How Can I Protect My Gut?

When you have a digestive illness, it essentially means that your delicate intestinal lining (the mucosa) is damaged, making it impossible to extract nutrients and other substances crucial for your body’s biological processes. Patients often ask ‘how can I protect my gut while taking antibiotics’?  Antibiotics or any chronic digestive complaint are other ways the gut lining can get damaged.  It is important to have an adequate microbiome set up and the healthy lining to hold onto the good bacteria while going through antibiotics, stress or a digestive illness.  There are many nutrients that can help.

The amino acid L-Glutamine is one of these substances. A protein building block, L-Glutamine is stored in muscle where it’s vital to tissue growth and repair. It’s involved in the formation of other amino acids and glucose (sugar), as well as the body’s adaptive response to stress and the optimal functioning of the immune and digestive systems.  It also plays a role in helping irritable bowel syndrome or IBS.  Probiotics and avoiding food sensitivities can also help.

The mucosa requires maintenance to protect and repair itself from the effects of stress, toxins, and a poor diet. When the mucosa breaks down, inflammation results and this is associated with a variety of chronic health conditions. Further, when illness, chronic or severe stress, inflammation, or food sensitivity/allergies cause the gut to fail at effectively breaking down food to acquire nutrients, deficiency results. A lack of sufficient glutamine in the gut creates a cycle of wear and tear on the mucosa.

Clinical research shows that L-Glutamine supplements can break that cycle by helping repair damage and potentially help the lining regrow. This connection between glutamine and intestinal maintenance has led researchers to examine its role in Celiac Disease and gluten sensitivity.

L-Glutamine supplements are available in both pill and powder form. Proper dose is crucial to its effectiveness. It’s not recommended for children under age 10 or for people with certain health conditions, including kidney or liver disease. Consult with your La Mesa naturopathic doctor to find out if L-Glutamine is right for you.  Come learn how to heal your gut!

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Journey of Health Medical Clinic

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Naturopathic Solutions for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), one of the most common endocrine (hormone) disorders, affects approximately 10 million women of all races and ethnic groups worldwide. It’s the leading cause of infertility in women and can present at any life stage – from puberty through post-menopause. Most women with PCOS will have cysts on the ovaries, but as many as 30% of women will not have cysts. Women with PCOS experience an array of symptoms, including:

  • irregular menstrual cycles
  • obesity
  • infertility
  • pelvic pain with or without periods
  • mood swings, depression or anxiety
  • thinning hair on the head
  • excessive body hair (hirsutism)
  • fatigue and sleep problems

Because of the wide range of PCOS symptoms, fewer than 50% of women are properly diagnosed. Too often women simply accept the discomfort and don’t inform their doctors until symptoms are at their worst. Even then, they are often misdiagnosed because so many of the symptoms can be attributed to other causes. Another reason for missed diagnosis is that PCOS has long been believed to be present only in obese women; we now know that it can affect women of any body weight including those who are normal or even underweight. Additionally, PCOS can present differently based on life stage, genetics, ethnicity, age and environmental and lifestyle factors such as self-care, exercise, and eating habits.

Causes of PCOS

Obesity and insulin resistance are health issues that are linked to PCOS and both affect hormonal function in the body. Insulin resistance relates to problems with regulating insulin, a hormone that allows the body to properly use glucose (blood sugar) for energy. When the body isn’t as responsive to insulin as it needs to be, too much of it circulates in the blood and can cause a hormone imbalance.

Natural Solutions

Dr. Samuel Thatcher, an early pioneer in PCOS research and treatment, was among the first clinicians to advocate for a holistic approach to PCOS treatment. With the goal of enhancing a woman’s quality of life, holistic health practitioners perform a thorough lifestyle assessment, blood tests, and dietary analysis. They then educate and guide women in using natural approaches to manage and heal from PCOS, such as:

  • Lifestyle Improvements. A whole foods diet, exercise, stress management, and proper rest are essential to PCOS treatment. These approaches can create a positive shift in blood sugar level, mood, and body weight. Approaches will differ based on a woman’s stage of life and complexity of symptoms.
  • Supplement Support. Some of the herbs and nutrition supplements that may be used for PCOS aim to balance blood sugar level as well as hormones. These can include Nettle Root, Green Tea, Flax Seeds, Saw Palmetto, Licorice Root, Chaste Tree Extract, Trace Minerals, Vitamin D3, and Chromium.

