Living Well Blog: Saratoga's Holistic Health Forum

This past week, I sent an E-blast out to my essential oils subscribers discussing some cool studies on rosemary oil. Below is the E-blast revised preview provided online as an exclusive to my readers. I then expand more on the topic of this beautiful aromatic oil on my current homepage blog here.


The Serendipitous Event Leading to Rosemary Exploration

I am an avid follower of some of the pioneers in natural medicine, such as Dr. Mercola, and more recently, Dr. Eric Z. Recently, both of these health warriors happened to visit my inbox via their articles on rosemary oil in quick succession. (See the links below.) Whenever something like this happens, I pay attention to it. I feel it could be a prodding to explore deeper on a subject and share what I learn with my readers. As it so happened, I found that this popular oil was, in fact, missing from my essential oil database! (I do; however, at least reference it for brain health here).

So, as with any blog or article on essential oils, I went through all the references listed at the end. I do this in order to dig deeper into my understanding and improve my clinical expertise with these precious secondary metabolites. I found some great studies and did some more research myself.

One thing that can get confusing with essential oils blogs is when references to studies are on the extracts of the herb verses the essential oil, which may have different active constituents. I have been caught in this mistake a few times myself. Therefore, these blogs will continue to focus on the oil itself.


A Little Sneak Peek

Another prod for me to dig into rosemary oil happened just a few hours prior to my writing this. It was an article in Science Daily. It reported on a study that showed reversal of Alzheimer's disease in 10 subjects! The treatment was personalized medicine that consisted of a "complex, 36-point therapeutic personalized program that involves comprehensive changes in diet, brain stimulation, exercise, optimization of sleep, specific pharmaceuticals and vitamins, and multiple additional steps that affect brain chemistry."

The connection was strengthened. We know that essential oils have a profound effect on the brain, which you can read more about here and here. I then remembered a 2009 study in Psychogeriatrics which demonstrated how aromatherapy can help those who need brain support, and it used rosemary as one of the oils in the trial.

The abstract from the full study reads:

OBJECTIVE:  Recently, the importance of non-pharmacological therapies for dementia has come to the fore. In the present study, we examined the curative effects of aromatherapy in dementia in 28 elderly people, 17 of whom had Alzheimer's disease (AD).

METHODS:  After a control period of 28 days, aromatherapy was performed over the following 28 days, with a wash out period of another 28 days. Aromatherapy consisted of the use of rosemary and lemon essential oils in the morning, and lavender and orange in the evening. To determine the effects of aromatherapy, patients were evaluated using the Japanese version of the Gottfries, Brane, Steen scale (GBSS-J), Functional Assessment Staging of Alzheimer's disease (FAST), a revised version of Hasegawa's Dementia Scale (HDS-R), and the Touch Panel-type Dementia Assessment Scale (TDAS) four times: before the control period, after the control period, after aromatherapy, and after the washout period.

RESULTS:  All patients showed significant improvement in personal orientation related to cognitive function on both the GBSS-J and TDAS after therapy. In particular, patients with AD showed significant improvement in total TDAS scores. Result of routine laboratory tests showed no significant changes, suggesting that there were no side-effects associated with the use of aromatherapy. Results from Zarit's score showed no significant changes, suggesting that caregivers had no effect on the improved patient scores seen in the other tests.

CONCLUSIONS:  In conclusion, we found aromatherapy an efficacious non-pharmacological therapy for dementia. Aromatherapy may have some potential for improving cognitive function, especially in AD patients.


A Final Thought from Dr. Sarah

I have seen profound effects with integrating aromatherapy and essential oils in my practice. This holds true in all areas of wellness and in those who complain of memory issues and mood imbalances. I find diffusing, inhalation, and topical applications particularly effective for brain support, as the sense of smell is powerful for emotions and cognition.

Here's a link to a previous blog with some applications on using essential oils for emotions and brain health. (Note, make sure you read the labels to determine which oils are safe for ingestion).



Pre and post testing show reversal of memory loss from Alzheimer's disease in 10 patients. Science Daily. June 16, 2016.

Dr. Eric Z. 4 Rosemary Essential Oil Benefits and Uses.

Dr. Mercola. Refreshing Rosemary.

Jimbo D, Kimura Y, Tangiguchi M, Inoue M, Urakami K.  Effect of aromatherapy on patients with Alzheimer's disease. Psychogeriatrics. 2009; 9: 173-179. doi: 10.1111/j.1479-8301.2009.00299.x



The power of food as medicine is profound. I've written previously about the complexity of factors involved in brain health. Although the list can be quite long and confusing, one of the most powerful ways to preserve and support our cognitive function is found at the end of our forks.

For example, there is now research that shows that improving blood sugar by dietary measures could protect the brain and that diet quality modulates thought and mood. Furthermore, different nutrients such as healthy essential fats, vitamins, and minerals have all been shown to contribute to supporting mental processing. In the same blog mentioned above, I summarized several specific studies that support the importance of the quality of the diet for keeping our mental faculties.

Recently, there have been some headlines in the current research that highlights how certain nutrients and foods are powerful for brain health. Below is a brief summary of some of them.


A Multi-Nutrient Supplement Could Save the Aging Brain

A recent rodent study confirmed that a dietary supplement containing a blend of thirty vitamins and minerals exhibited anti-aging properties that could prevent and even reverse brain cell loss. The researchers believe that this mixture could be applicable in the future to neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's, ALS and Parkinson's.

In this study, the little mice were bred to have widespread loss of over half of their brain cells. They munched on this mixture of nutrients on tiny bagel pieces fed to them by their caretakers. Science Daily reported:

Over time, researchers found that it completely eliminated the severe brain cell loss and abolished cognitive decline.

"The research suggests that there is tremendous potential with this supplement to help people who are suffering from some catastrophic neurological diseases," says Lemon, who conducted the work with co-author Vadim Aksenov, a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Biology at McMaster.

Interestingly, the rodents also exhibited improvement in vision and smell. In the abstract of the original article, the authors concluded, "We know of no other treatment with such efficacy, highlighting the potential for prevention or amelioration of human neuropathologies that are similarly associated with oxidative stress, inflammation and cellular dysfunction."


Vitamins and Minerals for Potential Treatment of Traumatic Brain Injury

This month, in Brain Research, researchers reviewed several nutraceutical therapies for brain injury in experimental models, "including vitamins (B2, B3, B6, B9, C, D, E), herbs and traditional medicines (ginseng, Gingko biloba), flavonoids, and other nutrients (magnesium, zinc, carnitine, omega-3 fatty acids)."

They concluded, "While there is still much work to be done, several of these have strong potential for clinical therapies, particularly with regard to polydrug regimens."


Green Tea for Improving Cognition in Combination with Training for Down Syndrome

Down's syndrome is the most common genetic cause of intellectual disability. Science Daily reported on a recent study in which a compound in green tea combined with cognitive training produced better outcomes than cognitive training alone in young adults with Down Syndrome:

The work just published by the researchers in The Lancet Neurology presents the results of a clinical trial led by the Integrative Pharmacology and Systems Neuroscience Research group of Dr. Rafael de la Torre with 84 persons with Down's syndrome aged 16 to 34 years. "The results suggest that individuals who received treatment with the green tea compound, together with the cognitive stimulation protocol, had better score in their cognitive capacities," states Dr. de la Torre. However, studies in larger populations have still to be done.

The component in green tea, ECGC (epigallocatechin gallate) was previously shown to inhibit the excess of the DYRK1A gene in mice, which is associated with many of the deficiencies of cognition and neuronal plasticity in Down's syndrome.


Vitamin Deficiencies Common in Young Migraine Sufferers

According to Health Day:

Many young people who suffer from migraines have vitamin deficiencies, new research finds.

"Further studies are needed to elucidate whether vitamin supplementation is effective in migraine patients in general, and whether patients with mild deficiency are more likely to benefit from supplementation," said lead study author Dr. Suzanne Hagler in a Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center news release. She is a headache medicine fellow in the hospital's division of neurology.

The study included children, teens and young adult migraine patients who were treated at Cincinnati Children's Headache Center.

