Services and Scheduling

At Central Coast Integrative Medicine, we bring the doctor to you.  Naturopathic Doctor and Massage therapist (#69933), Michael Dunbar is currently serving San Luis Obispo county, CA.

To schedule or get more information on a home visit for Naturopathic medicine or Shiatsu massage services,

Call: 805-996-0092

Email: DrDunbarND@gmail.com

What is Naturopathic Medicine? (Excerpt from the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians website):

Naturopathic medicine is a distinct primary health care profession, emphasizing prevention, treatment, and optimal health through the use of therapeutic methods and substances that encourage individuals’ inherent self-healing process.  The practice of naturopathic medicine includes modern and traditional, scientific, and empirical methods.

Treatment includes nutritional medicine and counseling, botanical medicine, naturopathic physical medicine, massage, and homeopathy.

See link above for more information

What is Shiatsu massage?

A Japanese massage performed with the recipient fully clothed.  The massage follows the Chinese meridian system for a full body massage that is both relaxing and nourishing for one’s Chi (energy).

Note About Drugs

Please note that while my training includes pharmaceutical prescription, in the state of California, current licensing laws for Naturopathic doctors requires that we maintain a supervision-type relationship with an MD in order to prescribe most drugs.  I’m willing to consider establishing this in the future, especially if there is a lot of interest expressed by my patients.  That said, I believe I can do a lot of good with lifestyle counseling, herbs, and supplementation, and have patients maintain their relationship with their primary care physician for their prescription medication needs.

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My kitchen inventory

I cataloged my kitchen! Sounds fun right? Take a look: Google Drive

While I was in medical school, I needed everything outside of school to be easy, I had no patience at all left for cooking, but now that I’m free, I’ve got the time, and the energy, but maybe not the money. I looked back at my expenses and saw that I spent between $700 and $1000+ on food each month between eating out all of the time, picking up snacks from the school “book” (snack) store, and picking up expensive prepared food from health food stores. So, obviously if I need my money to stretch, I thought the biggest way for me to save money while likely still eating better is to start cooking/preparing food from scratch. I’m trying to bring down my average of $25 per day spent on food to $10, maybe less. If I can do that, I can live on what I have for longer, and have more time to recover from school, build my practice, invest in leisure, etc.

While making the inventory, I realized how much food Joy (my partner) and I actually have when we would previously go to the store and buy more food because we were out. I started calling this food ghost food, because its the food that’s there when we “don’t have food”, so its like there but its not. So far I’ve made like 8 meals with ghost food and I’m working on reducing the amount of ghost foods in our freezer and pantry.

Just thought I’d share because I’m excited that I just finished my first self-directed project since getting out of school. I hope to do a lot more things to better my life now that I have the energy to do that.

p.s. Here is a great resource on eating cheap: Good and cheap by Leanne Brown

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Nutrition and Healthy Eating

I recently had a friend ask me to write a blog post about my perspective on diet.   My perspective on diet is found throughout various posts in this blog, but I haven’t really put it all together yet, so here we are.

Firstly, for those who don’t know, I received my BS in public health, majoring in Nutrition from UNC-CH in 2009 and I’m currently at NCNM studying Naturopathic medicine and Chinese medicine, all programs including significant amounts of nutritional education.  In addition to the courses I’ve taken in nutrition at both schools, I’ve done my own reading on nutrition in my free time, as well as personal experimentation with diet.

Also, before we get started, I’d like to establish that what follows is what I’ve decided is best to eat.  This decision is based not only on readings, and experiments, but also on my own personal intuition, observation, and reflection.  Thus, while there may or may not be supporting evidence elsewhere, I’m not attempting to find it all and present it here, that would be a much bigger project.  Much of the time, a class will present many studies, and a perspective based on those studies, and I will either agree with the findings and forget the studies or be skeptical of the studies and maintain my previous perspective, either way I often forget the details, so, you’re getting the parts I wanted to remember, which comes down to, “What should I do? How should I eat?”

