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   

Monday, August 24, 2015

Adrenaline Dominance

Do you, or someone you know, struggle with any of the following chronic health problems with seemingly no effective solution?

·         Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
·         Depression
·         Anxiety/Panic
·         Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
·         Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
·         Diabetes
·         Weight problems, especially around the midsection
·         Insomnia – trouble going to sleep or staying asleep
·         Premature aging
·         Restless leg syndrome
·         Headaches
·         Neck pain
·         Tinnitis (ringing in the ears)
·         Fibromyalgia
·         Interstitial Cystitis
·         Road Rage and inexplicable anger/rage
·         Bipolar Disorder
·         Severe morning sickness
·         PMS
·         Endometriosis
·         Allergies, frequent infections, poor immunity

The more of these health problems occurring together the greater the likelihood of excess adrenaline.  If you’ve been dealing with any of these for any period of time and are frustrated with lack of progress, come see me.  

Saturday, August 1, 2015

The FDA's Bedfellows

The FDA has developed an over-inflated worry about virtually harmless remedies.  This spring they opened hearings on homeopathy and how to protect the public from these "dangerously unscientific remedies."  And, for the past year the FDA has been harassing and threatening manufacturers of essential oils to quit making health claims.  It would appear that directors of the FDA need to chill with some homeopathic chamomile and some whiffs of lavender oil.

It might be seen as good news that the pharmaceutical companies and AMA monopoly feel threatened by the growth of the natural health market.  It says that natural medical alternatives are taking a noticeable bite out of the monster profiteers.  But biting big moneyed interests in these United States typically brings a slap down from the privileged and protected corporations.  The big medicine profiteers are, in turn, punching back through their influence with governmental regulatory agencies, lawyers, and expensive media blitzes.  I'm skeptical that the reason for the FDA's attention is any legitimate concern for public safety -- especially with these two particular natural modalities that are harmless to 99% of the population.  For some people, essential oils can be irritating if they're used undiluted, or if the wrong ones are taken internally - especially with those having respiratory conditions or those with allergies, but by and large they pose no threats.  Homeopathy is even more rarely an issue, troubling only those with an allergy to sugar pills or alcohol.   

The FDA claims it is worried about your health and the health of your family.  The FDA claims they are only trying to help people understand that they need "real medicine" from "real doctors" who can legitimately diagnose them with "real diseases."  (And, if you don't have a real disease there is always an antidepressant we can prescribe for you!)  They lay awake nights worried about the millions of stupid parents who are eschewing "real medical care" for dangerous health conditions while those parents are popping homeopathic pills under their children's tongues or having them sniff on bottles of oregano or patchouli oil.  Not.  They aren't worried about you or your health.  The AMA lobby and the pharmaceutical companies are worried they won't continue to grow their obscene profits.  It reveals an industry scared to death that ordinary people might actually know their own health needs and be able to decide for themselves what level of medical care is appropriate or needed.  Oh that we could go back to the dumbed down days when people just listened to their doctor and took what they were told to take! 

But, that genie is out of the bottle.  Real people with real knowledge and real ability to make their own health care decisions have a multi-million dollar hold on a market that gives them effective, inexpensive cures with few or no side effects. Don't be intimidated by an over-reaching government bureaucracy.  Write your legislators and tell them to tell the FDA to lighten up on homeopathy and essential oils.  And, if you need some advice on  additional ways to avoid the invasive and expensive side of medicine, come in to see me.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Healing Rituals

Many people probably do not associate ritual or spiritual practices as part of their health.  I'd like to propose that those practices might carry as much power and importance to one's health as diet or exercise.  I'm not talking about a particular religiosity.  I am talking about the integral intentional inclusion of spiritual nurture in a daily rhythm of life.

Each of us have a spirit that connects us with the larger Source of life.  Many deny this connection, some even attempt to "unplug" from it.  Yet in spite of denial, this Source still surrounds and nurtures us in our very human needs for love, community, and the energy we call "life."   We are inescapably planted into families, communities, as well as the natural world.  Our interaction and connection with the ineffable Source of Life is a two-way give and take connection.  Rituals and spiritual practices, which draw our awareness and foster our emotions/virtues of gratitude, acceptance, compassion, and peace,.. feed a part of us that fosters and sustains very deep healing.  In addition, ritual supplies a more profound knowing than science or objective measure can provide.  Spirit draws us into a deeper, richer, more dynamic life stream that feeds one's soul.  Well nourished soul's know how to heal themselves and the bodies with which they coexist.  Spirit grounds us to the Essence of Life.

