Breathing Man meditating - breathing optimally...

MEDITATION IS MEDICINE

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.

MEDITATION

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

* increasing genetic mutations12 and decreasing repair.133

* effects on genetic expression which can predispose to problems as diverse as addictive behaviours,14 cardiovascular reactivity,15 depression16 and schizophrenia17.

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

* diabetes35

* fibromyalgia36

* 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

 

  1. progressive muscle relaxation.
  2. concentrating on the breath
  3. mantra meditation
  4. mindfulness meditation
  5. visualisation

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

Evolutionary Biology and Mismatch Diseases

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:

  • Nutrition
  • How we move and stabilise
  • Breathing
  • Sleep
  • 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:

  1. 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.
  2. Nutritional medicine
  3. Breathing retraining
  4. Therapeutic fasting
  5. 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.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fuck

Book Review: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, Mark Manson

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 tim@timaltman.com.au or 0425 739 918

 

 

Sacha Test Results

Case Study – Weight Loss with Intermittent Fasting

Case Study Using Bio-Impedance Testing and Intermittent Fasting to Find an Ideal and Individual Nutrition/Weight Loss Program for Clients

The featured image for this post shows the Bio-Impedance test results of a client I have worked with recently on weight loss.

Whilst I have worked with weight loss for over 15 years since I began clinical work, and have seen some wonderful results, the challenge for clients has always been not necessarily in losing weight (I have some great programs that achieve that extremely well), it is in keeping it off or continuing to lose weight (if necessary) once they assimilate back into their normal lives.

Simply put, (as I’ve said many times) we have created a mismatch between the bodies we inherited from our hunter-gatherer ancestors, and the culture we have created. So we do not eat the way ‘we are built to’ which makes us fat and sick, deprives us of energy, we sleep poorly and die from chronic, lifestyle preventable, illnesses.

I have been looking for a solution for this for many years – the ‘so-called’ ideal eating plan. And intermittent fasting plays a significant role in this. Whilst no culture in evolutionary history has ever been exposed to the high levels of sugar and carbohydrates we now consume, every culture in evolutionary history was forced to adapt to famine, and therefore, fasting.

Ironically, when I was introduced to fasting over 20 years ago by the fantastic Russian doctor (who I now work with and learn from in my Sth Melbourne clinic) as a part of my recovery from chronic fatigue syndrome, CFS, I was told by many in the medical and wider community that fasting was dangerous and irresponsible. Yet when I recovered completely not long afterwards, they were either lost for words or denied that I was even sick in the first place. Grrrr…

Back to intermittent fasting. I believe it provides the perfect counterfoil for the hiccups we encounter when trying to eat well and lean in the modern world – the odd freedom meal/junk food meal, night out with a few drinks, business lunch, craving for sweet/savoury etc. The challenge lies in finding the program that works for each individual, as a program might have you lose weight, but you end up losing more muscle and water (or as much as) than fat, which is counterproductive in the long term.

Enter bio-impedance testing – a simple and quick, yet based on extensive research done, an accurate and objective measurement of body composition (muscle, fat and water levels), cellular health, biological age, and inflammation/toxicity status.

By comparing the results from bio-impedance testing to previous tests we are able to determine over time, the ideal nutrition program for each individual that provides a counterfoil to the challenges of the modern world, yet it suits the individuals lifestyle so it is more likely to continue long term.

The body composition results of the client in the featured image show that he made positive, yet very slow progress for the first month whilst we were determining a program that suited, whereas his progress in the second month has been fantastic. He lost roughly 2.3kg of fat whilst only losing 0.7kg of muscle (ATM). And in that time he did very little exercise due to work commitments, so increasing his resistance training again will increase his muscle mass. So his fat:muscle ratio dropped significantly, and that is the key body composition indicator we are looking at as research has found it is the number one body marker that contributes to ageing. For example, the average westerner will halve in muscle mass and double in fat mass between the ages of 20-60. Not good!!

I won’t go into too many other factors from the test today for the sake of time, however in the period of testing his biological age went from 37 down to 32 and, more importantly, in the last month it dropped from 36 to 32. So his nutrition is helping him feel younger inside, and he has more energy, sleeps better, improved mental clarity and feels better about himself and food in general.

In addition, via the Mickel Therapy and breathing work I do, I have learned a great deal about techniques we can use, including balancing our lifestyle more effectively, to reduce the negative impact stress has on ideal nutrition and weight loss. As such, I work with these techniques and a client’s lifestyle to support the program. These play a huge role in contributing to the results similar to above I have started to see more regularly in clients over a more sustained time frame.

