Healing Eczema and Psoriasis with Naturopathic Medicine

When those painful, itchy patches of eczema and psoriasis erupt, Naturopathic doctors ask, ‘what is causing this condition to present at this time?’ The Greek translation of eczema means “to boil out,” so the question makes sense: Naturopathic doctors look for the underlying root causes that bring about these skin eruptions. Although they create similar discomforts for the people afflicted, psoriasis and eczema are different in important ways.

Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition that results in an overproduction of skin cells. As the dead skin cells build-up, they form thick, scaly white patches that are visible on the skin’s surface. The skin itches terribly and is inflamed.

Eczema (aka atopic dermatitis) also can be chronic, but it tends to come and go in response to certain triggers (e.g., weather changes, irritating cosmetics, or an allergic reaction). Eczema is common in infants and children, and may even go dormant for a time. Some people, however, suffer terribly throughout their lifetime. When eczema is active, skin is inflamed, dry, peeling and may blister.

From the naturopathic medicine perspective, root causes of eczema and psoriasis include:

  • Food sensitivity/ allergy
  • Deficiency in one or more minerals
  • Low-quality diet (high in saturated fats, processed foods, sugar, etc.)
  • Poor gut health/ Leaky Gut Syndrome
  • Emotional/ Mental Stress
  • Exposure to toxins and/or inadequate ability to detoxify

Conventional treatment plans typically use steroids to simply manage symptoms (i.e., itching); however, there are harmful side effects, such as suppressing overall immunity, that must be considered. Naturopathic therapies, on the other hand, work to correct the underlying imbalance that caused the body to react in the first place, offering relief without the unwanted side effects of steroid treatments. One or more of the following natural therapies may be part of an individualized holistic treatment plan:

  • Dietary changes to include more nutrient dense, clean foods
  • Remove foods from the diet that cause inflammation
  • Nutritional supplements to restore balance or deficiency (e.g., zinc, vitamin D/ E/ A)
  • Balance gut flora using probiotics and other approaches
  • Increase intake of Essential Fatty Acids, which are important to skin health
  • Provide support for mental/emotional stress
  • Identify and minimize toxin exposure
  • Support liver function, the body’s detox organ

Additionally, to temporarily soothe symptoms, Naturopathic doctors may recommend nourishing the skin with herbal salves and creams that are specific to your individual needs. Some common botanical ingredients are calendula, lavender, chamomile, rose, Manuka honey, tea tree, among many others.

Psoriasis and Eczema can quickly become chronic and severe and the wrong treatments can make things far worse. Consult with your La Mesa Naturopathic Doctor to identify the appropriate therapies for you or your loved one.

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Fight Joint Inflammation with Turmeric

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is the golden-orange spice that gives curried foods pizzazz. In Traditional Chinese and Indian Medicine, turmeric is used to treat allergies, digestive ailments, and pain. The active chemical component of turmeric is curcumin, known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Today, research is focused on the role curcumin plays in diseases where the underlying factor is inflammation, such as in heart disease and arthritis.

Studies show that curcumin blocks inflammation at the cellular level. Some studies indicate that curcumin’s role in preventing joint inflammation surpasses its ability to reduce active joint inflammation. In clinical trials, standardized curcumin supplements helped improve pain and swelling in patients with RA. These promising results are being further investigated in long-term studies.

Including turmeric in your diet is easy to do and, oh, so flavorful. Add turmeric to soups and dressings; sprinkle over meats, veggies, and scrambled eggs; add it to plain yogurt or a smoothie.

While adding turmeric spice to your meals is a great first step, the amounts used in cooking do not provide the therapeutic levels needed to achieve its robust health effects. When considering the addition of turmeric to your health plan, work with your La Mesa Naturopathic Doctor to determine if this is a good choice and which curcumin supplement is best for you. He or she can recommend the right form (capsule or powder) that will have the best bioavailability – meaning it’s easy for your body to process through the digestive tract – for your specific health needs. It is very important to use a high quality tumeric supplement to ensure its effectiveness.

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The Red Bell of the Ball!

Crisp, sweet red bell peppers are versatile and packed with nutrients. They’re loaded with the antioxidants Vitamin C and A, which support immunity and help the body fight free radicals – molecules implicated in inflammation and many disease processes. That beautiful red color is attributed to the nutrient lycopene, another antioxidant. Vitamin B6 and folate – nutrients that support red blood cells – are also found in these crimson beauties. Making red bells a regular part of your diet can help protect against chronic illnesses such as heart disease, joint disease, and cancer.

