Category Archives: Wellness

How to Love Your Gut

The human body is a marvelous contraption, but it certainly is not a modern one. It developed ages ago before there were twinkies and McDonalds. The human gut is the passageway for us to give our cells the nutrients they require to survive, and if we are mindful, to thrive. This passageway was not meant to endure a constant flow of carbonated, highly sweetened, artificially colored phosphoric acid, otherwise known as cola.

Our gut is more than just our food superhighway. The health of our gut can impact our immune system and our mood. 70% of our immune system is located in the wall of our gut. When you think about the fact that we have to choose what foods to put inside our bodies, which will be digested into molecules and absorbed into our bloodstream, it makes sense that we would need a strong defense system in our gut lining.

Our gut, a 30-ft looping waterslide from our mouth to our anus, is controlled by a complex web of nerves. This enteric nervous system is also known as the Second Brain. The Second Brain does not rely on input from our conscious brain to do its job of digestion, but it does communicate with our brain via the vagus nerve. The enteric nervous system is interwoven with the autonomic nervous system, so that when we are in high-stress fight-or-flight mode, our guts do not propel food. We would not want to leave a trail of droppings if we were fleeing from a lion! When we are in parasympathetic mode, feeling relaxed, we digest and propel our food more optimally. The enteric nervous system uses the same neurotransmitters as in our brain, and 95% of the body’s serotonin is found in our bowels.

The microbiome of the gut plays a crucial role in our health. We have 10x more microbial cells in our bodies than human cells. To be in optimum health, we must behave symbiotically with our gut microbiome, nurturing it with a diet that allows the healthy bacteria to flourish. An anti-inflammatory diet full of a rainbow of vegetables and fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, and fermented foods not only makes our microbiome happy, but it also makes our human cells happy and healthy. Show your gut some love with a plant-laden diet, 8 glasses of water daily, and regular exercise, and your health and mood will reap the benefits.

Dr. Bren Boston, MD sees patients at the Akasha Center for Integrative Medicine in Santa Monica. Call 310-451-8880 to make an appointment.

Forget about Setting New Year’s Intentions

Talk about setting yourself up for failure. Trying to make a decision about a behavioral change that you will stick with for 12 straight months is nonsense. What research shows is that it takes 3 weeks to form a new habit. So, this year, I encourage you to make separate monthly intentions starting with January 2019. Try it on, feel it out, see if it works for you or if it is even possible to mesh with the rest of your life. If you find it is not working, then, presto, you can make a new intention for February while either carrying forward January’s intention or scrapping it.

For example, last year I made an intention to make every recipe in my superfood snack cookbook. But the problem was that after 2+ hours of shopping, prepping, and cooking each recipe, I found that the person in my house who ate the most of it was me. If I am going to devote 2 hours to cooking something, I want my whole family to eat it. Making every recipe was not going to work for me and was not my best use of time, so I quit with that plan and just remake the recipes that my family likes. But, since I quit on my New Year’s intention, I have a niggling sense of failure that is ridiculous.

Setting monthly intentions sets you up for success. It is much easier to commit to 30 days of change than it is to commit to a year. Monthly intentions also allow you to try 12 different changes to see what works for you, and you can repeat the ones you like best.

Here are some examples of monthly intentions that you might want to try:

January: Anti-Inflammatory Cleanse. After the excess of food and drink over the holidays, it always feels good to tighten up the food rules in January. At the Akasha Center, we espouse an anti-inflammatory cleanse. A bare-bones version is to eliminate all sugar, alcohol, caffeine, gluten, dairy, and processed food.

February: Decluttering. After the excess of material items that enter your home during the holidays, it feels good to declutter. Reach into the recesses of your closets and pull out things that you would not miss if they went missing. Donate them to a charity that could put them to use. It’s amazing how good you feel after decluttering, with improved mental clarity.

March: Cardiovascular fitness. There are still several months until beach season, so it’s a great time to get in the habit of doing cardiovascular exercise. Try for at least 3 days/week of at least 45 minutes, exercising to the point of sweating. I think the best way to commit to a month of exercise is to sign up for a 30-day class-pass to a fitness center. You’ll see the same faces over and over giving you accountability, helping to incentivize you to keep coming.

