This June 21st will mark the 4th anniversary of opening the doors to Elder & Sage, our family-owned herb and remedies shop. Back in 2010 when I first sat down with my parents to discuss opening a business together I don't think any of us could have imagined how things would have happened. In just six short months we left our long term employers, moved four generations of family members from two different cities and started our own business. Since then I have worked with over 500 clients and customers. It has been quite a ride!
My parents are now ready to retire and they deserve it. After 45 years of employment in various retail positions throughout the country – it's time. So, this year I have had some very hard thinking to do:
Could I run both the shop and do my naturopathic consultations?
Is the shop capable of supporting outside employees?
Can I afford to invest the time required to own and operate a retail store?
Perhaps you can see where this might be going. The truth of the matter is my answer to all of these questions is “no”. I love having the shop to work out of but the time investment to manage it on my own is just not feasible. I feel that the time spent managing a retail store would detract from my ability to consult with and research for my clients which is my first priority. I just cannot do it without Mom and Dad.
So, on Friday, May 22nd the shop portion of Elder & Sage will be closing. The business name, website, and Facebook page will continue to be run by me but only for the purposes of my natural health consultations and client education. I will be moving my office into my home and my husband will be handling his CSA and herd-share delivery service out of our home as well. I will maintain relationships with some of our current vendors to supply my clients with the supplements they need and may be able to offer certain product (such as essential oils) through this website at a later date.
Please know that if you have had a health consultation with me in the past or would like to set one up, I will continue to be available for appointments out of my home or by phone/Skype, and email – that will not change. I will be happy to direct you to sources for any of the supplements and retail items you have come to rely on. I will also continue to teach at the Naturopathic Institute of Therapies and Education in Mt. Pleasant and take on students and interns for apprenticeships when I am able. I also hope to offer more classes in the future so stay tuned for that.
The good news is, in many ways I will become more available than before as I attempt to blend my career and home life more seamlessly. So I like to think of this transition as an exciting new adventure and I look forward to continuing our work together on promoting and improving your health. Please feel free to contact me using the updated contact form above. Thank you so much for your loyalty and support these past four years and your continued support as we make this important life transition.
To Your Health!
Breastfeeding eczema is a term I came up with to describe those babies that have eczema even though they are exclusively breastfed, which has been reported to reduce the risk of childhood eczema and doesn't seem to make logical sense if breastmilk is the best food for infants.
As a Naturopath, I have worked with many clients over the past 10 years on this issue and have had some success and some failures. It is a difficult issue so I want to cover what I know all in one post for reference.
Recently I came across an article that suggested that breastfeeding for the first two years of life was found to prevent atopic dermatitis in infants if the mother did not have allergies or asthma. Results were not significant in mothers with allergies and there was no protection if the mother had asthma. So we have here the confirmation that the infant's eczema is related to the mother's health.
Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, author of the book Gut & Psychology Syndrome describes the connection as such:
"Babies are born with an immature immune system. Establishment of normal gut flora in the first 20 or so days of life plays a crucial role in appropriate maturation of the baby's immunity. As these children acquire abnormal gut flora (from their mothers) they are left immune-compromised."
This gut dysbiosis leads to a damaged gut wall and toxins, microbes and undigested foods enter the body causing physical problems in the child such as eczema and asthma.
I believe that the connection may go a little bit deeper. In a mother with a compromised gut system and intestinal permeability there are undigested proteins and endotoxins from pathogenic forms of bacteria leaking into her bloodstream. Her immune system actively works to eliminate these pathogens. These immune compounds such as histamine, cytokines, etc. get into her breastmilk. Because the mother's body is training the infant's immune system through her breast milk the baby's immature immune system responds to the cascade of immune complexes resulting in the eczema. Even if the baby itself does not have poor gut bacteria and intestinal permeability, their body reacts as if it does due to the mother's immune complexes in her milk. This causes inflammation and irritation that may result in further health complications. I do not currently have studies to support this theory but I will continue my informal research to see what I can find.
These are the characteristics I see from these children:
I have worked with many clients as a GAPS Practitioner through the GAPS diet in trying to heal the mother's gut dysbiosis. There has been some success with this approach depending on the severity of the mother's issues. Mothers who have other complications such as glandular imbalances due to gut dysbiosis will often have a harder time.
I am suspicious that the severity of this problem and the drastic increases in numbers may also have other environmental factors influencing it. I have been following the potential impacts of the following:
I have started an online support group through Facebook for parents so that I can more thoroughly research the common factors tied to this issue. I also hope it will help provide parents with ideas for ways to cope with symptoms.
To Your Health,
One of my interns, Katie, wanted to share this recipe using dried soapwort root as an All-Purpose cleanser. Soapwort (Saponaria officianalis) has been used historically as a gentle cleanser due to its high content of saponins. This all-purpose cleanser can be used as a body wash, facial cleanser, shampoo or even a laundry detergent and is great for those with multiple chemical sensitization, eczema, psoriasis, and other skin sensitivities.
