For awhile now I've been running with this concept that everything you experience with your six senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch and mental thoughts) creates little pathways in your brain. You hear a new song on the radio – BAM – that's a new pathway. The more you hear the same lyrics over and over again the wider, deeper, and stronger that pathway becomes. Suddenly you have all of the lyrics to Adele's “Hello” memorized whether you like the song or not.
The only way to change that pathway is to stop accessing it. You've got to turn off the radio. Just like a path in the forest. If everyone stops using it the forest creeps in from the edges and suddenly it's not even there anymore. All those pop songs I had memorized from the 90's - just not really in my head anymore.
I talk to my kids about this during homeschool lessons all the time now. They get anxious and upset whenever they are trying to learn something new. I tell them that there is no reason to expect to know something the first time around. You have to have seen it, read it, and heard it enough to create a strong pathway that will last. Tests are just a way to see if you've experienced something enough times to have a firm pathway. Physical activities are the same way. You don't ride a bike or play an instrument the first time you pick it up. But with practice, your body and your mind learn how to do it. The only thing that makes you any different from the greatest athlete, the smartest scientist, or the most talented artist – is PRACTICE.
Now here's the problem.
How much of what our six senses experience in any given day is controlled by media? How much of what we see and hear is controlled by people that want you to give them your money? How much are you being told you are not skinny enough, not attractive enough, not successful enough, not popular enough, and not smart enough? How often are you told that to have a good time you need to look a certain way, drink a certain drink, eat a certain food, and be somebody you are not?
What about love, compassion, kindness, generosity, empathy, and joy for living a good life? Why are these values so often missing from our daily consumption?
We may think we can't do anything about the programming we have but the reality is, we can change it just by changing what our six senses are exposed to on a daily basis. If you were to feel love, see compassion, hear kindness, think about equality, taste healthy foods, and smell the fresh clean air every day - it would change who you are. It just takes practice and before you know it your old thoughts become overgrown with good thoughts, healthy habits, and strong pathways.
Whatever it is you want to do - stop eating sugar, learn how to play the violin, be kinder to your kids and spouse, or even learn about quantum physics - the only thing you have to do is practice.
So, why not start right now?
To Your Health!
Iron deficiency anemia is a very common problem, which is why iron is often added to foods such as iron-fortified cereals and infant formulas as well as supplements.
Babies are born with iron stored in their bodies but because they grow so fast they need more than what can be stored. Babies between 9 months and two years of age are at the greatest risk for anemia if they are not being breastfed or have natural sources of iron in their diet such as liver, red meat, pork, seafood, beans, and dark leafy greens. Even if they are breastfed, it is important that mom has these foods in her diet for her baby to benefit.
The problem with supplementing with iron-fortified formula, cereal, or vitamins is that the side-effects often can be just as bad if not worse. Constipation is the most common side-effect but occasionally there can be diarrhea and gastrointestinal inflammation. Iron supplements may even be an underlying contributing factor to gut dysbiosis. Too much iron can also be poisonous to children under six years of age.
So what is going on? Why do iron supplements cause constipation and gut inflammation when foods high in iron do not?
Most iron supplements are simple salts like iron fumarate, iron gluconate, or iron sulfate. But iron compounds are not bioavailable in an aerobic environment. So some supplements use chelates like iron bis-glycinate to make the iron more soluble.
Unfortunately, even with these efforts to make iron more bioavailable, the rapid pH changes in the digestive tract (from acidic pH in the stomach to more neutral in the small intestine) will cause the iron to become insoluble. Any iron that isn't absorbed (which can be as much as 70% in some supplements) can cause inflammation in the gut due to a process called redox cycling, which creates free radicals. Any remaining iron travels to the lower bowel where it feeds iron-loving pathogenic bacteria leading to lower levels of beneficial bacteria, constipation, diarrhea and more inflammation.
In contrast, iron found in our diet comes in the form of ferritin, a protein-bound form of tiny iron oxohydroxide particles found in both plant and animal tissue. Ferritin doesn't dissolve in the digestive tract but is absorbed through the gut wall and is carried directly into the cells where the iron is released through enzymatic processes from lysosomes making it available for use by the cell. Ferritin doesn't cause inflammation in the gut and bacteria cannot absorb it the same way so it doesn't have the side effect risk.
That has led some scientists to try and make a better iron supplement called IHAT. In the meantime food sources of iron remain the most effective at reducing iron deficiency anemia with the least harmful side effects.
