Medicare Advantage plan shopping misconceptions and how to avoid them

By Rick Beavin, Market President, Humana

The Medicare annual election period takes place from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7. It’s a time for people with Medicare to make important decisions about their health care – just ask the 17.7 million people who decided on a Medicare Advantage plan in 2016.

There are many factors to consider so that you get the Medicare plan that best meets your health and budget needs.

To navigate your health care options during this year’s annual enrollment period, it is important to remember what not to do.
 
When researching Medicare plans, people often focus on premiums and medical provider networks, but may not realize there’s more to consider. Knowing the benefits offered by Medicare Advantage plans and Medicare Prescription Drug Plans, both of which offer enhancements to Original Medicare, will also be pivotal in your decision making.

While Medicare Advantage provides the same coverage as Original Medicare, Medicare Advantage plans often also include predictable copayments, lower or no deductibles, Part D prescription drug coverage, out-of-pocket limits for financial protection, and low or even zero monthly plan premiums.
 
Some of these plans offer additional features designed to meet members’ needs, such as dental, hearing and vision coverage, a nurse advice line available 24 hours a day/7 days a week and fitness programs.
 
Here are five common hiccups Medicare beneficiaries may experience when considering their options in search of a Medicare Advantage plan that will help them achieve better health and well-being:

1.) Your monthly payments are not the only thing to consider. While it’s tempting to gravitate to a $0 or low-premium monthly plan, it’s easy to overlook extra costs that can be incurred down the road, such as for hospital stays and medical procedures. After you analyze your previous year’s plan and assess the most affordable option for the coming year, consider the total value of the Medicare plan you select, along with your health, medical and budget needs for the coming year.

2.) Your drug coverage is not the same everywhere. Surprisingly, drug prices can vary depending on your location, pharmacy and how much you’ve used your prescription benefits over the course of the year. Be diligent by making a list of your medications; researching drug formularies – the list of drugs a Medicare prescription plan covers; and considering mail-order as you evaluate your prescription drug plan options. Some plans may offer lower costs if certain pharmacies are used.

3.) Your plan is not just for medical visits or emergencies. If you are living with a chronic condition, you may want to look for plans offering personalized care in the forms of health coaching, education and support by registered nurses and other health professionals. Many Medicare Advantage programs also offer benefits, such as fitness programs, to help members maintain a healthy, active lifestyle.

4.) You may not need the same plan as your spouse/significant other. Health needs vary, and what works in your Medicare Advantage plan may not be the best option for your spouse. It’s important for the two of you to sit down and assess your different health needs, health care providers and if your doctors will be covered in your plan. This ensures your Medicare plan makes sense for your individual health, budget and lifestyle.

5.) You’re not on your own in making this decision. Utilize resources, such as a licensed Medicare health insurance agent, Medicare.gov or Humana.com/Medicare, to help identify the best plan for you. Starting in October, you can also call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) or TTY: 1-877-486-2048 24 hours a day, seven days a week for 2018 Medicare plan information. Or you can call Humana at 1-888-204-4062 (TTY users can use 711).

Understanding the resources and tools at your disposal will allow you to take “advantage” of all the benefits Medicare plans have to offer in 2018.

Paging Dr. Frischer: Colon cancer screenings

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When my patients turn 50, I routinely recommend that they have a colonoscopy to screen for colorectal cancer. Not surprisingly, my generous offer is sometimes rejected. Patients express concern over drinking the prep, having general anesthesia, or undergoing the procedure itself.
 
This fact has not escaped the medical field, and new recommendations have been issued. Various highly respected organizations, including the American Cancer Society and the US Multi-Society Task Force, currently issue guidelines on colorectal cancer screening. All recommend routine screening for colorectal cancer and polyps, usually starting at age 50 and continuing until about the age of 75. 

What is colorectal cancer? It’s a disease in which abnormal cells in the colon or rectum divide uncontrollably, forming a malignant tumor. Most begin as a polyp, a growth in the tissue that lines the inner surface of the colon or rectum. Polyps are common in those over 50, and the vast majority of them are not cancerous.

However, the type of polyp known as an adenoma has a higher risk of becoming a cancer. Aside from skin cancer, which is the most common but rarely fatal form of cancer, colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer (following prostate and lung in men, and breast and lung in women).

Death rates are declining due to more screening and to a reduction in risk factors, such as a decrease in cigarette smoking. Other risk factors include a family history of colorectal cancer or a familial polyposis condition, inherited Lynch syndrome, older age, excessive alcohol use, obesity, lack of physical activity, inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, and possibly diet. 
    
There are several screening tests developed to help detect colorectal cancer early, when it may be more treatable. In fact, screening can act as a form of cancer prevention as well: some tests detect precancerous polyps, which can be removed.

The standard test continues to be the colonoscopy. The rectum and entire colon are examined with a colonoscope, a flexible lighted tube with a lens for viewing and a tool for removing any abnormal growths. A thorough cleansing of the entire colon is necessary before this test, which is done by drinking large amounts of a laxative prep solution. Sedation is necessary. 

An alternative visualization test is the sigmoidoscopy. This uses a shorter scope that can only view the rectum and the sigmoid colon, which is about one-third of the entire colon. It takes less time, and sedation is usually not necessary, but any cancers beyond the sigmoid colon may be missed. 

There are a few other methods used for visualizing the colon, including computed tomographic (CT) colonography and double contrast barium enemas. The colonography is rarely done because it is expensive and still requires follow up with a regular colonoscopy if polyps are found. The barium enema is also seldom used, as it is less sensitive in detecting small polyps and cancers. 

Other tests mainly detect cancer (but not polyps) and are less invasive, using stool samples to detect the presence of blood. Two of these tests are approved by the FDA: the FOBT (Fecal Occult Blood Test), and the FIT (Fecal Immunochemical Test). Note, however, that there are other reasons why blood might be in the stool, so this is by no means a definitive test for cancer. If positive, it still needs to be followed by colonoscopy and possibly endoscopy. 

Cologuard is a new stool DNA test, approved by the FDA. It detects tiny amounts of blood in stool, similar to the FIT test, as well as nine DNA biomarkers that have been found in colorectal cancer and precancerous advanced adenomas. So, this test can detect some forms of precancerous growths. Of course, any positive test will yet again lead to a colonoscopy. An increasing number of insurance companies, including Medicare, are now covering this test.

Which test is right for you? The standard colonoscopy is still the gold standard. It allows the doctor to view the rectum and the entire colon, and a biopsy can be taken during the test. The disadvantages are that it can still miss some small polyps, flat or depressed growths, and even cancers.

The quality of the results depends on a thorough cleansing of the colon, as well as the skill and patience of the gastroenterologist. A liquid diet, prep, and sedation are necessary. Someone needs to accompany the patient to and from the procedure, and the patient may need to miss a day of work. 

