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Blood Pressure: How High is Too High?

A reader writes: I am on co approvel 300 ml and natrilix 1.5 ml . Why is my bp still not under control? I walk 45 min daily. Do meditation and breathing daily. I am tired of my bp readings. It is always fluctuating from high to normal.. i am on 15 ml of seroxet for anxiety and depression under control. Why is my bp not going down?

My response: There are a lot of varied opinions around the issue of blood pressure control. My opinion does not fit the conventional medicine model, but is based on good, defensible science. The risk of high blood pressure causing cardiac events (heart attack and stroke) does not increase until the blood pressure levels are considerably higher than 120 over 80. In my opinion many people are on blood pressure medication without the need for it at all. If blood pressures are elevated (in my opinion), there are safe and effective things that can be done:

1) Reduce inflammation in your body (stop eating bad food, drinking pop, ingesting toxins)

2) Drink plenty of water because thick blood requires a higher blood pressure to circulate around the body (both of your blood pressure medications are diuretics)

3) Try 3 supplements–Hawthorn berry is a vasodilator, Magnesium at moderately high doses acts as a calcium channel blocker (a category of blood pressure medication), CoQ10 to support the energy system of the body (and heart).

Only when the above items do not adequately reduce the blood pressure would I consider medications.

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How Affordable is the Affordable Care Act? Thoughts on Insurance and Our Options for Health

For thirteen years I was involved in a cash pay practice.  My foray into the medical insurance industry in the last seven months has been an absolute disaster.  Let me start at the beginning.

In 1984, I joined an insurance-based practice as a pediatrician.  While there, HMOs and PPOs and other “Os” (organizations) started forming.  In 1992, a retiring physician asked me to take over his practice, so I made the move to solo practice in a subspecialty of pediatrics called developmental pediatrics—learning disabilities, attention difficulties in children and adults.  A large part of my practice was Medicaid. When the Medicaid ‘rules’ changed in Montana, I could no longer make a living in medicine and stay in Montana.  We left our dream home that we had just built on 23 acres, and explored 7 practices back east that requested we join them.  We made the decision to join a family integrative medicine practice in Cleveland.

Cleveland gave me my first look at a mostly cash-pay practice, and it was extremely busy for me.  I had a waiting list of at least six months before patients could see me.

Four years ago, I started a cash-pay practice in Utah, but I could not get sufficiently busy, quickly enough, through word-of-mouth and lectures.  I decided that cash pay was not going to work in Utah–at least not as quickly as I needed it to– and so eight months ago I joined an insurance practice.  It took 6 months before I was ‘paneled’ (cleared for insurance) by 5 companies.  I was “denied” by a number of other companies who had closed their doors to new physicians.  (Denial is based on a company deciding they have enough doctors enrolled to meet their specifications to cover their patients.)

Here are some observations from the last 8 months:

