September 21, 2011

Tasty remedies — chocolate as preventative medicine!

Mmmm, chocolate…

You may have heard people beginning to buzz about the health benefits of chocolate.  But what is it good for, what kind and how much?  Well, researchers are making a concerted effort to further our understanding of why chocolate is so good for us.  A recent meta-analysis was just published in the British Medical Journal by Dr. Adriana Buitrago-Lopez (University of Cambridge, UK) – which you can check out here – revealing compelling evidence that chocolate of any kind (the studies did not differentiate between dark, milk or white) have profoundly positive effects on one’s cardiovascular health, and in men can be preventative for diabetes!

Here are the stats: (pooled meta-analysis results) high levels of chocolate consumption compared with the lowest levels of chocolate consumption reduced the risk of any cardiovascular disease by 37% (RR 0.63; 0.44–0.90) and stroke 29% (RR 0.71; 0.52–0.98). There was no association between chocolate consumption and the risk of heart failure, and no association on the incidence of diabetes in women, but a positive reduction in the risk of incident diabetes in men.

My recommendations would be a regular consumption of organic dark chocolate sweetened with real sugar and absolutely no high-fructose corn syrup or trans-fats. Dark chocolate contains the greatest amount of bioflavonoids (the compounds important for reducing free-radical damage in the body and consequent atherosclerosis) and organic sourcing ensures you will not be exposed to environmental toxins that often reside in foods treated with pesticides.

In Dr. Buitrago-Lopez’s conclusion, she states:

“These favorable effects seem mainly mediated by the high content of polyphenols present in cocoa products and are probably accrued through the increasing bioavailability of nitric oxide, which subsequently might lead to improvements in endothelial function, reductions in platelet function, and additional beneficial effects on blood pressure, insulin resistance, and blood lipids,” conclude Buitrago-Lopez and colleagues.

This evidence is exciting and hopeful for individuals with a family history of stroke and cardiovascular disease.  Not only is it tasty medicine, it may be preventing very serious health complications in one’s future.  Dr. Buitrago-Lopez’s conclusion indicates that chocolate is helping prevent atherosclerosis and keeps blood healthy by reducing its likelihood of forming clots and it may additionally prevent the body’s inclination to develop insulin resistance which causes diabetes.

So next time you’re in the sweets aisle at the grocery store, think about investing in your health by choosing a good quality chocolate!

Happy healthy eating!

Dr. Rachelle

September 16, 2011

Our gut bacteria make us unique!

Earlier this year research from Germany, published by Dr. Peer Bork, was released revealing evidence that there are three specific gut bacteria associated with the human gastrointestinal system.  It appears that each individual’s gut is hospitable to only one of three bacterial enterospecies and this could make it easier for us to understand how different individuals respond to certain diets, prescribe probiotics specifically fashioned for the individual and may even help us understand why certain people manifest particular gastrointestinal complaints while others do not.

This is an exciting discovery because just as we can categorize individuals by blood type, in the future we may do so also by gut bacteria type!

Regarding this research, a a New York Times article states:

“Instead of trying to wipe out disease-causing bacteria that have disrupted the ecological balance of the gut, they could try to provide reinforcements for the good bacteria. “You’d try to restore the type you had before,” [Dr. Bork] said. ”

In other words, instead of utilizing anti-biotics to fight disease, why not take a proactive stance and build up our body’s natural defenses?  Well, Naturopaths have been doing this for centuries!  Too bad we had to wait for modern science to catch-up with our treatment philosophies, but better late than never… and next time someone shrugs their shoulders and asks why your Naturopath prescribes probiotics you can direct them to this research!

I hope you find this information useful and applicable – let me know your thoughts and questions…

Be Well,

Dr. Rachelle

August 6, 2011

High-Dose Zinc Lozenges May Reduce Duration of Cold Symptoms

High-Dose Zinc Lozenges May Reduce Duration of Cold Symptoms

Although its not quite cold-season yet, you may find this Medscape article interesting and worth remembering as the flu bug begins to circulate…. For my patients in Seattle, this season begins around October and lasts through late February.  Remember, typically the common cold is caused by a virus, not a bacteria which means the use of antibiotics will be ineffective (and could even be deleterious on your health).  So before rushing to extreme measures when feeling sick, begin with the basics: sleep, hydration and good food.

Hope you are enjoying these summer months and soaking up lots of Vitamin D!

Be well.

