SB 277 and Our Patient Families

Many of our families are concerned about the SB 277 that seems to be progressing through our California legislature. As a mom, my heart aches with the decisions our government is trying to make for our munchkin based on an outbreak of 300-some Pertussis cases. Healthier children handle disease better and tolerate vaccines better, and healthier brains learn better. As a doctor, I do see the need for families to educate themselves on how to protect their loved ones from harm. Unvaccinated or alternative schedule vaccinated families have usually put a lot of effort into their considerations for what is healthy for their kids.

There are still many changes that are likely to be made to the bill before all is said and done. So far, they have determined:

The Vaccines:

Diptheria

Hepatitis B

Haemophilus influenza type b

Measles

Mumps

Pertussis

Poliomyeletis

Rubella

Tetanus

Varicella (Chickenpox)

Parents will still likely be able to prove immunity to these diseases if they have been exposed by running a blood test called a titer. Medical exemptions are still being allowed and not just autoimmune now but at the discretion of the MD. It is likely the board will be placing extra pressure on those who do offer more medical exemptions.

The Timing:

It looks like they are settling on students entering kindergarten through 7th grade. If a philosophical form has been filed with the school before the law goes into play, then that child is “grandfathered in.” This still does not address the concern of catching up on required vaccines for grade schoolers.

The Choices:

Home-based private schools and moving out of state are the most often discussed options among families. The overwhelming idea of schooling at home seems to be more difficult that the decision of what to do. Knowing your resources will empower you. Educated parents (whether on vaccines, education, or whatever topic is for the benefit of their family) are notoriously resilient in finding options regardless of the strictures placed on them.

Keep in mind that thinking outside the box will also create options for you such as:

  • Considering an alternative vaccine schedule over time to catch up on vaccines.
  • Developing a detox plan to go along with vaccinating your child.
  • Running titers for diseases your child has been exposed to.
  • Paying the fine issued to your child’s school for noncompliance of fully vaccinated recommendations.
  • Creating a co-op of parents to help with a home-study program.

Your options for achieving a healthy child are many. To my patient families – please have hope because I know you are resilient.

For more information, follow this link to read the text of the bill:  SB 277 Text

Treating Menopause Naturally

Menopause is a change in balancing act. The body may have been going along pleasantly in rhythm and then there is a change in the hormones available for that rhythm. If you have not been pleasantly in a rhythm and have had an irregular period or painful periods, you are more likely to have more trouble adjusting to the changes your body is undergoing. As the rhythm changes, you will notice not just physical symptoms but also that your emotions will greatly change during this rite of passage for women. It is also a good idea to manage expectations around menopause – know what to expect, for how long, what is reasonable to put up with, and the pros and cons of the choices for treatment.

Physical Symptoms

Frankly, menopause is the failure of the ovaries. They are done putting out eggs. This means the layer of your uterus no longer needs to build up which means fewer and fewer periods.  There are different camps in terms of how to handle the ovarian failure and varied symptoms that come with it. Some believe that they can give you hormones, or even better, bio-identical hormones to replace the lower levels of hormones, the idea being that the hormones continue to make you feel young for a time or maybe even forever. Others believe your hormones can and will adjust naturally as you begin a new phase of life. I see both desires in patients. Their ultimate goal is to feel good. Some of my patients have been prescribed hormones by the many hormone specialists and end up in my office begging to get off of them because they either don’t feel as good as they thought or the hormones are too much work. Some patients find the minimally-adjusted hormones do help. A larger percentage of my patients find that bringing the body in balance and nourishing the organ systems with herbs, food, lifestyle, vitamins, liver support, and sometime homeopathy actually does the trick!

Menopause is a natural progression of life, much like childbirth, 1st grade and dating. It doesn’t need to be treated like a disease. Many times, our bodies just like some help getting into balance.

We are quite familiar with the commonly talked about symptoms like hot flashes, mood changes, and trouble sleeping, but menopause can also affect our bones, thyroid, lipids, sex lives, brain function, digestion, and mood which in turn can affect career and family life! There are some commonalities in menopause but women do not experience menopause in the same way. Therefore, the same treatment approach is not appropriate for every woman. Some are more sensitive and some have higher risk factors. Careful monitoring of hormones is important during the menopausal changes so we can avoid the risk factors of estrogen-related cancers and common side effects of hormones and protect the heart!