I was inspired to write this post this morning on Memorial Day because I remembered that this day was one when growing up my family would go up to the cemetery and put flowers on the graves of my uncles killed in WWII and my grandparents.  To this day this holiday causes me to appreciate the sacrifices and lives that feed mine.  Every day reflects our spiritual grounding and input from the past.  Memorial Day and the rituals I attach to it brings my past more to the conscious forefront.  Admittedly, the past also throws a bunch of negative garbage in, what Robert Bly refers to as our shadow.  A large part of our healing work spiritually involves connecting with our spirits to gain awareness of what feeds our soul and what hinders it.  Fostering what feeds our spirit, and eliminating or diminishing what hinders it will markedly improve physical health.  Where one's spirit leads, the body will follow.  This is especially true if your goal is better health and/or you have addiction demons with which you're perpetually wrestling.

So, do something daily for your spirit.  If you need ideas or help with this give me a call.

NatureWords for your life,
Dr. Mark

Friday, May 8, 2015

When Your Health Goals Aren't Getting Met

Nearly everyone sets some goals for themselves, especially around the turn of the new year.  We call them resolutions, but they can also be called goals.  What were your health goals this year?  Are you on track with them, or are you still procrastinating and saying, "Yeah, I need to get to that..."  (Key in the guilt and irritation with yourself.)

Having broad general goals such as, "I'm going to lose 15 pounds this year," or "I'm going to exercise more," or "I'm going to eat better," all leave a large question mark sitting in the middle of your brain.  It is immobilized by the question.  Its question is HOW is it supposed to proceed with that instruction?  You may well be stuck in achieving your goal because, in the midst of all the other things your brain is handling, it is waiting more precise directions on how you want to get to that new place.

In his book, Skinny Habits, the first habit Bob Harper shares is how to write more precisely defined baby-step goals that leave less struggle for your brain to bear.  While it is a book aimed at helping people lose weight, the habit of creating (and following) your step-by-step plans can apply to virtually any life ambition.

The heart of these step-by-step subgoals is making If-Then statements which will disarm your excuses.  So, the very first step is having an honest talk with yourself about what the exact obstacles are to you staying on track with your goal.  List as many problems, reasons, excuses, and emotions as you can that keep you from doing what you already know you should be doing to get healthier.  Then, for each one of those write an If-Then statement that addresses how you will side-step that issue when it happens.  For example, "If I come home too tired to cook a nutritious meal, then I will have cut up veggies in my refrigerator and a healthy snack box."  Or, "If I find myself in front of a fast food menu, then I will order water and a salad."

Something almost magical happens when you have written down - or put your brain on notice - of how you want to contend with all the distractions and health hurdles in your way.  Instead of just going with the flow like you have been, you have committed yourself in writing to what you want to do instead.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Qualitative Difference of Breast Milk

There is a lot of research going on with breast milk.  The quest is to a) determine it's qualitative difference(s) from other milks and formulas and b) to develop the most (synthetic) human-like formula possible.  It's a noble quest, especially for those women, who for one reason or another, cannot breast feed their babies.

A large part of breastfeeding falls under what I'll call the "Grandmotherly Mystique."  Breastfeeding was "good for baby" because Grandma said it was (or that it wasn't.)  The number of infants getting breastfed has varied widely from one time of history to another largely depending on social norms and the shifting sands of medical opinion.  For some cultures, like our present American culture, flashes of exposed breasts in public is scandalous and there are not-so subtle pressures to "cover up" and/or not breastfeed.  Some of us remember the Nestle's scandal in the 1980's where formula was being dumped in developing countries where clean water sources were scarce and Nestle's had a huge information campaign to convince mothers in those countries to give up breastfeeding for the "better than mom" infant formula.  In spite of what formula manufacturers have claimed, we have known for a long time that cow's milk and all the store-bought formulas have not been as good for infants as their moms' own breast milk.  But "not as good as" has been more in the realm of faith, quite subjective, and details have been difficult to pin down.  But, science is not to be thwarted.

Recent research projects have discovered the following differences in human breast milk:

  • The protein profile of human milk contains 1606 different proteins compared to only 515 in rhesus macaque milk.  Many of these additional proteins seem related to aiding digestion and absorption for the less developed human infant.
  • The fatty acid profile of human milk has a high level of DHA and ARA -- two fatty acids that play large roles in neurological development.
  • The cellular genetic structure of infants' intestinal tract that are breast fed is substantially different from those babies fed alternatives.  
  • "Good bacteria" colonize breastfed babies digestive tracts better than those fed alternatives. 