In June of 2017 the US Multi-Society Task Force on Colorectal Cancer issued updated screening recommendations. The most effective choices are:

•    Colonoscopy every ten years, or
•    Annual FIT / FOBT

Less effective choices, but better than doing nothing, are:

•    CT colonography every five years, or
•    FIT or fecal DNA every three years, or  
•    Flexible sigmoidoscopy every five-ten years 

My bottom line? It is absolutely critical that we all select a screening test, and be re-tested on a regular basis. I urge everyone between 50 and 75 to be screened for colorectal cancer, because this is a common cancer and one that can often be treated or prevented.
 

Dr. Alan Frischer is former chief of staff and former chief of medicine at Downey Regional Medical Center. Write to him in care of this newspaper at 8301 E. Florence Ave., Suite 100, Downey, CA 90240.

Paging Dr. Frischer: Travel and Safety

Every day my patients tell me of loved ones they see infrequently, due to serious concerns over travel safety. It’s true that all modes of transportation render us powerless to some degree. Just how safe is it to travel?

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Let’s start with motorcycles. They are fun to ride, can be economical, and afford the rider a great sense of independence and freedom. On the other hand, even with safety gear, the rider is not well protected. When a motorcycle is involved in a collision with another vehicle, the motorcyclist invariably receives more serious injuries.

In fact, the ratio of motorcyclist fatalities to those in the other vehicle is a whopping 70:1. Motorcycles account for only 1% of road traffic, but 20% of road fatalities. Bottom line? 123 deaths per billion miles travelled.

Walking is good for us for so many reasons. Statistics show 41 deaths per billion miles travelled. These deaths are largely due to encounters with cars.

We hear about road rage against bicyclists. However, the data shows that riding a bike is safer than walking, at 35 deaths per billion miles travelled. As with walking, almost all bicyclist fatalities involve automobiles.

Ferries come in at 20 deaths per billion miles travelled, and represent the most dangerous mode of public transportation.

Cars represent the most common form of transportation. There are just four deaths per billion miles travelled. Because private individuals operate the vast majority of cars, this risk is highly dependent on personal behavior. Unlike commercial vehicles, where passenger health is in the hands of a “trained professional,” the risk to a car’s driver or passenger varies considerably, depending on the driver’s gender, age, mood, distractions, alcohol and drug consumption, and the type of road.

Men are three times more likely to die in a car accident than women, and those between 18 and 29 are at a 50% to 90% greater risk. Seat-belt use is critical: half of vehicle occupants who die in automobiles and light trucks are not wearing seat belts (or using child safety seats). Alcohol plays a role in approximately a third of all highway fatalities.

Buses are extremely safe, coming in at 0.5 deaths per billion miles travelled. Scheduled and charter service accounted for 44% of these fatalities, with the balance occurring in school buses (23%), urban transit (11%) and a variety of private shuttles, church buses and others (22%).

Travel by airplane also comes in at only 0.5 deaths per billion miles traveled. There is a 1 in 45 million chance of dying on an airplane. Note that the vast majority of aviation fatalities (85%) involved private aircraft.

Excluding acts of suicide and terrorism, commercial aviation is tied with buses as the safest mode of travel in the United States. For every billion miles travelled by air, we would be more likely to be attacked by a shark, struck by lightening, be a billionaire, or become President of the United States.

Can you guess the safest mode of transportation? There are 0.2 deaths per billion miles traveled on trains. Mainline railroads average 876 deaths a year. The majority of deaths involve people and vehicles not at grade crossings, and a significant portion of those deaths may be suicides.

Let’s end with this: travel by space shuttle! There have been 530 people who have ever been on a space shuttle. As a result of the Challenger and Columbia explosions, there have been 18 deaths. So, at seven deaths per billion miles travelled, a space shuttle does come in as more dangerous than driving a car.

My message? Live your life and use common sense, and perhaps avoid – for now – planning your next trip on a space shuttle.
 

Paging Dr. Frischer: Sleep Myths

I’ve heard it all – through the years, my patients have expressed a large variety of misconceptions about sleep. Since we spend about one-third of our lives sleeping, let’s discuss some common sleep myths.

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The myth I hear most often is that *adults need less sleep as we age*. The thought is that as we age we are less active, and therefore require less sleep. Actually, sleep experts believe that we need the same amount of sleep that we did when we were younger adults. We often do get less sleep with age, but that may be because we develop sleep disorders such as insomnia or sleep apnea, or find ourselves getting up frequently to urinate. Age leads to fragmented sleep, which results in fewer sleep hours during the night, and that (plus retirement!) results in more daytime naps. The net outcome is that we get less REM, or deep restorative, sleep.

Do we really* all need eight hours of sleep?* According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults need somewhere between 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. The current national average is about seven hours per night. Studies show that fewer than six hours of sleep is associated with a higher mortality rate. Sleep deprivation has been linked to health problems including obesity and high blood pressure, negative mood and behavior, decreased productivity, and safety issues in the home, on the job, and on the road. While many of us will claim that we do fine on fewer hours of sleep, objective measures of alertness reveal that we do not.

Can we just *catch up on sleep over the weekend?*  Studies suggest that it takes more than two days to get back to a rested state. While getting extra sleep is helpful, the pattern of going to bed and waking up at different hours (constantly resetting our circadian clock) may also make falling and staying asleep more difficult.

Many people fall asleep while watching TV. The myth is that the *TV can help us to fall asleep. *The fact is that the bright screen, varying volumes, and changing lighting will more likely prevent us from falling asleep, wake us in the middle of the night, and damage the quality of our sleep. Or, the program might actually be interesting, which will keep us awake. If background noise is the goal, use a fan instead, or a white noise generator. A basic rule of sleep hygiene is to train the brain and body to associate the bedroom with sleep alone.

Another common myth is that *nighttime exercise will help achieve better sleep*.  It is indeed true that people who exercise regularly sleep better. However, when we exercise too close to bedtime it prompts our system to release adrenaline, increases the heart rate, and raises the core body temperature – which all work against sleep. As a rule, avoid aerobic exercise within at least one or two hours before bedtime. (Light stretching or yoga is OK.) Please *do* add exercise to your lifestyle, but morning time is generally best.

We have all heard that drinking a *warm glass of milk or herbal tea helps us to fall asleep*. Milk contains tryptophan and herbal teas contain relaxing herbs, including Chamomile, Valerian, St. John’s Wort, and Lavender, so this may be true. A light snack to accompany your milk or tea at bedtime may also be helpful, but don’t go to bed hungry or on a full stomach. Beware of bacon, ham and aged cheeses – they may keep us awake due to tyramine, which promotes the release of norepinephrine. Chocolate, unfortunately, contains caffeine and so is not a good snack before bed either. A balanced snack with protein and complex carbohydrates (like cheese and crackers, or a nut butter on whole wheat bread) may be the best bet for sleep.

Many people believe that *drinking alcohol will put them to sleep*. However, as the body metabolizes alcohol, the chemicals break up the quality of sleep. While a drink or more will generally help us to fall asleep more quickly, chronic use can prevent deep and REM sleep, as well as worsen sleep apnea and gastric acid reflux.