If you think you have PCOS, speak with your La Mesa naturopathic doctor about the approaches best suited to your symptoms and needs.

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Support for Menstrual Difficulties with Chaste Tree Extract

Back in the Middle Ages, Chaste Tree Extract (Vitex agnus castus, aka Vitex or Chasteberry) was used by monks to decrease sexual desire (hence its name!). Today we know that this powerful herb – a medicinally potent brown berry about the size of a peppercorn – doesn’t impact sexual desire. But it does help manage reproductive disorders. Vitex is used for menstrual difficulties including PMS and PCOS, breast pain management, and infertility. It may also benefit women going through menopause.

Vitex does not supply hormones to the body; rather, it acts on the glands that control hormone production, namely the pituitary and hypothalamus. Ultimately, it helps balance the ratio of progesterone to estrogen, while slightly elevating progesterone level.

Chaste Tree is available as a liquid extract, in capsule and tablet form, and as an essential oil. It is considered safe for most people. However, women on birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy, or who have a hormone-sensitive condition (such as breast cancer) should seek medical consultation before taking this herb. Also, it should not be used by persons taking antipsychotic drugs or medications for Parkinson’s disease. Contact your La Mesa naturopathic doctor for information and to assess the appropriate use for your health concerns.

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The Antioxidant Power of Green Tea (Camellia sinensis)

The wonderful thing about Green Tea is how the leaves retain their biologically active nutrients from the time of harvesting to the moment you brew and then sip this liquid elixir. Green Tea contains plant nutrients (polyphenols), such as catechins and flavonoids, which function as antioxidants, helping the body to clear out free radicals, molecules that cause oxidative damage to cells. This damage creates inflammation and can lead to disease.

One of the potent compounds in Green Tea is the antioxidant Epigallocatechin Gallate (EGCG). Studies conducted on the health-protective benefits of EGCG show that people who frequently drink Green Tea have lower rates of illness, including many types of cancer. While additional research is needed to understand the mechanisms that contribute to the medicinal properties of Green Tea, EGCG supplements have been used in clinical trials to help treat certain cancers, inflammatory diseases, and diabetes.

There are many ways to enjoy Green Tea. The best varieties of tea will be loose leaf, organically harvested from GMO-free crops. To maintain the potency of the antioxidants in your tea, do not add milk, which alters the tea’s health-boosting properties. Be sure to follow the steeping directions. Steeping longer than directed can make the tea bitter. As a general rule, if you prefer a stronger tea, add more tea for the same steeping time. To sweeten, add locally sourced honey or a splash of fresh squeezed lemon, orange, or even watermelon juice. Contact your La Mesa naturopathic doctor for more information about the benefits of green tea.

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Restoring Rhythm with Panax Ginseng

Ginseng is a herbal medicine used widely throughout the world to moderate the effects of stress and support or enhance circulation, immunity, cognitive performance, and antioxidant activity. In fact, Ginseng is traditionally used in Asian countries to maintain homeostasis of the body and to enhance vital energy, or Chi. The herb has received significant research attention in Europe and the U.S, where the effects of stress play a role in quality of life and in many chronic diseases.

Recent research shows that Ginseng has anti-fatigue properties that support the health of cells by reducing oxidative stress (antioxidant activity) and help strengthen the immune system. Taken together, these properties can explain Ginseng’s use as remedy to help with recovery from fatigue and physical and mental stress.

There are several varieties of Ginseng but it is Panax Ginseng (Asian) and Panax quinquefolius (American variety) that has received the most attention. Panax is a Greek term meaning “all heal.” Another related root is Siberian Ginseng, which has different effects and benefits for the body. It’s always best to obtain a Ginseng supplement from your naturopathic doctor.  This will ensure that you are using the proper variety and dose for your particular health concerns.

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A Naturopathic Approach for Diabetics and Pre-diabetics

If you are on your way to diabetes or already have it, you need options.  It is not necessary to wait and see how treatment goes, watch your strength diminish, risk losing fingers, a foot or blindness due to high sugar levels.  It is often possible to keep the pancreas working even with Type 1 Diabetes.  It has long been believed that Type 1 diabetics have no insulin secretion from the pancreas but researchers are confirming that with hard work, it can be managed with minimal insulin and at times even reversed. You can heal from diabetes! Diabetes can be fixed!

