Function = Health

Some define health as the absence of disease. At Gulf Coast Wellness, we think that’s setting the bar a bit low. There must be something that happens in between being perfectly healthy and having a disease. Ever wonder what that is? Watch this video to find out!–BUT WAIT—if you haven’t watched my What is Qi video yet, PLEASE watch that first

Myths and Facts About Chinese Medicine I

Myths and Facts About Chinese Medicine II

Myths and Facts About Chinese Medicine III

Chris Kresser—Chinese Medicine Demystified

What to do when you’re sick

One question I constantly get asked is, “What should I do when I get sick?” If you have an Acupuncturist or Chinese Herbalist, they should be your first stop. The sooner you get treatment, the shorter your illness. Herbs are far more effective than medications for eradicating viruses and getting you back on your feet.

But what about the rest of you who don’t have any help? There are some simple, natural things you can do to feel better quickly and shorten the duration of your illness.

Obviously I’m no video expert, or I’d know how to come up with a better thumbnail, but I keep doing these anyway in an attempt to help you learn more about your health! I hope you enjoy it!

Gulf Coast Wellness Opening November 1!

We are so excited to announce the opening of our Pensacola clinic, located at 310 E Government St.—your new downtown Pcola location for Acupuncture, Nutrition, Herbal Medicine and Neuro-nutrient therapy!

Our site is currently under construction, so please pardon the mess. You can still find many of our posts by clicking around, and we should be fully functional soon. If you’re new to us, some great articles to start with are What to Expect at Your First Visit and Acupuncture Done Correctly Gets Results.

Feel free to check out the website for our San Francisco clinic at and Like us on Facebook for great health information and promotional opportunities.

We are so excited to be living and working here in Pensacola now. It’s a wonderful community with a real need for more natural healthcare practitioners. Thanks to everyone we’ve met for being so welcoming and helpful. We love it!

Be well,

Dr. Peter Shark, AP NNTS

The Dangers of Anti-depressants

If you think only crazy people are concerned about the safety of anti-depressant medications, you should watch this video. Mood disorders have skyrocketed in the last decade, with psychiatric medications keeping pace. Now we have a new age of violence which has never been seen before in history.

Every major violent assault from Columbine to the recent Connecticut tragedy involved an assailant recently going on or off anti-depressant medication (the most dangerous phases). There are better, safer options.

Read my article on amino acids or go to to learn more.


I recently read this depressing article in December 2011 Men’s Health: . The author coins a term, mentacide, which seems to be basically defined as when the brain attacks itself with over-thinking. If you read the article, you’ll see that the author clearly acknowledges the negative physical ailments that result from this issue, and he readily admits to being unable to follow through on actions which would incite positive change. His final solution seems to be “positive thinking” which, you can tell from the tone of the article, is clearly not working. But without a solution, what other choice is there?

Countless articles like this seek to prove to us that our mood disorders are normal experiences that we have to learn to love. It seems that there’s no middle ground between espousing the wonders of medicating the masses and denying that there’s any problem at all.

I spent many years on the denial end of the spectrum before I found the solution of Nuero-nutrient Therapy (also called Amino Acid Therapy). This revolutionary therapy based on the work of Dr. Kenneth Blum was further developed and perfected by Julia Ross over twenty years of clinical application.

Kenneth Blum was doing research on alcoholism when he basically discovered neurotransmitters and their connection to addiction. While doing this research, he also discovered that amino acids are precursors to these neurotransmitters, and that supplementing with amino acids could correct neurotransmitter deficiencies. (As an aside, I don’t agree with his more recent conclusion that all amino acids simply stimulate dopamine).

The original trials on Prozac provided much of the science that led to Neuronutrient Therapy (NNT). It turns out that the same sorts of deficiencies at play in addiction are also happening in anxiety and depression. And recently the National Institute on Drug Abuse said, “The two conditions (addiction and obesity) have roots in some of the same brain areas and circuits.”


Alcoholism, drug addiction, overeating, under-eating, depression, anxiety and over-stress syndrome all have roots in neurotransmitter deficiency. Addictive behaviors all stimulate your brain to release “feel-good” chemicals like Serotonin, Norepinephrine, Dopamine, GABA and Endorphin, the very same chemicals that are deficient in those suffering from mood disorders.

There are drugs on the market that seek to raise the active amount of these chemicals in the brain by preventing the re-absorption and breakdown of these chemicals, but only NNT actually provides your body with the raw material needed to increase production. Every other method: drugs, exercise, medications, merely increase the release or slow the breakdown of the neurotransmitters. Only Amino Acids increase production in the brain!

If you’ve read the Men’s Health article, and you identify with it, there is hope for you! You don’t have to continue suffering. Those thinking patterns can actually go away—permanently! And naturally!

Check out our other articles on Amino Acids, and pick up a copy of Julia Ross’ The Mood Cure today!

Our clinic is currently accepting NNT patients, and we even take Skype clients for those who live more than an hour from San Francisco. Call Today: 415-424-3213

What to expect at your first visit

Why the big exam? Why do I have to wait for Acupuncture? Can I get a treatment today?

