What is myasthenia gravis?
Myasthenia gravis is a chronic autoimmune neuromuscular disease, which strikes women mostly younger than 40 and in men mostly older than 60. This autoimmune disease is characterized by varying degrees of weakness and fatigue of the skeletal (voluntary) muscles of the body, in particular, the eye muscles, the face and throat muscles, and muscles in the arms and legs.
Essentially, the hallmark of the disease is muscle weakness, which increases during periods of activity and improves after periods of rest. Muscle weakness may adversely affect the way of life, such as vision, (muscles that control eye and eyelid movements), facial expression (facial muscles), breathing, talking, chewing and swallowing (neck and throat muscles), and body movements.
In short, myasthenia gravis affects everyday life and living. The impact varies according to the intensity of the disease symptoms in different individuals.
Myasthenia gravis and autoimmunity
Because all autoimmune diseases involve the immune system (that is to say, the whole body system), it is difficult to put a finger on the exact cause or causes of over one hundred autoimmune disorders. This is one of the reasons why a holistic approach is important.
As for myasthenia gravis, the dysfunctional neurotransmitter acetylcholine is believed to be one of the major causes of the muscular dysfunctional conditions of the disorder. However, given that myasthenia gravis is a complex autoimmune disease due to a compromised immune system, such that the antibodies designed to fight against external invaders begin to attack the body’s own cells indiscriminately, there may be many other underlying factors triggering the onset of autoimmunity, which is essentially the malfunctioning of the immune system.
The concept of autoimmunity as the cause of many human illness is relatively new; as a matter of fact, it was accepted into the mainstream Western medicine only about half a century ago. At present, the medical community is still very much at a loss as to how autoimmunity develops in an individual, although there is increasing evidence linking environmental agents to autoimmune diseases. These include infectious agents, such as viruses, pharmaceutical and chemical agents, heavy metals, dietary factors, as well as a number of biological agents, including genetic disposition; in other words, the contemporary lifestyle. Because medical scientists are still unable to pinpoint the exact cause of autoimmune diseases, many experimental drugs have been developed to treat autoimmunity. Unfortunately, many of these experimental drugs may also be toxic to the body with long-term adverse side effects on the health of the patient.
Myasthenia gravis and the immune system
The human immune system is complicated in that it affects the whole body system in many different ways. As such, it can heal but it can also do harm. It protects cells and maintains overall health through its production of antibodies (specific proteins) to fight against antigens (invaders to the body system). However, a compromised immune system can also adversely affect human health because it is the common denominator of more than 100 autoimmune diseases, including myasthenia gravis.
Myasthenia gravis and free radicals
The body organs are composed of cells. To maintain and sustain life, some of these body cells replicate themselves continually, such as epithelial cells in the intestine, while others do not divide, such as cells in the heart and neuron cells in the brain. When cells die, body organs fail, health deteriorates, leading to diseases, such as autoimmune diseases; as a result, aging accelerates, leading to ultimate death.
All human cells require energy and oxygen to function normally and optimally. During this oxidative process, free radicals are created. For example, when you breathe in life-giving oxygen, you also breathe out harmful carbon dioxide. During this oxidative process, free radicals are formed. Remember, cells are made up of negatively and positively charged molecules, which must be balanced in order to enable your cells to function normally. A free radical is formed when there is imbalance in these molecules, forming free radicals. A free radical also damages other molecules, causing them to produce more free radicals—and thus creating a chain reaction of damages that may cause autoimmunity, and hence autoimmune diseases. Free radicals, however, are unavoidable because they are designed by the Creator to ensure gradual demise of body cells and ultimately guarantee human mortality. Slowly and cumulatively, these free radicals continue to build up in body cells, leading to premature cell death.
Myasthenia gravis and immune system boosters
No matter how one lives, life cannot be prolonged. Having said that, one can extend lifespan by slowing down the oxidative process of free radicals, as well as preventing autoimmune diseases that may damage the quality of life. In other words, boosting the immune system to control free radicals may hold the key to preventing and overcoming autoimmune diseases.
