What Might be Causing Your Dizziness

dizzyDizziness is one of those symptoms that are so common that the underlying explanations are vast. The key to figuring it out — other than seeing a doctor — is understanding the symptoms. If you are dizzy and nothing else, it is likely a minor, temporary problem. Continue reading

Sweat Lodges, Steam Rooms Aren’t for Detox

BLOOMINGTON – The Web is filled with products and practices that promise to “detoxify” the body through various means, from extreme diets to spa treatments to sweating.

Though some may be relatively harmless, the desire to detox was brought to a tragic conclusion last fall when three participants died and several were made seriously ill during a pricey sweat lodge ceremony in Arizona. Self-help guru James Arthur Ray was arrested Feb. 3 and charged with three counts of manslaughter in the deaths.

Doctors say the notion that you can — or should — undertake special efforts to cleanse the body of impurities is not only not necessary but potentially dangerous. The body has evolved through time to detoxify itself through its own processes, said Dr. Rachel Vreeman, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine and co-author of Don’t Swallow Your Gum! Myths, Half-Truths and Outright Lies About Your Body and Health.

When it comes to removing toxins from the body, several organs are designed to do just that.

    * The liver plays a major role in breaking down and filtering substances from the bloodstream that the body can’t use.

    * The kidneys remove substances such as urea, a byproduct of protein metabolism.

    * The gastrointestinal tract, including the colon, is also designed to get rid of what the body cannot use and to keep what it needs.

“There are myths that toxins clog up or get stuck in these organs,” Vreeman said. “That is just not true.”

And without a doubt, she said, sweating definitely would not be the way to go about it.

The primary reason we sweat is to regulate the body temperature. When moisture produced by the sweat glands evaporates, it cools the body.

Though the main component of sweat is water, sweat does contain small amounts of dissolved minerals and trace elements, including sodium, lactate, urea, potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, nickel, iron, chromium — none of which are considered toxic, Vreeman said.

When you sweat, the major thing you lose is water — something your body can’t survive long without.

“The term ‘detoxify’ is used so often that it makes people think that special steps need to be taken so ‘detoxifying’ happens,” Vreeman said. “It leads to people not trusting their bodies. Your body, however, does not need special cleansing efforts. What it does need is for you to get enough fluids and to eat a healthy, balanced diet.”

That’s not to say sweating, or spending time in a sauna, has been proven to have no health benefits.

Some studies have indicated that saunas lower blood pressure, enhance blood flow and improve cardiac functioning in people with congestive heart failure or other cardiovascular disease, Vreeman said. One study found weak evidence that saunas could help with chronic pain, and another showed minor benefits for some with chronic fatigue syndrome. There have been almost no studies done specifically on steam rooms or sweat lodges.

Western medicine has largely ignored sweat lodges, but they continue to play a significant role in Native American culture, said David Delgado Shorter, an associate professor of world arts and cultures at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“Sweats” have been used for many centuries to purify the mind and body among tribes throughout the Americas, Shorter said. Women in Mayan and Aztec culture, for example, used them as a fertility ritual, and men among the Plains tribes used sweats in preparation for hunts, among other reasons.

“The combination of the physical, emotional, psychological and religious is something many tribes find incredibly important and have fought for their right to do that,” Shorter said.

During earlier times, when colonial settlers and government agents were sometimes violently suppressing Native American religion and culture, tribes fought to hold on to the tradition, for both spiritual and practical reasons. Sweat lodges offered a private place to sing, pray and gather.

That’s why many in the Native American community take offense to non-Native Americans co-opting and charging for participation in sweat lodges, Shorter said.

Anyone thinking of participating in a sweat lodge ceremony or something approximating it should exercise caution, experts say. In harsh environments, hot or cold, the body will work hard to balance how much heat it makes and how much it loses. But if you are in conditions that are too hot for too long, the body may not be able to cool you off sufficiently.

In Arizona, in addition to those who died, 18 people were hospitalized with burns, dehydration, respiratory arrest or kidney failure, according to published reports. Participants, who had paid $9,695 for the “Spiritual Warrior” retreat, said that some people were vomiting, lethargic and collapsing after an hour into the session.

“These are all signs of heat illness and are warnings that your body cannot keep itself cool,” Vreeman said. “Vomiting, thirst, dizziness, being uncoordinated or clumsy are all signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Heat illness can kill you and should be treated as an emergency.”

Someone who becomes overheated should get to a cool place, drink fluids and seek medical care, Vreeman said. People with heart conditions should always talk to their doctor before trying a sweat lodge or sauna.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more on heat illness.

Home Remedies Series – Vertigo

Causes of Vertigo

Vertigo is usually a result of disorder in the vestibular system. The vestibular system comprises of the inner ear, the vestibular nerve, the brainstem, and cerebellum. It coordinates sensory stimuli and movement while providing the brain with a visual focus of the surroundings as the body is in movement. When this information is garbled or disrupted, it results in vertigo. Conditions that lead to the onset of vertigo include:

Benign Positional Vertigo (BPV) is an inner ear condition and one of the most common causes of vertigo. It leads to short spells of dizziness which are a result of sudden and jerky head movements.

Meniere’s disease is a disorder of the inner ear that has a negative impact on balance. It could be a result of a spreading middle ear infection, head trauma or syphilis. Episodes may include ringing ears and poor balance and coordination.

Labyrinthitis occurs when there is swelling in the inner ear. It leads to severe episodes of vertigo, which are usually accompanied by ringing ears, nausea, poor hearing, and other symptoms. In some such cases the episodes can last for up to a week.

Vertigo could be a symptom of multiple sclerosis or a result of head/neck trauma.

Home Remedies for Vertigo

There are a number of simple vertigo home remedies out there. They are known to limit discomfort and as a result ease symptoms.

Soak a spoon of gooseberry powder and a spoon of coriander seeds in a cup of water and leave overnight. The next morning strain the solution, add some sugar and drink.

In a glass of water add some black pepper, lemon juice and salt. Drinking this solution eases dizziness.

Diet for Vertigo

Individuals experiencing vertigo can make slight changes in their diet plan to help ease the symptoms. This includes limiting intake of foods groups like caffeine, alcohol, and processed foods. Also drink lots of water as dehydration can set off a spell of dizziness.

Other Suggestions for Vertigo

Balance exercises help deal with vertigo. When you feel dizzy, a simple exercise that will help the spell pass is to sit still and focus in an invisible point across the room. Limit sudden movements like jerking out of bed, instead get off it slowly and steadily, allowing your brain to process the movement. Breathing exercises and alternative therapies like yoga also help deal with vertigo.