Gluten Free Living

How to Eat Gluten Free

 Gluten Free is the new Vegetarian – almost every grocery store now has gluten free breads and products in their freezer sections, and crackers and baking mixes in the  aisles. Websites abound on not only celiac disease resources (a disease caused by severe gluten allergy) but on gluten free recipes, resources, and restaurants in almost any geographical area.

So, what is all the hype? Why go gluten free, and why are so many people changing their diets? The bottom line is that gluten sensitivity begins with the immune system of the digestive tract becoming hypersensitive to gluten proteins. The body creates antibodies to the sequence of amino acids, which enter the bloodstream and travel throughout the body. Whenever these antibodies see that same sequence (which is repeated as a small part of many tissues of the body exposed to blood i.e. thyroid, joints, brain, lungs, skin) they attack that tissue as if it was gluten. This creates “auto” or “self” antibodies, which are then produced in greater and greater numbers and cause disease.

Therefore, gluten has been linked to autoimmune diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimotos thyroid disease and multiple sclerosis. These are end stage conditions that develop years after smaller warning signals such as headaches, digestive disturbance, asthma, allergies, psoriasis, alopecia, insomnia and various “undiagnosible” ailments. Sometimes eliminating the offending foods or doing testing to assess your body’s immune response is the only way to assess if food is an underlying factor in your ill health.

Gluten is a protein that is found in the following Grains:

  • Wheat
  • Rye
  • Barley
  • Kamut
  • Spelt
  • Oats is technically gluten free but very often contaminated in manufacturing.

Therefore, people with a gluten sensitivity or allergy cannot eat any of these grains, or products that contain them such as soy sauce, gravy, doritos or other gluten based products. Oats are technically not a gluten containing grain, but should be avoided unless it states “gluten free” on the package.

Non Gluten Grains which can be eaten by people with gluten allergies include:

  • amaranth: highly nutritious, tiny seeds available whole or as a
  • rice: including brown and white rice, Arborio, basmati and rice flour
  • corn: including cornmeal, cornstarch and corn flour
  • millet: small seeds, eaten whole or combined with other gluten-free flours
  • quinoa: small seeds that can be eaten whole, as a hot cereal or ground into flour
  • buckwheat: used whole, cracked or ground into flour
  • oats: gluten free oats and oat bran
  • tapioca: made from cassava root, often combine with gluten-free flours
  • teff: very small black grain, contains symbiotic yeast
  • arrowroot: a starch used as a thickener, superior to cornstarch, blends well with gluten-free flours

Potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, and other starchy vegetables can also generally be enjoyed by those who are gluten free.

For the most thorough information on gluten allergy, see http://www.thedr.com./store.html and order Unlocking The Mysteries of Wheat and Gluten Intolerance for yourself. Dr. Tom DC offers eloquent and thorough evidence based information on why it is worth at least trying gluten free living for one month and then reassess.

Many people have a wheat sensitivity or allergy, but can tolerate other gluten grains like spelt and kamut. Some people with a wheat, but not gluten sensitivity will later develop a gluten sensitivity. Corn, potato, dairy and/or soy sensitivities are also common in addition to gluten. For this reason, it is best to start your food eliminations by eliminating all of the above products, and slowly reintroducing each gluten grain as well as corn, potatoes, and soy separately to judge your individual reactions.

AVOID FOR GLUTEN -FREE SHOPPING:

  • look for labels that say – wheat (or whole wheat) flour, wheat germ, bran, farina, graham flour, semolina, gluten, modified food starch, wheat starch, vegetable starch, vegetable gum
  • Pastas – spaghetti, vermicelli, macaroni…..
  • Soups – commercially canned
  • Desserts – most contain wheat – so read carefully
  • Cereals and breads – as with desserts – read labels carefully
  • It’s probably best to go to health food store in order to find alternatives. Most breads, bagels, wraps, pizza doughs, etc are kept in the freezer sections
  • For persons allergic to wheat, but not to gluten, you can use flour substitutes such as spelt or kamut (these are the most similar to wheat); rye, oats and barley can also be eaten.

