Wednesday, December 16, 2009

"Do you treat...?"

"Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."
-- World Health Organization, 1948

Quite often, I get e-mails from potential patients asking me if I treat X condition. They are happy to have received a diagnosis, be it hypothyroidism, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, fibromyalgia, diabetes, or whatever they have been labeled as having. At least these people know that what they are suffering has an official name, and thus a potential exact treatment, usually a drug of some sort. (Unfortunately, in many cases, these drugs are not effective, or have undesirable side effects.)

I also often get e-mails from patients who have a mysterious array of symptoms that are not easily pigeonholed into a diagnosis. They have run through a barrage of lab tests that indicate - at least on paper - that all their blood/urine levels are normal, or that there was nothing abnormal found on the imaging they received. These are the people who often come to me like Princess Leia, saying, "Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You're my only hope."

In either case, when working with patients, I generally adhere to a philosophy known as the naturopathic therapeutic order. It goes like this:

1. Remove obstacles to cure.
2. Instill a healthy regimen.
3. Support the body's natural healing process.
4. Support individual weakened or diseased organs or organ systems.
5. Address structural abnormalities.
6. Address the condition or pathology.
7. Suppress the condition or pathology.


Notice that in this therapeutic order, there is no emphasis on whatever condition a person has been labeled with until all other health-supporting priorities have been addressed. Often, an effective treatment protocol may include just the first three or four parts of this order, and the patient gets better. (Incidentally, treatment almost always includes patient education, so that not only does the patient get better, but he or she has tools they can use for the rest of their lives to help keep themselves healthy.)

This emphasis on creating health is often the rationale behind naturopathic doctors who say, "We don't treat conditions. We treat people (who happen to have these conditions)." This is not to say that naturopathic doctors do not understand these conditions; four years of excellent in-residence education with many classes in pathology, public health, and pharmacology (among others), ensures that they do. But patients are more than the labels of diseases they have been given. Addressing only these labels without addressing the fundamental causes of their diseases - the obstacles to cure, the less-than-optimal health regimens, the weakened organ systems - does a patient disservice. To address each patient wholly and to pursue the real cause of disease is the ultimate goal of a naturopathic doctor. Only by doing this can we achieve the true definition of health: complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

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Do you have health issues that aren't being adequately addressed by conventional medicine? Naturopathic care may be the answer you're looking for. Visit my website for more information about naturopathic medicine, and begin your journey toward optimal health!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Recipe: Simple Breakfast Smoothie

This is a simple recipe for a breakfast smoothie I adapted from a elimination diet program that I recently did. It's wonderful that smoothies are as quick and easy to prepare as they are. (Cleanup is a snap, too.) And there are many, many recipes out there for smoothies. However, I like this one because it is so simple, because it uses whole foods, and because it is a balanced source of macronutrients (fats, carbohydrates, and proteins). And depending on what ingredients you use, this smoothie can become a powerhouse of antioxidants, bioflavonoids, vitamins, and minerals. (Hint: if you use more colorful fruit, such as berries, peaches, or mangoes, the nutritional value skyrockets.) Here's the recipe:

  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 1 cup rice, soy, almond, or oat milk
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen fruit of your choice
  • 8 ice cubes
Blend the first two ingredients together for approximately 1-2 minutes, until thoroughly blended. Add remaining ingredients, blend thoroughly, and enjoy.
There are many variations on this recipe. Here are some of my favorites:
  • Add a splash or two of coconut milk for a creamier texture and for healthy medium-chain fatty acids.
  • Substitute almonds or walnuts (soaked overnight) for the cashews.
  • Blend a date with the nuts and milk for a sweeter flavor.
  • Add 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon or ginger.
  • If using a banana as fruit, add 1 tsp coffee substitute.
  • Add 1 tsp ground flax seeds.
  • Add a splash of vanilla extract.
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Do you have health issues that aren't being adequately addressed by conventional medicine? Naturopathic care may be the answer you're looking for. Visit my website for more information about naturopathic medicine, and begin your journey toward optimal health!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Dispelling Health Myths: Fevers Are NOT Bad

Flu season has hit with a vengeance. I hear many people talk about how many in their family have fallen ill with the flu virus, and all the strategies they have used to get themselves and their loved ones through it. Almost inevitably, I hear about people using acetaminophen to lower a fever. This strategy is ultimately misguided, and blunts the body’s ability to heal itself. It may even cause an illness to last longer than it needs to.

A fever is the body’s way of killing off a bacterial or viral infection. It is, in the vast majority of cases, not a dangerous symptom to be frightened about. For children, a temperature of up to 105° is not a cause for concern; it is instead a sign that the body is mounting a healthy response to a foreign invader. This is particularly true if a child has a high fever, but otherwise shows little sign of illness. (For adults, a temperature up to 103-104° is healthy.) Indeed, in some cases, it may be beneficial to stimulate a fever if it is not high enough.

So how does a fever come about? If a flu virus, for example, is detected in your body by an immune cell called a macrophage, it eats the flu virus up, then sends a signal to the hypothalamus. This signal tells the hypothalamus (basically the control center of the body) to raise the body’s “thermostat.” You respond by shivering and feeling chills. You may also cover yourself up and try to warm yourself. This results in a fever.

Fevers are actually effective immune stimulants. When the body temperature is elevated, white blood cells are produced at a higher rate, and they are released into circulation more quickly. Antibody production is increased up to 20 times the normal rate as well!

Moreover, fevers provide an inhospitable environment for invading organisms. Many harmful bacteria cannot thrive in temperatures above the body’s normal temperature of 98.6° F, and growth rates of many viruses are decreased significantly.

Finally, fevers often decrease appetite, which is why you seldom see people with fevers craving food. This is a normal and important aspect of fighting colds and flus. The body expends 60% of its energy digesting food. When you fast for awhile (e.g., when you have a fever), your body suddenly has that much more energy it can put toward fighting an infection.

Knowing all this, is there a reason why you would want to decrease a fever? The answer should be, in most cases, “no.”

There are certain issues with fevers that should be addressed. If a fever does get too high, the best way to decrease it is to rub the body down vigorously with a tepid washcloth; this will allow blood to move toward the surface of the skin, releasing heat naturally. Also, febrile seizures are a cause for concern, but are usually the result of dehydration and/or an electrolyte imbalance; making sure someone who has a fever is drinking plenty of fluids with electrolytes often will prevent febrile seizures.

Indications for hospitalization include a fever in children that stays above 105° for prolonged periods (or in adults if it stays above 104°), or febrile seizures, particularly if they last longer than 15 minutes.

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Do you have health issues that aren't being adequately addressed by traditional medicine? Naturopathic care may be the answer you're looking for. Visit my website for more information about naturopathic medicine, and begin your journey toward optimal health!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Mentos and Diet Coke

No, I don't advocate eating Mentos. I especially don't advocate drinking Diet Coke, for many reasons. At the top of the list is Nutrasweet. Also known as aspartame, Nutrasweet is made of two amino acids: phenylalanine and aspartate. Aspartate is well-known to increase the tendency of neurons to fire. In physiologic doses, this is perfectly fine, and indeed important for optimal neurologic function. But ingesting high doses of aspartate can actually lead to overexcited neurons, and may be linked to a number of neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also known as ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease), Huntington's disease, and Alzheimer's disease. You can read Excitotoxins: The Taste that Kills by Russell Blaylock for more information.

But throw Mentos into a bottle of Diet Coke, and the result can be quite effervescent. Enjoy this video and see what happens when this tendency is harnessed to create a neat fountain display.
(And as you'd imagine, it is an EXTREMELY bad idea to drink Diet Coke and eat Mentos at the same time!)


