New Year, New Location in Clackamas, Oregon

cori 5I am so excited to have joined the lovely folks at Love Acupuncture and Wellness Group in Clackamas and to be able to offer naturopathic primary care services on the east-side of the metro area.

Love Acupuncture is an amazing home for my practice and I hope you will come see me there. The clinic is a welcoming healing space that houses an entire team of amazing wellness practitioners. In addition to naturopathic medicine, there are also acupuncturists, massage therapists, and a chiropractor to meet all of your health care needs.

In the coming months I am hoping to be able to offer more times and days at my Clackamas location, but right now you can find me there Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am-6pm. Just like at my Hillsboro location, I am in network with most commercial health plans and can also bill CareOregon for naturopathic medical services.

Wishing you a happy and healthy New Year!

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Top 10 Herbs for Healthy Kids

Looking for alternatives to over the counter pain relievers, decongestants, and cough syrups for your kids? Herbal remedies have been safely used for thousands of years to treat common ailments from cold and flu to upset stomach. Herbs can be especially great for kids, but not all herbs are safe for children. Children are more sensitive to medications than adults and respond well to gentle and mild remedies. Here are a list of my 10 absolute favorite herbs to have in your family’s medicine closet!

1. Chamomile

chamomile-flowersChamomile (Matricaria chamomilla, Matricaria recutita) is a star children’s herb and has historically been used for everything from colds, teething, colic, indigestion, restlessness, anxiety, and irritability. It is the perfect herb for cranky infants and toddlers who are in pain and can’t get to sleep. Chamomile has a mild sweet flavor with just a hint of bitterness. In part, it’s the bitter flavor that helps to relieve gas pain and digestive upset. Chamomile tea is readily available from many grocery and natural health stores. A small amount of honey can be added for children over 12 months to make the tea even tastier. Chamomile tea is generally considered safe, even in infants (6 months and older). Because Chamomile is in the Asteraceae (i.e. daisy) family, it shouldn’t be given to anyone with an allergy to other species in this family.

2. Echinacea

Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea, Echinacea angustofolia) is a superb immune herb and can be used both orally and topically to treat and prevent infections. Echinacea is most useful for treating infections when used at the first sign of illness. You can find Echinacea in tea, tincture, glycerite, and even chewable tablet form. You can also use Echinacea tea or tincture to clean cuts and scrapes, but if you think a wound might be infected or if the wound was caused by a bite (human or animal) you should always seek medical attention.

3. California Poppy137_1050

California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica) is a very gentle and safe herb to calm the nervous system. It’s useful for restlessness, ADD/ADHD, pain, and sleeplessness. Although related to other types of poppies, California Poppy is a different species from the Papaver varieties and does NOT contain opium. California Poppy is best used in children over the age of 2 years.

4. Peppermint

Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) is a tasty medicinal and culinary herb. It supports healthy digestion, relieves gas pain, and can even slow down bouts of diarrhea. Peppermint can also be used to soothe fever or relieve congestion. Peppermint is best used in children over the age of 2 years. My favorite form of peppermint is as a tea. A small amount of honey can be added for taste. Honey can also help to calm cough and studies have shown that it’s more effective than over-the-counter cough syrups.

5. Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm (Melissa Officinalis) has a refreshing lemony mint flavor and is calming to both the digestive and nervous systems. It can be useful for colic, stomach upset, restlessness, anxiety, irritability, and fever. In folk medicine, Melissa is often referred to as the Gladdening Herb. You can use lemon balm as a tea, tincture, or glycerite. Lemon balm is also easy to grow in your home garden!

6. Elderberry

elderberriesElderberry (Sambucus nigra) is a powerful immune booster and natural anti-viral. Because it’s also a food, elderberry is gentle enough to take daily during cold and flu season to prevent illness. Studies have even shown Elderberry to be effective at fighting the H1N1 flu virus (aka “Swine Flu”). Elderberry has a sweet, pleasant, fruity flavor that most kids love. Syrup of the cooked fruit is my favorite way to take this amazing medicine, although it’s also available in other forms including tablets, gummies, tinctures, glycerites, and powdered drinks.