TIPS FOR A GLUTEN-FREE DIET:

  • focus on protein, vegetables, fruits, and healthy fats like avocado 
  • Lots of delicious gluten free options abound: Tray various  pasta, breads, crackers, etc until you find what your taste buds prefer.
  • Avoid any food that contains wheat, barley, rye, oats – as well as spelt and kamut. Also, remember that gluten can be found in most processed foods, including soups, sauces, gravies, and of course in breads, cereals, and desserts.
  • 40% of people allergic to gluten are also allergic to soy and/or corn – which are often found in “gluten-free” breads, etc.
  • READ LABELS on everything the first few months to find hidden sources of gluten.

Eating Out and Travelling:

Most cream based soups and chowders are made with a gluten base. Boone’s in Portland has a gluten free chowder, bisque, crab cakes etc if you are craving those.

It is pretty easy being gluten free in restaurants once you get the hang of it. Focus on protein and vegetables, fancy salads and avoid gravies, pasta, gnocchi and sandwiches. If you are craving a burger, ordering it without the bun is pretty standard in today’s low carb world. Steak and arugula salad is always a good choice.

Sadly, fried treats are out the window like calamari, fried clams, fish and chips… once it gets battered it is almost always a wheat base. French fries are also often battered. Best to ask ahead of time instead of getting a delicious plate of inedible fries. Frontier restaurant in Brunswick has delicious GF fish and chips, and rice flour calamari.  Not cheap but delicious!

Fish options and mussels or raw oysters rarely have gluten unless they are fried or pan fried. Eating fish at home with rice and salad is a great nutritious option too.

Some places have gluten free sandwich bread but most places don’t. In a pinch on the road, subway will make a “chopped salad” which is basically a sub in lettuce/salad. Planning your food and having fruit, yogurts, nuts & seeds or trail mix, protein bars, and even leftovers or sandwiches on GF bread you make yourself before you leave become important while travelling.

What else? Gluten free breads and crackers abound.  I personally like Millet breads the best – available in Whole Foods GF freezer section. Rice breads tend to be very dense and gummy, but are the most common across the board. Mary’s Gone Crackers are the best GF crackers, followed by Nut Thins and Glutino brand. Glutino also makes a great pretzel. Rice cakes can have a bad reputation but are a quick tasty snack and great vehicle for dips, cheese, avocado and almond butter.

Sweets: Lots of gluten free cookies and treats are available! Any ice cream or candy without “cookie dough” or brownies or cones is usually GF. Many coffee places have at least one GF option. Flourless chocolate torte, chocolate mousse, crème brule or pannacotta are restaurant dessert options that are usually safe.

 

Tips for Gluten-Free Baking

FLOUR

GOOD TO KNOW

Equivalent to 1 Cup of Wheat Flour
 

Amaranth Flour

 

-best combined with other flours that  have more cohesion (arrowroot, tapioca, bean)

-add to baked goods, pancakes/waffle recipes

 

1 cup

 

Arrowroot Starch

 

-add 1tbsp to an equal parts of cold water before adding to dishes as a thickener

-combines well with gluten-free flours to give them cohesion

 

1/2 cup

 

Bean Flour

 can be gassy. Often used in Paleo cooking.  

3/4 cup

 

Buckwheat Flour

 

-makes a dark, heavy bread

-use with rice flour

 

7/8 cup (1 cup minus 2 tbsp)

 

Chestnut Flour

 

-used to sweeten baked goods

-adds lightness and creaminess

-use alone or mix w/ other flours

 

Chickpea Flour

 

-too dense and rich to use on its own

 

7/8 cup (1 cup minus 2 tbsp)

 

Cornmeal

 

-makes a light bread

-mix with equal parts of cold water before adding as a thickener

-best combined with small amounts of other flours

-stone ground is more nutritious

 

1 cup

 

Cornstarch

 

thickener

 

3/4 cup

1 cup corn flour

 

Millet Flour

 

-always combine with other flours

 

1 cup

 

     Potato Flour/Starch

 

-best combined with other flours

thickener

 

5/8 cup flour

3/4 cup starch

 

Quinoa Flour

 

-best combined w/ other flours. May have a beany taste.

