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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On The Other Side of a Cold

6 days later, I’m finally feeling human. Colds can be so rotten! I felt so awful on Tuesday and Wednesday – headache, runny nose, achy, tired, sinus pain, sneezing. UGH. Everyone gets colds, and after this round I want to share some ways to get through them easier, and how to help them not turn into the 6 week sickness, or bronchitis, or worse….

I grew up in a Yoga Ashram where getting sick was considered “cleansing” and an opportunity to throw off toxins and heal the body. I still think of sickness in this framework to some degree, and as such embrace having a cold in the following ways (once I am willing to accept I am, in fact, sick, which is another story.)

I like to view mini-sicknesses like colds, flues, and other bugs as opportunities for a mini-detox. As soon as I realize I am sick, all cow dairy, sugar, alcohol, corn, beef and gluten are eliminated. I also try to wean off caffeine by only having 1/2 cups of black tea as needed for caffeine headaches. This automatically gives my immune system a huge boost to fight off the offenders (see my food sensitivity blog post.) It also allows my liver, intestines and kidneys to do a little detox of their own, cleaning up old metabolites while other systems fight off the cold. This helps me heal faster, and makes me feel even better once the cold is done! I also often lose a couple of pounds while being sick.

What does this leave to eat? Lots of fruit, rice, steamed veggies, rice cakes and 100% fruit jam, gluten free toast, butter (even tho its cow I allow this), nut butters, eggs, organic chicken, goat milk kefir or yogurt if craved. I just made a butternut squash, ginger, chicken broth soup with kale, apples and lemon this sickness. I also found a coconut milk, agave sweetened vanilla ice cream when I was craving something cold for my throat. And lots and lots and lots of herbal tea. With raw honey, and lemon.

Botanical Medicine is *very* important for treating colds. Most colds start out as viruses and then develop into bacterial infections after the immune system has been worn down. Unlike drugs, herbs can be antiviral AND anti-bacterial at the same time. As soon as I start feeling sick, out comes the elderberry syrup that lives in my medicine cabinet. 2 tsp 2-3 times a day, AND once a day for my girlfriend so she doesnt get sick. Start taking lots of vitamins – everything you have. Take your C’s, B’s, multivitamin…. your immune system is weak and needs support. Olive leaf is a great anti-microbial to take at any stage of sickness. The trick with herbs is to take alot, early.  As in, 2 caps three times a day for the first week, rather than 1 cap a day for 3-6 weeks of sickness. Traditional Medicinals has some great teas with a good mix of acute care herbs. I drank Cold Care PM night and day, with lots of honey as well as lemon ginger tea and echinacea tea.

A side note on echinacea – this herb is anti strep as well as antibacterial and antiviral and antifungal. Its actually a great herb for colds and flues *when taken right away.* Echinacea seems to work better for some people than others as well. If you are going to use this botanical, start taking it as soon as you feel sick in high doses. Once you have been sick more than 5 days, it is no longer as effective *unless* you are fighting a strep infection.

If you can, go see an acupuncturist immediately. Acupuncture can do great things for helping a cold to not settle into your lungs, and move it through you faster. I’m certain it also helped this cold not become a sinus infection and just stay at the superficial level. I see Hadley Clarke of www.zenkaiacupuncture.com although http://www.jadeintegratedhealth.com also helped me when I had a serious case of bronchitis last year.Chinese herbs are also very effective when prescribed by an acupuncturist, however they are not meant for self-prescribing.

Finally, REST. Sometimes I think I get sick when my mind or body really needs down time. Call in sick, and lie in front of the TV, or in your bed all day. Pad around in track pants and socks and drink tea and moan on the couch. Facebook, nap, eat soup, but don’t do anything productive. The body *really* needs time to heal, and repair, and fight the good fight, and cant do that if you are also trying to teach or lead or answer phones or tend bar or save the world do all the other active things we all do in a day.


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Nutrition to Strengthen Liver Yin

     Modern culture is Yang obsessed. We go-go-go, we seek sun, we burn the candle at both ends, we exercise vigorously, and we love stimulants. It is a rare bird that has enough quiet, meditative alone time, in a dim or dark environment. This is the Yin state – nourishing, moistening, dark, and quiet – Yin builds what Yang wears down.

