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This Vancouver man is on a mission to help fellow amputees with ‘life-changing’ mirror therapy





Almost 15 years ago, a motorbike accident in Italy left Stephen Sumner with an amputated left leg and a strange, debilitating condition known as phantom limb pain.

That condition, the 58-year-old told, soon became “the worst aspect of my entire life.”

“I was just getting destroyed by it,” Sumner said via telephone from his home in Vancouver. “I was very literally suicidal at a certain point.”

Sumner said he tried — and failed — to mollify the constant and excruciating pain with an admixture of alcohol and stoicism.

“I was just trying to mind over matter it,” he said. “It just wasn’t working.”

That continued for years until in a bout of particularly unbearable agony, Sumner went online and discovered mirror therapy: a treatment in which an amputee uses a mirror to reflect a remaining limb, essentially tricking their brain into thinking that that an amputated arm or leg is still there.

“I felt, ‘Oh my god, it’s there again!’ — I felt better,” Sumner recalled of his first mirror session. “It’s now been eight years and I’ve been almost totally pain-free.”

The therapy also helped Sumner — who has worked as everything from an English teacher to a bicycle salesman to a longshoreman — find his calling in life.

“I would say from significant experience that… amputees are faced with almost boundless hardships,” he said. “A lot of these people feel that they’ve been abandoned by everything and everyone.”

Wanting to share this “life-changing” treatment, Sumner has since taken multiple months-long trips to war-scarred countries across Asia, Africa and the Middle East where he gets on a cargo bike laden with custom-built acrylic mirrors to search out others suffering from phantom limb pain. So far, he’s delivered well over 2,000 mirrors to fellow amputees.

“I’m almost like a missionary, if you will,” Sumner said. “I feel that I’m bringing something to somebody that’s very, very important.”


When asked to describe what phantom limb pain feels like, Sumner screams over the phone.

“That’s a reflection of what’s commonly referred to as ‘electric shock pain,’ which is the worst style of phantom limb pain,” Sumner said.

There are also sensations that he refers to as crushing, cramping and burning. Pain events, Sumner said, are cyclical and can last for days — and nothing, not even pharmaceuticals, can make them go away.

“If you’re experiencing the crushing or the cramping, or never mind the electrical shock style of pain, you’re not sleeping, you’re not eating, you hate your girlfriend, you hate your friends, you hate your family, you can’t work, you can’t go out in public,” he said. “It’s that bad.”

Stephen Sumner teaches mirror therapy to a fellow amputee in Cambodia in 2015. (Stephen Sumner)

Sumner first shared mirror therapy on a 2011 bicycle trip through Cambodia. The small Southeast Asian country has the inglorious distinctions of being the second most landmine-riddled country in the world as well as having the most amputees per capita — legacies of a series of bloody and protracted conflicts that started in the 1960s with the American war in neighbouring Vietnam and ended only with a UN-backed civil war peace deal in the 1990s. Sumner has been back to the country numerous times since.

“With almost everyone, basically their eyes flutter and they go, ‘Oh my god, it feels like I have that arm back! It feels like I have that leg back!” he said. “I get one or two crabby ex-Khmer Rouge soldiers, but beyond that, it’s been resoundingly positive.”

Sumner explains mirror therapy like this: you simply have to sit with a mirror positioned in such a way that you only see a whole limb being reflected where an amputated limb used to be. And then you meditate, perhaps trying to move the phantom limb, or perhaps just contemplating the image of your whole self until you enter a relaxed state.

“There’s a lot of positive thought involved,” Sumner said.

In cases where someone has two arms or legs missing, Sumner will recruit a young relative or volunteer to sit in that persons’ lap to provide the reflection. And wherever Sumner goes — whether that be Laos, Ethiopia or Lebanon — he leaves extra mirrors at clinics and hospitals while teaching others how to share this therapy. He also offers a guarantee of sorts: spend 10 minutes in front of your mirror twice a day for a total of five weeks, “and then you can reasonably expect that your pain will be, if not gone, then it will be radically diminished and that you more than likely won’t have to repeat the treatment at all.”

“They might have been living with this agony on a daily basis for 35 or 40 or 45 years in some cases,” Sumner said. “This is life-changing stuff.”


Mirror therapy was pioneered in the 1990s by neuroscientist Dr. V.S. Ramachandran and his colleagues at the University of California, San Diego.

While it has anecdotally proven to be effective, on a scientific level, the therapy remains poorly understood. Still, it — and similar virtual reality-based therapies — are even being used in places like Canada.