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Do you have health issues that aren't being adequately addressed by traditional medicine? Naturopathic care may be the answer you're looking for. Visit my website for more information about naturopathic medicine, and begin your journey toward optimal health!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Eating 101 with Luciano Pavarotti

"One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating."

~~ Luciano Pavarotti, Pavarotti, My Own Story

Leave it to Pavarotti to extol the virtues of eating. The legendary operatic tenor, who died from pancreatic cancer at the age of 71 in 2007, struggled with his weight throughout his life. His appetite for food was nearly as well-known as his ability to sing beautifully and effortlessly. It may be tempting to just dismiss this quote. Of course, it's something that an avowed glutton would say, right? However, his sentiment actually shows great insight into how we should ideally eat.

Eating nowadays is often just an afterthought. How did your breakfast go today? Did you wolf down an apple while driving to work? Nibble at a muffin and gulp coffee during the morning's meeting? How about lunch? A quick drive-thru meal? Or something eaten at the desk while trying to work on that project before the deadline? And dinner? Something thrown together or even microwaved quickly and quickly devoured while watching the evening news?

Unfortunately, the above scenarios are often the norm, rather than the exception. We don't sit down intentionally, relax, and fully concentrate on eating. Life in the 21st century is often hectic, and it seems like setting aside time to eat mindfully often falls lower and lower on the list of priorities. Yet it can be one of the most delightful experiences to "stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating." Just sitting, enjoying good company in a relatively quiet environment, and deliberately savoring each bite of food can make an otherwise frantic day more handleable.

But beyond being merely pleasant, there is a more physiological reason why, when we eat, we should be so single-minded about it. Digestion ideally occurs when the body is at rest - in a state called the parasympathetic state. It's the exact opposite of the sympathetic state we all know as the "fight or flight" state. In fact, I prefer to think of it as the "rest and digest" state.

In a sympathetic state, our body is alert and primed for action of some sort. Breathing becomes deeper and quicker, the heart pounds, and blood is shunted to the muscles to provide oxygen, should we need to fight off that metaphorical saber-toothed tiger or run from danger. Or, to put it in modern terms, we enter this state when someone swerves in front of us and we slam on the brakes at the last minute to avoid an accident, or when our boss yells at us for missing that deadline. The body expends very little energy on digestion at this point, and any digestion that does occur is bound to be less effective. Considering that we derive all of our nutrition from the food that we eat and digest, it behooves us to avoid this sympathetic state.

Conversely, in a parasympathetic state, breathing slows down and becomes shallower, the heart relaxes, and blood becomes concentrated in the core of the body. The stomach is more prone to secreting acid to help digestion, and the liver and pancreas both tend to secrete more of their respective digestive juices, too. The intestines engage in more peristalsis - that is, they churn more effectively, making sure that the contents of the food we ate can be more readily absorbed. This enables us to get the most out of eating, nutritionally speaking.

So how do we most optimally get into this parasympathetic state and eat effectively? Here are some good ideas.
  • Tonight, sit down at the dinner table and resist your usual routine of reading the newspaper, watching television, doing homework, or getting into negative emotional discussions. In other words, "stop whatever it is you are doing, and devote your attention to eating." Simply focus on enjoying the experience of nourishing yourself.
  • Establish the habit of experiencing genuine gratitude for whatever the food or beverage is before you. Or, in simpler terms, say grace before each meal. Who are we to take for granted the bounty which surrounds us in our uniquely blessed culture? It is essential to feel your gratitude here, not to just think it fleetingly, for thoughts which we attach feeling to become emotions and emotions influence every cell of our being. (A good source of pre-meal blessings is John Robbins’ book May All Be Fed: Diet for a New World.)
  • Notice your breathing as you reflect on your good fortune and begin to draw deep slow breaths from low in your abdomen, feeling your stomach relax as it rises and falls with each breath. Notice how this type of deep relaxed breathing feels inside.
  • Notice the aroma of your food, and if you do not find it appealing, add your favorite natural herbs and spices to enhance its appeal. Be creative! You owe it to your soul to experience the dozens of delightful and healthful herbal and spice seasonings available in our culture’s diverse marketplace. Whole healthy foods can taste marvelous. Make the time to master this art. You will have no regrets.
  • Place a reasonable amount of food on your plate, and if you are still hungry when you are done, wait five minutes. If you are still not satisfied inside on a gut level, you may then eat more.
  • Throughout your meal, listen to your stomach – not just your taste buds – and do what it tells you. Notice when you are satisfied or when foods do not agree with you.
  • Chew each bite 42 times and swallow it before you place more food in your mouth. Digestion of all food actually begins in the mouth where it is reduced to small enough particles for your digestive enzymes to get at and continue the process. Important salivary enzymes also begin their work here when provided the opportunity as per the above suggestions.
  • Drink only pure water with your meals and only as necessary, between swallows of food – not with them. Excessive fluids may dilute valuable digestive enzymes, minimize chewing, and therefore serve to negate salivary digestion. The most disruptive beverages are those which are alkalizing (acid-neutralizing), such as milk, which can interfere with digestion in the stomach. Learn to satisfy your thirst between or before meals to minimize any possibility of interference during the meal.
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Do you have health issues that aren't being adequately addressed by traditional medicine? Naturopathic care may be the answer you're looking for. Visit my website for more information about naturopathic medicine, and begin your journey toward optimal health!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Music: "Ave verum corpus" by W.A. Mozart

I'm a great music lover. More than anything, I sing - in the car, in the shower, with a karaoke machine, in a choir, wherever. For a while, I even considered majoring in music in college and becoming a music director or a conductor. But life had other plans for me. Still, it's perhaps my favorite activity outside of helping people become healthy.

Music has well-documented effects on human physiology, even though its most basic effects don't need to be proven in a laboratory. Place anyone trying to study in a room filled with blaring rock music, and they probably don't accomplish nearly as much as someone trying to study in a room where unobtrusive, calming classical music is playing.

One of my favorite songs of all time, Mozart's Ave verum corpus, powerfully demonstrates the ability of music to calm the soul and put one at ease. In college, I would often meditate, and then listen to this song by candlelight to peacefully mark the end of the day. On bad days, it could be the highlight of the whole day.

Give it a try. Turn the lights down, make sure you're in a quiet room where you won't be disturbed, and close your eyes and just listen to this piece. It may be a wonderful way to begin or end meditation or prayer time as well.



I may write more on the healing power of music in another blog post, but for now, I couldn't wait to post this song and hopefully pass on a wonderful gift to you all.
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Do you have health issues that aren't being adequately addressed by conventional medicine? Naturopathic care may be the answer you're looking for. Visit my website for more information about naturopathic medicine, and begin your journey toward optimal health!

Friday, October 2, 2009

SIGG Water Bottles and Bisphenol A

SIGG is a Swiss company that prides itself on manufacturing environmentally sound water bottles, made from either aluminum or stainless steel. Backpacker magazine has dubbed SIGG “The World’s Toughest Water Bottle” after putting a series of water bottles through a rigorous test, including being pummeled by golf balls shot from a cannon. Aluminum SIGG water bottles have been tested repeatedly to ensure that aluminum does not leach into the water.

SIGG water bottles also have a plastic coating on the inside that prevents them from building up a smell or residue. According to their website, these bottles “exceed FDA requirements and have been thoroughly tested to ensure 0.0% leaching – so they are 100% safe.”

