Support Yourself and Your Community During Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving can be a difficult holiday. The days are short on sunlight, the weather is damp and cold and the trees are bare. It is a time to be with family.  Hopefully this is an enjoyable experience!  (Jonny Carson once quipped “People travel thousands of miles on Thanksgiving to be with people they only see once a year. And then discover once a year is way too often.” But regardless of your emotional stance on family reunions, it is a good time of year to reflect upon options to better support your health, your community, your environment and your world.

I deliberately placed “your health” first because I believe healing starts from the inside out. Improve your vitality and you will be more available to better the health of your community and your world. You might commit to a simple exercise program. Don’t go crazy! Set a goal with a definitive endpoint and write it down. “I agree to walk briskly for ten minutes a day for one month regardless of the weather” might be one suggestion. Setting these small, achievable goals will give you a sense of accomplishment. One patient was amazed at how good he felt after completing his pledge to do twenty-two pushups for twenty-two consecutive days. You could meditate for ten minutes a day for ten days. These tiny steps can accomplish great things! Begin making healthy changes during the Thanksgiving meal by providing a wholesome dish: I recommend as a resource Jessica Black’s cookbook (there are two versions): The Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Recipe Book.

Support of your local community is important.  Not only is it gratifying to see the effects of your efforts first hand, but exposing your children to direct aid, either hands-on or through donation, is a wonderful way to inculcate into them the importance of service and sacrifice. The Methodist Church in Ashland offers dinners to those in need on Tuesdays at 4 pm; volunteers are needed to prepare and serve food. Pioneer Hall also provides food Fridays at 4 pm. Winter Shelters are always in need of support; The Ashland Community Resource Center (541-631-2235) can inform you of these locations. Access (541-779-6691) in Medford accepts donations year round, Hearts with a Mission (541-646-7385) provides services for at-risk youth, and Southern Oregon Friends of Hospice, a personalized, compassionate end-of-life care facility, accepts donations on their website. Do you prefer to be even more hands-on? Enroll in the “Build a Tiny House Workshop”, which provides basic housing for those in need. Call 541-708-3557 for more information.

And finally, at the international level, there are many wonderful institutions that can benefit from even modest donations. In my line of work, I tend to look for facilities that focus on providing educational or medical aid, but of course there is no need to restrict yourself to this category. Many people whom I respect recommend Amurt, whose mission is to help improve the quality of life for the poor and disadvantaged people of the world, and those affected by calamity and conflict. One word of caution! If you choose a lesser known institution, be sure to invest a small amount of time verifying legitimacy (perhaps a phone call or email); sad though it might be, it is possible for hackers to hijack websites and end up being the recipient of funds.

I wish all of your readers of the Rogue Valley Messenger a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Dr. Daniel Smith practices at Bear Creek Naturopathic Clinic.  His office is on 2612 Barnett Ave.  He specializes in naturopathic oncology, but still maintains a strong family practice, treating all manner of conditions.  He can be reached at 541-770-5563 or at drdanielnd@gmail.com  If you would like to schedule an appointment, please ask specifically for Dr. Dan.



There Are So Many “Reese”-ons To Give Up Sugar

It is worth bringing up sweets again. After all, we are now less than two weeks away from Halloween and it also is part of the Jewish tradition at this time of year to consume apples and honey, a gastronomic wish for a sweet new year.

The 21st century world must reassess their relationship with sugar and refined carbohydrates.  Sugars in whole foods are properly balanced with minerals. In contrast, consumption of processed sugar lead to formation of acids that leach calcium and other mineral from the body, leaving the tissues depleted of these nutrients. Under these conditions, food cannot be digested or assimilated properly.

“Yeah, but I can’t resist, ” my patients tell me, “I know it’s not good for me, but eating sugar is how I respond to stress…”

Stress is a big issue that should not be overlooked. But there are some simple tricks you can use to address the addictive attribute of sugar. One easy, inexpensive method you can use to dull the sweet tooth is to buy a tincture of Gymnema sylvestre. This ayurvedic herb been used for centuries to treat disorders of blood sugar metabolism. More to the point here, taking ten drops of the tincture in the mouth will completely destroy the sweet taste for up to an hour, making even the sweet taste of chocolates bland as cotton. Elimination of that gratifying, euphoric flavor will help you to resist the blandishments your sweet tooth.