Basic Soapwort All-Purpose Cleanser
2 cups distilled water
1 1/2 tablespoons soapwort (dried and chopped)
2 teaspoons lemon verbena or fresh herb of choice (optional)
A few drops of lavender or essential oil of choice (optional)
Bring the water to a boil. Stir in the soapwort root, cover and simmer over medium low heat for 20 minutes.
Remove from heat and add fresh herb if using and steep for an additional 10 minutes.
Let cool. Strain with cheesecloth and add essential oil if using.
Pour into a squeeze bottle.
Store in a dark cool place for up to 10 days. Makes enough for 6-7 uses.
Tip: You can strengthen the solution by adding more root or weaken it by adding more water.
To Your Health!
You may not realize it but there are hundreds of different ways to be sick and probably just as many ways to treat an illness using natural medicine. You could just walk into an herb shop or health food store and ask someone that works there what you should take for your cold/cough/flu etc. but you will probably receive one of three answers:
1. Whatever is most popular - Echinacea, elderberry syrup, vitamin C, Thieves, etc.
2. Whatever is most profitable for the business - what's on clearance, what was overstocked, etc.
3. Whatever comes into the store clerk's brain at that moment or what has worked for them.
If you want good results, none of these suggestions will be very helpful to you. Sure it might work - but it might not - and then you will have wasted your money and you will still feel terrible. To get the most out of your trip to the herb store you need to first find someone who has some experience or training in natural health. Don't automatically assume that the young person with the tattoos knows less than the gray-haired elder or vice versa. Anything goes in this business!
Once you find someone who knows their stuff you need to know how to describe your symptoms so they can find the right remedy for you. Chances are if you start describing your symptoms this way, you will very quickly find out whether or not the person you are speaking to knows anything anyway. So here are some quick tips for describing your illness to any naturopath, herbalist, homeopath, or general natural health practitioner. I've tried to keep these as easy to understand as possible for the average person by leaving out some of the common energetics we are taught in herbalism. I find it hard sometimes to figure out whether my symptoms are damp or deficient or dry and in excess so let's keep it simple.
Ways to Describe a Sore Throat
Dry – A dry throat feels better when you drink liquids. It can hurt to swallow but generally feels okay as long as there is food or liquid there. This kind of sore throat is common in the winter with the dry air. You may notice it is worse in the morning and gets better throughout the day.
Damaged – This is the sore throat that results after an illness has been going on a while. A runny nose or sinus infection is often the culprit. The eventual drainage and action of the immune system leaves you with damaged mucosa that needs to be repaired. Laryngitis is common with this type of sore throat.
Swollen – This is at the start or early stages of an illness where the tonsils or glands become so swollen with white blood cells trying to fight the infection that it hurts to swallow or talk because of the physical action.
Other important notes - Pay attention to where it feels bad. Up high in the back of the mouth? Down by your voice box? Can you point to exactly where it hurts?
Ways to Describe a Cough
Dry – This kind of cough produces no phlegm or mucus. It's the cough you get like a tickle in your throat that just doesn't want to go away. There's nothing to cough up but it's still there. Or maybe you can feel the congestion deep in your chest but nothing comes up.
Wet – Lots of phlegm and wet stuff with this kind of cough. The immune system is working overtime drowning you in mucus. You may even hear rattling in the chest as you breathe. This is a productive kind of cough that needs to get out but you feel like your ribs and diaphragm are bruised from all the coughing.
Other important signs – If you can cough something up, what color is it? Is it thick or thin? Does it hurt when you cough like something is tearing inside? Does the cough only come at night or first thing in the morning? Does it make a particular sound like a saw going through boards or like a barking seal? Does the coughing come in fits where it is hard to catch your breath? These are all important points to note.
For Sinus Infections and Colds
Again we can go with a simple wet or dry description but it can be helpful to note the consistency of the mucus too.
Dry – it hurts to breathe through your nose. Your sinuses are packed full of mucus but it all seems stuck up there because your nose isn't running at all. You can blow all you want on that tissue but it just makes a noise like a party favor and nothing comes out.
Wet – Your nose runs constantly. You've gone through multiple boxes of tissues and you can not believe how much snot can come out of your head.
Thin – Thin mucus is runny so you have to sniff constantly to keep it in there. It may even irritate your nose and upper lip making them red and sore.
Thick – Yellow or green viscous mucus that fills up the tissue. While many people associate this kind of mucus with an infection it is not always directly associated.
Infected – This is where the sinuses are so inflamed that your teeth hurt or your head feels like it's going to explode. There is a lot of pain and a general miserable feeling.
Other important things to note for any illness
Sudden onset or gradual onset – Did you wake up all of a sudden with the illness or has it been slowly coming on over several days. This is an important thing to note especially for fevers and will help determine the best homeopathic to use.
Intensity – Is it a mild annoyance or are you wishing someone would just cut off your head to make it go away?
What makes it better- Hot drinks, cold water, outside air, wrapping up in blankets, certain types of food, etc.
What makes it worse - Cold wind, humidity, bending over, laying down, etc.
