Friday, June 29, 2012


Menopause is that point at which the female body ends it's reproductive time.  Every woman meets "The Change" at some point - either when it is surgically imposed or aging supplies it.  It is met with a wide variety of emotions including gratitude, nervousness, sadness (even grief), loss, and perhaps freedom and relief. It's very common to mourn the loss of reproductive capability.  It is common to struggle with new conceptions of body image.  Almost never does a woman feel bad about not having a regular period any more.  

Menopause does not happen overnight; it comes on gradually over a period of at least a couple years and maybe a lot more.  It may begin in a woman's early to mid-30's with menstrual changes.  One example being a gradually lengthening menstrual cycle; instead of 26 days it goes to 27, then to 28...  Another example is periods may get heavier or have more clots.  Uterine fibroids and ovarian cysts may flare up.  This is a result of estrogen dominance.  It is common for estrogen levels to increase relative to progesterone.  Some natural progesterone support can improve the uncomfortable aspects of this transition time.  Eventually, in her mid-late 40's typically, periods will begin skipping.  Hot flashes commonly begin occurring.  Depression, irritability, or anxiety may increase.  Libido and vaginal secretions may change.  Doctors can test for menopause once periods get irregular or non-existent.  The test is for Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH), a pituitary hormone that stimulates the ovaries.  When the ovaries quit responding the FSH levels go very high.

The symptoms of menopause -- the hot flashes, the vaginal dryness, the irritability, etc. -- can be managed naturally.  In fact, the more naturally the symptoms are handled the better the chances you will "outgrow" the symptoms.  The typical time frame for the symptoms to occur is three years.  Artificial hormone replacement only postpones adjusting to the new hormonal balance.  Treatments vary widely.

It is important to know that every woman's experience of menopause is slightly different.  Each woman is a unique combination of mind-body connections, biochemistry, diet, and lifestyle.  All of these elements are interrelated in completely unique ways for every woman.  No predictions can be made ahead of time or during.  No one treatment is going to be uniformly effective for all women; each treatment has to be individualized.  Individualizing a treatment (if it is needed) comes by trial and error.  An experienced practitioner can guess on a good place to start, but what the treatment evolves into is a unique creation between the woman and her practitioner.  So, the closing word here is: know that there IS a solution to the discomforts of menopause and don't rest until it's found.    

Monday, June 18, 2012

Sunshine and Summer!

SUN!  Yay summer!  Grab the sunscreen, let's go.  Uh sunscreen... 

Today is the day that the FDA's new guidelines on over-the-counter sunscreens takes effect; manufacturers' compliance, however, is not mandated until December of this year.  The FDA is requiring sunscreens to be "broad spectrum" and have a minimum level of blocking power (SPF 15.)  A broad spectrum sunscreen is one that has been proven to block both Ultraviolet A (UVA) and Ultraviolet B (UVB) rays.  The higher the SPF number the more effectively those rays are blocked.  The American Academy of Dermatology, among other Dermatology associations, have been big on advocating for the use of sunblocks and against sun exposure by all people due to the increased risks of skin cancer.

Sunscreens make me uneasy; chemical solutions to health problems in general make me uneasy.  If you HAVE to live a particular lifestyle and nothing is going to alter that behavior then the chemical answers to reduce the health impacts from that bad behavior is reduced -- at least for that one particular health worry.  The worrisome part is what impact the chemicals have on your longer term overall health.  Skin absorbs most of whatever is put on it.  Lauryl sulfate and many other "inactive ingredients" have known carcinogenic implications.  The newer UV screening substances ("active ingredients") have no track record for potential side effects.

The largest danger of getting skin cancer is from sunburning, not from the sun itself!  The human body was made for sunshine.  Vitamin D production is dependent upon the UV light from sunlight.  Sunblocks, clothing or chemical, will reduce Vitamin D stores.  Meticulously regulating your sun exposure to allow tanning without burning is the best natural way to reduce skin cancer risks without the potential complicating effects from chemicals.  The major benefit of getting sun without burning and without chemicals is that your skin can then use the ultraviolet light to make Vitamin D, which carries with it strong bones and teeth, improved immunity, and reduced cancer risks.  Your skin makes Vitamin D from sunshine far better than you absorb Vitamin D from supplementation.  So, get out there and get some sun -- but be CAREFUL to start with a short amount of time and increase it consistently and gradually.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Ear Infections

Thanks to for photo
One of the most common health problems in children is ear infections.  The typical problem arises in the wee little tube called the Eustachian tube -- a specially God-engineered piece of work that functions to equalize air pressure on the ear drum.  The trouble arises when the Eustachian tube gets blocked, usually by excess mucus, as from a cold, allergy, or swollen tonsils.  Bacteria then overgrow in the warm culture there, which are then attacked by the immune system generating lots of inflammation and heat that envelopes the ear drum.  The diagram above is an ear of an adult.  In children the Eustachian tube is situated more horizontally, so it does not drain as readily as adults.  Hence, children are more prone to infections.  They will tend to outgrow ear infections as their jaw and skull grow to shift the Eustachian tube into a more vertical position.

Conventional medical treatment usually consists of piercing the ear drum and placing a tiny plastic tube in the hole.  This equalizes the pressure, improves hearing and allows air in to help dry out the moisture bacteria need.  Use of antibiotics in the past has typically been commonplace.  With antibiotic resistance problems what they are, antibiotic use has become more judicious.