You can also consider that certain foods, while not sugary themselves, increase the desire for junky carbohydrates. According to eastern teachings, foods such as sea salt, pickles, miso, animal products and soy sauce direct energy lower in the body and thereby create a create a craving for sweets, which have an ascending nature. Those conditions that are indicative of a sugar imbalance such as diabetes may want to consider limiting or eliminating these foods from your menu. Instead, incorporate sweet vegetables such as beets, jerusalem artichokes, carrots, winter squash, sweet potatoes and parsnips. They will provide you with carbohydrates, but also with a great deal of fiber and micronutrients that are absent from refined sugary foods. Reduce the intake of sugar slowly to minimize withdrawal symptoms of fatigue, anxiety and depression. Cutting of sugar suddenly results in the desire to binge.

Any suggestions for sweet snacks or desserts that are easy to make and will satisfy what I will call the late night “chocolate undertow”? Absolutely!

Cacao date balls. They take about thirty minutes to make, but I like it because with the same time commitment I can triple the recipe and have enough for 3-6 months (frozen). It is difficult to overestimate the health benefits of dates. They are useful for constipation, anemia and allergies. They have a high mineral content, which is important for kids’ growing bones. They are high in fiber and are said to boost the sexual energy (I will let you assess your own need for dates here). Raw cacao nibs contain a very high percentage of antioxidants and are a superb natural blood pressure lowering food.

Ingredients include ¾ cup tree nuts (I used raw organic pecans), ¾ cup dried pitted organic dates, 2 tablespoons almond butter, 3 tablespoons 100% raw cacao unsweetened nibs, 3 Tablespoons hemp seeds, a handful of pumpkin or sunflower seeds and 1/2 – 2 tsp coconut oil as needed for appropriate consistency. If desired you may consider including a chunk of banana, cinnamon or nutmeg. Combine the ingredients in a food processor (you may need to soak the dates first for an hour), add the seeds and roll into balls.

It is coming up on a time for reflection and resolution. Make a commit-“mint” to change your addiction to sweets!

Dr. Daniel Smith practices at Bear Creek Naturopathic Clinic.  His office is on 2612 Barnett Ave.  He specializes in naturopathic oncology, but still maintains a strong family practice, treating all manner of conditions.  He can be reached at 541-770-5563 or at drdanielnd@gmail.com  If you would like to schedule an appointment, please ask specifically for Dr. Dan.

 



A Brief Insight Into Diabetes Part II

Last month, in A Brief Insight Into Diabetes Part I, I discussed the basic tenets of Type II diabetes, the form of the illness that is increasing in epidemic proportions. I focused primarily on lifestyle changes. This month, I am going to focus more on testing and treatment.

If you have diabetes or pre-diabetes, be sure to request a comprehensive blood panel on your first visit to your doctor. At a minimum this panel should include the following markers: blood sugar, hemoglobin A1c, a lipid panel, a c-peptide or insulin, homocysteine, highly sensitive c-reactive protein (hs-crp), vitamin D, liver enzymes, testosterone (in men) and a comprehensive metabolic panel (CMP). Some of these tests may be new to you: the hemoglobin A1c is the standard medical lab used to indicate what the average blood glucose level has been over the past three months; a c-peptide and insulin level will tell us how capable the pancreas is at producing insulin and when a diabetic definitely needs to be put on insulin; homocysteine and hs-crp are inflammatory markers; men with low testosterone will have greater difficulty managing their blood sugar and a CMP identifies any immediate issues with the kidneys and liver that must be prioritized in the treatment protocol. There are additional tests that may prove valuable. For example, a salivary cortisol test will identify any imbalances in adrenal hormones that -if left unaddressed- could promote ongoing obesity, poor sleep, anxiety, lack of satiety and low energy.

Although the mainstream management of diabetes does involve some very helpful advice on lifestyle changes (e.g. weight loss, smoking cessation and stress management) it is primarily managed with medication. These prescriptions involve oral hypoglycemic agents (OHA), blood pressure medications, statin drugs and injectable medications such as insulin and byetta. This style of management -the use of medication without comprehensive, holistic support- has been proven to be inefficient. Statistics show that typically a patient who is put on one OHA will need within three or so years a second OHA, and will require insulin within six years. It represents a paradigm of a downward spiral that treats symptoms and fails to address core medical issues, leading only to further complications and rarely to restoration of health. This is not to say that a diabetic should not use prescriptions. Rather, I am saying that medications should be used judiciously and only as part of a thorough, naturopathic protocol designed to optimize health and rejuvenate overwhelmed organs and tissues. In this context, many patients would  be able to use these medications in lower doses for less time.