However, on September 7, 2009, the CEO of SIGG, Steve Wasik, publicly apologized about not disclosing that the plastic linings of the popular SIGG stainless steel water bottles contained bisphenol A (BPA). This came as a surprise and a disappointment. SIGG has marketed itself as a great alternative to plastic water bottles. Many consumers who chose SIGG water bottles did so intentionally to avoid further exposure to BPA.

I have already written about the links between BPA and many diseases, including breast cancer, obesity, and diabetes. In my video, I even show a SIGG water bottle that I drank from regularly. It’s a shame that Wasik did not feel that BPA exposure was not a pertinent issue for the consumers who chose SIGG water bottles. He has risked the trust of these consumers and the stability of the company. But to his credit, he has apologized numerous times, and has taken action accordingly.

SIGG began to produce water bottles with a lining that does not contain BPA in August of 2008. The company has also offered a voluntary exchange program for anyone who bought a water bottle prior to August 2008, and who would prefer to have a BPA-free water bottle. This exchange program will be effective until October 31, 2009.

Whether or not the lining does leach contaminants of any sort, it appears that BPA may not be necessary to make an effective lining for water bottles. And this can only be good for the health of consumers.

Ideally, you should drink from water bottles that are BPA-free. Even better, consider avoiding plastic water bottles across the board. Pure stainless steel water bottles (SIGG does sell these) and even glass containers are still the best, healthiest, and most environmentally sound water bottles around. But as an acquaintance pointed out, glass may not be the best choice for children due to its being relatively fragile. So stick with stainless steel for children, and go with either for adults.

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Do you have health issues that aren't being adequately addressed by conventional medicine? Naturopathic care may be the answer you're looking for. Visit my website for more information about naturopathic medicine, and begin your journey toward optimal health!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

By The Numbers: Vitamin D

0-25 - Level of vitamin D (measured in nanograms per milliliter, or ng/mL) that gives a diagnosis of Vitamin D Deficiency Syndrome, when accompanied by two or more of the following: osteoporosis, heart disease, hypertension, autoimmune diseases, certain cancers, depression, chronic fatigue, or chronic pain.

50 - Minimum acceptable blood level of vitamin D (in ng/mL) for optimal function.

75-125 - Ideal level (in ng/mL) of vitamin D.

200 - Amount of IUs (international units) recommended by the US Food & Drug Administration per day for adults to prevent osteomalacia - not for optimal health.

400 - Amount of IUs recommended by the US Food & Drug Administration per day for children to prevent rickets - again, not for optimal health.

5,000 - Amount of IUs recommended for adults to boost Vitamin D levels by 50 ng/mL within 3 months.

10,000 - Amount of IUs recommended for adults to boost vitamin D levels by 100 ng/mL within 3 months.

20,000 - Average amount of IUs generated by individuals when sunbathing in the summer with maximum skin exposure, for roughly 15 minutes.

156,000–2,604,000 - Amount of IUs a man unknowingly took daily for 2 years, which produced one of the few documented instances of vitamin D toxicity. He recovered with sunblock, steroids, and discontinuing the (poorly measured) vitamin D supplement.

Source:
Vitamin D Council

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Do you have health issues that aren't being adequately addressed by conventional medicine? Naturopathic care may be the answer you're looking for. Visit my website for more information about naturopathic medicine, and begin your journey toward optimal health!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Best Wedding Procession Ever

It's been a busy week here, so instead of leaving you empty-handed, I wanted to post this fun video. Everyone's wedding processions should be so fun.

Enjoy!




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Do you have health issues that aren't being adequately addressed by conventional medicine? Naturopathic care may be the answer you're looking for. Visit my website for more information about naturopathic medicine, and begin your journey toward optimal health!

Friday, September 11, 2009

September 11 - A Day of Remembrance

I’ve been watching footage taken eight years ago today of the attacks on the World Trade Center. It’s hard to blink back tears as I see the repeated videos of the planes flying into the twin towers, and try to imagine what people are feeling at that moment…in the towers, on the ground, across this land of ours. These are absolutely horrific scenes that are forever emblazoned into the minds of everyone in this country.

These are difficult videos to watch. It’s been one thing over the years to see explosions on TV movies that don’t mean anything. But on these videos, thousands of people, going about their business on what originally looked like a gorgeous, cloudless, eventless Tuesday morning, suddenly and brutally saw their lives cut short. Families and friends of those killed collapsed in sorrow and anguish, and thousands of New Yorkers and millions of Americans threw aside plans that suddenly seemed insignificant, and offered whatever support they could, be it aid on the spot, or prayers from afar.

It would be remiss for me to not mention the firefighters and police forces who did all they could to save lives that day; many of them sacrificed their lives to do so. It would also be remiss not to mention the attack on the Pentagon, which killed nearly 200 people. Finally, it would be remiss not to acknowledge the attempted attack on the Capitol or the White House that was successfully foiled by brave plane passengers well away from Washington, DC, in the small town of Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Neither of these attacks were as visible as the attacks in New York City, but each was horrific in their own right.

The last time an attack by foreign interests was carried out on American soil was December 7, 1941 “a date which will live in infamy,” when Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor on the (then) territory of Hawaii. That attack thrust our country into World War II and changed our history forever. And eight years ago, the attacks on American soil thrust us directly into a new age where terrorism, not officially declared war, has become the most diabolical means of international aggression. September 11 has become one of the most pivotal days in our nation’s history, one in which some semblance of innocence and optimism about our future has been forever lost.

I have no intention of making this blog into a political soapbox; this is not what you come here to read. The reasons behind this attack are multifaceted and some theories are controversial. But I feel it is important that we take time out today to honor – however we can – those whose innocent lives were taken on September 11, 2001.

May we never forget.

Friday, September 4, 2009

The Common Cold, the Flu, and Probiotics for Children

Calling all parents! Especially those who are concerned about their children getting colds and (swine) flu this season!

Can you imagine a drug that could decrease your child's sick time this season by half...possibly more? Well, it's not a drug. It's a supplement of the beneficial bacteria in your intestines that actually can help to increase your child's immunity this season.

A colleague of mine recently shared something he read in the journal Pediatrics. The most recent issue (August 2009) showed the results of a study that examined 326 children between the ages of 3 and 5. These children were divided up into three groups. They received one the following supplements twice a day for six months:
  • A placebo.
  • A probiotic supplement consisting only of Lactobacillus acidophilus (commonly found in yogurt).
  • A combination probiotic supplement with L. acidophilus and another strain, Bifidobacterium animalis lactis.
It appears that probiotics are not just for intestinal problems. The findings of this study were astounding. Children given the probiotics suffered significantly fewer fevers, less coughing, and less runny/stuffy noses throughout the cold season. And the children given the combination probiotic supplement saw the fewest fevers and coughing/runny nose incidents. How much less?
  • Fever incidents: 53% fewer with single probiotic; 72% fewer with combo probiotic.
  • Coughing incidents: 41% fewer with single probiotic; 62% fewer with combo probiotic.
  • Runny nose incidents: 28% fewer with single probiotic; 59% fewer with combo probiotic.
Needless to say, children on probiotics did not need to go on antibiotics as often when they got sick, and they needed to stay home from day care or school less often.
To get these probiotics, your best choice is to consult a naturopathic doctor who carries these probiotics. Often, probiotics found over the counter do not contain what they say they do. Naturopathic doctors usually have access to the highest quality supplements, often only available to health care professionals. Where can you find a naturopathic doctor? Well, for one, there's the one who wrote this article! I do carry a combination probiotic product in an online store like the one in this study. If you are interested, feel free to contact me for more information. If you would prefer to see a naturopathic doctor in person that may be near you, you may check out the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians online directory.
May you and your children be healthy and happy this season!
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Do you have health issues that aren't being adequately addressed by conventional medicine? Naturopathic care may be the answer you're looking for. Visit my website for more information about naturopathic medicine, and begin your journey toward optimal health!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Swine Flu: The Basics and Vitamin D

Swine flu is currently at the forefront of our health concerns. Experts are predicting a pandemic this season. The White House estimates that roughly 90,000 people will die of the swine flu - more than twice the number in a typical flu season. Vaccine manufacturers are working overtime to create a flu vaccine; this vaccine is expected to be ready by the middle of October.

