Looking for a healthier way of life? We are uniquely designed by our creator to follow His design for our lives. From nutrition and rest to sunshine and fresh air, there are so many things that we take for granted in today’s society. And our healthcare system too often doesn’t address the root of our problems. This collection of articles attempts to shine a light of truth on the scene. We hope you will find helpful answers to your questions in the articles below.
How Medical Alert Systems Benefit Elderly Care
A nurse gives a glass of water to an elderly woman who refuses to settle down into her new retirement home. Despite the heart rate rising, she insists on not being cared for in such an adolescent way.
This is a common story for many seniors who wish to live independently. Even as we try to do our best, they often refuse to accept a helping hand. John 13 inspires us to love and care for one another, “… love one another: just as I have loved you…” Taking care of one’s proverbial heart matters, but their physical heart may become weaker, which we can do very little about. We must respect their wishes as well as provide assurance for their safety. That is where medical alert systems come in.
Medical alert systems are a simple form of wearable devices that allow seniors and patients to receive emergency assistance immediately with just a touch of a button.
Choosing the Right Medical Alert System for Your Loved One
Consider the level of assistance your loved one needs. Will they be able to wear it without struggle? Be sure of sharp edges that may damage fragile skin. Will the device be worn while in the shower? Ask the provider about the distance in which the device will be able to operate.
Medical Alert Systems Provide Relief
According to studies from the Australian Department of Health and Aging, participants claim that personal alarms helped them feel less nervous about living on their own. Most medical alert systems allow users to attach the medical device to their bracelet, belt, and necklace. This allows you to have the device near you at all, in case you suffer from an injury where you cannot move. When you press the button, it will signal the medical unit and request immediate assistance.
Medical Alert Systems Provide Independence
According to studies from the University of Montreal in Canada in partnership with the University of Bordeaux in France, patients who take benzodiazepines medications like Xanax and Valium have a 51% higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Further research also tells us how medication used for insomnia, anxiety, and relaxants are linked to memory loss.
By using a medical alert system, seniors can remain independent and live safely within the comfort of their own home. Even with the same care from hired help or a nursing home, seniors will benefit from the level of freedom. While we may not be able to visit our loved ones every Sunday to make sure they could attend the service, users can enjoy their independence while having confidence that help is just one click away.
by Sally Phillips
The Silent Disease – Beginning a Journey
The chilling Chicago wind was easy for Arthur to say good riddance to. He was on his way home to Cincinnati after a successful week in the “Windy City.” As he finished one journey, little did he realize another journey was just around the corner.
The first week in December was stressful for Arthur. As his plane arrived at the Northern Kentucky/Cincinnati airport, he was hoping to buy some Christmas gifts at the mall in Florence before meeting family for a much needed meal at home.
Arthur was healthy, and at 46 felt well, but really did not pay attention to his health until that December afternoon. Walking to the baggage carousel, Arthur experienced an unusual sensation in his chest and then passed out. Arthur was having a heart attack which triggered a potentially lethal heart rhythm. He was fortunate bystanders performed CPR and a defibrillator was nearby. Arthur has learned about the silent disease and has taken one step at a time to improve his health.
Cardiovascular disease and heart attacks is a leading killer in America. Our emergency care for this disease is improving but the number of yearly deaths still hover around 600,000. This number has not changed much over the last 50 years. This is a hidden disease, a potential silent killer. One half of those with heart attacks do not even know they have a problem. This disease may start early in life and, may or may not, remain quiescent for years. I want to help you understand this often silent problem to a greater degree while giving you three initial steps in your journey to lower your risk.
As a cardiologist, I assume everyone has some degree of cardiovascular disease. The condition is either hidden or active. Modern medicine is great at treating symptoms, active disease, but we have a way to go in addressing the cause.
If you are having a symptom, a feeling you cannot explain, and it is above the waist, think of heart disease. In my years as a cardiologist, I have experienced a wide array of symptoms from the classic “elephant sitting on my chest,” to pressure, pain in the chest, shortness of breath, heartburn, back pain, arm pain, discomfort or pain in the jaw, nausea, extreme fatigue, palpitations, passing out, and many symptoms in between. I urge my patients, if you have an unexplained symptom above the waist, this needs to be evaluated immediately. Call 911. Drive to the emergency room. The bottom line is, have the symptom evaluated. Luckily for Arthur, he had his symptom evaluated immediately. Many sudden heart attack victims never make it to modern medicine. If you take home one point, remember this, if you have n unexplained symptom, seek help, the sooner the better.
Our EMS systems, availability of defibrillators, protocols in the emergency rooms and acute care of an active cardiovascular problem are better than ever. Stents, bypass surgery, pacemakers, defibrillators, medications, and emergency care might be needed for an active problem. After the acute event, understanding the cause is paramount.
The cause of cardiovascular disease can be related to our genetics and a plethora of stressors. We cannot change our mom or dad, but we can help our genetics and identify stressors. The emerging field of epigenetics indicates our lifestyle can improve gene activation. When a patient comes to me after the acute event, I want to minimize all stress. This might be stress from cigarettes, stress from food, or brain stress. This is an extensive topic. I am currently writing a book about this, but I want to give you three steps to lower your stress today. By lowering stress, you will to some degree lower your risk of having an acute cardiovascular problem.
1. Drink water- we are made predominantly of water. 70-75% of Americans to some degree are dehydrated. Our cellular metabolism depends on water. Our brains are up to 85% water. Water helps thin the blood, lubricates the body and enhances digestion. Lack of water is a stressor. This is something we can all do today.
2. Movement- we were designed to move and not sit. As the years have passed, there is more sitting and less moving. Sitting stresses the body, slows the metabolism, and blood flow. Our parts age faster when we do not use them. Move all your parts every hour while awake. If you cannot stand, move all the parts while sitting and take some deep breaths. Start somewhere and start today. See if you can work up to 10,000 steps a day.
3. Eat things that grow- Over 90% of Americans do not get enough fiber. This stresses the body. We were designed for high fiber. Too much animal fat and protein are the cause of many of our health problems including cardiovascular disease. Find something from the produce section to eat today.
These are three steps to help you begin your journey today. These steps might just save your life.
by Dr. James Marcum M.D.
Where Healing Starts
I am writing this on a beautiful April Sunday. The sky is a perfect blue and the sunlight is giving energy and warmth to the world. However, my thoughts are focused on the healing power of love. The love that emanates from God. We may learn about this by having a relationship with the Creator. This is in our original design, and I believe that when we do not have this connection, the brain and body are under stress and the subsequent adverse chemistry.
Distracted From the Truth?
Our world is too often focused on what we can do when it comes to healing, and not on what God can do. Consider all the money being spent on new medications and genetic research. Are we getting better? Or are we being distracted from real truth? Someone came into my office with a bag full of supplements, many of which were unfamiliar to me. I explained that anything we ingest has some effect on our body, whether it is food, medicine, supplements, herbs, or even what we see and think about. We might not understand the physiology, but there are changes!
Modern medicine focuses on reductionism—on individual chemical pathways. But I want you to think about the complexity of the body and how everything interacts in ways we might not understand. In my experience, even though I don’t understand all the physiology, God’s original recommendations have merit, and love is one of them.
As I observe the sun, I see it allows the leaves to undergo photosynthesis that gives us oxygen to breathe, and energy for the plant to form sugars. Then I realize that God is always taking care of me.
As a Treatment
Is love a treatment for this world? Absolutely! Love is more than feelings, hugs, kisses, or a rose. It involves serving, being with each other, listening, caring, putting the needs of others ahead of our own, and seeking a relationship with our Creator. God is love, and to know God is to love Him. Love is definitely involved in healing.
I remember hearing the story of a child being in the middle of a street as a car approached. The child was full of fear and stress, but a nearby onlooker had no fear and jumped into the street to remove the child from danger.
Love casts out fear. Fear, phobias of all sorts, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, all of these produce damaging chemicals. It is estimated that one in six of us suffer from anxiety, and having love in our life is part of the treatment. Love decreases adrenaline, cortisol, and inflammation. It also increases our ability to reason and is a healing belief.
Love Is a Treatment
As many Christians focus on the resurrection of Jesus Christ, our desire is to have love in our life and learn how to have a healing relationship with our Creator, and each other. The most important healing event the world has ever known will be celebrated this month, and it is this ultimate act of love that gives us the healing prescription.
I see many who focus on modern medicine, and this is needed at times. Many point out the importance of a whole food plant-based diet, and this is important, as well. Others help out with improving mental health and eliminating stress and fear, and I believe that this is just as important as the food we eat. However, we must start with our relationship with our Lord, which will lead us in understanding love a little bit more each day. This is where the healing starts. Everything else will fall into place after this.
Love is a treatment for the world.
by Dr. James Marcum M.D.
Who Can I Trust?
Dr. Marcum says, “A question I frequently hear in my office is, ‘Doctor, there’s so much health material on television, radio, and the web. How can I know who or what source to believe?’
