SINCE sometime last month, I have not stopped pulling myself by the ear lobe. I learned from Chinese medicine about 32years ago that the ear lobe is one of the body’s early warning systems if a stroke is brewing. Naturally, the ear lobe is robust and fluffy when there is no problem in sight. But when the feathers are about to start flying, the ear lobe begins to dry up and to curl inwards. That is because enough blood is not getting into the lobe and, perhaps, other parts of the body, including the brain.

One has to be something not man not to shiver inwardly somewhat after story flew around last month of some of the people I know who were recently smitten by stroke. Some of the cases are too close for comfort to be described here. One of them shocked me beyond words. It was a gentleman who, beside the loss of the use of the limbs on one side of his body, lost the capacity to swallow and, so, has to be fed through tubes which run from his nostrils through the throat to his stomach. If ours is a country of philanthropists, only about 1,000 of us, each paying N500 every month into a special Fund would provide his financially-drained family N500,000 every month for his medication and upkeep.

I learned about the ear lobe diagnosis for an on-coming stroke about 1985 from a Chinese medical journal. I learned afterwards that the idea of ear lobe prediction of a stroke risk originated in 1973 from an American doctor named Dr. Sanders T. Frank who, today, has the honour of the creased ear lobe named after him…Frank’s sign.

Dr. Sanders thought at that time that it may be a prediction for futuristic heart problems. Long after his suggestion, other researchers studied the relationship between Frank’s sign and Ischemic stroke.

This is a situation in which a blockage prevents blood circulation from reaching some parts of the brain. Their finding was startling…in more than 75 percent of stroke patients, creased ear lobe presented. In Israel, for example, 241 hospitalised patients with acute stroke were examined for Frank’s sign. Surprisingly, 190 of the patients or 78.8 percent had diagonal crease in their ear lobes. From this time on, doctors began to look out for this sign as part of their diagnostic tools. The American Journal of Medicine published the Israeli finding.

But some doctors believe Frank’s sign should not be swallowed hook, line and sinker in stroke diagnosis because, according to a second opinion, it is a possible marker of other ailments in the aging process. Dr. Yaqoob Bhat, a clinical director for stroke medicine at the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board in South Wales, England, speaks for this school of thought when he lists aging process ailments associated with Frank’s sign to include “diabetes, hypertension, ischemic heart diseases and peripheral heart disease.”

Careful or cautious as doctors may be on this subject to avoid being definitive, I believe they are speaking the same language because diabetes, hypertension, ischemic heart diseases, peripheral heart diseases are all related in one way or the other and increase the risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Diabetes thickens the blood and slows its flow. This causes scanty oxygen delivery to the cells and delayed evacuation of wastes. In the brain, waste accumulation slowly poisons the cells and oxygen deficiency makes them sick or dead.

Diabetes may also cause clotting of the blood. Blood clots are known to obstruct blood flow anywhere, whether to the heart, causing heart muscles to die gradually, or to the brain where increased pressure at the barricaded point may cause a blood vessel to burst. The burst would spill blood on the surrounding tissue of cells, and cells disturbed by the spill would lose their capacity to function optimally. As brain nerve cells are the origins of the nervous system, areas of the body controlled by impaired or disturbed nerve cells are also affected. Thus, a stroke would be minor or major, depending on the severity of the disturbance of the nerve cell in a stroke (brain attack).

Apart from Frank’s sign, there are many other early warning signals of an on-coming or impending stroke. Many people complain of sudden numbness or weakness in the face, hands or legs, often on one side of the body. But it is not always that such a sign may be stroke related. Sometimes, vision may be lost abruptly. Energy may also drop suddenly.  One may lose coordination. Speech may slur or be lost. Cognitive problems may also develop and worsen overtime.

For some other people, a sudden loss of balance or coordination may be a sign to take with more than a passing interest. Some people experience swallowing difficulty. If the root cause is not in infection, inflammation, a lump or a sore, it should be viewed with seriousness. Headaches which cannot be easily traced to any other cause have traditionally made doctors suspicious of an impending stroke, especially if the challenged person has been hypertensive.

Hypertension means what the word says…a state of abnormal tension. This may arise if the soft muscles of the blood vessels have been calcified, that is infiltrated by calcium. This may happen if the dietary calcium source is cheap calcium, which many people like because it is cheap. This type of calcium is not easily absorbed by the body and, so, settles in soft muscles throughout the body. In the knees, it would cause arthritis. In the shoulder, it would cause a frozen shoulder. In the lens of the eye, it may cause cataract. When calcium infiltrates the soft muscles of the blood vessels, a condition called arterosclerosis, it hardens the blood vessels.