Let’s jump in.

My current perspective deviates from conventional nutritional theory because I believe that nutrients, while useful in general, are not the very best basis on which to choose foods.  That is, looking at how much carbohydrate, fat, protein, vitamin C, etc. can be helpful, but I believe the more important aspect for day-to-day eating is to focus on eating food, as defined by Michael Pollan, which most people might recognize better as whole foods, natural foods, traditional foods, or organic foods.

My opinion is that there are many aspects of foods which are not yet known, namely constituents that are not vitamins, minerals or macronutrients.  This view of nutrition is based on diseases that are found when one lacks a particular thing, but for optimization of health, there are tons of constituents in foods that can decrease or increase health of the complex system that is the body while not directly related to a specific disease.  That is, I think eating a vitamin/mineral filled gummy bear is not going to be as good for you as eating some spinach, even if the spinach doesn’t contain the same variety of essential nutrients.  An important exception is severely nutritionally deprived peoples, people on the streets or in a 3rd world country or with a super weird diet might very well need specific vitamins, but this is more of an oh-shit nutritional medicine, it’s not the basis of a diet that will foster optimal health and possibly decrease the severity of symptoms in a chronic disease.

One small piece of repeated anecdotal evidence for this point of view (little constituents in whole foods are important) is the repeated finding that peoples’ wheat and dairy allergies go away when they eat wheat and dairy in Europe, a place where there are more organic foods, GMOs are outlawed, and I believe pesticide/fertilizer use, when present, is more strictly regulated to less toxic materials.  I believe that the lack of allergic response is likely related to the lack of chemical and GMO in the food.  Possibly it’s related to them not feeding every cow the same nutrient-deprived corn clone.  Maybe its less antibiotics in the feed and more grass in the cows diets. I’m not sure.  This relates to a problem with a lot of research, to my knowledge, there is a lot of money going against studies that would investigate the above possibilities, and little money going towards those studies.

So, from all of that we get my scientifically unproven point of view that whole foods: free range animal products, truly organic plant products (often organic plants are contaminated with “conventionally grown” plants) — these are the best to eat.  They help us avoid unwanted chemical/GMO exposure, both of which have been connected in research to health problems, and they help us consume the unknown nutrients, the multitude of constituents in food which are unstudied.  Again, I believe that a diet which is completely artificial would ultimately be detrimental to health, even if it was technically complete from a bare nutrient perspective, because of the aspects of whole foods which are as of yet unknown and unstudied.  Just remember all of the body parts we used to think weren’t important because we didn’t understand them–spleen, cornerstone of the lymph and immune system, directly related to RBC health, let’s take it out, it’s not important…  I just don’t agree with this limited perspective.

We humble ourselves, and say, maybe the whole food is important.  Okay, so let’s go at this a different way for a moment.  Here are things that I think are okay/good to eat: spinach, kale, celery, broccoli, even iceberg lettuce won’t hurt, beets, most every non-starchy vegetable and bland fruit (i.e. cucumber), free range animals and animal products from free range animals (i.e. eating their natural diet and living a relatively normal life), organic fruits, whole grains like quinoa and brown rice, hummus made with extra virgin olive oils or expeller pressed oils, careful to avoid hummus which simply says “canola oil, or soybean oil”, as these oils come from conventional plants, and are processed in many chemicals and at high heat, destroying much of the nutrition and adding to our body’s toxic load.  Additionally, it’s important to balance fat/oil intake.  Most Americans have much more omega-6 fatty acids than 3 and these should be balanced for optimal body function, so try to get more fish and flax in your diet.

