WELLNESS--Lately, with all the shootings, bombings and terrorism going on, it’s been close to impossible to avoid the violent reality that is a pronounced part of our world. 

It is no secret that the constant barrage of violent images and stories has its effect on our brains. In 1982 the Surgeon Generals Scientific Advisory Committee on television and social behavior concluded that people repeatedly exposed to violent images on the TV screen experience the following; higher levels of anxiety, greater chance of being violent, and a decreased ability to experience empathy making them less sensitive to the pain and suffering of others. 

Couple that with a discovery of a brain phenomenon in the early 2000’s called mirror neurons or neuronal mirroring. This development shows that the brain mirrors what it sees and experiences in the world. In other words, if someone is watching a violent act, the parts of the brain used by the perpetrator committing the act are also activated in the passive viewer. With this in mind, it makes sense that with repeated and long-term exposure to violent images people find themselves more likely to commit violent acts themselves and to feel less empathy towards victims of violence. The days of old before neurobiologists understood the brain to the depth they do now, there were those that said media has no effect on our brain function. With the increased understanding of neuronal mirroring, we now have a definitive understanding that what we see and take in does in fact affect our brains. 

In order to be informed, it is possible to peruse the Internet or newspaper quickly to get the gist of what’s happening. From there we need to avoid going down the rabbit hole into endless bad news and details about the horrors that are our current media reality. Sadly, the news doesn’t tell us all the good news that is also happening all over the world. We are consumed with and almost feed off of negative images and information. 

I found myself going down the rabbit hole during the Orlando shooting and during the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. The following days when the police officers were killed, I knew I couldn’t watch any more. I had hit a bottom and was feeling sad and anxious. I don’t want to bury my head in the sand, but at the same time, if I get myself to the point where I’m full of sorrow and anxiety, what good am I in the world? With just 48 hours of no news, I felt significantly better. 

I think it’s important we feel the pain and grief and then move through that as fast as possible so we can get back to doing the best we can in our own little worlds. Be kind to one another, take time to help out in our communities, and just be friendly to strangers. The world is not such a scary place, and when we shift our perspective there are always ways to find glimmers of light coming through the clouds.


(Christian Cristiano is an acupuncturist in LA, TV host of Wellness for Realists and writes on wellness regularly for CityWatch. Christian can be reached at 323.935.3420. twitter: @CristianoWFR)





WELLNESS--Green tea has been touted as a healing elixir for centuries. In China and Japan green tea is treated with almost the same respect wine is treated in other countries. One can spend hundreds of dollars a pound on the world’s most rare teas

Green tea is different from other teas because it does not go through the same processing as black tea and ooh long teas. Trained individuals pick the more exclusive teas by hand to avoid damaging the fragile leaves. After they have been harvested, some teas are then left in the sun to dry up before they are packaged and sold. Other teas are actually damaged on purpose after they have been picked. This process is called Disruption and it’s used to promote the darkening of the tealeaves. Depending on the conditions the tea is grown in and the way it is cared for and harvested; these processes all have an effect on the flavor and the cost of the tea. 

Green tea has it origins in China and has been harvested and drank in ceremony and for healing purposes for over 4000 years. How long a tea is steeped and in what type of container varies from tea to tea and generally speaking the more expensive and delicate a tea the less time it needs to be steeped. For serious tea enthusiasts, different types of tea also have different temperatures they need to be steeped in. Delicate teas need lower water temperatures while cheaper teas can handle boiling hot water during the preparation process. 

Green tea contains an important chemical compound called a polyphenol, which is a phytocemical. These phytochemicals are antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory qualities that are helpful in eliminating free radicals from the body and possibly helping to avoid cancer from growing. One study in Japan showed that drinking green tea helped to stave off liver cancer. In another study, Chinese women who consumed green tea daily had a lower incidence of esophagus cancer. 

Not long ago there was some research that came out that mentioned that green tea might actually be harmful. We have all heard that expression that too much of a good thing is not a good thing. Most studies agree that green tea in the form of actual tea is harmless for the vast majority of people, and that it may be beneficial to drink up to 10 cups a day. The green tea extract capsules on the other hand are where there might be a problem. The reason is the polyphonols that are present in green tea are concentrated in the capsules and the levels are so high that someone with a compromised liver may have a hard time processing them. In fact, even those without liver issues may be harmed by too much green tea extract in pill form. 