Despite all these challenging issues that our office sees in women, Heart Disease continues to be the number 1 killer for American women. Our health care goals include proactive measures to protect the heart and looking forward to prevent any health consequences.

Emotions

Mood usually catches women by surprise during all these menopausal changes and they may actually have to adapt life around their mood fluctuations. Tears flow more easily, boundaries are more readily held, and friends and family will hear it like it is! Those hormones that give us the nurturing, protective, mother-bear personality that mothers are so well known for are now decreasing. We no longer need so much testosterone and estrogen for our daily lives, which makes us more interested in taking care of ourselves first, and this is normal. Some women find this a hard mentality to let sink in and may even feel guilty about taking care of themselves before others. Hormonal changes give us more power to look within, be more in touch with our inner self, and a time to re-analyze what is really important to us, what life is about, etc.

Physical symptoms can actually relate to our mood. For example, if you have had a night full of hot flashes, you may consider in the morning who you might be angry with or where you may need to hold your ground and not be taken advantage of. Hormones are molecules too and they need to be recycled, broken down, etc. When there is an overload of hormones and emotions, the liver ends up overwhelmed and the body tries to adapt by ‘burning it up’, bloating, or not making sleep hormones adequately, etc. The more prepared women are for the emotional changes that come along with menopause, the sooner they can start adjusting instead of trying to figure out what is going on.

Expectations of Menopause

Most women know to expect something during Menopause but they may not know the anatomy and physiology behind it, the treatment options, or how long it will last. It comes as a surprise that there are other options to manage menopause symptoms besides hormone replacement therapy.

Hormone treatment orally or topically can be a treatment option and your doctor should talk to you about protecting your heart and bones while taking them. Botanicals can be helpful for supporting your adrenals, liver, and managing hormones, which are all important to function properly in menopause. Homeopathy can help with some physical symptoms as well as emotions. Nutrition is important and managing any nutrient deficiencies. Lastly, lifestyle and habits are important to talk about with your doctor and can add help to the balance needed in menopause. As long as symptoms are manageable, the length of menopause doesn’t seem to be important anymore but in general menopause can last from 1-10 years with African Americans in the longer range.

Once again, menopause is an attempt to get your body harmonizing again. The better periods you have now, the easier menopause will be. If you have period troubles, come in and get it addressed so you are more likely to experience a smoother transition in menopause. Expect and make plans to support the emotional aspects of menopause. Come to our clinic and learn about all your options to treat your symptoms of menopause – not just the options your friends are taking. Empower yourself with the right plan for you.

The Art of Tea Making and Connection

I have a new husband. He has taken on the job of making my morning tea. In fact, he is so good at it that I have come to believe that I’m no longer the best tea maker, even though I taught him the art myself.

Loose leaf tea makes the best tea. After soaking the leaves and plunging the french press, my loving husband pours the hot, steamy liquid into a pre-warmed cup and adds almond milk and stevia or honey, tasting while stirring. Sometimes I have the opportunity to watch him in his ritual and sometimes he brings it to me wherever I am – laundry, bedroom, or even out back. He always presents it with a huge smile and pleasant sounds like “mmm… try this…”

Now, I realize how fortunate I am to have a tea connoisseur as a partner. More importantly, I have a connection, a confidant. Even if the tea weren’t tasty, it would still be good because of the delivery.

Research is readily available to show that cardiac patients do better if they feel loved. Children are more likely to have health problems as adults if they have been raised by a parent–especially a mom–who is distant and strained. Chronic diseases are far less likely if you were raised in a three-generational household. One study that involved injecting a virus in many patients found that those with greater social connections were less likely to actually get sick. Research also solidifies that empathetic doctors (those who create connections) will have patients with lower A1c numbers, better IBS outcomes, shorter cold duration, etc. Research collaborates happiness, job satisfaction, etc. with those who have more social connections.

Keep in mind that the rituals you have with your children, partner, and family members enhance your connections. Tea rituals have been used in many cultures for connection. Your rituals may be different and can be anything that create connection and health.

Doctor’s orders: Make tea or your own ritual and connect to improve your health.

Probiotics and Traveling

Patients often ask me about probiotics and many  find great help in the high quality probiotics that we sell in our 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. Pro Flora Intensive – This is a multi-strain option and a high protective dose.