“When I answer such questions, I use information from my own experience as a practicing physician along with current research trials. But I’m careful to evaluate the economics and biases of the research, and since many treatments only alleviate symptoms, I also try to find the reason why. In addition, I use the experience of many leaders in the field whom I’ve been privileged to interview, along with the great physicians I work with daily. I’m trying to learn something new every day, but I realize that the more I learn, the less I know. We are complicated!”
Dr. Marcum says that his most important guide is always the Bible. “While I try to give biblical prescriptions that change the body’s chemistry, I realize there is a place for modern medicine, especially in acute events and genetic problems. But for many chronic problems, lifestyle changes powered by a relationship with our God are the answer.
“In answering questions I try to love and not judge. Through the years at Heartwise Ministries, we’ve answered thousands of questions on television, on our website, and at our seminars. And what I’ve discovered is that if we move slowly, one step at a time, letting God lead, our health will improve.”
The Ultimate Physician
Dr. Marcum emphasizes prayer as indispensable in healthcare. “I pray over each question, asking God to lead in all my answers,” he says. “I also ask everyone to turn to the Ultimate Physician first, for guidance. God is faithful and powerful, and healing will occur in His time as we walk with Him.
“Wouldn’t it be great to go to a doctor’s office and find no lines, no co-pays, and no forms to fill out? Wouldn’t it be great to have the physician waiting for us, and have him listen as long as we needed to talk, never once looking at a computer screen or placing a hand on the doorknob? After treatment was given, we might not follow the instructions and become ill again. But wouldn’t it be great to go back to him the next day and have him help us and encourage us as we tried the treatment again? No matter how many times we fail in the treatment, the Ultimate Physician will be there to love us and help us try again.
“As we journey in learning how to become healthier, I ask our readers to pray for each other—and to pray for me, too,” he concludes. “It’s wonderful to know that we have the Great Physician waiting to help us every second of every day.”
by Dr. James Marcum M.D.
Risks of Sun Exposure
God created us to be outside rather than inside, and the sun is important to health. So I’m going to address the risks and benefits of phototherapy in the next two articles. As we head into one of the hottest months in the northern hemisphere, let’s discuss the risks of sun exposure.
The main risk of excessive sun exposure is skin cancer. Yes, too much sun can cause wrinkling and aging of the skin, and contribute to glaucoma. But for most, skin cancer is their greatest concern—and melanoma is the most dangerous type.
How can you lower your risk of skin cancer, while realizing that sun exposure is also necessary for good health? Simply avoid turning the skin red. The amount of exposure for this to occur will vary, based on the pigment of your skin, the time of day you’re exposed, and other factors. The ultraviolet rays, including A and B types, have different characteristics, but both rays can damage the skin in excess. For some, skin damage can occur in 15 minutes or less!
The ozone layer has changed, and many do not have regular sun exposure.
So how can you protect yourself?
- Stay in the shade
- Wear a hat
- Use sunglasses
- Wear enough clothing
- If prolonged exposure is anticipated, use a sunscreen
The chemicals in sunscreen mainly protect against ultraviolet B rays, or UVB. These products have chemicals including zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, avobenzone, oxybenzone, and mexoryl. Try to purchase a broad spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher.
SPF 15 will allow one-fifteenth of the UVB rays to penetrate the skin, and block 93 percent of the rays. SPF 30 will block 97 percent of UVB rays.
To block UVA rays, which penetrate deeper into the skin, look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen, which may contain avobenzone or mexoryl.
To maximize the benefits of sunscreen, it needs to be applied to skin every two hours, and again after swimming or toweling. Don’t forget that sunscreens do expire, so search for the expiration date, remembering that their usual shelf life is two to three years. Also, storage in a hot environment can deactivate the sunscreen.
Another way to lower the risk of sun damage is to be attentive to your skin. If there is a problem developing, seek treatment early on.
Use the ABCDE questions when it comes to anything abnormal.
- Is the pigmentation Asymmetric?
- Are the Borders irregular?
- Is the Color changing more than two shades?
- Is the Diameter greater than a pencil eraser?
- Is the area Elevated?
If one of these changes is developing, see your provider, who may recommend a biopsy of the area.
Despite all the precautions, the sun is very important for health, so in the next issue I will focus on phototherapy.
by Dr. James Marcum M.D.
One of the most common questions I receive is, “Should I take a nutritional supplement?” So the following is my opinion from the study and research I’ve done, and from my experience with my patients.
God has given us the nutrients we need to stay healthy in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains. But there are two nutritional supplements that healthy people sometimes need.
The first is Vitamin D, which is actually a pro-hormone involved in many chemical reactions. It helps make serotonin, which lowers the risk of depression, and also helps in calcium metabolism, which helps our bones stay strong. In addition, Vitamin D also has a role in regulating blood pressure.
The best source of vitamin D is sunlight, but those who cannot get out in the sun for 30 minutes three times a week may need a Vitamin D supplement. A simple blood test is available to determine if your levels are adequate.
Another supplement an otherwise healthy individual might need if they are strict vegans, is Vitamin B12. This can be taken as a supplement or as a fortified substance in food.
When we take mega amounts of nutritional supplements we can disrupt the normal receptors of the cell. In 2011, the landmark Iowa Women’s Health Study reported that women taking popular vitamin and mineral health supplements were at greater risk than those not taking nutritional supplements.
French horns in an orchestra are great. However, if an orchestra has 40 French horns and they drown out all the other instruments, that orchestra will not sound balanced.
Now bear in mind that your body is much more complicated than an orchestra. Taking mega amounts of individual nutrients, out of context to the entire system, may not be good for you.
Reductionism is a term used to describe how nutrition is generally investigated and interpreted in reference to the activities of individual nutrients. This is how nutritional studies are generally investigated. And while individual nutrients are useful in deficient states, research often ignores the coordinated and integrated reactions that occur in the body.
Focusing on the entire system and how it all works together is called wholism, and since we are still learning the complexities of the human body, I say that until the Creator tutors me, there is much I will never know!
Please understand that I am not talking about a diseased or deficient state. If a person is in a deficient state like anemia, where iron is needed, or if they have lost calcium over time and have weak bones, then individual nutritional supplements may be needed.
Certain nutritional supplements may help for a given medical condition. But even in these conditions, I’ve found that real food in its natural state has a much better delivery system to the cells.
Sometimes I encounter people who believe with all their heart that they need a nutritional supplement, and I have seen healing beliefs actually help their health. If you fall into this category, please read all you can about the substance you are ingesting—and make sure you have a reliable source. If you’re taking a nutritional supplement for a medical condition, make sure you see a professional who knows its proper use. Also talk to your doctor if you are taking prescription medications that might interact with the supplements.
And one last word—the issue of herbal supplements for a diseased state is a complex and entirely different issue. Think and pray for yourself, and remember that our ultimate Physician wants us to be healthy and will help us develop common sense.
by Dr. James Marcum M.D.
Gout, the disease of Kings
Gout is a disease that, in years past, has been associated with kings. When a patient of mine with a red, swollen, and painful big toe explained he was not of royalty, I had to expand the list. Gout is a problem with too much uric acid. Uric acid builds up in the body and the crystals can precipitate into the joints, tendons, and tissues. The metatarsal-phalangeal joint, big toe, seems to be the most common. An important condition that must be also considered would be septic arthritis.
Gout has been estimated to inflict up to 8 million a year. The pain usually begins in the night and may start spontaneously. The pain is devastating and often keeps the victim from ambulating easily and may last up to a week. The acute phase is usually treated with medications including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, steroids, colchicine, and a newer medication, pegloticase. Gout can also lead to kidney stones and deposits in various parts of the body called tophi.
Ingesting too many purines and too much fructose tend to be triggers. Purines are found in meats and seafoods. The average person now ingests around 100 pounds of sugar a year. Just going plant- based and cutting back on processed sugar may be all that is needed to prevent another attack of gout. There are other precipitants including alcohol, dehydration, trauma, surgery, rapid cell destruction, and even cool weather. Sometimes the kidneys are not able to excrete urate made by the body.
Certain medications can predispose to a gout attack and include diuretics, niacin, tacrolimus, cyclosporine, and even aspirin. As your physician evaluates, they will mention the association with obesity and sleep apnea. In sleep apnea, cells starved of oxygen release purines from the cells. They will also mention genetics. The genes SCL2A9, SLC22A12 have been associated with gout. Mutations of the SC genes effect the absorption of uric acid.
Recent plant research has shown the red cherries, 16 a day, may help with inflammation as well as uric acid production. I hope you never have gout but this condition is associated with many other medical problems.
If you have a gout attack, medications might be needed for a few days. Then, find out the reason for the gout- diet, alcohol, extra-weight, or medications might be the etiology. If you can find the reason why, hopefully you can prevent another spell. If bad genetics are the culprit, allopurinol might help.