Rigid blood vessels cannot easily dilate to make blood flow freely. Thus, the cells offer resistance that is abnormal to blood flow. This is hypertension. This situation may be corrected by introducing an easily absorbable calcium source to the diet and by increasing the amount of Magnesium consumed. Magnesium is a natural antagonist of Calcium. In the body’s biochemistry, they combine at about the ratio of two Calcium units to one of Magnesium. Too much free calcium in the bloodstream which can be a cause of calcification can sometimes be traced to not enough Magnesium to couple with them.

On a lighter note, this may be likened to too many women and too few men which may result in many single women of marriageable age. Orthodox medicine employs Calcium blocker drugs to solve this problem in Calcium/Magnesium relationship. In Alternative Medicine, the preferred option is the consumption of more Magnesium in the diet if the problem is traced to Magnesium deficiency. Magnesium is plentiful in nuts and greens. In greens herbs and vegetables, it is the central binding atom for the constituents of chlorophyll…Carbon, Hydrogen, Nitrogen and Oxygen.

Three other conditions inside the blood vessels may also dispose any-one to hypertension, also called elevated blood pressure. The first is Homocysteine build-up. Homocysteine is a greasy substance produced when the body uses an amino acid called Methionine. The grease not only blocks the blood vessel and prevents effective and efficient blood flow, but damages the inner lining of these vessels as well. Happily, although not many people pay enough attention to it in Nigeria, the Homocysteine grease can be easily dissolved if one takes in the diet generous amounts of Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12 and Folic Acid.

That is why many therapists prescribe mega doses of the B-complex vitamin…say B-50 or B-75, which means each of the major B vitamins in the complex comes at, say, 50mg or 75mg instead of the 5mg often available at a regular pharmacy. Some Alternative Medicine proprietary blends come with only B6, B12 and Folic acid. All the greens have an abundance of them. And that is why herbs such as Spirulina, Kale, Spinach, Beet root, Wheatgrass, Chlorella and Liquid chlorophyll are always suggested in this column.

For people who may not have Homocysteine challenge, elevated Cholesterol level can cause havoc. Cholesterol is a fatty substance. Turn away as we may from fat consumption, we cannot avoid cholesterol. It is a component of our brains, genital organs and even our cell membranes or coverings. We speak largely of the three major divisions or fractions of Cholesterol… (1) High Density Lipoprotein (HDL), the good one (2) Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL), the dangerous one, and (3)Lipoprotein.

Total cholesterol count must not exceed a limit. Limits are set also for the cholesterol fractions. One fraction takes cholesterol to the cells. They take whatever they need and return the remainder to the bloodstream for another fraction of cholesterol to bring the excess back to the liver. The job of the liver is to convert this dangerous excess to bile salts which are used for the digestion of fats and to export, through faeces, excess cholesterol and fat-soluble poisons out of the body which could damage the cells if left in the body. To convert excess cholesterol to bile, the liver requires Vitamins and Minerals along with other food factors.

However, in the diets of many people, these are often not readily available. Alternative Medicine employs many methods to help the liver perform this task and to prevent the absorption of cholesterol in the intestine. For, in many cases, even after the liver would have done a good job packaging the excess and dangerous cholesterol for “export”, the absence of dietary fiber in the diet may lead to the re-absorption of these cholesterol “waste” into the bloodstream.

   Diabetes, too, throws up its own spanners into the works. We often blame carbohydrates for diabetes. Some researchers are now saying we shouldn’t. Would Mother Nature have given us carbohydrates if they are dangerous to our health? The carbohydrate crisis for many people has now been linked to human tinkering with carbohydrate foods, and to the manner in which we consume them. Carbohydrate foods come, for example, with Chromium, a substance which is a friend to the cells and to insulin, a substance produced in the body to drive sugars from carbohydrates into the cells.

The pancreas, which lies behind the liver in the right upper section of the abdomen, below the rib cage, produces insulin. When we eat carbohydrate foods, it produces insulin to sweep the resultant sugar into the cell. The cell understands this process and accepts it. But when large amounts of carbohydrates are eaten at a meal, especially over a long period of time, insulin irritates the cells and they begin to shut their “doors” against it in what doctors call “insulin resistance”. If insulin cannot sweep sugar into the cell, the sugar will remain in the bloodstream.

We should ask: where is chromium? The answer is that, during modern food processing, almost all the chromium that mother nature put into carbohydrate foods as part of this sugar-burning equation in the cells has been removed, leaving these foods chromium depleted. For example, parboiled rice or white rice has lost about 98 percent of its chromium. Excess sugar and insulin in the bloodstream in the absence of Chromium is a dangerous scenario.