Alternative practitioners, quite simply, are far better a getting results. We educate patients about making appropriate food choices and about why the recommendations of the American Diabetes Association are so tragically ineffective. We work closely with patients to help them develop an exercise program. We make sure we address any hormone imbalances, such as low testosterone or high cortisol and explain why achieving results requires restoring hormonal balance. We identify any vitamin and mineral deficiencies that are common to diabetics. We use nutrients and botanicals such as alpha lipoic acid, berberine or bitter melon to protect the body from damage caused by high blood sugars. We address inflammation in ways that minimize or eliminate the need for aspirin or ibuprofen. We develop protocols to treat body systems. These protocols not only effectively lower blood glucose and hemoglobin A1c, but they also alleviate stress on the pancreas, improve blood flow, increase sexuality, prevent atherosclerosis, heal the kidney and the eyes, lead to weight loss and improve vitality.

Remember: everything starts with the basics. Diet and exercise are the place to start. But, if you or a loved one develops diabetes, seeing an alternative practitioner is the best advice you can give them.

Dr. Daniel Smith practices at Bear Creek Naturopathic Clinic.  His office is on 2612 Barnett Ave.  He specializes in naturopathic oncology, but still maintains a strong family practice, treating all manner of conditions.  He can be reached at 541-770-5563 or at drdanielnd@gmail.com  If you would like to schedule an appointment, please ask specifically for Dr. Dan.



A Brief Insight Into Diabetes, Part I

Diabetes in increasing at epidemic levels in the United States. Over the next 24 hours, 3836 people will be diagnosed with diabetes, 830 people will die due to either diabetes or a diabetes related cause, 2876 diabetics will suffer from severely deteriorating eyesight, 627 people will be added to the list of diabetics requiring dialysis and 200 diabetics will have some part of their foot or leg amputated. About $671 million dollars in medical costs and lost work will be spent in the next 24 hours to treat this disease (that statistic is not a misprint).

Type II diabetes is the form associated with the current epidemic. It is a type of diabetes that is affected by many factors, most of them controllable. Perhaps the easiest factor to control is carbohydrate intake. For example, the prevalence of high fructose corn has had a profound influence upon the rise in diabetes cases. One study in 2013 demonstrated that diabetes prevalence is 20% higher in countries with high availability of HFCS compared to countries with low availability. Consumption of HFCS, along with poor quality carbohydrates and fats, is the single most important factor to address when confronted with diabetes.

Weight loss is also important to address. As we gain weight, our cells do not listen to insulin that well—this is called “insulin resistance”. Insulin is produced by the pancreas; its presence in the blood influences many cells, but primarily those of the liver, muscles and fat. The more adipose -or fat- tissue someone has, the more resistant the cells of the liver, adipose and muscles are to insulin. As insulin resistance develops, blood sugar levels stay high and the pancreas continues to put out more and more insulin. At some point the blood sugar levels get high enough that we diagnose that person as being a diabetic.

Exercise is of course, important. A person with diabetes cannot hope for long term regulation of blood sugar without exercise. Exercise creates a huge metabolic demand upon your body for glucose; it is the fuel muscles need to maintain the activity. By exercising, then, we lower our glucose level and decrease insulin resistance. Note that exercising does not necessarily mean training to cross-country ski uphill with a fifty pound pack. A two mile walk through the neighborhood is an adequate form of exercise, and a fine place to begin. As your program develops, however, it is good to incorporate some weight training in order to build muscle. This is because insulin is an anabolic hormone, or a hormone that “builds” tissue; it is very responsive to activities (such as weight training) that are anabolic in nature.

In the long term, our society must also address the degree to which mainstream medicine fails diabetics. In eight-minute office visits, diabetic patients simply do not receive the education or attention they need to learn to control their diabetes. Most patients with diabetes do not regularly take their blood sugars, do not know what their hemoglobin A1C score is, or even what it means, have not had any nutritional education, and only see their doctor 2-4 times a year. They are unaware that certain environmental toxins (such as arsenic) can promote diabetes, or that hormone imbalances in testosterone and cortisol play a major role in the development of this disease.

Perhaps more than any other medical malady, diabetes is a disorder that requires both patient participation (read: lifestyle changes) and the support of a naturopathic physician or practitioner whose treatment approach extends far beyond the conventional model. Nutritional counseling, herbs, vitamins, hormonal and endocrine support as well as judicious use of pharmacologic agents have been thoroughly documented to have a profound influence upon diabetes, much more so than medications alone.

Read Part II Here

Dr. Daniel Smith practices at Bear Creek Naturopathic Clinic.  His office is on 2612 Barnett Ave.  He specializes in naturopathic oncology, but still maintains a strong family practice, treating all manner of conditions.  He can be reached at 541-770-5563 or at drdanielnd@gmail.com  If you would like to schedule an appointment, please ask specifically for Dr. Dan.



