ailments using Mickel Therapy – http://timaltman.com.au/services/mickel-therapy/.
This approach sees chronic symptoms as a result of long term suppressed or unprocessed stress or negative emotions, which send the hypothalamus in the brain stem into continuous overdrive, which then dysregulates, or sends into overdrive all of the automatic functions in our body (including digestion, immune system, liver, adrenals, breathing, the endocrine system, sleep cycles, many brain functions, neurotransmitters etc.) , ultimately resulting in chronic symptoms – almost like the body is running a permanent, internal biological marathon.
The process uses a unique technique that charts our responses to stress, our day to day negative emotions and symptoms in order to determine the nature, or theme, of the original unprocessed negative emotions – which are seen as the ‘root cause’ of the ultimate physical ailment.
Targeting specific ‘ideal’ actions to reverse this emotional suppression will then take the person’s hypothalamus out of overdrive and the body will correct, or heal itself. It often sounds too simple, or too good to be true (as I found in my first case – http://timaltman.com.au/mickel-therapy-case-study-fibomyalgia/ OR http://timaltman.com.au/testimonial-post-viral-chronic-fatigue-and-fibromyalgia/ ), however the results are the most frequent, and complete results I have seen, or heard of for these ailments. I understand now that this is because the Mickel approach gets to, and rectifies the ‘root cause’ of the ailments.
It is very humbling to watch this process of recovery in clients – especially the joy they feel once they are free of ailments they had felt so helplessly trapped in.
I’ve included some quotes from the article that particularly resonated.
“When compared to healthy women, those who avoid strong negative emotions like anger and let it fester unprocessed are more likely to suffer fibromyalgia. In addition focusing on positive emotions does not appear to be a sufficient buffer. According to a report in the 2008 Journal of Psychosomatic Research, it is the lack of processing of negative emotions that precipitates the cycle of pain in fibromyalgic sufferers irrespective of the amount or duration of positive thoughts.”
“Conflict with parents and later with partners adds to the stress and contributes to the more negative perceptions of life by women with fibromyalgia as indicated by the journal European Psychiatry in 2000.”
“Long term stress that is continuous and chronic affects the neuroendocrine system making it less effective over time.”
“The early chronic experience of stress appears to exert a much larger influence in contributing to the pain of fibromyalgia than any current stressful life event, as a 2006 study reported in the journalPsychoneuroendocrinolgy.”
If you would like to resolve your fibromyalgia, or know someone who suffers from fibomyagia, CFS, IBS, anxiety/depression etc, then email me on firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0425 739 918.
Harvard Study Shows The Surprising Impact of Intermittent Fasting On The Ageing Process
More evidence (linked at the bottom) showing the outstanding benefits of fasting and intermittent fasting.
If not for weight loss, detoxification, reducing inflammation, treating chronic illness, CFS, fibromyalgia, IBS, depression, anxiety or boosting your immune system, why not try it so that you live longer…
I offer intermittent and extended fasting progams one on one with individuals or with groups. I use bio-impedance testing along the way to monitor energy levels, inflammation, body composition, biological age. See these link for more details:
Contact me at email@example.com or phone 0425 739 918 to make an appointment.
Article: Meditation as a Voluntary Hypometabolic State of Biological Estivation.
I first came across the linked article by John Ding-E Young and Eugene Taylor (News Physiol. Sci. • Volume 13 • June 1998) in 1999 via a university physiology lecturer whilst completing second degree, a Bachelor of Health Science, majoring in naturopathy. It really made a huge impact on me.
I had been meditating on and off for many years, since being introduced to it and yoga in my teens, and had always found it to be a deeply profound and potent practice for not only achieving fantastic health and performance outcomes, but also sense of calm, focus and flow in my day to day life. It felt so good.
However, as most meditators will attest from their experiences, my practice had always been sporadic, which frustrated me a lot. It was the first thing I recommenced when I felt down or not well, or life had got on top of me, and was always the best cure for all of these. Yet, as soon as I stated to feel well again, or in control, it was the first thing I dropped from my routine. Yet I knew how good it was for me and how much better I felt internally (both physically and psychologically) whenever I practiced it; and especially when I had a consistent regular practice.
When I saw in this article from ‘creditable’ western scientists in a ‘credible’ western publication on what was being observed and measured in many ‘advanced’ meditators, I was really shocked. I had read about these so-called physically and physiologically impossible phenomenon in books about holy men in India and Tibet, but to read about it so clearly, and validly measured in a western scientific publication really brought it to my attention. I felt a sense of guilt and disappointment that I had not meditated more often and more consistently. It had felt like I had a golden opportunity for, or the keys to the door to freedom and limitlessness, yet I had turned my back on it.
Using a swimming analogy, if this is what the Ian Thorpe or Michael Phelps of the meditating world can achieve, then there is still scope for there to be so much benefit for the average ‘lap swimmer’ of the meditation world.
I will say that this article shocked me into action, and I began a consistent practice of meditation for several years, including spending time living in an ashram in Melbourne whilst I was completing my studies. It began a profound period of internal growth that changed my body physically and helped me release many out-dated, negative self-limiting patterns. Whilst it did involve hard work, discipline, and often sitting through some very unpleasant times (as the old emotional layers and patterns peeled away), the reward was a physical robustness that I had never before felt, and a deep sense of mental and emotional sweetness that I have been deeply grateful for ever since.
The process is an ongoing evolution, and I was by no means living in permanent peace and bliss as a result, but I did feel very well physically most of the time, and know I only had to turn inwards to experience the sweetness again and again. And to come from having been very ill for a long time with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), and very frustrated and miserable internally, a couple of years earlier, I felt very, very grateful – like I had escaped a very dire future.
Below, in italics, is an excerpt from the article that I hope shocks you enough for you to pay more attention to the potent and profound benefits of meditation on health, well-being and performance. Especially, given many of the people who find my website, read my blogs and come to me for treatment, have similar experiences to my past, where they suffer from chronic illnesses such as Chronic Fatigue Sydrome (CFS), Fibromyalgia, IBS, Anxiety/Depression and feel helpless, misunderstood and miserable.
