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Massage & Natural Health Blog
Sat, Apr 6 2013
Superstar Vitamins - part 2 of 3

In the first article in the series of three superstar vitamins, I shared information that I've found on vitamin C. In this second article, I'd like to share information that I've found on another superstar, vitamin D3.

Superstar #2 - Vitamin D3

In the last three years, there has been an enormous amount of research published on vitamin D. And laboratories can now test the level of vitamin D in the blood, which is extremely valuable. As more doctors started ordering the vitamin D test, 25(OH)D, they've found that the majority of the population is deficient in vitamin D! Even many people whose job puts them out in the sun all day are found to be deficient.

Many doctors will tell you that you get all the vitamin d you need from your diet and from the sun. But the high rate of deficiency doesn't prove that to be true. Part of the reason for deficiency comes from the surge in information about skin cancer we've received over the last twenty years or so that stressed how important it is to wear SPF sunscreen. Unfortunately, that SPF blocks the ultraviolet rays from the sun that our skin needs to make vitamin D2, which our body then converts to the usable form, D3.

Since we've been hearing how much we need to wear sunscreen, the rate of skin cancer has gone up! That information has baffled many of the experts, but if the sun is where most people get their vitamin D, sunscreen could definitely cause that rise in cancer.

The other source of vitamin D is our foods. But many foods today are overprocessed, leaving very little of the vitamins that the food started out with. Also, foods are "fortified" with vitamin D, but it's D2 that they add, not D3. As we age, our bodies are not as efficient at converting D2 to D3, so we can become deficient that way, too.

The government's recommendation for adults is only 400 to 800 IU per day, which is only enough to prevent rickets and not enough to provide the many benefits that this vitamin has to offer. Many alternative MDs suggest that most adults consume between 2,000 to 5,000 IU a day and have regular blood tests to ensure that they are within the optimal range of 50 to 80ng/ml.



Bone health - since vitamin D3 promotes calcium absorption, it helps maintain bone strength.

Immune system - T cells, the immune cells that detect and fight off bacteria and viruses, are activated by vitamin D3.

Cardiovascular health - by regulating blood pressure, inflammation and glucose contro, vitamin D3 can help prevent heart disease and stroke.

Influenza - vitamin D3 has been shown to reduce the incidence of the flu when at optimal levels in the body.

Cancer - studies are showing that vitamin D3 lowers the risk of many types of cancer.

Common cold - one study showed that optimal levels of vitamin D3 lowered the risk of upper respiratory infections including colds.


These are just a few of the many benefits of vitamin D3 at optimal levels.  A good source of information on vitamin D3 and the many health conditions it can help is the Vitamin D Council.


Note: Before taking vitamin D3, check with your doctor, who may want to test your vitamin D level to ensure that you are in the optimal range.

Posted by Howard at 8:40 PM EDT
Updated: Sat, Apr 6 2013 8:41 PM EDT
Mon, Aug 1 2011
Proper Breathing Technique
Topic: Massage Therapy
If you've experienced my Trigger Point Therapy technique (see a description toward the end of my Massage for Headaches article) during your massage therapy session, you've probably noticed that I instruct you to do deep, slow breathing while I hold pressure on each of your trigger points. It's somewhat natural for us to actually hold our breath when we experience sudden pain, but that action does not allow the nervous system to "help out" when holding pressure on a trigger point. In fact, it actually can prevent the trigger point from releasing.

When I first learned Trigger Point Therapy in 2001, the instructor did not mention the importance of breathing at all and I found that my clients did get some results from the therapy, but not great results. The second course I took on Trigger Point Therapy in 2002 added some new information, but still did not mention anything about breathing and my clients still didn't get great results. When I read an excellent article in 2003 that explained much more about Trigger Point Therapy and the importance of deep breathing, I put that breathing requirement into practice and my clients began to see impressive results! Even clients who told me that they have had Trigger Point Therapy from other therapists in the past reported that they were getting results that they had never come close to.

One thing I've noticed throughout my years as a massage therapist is that many people do not use proper breathing technique when I ask them to breath deeply and slowly. Most people will expand their chest to take a deep breath, which uses the rib and neck muscles and only fills the lungs to about one-fourth of its capacity. To get the most effective deep breath, we have to breathe from the belly, which is actually using the diaphragm muscle and is called Diaphragmatic Breathing. Think of the last time you watched a baby on its back sleeping--its belly rises up, then it goes back down. Over time, we "learn" to breathe more from the chest and "unlearn" the best way to breathe. Diaphragmatic Breathing can fill the lungs completely without using the rib and neck muscles to do it--a much more natural breath and one that gets more oxygen from the lungs out to the farthest extremities of the body.