A high percentage of them had mild deficiencies in vitamin D, riboflavin and coenzyme Q10 -- a vitamin-like substance used to produce energy for cell growth and maintenance, the researchers said.



As our population ages, many are concerned with their memory and maintaining cognitive function. Lifestyle measures and nutrition have been shown to modulate brain health, even improving mental function at the genetic level! Isn't it nice to think that when you feed your body healthy, you could be nourishing your brain power as well?


Speaking of keeping our bodies healthy, I just wrote another blog on clove essential oil. Read all the benefits of this oil here.



Improving blood sugar control could help prevent dementia in patients with type 2 diabetes, study suggests. ScienceDaily. 14 September 2015.

Barnes JN, Joyner MJ. Sugar highs and lows: the impact of diet on cognitive function. The Journal of Physiology. 2012;590(Pt 12):2831. doi:10.1113/jphysiol.2012.234328.

Harvard Health Publications. Blood sugar on the brain. April 1, 2015.

Deans E, Ramsey D. Medscape Psychiatry: Commentary-How Diet Influences Mental Health: New Findings, New Advances. Medscape. UPI. February 11, 2016.

Psaltopoulou, T., Sergentanis, T. N., Panagiotakos, D. B., Sergentanis, I. N., Kosti, R. and Scarmeas, N. Mediterranean diet, stroke, cognitive impairment, and depression: A meta-analysis. Ann Neurol. 2013; 74: 580-591. doi: 10.1002/ana.23944

Gómez-Pinilla F. Brain foods: the effects of nutrients on brain function. Nature reviews Neuroscience. 2008;9(7):568-578. doi:10.1038/nrn2421.

Sugar in the Blood! How Essential Oils Can Support Balance

Can essential oils really help with supporting healthy blood sugar levels? Previously, I discussed how flavonoids could be used to modulate sugar in the blood. For example, rodents imbibing grapefruit extract and helichrysum demonstrated positive changes in measurements of insulin resistance, oxidative stress, inflammation, and weight.  (Note: remember to be careful of medication interactions with grapefruit oil.)

Recently, I wrote an article on sugar addiction to be published in the Natural Path. It inspired me to publish this blog that was originally sent as a E-blast to my essential oils subscribers. In it, I will focus on the use of essential oils for blood sugar support. 


Of Mice (Well mice and rats)

The following is a list of several studies that support how certain oils modulate blood sugar in rodents:

1. In one study with rats, cinnamon oil of the linalool chemotype (specific secondary metabolite at the highest levels in the oil) was shown to have a benefit on blood sugar and relieve oxidative stress at a certain dose.

2. In another study, a specific type of lavender had blood sugar lowering effects and also decreased oxidative stress in our four-pawed rodent friends.

3. In a well-done study, which even analyzed the oil constituents (a lot of them don't), little diabetic rodents exhibited very impressive results regarding the use of lemon balm oil (Melissa off.) The study demonstrated that lemon balm alleviated many of the damaging effects that high amounts of sugar in the blood can cause.  Specifically, the lemon balm positively impacted lipids, insulin response, liver enzymes, and various cellular signaling pathways.

4. In another study, the synergistic effects of essential oils for blood sugar were tested. For the trial, researchers combined several blends of essential oils and tested them in hypertensive and diabetic rats. The researchers found beneficial effects on blood sugar with the oil blends.

5. A mouse study reported blood sugar lowering effects, oxidative stress protection, insulin enhancement, and a decrease in alpha-amylase using Korean Pine Oil.

6. One study that compared the use of Rose-scented geranium (Pelargonium graveolens L'Hér.) to an antidiabetic medication reported that the oil could be more effective in decreasing glucose and effecting liver and kidney antioxidant functions than the drug:

After the administration of two doses of essential oil of Pelargonium graveolens L'Hér. together with glibenclamide which is known by its antidiabetic activities and used as reference (600μg/kg b.w.), for four weeks, the serum glucose significantly decreased and antioxidant perturbations were restored. The hypoglycemic effect of P. graveolens at the dose of 150mg/kg b.w. was significantly (p< 0.05) more effective than that of glibenclamide. It is through the histological findings in hepatic and renal tissues of diabetic rats that these beneficial effects of geranium oils were confirmed.


Of Men

Remember the effect of stress on blood sugar and how essential oils can modulate this response and hormones (cortisol-insulin connection)? This can impact blood sugar levels. One study also listed potential uses for oils to use as support in those who were struggling with blood sugar issues.  These included using the oils to cleanse wounds, support for the stress response, and supporting mood.



Essential oils have been shown in rodent models to modulate pathways related to blood sugar and the damaging effects of too high amounts in the blood. In human trials, essential oils have prolific evidence for modulating stress and hormonal response. Taken together, there is good evidence that essential oils support healthy glucose levels.

If you want more on essential oils and their clinical use, click here.


Shih-Chieh Lee, et al., Chemical Composition and Hypoglycemic and Pancreas-Protective Effect of Leaf Essential Oil from Indigenous Cinnamon (Cinnamomum osmophloeum  Kanehira). J. Agric. Food Chem. 2013: 61 (20), pp 4905-4913

J Buckle. Diabetes and Aromatherapy. Diabetes Spectrum. August 2001; 14(3). 124-126

Sebai H, Selmi S, Rtibi K, Souli A, Gharbi N, Sakly M. Lavender (Lavandula stoechas L.) essential oils attenuate hyperglycemia and protect against oxidative stress in alloxan-induced diabetic rats. Lipids in Health and Disease. 2013;12:189. doi:10.1186/1476-511X-12-189.

Chung MJ, et al. Anti-diabetic effects of lemon balm ( Melissa officinalis) essential oil on  glucose- and lipid-regulating enzymes in type 2 diabetic mice. Br J Nutr. 2010 Jul;104(2):180-8.

Talpur N, et al. Effects of a novel formulation of essential oils on glucose-insulin  metabolism in diabetic and hypertensive rats: a pilot study.  Diabetes Obes Metab. 2005 Mar; 7(2):193-9.

Anti-Diabetic Potential of the Essential Oil of Pinus koraiensis Leaves toward Streptozotocin-Treated Mice and HIT-T15 Pancreatic β Cells. Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry. 2013; 77(10).

Boukhris M, Bouaziz M, Feki I, Jemai H, El Feki A, Sayadi S. Hypoglycemic and antioxidant effects of leaf essential oil of Pelargonium graveolens L'Hér. in alloxan induced diabetic rats. Lipids in Health and Disease. 2012;11:81. doi:10.1186/1476-511X-11-81.


Lavender species:

Essential Oils and Medication Interactions:

Dr. Z:

Disclaimer: This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic quality essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been tested for purity and standardized constituents. There is no quality control in the United States, and oils labeled as "100% pure" need only to contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin.

This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. You should check with your doctor regarding implementing any new strategies into your wellness regime. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA.




May 2016 was a month that inspired health and inspiration to many integrative doctors. This is because there were many articles that supported the transformation of medicine into a more broad-based and inclusive model.

In my latest blog on my homepage, I discuss the topic of the "Re-connection and Integration of the Mind-Body in Modern Medicine- May 2016 Top Holistic and Integrative Health Reads."

In the past, I discussed how another topic, the microbiome, may be a discovery that unites the conversations between conventional viewpoints and holistic physicians.

If you've missed any of the important news on the tiny inhabitants that line our inner tubes and outer layers, you will want to skim through this link. Research is finding that these critters have an impact on almost anything you can think of in regards to modulating health!

For example, a May 4th article in Science Daily from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute reports:

Scientists have grown and catalogued more than 130 bacteria from the human intestine. Imbalances in our gut microbiome can contribute to complex conditions and diseases such as obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome and allergies. This research will enable scientists to understand how our bacterial 'microbiome' helps keep us healthy and start to create tailor-made treatments with specific beneficial bacteria.