If you would like to lose weight or explore intermittent fasting and bio-impedance testing further for weight loss or optimal living and performance, contact me at tim@timaltman.com.au or call 0425 739 918. Or go to the booking calendar on this site. I am in Torquay on Monday and Fridays, South Melbourne on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and I offer consultations online via Skype or over he

 

 

 

 

Gluten Free

Video: The Dangers of a Gluten Free Diet by Dr John Douillard

Dr John Douillard Attempts to Debunk Some Myths About Wheat and Gluten

Further to a blog I shared recently (see below) questioning whether gluten and/or wheat is as evil as it is now suggested, I thought I’d share this video by Dr John Douillard as some further food for thought – http://timaltman.com.au/opinion-article-myth-big-bad-gluten/

I like this guy’s work. He’s also done some great work on breathing.

Dr Douillard offers a different perspective on the gluten/wheat subject and attempts to debunk some of the current myths about wheat and gluten – that wheat has only been available for 10,000 years; that there is more gluten in modern wheat; that wheat is indigestible; phytic acids in grain are toxins etc. etc.

He suggests that sugars and processed foods are a poison to the brain and body, not wheat or gluten as such, and that eliminating wheat maybe be going too far. We need to look at the bigger picture around this topic rather than focusing on the negatives about wheat and gluten.

For example, a lot of the foreign chemicals in modern wheat (pesticides, toxins in the environment etc) kill the microbes in our digestive system that are involved in breaking down wheat.

Also, whilst wheat is harder to digest that many vegetables and fruit etc., this may be beneficial, even necessary to our immune systems; and it this many of the other additives in processed foods (of which wheat is a major constituent) that make them so hard to digest. These include indigestible olis and fats that make the bread etc. stick together and not go off so quickly. These additives are indigestible and accumulate in our liver and arteries, so it is so often these that are the poisons or the toxins rather than wheat per se. The solution being not to eat processed wheat and grains, but to source high quality, whole grain, non-processed, even sour dough products that are as natural and low in chemicals as possible.

My 20 cents on this is that Dr Douillard’s point is definitely worth considering, and we have perhaps become far too hard line on wheat and gluten (unless you have Coeliac’s disease), however I still stick to my long held belief that the more wheat one eats, especially wheat in processed foods, the less vegetables and fruit one eats. And these are jam packed full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fibre etc. So, whilst I’m happy to include some good quality wheat and grain in my diet, I still focus on trying to eat as many vegetables and fruit (fruit in season for the climate I live) as I can – aiming for at least 9 whole handfuls per day of vegetables and fruit. That is where you will get bang for your buck in terms of nutrient value….

If you’d like to improve how you can optimise your nutrition, book an appointment via the calendar on this website or email me at tim@timaltman.com.au or call 0425 739 918.

 

 

 

 

 

Breathing Man meditating - breathing optimally...

How You Deal With Stress is the Number One Contributor to Your Mortality

Our Cortisol Slope, via Our Relationship to Stress, is The Greatest Predictor of Total Mortality

A fascinating video (linked at the bottom) from Food Matters TV during their recent Sleep and Stress Online Event chatting with Dr Alan Chritianson discussing the relationship with stress and mortality and highlighted some findings from the Whitehall II study in the UK, which revealed that for cardiovascular mortality, cigarette smoking was the number one predictor of mortality, with cortisol slope (via our relationship to stress) following closely behind. They also compares these with the usual health metrics such as exercise levels, blood pressure, cholesterol levels etc. etc.

Yet, for overall mortality, cortisol slope was the highest predictor of mortality.

The implications for this on how to prioritise your health incentives are huge – Dr Christianson, said these results hit him like a tonne of bricks. You could be a non smoker, non-alcohol drinking, clean food eating, exercise loving health nut, yet if your relationship with stress, or how you deal with stress is dysfunctional, it could make you ill or kill you quicker than a smoking, drinking, junk food eating couch potato who doesn’t get overly stressed too much. That sucks!!

These results basically suggest that, whilst it is important to focus on our nutrition, exercise, alcohol consumption, eliminating cigarette smoking etc. for our health, we should make how we deal with stress our number one priority.

Fortunately, two of the modalities I use with clients focus one exactly that.