There is an exercise you can do to practice Diaphragmatic Breathing. Here are the basic steps:

1. Lie on your back with a pillow under your head and another under your knees.
2. Place one hand on your upper chest and the other just below your rib cage (over the navel).
3. Take a deep breath in through your nose and focus on getting the hand on your belly to rise up toward the ceiling. The hand on your chest should not move as you breathe in.
4. Tighten your stomach muscles as you exhale slowly through pursed lips (video on YouTube). Notice your hand on your stomach lowering back down toward your body and the one on your chest staying still.
5. When it seems like all the air is out of your lungs, open your mouth and let the rest of the air out. This gets to that "stale" carbon dioxide at the very bottom of your lungs.

In the beginning, try to do this exercise for five to ten minutes at least two or three times a day. As you get better at naturally using your diaphragm muscle to breathe, you can increase the amount of time you spend doing the exercise and begin doing the same exercise in a chair.

Posted by Howard at 9:27 PM EDT
Mon, Jul 18 2011
Superstar Vitamins - part 3 of 3
Topic: Vitamins & Supplements

Superstar #3 - Vitamin K2

One of the vitamins that has had a lot of surprising research recently is vitamin K2. Studies are showing that vitamin K2 helps deliver calcium from the bloodstream directly to the bones, where it's needed most. Research also suggests that vitamin K2 may actually remove calcium from parts of the body where it doesn't belong, such as in arteries, heart valves, and soft tissues.

It's difficult to get vitamin K2 from our diet because the best sources are fatty meats, egg yolks, and fermented products such as cheese, sauerkraut, and natto--these contain a lot of saturated fat, so we have to limit our consumption of them. That means that the best way to get the amount of K2 that we need is from a supplement.

But there are different types of vitamin K2 supplements and not all contain the best form, known as MK-7. This is the form that is more active and bioavailable, so it stays in your system longer, which gives it extra time to deliver calcium to your bones and remove it from your arteries and other detrimental places.


In addition to the benefits that vitamin K2 provides for your bones and for getting calcium out of places it doesn't belong, it's also been proven to be beneficial for artery health. One large study in Europe showed that subjects with the highest intake of vitamin K2 exhibited the best cardiovascular health and had the lowest incidence of coronary heart disease (CHD).

For a very informative document that was written by an Internal Medicine doctor who researched vitamin K2, read the Dr. Howenstine article. You may want to print that document and give it to your doctor to help educate him or her on the latest research and benefits of vitamin K2. The pharmaceutical companies and cardiology surgeons sure aren't going to tell your doctor about this--it would seriously diminish their profits made from all the cholesterol drugs, bypass surgeries, angioplasties, and stent surgeries.

Note: Before taking vitamin K2, check with your doctor because it may interact with any prescription drugs you are taking. Be sure to specify it is vitamin K2 and not vitamin K1 because K1 is very different and is known to interfere with the action of anticoagulation ("blood thinner") drugs. 

Posted by Howard at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Mon, Jul 18 2011 10:26 AM EDT
Sat, Jun 25 2011
Superstar Vitamins - part 1 of 3

In this first in a series of three articles, I'd like to share with you some information that I've read regarding what I believe are three superstar vitamins.

These three are supplements that are improving the health of so many people, but most doctors aren't educated on them enough to help us or recommend them to us. Lucky for those of us who want to be healthy, there are many books, articles, and research papers, as well as plenty of online information for each of these vitamins. It's so important now to educate ourselves on what's best for our health! The less we know about supplements, the more we're left with just pharmaceutical answers to our health problems and many of those can do more harm than good. The three superstar vitamins are vitamins C, D3, and K2.

Superstar #1 - Vitamin C

For the past forty years or so, a lot of research has been published on the benefits of vitamin C. Many doctors tell their patients that they are wasting their money by taking it and will just have "expensive urine." But many people ignore that advice and take a vitamin c supplement every day to get its many benefits.

As an example of a benefit, I've read that, if you were to go to a doctor in Europe complaining of constipation, the doctor would prescribe a daily dose of vitamin C. Research has shown that vitamin c can also help people who bruise easily. Years ago, when I was taking a very high dose of vitamin C that controlled my frequent colds, asthma, and allergies, I noticed that I couldn't bruise at all. If I banged my shin into the coffee table, the only thing that would show up a day or so afterward was a yellow mark, just like when a black and blue bruise is almost gone. So I know firsthand how much it can help.