The excess insulin acts as fertilizer upon the soft muscles of the internal lining of these vessels, causing them to overgrow. When they overgrow, the internal blood-flow space is reduced or narrowed, so the heart has to pump the blood through the narrowed space with extra force. This increases the tension in the system. The bad news for people in whose blood vessels the soft muscles have overgrown is that these vessels may have become “muscle bound”, a condition which is difficult to reverse. Thus, such people may have to manage their hypertension to prevent a stroke.

A few years ago, I gave chromium and other food supplements to a woman in Abuja, Nigeria, whose blood sugar and cholesterol levels were terribly high. Her doctor, who had been in practice for 35years then, said he hadn’t heard of chromium but was, nevertheless, humble enough to admit that he hadn’t seen both conditions crash the way they rapidly did without the use of pharmaceutical drugs. Avid readers of this column know that we have progressed beyond Chromium to such simple herbs as Pawpaw (papaya) leaf extract and Orange peel powder, for example, not to mention Fenugreek, Diatom, even Bilberry (better known for good vision), Kyolic Garlic etc.

When we have a carbohydrate meal, the serving or portion should be small and eaten with lots of vegetables which should be spiced with onion or garlic. We shouldn’t eat like a man I saw at a restaurant a few years ago. I couldn’t eat more than half of my plate of eba. He finished two servings and called for “extra”. He loosened his belt and trouser bottons. After he’d been done with the meal, he asked for a big bottle of Stout beer. He was breathing rapidly and not deeply, sweating, obviously in agony.

Such a dietary habit will, no doubt, congest our systems. This man, like many of us, may not have a healthy digestive system. He may excrete only a small fraction of what he has eaten. He may be happy if he defecates once a day, unknown to him that this is mild constipation, that a person who eats three meals a day should void two or three times a day. In the end, the body will begin to turn un-excreted waste to crystals and hide them in the circulatory spaces of the vital organs to save the blood from disaster.

As these crystals are hidden in these organs, the organs become no longer supple but hard, and, thus, make it difficult for blood to flow through them. Their resistance to blood flow makes the heart pump harder to overcome the resistance. The heart begins to enlarge and weaken. It sends blood to the lungs and to the legs and may be unable to bring the blood back to itself. The lungs are irritated. Coughing begins as a means for the lungs to expel the unwanted irritant. The leg is filled with fluid. The doctor orders diuretics to get the kidneys to help the heart so it does not collapse. Meanwhile, poor blood circulation may be causing sedimentation and clotting which may affect the heart in a heart attack or the brain in a stroke (brain attack).

When a stroke has happened, its management and the prevention of a recurrence is the next line of action. Some doctors do not rush into thinning down the blood if a burst vessel is suspected to have caused the havoc. They would rather first get the burst pipe to heal so that new spills do not compound issues. The brain meanwhile may reabsorb the spill. As this is going on, the disturbed or impaired nerves may begin to regain their balance.

At this point, they may be aided with Lion’s Mane mushroom (see www.olufemikusa.com) in sub lingual tincture form and, later, in caplet form. It helps the brain to produce Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) with which it repairs damaged or impaired nerve cells. Tissue or cell salts are also helpful at this stage and beyond it. A physiotherapist should be at work. So should a Reflex Zone Therapist (RZT). Reflex zone therapy is founded on the knowledge that all parts of the body are reflected in certain areas of the hand and foot.

In the late 1980s, I attended a training co-sponsored by The Guardian newspaper of Nigeria and Duro Soleye Hospitals, Lagos. It made sense to me when I felt pains in the bladder area and the trainer/therapists said I had crystals forming there. A lactating mother who couldn’t make enough milk suddenly felt her nipples were running like taps. A woman yanked her foot from the hands of the therapist with a scream. The therapist was applying gentle pressure on the appendix region. Her patient had her appendix surgically removed about five years before then. Apparently, the surgery hadn’t completely healed unknown to her, and a signal that her healing process was weak and slow, probably on account of her diet.

Blood thinners and brain antioxidants have their own places. We need herbs such as Ginkgo biloba to send more blood to the brain. We need oxygen tablets for more oxygen in the brain. We need more choline and insitol (Lecithin) in the brain. We need more Dimethylglycine (DMG) for electron transfers and energy in the brain. Add to that Ubiquinol variant of CoQ10 at 300mg per caplet with Vitamin E to thin the blood and black pepper to also drive the blood. Cayenne has a good role here. What about Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA), one of those rare antioxidants which function in both fluid and fat media? What about Grape Seed Extract, that antioxidant and antimicrobial which easily crosses the Blood Brain Barrier (BBB)?

Pull yourself by your ear lobes everyday, to rule out the occurence of Frank’s sign. I am still doing so. You have to be something not man if your neighbours are tripping and falling and you are not wondering what is going on and making sure that you, too, do not trip and fall.

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