Duration of illness – Have the same symptoms been affecting you for a week or have the symptoms changed and progressed over time? Did it start with a sore throat and runny nose and then turn into a cough and congestion? Were you really sick for awhile and now a few minor symptoms seem to linger?
Additional symptoms – Body aches, earache, sneezing, headache, watery eyes, chills, fever, digestive upset, vomiting, diarrhea, etc.
Hopefully this gives you some idea of what kinds of things it is important to mention to a natural health practitioner so they can determine what the best remedy is for you. Once you do find that perfect remedy though, remember that it works best for that particular condition. So you may not be able to use that yarrow and elderflower tea for your dry cough but the next time you feel flushed and feverish with body aches and a stuffy nose, you'll be ready.
To Your Health!
There are some remedies out there that every herbalist, naturopath, and natural health minded person probably knows as a go-to for common problems. But these remedies are not common knowledge for the general public and they should be! Here are some of my favorites in no particular order.
Lavender oil for Burns
I keep a spray bottle with lavender essential oil next to my stove. I once spilled a pot of just boiled pasta water all over my legs. My husband always hits his hand on the oven rack as he takes things out. I have three kids that touch hot food before it's ready. Lavender oil takes the pain of a burn away almost instantly. It can prevent blistering and reduce or eliminate scarring. I can burn myself pretty bad and a few hours after applying lavender oil - not even know where I burned myself. Why it is not found in every single household or commercial kitchen - I'll never understand. Most people know about aloe vera but lavender oil is quicker and easier for those that kill houseplants easily...like me.
Dissolve kidney stones with Hydrangea
Said to be more painful than giving birth by those who have experienced both. Kidney stones are extremely painful as they try to pass through your ureters scraping and scratching along the way. Modern medicine has little to offer short of drinking lots of water and waiting it out or surgery. But herbalists have a secret weapon in the herb called hydrangea (Hydrangea arborescens). Hydrangea is lithotriptic meaning it dissolves those sharp little edges of calcium making the stones easier to pass. Taking anywhere from 6 to 14 capsules a day for no more than 2-3 days seems to work (anecdotally) for most. Like most herbal remedies, this one is not scientifically proven but if you've ever had a kidney stone you wouldn't want to wait for science to catch up.
Activated Charcoal for Food Poisoning
Used in the emergency treatment of certain types of poisoning, activated charcoal tablets or capsules can also absorb the poisons that contribute to the vomiting and diarrhea associated with food poisoning. Although this black powder looks alarming, it is essentially tasteless and harmless. Take several capsules after each bout of vomiting or diarrhea to calm the storm.
Plantago for Cuts, Scrapes, Stings and Bites
Plantain (Plantago spp.), not to be confused with the banana-like variety, is a very common weed. But the usefulness of this plant should not be overlooked, especially in the summertime when you are caught without your first aid kit. My kids know it as Tago and they know that any cut, scrape, bee sting or mosquito bite gets an immediate application of macerated plantain even if I have to chew it up myself and apply as a spit poultice. Generally the kids prefer a pre-prepared plantain salve instead - can't imagine why.
Peppermint oil for Gas and Bloating
A common ingredient in gripe water, most grandmothers know to reach for the peppermint candy for tummy aches. But if you'd rather avoid the sugar (which will also cause gas and bloating) reach for the peppermint essential oil instead. Rubbing one or two drops on the abdomen will give you quick relief and have you smelling like a candy cane. Just don't get the oil in your eyes or on any sensitive skin. You'll never forget it if you do! Spicy!
Homeopathic Arnica for Injury
The #1 selling homeopathic. It's amazing what a little sugar pill can do! Arnica is used for any trauma to the tissues meaning any bump, bruise, cut, scrape, or even to help heal surgical wounds. When my one-year-old bumps his head he stops crying the instant the Arnica bottle is in my hand because he knows relief is on the way.
Magnesium for Leg Cramps
There are lots of ways to take magnesium but for leg cramps in the middle of the night my favorite is the cell salt preparation called mag phos. A couple of pellets of these tablets under the tongue can bring instant relief. For the really bad ones though I go for the magnesium oil instead and rub it into those stubborn muscles to relax them. If you get cramps a lot you should look into supplementing with magnesium regularly though.
Red Raspberry Leaf for Women's Issues
There is no women's reproductive system tonic like red raspberry leaf. To help with PMS symptoms, cramping, anemia from blood loss, fertility issues, pregnancy issues, morning sickness, pain in labor, breastmilk production... need I go on? I like to drink it as an iced tea whenever possible.
Mullein Leaf Tea for Asthma
This one is for my mom. Our sales of mullein have gone up considerably ever since she started drinking the tea on a regular basis to get rid of her asthma. Ask her if it works. I dare you.
