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Receiving a Neurofeedback treatment

Receiving a Neurofeedback treatment

Why Neurofeedback? By guest blogger Austin Rose

Do you ever feel like who you are limits who you could be? Have you ever felt negative thinking influences how you live your life? Political theorist William Connelly describes the activity in our brains when he says, “to think is to move something. And to modify a set of brain/body connections helps to draw a habit, a disposition to judgement, or a capacity of action into being.” In other words, thinking creates patterns of thought which become actions and ultimately form habits. These patterns create a framework, or reference, for the things we can think and do. As we think, we can modify or strengthen these patterns, in turn making our thought processes more flexible or rigid. These patterns of thought are deeply rooted in ourselves and the multitude of experiences we encounter throughout our lives. They can be very difficult to change. We do not have much control over how these patterns are created as we live our lives. Our brains are organs of survival. Bombarded with so much stimulation day in and day out we can often feel lost and powerless to change our thoughts, reactions and habits. However, contrary to what scientists previously believed, new research in neuroscience is finding that the brain is malleable. This is referred to as “neural plasticity.” It turns out that we have the capacities to establish new patterns of thought, rework old manners of thinking and unleash previously hidden potential.

Neurofeedback (brainwave biofeedback) is a therapy which capitalizes on this plasticity of the brain. Neurofeedback as a therapy has been shown to be useful in treating ADD, ADHD, anxiety, insomnia, depression, anger, traumatic brain injuries, and chronic migraines. It has also been shown to increase performance in athletes, and can enhance energy and brain functioning in healthy individuals.

Neurofeedback is a treatment to aid our brain in deciding which pathways it should strengthen and which to modify. A metaphor I return to frequently when thinking about neurofeedback comes from Grant Rudolph, who describes it as, “a rainstorm blowing dead leaves and branches out of a tree – the living branches stay connected and new growth accelerates.” By sending weak electrical signals to our brain (feedback), signals which are weaker than those emitted by a watch battery and are akin to micro-voltage in the brain itself, neurofeedback stimulates increased neural flexibility. The brain decides which pathways are useful (healthy branches) and which pathways are limiting us in our current experience (dead leaves). With increasing neural flexibility, we experience more space, or thinking power, to develop new habits and growth in our brains.

My Experience with Neurofeedback

A little over a year ago I stumbled across LENS  (stands for Low Energy Neurofeedback System) neurofeedback thanks to Dr. Louise Rose who suggested I might find similarities between it and the political theory that I was immersed in at Marlboro College. I also have a history of head injuries. As an active young man I throw my head around a lot and sometimes it hits things.

My first neurofeedback treatments found me with considerably more energy and creativity. I was able to utilize this new energy for my thesis work at school and my procrastination dissolved. I also experienced my hand-eye coordination increase dramatically, becoming three to four times what it used to be. After several treatments my senses were working at a much higher level than before. It was as if a dial had been turned up heightening my perception. Not only was I perceiving more, I felt the need to share these perceptions with the world. I began to make music, write poetry, have long engaging conversations, and I even began to start on my school work…before school even started. I felt great and wanted to share it with others.

Back in Vermont during the fall term I felt these effects begin to wear off. My motivation declined as school picked up momentum and creating began to feel like a chore. I found things I enjoyed writing about but felt like what I wanted to say was no longer important to me or had already been said. Where was the heightened energy and creativity that I had felt in August? I was still feeling heightened awareness of my surroundings but found myself falling back into old patterns of thought.

When I returned to Portland for winter vacation I jumped at the opportunity for more neurofeedback. However after the treatments I felt little to no change in my body or mind, although my brain map did look considerably different from the previous one. I didn’t really think too much about it as there were many other things on my plate. I was distracted and wasn’t surprised when I didn’t feel anything new.

When I settled back in at school, I began to think about why neurofeedback had worked so well for me in the summer yet not after my winter treatments. Also, why did other members of my family not see the same results I had? Soon I realized the major difference lay in my meditation practice.

When I first started neurofeedback I concurrently began to meditate using Dr. Les Fehmi’s Open Focus meditations. Open Focus works to increase ones awareness of the body and it’s surroundings. Open Focus meditation is a practice designed by Dr. Fehmi a pioneer of neurofeedback technology, and is similar to some eastern meditation practices. As I returned to regular Open Focus practice, I found many of the effects I felt from neurofeedback begin to return. At first I wondered if what I had felt originally were only the effects of Open Focus. However as my practice matured, I began to see parallels between the two and how one strengthened the other.