Many assume that *snoring is just an annoyance*. Snoring is usually medically harmless, but it can be a symptom of sleep apnea, a potentially life-threatening condition. If it is accompanied by daytime sleepiness, periods of breathing pauses, or gasping, I urge you to participate in a sleep study to be evaluated.

Driving when tired is clearly unsafe. *Turning up the radio, lowering the window, or turning on the air conditioner is not sufficient to stay awake*. Pull off the road to a safe rest area and take a nap. Caffeine can help in the short-term but takes time to kick in. Plan ahead and get a good night’s sleep before any long drive.

Lastly, do you remember being told to *never wake a sleepwalker*? Well, it is true that it can be quite difficult to wake one, since sleepwalking typically occurs during deep sleep. Also, an awakened sleepwalker would be disoriented and probably not aware that they were wandering. However, there's no danger in waking one if you feel you are protecting them from harm. The best thing to do is to take a sleepwalker by the elbow and carefully lead them back to bed, allowing them to remain asleep if possible.

Alternative Medicine: Gratitude over fear

I find myself sharing more personal stories with every passing article. I feel it offers you - the reader -- a certain level of reality. We are human and life is what happens for us, not to us. Embracing this unique yet empowering viewpoint can be challenging. 

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One of the easiest ways to achieve a happy, healthy and abundant life is to express gratitude over fear. Let's break these two down for you. 

Gratitude is all around us and within us. The moment we shift our heart and awareness in the direction of gratitude - our life in every aspect begins to transform. It's simple to shift into this sacred space even on the worst of days. When a fearful situation arises focus gently on your heart. Recall a moment of joy. Maybe it was that latte you had at during lunch. Be aware of how your heart begins to feel gratitude for that latte. It's this simple! 

On the other hand, fear is part of being human. It lures us in, sinking it's limiting teeth onto our dreams. We live out life thinking of what could have been. I don't know about you, but in my experience, this only led to additional anxiety, fear and limiting beliefs. I was not happy living life this way. But know this - The only things in life you regret are the risks you never took. Expressing gratitude for the possibility of transformation is life changing. 

You can apply these quick and effective ways of thinking. Experts state that the mind needs 21-days of continued practice in order to build a certain degree of muscle memory. Start today, shift from fear to gratitude. What do you have to lose? Oh yeah - fear, self-sabotage, limiting beliefs, anxiety, anger and so much more. Opportunity is knocking on your door. Will you answer? 

Have a question regarding this article or maybe you’d like to suggest a topic? Write to me at m_arrieta@yahoo.com. Next article we’ll chat about The Power of Forgiveness.

Marcela A. Arrieta is an alternative modality practitioner with over five years of experience in this field. She is also a successful entrepreneur who resides in Downey.

Paging Dr. Frischer: Vegan Diet

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Chloe Coscarelli (“Chef Chloe”) is a well-known vegan chef and a dear family friend. It’s remarkable what a following she has developed. Some seven million adult Americans have currently adopted a vegan diet. Are there really any additional health benefits to a completely plant-based diet? What about risks? Is it a fad, or is there a scientific basis for undertaking a vegan diet?

Veganism is a way of living that attempts to exclude all forms of animal exploitation and cruelty, whether for food, clothing, or any other purpose. A vegan diet eliminates meat and poultry, fish and seafood, dairy, eggs, bee products, and animal-based ingredients like whey, casein, lactose, egg white albumen, and gelatin. It’s certainly not easy! Motivations for becoming a vegan vary. They may relate to ethics or environmental concerns, or come from a desire to improve one’s health.

What are the health benefits of adopting a vegan diet?

■ It is often accompanied by weight loss, as a result of the much lower fat content in vegetables, fruits and grains, as compared to meat and dairy. After exercise is controlled for, the vegan diet seems to result in more weight loss then the American Diabetic Association diet, the American Heart Association diet, or the National Education Program diet. Even more interesting, researchers found that participants on vegan diets lose more weight than participants in calorie-restricted diets, even when the vegans are allowed to eat until they feel full.

■ A vegan diet may help to keep blood sugar levels down, to raise insulin sensitivity, and to significantly lower the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, even when compared to the three diets mentioned above. This is likely due to the high fiber content.

■ A vegan diet helps to keep the heart healthy; studies show that vegans may have a far lower risk of developing high blood pressure as well as a lower risk of dying from heart disease. Vegan diets are effective at reducing blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, and total cholesterol.

■ There may be a host of other benefits. Studies are investigating claims that a vegan diet reduces arthritis pain, maintains kidney function, slows the progression of memory loss in Alzheimer’s dementia, and may lower the risk of dying from many cancers.
What are the health risks and disadvantages of a vegan diet?

■ The vegan diet may lead to low blood levels of vitamin B12, vitamin D, long-chain omega-3, iodine, iron, calcium, and zinc. Eating mostly nutrient-rich plant foods, eating fortified foods, and adding supplements will lower this risk significantly.

■ Going on a vegan diet can become even more complicated if you already have dietary restrictions, such as a gluten free diet, a renal or diabetic diet, a nut allergy, etc.

■ A vegan diet may involve a lot of forethought in order to get adequate nutrition, as does a diabetic diet. While ultimately diabetics can bring their sugar into much better control with a vegan diet, it does involve careful meal planning. This also pertains to patients with osteoporosis, who require adequate intake of calcium and vitamin D.

■ Food shopping and dining out will be limited. As the vegan diet becomes more common, this is becoming a bit easier.

According to a study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a diet that excludes meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy could prevent 8.1 million deaths annually across the planet. Of course, following a vegan diet does not automatically lead to good health. Health is improved by a balance of diet, exercise, and lifestyle. 

Still, it is clear that a plant-based diet cannot only significantly improve the health of those who practice it, but also benefit our planet. 

Have I chosen a vegan diet for myself? No, not yet…but I have seriously considered it. If you should make that decision, be ready to plan and prepare wisely, consider supplements, and discuss it with your physician.

Dr. Alan Frischer is former chief of staff and former chief of medicine at Downey Regional Medical Center. Write to him in care of this newspaper at 8301 E. Florence Ave., Suite 100, Downey, CA 90240.

Alternative Medicine: Spiritual Obstacles

In the grand scheme of things, we all encounter spiritual obstacles. My personal journey is no exception. I had a very religious upbringing. Anything outside the chosen religion was seen as negative, wrong and often an act of witchcraft.

I don't know about you, but to a young mind, this causes confusion and conflict. I heard in Sunday mass the priest preach how this superior being (God, universe etc.) was all loving and merciful. That we were all his children. But the real world proved otherwise for this inquisitive mind. Why was it that within our family's religion we practiced this to the core yet when someone outside our religious views came by we intentionally segregated them. 