Garlic Oil for Ear Infections
Ear infections are so common and before you reach for the antibiotic prescription you should consider the herbalist approach. Fresh garlic soaked in olive oil is simple to make and so effective as ear drops in relieving pain and reducing infection. If the eardrum is perforated just rub the oil around the outside of the ear. If you're lucky enough to find some garlic oil mixed with mullein and St. John's Wort oil you will have one happy little camper in no time. Stop the overuse and abuse of antiobiotics which leads to antibiotic resistant superbugs - save them for the really serious stuff and use garlic instead.
To Your Health,
Kathryn Doran-Fisher, ND, CGP
Kathryn Doran-Fisher is a Board Certified Naturopathic Doctor and has been seeing clients for natural health consultations and therapies for more than 6 years. Most recently Kathryn has received training from world renowned author and practitioner Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride in 2012 to become a Certified GAPS Practitioner for dealing with the connection between gut health and our mental/physical ailments. Kathryn has done numerous public speaking engagements, taught several classes on natural health for the community, is an instructor at a naturopathic school, maintains a website and blog about natural health, has written several articles for local publication and is a highly respected professional in her field.
This past year I have been working hard to fine-tune some of my understanding of gut physiology and how it affects the rest of our health. First there was the Gluten-Summit last fall where some of the country's top experts in the field of digestive health talked about non-celiac gluten sensitivity in a series of online interviews. Then this spring the Thyroid Sessions and the Thyroid Summit became available, again with some free online interviews from top experts on thyroid function. These interviews helped me to understand the connection between gut dysbiosis and Hashimoto's thyroiditis. A couple of weeks ago I spoke with a probiotic specialist from Natren, one of the probiotic companies whose line we carry here at Elder & Sage. We talked about some awesome protocols for healing specific gut issues. And finally this past weekend I attended a course from one of my former instructors and colleagues at the Naturopathic Institute of Therapies and Education, Jackie Featherly, on the Detoxification pathways of the liver. There are still two more classes from Dr. Featherly later this fall but I wanted to get some of this info out to my clients while the information was still fresh in my mind!
The liver has at least 500 different functions including: creating over 1,000 different enzymes, making bile for fat digestion, storing nutrients, metabolizing fats and proteins, cleaning the blood, producing heat to maintain body temperature, converting thyroid hormones to an active form, activating and deactivating hormones and neurotransmitters, detoxifying from toxic substances, and more!
There are 3 phases that the liver uses to convert toxic substances into harmless substances. Phase 1 has 5 pathways, or five different ways to deal with toxins. Phase 2 has 6 pathways, and I haven't learned about Phase 3 yet!
So, when you eat your food is broken down into tiny little pieces. Your small intestinal lining allows some of those tiny pieces into your blood like amino acids, small peptides, simple sugars, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, etc. Some of those tiny pieces may even be chemicals, heavy metals like mercury, pharmaceutical drugs, food dyes, preservatives, bacterial waste products, etc. And if you have a leaky gut you may get larger proteins and food particles, yeast cells, bacteria, etc. All of this goes into your bloodstream and is carried straight into your liver.
The liver cells identify what the substance is and what to do with it. Imagine a recycling center. On the conveyor belt are all kinds of things that need to be sorted. Glass bottles, plastic, paper, metal, etc. Each thing needs to be sorted into the right bin. The liver pathways then would be the different ways to sort. For example Phase 1 deals with oxidation, reduction, hydrolysis, hydration, and dehalogenation. Chemicals that need to go through one of these five processes will head toward Phase 1. Once they have gone through Phase 1 some chemicals can now be safely sent out of the body while others will need more attention. Those will move on to Phase 2 for sulphate conjugation, glucoronadation, glutathione conjugation, acetylation, glycination, and methylation.
If Phase 1 is working fast but Phase 2 is a little slow you will get a bottleneck effect. Some of the partially broken down chemicals start building up in the system. This can also happen when any of the detox pathways are overwhelmed with material to detoxify. Many of these partially broken down chemicals are more toxic that what we started with. For example alcohol (ethanol) goes through Phase 1 oxidation and you are left with a chemical called acetylaldehyde. Eventually this chemical is converted to harmless acetic acid (like vinegar) but if the detox process gets bogged down (too much alcohol) the acetylaldehyde will build up and give you a hangover.* This bottleneck effect can cause damage to the liver, brain and immune system. In fact, most liver issues, disease, and cancer begin here.
*Acetylaldehyde detoxification also occurs in Phase 1 with a second oxidation to become acetic acid rather than moving on to Phase 2 but the bottleneck effect is similar.
With gut dysbiosis and leaky gut, there is a river of chemicals and toxins flowing into the liver and so the detoxification process is working hard around the clock but many chemicals bottleneck and are released back into the circulating bloodstream. This is why people with serious digestive issues don't feel good. You may be tired, sore, achy, fatigued and have all kinds of symptoms. The key to feeling better is reducing the amount of chemicals (from food and the environment) sealing up a leaky gut (with probiotics and bone broth) and helping the liver to process better (detoxification with juices and detox baths and selective supplementation). Healing the gut will also make it easier to absorb nutrients that the liver needs to support detoxification like the B-vitamins and magnesium.
