Friday, September 2, 2016

On-going Immunization Conversation

Recently the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) announced a shift in their policy position on families who don't vaccinate their children.  Their new position is that these families can be dismissed from a pediatrician's practice if vaccination is refused.  Their statement encouraged gentleness in doing this, but the change in course from one supporting tolerance to this new stance is a pretty dramatic change.  In addition, they've issued a statement that all personal exemptions presently allowed under state laws should be rescinded by state legislatures.

Ever since the measles outbreak in Disneyland in January of 2015, the public argument over vaccinations has exploded, devolving often into mere name-calling and false stereotyping.  The pro-vaccination side claims science is on their side and that statistically speaking, "you're a fool not to be vaccinated," (and "non-vaxxers" are threatening everyone in the Free World by their dopey Neanderthal arrogance as well.)  Open hostility has been pretty common.  On the other side are thousands of compassionate, EDUCATED parents who just want what is the best for their children's health.  Who is right?  There is no Right answer for every situation, and statistics don't provide answers to any single individual.

I believe the AAP is off-base.  Vaccinations are a medical procedure.  Like all medical procedures there are risks and benefits, and these have to be spelled out to each patient by Informed Consent.  To go down a path that forces parents to accept only one choice is to violate the very conscience and purpose of having Informed Consent.  Informed Consent guarantees patients the right to choose for themselves what they are willing to risk from a medical procedure and the consequences of exercising that choice.  To dismiss families from medical care because parents won't make the same choice as their pediatrician is punitive, and fulfills no good purpose, leaving children without a physician.

The AAP takes a second draconian step by wanting the removal of personal exemptions and leaving only medical exemptions (which only a doctor gets to determine) as the only way to avoid exposing your child to the risks immunizations pose.  If these shots were so perfectly safe, then why has the Federal Government excluded pharmaceutical companies from liability on their vaccines?  Prior to this legislation, the number of lawsuits and size of the awards for wrongful death and injury from vaccinations caused the pharmaceutical companies to threaten they would stop making vaccines if they weren't protected from lawsuits.  Congress, inundated with reports from public health officials about the rare but equally horrifying deaths and injuries from the various illnesses themselves (and surely no small amount of pharmaceutical company lobbying money), caved quickly and passed the requested legislation.

Are vaccines safe?  Statistically, I have to say yes, for the most part.  Do vaccines prevent dangerous diseases?  Again statistically, apparently yes, though not as effectively as we are brainwashed to believe.  Have I, or would I vaccinate myself or my children?  No, except perhaps under extreme duress and fear; and I can admit to caving into that on rare occasions.  But, there are still hundreds of adverse effects (including deaths) reported each year, and perhaps thousands of unsubstantiated but strongly suspected injuries to children's health.  These are injuries and deaths silenced and dismissed by a myopic medical community blinded more by their statistically regimented conviction than their holding any objective compassion for the real fears parents carry and the dangers to the welfare of their children many experience at the hands of our technological Western form of medicine..

In my humble opinion, informed consent and personal exemptions should remain the free choice of all patients, and the AAP should re-think their new position.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Breaking the Stress Habit

Stress is one of the largest contributing factors to impairment of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health.  The more years that go by, the more communication and convenience inventions that come along, the madder the rush, the faster the pace of life... the more stress insidiously drains away our energy, vitality, attitude, and resiliency.  Stress (and aging) are the two most common reasons people might give themselves and each other for that achy, tired, nervous, blah but "keyed up," sleepless, "dead" feeling from which so many suffer.  But, do you know that as much as that feeling might bother us we're, at the same time, very much addicted to it?  Stress has been so much a part of most people's lives that their bodies have developed a tolerance, nay, even a need, for the adrenaline fix.

Stress creates an automatic body response that keeps us wired up, better than coffee.  It helps us keep pace with fast-paced life.  And, if we actually take a vacation or try to slow down, our bodies push back on us with the word "bored" prominently blinking in red across the inside of our foreheads.  If you're going to remove the destructiveness to your health that stress possesses, you most likely are going to have to break your stress habit.

Dr, Joe Dispenza, author of Break the Habit of Being Yourself and Evolve Your Brain, says that 95 percent of our daily activity is made up of actions and behaviors that we have learned or taught ourselves through emotional repetition to the point that our bodies are running on auto-pilot with barely a thought going in to what we're doing or why.  Michael Brown, author of The Presence Process, talks about how most of the time we react to current circumstances and events from something we started doing long ago, rather than choosing a healthy thoughtful response for today.

Breaking the habit of being stressed requires re-engaging one's brain, being conscious of the present moment, gaining awareness of how automatically we react without thinking, and eliminating or replacing those reactions with thoughtful present-moment intention.  When we start doing this we'll run into much the same dynamics as one would with any addiction.  There will be denial, resistance, withdrawal, relapse, and struggle to maintain the change.  Determination and perseverance must become cherished characteristics that we hold close and seek as much support as we can for holding on to them as we can.

Wellness coaching can help this process, as well as developing appropriate support systems and effecting lifestyle changes that reduce the triggers to stressing.  I'm available to help you engage in this life growth toward better health.  You can make an appointment, or contact me.  I'm open to skyping or trying to do work over the phone if you're not local.    


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Gradually Then Suddenly

Have you heard the story of someone suddenly having their routine life jerked up short by a heart attack?  That health moment turns into a watershed life event where all things then get measured by "before my heart attack" and "after my heart attack."