In this mentioned article published in Nature, researchers were able to come up with a unique method to study the behavior of our little buggy friends (via a combination of whole-genome phenotypic analysis, culture methods, and fecal specimen study of six healthy individuals). The goal was that this method would allow ways to accomplish microbe transfer between humans via their encapsulation into a pill, potentially replacing the "yuck factor" of those fecal transplants (more on that later). The research may also allow the scientific community to better understand these critters by finding ways to culture them and keep them alive, as most are not oxygen loving. The answer was speculated to be via spores!

Therefore, the way we treat our "bug forest" in our bodies (mostly by lifestyle choices such as diet, exercise, stress, sleep, etc.) has major implications. This is not only related to our own health, but potentially using our healthy bugs to help others with a less desirable mix of friendly-crawly-friends.

Interestingly, it was also recently found that our bug residents are also fighting to keep us flexible in stressful circumstances. They don't only respond to their environment but also offer resilience when food is scarce, changing the diversity in our bellies. (Another explanation for how diet modulates our health). Science Daily reported:

In a recent paper in the journal Nature Microbiology, researchers working with Frank Schreiber have shown that individual cells in bacterial colonies can differ widely in how they respond to a lack of nutrients. Although all of the cells in a group are genetically identical, the way they process nutrients from their surroundings can vary from one cell to another. For example, bacteria called Klebsiella oxytoca preferentially take up nitrogen from ammonium (NH4+), as this requires relatively little energy. When there isn't enough ammonium for the entire group, some of the bacteria start to take up nitrogen by fixing it from elementary nitrogen (N2), even though this requires more energy. If the ammonium suddenly runs out altogether, these cells at least are prepared. While some cells suffer, the group as a whole can continue to grow. "Although all of the bacteria in the group are genetically identical and exposed to the same environmental conditions, the individual cells differ among themselves," says Schreiber.


In celebration of focusing on the progress we are making, I wanted to review some more of the top articles in May 2016 that focused on our buggy foods and summarize them here for you.


Speaking of the Yuck Factor...

Currently, stool transplants are approved for treatment of an infectious gastrointestinal disease caused by Clostridium difficile. Health Day reported on another application of fecal transplant:

Stool transplants helped ease debilitating symptoms and heal the colons of tough-to-treat ulcerative colitis patients, new research shows.

Australian scientists said the findings could pave the way for such transplants to be used on a more widespread basis. Transferring fecal matter from healthy donors into these patients alters the composition of their gut bacteria, circumventing one of the drivers of ulcerative colitis, experts said.



Immunizing with Bugs

A rodent study published in PNAS demonstrated that vaccinating with a specific strain of bacteria modulated the immune response in stress-induced pathology.

The hygiene, or "old friends," hypothesis proposes that lack of exposure to immunoregulatory microorganisms in modern urban societies is resulting in an epidemic of inflammatory disease, as well as psychiatric disorders in which chronic, low-level inflammation is a risk factor. An important determinant of immunoregulation is the microbial community occupying the host organism, collectively referred to as the microbiota. Here we show that stress disrupts the homeostatic relationship between the microbiota and the host, resulting in exaggerated inflammation. Treatment of mice with a heat-killed preparation of an immunoregulatory environmental microorganism, Mycobacterium vaccae, prevents stress-induced pathology. These data support a strategy of "reintroducing" humans to their old friends to promote optimal health and wellness.


Why Use Bugs, Because Killing Them with Antibiotics Have Negative Effects

According to a new study reported in Science Daily (again):

Antibiotics strong enough to kill off gut bacteria can also stop the growth of new brain cells in the hippocampus, a section of the brain associated with memory, reports a new study in mice. Researchers also uncovered a clue to why -- a type of white blood cell seems to act as a communicator between the brain, the immune system, and the gut.



Our Baseline of Skin Bugs

A new study, reported in Health Day relating to an article in Cell, discussed that our skin may have a "baseline" of buggies. Although it has been found previously that our skin microbiota can be disturbed by cleansers and environmental factors, it appears that there does exist a population of critters on our skin that stay put:

The skin's "microbiome" -- containing bacteria, fungi and viruses -- is thought to be important to human health. Segre said it can help the body resist nasty germ invaders and maintain the barrier between the skin and inner organs. The new study aimed to discover how stable these skin germs are over time. This can help researchers understand what happens when skin disease develops, Segre said.

For the study, Segre and colleagues analyzed 17 skin sites of 12 healthy volunteers three times over two years.  The researchers found that skin germs as a whole remained fairly steady, although individuals have their own "microbial fingerprints."

"One person had a higher amount of fungi on their skin, another person had a lot of bacterial viruses on the side of their nose," Segre said. She thought these collections of germs might be temporary, but "when we examined the person's skin community a year later, it was still true."

Germs on the feet were the most variable of all, but it's not clear why. One possibility, Segre said, is that the feet encounter a lot of temperature differences. Dr. Stanley Spinola, a scientist who praised the research, said the variation seen in feet may have something to do with moist areas between the toes or differences in footwear -- from sneakers to leather shoes to flip-flops or none at all.

How is this research useful?

"The study shows over a long period of time, our skin microbiome stays pretty stable although we encounter different environments," said Spinola, who is chair of microbiology and immunology at Indiana University School of Medicine.  This is helpful because it gives researchers insight into the normal variation, allowing scientists to better study how disease causes differences, he said.


Next Time Some One Tells You to 'Eat Worms", You May Want To!

According to a recent article in Science Daily intestinal worms may assist with immunity in a surprising way. Yes, our belly bugs also contains worms that modulate our health, not just bacteria. Science Daily states:

In order to fight invading pathogens, the immune system uses "outposts" throughout the body, called lymph nodes. These are small, centimeter-long organs that filter fluids, get rid of waste materials, and trap pathogens, e.g. bacteria or viruses. Lymph nodes are packed with immune cells, and are know to grow in size, or 'swell', when they detect invading pathogens. But now, EPFL scientists have unexpectedly discovered that lymph nodes also contain more immune cells when the host is infected with a more complex invader: an intestinal worm. The discovery is published in Cell Reports , and has significant implications for our understanding of how the immune system responds to infections.


The Intelligence of Nature and Nurture- How Mamma's Hormones Effect Baby's Food

In another write-up by Science Daily from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, researchers explored the "role of human milk hormones in the development of infants' microbiome, a bacterial ecosystem in the digestive system that contributes to multiple facets of health." Specifically:

A new study finds that hormones in breast milk may impact the development of healthy bacteria in infants' guts, potentially protecting them from intestinal inflammation, obesity and other diseases later in life.

The hormones studied were insulin and leptin. The authors analyzed the stool samples of thirty infants exclusively breastfed- 18 were from normal weight moms and 12 were from obese mom to determine the bacterial population and the metabolic effects. They found the following:

In addition, researchers found significant differences in the intestinal microbiome of breastfed infants who are born to mothers with obesity compared to those born to mothers of normal weight. Infants born to mothers with obesity showed a significant reduction in gammaproteobacteria, a pioneer species that aids in normal intestinal development and microbiome maturation.

Gammaproteobacteria have been shown in mice and newborn infants to cause a healthy amount inflammation in their intestines, protecting them from inflammatory and autoimmune disorders later in life. The 2-week-old infants born to obese mothers in this study had a reduced number of gammaproteobacteria in the infant gut microbiome.


Now, here's some other noteworthy briefs:


The Microbe-Gene Connection Found in IBD

A recent study found a connection between a gene variation found in Crohn's disease patients and a certain bug that modulates inflammation in the gut. The study has implications for treatments that effect bacteria in our bellies versus focusing on drugs, which have a poor efficacy rate for Crohn's disease. According to this study summary by Science Daily:

Investigators found that the beneficial effects of Bacteroides fragilis bacterium, one of billions of microscopic organisms that normally inhabit the human gastrointestinal system, were negatively impacted by variations in the ATG16L1 gene.

These genetic variations increase the risk of developing Crohn's disease, one of the two common forms of IBD. As a result, the bacteria were prevented from carrying out one of their critical functions: suppressing inflammation of the intestinal lining...

"Given the low percentage of IBD patients who respond to drugs directed at the immune system, these results could point the way to improving treatment by identifying patients who might best respond to manipulation of bacteria in their digestive tract," said study co-author Stephan R. Targan, MD, director of the F. Widjaja Foundation Inflammatory Bowel and Immunobiology Research Institute.


