Healing IBS- a personal story.

I was walking with a friend this morning and she was talking about how when she eats certain things her stomach really hurts.  It then occurred to me that I really don’t ever get stomach pain anymore.  Emphasis on anymore.  If you have stomach issues or have been told that you have IBS, please believe me when I say that you do not need to suffer anymore.  I’ve been there and am healed. Through my personal experience, I have been able to help many others to ‘cure’ their GI issues too. For my story, keep reading. (It may be too much info for some people.)

About 8 years ago now, while I was in naturopathic med school, I suffered everyday with terrible stomach pains… cripping pain in the lower right quadrant, after lunch no matter what.  In the morning, I would wake up and have to spend at least an hour in the bathroom. I never knew if I’d have diarrhea or horrible constipation.  By lunch time, I had to go home every day to deal with my stomach.  It was embarrassing and I really didn’t tell anyone.  I think they just thought I was antisocial.  And still, I would have stomach pains. Since I was in school, I would hear various things that can help digestive issues, such as probiotics, or digestive enzymes, or treating yeast.  I learned about the paleo diet and how that was supposed to cure everything!  For me, nothing worked.  I was beyond frustrated and rather hopeless.  Finally, I opened up to a ND and now a great friend who did some GI testing on me.  It turns out, my stomach was a real mess. I had H pylori, a parasite, inflammation, yeast  and I don’t really remember what else.  But at least I had an answer.  I started treating aggressively for all things at once.  It was a full time job, but I was determined to be out of pain.  It involved drastic dietary changes and restrictions for the short amount of time, lots of antimicrobial herbs, digestive support, and immune support among other things.  Within days, my pain was gone.  Obviously I was still very restricted and stuck to my plan, but relief was amazing!  Within a few weeks, I was able to reintroduce things and cut back on what I was taking.  Six months later I was pregnant and had to stop most of the supplements.  I was also able to eat most things, which was good for the first trimester when my eating was all over the place!  Now, confidently, I can say, I can eat whatever I want and not have to worry about having stomach pain!

In clinical practice, I have used the same treatment protocol that I created for myself with many patients who have suffered from IBS or even chronic diarrhea.  You do not have to suffer.

If you would like more information about how to get started with treating your digestive issues, please call me at 203-548-0572.  I’d love to help you.

What Should I Eat?

What Should I Eat? This is a question that I hear a lot of with patients, and that I have asked myself many times.  It’s no wonder people are concerned when the health, fitness, and dieting industry is a billion dollar industry and seemingly every week there is a new fad diet or guru promoting the next best thing.  Personally, I have tried many different kids of ‘diets’ or ‘ways of living’, and over time, I have definitely become a healthier eater. But I’ve also become a very confused eater.  Do I go low carb or high carb? Eat grains or avoid them? Eat meat or eat beans? Avoid fruit or eat lots of fruit? What about honey, agave, coconut oil, butter?  You get the point.  It’s easy to get caught up in the little details and forgot that the overall picture is to eat real food.  And stress less about the food (and everything).

A few weeks ago, I was in NYC for an Integrative Medicine conference. It was wonderful; each speaker (over several days) was telling different stories about how they ‘discovered’ natural or functional medicine, and how they are changing patients’ lives every day by using nutrition, supplementation, and herbal medicine rather than the drug and surgery model that they had been taught.  Some lectures where on liver health, several on brain/mental health, autoimmune diseases, joint health, etc.  Then Dr. David Katz, MD gave a fabulous presentation on the food we eat.  He works with many Integrative Practitioners and said something that to me, a confused eater, was beautiful. To summarize, he said, ‘We have gurus promoting all kinds of diets, arguing over small details (fats, meat, grains, etc.) in the grand scheme of things. But what most people don’t realize is that all these people eat more similarly that anyone of us. They all eat mostly plants.’

So, what should we eat? Plants. Simple put, mostly fruits and vegetables, and lots of them. A few ounces of meat or grains or beans to supplement a meal depending on your preferences.