 

Rice Flour

 can be grainy, does not rise.  

7/8 cup

(1 cup minus 2 tbsp)

 

Soy Flour

    -makes bread or baked goods more moist and smooth

-best if add small amounts to other flours

-u       -use only 20% soy flour in recipe, decrease temperature by 25 degrees

 

 

3/4 cup

 

Tapioca Starch

 

-thins if reheated

-combines well with gluten flours to give them cohesion, thickener

 

1 cup

 

Teff Flour

 

-do not add to yeast breads because it has its own symbiotic yeast

 

Flour Combinations: equivalent to 1 cup of white or whole wheat flour

1 cup soy flour + 1/4 cup potato starch

1/2 cup soy flour + 1/2 cup potato starch

5/8 cup rice flour + 1/3 cup potato flour

1/2 cup corn starch + 1/2 cup rice/potato flour

1/2 cup arrowroot + 1/2 cup potato flour

For 2 cups of flour good for baking cookies:

1 cup of brown rice flour + ½ cup of tapioca rice flour + ½ cup white rice flour + 1 tsp of xanthan gum.

Namaste company also makes a “Perfect Flour” gluten free mix of flours that you can buy and use with any recipe. Makes cookies really easy!! They also have a great pancake mix if you love pancakes.

Tips for substituting wheat flour:

  • do not be concerned if batter appear thinner than wheat batters, this is common
  • add 1/2 tsp baking powder per cup of substitute flour; add just before cooking because it loses its potency when mixed with liquid and allowed to sit
  • refrigerating dough 1/2 hour helps improve texture
  • do not bake anything thicker than 4 inches
  • when baking, lower the temperature a little
  • baking time is usually longer, especially if egg or milk is eliminated from the recipe
  • experiment with your options – buy small quantities from a bulk food store and make half recipes first

For thickening, the following quantities equal 1tbsp of wheat flour:

*Arrowroot 1 tbsp = 2 tbsp wheat flour

*Corn starch 1 tbsp

*Potato flour/starch 1/2 tbsp

*Rice flour 1/2 tbsp

*Tapioca flour 1/2 tbsp – my favorite

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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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5 Steps for Fertility Preservation Over 35

1Rope_Cross. CoQ10 preserves the quality of the eggs mitochondria  – essential for replication and good “egg energy” aka ATP for cell division. 100-400 mg daily prevention, 400 mg twice daily during a stimulation cycle.  ( The use of mitochondrial nutrients to improve the outcome of infertility treatment in older patients. Fertility and Sterility 2010; 93:272-5. )

2. DHEA is a lipid antioxidant and youth-reviving hormone precursor. I suggest 10 mg daily for prevention,  25 mg daily 6 weeks before stimulation cycle. Up to 75mg daily is evidenced to improve egg and embryo quality and enhance spontaneous conception. (Addition of Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) for poor-responder patients before and during IVF treatment improves the pregnancy rate: a randomized prospective study. Hum Reprod.  2010; 25(10): 2496-500 Accessed September 13 2013)

3. This is your individualized medicine step – what do you need to tonify your specific reproductive patterns and enhance the chances of conception?

4. Fertility Massage is key for addressing muscular and ligament stress lodged deep in the pelvis that could mechanically impair the ability to maintain pregnancy. Concomitant castor oil packs clear debris from the ovaries and fallopian tubes, flushing lymphatic channels for a more balanced local immune response. The self massage/ hands on aspect maintains a connection between the cerebral, medicalized experience of ART and the physical sensations of the lower belly while reducing emotional stress. http://natural-fertility-info.com/fertility-massage.

5. Optimize your nutritional status with: extra leafy greens on a regular basis; superfoods especially in smoothies;daily  fresh vegetables; and choosing clean meat and dairy whenever possible. Reduce or eliminate sugar during high intensity hormone treatments including birth control pills.

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Advanced Maternal Age

IMG_0560I did not think I would be single and 41. I was pretty sure at 25, 27, 33, even 35 that kids were unconditionally on the horizon. I was not concerned that I would have kids later – after all I didn’t even graduate from medical school until I was 27. Then, I broke up with my long term love at 35. A quick trip to the fertility clinic at that time told me I was still good to go, and gave me info on my options.