A study done using green tea extract by the University of New Jersey in the March 2007 found that when healthy people took green tea extract supplements in too high a dose (from 700 to 2000 milligrams) seem to have a toxic effect on the liver. As soon as the participants ceased the mega dosing of the green tea extract, the liver enzymes returned to a healthy level. 


People with liver disease or taking medications that affect the liver may need to be more careful with green tea intake, and if you are not sure if the liver medication you are on could interact with green tea, ask your primary care provider. For the rest of the population, there is plenty of evidence that green tea does indeed have powerful healing qualities, and drinking tea in place of coffee is another way to make better choices for your health and well being. Keep in mind that green tea does contain caffeine and will give you the jitters just like coffee if you have gone beyond your limit. 

(Christian Cristiano is an acupuncturist in LA, TV host of Wellness for Realists and writes on wellness regularly for CityWatch. Christian can be reached at 323.935.3420. twitter: @CristianoWFR)


WELLNESS--We have heard about fiber and how it is touted as one of the most important tenets to a healthy diet, but did you know that fiber is contained in foods from rice all the way to broccoli? Let’s break down the basics of fiber to get a better understanding and you will see that not all fiber is created equal. 

First, there is soluble and insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber is fiber that can be broken down and digested. It draws in water and turns into a gel like substance in the body and tends to slow digestion. It is found in oat bran, barley, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, peas, and some fruits and vegetables. Insoluble fiber is fiber that moves all the way through the digestive tract without being broken down and tends to speed up the digestive process. This is the fiber some people refer to as “nature’s broom” because it helps us to bulk up our stool. Insoluble fiber is found in dark leafy green vegetables, broccoli, cauliflower, berries, and other fruits and vegetables. 

Grains are another part of the story, and while they do have fiber in them, there are many arguments against the need for grains in our diet. Grains don’t have the micronutrients that fruits and vegetables have, and they do tend to spike the blood sugar when eaten alone. On the other hand, for people with IBS or other digestive disorders, there are times when gentle foods like rice and other grains can work to calm the gut. There are also ways to cook grains to make them more starch resistant avoiding that big jump in blood sugar. While there is fiber in muffins, let’s not delude ourselves into believing that eating 5 grams of fiber by way of a muffin is as healthy as eating that same amount of fiber consuming broccoli or other fruits, vegetables, or nuts.  

According to the mainstream beliefs around fiber, most health and nutrition experts say woman need about 25 grams a day and men need about 38. Other less mainstream practitioners say we need up to 50 grams per 1000 calories that we consume a day. Now before you panic and start guzzling fiber powder drinks it’s important to note that while more fiber is generally a good idea, there are other factors to consider. 

If you are in the camp of people suffering with a chronic digestive disorder like Colitis or IBS you may not want to eat 30 grams of fiber in leafy greens and broccoli if you’re having a flare up. That can be too much for a system that is already compromised. If you are one of these people introduce fiber slowly with small amounts at first and be sure to steam your vegetables and not fry them. Steam them so they are relatively soft, or boil them with the knowledge that this removes even more fiber from them. Removing the fiber will make them more easily digested as apposed to raw vegetable that will be too rough on an already irritated digestive tract. Once the system is fully healed, keep your fiber intake high to prevent further problems and go back to steaming. 

Finally, there are 7 billion humans on the earth, and therefore 7 billion different diets. It is your job to figure out exactly what your body requires and feed it accordingly. There is no need to make this more complicated that it is. 

Ask yourself some simple questions such as; Is my digestion and elimination working well? Am I having normal and formed bowel movements and is my gas and bloating level very low? Am I exercising and is my energy level normal to high? Am I free of symptoms indicating illness? If you answer yes to all of those questions, chances are good that you don’t need to make any major changes to your diet and lifestyle. 

If you know that a few healthy tweaks here and there could help then go for it, but don’t worry about trying to be perfect. That only creates stress and imbalance in our lives. Keep striving for optimal health and wellness!