I think back to the time of Daniel and the food the earthly kings ate. Daniel wanted that which was sown. I think this is a good idea. Let’s stay away from the disease of earthly kings. Hopefully it won’t be long till we are eating from the tree of life.
by Dr. James Marcum M.D.
Ebola – What can I do?
This month we begin a brand new health column with Dr. James Marcum, a cardiologist practicing with the Chattanooga Heart Institute. He is speaker/director of Heartwise Ministries, a television and radio host, and an author. He is also a frequent guest on 3ABN. We’re very happy to bring you his new column in 3ABN World magazine!
For many months the media has focused on Ebola. President Obama, Pope Francis, and the New England Journal of Medicine have all called on the international community for help. But when a man in Texas died from Ebola, and a health worker in Spain was diagnosed with the virus, the word was out—Ebola was spreading.
The media buzz created an element of fear, as this headline from the Drudge Report illustrated: “Up to 100 at Risk of Ebola Exposure in TX – Case Investigations in Utah – Scare in Hawaii – U.N. Fears, Could Go Airborne. . . .”
Let’s be concerned but not fearful, because, as you will see, fear can make the situation worse.
What is Ebola?
The Ebola virus was first discovered in 1976 near the Ebola River, in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since then there have been several outbreaks—most recently, in West African countries like Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. As of November 28, 2014, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported 15,935 cases worldwide, with 5,689 deaths.*
Ebola symptoms appear from 8–10 days after exposure and include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and sometimes visible hemorrhaging. It is thought to be highly infectious, but not too contagious. In short, it does not spread so easily, since it moves via body fluids. But a little virus in a body can be lethal. In earlier epidemics, the Zaire ebolavirus was 70 percent fatal.
What Can You Do?
Here’s how you can avoid viruses and strengthen your immune system:
Good Hygiene – Wash your hands, cover your mouth, and avoid sick people and possible contaminated objects. Be alert; if someone is sick, stay away and encourage isolation.
Strengthen Your Immune System – Stay away from processed foods—especially processed sugar. Exercise, drink water, get rest, and take probiotics. Eat fresh veggies and stay away from meat that may contain pathogens. Other things that compromise the immune system are lack of rest, uncontrolled diabetes, and certain medications.
Avoid Stress – In this media frenzy, you must avoid fear and anxiety, since these hurt your body’s ability to fight infection. Fear is definitely a stressor, and fear of the Ebola virus can ultimately harm your immune system.
And finally, an important way to improve your immune system is God’s prescription from Philippians 4:6: “Be anxious about nothing.” This verse urges us to pray and tell Him what we need, while thanking Him for all He’s done. When we do this, the Bible promises we’ll experience God’s peace and rest.
Dr. Andrew Newberg, from the University of Pennsylvania, demonstrated that worship decreases the stress chemistry. So if you are fearful, I ask you to add prayer, worship, and thanksgiving to your regimen. This is something we can all do right now to help our family and the world. Call on more than international assistance. Call on God for help—and He will give you peace!
* Source: Centers for Disease Control website: www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola
by Dr. James Marcum M.D.
Many questions have come on regarding diverticulosis and diverticulitis. Some general information, I hope, will answer most of the questions.
Think of diverticulosis like those out pockets in a basketball or tire when the encasing grows weak. In diverticulosis, parts of the bowels push out of their enclosure.
Because of the many bacteria in the bowel and a higher chance of bacteria “hanging out”, there is a higher risk of infection. When these out pockets become infected, the condition is now called diverticulitis. A significant danger is if these pickets rupture, spilling the bowel contents into the abdominal cavity. This is a medical emergency.
The treatment for diverticulitis is antibiotics and if the pickets rupture, emergency surgery is needed. The symptoms can run the gamut to severe abdominal pain, mild cramping or bloating, to indescribable abdominal pain. I hope no one reading this ever has diverticulitis, but statistics say this is now a growing problem that was not experienced to this degree 100 years ago.
There are many explanations. One is increased pressure in the tube, the bowel, from pushing hard stools through the system. This increased pressure pushes the bowel out of the casing. A lack of fiber and water might contribute to this. Studies from Uganda, where fiber is high, shows almost no autopsy findings of diverticulosis. Other explanations have been the increased stress chemicals in our bodies, less exercise now, and a change in the bowel flora.
What can we do about this? If you are having symptoms, see your doctor. Eat lots of fiber, drink water, exercise, and avoid foods that include animal products (which may change the bowel flora). Minimize stress in your life and consider a probiotic. Our knowledge on bowel function is changing rapidly. As I learn more, I will pass it on.
by Dr. James Marcum M.D.
Do I have high blood pressure?
Let me briefly describe what high blood pressure, or hypertension, means. The blood pressure device you’re using measures the pressure on the walls of your arteries. The top number measures the pressure when your heart is contracting or pumping. That’s called your systolic pressure. The bottom number is the pressure on the arteries when your heart is relaxed, or your diastolic pressure.
Your blood pressure can temporarily rise under stressful situations like worry, or even going to the doctor. If your blood pressure is high on every single reading, it may damage your body over time. Some people don’t even know they have high blood pressure until damage to a body organ, or a symptom like headache, develops. This is why high blood pressure is often called, the Silent Killer.
I ask my patients to take their blood pressure with a good device that goes around the upper arm—after they take ten slow breaths and relax. Better yet, have a health care provider measure the pressure for you, as some devices are not always as accurate as they’re advertised to be.
If your systolic pressure (or upper number) is above 140, or if your diastolic (or bottom number) is above 90 every time your pressure is measured, you might have hypertension. Please see your doctor, because if left untreated, this will raise your chances of vascular problems including heart attacks, weak hearts, aneurysms, damage to the kidneys, increased risk of stroke, and damage to any part of your body with a blood supply. Pending your overall health, your provider might want a lower number, especially if you have diabetes, kidney damage, a weak heart, or an aneurysm.
A blood pressure measurement is a number, and must be taken in context. Many people do not have true high blood pressure, but situational hypertension. That is why taking the blood pressure when relaxed over a period of time is important.
If hypertension is present, the key is finding out why. High blood pressure can be caused by many conditions. Your internal medicine doctor will look for the cause. Sleep apnea, thyroid disease, kidney disease, extra weight, a poor diet with too much sodium, pain in the body, certain medications, life-stress, hormonal imbalance, and even stimulants like caffeine and energy drinks, are just a few of the many factors which can raise blood pressure.
Treating the underlying cause is the key. Of course, a healthy diet, exercise, sleep, water, and a healthy brain will help nearly all people with high blood pressure. I have found a whole food, plant-based diet with greens, and the avoidance of processed foods are very helpful. Regular movement, water, and regular worship, will also help.
But getting back to your question, your blood pressure measurement might mean you have high blood pressure. Check it again and see your provider if it is consistently elevated. We will be praying for you.
by Dr. James Marcum M.D.
Preventing the Flu
Mike Stobbe of the Associated Press reported that last years’ flu vaccine didn’t protect well against the dominant strain of flu. In fact, it proved to be only 9 percent effective in the most vulnerable population—people over 65 years of age.
Flu is spread from person to person, so avoiding the sick, washing our hands, and keeping our immune system strong is more important than ever. In fact, our lives may depend on it!
Think About It
Just think for a moment about how diseases spread. Many pathogens like viruses and bacteria are spread from human to human. But sometimes animals spread disease: bats and Ebola, rabbits and tularemia, pigs and trichinosis, chickens and salmonella, mosquitos and malaria, avian flu, mad cow disease, and rabies, to name a few. Then there’s contaminated feces that spread diseases like campylobacter. In all, there are more than 30 diseases spread by animals and nearly 50 more that are spread by bugs. Treatment often involves giving someone an antibiotic, or just living through the illness. But avoiding the problem might be an easier and more effective solution.
Avoidance is one of the best methods to prevent disease, and quarantine is a useful measure to prevent its spread. This method of disease control has been present through the ages.
Chronic Versus Infectious
Now, let’s look around the world at the spread of chronic diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. Would staying away from the causative vector be a good idea? Could we quarantine people from the causative agent?
I suggest that if we avoid chronic exposure, the risks diminish—just as staying away from sick people diminishes our flu exposure. Avoid cigarettes and the risk of developing lung cancer diminishes. Avoid fats and you’ll lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Avoid processed foods and lower your risk of hypertension. Limit the exposure to high fructose corn syrup and processed sugar and lower your risk of “catching” diabetes. Do we need vaccines for chronic diseases, or do we just need common sense?
As many countries are lowering their rates of infectious disease, the rates of chronic disease are on the rise. Chronic disease is harmful to the economy—not only because of the cost involved in treatment, but also because of lost productivity.
We probably cannot quarantine a country from high fructose corn syrup, cigarettes, or fats, but it is a thought. We don’t think twice against avoiding infectious diseases and the vectors that cause the problem. Let’s use some common sense and avoid the vectors that are now taking more lives than the flu! Our Great Physician wants us to be healthy. He will help us use common sense.
by Dr. James Marcum M.D.