I have been a lesbian for most of my adult life,  so assisted reproduction was  a necessary part of the planning. I  had considerable time to collect information on the legalities of sperm donors vs sperm bank options, and to become familiar with the insemination options that both gay and straight couples use in the quest for pregnancy. As a fertility specialist, I have supported many people through natural conception, IUI, and IVF. Now, well, lets say it could happen accidentally as I have switched teams. But, at my “advanced maternal age” natural conception is quite unlikely. So, after a second trip to the fertility clinic to confirm my continued fertile-ability, I am 3 days away from cryopreserving my eggs.

What this means, is I am doing the first half of an IVF cycle, and then instead of fertilizing  and transferring them, the eggs are put on ice for a later date. I am choosing to suspend the eggs instead of pre-made embryos, because  as referenced above, I am not in a relationship ready for babies. Its a logical choice for a single woman who is reaching the end of the #fertile years. It is also exciting to foil time, and have the possibility of a young family in the next few years. The miracles of modern medicine :)

Fortunately,  I decided around 33 to become an expert in #enhancingfertility and Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) as an Integrative Medicine doctor. I studied  TCM/ acupuncture and fertility support from 2005-2011, and switched my focus to botanicals, endocrine function and anti-aging medicines in 2012. Read my published article about Integrative Medical support for the follicular phase of #IVF here.

I have quietly been preparing for this date in case I did not end up with a kid on my hip during my rather tumultuous 30’s. I will gracefully accept a child-free lifestyle if that is what is meant to be, as it has a freedom I value and I have wonderful children in my life. I may also choose to foster and adopt locally in Maine. The point of this cryopreservation is not only to end up with a child,  it is to preserve my choice to work towards conceiving within the next few years.

IMG_0672For those in the know, I am on day 8 of a stimulation cycle. I took 450 IU of Gonal-F for the first 6 days, and have ramped down to 300 for the next 2 days. I started 0.25 mg Cetrotide yesterday and will be continuing that for the next few days. Then, the trigger shot and retrieval Tues or Wed. My response is good and side effects minimal, which I am very grateful for. It really does pay to prepare for an event like this even years ahead. (PS. I had 21 eggs collected! 12 mature and 8 immature)

Here are my Top 5 steps for Fertility Preservation in Women over 35

1. CoQ10 preserves the quality of the eggs mitochondria  – essential for replication and good “egg energy” aka ATP for cell division. 100-400 mg daily prevention, 400 mg twice daily during a stimulation cycle.  ( The use of mitochondrial nutrients to improve the outcome of infertility treatment in older patients. Fertility and Sterility 2010; 93:272-5. )

2. DHEA is a lipid antioxidant and youth-reviving hormone precursor. I suggest 10 mg daily for prevention,  25 mg daily 6 weeks before stimulation cycle. Up to 75mg daily is evidenced to improve egg and embryo quality and enhance spontaneous conception. (Addition of Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) for poor-responder patients before and during IVF treatment improves the pregnancy rate: a randomized prospective study. Hum Reprod.  2010; 25(10): 2496-500 Accessed September 13 2013)

3. This is your individualized medicine step – what do you need to tonify your specific reproductive patterns and enhance the chances of conception?

4. Fertility Massage is key for addressing muscular and ligament stress lodged deep in the pelvis that could mechanically impair the ability to maintain pregnancy. Concomitant castor oil packs clear debris from the ovaries and fallopian tubes, flushing lymphatic channels for a more balanced local immune response. The self massage/ hands on aspect maintains a connection between the cerebral, medicalized experience of ART and the physical sensations of the lower belly while reducing emotional stress. http://natural-fertility-info.com/fertility-massage.

5. Optimize your nutritional status with: extra leafy greens on a regular basis; superfoods especially in smoothies;daily  fresh vegetables; and choosing clean meat and dairy whenever possible. Reduce or eliminate sugar during high intensity hormone treatments including birth control pills.

