Gall Bags, Spring, and Other Mysteries

Has Spring come to your part of the world? Because it is slow to arrive in Maine. Most of our world here is still a monotonous palate of gray, brown, pine green, white, dirty white and cold blue. April has promise, because today the sun felt warm even with the cool wind. And little shoots of yellow-green things are growing in the dirt!

Naturopathic Medicine heralds spring as the season of the liver – like trees stagnant over the winter our saps start to flow too. And our sap in this case in not blood, but bile. The ancient Greeks separated bilious humors into yellow, and black. Yellow bile is what we now call bile, stored in the gall bladder and useful in digestion. Black bile is a far more mysterious, melancholic and deadly humour, and one that I will have to investigate further when I am not studying for surgery exams.

So far this clerkship has been “general surgery” which has been primarily cholecystectomys and hernia repairs. The standard of care is to electively – or emergently – remove every gall bladder that presents with symptoms and evidence of stones or sludge. This makes sense because once one stone has caused problems, its pretty likely another will eventually. Complications can be pretty intense – gallstone pancreatitis with or without ileus is nasty, as is choledocolithiasis and ascending cholangitis. I am on board with this plan.

The best plan of action to avoid having gall bladder surgery is prevention. Inspired, committed lifestyle and nutritional prevention years before the problem starts. Not many people are willing, or have access to the knowledge to practice the kind of prevention that is required to avoidgallstones. By this I mean, too many people are never educated about the impact of food choices on health,  or just dont care enough to make the choices to eat an every day diet with good quality oils, moderate animal proteins and high fiber, high antioxidant, high phytonutrient grains and fruits/vegetables. (This is a whole other conversation about class, nutrition, education, access and economics.) Individuals also need to have the spark of interest to learn about plants as medicine and botanical therapies for liver health, as well as the initiative to either track down someone to act as a herbalist or dabble in self care. Because, once gallstones are formed there are some treatment options but…. not many. And IMHO, not many that are truly effective.

For those out there looking for guidance, herbal medicine combined with nutrition is the best way to maintain long term liver and gall bladder health. According to a PubMed Physiology text, bile is formulated in liver cells and modified by cholangiocytes as it travels through the bile canalicula. It is essentially a watery mix of cholesterol, bilirubin, phospholipids (fats), bile salts (broken down cholesterol bound to amino acids), proteins, bicarbonate, salts, and enzymes like alkaline phosphatase. Bile is classified as a mechanism to eliminate waste from the body, and I suspect it carries dubious products from the CYP enzymes that are not fully metabolized by an overburdened liver as well.


With this in mind, increasing bile flow with bitter alkaloids and other phytochemicals inherent in plant medicine are a logical way to improve gall bladder health. There is one botanical I know that have specific use for stones in the body called peumos baldo, but most of the hepatophillic herbs simply increase bile flow thereby decreasing stagnation and thus stone formation. One well-known liver loving botanicals is milk thistle (silybum marianum), which is insanely hepatoprotective and has multiple studies on it for chemical insults. This will not likely help with bile health directly, but it does protect hepatocytes from repeat insults from drugs metabolized by the CYP enzyme system such as antidepressants, anti-epilepsy drugs, birth control, alcohol, narcotics, and some antibiotics.

Dandilion (Taraxacum officionalis) and artichoke (Cynara scolymus) are often paired for their cholegogue effects. Its very common to see these three together in standardized formulations as they are probably the most well known players – and for good reason because they are safe for most healthy people and have a very long historical use for all sorts of “bilious” afflictions including gall stones. Of note, if you have lots of gall stones sitting in your gall bladder or have already had gall stone attacks,  taking high doses of cholegogues could precipitate an attack of acute cholecystitis. However, if you have already had your gall bladder removed they would be safe. There are many other plant medicines for bilious health employed by Naturopathic Doctors and herbalists world-wide, from many indigenous systems of medicine. Seeing an expert for individualized medicine is always the best choice for safe, effective and appropriate treatment as the liver, like all organs in the body rarely acts in isolation. Thus, the best medicine takes your whole health into account.

Finally, we think of natures medicine as extracted herbal “drugs”, but plain old water is so therapeutic for liver health. If bile is an aqueous solution, then chronic dehydration from caffeine/alcohol soda/sodium must lead to a concentrated and hypersoluble solution, right?

Vegetables are also medicinal plants. Spicy and bitter greens have the same cholegogue activity as dandilion and artichoke and are very safe to consume. Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, kale and brussel sprouts have documented chemical constituents that improve estrogen metabolism, thereby improving bile flow. The fiber binds excess cholesterol and maintains bowel health, and they have documented anti-cancer properties. Eat your broccoli!  Beets and carrots are rich in carotenoids which give their vibrant colors. These have traditionally been used as healing foods for the liver and although I do not know the exact reason why, can they hurt? Only if you hate beets, I suppose.