Read my book: My Myasthenia Gravis: A Holistic Approach to Autoimmune Diseases (the 2nd edition, available on Amazon in both digital and paperback.).
Copyright© by Stephen Lau
Aging is a natural process of getting old. There are theories of aging:
The free radical theory of aging
This theory is based on the damage of cells due to cumulative free radicals, leading to disease and, ultimately, death.
Free radicals are molecules within the human cells. Due to regular oxidation (e.g. breathing), and other environmental factors (e.g. tobacco smoke), these molecules become damaged and unstable, and begin to affect other healthy cells close by, creating many more similar unstable free radicals, and thus initiating a chain reaction of cell damage by free radicals.
Damaged cells lead to disease and ultimate death.
This theory implies that antioxidants, such as vitamins A, C, and E, which reduce the formation of free radicals, not only slow down the aging process, but also prevent disease.
The genetic theory of aging
This theory is based on the pre-programming of human genes to induce aging and death—your Creator ensures that you will not be immortal. Therefore, aging is not just the consequence of wear and tear over the years. The fact of the matter is that you are not meant to live forever.
Other than disease and other environmental factors, there is no great variation in the lifespan of humans, and this may partially explain the role of genes in aging.
The hormone theory of aging
This theory is based on the gradual changes in the human body due to the decline and degeneration of the endocrine system, which is responsible for producing hormones to regulate many body functions and processes. Changes in the human hormone production, such as menopause, account for the changes responsible for aging.
There is no scientific evidence that hormone replacement will in fact increase human lifespan. So, think twice before you decide on a hormone replacement therapy.
The immunity theory of aging
This theory is based on the failure of the immune system to give adequate protection against contaminants, viruses, and stress, among other agents contributing to a weakened or compromised immune system.
This theory attests to the important role of the immune system in longevity health and overall wellness.
The rate of living theory of aging
This theory is based on the rate of breathing: faster oxygen metabolism leads to a shorter lifespan. In the animal kingdom, rodents, with the fastest heartbeats have the shortest lifespan, while tortoises with the slowest breaths live the longest.
This theory vindicates that breathing right is one of the key factors in longevity in humans. Learning to breathe right is critical to remaining younger and healthier for longer.
To sum up, the human aging process is best explained not by one single theory but by a combination of these theories.
The bottom line: get the wisdom to live the rest of your life as if everything is a miracle, if you just don’t die!
Copyright© by Stephen Lau
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Consciousness Is Everything
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Consciousness of the Importance of Breath
Consciousness of Correct Breathing
Enhancing Consciousness of Breath
Benefits of Consciousness of Breath
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Consciousness of the Happiness Mindset
Consciousness of the Choice of Thoughts
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Consciousness of Body-Mind Connection
Consciousness of Physical Wellness
Consciousness of Mental Wellness
Consciousness of Spiritual Wellness
If You Just Don’t Die!
FIVE: CONSCIOUSNESS OF LIVING
Simplicity in Living
Living in the Present
Following the Natural Cycle
If You Just Don’t Die
SIX: CONSCIOUSNESS OF CHANGES AND CHALLENGES
SEVEN: CONSCIOUSNESS OF BEING
Believing in Yourself
Believing in Others
Believing in Spirituality
If You Just Don’t Die
EIGHT: YOU JUST DON’T DIE
The Wisdom to Perceive
The Wisdom to Understand
Final Words of Wisdom
APPENDIX A: the wisdom of living to 100 and beyond
The Art of Eating
The Miracle of Doing
The Benefits of Rituals
APPENDIX B: the wisdom of centenarians
The Ancient Centenarian: Luigi Cornaro
The Contemporary Centenarian: Dr. Shigeaki Hinohara
APPENDIX C: the miracle of meditation
The Meditation Process
How to Meditate
YOU JUST DON’T DIE!