Fats-Are They Good For Us?
This is a question that gets asked many times, so lets take a look at fats and how they work in our bodies.
Uses for fat in the body:
- padding and insulation
- helps assimilation of fat soluble vitamins (A,D,E and K)
- used in making hormones, aids in metabolic processes
- alternative source of heat when carbohydrates are not available
Where Do Fats Originate?
The fats found in animals and humans originate from two sources:
- From our diet
- Conversion of excess carbohydrates by the body into fats.
(this is where most fats come from)
When we consume fats, they are broken down by our digestive system into one of two forms.
- Glycerol (glycerin) this can be broken down into sugars for energy
if necessary, in much the same way as carbohydrates are broken down
into sugars, or converted to fat cells
- Fatty acids, which are chains of hydrogen, carbon and oxygen atoms.
These are the building blocks of fat, like amino acids are the building
blocks of protein.
TYPES OF FATS
Essential Fatty Acids – Our body can manufacture most of these from fruits
and vegetable sugars. There are a few that the body cannot produce, and must
be supplied by our diets, in there whole form. These three essential fatty acids are called Vitamin F (Linoleic acid, Arachidonic acid and Linolenic acid).
Essential fatty acids are used by the body in the following ways:
- for normal glandular activity, mainly the adrenal glands
- manufacturing sex hormones and adrenalin
- many metabolic processes
- promotes the availability of calcium and phosphorus
- forming the fat-containing protein of cell’s structure
- for growth and reproduction
Non-Essential Fatty Acids
These can be produced by the body from fruit and vegetable sugars, which come from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy and meats
CLASSIFICATIONS OF FATS
Fats are known as lipids, known as:
- Simple lipids
a. monoglycerides (composed of one fatty acid chain)
b. diglycerides (composed of two fatty acid chains)
c. triglycerides (composed of three fatty acid chains)
- Compound lipids. (highly complex fats)
b. Steroids (cholesterol, bile salts and hormones)
Fats have to be broken down for proper assimilation by the body into monoglycerides. When triglyceride levels in the blood stream rise, this is an indication that you maybe eating the wrong kind of fats.
We have all heard of unsaturated fat, polyunsaturated fat, Cholesterol, these are good fats, so lets take a closer look:
Unsaturated – has one or more carbon atoms in the fatty acid chain, do not have their accompanying hydrogen atom attached “e;unsaturated”e; with hydrogen. These help us to transport nutrients to the cells, so that the body can carry out certain metabolic processes.
Polyunsaturated fat – this contains many, many fatty acid chains, which have two or more open carbon atoms.
Unsaturated fat is liquid in form (oil) at room temperature, like vegetables, grains, avocados, fruits, nuts, and seeds.
Cholesterol: This in itself is not harmful. It is manufactured by the liver from fatty acids following uses:
- tissue structure of the body, including brain, skin and spinal cord.
- Bile salts used for digestion
- vitamin D and the basic structure for hormones
- combines with protein to help fats and some nutrients to be carried to the
The liver makes approximately 3,000 milligrams of cholesterol per day, no matter cholesterol is in the diet or not, which enters the body from unsaturated fats we eat. When concentrated cholesterol enters the body through diet, an excess occurs. Some of this can be used by the body, if it was not heated above 112 degrees. Once cholesterol or any fat has been heated above 112 degrees, it is denatured to where it cannot be properly utilized by the body and become stored, which is mainly stored on the inside of the artery walls, leading to atherosclerosis – hardening of the arteries.
Saturated Fats – fats that have every carbon atom filled with a hydrogen atom, which makes it unusable by the body, and are solid at room temperature. These are found mainly in animal fats and flesh, dairy products, and eggs.
Hydrogenated Fats (trans fats) – are laboratory processed in which hydrogen is added to polyunsaturated fats, filling the open carbon atom with hydrogen, making the fatty acids saturated. These fats are also solid at room temperature, like shortening from vegetable oil, and margarine. The hydrogenation process consists of heating unsaturated fats/oils to 212-400 degrees F. Hydrogen is then added. This process destroys any vitamins or nutrients that might have been present.
GOOD FATS FOR OUR DIET
Well lets look at a list of good fats, that provide good essential fatty acids to the body, these are all unheated or heated to 112 F or less:
- flax oil and flax seed
- olive oil
- nuts (raw)
- seeds (raw)
- butter (organic best) only allowed to melt on foods, not to cook with
- olives (sun dried in olive oil)
- coconut (raw unsweetened)
- pure fish oils
by Myrna Petersen
Medicial Properties of Food
The scriptures give us instructions and examples of optimal foods, designed by our creator for us to eat. Gen. 1:29, and Lev. 11 (I do not advocate eating meat, but if that is your choice, He gives us instructions for doing so). Plus there are many other examples throught out the scriptures.
Minerals, vitamins, amino acids, essential fatty acids, carbohydrates, protein, and fiber, are all essential for good health.
Whole foods contain all of these nutrients. Some ask what is a whole food? A whole food is something edible grown by nature without being processed, like: raw fruits and vegetables, raw nuts and seeds. Minimally processes food contain less nutients but still have benefits. Some of these would be whole grain breads (Ezekiel/manna breads) cereals, and crackers. Sprouted grains retain more nutritional value than whole grain flour.
Things that come from a box, can, bottle ect. Are usually highly processed food, and if eaten, should be done so in moderaton.
Through out the next few articles we are going to look at the nutritional content of. The foods listed below are not the only foods that contain these vitamins, but have the highest level of the vitamin in them.
Vitamin A: Apricot, broccoli, cantaloup, carrot, collard, dulse, garlic, papaya, peach, pumpkin, red bell pepper, sweet potatoes, and yellow squash.
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine): Brown rice, legumes, peanuts, whole grains, fish, poultry and egg yolk.
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): Whole grains, spinich, asparagus, legumes, yogurt, and egg yolk.
Vitamin B3 (Niacin): Broccoli, carrot, dandelion greens, dates, peanuts, tomatoes, whole wheat, and eggs.
Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic): Fresh raw vegetables, legumes, mushrooms, nuts, royal jelly whole grain rye/wheat, and eggs.
Vitamin B6 (Pyriodoxine): Carrot, peas, spinch, sunflower seeds, walnuts, fish,and eggs.
Vitamin B12: Dulse, kelp, nori, alfalfa, and eggs.
Folate: Asparagus, whole grain barley, brown rice, dates, green leafy vegetables, legumes, mushrooms, oranges, split peas, root vegetables, salmon (wild caught) and tuna (no mercury brand only)
Inositol: All fresh fruits and vegetables, lecithin, legumes, raisins, and whole grains.
Vitamin C: Fresh berries, citrus fruits, and green vegetables.
Vitamin D: Dandilion greens, sweet potatoes. Oatmeal, halibut, salmon, sardiens.
Vitamin E: Cold pressed vegetable oil (unrefined is best) dark green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and eggs.
Vitamin K: Asparagus, blackstrap molasses, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, dark green leafy vegetables, oats, whole grain rye/wheat, and soy beans.
Bioflavonoids: Peppers, buckwheat, black currents, berries, and citrus fruits.
by Myrna Petersen
Mineral Content of Food
We are now going to look at minerals, and the foods that contain the highest levels of these minerals. There are other food that contain these minerals also, but these have been found to be the best sources.
Every living cell on the planet depends on minerals for proper function and structure. Within our bodies every thing needs minerals to work properly, for example: fluids, all tissues, the formation of blood, nerve function, bone formation, muscle tone (including the muscles of the cardiovascular system). Like vitamins minerals function as coenzymes.
Boron: Apples, carrots, grapes, dark green leafy vegetables, raw nuts, pears, and whole grains.
Calcium: Dark leafy vegetables, raw almonds, asparagus, blackstrap molasses, broccoli, cabbage, carob, oats, prunes, sesame seeds, salmon with bones, sardines, buttermilk, and goats milk.
Chromium: Brown rice, whole grains, dried beans, blackstrap molasses, corn, dulse, mushrooms, potatoes, eggs, and meat.
Copper: Almonds, avocados, barley, beans, beets, blackstrap molasses, broccoli, garlic, lentils, mushrooms, raw nuts, oats, oranges, radishes, raisins, green leafy vegetables, salmon, and soybeans.
Germanium: Broccoli, celery, garlic, shiitake mushrooms, onions, rhubarb, sauerkraut, tomato and milk.
Iodine: Kelp, dulse, saltwater fish, asparagus, garlic, lima beans, mushrooms, sea salt, sesame seeds, spinach, summer squash, swiss chard, turnip greens, and soybeans. NOTE: some foods can block the uptake of iodine into the Thyroid gland, when eaten raw in large amounts. (brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, peaches, pears, spinach and turnips) If you have an under active thyroid, limit your consumption of these foods.
