Ideal Weight Program

photo 3Welcome to a new way of working with body image, metabolism, eating patterns and ultimately, weight management. This is not a diet. Let me repeat. This is not a diet.

Study after study have shown that only 2% of people who lose weight by dieting are able to keep it off for life; 98%  of dieters gain back the weight they have lost plus more. This endless cycle slowly but surely adds pounds while eroding your sense of self worth. It also creates chaos within the blood sugar, hormone and neurotransmitter system that leads to further metabolic disruption.

Now is the time to change the old patterns. With awareness and a commitment to change, you can rewrite the story of your body. Your cells are constantly regenerating themselves; with direction from your mind and an individualized, functional medicine approach to improving structure and function you can reach your ideal metabolism, energy, and physique.

This program is divided into four phases. Each phase is at least 90 days long. Some people will need more time in an individual section, and can stay in each section as long as needed. The four sections are like a wheel, and where you start depends on your health, area of interest, and life circumstances. Some people will move in a linear direction through each step, and others will hopscotch from one area to the other. The secret to success is that we follow your body, your life, and your needs to unlock your ideal.

The four treatment sections are: FOOD, DIGESTION, STRESS, HORMONES

FOOD:  It only makes sense to work with food when addressing weight. Food is actually a very complicated topic, and one that most people have layers and layers of  complex conditioning around. We will start with a comprehensive 200 food ALCAT sensitivity test that will empower and educate you to make food choices based on YOUR immune system reactions to food (food sensitivities.) There are so many diets, so much information, so many food gurus and opinions out there! This test allows you to claim your own power around food choices based on your body’s unique message. In this section we will also teach you how to identify when you are hungry, and when you are full. These simple intuitive eating approaches build awareness and compassion, connecting you to your own primitive need for food as fuel.

DIGESTION: Effective food breakdown and waste elimination is crucial to a healthy body. Nausea, bad breath, appetite fluctuations, heartburn, indigestion, gas, cramping, bloating, constipation, hard stools, soft stools and diarrhea are all signs that your body is not digesting effectively. We will use a CDSA (Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis) to investigate all parameters of digestion including beneficial and pathogenic flora levels to truly repair and restore your digestive tract. This will have multiple health benefits including a more balanced immune response, increased energy,  regular bowel movements, potential pain relief and much more. As your digestive system is renewed you will be able to maintain your ideal weight more effectively as the body processes the food you eat with ease.

STRESS: Our brain decides when we are hungry, and when we are full. It also decides when we will eat. These two actions are not neccessarily in harmony. By looking at neurotransmitter levels that are intricately linked to food and well-being, we can understand some of the complexity of the mind-body-food relationship. During this time we will assess the stress in your life, and build stress management skills. Using botanical medicine we will tonify your endocrine system, enhancing your capacity to experience stress with ease and resiliency. At the same time, awareness exercises continue the weight-related exploration of finding and maintaining your ideal physical body with a healthy, relaxed mind.

HORMONES: Most people gain weight when their hormones begin to decline. This usually refers to reproductive hormones like estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, but  thyroid and adrenal hormones are also crucial to a vibrant and efficient metabolism. Finally, Human Growth Hormone levels dictate the speed at which we age.  This section utilizes the Age Management comprehensive hormone blood work panel to thoroughly investigate the state of your hormones. Using cutting edge anti-aging therapies and Bioidentical hormone treatments we will optimize your hormones, rejeuvenating your sex life, cognitive function, energy levels and more.  Some participants may also choose to do a 26 day HCG diet as part of this personally tailored hormonal wellness program for more radical weight loss.

Each of these components make up the whole that is your living body and each have a profound effect on weight. Whether you want to lose 10 lbs or 100lbs, or even want to learn how to maintain your current weight in a more relaxed fashion, our Ideal Weight Management program will bring you closer to that which we all seek – your ideal Self. As your awareness of the triggers behind your disordered eating patterns come clear, your need to medicate with food will shift. Functional issues like constipation, heartburn, and nausea will transform into easy, successful elimination of your body’s waste, allowing a more effective fuel-burning metabolism to emerge. And, you will feel more energized and better able to handle the stresses of everyday living without food as a crutch.

This program is not for the faint of heart. It is for people who have dieted all their life. It is for all genders and all ages. There is no standardized program that you must sacrifice and change to be accepted into – this is a truly individualized series of sessions that unearths the inner you …that you will adore.