If neurofeedback works by “blowing dead leaves and branches out of a tree (the mind), leaving the living ones and encouraging new growth,” then the question becomes, what can I do to stimulate this new growth alongside my neurofeedback treatment. By merely continuing through my daily routines after neurofeedback, I was not moving my brain to think in new ways. Though I may have begun to see some changes in my habitual thought patterns, without the support of the active retraining of meditation, these thoughts seemed not to have long lasting effects. Caught in my routines, I was still thinking in habitual patterns that were consequently reinforced. My hypothesis is that If we push our minds to experience new things, we will create new frameworks of thought and capitalize on the neural plasticity provided by neurofeedback. Since we do not know the myriad of ways we could feel, being open to new experiences gives us the opportunity to develop these new frameworks. This is how I see the flexibility resulting from neurofeedback combined with Open Focus practice; an increased ability to immerse myself in my own body and it’s surroundings, while distancing myself from unhealthy deep neural patterns that my emotional baggage has created. Since I began to practice meditation concurrent with my neurofeedback treatments, I have seen incredible leaps forward in my thinking, and productive changes in my brain maps produced by the LENS Neurofeedback software. While in my experience, meditating dramatically increased the effects of neurofeedback treatment, Dr. Rose has many patients who have benefited by neurofeedback alone. In my experience, when attempting to move my brain in new ways, the catalyst to long lasting effects of neurofeedback lies in an openness to new experiences. If, after a treatment you feel inclined to clean out a closet, or begin your memoirs, don’t hesitate, act on it. If you do not feel many changes after a couple appointments, think about how you can stimulate changes in your routine. This could be as simple as brushing your teeth with your non-dominant hand, shaving in a new pattern than before, or taking up a meditation practice. Also, if changes are not immediate after treatment, do not be dissuaded. Sometimes the brain is stuck in very rigid habits requiring time for neurofeedback treatment to gently rock it out of these patterns. By being open to new experience, we stimulate the growth of living, strong and flexible branches in our minds and bring a new capacity of action into being.   -By Austin Rose

licorice, astragalus, burdock, dandelion root, codonopsis

licorice, astragalus, burdock, dandelion root, codonopsis

Astragalus– immune stimulating (increases macrophages and natural killer cells) and adrenal tonic.  great for anyone with spleen qi deficiency, supports good digestion.  Very safe, mildly sweet flavor, overall tonifying.

Burdock root- Liver tonic, blood cleanser, alterative.  Mildly bitter and therefore stimulating to the digestive system.  Historically used for hormone balancing and skin conditions.

Dandelion Root- Alterative, liver tonic, nutritive.  Wonderful for detoxification and elimination processes.

Licorice Root-Anti viral, immune modulating, adrenal tonic.  Sweet flavor.  Used to treat colds, coughs, stomach upset, chronic fatigue. (caution in high doses if you have high blood pressure)

Codonopsis – Also known as Dangshen, or poor man’s ginseng.  Used to increase resistance to stress, increase energy, modulate immune response (increase response in cancer, decrease in autoimmune conditions).

Ginger– potent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticancer, carminative (good for nausea, gas, dyspepsia).  Warming.

cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, ginger, pepper

cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, ginger, pepper

Cinnamon-wow, a powerhouse of health benefits!  Anti-inflammatory (great for arthritis pain and menstrual cramps), antimicrobial, promotes healthy blood sugar and insulin sensitivity, can promote healthy cholesterol levels.  Warming and delicious!

Black Peppercorns– Helps with digestion, is antioxidant and antimicrobial.

Cloves-Pain relief, high in antioxidants, antibacterial, digestive stimulant.

The amount of herbs pictured (I’m bad about measuring things, but you can see it’s a tablespoon or two of each herb) made one gallon of chai.  Simmer the herbs for 45 minutes to an hour, add black tea and steep for 4 minutes.  Strain.  You can keep this mixture in the fridge for a week, heating up one cup at a time.  Add cream and honey to taste.  You might not need to add any honey as some of the herbs are quite sweet.

I recommend drinking super tonic chai daily to build strong adrenals, and keep your immune system healthy!

