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I am a wife, mother, non-surgical musculoskeletal physician, and author of The Eden Diet and Radical Well-being

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Q&A With Doctor Rita: "Tell me about you and your approach to pain management."



Q&A with Dr. Rita: "Tell me about you and your approach to Pain Management." 

Brief bio: Dr. Rita Hancock is a pain management sub-specialist physician and an author of Christian health and wellness books. She is the Oklahoma state representative in the House of Representatives of the Christian Medical and Dental Association, a contributor to various Christian and secular magazines, a Christian TV and radio personality in the area of health matters (including venues like TBN’s Doctor to Doctor, CBN’s 700 Club Interactive, and K-love radio’s Closer Look), and a wife as well as a mother of two wonderful teenagers.

Q:  Tell us about you and your medical practice, Dr. Rita:

A: There are two main things that I want you to know about how I practice medicine. First, as a Christian and a medical doctor, I wholeheartedly believe that our physical health can be impacted by spiritual and emotional factors. And, second, even though I’m a pain management sub-specialist, I don’t generally prescribe narcotics for pain control, except in rare situations. I like using manual medicine, non-narcotic medicines and injections, and emotional counseling, where appropriate.

Q: Do you ever find true, physical causes for pain that other doctors miss, or do you focus on the emotional and spiritual issues first?

A: I almost NEVER talk to patients about emotional or spiritual issues right away. My particular area of gifting...and advanced medical training... is to find the physical pain-causing diagnoses that may have been missed by other clinicians. I'm talking about true, physical pain generators like "trigger points" (knots in the muscles) and alignment/soft-tissue injuries that physical therapists call "mechanical dysfunction" and osteopathic specialists call "somatic dysfunction." In regard to the emotional and spiritual issues...yes...absolutely....they can make pain worse and aggravate the underlying PHYSICAL pain problem. Sometimes, talking about these issues just flows naturally out of the doctor-patient relationship  as I begin to help the patients’ PHYSICAL pain. Patients just open up when they see they can trust me and that I believe them. 

Q: What do you think about treating physical problems through emotional and spiritual intervention?

A: I think it can be an excellent part of the overall program. It might even be the most helpful part of the program, depending on the individual. But it’s not the whole program. Step one is always to make sure your patient doesn’t have a serious medical condition. Step two is to deliver bona fide medical treatment, whether that means diagnostic testing, medicine, shots, or surgery. And (the most important) step three is to NEVER, EVER push your faith on a patient. Either wait for the patient to bring it up, or toss in questions like, "Do you have a faith-base that offers you support?" to see if the patient even wants to "go there." 

Q: What kind of pains and illnesses would you call “stress-induced”?

A: My gosh….the list includes (are you sitting down?) fibromyalgia, migraine headaches, temporomandibular joint pain, neck pain, shoulder blade pain, back pain, knots in the muscles (aka myofascial pain syndrome), irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, food intolerances, interstitial cystitis, menstrual irregularities, unwanted weight gain or weight loss, hair loss, shingles outbreaks, hives, other rashes, difficulty concentrating, emotional disorders, panic attacks, stress-induced allergic reactions, etc. etc. etc. Nearly anyone who experiences any of these conditions could potentially benefit from hearing what I have to say.

Q: When did you first make the connection between physical wellness and spiritual wellness?

A: It wasn’t until a few years into my practice. It took experience! When I was a younger doctor, if I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with a patient, I assumed the problem was on my end. “If only I knew more, maybe I’d be able to figure out the problem.” But, as the years went by, I realized that the perception of pain is MUCH more complex than meets the eye. In many cases, patients harbor emotional and/or spiritual issues like anger, unforgiveness, guilt, shame, anxiety, and depression that make their physical pains feel worse. For example, people who are tense hunch their shoulders upward, practically next to their ears, putting extra tension on their neck and middle back muscles. What makes them tense? Sometimes, it’s because, deep-down, they believe lies about themselves, like “I’m bad,” “It’s my fault,” “I’m dirty,” or “I’m bad just like my bad parents.” So….voila! Your beliefs and feelings of anxiety, guilt, etc., translate into PHYSICAL pain-producing postures and tension. Add these emotions to true, past physical injuries, and, in many cases, you get intractable chronic pain.