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Counter-Response to the Multivitamin Controversy

This post was originally written for Apothecary By Design in December 2013 http://www.apothecarybydesign.com/blog/

Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements! 5 medical doctors cried out in an editorial piece first released in the Annals of Internal Medicine, and then circulated through all major newspapers and social media outlets early this week.  The articles released in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, LA Times, and countless other newspapers pointed out that multivitamins have failed to show benefit in several large scale studies; however, the evidence reviewed was not as clear as we were led to believe. As with every evidence based study, it is important to look at the information behind the research, the studies cited, and the actual information the studies gathered.

The quality of multivitamins IS a true concern for consumers. The studies supporting multivitamins have been mixed, and we acknowledge this. If you are going to take a multivitamin it is not an effective use of money to buy a low quality product (like the one illustrated below) that is not well absorbed and/or is coated in toxic chemicals and fillers. A very good diet may reduce or eliminate the need for a daily dose of essential nutrients. Some multivitamins may be a waste of money, not because studies illustrate a lack of benefit, but because of the abysmal quality of the product itself. Choosing an appropriate multivitamin is another question – one that Apothecary by Design’s wellness specialists welcome.

The following studies were used to support the evidence that multivitamins are not worth taking:

fmgt4Yi09-XGE8j8WdSI0z2key4wGe5glRyJ-QC8wH2_S3x8dxi0mHnxUERU0zmV047v=s1001.     Multivitamins and cognitive decline in men 65 or older

For example, in the first study on cognition, the multivitamin assessed was a well-known  common multivitamin that provides low level nutrients in the cheapest, least bioavailable forms. These poor quality minerals generally include  oxides and sulphates. For example, magnesium sulfate is epsom salt, like you would use in a bath. Magnesium citrate is a better quality, more absorbable mineral. (See label) Check out the “other ingredients” as well – 3 artificial colors including the noxious FD&C Red #40.

Regardless of the supplement quality, cognition issues are not primarily related to vitamin/ mineral deficiencies, but are a long term response to heavy metal toxicity, poor cerebral perfusion (not enough blood to the brain), omega 3 deficiency, hormone deficiency, environmental contamination, stress and elevated cortisol levels, head trauma, prescription medication side effects and many more individual variants.

For example, how many of the physicians studied were also taking statin drugs? These ubiquitous prescription medications are known to have memory impairment, loss of memory and amnesia as potential side effects.

When presenting strong statements like multivitamins are a waste of money, it is responsible to use evidence that considers a straighter line between cause and effect.

2.     Multivitamins failed to reduce cardiovascular events in men and women with previous myocardial infarction

The second study cited as proof that multivitamins are a waste of money was a 2012 study evaluating the effects of chelation therapy on men and women over 65 with history of a heart attack.

This study had significant setbacks.  Chief among them were the high drop-out rates due to the strenuous protocol of 30 weekly chemical chelation infusions followed by 10 maintenance infusions two to eight weeks apart.

It is difficult to assess the effect of a multivitamin on long term health with such invasive chemical and vitamin therapies being administered at the same time, and it certainly clouds what is presented as a black and white result.

Antioxidants, nutritional counseling and botanical therapies are also first line treatments in the Integrative health world to repair myocardial function. Once again, the true nature of the study being cited is obscured by the dramatic headlines.

2.     Multivitamins did not prevent the development of chronic disease or death.

If only a simple, cheap, low dose, poor quality multivitamins could save the world from chronic disease….

Quality matters in the food we eat, the medications we take and the supplements we buy. Chronic disease is a complex, multifactorial health concern whose cure cannot be reduced to oversimplified statements like these.

Finally – the original article states “….beta carotene, vitamin E and possible high dose vitamin A supplements increase mortality.” What they leave out, is that high dose beta-carotene increases risk of … lung cancer in smokers (only.) And alpha-tocopherol vitamin E increases the risk of heart disease …but full spectrum vitamin E with both tocopherols and tocotrienols reduce the risk.  Limiting the information sensationalizes the story, obscures the evidence and limits its relevance.

The great thing about this editorial is that it exposes the poor quality multivitamins out there for what they can be: a sense of false security. No one can eat fast food regularly, take a poor quality low dose multivitamin, not practice any preventative measures, and not develop chronic disease eventually. That much IS true.