While many Pensacola residents are interested in Acupuncture and generally favor it, people often confuse “natural” and “healthy” to mean ineffective or slow to produce results. At Gulf Coast Wellness, it is our mission to change the way people use Acupuncture. What is unique about us is that we do a thorough evaluation, formulate an individualized treatment plan and execute that plan using the most advanced treatment techniques available in order to get the results you deserve.

This approach puts a great burden on us to only accept patients we believe we can truly help. In many other Pensacola Acupuncture offices, you will walk in, spend 10 minutes explaining your issue (usually while lying on the treatment table) and immediately receive an Acupuncture treatment. “Great!” you say, “I want to get going right away.”

Admittedly it sounds good at first. Of course, you went to an Acupuncturist to get Acupuncture, so you’d want to get some Acupuncture right away. However, the most important step has been left out of this transaction, and that is proper evaluation and diagnosis. What if you went to the optometrist, and upon hearing that you are having trouble seeing things that are far away he promptly diagnoses you as near-sighted and writes a prescription. In some offices, you’d have your glasses in an hour or less. Hooray! Now you’ve quickly handled the matter of needing glasses. The problem is, no one checked to see if the actual prescription is correct for you. There were no tests run, so only a vague diagnosis was reached and not an actual thorough understanding of your problem.

This kind of problem presents especially often in Holistic Medicne. Holistic Medicine is incredibly individual. Its treatment strategies depend upon determining the underlying cause of an issue. This means that two people with identical complaints, for example migraines, may in fact have exactly opposite underlying causes and therefore opposite treatment approaches. This means that any new patient requires a bit of investigation before getting started.

In our clinic, we first pre-screen every patient. That is, you come in for a consultation with an Acupuncture Physician to first determine if the methods we use at Gulf Coast Wellness are entirely appropriate for you. If they are not, we promptly refer you to another practitioner who can adequately evaluate your condition. For example, I once had a patient come in with the chief complaint of shortness of breath. She felt that it was difficult to breathe. On face value, this is typically a problem that Acupuncture and Chinese herbs treat very well. Based on that, I recommended a full evaluation of her history and physical condition.

When I got to the physical exam, I listened to her lungs. In the vast majority of shortness of breath patients, there will be absolutely nothing physically wrong with the lungs that can be detected by any test, much less listening to lung sounds with a stethoscope. However, with such a complaint it is prudent to investigate every avenue. Upon listening (auscultation as we call it in medicine) I found that she had no breath sounds at all in her lower lobes. This is rather serious and indicates that the lower lobes are not involved in breathing for one reason or another—such as collapse or being filled with fluid. Based on her history I ventured a guess that it was probably fluid and promptly referred her to a pulmonologist to have the appropriate tests run. In fact, it was fluid, and it turned out that this patient had a very serious problem with her lymphatic system (your second circulatory system) that was causing her lungs to fill up. This was a surgical issue and out of my scope of practice. It also could have become life threatening very quickly. Due to the thorough exam, this patient’s life was probably saved.

So back to your first visit, this visit involves only two things: taking the pulse and talking. As an Acupuncture Physician, taking the pulse is my inside view on what is happening in your body. It tells me about the circulation in various areas of your body. Problems like not enough blood flow (blood deficiency), blood stuck in an area and not moving out normally, similar to a bruise or contusion (blood stasis), inflammation (heat) or constriction (cold) can all be detected in the pulse. The pulse taking often reveals issues that the patient has not even thought to mention. Then comes talking. This first visit involves just a simple interview. We will get the most basic facts about the problem that brought you in. The purpose is simply to come to one of two conclusions:
a. we can probably help you, and we are the best choice to treat this problem or
b. you will be better served by another approach.

We take our commitment to proper evaluation very seriously. You can absolutely rely on an honest and thorough opinion on your health issues and a clear directive of how to follow up for treatment.



Acknowledgements: I adapted the optometrist analogy from Brian Tracy’s The Art of Closing the Sale—he was using a medical example of misdiagnosis to explain sales, but I found that it fits medicine even better.

Natural Treatment for Depression without Antidepressants

Even here in health-crazed San Francisco, many people suffer from anxiety and depression or other problems with their mood. If you watch TV for even an hour, you’ll quickly find the solution—antidepressants! And if antidepressants don’t work, don’t stop taking them, just add an antipsychotic, like Seroquel or Abilify. Or add more antidepressants!

Now maybe you believe that antidepressants are a good idea. Maybe you believe they are safe and effective. In fact, problems from heart disease to increased risk of death from suicide have been associated with antidepressants, so much so that for the latter, the FDA has mandated a black box warning on all SSRI’s (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), the most common form of antidepressant. Now you may be thinking, “A black box warning doesn’t sound all that serious.”

Actually, it is the most serious action the FDA will take apart from completely removing a drug from market. The FDA almost never does this. Even a drug like Vioxx that was clearly killing people was actually removed by the manufacturer. What did the FDA do? It required a black box warning.