April: Stretching. Our tendons really want to be stretched. They don’t like getting wound up so tightly. They get creaky and cranky when they are ignored. So, for a whole month concentrate on stretching all your major muscle groups every day, even if only for 5 minutes. If you can get to yoga once a week this month, you get extra gold stars.

May: Meditation. Mindfulness practices lead to improved mental health and peace of mind. It is so hard to carve time out of our busy day to just feel present. Try setting aside a special time, even if it is just for the first 5 minutes you are lying down in bed, to listen to a guided meditation and see how it feels. Once you get the idea, you can meditate without guidance.

June: Meal planning. Americans lead the world in food waste. Meal planning for the whole week on the weekend is time consuming at first, but then saves you time by eliminating all the extra grocery runs during the week. Planning each meal ahead also allows you to waste less food, and to ensure the correct ratio of veggies, proteins, and grains. This month, your family gets what it gets, and no getting upset allowed. You’re not going back to the grocery until the next weekend. Ahhhh.

July: Triceps. We use our arms every day, but primary only for activities right in front of us. Our poor triceps don’t get the action they deserve. So, this month, commit to 30 push-ups a day (3 sets of 10 push-ups). You can work your way up if 30 sounds impossible. By the end of the month, 30 push-ups will only take 1 minute out of your day.

August: Hydration. Most Americans are chronically dehydrated. We do silly things like interpret thirst as hunger, eating more instead of hydrating our cells. If we wait until we feel thirsty, our bodies are already in water debt. This month, get a 20-oz glass or stainless steel reusable water bottle and drink 3 of them a day filled with filtered water.

September: Health care maintenance. Preventative health care can make all the difference in early detection and keeping you well. The years can easily slip by without getting your heart listened to, your lipids checked, your abdomen palpated, and your routine cancer screenings done. This month, carve out time to see your doctor, dentist, eye doctor, dermatologist, and other health specialists.

October: Core. Our core muscles include everything around our torso. Keeping your core strong can help prevent back pain, improve balance, correct posture, and improve endurance. Dedicate 5 minutes each day this month to core exercises like sit ups, crunches, plank, side plank, leg lifts, and standing on 1 leg, like tree pose in yoga.

November: Decluttering, part 2. You know that the stuff has piled back up. Let’s declutter before the influx from the holidays arrives. You’ll be able to breathe deeply and will have more donations for worthy causes at a time when they need them.

December: Me time. December is all about family time. We bend over backwards to bring the magic of the holidays to our family. So, dedicate this month to self-care. Give yourself the gift of guilt-free me-time once a week: a facial (at home or spa), massage, hike with a friend, get a sitter and go see a daytime movie, whatever it is that makes you feel recharged and ready to continue with the holiday rush with an inner sense of peace.

Dr. Boston sees patients at the Akasha Center for Integrative Medicine in Santa Monica, California. Call 310-451-8880 to make an appointment. www.akashacenter.com

Longevity Depends on Your Liver

Your health depends on your liver. The liver is your largest solid organ other than your skin. It is located in the upper right corner of your abdominal cavity tucked under your rib cage. Your liver helps you digest and absorb fats and vitamins. It stores iron so that you can make red blood cells to circulate oxygen. It stores glucose for when you need a burst of energy. It makes proteins involved in blood clotting. The liver is the site of immune activity to protect from invading organisms that might enter your body through your gut. It detoxifies chemicals and metabolizes drugs. The liver helps filter your blood, removing unwanted chemicals from the bloodstream.

The cells of the liver are called hepatocytes. Hepatocytes release enzymes when they are inflamed or damaged. Detecting elevated liver enzymes on a routine blood test may be the only way you find out your liver is stressed. Early stress to your liver can be caused by excessive alcohol intake, obesity, diabetes, or viruses. Early damage causes a small bump in liver enzymes, and if the damage continues then triglyceride fat deposits within the hepatocytes causing fatty liver. At this point, the liver damage is completely reversible, and the liver cells are able to regenerate to a healthy state as long as the offending source is remediated.

If the damage continues, then fatty liver progresses to cirrhosis when functional liver cells are replaced with hardened scar tissue. Once a liver is cirrhotic, it usually cannot regenerate and a liver transplant is required. Signs and symptoms of liver failure include abdominal pain and swelling, nausea, jaundice, fatigue and internal bleeding.