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Copyright© by Stephen Lau
An autoimmune disease is caused by a dysfunctional immune system that attacks its own cells, mistaking them for foreign invaders.
Any autoimmune disease is problematic in that its cause is relatively unknown. In general, there are multiple causes of autoimmune diseases: the genetic factor; the toxic environmental agents leading to the deterioration of the immune system; the unhealthy lifestyle, such as smoking and drinking; and even a diet rich in gluten, which is a protein, causing inflammation in the small intestine, resulting in pain, and thus blocking the absorption of nutrients.
Because of its multiple causes, an autoimmune disease is incurable according to Western medicine. Due to the complexity of the disease, it is important to have a holistic approach to treating the autoimmune diseases. Using medications alone is an inadequate approach to autoimmune diseases.
A holistic approach to autoimmune diseases may be a solution. Essentially, it means an alternative approach to autoimmune diseases. In the past two decades, many people have sought alternative medicine after they have exhausted all treatments of conventional medicine with respect to autoimmune diseases. Thousands of research studies on plant nutrients and herbs, and vitamins and minerals performed in university laboratories and clinical settings have attested to the efficacy of alternative and complementary medicine.
To cure any autoimmune disease you may have to empower yourself with knowledge and information before you can embark on a holistic approach to your autoimmune disease, if you unfortunately have been inflicted with one.
Copyright © by Stephen Lau
Natural health posture plays a pivotal role due to its capability to improve the total wellness of the body, the mind, and the soul.
The brain sends messages through nerve pathways to muscles and body organs to perform their functions. Good posture ensures the proper transmission of those messages for optimum holistic health and wellness. In addition, good posture guarantees correct breathing. Breathing right not only provides ample oxygen to the lungs for long-term health, but also nourishes the body and the mind in the form of “qi” (internal vital life energy). Incidentally, rodents, with the shortest breaths in the animal kingdom, also have the shortest lifespan. Therefore, breathing correctly is an important component of holistic health and healing.
Natural health posture, unfortunately, may deteriorate through years of mindlessness.
Children have un-self-conscious poise and perfect posture, resulting in free balanced and fluid movements. However, as they grow up into young adults, they become more self-conscious, and begin to adapt their bodies to the environment, such as sitting on chairs poorly designed, driving long hours in automobiles, spending hours in front of the television or the computer, and living a stressful life. They begin to show poor posture, evidenced by stooping, and developing round shoulders. Poor posture, over the long haul, can lead to internal stress, causing breathing problems (lungs unable to expand), back pain, (misaligned spine), and indigestion (dysfunctional stomach). Maintaining proper posture is especially critical for the elderly. Good posture maintains good body balance, which prevents falling, which is the 2nd leading cause of death in women aged between 65 and 85, and the leading cause of death for most individuals over 85. Falling, which is mainly due to incorrect posture, induces debilitating muscle pain, which creates the vicious circle of pain and muscle atrophy.
Natural health posture means in any standing position, you body posture should be as follows:
- Your head is directly above your shoulders.
- Your chin is tucked in.
- Your ear, shoulder, and hip are in a straight line from a side view.
- Your upper back is straight, not slouched.
- Your shoulders, relaxed and straight, are flat against your back.
- Your pelvis is in a neutral position.
- Your knees are unlocked.
Correct Standing Posture
”Straightening up” (jamming your shoulders back, tucking in your tummy, and standing stiff) is not recommended for good standing posture: it does not align your body, and it is nor practicable due to the inability to sustain the posture over a long period.
This is how you can improve posture, in particular, standing posture: to stand up straight, you require a straight spine, straight shoulders, and no slumping.
These are the steps to improve posture:
- Stand with feet hip-width apart (for better balance).
- Align ears, shoulders, and hips (Using a mirror for alignment).
- Unlock both knees (maintaining “neutral” pelvis; avoiding pelvis tilting forward).