Recovery from the side effects of iron supplementation should include probiotics, Vitamin C, and food rich in Antioxidants.
Last Christmas I got myself a rather large book called "Essential Oil Safety" by Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young (I know I'm such a nerd) and the information in this classic textbook has been eye opening to be sure.
Essential oil use has grown in popularity but there is a lot of misinformation out there and a potential for some people to get hurt. Yes, essential oils are natural (because they come from plants) but that does not mean they cannot hurt you. They are concentrated chemical substances created by passing steam through huge amounts of plant material to collect the volatile oils. These chemicals enter the body the same ways other chemicals do: through inhalation, through the skin and mucosa, or by ingesting them. Once in the body the individual molecules are metabolized just like any other chemical and are excreted just like any other chemical.
In the body, all organic compounds are metabolized, meaning they are made into different substances (that have their own biological actions) and then are removed in a form the body can handle. Different chemicals are metabolized by different routes and at different rates. The liver is the most important organ for this by dividing substances into so-called Phase I and Phase II reactions. How much essential oil you use, the type of oil, the mode of absorption, and the rate at which it is metabolized all determine whether or not it is safe.
Here's an example of the chemical profile of one sample of tea tree oil from the book:
Ledene (viridiflorene) 1.8%
This chemical profile would be different depending on the country of origin and maybe even the particular farm where it is harvested. The standard for Terpinen-4-ol in tea tree oil is 30-48%. But a recent batch I purchased has between 46-52%. Terpinen-4-ol is what makes tea tree oil... tea tree oil. But it is also found in sweet marjoram, juniperberry, rosemary and other essential oils in lower percentages.
The safety data on Terpinen-4-ol states:
"Terpinen-4-ol appears to be non-irritant and non-allergenic, and possesses "slight" toxicity. It is not mutagenic, and has demonstrated in-vitro anti-tumoral activity.
That's just one chemical constituent in tea tree oil that has it's own metabolic pathway to follow before it is gone from the body.
I've got some awesome news!
I'm excited to announce that I will be changing the bottling for my essential oils. I'm switching to the industry standard of the European 5mL and 15mL amber bottles. Remember that the color of the bottle doesn't necessarily matter, I just like the look of the brown. The bottles will have a dropper top to lessen the risk of accidental spillage or poisoning (children are less likely to be able to drink the oil with a dropper top). Up until this point my stance has been that I don't like plastic touching the oils and that is why we have always used the solid tops and given out a dropper top with each purchase. I'm changing my stance based on this safety information. The type of plastic used in these dropper tops are also less likely to degrade than other types of plastic so we just have to do the best we can.
I will also have new labels for the bottles. I like the essential oil supplier we have because of their transparency. I know the genus species name of my oils, whether it is cold pressed or steam distilled, the part of the plant it comes from, and the country of origin. I also know the main chemical class and I can easily get the chemical profile if I wanted. I want to pass all of this information on to you by including it on the label so you can know your oils too!
I'm also including safety data on the labels. These are the possible safety warnings you will see:
Keep Out of Reach of Children - You will see this warning on almost all of the essential oil bottles. The only time I will not be using this warning is if the oil has GRAS (generally regarded as safe) status and no other warnings at all. This means even if a child manages to get the dropper top out of the bottle and drinks the entire contents or spills it all over their body, it won't hurt them. There are only six single oils with this level of safety!
Keep Away from Open Flame - Essential oils are volatile oils. They are flammable. Every one of them. So every bottle will contain this warning.
Not for use in children under the age of 6 - Oils with this warning are dangerous for children even if they are only applied topically. Many are neurotoxic if applied to the face or nostrils of children. Some will cause respiratory dysfunction. This includes many oils commonly believed to be safe for children such as Eucalyptus and Peppermint.
Do not apply undiluted to any part of the body - This warning is for oils that can cause skin sensitization. Some oils, such as those containing limonene, only cause skin irritation if the oil has oxidized or if it is old. But since I can't control how long that essential oil will be sitting on your bathroom shelf, I don't know how old it will be when you go to use it. So these oils still get the warning.
May cause photosensitivity - If these oils are applied to the skin in large amounts, the skin should not be exposed to sunlight or sunbed rays for 12 hours. Old or oxidized oils with this warning in particular become more phototoxic.
Do not use if pregnant or nursing - This is pretty self explanatory.