Liver cancer is the fastest increasing cause of cancer death in the U.S. Unhealthy livers are more at risk for liver cancer. At least 50% of liver cancer diagnoses in the U.S. have preventable factors, including excessive alcohol intake, hepatitis viruses, cigarette smoking, obesity, and exposure to toxins like fungal aflatoxins in crops or arsenic in drinking water.

What can you do to reverse fatty liver? There is no magic pill, but committing to lifestyle changes can allow your liver cells to regenerate to healthy detoxifying machines. Along with lifestyle changes, and an herbal supplement called milk thistle can help your liver heal.

Glutathione, the most important antioxidant synthesized in cells, plays a key role in liver detoxification. Glutathione helps recover oxidative-stress induced liver damage. You can boost your glutathione production by eating sulforaphane-rich cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale. Oral glutathione supplements are controversial because they get broken down by gastric juices, however, supplements like Antiox Restore by Akasha Naturals can help support your body’s own glutathione production. Glutathione can also be given via the intravenous route to deliver antioxidants directly to your bloodstream.

Lifestyle Changes for a Healthy Liver
• Avoid excessive alcohol intake
• Avoid tobacco products
• Avoid excessive sugar intake
• Avoid environmental toxins
• Protect against hepatitis viruses
• Eat more cruciferous veggies
• Lower your triglycerides
• Lose weight
• Exercise

Bren Boston, MD is a Sports Medicine, Pain and Women’s Care specialist at the Akasha Center for Integrative Medicine in Santa Monica, California. Call (310)-451-8880 or email us at info@akashacenter.com

The Anti-Aging Effect of Exercise

The slippery slope of lean muscle loss begins at a younger age than you would guess. The medical term for age-related loss of lean muscle is sarcopenia, and it starts in our 30’s. Sarcopenia occurs at a rate of 3-5% per decade. Less muscle means less strength, less stability, and less dense bones, which all increase the risk for falls and fractures.

It doesn’t have to be this way. You can fight against the loss of lean muscle mass by actively exercising to maintain and gain back muscle mass. Resistance training 3x per week is recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine, just to maintain muscle mass. If you need to add lean muscle, then you will need to do more. Progressive resistance training, when you add progressively more reps, more weight, or more sets, and isometric holds, when you hold a resisted position for a period of time, will help to hypertrophy your muscles. It is never too late to rebuild lean muscle.

You are what you eat. If you want to add lean muscle mass to your body, you need to eat amino acids, the building blocks of both protein and muscle. You can find amino acids and protein in both plant and animal foods. Good sources of amino acids include beans, wild salmon, organic, free-range poultry and eggs, and of course high-quality protein powders. The best time to eat protein for building muscle is within 30 minutes of workout. A smoothie with a carbohydrate-to-protein ratio of 3-to-1 will allow for optimal post-workout muscle recovery. If your body is deficient in the digestive enzymes that break protein down into amino acids, then you will not be able to benefit from the protein you are eating. Discuss with your doctor if you need to take digestive enzymes.

Supplements and hormone replacement therapies can also play a role in optimizing lean muscle mass in the aging population. Both testosterone and DHEA are associated with increased muscle mass in people who are concurrently participating in progressive resistance exercises. β-hydroxy-β-methylbutyrate (HMB), a metabolite of the amino acid leucine, can be taken as a supplement to reverse muscle wasting when combined with muscle-building exercises. Vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, and creatine have also been found to help build muscle strength. Discuss the risks and benefits of these options with your doctor before you decide to treat yourself. Supplements are just that: supplemental. You do not need supplements in order to build lean muscle mass, but they can be helpful for the right candidates.

The most important steps you can take to keep your lean muscle mass are:

1. Progressive resistance exercises to rebuild muscle
2. Eat clean sources of protein for the building blocks of muscle
3. Aerobic exercise at least 5 days a week to burn excess fat
4. Isometric hold exercises to hypertrophy muscle
5. Avoid processed foods, greasy foods, and sugar.

Dr. Bren Boston, MD is a physiatrist and certified personal trainer. She sees patients at the Akasha Center for Integrative Medicine at 520 Arizona Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401. Call (310)-451-8880 to make an appointment.

Are You Sabotaging Your Vaginal Microbiome?