I became so confused and utterly out of sync with myself. Experiencing the greatest spiritual obstacle in my life. I shied away from sharing this with family and friend in fear of being judged. I somehow had made this story in my head of being abandoned by the very people I loved over my spiritual and religious views. 

Then one day when all seemed broken within my heart and soul, I came to a realization. A realization that would forever transform the way I viewed people. I was on my knees pleading to this higher source for mercy. Tears rolled down my cheeks like a broken water dam. Then, the light came on in my heart.

I realized that the spiritual obstacles I had encountered throughout my life were brought on by my own perception and judgment. Yes, we all have different views but there is nothing written in stone that I must follow one religion, practice or culture. True, we are born into these kinds of upbringings. Mostly to teach us how to go beyond the conventional.

I learned to see beyond the box of my own stereotypical upbringing. Break free from my self-imposed prison. The result was spiritually liberating. The ability to respect and embrace people for who they are rather their spiritual and religious choice was eye opening. Now i was truly experiencing on a deeper level the words I heard as a child "God (universe, higher being etc.) is all merciful and loving. We are all his children". This resonated with me on so many levels.

What I wish you, the reader, takes from my personal journey and experience is the possibility of seeing and respecting people for who they are. The results they produce in life. What do they do for others, rather than their chosen spiritual and religious practice? This simple exercise will resolve any form of spiritual obstacle. How? You will see everyone through the eyes of a mirror. Reflecting onto each one another. You will see no difference beyond the physical realm.

Have a question regarding this article or maybe you’d like to suggest a topic? Write to me at: m_arrieta@yahoo.com. Next article we’ll chat about Gratitude over Fear.

Marcela A. Arrieta is an alternative modality practitioner with over five years of experience in this field. She is also a successful entrepreneur who resides in Downey.

Paging Dr. Frischer: Vegetables

"Eat your vegetables!" Growing up, we all heard this. We were taught that they are the cornerstone of a good diet. What is the scientific basis for such a claim?

I’ll make this easy for those of you who may be in a rush, and provide my conclusion right away: I urge you to eat a variety of fresh vegetables every single day. There is simply no better food group that so perfectly matches our nutritional needs. The nutrients in vegetables are vital to our health and maintenance; they can help to reduce the risk of stroke, cancer, heart disease and type-2 diabetes.

We are fortunate to live in a country and during an era where, for most, calories are abundant – in fact, far too abundant. Vegetables as a group are very low in calories, with about 50 or fewer in a cupful, making it quite difficult to gain weight even if we overeat. In comparison, legumes
(like beans, peas, and peanuts…yes, peanuts are legumes) have about 250 calories per cup, and fruit ranges from some 50 calories per cup of watermelon, to 400 calories for dried fruits. Nuts and seeds contain a whopping 750 calories or more per cup.

Vegetables are very high in vitamins and minerals. Here are just a few examples of how this benefits us:

■ The B-vitamins act as enzymes and coenzymes for energy production.

■ Vitamins C and E provide antioxidant properties that fight free radicals and assist the immune system.

■ The carotenoids (found in most brightly colored vegetables and fruits) also act as antioxidants.

■ Calcium and phosphorus are critical to bone health, nerve function, and blood pressure.

■ Potassium helps to maintain electrolyte balance, nerve transmission, and blood pressure.

■ Biotin, choline, and folic acid are necessary for liver, heart and neurologic function.

■ Phytonutrients are chemicals that help protect plants from germs, fungi, and other threats. Studies are linking them to the prevention of a variety of human diseases as well.

Note that vitamins B and C are water soluble, and are not stored in the body. This explains why three to five *daily* servings of vegetables are recommended. Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat soluble, and can be stored in the body for later use.

Vegetables help to maintain a healthy intestinal balance by promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria. There are hundreds of species of bacteria in the intestines; each species plays a different role, and each requires different nutrients. Vegetables and fruits are the best sources for these nutrients.

Vegetables are high in dietary fiber, which has a number of health benefits, like normalizing bowel movements; helping to maintain bowel health by reducing the likelihood of hemorrhoids and diverticulosis, lowering cholesterol levels, likely lowering blood pressure, helping to
control blood sugar levels by slowing sugar absorption, and finally, helping to achieve a healthy weight.

Thousands of studies have been conducted which suggest that a healthy diet filled with colorful vegetables and fruits contributes to skin and eye health and is the key to avoiding heart disease, diabetes, cataracts, and very likely a variety of cancers.  Research continues.

Vegetables can be lightly steamed, microwaved, baked, grilled, or eaten raw. Whichever way you prepare them, consume them daily, in a variety of types, colors, and shapes. They are low in calories, high in fiber, and contain almost every vitamin and mineral your body needs. Enjoy!

Alternative Medicine: Superbrain Yoga

I’m so excited to share a wonderful technique that enhances our ability our overall brainpower. Did you know we have close to 100 billion brain cells at the time of birth? Nurturing these amazing and hard-working neurons is a no-brainer. 

A man named Choa Kok Sui, also known for his groundbreaking research on the human energy field, created Superbrain Yoga. In his spare time from running multiple multi-million dollar businesses, he dug deep into the knowledge base of many ancient healing modalities from around the globe. It was this journey that led him to the study of acupuncture, its benefits and the correlation between earlobes and the brain. 

Let’s piece this together: The left side of our body is controlled by the right side of the brain. Equally the left-brain hemisphere regulates the right side of our body. With the proper use of our finger pads, we can effectively activate energy points of the earlobe. Stimulating the neuropathways into the brain. EEG scans have shown the left and right hemispheres of the brain become synchronized after Superbrain Yoga. 

Many studies have concluded that patients with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Down Syndrome, Alzheimer’s, or other development challenge have shown tremendous improvement after practicing this exercise. Teachers around the globe implement Superbrain Yoga every morning.  They report that test scores have gone up along with student creativity. Metal clarity and emotional stability of students dramatically improved. Luckily this simple exercise is for everyone regardless of age, gender or mental capacity. Let’s pump up that brain power!

To ensure you achieve maximum benefits:

1. Face East for best results.

2. Remove any jewelry and connect your tongue to the roof of your mouth. Leave it there throughout the exercise.

3. Take your left hand, cross your upper body to take hold of your right earlobe with thumb and forefinger. Make sure that the thumb is in front.

4. Now take your right hand across your upper body to take hold of your left earlobe. Again, make sure that the thumb is in front. At this point, you’re pressing both earlobes simultaneously. Make sure your left arm is close to your chest and inside your right arm.

5. Inhale through your nose and slowly squat down to the ground.

6. Hold your breath and exhale as you start making your way back up to a standing position.

7. Repeat this squatting action 14 times. Remember to keep holding your earlobes and to keep your tongue touching the roof of your mouth throughout the entire exercise.

Like a muscle, continues practice is necessary. Every time you practice, remember you're boosting your brainpower. You can find more information regarding SuperBrain Yoga, its many case studies and a CBS2 television segment online. 