The symptoms of the swine flu are pretty much identical to the symptoms of regular influenza, including a cough, fever, achy muscles, and a headache, so it will be difficult to tell the difference - and perhaps beside the point. Also, just like the regular flu, swine flu is spread through airborne droplets from coughing, or from direct contact with a person who has swine flu.

It is important to know who is most likely to contract swine flu. Those at highest risk include:


  • Children aged 6 months up to their 19th birthday (but the younger the child the higher the risk)
  • Pregnant women
  • People 50 years of age and older
  • People of any age with heart or lung disease (asthma, COPD, emphysema), diabetes
  • People with weakened immune systems.
Since the swine flu is a new strain of the flu that we have not been exposed to yet, we have yet to develop immunity, and everyone is at risk of contracting the swine flu. This is why people are so concerned about the swine flu this year.

There are many people who are leery of the swine flu vaccine for various reasons. It is not my intention to persuade those who are ready to take the vaccine not to take it. But there are other ways to prevent the swine flu using natural methods, and to decrease its severity if it does hit. Simply doing nothing and passively relying on the body's ability to heal itself is foolish. We need to actively support the body's ability to fight off the swine flu.

First off, we can look at the common sense basics that apply pretty much to all common upper respiratory tract diseases (common colds, influenza, etc.) These include:


  • Decreasing your intake of sugars and other simple carbohydrates. These have been proven to suppress the immune system by reducing the white blood cell count for up to 24 hours.
  • Drinking plenty of water...ideally, at least 1 ounce per 3 pounds of body weight per day. (150 lbs = 50 oz of water.)
  • Getting plenty of sleep.
  • Washing your hands often, particularly if you are around people who may be sick.
  • Optimizing your nutritional status
This last one is a bit vague...after all, if you're eating well or at least taking a multivitamin, don't you have good nutritional status? The short answer, almost without exception, is "no." The food we eat nowadays is usually deficient in vitamins and minerals for various reasons. And multivitamins are helpful, but I consider multivitamins a good basic "insurance plan," when the goal is just health maintenance. In this case, our goal is to prevent the swine flu, so it is good to tailor nutritional supplementation accordingly.

The most discussed natural method of preventing the swine flu this year is vitamin D supplementation. Vitamin D is often found in food in doses that are laughably low compared with what our body needs. Certain coldwater fish are the only significant dietary source of vitamin D. The best source of vitamin D is the sun. Light-skinned individuals can produce up to 20,000 IUs of vitamin D merely by spending 15 minutes in direct sunlight, while one cup of fortified milk provides only 100 IUs of vitamin D. The recommended daily allowance of vitamin D is 200 IUs for adults, 400 IUs for children - but this is only to prevent bone diseases like rickets or osteomalacia, not to optimize immune function.

There is significant evidence nowadays linking low vitamin D levels in the body to low immunity. Indeed, some health care professionals and scientists - myself included - consider the lack of sunlight exposure in the winter months (and the resultant lack of vitamin D absorption) a significant reason why colds and the flu are so prevalent at this time.

It is a good idea to get your vitamin D levels checked right now. They should be above 50 ng/mL. If you are an adult, and your vitamin D levels are low, start high-dose supplementation of 5,000 IUs per day, then check again in 3 months. Or get plenty of sunshine - at least 15 minutes of direct sunlight on as much skin as possible every day.

For more information on using vitamin D to prevent the swine flu this year, check out this excellent video by Paul Bergner, a medical herbalist and an expert on dealing with disease from a natural perspective.


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Do you have health issues that aren't being adequately addressed by conventional medicine? Naturopathic care may be the answer you're looking for. Visit my website for more information about naturopathic medicine, and begin your journey toward optimal health!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Honey and MRSA

Before my blogging days, I sent out occasional newsletters to my patients about pertinent health issues. Here's one from a few years ago, responding to a serious issue at the time: an increase in the cases of MRSA, or "methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus." This newsletter/blog post also dovetails with another one I wrote about the use of honey to treat skin infections.

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Recently, there have been a number of articles in the media reflecting one of the biggest dangers to public health nowadays: antibiotic-resistant skin infections. Specifically, there is a strain of a bacterium called Staphylococcus aureus that has become resistant to one of the more powerful antibiotics known, methicillin. As the name implies, methicillin is indeed related to penicillin. However, methicillin is seldom used nowadays for treatment; instead, it is used to determine whether or not an organism can be eliminated by any form of penicillin. So for all intents and purposes, this strain, called “methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus,” or MRSA, is resistant to all forms of penicillin.

A little background on this organism: Staphylococcus aureus is a bacterium which sometimes causes a skin condition called “bullous impetigo.” This infection is easy to identify by blisters that cause a honey-colored crust on the surface of the skin when popped. Sometimes, Staphylococcus aureus can take hold in a skin wound, also creating this honey-colored crust. Usually, the infection is caught early, treated effectively, and remains at the level of the skin. But if it is not treated effectively, it can migrate through the body and cause a host of dangerous conditions, including pneumonia, lung abscesses, sepsis (i.e., blood poisoning), meningitis, brain abscesses, endocarditis (inflammation of the lining of the heart chambers) and kidney infections – major threats to health and life. According to an article published in the October 17th, 2007 edition of Journal of the American Medical Association, MRSA caused a higher death rate in 2005 than AIDS; it caused over 18,000 deaths out of 95,000 documented cases. Lately, MRSA seems to be concentrated in high schools and hospitals, and is particularly prevalent among high school athletes, African Americans, and the elderly.

Raw honey could be a powerful weapon in the battle against MRSA. It has been used successfully to treat skin infections that have been resistant to many other antibiotics. The most recent study, published in the Journal of Wound Care in September 2007, documented seven patients who had experienced full healing from the use of topical honey where antibiotics had failed to control their MRSA infections. The type of honey used in this study is called Manuka honey, found in New Zealand. Most honey has an enzyme called glucose oxidase which, when exposed to wounded skin, begins to release hydrogen peroxide at levels strong enough to kill bacteria, but not so strong that tissue is damaged. Manuka Honey has a second antibiotic component, simply called UMF or Unique Manuka Factor. Hospitals around the world are beginning to recognize the power of Manuka honey and use it in their wound dressings.

What does this mean for you and your loved ones? Simply enough, if you do suffer a skin wound of some sort, put raw honey over the wound, and bandage it up. Since most honey already has glucose oxidase in it, it has significant natural antibiotic properties. Using honey also will decrease the need for pharmaceutical antibiotics, and simply relies on the wisdom and healing powers of nature…the best kind available to us!

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Do you have health issues that aren't being adequately addressed by conventional medicine? Naturopathic care may be the answer you're looking for. Visit my website for more information about naturopathic medicine, and begin your journey toward optimal health!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Laughter is the Best Medicine - The Ultimate Commute

Now, don't you wish your commute was just like this? Watch and enjoy!



Note: I have no links to Barclaycard, a British company. But I'm very impressed with their marketing department.