It is the grit of everyday living that builds the pearl of one’s career. In the process of enhancing my own fertility, I have learned as much from the patients I have treated and supported as they learned from me. This primal biological drive has helped me to become a much better doctor in this field as I experience the nuances of treatment myself. I look forward to continuing to support all patients seeking conception, especially those of us above 35 that have lived full complicated lives and have had to balance the biological desire to have children with the real-life tensions of sex, gender, career, finance, and relationship.

 

 

 

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Women need Testosterone

When I say Testosterone, what do you think?

Most people think: men, male. Some people think trans,*  transgender, or FTM. Very few people will think “the most abundant sex hormone across a women’s lifespan and an important sex hormone for all genders.”

All of the above is the correct answer.

Estrogen and Testosterone have been sequestered into gendered boxes, but both are equally important sex hormones for human health. Functional and biologically active androgenic receptors are located throughout the body in both sexes. Testosterone receptors are found in the breasts, heart, blood vessels, digestive tract, lung, brain, spinal cord, nerves, bladder, uterus, ovaries, skin, bone, bone marrow, muscles and fat cells of all women. This wide diversity of receptor locations illustrates the panorama of body systems that rely on adequate levels of testosterone for optimal female  function.

And yet, this important hormone is routinely ignored in women of all ages and especially those in their 30’s and 40’s who are exhibiting signs of testosterone deficiency including: dysphoric mood, muscle loss, cognitive decline, insomnia, breast pain, rheumatic and other pain, incontinence and sexual dysfunction.

Think you might be T deficient? Take our Eve test now! http://www.agemanagementcenter.com/eve-scale/

Around menopause, testosterone and other pro-androgens like DHEA, DHEA-S, and androstenedione become the primary hormones available as estrogen and progesterone levels decline. The ovaries stop becoming the major source of hormonal production, and the adrenal glands take over. As early as 1937, testosterone was used as a successful and important bioidentical hormone replacement option for menopausal women.  Seventy-seven years later, doctors still do not routinely address testosterone deficiency in this population, nor do they even test for it!

Symptoms are not enough to assess hormonal balance. Accurate bloodwork including Total Testosterone, Free Testosterone, Sex Hormone Binding Globulin, Estradiol, Total Estrogen, Progesterone and DHEA-S must be assessed to have a clear picture of hormone health for all genders.

Many endogenous hormones can be converted into other hormones, like Testosterone being aromatized to Estradiol and DHEA-S into Testosterone or Estrogen. Understanding these pathways and monitoring the blood levels over time is the best way to achieve optimized hormone status. No hormone should be ignored based on presenting gender or sex, as it is the delicate interplay of hormones that creates vibrant wellness.

For more information on women and testosterone make an appointment to consult with Dr. Wright now. To schedule bloodwork to assess your testosterone and other hormone levels, call Kristen at 207 774-1356. Free initial consults are available.  www.agemanagementcenter.com

References:

Transdermal testosterone therapy improves wellbeing, mood, and sexual function in premenopausal women. Goldstat, Rebecca MPH1; Briganti, Esther MD2; Tran, Jane MD1;
Wolfe, Rory PhD2; Davis, Susan R. MD, PhD1 Menopause. September 2003 – Volume 10 – Issue 5 – pp 390-398

Testosterone therapy in women: Myths and misconceptions Rebecca Glasera,b,∗, Constantine Dimitrakakisc, Maturitas 74 (2013) 230– 234

Current perspectives on testosterone therapy for women. Susan Davis MB, Bs, FRAC-P, PhD., Sonia Davidson MB, Bs, FRAC-P, PhD.  Menopausal Medicine. Volume 2 0 , No. 2 — Ma y 2 0 1 2

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The Longest Night of the Year

December is not always mistletoe and gingerbread. It can be one of the hardest times of the year for many people. People aren’t supposed to die on Christmas and relationships aren’t supposed to end around the holidays…. but they do. The myth of the happy family is only a reality for a portion of the population; and even those who do celebrate Christmas with family can have significant stress and sorrow around money, relationships, and more.