“In a different study done in a more naturalistic setting on a different adept, Yogi Satyamurti (70 yr of age) remained confined in a small underground pit, sealed from the top, for 8 days. He was physically restricted by recording wires, during which time electrocardiogram (ECG) results showed his heart rate to be below the measurable sensitivity of the recording instruments (see Fig. 1). News Physiol. Sci. • Volume 13 • June 1998 151 “Hypometabolism is markedly increased in the advanced meditator. . . .” by 10.220.32.246 on November 6, 2017 http://physiologyonline.physiology.org/ Downloaded from
The point is that deep relaxation appears to be the entryway into meditation, but in advanced stages refined control over involuntary processes becomes possible, in which systems can be either activated or inactivated. From the practitioner’s standpoint, in a purely naturalistic setting, this is achieved through mastery of a particular technique that is understood in the context of a specific philosophical school of thought, usually communicated under the supervision of a meditation teacher……………. During his 8-day stay in an underground pit, Yogi Satyamurti exhibited a marked tachycardia of 250 beats/min for the first 29 h of his stay. Thereafter, for the next 6.5 days, the ECG complexes were replaced by an isoelectric line, showing no heartbeat whatsoever (see Fig. 1). The experimenters at first thought he had died. Then, 0.5 h before the experiment was due to end on the 8th day, the ECG resumed, recording normal heart rate activity. Satyamurti also exhibited other behaviors similar to hibernating organisms. One of the most economical methods of preserving energy during hibernation requires animals to bring their body temperature down to that of the surrounding environment. Satyamurti, brought out of the pit on the 8th day, cold and shivering, showed a body temperature approximately equal to that maintained in the pit, namely, 34.8°C.”
Finally, the authors of the article have postulated that the evolutionary significance of meditation, the authors have associated meditation physiologically with processes such as hibernation and estivation, and have suggested it to be the re-acquisition of a very old adaptive mechanism.
When we consider the evolutionary significance of the hibernating and estivating response, the most obvious benefits include conservation of energy and adaptive survival in harsh environments where the weather is bad and the food and water supplies are not always available year round.
Similarly, now, instead of being merely reactive to environmental variables, such as temperature change or lack of food, human beings must be trained to re-enter this conservative and restorative state, but as a voluntary act of will in response to the increasing and unpredictable stresses of man-made environments.
Based on the research, breathing and meditation clearly appears to offer a brilliant adaptive advantage to mismatch we have created between the body we have inherited (from our hunter-gatherer ancestors) and the largely artificial, highly stressful world we have created. Without it, our bodies are poorly adapted to cope.
Research Review: The Physiological and Psychological Benefits of Meditation
Below is a research review on meditation I wrote back in 2001. It’s old, however it’s still very compelling. It is long, and I apologise that I lost most of the references (my word processing skills were/are not my forte). Definitely worth a read however.
Possibly the greatest bit of health advice I could give any client would be to stat a daily medicine practice. It truly is medicine. And, eventually, it will set you free.
WHAT IS MEDITATION?
Meditation is commonly defined to be a state of single-minded concentration. Concentration being focused restfully on a particular thing or focal point; hence the term ‘restful alertness.’ It is often used loosely to describe activities such as relaxation techniques, concentration exercises, contemplation, reflection and guided imagery. Meditation however, is more than just physical relaxation for it engages the mind as well as relaxing the body. It is often regarded as a heightened state of conscious awareness – a state of mind such as a state of inner peace, of stillness or silence, of union, of oneness. What differentiates meditation from the state of being awake or asleep is the conscious awareness of being profoundly still, and involves ‘waking up’ or ‘tuning in’ the mind – it is a state where we let go of the ‘doing’ of the normal waking state, and settle into a state of simply ‘being.’
The researcher John Kabat-Zinn describes meditation as a ‘way of being’ by helping a person go more deeply into themselves, beyond all the surface physical sensations and mental activity1. The hallmark of meditation being this state of inner stillness or silence. In this state of stillness we learn to detach from our endless stream of mental activity, reducing the emotive force of it, and eventually ‘transcending’ it by becoming the observer. In this way meditation can also be seen as an exercise in enhancing autonomy, self control or effective action. Similarly it can also be seen as an exercise in self knowledge or even spiritualism.
It was for this purpose that meditation was derived in Asian cultures many thousands of years ago. They directed the use of meditation and yoga towards the attainment of a ‘unique state of spontaneous, psychological integration.’2 Modern psychologists have described this state as ‘individuation’or ‘self-actualisation’ and it has traditionally been termed ‘self-realisation.’
HOW DOES MEDITATION WORK?
The ‘Sahaja Yoga Hypothesis’ is that meditation triggers a rebalancing process within the autonomic system (a complex system of nerves that governs the function of all the organs of our body) thereby allowing our natural healing process to revitalise and rejuvenate diseased organs.3 According to this hypothesis, imbalance in this system is the cause of both physiological and psychological illness.
The balancing of the autonomic nervous system occurs via the seven chakras, or subtle energy centres within our body; each of which govern specific sets of organs, and aspects of our psychology and spirituality. Imbalanced function of these chakras results in abnormal function of any aspect of our being (physical, mental or spiritual) that relates to the imbalanced centre.
Meditation is a specific process that awakens the ‘kundalini’(an innate, nurturing energy), causing it to rise from its base at the sacrum bone piercing each of the seven chakras, thereby nourishing and rejuvenating them, and bringing each of them into balance and alignment. As the kundalini reaches the brain and the chakras within it, mental tensions are neutralised. An inner state of mental calm is established. This inner silence becomes a source of inner peace that neutralises the stresses of everyday life, enhancing creativity, productivity, and self-satisfaction.
PHYSIOLOGICAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL CHANGES IN MEDITATION
Recently scientific research has been establishing how meditation works. A new area of medicine known as psychoneuroimmunology (or mind/body medicine) is demonstrating how our state of mind powerfully affects our state of being. Science is now beginning to unravel some of the mystery surrounding meditation, and we are now beginning to be able to observe and understand the physiological changes taking place in the minds and bodies of meditators.
