Are You Laughing Enough?

Probably not. The major cause of this jaw dysfunction, as my jaw TMJ/TMD practice has experienced, is STRESS. We are living in very stressful times. The economy is slowly recovering and family life has been disrupted by both parents having to work to make ends meet. To make matters worse, kids with time intensive extracurricular activities like sports, cause family sit down dinners to be a rare occurrence. When can we reduce stress and finally enjoy life?

To communicate and to laugh together? In order to recognize unconstructive habits or lifestyle changes that can help, it’s important to understand the mechanisms by which stress affects the body and what can be done about it.

Controlling our bodily functions, without our knowledge, is the Autonomic Nervous System. This system is made up of two opposite systems: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous systems. As the Autonomic Nervous system receives stimuli from the external environment it automatically responds by activating a body process using the sympathetic system, or inhibiting responses using the parasympathetic system. Many of us are aware of the “fight or flight” reaction that the sympathetic system prepares as a response to stress or an emergency situation, including clenching and grinding of teeth.

The parasympathetic system controls the bodily processes during ordinary life, including the speeding up and slowing down of heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and simulating proper digestion—all of which allow us to restore and build tissues, heal, and reproduce.

What most of us also know, but lose sight of, is what we can do to have some measure of control over these functions. When possible, we must take a break from the “Rat Race”. Understanding that our digestion cannot take place properly with stress dominating our minds, on every possible occasion we must take time to sit down, relax, eat nutritiously and find something to laugh about. Choose another time for business. Sitting down to eat dinner with the whole family is invaluable. Turn off the TV and get to know each other. I was blessed with a wife that could make a room full of people laugh and, as I look back, I can’t think of a dinner without laughter. True laughter stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which takes away many of the effects of stress and allows proper digestion to occur. It is also hard to clench or grind teeth while laughing.

Some might wonder why I got off on this tangent when my goal is to deal with TMJ/TMD problems. I regularly get my patients pain free quite quickly, but, to make it a lasting change, dietary and lifestyle changes are sometimes required. At my practice the goal is to help our patients understand the cause of the problem that brought them to me and, hopefully, guide them in the elimination of that cause.

The opposite of stress is thought by most to be relaxation. I would like to propose that the opposite of stress is happiness. Not the “happiness” of a new car or a promotion, etc., but the happiness that comes from internal serenity. That kind of happiness is “Rat Race” free and truly free as well. Some time ago I came upon a book by Matthieu Ricard entitled Happiness. This book explains why we have the emotions we enjoy or suffer from, what causes them and their underlying purpose. If you are ready to find real happiness and enjoyment in your life, this is a must read.



Healthy Gut = Smart Brain: Is Your Gut Holding Your Brain Hostage?

Is your gut health preventing your brain from functioning at its best? That is the question many scientists are trying to answer today. A while back, in the April issue of Alive, I wrote an article discussing the “The Second Brain” in the gut. The article talked about the enormous number of nerve cells that control the GI tract and how those nerve cells interact with the brain. In this article, we’ll focus on how an unhealthy gut can result in unhealthy brain function.

Most people are comfortable with the concept of our brain and emotional stress affecting the function of our stomachs and intestines, i.e. “nervous stomach,” nausea or diarrhea. The concept of gut function affecting the brain is less known. For many, many years it was thought that the brain completely controlled the gut, and almost every malady has been blamed on our over stressed brain. I agree that stress is a big factor when dealing with many issues including fatigue, hormonal imbalance, and premature aging but much of the time the stress we feel is actually caused or at least increased by inflammation, poor gut function and bacteria imbalance.

Recently there has been a great deal of scientific work outlining the relationship between the brain and our guts. As an example, neurologist David Perlmutter, M.D, wrote a recent book called Grain-Brain, where he discusses in detail how eating gluten (wheat and grain foods) leads to generalized inflammation in the brain by damaging the gut. This damage causes protein leakage through the gut wall, leading to a severe immune reaction. This “supercharging” of the inflammatory response causes brain degeneration, which could lead to Alzheimer’s Disease.

