Archive for January, 2011

January 23, 2011

what does your doctor know about nutrition?

An article published in the New York Times, by Dr. Pauline Chen, asks this very critical question, and the answer may or may not surprise you.  In the 1980’s the National Academy of Sciences published a report exploring the didactic hours of nutritional education provided in U.S. medical schools and determined it was remarkably insufficient.  They also determined that the minimum requirement for study dedicated to clinical nutrition for America’s upcoming doctors should be 25 hours.  Today. thirty years later, only 25% of our nation’s medical schools meet this minimum requirement.

In her article, Dr. Chen recalls her early years as a resident:

“Years later, as a newly minted doctor on the wards seeing real patients, I found myself in the same position. I was still getting a lot of questions about food and diet. And I was still hesitating when answering. I wasn’t sure I knew that much more after medical school than I did before.

One day I mentioned this uncomfortable situation to another young doctor. “Just consult the dietitians if you have a problem,” she said after listening to my confession. “They’ll take care of it.” She paused for a moment, looked suspiciously around the nursing station, then leaned over and whispered, “I know we’re supposed to know about nutrition and diet, but none of us really does.”

She was right. And nearly 20 years later, she may still be.”

Is nutritional education so important for today’s doctors?  The National Cancer Institute has this to say about the link between diet and chronic disease:

Serious diseases that are linked to what we eat kill an estimated three out of four Americans each year. These diseases include heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, some types of cancer, and diabetes. Eating a diet that contains 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day as part of a healthy, active lifestyle lowers the risk for all of these diseases.

Most Americans don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables to keep them healthy. Despite the fact that they are important for maintaining overall good health and preventing diseases, eating fruits and vegetables is not even on many people’s radar screens.”

The old adage “an apple a day” is more than folk-wisdom, we now have current research supporting the critical importance of dietary education for patients facing risk factors for disease.  Proper nutritional status is not about just “feeling good,” it is about preventing serious, life-threatening, diseases – cardiovascular disease, diabetes and even cancer.  What you eat today can be a game-changer for your health in the future.  So what is your doctor telling you — and how much does your doctor know?

Perhaps it is time to seek out a primary care physician who has been thoroughly immersed in clinical nutritional training.  Consider this evaluation of conventional medical schools and naturopathic medical schools in the U.S.: comparative curricula.

Naturopathic doctors who have graduated from an accredited medical school have received a minimum of 132 hours of nutritional education compared with traditional medical doctors who have received 25 hours or less.  Not only can your naturopathic physician provide you with detailed guidelines for healthy eating that leads to a longer and more vital life, she can also assess your individual nutritional needs that are unique to you – your genes, your lifestyle and physical status.  In the end, we now know that early prevention through adherence to proper dietary guidelines will lead to less hospital visits, less prescribed medicines and significantly less risk for serious chronic health conditions in your future.

Your health can be significantly altered simply by the foods you choose.  Talk to your naturopathic physician about your health goals and how they can be achieved through dietary changes, this is a simple undertaking that can profoundly alter your future health!

be well,
Dr. Rachelle

January 12, 2011

a word from Jon Kabat-Zinn…

“To use your breathing to nurture mindfulness, just tune into the feeling of it…the feeling of the breath coming into your body and the feeling of the breath leaving your body.

That’s all.

Just feeling the breath.

Breathing and knowing that you’re breathing.

This doesn’t mean deep breathing, or forcing your breathing, or trying to feel something special, or wondering whether you’re doing it right. It doesn’t mean thinking about your breathing either.  Its just a bare bones awareness “of the breath moving in and the breath moving out.”


Try: “Staying with one full inbreath as it comes in, one full outbreath as it goes out, keeping your mind open and free for just this moment, just this breath.”

January 12, 2011

starting fresh!

Winter Cleanse

As we begin a new year, many people ask me about good “detox” protocols or “cleanse” diets – I assume, often as a kick-start to their new year’s health resolutions.  I often share my two-cents on the various G.I. cleanses or liver detoxes I have tried, but honestly, I really believe the best cleanse for your body is a sustainable food-based cleanse.  Unless you are following a protocol under the direct supervision of naturopath, I strongly discourage employing a more aggressive cleanse that involves the use of supplements (botanical or otherwise) and/or extended fasting.

Let’s discuss a few detox basics – first off, the term “detox” comes with a number of connotations, which is why “cleanse” is often preferred.  But for the sake of this discussion, detox will refer to cellular detoxification of bio-contaminants that have accumulated in the body through food and environmental exposure.

Second, the body is continually doing an amazing job of detoxifying –  four major organs involved in the detoxification pathway: skin, kidneys, lungs and liver. (The G.I. system is certainly key and will get its own post later…)   Promoting these organ pathways is key to detoxifying the body, which is why a detox protocol should include more than just liver-based supplements.  In fact, a week of daily sweating could be the best cleanse for your body!

Thirdly, in the Northern hemisphere the most supportive seasons for a full-blown detox are spring and summer – these are the months when your body is most supported by its environment to undergo such significant “losses.”  Nevertheless, for my committed new-year’s resolutioners – or those who believe their body is intuitively ready for an overall cleanse, here are a few winter-time, organ-centered, detox tips.

photo courtesy of new zealand spring water

Kidneys: water, water, water.  The recommended daily dose of water is approx 8 oz per 20 lbs of body weight or at least eight 8oz glasses of water per day.  Coffee, soda and sugar-y juices do not count – in fact, for every eight ounces you consume of these beverages, add another eight ounces of water!  But herbal teas or water with flavored electrolyte powders (such as Emergen-C) do count and are a great way to mix it up.

