Rob Brown, MD

A Physician's Unique Perspective on Wellness

Month: April 2016

A Powerful Friend with Resonance

405d63433b45f3163d19a35f9ee59b56The ability to hear and discriminate between different sounds is a gift. Our world is infiltrated with tone which we have learned to manipulate to create music. Aside from melody recognition and lyric interpretation, I have recently become appreciative of the subtle impacts that notes and music can have on one’s wellbeing. During two recent, but dissimilar experiences with sound, I have become aware that notes and music transmit more than just a melody.

My first experience occurred in Sedona, AZ. I had been curious about the technique of sound healing and good friends recommended I contact a practitioner from Brazil. As I walked into his studio, I noticed beautiful glass and metallic bowls scattered around the room, in addition to gongs, and other mysterious instruments. Porangui, the healer, instructed me to lay down on the table and covered my eyes with a soft cloth. As I lay there, I began to hear rich, complex, overlapping tones with varying intensity that made my body vibrate.

At first, I intellectualized the experience, reasoning that I was hearing Porangui play the various instruments. I knew that I needed to surrender to the experience though, and relax if I was going to benefit from the treatment. I focussed on my breath to bring about a meditative state and as I fell deeper and deeper into relaxation, I suddenly felt detached from my physical body. My consciousness wasn’t floating above the table or in the corner of the room, as some have reported with an out of body experience. Instead, I existed only as a stationary ball of light in the void of space. At varying distances from my orb presence, I sensed additional sources of light, which provided me with a sense of my relative position in space. These sources of illumination must have represented the sound energy originated from each of the singing bowls as they were played. It was a profound experience, induced by tonal sound.

IMG_1740Jennifer’s vocal performance at Eastman school of music was equally momentous. The operatic pieces she selected were unfamiliar to me. I imagined that most people in the audience had no comprehension of the words as each piece was sung in a different language. Yet, my niece captivated the audience with her gorgeous soprano voice during the weekend of her senior recital. As we listened, we were filled with awe, even reverence, that brought unexpected tears to our eyes. Even the legendary singer/songwriter Carole King, in town raising support for Hillary Clinton, dabbed her eyes with tissues as she listened to Jennifer’s performance. It was a truly uplifting experience, after which we were all filled with intense joy.

The notes that create music including those produced by a singing bowl, an acoustic instrument or a human voice, can create resonance, a phenomenon in which sound imparts energy into materials that are “tuned” to the same frequency. The classic example of an opera singer forcefully singing a singular note and imparting so much energy into a wine glass that it will shatter, is a real phenomenon. Most every physical object has a frequency at which it will resonate. In addition, individual parts of a whole can each have their own unique resonant frequencies. As all living beings have the ability to resonate, absorbing energy through resonance may explain why even plants grow better when they are sung to or played music.

Live acoustic music and analogue recordings provide a continuous, complex mixture of dominant notes and overtones called harmonics, each of which can also cause resonance. The mixture of a note with its complex of harmonics gives the tone a richness, called timbre. Digitized music by its nature, provides fewer harmonics and less timbre.

Listening to music can help calibrate or “tune” our bodies. To experience this sensation, sit outside and listen to the birds chirping and singing. Then, focus your sense of hearing by turning off your vision by either closing your eyes, or better yet, placing a blindfold on. Relax and you will instantly become aware of where you are in space, in relation to the sounds you are hearing. It may be disorienting or even frightening at first for you will feel vulnerable. You may be tempted to open your eyes or remove your blindfold, but sit with your eyes closed for 5 or 10 minutes and just relax, listening. After a short while, you will grounded and positioned by the sounds you hear.

Listening to or playing music each day,especially acoustic or analogue music can improve your health. Whether you sing in the shower or in the car while listening to the radio, producing music with your voice will benefit you, by imparting you with energy and reducing stress.

Music has always been emphasized in our family. I love to hear the sounds of my children practicing the piano and the violin each day. We even have two “singing bowls”, which someone will occasionally strike. If I am feeling uneasy or stressed, playing the singing bowl and filling up the room with its rich vibrational tone instantly brings me a sense of peace and serenity.

It can be wonderful to have an acoustic instrument at home. Having your children listen to or learn to play music, particularly classical music, is wonderful for brain development. Have you heard of the Mozart effect?