  • Each insurance company has its own set of rules.
  • Each company has its own maximum allowable paid for each code.
  • Each code must have ‘documentation.’ The documentation is becoming more burdensome and changes regularly, always in favor of providing less and less reimbursement for patient care.
  • There is no monetary value placed on getting a patient well, or in reducing long-term (and short-term) health care costs.
  • Prevention and preventive care are defined by conventional medicine standards, while we in integrative medicine consider many treatments harmful, such as:
  •                Mammograms, which are X-rays of the breast for cancer screening.  This is alarming, considering it is well established that X-rays cause cancer, including contributing to breast cancer.  Thermograms remove all that risk, cause no pain, and are more sensitive than mammograms at picking up potential cancer in the breast–years before mammograms are able to see it.
  • A “preventive” visit (covered by insurance) may turn into a “diagnostic” visit–during the visit.  For example, a colonoscopy is preventive, but it changes when a polyp is found.  Co-pay is received from the patient upon check-in for a diagnostic or maintenance visit, but not necessary if it is preventive—unless the label changes during the visit.
  • Patients go in for their free ‘annual check-up’, but as soon as they talk about their headache, backache, that changes the ‘annual check-up’ to a non-preventive visit, so you are not allowed to bring anything up at that visit.  You must return another day to talk about anything that concerns you. How is that medical “care?”  It represents egregious medical indifference.
  • If medical care is ‘preventing’ diabetes, hypertension or heart disease from getting worse (thereby saving the insurance industry big dollars), it is still not considered preventive care and co-pay is charged.
  • Medications (sometimes very expensive) for treatment of symptoms are a covered service, while treatments (often less expensive) that address the causes of the condition are not covered—to name a few: chelation, intravenous nutrition, hyperbaric oxygen, NAET (allergy desensitization).
  • Out-of-network providers may not be covered at all for ‘preventive’ care.
  • Decisions regarding all of this care are more driven by stockholders and insurance company employees than by patient care.
  • Out of touch, retired practitioners make many of these (arbitrary) ‘decisions.’  But what is even more disgusting to me is that medical decisions, more often than not, are made by the insurance case manager.  Is there something wrong with this picture?  Whatever happened to “practicing medicine without a license?”
  • Some insurance companies refuse to arbitrate (even when promised care options are in their contract) over disputes, thus forcing expensive lawsuits to follow.
  • An insurance-pay practice requires an insurance biller (extra cost for a full time employee).  The doctor is paid a certain percentage of the maximal allowable reimbursement.  Someone must follow-up with the insurance company when errors are made, non-payments are overdue, the company loses billing forms and refuses to deal with incompletely filled out billing forms.  And the rules change on a regular basis.  And there are multiple insurance companies.  And …
  • Insurance companies pay handsomely for a qualified kidney transplant in an individual who is drinking soda pop and eating processed food on a daily basis, but squawks over paying for supplements and healthy eating to prevent serious illness.
  • When Medicare was introduced in the United States, the government made it clear that it would never become the insurance industry standard.  (It reminds me of the government promise that federal taxes would never exceed 1%.)  Because of its reimbursement scale, Medicare restricts care to the elderly.  Overall reimbursement from Medicare is about 60%.  How fiscally viable is a practice when physician offices have a 50 to 60% overhead?

Here is a list of a few things that may work for you in navigating the confusing course of health care:

  1. Carry insurance with a high deductible (which is happening anyway) with a cash slush fund to be used for health care of your choosing (Health Saving Account).  Placing control of health back in the hands of the patient (where it belongs) will maximize health over the long term.
  2. Business initiated Wellness Programs show good statistics in reducing health care costs.  One of the core elements is providing Health Coaches that assist with difficult behavioral changes.  Patients need them and want them, but behavioral changes are difficult to make alone.
  3. Reimburse Alternative Medicine care at the same rate as Conventional Medicine.

The health care system is broken.  Although the free market system has created problems, the only thing that is worse than what we have is a government-run socialized medicine system. And unfortunately, that’s where we are headed (if not there already).

True preventive medicine treatment lies within the realm of the Alternative Medicine field.  Nutrients (real food and supplements) will prevent more disease than anything else.  Counseling around issues of sleep, exercise, water intake, attitude and emotional health take time and do not fit into insurance-based reimbursement patterns.  (For example, a son of mine was sick 3 times in 2 months.  Reason—stress and sleep deprivation.  It did not matter how many antibiotics he used. Until he started getting proper rest and reduced his over-committed life, he continued to get sick.  When he started sleeping and saying “No” to extraneous commitments, his dis-ease disappeared).

To your dynamic health and energy,

Dr. Gardner

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Eureka! I Have Found It!

Introducing a New Line of Supplements

 A supplement is a supplement is a supplement, some might say.  However, I can assure you that that is not true!  There are so many grades and qualities of supplements on the market today.  These extend from pharmaceutical grade down to capsules that pass through the body intact (you can read the brand name on the capsule at the bottom of the port-a-potty).  Lower quality supplements may be full of toxic metals (including mercury, lead, arsenic, aluminum) and they may not contain what the label says they have.

For years I have used pharmaceutical grade supplements in my line, but I have been on the lookout or something that in my heart I believed to be possible–a plant-based supplement that energetically feeds our body food.  I am delighted to report that I have finally found it: Eureka!