Things not to eat/drink: soda, any high sugar drink, including juices, a small amount of fresh-squeezed juices are okay.  Candy, hamburger helper (has both MSG AND hydrogenated oil), fries also are high in trans fats as they are often cooked in high heat polyunsaturated oils which form trans fats at high heat and that’s not good for your heart/blood vessels.  Anything you’re allergic to: it seems that many chronic conditions, especially those specifically related to the digestive system, but often others, will respond to a trial of cutting out wheat, and/or dairy, corn, soy.   In that order, actually, I’d say it seems people often have an allergy that isn’t extreme, but over time seems to contribute to illness, switching away from wheat  and/or gluten, for some people, is the key to health.  Unfortunately most food allergy tests seem to have one thing or another wrong with them, the best way to is to eliminate the food from your diet completely for about 3 weeks, then, if you aren’t already convinced you should never eat that food again, then eat it a ton, like at every meal for the 3 days after your 3 weeks off, if your symptoms get worse, come back, then you probably have a problem with that food and should probably learn to live without it and use substitutes until your digestive system health can get to a point where it might be able to handle the substance again.  Jumping back to the list, avoid in general artificial foods, excess amounts of starchy vegetables, sugary foods, white breads, conventional/factory farmed animals and animal products, non-organic, GMO-ful foods, basically avoid those things.

Most people seem to struggle with weight, for them the key is nutrient efficiency, or maximizing the calorie to nutrient ratio.  The body seems to get full from two things: 1st is mechanical fullness, 2nd seems to be nutritional fullness.  For example, we get both from some spinach, it’s low in calories in comparison to how much room it takes up in the stomach, and also is high in fiber, iron, phytonutrients.  So, things like soups, and stews, cooked or raw vegetabes, whole foods in general all are really good ways to fill up your stomach, fill up your nutrient requirements, both without leaving you bogged down with tons of calories.

Another side-note is I seem to notice different types of people that seem to do well with / crave a certain diet.  I don’t particularly ascribe to the blood-typing diet, but it seems the general idea that some people tend to do better with more of one macronutrient or another as primary in their diets seems to be true to me.  I find that most people, usually men and larger-set women are healthy on a mixture of vegetables (often cooked greens) and meat.  I have seen smaller women that seem to be perfectly healthy on a diet which has more simple carbohydrates.  More important than this random observation is listening to your body, do you feel bad after you drink milk? then drink less of it.

Other general tips: Don’t eat icecream (at all) or drink cold water with meals, it messes up your body’s ability to properly digest food.  Try not to eat when stressed/on the run.  Allow yourself to relax, salivate, self-prepare for food.  Try to eat regularly and somewhat often.  Try to get some form of protein, best with fat and fiber towards the evening so as to reduce night-time hypoglycemia.

As far as relationship to food, I find that I personally don’t like to make things too regimented, if you haven’t figured it out by now, my approach isn’t about being fastitious and weighing your food before you eat it or using great amounts of discipline.  I like to eat conveniently, take pleasure in it, break the rules intelligently, eat some pasture raised whipped cream with some honey, a tasty treat that might not be sooo terrible for me.  So, yea, I don’t like to be really specific about the food thing, I eat more vegetarian foods if I don’t know the source of meat (cause if they don’t say its good, its probably bad), just generally avoiding strictness in relationship to food, trying to get my inner child to like what I think I should be eating.

An entirely separate topic is eating for specific medical conditions, by now it’s obvious that I’m trying to talk about most people, it relates to people with specific diseases, but some specific diseases require specific diets that may be completely different from what I’ve written here, if you’re interested in clinical nutrition, check on Alan Gaby’s Nutritional Medicine: http://www.doctorgaby.com/, it’s an evidence-based nutrient-approach that seems helpful for specific clinical application of diet.

That’s mostly it, I could probably go on but the article is long enough as it is, but I’d definitely clarify anything that you might be interested in hearing more about, just leave a comment or message me.

Recommended books:  Food rules and/or In Defense Of Food by Michael Pollan, Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon (to be taken with a grain of salt, whatever that means)

Again, please feel free to leave comments, questions, whatever, and I’ll respond directly or edit the article to answer the question.

Thanks for reading!! 🙂

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Reflections About Natural Medicine School

This article is likely only useful to someone considering natural medicine school or very interested in it.

I’m about to be halfway through my 6-year program in Naturopathic and Chinese medicine.  This seems like a good point for some general comments on the program and natural medicine.