A multivitamin needs to be able to be absorbed, with high quality minerals and therapeutic dosages of vitamins at the very least to offer prevention and protection. These remain a worthwhile investment for people wanting to maximize their nutritional value. Furthermore, high quality children’s multivitamins remain a good nutritional adjunct for picky eaters and kids with behavioral or health issues. Multivitamins are not a substitute for a healthy lifestyle with good quality food choices, exercise, and stress reduction.

http://www.mayoclinic.org/medicalprofs/trial-to-assess-chelation-therapy-cvuv10n4.html

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10359235

http://www.medscape.org/viewarticle/501471

http://www.nleducation.co.uk/resources/reviews/the-next-generation-vitamin-e-how-tocotrienols-benefit-the-heart-brain-and-liver/

Enough Is Enough: Stop Wasting Money on Vitamin and Mineral Supplements. Annals of Internal Medicine. Eliseo Guallar, MD, DrPH; Saverio Stranges, MD, PhD; Cynthia Mulrow, MD, MSc, Senior Deputy Editor; Lawrence J. Appel, MD, MPH; and Edgar R. Miller III, MD, Phd p. 850

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Using Herbal Medicine in Pregnancy

pregnancy-tonic-tea-220x231There are always questions about which herbs are safe to use in pregnancy. There is considerable historical and clinical information on the use botanical medicine for enhancing fertility, treating common conditions of pregnancy, and supporting postpartum care and lactation. The modern push for evidence-based studies to confirm safety of use is hindered by the ethical issue of conducting clinical trials during pregnancy. Therefore, there are very few if any double blind placebo controlled studies to reference for this population. For this reason, most online and allopathic resources will list herbs as “not safe in pregnancy” even if they have been safely used for centuries as part of maternal medicine. Furthermore, the World Health Organization label requirements for botanical medicines includes information on the use during pregnancy and lactation. As there is insufficient evidence-based studies on botanicals in pregnancy, almost all products will say Not Safe in Pregnancy or Lactation. This is good in some ways, because it protects the fetus from harmful herbal constituents accidentally taken by an unsuspecting parent. On the other hand, it limits many people from accessing safe and effective supportive herbal therapies during this unique time of life.

As a general rule of thumb, almost all herbs are best avoided during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy unless specifically prescribed by an expert in this field. Ginger is one exception to this, as it has significant clinical evidence to reduce nausea of pregnancy. Still, even ginger can be too stimulating and is best taken in moderation. *Dosage for hyperemesis gravidum could be 5-10 drops of a ginger glycerite tincture as needed, up to 70 drops daily. Ginger tea or  chrystallized ginger can be used 2-4 times a day, and ginger candies up to 10 daily. Roobios is another herb that is a safe tea in early pregnancy. This is a traditional pregnancy medicine in Africa, and a very common tea base. Nettles are also very gentle and provide a mineral-rich tonic for the newly pregnant mom. Nettle is a lovely tea base to use throughout pregnancy and lactation for hydration and nourishment. As every person’s body is different, it is sometimes best to stick with what your body knew pre-pregnancy rather than trying new things in these sensitive weeks to avoid unexpected allergic reactions or other physical repercussions.

There are some herbs which must be completely avoided throughout pregnancy as these are known to be harmful in some way. For a complete list see:  http://thewrightdoctor.com/womens-health-2/herbs-not-safe-in-pregnancy/

Herbs with strong alkaloids (identified by a bitter taste) are to be avoided. These often have a strong action on the body, whether digestive or cardiac. There are many gentle herbs and nutritional supports which are safer digestive tonics for pregnancy. Laxative herbs exert their effects through muscular contractions and can stimulate uterine contractions as well. Most herbs with strong hormonal activity are to be avoided completely , as are all anti-parasitic formulas. Certain herbs that are to be avoided in pregnancy can be prescribed by experts in this field in the last few weeks of pregnancy to prepare the uterus for labour.  These are only to be used under the guidance of an experienced midwife or prescribing professional with obstetric training in botanical therapies.

There are many herbs which help pregnant women connect to their body and the environment in a grounding, tonifying way that are safe and effective. Some women will make their own creations from local plants, and others will buy them. When purchasing plant remedies, it is important to buy from reliable brands. Gaia, Apollo herbs, Herb Pharm, Vitanica, Wise Woman and Avena Botanicals are all ethical and responsible manufacturers of high quality herbals. If you are concerned about whether or not a product is safe for you, simply do not use it! Or, find a local Naturopathic Dr, Midwife, or Herbalist to guide you in your pregnancy care.

These are some herbs which are safe to take. * Alfalfa is very high in chlorophyll and rich in minerals and vitamins. This is a great greens powder in smoothies. Burdock can be used in small doses of 20 drops 1-2 times a day after the first trimester. Burdock supports women with blood sugar difficulties or constipation later in a pregnancy. Dandelion greens are a great tonic for women pregnant in the spring. They are robust in vitamins and strengthen the urinary system. Dandelion root can also be used in small amounts like burdock, for sour stomach, nausea and itchy skin. Oatstraw is a soothing tea or tincture which calms an overstimulated nervous system. This is a must have for pregnant moms with other small children! Up to four cups of Oatstraw tea daily is safe or use in tincture form 40-60 drops in water 2-3 times a day.