7. Calendula

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Calendula (Calendula officinalis) is a perfect herb to have in your first aid kit. It’s very soothing to the skin and helps to reduce inflammation and kill germs. Calendula is commonly used to heal diaper rashes, minor burns, and cuts and scrapes. Calendula tincture can be applied topically to small wounds. For sensitive or very irritated skin, you can use a calendula cream or salve.

8. Mullein

Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) is a common plant found growing wild in many gardens and roadside areas. Mullein is often used in tincture form to soothe dry, irritated coughs. The oil of mullein leaves and flowers can also be used to relieve the pain of ear aches. Commercial preparations of mullein oil often have added garlic and/or St. John’s Wort to improve effectiveness.

NOTE: Don’t use ear oils or other over-the-counter products if the ear drum has ruptured. Because of the risk of complications, I always recommend seeing a medical professional for any suspected ear infection.

9. Thyme

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is a lovely respiratory herb that is also anti-microbial (i.e. it kills germs). The fresh or dried herb can be made into a tea to relieve cough and congestion or you can add a few sprigs to a pot of hot water to use as a decongestant steam inhalation.

10. Nettle Leaf

stingingnettleThe leaves of the stinging nettle plant (Urtica dioca) are high in protein and minerals and are nourishing to many systems in the body. Freeze-dried nettles or strong nettle tea can be effective for relieving seasonal allergy symptoms. Nettle acts as a mast-cell stabilizer, reducing the release of histamine in the body. For children you can open up nettle capsules into applesauce or combine nettle powder with nut butter and honey to make medicine balls.

NOTE: If you’re collecting your own nettles, make sure they are from a clean location because this plant can absorb heavy metals from the soil.

Herbal Medicine in Children

It’s worth saying that although the herbs mentioned above are generally regarded as safe every child is different and no medication, herbal or otherwise, is right for every body. Talk with a licensed naturopathic physician or integrative medical doctor about appropriate herbs and dosages for your child’s age, weight, and health conditions.

Herbal Definitions

  • Tea: Herbs steeped in hot water to extract the taste and medicinal properties. For bulk herbs, use 1 heaping tablespoon in 8 oz of boiling water.
  • Tincture: A medicinal liquid herbal extract made from steeping plant material in alcohol and then straining.
  • Glycerite: A non-alcoholic liquid herbal extract made from vegetable glycerine. Many children’s formulas are glycerites rather than tinctures. Glycerites have a naturally sweet flavor.
  • Syrup: A concentrated extract made by boiling juice with added sugar or honey.
  • Salve: A thick ointment used to promote healing of the skin. Salves often contain oils, herbal extracts, and beeswax and are for topical use only.

Selected Resources for Further Reading

 

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Naturopathic Pediatrics: Holistic Health for Kids and Families

I am excited to announce that I am now a contributing writer for the wonderful website Naturopathic Pediatrics! Naturopathic Pediatrics is an online resource filled with natural health tips for the whole family, all written by licensed naturopathic doctors who are experts at treating children with natural medicine. If you haven’t checked it out yet, please do! You are bound to find lots of useful information from how to treat fevers without Tylenol to how you can safely use essential oils with your child. And while you’re there you can read my latest article, “MTHFR: The Link Between ADD/ADHD, Folate, and Genetics“. Find out why issues with folate metabolism may play a key role in managing ADD and ADHD in kids and adults.

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Adressing Concerns About Folate And Autism

folic acidHave you seen the frightening headlines saying that high folate levels in pregnant mothers are associated with an increased risk of their child having Autism? Once again, there is so much more to the story than meets the eye.

1) This is only a preliminary study and it looked at blood levels of folate, NOT how much folate a woman was taking while pregnant. The evidence associating high levels are folate and Autism is premature and the real story is much more complicated than the study from Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health  suggests.

2) High levels of folate in the blood are often related to slow metabolism of folic acid. Slow folic acid metabolism is linked to a number of genetic mutations collectively called MTHFR, which we already know are associated with an increased risk for Autism. The MTHFR mutation is VERY common and may affect up up 40% of Caucasians. MTHFR mutations are also associated with a higher risk of heart disease, depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, ADHD, neurological disorders, migraines, miscarriage, infertility, lymphoma, and leukemia.