Red bells are actually the fully ripe version of green bell peppers. With the exception of very cold winters, they’re available year-round in most places. Choose peppers with deep color, taut skin, and fresh-looking stems. Peppers should be firm and heavy for their size (indicating they are well hydrated). They add flavor to sandwiches, stir-fry, salads, soups, stews, sauces, and are also delicious raw.

You may have heard that peppers are a part of the nightshade family of vegetables and aren’t a good food choice for some people. Nightshades (including potatoes, eggplant and tomatoes), are so named because they grow best in shady areas and some bloom at night. For most people, nightshades are a healthy choice, but for others, they can trigger a reaction similar to that seen with soy or dairy. If you’re concerned about this, consult your La Mesa Naturopathic Doctor for dietary testing and guidance.

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Healing Rheumatoid Arthritis with Naturopathic Medicine

People living with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) compare the pain and inflammation to a fire raging out of control. RA is a chronic, systemic autoimmune disease causing swelling, stiffness, and pain in the joints. It can result in joint deformity and damage to other organs, including the nerves, heart, and lungs.

Approximately 1.5 million Americans have Rheumatoid Arthritis: most are adults over age 40; about 12,000 children under age 16 have juvenile-onset RA.

Symptoms of RA (aggravated by stress and lack of sleep)

  • Swollen, painful, hot and disfigured joints on both sides of the body
  • Pain, stiffness and limited movement making daily activities difficult
  • Fatigue, muscle aches, and fevers

The prevailing, conventional theory is that inflammation results from an “over-reaction” of the immune system that may include genetic factors. Doctors of naturopathic medicine believe there is a deeper, root cause for this haywire immune system response. They theorize immune dysregulation originates in imbalances that involve a person’s genetics, lifestyle choices, nutritional status, gut health, stress, environmental triggers and emotional wellbeing.

Treatment of RA

Conventional treatment includes physical therapy and prescription medicines (steroids, painkillers, and immune suppressors) to treat pain and swelling. While these drugs may be necessary for some people, they have side effects including hair loss, liver damage, stress on the kidneys and heart, and risk for addiction, without correcting the underlying imbalance.

At Journey of Health our naturopathic doctors emphasize on identification and treatment of root causes. Naturopathic doctors use safe, natural therapies and interventions that stimulate the restoration of health without side effects. Here’s a sampling of naturopathic interventions that can make a huge impact in healing the root causes of RA.

An Anti-inflammatory Diet

Commit to a diet that includes: organic fruits and veggies; healthy fats such as olive, avocado, and coconut oils; whole grains; bone broth; wild-caught fish; and nuts/seeds. These foods provide natural antioxidants – cellular superheroes that gobble up the free radical cells that contribute to development of RA. There are many foods that are considered healthy in general, but may cause inflammation for some people, leading to immune dysregulation. Holistic doctors will test for food sensitivities, such as gluten, dairy, egg, or others, and work with a patient to create a diet with healthy alternatives when needed.

Keep Moving

Movement is important for managing symptoms (including pain) and enhancing psychological wellbeing. Low impact exercise, such as cycling, walking, water aerobics and Tai Chi, are ideal. Symptoms can improve with strength training.

R & R: Rest, Relaxation & Pain Reduction

Massage therapy, acupuncture or acupressure, reflexology, yoga, deep breathing, and guided imagery provide protection against painful bouts of RA by helping improve body awareness, reduce muscle tension, enhance sleep, and decrease stress hormones.

Manage Symptoms, Naturally

Nutritional and herbal supplements can help reduce pain and inflammation. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with RA, so supplementing can be important. Extracts of ginger and turmeric, Omega-3 fish oil and digestive enzymes are some nutrients that help tame the fire of inflammation.

A natural medicine approach to healing RA will be unique to each person. Consult with your La Mesa naturopathic doctor for interventions that will work best for you.

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The Power of Pecans

Whether you call ’em PEE-can or PEH-kahn, they are one of the most sought after nuts around the globe. A cousin of the walnut, pecans are the only major tree nut native to North America. People love pecans for their versatility: They add a sweet, nutty goodness to breads and cereals, stuffing and spreads, salads and side dishes, entrees and desserts. At the same time, they bring a lot of nutrition to the table.

Pecans contain healthy, monounsaturated fats like oleic acid, as well as antioxidants that support heart health by lowering LDL cholesterol and increasing the good cholesterol, HDL. Packed with fiber, pecans support healthy digestion and colon health. Some research shows that diets consisting of pecans (and other healthy nuts) can support a healthy body weight and even help people lose weight. Pecans are a good source of vitamins and minerals that support overall health, including B-vitamins, magnesium, manganese, vitamins E and A, zinc, iron, and folate.