Rose hips are safe throughout pregnancy. These have abundant vitamin C to support collagen production in skin and help maintain vascular wall integrity.  They have a sour zip, and make a yummy tea with nettle and honey. Saint Johnswort herb is a safe and gentle mood support during pregnancy as well as a safe option to treat herpes outbreaks both topically and internally. It should not be used with other medications, but is a reliable ally for women during this time of life. Red raspberry leaf is very well known as a late pregnancy tonic. This silvery-green leaf strengthens the uterine muscle without stimulating contractions, preparing the body for the adventure of labour. It is rich in iron to support the increased blood volume in later pregnancy. It is best drank as a tea 1-3 cups per day for the third trimester. Finally, Valerian is a safe sleep support. It is best to use the smallest dose needed for therapeutic value, so start with 1 cup tea before bed or 10-30 drops of tincture and increase as needed.

Pregnancy is a time of life when so much is unknown, and so much can go wrong – there is so much responsibility for both parents and care providers. For this reason much of modern medicine has erred strongly on the side of caution when it comes to using herbal medicines in pregnancy. This caution is compounded by the high cost that many IVF assisted pregnancies carry. Every move becomes highly medicalized, and simple acts like a cup of herbal tea are forgotten as effective therapeutics. The bottom line when it comes to using herbs in pregnancy is: if it makes you nervous, dont do it. You cannot rely on the internet, on your OB,  or on labels to tell you what is safe to take during this time of life. However, there are some very reliable books on using herbs in pregnancy, and many Herbalists, Naturopathic Doctors and Midwives have expertise in this area. Enjoy!

http://apps.who.int/medicinedocs/en/d/Jh2945e/9.5.html

http://www.ahpa.org/default.aspx?tabid=70

*ABC Clinical Guide to Herbs. M. Blumenthal p. 174

*The Natural Pregnancy Book. Aviva Jill Romm

*Herbal Childbearing Year. Susun Weed p. 19, 51

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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!

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Beauty Medicine: VariLite

I had a VariLite laser treatment this week at the Cosmetic Enhancement Center of New England to treat my facial veins. And as I lay twiddling my toes and breathing thru the mild burn, I mused on how long I have had the purple and red lines and from whence they came…. Nose veins and rosacea run in my family, as does fair skin that burns easily. I started getting my redness as soon as I hit the ski slopes with my Dad, and continued to insidiously develop them throughout my twenties. As my eyes watered and Dr. Ollila erased my venous congestion, I thought about how Chinese Medicine correlates the areas being treated with the stomach and large intestine, and my own struggles with digestion. And I promised myself that because I have the good fortune to be able to eliminate these physical signs of my own genetic faults and dietary excess, I will do what I can to prevent this same congestion, stagnation and dis-ease from developing again.

8949_7Traditional Chinese Medicine maps the body with meridians or channels that carry the energy of each organ along the arms and legs. Many of the meridians also run on the face. Areas of physical imbalance in specific areas reflect deeper organ health issues. In my case, the large intestine area at the side of the nose was an obvious place of congestion, reflecting a chronic issue of constipation that was finally resolved in my thirties when I identified and removed food allergies.

The stomach area near my mouth also had faint signs of congestion and stagnation. This area is less of an obvious problem for me – I have a so called “iron stomach.” On the other hand, I do worry. And the stomach is one of our primary organs that is effected by stress, anxiety and rumination. From a mind-body perspective, it makes sense that my stomach area would show signs of strain after years of academia, life’s lessons,  and all the personal stresses that happen. Removing the veins will not remove the underlying strain I put on myself, but I can (and will)  do more to improve my stress management and coping skills to prevent them from resurfacing.

Beauty medicine is a valuable component of modern medicine. With healthy living, exercise and great nutrition, many people’s biological age is younger than their chronological age.  Cosmetic treatments allow us to defy our years and erase the physical evidence of our earlier mistakes. However, it is important to delve deeper and work beyond the superficial level. I am grateful for the opportunity to diminish the signs of aging and look as young as I feel inside. I am also more aware now that I am older (and wiser) to include nutrition strategies like daily fiber ( raw vegetables, ground flax seeds) and probiotics to maintain long term large intestine health.  (For some people,  deeper digestive issues will need to be resolve before a simple maintenance regime is enough.) Stress insists on wreaking its havoc on my face, so I can find better ways to metabolize stress or wear the consequences!  And, of course I will also be aware of the critical damage that sun, wind and cold can have on the sensitive visage – only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the noon day sun!

If you are interested in beauty medicine, contact The Cosmetic Enhancement Center of New England at http://www.cecofne.com/.

To find out more about how Integrative Medicine can complement your treatments for long term effects and internal wellness  call 207-774-1356 to book an appointment today.