The Microbiome Transfer to the Next Generation

In another gene-microbe interaction study, Science Daily reports:

A genome-wide association analysis of over 1,000 twins in the UK supports that some parts of our microbiomes are inherited and shaped--not through a spread of microbes from parent to child, but through our genes. The results, revealing new examples of heritable bacterial species--including those related to diet preference, metabolism, and immune defense -- appear May 11 in Cell Host & Microbe's special issue on the "Genetics and Epigenetics of Host-Microbe Interactions."

According to the article abstract:

Repeat sampling of subjects showed heritable taxa to be temporally stable. A candidate gene approach uncovered associations between heritable taxa and genes related to diet, metabolism, and olfaction. We replicate an association between Bifidobacterium and the lactase (LCT) gene locus and identify an association between the host gene ALDH1L1 and the bacteria SHA-98, suggesting a link between formate production and blood pressure. Additional genes detected are involved in barrier defense and self/non-self recognition. Our results indicate that diet-sensing, metabolism, and immune defense are important drivers of human-microbiome co-evolution.


Finally....the Announcement of a New Gut Research Tool

It's called the HuMiX, and it supposedly works like the "real thing". Science Daily states:

Scientists have now proven that a model of the human gut they have developed and patented -- HuMiX -- is representative of the actual conditions and processes that occur within our intestines. With HuMiX, the researchers can analyze the complex interactions between human cells and bacteria, predict their effects on health or disease onset, and study the action of probiotics and drugs.



Our microbiome has profound impacts on our health and disease risks. What I love regarding research with the microbiota (our critter populations in and on our body) and the microbiome (genes of the buggies) is that it proves there is a connection between our environment and lifestyle (exposures, food choices, exercise, stress, etc) by how both modulate these critters. Furthermore, there's ways in which our genes can modulate our microbiota and how our microbiome modulates our genetic expression. All of this research is proving the important concept of personalized healthcare- not just our biochemical individuality, but our unique bug blueprint as well!

Make sure to read more on the new healthcare here.



'Bugs' as drugs: Harnessing novel gut bacteria for human health. Science Daily. May 4, 2016.

Hilary P. Browne, Samuel C. Forster, Blessing O. Anonye, Nitin Kumar, B. Anne Neville, Mark D. Stares, David Goulding, Trevor D. Lawley. Culturing of 'unculturable' human microbiota reveals novel taxa and extensive sporulation. Nature, 2016; DOI: 10.1038/nature17645

EAWAG: Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology. Science Daily. May 9, 2016.

Stool Transplant Soothes Tough-to-Treat Colitis in Study. Health Day. May 23, 2016.

Immunization with a heat-killed preparation of the environmental bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae promotes stress resilience in mice. PNAS. May 2016. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1600324113.

Cell Press. Antibiotics that kill gut bacteria also stop growth of new brain cells. Science Daily. May 19, 2016.

The Skin Microbiome. Dr. Kara Fitzgerald Web Site. April 14, 2016.

Your Healthy Skin Germs Stay Put, Despite Cleaning-Findings suggest your 'microbial fingerprint' is important to well-being. Health Day. May 4, 2016.

Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne Intestinal worms boost immune system in a surprising way. Science Daily. May 5, 2016.

University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus. Breast milk hormones found to impact bacterial development in infants' guts: Intestinal microbiome of children born to obese mothers significantly different from those born to mothers of healthy weight. Science Daily. May 4, 2016.

Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Genetic variants in patients with crohn's disease prevent 'good' gut bacteria from working. Science Daily. May 6, 2016.

Cell Press. Twin study finds that gut microbiomes run in families. Science Daily. May 11, 2016.

Julia K. Goodrich, Emily R. Davenport, Michelle Beaumont, Matthew A. Jackson, Rob Knight, Carole Ober, Tim D. Spector, Jordana T. Bell, Andrew G. Clark, Ruth E. Ley. Genetic Determinants of the Gut Microbiome in UK Twins. Cell Host & Microbe, 2016; 19 (5): 731.

University of Luxembourg. New human microbiome research tool: Gut model HuMiX works like the real thing. Science Daily. May 11, 2016.


How Many People Really Are Effected?

Previously, I reviewed the various problems regarding the current diagnostics and estimates of number of people affected by Lyme disease. As far as surveillance, the CDC lists the limitations of their methods on their website which includes: under-reporting, lack of state funds to classify and monitor cases, different times of closing of estimates per year (between the CDC and different states), changes in case definitions throughout the years, and surveillance by county of residence, not county of exposure. (So, is it really 300,000?) Due to the fact that our biodiversity of deer, rodents, and mammalian creatures is declining due to our environmental fingerprint, we will probably see a continued rise in cases in the years to come.

Then, There's the Issue of Testing...

This is a huge controversy. Actually, for any diagnosis and lab use, there are issues with validity and reliability. I discussed that more in previous blog ( According to one article in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology (1999), the following issues crop up in diagnosis using the CDC's two-tier diagnostic system for Lyme disease. These can occur within and among different labs on the immunoblot testing due to:

  1. Subjective interpretation by the lab technicians
  2.  Antigen extract validity (measurements vary with different forms of B. burgdorferi and different antigens can be read and misinterpreted due to their same molecular mass)
  3. The expression of the antigen is related to how it is cultured in the lab and the growth phase of the critter, this can vary between labs and specimens

Many argue that this method is meant to be for surveillance only. In fact, the National Notifiable Disease Surveillance Data System for Lyme Disease (Borellia burgdorferi) CSTE Position Statement(s) states on the CDC site, "This surveillance case definition was developed for national reporting of Lyme disease; it is not intended to be used in clinical diagnosis." (


The Diagnosis Issues and More Lyme Controversies

So, the diagnosis of Lyme disease is based on a test that many feel is inadequate. Furthermore, even if the tests were 100% valid and reliable, different people have different immune responses. This makes one single test relating to one aspect of the immune response lacking in usefulness for many. I discussed why this critter is so hard to catch previously. Here is a review of these factors:

1.    Immunosuppression agents with entry of the tick saliva, making it hard to detect at "first bite."

2.    Genetic, phase, and antigenic variation makes the critter the "master of disguises" using unique mechanisms to evade antibiotics and the immune system's detection. Furthermore, most tests only look for one species, but different species with differing genetics can lead to different symptoms and differing immune responses (Borellia garini, Borellia afezlii, Borellia hammseli, Borellia miyamotoi)!!

3.    There's some evidence that Borellia is becoming resistant to antibiotics in vitro, meaning the bug may be getting smarter to our attempts to kill it.

4.    Physical seclusion which means not only can spirochetes and bacteria change forms and trick our immune system, they can also hide in our bodies by binding to certain substances in the body. This makes them "invisible" to the immune system.

5.    Borellia can secrete proteins to adhere to cells and pierce through their walls so they can "hibernate." Then, they come out of hiding when the immune system least expects it.

6.    This bug has become so smart it can go around iron poor environments and thrive on manganese. It can also produce a DNA base critical for its survival!

You can read more about this in this blog, where I gave a brief summary of Lyme disease, its complex and various symptoms (it is known as "the great mimicker"), the problem with its "posse" of co-infections, the controversy with treatment, and the existence of chronic Lyme disease (which I get into more below).

Thankfully, there are some new methods and tests for Lyme disease which offer some promise. These new methods are evaluating the person's genomics, searching for the actual protein in the serum (verses the immune response to it), a urinary antigen test, and more. I wrote about some of these on this site here. This may help with finding the critter faster, which could prevent chronic issues. However, will it help with treatment? I do not know for sure.

So, as you can see there are a lot of "issues" and many factors involved for one little bugger, right?


The Big One... Controversy That Is...