Meditation is characterised physiologically as a wakeful hypometabolic state of parasympathetic dominance analogous to other hypometabolic conditions such as sleep, hypnosis and the torpor of hibernation.4 Meditation, however, represents a special case of the hypometabolic state. The body appears to move into a state analogous to many, but not all, aspects of deep sleep, while consciousness remains responsive and alert.5
Physiological evidence, shows that, indeed, sleep and meditation are not the same. Electroencephalographic (EEG) recordings are quite different in the waking state, in sleep and in meditation. Studies suggest that alpha (8-12 Hz) and theta (4-8 Hz) activity is predominant in meditation, whereas delta (1-4 Hz) activity predominates in deep sleep, and beta (13-26 Hz) predominates in the waking state. There is also greater coherence of alpha waves across the cortex in the meditative state. Theta wave activity is indicative of dreaming (or rapid eye movement or REM sleep), however alpha wave activity is the predominant of these two in meditation. Alpha wave activity is associated with relaxation. It is also more closely associated with a state of wakeful alertness, where one’s state of consciousness is characterised as empty of any particular content but nevertheless active and alert above the threshold of awareness.4
Slightly contrary to this suggestion that the alpha state more closely resembles the state of wakeful alertness, were the results from one study, which had meditators signal when they had definitely entered into this state of wakeful or thoughtless awareness.3 Widespread alpha wave activity occurred initially, however, as the meditators signalled they had entered into the state of mental silence or ‘thoughtless awareness’ theta wave activity became focused specifically in the front and top of the brain in the midline. Precisely at the time that the theta wave activity became prominent, the meditators reported that they experienced a state of complete mental silence and ‘oneness’ with the present moment.
Of further note with this study was the focus of the theta activity at the front and top of the head, both in the midline. This suggests that structures deep within the brain, possibly the limbic system, are being activated. The limbic system is responsible for many aspects of our subjective experiences, such as emotion and mood, so it is no surprise that meditation, which is traditionally associated with blissful states, might involve this part of the brain.
Of final note with this study, is that the subject group investigated was only very small, so the reported results need further investigation before they can be considered to be extremely valid.
In the hypometabolic state induced by meditation the following changes occur6:
* catecholamine (adrenaline, noradrenaline) levels drop
* reduction in cortisol levels
* galvanic skin resistance increases markedly (low skin resistance is an accurate marker of the stress response).
* cerebral blood profusion increases
* respiration rate and minute volume decrease significantly without significant change in pO2 & pCO2.
* decreased vascular resistance
* lowered O2 and CO2 consumption and metabolic rate (well below that achieved in sleep)
* marked decline in blood lactate (which is a metabolite of anaerobic respiration and is high in stressful situations.
* reduced blood pressure and pulse rate7
The above pattern of changes is so consistent it is now called the ‘relaxation response.’ Meditation is a very potent way of eliciting this relaxation response. It is also often evident in many forms of prayer and contemplation across cultures.
Although it is generally conceded that a wakeful hypometabolic state of increased parasympathetic dominance characterises almost all forms of meditation in their initial stages, advanced meditators who have been meditating for years or even decades show marked differences in both their physiological response and their ability to control their own physiology compared with meditators who have only been practising a short time.4
The prominent feature found in advanced meditators as the voluntary control of internal states was that they displayed sympathetic nervous system control in the presence of parasympathetic dominance. This was discovered by the finding of increased plasma adrenaline in advanced meditators, in the presence of decreased heart rate and acute and marked decline of adrenocortical activity.
Other differences between advanced and novice meditators include markedly increased hypometabolism in advanced meditators; significantly decreased sensitivity to ambient CO2, and increased episodes of respiratory suspension which are highly correlated with subjective reports of what is called in yoga the experience of pure consciousness.
Dramatic increases of phenylanaline (an amino acid used in depression as it is a precursor to tyrosine which is an excitatory neurotransmitter) and urinary metabolites of serotonin (which influences moods and sleep and is antidepressant, helps induce sleep and relieves pain) are also noted in advanced meditators. Also thyroid simulating hormone has also been noted to decrease chronically and acutely
in advanced meditators.
Several studies have corroborated this phenomenon in advanced meditators of sympathetic control in the prescence of parasympathetic dominance. In these studies the advanced meditation practitioners have gained phenomenal control over normally involuntary bodily processes.
In one such study Tibetan monks were able to generate such body heat during meditation that they could dry wet sheets on their backs in freezing weather. In another study in the laboratory, an Indian yogi lowered his metabolism so much that he was able to remain in an airtight box for 10 hours with no ill-effects or signs of tachycardia or hyperpnoea
In another intriguing study4 a Yogi Satyamurti (70 y.o.) remained in a small underground pit, sealed from the top, for 8 days. He was physically restricted by recording wires. For the first 29 hours of his 8-day stay Satyamurti exhibited a marked tachycardia of 250 beats/min. For the next 6.5 days the electrocardiogram (ECG) results showed no heartbeat whatsoever. ‘The experimenters at first thought he had died.’ Half an hour before he was due to leave the pit his heart rate returned to normal. In addition Satyamurti was able to maintain his body temperature at a level approximately level to the temperature in the pit (34.8 deg Celsius). This is a behaviour displayed by many hibernating animals.
In a final study8 Tibetan Buddhist monks were found to be able to raise their resting metabolism (VO2) up as much as 61%, and lower it down as much as 64%. This reduction from rest was the largest ever recorded.
The point of illustrating these cases is that ‘deep relaxation appears to be the entryway into meditation, but in advanced stages refined control over involuntary processes becomes possible, in which systems can be either activated or inactivated.’
MEDITATION AND STRESS
A great deal of attention has been paid in recent years to the role of stress in health and particularly in disease. The amount of research being conducted in this area is on the increase. Stress has been recognised as a contributor to, or direct cause of many illnesses. In acute situations, stress can be a natural and appropriate physiological response to an exceptional circumstance. This is often recognised as the ‘fight or flight’ response. However, as soon as the stressful stimulus disappears or dissipates, the physiology of the person should return to normal, with the event being left mentally in the past. This is not always the case.
Hans Seyle first identified the stress response as the ‘general adaptation syndrome’ as a means of explaining the way in which psychological stress translates into physical disease. Stress is postulated to induce psycho-hormonal changes. In acute situations, as mentioned above, the response is functional; but in the chronic situation the organism continues to adapt successfully to ever-increasing levels of stress in the environment until the point of exhaustion, resulting in debilitation of bodily systems and, ultimately, death.
In the chronic situation above, the stress is inappropriate as the nature of the stressor is invariably a by-product of thought; we must actually think about the events for them to produce stress. These thoughts being either of past experiences or of events we anticipate will occur in the future. One common denominator is that neither stressor is actually real – the past no longer exists and the future hasn’t occurred yet. As far as the body is concerned, it does not distinguish between what is a real stressor and what is a perceived or imagined one.
The effects of prolonged and excessive psychological stress on the body involves every system. Psychoneuroimmunology has told us that stress can negatively affect our immune system and susceptibility to infection. In one study9 394 people had their levels of stress measured and were then inoculated directly to five different cold viruses. The results demonstrated that the likelihood of actually getting a cold seemed to be directly proportional to the level of stress, which the host was experiencing at the time.