Ladies, did you know that there are good bacteria that live in your vagina and help to keep it healthy? Talking about bacteria living in your vagina might make you wary, but you should know that these friendly organisms are necessary for a healthy vagina. There has been a lot of press lately about the far-reaching importance of our gut microbiome and its impact on health. Research has been showing that the DNA of the microbiome plays a role in cell signaling and immune health. The vagina has its own ecosystem, usually dominated by species of Lactobacilli. When our vaginal bacteria become imbalanced, we can experience itching, burning, discharge, odor, and inescapable discomfort.
The healthy bacteria in the vagina have a job protecting the sensitive mucosal skin from invading organisms. The vagina is a dark, moist region, which is alluring and a perfect petri dish for many organisms. A healthy vaginal microbiome can prevent yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, and communicable infections by out-competing these unfriendly organisms for precious real estate on the prime vaginal market. Another way the Lactobacilli help keep the vagina healthy is by producing lactic acid, which keeps the vagina at a healthy pH in the 3.5-4.5 range. When the pH of the vagina becomes too basic, then invading organisms are able to thrive.

There are some easy ways that you can support the health of your vaginal microbiome.

1. Do not use soap when you clean your vagina. Only use water inside your labia. Soap should only go on the vulva where you grow pubic hair. Do not use antimicrobial soap which sabotages our skin microbiome.
2. Do not use products with “fragrance” on your vagina. “Fragrance” is another word for chemical. You do not want artificial chemicals on the sensitive mucosa of the vagina.
3. If you have to take antibiotics, then also take a probiotic to help repopulate the microbiome that gets wiped out by the antibiotic.
4. Do not use vaginal lubricants with ingredients that are artificial or chemical, including petroleum jelly. Try organic coconut oil for a safe alternative which has the extra benefit of having antifungal properties.
5. Do not stay in wet bathing suits or sweaty work out clothing. Change to dry clothes so that the vagina has a dry surface in contact with it.
6. Do not use a vaginal douche. Vaginas are self-cleaning organs, and do not require douches.
7. Stay hydrated. Drink 8 glasses of water a day.

Persistent vaginal itching or discharge is a sign of possible microbiome imbalance caused by things like bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, or hormone imbalance. If you are symptomatic, see your doctor right away to get a remedy, which may include vaginal acidophilus cream to provide the good bacteria. The longer your vaginal microbiome is out of balance, the longer it can take to repopulate it with the healthy bacteria.

Dr. Bren Boston sees patients at the Akasha Center for Integrative Medicine at 520 Arizona Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90401. 310-451-8880.

Natural Strategies for Blood Sugar Control

No one was more surprised than me when I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes during my first pregnancy. Gestational diabetes is a temporary form of diabetes in which the hormones of pregnancy impair insulin’s ability to lower blood sugar. The diagnosis was a blessing in disguise because it led me to meet with a diabetic nutritionist to learn about how to keep a food log, introduced me to the glycemic index of foods, how to eat a Type 2 diabetic diet, and how to check my blood sugar after meals. The education I got about my body and about the hidden sugar content in foods was priceless and benefits me today.

I found out that a single piece of pizza would put my blood sugar over the limit. I had not thought of pizza as a sweet food, but pizza sauce has sugar in it and the crust becomes sugar in your body. I found out that if I walked for 10 minutes after a meal, the impact of the meal on my blood sugar was reduced. The flexing of muscles when walking helped to pump the sugar into the muscle cells where it was used to power my walk rather than raise my blood sugar. Walking after meals helped reduce my insulin resistance and improve my blood sugar.

I learned how to determine carbohydrate equivalents. One carb serving is 15g, and you can subtract a gram for each gram of fiber in the food. That is how the glycemic index works. All carbohydrates, including vegetables, fruits, grains, and beans, are ranked on the glycemic index. It is obvious that a bowl of beans will not spike your blood sugar the same way a muffin will, but I also learned some good tricks. I learned that I could eat a larger portion of apples or berries than of grapes or watermelon because apples and berries are lower on the glycemic index and have more fiber. The lower a food on the glycemic index, the less it will raise your blood sugar.

Women who have had gestational diabetes have a 7-fold increase in the likelihood of developing Type 2 diabetes. I am in prevention mode and continue to be mindful of a diabetic diet when I choose my foods and my dedication to exercise.

If you have already been diagnosed with prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes, there are several natural strategies that you can employ to help control your blood sugar.