Speaking of chronic Lyme disease, there is a schism about this that runs pretty deep in society and in medicine. It ranges from indifference or lack of knowledge of the disease to those afflicted and suffering hopelessly. On the medical forefronts, there are many "Lyme literate physicians" (LLMDs) who have education in the chronicity of Lyme disease and dig into the treatment and pathology of the critter with antibiotics and other methods. The opposing position is one in which some physicians feel that Lyme cannot be chronic and that other factors are at play related to the symptoms:

These facts would seem to support that individuals with different genetic variations and immune robustness will respond differently to an infection with the spirochete.  Still, the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA) does not believe in chronic Lyme and typically will not treat a Lyme patient beyond acute management. On the other hand, the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS) group does believe that Lyme can and often persists beyond a few weeks, and are willing to treat someone beyond the four-week period. These two groups represent the schism in LD and differ in treatment.27

According to Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Infectious Disease, the evidence for chronic Lyme Disease (CLD) is robust, 28-35 and recognizing it could facilitate efforts to avoid diagnostic delays of two years and durations of illness 4.7-9 years...

Interestingly, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) also acknowledges a chronic form of Lyme disease called "Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome." Their website states here:

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) also acknowledges a chronic form of Lyme disease called "Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome." (


The Power of Holism: A Naturopathic and Functional Medicine Perspective

With the complexity in diagnosis, various symptomology, immune evasion by the critter, and chronicity, many Lyme disease sufferers struggle with finding solutions and physicians who will understand their concerns. My method is to treat the whole person and balance their body, mind and spirit, not just go after the bug.

Click here to learn about a new model and integrative perspective on my homepage blog where I go into detail about treating the whole person versus killing the bug.  



Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Lyme Disease.

J Clin Microbiol. 1999 Dec; 37(12): 3990-3996.

Clin Infect Dis. 1997 Jul;25 Suppl 1:S31-4.

Infect Drug Resist. 2011; 4:1-9.

BMJ. 2007 Nov 3; 335(7626): 910-912.!nanotrap-lyme-test/c64d

Infect Dis Clin North Am. 2008 Jun; 22(2): 217-234.

IFM. APM: Immune Module. Lyme Disease. Rancho Mirage, CA. March 2015.

Infection and Drug Resistance. 2011;4:97-113.

Infectious disease clinics of North America. 2008;22(2):217-234.

Journal of Biological Chemistry, 2013.

ScienceDaily. March 21, 2013.

The Difference Between Quality Control and Standardization with Essential Oils

In my homepage blog, I discussed the importance of essential oils quality and safety. Essential oils are regulated by their intended use in the United States; therefore, they can be regulated under the category of cosmetics, fragrances, or "others." This makes consistency and quality an important consideration when using them for wellness purposes.

In this blog, I want to help you understand the differences between standardization and quality more. Let's first look at an industry which has both, pharmaceuticals. I reviewed several reasons previously on how standard of care does not necessarily mean it is without risk. For example, medications are regulated, have standardization, and quality, yet still can lead to medical errors, side effects, and toxicities.

In regards to safety of regulated, standardized, and approved drugs, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) states the following limitations on their own site in approval of safety for drugs (bold emphasis mine):

·         FDA provides guidance to companies during the various phases of the human clinical trials. Even so, the number of people in a clinical trial of a new drug is usually small in comparison to the number of people who may take the drug if it reaches the market. This makes it difficult to detect rare side effects.

·         Even though data from human trials are analyzed by a team of experts before a drug is approved, it can be impossible to anticipate all bad reactions--especially very rare safety risks--unless they had also happened with use of a similar drug.

·         Complicating matters is the fact that after they are approved, drugs are often taken by sick people who are on other medications at the same time, making it difficult to predict how they will react to the drug. And the drug's effect on the patient may change over the course of years.

·         There are hundreds of thousands of adverse events reported via MedWatch each year, but this reporting system is voluntary and there are serious drug reactions that are never reported.

·         Because the nation's healthcare system is not integrated, there is no standard way to track the adverse effects of a medicine in any given health system or across different health systems. Health insurance databases can be helpful in this regard, but they are only accurate as long as a patient has the same job and is enrolled with the same insurance system since many people are insured through their employer.  This limits FDA's ability to monitor the safety of medications taken over many years.  However, FDA, through its Sentinel Initiative, is currently working to develop capabilities to use data from different health systems to better understand the safety of drugs in clinical practice.   

Interesting, isn't it?


Standardization in Essential Oils

Currently, there are some sets of standards and certifications regulating essential oils through the agencies of ISO (which is the International Organization for Standardization) and the Association Française de Normalisation (AFNOR).

According to the ISO website: "ISO is an independent, non-governmental international organization with a membership of 161 national standards bodies. Through its members, it brings together experts to share knowledge and develop voluntary, consensus-based, market relevant International Standards that support innovation and provide solutions to global challenges."

AFNOR is the French national organization for standardization and its International Organization for Standardization member body. They develop their international standardization activities, information provision, certification and training through a network members of the association. According to their website,

AFNOR, the French standardization organization, directs and coordinates the establishment of national standards (NF) and participation in the definition of European standards (EN) and International standards (ISO and IEC). It is the French member of European and international non-governmental standards organizations such as CEN and CENELEC in Europe, and ISO and IEC internationally. Thanks to the investment of all the players in the French economy, AFNOR is one of the most influential members of these organizations, strategically and technically.


The Quality Caveat with Standards and Essential Oils

Unfortunately, ISO standards exist for only approximately 50 EOs. According to a source I had with one well known company, the ISO standards for EOs were created, in most cases, because an AFNOR standard existed. If an EO meets the ISO/AFNOR standard, it will probably be a high quality oil; however, this is not always the case. There is a difference between standards and quality. Standardizations can imply quality, but they don't necessarily have. They can exist solely for consistency in labeling and selling across manufacturers. The AFNOR does claim to seek to ensure quality.

To complicate matters more, different companies consider different constituents as "quality" essential oils. This may make them not "standardized" but still "quality" in regards to raw materials, distillation technique, testing, manufacturing, and distribution.

The bottom line- know and trust your supplier and ask about quality control, then do some of your own research.

Read more about essential oil safety on my homepage here and get more references.



Food and Drug Administration. Aromatherapy. FDA Web site: Accessed December 28, 2015.

Food and Drug Administration. Fragrances in Cosmetics. FDA Web site: ttp:// Accessed December 28, 2015.

Food and Drug Administration. CFR - Code of Federal Regulations Title 21. FDA Web site:

Food and Drug Administration. How FDA Evaluates Regulated Products: Drugs. FDA Web site:

Food and Drug Administration. Pharmaceutical Quality/Manufacturing Standards (CGMP). FDA Web site:

International Standardization Organization. ISO/TC 54 - Essential oils. ISO Web site:

Association of French Normalization Organization. Standards- All Published Standards. AFNOR Web site:

Association of French Normalization Organization. ISO 9001 Certification - Quality. AFNOR Web site:

Association of French Normalization Organization. Normes. AFNOR Web site: 




In my homepage blog, I discussed the flaws and biases in supplement and drug trials. This is part II of the discussion.

A 2005 review tilted, "Why Most Published Research Findings Are False," provides a good summary of factors that influence conclusions of studies (bold emphasis mine):

"There is increasing concern that most current published research findings are false. The probability that a research claim is true may depend on study power and bias, the number of other studies on the same question, and, importantly, the ratio of true to no relationships among the relationships probed in each scientific field. In this framework, a research finding is less likely to be true when the studies conducted in a field are smaller; when effect sizes are smaller; when there is a greater number and lesser preselection of tested relationships; where there is greater flexibility in designs, definitions, outcomes, and analytical modes; when there is greater financial and other interest and prejudice; and when more teams are involved in a scientific field in chase of statistical significance. Simulations show that for most study designs and settings, it is more likely for a research claim to be false than true. Moreover, for many current scientific fields, claimed research findings may often be simply accurate measures of the prevailing bias. In this essay, I discuss the implications of these problems for the conduct and interpretation of research." (

So, Do We Ignore the Data?

No, no, and no...there's ways to use this information to make informed decisions about what the "evidence" is actually saying. But, it takes a lot of detective work. Most of my research and looking into studies has come from my own review of studies reporting on biases and lessons learned from my mentors and teachers. In no way am I methodology whiz, but I do have a basic grasp of why our model and interpretations need to be interpreted with caution.