The Nuances of Food Sensitivity Testing

There is much ambiguity about the differences (and similarities) between food allergies and food intolerances. There are many ways that food can affect someone adversely, with the reactions that occur anywhere between a few minutes to a few days after consumption. Those who react rapidly to a food most likely are experiencing an allergic food reaction.  This type of reaction involves the immune system. For instance, if you have an allergic reaction to shellfish, your body will overproduce an certain immunoglobulin (IgE) to proteins on the shellfish which travel to cells that release chemicals, causing an allergic reaction. A food allergy can cause a serious or even life-threatening reaction by eating a microscopic amount, touching or inhaling the food. Hives, difficulty breathing and anaphylaxis are associated with this type of reaction.  According to a study released in 2013 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, food allergies among children increased approximately 50% between 1997 and 2011. Six foods accounted for 90 percent of all reactions: milk, eggs, nuts, soy, wheat and shellfish.  I suspect that this rise in reactivity has to do with controversial animal husbandry practices and/or the presence of preservatives, dyes, GMOs and unnatural chemical biproducts in our foods, but this is a topic for another day.

Food intolerances are more subtle and much more insidious. Eating a food you are intolerant to can leave you feeling miserable. Migraines, eczema, psoriasis, joint pain, emotional disturbances, ADHD, depression, inflammatory bowel syndrome, gas and bloating, allergies and many other health issues persist due to consumption of hidden intolerances.  Reactions to foods may take place three days after eating the food, making the offending food difficult to identify. A food intolerance response takes place in the digestive system. It occurs when you are unable to properly breakdown the food. This could be due to enzyme deficiencies, secondary immune responses such as an increase in cytokines (inflammatory compounds), sensitivity to food additives or reactions to naturally occurring chemicals in foods.   Because of the time lag associated with reactivity, most people innocently continue to eat the offending food; constant exposure results in  “leaky gut”, a phenomenon in which the gastrointestinal tract becomes inflamed.   If the swelling persists, the gastrointestinal tract begins to lose its integrity, which allows foods that are not fully digested to pass into the blood stream, creating further havoc for the immune system.  Like food allergies, food intolerances may also lead to an increase in immunoglobulins, IgG and IgA.

In general there are two approaches to recognition of the offending food(s). One method, the gold standard, is the elimination diet. An elimination diet involves removal of all of the most likely candidates for six weeks and observance for any improvement in symptoms.  After significant improvement is noted, (but not before the six weeks are completed) the foods are added back in, one at a time, at a rate no faster than one food per week. Any return of symptoms can then be associated with that food. The advantages to this approach include a financial incentive (its free) as well as its precision in successful identification of “bad” foods. The disadvantage lies with the fact that it is extremely time consuming and requires a high degree of patient motivation and compliance.

Laboratory testing is also available.  However, these tests are fraught with controversy.  Conventional medicine looks for IgE reactions by pricking the skin with a tiny amounts of food and looks for wheels (hives) on the skin, indicating potential reactivity.  This test is reproducible, but often misses subclinical reactions. In other words, it is good as catching food allergies, but less reliable if you are looking for food sensitivities.  Many physicians instead rely on serum tests whose outcome (e.g. IgG and IgA levels) is associated with food sensitivities.  The testing facilities use plates of finely ground up foods that are exposed to the patients’ serum; lab technicians then observe the plate for a classic immune reaction and arbitrarily designate these reactions as being absent, low or high.  A high reaction ostensibly indicated a need to avoid that food.  However, the problems that may be associated with this preparation are enormous. For one, all food (organic and non-organic) is coated with microorganisms. The most common of these include bacteria and fungi but viruses and parasites may also be found on fruits, vegetables, grains, milk and meat products. Microorganisms have many antigens that are highly immunogenic. It is common knowledge that most people have high circulating levels of IgG to a number of common microorganisms. To this likely wealth of microorganisms on the testing plates, there is the presence of possible pesticides and organic solvents that are not (according to the technologist interviewed) rinsed away during preparation. All misgivings aside, testing is easy and convenient for both patient and physician. One need only submit a blood sample from the patient and the laboratory returns not only the foods the patient is “allergic to” but a “rotation” or “elimination” diet for the patient.  Testing costs between $200 and $500.

A third method of testing, the Alcat Test, uses a similar method to the test previously discussed, with one key difference.  Rather than using IgG or IgA to assess reactivity to food, the Alcat test measures reactions to food via stimulation of white blood cells.  This is a key difference as food can trigger reactions through many mechanisms, not just via an IgG or IgA response. Supporters of this test feel that white blood cells will cause an inflammatory response regardless of the mechanism by which a food irritates the body; hence it is a more thorough and reliable test that can be used to identify the offending food.