Anatomy of an Epidemic; Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America

Anybody who has been hanging around me lately has gotten an earful about this book.  Integral to my philosophy of medicine is  that mental/emotional wellness and overall health are inseparable.   As a naturopath, I believe in the healing power of nature.  I do not use or prescribe pharmaceutical drugs without carefully considering and exhausting other options first.  But even the lens of my bias against drugs did not prepare me for the shocking revelations in Robert Whitaker’s well researched  book Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America.  His exhaustive investigative journalism exposes vast depths of untruths and myths that we have been force fed by the pharmaceutical industry.  He set out to find out why the number of mentally ill adults and children has skyrocketed in the last fifty years, at the same time that we’ve been told of newer, more efficacious psychotropic drugs with fewer side effects- a veritable “psychopharmacological revolution”.  “Every day, 850 adults and 250 children with a mental illness are added to the government disability rolls.”  Whitaker systematically takes the reader through this historical introduction of drug after drug, from anti-anxiety drugs, anti-depressants, ADHD meds, mood stabilizing drugs for bipolar disorder, and psychotropic drugs used to manage schizophrenia.   Anyone who lived through the 1980’s and 90’s remembers hearing the message that mental illness is a “chemical imbalance in the brain” and that these new drugs can correct the imbalance.  Whitaker exposes that claim which has no scientific support.  In fact he makes the case that the drugs are causing a chemical imbalance, which then makes it difficult when patients try to discontinue the drugs.  It turns out that when the outcomes research is studied, patients maintained on psychotropic medications do worse than unmedicated folks.  Most alarming are the numbers of children as young as 2 years old who are being prescribed these medications.  According to Whitaker, mental illness has never been shown to have a biological basis, as was claimed,  and research about poor outcomes and poor efficacy was buried by the drug companies.  It’s a compelling read.  It reveals an important perspective on mental health.  These days all of our lives are touched by some loved one who struggles with depression, anxiety, ADHD, or other mental health issues.  Anatomy of an Epidemic should be required reading for patients and physicians.

Anyone out there have tomatoes piling up?  Attracting fruit flies?  Tired of BLT’s? (Never!)

tomatoes from MY YARD!

I realized today that if I didn’t act, and act TODAY my tomato harvest would be fruit fly food.

 

I had yellow tomatoes, green stripey tomatoes, and red, red tomatoes.

 

If I mixed them all together I would create a really attractive brown tomato sauce!  So I made Cream of Tomato Soup with the yellow and green ones, and Roasted Tomato Sauce with the red ones.  I’m pretty pleased with the results, so I thought I would share!

Cream of Tomato Soup Indian Style

Saute in coconut oil:

  • ginger, onion, garlic

Meanwhile toast your whole spices in a dry skillet:

dry toasting spices

  • cumin, coriander, black pepper corns, mustard seeds, fennel seeds

Grind the whole spices and add them to the onion mixture.  Add a healthy dose of turmeric (if I’d had fresh turmeric I would have used it, but dried ground turmeric is fine.  Remember how good it is for you?  Anti-inflammatory?), and a dash of cinnamon.

Saute the spices for a minute. Then add a bunch of cut up tomatoes.  I used yellow and green ones which worked great with the turmeric which is bright yellow too.

Add a little chicken stock or water to get the tomatoes to start breaking down.  Put the lid on the pot and let it simmer for a while, checking occasionally and stirring.  When the tomatoes are completely broken down, puree the whole she-bang.  I used my trusty Vita-Mix, but those immersion blenders work well too.  After pureeing the mixture, put it back in the pot and add a can of coconut milk and salt to taste.  Heat it gently at this point.  You don’t want the coconut milk to boil.

lunch. check.

 

 

Depending on how sweet your tomatoes are you might want to add a handful of sugar, honey, or maple syrup to balance out the acid of the tomatoes.  I decided against that.  I portioned out the soup (after eating some, of course) for lunches for the next few days!

 

 

 

Next up:

Roasted Tomato Sauce

The recipe is thus:  Cut up a bunch of tomatoes, toss with olive oil, salt, fresh thyme, oregano, and rosemary.

red tomatoes ready for the oven

 

 

Roast in a 350 degree oven until they break down and start to dry out a bit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

herbaceousness

 

 

Add some fresh garlic and chopped basil and spoon over  spaghetti squash, roasted cauliflower, zucchini ribbons, or…. pasta!

I spooned mine into a jar, and froze it for some winter day when I need to conjure up the bounty of these last fall days!

 

 

 

 

 

after roasting

 

 

Tomato’s nutritional claim to fame is high levels of a carotenoid called “lycopene.” Carotenoids act as anti-oxidants in the body and high intake of lycopene has been found to be protective against prostate cancer.  Lycopene is what gives tomatoes, watermelon, and guavas their pink/red color.  Lycopene is more available to the body when tomatoes are cooked, and they should be cooked with some oil to aid absorption.

 

   

swimming hole bliss

 

Many years ago when my kids were little, and we were poor, young, frazzled parents, someone wise asked me what was one thing that made me happy.

 

I didn’t have to think long before answering “sun and water.”  Living in Seattle at that time, it was fairly easy to pack a lunch, throw the kids in the car and end up on the banks of Lake Washington for the day.