  1. Diaphragmatic breathing – of all of the automatic functions that our body performs, breathing is the only one that we can consciously control, with ease. And the same nervous system that regulates our automatic functions (including breathing), the autonomic nervous system (ANS), is also the same nervous system that regulates stress. Moreover, most of us breathe in emergency mode, far too quickly, with an exhale to inhale ratio that is out of whack, so we end up in permanent emergency mode, or ‘fight or flight’ functioning. By learning how to diaphragm breathe in certain rhythms, we can get out of emergency, or ‘fight or flight’ mode, and restore a nervous system that is more restful and relaxed, than it is on the go.
  2. Mickel Therapy – this technique, which is far from therapy as you might think of it, is an ‘action based’ technique that focuses on restoring harmony and optimal function to the ‘hypothalamus’ gland in our brain stem, which is the gland responsible for regulating the function or our autonomic nervous system, and therefore our stress response, all automatic and endocrine gland functions of our body, our immune system, our sleep cycles, neurotransmitter levels and many other bodily functions. It is like the ‘general’ of our bodily functions and it’s job is to maintain homeostasis, or efficient, healthy functioning of our body. It is also like a link between our brain and our body. A healthy relationship with stress requires, at the highest levels of our functioning (in our brain) a healthy relationship between our instinctive, emotional brain (which registers threats to our system and, therefore, stress) and our thinking, or rational brain (which, ideally, interprets the signals of stress sent by the emotional brain, negative emotions, and creates actions to deal with them). This allows us to functionally deal with stress as it arises. However, we ‘modern’ humans have created a huge mismatch between the bodies we have inherited (from our hunter gatherer ancestors) and the culture we have created, and this mismatch leads this healthy relationship in our brain between our instinctive emotions and our thinking, to break down. The result being that rather than dealing with stress functionally, most of us, most of the time, suppress it; and the hypothalamus is the gland in the body that first deals with this suppressed stress, causing it to go into overdrive. The follow on effect of this is that homeostasis within our body is upset and our automatic functions start to go into emergency mode, resulting often in symptoms of acute and/or chronic illness.

Hopefully these explanations may shed some light on why our relationship to stress is the number one predictor of overall mortality.

If you would like to explore using these modalities to improve your relationship with stress, overcome any chronic illness that you believe stress may play a role in (CFS, Fibromylagia, IBS, Anxiety/Depression, Auto-Immune etc), or you would like to explore increasing your quality of life, or the duration between now and your inevitable mortality :-), then contact me via tim@timaltman.com.au or call 0425 739 918.

https://www.facebook.com/foodmatters/videos/10154761999126570/

 

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Scientists Suggest A Possible Blood Test Diagnosis for CFS

Article: ‘Yuppie flu’ an inflammatory disease which blood test could easily diagnose, say scientists.’

The article above (and linked below) by science editor of the Telegraph newspaper in the UK, Sarah Knapton suggests that:

“Chronic fatigue syndrome is an inflammatory disease which could soon be diagnosed through a simple blood test, scientists have said.

Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine discovered that people suffering the symptoms of CFS show spikes in 17 proteins produced by the immune system. The bigger the rises, the more severe the condition.”

Given that diagnosis of CFS, Fibomyalgia, ME, Post Viral Syndrome, Adrenal Fatigue (or whatever name you choose to label it) has always been so difficult to diagnose (in fact, it is a diagnosed by exclusion, meaning that everything else yielding similar symptoms that can be diagnosed via a number of tests is ruled out), this is great news.

The failure, or difficulty in diagnosis of CFS, and therefore the failure to recognise this condition as an actual, or legitimate illness by much of the medical community, and the general public, has led to untold suffering and frustration over extended periods of time for those unfortunate enough to live with this illness.

Knapton says: “But for decades the illness was largely dismissed by skeptics as ‘yuppie flu’ because no cause could be found.”

So often clients present to doctors and health practitioners feeling extremely helpless, frustrated and depressed, and to have the medical professional offer them anti-depressants as the only, or main solution, is extremely offensive, and frequently exacerbates their feeling of helplessness, frustration and depression.

So, the news that this condition may be diagnosed via a blood test in the future is very positive.

However, I remain very wary about being overly optimistic as, whilst a faster and simple diagnosis may lead to more universal acceptance of this illness, which is extremely positive, it is highly unlikely to remove the sense of helplessness and depression sufferers feel as the diagnosis as an inflammatory illness will not make conventional medicine and science any more capable of providing a cure or treatment solution.

The mainstream medical approach, by and large, merely palliates inflammatory ailments (also including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity etc.) rather than eliminating or curing them. And, the anti-inflammatory drugs used invariably result in a myriad of side effects that can be as uncomfortable as the original, condition itself.

To create an effective treatment, or a cure, we need to take a step back from biochemistry and pharmacology, and look at what causes these conditions in the first place. And the answer lies more in genetics and anthropology.

Evolution takes a long, long time. In fact, research suggests it takes 40-100,000 years for a change in our environment to be fully assimilated by our bodies. What this means is that the body we have inherited is that of our hunter gatherer ancestors some 40,000 years ago, or more. In short, our body still thinks we are wandering the bush.

We were built to eat food directly from the source, exercise a lot in order to survive, live in social, supportive tribal settings where our only biological needs were to stay safe, comfortable, fed and happy. We did not live in isolated family homes, watching screens for entertainment, sit a lot, eat highly processed foods with as many chemicals as nutrients, have expectations to succeed, earn large incomes, have mortgages, or spend most of our day working. In fact, research has suggested the average hunter gatherer culture worked only 15-25 hours per week (hunting and gathering). The rest spent in leisure, or family/tribe time.

We have developed our culture so quickly, that we have created a mismatch between the body we have inherited and the culture we have created. Address and rectify the mismatch, and the biochemistry and physiology of the body will be optimised, and the body will return to ideal health. It’s that simple, yet it requires a thorough approach.

My favourite quote, that beautifully summarises this dilemma is as follows:

“We didn’t evolve to be healthy, but instead we were selected to have as many offspring as possible under diverse, challenging conditions. As a consequence, we never evolved to make rational choices about what to eat or how to exercise in conditions of abundance or comfort. What’s more, interactions between the bodies we inherited, the environment we create, and the decisions we sometimes make have set in motion an insidious feedback loop. We get sick from chronic diseases by doing what we evolved to do but under conditions for which our bodies are poorly adapted, and we then pass on those same conditions to our children, who also then get sick. If we wish to halt this vicious circle then we need to figure out how to respectfully and sensibly nudge, push and sometimes oblige ourselves to eat foods that promote health and to be more physically active. That too, is what we evolved to do.” Daniel Lieberman, ‘The Story of the Human Body. Evolution, Health & Disease.’

My complete recovery from CFS over 20 years was achieved by this approach. That is, addressing the factors of living that influence our health and performance, and comparing how we we’re built to perform these, with how we actually do it nowadays. This process oriented approach was extremely thorough, and yielded a permanent outcome, that far better than I believed could have been possible (prior to treatment). In fact, I became far healthier than I ever was prior; and continue to be so. Exploration of the upper limits of health and performance have been a focus for myself and many clients ever since.

Subsequently, my approach to clinic work, specialising in CFS has also focused on this methodology. In treating a client, I aim to correct any imbalance in the following aspects of living, that then restore the person back to full health. I have found this approach far more effective than a reactive approach aimed out eliminating individual symptoms, or an approach using product to attend to theoretical deficiencies. The modalities I use include:

  1. How we process stress via the hypothalamus addressing the relationship between our rational, thinking brain and our instinctive, emotional brain via Mickel Therapy. This technique has been incredibly potent in yielding complete resolutions as it addresses the highest or root cause of chronic illness.

    mickel therapy

  2. How we eat and drink based on our understanding of how our hunter gatherer ancestors ate and drank.

  3. How we breathe – via Breathing Dynamics. Most people do not realise that we invariably over breathe (too often and too much volume) compared to how we should (or what we are built for). And this affects not only our energy production, but a number of other functions throughout the body.

  4. How we rest and rejuvenate – via relaxation, meditation, sauna therapy, detox/fasting etc.

  5. How we sleep.

  6. Also using herbs as medicines.

If you suffer from CFS, fibromyalgia, post viral syndrome, ME, adrenal fatigue, IBS, anxiety, depression or any other chronic ailment and would like to be free of it, feel free to book in the calendar on this website, or email tim@timaltman.com.au.

Or, if you have any further questions, please call +61 425 739 918.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2017/07/31/yuppie-flu-inflammatory-disease-blood-test-could-easily-diagnose/

 

 

Obesity

Research: Consuming more of daily caloric intake at dinner predisposes to obesity.

Consuming more of daily caloric intake at dinner predisposes to obesity. A 6-year population-based prospective cohort study.

Linked below is a study confirming the old adage “Breakfast like the king/queen, dinner like a pauper”.

Quoted here is the conclusion: “Consuming more of the daily energy intake at dinner is associated with an increased risk of obesity, metabolic syndrome, and non-alcohol fatty liver disease (NAFLD).”

Well, technically this study only suggests the second part – ‘dinner like a pauper’. Or, certainly not a king or queen.

However plenty of studies have found that those who make their breakfast (or first meal of the day) their most substantial meal, they eat better and less for the next 24 hours.

