Thursday, February 21, 2013

Biotin and Psoriasis Again

Last year I wrote about how I started taking biotin, a member of the B-vitamin group, to help my fingernails and found that it helped my hair and skin as well.  I had developed little painful, crusty spots on my elbows which I thought were psoriasis.  Not long after I started taking biotin the spots disappeared, leaving little scars.  

Now I’m sure it works, at least for me.  Recently I went on a trip and didn’t bring quite enough biotin with me.  I was only off it for 3-4 days but when I got back the painful, crusty spots were reappearing on my elbows.  I went right back to the biotin and the spots dried up.  I’m concerned about psoriasis not only because it is painful and unsightly but also because it seems to be linked with heart disease, which runs in my family.  So maybe by doing something good for my skin I’m also helping my heart.  I wish someone would research all this so we could understand it better.  Medical websites say that biotin deficiencies are rare; I suspect that this is because testing for biotin deficiencies is rarely done.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

More Help for Sore Muscles: The Thumper

The Thumper Sport
I still like foam rollers for working the soreness out of large muscle groups like the back and the upper legs because the weight of your body helps you to work into those areas (see “Foam Rollers:  Help for Sore Muscles”).  But for smaller body parts, like the very top of the back and the biceps muscles, the rollers aren’t much help so I decided to try a percussion massager.  The first one I got was a HoMedics device for about $40.  It worked pretty well but started making an ominous noise after a couple of months so I took it back to Bed, Bath, and Beyond (thanks to their liberal returns policy).  That experience was enough to persuade me that these machines can really be useful so I decided to invest in a Thumper.

This massager is the descendant of the first deep muscle percussion massager, produced in 1974, which was based on research by Canadian chiropractor Lyman Johnson.  The Thumper is still made in Canada and the company now produces a whole line of massage-related products, including one for horses! I got the simplest one, the Sport Percussive Massager, which came with good instructions, including a DVD demonstrating its use.  The only drawback is that the Thumper is pricey; I paid about $140 on Amazon.  On days when I don’t use the foam roller I use the Thumper on my back, arms and legs, and even my hands and feet.  You hold it on each spot for less than a minute so the whole process doesn’t take long.  It definitely loosens up stiffness and helps me to relax in the evening.  It seems to be well made and has a two-year warranty, an indication that the company is serious about quality.  

Four years ago Mark Tarnopolsky a neurometabolic researcher at McMaster University injured a hamstring in a waterskiing accident.  He was so impressed with the effects of massage in improving his condition that he decided to explore the underlying mechanisms that cause it to work.  “They found that massage reduced the production of compounds called cytokines, which play a critical role in inflammation. Massage also stimulated mitochondria, the tiny powerhouses inside cells that convert glucose into the energy essential for cell function and repair.”  So massage both suppresses inflammation and promotes faster healing.  “Basically, you can haveyour cake and eat it too,” said Tarnopolsky.  Researchers found no basis for the claim that massage removes lactic acid from muscles.