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

Pain in the ???

Muscle pain can be challenging and limiting. There is nothing like being held back by painful, uncooperative muscles.

First thing to try is magnesium. Those muscle fibers use calcium to contract and magnesium to relax. Many patients are deficient in magnesium, leading to cramps of all sorts, heart palpitations and myriad other muscle related symptoms. There are several types of magnesium and patients react differently to the different forms. Heat can often relax the intermittent pain that comes with injuries and again magnesium in the form of epsom salt baths. Our goal with heat and magnesium is to relax the muscles so they can release toxins. In general, diarrhea is a sign of too much magnesium supplementation. Magnesium alone has the potential to resolve muscle pain or growing pains, menstrual cramps, as well as anxiety.

Next in our tool box is anti-inflammatories in the form of herbs. Curcumin is probably the most common used. It does seem to work at the right dose, particularly for knee pain. Many patients have tried curcumin on their own and are disenchanted with it since low quality products don’t work. We use high doses in our La Mesa Naturopathic Medical Clinic and forms that have the same standardized amount for each dose so patients get the same results every time. Another favorite anti-inflammatory for me is Shea Butter – yeah, that stuff you put on your skin, but internally it can do wonders for certain kinds of pain. There are many more herbal options and we choose them based on what else is going on in the body. For example, adequate doses of Boswelia is great for patients with pain and unstable bowel symptoms.

Preventing inflammation in the muscles can be even more powerful than anti-inflammatories. Getting foods that are nourishing rather than inflammatory can take some time to work into your lifestyle. The big inflammatory food groups that wreck havoc in your muscles are sugar. Then there are those oils that are processed and changed beyond anything recognizable in nature. Processed foods in general just make it harder for those muscle fibers to relax and let go. Nourish your muscles with healthy meats, lots of veggies (which work well in stir-fries and soups) nuts, fruits, olive oil, coconut oil, and whole grains like quinoa and wild rice.

Another way to nourish those muscles is by doing a series of B12 shots. Whether these help you detox excess toxins or supply needed B12 to your nerves, B12 shots seem to work when muscle pain is stubborn.

The ultimate goal is to find the cause of the muscle pain – autoimmune, chronic viral infections, hormonal issues can cause stubborn, aggravating muscle pain. There are some temporary help options for these ailments but until you get to the bottom (turn off the spicket) of whatever’s feeding the inflammation in the muscles, the relief is temporary.

Cheers to healthy, functioning muscles! If you need help with your muscle pain, we the team at Journey of Health are here to help you find your answers.

Practicing Mindfulness

“Mindfulness” has become a popular word, but what does it mean, exactly? Here are some thoughts that have been proposed as definitions:

Being aware
Taking time
Making space for yourself or for another
Listening to your own feelings
Being okay with what comes to mind

Mindfulness is all these things. Recognizing our feelings and sensations, and learning how they resonate in our bodies, is mindfulness. Making the connection between cause and effect is mindfulness. Seeing things for what they are and accepting that we cannot control everything are mindfulness.

I often ask my patients unusual questions, such as, “When was the first time you felt [a certain way] and what were you doing right before you felt it?” Or, “What is the sensation of pain that you feel?” Some patients have not considered these questions, and may be caught off guard by them. They may be difficult questions for some patients to answer. Many patients feel strong sensations but get caught up in the symptoms without stopping to consider the connections to experiences or lifestyle.

There was a gentleman in my office who suffered from ADHD, low energy, and sleep disturbances. He improved after a regimen of herbs, homeopathy, and nutrition changes. However, there was one symptom that seemed too stubborn to improve – his red throat. His throat seemed angry without cause. For some reason, there was an obstacle to healing for him. I asked him to consider the things that he was having difficulty swallowing and about which he was unable to speak. Receptive to the idea, the gentleman went home to consider my questions. He reported back that anger was the dominant emotion he was experiencing and that he was unable to speak of. Once he made this breakthrough, we were able to resolve the symptom of his red throat.

It takes mindfulness to know ourselves, connect the physical to the mental and the environmental, and to find the tools that will help rejuvenate our health, balance, and wellness.

The Myer’s Cocktail

No, not that kind of cocktail.