Your family can enjoy the natural, nutty sweetness of pecans as a snack (plain or roasted), sprinkled over yogurt or oatmeal, or sautéed with savory seasonings such as curry powder, sea salt, or paprika. Consider baking with pecans—from cookies to cheesecake and even homemade ice cream.

When purchasing pecans, fresh is best and organic is even better. Look for pecans in the bulk foods section at a grocer that regularly “turns the stock.” Store pecans, and all nuts, in an airtight package away from heat, preferably in the fridge to retain nutrient content.

 

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Celiac Disease & Gluten Sensitivity

How did gluten, a naturally-occurring protein found in wheat, barley and rye – sources of nutrition for people over thousands of years, become so unhealthy?

Many scientists attribute the increase in Celiac Disease (CD) and non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (GS) to alternations in wheat’s biological structure, the result of modern farming and bread-making practices and the chemicals used today. The result: wheat crops that are biochemically different from the virgin wheat of agrarian society. Because our bodies have not adapted to these chemically treated crops, we’re unable to digest them properly.

Modern bread-making has gone from being a simple four-ingredient wholesome loaf of sustenance to being a less-nutrient dense squishy loaf of preservatives. Old-fashioned baking involved giving flour time to absorb as much water as possible, and waiting for yeast and bacteria to activate the dough (fermentation). Today, industrialized baking replaces natural hydration, fermentation and kneading with artificial additives and massive mixers to accelerate dough formation. To endure commercial processing and increase shelf life, additional concentrated vital wheat gluten and preservatives are stuffed into bread products.

Celiac Disease

One in 133 adults and children have CD, a genetic, autoimmune disorder that occurs in response to ingesting gluten, triggering the immune system to attack the delicate lining of the small intestine. This creates inflammation and can lead to nutrient malabsorption and secondary health problems. There are over 200 symptoms for CD, including:

  • extreme abdominal pain
  • nausea, vomiting
  • gas, constipation, diarrhea
  • joint pain, anemia, fatigue
  • stunted growth, skin rashes
  • behavior disorders, mood disturbances

Symptoms can begin immediately and last from a few hours to several days. The primary treatment for CD is a life-long gluten-free diet.

Non-celiac Gluten Sensitivity (Gluten Intolerance)

Non-celiac Gluten Sensitivity (GS) affects 6-7% of the U.S. population. It’s an adverse food-induced reaction that seems to have an immune component. Gluten activates an inflammatory response that can affect tissues anywhere in the body. Symptoms vary based upon individual and environmental factors. Determining if you have GS requires testing to rule out CD. Blood/genetic tests are not available for directly assessing GS. Currently, holistic doctors use a Food Sensitivity Panel to identify reactions to wheat. Also, an elimination diet with symptom monitoring can assess GS.

Testing for CD

genetic test (Celiac HLA) indicates your risk for developing CD. If a first-degree family member has CD, a negative gene test excludes you from the possibility of developing it.

Blood tests require that you continue eating gluten products in order to get an accurate result. (Abstaining from gluten will skew the results.) A naturopathic doctor can inform you on the appropriate amount of time required to eat gluten prior to testing. The tTg-IgA (Tissue Transglutaminase Antibodies) test looks for antibodies toward gluten. Your La Mesa Naturopathic Doctor may order a panel of antibody tests to assess if you are deficient in antibodies the body needs, or if the body is creating antibodies against its own tissues.

Your naturopathic doctor may decide to order an endoscopic biopsy to obtain a definitive diagnosis of CD. In this procedure, performed by an M.D. who specializes in digestive disorders, a part of the small intestine is removed and examined for damage.

Based on your symptoms and test results, your La Mesa Naturopathic Doctor can determine the type of testing you need and design an appropriate, personalized treatment plan.

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Essential Fatty Acids for Brain Health

The omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are classified as “essential” nutrients for the human because they cannot be made by the body. Hence the term, Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs). Since the body cannot make EFAs, we have to acquire what we need from food and nutritional supplements. While EFAs are important to overall health, in this article we highlight their importance to brain health. Fatty acids nourish and protect brain cells and help reduce inflammation. Scientists are actively investigating the role EFAs play in preventing and managing age-related cognitive decline.

When we consume EFAs, the body will use what it needs and then stores the rest for future use. Brain tissue is especially rich in EFAs where it is important for protecting connections between nerve cells. So, a diet deficient in these fats deprives the brain and nervous system of a crucial nutritional substance. Scientists believe DHA protects against Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and dementia. Adults with insufficient intake of DHA show poor performance on cognitive tests as well as increased risk for age-related cognitive decline. In studies using an EFA supplement, there have been positive changes in memory related functions for individuals with very mild AD.