Dr. R

May 31, 2011

A Naturopathic Perspective on Sleep

Whenever I see a patient for the first time, one of the biggest questions I have for them is “How’s your sleep?”  – the answer to this question can tell me so much about what is going on with them and where we need to direct our treatment.  Often times patients ask me why sleep is so vital for maintaining overall health.  Although entire books have been written and dedicated to the topic of sleep, this is just a brief overview on the subject with a few of my favorite clinical pearls. I hope these few thoughts might help you begin to get the most out of your sleep, and I’d love to hear your questions on the topic so we can chat about more specific in this HUGE subject!

One of the major reasons we know sleep is vital to our health is because much of the cellular repair and growth that occurs in your body happens while you sleep. Between 10pm and 12am your body is at its peak production for growth hormone and white blood cells — these are the building blocks for your ability to grow, heal and maintain vibrance and vitality! In addition, achieving deep sleep sufficiently helps to decreases mental and emotional stress by allowing the mind to utilize dreaming to process emotions felt during the day. Before the 1950’s American’s got an average of 11 hours of sleep per night — now that number is down to 6 or 7 hours a night! One of the biggest factors in this significant reduction in average sleep time is our access to television and internet 24 hours a day. Not only does this create an easy distraction keeping us awake far longer than our bodies prefer, but the blue light emitted from these devices interferes with the body’s secretion of sleep-inducing hormones (such as melatonin). Therefore, the number one thing you can do to improve your sleep is turn off all electronic devices – computers, smart phones, televisions… etc. at least 30 minutes before heading to bed so your body can begin preparing for sleep.

Other tips for getting great sleep:

– Plan your bed-time and wake -time in order to get 8-9 hours of sleep per night – for most individuals this will allow three REM cycles to take place.

– Stick to the same bed-time and wake-time every day.

– Avoid using the bedroom for work, TV…etc. this is your sleep sanctuary!

– Engage in a consistent “going to bed” routine (e.g. face wash, meditate, read…)

– Exercise at least 3-5 times per week.

– Avoid consuming caffeine after noon.

– Avoid naps during the day.

– Don’t use alcohol as a sleep aid.

– Take time to create a comfortable and soothing sleep environment for yourself.

– Address sources of mental and emotional stress during the day through journaling, counseling or talking with a trusted friend.

– Breathe – deep breathing in bed and throughout the day helps induce a state of relaxation throughout your entire body.

– Can’t stay asleep or fall asleep?  Try taking your focus to a new place – I like to tell patients to “put their brain in their lats” – I know it sounds odd, but next time you sense the clock ticking and can’t get to sleep, why not give it a try? (Your lats are the large muscles extending along the lateral mid to lower aspect of your back.)

I hope these tips help you find deeper, more rejuvenating sleep so you have all the energy and stamina during the day to do the things you love!

Sweet dreams,

Dr. R

May 6, 2011

tinea pedis… natural ways to beat foot fungus!

With summer fast approaching and the dreamy thought of walking barefoot in the grass on all our minds (well, at least, I know I’m dreaming of it!), perhaps its a good time to take a closer look at your faithful feet and see how they are faring! Whether its from the locker-room at the gym or the foot baths at your favorite pedicure-spa, toenail and foot fungus (often referred to as athlete’s foot) is quite an unpleasant problem that is extremely common and can be fairly challenging to treat. Over 70% of the world’s population will suffer from tinea pedis at some point in their lives and, unfortunately, the current medical treatment for this disorder can be highly toxic to the body. For stubborn tinea pedis the most common treatment regimen includes a round of oral anti-fungals; such as Terbinafine (Lamisil), which can be extremely harmful to the liver causing long-term damage. In fact, individuals with a history of liver disease cannot even take this medication.

So what alternatives are out there for such a stubborn problem? Well, it might sound odd, but the following protocol for the anti-fungal beer foot soak has been used by naturopathic doctors for decades with great success!

Here I will provide one of my colleagues’ favorite anti-fungal foot soaks that has been just as effective as pharmaceutical oral and topical anti-fungals. It is very, very important that management of any medical problem is closely monitored by your doctor. If you notice any change in sensation or an increase in your symptoms, stop treatment immediately and see your local naturopath for a further work-up. Also, fungal infections can sometimes point to other underlying health disorders so if you are treating your tinea pedis at home, be sure to mention it to your doctor so she know this is a part of your health picture.