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For more information on Dr. Wrights clinical practice see: www.agemanagementcenter.com

Dr. Wrights website: www.thewrightdoctor.com

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Reflections from the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference 2013

What a phenomenal catalyst for change. June 13-15 was the 12th annual Trans Health Conference in Philly. It was a massive collection of workshops on many different aspects of Transgender, Transsexual and differently gendered health and healing including medical, legal, spiritual, practical aspects, self-empowerment and so much more. I was honored to be a presenter this year on Naturopathic Medicine and Trans Health. It was my first time attending the conference, and I am so impressed by the caliber of the event. I primarily attended medical style workshops including presentations on the most recent research being done with the trans community.

My talk was a great learning process for me. Not only from the questions asked by the diverse and well informed crowd, but also as a reflection of self. I am very comfortable in the trans community, consider myself an ally, and am aware of the multidimensional and sometimes fragile nature of trans identities. And yet, twice during my presentation I wrongly identified someone as a woman and a man when calling on people for questions. Under pressure, my highly educated nervous system switched back to my reptilian brain of the binary He-She world – and this with all the *knowing* that I have of the great diversity of gender expression. I was disappointed in myself.  It is a lesson that in working with this community, it is especially important to be conscious of language. The old ways of thinking are simply not progressive enough to enter the dialogue. For example, when referencing  people, we as a society need to step outside of classifying people by sex (and race.) Instead of saying “the woman in the yellow shirt”, say “the person in the yellow shirt is ….” The majority of the time our binary classification may be right, but there is a significant proportion of times when our 2D classifiers are actually incorrect, and those can be very painful moments for the individual inhabiting the misread gender identity.

I also talked about adrenal health, and was pleased to learn of new research that evidences salivary cortisol levels are indeed raised higher in the transitioning trans population than in controls. Meaning – stress is huge. Everyone working with trans people of all identifications will need to do stress management and adrenal support. Adrenals are also a source of endogenous hormones including DHEA, which could be a resource for transmasculine and transfeminine people not taking hormones as it has the potential to shift to both testosterone and estrogen internally.  There were many questions about the use of botanicals that have been evidenced to have steroid-like action. This is an area I need much more clinical experience in.

I was heartened to meet 3 other Naturopathic Doctors and two herbalists working in this field at the conference, all of who gave presentations as well.  They reminded me of some of the important preventative medicine aspects of working with people on hormone therapies like hypertension, osteoporosis, calcium quality, high cholesterol and so much more. There were also acupuncturists, and ayruvedic practitioners offering other traditional perspectives. Next year I hope to cultivate a workshop where we all meet to share information! I know I was left with more questions than answers.

I learned important information about our trans youth, and ways to support them better from both a practical level in schools, around mental health, and medically. Dori Midnight, a Massachusettes healer and fairy witch did workshops in mental health, herbalism and ancestral trans magics. I also got to share a room with her, which was a delightful meeting of the minds with gluten-free snacks. There were many sessions on identity development and closed meetings for specific gendered health care needs that looked inspiring and transformational. There were many fantastic workshops I did not get a chance to attend, including a 2 day medical training stream which I will certainly do next year.

Overall, the experience was one that provoked intense introspection and profound leaps of knowledge. It was an event that is crucially important to modern medicine, to understand not only the vernacular but also the urgency of the need for competent health care providers AND self care within the transgender, transsexual and gender non-conforming communities.

A few links and resources from the conference:

http://www.trans-health.org/

http://www.dorilandia.com/html/home.html

http://thirdroot.org/

http://www.rainbowhealthontario.ca/admin/contentEngine/contentDocuments/Gender_Independent_Children_final.pdf

www.riverstoneconsult.com

www.gendercreativekids.ca

www.fenwayhealth.org/transhealth

 

 

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Mediterranean Adventure II

We were concerned that traveling Gluten Free would be tough. And not even just gluten free – I can’t eat potato or corn, and my sweetheart can’t have rice. So, we were both headed abroad knowing that food choices could be tough. We had the good fortune of staying with family, so for most of the journey we had a kitchen and fridge to stock with staples we could rely on. For me – mostly eggs, rice cakes, delicious olive paste, incredible fresh green olives. For my sweetheart – she had the bonus of finding gluten free bread, plus corn cakes, jam, and yogurt. Then we  shared fruit, veggies and local cheeses. She brought her own corn pasta, and I had no trouble finding rice pasta as needed in the local “Veritas” (organic) market for family dinners. We even found quinoa! Local markets and/or supermarkets also had lovely fresh meats, fish and produce for family dinners. We both brought some snack bars (Kits Organics for her and Luna Protein for me) as well as trail mixes. Of course, there were also lots of delicious treats we could both have. Europe has an impressive array of yogurts, puddings, and other cold delights in small jars. (Less ice cream though, in the freezer sections.)