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Do you have health issues that aren't being adequately addressed by conventional medicine? Naturopathic care may be the answer you're looking for. Visit my website for more information about naturopathic medicine, and begin your journey toward optimal health!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Why Flamingos Don't Get Hip Fractures

Okay, I admit that flamingos may get hip fractures. But heck...if zebras don't get ulcers, as a well-known book says, then maybe flamingos don't get hip fractures! And if they don't, here's a big reason.

Osteoporosis is one of the biggest issues plaguing the mature and elderly population today. One of the biggest risks that occurs alongside osteoporosis is a fall that may result in a dangerous, possibly life-threatening fracture. Fractures of the femur are among the most dangerous.

The femur, or thigh bone, is one of the strongest and largest bones in the body. It usually takes a tremendous force to fracture a femur through the center. But there is a weak point, and it is located toward the top, at the neck of the femur, at its narrowest point. This is just below where the femur inserts into the pelvis and creates a ball-and-socket joint. It is this area that is prone to fractures, particularly in the elderly and/or those with osteoporosis.

A Japanese researcher by the name of Sakamoto has studied a treatment – originally called “unipedal standing” – to help counteract both falls and the risk of femoral neck fractures. The name has been switched to “dynamic flamingo therapy,” perhaps because it sticks in the mind more easily. But talk about your simple, noninvasive, inexpensive and potentially very helpful treatments for osteoporosis as well as fall and hip fracture prevention!

It goes like this: Stand on one foot for one minute. Then stand on the other foot for one minute. Hold on to something steady if your balance isn’t all that great. Keep your eyes open the entire time. Repeat this three times a day. You’re done. Seriously. That’s it.

How does something as simple as this work? First off, recall that weight-bearing exercise is often recommended as a means to ward off osteoporosis. Mild to moderate weight and stress on a bone will induce that bone to become stronger and denser. Doubling the weight that one femur is supporting certainly qualifies. (In one study, the force exerted by one minute of standing on one foot was determined to be the equivalent of walking for 53 minutes!) Second, standing on one foot forces the brain to concentrate on maintaining balance…even if you’re holding on to something to keep from falling. If you regularly force the brain to concentrate on balance, you will, in time, become more adept at maintaining balance. This may help prevent the falls that cause hip fractures.

Sakamoto began studying dynamic flamingo therapy in the early 1990s. Starting in 1993, he recruited 86 women (with an average age of 68) to do this very exercise three times a day. He evaluated their bone density regularly over the span of the next 10 years. During this time, anywhere from 32% to 63% of the women had increased bone density in the femoral neck, and at the end of the study, fully one-third of the women had higher femoral neck bone density than when they started. Not necessarily the results you’d expect in elderly Japanese women…you’d expect bone density to decrease across the board. More significantly, none of the women had hip fractures. A study on Swiss women around the same time showed that the average risk for hip fractures in women was 455 per 100,000 person-years. If we transfer this statistic to the Japanese women (knowing that yes, Swiss women and Japanese women are different), we would expect to see roughly four hip fractures.

Especially for those people who are not able to exercise regularly, this is potentially an incredibly helpful therapy. You can file dynamic flamingo therapy under “certainly won’t hurt, and quite possibly may help.” But consistency is the key here…act like a flamingo only every once in a while, and the therapy won’t work. Only six minutes a day in one exceedingly simple exercise can end up preventing a possibly life-threatening hip fracture.

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Do you have health issues that aren't being adequately addressed by conventional medicine? Naturopathic care may be the answer you're looking for. Visit my website for more information about naturopathic medicine, and begin your journey toward optimal health!

Video: Naturopathic Medicine and Chronic Disease

I was pleasantly surprised this morning to open up my Facebook profile and see this video about naturopathic medicine and its role in treating chronic disease. Paul Mittman, ND, is the main speaker and the president of Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Arizona. Joining him is Jane Guiltinan, ND, a clinical professor at Bastyr University in Kenmore, Washington, and a past president of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. Together, they give a good introduction to naturopathic medicine and what it can contribute to the health epidemics of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and other related conditions. (These conditions are, unfortunately, rampant in what my old pathology professor referred to as "the overdeveloped world," or the first world countries.)

Watch and enjoy!


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Do you have health issues that aren't being adequately addressed by conventional medicine? Naturopathic care may be the answer you're looking for. Visit my website for more information about naturopathic medicine, and begin your journey toward optimal health!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Dispelling Health Myths - An Introduction

Naturopathic doctors are an interesting lot. Many of us came from backgrounds that enabled us to look at things from a different perspective than many of our friends, peers, and colleagues. And not only are we geared to do this, some of us actually delight in presenting information that goes against what society considers to be true. Some of this information is foolish, to be sure, but a lot of it isn't. It sticks and becomes something to contend with. Witness the rise of echinacea and the debate over whether or not it actually stimulates the immune system and whether it's really good for the common cold. Twenty years ago, St. John's wort was barely known outside herbal and naturopathic circles; now, it's often cited and studied for its effects not only on mild and moderate depression, but also for its (potentially dangerous) ability to speed up the metabolism of certain drugs. Heck, even homeopathy entered our collective consciousness in June 2009 as a result of the Zicam fiasco. That these debates are now part of our culture's conversation is cause for celebration. Naturopathic doctors may not have been the cause of these debates, but as experts in natural medicine, we are uniquely situated to bear witness to the truth or lack thereof of these issues.

Over the past century, our culture has become laden with a number of health myths that seem to have undermined our...well, our health. To gloss over a few of them, if we're taking care to adhere to a low-fat diet, why is obesity such an issue in our society nowadays? Are diet sodas an okay way to decrease calories and lose weight? What about butter vs. margarine? Do we need to stay away from saturated fats to keep our arteries clear? Is high cholesterol dangerous? Is red wine really as good for you as studies seem to indicate?

These are just a few of the issues that will be addressed on this blog. You can expect some answers to make sense, but you may also encounter some answers that completely contradict what you've learned throughout your life. Such is the nature of much health information nowadays...complex, sometimes contradictory, and often difficult to understand. Come to this blog to learn more and hopefully have your confusion about certain health myths cleared up. And if you have questions you'd like to be answered, feel free to ask!

Be well.

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Do you have health issues that aren't being adequately addressed by conventional medicine? Naturopathic care may be the answer you're looking for. Visit my website for more information about naturopathic medicine, and begin your journey toward optimal health!

Friday, July 24, 2009

My Vision for Naturopathic Medicine

A year ago, I went to an open house at a clinic near my old office in south Denver. Among the attendees was a medical doctor who called himself a holistic doctor. He was telling an interested chiropractor about what he does for patients (his example: diabetes, working with insulin, but also with diet and lifestyle). The chiropractor immediately said, “That’s good to know. I’ve been looking for someone to refer patients to. I have some that are dealing with autoimmune conditions and some pain that I can’t really control, and…do you have a card?”

I had to leave the open house very shortly thereafter. I was thoroughly offended that he would not consider one of us, who are the original and real holistic doctors, as someone to refer to. (Check out my website for more information about naturopathic doctors and their educational standards.) I understand that this chiropractor was not educated as to who we are and what we do, but the disconnect between what I know and his complete ignorance about our medicine just shook me. For the rest of the night, I ended up very angry and jealous of medical doctors (and for a short while, even contemplated going to medical school to become an MD so “I could show them!”).
I drew upon this experience as a springboard for my vision…a world in which naturopathic doctors, above all other health care professionals, are considered first as holistic doctors. A world in which people know about naturopathic doctors as a matter of course. A world where we’re seen as experts in not just natural medicine, but health in general. A world where we can claim our role as primary care physicians, and where we can reconcile our education to that role. A world where we regularly order labs, perform physical exams, and work in tandem with other health care professionals for the ultimate benefit of the patient.