About four years ago I was premed but reading lots of highly fringe “natural” therapies, primarily very odd diets.  Such reading with additional reading on various negatives regarding conventional medicine basically led me to the program I’m currently in.  First point: had I gone into a regular M.D. program, I’d likely not know what good natural/integrative medicine looked like, I would rather have an education I resisted and an alternative that ultimately didn’t work either.

In this program I’ve met many incredibly intelligent people, many working on a daily basis to tease apart which natural and conventional therapies are effective and safe, and which therapies are not.

What you get in a conventional M.D. education, I believe, are facts, the way things are as of the most recent study.  In my school we get options, many of them.  Various other comparisons can be made here as well:  conventional: generally the go-to for emergencies, integrative: great for chronic illness, issues no one can figure out–difficult cases.  conventional: therapies for a given condition are chosen based on standard of care and optimally same for every patient with the condition.  Generally set in stone, if it doesn’t work then too bad, may be harmful but also may provide quick and easily tracked relief from symptoms.  integrative: therapies individualized to patient, as well as doctor’s individual experience regarding certain types of therapies.  More variability allows for more flexibility and very often cures which conventional doctors never thought possible, but also sometimes treatments/doctors that might be doing nothing at all.

To point out the underlying text that might be hard to detect: I’ve come to respect and better understand conventional treatments.  Previous to my education at NCNM, conventional treatment was bad, and natural was good.   Now, there are helpful and unhelpful aspects of various therapies, all which must be weighed. 

So far I’ve been speaking in terms of therapies, I’d like to shift out from conventional/integrative comparison and just talk about my program, not just therapies but views-points, of which there are also many.

For the list below, if unspecified, I’m saying that the therapy and view-point are linked.  For example, chiropractic manipulation has its own body of views which accompany it.

View points and treatment options: conventional (drugs, surgery, etc., can often be a referral), chiropractic manipulation (called naturopathic manipulation therapy for legal reasons, classes taught by chiropractors), acupuncture, physical therapy, hydrotherapy, homeopathy–classically prescribed as well as using groups of remedies (UNDAs/organotherapies) or modern prescribing practices, cell salts, flower essences, essential oils, massage therapy, craniosacral therapy, nasal specifics*, reiki*, aromatherapy, supplements and nutrition therapy from the perspective of western conventional nutritional views/studies, Ayurveda*, chinese medicine, Nourishing Traditions, temperament/miasm, others, herbal treatment from the perspective of modern studies, traditional western herbalism, chinese herbalism, anthroposophic or miasm/temperament, also various combinations of these views for example traditional western herbalism informed by recent studies on herbs.

*These and some others listed are not required learning at the school, but are options that I could learn on my own

So now my job is to discern, to use all of my available faculties to decide which of these viewpoints and therapies seem to be most effective in my hands.  While I’ll use many of these, it’s time to focus down and learn well just a handful of these as it is too much to learn them all.  Recognize that I put conventional in my list, that is, everything that is learned in a normal medical school is but one set of viewpoints/therapies that I must learn.  So it seems either I spend about 4 years per view-therapy listed above, or I tease out what is most important to learn and practice.

For me this means I need to know a moderate amount about conventional view-therapy to communicate with M.D.’s, refer patients, and to know when I might choose to use conventional therapies.  I want to know a lot about traditional western herbalism as it is practiced by my clinical teachers, a little about chinese herbalism (patent herbs), a complete/respectable amount of acupuncture/Classical chinese medicine viewpoint, a moderate amount about homeopathy as it can provide either complete cure or side-effect-free relief of symptoms with repeat doses if properly prescribed, yet homeopathy leaves the practitioner at a loss if they get the wrong therapy (which seems easy to do), also if properly prescribed, requires its own lengthy patient interview.  Additionally, I’m likely to include my knowledge of nutrition and Shiatsu massage somehow in my practice as well as various other therapies listed above in smaller or larger amounts.