Overall, food turned out to be less of a problem than we feared. When going out, my sweetheart was invariably able to get “patatas bravas,” a local dish of fried potato with a yummy spicy mayonnaise. Tapas (or pinxtos as they are called in San Sebastian) were harder for me to navigate, so often I just didn’t. Dinners out were easier – I could almost always find some delicious fish or chicken and vegetable options in the Menu del Dia – a 10-15 Euro daily menu with 3 courses and wine and coffee included. As my sweetheart is more sensitive to gluten and cant get away with any exposure, she usually stuck to Ensalada Mixta (salad, tuna, olives, and hardboiled eggs) with a potato side dish. All in all, it worked out well. We weren’t able to sample the breadth of Spanish gourmet cuisine, but we still had some flavorful dishes and local delicacies.

As a Naturopathic Doctor, I was constantly assessing the Mediterranean Diet and to see how the classic reputation of the region matched the real fare. As I suspected, there was plenty of bread, cheese, sugar, and packaged foods available as in the Standard American Diet (SAD.) There were a few noticeable differences though that may account for some of Europe’s lower body weights and improved life expectancy. First, there was no bacon. Yes, “bacin” was on some menus, but it was peameal-style bacon, pan-fried and not the true “bacon” of North American fame. Second, beef was rare to see on a menu or in the supermarkets, and was quite expensive. This made sense as we drove across the country, as there were very few cows. European terrain is not made for grazing the way Texas is.

Finally, and perhaps most impressive to me was the rest stops for food along highways. Each one was set up like a classy buffet restaurant, complete with chefs behind the food casing presenting grilled vegetables, roasted chicken, and a wide arrays of sandwiches, jambon, fruit and cheese choices. There were mini bottles of wine and cans of beer at every register, as if instead of being on a roadtrip one was intentionally stopping at that location for a meal. And stop everyone did, even for coffee. The American in me was shocked that people were literally getting perfect little iced espressos and walking to sit down and drink it before they got back on the road. We are such a to go culture! The contrast was very strong, and was I think the best illustration of the differences between our SAD diet culture and that of the Mediterranean. They sit down and savor a meal, a coffee, and a moment in time. It’s a lifestyle, a way of thinking, and a paradigm. We eat on the go, “para llavales”. We Rush, wolfing down food, eating mindlessly as we multitask and gulping down our beverages while we push on ahead. And we pack on the pounds and generate chronic disease as we go along, coercing our nervous systems into simultaneously digesting and running at the same time.

I am still filtering through layers of impressions, photos and reflecting on the whole experience of world travel. I highly recommend Spain to anyone – Barcelona is the second most popular tourist destination in the world, and well worth the hype. Traveling gluten free was not a problem; we were able to find great local resources and food options, especially for a food adventurist. For those who can eat gluten, there is an incredible world of tapas out there just waiting your arrival! But do yourself a favor – eat like you have all the time in the world.

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Mediterranean Adventures

We are traveling in Barcelona and parts of Northern Spain for two weeks ~  visiting ex-pat family and having a European vacation while Spring comes to the Northern US. As many Americans have often commented while traveling in Europe, the difference in body weight here is remarkable. Simply put, very few people are overweight. And, despite the smoking, wine consumption and late nights, it is known that Europeans live longer than Americans on average. So what is the big difference? Eating patterns, Diet, and Lifestyle.

By Diet, I do not mean calorie restriction, portion control or eating plans. I mean, a style of food intake linked to cultural patterning and local food options. The Mediterranean Diet has been a source of scientific study for several decades because European countries centered around the Mediterranean Sea have statistically lower levels of heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic diseases. It is a nutrition pattern that includes a foundation of olive oil, fruit, vegetables, fish, seafood, whole grains, pasta and potatoes. This is complemented by smaller amounts of eggs, dairy and chicken. Red meat and sweets are eaten occasionally. It is also a practical nutritional plan – meat is expensive, tomatoes and olives are not! The “Mediterranean Diet Pyramid” is a famous illustrated depiction of the basic concepts. (See Resources below for a great downloadable version.)

We noticed a few real differences right away.

1. There is no To Go – people sit to eat their food and drink their coffee.

2. There is no half and half or cream for coffee. There are no Grande or Venti coffee options. A coffee is a small cup of strong brew with or without steamed milk and sugar.

3.  The cities are made for walking and biking! With bike lanes and mazes of small windy alleys and wide picturesque boulevards the cities inspire pedestrian activity.