A relatively new company has plant-based supplements of the highest grade.  In addition to being plant-based, these top quality supplements also have the following amazing benefits to add to their value:

1.These supplements have no fillers, flowing agents or binders.  This means there is no magnesium stearate and silica, ingredients that are present in almost all lines of supplements.  Although there is no evidence that magnesium stearate and silica are unhealthy, they are not native to the body, nor do they come from plant sources.  I am aware of 2 people who have reported having allergic reactions to magnesium stearate.  The compounding pharmacist of this new company contends that items to complement the main ingredient should fill the capsule, rather than “fillers.”

2.Each raw material ingredient is carefully evaluated as to its source and purity. Because this company serves clients worldwide, (including Japan, which has a much more stringent quality control over supplements entering the country compared to the US), their raw materials must be clean.  They do not import anything from China. Previous batches of supplements were not allowed into Japan because of the contaminants from Chinese raw material, so they discontinued the use of Chinese ingredients.

3.Most of the products are thoroughly researched before they are released to the public.

4.They are all gluten-free, non-GMO, and vegetarian (except ‘fish oil’ and a joint product).

5.For the detailed quality in their composition, they are available at competitive pricing.

6.All capsules are comprised of vegetarian cellulose, hypromellose, and do not contain the carcinogen Sodium Lauryl Sulfate.

7.Many of the capsules have a patented Assimilation Enhancing System (AES) that is composed of plant-based digestive enzymes and mineral cofactors that all improve digestion and utilization of the product.

Some of the products add unique components I have not been able to include in any of my other products:

  • ·       Mobility Complex adds pain-relief herbs to the glucosamine and other factors that build the joint.
  • ·       Total Body Detox has at least 2 herbs to purify and detoxify each of the 5 detoxification organs—skin, liver, kidney, lung, colon.
  • ·       Herbal Calming Blend has all 3 calming herbs instead of just 2, and adds lavender to the product.
  • ·       PhytoEstrogen has a nice blend of several products that help with PMS and menopausal symptoms; not just one product that may or may not help.

Another benefit that appeals to me is the energetic ‘fingerprint,’ or the energy that a product imparts to the cells around them.  In supplements, the energetic fingerprint may be stronger in a plant-based extraction than a synthetic made in the laboratory.  It does not make sense to me that the number of cells in a product, whether medication or supplement, actually perform all the functions of the product.  It makes more sense that the energetic frequency of the molecules release energy to the surrounding tissue, which opens the door so the function takes place.

I will continue to offer the other products presently on the supplement site, unless one of these products clearly replaces all of the benefits at a comparable price.  Always remember that your diet is still the most important part of a healthy lifestyle, and taking supplements does not give you permission to eat poorly and expect to get the maximum results from supplements.  Remember to eat right, to focus on healthy vegetables and fruits as your core source of nutrition, and feed your self healthy thoughts to make everything nourish your body and mind.

To your dynamic health and energy,

Dr. Stan

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Paying for Your Medical Care

What will the Medical Tyranny allow me to do if I don”t have a “your personal” physician? I’m supposed to be responsible for my own health, right?   How do I find an alternative minded doctor that Medicare will pay for?

Unfortunately, if any of us wants to be healthy, we must assume that responsibility ourselves, including paying for it, if the services “provided” through taxes and other (Medicare) programs do not fit our philosophy on how to be healthy.

When our daughter’s car broke down recently, we discovered that her transmission had gone out.  Although this mishap occurred at the same time as other costly events, we still went ahead and fixed the car.  Rather than trade it in, we spent several thousand dollars in repairs.  It was worth it to us, because she needs a safe vehicle.

You only get one body–you can’t trade it in like you would a car.  If you “hire” someone to “fix” you whose philosophies are not in harmony with yours–or their treatments haven’t worked in the past–or you keep getting sicker and sicker–it might be time to reconsider the true cost of not being in charge of your health.  That may mean paying out of pocket, rather than having someone in an insurance office decide what medical treatments you are “covered” for, playing doctor with no training in medicine.