We now know that problems in the gut directly impact our body, especially the brain, causing depression, anxiety, memory loss, and sleeping problems. Because our central nervous system is made of exactly the same cells as our gut nervous system (enteric nervous system) they can and do communicate in an important way. In fact, the two are connected by a large nerve—the Vagus nerve—that takes all the information on motility, inflammation, and permeability from the gut and sends that to the brain. As a matter of fact, it turns out that 90% of the information in the Vagus nerve goes to the brain, not the other way around.

Recent research on probiotics has confirmed this pattern. In 2011 the Journal of Neurogastroenterology reported that the bacteria in our guts, known as Bifidobacterium (“good” bacteria), will normalize anxiety in rats with colitis. In a separate study, a probiotic, Lactobacillus rhamnosus decreased depression and anxiety by increasing GABA, a neurotransmitter that calms the brain.

Research has also shown that fish oil (DHA and EPA) can control the bad bacteria in our gut, decreasing inflammation and improving symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). That’s important not only because of gut discomfort, but they have also found that people suffering with irritable bowel have a lower verbal IQ. Those bad bacteria in IBS patients also inhibit the normal and healthy production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin. Surprisingly, 95% of the body’s serotonin is in the gut. In fact, research psychiatrists can diagnose major depression, pain syndromes, anxiety, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome by testing for toxins produced by pathogenic bad bacteria in the gut.

The clear message here is that we must do everything we can to maintain our gut health in order to have healthy brain function. Things like antibiotics, gluten, grains, and even some of the medicines you are given by your trusted doctor can damage the gut wall and lead to brain degeneration. Caring for this delicate part of our immune system is vitally important in order to have a healthy brain. To accomplish this task, get the help of a practitioner who is knowledgeable in the techniques of improving gut health with appropriate lab testing, treatment and lifestyle changes that put you on the path of improved brain function.

Dr. Don Davis, D.C., DACNB is a BOARD CERTIFIED CHIROPRACTIC NEUROLOGIST in Walnut Creek. He has been serving individuals with chronic pain for 30 years. For information about how you can get a free consultation with Dr. Davis, call (925) 279-4324 (HEAL) or

Healing Chronic Pain and RSD/CRPS Naturally

Since its founding in Danville in 1999, Align Healing Center has treated the accelerating increase in chronic pain and Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD), now called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) in the community. RSD/CRPS is a chronic, painful, and progressive neurological condition that affects the skin, muscles, joints, and bones. The syndrome usually develops in an injured limb, such as a broken leg, or following surgery. However, many cases of RSD involve only a minor injury, such as a sprain. And in some cases, no precipitating event can be identified.

RSD/CRPS is characterized by various degrees of burning pain, swelling, and sensitivity to heat, cold, or touch. Pain may begin in one area or limb and then spread to other limbs. In some cases, symptoms of RSD/CRPS diminish for a period of time and then reappear with a new injury.

Causes and Risk Factors for RSD/CRPS
An exact understanding of RSD/CRPS is not complete. It appears to involve a complex interaction among the sensory, motor, and sympathetic nervous systems in conjunction with the immune system. Currently, Western Medicine is undecided on the causes of RSD/CRPS. It is believed that in most cases the sympathetic nervous system is the main contributor to the experienced pain. Another theory postulates that CRPS is caused by a triggering of the immune response, which leads to the characteristic inflammatory symptoms of redness, warmth, and swelling in the affected area.

Treatment Options for RSD Patients
Medical treatments for the management of RSD/CRPS include analgesics, anti-depressants, physical therapy, occupational therapy, nerve blocks, and multiple other drug therapies.
The Natural Approach for Chronic Pain and RSD/CRPS

Holistic, non-invasive treatments for RSD/CRPS offer many new possibilities for pain and symptom management. As with traditional treatments, holistic treatments may need to be supplemented for optimal results. Nevertheless, Natural Medicine (vitamins, herbs, natural compounds, etc.) has proven to be an effective and long-term solution to calming the sympathetic nervous system and reducing systemic inflammation.

