You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘research’ tag.

The Diane Rehm show had an interesting segment on the power of meditation yesterday (June 22). There isn’t a transcript available at the moment, but you can listen to the podcast on her website.

I should mention first that Jonathan Foust – one of the guests on the show – is a meditation instructor of mine. So I’m rather partial to him anyway. I also emailed a question during the show about chronic pain, mainly asking what medical research there is about meditation’s effect on chronic pain. This was kind of a softball question, but I mainly wanted to see what they had to say about chronic pain.

I was familiar with the guests’ responses. Josephine Briggs (director of the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine) didn’t cite any particular studies, but said that there are a number which have shown that meditation helps with chronic pain. Jonathan mentioned that meditation can help people change their relationships with pain. This is something I’ve written about before, so I won’t go into it in too much detail here.

Overall, the show seems like a good introduction to meditation and medical research related to it. One thing I did find very interesting were some comments from people who had tried meditation and had trouble with it. In particular, one caller said that he has serious concentration issues. How can he then sit down and meditate?

The general consensus of both guests to the show and those who called in are that there are a lot of different kinds of meditation. Some suggested that this gentleman try walking meditation, yoga (kundalini yoga in particular), martial arts, or some other meditation that moves his body. The trick is to find something that works for you.

I’ll be following up with a poll about your own meditation techniques.

“What is epigenetics?” you may ask. “Why should I care?”

The best answer to your question would probably be for you to watch a short PBS video on the subject. Here’s an overview to wet your tastebuds. Be forewarned that this is the overview of a lay-person, so there may be some gaps in my understanding.

People are generally familiar with the idea of genetically inherited traits. You may have a genetic predisposition for bipolar disorder or fibromyalgia. Hair color, eye color, baldness – these are all determined by our genes. I was surprised to find that our DNA is not as static as I had thought.

Basically, environmental factors – what you eat, whether you’ve been exposed to certain chemicals, the nutrients your parents ate even before you were born – can “turn on” or “turn off” DNA sequences.

A tiny chemical tag of carbon and hydrogen, called a methyl group [affixes to a particular gene], shutting it down. Living creatures possess millions of tags like these. Some, like methyl groups, attach to genes directly, inhibiting their function. Other types grab the proteins, called histones, around which genes coil, and tighten or loosen them to control gene expression. Distinct methylation and histone patterns exist in every cell, constituting a sort of second genome, the epigenome.Epigenetics literally translates into just meaning “above the genome.” So if you would think, for example, of the genome as being like a computer, the hardware of a computer, the epigenome would be like the software that tells the computer when to work, how to work, and how much.

For example: There is evidence that BPA, a chemical found in plastics, contributes to cancer and obesity in mice. The mechanism? Epigenetics. Scientists are studying whether BPA has a similar effect on humans.

The really exciting part about this research is that there may be ways to change someone’s epigenetics. There have been preliminary trials of treating cancer with epigenetic therapy, with 50% of patients going into remission. With no chemo, no hair loss, no feeling horrible and drained.

Epigenetic therapy is still being researched, tested, peer reviewed, etc. But think of the possibilities.

Another thing? Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia may be linked to epigenetics. My hope? One day epigenetic therapies will be used instead of all the side-effect-filled medications I currently take.

Go, scientists, go!

I’ve been reading (and enjoying) Michael Pollan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma. I’m not going to go into a detailed review here, as you can find them on many other places on the web.

I was very intrigued by information about the amount of corn in the American food system (often as a result of industrialized agriculture, U.S. food policy and farm subsidies).

One of the things Pollan discusses is that scientists have been using mass spectrometers to determine how much corn is in a various items (a McDonald’s burger, a soda, a human being). To try to summarize:

Plants use carbon as part of photosynthesis. Most plants “breathe in” C-3, or three molecules of carbon. However, when plants open their stomata (“microscopic orifices through which plants both take in and exhaust gases,” Pollan, 21) to take in carbon, they lose water. Certain plants that can grow successfully in arid areas overcome this problem by taking in more carbon molecules per “breath.” These plants utilize C-4 (four molecules of carbon). Corn is one of these plants. In addition, because it’s taking in more carbon at once, corn can’t be as picky about what kind of carbon it uses. Thus, corn has a higher ratio of carbon 13 (a less desirable type of carbon) to carbon 12 (more desirable).