If you would like to work with me one on one to change your diet, lifestyle, and health, please contact me at 203-421-6543.

Tips For Fighting A Cold

I have been asked recently, “What can I do for a cold to decrease the severity and duration of it?”  So, here are a few tips that you can try that I like to do at home for myself and my family.

  1. Drink the juice of a fresh squeezed lemon and orange daily. It’s a bit tart, but a wonderful source of vitamin C and helps to make your body more alkaline.
  2. Eat garlic as often as possible. Raw garlic is best, but hard to do.  Sometimes, I crush it and mix it with raw honey, or I eat roasted garlic and cook with it. Ideally, you want a few cloves per day.
  3. Eat Manuka honey. Manuka honey is honey from New Zealand that has powerful antimicrobial properties. I aim for 1 TB per day.  It is especially soothing in tea.
  4. Drink teas to boost your immune system. Pau D’arco is a favorite of mine, but I also make teas from Traditional Medicine’s Seasonal Sampler that I bought from the local health food store.
  5. Take extra vitamin A, C, and zinc. For infections, I recommend Vitamin A 50,000 IU twice per day for 3 days, then once per day until symptoms reside. Vitamin C 1000 mg every other hour or so (too much can cause diarrhea, so be careful). Zinc 30 mg with each meal (It must be taken with food or it may make you feel nauseated).
  6. Increase probiotics and fermented foods. Good bacteria helps to fight off the bad.
  7. Drink fresh green juice daily.
  8. Rest as much as possible.
  9. Take hot showers to clear congestion.
  10. Add eucalyptus oil to boiling water and breathe it in to reduce congestion.
  11. Rub menthol over your chest.
  12. Cook with lots of herbs, especially curcumin (curry), ginger, parsley, oregano, and thyme.
  13. Consume lots of homemade chicken soup.

Hopefully you don’t get sick, but now you have some tricks up your sleeve too.  Enjoy the holiday season!

Naturopathic Approach to Treat Infertility Naturally

Infertility affects about 10% of couples trying to conceive and if you happen to be one of those couples, you understand how devastating and stressful it can be.  Of that 10%, 1/3 of the problems are linked to the woman, 1/3 to the man, and 1/3 of the cases have problems that are unknown.  Conventional treatment often uses hormones or invasion procedures. While this may be helpful for some, there are many options to explore to treat infertility naturally.treat infertility naturally

Like anything, it is important to have an understanding of what is going wrong, if that can be determined. In such cases, natural treatment may be rather straight forward in the sense that if we know the women is not ovulating, ovulatory support in the form of herbs, nutrition, and acupuncture can be very beneficial.  If we know that the sperm are low in number or quality, we can use the same forms of treatment to support healthy sperm.  However, from a naturopathic perspective, to treat infertility naturally, all of these issues will be addressed simultaneously. This is because the naturopathic approach focuses on building the health of both the female and male, egg and sperm.

Often times, to restore fertility, especially the 1/3 of cases with an unknown cause, other factors need to be addressed first.  Several of these factors are addressing underlying adrenal or thyroid abnormalities, sleep disturbances, blood sugar irregularities, and digestive issues that may be impairing absorption. All of these issues throw off proper hormone regulation.

Stress is known to throw off a women’s menstrual cycle and affect her fertility.  Naturopathically, there are many ways to overcome the burden of stress on a women’s body.  First and foremost, identifying and addressing the underlying stressor is important; sometimes this is easier to identify, such as work or relationship stress, but it can also be nutritional stress such as a gluten intolerance, chronic infection, or inadequate sleep. Beyond identifying and addressing the stressor, several herbs can be beneficial to support the adrenal gland’s response to stress, reducing the overall load and minimizing the negative effects.