These are some of the considerations that I always review when applying studies to my clients:

1. Read the actual study and be wary of media spin. In one cross-sectional analysis of 130 studies of health news reported on google and found the following:

In total, 78% of the news did not provide a full reference or electronic link to the scientific article. We found at least one spin in 114 (88%) news items and 18 different types of spin in news. These spin were mainly related to misleading reporting (59%) such as not reporting adverse events that were reported in the scientific article (25%), misleading interpretation (69%) such as claiming a causal effect despite non-randomized study design (49%) and overgeneralization/misleading extrapolation (41%) of the results such as extrapolating a beneficial effect from an animal study to humans (21%). We also identified some new types of spin such as highlighting a single patient experience for the success of a new treatment instead of focusing on the group results. (


2. Consider methods used.

Subjects: Who were the participants/what population was studied (differences in gender/ethnicity/health status)? What were their characteristics? What was the dropout rate? Who was excluded and why? What were the factors controlled for in the subjects?

Type of study: Was it observational and correlational study which look for relationships verses cause-and-effect or was it a case-control randomized trial? Was there a control or was it a comparison trial? (Too much or too little control both have weakness. For example, too much control prevents extrapolation of the intervention to the real world and too little prevents interpretation that the intervention caused the change.)

Intervention: What is the form of intervention? Was it the appropriate dosage? How long was the study? How was it taken? What was the placebo effect?


3. Search the results for inconsistencies:

How are the results reported? For example, is it the use of an odds ratio, is it relative or absolute risk? What is the NNT? Is the p-value of significance truly reflective of compatible data with the statistical model?

Do the charts and statistics match the author's conclusions?

4. More can be found here for the geeks...

·         Epidemiological study interpretation (

·         Biases to search for (

·         Design, analysis and interpretation of method-comparison studies (

·         Quasi-experimental study designs (



Where to Go from Here?

1. Physicians and practitioners need to be honest about interventions and be transparent about what they have experience with. Both parties should look up the NNT and find a few studies to examine if the intervention is new.

2. Consumers and patients need to be aware that some of the studies and standard of care physicians are using could be flawed. Don't just accept treatment that isn't helping without studying the data or asking your doctor for more information. Most importantly, look for if you're getting results with an intervention (nutrient, herb, oil, supplement, medication) and use that in your basis for the final decision.

Get the references here on my homepage.










Mom's Gifts of Giving and Her Impact & Some Stress-Free Relief for Her

When you think of May, does it remind you of your mom? In case you forgot, May 8th is the day to celebrate the important mother figures in our lives. Unfortunately, in our society we can sometimes tend to blame our mom more than praise her for certain traits and health issues.

Although our mothers can affect our health outcomes, as I wrote about here, we do have the power to modulate this... even at the level of genetics! It can also be soothing to realize that regardless of the characteristics our mom provided in her genes (and dads too) and personality, this combination makes us unique individuals. We can use these experiences and knowledge to understand ourselves better, give gratitude to our past, heal wounds for the future, and rise to better health. Furthermore, the healing and profound power of a mother's touch as something which is vital for optimal development.  If someone didn't receive it when we needed it, there are ways to soothe ourselves now through understanding, epigenetics, and mind-body medicine.

Regardless of if your mother was amazing (like I am fortunate to claim), if you learned lessons from your parental relationship and grew, or if your mom is no longer with you, celebrating love and the strong women in our lives is very healing for our own physical health. In fact, you can read 10 science-based reasons gratitude will benefit you here. (Did you know "an attitude of gratitude" can even help student's GPA.)


More on the Mom-Body Connection

A few studies this month also highlighted the importance of mom's impact on our future generations. One study showed that the risks associated with a later birth in moms was outweighed by the environmental benefits. This means, a mom's attitude and here resources impact her child's development. Science Daily reported on this change as follows:

Both public health and social conditions have been improving over time in many countries. Previous research on the relationship between maternal age and child outcomes has ignored the importance of these macro-level environmental changes over time. From the perspective of any individual parent, delaying childbearing means having a child with a later birth year. For example, a ten-year difference in maternal age is accompanied by a decade of changes to social and environmental conditions. Taking this perspective, this new MPIDR-study shows that when women delay childbearing to older ages their children are healthier, taller, and more highly educated. It shows that despite the risks associated with childbearing at older ages, which are attributable to aging of the reproductive system, these risks are either counterbalanced, or outweighed, by the positive changes to the environment in the period during which the mother delayed her childbearing.

Still, it's not just about money and environment. The gift of love is free. Science Daily also cited a study that showed that moms who nurtured their little ones had babes with bigger brains:

Children whose mothers were nurturing during the preschool years, as opposed to later in childhood, have more robust growth in brain structures associated with learning, memory and stress response than children with less supportive moms.

According to the study researchers, the children of moms who were viewed as more nurturing exhibited growth in the hippocampus region as determined by three MRI scans. This area in the brain is associated with emotional regulation, memory, and learning. In this study with 127 youths, emotional regulation was the key factor reported on for improvement.


It's Not Just Mom's Love- It's Community

Another recent study showed the impact of children's friends and social connections on their stress. We all know the health impacts of stress! The researchers indicated by studying different aspects of the stress response, they had a better comprehensive view of how our environment and connection modulates our physiology. Science Daily states:

For this focused study, Ponzi and Flinn chose a sample of 40 children ranging in ages from 5 to 12 and who represented about 80 percent of the total children in the village. Each child was asked a series of questions about their friends to measure their perceived density and closeness of their social networks. Three samples of saliva were collected before, during and after the interview and cortisol and alpha-amylase levels were measured.

"We found that, using the data we collected from the one-on-one interviews, children who were stressed about the size and density of their perceived social networks had elevated anticipatory cortisol levels, and responded by secreting more alpha-amylase," Flinn said. "Our study was in line with past research on stress, loneliness and social support in adults, but we strengthened past research by applying it to children. Future research should consider a multi-system approach like this one to study cognitive and biological mechanisms underlying children's perception."


Supporting Mom's Health with Aromatherapy

Now, time to give our moms or mother figures some hints on self-care, because they do so much for us! Here are some abstracts on the use of essential oils and aromatherapy to soothe moms.

1. Improving Sleep During the Postpartum Period

What mom doesn't need more sleep? This study in the Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal evaluated the impact of aromatherapy on moms in the postpartum period:

This study was a randomized clinical trial with the control group. A total of 158 mothers in postpartum period (with certain inclusion criteria) were enrolled in the study and assigned randomly to two groups of control and intervention. Lavender fragrance (made by Barij Essence Pharmaceutical Co.) was used by participants in the intervention group nightly before sleeping. The fragrance was dropped on cotton balls, which were placed on a cylindrical container at mothers' disposal. Keeping the container at a projected distance of 20 cm, the participants inhaled 10 deep breaths and then the container was placed beside their pillow until morning. This procedure was done 4 times a week for 8 weeks. For the control group, the same intervention was done with the placebo. The instrument for collecting data was Pittsburgh sleep quality index, which was completed at the baseline, fourth, and eighth weeks after the intervention. Data were analyzed using independent t test and repeated measures analysis of variance calculated by SPSS16....

Conclusions: Considering the effects of aromatherapy on the improvement of mother's sleep quality during postpartum period, aromatherapy has been suggested as a non-pharmacological method for the improvement of the maternal health.



2. Calming Anxiety in Labor and Reducing Blood Pressure Readings with Geranium

Methods: In study, was carried out on 100 nulliparous women admitted to Bent al-Hoda Hospital in the city of Bojnord in North Khorasan province of Iran during 2012-2013. The women were randomly assigned to two groups of equal size, one experimental group (geranium essential oil) and one control (placebo) group. Anxiety levels were measured using Spielberger' questionnaire before and after intervention. Physiological parameters (systolic and diastolic blood pressure, respiratory rate, pulse rate) were also measured before and after intervention in both groups. Data analysis was conducted using the x2 test, paired t-test, Mann-Whitney U test, and Wilcox on test on SPSS 11.5.