For external use only - This warning is just to be extra cautious. While many of these oils can be taken internally in small amounts by adults, they can be poisonous or cause major organ damage if taken in large amounts. Don't let some other essential oil companies fool you into thinking that all of their oils (and only their oils) are safe for consumption. Some are safe and some are not. It all depends on the oil and the chemical makeup, not the company selling it.
If ingested contact poison control - This warning is particularly for children. The oils that get this label are absolutely toxic to kids and if they manage to drink the bottle's contents it may cause nausea, coma or even death. Don't mess around with this friends. Be safe and if you have kids you may not even want to keep these oils in the house.
GRAS - Finally I will label all of those oils that have GRAS status. That does not mean however that they will not have some other potential warning though.
This is something I've been wanting to do for a long time now so I'm really excited to be able to put this into effect. I just got the new bottles in yesterday and I'm waiting to get my new labels for printing early next week.
I know many of you were disappointed to see the shop close down because you liked having easy access to some high quality essential oils at a decent price. The good news is, you can still get these oils but it will have to be through special order for now. So feel free to contact me if you would like to place an order. Check out the essential oils tab for a listing of the oils I carry.
To Your Health!
Update 1/4/2018 - Well it has been a long time coming but I am proud to announce that E&S Essential Oils are now available to purchase directly on this website!
There is a lot of new research and information coming out about probiotics; the under-appreciated beneficial bacteria that helps regulate everything from our digestive and immune system to our genetic expression and even our emotions and personalities. Perhaps you have heard how 90% of the DNA within the human body is actually bacterial. Our body has been compared to the Earth with as much biodiversity of micro-organisms as there are plant and animal species on this planet.
We are also learning just how much we have messed with this biodiversity. Just as plants and animals are becoming endangered as a result of human activities, our own inner ecology is suffering from a lack of biodiversity - which results in the decline of our health. Our enthusiastic war on germs for the last 150 years has not exactly resulted in the eradication of all disease as we thought it would.
So we try to do better, we are taking our probiotics and have all kinds of smelly fermentation experiments cluttering our kitchen counters. We've mastered making yogurt and conquered kefir and kombucha. But there is one important microbial ecosystem we may be forgetting: our skin.
Having a diverse population of beneficial microbes on our skin can help protect us from major infections from pathogens such as viruses which produce warts, yeast that causes thrush, fungal infections such as jock-itch and athlete's foot, as well as staph bacteria that infects wounds. But we sterilize our skin each and every day with a simple hot shower using chlorinated water and it's not always the good bacteria that re-colonizes first.
Here are some simple suggestions on how you can promote healthy skin bacteria:
1. Get dirty - Don't be afraid to get some soil bacteria on your skin. Your resident bacteria remain healthier if they are challenged by soil based organisms. Certainly wash your hands before eating or after using the bathroom so you can keep pathogens out of your gut system but there is no need to keep your skin sterilized. It will actually improve your immunity to get a little dirty on occasion. Just keep any cuts or abrasions clean and protected.
2. Shower less - We Americans shower way more than is necessary for personal hygiene. Every time you shower or bathe, all those good bacteria get washed down the drain. Two or three showers per week should be adequate for most adults. Think you stink? Try using a natural deodorant (not an anti-perspirant) more often. Or change your diet as junk food will definitely affect your personal odor.
3. Swim in lakes and rivers - Pools use chlorine to kill micro-organisms and keep them from growing in the pool so they will kill your resident skin flora as well. Lakes and rivers however have a more balanced ecosystem with competing micro-organisms present to maintain the environment. Avoid any stagnant water (obviously) and use these tips to protect yourself from potential pathogens in popular swimming areas but overall taking a quick dip in a lake or river is better for your skin than a pool.
4. Use a bathrobe - Don't we all have that ugly old comfy bathrobe that we adore? I know I do. I wear it every day when I get out of bed and it doesn't go in the laundry as often as my clothes do so chances are my skin bacteria live on it too, which may sound gross but it's a good thing because that old robe is the perfect clothing item to put on after a shower or bath if you want to re-seed your skin flora. You can shower less but you will need to shower at some point so wear your comfy old robe with pride!
5. Ditch the antibacterial soaps - Washing with regular soap and warm water eliminates pathogens just as well as (if not better than) special antibacterial soaps without destroying your skin flora or encouraging mutated drug-resistant germs. If you tend to have dry skin you may even consider going without the soap and using just water and a scrubbing washcloth to preserve your skin's natural oils that help keep you moisturized. The extra scrubbing is good for circulation too!