The Myer’s Cocktail, or Myer’s Push, is an IV of magnesium, calcium, vitamin C, and several B vitamins. It is a nutritional IV and is a form of vitamin therapy. It doesn’t look like the traditional IV we think of and it doesn’t take as long, either. We use the same size needle as we do for a blood draw, there is no bag to hang, and it takes about 15 minutes. This knowledge alone sets many people at ease.

But why would someone want to get vitamins by IV instead of just taking them orally? Even with a good diet, we can all use an occasional boost for healing. When there is extra stress or an illness that wears us down, bypassing the belly and getting nutrition straight to the tissues can do wonders for headaches, hypertension, COPD, asthma, fibromyalgia, diabetes, liver trouble, or any time we need to get nutrients deep into the tissues.

Serious side effects are rare with the Myer’s Push IV therapy. We always screen patients well to make sure the IV is appropriate for patients in our clinics. Minor side effects sometimes occur. We coach our patients on what might happen and they are rarely aggravated by it.

If you are curious about the Myer’s Cocktail and are wondering if it might be right for your healing, just drop us a line. We are happy to answer your questions.

Five Reasons Naturopathic Medicine Lowers Your Family’s Healthcare Costs

1. More Treatment Options
Journey of Health Medical Clinic offers more treatment options than traditional medicine. At a typical doctor’s office visit, you will be given one treatment option (maybe two), and usually treatment will consist of a drug. In our clinic, patients often walk out with a treatment plan consisting of 3 – 5 parts, and may include diet advice, herbs in the form of teas, tinctures or pills, lifestyle changes, water treatments, supplements, and handouts to answer our most common questions.

2. Less Expensive Care
Journey of Health Medical Clinic offers less expensive treatments. In our clinic, we are very sensitive to financial needs. We will always offer less expensive alternatives when needed. Many treatment options, such as teas, homeopathy, hydrotherapy, diet changes, and lifestyle changes, cost very little to begin with.

3. Less Need for Surgery
Treatment in our clinic reduces the need for expensive surgical procedures. We can offer non-surgical options that often bring about lasting results. We can still refer for surgery when needed and can help the patient get through the surgical and recovery processes.

4. Decreased Prescription Drug Costs
Journey of Health Medical Clinic can lessen the cost of prescription drugs. Our nutritional supplements and botanicals are less expensive but effective for medical problems. Many of our patients discontinue their prescription drugs since they no longer need them. We also reduce the costs associated with drug prescriptions. About 2% of drug prescriptions result in hospital admission and adverse reactions are the fifth leading cause of death in the US. In our clinic, we help identify nutritional deficiencies caused by drugs and work with the prescribing doctor to change the drug for those who experience adverse effects. Our treatments have a much better track record of avoiding serious and costly reactions.

5. Identifying Cause
At Journey of Health Medical Clinic, we address the cause of illness and eliminate expensive ongoing care. By treating the cause of disease, we eliminate the need for repeated, expensive, ineffective symptomatic treatment. We use state-of-the-art diagnostic testing, thorough discussion of history, and complete physical examination to diagnose the underlying cause of symptoms.

Reflections on Teaching

Like most teachers, I love to see the thrill of that ah-ha! moment in my students. I am able to open a whole new world to them. The general public really is curious about the history of natural medicine. We do some brain stretching and deep thought about the many philosophical evolutions of health, most of which stem from the teachings of Hippocrates.

Students also love the take-home tools they get in the class. Many of my students have some understanding of natural medicine but do not understand how to apply it to day-to-day life or how to reap the long-term rewards.

There really is a lot to learn. I provide an incredible amount of information to my students. They tell me that there is a lot to absorb – different philosophies, history, homeopathy and its uses, hydrotherapy, nutrition and finding the right diet, immunology, unusual labs, herbs, the difference between the wellness and disease models, temperaments, effects of stress and stress management, herbs, etc., are all topics I discuss in class.

My goal is to introduce these concepts, but since we’re only able to scratch the surface, every class reports that they want more (regardless of how overwhelmed they may feel with the info already provided).

In my class, we show respect for all modalities so we can openly discuss how pharmaceuticals and surgery can co-mingle with food, homeopathy, herbs, and more. Not only do we emphasize treating the whole person and the cause, but we also explore the Doctrines of the Naturopathic Profession, which include the Doctrine of Dual Dose, or the idea that all treatments have an immediate as well as a lasting result. My aim is to achieve healing in both instances, without side effects.