Results: The mean anxiety score decreased significantly after inhalation of the aroma of geranium essential oil. There was also a significant decrease in diastolic blood pressure.

Conclusion: Aroma of essential oil of geraniums can effectively reduce anxiety during labor and can be recommended as a non-invasive anti-anxiety aid during childbirth.


3. Burnout Relief

A small randomized, controlled, double-blind pilot study that included 14 participants was done to "determine the effectiveness of a mixture of essential oils (peppermint, basil, and helichrysum) on mental exhaustion, or moderate burnout (ME/MB) using a personal inhaler."  The study from the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine abstract reads:

DESIGN: This was a randomized, controlled, double-blind pilot study. Data were collected 3 times a day for 3 weeks (Monday-Friday). The first week was baseline for both groups, the second week was intervention (aromatherapy or placebo), and the third week was washout...

INTERVENTIONS: Participants were randomized to receive a personal inhaler containing either a mixture of essential oils or rose water (as used in Indian cooking).

OUTCOME MEASURES: The outcome measures were a 0-10 scale with 10=worst feeling of burnout, 0=no feeling of burnout. There was a qualitative questionnaire rating aroma and a questionnaire listing perceived stressors.

RESULTS: While both groups had a reduction in perception of ME/MB, the aromatherapy group had a much greater reduction.

CONCLUSIONS: The results suggest that inhaling essential oils may reduce the perceived level of mental fatigue/burnout. Further research is warranted.


A One Sentence Summary

Therefore, our health can start with our moms, be impacted by our own attitude and behaviors, and supported by our nose.


Catch the Latest News

This week, on my homepage, I wrote about the need for change in healthcare from sick-care to well-care. Just as I was in my writer's flow, an article on how Medical Errors are the Third Cause of Death in the United States popped up in my inbox. Serendipity!! You can read all about how this is connected to empowering patients' health and changing our approach to medicine.

My blog also provides lots of nerd-out opportunities for your skimming pleasure on the Top Holistic and Integrative Health News for April 2016.

Be sure to read it here.  



10 Reasons Why Gratitude is Healthy. Huffington Post. July 12, 2014.

Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2003; 84(2):377-389.

Gratitude and the Reduced Cost of Materialism in Adolescents. J Happiness Stud. 2010; 12:289-302. DOI 10.1007/s10902-010-9195-9

Advanced Maternal Age and Offspring Outcomes: Reproductive Aging and Counterbalancing Period Trends. Population and Development Review, 2016; 42 (1): 69.

Max-Planck-Gesellschaft. Children of older mothers do better: The benefits associated with being born in a later year outweigh the biological risks associated with being born to an older mother. ScienceDaily, 12 April 2016.

Washington University School of Medicine. Nurturing during preschool years boosts child's brain growth: Mothers' support linked to robust growth of brain area involved in learning, memory, stress response. ScienceDaily, 25 April 2016.

Luby JL, Belden A, Harms MP, Tillman R, Barch DM. Preschool is a sensitive period for the influence of maternal support on the trajectory of hippocampal development. PNAS. 2016.

University of Missouri-Columbia. Children react physically to stress from their social networks: A 28-year study reveals that the social relationships nurtured in childhood may have physiological consequences. ScienceDaily. 2 May 2016.

Cortisol, salivary alpha-amylase and children's perceptions of their social networks. Social Neuroscience, 2015; 11 (2):164.

Keshavarz Afshar M, Behboodi Moghadam Z, Taghizadeh Z, Bekhradi R, Montazeri A, Mokhtari P. Lavender Fragrance Essential Oil and the Quality of Sleep in Postpartum Women. Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal. 2015;17(4):e25880. doi:10.5812/ircmj.17(4)2015.25880.

Rashidi Fakari F, Tabatabaeichehr M, Kamali H, Rashidi Fakari F, Naseri M. Effect of Inhalation of Aroma of Geranium Essence on Anxiety and Physiological Parameters during First Stage of Labor in Nulliparous Women: a Randomized Clinical Trial. Journal of Caring Sciences. 2015;4(2):135-141. doi:10.15171/jcs.2015.014.

Varney E, Buckle J. Effect of inhaled essential oils on mental exhaustion and moderate burnout: a small pilot study. J Altern Complement Med. 2013 Jan;19(1):69-71. doi: 10.1089/acm.2012.0089.

This week's blog on my homepage discussed the downfalls of basing healthcare on diagnosis and managing diseases and sickness symptoms. In it, I reviewed the importance of individualizing treatment and considering the interplay between genes and environment. In fact, I reported on a pivotal study that provided evidence that even in those with a genetic mutation that could result in disorders such as cystic fibrosis and Tay-Sachs disease, there were individuals found who were healthy in spite of them.

We have a current epidemic now in painkiller abuse. Recently, Health Day reported:

The Obama administration announced Tuesday additional measures in its $1.1 billion funding request to expand medication-based treatment for Americans addicted to prescription painkillers and heroin.

President Barack Obama is scheduled to propose the measures at the National Rx Drug Abuse & Heroin Summit in Atlanta. The White House said the increased initiative could offer hope to tens of thousands of Americans addicted to prescription painkillers, such as OxyContin, Vicodin and Percocet, as well as illegal drugs like heroin.

Therefore, our reliance on medications to soothe our pain has financial and social implications. For example, it has been shown that opioids may cause changes in the brain in a small 2010 study, though the authors hypothesized this may be reversible:

Following the month of morphine administration, reduced gray matter was observed in the right amygdala. The amygdala, together with the hippocampus, drive reward-related learning processes via modulatory influences on the nucleus accumbens [17, 21]. The amygdala is involved in drug-induced associative learning, drug craving, reinforcement, the development of dependence, and the experience of acute withdrawal... Gray matter increase was widely-distributed throughout the brain and, in contrast to regions demonstrating volumetric decrease, was located outside of reward-processing networks.

Furthermore, it isn't just a concern for heroin and other painkillers. Many are using common over-the-counter medications to control pain that may have negative side effects, such as harming the brain. According to a recent article in Science Daily:

It's been known for more than a century that acetaminophen is an effective painkiller, but according to a new U of T study it could also be impeding error-detection in the brain.

The research, authored by a team including postdoctoral fellow Dan Randles and researchers from the University of British Columbia, is the first neurological study to look at how acetaminophen could be inhibiting the brain response associated with making errors.

"Past research tells us physical pain and social rejection share a neural process that we experience as distress, and both have been traced to same part of the brain," says Randles.

Recent research has begun to show how exactly acetaminophen inhibits pain, while behavioural studies suggest it may also inhibit evaluative responses more generally. Randles own past research has found that people are less reactive to uncertain situations when under the effect of acetaminophen.

It's a sad state in America when interventions which may be effective and have positive side effects are overlooked.  For example, I discussed how mindfulness practices can assist with low back pain. A 2013 study reviewed some of the evidence on how meditation may affect pain processing looking at more than just the physical aspect of pain perception:

The cognitive modulation of pain is influenced by a number of factors ranging from attention, beliefs, conditioning, expectations, mood, and the regulation of emotional responses to noxious sensory events. Recently, mindfulness meditation has been found attenuate pain through some of these mechanisms including enhanced cognitive and emotional control, as well as altering the contextual evaluation of sensory events. This review discusses the brain mechanisms involved in mindfulness meditation-related pain relief across different meditative techniques, expertise and training levels, experimental procedures, and neuroimaging methodologies. Converging lines of neuroimaging evidence reveal that mindfulness meditation-related pain relief is associated with unique appraisal cognitive processes depending on expertise level and meditation tradition. Moreover, it is postulated that mindfulness meditation-related pain relief may share a common final pathway with other cognitive techniques in the modulation of pain.

Another recent study showed how mindfulness may also be helpful in emotional pain. HealthDay reported:

This study included 23 U.S. veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who all received some form of group therapy. After four months of weekly sessions, many had reductions in their PTSD symptoms.

However, some of the participants received mindfulness training, and only those veterans showed brain activity changes that could be detected on functional MRI brain scans. Before mindfulness training, when the veterans with PTSD were resting quietly, they had extra activity in brain regions involved in responding to threats or outside problems, the study authors said.