(Christian Cristiano is an acupuncturist in LA, TV host of Wellness for Realists and writes on wellness regularly for CityWatch. Christian can be reached at 323.935.3420. twitter: @CristianoWFR)



WELLNESS--I just spent the weekend with my family and was reminded how each of us has different health and wellness goals and challenges. My sister is planning on losing 5 pounds where as my niece wants to stay in great physical shape and not slide back into old habits. My father is trying to cut back on salt to help control his blood pressure and my brother has just learned that he is allergic to dairy so he needs to make significant changes to his many of his food choices.   

Whether trying to heal an illness or working out to get in better shape, everyone has room for improvement in their health and wellness plan. One of the main hurdles to get over is getting caught up in trying to be perfect or setting goals that are not attainable. A great way to reach your goals is using the SMART method. SMART stands for creating goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time Based.  

I’m not saying to set small goals for the long run, on the contrary I think goals should blend well with dreams and once they are reached they should cause you to see yourself and the world in an entirely different way. In order to reach big goals we often have to take many small steps. The SMART method will ensure that you are taking small measurable steps towards reaching a bigger goal. 

For someone that is trying to lose weight, using one of the many calorie counting apps can be helpful. MyFitnessPal is my favorite and it allows you to add exercise that you have done for the day altering the total calorie requirement for that day. In the beginning there is a period of tedium when entering all the foods one eats. The upside is that if there is a barcode you can scan that quickly into the app and all the information is stored. You just need to add the serving consumed. For other foods like vegetable and fruits one needs to add them once, and then when the same foods are consumed again, the app will automatically populate the item after entering the first few letters. Most of us don’t vary too much from day to day, so usually after a few weeks, the foods are added, and the app is much more simple to use.   

Awareness is the only thing we need in order to change our ways. I have suggested these apps to countless patients of mine and without fail every one of them with weight loss as the goal were surprised at how many calories they were consuming. Some of them don’t even need to use the app after a few short months. They simply use the app to become aware, change their lifestyles and the weight comes off.   

For other goals like cutting certain things like sugar or alcohol one has options. Sometimes a “hard reset” is just what the doctor ordered. For example, a specific goal to cut sugar for 14 days cold turkey resets the mind and detoxes the body and brain so that by the end of the 14 days the cravings have subsided substantially. For others slowly cutting back may do the trick, but when it comes to sugar specifically, I find that my patients have the most success when they do a full sugar detox for a minimum of 14 days. One way to measure success is to rate your energy level at different times throughout the day from 1 to 14. 

Set goals that are attainable and get the support you need from the people around you. Whether it be a lifestyle program like Weight Watchers, or a 12 step program like Overeaters anonymous, support is crucial to reach your health and wellness goals. I’m always available to answer questions or give support.


(Christian Cristiano is an acupuncturist in LA, TV host of Wellness for Realists and writes on wellness regularly for CityWatch. Christian can be reached at 323.935.3420. twitter: @CristianoWFR)


WELLNESS--Distilled water is water that is boiled first then the steam is condensed. This process not only kills any bacteria that may be present, but it also removes various impurities including radioactive particles, minerals, and even heavy metals. The reason it is so effective is because in this boiling and steaming process the water is removed from the impurities by turning it into steam and then capturing it instead of trying to remove impurities from the water. 

Spring water on the other hand has other compounds in it besides hydrogen and oxygen (h2o). It also contains important minerals that we need such calcium and magnesium among others. Depending on the source, spring water can also have impurities and even heavy metals and other dangerous compounds. 

Because distilled water is hydrogen and oxygen (h2o) only, the chemical make up of distilled water is more fragile making it easier for distilled water to attract and absorb carbon dioxide from the air making the water more acidic. It is important to remember to keep the container closed at all times besides when one is taking a sip of distilled water. 

Like so many other health topics, wellness professionals often fall on one side or the other when it comes to whether or not we should drink distilled water for our health. I for one am a huge fan of distilled water for short periods of time. Because the water is so pure and there are no minerals in it, distilled water works as a way to powerfully flush the system. It can be used as to cleanse, or to heal acute and even chronic health issues. Because distilled water is “empty” it attracts impurities in the body tissues and flushes them out. I do not recommend drinking only distilled water for more than 3 weeks at a time, but if someone is trying to heal a health condition, using it for 3 weeks straight followed by a break for a week or two and then repeating the use of distilled water can be very helpful to detoxify, cleanse, or assist in healing chronic disease. 