Sound is the only sense that we can consciously produce as well as absorb. So, enjoy it by bringing music into your home and playing or listening daily.

Yeah, I Love Heavy Metal – Just not in my Tomato Sauce

When I first opened the package of aluminum foil, it seemed fine. Perhaps it was because the lighting was bright or I just wasn’t paying attention. But when I went to wrap the dinner leftovers later that evening, I noticed a peculiar rainbow type pattern on one side of the foil. It was a smear that ran lengthwise on the roll. I thought that maybe it was too old or had somehow mildewed from being in the basement too long, which has a tendency to be damp. I unravelled the roll a few feet to try and find foil that looked more normal, but had no luck. Hurried, I chose to make sure that the weird looking side of the foil was facing away from the food, so it didn’t contaminate the food with whatever this stuff was.  Somewhere, I had heard that there was one side of the aluminum foil you didn’t want to have contact your food anyway. This became my modus operandi for the next few weeks. But, each time I handled the foil, I was irked by the blemish. Finally, I threw the box into the recycling garbage. I was pleased with myself for being willing to toss it out, for I’m usually one who doesn’t like to “waste” things.

As if I had been living a bad dream, when I opened the food wrap drawer to make school lunches the following night, that roll of tarnished aluminum foil was back in the drawer! Someone must have salvaged the foil out of the garbage. Ugh. Now, I had to throw the foil out a second time. Not wanting to make a habit of this, I buried the foil deep in the garbage so no one would dare go and get it out. Then, I turned the computer on and began researching aluminum foil. It turns out, after almost 70 years after this invention, it’s not a product you want to have routinely touch your food.

Foil is fine for a wrapping most cold dishes, as long as the food isn’t acidic. Wrapping a sandwich is fine. When aluminum is wrapped on food and heated, the foil releases tiny aluminum particles into the food it is protecting from drying out. Leaching also happens at room temperature when the foil is resting comfortably on an acidic food, such as tomato sauce. How many times have I not only wrapped my leftover spaghetti and sauce with aluminum foil, but then placed the dish along with the foil in the oven to reheat the meal?!

Aluminum is a heavy metal that is toxic to your nervous system. You don’t want to eat it. There is an association between aluminum and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

What to do?

Purchase unbleached parchment paper. I prefer the “If You Care” brand that uses silicone for a nonstick coating instead of other chemicals. It’s cheap, clean and it will provide an appropriate barrier between your food and your aluminum foil. Put your food in a Pyrex dish, CorningWare or a ceramic dish and first cover your food with parchment paper, and then wrap with foil. You can reheat your food in the oven with the parchment paper under the foil. It’s a simple solution to reduce your exposure to a common household toxic heavy metal.

Eat to Nourish, Not to Kill

It was 1983. Halfway down Mt. Katahdin, I noticed my buddy was in terrible shape. We still had boulders to descend and it was beginning to rain. Dave kept his humor, but I knew his stomach was cramping. It wasn’t pretty. Upon our arrival home, Dave was misdiagnosed as having ulcerative colitis. His punishment: long term antibiotic therapy with sulfa drugs.

Before our trip, Dave had taken ampicillin for a “cold”, which wreaked havoc on his digestive system.  At that time, doctors knew little about beneficial intestinal bacteria or that antibiotics could damage this “microbiome.” These bacteria support proper digestion and provide essential nutrients, including Vitamin K, Vitamin B12 and Vitamin B7, strengthening the immune system.

If antibiotics selectively kill a segment of the microbiome, the intestine can then become overpopulated with potentially harmful bacteria. One particular strain, C. diff, can cause a severe form of colitis, accompanied by stomach pain and diarrhea. After more antibiotics, a healthy microbiome then needs to be restored.

Antibiotic residues are prevalent in the food supply. Frequently eating antibiotic laced food is not a good idea. Beef cattle are fed antibiotics to help them gain weight. Dairy cattle are treated to prevent mastitis, an infection caused by hormonal overstimulation to produce milk. Chickens and farm raised fish too are fed antibiotics to keep them healthy in their overcrowded homes.

