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.


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.


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.
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).
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.


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

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!