6. Use a shower filter - Chlorine is a great way to keep pathogens out of our water but gassing yourself with chlorine gas every morning won't do much for your health. Do your skin and lungs a favor and use a good shower filter like this one.
7. Use a probiotic wash - When skin flora gets out of balance you can help restore it by using a probiotic wash. Dilute two tablespoons of plain yogurt in 2 cups of warm water. After showering, use the diluted yogurt as a wash for areas of irritated skin. For maximum effect, let your skin air dry rather than toweling off. The lactobacillus bacteria in the yogurt will discourage pathogen growth and help restore the proper pH balance to your skin.
8. Moisturize from the inside out - Most lotions and other skin care products contain antibacterial substances along with alcohol which is both antibacterial and also drying to the skin. Lotion is only a temporary fix anyway. If you can't keep your skin from drying out you need to drink more water and get more fats and oils on the inside, not the outside. Try increasing your intake of healthy oils like coconut, olive and sesame. And stop avoiding those yummy saturated fats that have been demonized for the last 100 years. Your great-great-grandmother ate butter and lard sandwiches and stayed slim and heart healthy. Rates of obesity and heart disease haven't exactly declined since we started cutting these foods out, have they?
9. Snuggle - That's right, snuggle! Get close and personal with those that you love. Especially if they have healthy skin! You share your skin bacteria with those around you, including pets. Which is a good incentive to focus on improving your whole family's health habits too.
10. Get outside - Whenever a mom asks me how she can help her baby get rid of a diaper rash, the advice is always, "Get them naked outside in the sun!" Now, I'm not suggesting you go streaking the neighborhood or move away to a nudist camp but getting those sensitive skin areas exposed to the elements in more discreet ways will certainly help. If sun exposure makes your skin more itchy though, take it as a sign that there is too much waste material in your blood stream and you need to do some deeper cleansing. Talk to your favorite naturopath on the best ways to do that!
To Your (Skin) Health, Everyone!
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!
Last year, I had an event that deeply shook me.
I've been studying the field of natural health now for almost fourteen years. I center most of my research around food and its effects on the body. I've studied just about every diet out there and formed all kinds of opinions based on other people's opinions. I advocate for a real food diet, less sugar, more fats from healthy animals, less commercial processing and knowing where your food comes from. I follow this diet myself and have enjoyed great health from it. I always imagined my lifestyle and understanding of natural health would shield me from any major illness and chronic disease. Then I got a wake-up call.
With no determinable trigger that I can find (though I am suspicious of certain supplements I was using at the time) I developed acute pain all over my body. It hurt to lift my arms, it hurt to walk, it hurt to do anything. I couldn't pick up my toddler, I couldn't change his diaper, I couldn't do anything but sit on the couch and wonder what the heck happened. My thyroid was swollen but it didn't conform to any of the typical symptoms. I work with people with thyroid problems on a regular basis so I knew what to look for but I was still surprised that it was happening to me.
I had no idea at the time if this pain was going to be permanent. I watched my husband play with my kids and wondered if I'd ever be able to do that again. For three days I suffered physically and emotionally. Then finally the swelling in my thyroid went down and my pain slowly disappeared. I must have had some muscle damage too as it took another week before my full strength returned.
At first I was really cautious with my diet because I wasn't sure what triggered the event. I cut out all gluten, dairy, and nightshade vegetables. I went back to a GAPS style diet but I still felt like I was in the dark and that was not a comfortable place for my mind to be. I'm a naturopath! I help people every day! I should know what to do! I shouldn't be having this problem!
We all say that we know we won't live forever. But deep down inside I think we all are hoping anyway. We act out each day according to our whims and fancies telling ourselves that we'll eat better later, we'll exercise later, we'll take time to de-stress later. And then we get a wake up call. We get diagnosed with some chronic disease or have an injury or watch a loved one die and suddenly we realize that... we weren't as invincible as we thought.
And it's easy to forget. As soon as the pain was gone it was hard to remember what it had been like and I started to drift towards my previous habits again. I was less careful with my food, I started ignoring my body signals again. Maybe it was all just some random fluke? But I knew this slippery slope all too well. This event was my epiphany and here is what I learned from it:
Far greater than any dietary philosophy from some charismatic guru or highly degreed doctor is listening to your body... not your brain.