Ultimately, I believe both approaches have their time and place. As ever, consider consulting your friendly neighborhood alternative health practitioner for guidance and advice.



Methy-huh? Methylation: A Tiny Bodily Process with Huge Impact

Methylation is one of the hottest topics in alternative medicine circles. If you decide to delve into this topic, you’ll quickly find yourself in a sea of complexity. Despite the intricacies, it is worth knowing something about this process, as methylation influences countless metabolic pathways in the body.

Methylation occurs in the body approximately a billion times a second. Without methylation, life quite simply would not exist. Methylation occurs when once molecule (say, a particular form of B-12 or folate) passes its methyl group to another molecule in order to exert some sort of biochemical effect. These “effects” are ubiquitous, ranging from production of creatine for muscle function and phosphatidylcholine for cell membrane stability to regulation of cellular detoxification and metabolism of neurotransmitters. Other effects include the manufacture of and breakdown of  hormones and histamine and the regulation of gene expression. In short, our vitality, susceptibility to allergies, cancer and inflammation, our thyroid function, our nervous and endocrine systems, our digestive function, our ability to concentrate and remember and our mood are only a few examples of factors controlled by methylation.

Methylation is required to produce glutathione, which is one of the major molecules involved in detoxification; inefficient methylation can lead to a higher susceptibility to heavy metal toxicity and illnesses from pesticides and other environmental pollutants. Poor glutathione function may contribute to mold toxicity and lead to oxidation (rancidification) of our cellular membranes.  Sounds awful? Chronic illness is skyrocketing today. Methylation defects are a likely cause.

Methylation also influences histamine breakdown in the gut. A lot of people recently have become more aware of histamine intolerance and mast cell overactivation. Most people do not realize that allergies, high levels of histamine and inflammation at their core are regulated by methylation.

Gene expression is regulated by methylation. That is, methylation controls the turning on and turning off of genes. When a methyl group binds to a gene it changes the way that gene expresses itself. This is known as DNA methylation, and it’s one of the mechanisms that cells use to control gene expression. Is cancer in your family history? Methylation issues are intimately involved.

It would be wonderful if everyone possessed stellar methylation activity, but this is not the case.  The single biggest deleterious effect upon our ability to methylate is the environment. Heavy metals, medications, plastic byproducts, cleaning agents, preservatives, chemicals in our homes and oh-so-much more…all profoundly affect our ability to methylate properly. In fact, the proteins involved in methylation seems to be particularly susceptible to the effect of these toxins. As we age, we continue to accumulate toxins; hence the older we get the less we are able to effectively methylate. Of course even at birth all humans do not possess an equal ability to methylate and detoxify; methylation and detoxification are controlled by genes and some of us are born with genes that are more efficient than others are regulating these two processes. In an imaginary setting where we all accumulate an equal load of toxins, those with genes that are less efficient at detoxifying and methylating will develop symptoms at an earlier age.

How can you assess your methylation status? Performing a genetic panel can help. These panels are relatively inexpensive (they start at about $200) but can provide enormous insight into the genetic apparatus that regulates both methylation and detoxification. The information allows an informed practitioner to make decisions about how to best approach the complex health issues that physicians must address today from an very individualized perspective. For example, these tests may unveil why you have a genetic predisposition towards allergies, digestive disorders, anxiety, chronic illness or even conditions such as endometriosis. They offer the trained practitioner a roadmap to untie these very convoluted knots.

Dr. Daniel Smith practices at Bear Creek Naturopathic Clinic. His office is on 2612 Barnett Ave.  He specializes in naturopathic oncology, but still maintains a strong family practice, treating all manner of conditions. He can be reached at 541-770-5563 or at drdanielnd@gmail.com. If you would like to schedule an appointment, please ask specifically for Dr. Dan.

 



Depression: Some Thoughts On Treating the Cause

There are many reasons that any given person with depression might be depressed. Like all illness, depression can have many contributing causes, including past traumas and grief, chronic illness, an inability to perceive where one is “stuck” in life, toxic exposures, and many others. Unfortunately, in the conventional medical world most cases of depression – no matter what the cause – are treated the same way: medication.  I do not presume to believe that medication is inappropriate for all people who suffer from depression. I recognize that many, many people have benefited from these prescription medications. I do believe, however, that the inclination of conventional physicians to rely on medication without considering possible causes of depression is inappropriate. It is my wish that within twenty years, both patients and doctors will be highly motivated to investigate some of the following factors that contribute to depression:

Food. Most people reading this article choose to eat organic food. This is an excellent place to start improving your health. Remember though: “organic” does not necessarily mean the food is nutrient dense.  It only means that the food was grown without chemicals. Healthy soil, air and water are unfortunately rare these days, and I believe even organic food suffers.