3) Women are told to take folic acid in pregnancy  to prevent birth defects, but if they have an MTHFR mutation they will be less able to utilize this form of the vitamin. When folic acid is not properly activated and used by the body for normal functions it is more likely to hang around in the blood, showing up as high serum folate. To complicate matters even more, many processed foods (bread, tortillas, crackers, protein bars, energy drinks, etc.) are fortified with folic acid. This was a public health decision that has successfully decreased neural tube defects like spina bifida, but may be detrimental to the many people with MTHFR mutations.

4) Fortunately there are forms of folate (and other B vitamins) that people with MTHFR can properly metabolize. Folate is extremely important for blood cell development, neurotransmitter function, and detoxification pathways.

5) I recommend that all women who are considering pregnancy be tested for MTHFR mutations so that they can start appropriate supplements before they become pregnant.

Just to reiterate, high levels of folic acid in the bloodstream are most likely the result of a genetic mutation associated with autism and are NOT the cause of Autism.

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Get Rid of Seasonal Allergies…Naturally!

butterfly-flowerSeasonal allergies, hay fever, pollen allergy, allergic rhinitis; whatever you call it, the symptoms of swollen and itchy eyes, runny nose, sneezing, and brain fog can be miserable!

Did you know that the best time to start managing seasonal allergy symptoms is before they begin?

Although there are some geographical differences, pollen counts typically rise in spring followed by another surge in fall. For many areas of the country February is the perfect time to start getting your body ready for the seasonal assault to come.

What are Allergies?

Allergies are a reaction by your immune system to substances that it considers foreign, but that aren’t actually harmful. When your body encounters an allergen for the first time it produces antibodies (IgE) that that are specific to the harmless substance. The next time that you encounter the allergen, these IgE antibodies signal to mast cells in your body to release histamine and other inflammatory chemicals. These chemicals then cause the characteristic signs and symptoms of hay fever: runny nose, itchy eyes, sore throat, fatigue, cough, brain fog, etc. In large amounts, histamine can also cause your airways to constrict, which is what happens in asthma.

Why do Allergies Develop?

natural_allergy_reliefOkay, it’s time for a metaphor: Imagine that your body is a bucket that can only hold so much. Everything that goes into the bucket needs to be processed in some way, either to make it into something useful or to allow the substance to be properly eliminated. Many of these functions and metabolic pathways require certain nutrients, called co-factors, in order to operate smoothly. If your bucket becomes filled up with things that require a lot of processing these co-factors can get used up, slowing down the pathways and making it challenging to deal with new things as they come in. When this happens it can cause a state of generalized inflammation. Higher numbers of circulating inflammatory chemicals in your body can set off a spiral of additional inflammatory reactions and you may start to have an exaggerated response to things that aren’t truly threatening (like pollen). This is called the “bucket theory”, and although it is an over-simplification, it may help explain why seasonal allergies occur.

Natural Ways to Decrease Seasonal Allergies

So, what can you do? The basic idea is to put things into your body that are healthy and easy to process, while limiting things that are challenging to process. Substances like alcohol, wheat, sugar, and dairy tend to be inflammatory for most people and can add to your body’s overall burden. You may feel better if you limit or avoid these foods. An elimination diet can also help you discover the specific foods that your body is sensitive to, which may be aggravating your seasonal allergy symptoms. Dr. Aviva Romm also has a great article that explains how improving your digestive health can help reduce seasonal allergy symptoms.

The products that you put on your body and use in your home can also make a big difference. Try to use products that are natural and free of toxic chemicals to reduce your body’s overall burden. Check out the amazing resources at the Environmental Working Group to find non-toxic beauty and household products.

Reducing Exposure to Allergens

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During allergy season you may find that you are more comfortable if you sleep with the windows closed to limit the amount of pollen that gets into your house. You can also look for a high quality air filter to help purify the air. Taking a shower before bed can also help by rinsing off the pollen that you have come into contact with all day so that it doesn’t continue to irritate your body during the hours while you sleep.