  1. Diet: Learn how to count your carb equivalents and limit them to 2-3 per meal or 1-2 per snack. Eat small, frequent meals to keep blood sugar levels more stable. Familiarize yourself with the glycemic index and choose low-glycemic carbs. Increase the fiber in your diet and drink more water. Avoid processed fats and eat plenty of healthy fats like olive oil, avocado, wild salmon, nuts and seeds.
  1. Exercise: Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes per day of aerobic exercise. If you walk for 10 minutes after each meal, you will lower the blood sugar impact of the meal by improving the insulin sensitivity of muscle cells, helping the sugar go into muscle cells and out of the blood stream.
  1. Lose weight: Excess stored fat causes the body’s cells to become resistant to insulin.
  1. Supplements:
    1. Chromium – helps stabilize blood sugar and supports the job of insulin
    2. Cinnamon – reduces fasting blood sugar and improves insulin sensitivity
    3. Alpha Lipoic Acid – antioxidant that can help lower blood sugar by enhancing the uptake of glucose into cells and help inhibit glycosylation (the abnormal sugar-coating of proteins). It helps promote eye and nerve health.
    4. Magnesium – promotes healthy insulin production
    5. CoQ10 – antioxidant that helps support a healthy heart
    6. Green Tea – antioxidant helps support insulin and glucose control, reduces hunger, and reduces inflammation
    7. Botanicals such as blueberry, prickly-pear cactus, ayurvedic gurmar, and Asian bitter melon may help lower blood glucose.

Work with your physician to help implement an individualized program for your blood sugar control and monitoring. You can make an appointment to see Dr. Boston at the Akasha Center for Integrative Medicine at 310-451-8880.

An Integrative Approach to Neuropathy

Neuropathy can be a frustrating diagnosis given that there are not many treatments available for it. Neuropathy can cause weakness, numbness, tingling, burning, or painful sensations, depending on the type of nerves involved. Some common causes of neuropathy include diabetes, toxic trauma from chemotherapy, heavy metal toxicity, autoimmune disorders, vascular disorders, but many cases of neuropathy have no known cause. The common thread of all neuropathies are that the nerve cells (neurons) are not as healthy as they should be. That brings us to an integrative approach to neuropathy.

Nerves can best be treated when they are optimized on a cellular level. Keep in mind that neurons are living cells with nuclei containing DNA and mitochondria powering them, just like all other living cells in our body. DNA needs to be protected from the free radicals that are created during normal metabolic activities. Cells, including neurons, cannot survive without a steady supply of antioxidants to curtail free radical damage and oxidative stress. Glutathione, a master antioxidant, is important to the health of neurons. It can be given intravenously or through a nebulizer, but not orally because it is a tripeptide and our gastric juices will break it down into amino acids. Our glutathione levels can be boosted by eating cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli or brussel sprouts, which contain sulforophanes and the phytonutrient DIM which help our bodies make more glutathione. Antiox-Restore by Akasha Naturals is a supplement which helps boost glutathione levels and contains broccoli seed extract and DIM.

Living cells, including neurons, need to have adequate methylation for optimal cellular repair, production and repair of DNA, neurotransmitter production, and detoxification. An important gene involved in methylation, MTHFR, can be checked in a simple blood test. MTHFR has 2 main variants, and a mutation in either variant needs to be addressed to optimize nerve cell health. At the Akasha Center, we can assess your MTHFR gene and advise on supplements to optimize methylation.

Nerves are also electrical. Information travels from the cell body, down the axon, to the nerve terminal as electrical signals. The inside of a neuron is negative, and the outside is positively charged. “Earthing”, also known as “Grounding”, or standing on dirt, grass, or sand with your bare feet, allows electrons from Earth’s surface to flow into your body. Studies have shown Earthing reduces inflammation, improves wound healing, and can help prevent and treat chronic inflammatory and autoimmune disorders.

Neurons are chemical. Nerves talk to each other by releasing chemicals know as neurotransmitters across synapses to other nerves. Many supplements can be useful in optimizing neurotransmitter production, including B-complex vitamins, alpha lipoic acid which supports the tiny blood vessels that feed neurons (the vasa nervorum), acetyl-L-carnitine which supports cellular energy production, and gamma linolenic acid, an omega 6 fatty acid that supports nerve health.

Now that we have discussed optimizing your nerve health, let’s talk about treatments that reduce the symptoms of neuropathy. Neural Prolotherapy is an injection therapy that uses a low concentration of a dextrose solution that has been shown to reduce cutaneous neuropathic pain. Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN) has been shown to reduce neuropathic pain that involves the central nervous system, such as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome or multiple sclerosis. LDN is thought to work by reducing glial cell transmission and by boosting our endogenous opioid production (endorphins).