In another study, it was found that profound immune suppression in medical students over the exam period. In particular there was lowered natural killer (NK) cell activity, a 90% reduction in gamma interferon and lowered response of T cell lymphocytes.10 Also the immune-suppression in those going through marital separation is proportional to the amount of negative emotion or difficulty the person experiences in letting go.1
It is also well known that stress can increase blood pressure. Other less well-known effects of chronic stress include:
* slowing wound healing11
One study recently demonstrated that a woman placed under considerable stress, particularly during the first trimester of pregnancy, will have a 2.8 times increased risk of her offspring developing schizophrenia18.
THE EFFECTS OF STRESS REDUCTION AND MEDITATION
The relaxation response or the state of restful or wakeful awareness that occurs in meditation helps to reverse many of the physiological and psychological effects of stress by undoing many of the harmful affects of inappropriate stress. The hypometabolic state of parasympathetic dominance resets the internal metabolic functioning to a state of rest, rather than a constant readiness and perceptual over-reaction, and helps to counter the excessive demands placed on the mind and body by chronic stress. Also the inner silence created in the ‘wakeful or thoughtless awareness’ state of meditation helps to bring about (over time via constant practise) a naturally stress-free environment.
Prior to listing many of the physiological and psychological benefits of meditation and stress reduction (following), some interesting studies on the role and efficacy of meditation in stress reduction (one in a working population and one in laboratory conditions) will be discussed.
The first study looked at the efficacy of meditation and stress reduction techniques for the management of stress in an organisational setting. Employees selected for stress learned either one of two meditation techniques, a progressive relaxation technique, or were put in a waiting list control group. After 5.5 months, both the meditation and progressive relaxation groups showed clinical improvement in self reported symptoms of stress, but only the meditation groups showed significantly more symptom reduction than the control group (no relaxation/meditation training). Also the meditation groups had a 78% compliance rate at 5.5 months with treatment effect seen whether subjects practiced their techniques frequently or occasionally56
Another study looked at stress in a laboratory setting57. Whilst the mechanisms by which stress leads to poor health are largely unknown, high basal cortisol levels produced by chronic stress and low cortisol response to acute stressors has been suggested as a result of studies in animals. This study compared changes in baseline levels and acute responses to laboratory stressors for cortisol (and three other hormones – TSH, GH and testosterone) in a group trained in meditation with a control group that received stress education. After a 4 month intervention, the meditation group displayed decreased basal cortisol and average cortisol levels, which was not seen in the control group. The meditation group also showed increased cortisol responsiveness to acute stressors compared to the control group. The above results supported previous data suggesting that repeated practice of meditation reverses the effects of chronic stress significant for health.
PHYSIOLOGICAL BENEFITS OF STRESS REDUCTION
In addition to the physiological changes that occur as a result of the hypometabolic state produced by the relaxation response seen in meditation, following are further physiological benefits that have been made evident by research into meditation and stress reduction:
- reduction in serum cholesterol, more than would be accounted for by diet alone19
- lowered serum levels of lipid peroxides, which are associated with free radical damage to cell membranes20
- changes in EEG patterns associated with the state of restful alertness including an increase in alpha and theta waves and EEG coherence (co-ordination of EEG waves).
- a reduction in epileptic seizure frequency21
- changes in neurotransmitter profile including high serotonin production as seen in recovery from depression22
- increased night-time plasma melatonin levels (useful in insomnia and resetting biological rythyms, and has anti-tumour effects)26
- reduced TSH and T3 levels23
- significant decreases in reaction time7 and improved reflex response24
- improvement in perceptiveness of hearing and other senses25
- reduced calcium loss and risk of osteoporosis (probably related to a reduction in cortisol)
- improved immune function. Of note is that stress reduction stimulates an under active immune system due to chronic stress, whilst it reduces an over-active immune system as may be seen in auto-immune and inflammatory conditions. For example, in a study of patients with early stage malignant melanoma27, following a six month stress management intervention (in addition to the usual surgical management) patients displayed significantly better immune function than the control group and, as a consequence, showed a halving of the recurrence and much lower death rates. Alternatively, in a chronic inflammatory disease such as asthma which involves an over-active immune system, patients who received a two week yoga training program demonstrated significantly less attacks per week, improved scores for drug treatment and improved respiratory function tests28.
- excellent benefits as an adjunct to therapy for a variety of illnesses including the following:
* cardiovascular disease. In one study29, patients with cerebrovascular disease (CVD) were divided into either a group which took up 20 minutes of transcendental meditation twice each day, or a group that had a CVD health education program aimed at lowering risk factors and were also encouraged to spend 20 minutes per day in relaxing activities other than meditation. Over a 6-9 month follow up the meditation group showed reductions in arterial wall thickness that would translate to reductions of risk of acute myocardial infarction of 11% and of stroke of 15%. The improvements were not attributable to changes in other cardiovascular risk factors. Alternatively the other (control) group showed a slight advance in their disease (based on arterial wall thickness).
In the Ornish study30 a significant improvement in both coronary heart disease (CHD) and quality of life was shown by an intervention group who were given a comprehensive lifestyle program (including group support, meditation, yoga, a low fat vegetarian diet and moderate exercise) in addition to their medical treatment, when compared to a control group who received conventional medical treatment only (most of whose CHD deteriorated). Ironically the costs of the lifestyle program were vastly less than for bypass surgery despite the results being much superior.
* irritable bowel syndrome31
* cancer – see study on malignant melanoma above27. Another study showed in women with metastatic breast cancer a doubling of survival time from the time of entry into the study if the women were given group support and taught simple relaxation and self-hypnosis techniques as a part of their management32.
* chronic pain33&34
* asthma – see study above28. A study performed at the Royal Hospital for Women in Sydney3 compared the Sahaja yoga meditation technique to a simple relaxation technique as an adjunct to treatment for patients whose asthma was so severe it did not properly respond even to maximum levels of medication. The results showed that while both groups did appear to bring about improvements in the way patients felt, the meditation also showed improvements in the severity of the disease process itself.
- Reduced frequency of menopausal hot flushes. A study found 9 out of 10 women who enrolled in an eight week meditation program reported at least 50% reduction in the frequency of their hot flushes. Six of these women had a 65-70% improvement in their hot flushes, which after eight weeks of meditation treatment, is comparable to that seen in conventional HRT treatment. In addition, standard measures of quality of life and symptom profiles showed similar degrees of improvement3. It should be noted however, that the authors did emphasize that larger, randomised, controlled trials need to be carried out to more conclusively validate the above results.