Optimizing nutrition is extremely important. Not only does it help to regulate hormones, blood sugar, stress levels, and digestion, but it also creates an optimal environment for fetal development.  The 6 months or so before conception is the most important time to build up nutrient stores that the fetus will use in the early weeks to months of development.  Without proper nutrition, if conception does happen, development will be impaired, as well as the health of the mother throughout her pregnancy.  Optimal nutrition can and does prevent abnormal weight gain, pre-eclampsia, swelling of hands and feet, and excessive fatigue.

Even when stress and nutrition has been addressed, balancing blood sugar and fixing impaired digestion cannot be forgotten.  We’ve all heard, “You are what you eat,” but in reality, “You are what you digest and absorb.” While it is possible to get pregnant with a digestive disorder, it is not optimal for fetal health.  Of course getting adequate nutrients are key, but as more and more research is proving, having optimal gut flora is paramount to the proper development of the baby’s immune system affecting things like allergies down the road.  Similarly to what you absorb is how your body reacts to it, namely by maintaining a healthy blood sugar.  Abnormal blood sugar is known to throw off insulin and subsequently the thyroid, adrenals, and reproductive system, all wreaking havoc on fertility.

While the journey to treat infertility naturally may seem unrealistic for some and too difficult for those who do not want to, perhaps, drastically change their life style, it is important to do so for the health of your child. Healthy parents produce healthy babies, and natural fertility is a sign of health. With proper guidance and changes, natural fertility is obtainable for most couples and there is no greater reward for all the hard work than to hold your little baby!

A Naturopathic Approach to Treat PCOS Naturally

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, or PCOS, is a complicated diagnosis with conventional medicine offering little hope; however, a naturopathic approach to treat PCOS naturally offers much hope. PCOS affects between 10-20% of women of childbearing age. It is a syndrome that affects the entire body, especially the endocrine system.  It was once thought the PCOS must have cystic ovaries, hence the name, but in reality, women can get the symptoms and have the hormonal imbalance without having cysts at all. Symptoms include abnormal menses and anovulation, often going several months to years without getting a period.  This, in turn, effects their ability to conceive.  Women often experience acne or an increase in male pattern hair growth, such as facial hair, hair between their navel and pubic bone, and perhaps their chest or low back. The more classic presentation of PCOS is that of overweight women, but there is a smaller percentage of thin PCOS women.  Although the presentation is similar, the underlying cause of the hormonal imbalance seems to be slightly different.

While they both generally have high androgen levels, in the overweight PCOS women, insulin resistance and possibly thyroid abnormalities tend to be the driving force behind the syndrome.  In the thin women, stress and elevated cortisol is more likely to be the underlying cause. Addressing these issues through diet, appropriate exercise, stress management, and targeted supplementation are very successful at restoring hormonal balance.

The dietary approach for the classic presentation verses the thinner subset is different. One focuses on reducing insulin, while the other is focused on decreasing cortisol levels. Various foods can either contribute to perpetuating or minimizing the insulin resistance and cortisol levels, as well as making sure certain nutrients necessary for biochemical functions are not lacking. In both situations, eliminating food sensitivities will be necessary to decrease the overall inflammatory load. As always, a whole food approach will be best.  Optimal nutrition is also important to restore fertility, which is often a goal for many women with PCOS.  A fetus cannot grow if the necessary nutrients are not abundantly available.

Exercise is crucial for balancing hormones.  Again, the types of exercises will vary depending on the underlying cause.  For insulin resistance type PCOS, high endurance cardio may be better. But for managing cortisol, and possibly even enhancing thyroid function, calming, slower exercises, such as yoga or hiking would be more beneficial. Balancing exercise with proper nutrition is important to keep in mind as well.  Over exercising of any sort throws off the endocrine system, especially the reproductive system; too much exercise is perceived as stress and the body shuts down reproduction during stressful times.