I have to stop writing this post, because I have to be up at the crack of dawn for another laproscopic cholecystectomy tomorrow. Its a surgery that definitely needs to be done – the woman has had some significant blockage from a stone that miraculously moved on its own but caused an elevated bilirubin as well as weeks of abdomninal pain and distress. It would be unsafe for her to just wait around for that to happen again, because where there is one stone, there are probably two. And where there is a chronically dehydrated American taking multiple pharmaceuticals and eating the SAD, there will always be another gall bag to take out.

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Eat, Sleep, Wait, Repeat.

glycogen-and-intermittent-fastingI recently read an article that most Americans eat for 15 hours a day. Apparently, the body needs a 12 hour fast daily to clear liver glycogen, thus switching metabolism to utilize the body’s stores (fat) to fuel the basic metabolic rate. Without this 12 hour fast, the liver does not get to ever fully utilize glycogen stores, and food/fuel aka glucose gets stored as fat.

Ive been tracking myself, as I always do when I am trying out a new metabolic theory, and I usually get about a 9 hour fast in. I’m one of those people that likes to eat at night, and with my new academic schedule, I need my 7am morning toast to soak up the coffee that makes my 6am wake-up call possible. Also, beverages counts as food/fuel in this context. Therefore, the last drink of alcohol, milk or juice you have before bed also counts towards the fasting timeline.

The 12 hour fast biochemistry is probably the source of the “dont eat after 7pm” dogma. That, and most of the snacking that occurs after dinner is high calorie and high deliciousness.But what if, like me, you are someone who likes to graze after 7am, eat dinner late, and/or cant sleep with an empty belly?

The moral of the story is: if you are trying to lose weight, make it a priority to fit in a 12 hour fast that includes your hours of sleep (hopefully 8+. Read how more sleep helps you lose weight here.)

For example: If you snack until 10pm, don’t have breakfast, coffee with sugar or cream/milk, juice,  or anything over 5 calories or sweet tasting until 10am. (Ps. Even artifical low calories sweeteners may be linked to weight gain says Harvard med.) This will allow your body to “empty” its reserves, making room for a day of metabolic synergy and a delicious, satisfying 12 hours of food after your overnight fast.

blackHint: learn to love black tea or coffee, green tea, and/or hot lemon water before your 12 hour fast is over if you are honestly wanting to lose weight. If, like me, you are too busy to make changes right now, just think about it, watch your patterns, and see if you can do it every once in awhile or on weekends.

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LGB Trans HRT ~ New Program, Fresh Vision, New You

imagesWIDJJQD2The flame of Trans* Health has been burning steadily brighter in my life over the past 3 years. I was keen on the practice while still living and working in Toronto, ON but without a scope of prescribing hormones, my work with the Trans* community was peripheral medicine – acupuncture, restoration of transman fertility, anxiety support etc. I continued to take trainings in the hormone and lab protocols to better understand the medical aspects of transition, without the vision of guiding transition myself.

Once I moved to Maine in 2011, my scope of practice as a ND changed. Naturopathic Doctors have different abilities to prescribe and order diagnostic lab work in each state and province. Most of the west coast states plus British Columbia have full prescribing rights, can do IV therapies, and can act like primary care docs for their patients. In the more conservative middle North America and east coast, Vermont and New Hampshire are the only states/provinces with a full scope of practice. However, for me, from Ontario, the ability to prescribe most hormones and antibiotics was a big change of pace!

I mentored and practice with Dr. Michael Bedecs, an Osteopathic Doctor specializing in hormone therapies for the past  3 years. Under his guidance (plus several conferences on trans health, anti-aging and hormone optimization) I have come to better understand the intricacies of the endocrine system, and how they interrelate through reproductive, thyroid, adrenal, pancreatic and pituitary pathways. All this time, my brain has been making subtle connections in Trans* health, drawing pathways to hormonal optimization the bridges the cultural and gender fluidity required with treating the LGBT community with medical advancements in metabolism, subclinical hypothyroidism, fertility, adrenal exhaustion, cortisol excess, insulin resistance and more.

Dr. Bedecs and I have created a new program called LBGT HRT that includes the dynamic possibilities of gender and hormone variation, bioidentical hormone replacement, transsexual transition and transgender health. We will be offering this through our concierge style practice at Age Management Center in Portland, Maine.