Still a pretty big list, but cut down dramatically as well.  Now all that is left is a bit of a schism regarding my current job.  My classes only take me to the base of a climb.  Thus my job is to either think about my desire to help future patients in order to truly learn what I need to learn and climb the rest of the way.   Or, my job might be to merely take care of myself for now, eat right, exercise, and rest up for the climb ahead in which the whole caravan will head up with the help of expert guides–that is, waiting for clinical docs and patients in clinic that I see as a Primary student or graduated intern, to inspire me to learn.   Most likely I’ll do a bit of both, learning more in clinic, but mostly because I’m thinking about my desire to help future patients.  Currently I’m in the rest phase, it is a difficult part for me as I know there is much I don’t know that I will need to know.  I’m uncomfortable resting, but too burnt out to do anything else.  Writing this makes me think I should practice patience, study extra if I like, but to not wear myself out.  People say this is a marathon, I’d say it’s climbing Mount Everest.

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Homeopathy Research and a Lovely Tang-rant

Wow–just found this article, better than mine, so if you have to choose one, read the one linked above, not mine.

This is a much needed expansion of my previous article, Homeopathy Studies.  The expansion comes due to wonderful news.  The Swiss government has published a comprehensive report on the effective use of homeopathy.  I personally already have a lot of respect for the Swiss people and their unbiased intelligence.  Thus, I’m not surprised that the report comes out Switzerland.

An article on the report can be found here, and additionally I just found a great mass of homeopathy research to share, here.  It seems so quickly I’ve gone from not having enough scientific backing to having copious amounts.

The sum of most Americans’ experience with Homeopathy is hearing someone call it useless quackery in the media.  Alternatively, and arguably just as bad, they might have someone giving them Arnica montana for their random bruises.  So, I’ve opened up a lot of territory, let’s see if I can concisely address it.

First, an implicit issue: We already proved homeopathy didn’t work, right?  No.  We did studies that any trained homeopath would disapprove of and found exactly what a homeopath would expect.  That is, if you give everyone with, for example, a headache, the same homeopathic medicine, say Sulphur, AT BEST 10% are going to get better and that’s what happens.  Homeopathic medicines should be prescribed on a very specific basis.  That basis is an elegantly assembled totality of a person’s symptoms, including both the “physical” and “emotional”.  Proper training is required and thus we’ve hit two birds with one stone: Arnica won’t fix all of your bruises and if you take homeopathics based on the random junk they put on the label “good for menstrual cramps” without seeing a homeopath, you probably won’t get better, you might get worse–for the same reason, random scientists have proven that bad homeopathy doesn’t work, because it doesn’t.

Great, so all that’s left is it being quackery.  Well, there are various angles to go with here–there is the basic and obvious powerful pharma that doesn’t want such a cheap and effective alternative to gain ground.  With thought-control getting cheaper and easier these days, it’s an obvious route for a businessman.  Beyond money though, I think there are deeper issues involved.

(Warning, personal beliefs incoming!)  Science has become its own religion of sorts, in some circles, it is not as much married to objectivity as it is to a flat-land worldview, a simplistic, material-centered, mechanistic view of reality.  Allegiance to this worldview yields a very unscientific filter which rejects homeopathy based on plausibility: “Because it doesn’t fit my view of reality and I don’t understand how it could work, it must not.”  This homeopathy stuff, if true, attacks that worldview and thus threatens people attached to it.  Which explains why attacks against homeopathy are so vehement: homeopathy strikes directly at the core of a more mechanistic world-view.

In the interest of equality, I’d like to move to the weaknesses of homeopathic enthusiasts.  Often their views about how and why homeopathy works and their beliefs about the effectiveness of other alternative medicines do not display a tendency towards critical thinking.  It is common in homeopathy to believe some prayer, intent, or positive thinking must be added for the medicine to be effective, and this is not so.  If medicines can be produced by machines and work (which they do) then we can really leave the emotional/intentional bit out of the picture with respect to homeopathic medicines.  The focus should be on correct diagnosis and treatment, which in homeopathy happen to be synonymous.  Additionally, as noted above, the use of Arnica for every bump and bruise is not supported by homeopathic literature or practice, though it is incredibly common.