Iron: Green leafy vegetables, whole grains, eggs, fish, almonds, avocados, beets, blackstrap molasses, dates, dulse, kelp, kidney and lima beans, lentils, millet, peaches, pears, dried prunes, pumpkin, raisins, brown rice, sesame seeds, and soybeans.
Magnesium: Apples, apricots, avocados, bananas, blackstrap molasses, brown rice, cantaloupe, dulse, figs, garlic, grapefruit, green leafy vegetables, kelp, lemons, sesame seeds, soybeans, and whole grains.
Manganese: Avocados, raw nuts and seeds, seaweed, and whole grains. Also can be found in: Blueberries, egg yolks, legumes, dried peas, pineapples, and green leafy vegetables
Molybdenum: Beans, whole grains, dark green leafy vegetables, legumes, and peas
Phosphorus: Asparagus, bran, corn dried fruits, garlic, legumes, raw nuts, sesame, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, whole grains, salmon, eggs, and poultry.
Potassium: apricots, avocados, bananas, lima beans, blackstrap molasses, brown rice, dulse, figs, dried fruits, raw nuts, garlic , potatoes, winter squash, spinach, yams, and yogurt.
Selenium: Brazil nuts, broccoli, brown rice, dulse, chicken, garlic, kelp, molasses, onion, salmon, and whole grains.
Silicon: Alfalfa, beets, and brown rice.
Sodium: All foods contain sodium. Kelp, dulse are a good source.
Sulfur: Brussels sprouts, dried beans, eggs, garlic, kale, onions, eggs, meats, soybeans, and turnips.
Vanadium: Dill, olives, radishes, fish, snap beans vegetable oil, whole grains, and meat.
Zinc: Dulse, egg yolks, fish, kelp, legumes, lima beans, lamb, mushrooms, soybeans, sunflower seeds, whole grains, and alfalfa.
by Myrna Petersen
What is Pain
Because questions about pain are the most common questions we receive through our website, I am writing a series of articles on pain. Each month I will cover some aspect of pain. A good place to start is to explain what pain is. Pain is an unpleasant feeling often caused by damaging stimuli. The unpleasant feelings let us know something is “not right.” Hopefully, the cause of the pain can be identified and the stimuli of pain removed. Pain can be a physical or a mental pain.
Most pain goes away when the cause is removed. Sometimes, however, pain arises and the cause cannot be identified. Pain is the most common reason a person consults with a provider.
Pain is perceived and processed by our nervous system, which includes the brain. Sometimes pain is caused by the stimulation of the peripheral nerves by mechanical, thermal, or chemical damage. This is termed nociceptive pain.
Neuropathic pain is caused by damage or disease affecting the nerves. Many medical conditions can cause this type of pain including nutritional deficiencies, diabetes, medications, or inflammatory conditions. This might manifest as a burning, tingly, or pins and needles type of pain.
Sometimes pain is caused by the nerves functioning abnormally. This is termed dysfunctional pain.
If pain continues beyond 6 months it is termed chronic pain. Another definition of chronic pain is pain extending beyond the expected period of healing. Unfortunately chronic pain is common and the 100 million meds help only fifty per cent of those suffering from chronic pain.
Pain is variable from person to person and there are many aspects in which the medical profession is still learning. In the upcoming articles, pain in different parts of the body will be addressed.
Remember pain is abnormal and is a warning that “something is not right.” Nerves detect the abnormality; transfer the information to the spinal canal and eventually to the brain. Genetics, brain function, and underlying disease states are a few of the many variables that determine how our body interprets pain. Trauma and nociceptive pain are the most common cause of acute pain. The most common causes of chronic pain are back pain, which involves one in four persons, arthritis, headaches, and nerve damage.
As we learn about pain, let’s pray for each other as we have an Ultimate Physician who will help us understand pain.
by Dr. James Marcum M.D.
Identifying Chest Pain
Pain is an unpleasant stimulus that notifies the body that something is wrong. If possible, it is important to identify the cause of the pain. If the cause is known, treatment will be easier. Sometimes the stimuli is interpreted by the nerves as pain, nociceptive pain. The pain can originate from the nerve directly, neuropathic pain. It is now time to learn about pain from different areas of the body. Let’s start with chest pain.
Chest pain, or chest discomfort, or any abnormal feeling happening suddenly above the waist needs to be evaluated immediately as this symptom could be life threatening. If someone punches you in the chest and you have pain, that is one thing, but life is usually not that simple. When I am called to evaluate chest discomfort, pain, or an abnormal feeling above the waist, I first evaluate for these five conditions.
Heart attack- this is life threatening and needs to be detected a soon as possible. An electrocardiogram, blood work, and the history help determine if this is the cause of pain. Heart attacks are a leading cause of death. This type of pain or abnormal feeling needs to be diagnosed and treated immediately.
Pulmonary embolism- a blood clot travels to the lungs usually from the legs. This is more common in those who sit for prolonged periods of time or are in a bed with illness or a recent procedure. A CT scan helps evaluate for this life threatening cause of chest pain.
Aortic dissection- this is not common but could be a fatal cause of chest pain. The aorta is literally tearing apart. A CT scan or a trans-esophageal echocardiogram can make this diagnosis.
Pneumothorax- This is when a lung develops a leak. Air leaks out and squishes the lung. This could also be fatal and needs a chest tube. This is another cause of chest pain needing immediate attention. An X-Ray of the chest can make this diagnosis.
Unstable angina- this is a pain coming from the heart and needs to be diagnosed if this is the cause of the chest pain. A good history, blood work, an electrocardiogram, a stress test or perhaps even an angiogram may be needed to evaluate for this potential deadly cause of chest pain.
There are many other causes of chest pain including acid reflux, esophageal problems, infections, shingles, musculoskeletal problems, stress, gastrointestinal problems and the list goes on. The important thing to remember is, a persistent pain or abnormal sensation above the waist needs to be evaluated. The symptom could be life threatening and needs attention. If you have a sudden chest pain or abnormal sensation that will not go away and is unexplained, say a prayer, call for help, or dial 911.
Chest pain is a type of pain that can kill and must be taken seriously. If you have a specific question I can help you with, go to Heartwiseministries.org and I will do my best to help you.
by Dr. James Marcum M.D.
Dealing with Back Pain
As a cardiologist, I’m always stressing the importance to folks about the immediate need for care of those who are experiencing chest pain. Pain is the body signaling, through nerves, that something is not right. It is now time to learn about a pain that is less dangerous in the “here and now,” back pain. However, back pain is the most common cause of chronic pain. This pain afflicts one in four in the States and causes missed days at work as well as numerous prescriptions to be written to treat the symptom.
There is not enough time to cover all aspects of back pain, but I do want you to understand the basics. At least 70% of people will experience back pain at some time in their life. One in four have experienced back pain in the last three months. Most of these individuals improve with rest and time and the pain is related to musculoskeletal pain in the lower back. Too many times, I see people with low back pain continue to work and not allow healing to occur simply by resting. They take a medication so the pain is not so bad and continue onward. The mechanical problem is not addressed and frequently worsens. More and more pain medication is needed to function and the problem worsens. This can sometimes lead to a pain medication addiction.
If you have low back pain, rest. Do not continue working the part that hurts. This may prevent a much more serious problem. Statistics have shown that 40% of low back pain become well within a week, 80% within 2 weeks, and 90% within 2 months regardless of the treatment. If the pain persists and radiates to the legs, this is more serious. If weakness, impaired sensation, or loss of bladder or bowel function occurs, immediate evaluation should be considered. Some common causes of back pain are:
- Strain on the parts. The back consists of vertebrae, discs (shock absorbers), muscles, ligaments, and a blood supply. Too much sitting, poor posture, trauma, twisting and lifting can strain the parts causing pain.
- Disc degeneration. Aging and strain can cause this. The shock absorber wears out
- Disc herniation. The disc bulges outward and may put pressure on the nerves.
- Radiculopathy. A spinal nerve root is compressed, inflamed, or compromised.
- Skeletal problems. This may be genetic or even acquired by poor posture.
Disc herniation, back pain with fever, or back pain after a fall (especially in the elderly), could be more serious and needs further evaluation. A good history and physical exam are still the most important element in the evaluation. Further testing may include X-Ray, CT, or MRI scans to image the back.
The chances of developing low back pain can be minimized by common sense. Good posture, shoes with good arch support, sleeping with the legs bent, avoiding cigarettes, and regular movement are mainstays of prevention. Many people sit for long periods of time and this can put a strain on the low back. Stretching, maintaining the correct body weight, and lifting correctly all lower the risk of developing low back pain.
Treatment depends on the cause, but remember, do not take risk until necessary. Conservative approaches include rest, hydrotherapy, heat, physical therapy, weight loss, manipulation, braces, and exercise of certain muscle groups. A short-term medication might be needed to help with inflammation or pain. Remember if the cause is addressed, long-term medication is usually not needed.