Saline nasal rinses like a Neti pot or NeilMed can also be effective for managing seasonal allergies. Saline rinses literally wash the sinus passages and can remove pollen and irritants. If you want to make your own saline solution, be careful to always use distilled or sterilized water. Regular tap water may contain small amounts of bacteria, protozoa, or other contaminants that are dangerous to introduce into your sinus passages.

Desensitizing Your Body to Allergens

Through the use of allergy shots, Sublingual Immunotherapy (SLIT)), or homeopathic remedies, it may be possible to gradually reduce your body’s sensitivity to pollen and other allergies. These type of therapies should always be done under medical supervision and may not be suitable for people with anaphylactic type reactions. If you’d like more information on desensitization therapies for allergies, consult an allergist, or a licensed naturopathic doctor trained in homeopathy.

Natural Vitamins and Herbs to Relieve Allergy Symptoms

There are many wonderful natural therapies to reduce histamine and relieve allergy symptoms:

  • Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica): The same plant that is the bane of many hikers is also a nutritious and effective way to lower histamine. Stinging nettle stabilizes mast cells  so that they are less likely to dump their histamine and make you miserable. The most effective form of the plant is the freeze-dried variety, usually found in capsules. Drinking strong hot water infusions can also be effective, with the added bonus of providing a number of healthy minerals.
  • Vitamin C: Vitamin C is an antioxidant that is important for normal immune function. It is also a natural anti-histamine and may help reduce seasonal allergy symptoms.
  • Quercetin: Quercetin is an anti-inflammatory plant pigment that helps reduce the production and release of histamine.
  • N-Acetyl Cysteine (N.A.C.): N.A.C. is an amino acid that has profound effects on detoxification and the respiratory system. N.A.C. is a natural decongestant that thins mucus to reduce congestion. N.A.C. also naturally boosts glutathione, which aids in detoxification pathways.

If you’d like help with a comprehensive and individualized health plan to address your allergies and other health concerns, schedule an appointment with me at Hillsboro Naturopathic Clinic.

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Disclaimer: This article is purely informational. It is not meant to represent a treatment, prevention, or cure for a specific disease or health condition and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen. Please never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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Change Your Diet, Transform Your Life

healthy-cup-fruits-raspberries.jpgA recent article written by Danielle Walker, author of the popular Paleo cookbook, Against All Grain, tells an inspiring story of how she completely turned around her health and her life through dietary changes. Walker suffered from a debilitating digestive illness called Ulcerative Colitis and found herself in constant pain and unable to care for her family. After working with a naturopathic doctor and eliminating grains, dairy, refined sugars, and other foods that she was sensitive to, she was able to get off her medications and prevent surgeries and further hospitalizations.

paleo-healthy-dietThe Paleo diet has gotten a lot of attention in the popular press lately and it can be easy to dismiss as simply one more fad diet. The basic premise of Paleo is to eat unprocessed whole foods and to avoid grains, dairy, and other foods that tend to promote inflammation. Inflammation in the body can cause chronic pain and has been shown to trigger a myriad of chronic diseases. I have personally seen the benefits of the Paleo diet in people with autoimmune diseases, diabetes, and PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome). By replacing inflammatory foods with healthy, whole, unprocessed foods like vegetables, lean protein, and good fats, you can build a strong foundation of health and wellness.

Dietary changes unfortunately aren’t usually a quick fix and it can take months of sticking to a new plan before the true results become obvious. However, with patience and motivation, the benefits of diet are often profound and long lasting.

I often recommend a basic whole-foods-based diet like the Whole30, which cuts out sugar, diary, alcohol, grains, legumes, and processed foods in favor of vegetables, fruits, eggs, meat, nuts, and seeds. Although it is billed as a 30 day detox and diet plan, many people find that they feel so well eating this way that they incorporate these changes into their long-term eating choices.

Some people with autoimmune diseases find that they feel best when they also avoid tree nuts and vegetables in the nightshade family (i.e. peppers, eggplant, potatoes, and tomatoes). Although these foods do not cause inflammation in everyone, some people find that they don’t tolerate them well, especially when their disease is in a flare. This diet is called the autoimmune paleo protocol, and although it can be challenging to stick to, many people experience a significant decrease in pain and other symptoms when they follow it.