I look at Medicare costs a little bit like I look at paying taxes for streets I will never drive, school bond taxes that do not pay for my own children, firefighters that (hopefully) do not have to put out a fire in my home.  I may never need those services, but they are a part of being in a dynamic society, with systems to protect and provide for its citizens.  The option is there to receive “free” medical care–but if you want the kind of medical care that YOU have a say in, you make the choice, and you pay the bill.

The ‘Medical Tyranny’ system, as you call it, is fixed within a box occupied by the insurance industry, the FDA and the conventional medical establishment.  It has very strict guidelines, many of which have little to do with health, and many of which have much to do with saving money, or with trying to create a “one-treatment-fits-all” system.  Many of the procedures that alternative medicine physicians do are outside that box, so you will end up paying for them out of pocket.

There are several organizations that are attended by alternative-minded physicians. Get on their websites and find one close to you, call them up and see if they accept Medicare. These organizations include: ACAM (American College for Advancement in Medicine), ICIM (International College of Integrative Medicine), AAEM (American Academy of Environmental Medicine), and the American Holistic Medical Association.

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“Folk Medicine” and My Response

Dear Editors…

Interesting article. Wish I could tell you that it is largely
“evidence-based” and far removed from “folk medicine.”

Your publication deserves to maintain the precious credibility it is
earning. Your promotion of articles such as this diminishes your

Retired pediatrician, Rochester, New York

I received the above response to an article I wrote in Meridian Magazine advocating the use of vitamins to help people be healthy. At the same time, the Wall Street Journal of that day (February 11, 2010) was in front of me. I read an article entitled A Simple Health-Care Fix Fizzles Out, about the research (is that ‘evidence-based’ medicine?) coming out of the Courage study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2007. It found that a $15,000 stent placement in a patient with chronic chest pain did not do better in long term outcome for the patient compared with medication use. This study tracked 2,287 patients for five years, and found no change in mortality or subsequent heart attacks in either group. They reserved stents for those who did not improve with medication therapy.

The article points out that since the 1970s, the ‘evidence-based medicine’ movement has encouraged doctors to use studies like this to decide how to treat patients. Has this happened?

Immediately after the study was printed, there was a 13% drop in stent placements, but it rose to the previous level within a few months. Here are some insightful comments that I have extracted from the article:
• “If a doctor attempted to persuade a patient to delay stenting in order to see whether drug treatment would work by itself, the patient would likely drop him and see another cardiologist instead.”
• “Patients have little incentive to decline costly care when insurers are paying. Interventional cardiologists, on the other hand, have a financial incentive to use stents-they receive about $900 per stenting procedure, roughly nine times the amount they get for an office visit.”
• When researchers asked for assistance trying to decide who should be eligible for these guidelines, “The industry and doctors declined to help. ‘We don’t want to end up being our own willing executioners.'”

Curiously, the very next day, the Wall Street Journal reported the former President Bill Clinton underwent “emergency heart treatment,” after suffering chest discomfort and had “stents placed in a coronary artery.” Apparently his doctors did not read the Courage study, or perhaps they disregarded it as “folk medicine.”

Vitamins: “FOLK Medicine?”

The research support for the use of vitamins is voluminous. Just because it is not in physician-read mainstream medicine journals (and there is some there), it does not mean it does not exist.

Just because you or I have not read it, it does not mean it does not exist. There are thousands more excellent research articles coming out in the vitamin, herbal, Chinese medicine, every year, than any of us could possibly read. So, we choose those areas in life and medicine for which we are passionate, become good at them, and try to help people with that knowledge base.

Does this philosophy mean that everything outside my or your expertise ‘box’ should be called ‘folk-medicine’?

Perhaps we should not so quickly discount health ‘medicine’ coming down through the ages of time, from our grandmothers. I was warned about white sugar, white flour and processed food by my grandmother when I was a teenager. We smugly smiled, just short of mocking her. Only now do I realize how right she was! We tend to discount thousands of years of Chinese Medicine as ‘folk-medicine’, yet when the scientific studies are done, we discover how right they were-even millennia ago.

It only adds to the credibility of these thousands-of-years-old folk medicines that someone in the pharmaceutical industry will want to extract the ‘active component’, add a chemical group to it, patent it, call it a name, and sell it as if it were the plant from which it was extracted.