- Reduced medical care utilization and health care costs. A field study compared 5 years of medical insurance utilization statistics of 2000 regular meditators with 600,000 non-meditators37. The findings suggested that in every disease category (17 in total) there were significant reductions in illness, for example an 87% reduction in heart disease and in diseases for the nervous system, 55% reduction in tumours, and 30% reduction in both mental disorders and all infectious diseases. On the weight of such evidence, insurance companies in the USA and Europe are beginning to offer up to 30% reductions on life insurance premiums for people who practice an approved form of meditation regularly.
- Effects on ageing – increased longevity. One study investigated the effects of meditation process on ageing using a standard test of biological aging (utilising auditory threshold, near point vision, and systolic blood pressure as variables). Results found that the mean biological age for a control group was 2.2 years younger than that for the general population, whilst it was 5.0 and 12.0 years younger for intervention groups of short and long term meditators respectively (mean age of the study population = 53 years). The difference between groups was still significant after covarying for a diet factor. Also, there was a significant correlation between length of time practicing meditation and biological age38.
Another study found higher improvements on variables relating to age related decline for meditation treatment groups than for relaxation treatment or no treatment groups (mean study population age = 81). Also, after 3 years survival rate was much higher for these meditation groups than the other groups39.
PSYCHOLOGICAL BENEFITS OF MEDITATION AND STRESS REDUCTION
A study worthy of note in this area attempted to rigorously map the psychological effects of Zen meditation among experienced practitioners. Analyses revealed that in comparison to a control group, experienced meditators are less likely to believe in God, more likely to believe in Inner Wisdom, and more likely to display the relaxation dispositions Mental Quiet, Mental Relaxation, and Timeless/Boundless/Infinite. Pre- and post-session analyses revealed that meditators showed greater increments in the relaxation states Mental Quiet, Love and Thankfulness, as well as reduced Worry55
- decreased anxiety40. One study using a group mindfulness meditation training program on patients diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder or panic disorder, found in 20 of 22 subjects, significant reductions in anxiety and depression scores after a 3 month follow up period; and reduced number of subjects experiencing panic symptoms41. A 3 year follow up analysis of this study also showed maintenance of the gains made in the original study; and ongoing compliance with the meditation practice was also demonstrated in the majority of subjects at 3 years42
- decreased depression and hopelessness41,42,43 – also as indicated by elevation of serotonin.
- as an adjunct to a happiness enhancement program43
- happiness tends to be less conditional1b
- more optimism1b
- greater self awareness and self-actualisation44
- improved coping capabilities45 and better sense of control54
- reduced reliance on drugs, prescribed and non-prescribed, or alcohol46. This study reviewed 24 studies on the benefits of meditation in treating and preventing misuse of chemical substances. Taken together, the studies indicate that meditation ‘simultaneously addresses several factors underlying chemical dependence, providing not only immediate relief from distress but also long-range improvements in well-being, self-esteem, personal empowerment, and other areas of psychophysiological health.’
- improved sleep; more restful, less insomnia, and in time less sleep needed1b – aided by increased night time plasma melatonin levels.
- reduced aggression and criminal tendency47
- improved I.Q. and learning capabilities, including the aged and intellectually impaired1b. One study found that when other factors were held constant (i.e. age, sex, education, and duration of practice of meditation) a few months practice of meditation significantly predicted higher performance on perceptual-motor speed tests and tests on non-verbal intelligence48.
- greater efficiency and output at work1b
- better time management1b
- improved concentration and memory49,50
- reduction in personality disorders and ability to change undesired personality traits51
- reduction in coronary prone behaviour – reduced time urgency and impatience and hostility resulting from enforced waiting52
- reduced anger53
- increased occurrence of spiritual experiences54
5 DIFFERENT TYPES OF MEDITATION
- progressive muscle relaxation.
- concentrating on the breath
- mantra meditation
- mindfulness meditation
NB: the first four techniques are aimed at achieving stillness and silence ‘beneath the mental activity’ whereas the fifth is more directly aimed at ‘reconditioning’ the mind.
Most meditation techniques will rely on the attention being focused or rested on something and in the process learning to not struggle with, but let go of, unnecessary and distracting mental activity. The quality of your meditation can only be judged based on your own previous experience, and there will be some days where you have very deep meditations where your mind is very still, yet on other days your mind will be cluttered with activity. It is important not to get uptight or try to hard on these days. Simply knowing that the quality of the meditations will fluctuate over time will help you to relax and just observe your thoughts during the busier sessions. Combining different types of meditation in each meditation session can be very effective. For example, on a day where the mind is very calm mindfulness meditation is excellent and often effortless. Yet, if the mind is very busy during a particular session, then it may be easier to focus on the breath or use a mantra on the in breath and out-breath to settle the mind. You can then either try going back to mindfulness meditation, or simply spend the rest of the session focusing on the breath or repeating a mantra.
It is also very useful to lead into a meditation session using a relaxation process such as deep muscle relaxation. This allows you to go to a very deep place before you start practicing mindfulness or mantra repetition.
The different forms of meditation suit different people. Dr Craig Hassed sums it up beautifully by saying that the best form of meditation is the one you practice! As with most skills, the quality of your meditation will increase the more regularly you practice and the longer you have been practicing. As mentioned above, the only reference you need in order to judge the quality of your practice is your own experience. It is important not to get too goal or success oriented with your meditation. Just practice it. If you keep it simple it will improve.
Likewise it is important not to compare your meditation with that of others. As meditation experiences can only be reported by the individual experiencing them, there will be great variation in what is reported. Some people naturally have a lot of visual experiences in their mind during meditation, other will not. That doesn’t matter. Meditation is not about how many ‘experiences’ you may or may not have. The whole point of meditation is in achieving stillness. The more you practice, the more you will achieve this. Profound visions, or insights etc. may occur, but they are not the goal of meditation and it is important not to try to elicit ‘experiences’ every time you meditate, as you will often end up very frustrated. If they occur, good. If they don’t, that’s good also. Just keep practicing and trying to achieve silence and stillness.
When you first learn how to meditate, just sit for whatever time you feel comfortable. 15 minutes twice a day is excellent. You will be able to meditate comfortably for longer periods of time the more you practice. As will all other aspects of meditation let this develop at your own pace.