Age Management Center is a cash based practice. We do not accept any insurance plans for visits, medication or laboratory services. Some patients are able to pay for our services through Health Savings Accounts, or get third party reimbursement. Working outside of insurance allows us to provide a standard of care far above  the norm. We offer blood work here in our clinic, at physician pricing. Because we are not limited by the current scope of insurance, we are able to test for and evaluate metabolic parameters that are essential to our complete understanding of hormonal health and wellness.  We spend an average of 90 minutes for first visits, and offer a free 30 minute consult before any commitment is required. Furthermore, within our framework of concierge medicine, each visit is not priced and ticketed; rather, the ongoing support of our doctors, nurses and medical staff is included in the program, allowing you unlimited access for questions, concerns, and follow up until your program is fine tuned and ship shape.

We know this style of medicine is not accessible for all members of the LGB and Trans community. Therefore, I created a monthly sliding scale clinic at Justice in The Body the first Monday of each month from 9am – 12pm to meet the needs of the lower income members of the gender queer and Trans* community here in Portland, Maine, and beyond. This clinic is limited in that a prescribing MD, NP or DO is still required to Rx the Testosterone for FTM and Spironolactone or Cyproterone for MTF; however, I am able to order lab work through insurance in Maine and can work with your prescriber to optimize current hormone protocols and work on supporting the Integrative aspects of general health and wellness that come with transitioning. Many of my patients at the Trans* Health Clinic have been fully transitioned, and we are working on other aspects of preventative medicine and optimized health through the lens of Trans* medicine. I am currently working on expanding the scope of the JITB Trans * Health Clinic by finding a prescriber to work directly with us in house. Stay Tuned!

Follow me on Twitter for Trans* Health @LGBTHRT

Follow me on Facebook for monthly updates about the Trans Health Clinic at JITB

Note: Trans* is a new-ish term. The asterisk denotes that the term is encompassing the entire transgender, transsexual and gender fluid spectrum of individuals without having to write all of that every time.

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DETOX 2015: Start the New Year With A Clean Metabolic Slate

tabula rasa – the latin term for “erased slate” referring to the emptiness of a slate sheet that was previously written on by chalk.

 To start the New Year with a fresh clean slate we need to erase the old clutter from our internal metabolic “chalk board”, which means DETOXIFICATION.

Why detoxify? Intermediate metabolites build up like desk clutter from all of the work that our liver has to do to break down hormones, pesticides, pollution, cholesterol, medications, bacteria, viruses, alcohol, caffeine, and everything else that we inhale or ingest. Symptoms of this “clutter” include allergies, skin disorders, constipation or diarrhea, heartburn, irritability, fuzzy thinking, headaches, low energy, fatigue and many more low grade but uncomfortable signs of poor health.

I do not believe in crazy diets, water  fasting, purges, enemas, or other “heroic” efforts. An effective detoxification process can be simple, inexpensive, easy to accomplish and leave you feeling fresh, renewed and in many cases with less weight! The focus is on fresh, whole foods, clean water, daily smoothies and supplements to improve liver detoxification.

I will be offering an all-inclusive program for one week in January – The tentative dates are January 10-17, 2015. One week is enough time to begin the detoxification process in the liver, but not so much time as to interrupt our busy lives. This program will be a group event, with individual introductory sessions to troubleshoot potential obstacles during the detoxification process.  This program will consist of:

  • A 30 minute detox interview and consultation to assess your personal needs. (The interview can be bypassed for Dr. Wright’s current patients.)
  • A 60 minute group meeting to introduce the program, review the basics of detoxification, and get you ready to start!
  • One week of detoxification with daily email support and a Facebook group for recipe sharing, troubleshooting and cheerleading.
  • A 30 minute group program review at the end to assess the effects, with suggestions on supplements and lifestyle options to maintain the beneficial effects of the detox.

Some people may choose to repeat the detox cycle for 1-3 more weeks in order to really delve into metabolic restoration; however this is an independent option.

Call Age Management Center today at 207-774-1356 IMG_1420or email Dr. Wright at thewrightnd@gmail.com and find out how our New Years Metabolic Detox program can help improve focus, increase energy, decrease allergies and enhance metabolic balance.

Cost: $250 inclusive, prepaid new patients or those needing individualized 30 minute support session.

Cost breakdown: 30 minute consultation: $75, Core Restore Detox Kit $100, 60 minute initial group consultation $50, 30 minute review session $25. Administration, daily emails during the detox program, Facebook group monitoring and detox troubleshooting included.

Current patient & friend/family rate: $175. (Does not include the 30 minute individual consultation.)

Some patients may choose additional Integrative Medicine consultations for more personalized care; individuals who choose to become patients of Dr. Wright’s during or after the program will have $75 taken off her initial consultation fee.