Skin: sweat it out!  Winter is a great time of year to visit the dry sauna.  When you sweat in the sauna remember to bring in two clean towels – one to sit on, and the other to wipe sweat – wipe sweat off the body and try to use new parts of the towel each time.  The goal with sweating in the sauna is to allow the body to release toxins – if you sweat and then allow it to dry on your skin (or wipe it back on with a soiled towel – or sit on a bench where others have sweated it out) those same toxins will just be reabsorbed.  Gross, but true.

photo courtsey of pinch my salt

Liver: eat liver-promoting foods.  In naturopathic dietary theory, certain foods have an affinity for the liver and support it in its natural detoxification activities.  In a word – roots!!!  Think beets, carrots, sweet potatoes… things that have come from the depths of the earth and are rich in dense nutrition (choose root veggies that have color all the way through – rather than white or light-colored centers).  Winter is the time for going into our cellars and reaping the harvest of our heartier vegetables.  Energetically, root veggies ground us and help us to be centered and attached to the earth.

In addition, consider other healthy, seasonal meals that give your digestive system a break – remember that heavy, animal-based protein demands much more effort from your digestive tract than complex carbohydrates.  In any case, choosing whole foods, unprocessed foods and more produce will bring incredible vitality to your table.

The Whole Food Nutrition Cookbook has a website here with dozens of incredible recipes online – it is a wonderful resource for whole foods cooking!

photo courtesy of

Lungs: breathe.

Take time to breathe deeply.  Whether sitting in meditation or taking sixty seconds in the car or at your desk.  Feel your lungs fill with air as you relax your belly and allow yourself to simply, breathe.  Winter is a time of stillness – in our frenzied, electrified culture it is easy to let the seasons pass us by – unaware of each month’s unique gifts through nature – may the breath take you back to your center.

Hoping these tips help your year start off with a fresh and health-filled cadence.  Let me know your thoughts!

January 8, 2011

new research on alopecia

Hair loss is a common concern for many individuals. Most people lose approximately 100 strands of hair a day.  But when hair loss exceeds this rate or begins coming out in noticeable clumps, this could be due to a form of alopecia.  As you may know, alopecia comes in many forms.  Two of the most common forms are alopecia areata and androgenetic alopecia.  Typically androgenetic alopecia manifests in typical balding-pattern type hair loss while alopecia areata can affect any region of the body where hair growth occurs.  In either case, this disease can cause incredible psychological and emotional distress.

image from

A recent study – discussed here – regarding alopecia areata has revealed a strong link between this condition and certain autoimmune diseases – such as celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and diabetes.  Prior to this research most scientists and doctors believed it was related to skin-associated diseases like psoriasis.

This research is compelling because the application of therapeutics for celiac, RA and diabetes may prove useful for treating this challenging condition as well!

Of course, at this time the only treatments being considered are pharmaceutical, but this does not rule out natural options as equally eligible contenders.

Additionally, according to Chinese medicine, alopecia usually stems from one of three main etiologies and is often treatable with a specific acupuncture technique known as “plum flower” or “five star needling” along with Chinese herbs.

Visiting your naturopath or acupuncturist could prove to be life-changing if you have been facing unexplained hair loss.

January 8, 2011

where is naturopathic medicine headed?

The top three places I think you should know to watch for growth in naturopathic medicine:

1. Colorado – As you may or may not know the process of licensure for naturopathic medicine is a state-by-state process.  Currently there are 15 states in the U.S. with licensing laws for naturopaths.  According to the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP): “In these states, naturopathic doctors are required to graduate from an accredited four-year residential naturopathic medical school and pass an extensive postdoctoral board examination (NPLEX) in order to receive a license.” These states are: Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Washington and the United States Territories: Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands.

So why Colorado next?  Well, for one, it’s my home-state and where I hope to practice in the future.  But, two, and more importantly, this spring the Colorado Association of Naturopathic Physicians (CANP) will again be petitioning for licensing laws from the Colorado state legislature.  Colorado has been the hotbed of debate with strong opposition not only from medical doctors (mainly AMA-associated), but also from the extremely large constituent of unlicensed naturopaths currently practicing in Colorado.  A licensing law for them could mean the end of the career.  If you are in Colorado or just interested in the politics of Naturopathic licensing get plugged in with CANP because we need a voice and we need strategic planning to create harmony within our profession – between naturopaths who have not attended an accredited school and those who have.

2. California – In September of 2010 Bastyr University confirmed its plans to open a second campus in CA.  Although no city or firm start date has been set, they have “optimistic hopes” for the first ND class to begin in 2012.  Initially, this would only be a campus for the naturopathic program … but with hopes of opening up to more programs in the future.

3. Washington D.C. – the biggest obstacle for naturopaths in the U.S. is having proper state legislature supporting our field.  Tireless efforts by NDs, ND students and ND proponents have occurred on ‘the hill’ lobbying for senate support.  If you have been positively impacted by naturopathic medicine and want to see it grow in our country to increase access to alternative healthcare it is imperative that our legislators know what naturopathic medicine is and why it is important for states to have licensing laws.

For more information on naturopathic licensure and the importance of seeing a naturopathic doctor who has graduated from one of the four accredited naturopathic medical schools in the U.S. visit the AANP website – – or stay tuned here for further discussions! (There are also accredited schools in Canada: see

January 1, 2011

happy 2011!!

To recap the health news of 2010 – check out Dr. Mercola’s top ten stories here … See you in the new year!