Treating the cause of illness is a primary naturopathic medicine principle.  In the case of chronic ear infections the cause is most frequently an allergy.  The most common allergies affecting ears are dust, cow's milk, and molds.  Eliminating a child's exposure to these allergens may be the simplest treatment.  Frequently dusting a child's room, running a child's pillow case through a clothes dryer every night, and making sure the windows in a child's room do not collect mildew are three helpful tricks.  The homeopathic remedy, Kali Mur, will often act as an infection preventive.  Ear oils containing glycerine will draw fluids out of the ear drum and the oil's other herbs (mullein, garlic, St. John's Wort, etc.) aid with pain and inflammation.  Children's forms of Echinacea and Goldenseal boost immunity and help the body combat bacterial and viral infections.  Vitamin C with bioflavonoids given over a long period of time help strengthen cell membranes, making them less reactive.  Finally, a health professional qualified in homeopathy can usually find a remedy that will improve your child's constitution such that they are less prone to ear problems.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Vaccinations in Washington

The law about mandated vaccinations for children entering school in Washington State changed over a year ago.  Prior to 2011, Washington was one of the easiest states for parents to refuse vaccinations for their children.  In 2011 the state legislature acquired the belief that all parents who don't vaccinate do it out of some kind of negligent ignorance.  So, the law was changed for parents who choose to waive immunizations that they must get the signature of a licensed health care professional to prove that the parents were properly informed of the risks (and benefits) of not vaccinating.  Apparently the new forms are available, and to get your child into school next fall without shots you will need a doctor's signature on your child's form.  You can get that done at my clinic.

The issue of vaccinations is a complicated one and crosses into areas of physical health, morals, ethics, public health, religion, and parent rights.  Unlike what the public health officials preach, getting your child's shots are not as simple as they make it sound.  Each child (and family) has situations unique to them - biochemically, immunologically, sociologically, and religiously.  The decision needs to be informed of course, but those decisions need to be made on an individual basis, rather than the herd mentality public health espouses.  Parents from the first day of human existence have had to make difficult choices regarding the health of their children.  Too frequently life and death decisions face parents caring for their children. Sadly, it is not an infrequent situation where there is no guaranteed right answer in medicine.  With immunizations, there can be bad outcomes (though very rare) regardless of which decision is made regarding them.  So parents must choose which way to go on shots based on their best information, intuition, knowledge of their children, and health paradigm.  About the only bad parent decision here is to be negligently disengaged with all of it.

Nobody can tell you, as a parent, what the right answer is for your child.  That is a choice for which you, as parent, have to bear the weight of responsibility.  In your struggle to find the right answer I offer these questions to help guide your information gathering:

  1. How likely will your child contract the illness?
  2. How is the disease transmitted?  Contracting a disease through sex or intravenous needle is a lot different than by getting coughed on.
  3. What are the risks of complications from the illness in well nourished children?
  4. Can you afford to take off a week or more to stay home and care for your sick child?
  1. What are the risks from the vaccine?  (Check a number of sources, including the National Vaccine Information Center.  The public health orientation downplays these.)
  1.  What preservatives are used in the vaccine?  (Many still use a form of mercury.)
  1. How is the vaccine manufactured?  (Cultures are grown on eggs, monkey cells, kidney cells...etc.  Does your child have an allergy to these hidden proteins?) 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Phrenology: A Whacked Out Idea Still With Some Merit Today

Thanks to the Skeptic Dictionary
for this illustration of a brain map
circa 1850.
I was reading an article about phrenology in one of the naturopathic doctor journals I receive.  Phrenology was a quirky medical theory/system in operation around the end of the 19th century.  It was based on an idea that the brain could be divided into 43 different areas with each area in charge of different human attributes, such as combativeness, hope, inquisitiveness, mirth, etc.  The theory suggested that all illness arose out of an imbalance in these human qualities, and further, that the dominant and weak points of character could be read by carefully measuring the skull and noting the depressions and bumps on the head.  Sounds whacky by our modern definition of medicine.  Yet, while phrenology has been pretty soundly dismissed as a viable diagnostic/treatment modality, I believe it still has traction in this time because phrenology still points to a larger medical truth: we are a composite of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual elements.

I am convinced we are principally spiritual entities striving to find balance and happiness in physical form.  Newer investigations into the mind-body connection are increasingly discrediting the brain as the sole focal point for all thought and memory.  So, phrenology went too far to map out the brain as though everything was located "upstairs."  But, the notion that illness arises out of an imbalance in the character, spirit -- or as the ancient Greeks argued, the "humours" is more fact than fiction.  While modern germ theories have dominated modern medicine, these older thought-forms bring a vitality and wholeness perspective to wellness that has largely been ignored for roughly the past 50-60 years.  Instead of narrowly asking what bacteria is making someone sick, we should just as importantly be asking why this person is susceptible, what imbalance is causing them to be vulnerable to attack. Is there some sickness in the air, water, earth, or fire humours?  Is there an imbalance in the emotions?  Is the person's spirit bereft of hope, optimism, and eternal security?  All these things point to the larger picture, the larger truth that we are complex persons of sacred worth in need of unique individualized assistance to find health in the balance of life.