 All of these discoveries point to possible reasons why it's been observed that breastfed infants, as a general rule, tend to thrive with fewer problems than their formula-fed neighbors.

Formula manufacturers are taking notice.  Many of them are working on incorporating additional proteins, fats, and bacteria into their products.  Sadly, while this improves the nutrition for babies fed these formulas it leaves those babies born into poverty without them.  Of course, hopefully those babies will still have mom and get the real deal.

My advice remains the same as it's been for twenty years, breastfeed your babies if there is any way possible in God's green earth for at least 6 months and 18-24 months isn't too long.

NatureWords for Health, 
Dr. Mark  

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Breastfeeding, Food Introductions, and Food Allergies

The report is out from a pretty thoroughly done assessment of data looking at one of the common naturopathic notions about food allergies.  We naturopaths have held the belief that many food allergies occur because duration of breastfeeding is too short and/or foods are introduced too early before the digestive system is developed enough to handle it.  In a supplement to the journal Pediatrics (2014;134:S1-S2, S21-S28) this study shows that long-held belief is not true.  There was no association found between food allergies and either duration of breastfeeding or what foods are introduced first. So concerning food allergies, parents need not worry about food introductions.  

Interestingly, there were other factors identified that did show higher risk for food allergies.  These factors included: higher family income, higher maternal education level, appearance of eczema before age 1, and a family history of food allergy.  The study did not examine how or why the income or education level would impact development of a food allergies.

But before we toss out the long-held mistaken belief entirely, there were other health-related issues which did correlate with food introductions and breastfeeding including:

  • An association between longer duration of breastfeeding and later introduction of foods or beverages other than breast milk, and lower rates of ear, nose, throat, and sinus infections in the year preceding the survey.
  • A 2-fold increased likelihood of childhood obesity at age 6 years among children who consumed sugar-sweetened beverages as infants.
  • An association between longer breastfeeding and increased consumption of water, fruit, and vegetables, and decreased consumption of fruit juice and sugar-sweetened beverages at age 6 years.
  • An association between frequency of fruit and vegetable intake during the first year of life and likelihood of continued frequency of fruit and vegetable intake at age 6 years.
 So, there is not a concern about generating food allergies in your child because you didn't breastfeed long enough or did food introductions wrong.  However,there are some strong benefits to your child's lifetime dietary habits by observing a longer period of breastfeeding, avoiding sugar, and introducing lots of fruits and vegetables early.

Naturewords for Your Health,
Dr. Mark

Thursday, February 5, 2015

2015 - Ten Recommendations for Wellness

A Basic Beginning to Better Health in 2015
Mark Fredericksen, N.D., M.Div

Introduction: A Change of Course
The journey of health happens whether we are managing it or not.  The journey of health is the journey of growing older, which all of us must do.  We can let life take its course and let our bodies respond in whatever ways they will with the random occurrences, habits, environmental and emotional exposures, and genetics we’re given.  Or, we can direct the flow of life toward longevity, less illness, and reduced experiences of “just getting old.”  Good health requires intention and attention.  If you are ready to begin applying more attention and intention to your life journey here are a few beginning places.  They are not arranged in any particular order.  You do not have to do all of them to change your health course.  Start somewhere.  Think of each one as a small course change toward being healthier.  This is not a comprehensive list of basic health needs, but a place to start.  If you’re already doing all of these, then you’re ready for next steps.

Basic Integrative Health Elements:
(1) Sleep:  The minimum amount of sleep needed is 8 hours.  Ideally, more than half of It should be before 2:00 a.m.  Adequate sleep contributes the following benefits: weight loss, skin health, and more stable mental health.  Sleep is a strong indicator of adrenal health.  If insomnia is a problem, adrenal support is probably needed.

(2) Water: Adequate water is typically 6-8 glasses a day, this would be a minimum of 64 fluid oz.  A gallon a day is an admirable health experiment.  Most of us walk around in dehydrated states.  This impairs our ability to detoxify.

(3)  Intermittent Fasting: Begin with doing a twelve-hour fast once or twice a week.  Do not eat for 12 hours between dinner and breakfast.  Gradually add more days until this is a daily pattern.  Once it’s daily then once or twice a week go for 16-24 hours.  Water, herbal tea, supplements are permitted.  Intermittently fasting stimulates your body to grow more adept at using fat stores for energy.