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Think of me as your primary care provider, the one you turn to first for whatever ailments you may have, just like the medical doctor you see right now.
Think of me as your primary care provider, the one who really gets to know you.
Now also think of me as your primary care provider, the one who uses powerful, effective, natural means that your body recognizes and needs, to promote your health with a minimum of side effects.

I am that primary care provider who may keep you away from short office visits that are impersonal and do not honor who you are.
I am that primary care provider who may keep you away from unnecessary, invasive surgery.
I am that primary care provider who may keep you away from drugs that help a symptom but miss the cause and ultimately make you sicker.



I am that primary care provider who will take what I know of the human body and how it works, and work with you with the materials that have nurtured us for thousands of years, from which we have grown and flourished to become the beautiful beings that we are.
I am that primary care provider who will ultimately provide you with the best knowledge and the best tools with which you can carve out the best health for yourself possible.

Think of me as your primary care provider.


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Do you have health issues that aren't being adequately addressed by conventional medicine? Naturopathic care may be the answer you're looking for. Visit my website for more information about naturopathic medicine, and begin your journey toward optimal health!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Gentian for Acid Reflux, GERD, and Heartburn

There seems to be a glut of well-known herbs brought to you by the letter G. Among them are garlic, gingko, goldenseal, and ginger (with the lone standout, echinacea, rounding out the top five). While I'm in practice and writing, I'll push for gentian to make it to the top five. (I don't think echinacea is going anywhere, so there won't be an herbal G-5 summit anytime soon.)

Gentian (with the taxonomic name Gentiana lutea) is one of the best herbs to support digestion. It enhances the body's natural actions, and doesn't work against them. In the act of digestion, the body normally secretes saliva in the mouth to begin digestion of carbohydrates (and to a lesser extent, proteins). Hydrochloric acid is then secreted in the stomach to further break down proteins. The body also secretes various digestive enzymes from the gall bladder (and by extension, the liver) and the pancreas to further assist in digestion of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. And finally, the stomach and intestines engage in peristalsis, or rhythmic movement, to ensure that every last bit of food comes in contact with digestive juices and has the best opportunity to be assimilated into the body. Gentian increases the body's secretion of digestive juices, and to some extent, also increases peristalsis. Having said this, it does not increase the risk of diarrhea unless you overdose. There is also a theory that when taken after meals, gentian actually (harmlessly) decreases peristalsis.

Millions of people deal not only with the scourge of heartburn, acid reflux, and GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), but also with chronic consumption of acid blockers and proton-pump inhibitors and the many potential diseases that could also be caused by them. Regular use of gentian could go a long way in decreasing the incidence and severity of these conditions and even decrease the need for acid blockers.

Gentian has a cold nature, which often complements people who have a hot constitution - for example, those who are often angry, have a red complexion, or who generally have a "hot temper." How is this? Well, gentian is an exceedingly bitter herb (which probably explains why it isn't terribly popular). Imagine eating something bitter. Did you shiver a bit in revulsion? That's the cold energy of gentian, and indeed, of most bitter herbs. (In comparison, guess what energy herbs like cayenne, cinnamon, and garlic have!)

Gentian's very bitter nature also makes it a great digestive herb. Again, imagine eating something bitter. What's your first response? To spit it out, right? That's the body trying to protect itself from something it construes as potentially poisonous. But if you end up swallowing this potentially harmful substance, the body wants to destroy it as much as possible. This is where secretion of the body's digestive juices and increased peristalsis comes into play. Gentian, of course, is not poisonous - at least, in doses of 5-30 drops of the tincture at a time. (As with everything, including water, the dose determines whether a substance is helpful or harmful.)

The best way to take gentian is different from how most other herbal preparations are taken. Usually, people pop capsules, drink tea, or squirt a dropperful or two of a tincture in the mouth, then wash it down with water. But with gentian, the most beneficial action is seen when you taste it. So the dose, again, is 5-30 drops of a tincture, in about 4-8 ounces of water. Sip the water slowly about 10 minutes before eating to stimulate digestion. You may also use the same dose after eating if you feel that typical "brick in your stomach" feeling that doesn't go away easily. It also can help in cases of mild nausea after a meal. Of course, if you just can't handle the taste of gentian, you can take capsules that do a reasonable job of stimulating digestion as well.

Disclaimer: Gentian is not always the best herb to reach for in severe cases of GERD. Sometimes, there is so much inflammation in the esophagus that stimulating more acid in the stomach could be harmful. Here, herbs and nutrition to soothe the esophagus and decrease inflammation may be necessary before using gentian. Food sensitivities may also play a part in GERD, so if you are dealing with GERD that doesn't seem to respond to different therapies, this may be an avenue to explore. Finally, although not necessarily harmful, the acid-producing properties of gentian temporarily counteract the antacid properties of acid blockers and proton-pump inhibitors, potentially making them less effective. In any case, GERD is a potentially serious issue that should be managed by a health care professional well-versed in supporting the body's natural healing processes.
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Gentian (Gentiana lutea)
Part used: root
Dose: 5-30 drops in water, sipped 10 minutes before a meal
Indications: weak digestion, low appetite, heartburn, acid reflux, mild cases of GERD, mild nausea after meals, general debility.
Contraindications: advanced cases of GERD, Barrett's esophagus, esophageal or stomach cancer.
Combines well with: ginger root (to increase appetite); skullcap root (to enhance overall digestion and relaxation during meals).
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Do you have health issues that aren't being adequately addresssed by conventional medicine? Naturopathic care may be the answer you're looking for. Visit my website for more information about naturopathic medicine, and begin your journey toward optimal health!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Recipe: Kale with Marinara Sauce

“Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.”
-Harriet VanHorne


Last night, I found myself face to face with a bunch of kale. I have to admit that on the totem pole of leafy greens where taste is concerned, kale has always fallen at the bottom of the heap. It tends to be the bitterest of the greens. Still, I go back occasionally, hoping to find a way to prepare it that might work. And every time, I've ended up frustrated. Until last night.

You may recognize kale, even if you don't eat it. It's often used as a garnish in restaurants because of its ornate, curly leaves. Kale is usually dark green throughout, although some types have a pleasing vivid purple hue in the center of the leaves. It's for this reason that many gardeners also choose to plant ornamental kale - visually, it's quite dramatic.

So why eat kale if it's not the tastiest of foods? There's a number of reasons. Kale is one of the most healthful vegetables there are, falling in the general family of “leafy greens” that naturopathic doctors will often recommend to their patients. (Strictly speaking, kale is in the Brassica family, sharing lineage with cabbage, broccoli, and mustard greens.) It is chock full of calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and carotenoids. And as befits “foliage,” kale is an excellent source of folic acid. Finally, as far as nutrients per calorie go, it’s very difficult to beat kale. One cup of cooked kale provides just 50 calories, yet more than 100% of the RDA of vitamin A, 200 mg of calcium, 30 mg of magnesium, 300 mg of potassium, and 100-150 mg of vitamin C. If you are concerned about adequate calcium intake but are trying to keep weight down, kale is an excellent vegetable to incorporate into your diet on a regular basis.

So, hallelujah! I finally came up with a recipe for kale that takes very little time or effort, and is absolutely delicious! For the first time, I gobbled up every last bit of kale I prepared (relatively speaking…kale does take a bit more effort to chew than, say, spaghetti), and I will be returning to this recipe again in the near future. Give this recipe a try, and enjoy one of the healthiest vegetables out there!