It is also a good idea to buy a gallon of distilled water once a week or every other week and drink that for a couple of days until it is gone. It is a simple way to purify the body. If someone is fasting however, I do not recommend using distilled water during the fast as it can alter the blood pressure and cause dizziness and even fainting. When fasting, minerals in spring water become even more important because one is not getting them from food during the fast. Using distilled water would be considered a change to your health routine and it is always a good idea to talk to your health professionals before starting. This is especially true for people with blood pressure or heart issues. 

The reason I do not suggest staying on distilled water all the time is because while on it, we are not getting the important minerals that we get from Spring Water. Some of the distilled advocates will tell you that we should get all the minerals we need from food anyway, and that water is not meant to supply us with minerals, but the fact of the matter is that we have gotten used to getting minerals from our spring water and without knowing exactly what foods and what supplements would be needed in place of spring water, there is a good chance we will be robbing our bodies of important minerals if we switch over to distilled water only. Some studies show that people who are on only distilled water and supplementing with mineral replacements are still deficient in some important minerals. 

Balance is the name of the game when it comes to good health and wellness. I use distilled water a couple times a month as a way to cleanse my body. Talk to your health providers first and remember to always read and research on your own. Be your own primary care provider.


(Christian Cristiano is an acupuncturist in LA, TV host of Wellness for Realists and writes on wellness regularly for CityWatch. Christian can be reached at 323.935.3420. twitter: @CristianoWFR)



WELLNESS--From dangerous chemicals leached out of water bottles to fish feeding on them in the oceans, plastics have been plaguing our oceans and environment and the problem is only getting worse. (Photo above: plastic patch in the Pacific.) 

In a new study published in Science they found that certain fish larvae exposed to plastic particulates are eating and feeding on them. While plastic is not biodegradable, is does degrade into smaller sized micro plastics that are edible by small fish larvae. Even more disturbing is that they continued to eat the plastic particulates and choose plastic over real food. The scientists speculate that there is a chemical compound in the plastic that tricks the brain of the fish larvae causing them to stuff themselves with the small plastic particles. One of the scientists in the study was quoted as saying "I remember looking at them under the microscope and just seeing so many little plastic pieces in their stomachs, fish after fish. It was terrifying." 

After these larvae have been eating plastic for long enough their behavior changes and they become less likely to spot and avoid prey along with changes in their eating habits. Along with these changes comes a notable decrease in the hatching of new larvae. Larger fish eat smaller fish and we eat larger fish, so we have already been consuming plastic via fish for a number of years. 

The great Pacific garbage patch is a massive area in the ocean that has been growing for years. From north America to Japan there are two vortexes of trash, each one roughly the size of Texas that are comprised mostly of plastics. The plastic breaks down into tiny particles called microplastics that are not be easy for us to see, but they are easy for the fish to eat. Because they are not biodegradable, the small fish mistake them for food, and the larger fish consume the smaller fish and humans then consume the larger fish. 

These plastics are coming primarily from North America and Asia. A big chunk of the plastics come from boaters and cargo ships that are dumping trash. Plastic fishnets are the other culprits of plastic waste in the trash. North America is slowly adopting bans on plastic bans city-by-city and state-by-state. Some countries in Europe have banned plastic bans or put a price on them since the early 2000’s. Both have a powerful impact on cutting down on plastic pollution. 

To find out the status of plastic bag bans in your state check out www.bagtheban.com.  You can put in your state or zip code of your city to see if and when a ban of plastic bags will go into effect in your city. If there is no ban the site also gives you the option to take action and start a ban in your hometown. More and more people are waking up to the dangers of plastics and within the next 4 years or so most cities and states will adopt a ban on plastic bags.


(Christian Cristiano is an acupuncturist in LA, TV host of Wellness for Realists and writes on wellness regularly for CityWatch. Christian can be reached at 323.935.3420. twitter: @CristianoWFR)


WELLNESS--For the past half-century we have been treating our oceans much like we have been treating our rainforests. Fishing has destroyed the natural habitat of the oceans and we have depleted roughly 50% of the ocean of its fish. With fish like swordfish and tuna that number is closer to 90% that have been depleted with a risk of complete collapse. 