What this warning means is that this medication is clearly dangerous, but it may show some sort of therapeutic value—or that it cannot be proven that it shows absolutely no therapeutic value and the government would lose its shirt trying to defend such “libelous” claims. It’s supposed to be your doctor’s job to very carefully monitor the risk-benefit analysis in your particular case. The problem is, they often don’t know of another solution, so they believe the only two options are prescribing the medication or forcing you to remain in a state that is making you miserable and ineffective. They also tend to lack an understanding of the seriousness of the side-effects. To understand how the data on these drugs get skewed watch this amazing TED talk:

In order to understand the alternative, we must understand what mood disorders really are. First of all, mood disorders are not mental illness. Mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia or true bipolar, are completely different from mood disorders and may require medication for management. Mood disorders are merely an imbalance of the current brain chemistry. To be more specific, they are a deficit in one or more of the following neurotransmitters (brain chemicals): Serotonin, Norepinephrine, GABA, Endorphin or Glucose (technically not a neurotransmitter but it has a huge impact on brain function).

These deficiencies are rooted in nutritional deficiencies that sometimes take many years to compound into an issue with the mood. “But,” you say, “I eat really well. I avoid meat and saturated fat. I shop at Trader Joe’s.”

So many of us have reduced meat and fat to get healthy, others have cut calories to lose weight. Sometimes we just settle for food out of box or can, because we’re busy or we don’t know how to cook. These strategies all have proponents telling us we should do this, or it’s okay to do that, but the soaring trend of anxiety and depression tell a different story. They tell a story of chronic undernourishment, in particular of protein deficiency.

Neurotransmitters are made by the body out of amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Without protein, we have no amino acids. Without amino acids, we have no neurotransmitters. Without the right levels of neurotransmitters, we have what Julia Ross, author of The Mood Cure, calls “false moods.” These are moods that do not represent the real you or your true personality. These moods can make you irritable, down, stressed, angry, even suicidal. They can cause you turn to sweets, alcohol, drugs or behaviors that give you a temporary boost. They manifest in different ways for different people, but the main thing to remember is that they are not “you,” and they can be fixed.

So if the problem is nutritional, then the solution is also nutritional. What’s the secret? Primarily it is protein. Adequate protein is absolutely essential for proper brain function. However, if you already have a problem with your mood (or with eating behavior, alcohol or drugs) the deficiency is probably too great to correct just by correcting the food you put into your mouth. Your brain will need a big dose of these amino acids all at once, and the best way to accomplish this is through supplementation.

Isolated amino acids are given in supplement form (usually capsules or sublingual tablets) in order to boost brain production of your neurotransmitters. Taking amino acids is the ONLY way to accomplish this. SSRI’s don’t do it; they merely keep the chemicals already in your brain from being reabsorbed; this is one reason they don’t work for many people. For a somewhat slow and cheesy but informative video on this look here:

With 1 in 10 Americans taking antidepressants, this information could be revolutionary. In my clinic, we’ve treated numerous patients who either want to get off antidepressants or want to avoid getting on them in the first place. The results with the amino acid therapy are almost unbelievable. Before studying with Julia Ross, I had no idea that there was an effective alternative for treating anxiety and depression. I struggled with only getting marginal results with many of my own patients. Since learning this amazing treatment, I can’t believe that it’s been kept such a secret, and I want to bring hope to all of those people out there who are looking for some alternative to their current treatment approach. There is hope, and you can get better!

The most amazing thing about amino acid therapy, and the main reason I chose to become certified as a specialist in it, is that it is a corrective therapy. This means that a course of treatment can correct the deficiency so that you no longer need to take the supplement. As you may have guessed, correcting the diet will be necessary for permanent results. But can you imagine, after years of depression, becoming depression and supplement-free in a matter of months? I’ve seen it, and it is amazing.

The other advantage amino acid therapy has over drugs is that it has no side-effects. Or to be more correct, if you have a side-effect the therapy is immediately altered to eliminate it. In holistic medicine, a side-effect is seen as a signal that your body does not agree with the treatment. A medicine that is designed to fix your system, should not create such a response from your body. The only thing you should feel is better.

This is a very short summary of a very complicated issue, so if you’d like to read more I’ve included several resources below. My clinic, Wood Tiger Acupuncture, in San Francisco is always happy to consult on this topic. We also are gladly accepting new patients for this therapy, and we offer a free consultation to determine if the therapy is appropriate for you before beginning. You can try to self-treat using Julia Ross’ books, but I have seen very limited results with that approach. I think it’s just too difficult to trouble-shoot your own brain chemistry, especially if you haven’t had intensive training on the subject.

Acknowledgements: Julia Ross has been the pioneer in this field. She has spent many years refining her treatment approach, and I have been so lucky to study directly with her on this topic.


Antidepressant statistics:

FDA black box warning:

Celexa  and heart disease:

Antidepressant withdrawal:

Antidepressants don’t work: excellent video—as seen on Dr. Oz

Serious side-effects:

For information on how doctors are influenced by drug companies:

There are so many more resources. Several books could be written on this topic without scratching the surface, but the best ones currently out there are: