Pets and Your Health

42089792 - woman with her dog tender scene

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I don’t know how I would get through difficult days without my three wonderful cats. Tenshi, Shima, and Kazu are so special to me that I always look forward to coming home and seeing their sweet faces. Those of you who have pets to whom you are closely bonded know how comforting it is to come home to them. Animals are capable of deep, unconditional love which is unparalleled. A pet won’t care that you look all disheveled from battling a grueling day. If you are distraught, a pet will make you smile and perhaps even laugh with cute and silly antics. Pets are natural antidepressants, and create the perfect distraction when you are tempted to feel sorry for yourself or ruminate over something which is only causing you anguish.

Pets are wonderful for our well-being and spiritual health.

It turns out that owning a pet also confers physical health benefits as well. Pet owners enjoy a reduction in stress and anxiety, which has a positive impact on blood pressure. Another very striking and unexpected benefit to having pets is a decrease in a child’s chances of developing allergies to animals. The decreased chance of developing allergies to animals in small children who live with animals is as high as 30 percent, according to research conducted by pediatrician James E. Gern which was published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. Dr. Gern conducted a number of studies on children exposed to pets, all of which concluded that children who were exposed at an early age to animals tended to develop stronger immune systems overall, and were far less likely to develop pet-related allergies.

When I think of friends who have allergies to cats or dogs, most of them did not grow up with a pet in the house. I also did not grow up with a family pet per se, unless you count the two rabbits I had in fourth grade for about six months. My mother was so fed up with them that she sold them to a pet store, and that was that. But I spent extended periods of time petting and hanging out with numerous outdoor cats in the neighborhood, enough so that I had a regular exposure to them. I also spent weekends with my dad’s dog, or with his friends’ dogs, so the exposure was steady.

I honestly believe that early and regular exposure to pets is a boon to immune health in young children. And since there is a large body of scientific evidence to back that up, why not get a family pet for your children to love?

Natural Antidepressant Combinations I Recommend

Despite the fact that I was trained in the traditional ways of medicine, I prefer to utilize natural supplements and foods to treat conditions, only turning to prescription medications as a last resort for my patients. I have a particular aversion to prescribing antidepressant medications, and honestly believe that such meds only serve as a bandage for the root cause, which almost invariably is a combination of hormonal imbalance and malnutrition.

When a patient comes to me complaining of symptoms of depression, I always recommend the following three supplements as part of the patient’s daily regimen:

Vitamin D
Folate 800 mcg
B-Complex

Once my patients are on this daily regimen for a few weeks, I have them visit for a follow-up to see if their symptoms have improved. If the improvement is marginal, I add SAMe and 5-HTP to the regimen, both of which are great for treating pain issues. As the patient treatment progresses, I order hormonal assays, checking the thyroid, adrenal glands, DHEA, IGF-1, testosterone, progesterone, and estradiol. If anything is off balance (and in most cases, something is), I will treat the imbalance directly with organ support compounds and bioidentical hormone replacement therapy.

In addition to natural supplements, I also recommend that patients consume whole foods, and avoid processed foods at all costs. I encourage them to find balance in their daily lives, and often demonstrate breathing exercises or discuss meditation with them. I also remind them to stop and enjoy what they have in their lives, to be grateful for what they have instead of dwelling on what they lack.

Rather than turn to SSRI’s, please consider the natural approach first if you are dealing with depression!

If you are in the Los Angeles area, and you would like to schedule an exam, please call Urban Med at (213) 406-8055 to make an appointment.

Two Breaths

Regular meditation practice has shaped my life for the past eleven years, and I honor and value all it has bestowed upon me in terms of balance, harmony, calmness and peace. When I began practicing meditation on a consistent basis, I was at a low point in my life as a result of a long-term relationship which had suddenly terminated. As fate would have it, I met a wonderful person who became my meditation teacher, my spiritual guide, and my dear friend. He invited me to become part of a local meditation group which met one to two times per week, and I gladly accepted. Within a couple of months, I began to learn how to sit in silence, let thoughts and feelings go, and focus on being completely in the moment. I quickly realized what a gift it was to fall into awareness during these sessions.

After my meditation teacher passed away in April of 2014, I went through a rough period in which I was so grief-stricken by his death that I was paralyzed, unable to meditate for several months. When I returned to meditation practice, it was alone, without the comfort of a group, but I was able to quickly fall into awareness during my sessions.

At the beginning of this year, I encountered another difficult life challenge, and instead of shying away from my meditation practice, I decided to sit daily. One tool which kept me accountable with daily meditation practice was a phone app called Insight Timer, which I still use. It is no longer a struggle for me to sit daily in meditation, and I have noticed profound changes in my demeanor and my general outlook on life.

In an effort to fortify my spiritual practice, I added kundalini yoga, and have noticed even more profound changes in my energy and my physiology, especially in my breathing. A few days ago, I had noticed that my respiratory rate had become much slower, so I decided to assess it while I practiced relaxation breathing. I was astonished when I discovered that I am now able to slow down my breathing to two respirations per minute. The breaths which I take during meditative and relaxation sessions are very slow, with a pause at the end of both the inhalation and exhalation phases.

Most people are so accustomed to shallow respirations in their daily lives that they assume that 12 to 14 respirations per minute is considered acceptable. As a physician, I regularly encounter a respiratory rate in that range, and am trained to consider that normal. However, in my spiritual practice, I know that in order to take 12 to 14 breaths per minute, the breaths tend to be quite shallow.