Q: Tell us about your first book.

A: My first book is called The Eden Diet, and it’s about how to lose weight by eating when you’re physically (not emotionally) hungry. It’s also about turning to God instead of food when you get in those emotional moods. I know about this subject first-hand because I grew up morbidly obese but then lost 75 pounds and have kept it off almost 30 years. I also studied nutrition and obesity psychology at Cornell University. Readers can find out more about my diet program via www.TheEdenDiet.com. If they want a free report that helps them break free from emotional eating, all they have to do is click on the blinking “break free” button at the bottom right of the website’s home page. They should get the free report within a day or two via email. I also published a workbook to go with The Eden Diet. It’s called The Eden Diet Workbook and is available widely.


Q: What are the most important messages you would like for the readers of your books to grasp?

A: If you’ve been to a bazillion doctors and nobody can figure out why you hurt or why you keep suffering with chronic illness, read my book, Radical Well-being: A Biblical Guide to Overcoming Pain, Illness, and Addictions . My prayer is that I can at least help you cut your symptoms in half (or better). And if you want to lose weight without all the impossible-to-stick-to rules and regulations that come with traditional dieting, pick up my books, The Eden Diet and The Eden Diet Workbook.

Q: How can readers learn more about you, or read your blog writing?

A: You can find out more about my material via these links:
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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Interview With Brain Researcher Dr. Andrew Newberg


(This is a re-run of an interview that was published in one of this year's editions of Dr. Rita's Christian Health and Weight Loss Newsletter)

Guest Bio:
Dr. Andrew Newberg is Director of Research at the Myrna Brind Center for Integrative Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and Medical College. He is also Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Board-certified in Internal Medicine and Nuclear Medicine. He is considered a pioneer in the neuroscientific study of religious and spiritual experiences, a field frequently referred to as - neurotheology. 


Dr. Newberg has published over 150 research articles, essays and book chapters, and is the co-author of multiple books, and has presented his research throughout the world in both scientific and public forums. He appeared on Nightline, 20/20, Good Morning America, ABC's World News Tonight, National Public Radio, London Talk Radio and over fifteen nationally syndicated radio programs. His work has been featured in Time, Newsweek, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and many other newspapers and magazines. 

Dr. Rita:
Dr. Newberg, one of the main messages I got from your book, How God Changes Your Brain was, "No matter what religion you are, be careful what you think about because your thoughts will change your brain." Did I get it right that your thoughts literally change your brain? 

Dr. Newberg:
Yes, it is really a two way street. Your brain changes your thoughts and your thoughts change your brain. The more you focus on a particular belief or belief system, the stronger those connections become. If you focus on God being loving and compassionate, you increase the amount of love and compassion in your brain, and your outward behaviors. If you focus on God being vengeful and hateful, you increase the amount of hate and anger in your brain, and your outward behaviors. As the saying goes, neurons that fire together wire together, and this is true no matter what our beliefs are. The more we focus on something, the more it becomes a part of how our brain functions.

Dr. Rita:
The Bible says, "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love" (1 John 4:18). Can you tell us about the research on how fearful thoughts vs. loving thoughts affect the brain and the body in general?

Dr. Newberg:
Love generally activates the positive emotional and social areas of the brain (i.e. the precuneus and frontal lobe). The primary area involved in fear is the amygdala. This area lights up in our brain when we are afraid. Other areas of the brain such as the frontal lobe helps to regulate the fear response. So your quote is probably fairly accurate as far as the brain goes. When we focus on love, the activity in the frontal lobe actually can suppress the fear responses in the amygdala. So the more we focus on love and compassion, the less fear we will feel.

Dr. Rita:
In your book, you talk about the potential health benefits of meditation and you aim at all religions. Since my work is geared specifically to Christians, can you please discuss the difference between meditation and prayer and talk about whether your results are relevant to Christian prayer?

