Ancient Wisdom. Modern Science.
Dr. Julie Rowin, M.D.is a board-certified integrative neurologist who uses a holistic approach to treating chronic neurological and medical conditions.
Her approach includes a combination of functional medicine, Western medicine, nutrition, acupuncture, supplements and herbs, and mind-body medicine.
Dr. Rowin partners with you to utilize the most natural and gentle path towards healing. This approach is unique and effective as it focuses on treating the patient and not simply the disease.
To treat disease,
we must understand
Functional medicine chooses to seek out and treat disease at the root cause level. Root causes of disease include: diet and food sensitivities, toxic exposures, infections, stress and gut health. Testing in functional medicine searches for imbalances in the body that can be corrected by supporting the body’s natural healing abilities.
Research shows that when it comes to chronic disease, we are not wholly defined by our genetics. A new term, "epigenetics", describes how our diet, lifestyle and exposures cause genetic modifications, which lead to health or disease. Functional Medicine operates through optimizing diet, identifying triggers, promoting lifestyle changes, enhancing detoxification pathways and healing infections.
Gut Brain Connection
The digestive system is intimately connected to the nervous system, the immune system, as well as the endocrine system, which regulates hormone balance. Ancient medical practices knew something that
modern science is just beginning to understand. And that is that disease, including neurological disease, often starts in the gut.
Inside our gut we house trillions of bacteria, viruses and fungi which together are known as the gut microbiome. The composition and health of the gut microbiome is a major contributor to our body’s health. The bacteria produce chemicals and messengers that interact with our body’s immune system, hormones and brain. This is why mood is intimately connected to how we treat our bodies. The lives of the bacteria are dependent on the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the quality of our sleep and exercise. They are the mediator between our environment and our health. Literally every choice we make influences the lives of the trillions of microbes that live in our gut, and these microbes in turn can regulate our gene expression, alter our immune system, and send signals to our brain.
And, because only a single layer of cells separates the contents in your intestine from the immune system, disruption of the gut lining (also called “leaky gut”) can have a direct effect on health and immunity. Environmental triggers such as gastrointestinal infections, medications, antibiotics, and diet can directly influence the gut lining and alter health. Supporting the health of the gut with prebiotic foods, which are foods rich in fiber, and probiotics, which contain live bacteria, have been shown to be protective in animal models of neurological disease.
Everything we eat alters our body chemistry and our genetic expression. Food directly signals to our gut microbiome, which in turn, signals our brain and nervous system. There is no way around the fact that the food we eat is an integral determinant of our health. This is true not only with regard to calories and weight, but more importantly for the quality of foods that we eat.
Clear recommendations come from the US Department of Agriculture, the US Department of Health and Human Services, and the National Cancer Institute supporting a high daily intake of fruits and vegetables to prevent many chronic diseases. For a variety of reasons, the majority of Americans do not meet these basic nutritional recommendations, and therefore, we are becoming a sick nation. Functional nutrition re-focuses health on to foods to support an anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective environment utilizing whole foods with a high nutrient density, low glycemic-load, protective anti-oxidants, high-quality dietary fats which are void of chemical additives, herbicides, pesticides and processing. A variety of nutritional plans are designed to treat individual health related conditions and meet individual health related goals.
Acupuncture has been practiced in the East for thousands of years. The techniques and theories of acupuncture have been modernized and popularized in the West only recently. Traditionally, acupuncture is said to unblock ‘Chi’, the Chinese name given for ‘life force energy’. A very fine needle is inserted under the skin at various acupuncture “points,” depending on the condition being treated. Although the acupuncture points have remained the same for millennia, the theories behind why acupuncture is effective for neurological conditions are continually evolving.
Dr. Rowin works with several modern adaptations of traditional acupuncture techniques for the treatment of
1. Neuroanatomical acupuncture
2. Chinese scalp acupuncture
Neuroanatomical Acupuncture and Electroacupuncture
In this form of acupuncture, acupuncture needles are inserted in points that are along the pathways of the nerves and muscles that are affected by disease, sometimes in conjunction with gentle electrical stimulation that travels down the involved nerves. This type of acupuncture is particularly useful in conditions such as neuropathy, radiculopathy, carpal tunnel syndrome, and neck and back pain. As our knowledge of why acupuncture is effective for these conditions expands, we are beginning to understand that acupuncture has direct effects on brain plasticity. There is also continued research exploring acupuncture’s effects on the nerves directly underlying the acupuncture needles.