REALLY listening. DEEP listening. PAYING ATTENTION.
Do you know what it feels like to be hungry? When was the last time you allowed yourself to really feel it? Have you ever put a bite of food in your mouth and paid attention to its subtle flavors as it changes from the chemical reactions in your saliva while you chew? Have you ever paid attention to the minute sense of satiation that comes before the physical sense of a full belly? Have you ever let your body tell you what it wants to eat, how it wants to move?
Deep listening is not an easy thing to do but with practice it can become a valuable tool for navigating your health. Muscle response testing (also known as kinesiology) is one form of deep listening but I think one can go much deeper than that. Especially since it is so easy for our brains to skew our muscle testing results.
If you pay careful attention to your body's cues for hunger, you can determine what food and nutrients it requires at any one moment in time. When you first start this practice it helps to have simple ingredients of real food. Try foods with varying levels of fat, carbohydrate, and protein. Eat the food you think your body is calling for and see if it leaves you feeling satisfied or if you are still missing something. Eating can become such a brainless activity as we talk, read, flip through our phone, etc. that we don't even remember tasting our food by the time it's all gone.
Deep Listening can also extend to the way you move. During my last pregnancy with my son I developed my own form of exercise routine based on previous experiences with myofascial unwinding and Katsugan. Sitting quietly I would pay attention to all the little aches and pains in the different areas of my body and move in such a way to gently stretch and relieve these pains. Slowly and carefully with my eyes closed my movements would often resemble a sort of slow-motion dance. Practicing this technique eventually led to me using it during my labor - resulting in a beautiful intuitive labor dance that helped my body work my son into this world with less pain and stress than my two previous (but equally beautiful) births.
What would it be like if we could spend each moment of our lives deeply and intuitively listening to our body's needs for movement and nutrition instead of casually and even intentionally ignoring our basic body signals? What if we extended this deep listening into our everyday interactions with other people?
I wrote this post shortly after that episode of pain and have purposefully been sitting on it ever since. Today I come back to it looking for inspiration and I think it is time to share. For myself I hope to rekindle some of this spirit and get back to some deep listening.
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,
This spring has been a bad one for colds and sore throats that don't seem to want to go away. Why is it that everyone seems to get sick in the springtime?
There are a lot of physiological changes going on in our bodies as the weather outside begins to warm up. Our bodies need to maintain a core temperature around 98 degrees Fahrenheit so during the winter a significant amount of our calories from food go towards maintaining this body temp. That's also why we tend to be more hungry in the winter and crave more high calorie foods. Our bodies use the excess calories to increase the number of fat cells to serve as insulation. Fat cells are also convenient storage sites for excess amounts of fat-soluble chemicals that come in from our food and our environment including pesticides. As the weather warms up we no longer need the extra insulation or the excess calories for heat production. So fat cells undergo apoptosis (programmed cell death) which may also release the fat-soluble chemicals back into the lymph fluid and bloodstream. The liver then continues it's detoxification efforts to convert these chemicals into a form that can be removed via the lungs, bile, or urinary tract.
If you are sensitive to your body signals you will notice that your appetite diminishes in the spring. This is an important mechanism that allows our bodies to remove the cellular waste and essentially do some “spring cleaning” internally. If we ignore our body signals however and continue to eat the same amount of food as we did during colder times it will put more strain on our detoxification systems. Your body starts to get mixed signals trying to burn off the fat and create fat for storage of excess calories at the same time. When temperatures fluctuate wildly from one week to the next this process can be all the more complicated. You may notice your liver go into overdrive resulting in hot flashes or flushes of heat, pain under the ribcage on your right side, and waking up between 1 and 3 am, which is known as “liver time”.
With excess waste material in the blood and lymph, the immune system is employed to help in the form of those wonderful white blood cells that clean our system by eating their way through the waste. With the increase in temperatures there is also an increase in microbial activity. We are exposed to more bacteria in the air we breathe and everything that we touch. As the active immune system and environmental microbes collide we may develop the typical “spring cold” symptoms. The length of time and severity of the symptoms is directly proportional to the amount of bacteria and waste the body needs to eliminate. Mucus flows from our sinuses and our lungs cough up this viscous material that is loaded with the debris of battle. As unpleasant as it all might be to have our daily routines interrupted, it is biologically important.