Have a question regarding this article or maybe you’d like to suggest a topic? Write to me at: m_arrieta@yahoo.com. Next article we’ll chat about Spiritual Obstacles and how to overcome them.

Marcela A. Arrieta is an alternative modality practitioner with over five years of experience in this field. She is also a successful entrepreneur who resides in Downey.
 

Paging Dr. Frischer: Multivitamins

Chances are you take a multivitamin. Over 50% of Americans view them as insurance against dietary gaps, and this statistic agrees with my own (now small) household. My wife conscientiously takes vitamins, and I have just never bothered. Does the scientific evidence show that a daily multivitamin helps to fill those gaps in the diet, and prevents disease?

What are the advantages of taking a multivitamin?

■They are safe. Multivitamins that do not contain mega doses pose no risk to health, although some high-dose supplements might.

■Multivitamins are affordable; most cost about 10-30 cents a day. (Some vitamins can cost much more, but lack much evidence that they are better than their cheaper counterparts.)

■While the ideal diet would contain sufficient amounts of fruit, vegetables, and whole grains every day, most of us fall short of that goal. Taking a multivitamin can bring us closer to recommended intakes of essential vitamins and minerals. They may also allow fussy or inconsistent eaters (whether adults or children) more regular levels of essential vitamins.

■Studies suggest that long-term use of multivitamins *may* reduce the risk of coronary vascular disease, cancer and cataracts, and slow the rate of cognitive decline. Research is ongoing.

What are the disadvantages?

■Multivitamins may be unnecessary and a waste of money. If your diet is already filled with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, then they are not likely to help significantly. For many nutritional experts, multivitamins are nothing more than a multibillion-dollar industry that
offers little in the way of health benefits.

■Taking a multivitamin may tempt some of us to skip nutritionally dense foods, thinking that we already have it covered. However, there are many natural compounds found in foods that do not appear in a multivitamin. A pill should never be a substitute for eating good foods; a multivitamin simply does not contain everything we need.

■Be cautious about excess! There may be a risk of toxicity from taking large doses. Many water-soluble vitamins are simply excreted by the body if we consume more than necessary. However, fat-soluble vitamins (including A, D, E and K) can be stored in the body and may cause toxicity when taken in high amounts. (Taken in excess, even water-soluble vitamins
B-6 and C can lead to toxicity.) Toxicity symptoms range from mild, such as itching, headache, flushed skin and upset stomach, to severe, such as kidney stones, heart rhythm issues and confusion.

■Multivitamins interact with some medications and conditions; always check with your doctor. For example, those who take blood thinners should avoid supplemental vitamins E and K. Certain antioxidant vitamins like beta-carotene can increase health risks for smokers. Pregnant women should avoid excessive amounts of vitamin A, as this may increase the risk of
birth defects.

■The size of some multivitamins makes them difficult to easily swallow. This is especially true for the elderly. Liquid multivitamins are available but can be much more expensive.

■Bioavailability (how easily nutrients are available for use) may be an issue. Not all vitamins are the same. A United States Pharmacopeial (USP) marking on vitamins indicates (among other things) that they have met the standards for dissolvability, one indication of bioavailability.

Who appears to benefit the most from multivitamins? Pregnant women, those who consume fewer than 1,200 calories per day, strict vegetarians and vegans, those deficient in vitamin D, and people who have conditions that decrease how much is absorbed from food (including smokers, the elderly, and those with gastric bypass surgery).

Further research into supplemental vitamins and minerals continues. However, this is certain, and we’ve all heard it before: the very best things we can do for our health are to eat a nutrient-dense, vitamin rich-diet, to be active, and to avoid obviously harmful lifestyle choices.

There is just no substitute for a healthful lifestyle.

Paging Dr. Frischer: Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome

In my practice, one of the most common complaints I hear is fatigue. The difficulty with this symptom is that there are so many possible causes. A diagnosis requires a careful review of a patient’s entire lifestyle, health history, diet history, exercise and sleep habits, etc. Could adrenal fatigue syndrome (AFS) be responsible?

Scientific literature on fatigue includes Addison’s disease (also called adrenal insufficiency). Addison’s is a well-known medical condition, yet I can count on my fingers how many times I have seen it in my rather long career.  In contrast, some sources on adrenal fatigue syndrome claim that it is extremely common.

Adrenal fatigue syndrome is said to include a collection of non-specific symptoms, such as fatigue, body aches, anxiety, inability to handle stress, depression, cravings for salt, difficulty concentrating, changes in digestion, insomnia, inability to lose weight, allergies, and a “weak immune system.” 

AFS appears in numerous alternative medicine sources, but is not accepted as a medical diagnosis by mainstream institutions. Blood tests that are able to diagnose Addison’s disease come back normal for AFS.

In contrast to AFS, Addison’s disease clearly occurs when the adrenal glands stop functioning. Causes include autoimmune disease, having a malfunctioning pituitary gland, longtime use of prednisone, cancer, the use of blood thinners, and having a chronic infection (especially tuberculosis).

When Addison’s disease is present, the adrenal glands don’t produce enough essential hormones. This leads to fatigue, body aches, weakness, nausea, salt craving, unexplained weight loss, low blood pressure, lightheadedness, loss of body hair, and hyperpigmentation. This adrenal insufficiency can be diagnosed by blood tests, as well as by special stimulation tests.

Proponents of the adrenal fatigue diagnosis claim this is actually a mild form of Addison’s adrenal insufficiency, and that it is caused by chronic stress. The theory is that the adrenal glands are unable to keep up with the increased demand of perpetual stress, leading to excess flight-or-fight activity. As a result, the glands can’t produce quite enough of the hormones we need in order to feel good, yet there is enough to show a normal blood test. 

The assertion is that most of us will develop AFS at some point in our life. The diagnosis of AFS is based only on symptoms, and there are indeed some similarities between these symptoms and those of Addison’s disease.

The treatment for Addison’s disease is to replace the missing hormone(s). The proposed treatment for Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome is also logical: it focuses on the purported root causes, including stress and diet.

One thing I have learned through the years is that science does not explain everything, and that when science lacks a reasonable answer for a problem, many will step forward with answers - be they correct or not. I advise that you be extremely careful *not* to accept a diagnosis that is unrecognized by mainstream medicine. I have seen patients hurt by purported treatments for unproven conditions. “Remedies” for so-called adrenal fatigue can leave a patient feeling worse, and encourage him or her to ignore the actual root causes.

Yes, there are conditions that are as yet not understood by mainstream medicine. However, my responsibility is to offer advice that is supported by science. I would suggest that you do the same. As knowledge expands, we will all grow with it.

Dr. Alan Frischer is former chief of staff and former chief of medicine at Downey Regional Medical Center. Write to him in care of this newspaper at 8301 E. Florence Ave., Suite 100, Downey, CA 90240.

Alternative Medicine: Intuition

In my practice, intuition is often referred to as an inner GPS or gut feeling guiding our every decision and step. All living creatures without exception posses this God-given treasure. Many of the clients I see express the sense of lacking or not being able to tap into their intuition. They feel it’s only their imagination at play.