(4)  Basic Diet Change: (A) No refined sugars/sweeteners of any kind including sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, pasteurized honey, maple syrup, agave, sugar alcohols and all artificial sweeteners.  Small amounts of stevia and black strap molasses are okay.  (B). Avoid white processed flour and foods. (C). Increase the amount of vegetables you’re eating – more of your plate should be occupied by vegetables than any other food group.

(5) Supplementation:  A good quality multiple vitamin containing fruit and vegetable extracts, such as Alive, Furhman, or Juice Plus.  A multiple vitamin is working if your appetite seems more reasonable.  One teaspoon of coconut oil twice a day, 3 fish oil capsules twice a day.  A whey protein powder can be helpful in bumping up protein intake or for bridging a gap between meals.  Some helpful weight management products are also available in my virtual online dispensary.  You can access it through my clinic website,

(6) Breathing:   Fat is processed predominantly by breathing.  The body breaks down fat into carbon and water.  Carbon leaves the body with carbon dioxide.  The “Pranayama ap” is a good directed breathing exercise available on iPhone.  1-2 minutes of deep breathing done 8-10 times a day is a good start.  The more deep breathing you do the better.  Exercise supports deep breathing (and fat processing.)

(7)  Exercise: The goal should be 30 minutes a day.  If you haven’t been exercising, begin with a 30-minute walk. Buy a pedometer.  A good daily goal is 7,000 steps.  10,000 steps is better.  12,000 steps you get an A+

(8) Tracking: “Fitness Pal” is an iPhone ap that helps you keep track of your daily caloric and exercise details.  This is a significant part of maintaining attention and intention every meal.

(9) Journaling.  Journaling or keeping a diary where you reflect on how you’re feeling and how things are going, as well as what’s working will prove invaluable for reviewing later if you lose your way.

10.  Prayer/Meditation: Spiritual health supports the physical and emotional health and vice versa.  Prayer and Meditation take you into the exploration of meaning and the deeper understanding of the whats and whys of your life.  Richard Rohr says that perhaps the greatest sin is that life is nothing but superficiality.  Prayer and meditation practices infuse depth in your life.  

Protection Against Breast Cancer

Before you read this, I'd like for you to pause and close your eyes.  Think about a time when you have felt really good about yourself and how you looked.  Then say to yourself, "I can have that again."  Say it to yourself several times like Dorothy did with her ruby slippers to go home in the Wizard of Oz.  "I can have that again."

Now you can read on:

If you're looking to give yourself an edge against getting breast cancer, there are a number of interesting studies going on right now engaging some natural approaches.  In order to get a scientific study funded, up, and running there generally has to be pretty strong indicators from previous science work that the hypothesis has a good chance of proving true.  Further, it often takes several repeat studies to prove the legitimacy of one study's results.  That being said, I think it makes some pretty good sense to adopt the following approaches that are presently being tested into your daily health regimen.  In a way you are participating in the study through the backdoor.  The main advantage being that you don't get drawn to be in the placebo group when you volunteer yourself to run your own experiment.

Three Solid Approaches to Improve Your Breast Health:

  1. There have been a number of pretty strong studies that show being overweight increases the risk of breast cancer (and others as well.)  So, the first recommendation is lose weight if you have a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 25.  The current study going on in Kansas is aimed at helping women lose 10% of their body weight in six months and then maintain it.
  2. Fat cells tend to be great little manufacturing plants for estrogen.  Estrogen is a known high powered fuel for cancer.  The other way fat figures in is in the inflammation picture.  Inflammation is also a huge fuel for cancer.  So reducing the number of fat cells (weight loss) and changing the composition of fat cells could remove two of the principle fuels for cancer.  The study in Kansas is using roughly 3 grams (3,000 mg) of fish oil/day with high profiles of EPA and DHA - two principle Omega-3 fatty acids that have been studied a lot.  In addition to it reducing inflammation, it has other benefits including: clearer thinking, less reactive nervous system, improvement in good cholesterol, improved cardiovascular health, and mild blood thinning.
  3. Work on your spiritual and emotional health.  Experiencing awe, compassion, joy, love, forgiveness, calmness & relaxation, and other positive emotions have been proven to reduce your production of pro-inflammatory cytokines.  As their name implies, this would further reduce your inflammation levels.   

You will lose absolutely nothing by embarking on these three changes.  If you are already doing these then you're some laps ahead on the wellness journey.  Look for a separate post where I share my 2015 suggestions for improving overall wellness.  Remember weight loss follows wellness - not vice versa!