The more the liver has to process the more congested it will become and the more toxic and dirty the blood will be - eventually putting strain on other filters such as the kidneys. Imagine how much work your liver has to do with a single meal, now imagine that same meal was full of preservatives, food additives, coloring, MSG, etc. and you took it along with a prescription drug. Every chemical put on or in your body has to be dealt with by the liver.
Many natural foods and supplements will stimulate the liver and support the Phase I detoxification pathways such as:
Cysteine and Glutathione containing foods: yogurt, cottage cheese, turkey, cheese, chicken, eggs, wild game and whole milk
Cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale, kohlrabi
Other sulphur rich foods: red meat, poultry, fish, legumes, egg yolk, onions, garlic, leeks, shallots, chives
Foods that aid in fat metabolism due to Vitamin B12: Brewer's yeast, organ meats, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, brown rice
Essential fatty Acids: cold water fish, flaxseed, sunflower seeds, walnuts, sesame seeds, black currant seed oil, borage oil, and evening primrose oil
Some natural health substances can also be used to reduce the bottleneck effect that causes symptoms usually attributed to a die-off effect or healing crisis by slowing down Phase I detoxification. These are: Grapefruit, turmeric, capsicum, and cloves.
Other vital herbs and supplements to support liver detoxification include: bioflavonoids, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B6, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, Milk thistle, Carotenes, Co-Q-10, Copper, Iron, Selenium, Magnesium, Manganese, Zinc, Trace Minerals, Folic Acid, Lecithin, N-Acetyl Cysteine, Alpha Lipoic Acid, Artichoke extract, Black Currant Oil, Evening Primrose Oil, and Borage Oil.
All of these nutrients and vitamins can be found in a well rounded diet based on whole, real, foods such as the GAPS diet. You can give an even bigger boost to the GAPS diet by making sure to include lots of foods such as: cold water fish; garlic; onions; fresh fruit; nuts and seeds; cold pressed oils such as safflower oil, sesame oil, sunflower oil, flaxseed oil, and walnut oil; and fresh vegetables particularly ones from the cabbage family.
To Your Health!
It all started with my oldest daughter. She had been playing with the neighbor children down the street and came home complaining that her eye was bothering her. It was definitely pink eye and in just a day her eyes became swollen and red. What followed was a cascade of various symptoms for the whole family. Anwen's fever, Lilia's cough, Anwen's pink eye, Lilia's fever, Lilia's pink eye, Rowan's cough. I changed remedies as fast as the symptoms changed. Aconite, Belladonna, Pulsatilla and Hepar Sulph homeopathic remedies. Chamomile and chickweed compresses for the eyes. Chickweed oil on the eyes at night. Breastmilk drops in the eyes. Eucalyptus essential oil on the feet and chest for the cough. “Cover your mouth please, honey.” and “Wash your hands.” became regular mantras. I started taking supplements proactively hoping some would come through my breast milk to protect little 10-month-old Rowan. Anwen got better, Lilia got worse and then a bit better. All that was left was Rowan. His croupy cough quieted down but he burned in and out of fever and slept most of the day. We rearranged our schedules as much as we could so one of us could sit and hold him all day.
Being a naturopathic doctor I never thought it would be something I couldn't handle. I have more herbs and remedies in my cupboards than I do food. I work with people every day making suggestions for how to help their little ones with their illnesses. I've also trained myself to know what to look for if things get serious. By Friday night, almost five days after the first symptoms came up, Rowan started to refuse to breastfeed. I had been watching for signs of dehydration. He had been throwing up every third feeding and had green watery stools. The two greatest dangers for infants are dehydration and difficulty breathing. Now despite everything I had been doing, Rowan was showing signs of both.
I pulled out all the stops. Probiotic implants, mustard plaster, herbal steams, homeopathics, Lobelia in his mouth, Lobelia on his chest, Lobelia in an enema, Tincture with mullein, horseradish, fennel and fenugreek dosed every hour. I held acupressure points. I did percussion on his little chest. I did energy work and I prayed. Finally, I had to admit that despite everything I was doing naturopathically, Rowan was not getting better.
I researched in between moments and figured RSV to be the most likely case. A really bad cold for most but potentially life-threatening for children under 2 if they can't breathe or become dehydrated. Rowan's bottom lip was getting dry. My breasts were getting full from not emptying. As he breathed his skin beneath his breastbone and at his clavicle sucked in, called retracting. His breath was coming in more than 50 breaths per minute. Time to swallow my pride. Time to do what I would tell my own clients to do. We went to Urgent Care first and were immediately referred to the ER.
Born at home, breast-fed, uncircumcised, unvaccinated. Not so much as a baby Tylenol had ever crossed my son's lips. I can't tell you how much I was dreading this. But I knew what he needed and I knew I couldn't give it to him. The one thing I try to tell my clients is that if youhave to go to the hospital, try to remember you are on their turf, playing by their rules. If you don't want to have problems then be nice. When the question of vaccines came up, I stated that we were planning on an altered vaccine schedule (not until the age of 2) with his regular pediatrician although we had not had a chance to schedule that first contact with the pediatrician we wanted. Not a complete lie. We were going to choose a pediatrician and had one picked out but were waiting for insurance paperwork to get settled. I do not intend to have my son vaccinated, even on an altered schedule, but I knew I might have more problems if I admitted that. Thankfully the only thing child services did during our visit was get us some baby books to play with.
