article by Jed Schlackman
The University of Miami’s 4th annual Integrative Medicine Symposium kicked off Friday April 8th with opening remarks from medical school dean Pascal Goldschmidt, M.D. Goldschmidt highlighted the increasing recognition of integrative and holistic medicine with a description of a study with rats in which rats that were genetically modified to experience rapid aging were able to reverse the effect of the implanted genes by engaging in regular exercise. After acknowledging individuals such as director Janet Konefal, Ph.D., who helped make the event come about, Goldschmidt encouraged attendees to proceed to the day’s presentations from leaders in the integrative medicine field.
In addition to the many educational lectures, those in attendance were treated to demonstrations of diagnostic and healing methods, products, and healthy food samples from South Florida sponsors such as La Vie en Raw cafe andHippocrates Health Institute. This event continued Saturday with more in-depth workshops from acclaimed doctors such as functional medicine proponent Mark Hyman, M.D., best-selling author of The UltraMind Solution and other books.
This inquisitive Examiner joined a variety of doctors and health care practitioner along with UM medical students in hearing from expert clinicians and researchers about powerful healing methods often neglected by mainstream medicine. Chiropractor Wally Schmitt amazed the audience by facilitating instant pain relief in a medical student by having her expose her taste buds to a manganese tablet. Schmitt described the role of nutrients in the nervous system and also explained how the connections between different areas of the body and the brain can produce psychological symptoms triggered by disturbances in the body.
Researcher Tiffany Field, Ph.D., director of the University of Miami’s Touch Research Institute, shared data from many studies that have shown physical and mental health benefits for infants and mothers receiving moderate pressure massage. Studies also demonstrated benefits for children and adolescents with issues such as ADHD and autism. Despite these consistent findings of beneficial effects Dr. Field noted that the health care system has not often implemented massage therapy as a resource to assist these populations. One great thing about this therapy is that these massage methods can be applied by anyone given basic instruction – thus, mothers can learn to massage their babies and have a cost-free therapy that is proven to help babies thrive and have optimal cognitive development.
Natalie Geary, M.D. described integrative pediatric care issues such as nutrition and food allergies and intolerances. She reported that providing just one healthy meal a day to school children has yielded significant improvements in health status and school performance. Dr. Geary also noted that foods which often need to be cut from kids’ diets include wheat and dairy, which can be difficult for many families since so much of the standard diet in our culture includes processed wheat and dairy foods.
Dr. Neil Riordan discussed research on stem cells and their role in health and longevity. He focused on how lifestyle factors can either enhance or decrease stem cell levels. Cigarette smoking and other unhealthy behaviors diminish stem cells more rapidly than normal aging does. Antioxidants, hyperbaric oxygen, and living at high altitudes can all help increase stem cell levels according to Dr. Riordan.
Research director John Lewis, Ph.D. shared about recent research carried out by UM’s Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine, including research on glyconutrients. Dr. Lewis’ report was complemented by a discussion of health promotion by Reginald McDaniel, M.D., a longtime researcher of glyconutrients and their role in health. Glyconutrients include sugars found in aloe vera leaves, sugars that are important for cellular communication. Dr. McDaniel quoted Hippocrates, who said “let your food be your medicine,” as he encouraged the audience to consume organic, locally grown foods for optimal nutritional content.
One of the most intriguing presentations Friday was by Eugene Ahn, M.D., an oncologist who spoke about the vital role of consciousness in healing. Dr. Ahn began by outlining the standard mechanistic medical paradigm and then the “new” paradigm in which consciousness is primary, not a by-product of biochemical processes. He discussed the placebo and nocebo effect, describing how anything we do or are treated with is filtered by our subconscious mind. Thus, in this model, personal and cultural beliefs and attitudes and spiritual concerns are important elements to consider with any plan of treatment. Further examples of the role and nature of consciousness included near-death experiences, past-life recall, and distance healing and non-local effects in physics. Authors such as Brian Greene, Dean Radin, and Lynne McTaggart were mentioned as references to learn more about this evidence. Dr. Ahn suggested that working with a model that encompasses physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual levels of our experience is one that will let us be of greater service to patients. Examples provided of addressing these deeper levels included prayer, meditation, hypnosis, yoga, reiki, and a therapy called Evolutionary Healing, which has been developed by South Miami chiropractor Paul Canali.