If you have neuropathy and would like to be evaluated for an integrative approach to treatment, make an appointment with Dr. Boston at the Akasha Center for Integrative Medicine.

The Buzz about Intermittent Fasting

The truth is you probably already do some intermittent fasting (IF) and don’t even know it. If you don’t snack after an early dinner and eat a late breakfast, you have done a form of IF. Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that sets aside a specific period of time during the day for eating while the rest of day is devoted to fasting.

There is not a one size fits all protocol for intermittent fasting. Each person responds differently to how many hours they fast and how often they practice IF during the week. It does take some experimenting in the beginning to see if IF is right for you and which protocol allows your body to thrive.

The most common schedules are:

  • The Leangains Protocol (also known as the 16/8 method – involves restricting your eating period to an 8-hour period, for example 11AM -7PM. For many people we recommend lengthening the eating period to 12-hours (7AM – 7PM). This can be done 2 or more times a week.
  • Eat-Stop-Eat – fasting for 24-hours once or twice a week. For example, no eating from dinner one day until dinner the following day.
  • The 5:2 Protocol – involves only eating 500-600 calories on 2 nonconsecutive days of the week, for example every Monday and Wednesday.

What are the benefits of Intermittent Fasting?

You might be underestimating the benefits of not caving in to the late night snack food cravings. The benefits of IF are far greater than just helping to maintain weight.

Studies have shown that intermittent fasting:

  • Improves brain health
  • Increases energy
  • Enhances tissue healing
  • Promotes longevity
  • Improve insulin sensitivity
  • Supports weight loss
  • Normalizes the hunger hormone ghrelin
  • Raises adiponectin which tells our body to burn fat
  • Reduces oxidative stress
  • Reduces inflammation

People who practice IF report feeling more energetic and wake with a feeling of alertness and excitement to start the day. Exercise can work in conjunction with intermittent fasting to improve your health and weight loss. Following an overnight fast, we encourage avoiding strenuous exercise and embracing more gentle forms of exercise such as restorative yoga and walking. Generally after 2-weeks most people will know if Intermittent Fasting is right for them and which schedule feels best.

The benefits of IF are increased when you choose a fiber-rich, anti-inflammatory Mediterranean-type diet with lots of multi-colored vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, seeds, whole non-processed grains during your non-fasting hours.

If you are interested in learning more about intermittent fasting and to discuss the best schedule for your body and your lifestyle, let us help you.

Dr. Bren Boston and Dr. Maggie Ney are practitioners at the Akasha Center for Integrative Medicine. You can schedule an appointment by emailing us at info@akashacenter.com, or calling 310-451-8880.

How Does Activated Charcoal Work?

Activated charcoal is a fine, black powder with an extremely high surface area, making it ideal for adsorbing, or trapping, toxins. Activated charcoal can be made from various carbon sources, including coconuts husks, hardwood, or peat. It is available as capsules, loose powder, tablets, or liquid.

In the emergency room setting, activated charcoal is used orally to treat certain kinds of poisoning, especially within the first hour. Charcoal works by soaking up the toxic compound so that the poison is not absorbed from the intestinal tract into the blood circulation. The charcoal, along with any toxins that are stuck to it, is eliminated in the stool. The dose to treat emergency poisoning in an adult is 25-100g of activated charcoal.

Activated charcoal is used in the non-emergency setting to detox ingested impurities at a much lower dose of about 1g after a meal. It can be used to help with digestion for foods that cause symptoms such as cramping, diarrhea, or nausea. One study showed that activated charcoal can reduce bloating and gas in the lower intestines, reducing cramping. Activated charcoal can be useful in food poisoning, especially if taken within 30min to 1 hour.

Activated charcoal carries a negative charge, so it attracts heavy metals and other toxins that are positively charged. Activated charcoal in a facial soap or facial mask can remove impurities and toxins from the skin, commonly used to treat acne or brighten dull skin. Activated charcoal can stain your clothing or carpet, but if used to brush your teeth, it actually whitens them by pulling out color impurities in teeth. Teeth should be rinsed well with water after brushing with charcoal powder.