So, for those who are alone this month, or in the midst of tragedy or change or trauma, I wanted to offer some self-care advice. From a metaphysical perspective, no matter what your religion is, this time of year IS about the miracle of returning light. The first few weeks of the month bring ever increasing darkness. Light some lights in your own home, whether they are candles or Christmas lights, reflecting your own inner flame. No matter how dark the world appears, each of us has the light of our soul to guide us. Connect with yours.

broken_heart_remedy_compoundFor those with heartache, there are many botanicals that offer gentle physical and emotional support. Avena botanicals makes a Broken Heart herbal tincture and a lovely sweet Rose Petal Elixir. The elixir is in a glycerin base and is used to gently lift the spirits and open the heart. It tastes like a rose smells on a hot summer day! Many herbalists make their own rose petal elixirs at the summer solstice, in preparation for this dark time of year. Herbal medicines like these affect our body, mind and spirit. By using self-care medicines we are making a commitment to our Self to move through this time of change with as much gentle strength and internal fortitude as possible. http://www.avenabotanicals.com/rose-petal-elixir.html 

Many people have seasonal affective disorder (SAD) or just simply hate the cold. We have had a particularly cold pre-winter here in Maine, which makes getting out to enjoy our gorgeous local landscape more difficult. Prevention is key for SAD – once it takes hold it is harder to manage. Adequate levels of Vitamin D3 are especially important. I generally recommend 2,000-5,000 IU daily depending on your body weight and Vitamin D reserves. Have you had your blood levels of Vitamin D checked yet this fall? High quality fish oil is a good adjunct to Vitamin D, enhances its absorption and can help with mental health. Fish oil contains two chemical constituents – EPA and DHA. The EPA is the part that helps with depression. Aim for a minimum of 650 mg of EPA daily, taken with your D3.

Saint Johnswort is another classic treatment for SAD. This herb affects the metabolism of many medications. Therefore, I only suggest using St Johnswort if you are not on any other meds. Dosage must be 900 mg per day, taken *every day.* This herb acts like SSRI antidepressants in that it takes about 4 weeks to get the full effect, and it needs to be taken daily for best results. This herb has evidence of use back to 400AD by Hippocrates. It is an ancient and magical herb with an association to light. It is no mistake that it is useful for SAD! If you do take medications like birth control, daily pain medication or blood pressure medication but would like some mood support you can consider 5-HTP. This is a serotonin precursor that is naturally produced in the body, and is available in supplement form. It can be helpful for anxiety, depression, insomnia and “the blues.” It is quite safe in general, although it should not be taken along with antidepressant medications unless specifically advised by an Integrative Medicine Dr. Typical dosage for 5-HTP is to start with 50 mg twice a day, and increase to up 150 mg twice a day as needed.

Exercise and meditation are two other valuable tools for getting through hard times. Exercise releases endorphins which simply make us feel good! It can be a walk around the block or a cross-fit class or hot yoga. The type of exercise does not matter as much as the act of getting into your body and out of your head. Meditation offers ways to step outside the constant chatter of our ego. I recommend a guided meditation for beginners. I use this Buddhist body-focused beginner set by Reginald Ray, but there are many more available! http://www.soundstrue.com/shop/promotion/1047.pd

At the end of the day, we each need to get through our darkest times in the ways we know how. Alcohol, television and drugs are all effective in their own way, but they also exacerbate the feelings of isolation and despair. Connecting to your inner light source and fanning your fires of spirit and confidence and strength will help grant you the courage to move through these difficult times. Some of us need more help than others to connect to our strengths, and supplements like herbal remedies, vitamin D, fish oil, St Johnswort and 5HTp can be great support systems. I love the rose petal elixir for its sweet uplifting taste of summer in these harsh cold days of winter.

For personal support on transforming your own journey or connecting to your inner strengths, book an appointment with Dr. Wright. She is available for consults during the month of December including December 27, 2013.

Call 207-774-1356 now.

References:

The ABC Clinical Guide to Herbs. American Botanical Council, Thieme Publishing 2003. Currently out of print.

Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine. Michael Murray ND and Joseph Pizzorno ND. Prima Publishing, Rocklin, CA 1998

www.avenabotanicals.com

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Nutrition, Herbal Medicine, Homeopathy

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

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

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

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

Patients weight in lb divided by 150 = percent of dose

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

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

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

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

 

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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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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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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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