The reality is that as long as we inhabit a human body we are subject to emotions, feelings, thoughts and our whatever our environment is. These play a key factor in our ability to tap deep within ourselves and embrace the treasure that is intuition. We are creatures of habit, driven by emotions. The majority of decisions are made based on our emotional state. This can be a double edge-sword. Finding the balance is the key. 

We are bombarded daily by swift marketing targeting our emotional state. A car commercial utilizes the phrase, “ Now you can be as cool as your friend in your new car”. For many, this simple yet effective phrase targets people who may be going through a difficult self-esteem patch. People in this emotional state of being are numb to the intuition that is and has always been there. Therefore they believe they posses zero ability to trust their gut feeling, their inner lighthouse. 

I’ll share two effective exercises that will enhance your ability to tap-into and trust your intuition.

The first is learning how to stop and step back from emotionally driven decisions. We tend to get carried away in the moment to possibly later regretting whatever decisions where made. When a situation arises and those feelings bubble up, stop yourself from making any decision immediately. Focus on your breathing; slowly inhale and slowly exhale. Do this for a minute or a few minutes. Ask yourself if the decision you need to make is the proper one for you.

Here is where step number two comes in. As we internally question ourselves gently focus on your belly button. This is one of the energy centers that express intuition. It’s often called the powerhouse. Observe this area as you continue to question and focus on your breathing. If your navel area tightens up this is a sign that whatever you are about to do may not be the proper decision for you. Hence the opposite. When the navel area simply flows it is the sign you are on the right track. 

I recommend you practice with minimal decision making until you feel comfortable taping and trusting your built in intuition. This by no means in meant to replace proper and logical decision making, especially those related to health and overall wellbeing. 

Have a question regarding this article or maybe you’d like to suggest a topic? Write to me at: m_arrieta@yahoo.com. Next article we will talk about SuperBrain Yoga.

Marcela A. Arrieta is an alternative modality practitioner with over five years of experience in this field. She is also a successful entrepreneur who resides in Downey.
 

Paging Dr. Frischer: Kissing

I recently wrote about the health benefits of hugging, and I now feel motivated to move along to kissing. No worries; this is a family-oriented column, and I will change course for my next column. Let’s explore the popular field of philematology.
 
Is kissing good for our health? I was fortunate to run in the Boston Marathon again this year. Halfway into the 26.2-mile race, runners pass by Wellesley College. As you can imagine, by mile 13 it is definitely time for a boost. For over 100 years, the Wellesley College women have had an enormous cheering section for the runners. Not only do they scream and cheer, but some hold signs like “Come over and kiss me!” Keeping in mind that there are about 30,000 runners in the race, how would you like to be, say, the 100th person to kiss that wonderfully supportive Wellesley student? In this case, kissing is clearly not good for your health.
 
Since by one calculation, the average person may spend 20,000 minutes kissing in a lifetime, let’s move on to the many health benefits of kissing.
 
Serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin:  Kissing, like hugging, causes the release of these “feel good” hormones. Kissing appears to activate the areas of the brain linked to reward and addiction. Serotonin elevates mood and can help spark obsessive thoughts about a partner. Dopamine is involved in craving and desire. Oxytocin brings calm, relaxation, and bonding.
 
Cortisol: Cortisol is known as the “stress hormone.” Levels decrease in both men and women after kissing. It’s relaxing!
 
Epinephrine: Kissing can cause epinephrine levels to rise, which leads to a reduction in the levels of the bad cholesterol LDL.
 
Sebum: Lips are densely packed with sensory neurons, which are stimulated by touch. When we kiss, glands release sebum, which mixes with our saliva. Researchers suggest that swapping sebum may help us to subconsciously assess the health and hormonal conditions of a partner before committing to sex or long-term involvement. There are likely additional chemical cues that help us size up potential mates.
 
Calories: A kiss may burn 8 to 16 calories. Still, let’s not plan on replacing our next workout.
 
Immune system: Kissing appears to boost the immune system and to reduce skin and nasal allergies. It raises the level of immunoglobulin A (IgA), which helps to fight off invading organisms, and reduces the level of immunoglobulin E (IgE), which stimulates allergic responses. Perhaps this helps us to explain why those who report frequent sexual activity take fewer sick days. Also, note that more than 700 types of bacteria have been found in the human mouth, and no two people have the same makeup of oral germs. Exchanging saliva introduces new bacteria, which helps to build immunity. When we kiss for more than 10 seconds, some 80 million bacteria can transfer between our partner and us. Many of these bacteria are helpful in balancing and regulating our immune system.
 
Teeth: Kissing leads to more saliva production, which helps to re-mineralize teeth and protect them from acid, resulting in fewer cavities. Saliva also helps to keep away plaque.
 
Heart disease: Kissing that leads to sexual activity may reduce the risk of developing heart disease due to its relaxation effects, ability to lower cortisol levels, raise oxytocin levels, dilate blood vessels, slow the heart rate, and lower blood pressure.
 
Pain: Kissing appears to reduce pain from a variety of causes, including migraines, menstrual cramps, and generalized arthritis pain, due to blood vessel dilation and the release of endorphins. Perhaps “Not tonight Honey, I have a headache,” should change to: “Honey, I have a headache. Come over and kiss me!”
 
Testosterone: A man’s saliva contains testosterone, and through kissing, it can be introduced into a partner’s mouth, where it is absorbed through the mucous membranes. Testosterone increases sex drive in both men and women, and may increase a woman’s arousal and the likelihood that she will engage in reproductive behavior.
 
Financial success: One study found that men who received a passionate kiss before they left for work earned more money. I suspect that the kiss represented a happy home life, a confident person, better self-esteem, and so many other factors that may contribute to financial success.
 
Kissing and hugging are forms of affection that not only have primal biological roots and procreational purposes, but can also have a very positive impact on our health. It’s easy to conclude that they offer the promise of a longer, healthier, and more enjoyable life. 

Dr. Alan Frischer is former chief of staff and former chief of medicine at Downey Regional Medical Center. Write to him in care of this newspaper at 8301 E. Florence Ave., Suite 100, Downey, CA 90240.

Paging Dr. Frischer: Hugs

In my mind, there are two types of people: huggers and non-huggers. Those of you who know me well are aware that I am definitely the former. I hug because I love people and value human contact. 

Some people, however, just aren’t the cuddly type. Regardless of your touchy-feely preferences, a hug can be an expression of warmth and friendliness, a gesture of love, kindness, sympathy, trust, greeting, or farewell. 

I believe that it benefits both parties, but is there any scientific explanation or evidence that this is true?

Hugging has been found to trigger several hormones and neurotransmitters: Our skin senses the pressure of touch through a network of tiny nerve endings and communicates this to the brain. This appears to trigger an increase in levels of the hormone oxytocin.