They wanted to do a chest X-Ray. I didn't argue because I knew they wouldn't give me much of a choice. They needed to see his lungs to see what kind of danger he was in. If I refused they would consider it endangering his life and maybe call in CPS. They wanted to do a breathing treatment with Albuterol. They gave him Tylenol for his fever. Again I didn't argue. Oxygen I was prepared for. Intravenous fluids I expected. No arguing on what type of IV or what the ingredients were. I didn't want to be automatically labeled a weirdo anymore than I already was for not vaccinating. They were trying to help in the best way they knew how and I let them do it.
The X-ray came back positive for double pneumonia. They wanted to start IV antibiotics right away and admit him to the hospital. Because he was never vaccinated they needed to do a stronger broad spectrum antibiotic because he was supposedly more susceptible to a broader range of pathogens. Whatever. I disagreed internally but allowed it. I certainly know how to do damage control later.
We settled into our room. “We follow safe sleeping practices.” we were told. They wanted him to sleep alone, in a crib, on his back. He's never done that. We follow safe co-sleeping practices at home. We took shifts holding him on us in the chair trying not to fall asleep. He had three tubes connected to him: IV, oxygen, and a monitor on his big toe. He couldn't go far but he was too sick to care.
One of the doctors told us they were worried he might have Influenza too. They wanted to do a swab of his nose and run a panel to check for it and they wanted to start Tami Flu right away. More pre-emptive medicine than preventative if you ask me. I asked if we could wait for the panel results first before starting Tami Flu. The reluctantly agreed and said they would be back in an hour if it was positive. They never came back that night.
The next morning a new doctor told us that Rowan had RSV, which confirmed my initial suspicions. The pneumonia was a side effect of the viral infection. The antibiotics were useless against it so he wouldn't have any more. All they could do is support him with oxygen and fluids until his little body fought off the virus. I was okay with that. They came periodically to suction out his nose, which he hated, and to check his vitals. Rowan became wary of anyone who came in wearing a yellow gown and purple gloves but eventually his energy and smile came back.
I didn't bother telling anyone at the hospital that I was a Naturopath. It doesn't earn me any points in that kind of world. I'd be amazed if some of them even knew what a Naturopath was. I tried to keep a straight face as the doctor who was discharging us asked if I had a bulb syringe at home and if I knew how to use it. I was just relieved to have Rowan off of the oxygen, and IV. I think we were probably packed and leaving within five minutes of the okay to go.
Rowan is doing much better. He still has the cough and runny nose but he's no longer critical. Herbal remedies are helping him to get over it as well as helping to undo any side effects from "pre-emptive medicine". While the experience was a little surreal and scary it was overall still a positive experience. I am grateful to the doctors and nurses for doing what conventional medicine does best. They were kind, gracious, and helpful every step of the way. Everyone should be so lucky to have that kind of experience.
What I want to share the most is that many times when we are more natural-health-minded we tend to get very negative about conventional medicine. Kind of an us vs. them mentality. I'm guilty of it and I know a lot of others that are too. In the almost fifteen years since I began my education, this is the first time something has come up that I couldn't resolve completely with natural remedies. I know what kind of harm can come from conventional medicine, but we can't be afraid to call on conventional medicine when it is needed. Home remedies are awesome and amazing and can perform what seems like miracles at times but it is important to know when to treat at home and when to get some help. Whether you are just dabbling in herbs or are a naturopathic practitioner – know your limitations and don't be afraid to ask for help.
To Your Health... and Ours!
Kathryn Doran-Fisher, ND, CGP
Even Naturopaths get sick, unfortunately. The good news is, any illness in my family is an opportunity for me to test out some remedies.
I used to get laryngitis about twice a year so even though I've been able to avoid it for several years now the signs and symptoms were familiar to me. And not being able to talk is not a good thing when you do consultations for a living. If I had been smart I would have started taking my remedies at the first sign of illness: the little tickle in my throat. But with the holidays being what they are... I was too busy to take care of myself and now I'm paying for it!
My go-to remedy up until this point for sore throats has been alternating between the essential oil blend called Four Thieves mixed with water into a spray bottle and probiotic powder placed directly on the tongue. This works because the essential oils kill pathogenic bacteria on contact and the probiotics restore the protective forms of bacteria to the sensitive mucosa. The relief from this regimen is almost instant but once my voice started going I knew that I needed a bit more.
Citrus felt really good on my throat so I tried an old remedy I have used for singers. 1 oz. of lemon juice with 1/8 tsp of cayenne pepper (capsicum) and 1 oz. of water. This cuts through mucus and leaves a pleasant burning sensation while also stimulating blood flow to the area. It felt good but didn't do much for my voice.