Pain is isolating and can have implications in other diseases, such as an increased risk of heart disease. This cycle continues of not looking at the need for connecting all the dots and the whack-a-mole medicine game of suppressing symptoms.

Most doctors may not ask you about another tool used in healing by more than half Americans- prayer. Shouldn't faith and belief be factored in and incorporated into the art of medicine along with the science? Maybe then we'd really have true holistic, integrated, healthcare. I think it's coming, but we still have a way to go.



Augliere B. Mystery factors protect lucky few from severe genetic disorders: Massive genomic study picks up disease-linked mutations in otherwise healthy people. Nature. 11 April 2016.

Steele M. Obama Administration Steps Up Efforts to Beat Painkiller, Heroin Epidemic. Health Day. March 29, 2016.

University of Toronto. Is a popular painkiller hampering our ability to notice errors? ScienceDaily. 8 April 2016. <>.

Younger JW, Chu LF, D'Arcy N, Trott K, Jastrzab LE, Mackey SC. Prescription opioid analgesics rapidly change the human brain. Pain. 2011;152(8):1803-1810. doi:10.1016/j.pain.2011.03.028.

Rettner R. Mindfulness Meditation May Reduce Low Back Pain. Huffington Post. March 24, 2016.

Zeidan F, Grant JA, Brown CA, McHaffie JG, Coghill RC. Mindfulness meditation-related pain relief: Evidence for unique brain mechanisms in the regulation of pain. Neuroscience letters. 2012;520(2):165-173. doi:10.1016/j.neulet.2012.03.082.

Preidt R. Mindfulness Training May Ease PTSD. HealthDay. April 1, 2016.

Reinburg S. Lonely, Isolated People May Be Prone to Heart Disease, Stroke. Health Day. April 19, 2016.

Preidt R. Most Americans Turn to Prayer for Healing, Survey Finds. Health Day. April 22, 2016.

Many of us heard that stress is "bad for us." It is true that long-term, chronic stress can have many negative effects on all systems of the body.1 In my current blog on my homepage, I review what happens in the body when someone has an allergy or experiences respiratory symptoms. I also discuss how the body's immune response is intricately connected to all systems. In this blog, I review the connection between the nervous and immune systems.


Stress and Allergy Flares

A study with 179 university employees suffering allergic symptoms and the influence of lifestyle factors on their manifestation concluded:

These findings suggest that individuals with persistent emotional stress have more frequent allergy flares. Furthermore, those with more flares have greater negative mood.2.

Of course, there is also direct biochemical evidence of this link.3-5 Modern Healthcare Practitioner reported on how stress can impact immune function:

First, sympathetic fibers descend from the brain into both primary and secondary lymph tissue. These fibers release substances that bind to receptors on white blood cells. Second, the adrenal hormones epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol bind to specific receptors on white blood cells and have regulatory effects on their distribution and function. Finally, one's efforts to manage the demands of stress often result in coping strategies that have a secondary negative effect on the immune system - such as alcohol use or changes in sleeping patterns. Thus behavior can be an important pathway linking stress with the immune system.3


Stress and Colds

A two-part study was done to assess the effect of stress on symptoms from exposure to a virus. The first part of the experiment consisted of 125 men and 151 women. The subjects were quarantined for 24 hours and then were given "nasal drops containing a low infectious dose of either RV21 (N = 129) or RV39 (N = 147)."

In the second study, there were 39 men and 43 women who were also quarantined and then given the virus strain, RV39. All participants were paid $800 for getting infected.

The authors concluded the following in relationship to glucocorticoid receptor resistance (GCR), which occurs as a result of chronic stress hormones "hitting the receptors":

Study 1: After covarying the control variables, those with recent exposure to a long-term threatening stressful experience demonstrated GCR; and those with GCR were at higher risk of subsequently developing a cold. Study 2: With the same controls used in study 1, greater GCR predicted the production of more local proinflammatory cytokines among infected subjects. These data provide support for a model suggesting that prolonged stressors result in GCR, which, in turn, interferes with appropriate regulation of inflammation. Because inflammation plays an important role in the onset and progression of a wide range of diseases, this model may have broad implications for understanding the role of stress in health.6

There are various ways to mitigate the stress response. I wrote about some overlooked ways here and also highlighted how essential oils not only impact stress through olfaction, but also through biochemical responses. In other words, essential oils can modulate our immune response while calming our brain.

In another article, Dr. Rosen also reviews some integrative approaches to allergies. These include eating an anti-inflammatory diet, the use of fish oil, and supportive herbals.7 These are all also important for overall health.

To read more about supporting your immune system, make sure you check out my blog here.


1. American Psychological Association. Stress Effects on the Body.

2. Patterson AM, Yildiz VO, Klatt MD, Malarkey WB. Perceived stress predicts allergy flares. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2014 Apr;112(4):317-21

3. Labrix. Stress and Immune Function. Modern Healthcare Practitioner. October 30, 2015.

4. Hussain D. Stress, Immunity, and Health: Research Findings and Implications. International Journal of Psychosocial Rehabilitation. 2010. 15(1) 94-100.

5. Segerstrom SC, Miller GE. Psychological Stress and the Human Immune System: A Meta-Analytic Study of 30 Years of Inquiry. Psychological bulletin. 2004;130(4):601-630. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.130.4.601.

6. Cohen S, Janicki-Deverts D, Doyle WJ, Miller GE, Frank E, Rabin BS, Turner RB. Chronic stress, glucocorticoid receptor resistance, inflammation, and disease risk. PNAS. 2012 109 (16) 5995-5999. doi:10.1073/pnas.1118355109

7. Rosen D. Seasonal Allergies: An Integrative Approach to Atopic Disorders. Integrative Practitioner.


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Reisa Mehlman

As a New York State Licensed Aesthetician, New York State Licensed Nail Specialist, and the Director of Living Well Healing Arts Center & Spa, Reisa combines her love of spa services and healing arts to achieve optimum skin and nail health, create greater overall wellness and bring forth our optimal, individual beauty.

"I believe that the day spa should be an instant getaway; a place that is quiet without being stuffy, relaxed, elegant and yet entirely comfy. You should feel warm and welcome, surrounded by people who care about you and what they are doing. This is the environment we strive to create at Living Well Healing Arts Center & Spa. Here, you are never just the "next" number; we allow ample time for your services, offer a flexible schedule and can be reached after hours. After all, to me, spa craft is not really a business, it's a lifestyle." Read more...

About Dr. Sarah Lobisco

Dr. LoBisco has been in holistic healthcare for over 10 years. She became interested in holistic medicine when she was able to heal two herniated discs through nutrition, yoga, supplementation, and chiropractic. She has mentored with holistic practices throughout New York, Vermont, and Connecticut. In addition to her Naturopathic and Functional Medical training, Dr. LoBisco has extensive training in a variety of healing modalities, including therapeutic essential oils, nutraceuticals, herbs, whole food supplements, nutritional medicine, and mind-body therapies. She is a graduate of the accredited, four year post-graduate program in Naturopathic Medicine at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut. This program includes clinical rotations and a demanding scientific curriculum in integrating conventional and natural medicine. Dr. LoBisco holds her license from the state of Vermont.

Dr. LoBisco has completed her postdoctoral training as a certified functional medicine practitioner. She is also certified in Applied Kinesiology and holds a BA in psychology from SUNY Geneseo. She has contributed as an item writer for the North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners (NABNE)and has several articles that have been published in the Naturopathic Doctor News and Review Digest (NDNR) and the Townsend Letter, both physician- based journals. Dr. LoBisco is also a hired speaker on integrative medical topics for medical professionals.

Dr. LoBisco currently incorporates her training in holistic medical practices and conventional medicine through writing, researching, private practice, and through her independent contracting work for companies regarding supplements, nutraceuticals, essential oils, and medical foods. She has a small, private wellness consultation practice through telephone and Skype. Dr. LoBisco also enjoys continuing to educate and empower her readers through her blogs and social media. Her new book, BreakFree Medicine, is now available on Amazon and through Barnes & Noble. Please inquire here for more specific information.

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