At Align Healing Center we are currently seeing beneficial results in the treatment of chronic pain and RSD/CRPS. The combination of Laser Therapy with Natural Medicine is yielding promising results.

The Power of Laser Therapy
Laser therapy is the application of low levels of laser light to areas of the body that have been injured or damaged. In opposition to high-powered lasers used in health care that cut tissue, such as surgical or hair-removal lasers, therapy lasers produce beneficial chemical and biological interactions that can help relieve pain and repair injured/damaged tissue. Just as photosynthesis creates energy for plants, the absorption of the laser light by your cells causes increased production of cellular energy. In areas of injury or damage, this means there is more energy available to improve the rate and quality of healing.

Studies on tissue cultures have revealed a wide range of beneficial physiological effects, including increased levels of endorphins, reduced levels of inflammatory compounds, and an increased rate and quality of tissue healing. We often have patients notice improvement after the very first treatment session; whereas with chronic pain or RSD/CRPS it is realistic that it may take a few treatments. The effect of laser therapy is cumulative, meaning that each successive treatment builds on previous ones.

The results that we are experiencing with our patients are nothing short of remarkable. Class IV Laser Therapy has exceeded our expectations of the healing potential that it ignites in the body and it is our mission to share it with anyone who is seeking freedom from their pain.

Dr. Niele Maimone, DC is the owner and founder of Align Healing Center in Danville, CA. She has been active in our natural health & wellness community since 1999. For more information or to set up a consult call 925.362.8283 or visit



Problematic skin? We’ve got some solutions for you!

Problematic skin is something people of all ages face. Whether you’re a man, woman or teen, acne does not discriminate. I spoke with our problematic skin specialist Kelly to provide some tips for those who are trying to deal with it.

Basic prevention starts with a daily routine, this includes morning and night, to ensure your skin is getting cleansed properly. Night cleansing is especially important as it allows time for your skin to breathe and naturally purge overnight. Much like a cut or scrape, the problematic areas are going to need to purge excess oils and bacteria causing the acne and inflammation. Be sure to cleanse your skin twice at night; the first cleanse will clean off excess dirt, while the second cleanse will penetrate the skin.

For those with dry skin we find that treatments that tend to be most beneficial include microderm abrasion and lactic acid peels. Microderm abrasion keeps the surface of your skin clear and helps prevent additional clogging in your pores. It also helps with dead skin cells and keeps a better balance of moisture in the skin. Lactic acid peels chemically remove dead cells from the surface of your skin and kills bacteria in congested areas. Cleansing dry skin should be done with a moisture balancing cleanser, while your moisturizing routine should include a balanced and/or deep moisturizer (for very dry skin).

Oily skin calls for similar treatments, including microderm abrasion as well as a clay based detoxifying and balancing mask. When it comes to cleansing oily skin, we recommend a salicylic acid wash and/or a decongestive wash. These will help reduce the oiliness of your skin as well as decrease congestion caused by the oil itself. Moisturizing oily skin is very important because oily skin can get surface dryness that exacerbates the congestion and acne. We recommend an oil free moisturizer for this.

LED light therapy is a great treatment for problematic skin. Blue LED light therapy is antibacterial and cleans our excess oil and kills acne causing bacteria as well. We also have high frequency treatments; this will kill bacteria and it helps to calm inflammation to allow the healing process to move faster. A helpful tip is to clean your cell phone screen frequently and try not to touch your face too much!

Vitamin C serum is good for all types of skin, but especially for problematic skin. It helps acne prone skin by acting as a daily exfoliant (this is because of the citric acid) and balances oils and moisture. The vitamin C serum will also give the skin a healthy, natural glow.

If you’re suffering from problematic skin, call in and schedule a facial with Kelly or Hannah at 925-362-9892. They will be happy to provide personalized feedback to help get your skin where you want it to be!