We haven’t quite adjusted to the concept of siesta time yet. In fact, between jet lag and our American ways, we have almost invariably set out right as the shops roll down their doors and the streets close up for the afternoon 2-5pm rest. This is our goal for the trip – to learn the fine art of Siesta. What an ultimate luxury!

US life expectancy links https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2013/01/11/life-j11.html and http://www.economist.com/blogs/buttonwood/2013/01/life-expectancy

Mediterranean Diet Research: http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=199485

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/mediterranean-diet/CL00011

Practical Resources: http://oldwayspt.org/resources/heritage-pyramids/mediterranean-pyramid/overview

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How to Survive Influenza

Herbal medicine is wonderful for any kind of cold and flu. The key to successful use of herbs is to take them early and often. I began with Gaia Respiratory Defense capsules 2 caps every 3-4 hours with lots of watered down juice. I also drank an entire bottle of Apitherapy Wild Cherry Cough Syrup at 1 tbsp every 2-3 hours for the first 36 hours – this is a New England centric product but any herbal wild-cherry or horehound based product would do. If you live in a bigger city Nin Jiom Pei Pa Koa is an awesome Chinese cough syrup available at many health food stores. Mix 1 tbsp of the Nin Jiom thick syrup with hot water for a soothing tea/cough syrup 3-4 times daily.With these two products I was successful in clearing the lungs, and ended up with only some minor sniffles.

“Feed a Cold, Starve a Fever” is an old saying. When you have a fever, your body does not have energy or attention to pay to the digestive system. Most people do not have an appetite anyways, so it its Best Practice to focus on fresh fruit, juice, water, and soup broth. Apple sauce, popsicles and crackers are also good choices. Follow your intuition when it comes to food. Herbal tea with fresh lemon and honey is also healing and soothing. Echinacea tea, or any “throat tea” or “cold tea” will be beneficial. Don’t be afraid to *not* eat if you are not hungry; however make sure you maintain some caloric intake so your body has fuel to fight (unless it is a stomach flu.) Your appetite returning will be a sign of health.

Other things that help fight off influenza – elderberry syrup has tasty evidence based antiviral capabilities. Taking a minimum of  5,000IU of vitamin D and 2000 mg of old fashioned vitamin C will both speed recovery as well. This years flu is highly contagious – please don’t “be brave” and work/shop/be out and about unless you absolutely need to. Ask a friend to pick you up something and drop it off, take time off work, and REST! Everyone else will thank you for it, and you will recover faster in the end, with less complications than if you have suffered through it publicly.

I haven’t had the flu…. ever before. And I had not had a fever since I was a child. Boy, together they make an awful combination! I spent most of the week between Christmas and New Years Eve lying in bed with a face-headache, sweating, chilled, sniffley, and unable to do much more than lay with my eyes closed.However, I did recover rather quickly, without losing more than a couple days of work and a few pounds. During my fever induced vacation, I had time to consider fever medicine, and to mull over how many people have actually died from influenza over the course of history.

Curious as to how this self-limiting virus induced illness could literally wipe out generations, I took to Medscape to better understand why the flu can have such devastating effects.  From the article “Christmas 2009: Years Like This: The Spanish Influenza Pandemic Seen Through the BMJ’s Eyes: Observations and Unanswered Questions” by Tom Jefferson, Eliana Ferron BMJ. 2009;339:b5313 it is clear that it was not a simple case of influenza that killed so many people, but rather a combination of factors including environment, hygiene, medical practices of the times, and a lack of immunity to the European microbial ferment that wiped out staggering numbers of  people. The article states:

” The causes of the high case fatality rate are still unclear, but modern research suggests that the pandemic was a lot more than just a “one germ-one disease” affair. [19] … Agents other than the influenza virus probably played a part. Above all, the environmental explanations of the high [Samoan and Lapp] mortality rates indicate the peril of generalizing across contexts and simplifying causation models. “

In other words, early pandemics were about more than just a flu virus. They were complicated environmental scenarios where subsequent (fatal)  infections developed. Therefore, most of us in modern times are highly unlikely to die from influenza. This is of course, a more serious condition for people who have a defective immune system and for individuals on either end of the age spectrum who are more fragile. So, knowing that one is unlikely to die from the flu or fever, are you more willing to suffer through the symptoms if you knew it would be over sooner?