- Pull in abdominal muscles.
- Inhale naturally.
- Exhale slowly while pulling belly button into the spine.
- Lift rib cage (straightening rounded upper back; expanding the lungs for deeper breathing).
- Realign head over shoulders (head not leaning backward).
- Unround shoulders (by rotating arms until palms facing thighs).
- Gently press shoulders down, away from the ears.
- Pull shoulder blades towards the spine.
- Stretch head upwards without tilting backwards.
Practice the above until correct posture becomes second nature to you. Develop your awareness of good posture at all times.
Workout may make you lose a few extra pounds, but it does not change your body shape if you have postural problems. A misaligned body is the culprit not only in distorting your physical appearance but also in impairing your overall health.
Brace posture does not solve your postural problems! Brace posture only increases your dependency on gadgets to correct posture. Instead, improve posture with Mark’s personalized exercise program with videos based on “postural muscle equilibrium” theory.
Natural health posture is fundamental to holistic health and healing. Holistic healing is self-induced in that it works through the mind and the body. For healing to take place, the mind must express the intent to heal, without which there is no cure or natural healing. The intent to heal is then manifested in focus, which directs the mind to take actions to attain the goal of self-healing. One of the actions to take is to improve posture to facilitate the healing process of the body.
Copyright © by Stephen Lau
Life is forever changing. On the life journey, there are many challenges too. To live well, you must embrace all these life changes and challenges. Given that life changes and challenges induce stress, you must learn to cope with them, instead of avoiding them.
To look younger and live longer, you need to make some lifestyle changes. We all know that eating junk food is unhealthy, but we may all end up reaching out for a burger and some french fries some time in our lives. It is human nature that knowing is one thing while doing is another. It is not easy to walk the talk. This is where the human mind plays a pivotal role. Thinking not only makes you smarter but also energizes your brain, making it healthier and younger for longer. Right thinking can work miracles in your life, especially giving you courage to change for the better.
Change has to do with the thinking mind. You must know how to think right. Thinking right has to do with active thinking, and thinking continually. Are you thinking all the time? Not really. You may think you are using your mind all the time, but in fact you are not. It is easy to have mental disuse, which is inadequate use of the brain. Many of us engage in mental disuse when we sit in front of the TV for hours; as a matter of fact, the average Americans spend more than 4 hours a day watching their favorite TV programs. Watching TV is mental disuse because it requires little or no brain activity, such as mental action and reaction; people just vegetate in front of the big screen.
Mental disuse is an enemy of mental health. The bottom line: always keep your brain busy to activate your brain cells by engaging in brain activities, such as playing chess or cards (mental games), gardening (remembering names of plants and flowers with their different growth conditions and characteristics), playing a musical instrument (audio, visual and physical dexterity coordination), learning a new language (memory), and playing golf (mental golf), among others. Engage yourself in activities and hobbies that stimulate your thinking, and thus instrumental in keeping your mind healthier and younger for longer, especially as you continue to age. In other words, making lifestyle changes means you re-consider your interests and daily routines; mental disuse is the major cause of mental decline among seniors. Yes, thinking is difficult, and that’s why few people do it, according to Albert Einstein.
Make a decision NOW to make some lifestyle changes. Are changes difficult to carry out? You bet! We are all habitual beings; we live by our habits. Therefore, it takes courage to change—courage to get out of our comfort zones. But courage is a great motivator once we embrace it enthusiastically. It not only makes you think out of the box, but also enables you to dream your dreams. Take courage to take the first step to change for the better. Lao Tzu, the great Chinese sage with his famous Tao wisdom, once said, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” Take your first step, and then one step at a time.
Courage is no more than persistence: keep on doing what you need to do. It takes only a little courage to take your first step to go after your first goal. As you go forward, step by step, your steps will become easier and faster with greater rewards that further motivate you. The goal is not so much about obvious changes in your life, as about changes in your thinking process, about your doing and being. Changing lifestyle gradually is a no-brainer that requires, ironically, the help of your brain to provide the courage to change.