Stephen Sumner’s six simple rules for mirror therapy are seen in this Dec. 2018 photo from Jaffna, Sri Lanka. (Stephen Sumner)

Dr. Amanda Lee Mayo is a physiatrist who subspecializes in amputee rehabilitation at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. Mayo calls mirror therapy her clinic’s “most common non-pharmaceutical treatment” for phantom limb pain.

“Almost all adult amputees, after they have an amputation, will experience phantom limb pain or sensations,” Mayo said.

For most, Mayo adds, that pain will decrease over time.

“But there are some patients that have a chronic debilitating phantom limb pain that will persist,” she said.

According to Mayo, her patients describe their phantom limb with “classic nerve pain characteristics” such as “burning, numbness and tingling (and) electric shocks.”

“When you have an amputation, the nerves are still there, right?” Mayo explained. “So when you lose your leg, they cut the nerves, but the nerves are still sending signals up your spinal cord into your brain, and your brain is still thinking that the foot’s there… So it will be sending pain signals that can either present in the residual limb or sort of shoot and you get this phantom limb sensation or pain.”

Mirror therapy, Mayo says, works by both “retraining the brain to what the new norm (of) the body is” and creating a distraction “from the painful sensations that (patients are) experiencing.”

“We’re playing along with the motor-sensory cortex in the brain and trying to sort of rewire it through guided motor imagery and mirror therapy,” she said. “So (in) a lot of mirror therapy, they’ll be sort of relaxing their intact limb on the other side, because a lot of the sensation that patients describe is like their foot is cramping or their fists are clenched. The therapist will (then) sort of work the patient through with their intact limb to relax (their) hand or move it in a relaxing way.”

And while it does not necessarily work for everyone — especially patients who are intellectually disabled or have multiple amputations — it remains an important tool at her amputee rehabilitation clinic.

“It’s always worth a try to see if it will help,” Mayo said. “I think anything is good for pain management, especially when we’re looking at non-pharmaceutical options… A lot of these patients get inappropriately prescribed opioids for phantom pain.”

Mayo calls Sumner’s work “fantastic.”


Sumner is currently sharing mirror therapy with fellow amputees in northern Sri Lanka — a region that was racked by a vicious civil war between 1983 and 2009 — as part of a months-long journey that began in November and will also take him and his cargo bike to countries like Myanmar and Vietnam.

In this Dec. 2018 photo, Stephen Sumner shares mirror therapy in Jaffna, Sri Lanka. (Stephen Sumner)

“I ride up into the provinces and search out more hospitals, more clinics and even more villages,” he said. “(I’ll) ride through some of the most beautiful country on earth.”

Although he has received some financial support from local NGOs and groups like the International Committee of the Red Cross, he funds his trips largely through private donations and his own scanty savings.

“I’ve never ever had more than two nickels to rub together, it seems,” Sumner said. “I’m just a guy with mirrors who’s an amputee that doesn’t suffer from phantom pain.”

Still, Sumner persists and will continue delivering mirrors on this trip until his funds run out and he is forced to return home to Vancouver.

You can follow Sumner’s journeys through his Facebook page and website,, where he also blogs and accepts donations. Sumner’s custom-built acrylic mirrors cost between $10 and $25 to produce, and he almost always gets them locally made.

“In my mind, I can’t believe the fact that I’m the only guy in the world that does what I do,” he said. “In my mind, there should be an army of me out there.”


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Researchers warn about the severe psychological distress caused by eating junk food





(Natural News) Does junk food make you sad? While the current state of the American food industry is more than enough to make anyone feel depressed, new research from Loma Linda University demonstrates a link between junk-laden diets and psychological distress. Based on their findings, it appears that what you eat can and does affect your mental health — and that the prepackaged garbage peddled as “food” can have a seriously deleterious effect on your emotional well-being.

Even after adjusting for other external factors, the scientists found this relationship held steady: The more junk food a person ate, the more distress they reported feeling. When you consider the physiological effects junk food has on the body, it is no wonder that people report feeling like they are more distressed: They are in distress, they just don’t know it’s because of what the “food” they’re eating is doing to them on the inside.

Estimates suggest that the average American gets 60 percent of their daily calories from processed or junk food. Junk food consumption is a widespread problem here in the United States. Now, there are questions about whether or not junk food is a driving force in the plague of insanity (and stupidity) striking the U.S.