Chinese Scalp Acupuncture (CSA)
Chinese Scalp Acupuncture (CSA) integrates the essence of ancient Chinese acupuncture techniques and theory with the modern understanding of neurology and neuroanatomy, according to Western Medicine. CSA is well-suited to treating neurological conditions such as Stroke, Parkinson’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, pain syndromes, dizziness and vertigo.InCSA, acupuncture needles are placed overlaying the anatomical areas of the brain to be influenced. The theory behind CSA is taken from traditional Chinese acupuncture theory stating that there is a system of energy channels and networks on the head that reflect symptoms and signals in the brain and body, and that acupuncture needle sensations on the scalp regulate conditions of deficiency or excess in the central nervous system.CSA has effectively treated problems of the central nervous system for which Western medicine has little to offer.
Auriculotherapy is a therapeutic intervention that utilizes stimulation of the external ear to alleviate pain and health conditions in the rest of the body. While originally based upon ancient Chinese practice of acupuncture, the modern understanding of the anatomical correlations of specific parts of the body to specific parts of the ear was first developed in modern France. Auriculotherapy has specific applications in post-traumatic stress disorder, addiction disorder, and pain syndromes.
You may have heard of the gut-brain connection, but are you familiar with the muscle-brain connection? Some health benefits of exercise, such as improved muscle mass, reduced body fat, and improved energy are well-appreciated. Exercise has body-wide anti-inflammatory effects that can reduce the risk of disease and improve longevity.
Lesser known, however, is that muscle directly communicates with the brain and nervous system. Exercise actually makes your brain bigger. This is accomplished by the chemicals and messengers, such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), that are released every time we exercise. These chemicals and messengers then alter genetic expression in the brain. And, as it turns out, exercise improves a wide-range of brain functions including learning, memory, mood and sleep. Even though there is more science to be learned about how the muscle-brain connection works, physical exercise is one of the most effective known strategies to reduce depression, prevent cognitive decline, and neurodegenerative disease. It is the closest thing we have to the fountain of youth and not to be underestimated as a powerful tool in neuroprotection.
Conversely, leading a sedentary lifestyle is detrimental to health and cognitive function. The body wide inflammation that results from not exercising is a contributor to neurodegeneration, cognitive decline, vascular disease, diabetes, and muscle loss. And, there is a strong association between the loss of muscle and loss of cognitive function.
The conclusion is clear. Regular aerobic and resistance training exercise is crucial for neurological health.
My recommendation is to just do it... find motivation by joining a class or working out with a friend who will hold you accountable, and tracking your progress can be fun. If you are able, hire a personal trainer or a physical therapist to take it safely to the next level.
Modern science is catching up to the ancient wisdom of mindfulness and movement-based practices such as Meditation, Yoga, Breathing, Tai Chi and Qigong. These ancient techniques have plentiful scientific evidence backing beneficial effects as far reaching as improved psychological health, immune function, hormone balance and cognitive function. Stress elevates cortisol, our main stress related hormone. Sustained elevations in cortisol promote inflammation, weight gain, and sleep problems. Anxiety and depression have been associated with multiple diseases including diabetes, dementia and pain syndromes including migraine headaches. Mindfulness-based practices help to regulate cortisol levels, reducing the levels when we need to rest, sleep and digest and elevating the levels when we need to wake up, exercise, and cope with stressful situations.
In our modern society, however, an issue arises when our cortisol increases during stress and then stays elevated, not returning to the low restful levels we need for recovery. With sustained elevated cortisol, insomnia ensues, followed by caffeine intake (leading to further elevated cortisol) and overtime, a cycle of insomnia wears us down causing fatigue, burnout, immune dysfunction and disease.
The ancients knew that it is preferable to alternate activity with rest. This is as natural a rhythm for the body’s physiology as it is for the cycles of day and night. After all, we evolved with these cycles. My suggestion is to have a daily mindfulness-based practice of your choosing.It can be as simple as 10 minutes of meditation in the morning and a few minutes of gratitude in the evening. This is one of the best neuroprotective interventions, plus the side-effects of daily meditation...improved attention, mood, sleep, memory, relationships, job satisfaction...are worth the effort.
I tell my patients that if you are going to choose one thing to do,
then everything else will fall into place.
But there is nothing new here, this is ancient wisdom.
Community and Connectedness
In fact, lack of social connection increases your risk for disease as much as obesity does, maybe more so! Some have argued that loneliness is a biologically driven motivating factor to seek out relationship, much in the same way that thirst is a motivating factor to seek out water. Connectedness is fundamental to well-being. We are supposed to exist in community. It appears to be biologically hard-wired and it clearly relates to health and survival.