This may all sound confusing and complicated, but the basic outcome is this: carbon 13 has a certain molecular weight, and scientists can use tools (mass spectrometers) to measure that weight and the ratio of carbon 13 to carbon 12 to figure out how much corn is in different items.

For example, they can tell how much corn a cow has been fed. They can also tell how much corn we’ve ingested and incorporated into our biological make-up (from things such as corn oil, corn-fed beef and poultry, and high fructose corn syrup). According to Todd Dawson, a Berkeley scientist interviewed by Pollan, “We North Americans look like corn chips on legs” (Pollan, 23).

At this point what I really wanted to know was – what are your numbers? What peer-reviewed studies have scientists done? How have they gathered their data? I’m totally interested – tell me more!

Yet whenever I searched for Todd Dawson, corn, carbon 13, etc., all I found was that quote about “corn chips on legs.” Even Dawson’s website doesn’t have much information on nutrition – it’s more focused on mass spectrometer methodology as applied to other uses.

Citation needed.

After much searching, I found a Scientific American article about the subject, with references to a published peer-reviewed study, and another that’s ongoing.

Jahren [a geobiologist at the University of Hawaii] and her colleague Rebecca Kraft collected hamburgers, chicken sandwiches and fries from three separate Burger King, McDonald’s and Wendy’s locations in six U.S. cities: Baltimore, Boston, Detroit, Denver, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The scientists were looking for the amount of carbon 13 (13C), a variety of carbon with an extra neutron (known as an isotope) that makes its atom heavier.

…The result: 93 percent of the tissue that comprised the hamburger meat was derived from corn. In fact, only 12 samples from the entire country did not show this unique corn signature: all from a Burger King on the west coast. “My best guess is that it represents meat from another country,” Jahren says.

And all of the chicken, in addition to being sourced from just one company, Tyson Foods, Inc., had been fed an entirely corn diet, resulting in a chemical composition that was almost exactly the same from coast to coast. Jahren notes that the isotopic composition of this chicken meat varied from restaurant to restaurant and state to state less than if a sample were taken from just one farmyard-raised chicken.

Talk about the “uniformity of taste” that most fast-food restaurants strive for. (Which is why a McD’s hamburger tastes the same wherever you go – like cardboard and fat.)

Why should we care about the amount of corn in our diets? Cows cannot process corn well, and thus must be given large doses of antibiotics to keep them healthy until slaughter day. This leads to more drug-resistant bacteria in the world (“superbugs”). It also leads to lower amounts of Omega-3 fatty acids in corn-fed beef. Really, if you want more information on the myriad of problems, try reading the Omnivore’s Dilemma or watching Food, Inc. Want something more scientific? Check out the Center for a Livable Future at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

So just how much corn is in us? How has a corn-based diet affected the general population? Johns Hopkins researchers are trying to answer that question, and have done a number of studies about things such as the “Public Health Implications of Meat Production and Consumption” and “What Do We Feed to Food-Production Animals? A Review of Animal Feed Ingredients and Their Potential Impacts on Human Health.” (See Center for a Livable Future website for downloadable pdfs.)

According to the Scientific American article (published in November 2008),

Researchers at Johns Hopkins are now completing a study measuring the levels of carbon 13 in human blood, in an effort to understand how much of the corn in our meat and in the sweeteners (high fructose corn syrup) in our food and drink ends up in our bodies.

I think by “now completing,” they mean “completing and submitting for peer review.” At least, I have yet to find the study. If you find a citation, let me know.

I feel like their is a war waging on the battlefront of my body. I’m not talking about the pain or fatigue I feel from fibromyalgia. I’m not talking about migraines, or mood disorders, or any of that.

I’m talking about the way medical providers (“Western”, alternative, and complementary), the media, drug companies, and even sometimes people from my everyday life try to co-opt decisions about what the best treatments are for my body. Often, they don’t agree with one another. Then I’m left stranded, trying to figure out what the best course of action is. It is not therapeutic, and it doesn’t help.

Some (not all) “Western”/modern medical providers are all about science by the books. I think fibromyalgia threatens them, because the diagnostic tools basically involve ruling out other things and then poking the patient in 18 places. If 11 out of the 18 hurt (divided in certain sectors of the body), then it’s fibromyalgia. Even though fibromyalgia has been documented as a real condition in countless places – and new clinical data shows that fMRI’s can pick up signs of fibromyalgia in the brain – many doctors are only now accepting that fibromyalgia is a real condition in the way that arthritis or diabetes is.