Scientists link junk food to poor mental health

Published in the journal International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition in early 2019, a study from Loma Linda University scientists finds a link between poor diet and poor mental health. Even after adjusting for external factors such as gender, age, education and income level, the association between junk food intake and mental illness remained.

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Study leader Jim E. Banta, Ph.D., MPH, an associate professor at the school, says that their conclusions support the findings of previous research. To conduct their study, Banta and his team looked at data from the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS). The scientists used 240,000 phone surveys conducted by CHIS between 2005 and 2015, and included data on socio-demographics, health status and health behaviors.

“This and other studies like it could have big implications for treatments in behavorial medicine,” Banta said of the findings.

“Perhaps the time has come for us to take a closer look at the role of diet in mental health, because it could be that healthy diet choices contribute to mental health. More research is needed before we can answer definitively, but the evidence seems to be pointing in that direction,” he added.

The fact that scientists in the 21st century are only now just beginning to even consider the possibility of a relationship between nutrition and mental health is truly disturbing. Natural health practitioners have long been aware of the importance of good nutrition for total well-being, including mental state.

Is poor nutrition turning America insane?

Vitamin D deficiency is a well-known cause of depression. B vitamins, iron, selenium and magnesium also support good mental health and deficiencies in these nutrients can also cause depression and anxiety. There is a growing body of research which strongly supports poor nutrition as a causative factor not only in depression, but in other mental illnesses — including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, OCD and more.

For example, Dr. Banta notes that some research has linked high sugar consumption to bipolar disorder, while fried foods and processed grains are linked to depression. There is no ignoring the link between diet and disease — whether it is of the body or of the mind makes no difference.

Nearly 60 percent of the American population’s diet comes from disease-causing food, and it is hard not to wonder if obesity, heart disease and death aren’t the only problems being caused by junk food diets.

Are the increasingly insane leftists just running around in a nutrient-deprived, sugar-spiked frenzy? Whether you’re talking about the inanity of “social justice” score-keeping or the rapid acceptance of censorship to silence conservatives, it’s clear that the far left is missing a few bolts upstairs. A diet of GMOs, pesticides and toxic food additives will do that to you, though.

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Eat healthier to improve your physical and mental well-being





(Natural News) The physical health and mental well-being of a person depend a lot on nutrition and the food that he eats. Diet also influences the risk of developing chronic diseases. While the relationship between physical health and diet is well-understood, little is known about how diet and its quality influence the development of mental disorders. In a recent study, researchers from the University of Regensburg in Germany investigated the behavioral effects of a Western diet on pattern separation – the process of keeping items distinct in memory. They discovered that a diet consisting of increased amounts of sugar and saturated fatty acids, reduced levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids, and an increased ratio of omega-6/omega-3 fatty acids (Western diet) harms memory. The results of their study were published in the journal Food Science and Human Wellness.

The Western diet impairs pattern separation

In this study, researchers investigated the utility of spatial separation – a behavioral process associated with the hippocampus – in the assessment of dietary interventions and the behavioral effects of the transgenerational administration of a Western diet on pattern separation. Pattern separation is the process of keeping items distinct in memory and is mediated by the hippocampus. Previous studies have suggested that there is a relationship between hippocampal function and diet quality in both humans and animals.

To examine the association between them, the researchers used rats, feeding over seven generations a diet containing increased amounts of sugar and saturated fatty acids, reduced levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids, and an increased ratio of omega-6/omega-3 fatty acids. This diet composition is characteristic of a diet known as the Western diet. The researchers administered it transgenerationally because previous studies have shown that interventional diets need to be implemented over several generations to induce behavioral effects.

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They compared the spatial pattern separation (or local discrimination) performance of these animals with that of rats fed a standard diet. For the test, they presented the rats two locations and allowed them to learn across trials to respond to the correct location. During spatial discrimination training, they designated a location as the correct one and rewarded the rats if they touched the correct location. They reversed the correct and incorrect locations every time the rats successfully got the correct ones nine times out of 10 trials.

The researchers found a separation-dependent difference between the standard and Western diet groups in the number of discriminations performed in the pattern separation task. The rats fed with a Western diet performed fewer discriminations. Rats with lesions in the dorsal hippocampus showed impaired pattern separation when the locations were close together but not when they were far apart. The researchers associated this impairment with hippocampal dysfunctioning. Their results align with previous studies which demonstrated that consumption of a Western diet impaired cognitive functions, damaged brain regions, and contributed to the occurrence of neurodegenerative diseases. Their results confirmed that pattern separation could be negatively affected by transgenerational administration of a Western diet.