I certainly have found consistently with clients in clinic that eating substantially at breakfast and less at dinner is much better for regulating blood sugar levels, having even and consistent energy throughout the day, and definitely helps to stay lean or lose weight.

Most clients who come to see me often really understand what foods are good, and not good, however many of these people simply do not know how to put together their daily nutrition to get the most out of themselves. They may be eating organic foods, and consuming lots of ‘super-nutrients’ (I quietly hate that term), but so often they don’t regulate their blood sugar levels, so end up having sporadic energy levels and mental functioning, and can often battle to keep prevent weight gain.

If you feel you would like help in working out the best way to plan your daily nutrition, please email me at tim@timaltman.com.au or phone 0425 739 918.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25250617

Nutrition for energy and performance

TED Talk: Research Reveals Nutrition Improves Mental Health Better Than Prescription Medication

A great TED talk and article outlining that good nutrition is often more potent than medication.  It doesn’t just stop at mental health.

The findings cross over to longevity, chronic illness and the immune system.

If you want to get the most out of your nutrition and yourself, email me at tim@timaltman.com.au or call to book on 0425 739 918

In the mean time, it’s definitely worth watching this great TED talk

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Resilience Is About How You Recharge, Not How You Endure

Article: Resilience Is About How You Recharge, Not How You Endure

A great article (linked below) in the Harvard Business Review by Shawn Achor and Michelle Gielan discussing resilience and where it actually comes from.

Too often resilience is misunderstood by a conditioning we are subject to from a young age that if we endure, or push through, that will make us mentally tough and resilient. The following quote from the author’s beautifully sums up this misconception, and the impact it is has on our health and lives:

“We often take a militaristic, “tough” approach to resilience and grit. We imagine a Marine slogging through the mud, a boxer going one more round, or a football player picking himself up off the turf for one more play. We believe that the longer we tough it out, the tougher we are, and therefore the more successful we will be. However, this entire conception is scientifically inaccurate.

The very lack of a recovery period is dramatically holding back our collective ability to be resilient and successful. Research has found that there is a direct correlation between lack of recovery and increased incidence of health and safety problems. And lack of recovery — whether by disrupting sleep with thoughts of work or having continuous cognitive arousal by watching our phones — is costing our companies $62 billion a year (that’s billion, not million) in lost productivity.

And just because work stops, it doesn’t mean we are recovering. We “stop” work sometimes at 5PM, but then we spend the night wrestling with solutions to work problems, talking about our work over dinner, and falling asleep thinking about how much work we’ll do tomorrow. In a study released last month, researchers from Norway found that 7.8% of Norwegians have become workaholics. The scientists cite a definition of “workaholism” as “being overly concerned about work, driven by an uncontrollable work motivation, and investing so much time and effort to work that it impairs other important life areas.”

It is highly likely that the rates of ‘workaholism’ are far higher in countries such as Australia, England and the USA.

In the work I have done with chronic fatigue syndrome, fibomyalgia, IBS, anxiety and other chronic illnesses using Mickel Therapy and a variety of techniques, I regularly see a person’s homeostasis (or internal state of balance or regularity) being pushed way out of balance. The imbalance then sees the person in state of what we would describe as ‘hypothalamitis’, or permanently in a state of ‘fight or flight’. The impact of this is that the person is constantly running in emergency mode, leading to them being internally, and therefore externally, exhausted, or in pain. It is like they are running a continual, permanent ‘biochemical marathon’ internally. No wonder they display symptoms of chronic illness!!  Their resilience has been completed depleted.

As a result, we incorporate regular actions in their daily life that rejuvenate or balance them. They are the actions that bring them joy or pleasure, engage or stimulate them, or get them out of their heads. We call it the fun list or joy list.

The idea being to balance work, chores and the things we have to do, with something more rewarding or enjoyable afterwards. According to the approach of this article, this will recharge us, and increase our resilience. And balance. And therefore energy levels increase, pain decreases, we feel happier and our body achieves homeostasis – or health.

It makes sense from an evolutionary perspective given that research of hunter gatherer cultures has revealed that are designed or built to work 15-25 hours per week max. The rest is spent in leisure. That is balanced.

Compare that to the culture we have created and the wok ethic that gets conditioned into most of us, and it is not surprising that many of us end up with poor resilience, exhausted, burnt out, unhappy and chronically ill.

If you feel any of the above, or this blog resonated with you, feel free to email me on tim@timaltman.com.au or phone 0425 739 918, to book in or see whether the techniques I use to optimise health, energy and happiness would be helpful for you.

https://hbr.org/2016/06/resilience-is-about-how-you-recharge-not-how-you-endure