I have some slippery elm lozenges I made years ago that are still just as good as the day I made them. The slippery elm is very soothing and the lozenges seem to last forever so it's nice for a general sore throat and cough.
Looking through some of my herbal remedy books I find a reference to sage and honey tea for laryngitis. Although I wasn't sure at first I could do this one since I am currently five months pregnant, it turns out there were no contraindications except during breastfeeding. Lukewarm tea seems to work better than really hot or cold tea at bringing the voice back.
I also found a reference to propolis tincture. It said that if one drop of proplis tincture doesn't produce the voice - it's not the right remedy. We happened to have some propolis tincture at the shop so I grabbed a bottle. Now I have never been a big fan of propolis, I find the taste to be horrid and in tincture form it is doubly so... but it did work quite well! So if you can stand the taste it's worth it. And it's faster than brewing a cup of sage tea. Just one drop at the back of the throat as needed throughout the day. I did find that I still had to use either the probiotic powder on my tongue or drink some kefir to restore the good bacteria though. The anti-bacterial nature of all of these remedies left my throat feeling quite raw at times and the probiotics helped considerably. The propolis seemed to numb my throat for a short time but the probiotic had more lasting relief. Between the two I was able to get some decent sleep.
After just two days, my voice is almost completely back to normal and my throat no longer hurts at all. Rather than stopping any remedies I know it's best to switch gears and use my herbal teas, probiotics, and broth for rebuilding my immunity. And maybe next time I'll take my own advice and take care of myself at the first sign of illness instead of waiting until it gets to this level.
I hope my experience helps you find what works best for you!
To Your Health!
Some of you may know that I have taught a one-day class in the past called the Big FAT Lie. This class is based off of the work of Dr. Mary Enig, world renowned nutritionist/biochemist and expert on all things fats and oils.
For the last 150 years or so we have been brainwashed into believing certain "facts" about cholesterol. Ah, cholesterol - the artery clogging substance found in the fattiest foods that gave name to the "heart attack on a plate". Right? Well, we couldn't be more wrong. For example, did you know that cholesterol is an antioxidant? Or that it is the precursor to Vitamin D and most of your reproductive hormones like estrogen, progesterone and testosterone? Did you know that without cholesterol you would more than likely die?
Even when I can convince my clients that eating lots of saturated fats from good sources is not only beneficial but crucial for their health - I still get the "But, what about my cholesterol?" question.
Let's look deeper at the issue. Cholesterol is a repair substance. It is required to build and maintain cell membranes. That means it exists in every single cell within your body. If there is a lot of cellular damage then cholesterol is sent from the liver to the site of the damage for repair. Now because cholesterol is not water soluble it needs to be carried through the blood by something called a lipoprotein. Low density lipoproteins (LDL) carry cholesterol from the liver to the damage site. High density lipoproteins (HDL) carry excess cholesterol back to the liver for recycling.
Imagine you have a large metal water pipe. Instead of just water sometimes chemicals get sent down the pipe that slowly weaken and compromise the metal bit by bit. After years of this happening a crack forms in the pipe and water starts leaking out. Now let's imagine the best way to fix this leak is to put on some scuba gear and fix it from the inside with a special kind of tape that will cover the crack. Maybe the only way to get into the pipe is through a really small hole so we have a little guy (we'll call him Larry) go through the hole carrying the special tape to cover over the crack. But the tape is kind of temporary so pretty soon the water starts leaking around the edges of the tape while other parts of the pipe start cracking from the neglect as well. So we send a whole bunch of little Larry look-a-likes to fix it. Pretty soon we start layering tape on top of tape and the inside of the pipe gets more and more narrow. This increases the water pressure which makes more cracks form so that eventually the whole thing bursts and we have a major mess on our hands.
Now if we were to walk in on a scene like this without having seen the whole process leading up to it we would see a broken pipe, tape clogging up the inside, and a bunch of little Larrys all over the place. We'd probably be tempted to blame the whole mess on Larry and his tape. Just like heart disease and clogged arteries are blamed on LDL and cholesterol.
So now let's pretend that instead of sending out little Larry and his tape we manage and support that pipe making sure we have good material for the long-term health of the whole system. We make sure there are no chemicals being sent down the pipe that might damage the metal or weaken it. Instead we send minerals and other substances that actually strengthen the pipe over the years. Without the chemicals, the pipe stays solid and the tape is not needed so Larry's co-worker, Harry takes the tape back to the plant to be used for something else. And we all know that the more guys named Harry (HDL) you have working for you, the less likely you are to have a pipe break.
In heart disease, what is the real issue? What causes the damage to the artery walls to begin with? Well, we already know of a lot of substances that cause damage to the arteries such as trans fatty acid found in partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. Chlorinated water and bromine found in many foods can also scar the arteries. Some people think it might be a lack of vitamin D (hey, didn't I say that was made out of cholesterol?) Or many believe excess consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates (like bread and pasta) does it. We certainly know that high triglyceride levels are associated with heart disease and triglycerides rise with consumption of refined carbohydrates. Or it could be homogenized milk or exposure to pesticides or chronic inflammation or stress. The list goes on and on.