Nutrition will also help. Adequate hydration, greens and beans and avoidance of animal products and processed food will decrease inflammation. Turmeric, cinnamon, and ginger may also help with inflammation. The good news about back pain is, if you respect the cause, get rest, and avoid stressing your back, the symptoms usually improve. Do not forget to include the Great Physician in all aspects of your life. He is interested and will be there to help.
by Dr. James Marcum M.D.
This is our fourth article on pain. Why pain? This is a health topic we all have experience with to one degree or another. Pain is a signal that something is “not right” in the body. Foot pain, especially heel pain, is an all too common cause of pain. With two feet and places to go, when the feet are not happy, the entire body shares in the discomfort. Thankfully, foot pain is not usually life threatening. With 26 bones per foot, 33 joints, 100+ ligaments, and 250,000 sweat glands making a half-pint of moisture each day, there are many potential working parts that could develop a problem. As we have mentioned previously, if we can find the cause of pain, treatment will be easier than just treating a symptom.
What are some of the common causes of foot pain? Trauma to the foot from a sprain, too much weight, a broken bone, stubbed toe, or poorly fitting shoes are common. If this might be the case, immobilization, rest, better footwear, and losing a few might be all that is needed for relief. Sometimes foot pain can come from nerve damage as in diabetes, tarsal tunnel syndrome, or a neuroma. The structures comprising the feet, the tendons, bursa and fascia may be inflamed causing pain. Then, there are the bunions, in-grown toenails, calluses, warts, and corns. When a foot problem does not improve with rest or have some obvious etiology, my advice is to see a specialist, the podiatrist.
A podiatrist, foot doctor, is trained to find the reason why. This might involve some testing but if a problem is not evaluated, the symptoms tend to worsen over time. Sometimes an infection, gout, a nerve problem or abnormal circulation are uncovered. A circulation problem may present as tingling, numbness, cramping, or discoloration of the toes and nails.
In addition to getting an expert to evaluate a symptom, what else can be done to prevent a foot problem? Let me make a few suggestions.
- Keep the nails trimmed and the feet dry
- Drink water, eat a healthy diet, and avoid cigarettes. This will help the circulation and function.
- Maintain a healthy body weight. This puts less strain on the feet.
- Learn some foot stretching and balancing exercises.
- Participate in a regular movement/exercise program. Walking is great for the feet.
- Do not stand too long. Prop up the feet. Stand on a carpet or cushion.
- Change shoes regularly. Wiggle your toes during the day.
- Treat yourself to a foot massage.
- Shift your weight and walk instead of standing still.
- Purchase appropriate footwear. Nine out of ten women wear shoes that are too small. Measure feet in the evening while standing when the foot is the largest. Choose shoes that are wide, stiff, have ankle support, good traction, allow air in, and are comfortable. Avoid high heels (increases pressure on the feet 75%), pointy toes (squeeze the toes), and flats (can damage arch and tendons).
Remember to pay attention to your feet even if you cannot always see them. If you are having symptoms do not be proud or ignore the problem, get help. Also think about preventing a foot problem. When your feet are happy and pain free, life is easier. I am praying that you have happy feet and a pain free day.
by Dr. James Marcum M.D.
My head hurts! This headache is killing me! I think everyone can relate to those phrases. Pains in the head are common. More individuals suffer from head pains than any other type of pain. Eight million people visit the doctor each year because of head pains.
Most head pains are not life threatening. The most common head pain is the headache which, in most cases, is tension or stress-related. In fact, 80-90% of people will have a stress headache at one time or another. These types of headaches may have pain throughout the head or at the base of the skull. Any type of stressor can trigger this type of pain.
Sometimes headaches may have a specific cause like dehydration. This is one of the most common causes of headaches. Lack of sleep, alcohol, sinus infections, eye- strain, high blood pressure, an infection, and certain foods containing MSG are some of the more common causes of headaches.
Migraine headaches usually have a warning period called an aura where a person might have nausea, abnormal sensations, or sensitivity to light. When I have had a migraine, my tongue has a prickly feeling then the headache comes. Sometimes I have a hard time focusing thoughts. Migraine headaches may have triggers like certain foods, missed meals, lack of sleep, or stress.
When should I seek help for head pain?
If one should experience the worst headache ever, a change of headache pattern, head pain aggravated by exertion or coughing, or head pain after trauma immediate evaluation should be considered. If one has a change of vision, sensation, weakness on one side of the body, or the pain continues to worsen this might be serious. If the pain is unresponsive to initial treatment or if there is neck pain with a fever or persistent nausea and vomiting, a more serious cause of the pain should be considered. A provider would evaluate these symptoms with an exam or some type of imaging of the brain, a CT or MRI. In cases of suspected infection, a lumbar puncture may be needed. Neurologists are the physicians who specialize in headache pains.
What are some treatments for headaches? Water, deep breathing and sleep might help a tension headache. Ginger gas been shown to help migraines and hibiscus and beets may help headaches associated with high blood pressure. Sometimes a short course of pain medication may be needed to get a person over the hump. A class of medications called non-steroidals is useful as they help inflammation. Acetaminophen may help the pain as well. The goal though is to find and eliminate the cause as pain signifies that something is “not right”.
There is much more to be said about headaches. Headaches.org is a good website or you can ask your questions at heartwiseministries.org. Always ask God to help in your health problems and do not be too proud to seek help.
by Dr. James Marcum M.D.
“My belly hurts” is a phrase I have heard from my kids from time to time. Most of us have experienced pain in the abdomen. Usually this is a fleeting pain and we pay little or no attention to the sensation. Often this is related to a little extra gas, reflux of acid from the stomach, a muscle in the wrong position, or just bad food. Regarding bad food, Spangler in 2014 Journal of Emergency Medicine had gastroenteritis, food not agreeing with the gastrointestinal tract, as the number one cause of abdominal pain presenting to emergency rooms.
There can be many other reasons for abdominal pain from gallstones and pancreatitis to diverticulitis and urinary tract infections. Sometimes I have even seen a heart attack present as abdominal pain. We do not have the space to discuss all the causes and evaluation in great detail; therefore, I am going to spend some time helping us learn when abdominal pain could be serious.
If you are having abdominal pain with these 10 characteristics, be concerned.
1. Inability to keep foods and liquids down.
2. Persistent nausea that worsens over time.
3. Vomiting blood.
4. Pain that is tender to touch.
5. A distended abdomen.
6. Recent injury to the abdominal area.
7. Fever and abdominal pain.
8. Pain lasting several days.
9. Pain during pregnancy.
10. Abdominal pain and problems breathing.
Your provider will evaluate abdominal pain with a complete history and physical. The characteristics of the pain are important in finding the cause, which is the key to appropriate treatment. When did the pain just start? Did something trigger the pain? Where is the pain located? Does the pain radiate? Is the pain sharp or dull? Does eating make the pain worse? Are there other symptoms? These are just a few of the questions a provider may ask.
The pain description will lead the provider to think about the many different causes of abdominal pain. Sometimes no further evaluation is needed. The description also might lead to blood work, an ultrasound, a CT scan, or an endoscopy where a tube is place inside the gastrointestinal track to look for the problem. A specialist in evaluating abdominal pain, a gastroenterologist or a specialized surgeon, usually performs an endoscopy.
It is also important to keep the gastrointestinal system optimized to lower the risk of a problem. I have seen much improvement when patients eat lots of fiber or go to a plant-based diet. Chewing the food well helps with the efficiency of digestion. Water is important to bowel function. Stress reduction helps to optimize the function of the gastrointestinal track. Eating big at night also seems to put more stress on the big tube, which runs through our body. This tube is the highway in which our nutrients travel while our bodies pull out the needed nutrients for life.
If you have specific questions or need prayer for your health, visit the “Ask The Doctor’ page on this website.
by Dr. James Marcum M.D.
There is not a day that goes by where I do not feel some type of muscle pain. The medical term for muscle pain is myalgias. Muscles help our bodies move. The voluntary muscles we control help us move from place to place or accomplish a task. There are also involuntary muscles which perform their roles without us even thinking. The heart, too, is specialized muscle tissue.
By far, the most common type of muscle pain is related to trauma. This trauma may come from too much exercise, a bump, a fall, overuse, or even too much life stress causing the muscles to become tense. These types of myalgias are usually localized and self-limiting. A little rest and immobilization and the muscle heals on its own.
Pain throughout the entire body may be secondary to an infection. Viral infections frequently cause diffuse myalgias. Pain in a muscle group occurring only when that muscle is exerted may be from a poor blood supply. Medications including the class of medications called statins as well as vaccinations may also cause muscle aches. Hypothyroidism (low thyroid), electrolyte deficiencies (low potassium, calcium or magnesium) can cause muscle pains. Certain immune diseases, lupus, polymyalgia rheumatica, polymyositis, and fibromyalgia also may cause muscle pains. Muscle pain associated with dehydration or muscle pain associated with shortness of breath is a more concerning problem.
Here are the three most common questions I receive regarding muscle pain.
What should I do if I have muscle pain?