Consider performing a food allergy panel. Most panels are relatively inexpensive and can identify foods that are causing inflammation throughout your body. Think of inflammation as being smoke from a wet log thrown on a fire. In this case, the smoke is inside your body, contributing to depression. If you choose not to pursue this test, then avoid all grains, processed foods and dairy for one week to see if your depression lightens.

Nutrient depletion. Several nutrients, especially B12, B6, sam-e and folic acid are involved in several metabolic pathways that affect neurotransmitters such as dopamine. If these depletions lead to an inability to make or to breakdown these neurotransmitters, depression can develop. Be wary of testing for these nutrients. Serum B12 values for example, fluctuate depending on supplementation and although it may reveal blood levels of B12, it does not divulge anything about how efficiently your cells are able to use B12.  In other words, it is possible to have high serum level of these nutrients, but be metabolically deficient. Testing levels of markers such as transcobalamin and methyl-malonic acid are more accurate and readily available.

Methylation defects. Methylation is a hot top these days. Methylation describes the effect of genes and possible mutations upon critical cellular process that effect mood, detoxification, hormone and neurotransmitter levels, muscle function, development of cancer and other cellular processes. Defects in methylation called single nucleotide polymorphisms (or “SNiPs” for short) may play a definitive role in our sense of happiness. In fact, certain SNPs will affect the efficacy of anti-depressant drugs. Those who suffer from chronic depression or who have been unsuccessful at finding an effective medication would benefit by consulting a physician knowledgeable about SNPs.

Toxins. If you eat, breath or drink in this world, you are toxic. Some of us are better than others at detoxifying, but most of us could use some help. The list is seemingly endless, but common contaminants of our health include benzene, bisphenol A, DDT and heavy metals. Do these poisons effect our emotional health? You bet they do. Inexpensive tests are available to assess your body’s burden of toxins.

Lack of exercise. Admit it! We can all do better here. The fact is that nothing can bring you out of the blues more than physical activity. Exercise picks up our metabolism, reducing the obligation of the thyroid and adrenal gland to do the same thing; it allows us to detoxify though sweat and delivers oxygen to all of our tissues. Be sure to get at least 30 minutes in a day.

Dr. Daniel Smith practices at Bear Creek Naturopathic Clinic. His new office is on 2612 Barnett Ave. He specializes in naturopathic oncology, but still maintains a strong family practice, treating all manner of conditions. He can be reached at 541-770-5563 or at drdanielnd@gmail.com. If you would like to schedule an appointment, please ask specifically for Dr. Dan.



“I’ll rise, but I refuse to shine!”: Advice for insomniacs to establish good sleeping habits

According to the National Institute of Health, insomnia is a disorder that affects nearly 60 million Americans.  Almost everyone experiences insomnia at one point or another, but often the condition becomes a chronic problem.  Some people have trouble falling asleep while others have difficulty maintaining quality sleep.  These people do not feel refreshed once morning arrives.  The consequences of prolonged insomnia can be serious.  One study from 2013 examined the three aspects of insomnia I just mentioned -difficulty falling to sleep, difficulty maintaining sleep, and non-restorative sleep-  and found that the more of these symptoms a person reported, the greater the risk of heart failure.  A 17% increased chance of developing heart failure was associated with having one symptom, while a 92% increased chance was associated with having two symptoms.  Having all three symptoms nearly tripled the likelihood of heart failure!  Lower performance at work or at school, an increased risk of accidents, obesity, a greater tendency to abuse drugs and diabetes are only a few additional problems that insomnia may bring on its train.

Estimates of total insomnia-related costs in the United States have ranged from $30 to 107.5 billion per year.  This estimate includes direct treatment costs, such as physician encounters and prescriptions, as well as indirect costs, such as consumption of medical services, increased accident risk, and lost workplace productivity.

Like many health issues, the causes of insomnia are multi-factorial.  Exercise, stress, technology, hormone levels, blood sugar levels, irregular daily habits, food choices, consumption of drugs and medications are all examples of variables that profoundly affect quality of sleep.

I’ll go a little deeper into some of these factors to explain a few ideas that may go a long way to helping restore wholesome sleep.  First is exercise. My patients offer me many rationales for avoiding exercise, but the bottom line is: You gotta do it.  Do you need a gym membership?  No!  Most people are willing and capable of taking three brisk ten-minute walks a day.  Sweat a little (just a little) and you will be surprised at how far this goes toward relaxing you at night.