Dr. Newberg:
There is certainly a fair amount of overlap between meditation and certain types of prayer. We studied nuns doing Centering prayer which, as you know, is a more contemplative practice. These types of prayer practices certainly should affect the brain in similar ways as other types of meditative/contemplative practices. For example, in centering prayer, we saw increased activity in the frontal lobes and decreased activity in the parietal lobes (this is believed to be associated with the sense of self and decreased activity is associated with losing that sense of self and feeling connected to the universe or God. Other types of Christian practices affect the brain slightly differently. We performed a study on the rosary and showed that it reduced anxiety significantly. The combination of its meaning and the ritualized elements, probably suppress the activity in the amygdala (as above) and reduce anxiety and fear in people. Other practices such as conversational prayer activate social areas of the brain and, when combined with feelings of love and compassion, likely reduce stress and anxiety, as well as spill over to enhancing a person's social interactions.

Dr. Rita:
In your book, you talked about habits that can actually prevent brain atrophy with aging and illness. Many of your suggestions (listening to soothing music, repeating meaningful phrases out loud, moving the body, and meditating on positive, loving thoughts) remind me of elements of church services! Thus, would you say that attending a positive and healthy church might be good for the PHYSICAL body? Does research support that? 

Dr. Newberg:
Absolutely, it can be good. The more you activate the positive emotions, derive meaning and optimism, access social support, and engage the brain in music, movement, and contemplation, the better it is for your whole body and brain. Lower levels of stress and anxiety lower the amount of the stress hormone cortisol. Since cortisol suppresses the immune system, lower levels help improve the immune system's function, and reduce blood pressure and heart rate, all of which can be beneficial. But as you alluded to, if the person is hearing about fear, anger, and guilt, they may not experience the same types of healthful benefits.

Dr. Rita:
How do a person's past experiences with God affect his or her current perception of Him? And are those perceptions permanent or changeable? 

Dr. Newberg:
Everything that has ever happened to us affects us and our brain. If we have traditionally felt that 
God was supportive and loving, then those neuronal connections will affect our future thoughts and behaviors. Similarly with the negative side. However, all of our beliefs are changeable, although it is difficult and usually requires a conscious effort, other than those individuals who have specific transformative experiences. But if a person continues to pursue a more positive experience with God, they are more likely to alter their brain function in a way that supports that positive way of thinking.

Dr. Rita:
Please talk about how fast your brain can change and what it takes to keep up those positive changes. 

Dr. Newberg:
On one hand, the brain is constantly changing. On the other hand, it probably takes some time to change the overall way in which the brain works. But it probably is not as long as you think. Our studies of people doing meditation showed that after only eight weeks, a 12 minute a day practice changed the brain pretty significantly. But the more you keep working on that change, probably the more change you will see. It is like a muscle, the more you work out, the bigger it becomes. In fact, brain scan studies have shown that the brains of long term meditators literally are thicker than those who do not practice. We showed similar changes in terms of overall brain activity being higher in spiritual individuals who have done meditation or prayer for many years. But it is also true that you have to use it or lose it. If you stop focusing on a particular idea, the brain will lose that connection over time. That is good if the connection supports a destructive belief, but can be bad if the connection supports a positive belief.

Dr. Rita:
Please tell readers how to find out more about you and your work on how prayer affects the brain in positive ways. Include links! 

Dr. Newberg:
I would recommend my books: How God Changes Your Brain, Why We Believe What We Believe,and Why God Won't Go Away. Your readership might also be interested in my more theologically oriented book: Principles of Neurotheology. Also, I have several audio and video programs now available, including: The Spiritual Brain http://www.thegreatcourses.com/tgc/courses/course_detail.aspx?cid=1682 ),

Spiritual Practices for a Powerful Brainhttp://www.nightingale.com/prod_detail.aspx?product=Spiritual-Practices ), and my website is www.andrewnewberg.com.

Dr. Rita: 
Thank you Dr. Newberg for taking time out from your valuable research time to join us! 

Dr. Newberg: 
My pleasure! 


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Interview With Health Enthusiast and Chiropractor, Dr. Daisy Sutherland


Guest Bio:
Meet health and wellness enthusiast and host of the popular Website "Dr. Mommy And Friends" at www.DrMommyOnline.com., Dr. Daisy Sutherland. Dr. Sutherland is a Doctor of Chiropractic, Author, Speaker, wife and mom to 5 children.

Welcome, Dr. Sutherland. I understand that, online, on your popular website, you're known as Dr.Mommy, so I'll call you that, here. Let me start by saying how much I love your balanced approach to wellness in all aspects, including weight control.