For individuals who are dedicated to a better quality of life, finding not just your lifestyle options but also seeking out the triggers or start of disease can help empower you to better wellness.  The two most powerful lifestyle tools for diabetics or pre-diabetics is diet and exercise.  Research repeats itself when verifying how beneficial 30 minutes of movement on 5 days out of the week for increasing insulin sensitivity.  Diet is also crucial for managing blood sugar levels and often the most challenging part of a diabetic’s treatment.  High sugar levels in the body can be incredibly damaging for all the parts of your body that have small vessels- eyes, kidneys, fingers and toes and it is not worth the risk!  No sugar is worth the damage.  There are many yummy foods that can be eaten instead.  Proteins and veggies are your new friends, the foods for blood sugar control and the recommended diabetic diet.  Carbohydrates and grains should be limited or eliminated since they turn into sugar in your body.  Allowing fruit can be negotiable depending on the patient’s history.  Another way to deal with blood sugars is to ensure the pancreas and digestive system are working at tip top shape.

At the same time we are addressing your insulin and blood sugar, we need to protect your vessels and organs from damage. We can often do this with herbs. After we have achieved a safe balance of your sugar levels and protecting further damage, we can begin to find the cause behind the diabetes.  Although diet plays a role, many people may eat horrible diets without developing diabetes.

If you or a loved one, are ready to change your risk factors for diabetes or get diabetes under control, you may be a good candidate for our La Mesa Naturopathic Medical Clinic.  Please call our La Mesa Naturopathic Medical Clinic to find out more information about becoming a patient.

Probiotics and Traveling: Naturopathic Recommendations

Patients often ask me about probiotics and many  find great help in the high quality probiotics that we sell in our La Mesa Naturopathic clinic. These good probiotics have to be refrigerated, so how can we keep the good bugs coming when we travel or go on vacation? High quality probiotics can last for 5 days or so out of the refrigerator. I do not advise taking the whole bottle with you during travels but you can take the capsules that you will use. If there is no access to refrigeration away from home, there are two other probiotics that are stable at room temperature and that can help you stay healthy on vacations:

1. Culturelle – This is only one strain and a low dose, but it can work for many patients.

2. HMF Travel – This is a multi-strain option and a high protective dose.

*Both of these recommended products can be found at our clinic.

Wild Oat to the Rescue!

Wild oat (Avena sativa) is far more than a common breakfast cereal or baking staple. Oats are members of special medicinal herb group called nervines. For more than 150 years, traditional medicine practitioners have used nervines, such as Wild Oat, to quell anxiety, reduce stress, support healthy sleep, enhance cognitive function, and settle digestive stress.

As a tonic, Wild Oat extract is considered trophorestorative, meaning it can help return form and function to a particular organ by helping the body “remember” balance and optimal function (e.g., invigorating function when an organ is sluggish or reducing activity when an organ is overworked). Wild Oat is a slow acting remedy that helps calm the nerves, bring relief to emotional instability, and restore a sense of tranquility. It has been a part of holistic treatment for Chronic Fatigue Immune Deficiency Syndrome, PMS, panic and anxiety, hyper-reactivity, and for people who are persistently “on edge.”

Commonly used in tincture form, Wild Oat extract is a safe, gentle way to support nervous system health and restoration without the drowsiness associated with sedatives. It can also be prepared as an herbal infusion for tea. Preparation involves steeping in hot water until beverage has cooled to room temperature before drinking. A Naturopathic doctor can advise you on the specific amount of tincture or infusion that is ideal for your needs. If someone is gluten sensitive or has celiac disease, Wild Oat must be derived from a gluten-free source.

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Reduce Stress with Mindfulness

Can mindfulness really enhance your health and wellbeing?

Nearly 4.3 million U.S. adults think so. That’s how many engage in ‘mindful practices.’

Popular media refers to mindfulness as any generic process of paying attention in life (mindfully doing the laundry.) True mindfulness is more precisely defined as “being fully aware of one’s own mind, body, and surroundings by paying attention on purpose, in the present moment nonjudgmentally and without attachment.”