Activated charcoal has anecdotally been used for hangover prevention, although there are no scientific studies. The use for hangover prevention is typically 1 capsule prior to each alcoholic drink, and 1 glass of water right after the alcoholic drink.  Excessive alcohol use is dangerous, and even potentially deadly, whether or not charcoal is used.

Safety concerns for activated charcoal include constipation or vomiting if too high a dose is used, intestinal obstruction if patient has a gut motility issue, temporary dark stools, corneal abrasion if it gets in eyes, and respiratory distress if it gets inhaled into the lungs. If you are taking prescription medications, there is a chance that they will be less effective if they are adsorbed and eliminated with the charcoal. Therefore, you should wait at least 2 hours after taking your prescription medication before you take activated charcoal. Activated charcoal should not be used concurrently with a laxative due to risk of electrolyte and fluid imbalance. If you are pregnant, you should ask your doctor before using activated charcoal.

Activated charcoal is not effective for low molecular weight compounds like cyanide, iron, ethanol, lithium, or methanol. Activated charcoal should not be used for caustic ingestions, such as cleaning agents, acids, or batteries. Contact your local poison control center if caustic ingestion is suspected.

In summary, the low dose of non-prescription activated charcoal available over the counter is safe for most people to use on an intermittent basis as part of their detox protocol. For best results, find a supplement that states the carbon source and avoid any extra additives.

Dr. Boston helps patients develop personalized detox protocols at the Akasha Center for Integrative Medicine located at 520 Arizona Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401.  www.akashacenter.com  (310)-451-8880.

 

 

I just found a tick! Do I have Lyme disease?

Summertime is around the corner, and hopefully we will all be outdoors enjoying the warm weather.  Unfortunately, ticks also enjoy warm weather.  There has been a lot of confusion lately about ticks and Lyme disease, so we should talk about it.

First of all, only deer ticks can transmit Lyme disease. Lyme is a spirochete bacterium that is transmitted through the tick’s saliva into the human that the tick is biting. So, we need to know what kind of tick it was. Deer ticks are brown or red/brown with 8 black or brown legs. If it has a white mark on it’s back, then it is not a deer tick. Before they are engorged with blood, the adult deer tick is about the size of a sesame seed and the nymph (teen) deer tick is the size of a pinhead. Once they are engorged with blood, they can be much larger.

Second of all, a deer tick has to be attached and feeding, for >=36 hours in order to transmit Lyme.  So, if the tick is discovered before 36 hours, or is discovered with a flat, non-engorged body, then there is no chance of Lyme transmission.

The key is finding and removing the deer tick before 36 hours.  

Tell all your campers going to sleep away camp that they should do a full body check for ticks once a day.

 When doing a body check for ticks after spending time outdoors, make sure to include the armpit, behind the knee, the groin, behind ears, and the scalp.

The way to remove a tick is to use fine-nose tweezers to grab the tick as close to the attachment point to your skin as possible. Lift with a steady, firm direction backwards from the skin. Do not squeeze the tick body, nor twist, nor use a match or fingernail polish, as these methods can make the tick express more saliva into the bite wound. After removing the tick, wash the skin and hands with soap and water. If the head is left in the skin, leave it in place as digging to remove it can cause trauma, and natural skin sloughing will eliminate it in a few days.

If you find a deer tick that is estimated to have been attached for >=36 hours, then your doctor can prescribe you a single preventative dose of an antibiotic to prevent Lyme if given within 72 hours of removing the tick.

There is no benefit in blood testing for Lyme at the time of the bite, as a positive blood test will not be apparent until 2-6 weeks after the bite.

If you develop a rash that looks like a target symbol, which is called erythema migrans (EM), then you do have early Lyme and need 14-21 days of antibiotics. EM occurs in 80% of patients, usually within 1 month following the tick bite.

During the first days or weeks of infection, patients often have nonspecific symptoms like fatigue, sore joints, headache, or enlarged lymph nodes.

If you found the tick after it was attached for 36 hours and develop neurologic or cardiac symptoms, then you could have early disseminated Lyme and could require intravenous antibiotics.

You may benefit from supportive treatments to optimize your immune system, methylation, and gut health during the stressful time of the tick bite. See your health care practitioner to guide you.

Dr. Bren Boston sees patients at the Akasha Center for Integrative Medicine at 520 Arizona Ave, Santa Monica, CA 90401. www.akashacenter.com   (310)-451-8880