“This is the crux of it, the reason more than a handful of physicians have such disdain for FM and its sufferers: they don’t know how to see it, how to measure it or how to effectively treat it.  In short, FM is a mystery many physicians would rather not contemplate…. ‘As treatments have been developed that work fibromyalgia is being more widely accepted as a legitimate, scientifically credible disease.’ In other words, FM might become increasingly viewed as legitimate because physicians are becoming better able to do something definitive to attenuate the suffering.”

These are the words of medical doctors (MDs) who practice/research at Johns Hopkins and the University of Michigan. Wait, wait – the people who diagnosed me with this syndrome might not believe that it’s real? When I was first diagnosed, my rheumatologist basically gave me the following prognosis: you may never be able to work full time. We don’t really have any medications for this. Physical therapy might help. Have a nice day, see you in six months. (Note: I do not see that doctor anymore, and have found much better ones.) I did end up going on some medications that seem to help, which I’ve added to my cocktail of mood disorder medications.

Physical therapy most definitely helps, as do other more “alternative” or “complementary” medical practices. Reiki, light touch massage, integrative manual therapy, meditation, healing drumming…all of these things have helped enrich and improve my quality of life. They also help alleviate mental and physical suffering.

The problem is that there are skeptics in both sides. Western practitioners often don’t “believe” in reiki, because of lack of clinical trials. The same goes for a lot of other alternative/complementary techniques. And a lot of people I know from the alternative community have their own prejudices against Western medicine. There are too many side effects, it’s too intrusive, the drugs often do more harm than good. I am not saying that alternative medical practitioners urge me to go against the advice of my doctor. But when I tell people the medications I’m on – it’s quite a cocktail – there is sometimes a general pursing of the lips. A certain look in the eye that says, “I wouldn’t take all those chemicals.”

Ah yes, the Great Medication Debate. Western doctors often don’t like to prescribe pain medications, as they can be addictive. Emergency room doctors sometimes treat fibromyalgia patients as though they’re drug addicts. As already mentioned, alternative medical practitioners have their own skepticisms about the effectiveness of prescription medications. Meanwhile, I run across the occasional friend who says something glib like, “I really don’t like taking medications.” Guess what. I don’t like taking them either. I take them because they help, even though there are sometimes really terrible side effects.

So what’s a girl to do? I’ve received positive help from medical practitioners from all practices. I’ve also received some care that just hasn’t helped. My social support network is, for the most part, very supportive.

You know what would be really helpful? If I didn’t have to defend one set of medical practitioners or traditions to practitioners of another tradition. If they worked together, and I received holistic advice that integrated healing modalities from a range of traditions.

This is my body. MY body. If you are going to be my medical provider, treat it with respect. Please leave your personal baggage at the door.

(Note: I’m not targeting this at a specific person. So if you’re someone I know, and you’re wondering if this is about you, it’s not. ^_^)

My Etsy Store

A fibro-friendly item from my Etsy store

I've been working on making fibro-friendly jewelry. I'd love it if you checked them out by clicking the image above, or going to

About Me

This blog is intended as a place for me to reflect on my own healing journey, in the hopes that others may also gain insight from my experiences. I've "borrowed" a line from Robert Frost's poem, The Road Not Taken:

'Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.'

I think the most important thing for me now is that I feel empowered to be a force for positive change in my life. And that, my friends, has made all the difference.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 9 other followers

June 2017
« Nov    


  • Hey everybody! We are going foreign for this weeks business of Seoul Garden! Everyone stop in there tomorrow! You know what to do! 📷😆 3 years ago
  • Baseball team at kozy's!!! #CashMob @OHHSDECA 3 years ago
  • Don't forget all you pet owners, tomorrow is cash mob número 3 At pet haven! Take a pic of your animal and upload to here of Facebook! 🐶🐱 3 years ago
  • RT @Addictd2Success: Whenever you see a successful person you only see the public glories, never the private sacrifices they had to make. #… 3 years ago
  • RT @Addictd2Success: "Your life does not get better by chance, it gets better by change." - Jim Rohn 3 years ago