Stress management is key for PCOS patients. Reproduction is one of the first things to go during stressful times.  With elevated cortisol levels, blood sugars go up, androgens elevate, and progesterone and thyroid production go down. Being aware of stressors and taking steps to reduce them or deal with them better is helpful. Mediation of any kind is great.  Stress also depletes nutrient stores, thus nutrient replenishment can help mitigate the detrimental physiologic effects of stress. Herbal medicine provides many options for stress management and decreasing the overall cortisol load.

As already discussed, targeted nutrients may be necessary to help restore proper blood sugar and insulin response, and maintain cortisol levels.  There are also great ways to support the reproductive system itself with key nutrients and herbal support.  Finding the right combination of each is important for supporting each individual’s body.

All in all, naturopathic medicine provides many great possibilities for treating Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.  First and foremost, it is important to treat the individual and not give every patient diagnosed with PCOS the same medications, herbs, or dietary guidelines.  Each person’s biochemistry is unique and needs to be treated as such. With the use of a proper naturopathic evaluation including a detailed history, comprehensive physical exam, conventional and functional lab testing, and a unique holistic protocol, PCOS can become a thing of the past.

Natural IBS Treatment

Have you been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, and told to just live with it? That there is not much to be done about it? IBS is an idiopathic diagnosis meaning that once every other reason for your pain and discomfort has been ruled out, the only thing left is IBS.  Irritable bowel syndrome is exactly what it sounds like; the bowels are often hyper spastic and/or hypersensitive, or irritable, and it is not a disease, but rather a condition that you are dealing with, a syndrome. Conventionally, some antispasmodics may help, or you may be told to take extra fiber, but otherwise, you are left suffering. This does not have to be the case.  Naturopathically, a diagnosis of IBS indicates the need to dig deeper.  Natural IBS treatment considers looking at your diet and food sensitivities, your stress, and, of course, your digestion through stool tests.

Analyzing stomach pain without looking at what a patient is eating and how they are digesting and reacting too food is nonsensical. Some people react to foods in an obvious way, such as lactose intolerance, or a less obvious way, such as gluten sensitivity or fructose intolerance. Any of these can cause gas, pain, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea. Food sensitivities are often even more stealth, not showing any indication of a reaction until days after the food is ingested.  Those who react to foods in such as way have a constantly elevated IgG immune response, especially when they eat the same foods every day.  A common IgG reaction is to various proteins, such as casein or whey in dairy, or albumin in eggs.  Commonly over 100 foods are tested by a simply finger prick to determine if you have any delayed food sensitivities.  Symptoms of these reactions range from the above stomach problems to migraines to skin problems to reduced immunity.

Today, most people are so rushed doing too many things throughout the day that sitting down to eat, even stopping what needs to get done for 10 minutes, just doesn’t happen.  This means that we are eating while our nervous system is in fight or flight mode, sympathetic mode.  This poses a problem because our body thinks we need to run from something, thus shunting blood from our gastrointestinal system to our muscles.  The acid in our stomachs’ is not adequately secreted, thus the pH is not low enough to break down food. Our intestines contract rather than relax and expand for incoming food. None of this is conducive to optimal digestion. Instead, stopping and sitting for at least 10 minutes to relax, eat, taste, and enjoy your meal is enough to switch from the hectic sympathetic mode to the calming, digestion promoting parasympathetic mode.

Finally and probably the most efficient way to determine why you may be suffering from IBS is to analyze the digestive process is by actually analyzing the stool.  This is done through off sight labs and they send back information regarding the good, bad, and ugly bacteria, yeast, fungi, and parasites that have colonized your gut. And it tells us about your body’s breakdown and absorption of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.  These results almost always give additional valuable information that is the key to treating IBS.

Looking at all of these factors together, a comprehensive protocol for natural IBS treatment can be put together that will likely be different for every patient.  It also means the IBS is no longer idiopathic.  Now we are able to say, “you need more stomach acid,” or “we need to kill the parasite that has taken over your gut.”  Given a protocol like this, in just a few months if not sooner, symptoms will start to resolve, and by 6 months to a year, you will likely be free from IBS.  Depending on what the cause of your symptoms are, you may need to avoid certain foods or change your habits permanently, but the gas, pain, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation will be gone and your day will no longer be determined by your stomach. Don’t go another day with suffer the aches and pains of IBS. Let natural IBS treatment restore your gut and quality of life.