Why does it matter?  Because it reduces the credibility of homeopathy and alternative medicine in general.  It makes those with a materialist/mechanistic worldview more wary of homeopathy.  And gives them more reason to reject it without more thorough appraisal.

When ineffective alternative medicine is used and it doesn’t work, and it’s shown in clinical research to be ineffective, it gives alternative medicine a bad name.

Thus, it is important to be both open-minded and skeptical.  Search for evidence from various avenues including especially your intuition and personal experience.

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Psychotherapy Book Review/Comments

I just finished reading Transformative Relationhips: the control-mastery theory of psychotherapy by George Silberschatz.

First, I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone interested in therapy or psychology, or has feelings and thoughts.  I believe it’s given me a much better understanding of psychotherapy as a whole and at least one aspect of its cutting edge.

The book relates a theory of how we acquire pathogenic beliefs and how psychotherapy works (and how it sometimes doesn’t work) to disconfirm such pathogenic beliefs, often resulting in an increase sense of safety for the patient.  This sense of safety (an often unconscious phenomenon) can then lead to further exposure and subsequent healing.

I feel that I’ve learned a lot from the book but also feel like I do when I read Ken Wilber books–a little (or a lot) in over my head and trying my best to understand, process, and recognize implications of what I’ve read.  Thus, I really have difficulty summarizing the book or the theory it posits, however, I believe the theory comes out to some degree in the comments below.

One reason I like the theory is that it leads to treatment which, like Naturopathic treament, is specific to the patient.  It doesn’t prescribe one method of therapeutic intervention for every patient, but rather gives a context within which to receive a patient’s case and then formulate a model which can be used to hypothesize corrective responses/treatment goals.  The therapist then has a framework within which to make attempts at intervention in a systematic way.  I’d like to argue that our Naturopathic philosophies similarly guide ND’s in making hypotheses about a patient and then having a systematic way for intervention, which is at the same time malleable to the patient’s needs.  Another similarity between the two is that neither approach lends itself well to the gold standard of randomized controlled experiments.  Still, there is considerable well-conducted case-based research to back the theory presented in the book.

The book had me contemplating other connections, this time to everyday life.  The theory posits that patients come with an often unconscious plan to disconfirm pathogenic beliefs.  This plan results in various kinds of testing of the therapist including both transference (i.e. treating the therapist as if they were your mother) and passive-to-active testing (i.e. being the mother and treating the therapist as the patient was treated in the past).  Both types of testing are in hopes that the therapist will act “proplan”, that is, the patient unconsciously wants the therapist to not treat them as they were treated in the past or in the case of passive-to-active testing, display proper responses such that the patient might see a new way to respond to similar situations in the future.  Another option is that the therapy happens in a more conscious way and the therapists’ interpretations help the patient change his views and behavior.

The above is very interesting because I do believe that there is a certain drive to adapt/grow/evolve and I wonder how this could lead us into situations in our everyday interactions that might aide this process.  I wonder about how we might select those we spend time with both in concordance with pathogenic belief systems but also in an attempt to magnify and by doing so disconfirm these.  Surely there are both drives to conserve the status quo as well as disrupt/overcome it.  This seems to be an interesting job for future social-dynamics research.

In regards to the proposed topic of this blog, I write about psychotherapy here for important reasons.  Simply stated, therapy can help you.  Most any ‘you’ that reads this could probably be better off from some amount of high-quality therapy.  There is a stigma against getting therapy, and also a stigma against therapists.  This book, to me, proves that they’re doing some good things, and I believe even healthy, conventionally-defined as sane people could really benefit from proper counseling.  Subtle forms of guilt or other hidden factors can taint our ability to be successful and enjoy our lives.