Most of the life threatening and life altering diseases we face today are those that have been building for a long while.  "Gradually then suddenly" is a phrase taught in Fierce Conversations training.  Things will just very slowly drift into disarray -- so slow as to not really notice it's happening, and then one day the problem fully explodes.  

Just as chronic illness frequently follows this gradually then suddenly pattern, it is also the pattern of making healthy changes, only this pattern is "gradually then never."  In the same way a very small mistake in setting a course can cause you to wind up miles off course, very small steps taken today with your health can take you miles away from premature serious, or terminal, illness.

A health coach is someone who can serve you well in taking on the changes that you probably already know to be "good" for you, but you can never quite get around to doing.  Entering into health coaching supplies you with all the following:
  • Assessments of where you are and where you want to be in your old age.
  • Develop a plan with goals and strategic objectives to set the course.
  • Create action steps that are achievable, effective, and measurable, which will keep you on a wellness course.
  • Receive clear insights and motivation to stay the course until new ways become healthy lifestyle habits.
  • Help you avoid pitfalls and handle the common retreats backward into old habits.
  • Identify supportive helps and critical attitudinal structures to hold the course.
  • Re-evaluate the course in view of new information and tap into successes to gain stamina for next steps to wellness.
If you'd like to receive some health coaching to get you out of the health rut you've been in and get started on a new road, give a call to the clinic.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016


For the past decade or more, the wisdom coming out from the vast majority of dermatologist offices has been that sunshine is evil incarnate.  The implication has been that almost any exposure to sunlight would result in skin cancer.  While undeniably skin cancer is triggered by skin damage caused by excessive ultraviolet light exposure (i.e. sunburn), sunlight is not skin cancer waiting to happen.  In fact, quite the opposite is true.

The Journal of Internal Medicine reported in March on a Swedish study that found avoiding exposure to the sun was comparable to smoking in terms of mortality risk.  In other words, people who avoid time in the sun might as well be smoking cigarettes; the impact on your health will be comparable.  The reason for this observation is not understood, but most speculations tie it to Vitamin D deficiencies.  Ultraviolet light from the sun on our skin produces activated Vitamin D.  Vitamin D has been proven to improve immune function and reduce cancer risk, in addition to building strong bones and regulating calcium stores.

I do want to be clear.  Getting sunburned is bad, and the damage is cumulative - so, the more sunburns you get the greater your chances of skin cancer.  I also recommend avoiding sunscreens.  Most commercial sun blocking products contain toxins and blocking the sun chemically, or blocking it by staying inside your house are virtually alike.  So what is one to do?  Ideally, you need to accustom your skin to being in the sun.  This involves exposing your skin gradually to increasing lengths of time in it.  If you are forced to be out in the sun longer than your skin is accustomed to, then using a sunscreen is better than getting burned.  But starting early in the summer (or spring even) start exposing areas of your skin that you know will be exposed throughout the summer so that your body can cope with longer exposures when you start playing outside.

The other problem with long exposures to sunlight is that ultraviolet light does tend to age your skin.  Good oils (e.g. avocado, hemp, apricot kernel, or macadamia nut) with Vitamin E added are great moisturizers and provide good protection against the free radicals created by excess exposure to ultraviolet light.   

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Feeling Sonder

I did not know the word for it until this week.  This week I learned that sonder is the emotional experience of deeply realizing that other people are living complicated and complex lives.  I've often stood on the ground with an airplane going overhead and wondered about all the people on board that flight; I've gotten lost in thought wondering about what they were feeling or going through, why they were traveling -- for fun or for sorrow.  I have walked end-of-life journeys with many and realized that I can never know when I might be beside someone in a grocery store line, or at a sporting event who is going through extremely difficult circumstances.  I've learned from my reflections on feeling sonder that compassion and accepting another person's reality is an important thing to hold.

I see numbers of people who are having mystifying health problems for which they've been discounted, ignored, or told "it's all in your head."  Feeling sonder helps me back up and know that to this person their pain is real, their experience is real, and it's very often not their fault.  Our knowledge base of what ails us is in no way complete.  Our knowledge base of the infinite array of things that can go wrong just in the physical sphere is tiny.  Simply because a panel of university physicians don't know what is wrong with a person does not mean that that person's experience of poor health is illegitimate.  I have people come into my office at least monthly who say, "I have this really weird symptom that I haven't shared with anyone because I don't want anyone to think I'm crazy."  More often than not, that symptom provides a new clue.

I learned about sonder from a Facebook post called, "23 Emotions People Feel but Can't Explain."  I did not know the names of all the feelings, but I had experienced them all when I read the descriptions.  It may be an American cultural thing, but we (and our limited English language) have difficulty talking about or identifying emotions outside the restrictive "feeling palette" of happy, depressed, anxious, or angry.  Perhaps we would understand one another better if we weren't so ready to pigeonhole someone's feelings into one of these four little boxes?

As a naturopath, I've known for more than twenty years that the emotional realm of a person's life has as much influence on a person's health as diet, sleep, exercise, or any of the other topics you will find on this blog. Where you live emotionally day in and day out has a tremendous impact on how your life unfolds; it has huge impacts on how your body works.  Does your emotional life need to change?  Perhaps it's something worth exploring.

Nature Words for your Health
Dr. Mark