Read my book: As If Everything Is A Miracle.
This 125-page book is about how to live your life as if everything is a miracle, instead of as if nothing is a miracle. To do just that, you need wisdom to “rethink” your mind, which may not be telling you the whole truth about your thoughts and life experiences; you need wisdom to “renew” your body, which lives in a toxic physical environment; you need wisdom to “reconnect” your soul, which provides your spirituality. Most importantly, you need wisdom to “realign” your whole being because the body, the mind, and the soul are all interconnected and interdependent on one another for your well-being to live your life as if everything is a miracle. Your mind is the map and your soul is the compass; without them, your body is going nowhere, and you will live your life as if nothing is a miracle.
Copyright© by Stephen Lau
At some point in life we all think about death and dying. We all know that all humans are mortal and that death is as inevitable as day becoming night.
“Is there anything we can do about our mortality?” This may be a question that many of us would like to ask ourselves.
First of all, man’s perceptions of mortality always change with age and time. If you ask a young adult if he or she would want to live long, probably the answer is “I don’t know” or “I just don’t want to grow too old and decrepit, like my grand-parents.” A young adult’s perspective of mortality also explains why many of the younger generation are
living a reckless lifestyle “as if there is no tomorrow” for them.
Naturally, their perception of mortality would change over the years as they grow older with a family of children, or if they have a successful career with all the trimmings of a luxurious lifestyle that they would like to continue. A longer lifespan would then become
an extension of their own legacy or continuation of their enjoyment of the fruits of their own accomplishments.
Indeed, many people may have different perspectives of their own mortality, depending on their upbringing, the life experiences they have gone though, their religious beliefs, as well as the meanings of death and dying to them. As a result of the differences, some may
focus too much on death to the extent of creating death anxiety, while others may deliberately deny the existence of death, just like the ostrich burying its head in the sand.
There is a critical question we should all ask ourselves: Why do I or don’t I want to live longer?
If you want to live longer, you have to be happy. Maybe you should also ask yourself another question: How do I become happy?
Copyright© by Stephen Lau
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Believing in yourself is important in life and living. You have to believe that you can do certain things; after all, life is about “doing” and feeling of in control” that leads to feeling good about yourself.
According to Dr. Ronald Nathan, coauthor of The Doctors’ Guide to Instant Stress Relief, the essence of control is your “feeling of in control.” That is to say, you confidently believe that there is a purpose in your life, no matter what. With that mindset, you will begin to see things in different perspective: even temporary setbacks will no longer interfere with your long-range visions now that you feel you are in control. To cultivate that “feeling of in control,” you must learn how to act confident in your attitude and body language in whatever you do. Dr. Nathan believes that 80 percent of communication involves body language, while verbal only accounts for only 20 percent.
To enhance your confidence of “feeling in control,” cultivate awareness of self and others. Learn to live in the present to develop that awareness. Unfortunately, many of us don’t live in the present but in the future with “expectations” that often fail us, creating fear of failure, and hence the daily stress to do more that makes life careen out of control.
In addition to awareness, learn to take little bites in your life to facilitate living in the present; that is, don’t bite off more than you can chew. Doing one thing at a time, instead of multi-tasking, not only decreases pressure but also increases adaptability as well as productivity. Don’t create the vicious circle of accomplishing one goal after another.
Set your goals but with no expectations.
Setting goals and having expectations are not the same. According to the ancient wisdom of Tao, (Tao is The Way, which is the profound wisdom of Lao Tzu, an ancient Chinese) expectations often become the stumbling blocks to accomplishing your goals. Why? The explanation, according to Lao Tzu, is that .the greater the expectations, the more efforts you will exert, and the more stressed you become—ironically enough that may lead to failure in achieving your goals. What Lao Tzu would recommend is “doing what needs to be done” but no more and no less, and with “no expectation”.