- Make sure the muscle has water and the proper electrolytes needed to function
- Icing the area for 2-3 days may help in trauma
- Massaging the area
- Swimming may help relax the muscles
- A short course of over the counter pain medication may help
- If inflammation is causing the pain ginger, turmeric, or omega-3’s may help
- Heat may help certain types of muscle pains as well. I have seen muscle pain associated with nerve problems supplying the muscle respond to heat
- Treat the cause if possible
When should I see my provider?
- Pain will not go away after a reasonable time
- Pain and a rash
- Pain and a tick bite
- Pain and persistent swelling
- Pain after a medication change.
- Pain associated with dehydration or shortness of breath
How do I prevent muscle problems?
- Hydrate- muscles are predominantly water
- Greens and beans- electrolytes needed for muscle function
- Stretching and warming up before use—dynamic stretches work better than static stretches
- Do stress-reducing activities. A stressful life causes muscles to contract
- Do not sit in the same position too long; The National Institute of Health suggests moving the parts every hour
- Work on good/correct posture: this keeps the muscles in the correct position
- Daily exercise
I hope you are not having muscle pains, but if you are, the above information may help. Remember to praise God for you are fearfully and wonderfully made.
by Dr. James Marcum M.D.
The brain is very complex and helps us perceive and interpret pain. Thus far we have learned about pains originating from different parts of the body. For instance, chest pain may represent a heart attack, pulmonary embolism, or even reflux of acid into the esophagus. The nerves to this part of the body perceive that something is not right and reports on the finding. The nerve itself is fine and doing its job. The nerve senses the organ being monitored and, if this part of the body has a problem, pain may be the result.
Sometimes the body part is fine and the nerve itself has a problem. The pain comes from the nerve and not the part of the body being monitored. This can be described as a neuropathic pain. The nerve itself is malfunctioning.
The nervous system includes the brain, spinal cord, and the peripheral nerves which extend to the toes. A problem in the nerves of the brain, the central nervous system, causing pain is rare. This type of pain is constant, agonizing and usually burning. This thalamic syndrome can be produced by a neoplasm or infarction in the brain.
Often the nerves of the spinal cord are damaged. This is usually the result of trauma to the spine or diseases affecting the brain-spine connections. We call these radiculopathies. If a nerve involves the neck area, we call this a cervical radiculopathy. Many low back injuries cause lumbar radiculopathies. The nerve runs into the legs and this is where pain is felt. Even though the nerve damage is in the back, the pain may radiate to the legs. The structures of the legs are fine, but the nerve reporting on this area is damaged upstream.
If the damage is in a peripheral nerve, this is termed a peripheral neuropathy. Again, the part of the body being monitored is fine. The nerve is damaged. Conditions like diabetes, low thyroid, certain medications, a vitamin deficiency, or even repeated trauma can damage a peripheral nerve. Sometimes a virus can be activated and trigger inflammation in a nerve. Shingles is an example of this and is very painful neuropathy.
Diagnosis of a neuropathy is made by the history and physical, supplemented with diagnostic testing, which may include blood work, CT, and MRI scans, or nerve conduction studies. The pain may be described as burning or cramping.
Sometimes the nerves controlling automatic bodily functions are damaged. These may be the nerves that help control the heart rate, blood pressure, or regulate the gastrointestinal or urinary tract. These neuropathies are termed autonomic neuropathies. The organ the nerve control is not the problem; the nerve, which regulates and controls the function, is the problem. This may lead to a change in heart rate or blood pressure, or a change in bowel or urinary function.
I hope you are beginning to realize how complex these problems can be. The treatment for a neuropathy involves finding the cause if possible and treating this.
If trauma to a nerve is involved, rest and immobilization may help. Nerves take a long time to heal. The nerves severed during a bypass surgery may take up to six months to heal.
In some long-term diabetics the blood vessels supplying the nerves may be compromised. In a diabetic neuropathy I have seen much improvement by changing to a whole food plant based diet that improves blood flow to the nerves.
Hopefully this discussion gives you a better understanding of pain that comes from the nerves. In the final article on pain, I will answer the most frequent questions that have come to heartwiseministries.org regarding pain. Let’s continue to pray for each other and remember we can have a relationship with the Ultimate Physician who will heal in His time.
by Dr. James Marcum M.D.
FAQ Regarding Pain
This article will wrap up the series on pain. In our last discussion we described pain resulting from nerve malfunctions, neuropathic pain. Over the last several months many recurring questions have come to us through our website. I will answer, in this final article in the pain series, the most common questions received regarding pain.
Question #1: Why is pain so important?
Answer: Pain signals something is not “right”. The body needs attention. If you are having pain, first find the reason why. Pain is not normal and is a warning.
Question #2: What are some natural treatments for chronic pain?
Answer: The first natural treatment is to treat the cause if possible. Improving circulation by movement and nutrition thus increasing oxygen flow should help. Light, heat, music, laughter, hydration have been shown to help certain types of chronic pain. A whole-food plant based diet; ginger, flax, turmeric and omega- 3’s may help inflammation. Any activity lowering stress should improve pain including worshipping, praising, and being happy.
Question #3: What are the most common causes of pain?
Answer: Low back pain and headaches.
Question #4: What are some of the medications used for pain?
Answer: Non- steroidal ant-inflammatory medications like Naprosyn and Advil, Acetaminophen, narcotics, anti-anxiety medication, muscle relaxants, steroids and medicinal creams are used. These medications need to be monitored by your physician. These can be useful at times when prescribed for the short term while the body heals. Remember, pain itself is not good for the physiology.
Question #5: What are some of the risks of prescribed anti-inflammatory medications?
Answer: Some increase the risk of bleeding and raise the risk on the cardiovascular system.
Question #6: What are some of the causes of bone pain?
Answer: Trauma to the bone, cancer, and infections.
Question #7: What are the risks of taking narcotics for pain?
Answer: Some of the risks may be addiction, slowing of the respiratory system, lowering blood pressure, decreasing mental acuity, slowing bowel function, and interacting adversely with other substances.
Question #8: What are some other non-pill treatments for chronic pain?
Answer: Physical therapy and manipulations by trained professionals, TENS units, hydrotherapy and phototherapy are some of the many different treatments which may be offered by your provider.
I hope and pray that you are not suffering from mental or physical pain. If you are, turn to the Great Physician first and ask for divine help. He loves you and is interested in every detail of your life. If you would like special prayer, visit our prayer forum page at www.heartwiseministries.org/prayer.
This is a good dairy free replacement for milk.
- 1 cup of cashews
- 1/2 cup of water
- 2-4 tbsp of maple syrup
- 1/2-1 tsp of vanilla
- 1/8 tsp of sea salt
In a high speed blender mix cashews, water, maple syrup and sea salt
Blend until creamy, not grainy.
Keep as a cream or add 3-4 cups of water to make into milk.
Black and White Bean Salad
- 1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed & drained
- 1 15 oz can white kidney beans, rinsed & drained
- ½ c chopped cucumber
- ½ c chopped red pepper
- ¼ c chopped onion
- ¼ c minced fresh cilantro
- 1/3 c red wine vinegar
- ¼ c olive or vegetable oil
- ½ t salt, optional
- ¼ t garlic powder
- 1/8 t pepper, optional
In a large bowl, combine the first 6 ingredients. In a small bowl, whisk vinegar, oil and seasonings. Pour over bean mixture and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate until serving.
This is a very fresh tasting salad and goes well with anything off the grill. For a light supper, it is also delicious with buttered toast.
Black Bean Chimichonga (Baked)
1 Red bell pepper thin small slices
½ Onion thin sliced
1 c Black beans (cooked)
2 c Whole kernel cord
1 Lime (juiced)
1 c Tomato sauce
1 ½ t Cumin
2 t Chili powder
½ t Sea salt
vegenaise or sour cream (optional)
Whole grain wraps (I use sprouted ezekiel)
Mix first 9 ingred. Place cheese (if using) on bottom of wrap, add 2 heaping table spoons of veggie mixture, roll and fold ends as you go. Brush pan and the tops of each wrap with olive oil, place chimiconga’s on baking sheet, and bake for 10 min. or until crispness desired it obtained. Serve with vegenaise or sour cream.
Blueberry Pie Recipe
Blueberry Pie with Granola Crunch Crust
A cool and creamy no-bake dessert, perfect for summer. When we served this to friends, the children begged for thirds!
Blueberry Pie Filling:
- 12-oz. package of frozen blueberries OR 2 ½-3 cups fresh berries
- 10 pitted dates, chopped
- 1 Haas avocado, peeled, pitted & sliced
- 4 ripe bananas, peeled
Blend all ingredients together until smooth. Pour the mixture into the pie crust. Freeze for 30 minutes (or longer), then serve.
Notes: For easier blending, try soaking chopped dates in water (enough to cover) while you prepare the crust or overnight. To save time, skip the crust and freeze blueberry filling in parfait glasses or individual dessert cups. Just before serving, garnish with berries and mint leaves or chopped nuts.