Mindfulness as a practice to improve health originated with research by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn. He demystified the traditional Buddhist form of meditation and founded the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Program (MBSR) at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in 1979. Today, MBSR is used in hospitals, wellness centers, senior centers, inner city schools, colleges, elite sports programs, and rehabilitation clinics around the world. It’s proven to be beneficial for various health concerns, often as good as, or better than, medication for:

  • lowering blood pressure
  • managing chronic pain and illness
  • enhancing decision-making
  • improving depression and anxiety
  • recovering from surgery, trauma, and injury.

The MBSR Program helps people learn to be non-reactive to stress, pain or other triggers, and to decentralize it from the focus of their lives. This results in a cascade of hormonal effects that take the body out of high-alert mode. When the body and mind are relaxed, immune function is enhanced and healing can take place.

An 8-week MBSR program is led by a certified teacher experienced in related practices, such as mindful eating, breath awareness, gentle movement, and walking. Programs can also be designed for specific concerns such as post-traumatic stress, grief, addiction, cancer or back pain. In addition to a mini-retreat, small, weekly classes meet for 90 minutes. The course is designed to help participants establish an at-home practice that becomes habitual.

While in-person programs are ideal, there also are excellent online programs. Verify that the instructor is certified in MBSR.

To explore other effective ways to manage stress, such as craniosacral therapy, make an appointment to speak with your La Mesa Naturopathic Doctor.

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Respiratory Health and the Power of the Lungs

Breath in. Breath out. We do it automatically, about 22,000 times per day. Until we can’t. For millions of adults and children, taking a deep breath is a struggle; for those who can breathe easily, the power of the breath is often taken for granted. Yet our lungs have a vulnerability not shared by other organs: Along with oxygen, breathing brings in airborne irritants, organisms, and toxins. As these substances increase in the environment, more people are dealing with poor lung and respiratory health.

An unhealthy respiratory system deprives our entire body of oxygen, a nutrient essential to the functioning of all our organs and tissues. A poorly functioning respiratory system compromises the strength of the immune system and puts us at risk for serious illnesses, such as asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, and coronary obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

A Closer Look at the Lungs

The respiratory system includes airways, the lungs and linked blood vessels, and muscles that enable breathing, such as the diaphragm. The lungs sit inside the rib cage and are the central organ in the respiratory system. They are made of spongy, elastic tissue that stretches and constricts as we breathe. The trachea and bronchi bring air into the lungs; they are made of smooth muscle and cartilage, which allows the airways to constrict and expand. The alveoli, tiny sacs deep within the lungs, facilitate the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide from the blood. If not cared for, our lungs are prone to infection and illness.

Protect Your Lungs

Exercise. The better your cardiorespiratory fitness, the easier it is for your lungs to keep your heart and muscles supplied with oxygen. It doesn’t matter if you dance under the moon, swim at sunrise, or walk through the woods…just get moving to a level that increases your breathing and heart rate.

Puff Off. Smoking is one of the most detrimental things you can do to your lungs. There’s no such thing as moderation. Smoking, second-hand smoke in the air, and smoke absorbed by clothes, furniture and car upholstery can damage lung tissue and increase your risk for lung cancer, emphysema, chronic bronchitis and other respiratory illnesses.

Breathe Clean(er). From second-hand smoke to industrial pollution, the levels of toxins in the air are astonishing. This is especially true if you live in, work, or travel to places without environmental protections for air quality. For information on local air quality and an explanation of the Air Quality Index (AQI), visit AIRNow (http://www.airnow.gov/). Reduce toxins and improve your air quality by: using air purifiers or whole house air filtration systems; following a schedule for replacing air filters in your heating/cooling system; and keeping plenty of plants in your living areas to remove certain chemicals from indoor air.

Breathe Right. Most of us don’t breathe well. Too often, respiration is shallow instead of deep, limiting the amount of oxygen taken into the body. Proper breathing begins with good posture – stand tall through the spine and chest. Additionally, practice abdominal breathing, in which you fill the belly – not just the chest – as you inhale.

To find out more information about how to better protect your lungs and to treat breathing issues make an appointment with your La Mesa Naturopathic Doctor.

References
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