The researchers concluded that spatial pattern separation can help detect the effects of dietary interventions and that the Western diet can impair pattern separation.

How to make your diet healthier

A healthy diet can provide many benefits, the most important of which is the prevention of chronic diseases. Here are some things that you can do to make your diet healthier:

  • Eat slowly
  • Choose whole grains
  • Add probiotics to your diet
  • Increase your protein intake
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Avoid frying food and eating fast food
  • Take vitamin and mineral supplements
  • Try new and healthy recipes
  • Eat vegetables first before every meal
  • Eat fruits instead of drinking them
  • Exercise regularly
  • Stop drinking sweetened beverages
  • Get adequate sleep

Eating healthier and becoming aware of your nutritional needs will not only improve your physical health, but these will also benefit your mental and emotional well-being.

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Apples: Eat them to keep the doctor away – and boost stem cell therapy





(Natural News) There is some truth behind the saying, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Apples are superfoods, and they are good sources of antioxidants that protect cells from oxidative damage and boost the immune system. They also contain dietary fiber, which is good for digestion and the maintenance of gut microbiota. But there is more to apples than just being healthy, antioxidant fruits. In a recent study published in the journal Nutrition Research, researchers from Sungkyunkwan University in South Korea showed the beneficial effect of apple extracts on the proliferation of adult stem cells. They also identified the possible molecular mechanisms underlying apple’s pro-proliferative effects.

Apple ethanol extracts can enhance the proliferation of stem cells useful for tissue regeneration

Tissue regeneration using adult stem cells (ASCs) has significant potential in the treatment of many degenerative diseases. It also provides a promising means of repairing chronic tissue or organ failure due to injuries, congenital defects, and aging. Stem cells are essential in regenerative medicine because they can be used directly in cell replacement therapies. However, studies on their application in clinical settings suggest that age negatively affects the proliferation status and differentiation potential of ASCs. This presents a possible limitation in their therapeutic use.

In the hopes of addressing this limitation, researchers turned their attention to the pro-proliferative activity of apples. Apples are rich sources of valuable phytochemicals that are known to be beneficial to human health. They possess anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and even anticancer activities. These antioxidants can help maintain human cells and protect them from harmful oxidation products. In addition, apples contain metabolites that could ensure longevity and increase the number of human cells in culture. (Related: Apples could hold key for increasing lifespan.)

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Because of this, researchers hypothesized that apple extracts might exert beneficial effects on ASCs. They obtained apple extracts using ethanol as the extraction solvent and tested these on human adipose tissue-derived mesenchymal stem cells (ADSCs) and human cord blood-derived mesenchymal stem cells (CB-MSCs). They also used 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide and Click-iT 5-ethynyl-2?-deoxyuridine flow cytometry assays to evaluate the pro-proliferative effects of the extracts.

The researchers found that treatment with apple extracts promoted the proliferation of ADSCs and CB-MSCs. Apple extracts also induced the stepwise phosphorylation of p44/42 MAPK (ERK), mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), p70 S6 kinase (p70S6K), S6 ribosomal protein (S6RP), eukaryotic initiation factor (eIF) 4B, and eIF4E in ADSCs. p44/42 MAPK (ERK) is a signaling pathway involved in the regulation of cell proliferation and differentiation. Inhibition of this pathway results in cell apoptosis. mTOR is a key signaling node that coordinates cell cycle progression and cell growth. p70S6K is a cytokine that regulates cell growth by inducing protein synthesis. eIFs, on the other hand, are proteins or protein complexes involved in translation and protein biosynthesis.

The researchers also reported that apple extracts significantly induced the production of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and interleukin-6 (IL-6) in both ADSCs and CB-MSCs. VEGF is a potent angiogenic factor, which means it promotes the formation of blood vessels. VEGF also plays a role in other physiological functions, such as hematopoiesis, wound healing, and development. IL-6 is a promoter of proliferation. The researchers further confirmed that the apple extract-induced proliferation of ADSCs under serum-free conditions is mediated by ERK-dependent cytokine production because when they pre-treated cells with PD98059, a specific ERK inhibitor, it inhibited the phosphorylation of the mTOR/p70S6K/S6RP/eIF4B/eIF4E pathway.

Based on these findings, the researchers concluded that extracts from apples are potent pro-proliferative agents, and the beneficial effect of apple extract on the proliferation of ASCs may overcome the limitation in their therapeutic use in tissue regeneration.

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