Regular short pauses at other times during the day can help to reinforce the meditation practice. Even if it is only a couple of deep breaths at your desk, this is often enough to help punctuate the day and help to break the build up of tension and mental activity.
It is also often very useful to meditate with a group occasionally, for example once or twice a week (or whatever you can achieve). Not only is it a very powerful experience, it also gives you exposure to feedback and to hear of different techniques etc. It is important however, as mentioned previously, to only use feedback etc. for your own learning, not as a means of comparison of yourself against others.
1 Hassed Dr. C ‘New Frontiers In Medicine. The Body as a Shadow of the Soul’. Hill of Content. Melbourne.2000
2 Neki, J.S., ‘Sahaja: an Indian ideal of mental health.’ Psychiatry 1975; 38(1): 1-10.
3 Manocha R. ‘Researching meditation. Clinical applications in healthcare.’ Diversity 2001; 2(5): 3-10.
4 Ding-E Young J, Taylor E. ‘Meditation as a voluntary hypometabolic state of biological estivation.’ News Physiol Sci 1998; 13: 149-153.
5 Wallace RK, Benson H. ‘A wakeful hypometabolic physiological state.’ Am J Physiol 1971; 221: 795-799.
6 Jevning R, Wallace RK and Biedebach M. ‘The physiology of meditation: a review. A wakeful hypometabolic integrated response.’ Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 1992; 16: 415-424.
7 Sudsuang R, Chentanez V, Veluvan K. ‘Effect of Buddhist Meditation on serum cortisol and total protein levels, blood pressure, pulse rate, lung volume and reaction time.’ Physiol Behav 1991; 50(3): 543-8.
4 See page 2
4 See page 2
8 Benson H et al. ‘Three case reports of the metabolic and electroencephalographic changes during advanced Buddhist meditation techniques.’ Behav Med. 1990; 16: 90-95.
9 Cohen S et al. ‘Psychological stress and the common cold.’ New England J Med 1991; 325: 606-612
10 Kiecolt-Glaser J and Glaser R. Cited in Ch. 3, ‘Mind-body Medicine’ from Choice Books.
1 See page 1
11 Kiecolt-Glaser J et al. ‘Slowing of wound healing by psychological stress.’ Lancet 1995; 346: 1194-1196.
12 Fischman H, Pero R, Kelly D. ‘Psychogenic stress induces chromosomal and DNA damage.’ Int J Neurosci. 1996; 84(1-4): 219-227.
13 Kiecolt-Glaser J, Glaser R. ‘Psychoneuro-immunology and immunotoxicology: implications for carcinogenesis.’ Psychosom Med 1999; 61(3): 271-272.
14 Self D, Nestler E. ‘Relapse to drug seeking neural and molecular mechanisms.’ Drug Alcohol Depend 1998; 51(1-2): 49-60
15 Gui, Gutstein W, Jabr S et al. ‘Control of human vascular smooth muscle cell proliferation by sera derived from experimentally stressed individuals.’ Oncol Reports 1998; 5(6): 1471-1474.
16 Lopez J, Chalmers D, Little K et al. ‘Regulation of serotonin 1A, glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid in rat and human hippocampus. Implications for the neurobiology of depression.’ Biol Psychiatry 1998; 43: 547-573.
The Story of the Human Body – Evolution, Health and Disease.
Evolutionary biologist, Daniel Lieberman in his book ‘The Story of the Human Body’ suggested that medicine could benefit from a dose of evolution. Whilst evolution may appear irrelevant to medicine at first glance, our body is not engineered like a car; rather it evolved over time with modification. It therefore follows that knowing your body’s evolutionary history helps us understand why your body looks and works as it does, hence why you get sick.
Although scientific fields such as physiology and biochemistry can help us understand the proximate mechanisms that underlie a disease, evolutionary medicine helps us make sense of why the disease occurs in the first place.
Over time, natural selection adapts (matches) organisms to particular environmental conditions and this process occurs over tens of thousands of years. Research suggested that it takes 40,000 to 100,000 years for an environmental change to assimilated (genetically) by the body.
However, as innovation has accelerated, initially since farming began (approximately 2,000 to 10,000 years ago), and especially over the last few hundred years as a result of the industrial and technological revolutions, we have devised or adopted a growing list of novel cultural practices that have conflicting effects on our bodies. Many of these cultural changes have altered interactions between our genes and our environments in ways that contribute to a wide range of health problems known as mismatch diseases – which are defined as diseases that result from our Paleolithic bodies being poorly or inadequately adapted to certain modern behaviours and conditions.
Most mismatch diseases occur when a common stimulus either increases or decreases beyond levels for which the body is adapted, or when the body is not adapted for it at all. Moreover a common characteristic of these diseases, is that they occur from interactions whose cause and effect are not immediate or otherwise obvious. And most of these mismatch diseases are ailments that, as far as we can tell, were rare in our Paleolithic ancestors.
In other words, we get sick because we do what we evolved to do in an environment to which we have not adapted, and then pass these habits and illnesses onto future generations, who also get sick..
Hypothesised mismatch diseases account for a vast majority of deaths in the modern Western World. These are the chronic, insidious onset ailments that include heart disease, cancers (some), stroke, diabetes (Type II), obesity, chronic respiratory conditions, cavities, apnoea, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, ADHD, depression, anxiety, insomnia, IBS/Crohn’s disease, OCD, hypertension Alzheimer’s disease to name a few.
Following this understanding, it makes sense that in preventing and treating these mismatch diseases, we apply what is understood of how we lived and therefore, how our bodies are structured to function ideally.
The aspects of living that most impact our health include:
- How we move and stabilise
- How we think and emote – which influences how we process stress (which subsequently affects all other aspects of living).
This is the primary influence or core philosophy in my approach to treatment and prevention of disease, performance and optimal living. Using what understanding we have of how we performed these aspects of living as we were evolving and applying this in an approach to treatment or living can yield outstanding and life changing results. And, over time, it reduces or eliminates the need or reliance on synthetic or artificial medicines.
Further, the use of accurate and reliable biofeedback to provide information on the efficiency that one is achieving in performing these aspects of living, makes learning much easier and more rapid.
Finally, the use of pure extracts as medicines and supplements, where necessary, provide the perfect balance. As opposed to manufactures and synthetic, or new to nature, pharmaceuticals and supplements, pure extract herbs and nutritional medicines exist in the form that our bodies were exposed to them over millions of years and are therefore far more easily assimilated, or are more bio-available than artificial chemicals and lead to no side effects as a result.