Vegetarians aren’t spared. Glyphosate, a common herbicide used by farmers, has antibacterial properties. Genetically modified organisms (GMO) designed to grow in treated soil absorb the chemical, Eating GMO crops, such as corn or soybeans ,will provide a low dose, frequent exposure to antibiotics. Wheat may also contain traces of glyphosate as it is now common to spray wheat fields a few days before harvest to kill the plants, making for an easier harvest.

So what can you do? 

Reduce your intake of food laced with antibiotics. Eat organic meat, grass-fed beef and organic chicken.  Choose packaged meats with labels that read “animals raised without the use of antibiotics”. Eat wild caught fish.

Choose organic vegetables, fruits, and processed foods. Feed your children organic milk products or those labeled “no antibiotics added”. Purify your drinking water with a high quality filter as even bottled water may contain traces of antibiotics.

Yogurt, Kefir, sauerkraut and supplementation will help create and maintain a healthy microbiome. If bacteria are happy in your gut, they will grow and reproduce. But, if you ingest antibiotics while taking probiotic supplements, what’s the point?

An unhealthy microbiome can impair digestion. Some believe gluten sensitivity is caused by a damaged intestinal microbiome. Let’s face it, people have been eating bread products for thousands of years. Why are so many now unable to digest gluten? If you have been diagnosed with a malabsorption syndrome such as gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, try to build your microbiome. After a few months, see if your symptoms improve. Take care of your microbiome, improve your health and immunity. It’s worth it!

No More Crispy Home Fries

Was it an act of defiance? Once again, I requested extra crispy home fries. This time though, I was secretly mired in conflict. I love my potatoes burnt to a crisp. But, after reading a recent scientific paper about the cancer causing effects of fried potatoes, I’m gearing up for yet another change in my diet.

To quickly summarize, the hazards of adding nitrates to food dates back to a Norwegian Mink farm in the 1950s, when animals began to suddenly die from liver disease and cancer after being fed a new diet of fish meal preserved with nitrites. It was soon discovered that the nitrites were being converted in the animal’s stomach to nitrosamines, sickening and killing the animals.

Both nitrates and nitrites are naturally present in many grains, fruits, and vegetables including celery, leafy greens and potatoes. Nitrates are converted to nitrites in the body. Nitrites are then chemically converted into either beneficial or harmful compounds. When nitrates are ingested in vegetables alone, they are usually turned into healthy nitric oxide which can have beneficial cardiovascular effects. But, when nitrates are combined with degrading proteins in the presence of high heat (cooking) or a strong acid (digestion), they form nitrosamines.

Nitrosamines are carcinogenic, associated with cancers of the esophagus, stomach, colon and rectum. Nitrosamines have also been associated with Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and type II diabetes. This is bad stuff.

Because nitrites/nitrates prevent bacterial growth, have a mild salty flavor and redden meat, food producers apply synthetic and natural occurring nitrates to chemically preserve meats and other foods. Your skillet, grill or broiler can become a perfect crucible for the production of nitrosamines when you cook hotdogs, bacon or sausage. To address this problem, manufacturers have significantly decreased the amount of nitrates they use and they add Vitamin C to processed meats, which inhibits nitrosamine formation.

Gratefully, the incidence of colon carcinoma is going down in this country. This is in part related to screening exams, but also likely due to the decreased concentration of nitrates added to processed meats. As of October 2015 though, colorectal carcinoma was still the 3rd most common form of cancer death in the US, so perhaps more changes are needed.

According to recent research by Qajarbeygi et al, it turns out that deep frying or pan frying potatoes produces nitrosamines too. Although the researchers didn’t test foil wrapped potatoes cooked on hot charcoals, I think this too would cause nitrosamine production.

It was previously believed that the potato skin contained all the nitrates so if you peeled the potato, you would remove them. But the potatoes were peeled in this study. Potatoes contain vitamin C, but apparently not enough to prevent nitrosamine formation.

What can you do?

1. Reduce your intake of processed meats and look for labels that specify no nitrates added. Even then, check the ingredient panel for celery juice or celery salt. Celery is a source of nitrates and the chemical effect is the same.

2. Reduce consumption of other foods containing nitrosamines, including beer, artificial cheese, smoked and salted fish.

3. Boil or bake your potatoes and sadly say goodbye to crispy home fries.

Designed by Marketing the Change