Farm raised fish or aquaculture has been exploding in popularity over the past decade, and while it may be helpful in certain aspects to the health and sustainability of our oceans, it does have its own drawbacks. The fish in these fish farms need to eat, and what some of these farm raised fish eat may not please the savvy eater. The fish feed can be anything from chickens to wild caught fish. Very often fish farms are using wild caught fish and lots of it to feed their farm raised fish like salmon. Aren’t we buying farm-raised fish in order to stop all of the over-fishing, and doesn’t feeding farm raised fish with wild caught fish defeat the purpose all together? 

Certain fish have been hit harder than others. Tuna is one of the only fish, along with sharks, that has the ability to warm its muscles when swimming fast to go after its prey. Tuna can swim up to 40 miles an hour and they often live to be about 50 years old. In order for tuna to be healthy, and delicious for that matter, it needs open water to swim. It also needs 15 pounds of food to eat for every pound of tuna making it less than sustainable when it comes to farm fishing. Tuna is also a big fish and a predator meaning it is eating other smaller fish as it’s growing and maturing to a sometimes 15 feet long and 1500 pound fish that needs a lot of smaller fish to grow. Many of these small fish that the large tuna are eating contain mercury and the larger and older the tuna gets the more mercury it contains. 

Swordfish have also been hit hard and is a large fish that also that can measure 14 feet and 1400 pounds at full maturity. Both of these fish when caught in the wild are delicious which is part of the reason they have been pillaged from the sea by 90%. More and more companies are now using poles to catch and sell these fish and “pole-caught” tuna and swordfish is definitely a more sustainable choice. Whether or not these fish will be able to make a comeback without international support by outlawing net caught tuna is yet to be seen. 

Know that the most overfished fish are tuna, swordfish, shrimp, monkfish and sharks. Like cattle, not all farms are created equal. When you buy fish at the market ask them where the fish is coming from. If it is farm raised ask where the farm is located and what they are feeding the fish. Are the fish eating chicken pellets or unsustainable wild caught fish? As the consumers, we have the power to change the food supply system because every time we spend a dollar we are voting for what we believe in. Good food and good fish are not cheap, but isn’t it more costly over time to destroy the oceans just so we can buy cheap fish? We used to just buy meat at the best price possible. Now, more and more people have realized that if we are not part of the solution then we are part of the problem so they are shopping and buying more consciously. 

Generally speaking fish need about 1.5 kilos of food to create 1 kilo of fish making fish a much more efficient food for farming. Cattle on the other hand need about 10 kilos of feed to create 1 kilo of meat. Eventually the fish market will be sustained by aquaponics, which is a closed self-sustaining system that feeds and cleans itself. This already exists in certain places and is quickly picking up steam. The powers that be will only make changes when we spend our money on fish and all food decisively and intentionally.


(Christian Cristiano is an acupuncturist in LA, TV host of Wellness for Realists and writes on wellness regularly for CityWatch. Christian can be reached at 323.935.3420. twitter: @CristianoWFR)



WELLNESS-Canadian researcher Simon Lajeunesse PHD uncovered that most boys seek Internet porn by age 10. The problem is they could not find a control group because almost all young men are using porn. 

The Coolege effect is the automatic response to novel sexual images meaning each new sexual depiction is a genetic opportunity causing the brain to release dopamine to keep him stimulated. In nature this works so that the male animal can continue to inseminate female after female helping to grow the population of his particular species. In the male brain this process carries over with porn and with each click and each new type of sexual image, another surge of dopamine is created in the male brain. 

Over time too much dopamine will be present causing an over-ride in the natural systems of the brain leading to cravings for more and more pleasure because the pleasure response is weakened. Once the brain is overwhelmed with dopamine it works to bring balance by taking away some of its dopamine receptors causing the addict to seek more porn with less of that warm happy feeling. 

For the male using porn frequently, porn will no longer set off that same dopamine burst and instead of feeling happy, the porn user ends up feeling sad and isolated. In order to try to keep the same level of dopamine and pleasure, the porn addict will often escalate and seek out hardcore pornographic images. 

Even more troubling is that there is evidence of the porn addicted brain actually changing in structure much like the drug-addicted brain. The prefrontal cortex of the brain is where we experience the higher affects of humanity. Things like peace, love and altruism all register in the frontal cortex, and the research shows that with porn and other addictions, the frontal cortex literally shrinks in size. The good news is the brain changes do reverse when people stop using porn. 