Modalities used to bring about recoveries from these chronic illnesses include:
- Mickel Therapy – which addresses imbalance at higher levels – specifically, the hypothalamus which regulates all automatic functions, endocrine function, immune, cognitive function, sleep cycles, neurotransmitters etc.
- Nutritional medicine
- Breathing retraining
- Therapeutic fasting
- Herbal medicine
The more we begin to understand how nature has adapted us to live and living our lives in accord with this, and using foods and medicines provided to us by nature throughout our evolutionary history, the more we will shift the focus of medicine from treatment to prevention and optimal living.
New pain study offers hope for Lady Gaga, others with fibromyalgia.
I love the article linked below as it outlines that research and evidence is starting to support the approach of sourcing the cure to chronic pain and fatigue, and ailments such as fibromyalgia, CFS, ME, IBS, anxiety/depression etc. at higher levels in the body (specifically the brain) rather than at the site of symptoms. or other areas of the body.
A couple of excerpts from the article outline this approach, which appears strikingly similar to the approach used in Mickel Therapy.
“We know there are two things that trigger pain neuropathways. One is tissue damage and the other is emotions that activate the exact same pain processes in the brain as physical injury,” he told PhillyVoice.
Schubiner says that pain is always caused by one of these two things or a combination of both. But, since there is usually no tissue damage involved in fibromyalgia, dealing with emotions that trigger what he calls the brain’s “danger-alarm mechanism” is often the only effective way to relieve the pain, especially when other physical, pharmaceutical, and even psychological interventions have failed, as they often do. The ineffectiveness of these treatments is on full display in “Five Foot Two.” Lady Gaga, a celebrity millionaire with infinite conventional and alternative treatment modalities at her disposal, is still in constant pain.
A new wave of pain researchers like Schubiner believe many people’s physical pain is due to the way we’re conditioned to think about our emotions.
“To be good people, we suppress our emotions. We’re taught to think that anger is bad, but it’s actually a very healthy protective mechanism,” Schubiner said. “It’s only bad to act out of anger in real life. But it’s actually therapeutic to allow those feelings to be experienced and processed.”
It goes beyond how we acknowledge, process and express emotions such as anger, fear, sadness, guilt, frustration, disappointment etc. Emotions such as lack of fulfillment, boredom, overwhelm, loneliness etc. actually look at how we live on a day to day level and create balance.
As a result of conditioning from our society (as to our roles, expectations etc.), or in the name of some mental objective or pursuit, many people ignore emotional and physical signals from the body about meeting their needs, asking for help, creating day to day balance, experiencing joy in their life, and suppress these vital messages. The result being that they suppress stress and go into internal overdrive permanently – it is like the body is running a permanent, internal, physiological, neurological and biochemical marathon. No wonder we end up exhausted and in pain.
So, the Mickel approach, and it seems Dr Schubiner’s, sees pain and fatigue etc. as stuck or suppressed energy (emotions), rather than lack of it. Taking the paradigm to shift this stuck energy yields surprising and extremely potent results.
I especially love Dr Schubiner’s quote at the end of the article. It pretty much sums up what Dr Mickel has experienced with his technique, and my experience of people asking about Mickel Therapy, and of client’s responses when they are first introduced to it.
“When people first hear these ideas, they usually react with disbelief and rejection. It requires a certain open-mindedness, courage – and desperation, clearly – because it is really hard for some people to question authority,” he says. “They have been told by so many doctors that their pain is either caused by injury or else it isn’t real, and the more they hear this, the worse the pain becomes.”
Schubiner says it’s only a matter of time before this new pain paradigm is accepted totally by mainstream medicine. He emphasized the history of once “radical” ideas that are now common practice.
I look forward to that day as I have seen so many fantastic and complete recoveries from fibromyalgia, CFS, ME, IBS, anxiety and depression, auto-immune conditions and many other chronic conditions using the similar approach to this via Mickel Therapy, yet it remains a fringe treatment. I guess because it involves such a paradigm shift for both the medical and scientific community and the public. I must admit, whilst the theory of Mickel made so much sense when I read it, as does Dr Schubiner’s approach, however I still had doubts about the effectiveness.
If it wasn’t for a couple of profound and complete recoveries in case studies I had read prior (I had rarely ever seen or heard from such results prior to this), I may have dismissed it as a good idea that doesn’t work. I am so grateful that I chose to take a leap of faith, as I have experienced many such results with clients since. It is very humbling.
If you have tried everything unsuccessfully (or partially) to alleviate your fibromyalgia, and feel there is nothing to lose by taking a paradigm shift, I’d love to surprise you by helping you feel vibrant and healthy again.
What Sugar Does To Your Body and Brain
I’ll let this image do the talking for itself, other than to say that all of the nutritional programs I run focus on moderating sugar intake and regulating blood sugar levels – be they programs for energy and vitality; optimal wellness; weight loss; weight gain; fasting; intermittent fasting; detox; performance; boosting the immune system; ketogenic programs; paleo; elimination diets; FODMAP etc. etc.
I have found after close to 20 years of doing clinic and askingmost clients their average daily diet, that very few people actually regulate their blood sugar levels well, or at all. This includes many apparently ‘healthy’ people who eat organic foods etc.
Regulating blood sugar levels does the following:
- Allows the cells to produce energy more efficiently.
- Eliminates insulin resistance.
- Reduces inflammation.
- Regulates other hormones.
- Detoxes your system.
- Improves your immune system.
- Mobilises the body to burn fat for energy – so you can lose weight more easily.
- Prevents and treats many chronic illnesses – diabetes Types I & II, fatigue, hormonal issues, heart disease, stroke, gastro-intestinal problems, headaches and migraines, sleep disturbance etc.
If you’d like to learn how to regulate you blood sugar levels and function so much better,contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 0425 739 918 for an appointment.
A Counterintuitive Approach To Living A Good Life That Resonates Very Strongly With The Principles of Mickel Therapy in Treating Chronic Illnesses Such as CFS, IBS, Fibromyalgia, Anxiety etc.
I love this book – ‘The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck’, by Mark Manson.
It is so real and authentic, and cut’s to the chase about living a ‘good life’ or being happy so quickly. As the description on the cover says, it is counter-intuitive, but it is a breath of fresh air that is worth a read.