The Beer Soak

Essential Ingredients:
Acidophilus Sachets containing a specific strain of 125 billion organisms.
Guiness Stout beer or any other dark beer (Guiness is the one proven to work).
White Vinegar
Basin big enough for your feet or hands
Time
Persistence and Consistency

Treatment Procedure:
In tub, pour 1 liter of room temperature beer into a basin
Add 1/2 a sachet which is 60 billion acidophilus and other probiotics.
Add 1 liter of White Vingear
Soak clean feet in the solution for 30 minutes before bed or when best for you.
On removing your feet or fingernails from the basin, file the nails down with a pumice stone or file
After each 3rd day, toss out the entire solution mixture and remake using the formula: 1 liter of white vinegar, 1 liter of dark beer and the remaining half of one sachet. This keeps the solution’s ingredients in active live form. If too old, it will not work.
Repeat for 30 days every day. Do not skip a day for best results.
Do twice a day for faster results

What to look for:
As fungus gets killed by this natural toenail fungus treatment, you will notice new nail growth from the nail base coming in clear. This is a good sign. Some people see clearing at the base within one week and some people see clearing at the base in one month. It all depends on how fast your nails grow and how often you soak them.

It will take about 3 to 6 months for infected nails to completely grow out. As long as you keep seeing the nail base come in clean and grow out cleanly, you are on the right track. If it is not growing in cleanly, keep soaking the nails.

Make sure you do this toenail fungus treatment daily. Make it a routine. Do not skip a day. If you do, it may take a bit longer than a month but keep at it.

If you know your nails grow slowly, then consider MSM or Silicea 6x cell salts as they have shown to increase nail growth.

—-
Variations:
For a simpler soak consider these variations, following the same procedural directions as the beer soak:

1) 50/50 soak of water and white vinegar
2) 50/50 soak of white vinegar and Listerine (preferably not the green or blue as it will stain!)

—-

I look forward to hearing about your results!

Be well!
Dr. R

April 22, 2011

a chat about colonics

The Seattle Times recently published an article discussing the often mystifying topic of colon hydrotherapy; also know as colonic treatment. Colon hydrotherapy – as the name suggests – utilizes water (at body temperature) flushed through the colon with the intention of cleaning out impacted bowel and the nasty toxins lurking within one’s large intestine.

Sounds good? Eh, maybe? Sounds pleasant? Eh…?

Colon hydrotherapy has been used for centuries by humans as a form of health promotion and good gastrointestinal health (in the form of colonics, enemas, and the like) but may have fallen out of popularity due to its “sensitive” nature and the development of more user-friendly laxative medications. In the U.S., colon hydrotherapy was first popularized by Dr. J.H. Kellogg, MD (Yes, as in the Kellogg sported on your Special K!) Whether it is a fashionable health habit may be questioned, but what is up for greater debate is the safety and efficacy of colonic treatments. Some opponents of colon hydrotherapy fear the possibility of damaging the intestinal wall during treatment while others simply believe it to be completely ineffectual.

On the other hand, individuals who chronically suffer from constipation and experience the long-term negative effects of toxemia can greatly benefit from a therapy that aims to move the bowel. Colon hydrotherapy excels as a form of catharsis and detoxification. The other advantage of colon hydrotherapy is that is utilizes the natural muscular contractions (called peristalsis) of the large intestine rather than bypassing this mechanism (as laxative meds do) and creating a dependency on medication to do the job for the body…. It could be said that colonics are like calisthenics for your G.I.!

Although I have not personally seen anything incredible – other than the brown stuff – pass during the use of colon hydrotherapy in my patients, some practitioners tell incredible stories of small balls of colored wax or chewing gum passing from their patients’ intestine – ah, those crazy childhood years, when crayons looked so tasty!

When patients undergo a colonic their experience can range from “mild-discomfort” to “euphoria” – for some it is nothing more than a mechanical cleansing of the intestine and for others it borders on spiritual catharsis. Some people love them and even join colonic spas such as the Tummy Temple here in Seattle.

In my own practice, I do not offer colonics although I performed quite a few during my clinical rotations. Mostly this is because a colon hydro machine is a significant piece of equipment and requires a trained medical practitioner to operate (in order to ensure the patient’s safety and avoid the bowel perforations those nay-sayers are so worried about), but also because my professional opinion on the benefits of colon hydro are often stuck in a grey area. While I see the great benefits of detoxification that a colonic can achieve, I am leery of employing such a high-force intervention without first exploring other options. If my patient is suffering from constipation I want to do my best to address the cause of this abnormal GI behavior rather than resort to therapies that may eliminate the negative side-effects without fully exploring the underlying problem. Also, as a cranio-sacral therapist and acupuncturists in training, I am greatly aware of the flow of energy (or Qi) throughout the body and the significant importance of encouraging and supporting that natural flow of Qi. Personally, I am concerned that colon hydrotherapy may interfere with this natural flow in the large intestine as it promotes movement both forward and backward through the bowel rather than strictly in the a downward, descending direction.