We would do well to listen to the wisdom of religious and spiritual customs that encouraged periods of fasting during this time. These customs were not only a way to promote moderation during the lean times of food availability but also a way to ensure the health of the community. The remedy for spring diseases is to eat less! Support your body's cleansing efforts by drinking more water and alternate periods of rest with moderate levels of exercise. Above all eat cleanly and do not put more chemicals in to your body at this time. Avoid alcohol and cigarettes. Food should be whole and free of pesticide residues. Prepare your meals at home with fresh ingredients when possible to avoid excess amounts of additives and preservatives used to lengthen the shelf-life of processed foods. Make good use of the early spring greens such as dandelion leaves to add to your salads to support liver function but even more important than going through liver cleansing protocols is to be sure and give your liver a break by putting less burden on it. Reduce meal portion sizes by at least one third, eat when you are hungry and do not eat when you are not hungry. If you listen well to your body you will transition easily into warmer weather without the sniffles and coughs of spring.
To Your Health!
There are two main schools of thought as to how a naturopath should practice. Some prefer a traditional approach as defined by those who first coined the term in the late 1800's and early 1900's.
“Naturopathy is a distinct school of healing, employing the beneficient agency of Nature's forces, of water, air, sunlight, earthpower, electricity, magnetism, exercise, rest, proper diet, various kinds of mechanical treatment, and mental and moral science. As none of these agents of rejuvenation can cure every disease, the Naturopath rightly employs the combination that is best adapted to each individual case.”
Quoted from the father of Naturopathy, Benedict Lust in the book Naturopathy for the 21st Century by Robert J. Thiel, Ph.D.
These traditional naturopaths (like myself) believe that poor health is a result of a departure from healthful living according to Nature's laws and prefer to focus on helping their clients to make dietary and lifestyle changes to get at the root cause of a person's illness.
Others practice naturopathy as an alternative to conventional medicine's use of pharmaceutical drugs and surgery. The public flocks to these naturopathic practitioners looking for something “more natural” than drugs with less side effects. And increasingly naturopaths try to fill that role by recommending isolated nutrient supplements, potent herbal extracts, essential oils and whatever else will provide the quick fix that clients demand. They may pour over blood tests and lab reports and read up on medical diagnoses hoping to fill in the blanks where medical doctors left off. Schools have since sprung up to fill the educational needs of these types of naturopaths by combining a pre-med degree with herbal and nutritional education and pushing for licensing and legislation to make their version the only legal way to practice naturopathy.
It's a fine line between these two types and I find myself swaying dangerously on occasion out of my original education and scope of practice in my efforts to keep my clients satisfied (and coming in the door!) It's time to sit back, take a deep breath and think about whether this model is really helping people. A quick fix may be what most people think they want but traditional naturopaths must be the parental voice that points out what people really need. We need nutritious food, fresh air, clean water, deep rest, meaningful relationships, and a spiritual connection. We need to relearn how to be human beings living on the planet Earth.
The problem is how do we keep our clients interested on self-improvement? How do we keep them focused on the long-term goal in a society of short attention spans? Is there still room for traditional naturopaths?
There is no doubt in my mind that a traditional form of naturopathy is the only form that will produce lasting health. “Prevention is the best medicine” as they say and teaching others how to live according to the laws of nature is needed more now in this present day and age than ever before.
Human beings (particularly in the United States) are working hard toward extinction. Increased rates of chronic degenerative diseases and cancer, increased rates of infertility and infant mortality, increases in cognitive and behavioral disorders, increases in pollution of our environment and decreases in the nutritional value of our food... we are in serious danger here.
I'm not advocating for turning back the clock and living like Amish people (though I really like and respect my “plain” friends) but we have changed so much in so short a time – our bodies can't keep up! We have more technology giving us more free time and more entertainment and yet we are more stressed and depressed than ever. Making drastic changes to our lives is very difficult and people need someone to guide them, encourage them, be a role model for them, and most importantly - keep them accountable. That is the role that I believe naturopaths are best suited for. That is how I want to teach, how I want to practice, and how I want to live. I hope you will join me.
To Your Health!
Just as the nutrients in the soil must be properly prepared by microorganisms living around the rootlets of a great tree, so too must our body rely on gut bacteria for optimal health. Here I will attempt to describe this intricate system and how it functions both in balance and out of balance.