Dr. Mommy: 
Thanks. I'm honored and happy to join you.

Dr. Rita:
Dr. Mommy, one word really jumped out at me in the emails we shared before this interview. The word was "identity." As a Christian, I believe it's imperative that we find out who Christ says we are rather than who the world says we are. Can you please tell us why it's important to know our true identity in order to experience optimal physical health? 

Dr. Mommy:
In order for all of us to experience optimal physical health we must first be aware of ourselves, our identities so to speak. Each and every one of us is created uniquely and for that reason can not be placed into a 'box' when it comes to health and wellness. What may work for one person will possibly not work for another. Once you identify your strengths and weaknesses you can obtain optimal health and live a happier and healthier lifestyle.

Dr. Rita:
What do you think of the idea that believing lies about our identities impacts our health and wellness behaviors? 

Dr. Mommy: 
I believe it's true. In terms of weight control, one of the biggest lies that will affect weight control is the belief that you simply can't obtain success. That one lie can truly keep you from moving forward in anything in life and most importantly obtaining optimal health. Another big lie is that one where you must limit certain foods from your diet. Once you begin to place limitations such as no sweets, no carbs, no fats, etc, you are depriving yourself and your body. That will lead to obsession which will then lead to failure. Instead consider treating yourself on occasion, not placing unrealistic limitations on yourself.

Dr. Rita: 
How about telling us the story of a specific person you have treated (like a patient or someone who contacted you on your Website)? What lies did he or she believe and what truth helped him or her lose weight?

Dr. Mommy:
I've had the honor to help many women with their health goals. One of the biggest challenges they have are physical activity. First off, the word 'exercise' leaves a bad taste in everyone's mouth for some reason so I like using the word 'activity' instead. 
  
One patient in particular thought that 'exercise' meant running. Now, there is nothing wrong with running, however, this patient took running to an extreme and decided she was going to train to run a marathon. This patient is in her 50's and has never run a marathon much less run short distances. She was in a lot of pain and was very discouraged. My recommendation to her was to first and foremost, let go of the thought of running a marathon. She was hesitant because she had told her family and friends and didn't want to let them down. Wow! She was afraid of letting 'them' down! After much counseling it was decided that she was going to begin her 'activity' schedule with walking and work her way up to a light jog. She let go of her unrealistic goals of running a marathon and is much happier and I am happy to report she has lost weight too.

Dr. Rita:
That's a great story. Perfectionism can be our enemy, and so can false fears and insecurities (like the fear of disappointing others). Since we're now talking about emotions, tell us more about how emotions relate to our perception of our identity, and how do they translate into health behaviors?

Dr. Mommy: 
Emotions play a huge role in health. If you are unhappy with your appearance it will be evident in your attitude, how you dress and how you interact with others. It's very difficult to switch your emotion when you are truly unhappy with not only how you look but what you have become. Once you are able to identify the true beauty that lies within each and every one of you and that you created by and for greatness a true transformation will occur. It all begins with you and loving yourself, which for many is very difficult.

Dr. Rita: 
I love the way you think! Now, if you don't mind me shifting gears, in case people want to learn more about your books, can you give me a brief description of each of your books? Don't forget to tell us about your brand new book that's coming out this month!

Dr. Mommy:
My very first book, Dr. Mommy's Life Lessons, is a book that I wrote to share the many lessons I have learned from my children. Having a family truly changes your thinking and how you approach certain situations. In this book I share my faith, family stories as well as health tips. You can find it in my website's online store, as well as on amazon.com

My second book is a health journal called: The Road to a Healthier Lifestyle in 52 Weeks. This journal contains tips that are often neglected but if followed will help you live a happier and healthier lifestyle. It can also be found on my online store or on Amazon.com

My third book is Letting Go of Super Mom ~ Dr. Mommy's 'Get Real' Approach to a Balance Life. This book contains tons of tips such as parenting and relationship tools, time management and organization tips as well has how to handle stress and more. This book will be available on Amazon.com as well as your local book stores.


Dr. Rita: 
Thanks so much for your excellent insight and resources, Dr. Mommy! And Congratulations on the release of your latest book. I'm sure it will be a great success.