Every organ of the body has a Yin and a Yang aspect. Some organs (Spleen, Liver, Heart, and Lung for example) are naturally more Yin in Nature. Other organs (Stomach, Gall Bladder, Small Intestine and Large Intestine for example) are more Yang in nature. These “natures” were determined by the functions each organ enact as well as more energetic attributes. Supporting the natural state of each organ will optimize health, and promote healthy functioning.

      Much is said about detoxifying the Liver, and reducing its Yang (brought on by alcohol, drugs and stimulants) but what happens when you actually have deficient Liver Yin that needs to be nourished?  Stripping an already deficient organ will create further disharmony that will eventually manifest as pathology.

      A diagnosis of Liver Yin deficiency means that this aspect of the Liver organ network is compromised. The Liver not only detoxifies, it has many other (building) jobs including cholesterol metabolism, vitamin storage, bile production, and blood reservoir. Blood is a Yin substance (all fluids are yin) and many B12 and iron anemias can be diagnosed early on as a Liver Yin deficiency by a trained Acupuncturist. Thin brittle nails, anemia, sallow skin, easy bruising, hair loss, blurred vision, tinnitus, dizziness, infertility  and some tremors  are all associated with a Liver Yin deficiency diagnosis.

Nutrition is one of the best ways to support and recover Liver Yin. A diet that is nutrient rich and nourishing is essential, as is sitting down to relax while you eat and chewing thoroughly to savor flavors. The diet should also include plenty of fluids, especially in the form of soups. Meals consist of 40% easily digested complex carbohydrates like whole grains and starchy root vegetables. Another 40% of the diet is cooked vegetables. Proteins comprise 10-20% of the diet, with a focus on high quality organic or grass fed sources. Healthy fats fill the other remaining 5-10%.

Below is a list of recommended foods to nourish Liver Yin. Do not limit your nutritional intake to only these foods. Instead follow the guidelines above of the optimum ratios of carbohydrates, vegetables and proteins, and add the recommended foods from the list below within your meals. Where ever possible choose organically grown foods to avoid genetically modified ingredients.

Foods to Nourish Liver Yin Deficiency

 Zucchini, squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes, string beans, beets,

Mushrooms including wood ears & tremella,

Tomatoes, spinach, carrots, parsley,

Molasses

Apples, banana, mulberries, mango, coconut, peaches, lychee fruit, melons,

Grapes, raisins, cherries, plums

Olive oil, flaxseed oil, almond oil

Vegemite, kelp, spirulina, wheatgrass

 Oats, rice, millet, barley

Adzuki beans, black beans, mung beans

Organic cow, goat and sheep yogurt

Tempeh, tofu, miso

Nuts & seeds, black sesame seeds (great as a condiment!)

Eggs

Pork, chicken, Chinese black boned chicken, duck

Mackerel, sardines, oysters, mussels, clams

Cuttlefish, squid, perch, eel

Foods to Restrict or Avoid

Chilies, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, onions, shallots, leeks, basil, cloves, wasabi

Coffee, black tea

Vinegar, pickles

Lamb, shrimp, veal

Citrus fruits

Cigarettes, alcohol

Recreational stimulants

Activities that build whole-body Yin nourishment are also encouraged while working specifically on Liver Yin. Rest more. Read. Spend some quiet, alone contemplative time in a cool, dark room with a candle lit (taking a bath is a nice way to do this.) Exercises like Tai Chi and Yoga are more Yin building than Yang in nature. Drink warm water and lemon. Get extra sleep. Breathe.

References:

Clinical Handbook Of Internal Medicine, Vol. 2. MacLean & Lyttleton. University of Western Sydney: Australia. 2002.

Chinese Dietary Therapy. Liu, J. Churchill Livingston: Edinburgh. 1995.

The Healing Cuisine of China. Zhao & Ellis. Healing Arts Press: Vermont. 1998.

An interesting theoretical write up: http://www.indiadivine.org/audarya/ayurveda-health-wellbeing/997986-liver-yin-deficiency-patterns-derived-patterns.html

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