I am always happy to hear back from my students; both nurses and the general public report back to me a year after the class ends. The experience of learning new tools and a new philosophy changes their lives. Often times, my class changes the way my students carry out their careers. As one student told me, what a shame it would be for someone to miss out on my class simply because he or she didn’t know about it!

I remember the thrill I felt when I discovered naturopathy. It was like I had found a secret to health and an art that put together the tools to treat the individual. Passing on naturopathic philosophy is my job – Doctor as Teacher is another tenet of naturopathy. I am quite excited, indeed, to hear that so many of my students can find the tools that empower them in achieving good health.

If you’re interested in attending one of my classes, simply contact my office to be added to our class mailing list.

A Day in the Life of a Doc

Today is research/catch-up/laundry day. Hey, a working mom has to multitask, right?

I begin the day by sorting through business mail and sipping a cup of mint tea. This morning I’m greeted by an unwelcome surprise – a debt collection letter! My clinic negotiated with a new lab and we got excellent prices, but I wanted to make sure the billing process would be smooth for my patients, so I sent in a lab on myself as a trial run. To my chagrin, the lab charged me their full price instead of using our special discount! I brought it up to my rep and was told it was taken care of. By dealing with this collection letter myself, I think to myself, I’ll be able to develop a better system so my patients will never experience this “surprise” like I have! After a round of phone conversations among our lab rep, the billing department, and myself, (along with some aggressive follow-through on the part of my assistant), I resolve the issue, creating a simpler financial process along the way and preventing this from happening to my patients.

It’s experiences like this that they never teach you about in medical school!

The research/catch-up part of my day is supposed to be spent looking into my patients’ challenges and developing new tools to help educate my patients. I sit down at my kitchen table, open my laptop, and begin to type up a handout on food intolerances. I get as far as “Foo-” when my typing is interrupted by the familiar “ping” of my cell phone alert. I’ve received an urgent message from my answering service (a company that answers calls when my private practice is closed). I log into my email account to view the full message. False alarm – it’s a tenacious sales rep who wants to sell me his newest product, and his three messages in a row set off an urgent alert.

Since I’ve already opened my email, I may as well start sifting through the morning’s messages. I see a memo from another doctor needing some input on a patient’s MTHFR status and give the doc a call – I get started on the laundry while talking. Treating MTHFR is something I am good at and I am happy to help other doctors find tools and perspective in their treatment of MTHFR.

Onto the next part of my day. One of my clinics is hiring and I am helping with the process. After cleaning out my inbox (well, mostly), I head over to review resumes and candidates’ initial responses to our questionnaire. This is actually one of my favorite jobs – I love meeting different personalities and seeing whether our skills and passions align. There are a few promising contenders; I look forward to hearing how the final interviews go.

I make it back home and it’s now mid-afternoon. After a quick veggie and chicken lunch, I complete the morning’s task of paying bills. Since I am working from home today, I take a few minutes to water and prune my potted plants. I let my mind wander. My garden is something that nourishes me. It doesn’t need too much from me. The celery is finally starting to grow, the calendula has adapted to its new spot, and the strawberries are happy just lying in the sun. Maybe we should all take a cue from the strawberries and hang out more often.

Back to the list. I remember that today I also have some welcome calls to make. As a part of the membership committee of the California Association of Naturopathic Doctors, or CNDA, it is my job to call new doctors and welcome them to the organization. We discuss practicing in California, benefits of the CNDA, legislative efforts, and any questions they might have.

Now it’s time to go pick up my son from school. I glance over at the still-full laundry basket as I make my way to the door. I know it’s mocking me.

Today it seems like my boy needs a little extra attention from mom, so we make a game out of checking in new supplements at the office before returning home. He gets excited about the chewable fish gels for kids, and I have to remind him that we have to finish the liquid version first.

The sun is already setting by the time we make it back home. I pick a few fresh veggies and herbs from my garden to spice up dinner, which I try not to burn while I simultaneously help the kiddo with his spelling homework. Tomorrow I have a full load of patients and I have to be prepped and ready to go by 9 am sharp, so my work for the day is far from finished. After dinner, I settle down with another cup of tea to review charts and check the rest of the day’s emails (yep, that inbox is full again).

Finally it’s time for bed. After shutting down the electronics and turning out the lights, I drift peacefully into a blissful dream of self-washing clothes.