 

It is no wonder that my kids have grown up to love swimming in lakes, rivers, and oceans.  It is one place where we are all happy.  Together.

This fall my youngest son goes off to college.  Last week was the hottest week we have seen in Portland, and he and I packed a lunch of fresh tomatoes, salami, bread, cucumbers, and carrots, and headed for one of our favorite swimming holes.

Reading by the River

 

 

I ask you:  Is there anything more nourishing than doing what you love with the people you love?  Especially when there are tomatoes and salami involved?

If you have your finger on the pulse of what’s new in Natural Medicine you’ve probably heard about oil pulling.  Folks are talking about it, blogging about it, making you tube videos about it.  There is great debate about it.  Is it the magical cure-all or a complete waste of time?  But first of all what exactly IS oil pulling?

Oil pulling has its roots in Ayurvedic medicine but was made popular by Dr. F. Karach, M.D. in the 1990’s.  The technique involves taking 1 tablespoon of oil (most commonly cold pressed sesame,  or sunflower oil) into the mouth and vigorously swishing the oil through the teeth and gums for 20 minutes.  Then spitting it out and washing the mouth with water and brushing the teeth.  The claim is that during this process toxins are pulled from the blood into the viscous oil and then expelled with the oil.  There are many anecdotal claims on the internet that this practice not only is good for oral hygiene (cures gingivitis and bad breath, whitens teeth), but that it can cure chronic diseases such as blood disorders, arthritis, hormonal dysregulation, sinusitis, immune disorders and cancer.

Let’s face it:  I’m a sucker for crazy ritualized health routines.  I mean I have fully embraced the castor oil pack, dry skin brushing, jumping into cold water, eating organ meats, and more.  So when I first heard about oil pulling from an interview with Bruce Fife ND, I was intrigued!  Sign me up!  I’ll try it!  I could not think of any reason it would be a BAD idea to swish oil around your mouth.  If nothing else, perhaps we absorb some good fatty acids through the mucus membranes in our mouth.

I do know that our mouths often harbor plenty of bacteria on a good day, and on a bad day can be the source of ongoing, hidden infections that the body has to  continually fight off.    Having a low grade infection takes lots of energy to keep the immune system so revved up and can lead to further complications.   Coconut oil is especially antimicrobial, so there’s that.   With my training in physiology I can’t say that I buy into the idea that toxins are being “pulled” into the saliva/oil mixture through this process.  But I am the first to admit that there is a lot we don’t know about the human body and I don’t need to understand something for it to benefit me.  I mean, I practice homeopathy after all!

So I have been practicing oil pulling with coconut oil (I am a big fan of the many health benefits of coconut oil and I buy it here) for about 3 weeks now.  I do it once a day, in the morning, on an empty stomach.  The first thing I noticed was that my teeth feel like I just came from a dental cleaning appointment.  Smooth!  Clean!  Sexy!  I’m watching my receding gums and hoping to see a change there.  My chronic back and hip pain is improved (!).  I don’t suffer from allergies or chronic sinusitis, but I do feel my sinuses drain each time I do it.  And (accepting the risk of TMI)  my last menstrual period?  A breeze.

I’ve been asking friends to try it and tell me what happens.  I mentioned to my naturopath that I had started oil pulling, and her face lit up!  She’s been doing it for 8 months and has been using it with patients as well.  I must say, I’m optimistic that it can help at least some people.  And really, the risk/benefit ratio is fairly low, so why not?  Try it and report back.

Ginger, Turmeric, Cinnamon

Ginger, Turmeric, Cinnamon

More and more research is supporting the idea that inflammation is at the heart of most chronic diseases.

A wonderful friend of mine taught me this delicious recipe for an anti-inflammatory tea.  She experienced significant reduction in her arthritis pain after regular consumption.  I decided I had to try it myself!  Not only is it extremely good for you, it is delicious!

Recipe?  In a saucepan full of water throw a few slices of fresh ginger, fresh turmeric, and cinnamon sticks.  Simmer for 20 min or longer.  Add  a small bit of honey and the juice of one lemon.   Drink hot or cold!  It is also easily made with dried, ground herbs as well.  Try 1 quart of water with 1/2 tsp of each herb.

Curcumin, the potent anti-oxidant in Turmeric has been found to be as effective an anti inflammatory as prescription non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs in a trial with rheumatoid arthritis patients.  It is an effective free radical scavenger, and holds promise in prevention of cancer and alzheimer’s disease.  In nutrition, it seems that the deeper the color of the food the higher the nutritional value.  So when you are shopping, look for deep green greens like kale, dark berries, and bright yellow pigments like turmeric for nutrient dense power.