I have recommended it to many clients I am working with – especially those with CFS, Fibromyalgia, IBS, Anxiety and Depression with whom I am using the techniques involved in Mickel Therapy. Like this book, this approach is counterintuitive, or involves a paradigm shift which, I believe, speaks so strongly for the extraordinary results it has yielded with so many clients worldwide suffering with the above, and other chronic illnesses, as well as those looking to explore greater levels of performance or discovering optimal health.
Both address without saying this directly, what the the evolutionary biology/medicine approach to health and performance describes as a ‘mismatch between the body we have inherited (from our hunter gatherer ancestors) and the culture we have created today.’
The principles are so similar – being authentic, accepting how you feel now without judgement, focusing on true/core values etc. The Mickel work takes it further by targeting behavioural patterns cause people to get stuck in their head and miss the vital, instinctive emotional messages our emotional brain sends us in order to warn us of any threat and keep us alive (or happy, safe ad comfortable). The result is that we internalise or suppress these emotions (or, another way or describing it is we internalise stress) causing us to be hyper-vigilant, or permanently in fight or flight, which subsequently leads to our hypothalamus going into overdrive, and the homoeostasis in our body becoming severely disrupted. We then wind up with less than optimal health and performance, and very often chronic illness – which so often fails to respond to many other treatments as they fail to target the root cause higher in the brain.
In short, the Mickel approach involves identifying the behavioural factors that create this lead to this emotional suppression and internalised stress, and then uses an action based approach to reverse them. The persistence or removal of symptoms being the indicator of whether the action takes is the correct one or not.
I will quote a few passages from chapter one that I love – and, if you will allow me to indulge, I may end up doing a blog or two more with some other passages soon…
“Our culture today is obsessively focused on unrealistically positive expectations: Be happier. Be healthier. Be the best, better than the rest. Be smarter, faster, richer, sexier, more popular, more productive, more envied, and more admired. Be perfect and amazing and crap out crap out twelve-karat-gold nuggets before breakfast each morning while kissing your selfie-ready spouse and two and half kids goodbye. Then fly your helicopter to your wonderfully fulfilling job, where you spend your days doing incredibly meaningful work that is likely to save the planet one day.”
Ironically, this fixation on the positive – on what’s better, what’s superior – only serves to remind us over and over gain of what we are not, of what we lack, of what we should have been but failed to be.”
“Now here’s the problem: Our society today, through the wonders of consumer culture and hey-look-my-life-is-cooler-than-yours social media, has bred a whole generation of people who believe that having these negative experiences – anxiety, fear, guilt etc.- is totally not okay.”
“The desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience. And, paradoxically, the acceptance of one’s negative experience is itself a positive experience.”
The author has fun with his writing style, however what it downplays is a wealth of knowledge and understanding from a numbers of areas. So very profound and real.
Enjoy. And go get a copy of the book.
If you’ve read this book, or suffer from a chronic illness or lack of performance, and would like a realistic, action based approach that deals with this mismatch between how we’re built to live (including how we process stress and emotions), and how we live in the modern culture we have created, then email or call me on email@example.com or 0425 739 918
Nose Breathing Improves Athletic Performance
A great article by Annette Verpillot of Posturepro (shared by the ‘Strength Sensei’ website, www,srengthsensei.com), on the importance of nose breathing for athletic performance.
Here is a quote from the article that summarises much of the content.
“It has been known for many years that people with proper occlusion of your mouth have greater endurance and better performance than those with malocclusion. The alignment of the muscles of the jaw and teeth can have a direct impact on a player’s performance and strength, as the upper and lower jaw are what allows you to connect your anterior and posterior muscular chains. Without the jaw it would be impossible to exert strength.”
“The vast majority of health care professionals are unaware of the negative impact of mouth breathing on global health and sports performance. The development of the jaw and all the functions attached to it, nasal breathing, chewing, suction, swallowing and phonation, will either put the body in a state of physiologic health or state of dysfunction.”
In addition, the article also discussed that (and I’ve added to the points they make) when you nose breathe, you:
- increase energy production in the cells by increased supply of oxygen to the cells – based on the principles of the Bohr Effect.
- allow the body to function more in a parasympathetic, or relaxed, state – which also improves immune function, digestion, blood flow to the brain and increases serotonin and melatonin levels.
- increase nitric oxide production which enhances memory and learning, regulates blood pressure, reduces inflammation, improves sleep quality, increases endurance and strength, and improves immune function.
- increase the flow of air through your nasal system and sinuses, preventing mucous from getting blocked or clogged.
- allow the nose and sinuses to do their job so you deliver filtered, disinfected, air conditioned, moist air to the lungs for optimal gas exchange – which is how they like it.
- reduce the volume and rate of breathing which, based on the priniciples of the Bohr Effect, optimises delivery of oxygen to the cells for energy production, and also allows for the tubes in the body to be more vasodilated resulting in improved function of the systems these tubes service – the respiratory, circulatory, lymphatic, digestive, urinary systems etc.
This article was shared by a close friend and colleague of mine, Ramon Andersson, head kayaking coach at the Western Australian Institute of Sport, who has done a lot of training of optimal breathing both personally and with his athletes. Our subsequent discussion agreed that once you get above anaerobic threshold in intensity of exercise, it is often necessary to use the mouth to facilitate breathing, as the intensity is at a level where it is extremely uncomfortable to nose breathe on it’s own.
The consensus is, from our own trials and with those we have trained, that at this level of intensity, as long as the inhalation is driven by the diaphragm first, before using the chest and shoulders to increase the volume of air inhaled, then the efficiency of breathing is still optimised. That is because using the diaphragm will allow you to use the full lung volume for gas exchange, as well as having greater control of both inhalation and exhalation which then allows you achieve slower breathing rates at certain intensities of exercise. The importance of this is that of all functions controlled by the autonomic nervous system (meaning that they are automatic), breathing, via the diaphragm, is the one function we can consciously control with ease (with training of course). As such, our breathing can influence other bodily functions controlled by our autonomic nervous system – including heart rate, digestion, the immune system, neurotransmitter levels etc.
Getting to the point; being able to breathe at lower breathing rates for a certain level of exercise intensity, will also allow you to have a slower heart rate, greater oxygen delivery to cells for energy production, reduced lactic acid levels, and for you to be more relaxed whilst exercising at this level. In other words, you will be far more efficient, or get more from your body.
If you would like to learn how to breathe more efficiently whilst exercising, and therefore increase your performance potential, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0425 739 918.