Kale with Marinara Sauce
½ onion, chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
¼ tsp salt
1 bunch lacinato kale
1 cup marinara sauce
1-2 minced or crushed garlic cloves


Place onion, olive oil, and salt in a small pan and sauté on medium heat until transparent. In the meantime, tear the kale into bite-sized pieces and rinse thoroughly. Discard the stalks. Place kale in a medium-sized saucepan and steam for 10-15 minutes, adding water occasionally, until kale is wilted and tender. Drain excess water. Add onions, marinara sauce, and garlic cloves to kale. Toss to mix, and serve.

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Do you have health issues that aren't being adequately addressed by conventional medicine? Naturopathic care may be the answer you're looking for. Visit my website for more information about naturopathic medicine, and begin your journey toward optimal health!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Video: Food Sensitivities

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Have you been dealing with health issues that just don’t seem to go away? Are you frustrated with taking pharmaceutical drugs that don’t seem to work for you? Would you like to pursue a more natural route to health that honors your body?

What if you were regularly eating a food that was sabotaging your health, and you didn’t realize it? Would you want to know about it? If you are dealing with a chronic health issue, chances are you are also dealing with a food sensitivity, and this may be a cause of your symptoms.

A food sensitivity is basically an immune response to food that your body construes as an invader. The resulting immune reaction can result in a multitude of symptoms. Food sensitivities have been linked to a number of chronic conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, eczema, chronic fatigue syndrome, recurrent ear infections, attention deficit disorder, celiac disease, depression, migraines, and insomnia.

If you are dealing with any of these conditions and are looking for a better route to health, consider getting tested for food sensitivities, find out what they are, and eliminate them. Also, feel free to check out my website for more information about food sensitivities and naturopathic medicine, and what they can do for you. Thank you for visiting, and be well!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Best Natural Skin Moisturizer

Annie Berthold-Bond is the author of an excellent book called Better Basics for the Home, which I recommend wholeheartedly to anyone interested in decreasing exposure to noxious household chemicals. She provides many "recipes" for making the basis for a nontoxic home. These recipes range anywhere from homemade facials to wood cleaners, whitewash to pesticides.

One of the best recipes in this book is for a skin moisturizer. Living in Denver certainly has its advantages, but one of the drawbacks is that skin that might seem healthy in more humid climates suddenly becomes dry, scaly, and just looks plain unhealthy. There are certainly plenty of moisturizers out there to help out the skin. But many of them contain chemicals that may not be so great for the skin - or for the body itself, since the skin tends to absorb whatever is placed on it.

For example, parabens are used as preservatives for many skin lotions, but they may interfere with testosterone production, as these studies conclude. Synthetic fragrances often contain multiple chemicals, including two that are on the EPA's hazardous waste list, and one that has even been banned by the FDA. (Companies get past this ban because of laws that do not require them to list the ingredients that make up a product's fragrance.) And a compound called benzophenone-3, widely used in skin care products and sunscreens, is absorbed into the skin and actually generates free radicals -a known cause of cancer.

Hence, the need for a great skin moisturizer that is not only effective, but nontoxic. And this one fits both criteria. In fact, it is the best skin moisturizer I have ever come across, bar none. And it's very inexpensive! Here's the recipe, courtesy of Better Basics for the Home:

1/2 cup aloe vera
1/8 cup vegetable glycerin

How simple is this? Just combine the two in a small glass container. If it seems too sticky, add more aloe vera. If it doesn't seem to moisturize enough, add more glycerin. It also works great to heal the skin after a sunburn. Berthold-Bond claims that after using it daily for four months, her age spots disappeared. If you have age spots, why not give it a try? It can't hurt, it just might help, and in any case, your skin stands to benefit tremendously from the added moisture.

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Do you have health issues that aren't being adequately addressed by conventional medicine? Naturopathic care may be the answer you're looking for. Visit my website for more information about naturopathic medicine, and begin your journey towad optimal health!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Honey for Wound Healing

It may come as a surprise that I would advocate something as simple and inexpensive as honey. But the health benefits of honey are astounding, particularly when it comes to healing the skin. Honey is a skin infection’s worst enemy, and healthy skin’s best friend. It is powerfully antibacterial and antifungal, yet moisturizing and soothing to wounds.

In 2005, just as I had ended chiropractic school and was ready to fly back to Denver, I sliced my hand on a sharp wicker basket, and the wound was terrible. I put bandages and some Neosporin on it, but it didn’t seem to heal all that quickly. A few days later, while at a naturopathic convention in Arizona, I recalled reading that honey was an exceptional wound healer, so I tried putting some on a bandage over my wound before bed. I was astounded at how much better my hand looked and felt when I woke up – it was probably 75% better overnight! Since then, I’ve seldom overlooked honey’s role in healing damaged or infected skin.

The antimicrobial effects of honey have been tested and proven many times. In the 1930s, a bacteriologist by the name of Dr. W.G. Sackett from Fort Collins, Colorado, wanted to prove that honey actually harbored disease, so he placed various bacteria on cultures of honey. The results shocked him. Bacteria that caused typhoid fever, dysentery, chronic pneumonia, peritonitis, pleuritis, and suppurating abscesses all were killed within a few days – and often within a few hours. Since then, studies done as recently as 2005 have shown that honey also inhibits the growth of E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans – three organisms that have been plaguing the general population (and health care facilities in particular) tremendously in recent years. It’s exciting to think that honey could potentially be used to treat Staphylococcus aureus infections that are resistant to powerful antibiotics such as methicillin and vancomycin.

Honey has been documented in medical journals as an effective treatment for diabetic and venous ulcers, even when all other measures (i.e., antibiotics) fail to bring them under control. A 2003 study found that a mixture of equal parts honey, beeswax, and olive oil is effective in reducing the itchiness, redness, and scaling associated with eczema and psoriasis. And a pilot study completed in 2005 reported that this same mixture is effective in reducing the bleeding, itching, and pain associated with hemorrhoids and anal fissures.

Of course, as a practitioner of natural medicine, I strongly advocate the use of honey in helping skin wounds and even conditions like eczema and psoriasis to heal. The advantages are numerous: It’s natural, safe, inexpensive, readily available, painless, soothing, and effective. And perhaps most importantly – especially from a public health perspective – it does not contribute to antibiotic-resistant organisms.

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Do you have health issues that aren't being adequately addressed by conventional medicine? Naturopathic care may be the answer you're looking for. Visit my website for more information about naturopathic medicine, and begin your journey toward optimal health!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Video: Naturopathic Philosophy - First Do No Harm

My brother, who has a great sense of humor, gave me an excellent book for my birthday a few years ago. It was called Kill as Few Patients as Possible, by Oscar London. What a worthwhile goal! (Fortunately, most doctors, being intelligent, skilled, confident, and circumspect, manage to keep most of their patients alive.)

Here is a video on the basic tenets of naturopathic philosophy. The first principle is perhaps the most fundamental principle, not only for naturopathic medicine, but for health care of all sorts: first do no harm. Watch this video for an interesting spin on this principle you may not have considered before. And be well!


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Do you have health issues that aren't being adequately addressed by conventional medicine? Naturopathic care may be the answer you're looking for. Visit my website for more information about naturopathic medicine, and begin your journey toward optimal health!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Sad Story of Zicam

Nationwide, the Zicam cold remedy nasal gel was ordered to be pulled off the shelves on Tuesday, June 16th. The charge was simply that using the nasal gel could lead to anosmia, or a permanent loss of smell. Indeed, 130 people had reported a loss of smell after using Zicam. As a rather randomly-chosen Dr. Charles Lee points out, anosmia goes much further than merely not being able to appreciate a rose or a home cooked meal. “People without the sense of smell may not be able to detect life dangerous situations, such as gas leaks or something burning in the house,” he says.