Dr. Linus Pauling
, a Nobel Prize winner in both Chemistry and Peace who conducted much of the vitamin C research, recommended that every healthy person needs between 6,000mg and 10,000mg of vitamin C every day. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for vitamin C is only 60mg, which is just enough to prevent scurvy, but not enough to give any real health benefits or contribute to the optimal health that we're looking for. Dr. Pauling warned that vitamin C has to be added very gradually and its doses need to be spread out over the day. So he recommended starting with 1,000mg a day and adding another 1,000mg every three days until reaching a healthy dosage. He explained that you'd know when you've reached your limit because you'd start having loose stools. He said that it's best to be at a dosage that's about 2,000mg to 3,000mg a day below whatever that limit is for you. He also stated that doctors need to stop telling their patients that vitamin C can cause kidney stones because he proved that it didn't with very high doses for quite a few years with many people

Vitamin C has a long list of benefits, but here are some of the more important ones:

Immunity - Vitamin C is necessary for producing collagen in the body, which is the main protein found in connective tissue (e.g., skin, fascia). Vtamin C can protect your body from infection and maintain healthy bones, gums, and teeth, as well as accelerate the body’s natural ability to repair wounds.

The Common Cold - Vitamin C fights against bacteria, viruses, and infection, and is also a natural antihistamine that decrease the effects of the common cold (e.g., inflammation, stuffy nose).

Antioxidant - Vitamin C is a powerful and effective antioxidant that protects our bodies from free radicals that cause oxidative stress, which can lead to severe medical conditions like atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries and plaque buildup) that can lead to both heart disease and stroke, and is associated with many different types of cancer (lung, mouth, throat, colon, stomach, and esophagus).

High Blood Pressure - Vitamin C has been shown to lower blood pressure so it can lessen the probability of developing hypertension and the serious health problems that high blood pressure creates, such as cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Blood Vessels - Vitamin C helps blood vessels dilate properly, which can prevent diseases like atherosclerosis, high cholesterol, and congestive heart failure.

As you can see, vitamin C is one of the superstars among the many vitamins that we need every day for optimal heath.

Note: Before taking vitamin C, check with your doctor because it may interact with any prescription drugs you are taking.

Posted by Howard at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Sat, Jun 25 2011 11:03 AM EDT
Sat, May 28 2011
Pain Management with the Alpha-Stim
Topic: Massage Therapy

Pain Management is a term that is used by traditional health care providers to describe the treatment of a chronic pain for which they typically have no permanent solution or surgery is not an option. This pain management involves the use of pharmaceutical pain meds (typically narcotic meds) on a daily basis, steroid injections into joints or the spinal canal, or a nerve block procedure, which can be either a temporary injection onto or near a nerve or the permanent destruction of a nerve. Unfortunately, none of these procedures addresses the root cause of the pain, so there is rarely long-term natural relief from pain.


With massage therapy, I've been able to help thousands of people get free from pain caused by tight or injured muscles and tendons. And some of my  clients have also experienced the amazing pain relief that the Alpha-Stim AS-100 device can provide.


The Alpha-Stim uses Microcurrent Electrical Therapy (M.E.T.) that has been able to reduce pain from a level of '8' (very painful) on a 10-point pain scale to a level of '0' (no pain) within minutes. And the pain relief is typically cumulative and lasting.


Using either two handheld probes or four stick-on electrode pads, the Alpha-Stim surrounds any painful area with a very low level electrical current to get results. This level of electrical current is about the same amount of current that runs through our nerves, so it works with the body and can both reduce pain and trigger the body's natural biochemical healing process. This is very different from a commonly used electrical current device, the TENS unit (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation), which puts 1,000 times the level of current that the Alpha-Stim uses. When applied to a painful area of the body, the TENS unit only irritates the area into fatigue and numbness. The current from a TENS unit can be pretty uncomfortable and typically only gives temporary relief. Compare that to the current from the Alpha-Stim, which is so low that it usually isn't even felt, yet still gets results.


As a massage therapist now in my tenth year, I've found that the middle joint of both of my thumbs has taken a lot of abuse from years of doing the work that I do. After a long day of giving deep tissue/therapeutic massages with trigger point therapy, my thumbs are fairly sore, the joints are stiff, and they are sometimes swollen. If you've ever "jammed" a finger joint playing sports, you'll know that feeling of stiffness that makes it difficult to bend the joint. If it wasn't for the Alpha-Stim, I probably wouldn't be able to return to work the next day after any of my busy days. But in just five minutes of M.E.T. treatment using the two probes from the Alpha-Stim, the pain level drops to a '1' or '0' and the stiffness in the joints is gone! I know of no other natural therapy that works as quickly or effectively as the Alpha-Stim.