I was raised with the belief that a fever is an opportunity for “cleansing” on a spiritual and physical level. Fevers up to 102.5 are still considered safe and effective for a healthy person. The heat in the body serves as a natural autoclave, killing bacteria and viruses quickly and effectively. In my upbringing, it was also “burning karma” and an opportunity to cleanse oneself from spiritual burdens. This is what I focused on as my fever climbed from 101.5-102.5. I felt awful and was miserable and in pain. But, I kept telling myself I was in the process of transformation! It seemed to justify the misery in a way. There is of course, a limit to pain and suffering and modern medicine has much to offer. Therefore, I would return to my 400mg of Ibuprofin at night to help me sleep and reduce my pain and fever for the night. After all, sleep is as important in recovery as anything else is. Thus, I do suggest when you or a loved one has influenza, to allow a fever to burn within a safe range up to 102.5 F (Technically a fever is safe up to 104.5F) . Fever reducing medications can always be used as needed when the tolerance level of suffering is reached. Belladonna 30CH is a homeopathic fever reducing medication that can be used safely in children and adults as needed. It acts as a trigger to the body to reduce its thermostat, without actually suppressing the fever like NSAIDS do. This is a great medication to have in your home first aid kit. I was happy to dig mine out at 2:30 am on my second night sick – anything for relief in those sick midnight hours!

A final thought on cold medications – allergy pills, Dayquil, and other daytime cold and flu medications are most likely going to fail in the face of influenza. You are better off lying in bed and letting your fever burn while you try and watch some tv. However, night time is  when I believe some medication can be necessary as most people worsen in the night. No natural cough syrup is going to be as effective a pharmacy brand one. If I am hacking in the night with a cough, I use a pediatric cough suppressant as they contain less alcohol and chemicals than adult ones. Using Nyquil, or Ibuprofen/Tylenol at night to sleep is perfectly reasonable if it actually works for you. (If it doesn’t work, stop taking it and call your Naturopathic Dr for more treatment support.)

In summary – Rest, liquids, soups, belladonna 30ch, wild cherry cough syrup, vitamin C, vitamin D, elderberry, and a herbal formula that treats your constellation of symptoms are all components of successfully navigating a bout of influenza. Allow the fever to burn, whether you view it as a natural autoclave or a spiritual cleansing (or both) is up to you. A cough that lasts more than 7 days, fever above 102.5, or consistent vomiting for more than 36 hours are all good reasons to call your primary care provider and check in.

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Alternative Medicine

A friend of mine recently asked me what Alternative Medicine was. Ask 50 people, and you may get 50 answers! I can tell you my answer. It is intricately tied in with Sociology, Cultural Studies, and Anthropology. To understand a cultures medicine is to have a clear window into their worldview. Modern American “Alternative Medicine” is a broad spectrum of many cultures traditional medical practices – Asian Medicine and Acupuncture, Indian Aruveda, Native American and “Eclectic (European western) Herbalism, German Homeopathy, and many others.

Alternative Medicine is the other side of Allopathic Medicine. Allopathic Medicine is the current model of western medicine implemented in 1909 by Flexner and the newly formed American Medicine Association at the turn of the century. Alternative Medicine and Allopathic Medicine differ in their basic model of patient care. The former is patient-based, where an individual story, environment, life experiences and constitution all play some role in the current health problem. The latter is based on symptom assessment and diagnosis, with an emphasis on pharmaceutical and surgical management. Truly – both are needed in modern medicine. The best care comes from a marriage of the two.

When this friend asked, I answered her with a reply of what Naturopathic Medicine is.  I believe Naturopathic Medicine represents the best of Alternative Medicine! It combines evidence-based medicine with a body of knowledge that is evidenced by time. Naturopathic Medicine is an umbrella term that relates to an Alternative Medical practices that all adhere to a general principle of care that is combined with modern cutting edge diagnostic and clinical-medical training. Naturopathic Doctors must complete a 4-year post-graduate program with licensing and board exams to ensure that the skills needing to be a “Doctor” as well as “Naturopathic” are met.

The basic theory of Naturopathic Medicine is in the Latin phrase vis medicatrix naturae. The vis is the inner ability of the body to heal itself – the guiding inner principle that all Alternative Medicines have (and most traditional cultures recognize.) Medicatrix is medicine. And naturae is Nature. The body has the inner medical ability to heal itself, with the help of nature. The Naturopathic toolbox assists in returning one to a state of health, and includes Asian medicine, botanical medicine, homeopathy, lifestyle counseling, massage (and other hands-on bodywork techniques), and nutrition. In some states and provinces ND’s are also able to prescribe some pharmaceuticals and perform minor surgery.

To summarize – Alternative Medicine is a broad term that includes many different cultures traditional medicines. Naturopathic Medicine is a branch of Alternative Medicine that unifies the practices under a licensed scope of care. A Naturopathic Doctor is the Alternative Medicine Physician, providing patient-based care founded on the theory that your body has an innate ability to heal, when given the proper nature-based treatments.

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