It is a travesty that the FDA limits the use of science in the marketing of vitamins and minerals and herbs, while permitting the drug industry to market their products blatantly in magazine ads and on TV (have you listened to the frightening lists of side effects that the spokesperson refers to at top speed in an undertone?). Vitamins have a track record of being far more healthy and beneficial, yet their advertisement is censored.

The delay in conveying known information about folic acid is a case in point. For 10 to 15 years it was well known that 800 micrograms of folic acid would prevent most of the spina bifida problems in the birth population, and during those 10-15 years, that information was suppressed.

Finally after countless efforts to make the knowledge accepted in “mainstream medicine,” obstetricians placed it within their ‘box’ and it was actively added to all prenatal vitamins.

In the last few years, a number of ‘orthomolecular’ products have been added to standard medicine, things we in ‘alternative medicine’ have been doing for 30 years-anti-oxidants for macular degeneration, fish oils for vascular/heart disease, niacin for cholesterol-lowering.

Credibility is very much an element of your point of view, and your definition of the word. Should credibility be defined as the prevailing majority opinion only, science based information only, thousands of years of proven worth only? Perhaps each of us must consider all our options, all our sources of information, and choose that course that is right for us at that time.

As for me, I’m choosing to listen to my patients, keep my mind open, and explore all options. It is the height of arrogance to assume that we know everything.

To your dynamic health and energy.
Stan Gardner, MD, CNS

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Nutritional Supplements, Borage Oil, and Liver Damage

A reader writes:  My husband has been taking your supplements and has felt so much better. I have not taken it yet as I am curious about the borage oil. Does it cause liver damage over time and is your free of PA’s or hexane free? I do not have a gallbladder and have venous insufficiency. Would the borage cause a problem? I think the way they come packaged is great.

Vital Primivia and the Primivia Borage are free of Continue reading Nutritional Supplements, Borage Oil, and Liver Damage

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Two More Days till Your Early Christmas!

We’re pulling out all the stops to get ready for Thursday’s big launch of your Christmas gift: a bottle of Vital Primivia supplements, a gift from me.  I’ll even pay for some of the shipping and handling!  You will be able to see the enormous size of the container when you see the picture.  It’s really quite remarkable!  Plus you’ll see the awesome design of the packets, making it SO easy for you to take your supplements on a regular basis.

Why am I doing this?  Well, I’ve told you a couple of reasons in the past.  I actually have several.  So I thought I’d share a few more with you. Continue reading Two More Days till Your Early Christmas!

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Revealing Your Christmas Present (A Little Early)

Dear Healthy Thinkers,


Remember how yesterday I told you about my son Josh who couldn’t sleep, he was so excited about an idea he had?

We were sitting at the table right after Thanksgiving, and he launched into this great (and scary) idea of a gift for you that would help you to become healthier and more energetic.

Well, this morning, I have the same issue going on.  I can’t sleep.  Too excited.  Only this time I’m sharing his crazy, unprecedented gift idea with you, instead of giving you weeks of background info before I announce it.

After I share it with you, we have a little over a week of time to accomplish the nearly impossible.

Why am I doing this?

Because this gift offer has three purposes, and I need and trust you as my readers to be involved in those purposes with me.

Here are my three purposes: Continue reading Revealing Your Christmas Present (A Little Early)

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My Christmas Gift: A Healthier New Year for You!

Dear Healthy Thinkers,

You know how in the last several days I have been giving you little hints that I’m up to something big?

I’m so excited I can hardly type this!  I have something incredible to share with you: a Christmas and New Year of Health gift that I am Continue reading My Christmas Gift: A Healthier New Year for You!

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Blood Pressure Meds and Coughing

I have worked with 15 disabled veterans who have complained of coughing while on Lisinopril for their blood pressure.  It stopped when they used Fosinopril.  Can you explain this?

There are 6 categories of medications that are used for blood pressure control.  Lisinopril is in the category of an ACE inhibitor, which means that it interferes Continue reading Blood Pressure Meds and Coughing