■Oxytocin increases levels of the hormones serotonin and dopamine, resulting in greater calm, and reduced depression and anxiety. Low dopamine levels are seen in those with depression and Parkinson’s disease. 

Oxytocin also causes a decrease in the heart rate and a drop in the stress hormones cortisol and norepinephrine. This can lower blood pressure and stress, and increase feelings of contentment and relaxation.

■There’s evidence that oxytocin improves immune function and pain tolerance. In a 2015 study, researchers from Carnegie Mellon examined whether hugs could reduce susceptibility to the common cold after being exposed to the virus. Those who felt greater social support and reported receiving frequent hugs were less likely to come down with a cold, or had less severe symptoms. 

A 2015 study from King’s College in London found that oxytocin has analgesic effects, leading to a reduction in perceived pain intensity.

■Oxytocin is also known as the “bonding hormone” because it promotes attachment in relationships, and is felt to be responsible for mother-infant bonding.

Hugging has been shown to cause the release of endorphins. Endorphins are hormones that relieve pain by blocking pain pathways, and soothe aches by increasing circulation to soft tissues.

Hugging reduces the levels of circulating cortisol. Lower levels of cortisol allow the mind to calm down and the body to relax. It also helps to decrease cortisol-induced hyperglycemia and diabetes.

Here is one more important finding. Most of us worry about our mortality, particularly as we age. A study published in the journal Psychological Science revealed that hugging and touching reduced that concern. The study showed that even hugging an inanimate object like a teddy bear helped to soothe fears. 

In fact, simply imagining hugging a person you love can cause the brain to release serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins, triggering feelings of happiness and joy.

Just between you and me, I had intended to continue hugging on a daily basis regardless of what I found in this research. Hugging triggers a massive release of neurohormones, giving us confidence, strengthening our bonds with one another, building trust, alleviating sadness, tension and anxiety; and bringing us joy and happiness. 

Sometimes the simplest treatments are indeed the best!
Dr. Alan Frischer is former chief of staff and former chief of medicine at Downey Regional Medical Center. Write to him in care of this newspaper at 8301 E. Florence Ave., Suite 100, Downey, CA 90240.

Paging Dr. Frischer: Tetanus

A young woman recently saw me for a physical. While reviewing her immunizations, I asked her when her last tetanus vaccination was. She answered with a blank stare. This lack of awareness is due to the incredible success of vaccination efforts in the United States. The incidence of tetanus has been reduced dramatically, although it is far more common in other countries.

Tetanus is a life-threatening but preventable disease caused by the toxin of Clostridium tetani. This common bacterium is found in soil, dust, and animal feces. Tetanus has been documented at least as far back as the fifth century. In 1889, the tetanus toxin was first isolated from a human. The first vaccine was finally developed in 1924, and was used during World War II.

In the United States, reported tetanus cases since 1947 have declined by 95%, and deaths by 99%. From 2001 through 2008 there were only 233 cases of tetanus, in total! Overall, tetanus has about a 13% fatality rate. Those with diabetes, or those who abuse IV drugs are at a higher risk.

What does the disease look like? Often referred to as lockjaw, it causes a painful tightening of the muscles and stiffness of the jaw, neck and abdomen. It can lead to the jaw “locking” (trismus) so that it’s difficult to open the mouth or to swallow. There may be body spasms that last for several minutes, seizures, fevers, sweating, elevated blood pressure, and a rapid heart rate. Doctors diagnose tetanus by examining the patient and looking for its signs and symptoms. There are no hospital lab tests to diagnose it. Symptoms can appear anytime from a few days to several weeks after the bacteria enter the body.

How do we get tetanus? We’ve all heard that stepping on a rusty nail can cause it. But it is also caused when the bacteria penetrate through any open wound, including a puncture, gunshot, compound fracture, burn, surgery, injection drug use, animal or insect bite, body piercing, infected foot ulcer, dental infection, or any other break in the skin.

Who should get a tetanus booster? Babies receive the TDaP (tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis) vaccine in a series of five doses between the ages of two months and four-six years. At around 11 or 12, a child should get a booster. After that, a Td (tetanus and diphtheria) booster is recommended every 10 years. If you are an adult and were not vaccinated as a child, you will likely start with a three-vaccine series of Td (or TDaP if needed).

If you have never been vaccinated and you suffer a wound, you would want to have the tetanus vaccine administered within 48 hours. Adults who will be spending time with infants under the age of one may need the TDaP vaccine as a one-time booster. This is for the benefit of the younger, more at-risk population. If you plan to travel internationally, particularly to a developing country where tetanus might be common, you should ensure that your immunity is current.

Who should *not* get the vaccine? Those who have had a life-threatening or allergic reaction to it, or are moderately or severely ill should not get the tetanus vaccine. Those with a neurologic disease like epilepsy, who have had Guillain-Barre Syndrome, or are pregnant, should consult with their doctor first.

The number of tetanus cases reported each year continues to decline, but tetanus remains a very rare but life-threatening disease in the United States. Be sure to stay up to date with your Td vaccination; especially if you are 65 or older, or suffer from a chronic disease.

Dr. Alan Frischer is former chief of staff and former chief of medicine at Downey Regional Medical Center. Write to him in care of this newspaper at 8301 E. Florence Ave., Suite 100, Downey, CA 90240.

Alternative Medicine: Why we meditate

Meditation is a form of prayer. Universal and encompassing of people from multiple religious beliefs. It promotes optimal wellness in all areas of life. Study-after-study it has been recorded that mediation aids with the reduction of stress, improved focus, lower blood pressure and an overall well-being of body, emotions, mind and spirit. So why are these benefits achieved at a greater pace than with prayer? There is one differentiating factor which we’ll speak of next. 

The majority of religious institutions if not all classify prayer as a form of conveying our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs to a greater force, creator, God, universe etc. Usually characterized as a one-way stream of communication. I was brought up catholic and after prayer we’d say, “it’s in the God’s hands now”. Then, we’d go about our daily routine. Thinking very little of what we asked God for nonetheless doing anything to make our requests a reality.

With meditation a two-way form of communication is applied. The first factor is incorporating prayer, which is communicating our needs and wants. The second factor is holding a space of awareness during your meditation. During this heightened state of awareness we’re able to perceive an immediate response to the prayer(s). This response is what I like to call the guru within us. All of the answers and solutions to my prayers are one meditation session away! Awakening from meditation I usually have a clear view of what needs to be done in order to achieve the results I’ve prayed for. 

When I first began to meditate several years ago it took some practice to achieve a state of stillness and prolonged awareness. The second challenge was training the mind and all my senses to register and validate those signals coming from above. The human body has a fairly primitive mind whose only purpose is to survive. It doesn’t yet understand or register higher frequencies generated through meditation. This is why constant practice in meditation will train the mind working to register these frequencies. 

I’ve learned that religion is exclusive, but spirituality is inclusive. I’ve meditated among Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Catholics and Christians to name a few. We come together as One human race with the ultimate goal of becoming a better person, achieving an overall state of wellness that benefits every person, being and earth.

