Navigating the Holidays with a Special Diet

This blog post was originally written for Apothecary By Design – a premium quality specialty, retail and compounding pharmacy in Portland, Maine. http://www.apothecarybydesign.com/blog/

I remember when I was a kid going to my Aunt’s house for Thanksgiving, my mom would always show up with a box of special food for us with brown rice, special breads and other jars of rattling, unappealing looking things. I always felt slightly embarrassed, wishing we could just blend in with everyone else. Now, I am that person. I always travel with special bread, usually my brown rice pasta in case of dinner emergency, and other ingredients and snacks that I know I can eat.

Food allergies are on the rise world-wide. It is estimated that 15 million Americans have food allergies, and this potentially deadly condition affects 1 in 13 children. Another study found that 3 out of 4 children had a food reaction. Symptoms can range from an itchy mouth or runny nose, to asthma attacks, skin eruptions, behavioral changes, anaphylaxis and more.  The Center for Disease Control released a study in 2013 stating that food allergies increased 50% between 1997 and 2011. With these kinds of numbers being evidenced in clinical studies, it is likely that many of our readers will be figuring out how to manage this holiday’s season with at least one family member on a restricted diet. For more information on food allergies, please see the following links:

http://newsinhealth.nih.gov/issue/aug2012/capsule1

http://www.foodallergy.org/facts-and-stats

So, what is your plan for managing these holidays that are full of delicious foods that don’t work for you? The first step is to strategize. Complete restriction is unlikely for most of the population, and can lead to binge eating behaviors as a reflexive backlash. This is the “no-strategy” strategy that usually fails. Instead, make some educated choices, and make a plan. Some people can get away with small amounts of some allergenic foods, and can’t get away with others. So, making choices to suffer a little on some fronts so you can stay strong on others may be a safe plan. If you need to stay on a strictly narrow regime for health reasons, it will be more important than ever to plan ahead and bring tasty alternatives to the traditional choices so you have a meal you can enjoy as well.

For example: You really suffer when you eat gluten, but you can get away with eating dairy occasionally.

Thanksgiving Plan: Bring gluten free crackers for the crackers/cheese hour. Bring Imagine brand gluten free turkey gravy (not incredible but good enough.) Bake a gluten-free apple crisp. Plan on skipping the stuffing, but eating the mashed potatoes and dessert with ice cream.

Some families are willing to substitute key ingredients to make some elements of the meal safe for the whole family. For example, mashed potatoes could be made with Earth Balance margarine and an alternative (unsweetened) milk option to be dairy free. Again, a gluten free gravy could be used in addition to the traditional recipe, and a small amount of oven baked stuffing could be set aside for the vegetarians.

If you or a family member has an anaphylactic response to a particular food, it is best to inform all guests ahead of time. Make sure you have an epi pen available as well if you or your child has this kind of severe allergic reaction. There are some supplements that can help balance the overindulgence for mild to moderate food reactions . Gluten-ease was mentioned in our last newsletter as a simple occasional digestive support. This product contains high potency enzymes that ensure complete digestion of gluten, gliadin and casein proteins, reducing allergenic effect and potentially reducing symptom onset. This product is not recommended for celiac disease or people with severe gluten or dairy reactions.

Other products that help quiet an inflammatory food response are quercetin, bromelain, and nettles. These products can often be found combined together in products like D-Hist and D-Hist Jr by Ortho Molecular, and are best taken for 2-3 weeks before the food is introduced to minimize systemic inflammation.  Quercetin is not safe in pregnancy, but nettle tea is a safe, simple remedy that everyone can use. Carminative teas like peppermint, fennel, and ginger can also help ease digestion for everyone after a large meal.

 

Share

September 2013

IMG_1626Apples are in season again, so it must be time to go back to school. This year, I will be the one in front of the classroom! This is completely new for me, and I have been anxiously preparing mentally (and literally) for most of the summer. Academics are an important part of a doctors CV, and an area that I have studiously avoided in my career thus far. But when Corinne Martin at University of Southern Maine Nursing School contacted me about the program she has been developing as a holistic health minor for USM the fear was less than the excitement. I am honored to be teaching CON 284 Botanical Therapies for the fall semester. The course is an introductory level exploration some of the issues that surround medicinal plant use including historical dynamics, ecological effects and cultural perceptions of herbs. I will also be teaching practical clinical use of commonly used botanicals. We have guest speakers coming in, a practical how-to workshop on medicinal preparations, and a diverse reading list. Plant medicine has been foundational to my practice, and I am grateful for the opportunity to expand my own understanding and become more of a community resource!

I work primarily at the Age Management Center these days, with a strong focus on hormone health. I work with Dr. Michael Bedecs who is a Men’s Health expert, and is extremely experienced in hormone replacement. I am grateful to say he has taken me under his wing, and I have found a permanent place for my private practice here in Maine (and beyond.) It took almost two years to find the right work environment and business associate after owning my own clinic for 11 years in Toronto. Stay tuned for new articles on fertility,  perimenopause and transgender/transsexual health care. When working with hormones, it is impossible not to consider trans* health care, as this is a population often dependent on hormone use. Dr. Bedecs and I will continue to merge his extensive knowledge of hormone use with my specific integrative medicine training, community commitment, and health care activism to create a concierge style medical practice to serve all genders equally with cutting edge comprehensive treatment plans.