While there are plenty of ways to lower cholesterol including natural ways (polyphenols, red yeast rice, etc.) maybe we should be looking at the real issue. Let's repair the damage to the blood vessels using herbs like Gingko and Hawthorn Berries. Let's stop eating heavily processed foods that might be contributing to weakened blood vessels. Let's lower our stress and drink pure water and bask in the sunlight and yes... eat bacon and eggs fried in butter too. I do.
To Your Health,
Do you remember that movie, The Horse Whisperer? Ever since that movie came out there have been all sorts of people claiming to be some sort of "whisperer": Dog Whisperer, Ghost Whisperer, even a Chicken Whisperer. I've often joked that I feel like some sort of "Body Whisperer". I spend a lot of time trying to understand how complex bodily processes work so I can explain it to my clients in simple terms anyone can understand. My husband has been encouraging me for awhile to write a book of my explanations. Because when you understand what the body is trying to do... it takes a lot of the frustration out of common symptoms.
Let's start with something simple.
We all have to deal with getting sick at least once or twice a year. The symptoms are familiar: runny nose, sneezing, coughing, low energy, mucus production, congestion, sore throat, and maybe if you're unlucky enough some body aches, fever, vomiting or diarrhea. Nobody likes being sick and most people would do anything to get rid of these symptoms as fast as possible. Many pharmaceutical medications have been created just to make our life more bearable when we are sick by reducing these symptoms. But let's listen to the body and try to understand what is happening during illness.
Your body is bombarded with germs on a regular basis. Germs are scavengers. They prefer to feed off of diseased or weak cells because they can get through the cell's defenses and because that is their job: to break down diseased or dead cells. This isn't some sort of heroic good vs. evil story. Germs were created as equally as humans. They feed, live, reproduce and die just like we do. One theory is that the human body will even allow certain germs to enter just so they can feed off of less than healthy cells. A sort of survival of the fittest I guess.
So the germs get into weakened cells and start reproducing and spreading. More and more cells are being used as little germ factories instead of doing their regular jobs. Eventually all of this comes under the radar of the immune system. How strong and healthy your immune system is determines how long it takes for them to find the invaders. And when they do find them they use all kinds of different methods to evict them. Like flooding mucus to the area to trap the germs in a sticky, slimy mess. The mucus is either swallowed so the germs are destroyed by the acid in the stomach or it is coughed up and blown through the nose into a tissue. The excess mucus, coughing and runny nose are not caused by the germs themselves but by the body in the attempt to remove them.
Other germ eviction methods include a fever (certain germs die at higher temps) vomiting, diarrhea and sweating (physical eviction). Sometimes their is a localized skin reaction so the skin becomes red and itchy. When you scratch the germs are physically removed or damaged by the action. Body aches and pain are the result of chemicals produced as immune cells damage, kill, and even eat the germs and any cells they were infecting.
Sometimes when people are sick they decide to boost their immune system through herbs and nutritional supplements only to find that their symptoms get worse. Thanks for boosting the immune system! Now it can clean harder and faster! Or maybe you take the conventional medical approach and use an over-the-counter drug to stop the cough, sneeze, runny nose, vomiting, fever, etc. Now you've weakened the immune system. You may feel temporarily better but the germs can continue to multiply causing even more damage.
A better plan would be 1) Eat healthy and stay physically active so the cells are not weakened and prone to invasion to begin with and 2) Take immune boosting herbs before you even develop symptoms so germs can be eradicated before they multiply and get out of control. Some good herbs might be echinacea, astragalus, reishi, garlic, etc.
The wrong response would be to sterilize everything and try to eradicate every possible pathogenic germ. You can't do it. It isn't possible and you may actually make things worse.
If I were to sterilize a countertop with bleach it won't stay sterilized for long. Bacteria from the air settles on the counter and start to multiply. But the types of bacteria that can live on a sterilized field tend to be stronger, more resistant forms than what was living their before. The same is true with using antibiotics. Kill off the resident bacteria and you will encourage the stronger, more resistant and pathogenic strains instead.
In cheese houses in Europe they use whey to wash the walls and floors rather than an antibacterial agent. Whey is the waste product of the cheesemaking process and contains trillions of probiotic bacteria. By doing this the cheesemakers encourage the kind of bacteria that makes the best cheese while crowding out any others that might ruin the cheese. I've often said someone should come up with a probiotic cleaner as opposed to antibacterial soaps. But then again, your whole house may end up smelling like cheese!
So listen to your body! If you do get sick, make sure you get plenty of rest. Eat light with lots of easy to digest foods, soups, liquids, and herbal tea to keep up the strength of the immune system. Don't try to overdo it physically because the body needs to expend that energy to fight a battle not run around doing errands. Let your body clean out knowing that when it's done you will be all the healthier for it!
To Your Health!
Kathryn Doran-Fisher is a Traditional Naturopath, Certified GAPS Practitioner and owner of Elder & Sage.