Modern society keeps us on the hamster wheel and fosters anxiety, but it is vital to step off the wheel, slow down, and allow the trappings of daily life to fall away so that we can truly let go. If you find yourself constantly wound up, try slowing down your breathing on a consistent basis. It has beneficial effects on your mood and blood pressure, and decreases muscle tension.

When Your Mind Won’t Wind Down


Where Is The Off Switch?

Have you ever been so wound up with thoughts or concerns that your brain refused to allow you to fall into blissful sleep? As long as your emotions are influenced by excessive amounts of stress, the pressure will continue to spark anxiety which will continue to rob you of sleep, even if your body is completely wiped out. A vicious cycle of insomnia not only prevents the body from getting the restorative sleep it needs, it can contribute to depression or panic disorder.

People are so busy these days that it can be a challenge to check off everything on to-do lists, so it is rather common to see folks working right up until bedtime. However, if you are having problems turning off your thoughts at night, you must break this habit and allow yourself to calm your mind in preparation for sleep. That means you need to avoid activities like housework, checking emails, paying bills, or any other activity which keeps your mind active, for at least an hour before your usual bedtime.

Anxiety and Sleep

What fuels the mind and makes it work overtime in the majority of cases is anxiety. The bed is supposed to be a place for sleep, yet many individuals lie in bed with thoughts spilling over, and are unable to get the thoughts to cease because they provoke anxiety. The chances of solving any problems while trying to fall asleep are slim, so the constant worrying only serves to interrupt much-needed sleep. Honestly, how often have you been able to solve an issue you were worried about, after you crawled in bed? Your mind will be better equipped to solve any issues which plague you if you shut off your thoughts and allow the restorative benefits of sleep to take over.

Go To Paradise

Try redirecting your thoughts by practicing guided imagery. While lying in bed, close your eyes and imagine a beautiful place, such as a tropical paradise. Breathe slowly and evenly, while imagining hearing the waves crash on the beach, and feeling the sand and the warmth of the sun. You can even play ambient sounds of the ocean to help you visualize the scene. This relaxation technique can be extremely effective in not only shutting off the endless chatter in your brain, but also in getting you to fall asleep.

If you are concerned that ideas or concerns will pop into your head in the middle of the night, keep a notebook and a pen next to your bed. Once you write something down, put the notebook away and let it go. Remember that it really can wait until tomorrow.

My Just Float Experience

What is Floating – Just Float, The World’s Largest Float Therapy Center

Yesterday I had a pretty remarkable experience, floating for an hour in a room devoid of light and external noise. The 1,000 pounds of Epsom salt which saturated the pleasant, tepid water caused my body to float effortlessly. Since I meditate daily, I welcomed the release that came with being untethered by my senses, gently hovering in a state of incredible relaxation.

For those of you who are wondering what the process is, you shower before entering the chamber to remove oils, lotions and pollutants from your skin and hair. Then you step into the tub which is softly illuminated. Once you lie in the water and adjust to your body’s buoyancy, you can turn off the lights and allow the soothing music to lull you into a state of stillness. The music fades away, leaving your breathing as the only steady sound.

At the end of your session, the music and lights slowly return. You exit the tub and rinse off the salty water.

Forty dollars (intro price) and an hour later, I definitely think the experience was well worth it.

If you are in the Los Angeles area, and you would like to try floating, please click on this link: http://justfloat.com/

Botox As An Antidepressant?

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The concept that Botox treatments can effectively treat depression has been around for a while, but a study surrounding this idea has recently been published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. Dr. Jason Reichenberg was able to determine that depression scores dropped over 40% in patients who had Botox treatments, versus 15% in patients who received a placebo. This was the case even in patients who were dissatisfied with the cosmetic result of Botox treatments.

The results point to Botox as an effective means of treating depression, especially in patients who are resistant to other treatments for depression. By relaxing the frontalis muscle and glabellar complex in the forehead, Botox makes it difficult for an individual to frown, which in turn appears to have a positive effect on mood and well-being. If you can’t frown, then you can’t fully experience the distress which a frown would ordinarily express, causing a modification of mood.

Botox is also used for correction of lines and wrinkles around the eyes, migraine headaches, temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), and excessive sweating.

For those of you in the Los Angeles area who are interested in Botox treatments, please visit http://www.drstaceynaito.com/botox-treatments

There’s Always Time To Breathe

breathing

As I was speaking with one of my patients earlier today, I was struck by the fact that she said she had no time to do anything, and that her work schedule was so stacked that she felt like she was unraveling. I suggested that she take a moment at some point in her day to just sit still and BREATHE, without any task or agenda. Her reply? “Oh, I don’t even have time for that!”

It seemed unreasonable to me that this woman wouldn’t even take a few SECONDS for herself just to breathe, take momentary break from the maddening rush of her life, and just be in the moment. It’s not that people can’t stop and breathe, they WON’T, because they have been led to believe that remaining on the hamster wheel of life all the time is a necessary sacrifice for all the success they hope to achieve. The sad truth is that those brief moments of stillness enable the spirit to reset and restore balance to mind and body as well.

If you are like my patient, you are doing yourself a major disservice by constantly moving and not allowing yourself to rest, even for a few seconds. Even the most creative and driven people in the world find time to enjoy their surroundings, pause in the midst of chaos, and realign with themselves. All you will do if you insist on going full guns all the time, without a moment to rest, is burn out your adrenal glands, damage your immune system, and set the tone for depression and anxiety.

For only a few seconds a day, you can enjoy the gift of being in the moment. What’s even better is that you can indulge in such moments throughout the day, between projects, meetings and chores. You can even do it upon waking, right before you start the ignition in your car, while standing in line at the grocery store, or just about anywhere.