Ginger has been used traditionally to quell arthritis pain and has been shown effective in trials comparing it to NSAIDS.  Ginger is also a warming, digestive stimulant.

Cinnamon is rapidly earning its reputation as a blood sugar and lipid regulator for folks who struggle with insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.  Besides this, cinnamon is also anti-inflammatory, anti-parasitic, warming and delicious!

Do you need any more encouragement to go put on a pot of water for a batch of turmeric, ginger, cinnamon tea?

beet, ginger, dandelion greens

I need a little correction after the holiday weekend.  How about you?

Into the vitamix today went:

1 small beet (liver food)

a handful of dandelion greens (good diuretic and bitter greens for liver/gallbladder stimulation)

1 cup kombucha (probiotics, tangy deliciousness)

1/2 cup frozen cranberries (great for kidney flush, and high in anthocyanins)

1/2 cup frozen blueberries (what are blueberries NOT good for?)

fresh ginger (anti-inflammatory, digestive stimulant)

2 T ground flax seeds (high in lignans, soluble fiber, and omega 3 fatty acids which are anti-inflammatory)

1 tsp ground milk thistle (liver and kidney tonic)

2 cups water

St. Patrick's Day is coming!

Seeing corned beef in the grocery stores these days made me dream up this low glycemic version of one of our favorite breakfasts.
I used Okinawan purple sweet potatoes, (which are high in anthocyanins and low glycemic, getting some press these days as a new “super food”) instead of white potatoes and added quartered brussels sprouts for a high fiber, satisfying breakfast! My son poached me an egg and mixed up a mixture of ketchup and chili sauce for the perfect accompaniments.

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  • Rethinking Diabetes June 26, 2013
    Dr Louise Rose
  • Healthy Brains, Healthy Habits: LENS Neurofeedback and Open Focus Brain Exercises February 7, 2013
    Why Neurofeedback? By guest blogger Austin Rose Do you ever feel like who you are limits who you could be? Have you ever felt negative thinking influences how you live your life? Political theorist William Connelly describes the activity in our brains when he says, “to think is to move something. And to modify a […]
    Dr Louise Rose
  • Super Tonic Chai December 2, 2012
    Astragalus– immune stimulating (increases macrophages and natural killer cells) and adrenal tonic.  great for anyone with spleen qi deficiency, supports good digestion.  Very safe, mildly sweet flavor, overall tonifying. Burdock root- Liver tonic, blood cleanser, alterative.  Mildly bitter and therefore stimulating to the digestive system.  Historically used […]
    Dr Louise Rose
  • Look What is Blooming at Rose Cabinet Medicine September 5, 2012
    Yarrow is a common medicinal plant and familiar wild flower.  In traditional herbal practice it is used to stop bleeding, reduce fever, and also as a bitter herb to tonify the digestive systerm.  Herbalist Matthew Wood says in The Book of Herbal Wisdom, “Like a number of good blood medicines, Yarrow both stops hemorrhage and […]
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    Easter and Eggs.  Rebirth. Resurrection. Eternal life. Spring. Baby chicks. Bunnies. Asparagus. Hollandaise. Macaroons. Last week I bought a giant bunch of gorgeous asparagus, and made several batches of hollandaise sauce to adorn it.  So delicious and an easy way to get choline rich egg yolks, and CLA rich butter into our diet.  Only using […]
    Dr Louise Rose
  • Anatomy of an Epidemic March 13, 2012
    Anybody who has been hanging around me lately has gotten an earful about this book.  Integral to my philosophy of medicine is  that mental/emotional wellness and overall health are inseparable.   As a naturopath, I believe in the healing power of nature.  I do not use or prescribe pharmaceutical drugs without carefully considering and exhausting […]
    Dr Louise Rose
  • Roots, Seeds, Raspberries… Emerging briefly from hibernation. January 30, 2012
    I’ve been doing a little hibernating lately.  It only seems appropriate during the shortest days of the year, and in soggy Portland.  My menu these days reflects my desire for warming, grounding, nourishing foods. Chicken and root vegetables in white wine Into my dutch oven start some chicken thighs cooking in white wine, added golden […]
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  • Don’t go without pumpkin pie this year! Gluten free, grain free, dairy free deliciousness! November 9, 2011
    I love my pumpkin pie, but I am determined this year to not have regrets about what I ate over the holidays!  How many times do I need to learn that the recovery time is not really worth the few bites of gluten laden decadence?  For those of you looking for a delicious alternative to […]
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