One reason men are giving up porn is because of porn induced erectile dysfunction (ED). Dr. Carlo Foresta is the head of the Italian society of Adrology and Sexual Medicine and was quoted as saying “it starts with lower reactions to porn sites. Then there is a general drop in libido and in the end it becomes impossible to get an erection.” The studies are showing that younger men take longer to heal from the ED than older men. The theory is because the young brain is more vulnerable to addiction and because older men have had more experience with real intimacy and affection than their younger counterparts. 

The overall effects of porn on ones health can be substantial. Along with the need for internet porn comes a need to be alone and isolated eventually leading to depression and loneliness. With the intense need to keep searching and clicking on the next image, the porn addict is caught in the clutches of porn addiction depriving them of important sleep, which stacks one more reason for depression, social anxiety, and depression. 

Due to new research in brain plasticity, we now know that when a person finally gets off the porn, the brain will actually heal and go back to normal. The process can take between 2 and 6 months depending on the individual and their age. The younger mans brain actually takes longer to return to normal that the older man making it more difficult for the prior to wean himself off porn. Making time to be more social and not isolated and staying away from screens all together when possible are two ways to help the porn addict redirect their lives in a more healthy way.


(Christian Cristiano is an acupuncturist in LA, TV host of Wellness for Realists and writes on wellness regularly for CityWatch. Christian can be reached at 323.935.3420. twitter: @CristianoWFR)


WELLNESS--By now every one of us has heard of the benefits to meditation, but why is it so hard to start a meditation practice? The brain benefits span wide from helping to grow the cortex, which is that that ribbed looking outer part of the brain where all the higher human thoughts occur, to pulling us out of fight or flight and helping us enter a calmer more mindful state. There are even links to meditation slowing down the aging process. 

All of this information begs the question, if meditation is so good for us, why is it so hard for us to do it? The answer also comes back to the brain. In today’s busy electronic world filled with screens of all kinds from our cell phones to our tablets to our computers, the eyes and brain are used to being stimulated during almost all of our waking hours. The problem is that as the pleasure centers of our brains are being stimulated by screens (and often sugar) while the pre-frontal cortex of the brain is not being used or stimulated in ways to develop us towards a higher awareness and a more altruistic lifestyle. 

While sitting quietly and breathing has myriad proven benefits, it’s just so tough to get that practice going. Our brains are addicted to the quick fix and quick stimulation. Unless you are actively reading your kindle, the research shows that passive TV viewing in kids actually causes changes in their brains that lead to a weakened ability to communicate verbally. There is also evidence that the children watching hours of TV a day are more apt to violence.  

Here are two highly effective ways to get your practice going once and for all. Find a meditation buddy. This doesn’t have to be someone living with you but if so, that’s even better. This person is someone that you both check in with each other every day where you each take 5 minutes or less to talk about your meditation practice, let each other know if you meditated or not, and give each other feedback and ideas on what’s working and what’s not. Research shows that having someone to be accountable to increases people’s chances of actually completing a task. 

Another little trick that I have picked up through the years and I find very useful for me and my patients is to go to the area that you meditate every single night even if you don’t plan on meditating. The act of sitting on the cushion or stool every night even if it’s just for a few seconds before you go to bed will increase the chances that eventually you will sit for longer. 

The trick is to go to that area of your home with no pressure on yourself to sit for a great length of time. You can actually sit down to meditate and then get right back up and go to bed. The next night try to increase your time from 5 seconds to 30 seconds and then each night increase your time that you meditate another 30 seconds until you eventually reach 20 minutes. 

If there are mornings or nights, depending on your preference, that you fall back and really don’t want to meditate, then simply go to the cushion, sit down to meditate and then get directly back up and leave. Then you will start over again at the 5 seconds and you will start again to build from there. The trick is to get on the cushion every single day no matter how short the duration. Over time this will tell your brain that this is simply a part of your every single day and with time you will be meditating and breathing regularly.


(Christian Cristiano is an acupuncturist in LA, TV host of Wellness for Realists and writes on wellness regularly for CityWatch. Christian can be reached at 323.935.3420. twitter: @CristianoWFR)


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