There was the story of a drawing competition in which candidates were asked to draw a snake. One candidate finished his drawing well ahead of others. Thinking that he would get extra credit, he added a few beautiful legs to the snake he had drawn. As a result, he became disqualified in the competition. The moral of the story is that enough is enough, and more than enough may not be good.
Believing in yourself—with “no over-doing” and “no expectation”—holds the key to setting your goals and accomplishing some of them despite some drawbacks to build up your self-confidence, which is necessary for
success in doing anything in your life.
Believing in yourself is letting go of all pre-conditioned thinking about yourself, that is, with an empty mind.
Copyright© by Stephen Lau
Exercise for the elderly is especially important. Do not stop exercising just because you think you are getting older; instead, exercise more as you grow older.
Exercise detoxifies the body, and body detox holds the key to holistic health and wellness. Exercise not only stimulates blood circulation and the movement of lymphatic fluids, but also promotes the reduction of fat reserves, thereby instrumental in facilitating the removal of toxins stored in the body. Low-impact aerobic exercise, such as jumping rope or a bouncer, significantly improves the body’s circulation to benefit detoxification.
As you become more advanced in age, you will continue to lose muscle mass. The good news is that exercise may induce building muscle mass. Mass muscle mass not only maintains your body shape, but also helps you lose weight. The more muscles you have, the more calories you will burn, even while you sleep. To keep body shape, you must exercise your body.
The Oriental exercises for natural health
Qi Gong is a set of self-healing exercises designed to balance your qi (internal life energy), bringing you back into harmony with Nature. These exercises incorporate your posture, movement, breathing, meditation and visualization to move oxygen and nutrients from your blood to organs and tissues. Distress and anxiety are dispelled during meditation; positive thinking with great confidence is affirmed; and concentration is emphasized. Through qi gong, you gain control of your body and mind, thereby instrumental in stimulating the circulation of your blood and qi for optimum health.
Tai Chi is all about movements to circulate your body invisible energy called qi. Smooth circulation of qi energy ensures a healthy body. Stagnant and blocked qi energy causes all sorts of chronic disease. Tai Chi is an ancient exercise that has been practiced for thousands of years as an effective alternative healing for the body and the mind. By strengthening the immune system, Tai Chi can improve your chronic disease slowly but steadily. More importantly, it can relieve your stress and calm your nerves.
Stretch exercise aims at improving your flexibility in order to extend the range of movement of your joints so that you can perform everyday activities with minimum effort and maximum effect. Flexibility is a great asset to your overall health and fitness, especially if you are a senior:
- Stretch exercise relieves muscular stress and mental tension, both of which result in toxicity that may cause lethargy.
- Flexibility reduces the risk of lower back pain. Flexibility stretching enhances the quality of the protective lubricant for optimum joint movement, the decline of which is the major cause of arthritic conditions. Also, increased lumbar and pelvic movements reduce the risk of lower back pain.
- Flexibility training encourages postural balance and awareness, which are important to overall well-being.
- Improved joint strength reduces the degeneration of joint structures in the body, which may lead to adverse arthritic conditions.
- With improved physical performance, there will be less tissue resistance, which decreases the chance of injury during movements.
- Flexibility exercises, through stretching, improve neuromuscular coordination, that is, the reduction of time taken for messages to go from the brain to the muscles.
If you wish to live longer with a better quality of life, you must continue to exercise. When you were young, you might have been very athletic and sportive. However, as you continue to age, you may have become less active physically: instead of participating in sports, you may have become only a spectator. Your sedentary lifestyle only reinforces your lethargy and sluggishness in everyday life. Even if you are busily engaged in running errands for your family, you are exercising only certain muscle groups of your body. You must exercise your entire body. Go for Oriental exercises or flexibility stretching exercise. or both. Exercise for the elderly is a must!
Copyright© by Stephen Lau