The small intestine is about 21 feet in length for the average adult but it's not a smooth tube on the inside. If you were to cut open a section it would look like a shag carpet on the inside. There are thousands of finger-like projections called villi. The cells lining these villi (called enterocytes) also have microscopic finger-like projections called microvilli. The folds, villi, and microvilli increase the surface area within the small intestine several times over so that if you were able to take an iron and flatten it all out it would cover the surface area of a tennis court. Within the small intestine, larger food particles are broken down by enzymes on the surface of the microvilli into smaller molecules which are able to go into the cells lining the intestinal wall and then through them into the bloodstream. Many of these microscopic particles such as glucose, peptides, amino acids, and fatty acids will be used as energy for the body. Other molecules such as vitamins and minerals from food will help support other mechanisms within the body.
There is a thin layer of mucus that protects the enterocytes lining the digestive tract. There are also billions of bacteria living within the digestive tract that helps to break down our food. Some forms of bacteria are beneficial and produce metabolites such as B-vitamins and Vitamin K as a waste product. Our body can utilize these metabolites and vitamins to keep us healthy. In this way we have a symbiotic relationship with these bacteria, which means a mutually beneficial relationship. But there are other organisms living within our digestive tracts that are opportunistic pathogens. They don't normally create much of a problem but can become disease producing if they are allowed to overgrow or multiply beyond a rate that the beneficial bacteria can compete. We also swallow pathogens on a regular basis but once again the beneficial bacteria act as a support to our immune system by keeping these competing organisms in check.
Due to multiple environmental factors including overuse of antibiotics, pesticides, prescription drugs, genetically modified foods, stress and poor dietary habits - the ratio of beneficial bacteria to pathogenic bacteria can become out of balance. Unlike beneficial bacteria, pathogenic forms do not create B-vitamins and helpful metabolites. Instead they secrete exotoxins, chemicals that are irritating and damaging to the cells lining the digestive tract. The body tries to protect itself by overproducing mucus which puts a physical barrier between the intestinal cells and the bacteria. However, it also puts a barrier between your food and the enzymes needed to complete their digestion. This is an ideal situation for the pathogenic bacteria as they are allowed to continue feeding and to continue producing their exotoxins. This begins the vicious cycle that can lead to gut dysbiosis: a gut system that is out of balance. Lactose intolerance, gas production, bloating, flatulence, heartburn, and burping may all be early signs of gut dysbiosis. Post nasal drip and constant congestion may also be a sign that your body is overproducing mucus to dilute exotoxins from the digestive tract.
As the bacteria continue to multiply and the exotoxins continue damaging cell health, the mucosal glands may not be able to keep up production, which can leave the enterocytes exposed. This is where damaging proteins such as gluten (more appropriately gliadin) can become a real problem as the body's immune response to gliadin causes the villi to flatten and destroys the tight junctions between the intestinal cells.
Leaky gut is the term most commonly used to describe this intestinal permeability. Now bacterial exotoxins and undigested proteins are able to leak through the gut wall into the surrounding capillaries. The body does not recognize these undigested proteins as food as so antibodies attach to them and mark them for destruction by white blood cells. The resulting cascade of immune response can result in symptoms such as rash, itching, sneezing, headache, fatigue, lethargy, etc. These signs of food sensitivity can also progress and become a food allergy. The immune system may also confuse some of these undigested proteins with our own body tissue in a process called molecular mimicry which may be a cause or contributing factor to auto-immune disorders such as Psoriasis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Crohn's disease, Sjogren syndrome, Lichen sclerosus, Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, Diabetes and more.
Everything that leaks through the intestinal wall goes to the liver. The liver's job is to convert the toxins and package them for removal from the body. Once the flow of toxins increases the liver becomes overwhelmed with its detoxification efforts. Toxins may spill back into the bloodstream causing further damage in other parts of the body. The kidneys, bladder, lungs and skin may be affected. Nutrient deficiencies can also contribute to the liver's inability to properly detoxify.
The key then to restoring health lies not in treating the symptoms with either herbs or pharmaceutical drugs but in addressing the underlying factor of gut dysbiosis. The GAPS Nutritional Protocol is designed to seal and heal the gut lining and balance out the microorganisms within the digestive tract. This allows the detoxification mechanisms within the body to return to optimal function and for the body to heal itself once nutrient absorption improves.
To find out more how the GAPS nutritional protocol can help restore your health please contact us to make an appointment.
To Your Health!
Kathryn Doran-Fisher is a Traditional Naturopath, Certified GAPS Practitioner and owner of Elder & Sage.