The other work I have been doing is more personal, learning how to trust my gut. Who is good at this? Tips? Strategies? It is so hard in this mixed modern world for me to be able to sift through the messages that come from outside vs. those that come from inside. What I have learned, is that if the inner messages are not heeded, outside havoc will soon result. Or, an event will occur with a big “I Told You So” tag on it. This is part of my process as a human – what is your process? We all have evolutionary issues that we work though, each as unique as stars. Having good guides – as partners, therapists, teachers, doctors, friends – is key to actually learning from our process and not repeating the same mistakes. I am lucky to have all of the above right now – except a good Dr. That is next on my list!

Thank you for reading through, for listening. My health story is mirrored in my life, and I know all of yours are too. It is the details of life that illustrate the pathways of disease and also those of health. Find yourself a Dr that will listen for the details, and trace paths. Take a new course. Call someone you miss. Step outside your comfort zone and do something professionally that scares you! It is September 2013, the time is ripe!

Share

Nutrition, Herbal Medicine, Homeopathy

Naturopathic medicine is not a single kind of healing, but is an array of healing practices. I think of Naturopathic Medicine as a wheel, and what we do as the different spokes that make up the whole. These “spokes” are called modalities, and include acupuncture, counseling, herbal medicine, functional medicine, homeopathy, massage, minor surgery, nutrition and in some states/provinces, prescription medications and/or IV therapies. Naturopathic Medicine is diverse – each doctor chooses what areas to focus on.  Many N.D.’s choose one specific modality, like acupuncture, functional medicine, or homeopathy. Others, like myself, are eclectic and utilize many of the modalities, depending on the individual case.

Acupuncture, counseling and massage are not as applicable for self care; however, nutrition, herbal medicine, and homeopathy are very important ways that people can take care of themselves. There is only so much help that Dr. Google can offer. If general information basics are not resolving the issue, or you have complex health concerns with multiple medications involved, having a licensed ND assist you in recovery is going to be the most effective and safest utilization of natural medicines.

NUTRITION is the philosophy of using food as medicine. Nutrition can be used therapeutically to treat specific conditions – such as eating beets and dandelion leaves for liver cleansing, or cabbage juice for ulcers. The foods that we eat in 2013 are very different from what our grandparents were eating. The soils are stripped of minerals (or toxic like on Munjoy Hill, ) many foods are genetically modified, and the preparation and processing of foods radically alters nutritional values. Supplementation is generally included with nutrition as it is often necessary, given today’s food choices, to supplement some nutrients that are no longer found in food.

HERBAL MEDICINE is an excellent way to treat the whole family. In theory, it is similar to using pharmaceuticals – specific components within each herb cause specific actions in the mind, body and spirit. Herbs can have a powerful action or a gentle action. Generally, the best herbs for self care are simple, common and safe for everyone in the family. If there are any specific contraindications such as interactions with medication, I would be sure to mention those.  The general dose for herbal medicine for an adult is 1 teaspoon of tincture (alcohol extract) in a small amount of water, 3 times a day. Teas are drank hot 2-3 times a day or as needed. Children’s dosage can be determined as follows:

Patients weight in lb divided by 150 = percent of dose

ie) 70 lb child / 150 = 0.46 so child gets slightly less that ½ adult dose.

If is 1 tsp 3 x a day for adult, give ½ tsp 3 times a day to child.

Herbs are generally best taken on an empty stomach, to maximize absorption.

HOMEOPATHY is a very complex system of medicine that gently supports the body’s ability to heal itself through the use of “remedies” and the philosophy that “like treats (or cures) like.”  The specific remedy chosen is one, which, if given to a healthy person, would elicit the very symptoms of an illness. Therefore, the remedy is known to cure that illness. Homeopathic treatment can be a profound journey of self-discovery as old wounds are healed and our true potential is illuminated. Explaining the mechanism of homeopathic medicine is difficult as it operates on the quantum level rather than the commonly understood Newtonian mechanism of action.  Symptoms are seen as effective reflections of compensation on the  mental, physical, and emotional levels. For example, when a warning light comes on in your car,  we investigate what was wrong with the engine, not just disconnect the light! Seen as warning lights, symptoms are the body’s way of showing the outside world that something is wrong or not working properly. The constellation of symptoms points the Homeopathic Doctor to understand the bigger picture overall, and which remedy is indicated to effectively treat the underlying condition. A Naturopath practicing Homeopathy gives a homeopathic remedy to stimulate the body’s defense systems to complete the healing process. This is the concept of the vital force: the body is always trying to move towards health.  This medicine is an extremely safe and effective method of eliminating disease.

 

Share