But why did the Zicam nasal gel cause anosmia? The answer is actually quite simple. Zinc is the culprit. In this case, it takes the form of zinc gluconate. Zinc has been known in the past to cause loss of smell when used intranasally. (One of my brilliant colleagues wrote about this very issue, first back in 2006, then again two years later.) Worse, studies using intranasal zinc gluconate to treat the common cold did not show an appreciable difference in the duration or severity of symptoms. They did show a risk of potentially irreversible anosmia.

Another issue: how did this product get placed on the shelves in the first place? Usually, it’s the Food and Drug Administration that dictates whether or not a drug is able to be put on the shelf. But Zicam got past this by stating that the active ingredient was homeopathic zinc gluconate. The FDA does not regulate homeopathic remedies, and so was not beholden to restrict the sale of Zicam. But in this case, the matter was all semantics. Specifically, the active ingredient was zincum gluconicum 1X. This is a homeopathic way of saying “a 10% solution of zinc gluconate.” Usually, homeopathic remedies are very dilute…dilute to the point where some of the most powerful remedies don’t have a single molecule of the original substance in them. (How and why these remedies work is an issue for another post.) But if not dilute enough, these remedies can exhibit properties of their original substance – precisely because they contain that substance. And a 10% solution of zinc gluconate certainly qualifies.

This is one of those instances where something that seems harmless or beneficial may end up being quite harmful. Many people are drawn to alternative medicine precisely because they feel it is less harmful than drugs – and in many instances they are right. But this is not always the case. Are herbs safe to use? Not if they’re herbs like foxglove (from which we get the highly regulated heart medication digitalis) or poison hemlock (which Socrates drank to commit government-ordered suicide). Similarly, are nutrients safe? Usually, yes, but as we now know, not if it’s zinc applied to the inside of the nose.

Another disturbing aspect of the Zicam issue is that blame is being wrongly placed on the whole practice of homeopathy. As I mentioned above, it was not the homeopathic quality of zinc that caused the cases of anosmia. It was the zinc itself. An article by the Associated Press about this issue misrepresents homeopathy as a whole. Dr. Jerry Avorn, an expert in pharmaceutical safety at Harvard dismisses homeopathy as having only alcohol as the active ingredient, saying “the therapeutic effect is no greater or lesser than a martini.” The article’s author also discovered that some homeopathic remedies are composed of more than 10% alcohol, when the American Academy of Pediatrics dictates no medicine contain more than 5% alcohol. All three entities might be surprised to know that a homeopathic dose usually consists of a pellet or two or a drop or two of the remedy in the mouth – hardly enough to give either adult or child an alcohol “buzz-on,” as Dr. Avorn claims.

It’s a sad issue. Zicam willfully deceived both the FDA and the public in an effort to get its product out to consumers wanting to treat their colds effectively. Thousands of consumers bought Zicam’s products, thinking that since it was homeopathic, natural, herbal, and/or non-pharmaceutical, it was safe. And as a result, scores of people have permanently lost one of their vital senses.

But what can we take from this? Some people might consider this evidence of the “snake oil” nature of alternative medicine. It isn’t. It’s evidence of greed taking precedence over the health of the public, and greed is not limited to alternative medicine. It may also be an indication that alternative medicine should be regulated more, although I have great doubts about the ability of the FDA to effectively regulate this profession. It is possible to view this as a societal need for qualified health care professionals who are thoroughly trained in the realm of natural medicine – and naturopathic doctors are precisely those health care professionals.

If you are prone to cold and the flu, it’s definitely a good idea to see if you can deal with issues from a natural perspective, with the help of a naturopathic doctor. Check my website out for more information about naturopathic medicine, and what it might be able to do for you. And be well.

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Do you have health issues that aren't being adequately addressed by conventional medicine? Naturopathic care may be the answer you're looking for. Visit my website for more information about naturopathic medicine, and begin your journey toward optimal health!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Water bottles: plastic vs. glass

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As I mention in this video, it is prudent to stay away from plastic water bottles that leach out bisphenol A, or BPA. For those of you who are curious about which water bottles those are, they're the ones that seem virtually indestructible - the prototypical Nalgene water bottles. Ironically, Nalgene water bottles were originally marketed as water bottles that would not leach plastic byproducts. They once were seen as the environmentally sound brand. Oops.
So what is the big deal about BPA? Studies have linked it to a number of estrogen-sensitive conditions: obesity, breast cancer (even the CDC acknowledges this), premature onset of puberty in girls (the average age of menarche, or a woman’s first menstrual cycle, has dropped by at least one year, if not more, over the past 50 years or so), gynecomastia (development of breast tissue in males) and birth defects. BPA was actually used as a estrogen mimicker in lab tests during the 1930s before diethylstilbestrol (DES) replaced it as a stronger estrogen substitute. (Babies were exposed to DES when their mothers took it to prevent miscarriages. Unfortunately, we discovered that “DES daughters” experienced a greater risk of vaginal and cervical cancer, infertility, and pregnancy complications. It was subsequently taken off the market years ago. But I digress.)
Which plastics leach BPA? Apparently, the hard plastics (like Nalgene) that are imprinted with the number 7 inside the recycling symbol are the ones to avoid. According to this website, plastic #7 is a catch-all for “miscellaneous plastics.” This includes Tupperware. Often, plastic #7 is not recyclable.
There are a few arguments against studies showing the dangers of BPA. First, some studies have shown that BPA doesn’t really increase the risk of, say, cancer. These studies, though, don’t take into account the synergy that occurs when other compounds interact with BPA, and the combination can be particularly dangerous. (Also consider that adipose tissue, or fat, in itself tends to favor the production of estrogen. Being obese may also act synergistically with BPA. With obesity being rampant in society today, this issue becomes even more vital to address.) One could also argue that these studies have all been performed on rats and not humans. Unfortunately, humans are often more sensitive to toxins than rats, particularly when fetuses are exposed to them. BPA is no exception. (And who would willingly undergo a study that exposes them to a potentially carcinogenic substance?)

Stick with glass water bottles if you're looking for an environmentally sound alternative to plastic water bottles. If you want to get something more stylish and perhaps more resilient than glass, there are many companies that sell excellent metal water bottles. Like glass, these water bottles do not leach out harmful substances, and they are completely recyclable after being used. They just cost a bit more.
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Do you have health issues that aren't being adequately addressed by conventional medicine? Naturopathic care may be the answer you're looking for. Visit my website for more information about naturopathic medicine, and begin your journey toward optimal health!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Video: How did I get into naturopathic medicine?

Part of my goal of being a naturopathic doctor is that I can help prevent stories like mine below. And my story is pretty far from tragic. But knowing now what I didn't know then, I could have made a huge difference in my health using the materials that, literally, have nurtured us for thousands of years. I could have done it without the use of drugs with unwanted side effects. I hope to make that difference in the lives of others. Maybe I could help you!

So here's a little video about my personal history, and how I ended up discovering naturopathic medicine. I hope you enjoy it. And, of course, if you're interested in any further information, check out my website at http://www.drscottisaacs.com/. Thanks, and be well!


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Do you have health issues that aren't being adequately addressed by conventional medicine? Naturopathic care may be the answer you're looking for. Visit my website for more information about naturopathic medicine, and begin your journey toward optimal health!