Thus, at very least being open to reading this book and starting to make theories regarding one’s unconscious world can be pivotal to increasing health and happiness.  We can’t all afford to see a therapist, which is why I’d recommend at least reading about it to increase awareness of these kinds of issues and hopefully find ways to better our interpersonal (as well as intrapersonal) relationships.

Journaling, I’ve found, is a helpful therapy-like habit, as is talking with friends–though only the first is reliably available.

In addition, as well as conclusion, awareness of the connection between emotional/mental dis-ease and physical disease continue to rise, and with this rise the importance of healing both aspects increase.  Even if your problems seem, and might verifiable be primarily “somatic”, it is, in many cases, worthwhile to consider how emotional patterns might contribute.

 

Extra side note, a tangent to the blog, but I just can’t help myself.  My other big interest is consciousness/spirituality/meditation.  At the very end of the book there is some mention of work of Harry Stack Sullivan.  I don’t think that Sullivan or the author of the book meant to bring my mind into the subject of spirituality/consciousness, but there were words here of the “personification of self”, “developing a self schema”, and my favorite, the idea that the therapist should be a “participant-observer”.

These statements point toward what a lot of meditation work seems to try to bring people to: a recognition of a self which is beyond the character with which we’ve erroneously identified.  Well, the main error being sole-identification with that self which is merely a cognitive collection of wants and sensations.  One might say that a whole is made where there are only parts.  Still, the view that the conventional “self” is false is only the under-represented side of the coin, the side least known conventionally.  What I like the most and find most fitting is the idea of being a “participant-observer”.  That the true reality, when properly trained to perceive it, consists of a participant or “small-self” (the “false” one) which is linked to an observer/awakened, buddha-mind/God-head.  It seems worthwhile to recognize/develop both (see author Ken Wilber for more on this topic).  Now that I’ve opened that can of worms, I’ll mischievously escape and let your participant-mind ponder it!

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Sleep Hygiene

Sleep issues are very common.  Here are some simple ideas/strategies that can help.

Sleep cycle regulation is not yet fully understood.  My -admittedly simple- understanding so far, and a great way to talk about sleep cycles, is in terms of melatonin and cortisol.

Melatonin increases at night, telling you to sleep.  Cortisol (a stress-response hormone also involved in sugar regulation) spikes in the morning, telling you to get up.

Melatonin secretion is decreased by blue/full-spectrum light.  Cortisol is decreased by encouraging relaxation (parasympathetic response).

Thus, proper sleep hygiene–encouraging quality sleep without insomnia–stems from decreasing light exposure and increasing relaxation at night.

For the rare individual that needs to look at the computer at night, try this program:

http://stereopsis.com/flux/

It decreases the amount of light and the proportion of blue light on your computer screen as the actual sun goes down.

Thus, a very important part of getting proper sleep is having a nightly ritual that involves relaxation at low light.  I would assume that similar to expecting that you will eat, having a ritual before sleep will help your body make the proper internal adjustments towards sleep.

When you sleep, it’s best to sleep in the dark. Moonlight can be helpful for regulation of feminine cycles, otherwise light should be avoided during sleep.

Reciprocally, getting exposure to sunlight or blue light when you wake up, or best case scenario waking up to the actual sun, is a great idea.

Additionally, during the day, exercise and sun exposure can help with the same hormonal/stress mechanisms that effect sleep.  Plus, sun exposure is a great way to create vitamin D (a complex of hormone-precursors that aren’t necessarily provided by supplementation nor most diets).

Finally some other tips: avoid sugar/caffeine in the evening, especially if you are sensitive; siesta of about 30 minutes in the afternoon is okay but avoid late naps; eat some minor amount of protein within about an hour of waking (this isn’t so much sleep hygiene as much as a sugar-regulation issue–but sugar regulation itself is important)–similarly you <might> wake up for sugar-disregulation at night, if so, try something like nuts in the evening for the fiber/protein that can help sustain your body through the night.

Most of our self-healing occurs during sleep.  Thus, sleep can play an important role in keeping us happy and healthy.  Hopefully some of the above can help.

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