Nonetheless, if you are interested in further increasing your body’s detoxification, or if you suffer from GI complaints that you think could be helped by colon hydrotherapy, talk to your local naturopath and find out what she thinks!

Be Well,
Dr. R

March 16, 2011

ADHD – diet vs. drugs

A study was released in the Februray 5 issue of the Lancet regarding the use of dietary modification to address the symptoms of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in school-aged children instead of pharmaceutical drugs.  The study employed an elimination-diet approach, where children were first allowed a very diverse diet and then slowly tapered down to an extremely low-allergenic or anti-inflammatory diet of rice, turkey, pears, lettuce and water.

The conclusion – in 64% of the children the symptoms of inattention, fidgeting, lack of concentration and temper-tantrums completely resolved.  In an NPR interview with the study’s lead author, Dr. Lidy Pelsser, she commented on the teachers and doctors of the children in the study saying: “In fact, they were flabbergasted… After the diet, they were just normal children with normal behavior.”

This study is a significant milestone in the efforts for treatment of ADHD.  Many children and parents struggle with the challenging reality of experiencing the symptoms of the disorder on a daily basis.  Although in some cases pharmaceutical medications are required to manage the disorder it is incredible to think over half of the children suffering from ADHD can be cured with simple diet changes!

The elimination diet is just the beginning.  What the conclusion of this study implies is that the symptoms of ADHD are the signs of hypersensitivity to certain foods.  Once those foods are eliminated, the child can return to a more “normal” diet and may eventually even be able to re-integrate the eliminated foods back into his or her diet after a period of elimination.

At the end of Dr. Pelsser’s interview she commented on the application of these findings: “We have got good news — that food is the main cause of ADHD,” she says. “We’ve got bad news — that we have to train physicians to monitor this procedure because it cannot be done by a physician who is not trained.”

But there is a good news addendum – there are, in fact, physicians already trained to monitor disease from a food-based perspective!  Naturopathic doctors receive a minimum of 132 hours of nutritional education compared with traditional medical doctors who have received 25 hours or less. (See my post what does your doctor know about nutrition for more on this.)

If you, or someone you know may suffer from the symptoms of ADHD, contact your local naturopath for support in the process of healing and to help assess whether dietary modifications may be just what the doctor ordered!

Best,

Dr. R

March 11, 2011

Alternative approaches to pediatric fevers

In January, the New York Times posted a review on OTC pediatric medicines entitled Lifting a Veil of Fear to See the Benefits of Child Fever – specifically discussing medications directed toward pediatric fever.  The conclusion of the study – most liquid OTC pediatric medicines are not closely regulated to have accurate dosage… meaning, the recommended doses and the markings on the medicine droppers are often not properly calibrated.  In addition, there is further discussion regarding the benefits and risks of childhood fever.

Fevers are an indication that the immune system is healthily at work and there are some fevers that are productive and beneficial.  It is important – especially in the pediatric population – to contact your primary healthcare provider for supervision of a fever.  But often, it will behoove the body to support a fever and utilize it rather than to suppress.

One popular naturopathic approach to supporting the body’s natural defenses when fighting a cold or the flu (often characterized by fever) is to employ a “warming sock treatment” outlined below:

Supplies

1 pair white cotton socks

1 pair thick wool socks

Towel

Warm bath or warm foot bath

Directions

1.     Take a pair of cotton socks and soak them completely with cold water.  Be sure to wring the socks out thoroughly so they do not drip.

2.     Warm your feet first.  This is very important as the treatment will not be as effective and could be harmful if your feet are not warmed first.  Soaking your feet in warm water for at least 5-10 minutes or taking a warm bath for 5-10 minutes can accomplish warming.

3.     Dry off feet and body with a dry towel.

4.     Place cold wet socks on feet.  Cover with thick wool socks.  Go directly to bed.  Avoid getting chilled.

5.     Keep the socks on overnight. You will find that the wet cotton socks will be dry in the morning.

Effects of the warming sock treatment:

This treatment acts to reflexively increase the circulation and decrease congestion in the upper respiratory passages, head, and throat.  It has a sedating action and many patients report that they sleep much better during the treatment.  This treatment is also effective for pain relief and increases the healing response during acute infections.

This is never a replacement for consultation from a professional healthcare provider, but next time you are inclined to reach for an OTC med when your child has a fever, contact your local naturopath and see if the warming sock treatment might be a beneficial option or perhaps the use of herbal medicine or homeopathic medicine to address your child’s health from a holistic approach.

Best,

Dr. R

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.”