While therapeutic massage can help pain that's associated with tight muscles and tendons, it can not help pain that is within a joint. For that reason, I'm pleased to have the Alpha-Stim available as either an add-on to your massage or as a separate treatment for your painful joints. Much like therapeutic massage, it doesn't always give 100% improvement in the first treatment, but has a cumulative effect over a few treatments and the results give you real pain management!

Posted by Howard at 8:47 AM EDT
Updated: Sat, May 28 2011 8:15 PM EDT
Sun, May 15 2011
Buying Vitamins and Supplements
Topic: Vitamins & Supplements

I've heard many people say that they know they probably need to take vitamins and supplements, but how do you know which ones to take? In my case, I was lucky enough to have a close friend who had been taking them for years and could give me some advice for the health problems I was having. That got me started twenty years ago and I've been reading a lot of research on vitamins and supplements ever since.

Doctors used to tell us that we get everything we need from our diet, especially from our fruits and vegetables (and some still do say that, but those are doctors who are not up to date on the research). Unfortunately, that hasn't been true for nearly twenty years, due to changes in how our food is grown. For example, twenty years ago, an orange would give you about 100mg of vitamin C, but recent tests show that the average orange only yields about 30mg to 50mg of vitamin C. And that's just one fruit. The vegetables don't provide enough of the vitamins we need, either. So it's not uncommon for a person to eat all of the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables each day (a very small percentage of the population does), yet still be deficient in the vitamins necessary for optimal health. After all, the most important thing is to have optimal health and many people have found that it takes vitamins and supplements to get to that level.

But some of our habits and medications can deplete many of the vitamins and nutrients we do get, so our diet could never provide enough to overcome that depletion. Because of that, I'm gathering information to put together handouts with information that can help you counter the effects of smoking, alcohol, caffeine, and cholesterol-lowering drugs. Each handout will list the vitamins and supplements that are depleted by those things. (e-mail me if you're interested in getting a copy of any of those when they're finished)

One challenge for people who do take vitamins and supplements is that they are not regulated, so you don't know if they actually have in them what they state that they have. One lab did a test about 15 years ago on a few brands and found that one brand, Sundown Vitamins (one of the cheapest brands on the market), only had 10% of the vitamin in each tablet that the bottle stated it had. So instead of taking the recommended one tablet a day of that vitamin, you'd need to take ten a day to get what you thought you were getting!

This is a real problem when someone hears or reads that a certain vitamin can help with a certain condition they have, so they unknowingly buy a bottle of an inferior brand like that (typically bought at a grocery store), they take the recommended amount, but get no improvement in their condition. So they'll say "I tried that vitamin and it didn't help.", which only adds to the confusion people have about which vitamins and supplements can help which conditions. It also reinforces what the traditional doctors tell people about vitamins and supplements--"You're wasting your money." But that misinformation is what traditional doctors are taught in medical school and by the pharmaceutical company reps.

So it's important to only buy brands with a reputation for quality. I found an independent lab years ago, ConsumerLab, which tests many brands and reports which ones passed or failed their tests and why. I subscribed to their service for a few years and started seeing some of the same brands passing every test, so I try to buy those brands. One brand that passed and I've been buying for quite a few years is Vitamin World, which has both retail stores and an online website, Puritan. They also manufacture the brand Nature's Bounty, which is the same product, but available at drug stores like CVS and Walgreens, sometimes at a Buy One Get One Free special.

Also, many of the health food stores carry the better quality brands, so if you're not sure about a brand you've seen somewhere else, you're probably safe buying a brand that the health food store carries.

If you have any questions about buying vitamins and supplements, please post your questions by clicking Post Comment below this article and I'll answer it so we can share the information with other readers.

Posted by Howard at 8:44 PM EDT
Updated: Sun, May 15 2011 9:15 PM EDT
Fri, May 13 2011
Welcome to my Massage & Natural Health Blog
Topic: Introduction

I've created this blog as a place to share information about massage therapy and natural health. I will also be answering questions that readers have about either massage or natural health. I'm in my 10th year as a licensed massage therapist and in my 20th year as a user of natural health remedies, so I'll be sharing what I've learned about both topics from my own experiences and from experts in the fields.

With respect to natural health, since I am not a medical doctor, I will not be recommending any products or diagnosing any conditions. I will only share information that I have read from research that is available to the public and from experts in the field, many of whom are medical doctors. Before trying any of the natural health remedies you read about here, check with your doctor. Many natural remedies have side effects, as well as known interactions with medications you may already be taking.

Feel free to click on Post Comment to add your own comments or ask questions. Note: To avoid spam posts, I will be reviewing all comments before posting them.

Posted by Howard at 10:14 PM EDT
Updated: Mon, May 16 2011 11:00 AM EDT

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