Second, make your room dark.  And I do mean dark.  Purchase black out curtains, use duct tape, do whatever it takes.  Let no ray of outside light shine into your bedroom.  Darkness facilitates the production of melatonin, which facilitates sleep.  Even a small amount of light will interfere with this process.

Technology is a challenging one and I have two recommendations that address this point.  First do no activity that involves technology for two hours prior to your bedtime.  Reading is fine, artwork is great, baths are fantastic, but TV and computer time is out.  Meditation, even for ten minutes, will help you relax.  Next, try unplugging every plug in your bedroom.  The electromotive force produced by an outlet interferes with your body’s own delicate magnetic balance.  I have successfully helped insomniacs by having them turn off the circuit breaker to their bedroom!

Fourth, do not eat anything for four hours before sleeping.  One possible exception to this rule would be those who have blood sugar issues, in which case a light protein snack is recommended.  Avoid alcohol prior to sleep.  Chinese medicine postulates that those who wake at 3 a.m. may have a liver block; my experience is that late-night consumption of alcohol leads to such a pattern.

Finally, sleep is a quintessentially circadian process.  Your sleep schedule relies upon routine.  Try to create a very regular, habitual schedule for yourself.  Every day -even on weekends and vacations- get up at the same time, go down at the same time, eat at the same time and exercise at the same time.  Such a routine is very difficult to maintain, but you will be astonished at how quickly your sleep patterns will respond to this discipline.

 

Dr. Daniel Smith practices at Bear Creek Naturopathic Clinic.  His office is on 2612 Barnett Ave.  He specializes in naturopathic oncology, but still maintains a strong family practice, treating all manner of conditions.  He can be reached at 541-770-5563 or at drdanielnd@gmail.com  If you would like to schedule an appointment, please ask specifically for Dr. Dan.



Four Tips to using Supplements

Quality.  This is the most important but most difficult attribute to ascertain.  In a profit driven society where industry can more or less monitor itself, there is much room for inferior product.  Last year the New York State attorney general office accused Walmart, Target, GNC and Walgreens of selling dietary supplements that were fraudulent and contaminated (See “What’s in Those Supplements” in the NY Times, February 3, 2015.)  In “Herb Plus” brand, for example, pills labeled Ginkgo biloba contained only rice, asparagus, and spruce.  Remember that a company who sells to chains such as GNC and Walgreens are more driven by quantity of sales than by quality of product.   Reputable companies use third parties to substantiate quality and will provide you with proof of assays upon request.  Additionally, they use quality ingredients that may be more expensive.  Calcium carbonate may be calcium, but it is little more than ground up sea shells.

Prudent use with Rx medications.  Do not presume that just because an herb or nutrient is natural, it is also “safe”, especially if you are also on prescription medications.  For example, in 2015 a medical journal published a case of a man who was placed on warfarin (Coumadin), a drug used to thin the blood, after having had a valve replaced in his heart.  The man self-substituted nattokinase for warfarin.  Nattokinase is an enzyme derived from fermented soybeans that highly effective at decreasing the tendency of the blood to clot.  Nevertheless, the man developed a clot which lodged itself in the artificial valve.  While herbs and nutrients can always be used to heal and improve health, they should not be substituted or used concomitantly with prescription medications without the guidance of a licensed health professional.

Ingredient List.  Ever seen a supplement that contains 25 or more ingredients, containing each and every possible nutrient and herb of the day?  Stay away from such supplements!  These brands are panhandling to each and every fashionable nutrient of the day, rather than to your health.  Keep in mind that in order to include all of these nutrients in one or two capsules, there cannot be more than a dusting of each per capsule, which is unlikely to have the desired effect on your physiology.  Further, herbs work well synergistically.  An intelligently crafted product with five ingredients will do far more with fewer capsules than one that contains everything but the kitchen sink.  Lastly, be aware that supplements manufactured abroad may be contaminated with heavy metals such as arsenic.  Your best bet is buying USDA certified organic products.

Take ‘em when you need ‘em.  When do you take an Ibuprofen?  When you have a headache, that’s when!  Would you take one if you did not have the headache?  Of course not, why would you?  (There are herbal formulas far superior to Ibuprofen, and far safer, but that’s a discussion for another day).  Along that line, I recommend taking supplements only when you need them.  If you feel tired and burned out, B-complex and adrenal support can help immeasurably.  Once you recover, discontinue them.  Taking methyl-donors like folate, SAM-e and some forms of B12 can trigger restlessness and anxiety if taken too often; if you have these symptoms, stop taking them.  Furthermore, following this advice will make your supplements last longer and save you a few dollars.

 

The bottom line?  Supplements are medicine that should be used prudently.  If in doubt, consult your friendly neighborhood integrative health provider!