Because we must get EFAs from food or nutritional supplements, it’s important to understand what our bodies need. Most Americans get a daily average of only 130 mg EPA + DHA – far below the 1000-2000 mg recommended for optimal health and cognitive function. We also need the proper ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acid. Too little omega-3 and too much omega-6 can result in increased inflammation. Eating a variety of EFA rich foods plus a supplement is a good option for many people.

People who have a high intake of fish consumption show a decreased risk for dementia and AD. Foods abundant in EFAs include salmon, chunk light tuna, halibut, sardines, and krill, as well as flaxseed, chia seeds, and walnuts. Be mindful of the source of your fish, since some are high in mercury. Look for organic, wild caught options. Your La Mesa naturopathic doctor can help you with dietary options and EFA supplements that best meets your needs.

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A Potent Berry for Liver Health: Schisandra chinensis

With its sweet, sour, salty, pungent, and bitter flavor profile, it’s no surprise the Chinese call Schisandra chinensis “the five flavored fruit,” or wu wei zi. Regarded as the most important herb in Traditional Chinese Medicine, the schisandra berry might more aptly be called the “fruit of life.”

Schisandra belongs to a unique class of herbs known as adaptogens, which enhance the body’s ability to adapt to, and recover from, stress. The source of the stress could be emotional, mental, environmental, or physical, such as when you become sick. In addition to supporting the body across physiological systems, it provides protective benefits for the liver, the body’s engine for detoxification. Studies show schisandra reduces inflammation, keeps hormones in balance, helps regenerate liver tissue, and lowers levels of an enzyme associated with liver damage.

Traditional Chinese physicians have long used schisandra to:

  1. stimulate the immune system and support adrenal gland function
  2. enhance recovery from illness or surgery
  3. reduce inflammation and fatigue
  4. improve blood circulation and enhance detoxification

Dried schizandra berries can be made into powder, capsule, tincture, tonic, tea and even wine. Schisandra is safe for most people, but precautions must be used if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, have epilepsy, or reflux disease. Your La Mesa naturopathic doctor can identify the type of schisandra supplement that is best for you.

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Healing The Gut with Marshmallow Root

There’s much more to that sweet, fluffy treat we enjoy melted in a s’more or sprinkled atop hot cocoa. Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis) is an ancient herb whose Greek name, Althainean, means “to heal.” Ancient Greek and Egyptian healers used Marshmallow flowers and leaves in salads to support healthy digestion. A secretion, known as mucilage, from its roots and stems, was used to soften the skin, treat sore throats, and ease congestion. Naturopathic doctors use Marshmallow Root (aka “mallow”) for these purposes and in treatment preparations for:

  • inflammation of the lining of the stomach
  • digestive issues including diarrhea stomach ulcers, constipation
  • inflammatory bowel disease, leaky gut syndrome and autoimmune disorders
  • skin conditions such as eczema
  • bloating and water retention
  • dry coughs and colds
  • bacterial infections and respiratory infections

A key healing property of Marshmallow Root is the ability to soothe inflammation of the mucous membranes throughout the body. When food sensitivity/allergies, illness, or other factors interfere with healthy digestion, a person can experience upset stomach, heartburn, constipation or diarrhea. Mallow forms a thick protective coating in the digestive tract, which helps reduce the burning and tame other symptoms of digestive distress.

With tall stalks topped by a lovely five-petal white blossom with purple center, Marshmallow Root makes a striking addition to a garden – especially if you enjoy harvesting for herbal tea. Supplements come in different forms including powder, tea, extract, ointments, and capsule. While considered safe for most adults and children, do ask your La Mesa naturopathic doctor which preparations of are best for you.

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Can Homeopathy Treat My Depression?

Homeopathic medicines consist of very small doses of natural substances that can stimulate the body’s inherent self-healing response without side effects. Homeopathic remedies restore balance to a person’s vital life force so that the body can correct imbalances causing symptoms and begin to function as it should, free of the symptoms of illness.

A variety of homeopathic med­icines can be used to treat someone suffering from the wide range of symptoms associated with depression. Because treatment is highly individualized to the needs of each person, the homeopathic medicines used may be different for each person. Depending on the severity of depression and the presence of other medical conditions, homeopathic remedies may be used alone or along with herbs or conventional prescription drugs.

Homeopathic remedies are best prescribed by a practitioner who has extensive training in homeopathy (including certification and/or licensure) and experience in treating depression. Your naturopathic doctor will conduct an extensive interview with a patient, identify potential remedies, and closely monitor a patient’s progress until the person is well.

If you’re suffering with depression, talk with your La Mesa Naturopathic Doctor about homeopathic treatment.

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