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Vanquishing Fat Improves Weight Loss

12428062215_8a3fa42d45_zI dreampt I was lying on a comfortable table in a private office, with a machine sending warm Infra-Red rays into my abdomen, melting away my belly fat. I was dozing, and imagining the fat cells bursting and my body’s lymphatic system scooping them up and leaving me with a trimmer waistline as I  thought about my life for 45 minutes…. Oh Wait! That wasn’t a Dream! That is the Vanquish machine!

It must be the 21st century because medicine has finally found a way to literally melt off fat in targeted areas like the belly, hips and thighs. This revolutionary selective radiofrequency technology is non-invasive, safe and effective. Heat penetrates deeply into the body targeting adipose tissue (fat cells) while protecting other neighboring organs and skin layers with cooling air flow.

The Vanquish experience is relaxing, pain free and requires no medication or recovery time. It requires lying still for about 45 minutes. Best results are obtained when repeated twice per week for at least 3 weeks (six sessions). Clinical results are visible within 3-4 weeks after your last session – do not expect immediate results! Physiologically, your fat cells are melted and slowly die, spilling their contents into local tissue to be cleaned up by the lymphatic, immune and circulatory systems. This process takes a few weeks, which is why results are not immediate.

A little science on fat cell physiology. It is now recognized that a fat cell is not just a glob of fat. Adipose tissue is a metabolically active, highly functioning part of the endocrine (hormone) system.

When your energy in (food & alcohol) is greater than your energy out (activity, intellectual work and exercise) insulin directs the body to store fat. The capacity to store fat is seemingly endless,  as individual cells can grow quite large while chemically signalling neighboring undifferentiated cells to turn into new fat cells. Energy deficit (energy out greater than energy in) stimulates the adipose tissue to release free fatty acids and become smaller fat cells, or the cells can die through apoptosis.

Centrally located adipose tissue is used as a storage area for many fat soluble hormones and chemicals like estrogen, pesticides and THC. When fat cells spill their contents, these are also spilled. Adipose tissue also independently synthesizes chemicals like adipsin that activate the inflammatory cascade. (This is why heavier people can have more inflammatory disorders than thin people.) As the Vanquish machine melts away the fat cells, stimulating apoptosis (cell death) your body will have to clean up these excess chemicals and inflammatory mediators as well as the free fatty acids released. Fortunately, a healthy body is designed to effectively remove cellular debris like this through the lymphatic and circulatory systems.

Drinking extra water is essential during this process. We also recommend using herbal teas like the Traditional Medicinal Daily Detox Tea, nettle tea and organic green tea for free radical/antioxidant protection. Taking a good quality multivitamin provides minerals and B vitamins to support liver detoxification while daily exercise will also stimulate fat burning metabolism and support free fat elimination. Nutritionally, a meal plan focused on weight reduction principles will enhance the slimming effects of Vanquish. I suggest small amounts of whole fiber rich grains a few times a week, daily leafy greens and raw vegetables, low sugar fruits like apples and blueberries, lowered carbohydrate intake, no processed foods, and grass-fed meats, vegetarian proteins and fish.

Some individuals with compromised health or congested lympathic or liver systems may benefit from additional Integrative Medicine alongside Vanquish treatment plans to optimize results. Integrative Medicine combines the best of botanical medicine, clinical nutrition and evidence-based nutraceuticals with modern diagnostic, laboratory and pharmaceutical expertise. This style of medicine is patient-centered; no two patients will get exactly the same protocol with our highly individualized care. Targeted therapies could include reducing systemic inflammation, improving detoxification pathways, clearing lymphatic channels, or tailoring nutrition to promote fat elimination.

Dr. Wright will be offered a group metabolic detoxification program at Cosmetic Enhancement Center in January 2015 and again in March 2015. This 7 day detoxification program is the perfect complement to a Vanquish Fat treatment plan. Ask Dr. Wright or Dr. Atkins for more information about the Vanquish Fat treatment plan, Integrative Medicine, or our upcoming Metabolic Detoxification program.

References:

Integrative physiology of human adipose tissue. K N Frayn, F Karpe, B A Fielding I A Macdonald and S W CoppackInternational Journal of Obesity (2003) 27, 875–888.

Adipsin and an endogenous pathway of complement from adipose cells. Choy LN1, Rosen BS, Spiegelman BM.J Biol Chem. 1992 Jun 25;267(18):12736-41. http://www.jbc.org/content/267/18/12736.long  Accessed 24/10/2014

Adipose cell apoptosis: death in the energy depot. A Sorisky,  R Magun and AM Gagnon. Department of Medicine and Biochemistry, Microbiology and International Journal of Obesity (2000) 24, Suppl 4, S3±S7 http://www.nature.com/ijo/journal/v24/n4s/pdf/0801491a.pdf  Accessed 10/22/2014

 

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