Dr. Daniel Smith practices at Bear Creek Naturopathic Clinic.  His office is on 2612 Barnett Ave.  He specializes in naturopathic oncology, but still maintains a strong family practice, treating all manner of conditions.  He can be reached at 541-770-5563 or at drdanielnd@gmail.com  If you would like to schedule an appointment, please ask specifically for Dr. Dan.

 



How Sesame Street Can Keep You Healthy: The ABC’s of Vitamin D

As I write this, the sun is shining and the temperature reads 70 degrees.  Although I am inside, I probably should be outside in short sleeves getting my daily dose of vitamin D.  Vitamin D has been the subject of a tremendous amount of research in the past decade.   Molecularly, vitamin D is closer to being a steroid than a vitamin and resembles cholesterol in structure.  Most people understand that the sun stimulates the skin to produce vitamin D; the cultural norm that encourages avoidance of the sun through use of long sleeves and sun block has led to a chronic deficiency of vitamin D.  While I understand the risks associated with sunburns, I feel that direct daily sun exposure is essential for health, and I am especially concerned about the compulsion to use conventional sun screens, which contain carcinogenic constituents.  It has been estimated that the RDA of vitamin D (a paltry 200 IU for adults) can be synthesized with the exposure of 30% of a person’s skin for 30 minutes at Oregon’s latitudes.

Vitamin D plays a major role in bone metabolism by facilitating the absorption of calcium and phosphorus in bone mineralization.  It regulates the release of parathyroid hormone, which pulls calcium from the bones to raise blood levels.  It plays a role in muscle function, nerve function and plays a role in proper immune function.  There is also research supporting its role in the treatment of diabetes, multiple sclerosis and cardiovascular disease.  It also is critical for proper control of cell division and cell repair, making it a critical nutrient for cancer patients.  Some researchers believe that Vitamin D deficiency could be associated with half of all cancers.  It is involved with at least twenty genes that determine cell proliferation, differentiation and apoptosis (natural cell death) and there are at least eighteen cancers, especially colorectal cancers and hormonal cancers (e.g. breast and prostate cancer) that it may help to prevent and inhibit.

The best food source of Vitamin D is cod liver oil, which delivers 1300 IU per tablespoon, or about 30-80% of what I recommend for the average patient per day.  There are brands available, that offer cod liver oil that does not have a strong odor or taste.  Cod liver oil is also high in Vitamin A (about 1500 IU per tablespoon) as well as Omega 3 oils (over 2000 mg).  Bone broth made from the bones of these fish not only will yield vitamin D, but will provide a source of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and potassium, all in forms that your body can easily absorb. As discussed below, these are all necessary nutrients for the absorption of vitamin D.  Sardines and mackerel also provide high doses.  And the food with the highest levels of vitamin D?  Halibut liver, at 16,800 IU per 100 grams!

Vitamin D should be taken with calcium, magnesium, vitamin A and vitamin K.  Doing so not only assists with proper absorption but also assimilation into bones.  Some studies indicate that without these nutrients, patients are more likely to develop atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) or kidney stones, probably due to excessively high calcium levels.  There has been considerable debate about the role of vitamin A in conjunction with vitamin D; the problem lies in the fact that taking high vitamin A in patients who are deficient in vitamin  D can actually interfere with vitamin D assimilation.  I generally recommend on supplementation in a 1:5 ratio of A to D.  If you are taking Vitamin D for proper bone health (perhaps you have been diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis), it is worth asking your doctor to perform a simple test that will allow him or her to deduce your vitamin K status.  This test assesses the activity of  osteocalcin, the primary bone building protein.  1/4 to 1/3 of women tested have low activity of this protein.  Because vitamin  K activates osteocalcin, it is imperative that those who have low osteocalcin activity take vitamin K with vitamin D.

Prednisone and Dilantin (an anti-seizure medication) both interfere with vitamin D absorption.  Those who are on these medications should also be on vitamin D.  Regardless of your reason for supplementation, consult a doctor!  Excessive vitamin D can be toxic, so testing should be done regularly.

Spring is not too far off!  Be sure to support your vitamin D levels with lots of sunlight, sardines, cod liver oil, bone broth and appropriate supplementation under the guidance of a licensed physician.

Dr. Daniel Smith practices at Bear Creek Naturopathic Clinic.  His office is on 2612 Barnett Ave.  He specializes in naturopathic oncology, but still maintains a strong family practice, treating all manner of conditions.  He can be reached at 541-770-5563 or at drdanielnd@gmail.com  If you would like to schedule an appointment, please ask specifically for Dr. Dan.