Regardless of your chosen belief structure anyone can learn to meditate. There are many forms of it but personally I’ve found that sitting in a quiet and clean space definitely amplified the results. There is a wonderful meditation workshop offered at Downey Yoga. It’s wonderful for all levels of meditation practice.

Here’s a little exercise to get you started:

Find that quiet and clean space. Preferably sit up with your spine straight, but you can also lay down. Put your hands on your knees with the palms facing up if your sitting. If laying down place your arms to your side. Gently inhale and exhale as you put your awareness on your heart center - known as the heart chakra. Move that awareness upwards to the top of your head - crown chakra. 

At this moment convey your prayer (wants and needs). Continue to focus on your breathing and the heart and crown chakras. Silently ask to be shown how to accomplish these wants and needs. Allow these images to simply come through. Each time silently asking to be shown more until you have the answer(s) you seek. 

All you have to do to train the mind and senses each time you meditate is silently say, “thank you” after every response you receive regarding your questions. That simple!

Have a question regarding this article or maybe you’d like to suggest a topic? Write to me at: m_arrieta@yahoo.com. Next article we will talk about Etheric Cords.

Marcela Arrieta is an alternative modality practitioner with over five years of experience in this field. She is also an entrepreneur who resides in Downey. She can be reached at m_arrieta@yahoo.com.

Paging Dr. Frischer: Blood transfusions

Joe, my dear friend from back in my medical school days, was a hemophiliac. He was frequently a recipient of blood transfusions. Many of us know someone who has needed a blood transfusion. Perhaps they had a disease, like Joe, or were in an accident, or became dangerously anemic. Perhaps they had the luxury to choose whether or not to have a blood transfusion, or perhaps they faced an emergency life or death situation requiring an immediate transfusion. What are the benefits and risks?

In 1628, a British physician discovered that blood circulates throughout the body. The first successful blood transfusion occurred in England in 1665 when one dog received the blood from another.

Finally in 1818, a British obstetrician performed the first successful transfusion of human blood to a patient, to treat postpartum hemorrhage.

A patient may receive a blood transfusion when they have lost blood from a trauma, have had surgery with blood loss, lost blood due to an ulcer, or has a disease that causes a shortage of red blood cells. An *autologous* red blood cell transfusion is when a donor’s own blood is used for them at a later date, usually before a planned surgery.

A blood transfusion can save a life. It replenishes the body’s red blood cells, which reduces the symptoms of anemia, such as light-headedness, fatigue, weakness, and shortness of breath; and in the case of heart patients, even angina or a heart attack. New guidelines recommend that red blood cell transfusions be considered when the hemoglobin level drops to about seven or eight, depending on the age and general health of a patient, and depending on whether there is active bleeding.

If it is not an emergency, the blood will be typed and crossed in order to make a proper match and avoid possible serious complications. In an emergency where time is of the essence, a patient will receive the universal donor blood type, O Negative. Even O Negative blood can lead to serious reactions, but is the best for an emergency.

However, blood transfusions are not completely without risk:

■ Incompatible blood can possibly cause an anaphylactic reaction or hemolytic anemia. Serious safeguards are in place to prevent this, such as type and cross procedures and multiple staff verification of bags. Medication can be given before a transfusion to reduce risk.

■ It’s possible for pathogens to be introduced into the blood stream, leading to infections. Fortunately, this risk has diminished dramatically over time – for example, the Mayo Clinic lists the odds of developing HIV at around one in every two million transfusions (less likely than being killed by lightning); the risk of hepatitis C at approximately one in 1.5 million transfusions, and the risk of getting hepatitis B at about one in 300,000 transfusions.

■ Bacterial infections are possible but rare.

Jehovah’s Witnesses may oppose blood transfusions on religious grounds. Refusing the possibility of a transfusion may lead to the refusal of a surgeon to conduct a surgery. Today, Jehovah’s Witnesses have a Hospital Liaison Committee to address legal or moral conflicts.

My friend and classmate Joe’s story ended tragically. Our medical school was in San Francisco, and the time was the early 1980’s. AIDS was just being identified, and he became one of its earliest victims. Had he received those blood products today, they would have been effectively tested for the AIDS virus, and even with hemophilia, he could possibly still be with us today.

Blood transfusions are an extremely valuable, life-saving, and safe treatment. The Red Cross provides about 40% of the blood used for transfusions, and I urge everyone to donate blood.

Alternative Medicine: Energetic Hygiene

Showering our physical body in done mainly for personal hygiene reasons. In a similar fashion our energetic anatomy (aura, chakras) also requires an energy shower. After a long, busy and stressful day we feel heavy, sticky and stinky. A soothing shower or bath easily resolves this. We step out of the shower feeling light, happy, clean and good smelling. Joy has been restored! Or has it?

We may feel a temporary uplift but then the dreaded heavy feeling starts to set in. In my case, my body starts to feel drained; worry and negative chatter begin to bubble. But why? I just took the most relaxing shower known to mankind. This stuff that sits in the energy field can’t be washed away with water alone. With every passing day energetic junk accumulates and we definitely feel it.

Picture your energy field serving a similar purpose as the lungs. According to patient.info “The lungs' main function is to help oxygen from the air we breathe enter the red cells in the blood. Red blood cells then carry oxygen around the body to be used in the cells found in our body. The lungs also help the body to get rid of CO2 gas when we breathe out”. What would happen if the lungs could not help the body get rid of CO2 gas? This toxic gas would poison the body. Slowly deteriorating it. 

Our energy field behaves similarly to the lungs. It has to expel the energetic by product the chakras and aura expel. This is where practicing a proper energetic hygiene comes in handy. You won’t just feel great after a shower or bath, you’ll feel extra super squeaky clean and clear from a physical and energetic level. 

All you need is love…got your attention? Well love also but let’s switch it up a bit. In reality table salt, whatever shower gel you have and some lavender or tea tree essential oil will do. You can use Himalayan salt if you want but no need to go fancy or expensive. You can purchase essential oils at wellness and natural food stores inexpensively.

Add 2-3 tablespoons of salt into the shower gel bottle. Ad 5-8 combined drops of one or two essential oils.  Shake, shake and shake! Every time you shower pay special attention to the neck/throat area and belly region. These places hold most of the energy that trigger worry, anxiety and stress. Using your fingers rotate the salty mixture of shower gel in these areas then wash away. You will find this routine of energetic self-care making a world of a difference in your everyday life. 

If you don’t have shower gel simply use a small plastic container to add ¼ cup of salt and the essential oil drops. Mix to incorporate, and you are good to go. Use it the same way as the salty shower gel. 

Have a question regarding this article or maybe you’d like to suggest a topic? Write to me at: m_arrieta@yahoo.com. Next article we will talk about Why Meditate.

Marcela A. Arrieta is an alternative modality practitioner with over five years of experience in this field. She is also a successful entrepreneur who resides in Downey.