There are many variations on healthy, whole-foods-based diets. If you are interested in finding an individualized diet plan to help you feel your best, consider working with a naturopathic doctor or a nutritionist who is trained in whole-foods nutrition. Practitioners who are trained in nutrition can help make sure that you are eating a balanced diet with sufficient nutrients.

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Disclaimer: This article is purely informational. It is not meant to represent a treatment, prevention, or cure for a specific disease or health condition and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen. Please never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

Healthy Strategies for Cancer Prevention

With all the talk in the news lately about meat causing cancer (spoiler alert: the increased risk is minimal), it seems like a good time to look at the role that diet and lifestyle can play in cancer prevention. Cancer has become an epidemic in the United States. Recent statistics from the American Cancer Society estimate a lifetime risk of developing cancer at 1 in 2 for males and 1 in 3 for females. The likelihood of dying from cancer is approximately 1 in 4 for males and 1 in 5 for females.

Cancer is undiscriminating and there is often no rhyme or reason to why some people develop cancers and others do not. Genetics and predisposition play a big role in some cancers, but there are also many things you can do every day to decrease your risk.

Optimize Your Diet:

healthy-diet-cancer-preventionWhen it comes to diet, it is important to taste the rainbow! Eating a variety of fresh seasonal vegetables and fruits provides many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants with potent health benefits. Foods of different colors tend to have different types of these nutrients, so be sure to add a variety of different colors to your plate.

Choose fruits and vegetables that are lower in carbohydrates and high in potent antioxidants called flavonoids. One type of flavonoid that has received a lot of attention for cancer prevention is a group of blue and purple pigments called Anthocyanins that are found in red grapes, blackberries, blueberries, plums, cranberries, and red cabbage. Typically the brighter or darker the color, the more cancer fighting potential it has.

Fiber is also very important when it comes to cancer prevention. There are two main forms of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber is the kind that attracts water and makes things slimy (like flax, chia, oats, and psyllium). Insoluble fiber is often called “roughage” and is found in green vegetables, lentils, beans, nuts, and seeds. Fiber is like a scrub brush for the intestines and rids your body of toxins and excess blood sugar, cholesterol, and hormones, all of which helps to prevent certain types of cancer.

Move Your Body:

exercise-cancer-preventionResearch has found that increased physical activity is correlated to a lower incidence of many types of cancer including colon, lung, breast, uterine, and prostate cancers. A good goal for most people is 150 minutes per week of aerobic activity. Exercise also significantly improves cholesterol, blood pressure, insulin sensitivity and blood sugar levels, and mood. You should exercise at a level of your safe target heart rate and talk to your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.

Vitamin D:

Optimizing your vitamin D status is one of the easiest things you can do to prevent cancer. If you’ve never had your Vitamin D levels tested, there’s no better time than the present. Supplementing Vitamin D to get your blood levels in an optimum range of 40-70 ng/mL can decrease your risk of breast, colon, ovarian, or prostate cancer by as much as 50 percent.

Avoid Toxic Cleaning and Beauty Products:

natural-nontoxic-makeupHousehold cleaners and beauty products are often full of chemicals known to be carcinogenic (i.e. cancer causing) and endocrine disruptors. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that interfere with your body’s natural hormones. Many endocrine disruptors mimic estrogen and may increase the risk for certain hormonal cancers like breast and ovarian cancers. One major endocrine disruptor is Dioxin, which is a byproduct of the bleaching process and found in many feminine hygiene products. Another potent endocrine disruptor is BPA, a component of many plastics and food and drink containers.

For yourself and your family, choose natural home cleaning products or make your own using simple ingredients like vinegar and baking soda. The Environmental Working Group maintains amazing resources for finding non-toxic household products and cosmetics.

Don’t Use Tobacco:

Tobacco causes more than just lung cancer. It also increases your risk of head and neck, stomach, kidney, bladder, pancreatic, ovarian, and cervical cancers. Quitting can be hard, but don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are many medications, supplements, and acupuncture treatments that may make it easier to quit.

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Disclaimer: This article is purely informational and is not meant to represent a treatment, prevention, or cure for a specific disease or health condition and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

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