The Good News:
Blueberries are high in cancer-fighting compounds. Studies show they improve memory and brain functions. The pectin (fiber) is effective in lowering cholesterol.
Avocados are rich in Vitamins E, K and B and in cholesterol-lowering fiber (14 g. fiber in 1 medium) that helps to guard against high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
Dates contain Vitamins A, B, folate, and C, plus more than 20 different amino acids; they help us digest carbohydrates easier and control blood sugar levels. Selenium lowers the risk of cancer and helps to strengthen our immune systems.
Bananas are rich in B6, which improves mental function, and potassium, which lowers blood pressure and plaque in blood vessels. Tryptophan in bananas helps to combat depression, promote sleep, and control appetite.
- 1 ½ cups granola OR 1 cup granola + ½ cup shredded coconut
- 3 tablespoons oil or water OR natural almond butter
- pinch of salt (optional)
Grind granola in a blender or a coffee grinder. Place in pie plate, add all ingredients and mix with fork. Sprinkle with more water if needed to moisten. Press into pie plate with fingers. Bake at 350þ for 10-15 minutes, or until firm. Cool. Use only with pre-cooked or no-cook fillings.
by Becky Carlson
Easy Rainbow Vegetable Stir-fry with Edamame
Beautiful, delicious, fragrant, and satisfying – a healthy pleasure!
- 1 large onion (sweet or red), chopped
- 1-2 large garlic cloves, minced or pressed (optional)
- ¼ cup water, tomato juice, or salsa water (for sautéing)
- 1 Tb. onion powder
- 1 tsp. garlic powder
- 1-2 tsp. dried basil
- 1 bag (16-oz.) frozen stir-fry vegetables (Sugar-Snap or Asparagus)
- 1/2 bag (16-oz.) frozen shelled edamame (soybeans) OR green peas
- 1 Tb. olive oil or flaxseed oil
- Salt to taste (1/2 tsp.?)
- Cooked brown rice (1/2-1 cup per person)
1. In a large non-stick skillet, bring water, onion powder, garlic powder, and basil to a boil. Add chopped fresh onion and garlic (if using). Cover with lid and simmer until tender, about 5-8 minutes.
2. Stir in all other vegetables and the edamame. Cover with lid and steam until vegetables are tender, but still bright in color.
3. Drizzle with oil, add salt, and mix well
Serve over a bed of cooked brown rice, or whole-grain pasta. Garnish the top with cashews, almonds, or your favorite nuts. Try adding 1 Tb. of ground flaxseeds between the rice and the veggies. (Grind flaxseeds in a coffee grinder.) I like to top with snipped fresh herbs from the garden, such as lemon thyme, basil, or parsley.
My favorite packaged stir-fry is the Sugar Snap Pea Stir-fry at Wal-mart. We find the Edamame in the frozen food section at Wal-mart, Bi-Lo and elsewhere. The soybeans are loaded with high-quality protein and heart-healthy nutrients, and they taste great! I love to add extra veggies (whatever I have fresh), such as red or yellow bell peppers, broccoli, asparagus, carrots, yellow squash, or ruby chard stems. If I don’t have time to chop extras, I may use 2 bags of the frozen stir-fry vegetables to serve more than 2. Enjoy! – Becky
- 1 15 oz can of garbanzo beans, rinsed & drained
- ¼ – ½ c mayonnaise or vegenaise
- ¼ c chopped onion
- ¼ c chopped celery
- Salt and hot sauce to taste
Process beans in food processor until consistency of coarse meal. Combine with remaining ingredients. Refrigerate. This is very satisfying spread on whole grain toast.
[toggle title=”Orange-Cashew Salad Dressing”]
- 2 navel oranges, peeled and seeded
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 1/4 cup raw cashew nuts, rinsed well
- 1 Tb. lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon orange zest (grated peel) – optional
Blend ingredients until silky smooth.
Use liberally on salad or as a dip. Spread on whole grain toast, bagel, or waffle for a guilt-free topping. Also try as a topping on oatmeal or other cooked whole grains such as millet or brown rice (with fresh blueberries or fruit on top).
Refreshing Fruit Tea
- 4 regular sized tea bags
- 3/4 c sugar
- 4 c cold water
- 1 c orange juice
- 1 c pineapple juice
- 1/4 c lemon juice
Pour 3 cups boiling water over tea bags. Cover and steep 5 minutes; remove and discard tea bags. Stir in sugar until dissolved; stir in 4 cups cold water and juices.
Yield: about 2 quarts
Enjoy this hot weather refresher!
Slow-Cooker Breakfast Porridge
Wake up to a hot, whole grain cereal by preparing it the night before and letting it simmer in your slow-cooker while you sleep. A healthy breakfast has never been easier!
- 1 cup brown rice OR millet
- 3 cups hot water
- ½ cup raisins or chopped dates, dried apricots or prunes
- ½ tsp. cinnamon
- ¼ tsp. salt (optional)
Add after cooking: berries or other fruit, fresh or frozen, & nuts
1. Combine grains, water, fruit, cinnamon, and salt in slow-cooker and cook on low overnight.
2. Serve plain or with non-dairy milk (soy, rice or almond milk) or with a dollop of yogurt (soy yogurt is best), if desired.
3. Top with berries, chopped oranges or apples, & nuts.
Variations: You can cook a mixture of 2 or 3 kinds of grains, instead of just one, for a total of 1 cup. For example, 1/3 cup of brown rice, 1/3 cup millet, and 1/3 cup wheat berries. Basmati brown rice will fill your kitchen with a wonderful aroma. Worth trying!
Adapted by Becky Carlson from Breaking the Food Seduction: The Hidden Reasons Behind Food Cravings – and 7 Steps to End Them Naturally, by Neal Barnard, M.D.
Spring Strawberry, Orange & Spinach Salad
- 8 cups baby spinach OR romaine lettuce (2 cups per serving)
- 2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced
- 2 cups orange slices, seeds removed & chopped
- 2-3 cups (1 lb.) asparagus, washed & sliced OR sugar snap peas
- 8 tablespoons raw pecan halves, sliced almonds or walnuts
Orange-Cashew Dressing – or- Raspberry Salad Dressing
1. Lightly steam asparagus or roast in 350-degree oven for 15-20 minutes, cool and cut into one-inch pieces.
2. Wash and slice strawberries. Peel, seed and chop oranges.
3. Mix all ingredients together, add dressing and toss to coat.
Optional: Lightly oven-toast nuts at 350 degrees for 5-10 minutes. (Stir once to toast evenly.)
Salad Shortcuts: Use pre-washed baby spinach or romaine (9-ounce bag).
Canned water-packed mandarin oranges, drained, instead of fresh oranges.
Try thawed frozen green peas in place of asparagus or sugar snap peas.
For nuts, buy Almond Accents unsalted sliced almonds, lightly toasted.
- 2 navel oranges, peeled and seeded
- ¼ cup orange juice
- ¼ cup raw cashew nuts, rinsed well
- 2 tsp. lemon juice (optional)
Blend ingredients until silky smooth. Use liberally on salad or as a dip.
Spread on whole grain toast, bagel, or waffle for a guilt-free topping. Also good as a topping on oatmeal or other cooked whole grains such as millet or brown rice (with fresh blueberries or fruit on top).
Adapted by Becky Carlson from Disease-proof Your Child by Joel Fuhrman, M.D.
Raspberry Salad Dressing
- 1 cup frozen raspberries
- 3 Tb Lemon juice, fresh or concentrate in bottle
- 1/8 tsp liquid stevia OR ¾ tsp powdered stevia OR 2 Tb sugar
- 1/4 t salt
- 1/4 cup to ½ cup of oil
Blend first four on high, then at low speed add the oil slowly.
- BREAKING THE FOOD SEDUCTION: The Hidden Reasons Behind Food Cravings and 7 Steps to End them Naturally, by Neal Barnard, M.D. (St. Martins Press, 2003)
Includes menus and recipes. Dr. Barnard is the president of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.
- EAT TO LIVE: the Revolutionary Formula for Fast and Sustained Weight Loss, by Joel Fuhrman, M.D. (Little, Brown and Co.)
Includes meal plans, recipes, and real-life success stories.
- DISEASE-PROOF YOUR CHILD: Feeding Kids Right, by Joel Fuhrman, M.D. (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2005)
Features complete meal plans and kid-tested recipes.
- THE FULL-PLATE DIET BOOK, by Stuart A. Seale, M.D., Teresa Sherard, M.D., Diana Fleming, Ph.D., LDN (Bard Press, 2009)
Loaded with strategies to slim down, look great and be healthy. Beautiful full-color charts and graphics. Authors serve on the staff of the Lifestyle Center of America. A free sample section of the book is available online, along with recipes and helpful articles at www.FullPlateDiet.org.
- DR. ARNOTT’S 24 WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR HEALTH, by Timothy Arnott, M.D. (Pacific Press)