Benefits of Bone Broth

Benefits of Bone Broth

Bone broth, such as chicken, beef, and fish broth, is a traditional food and a staple in societies all around the world.  Bone broth is an inexpensive way to stretch out meals, extract loads of nutrients, and add flavor to cuisine.  The bones house a variety of powerful nutrients that become released when they are slowly simmered in water for a few hours. These nutrients include bone marrow which helps provide the raw materials for healthy blood cells and immune development, supporting a healthy immune system, hence Jewish Penicillin, gut health, joint, bone, tendon, and ligament health, and hair, skin, and nail health.

Some of the nutrients extracted when bones are simmered are minerals including calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, and phosphorus. For additional minerals, it can be with a bit of seaweed, for iodine. Together these minerals stimulate the immune system, bone health, and thyroid gland.  Collagen, gelatin, hyaluronic acid, glucosamine, and chondroitin are all abundant in bone broth, which make it an ideal addition to anyone’s diet to support their joints, tendons, ligaments, hair, skin, and nails.  Two proteins present in high amounts in bone broths are glycine and proline.  Studying the biochemical synthesis of collagen formation, these are the two proteins needed that are necessary for collagen formation and repair.  Glycine also can reduce cortisol levels, stabilizing blood sugar, and helping with insomnia. Bone broth is also a rich source of glutamine, which is useful for healing and sealing an inflamed leaky gut.

To create the perfect healing bone broth, first consider what condition you are trying to heal.  If you are healing infections, a weak immune system, or blood disorders like anemia, it is better to use larger bones with lots of marrow because this is where the stems cells for all of our blood cells are housed.  If you are healing a collagen issue, such as tendonitis, eczema (inflamed skin), leaky gut, or arthritis, it is better to use smaller neck type bones that have lots of collagen on the outside of the bones.

So how can one make a great bone broth?  It’s actually quite simple. First get the best quality bones you can find from any animals.  Using grass fed bones is by far the best because they are raised without hormones and chemicals that would otherwise leach into the broth.  Take the bones and put them in a slow cooker. Cover them with water so that the water is about ½ inch above the bones.  Add about 1 TB of acid, either lemon juice or your favorite vinegar.  This changes the pH which is crucial for extracting the minerals.  Add your favorite vegetables, such as onions, carrots, and celery.  I like to add a few tsp of dried seaweed for added minerals.  Turn the crock pot on. Initially, I like to put it on high for a few hours to get s good simmer going, then I reduce the temperature to low for many hours.  In general, fish stock cooks the fastest in just an hour or two, chicken stock takes about 12-24 hours, and beef stock takes about 48 hours. After the broth is done cooking, strain out the vegetables and bones.  The fat can be left on top for additional fat soluble vitamins, or skimmed off and used for cooking vegetables.

When the broth is all finished, it can be cooled and stored in the freezer to use at your convenience, or used immediately as a drink, soup, stew, or gravy base, or used to cook rice and grains.  When it is frozen, a great broth will gelatinize, but if it doesn’t it is not a wasted effort.  Nutrients will still be extracted. There may have been too much water for the amount of bones, or not enough gelatin in the bones. Either way, be creative with it, enjoy the great flavors, and feel the health benefits.

Comprehensive Gluten Free Food List

gluten free food listHere is a list of foods and products that may contain gluten for those people new to a gluten free diet. I hope you find this helpful.

The obvious- Wheat containing grains:
-Wheat
-Barley
-Rye
-Oats (unless specifically labeled gluten free)
-Spelt

Latin words that refer to wheat and wheat products:
-Triticum vulgare (wheat)
-Triticale (cross between wheat and rye)
-Hordeum vulgare (barley)
-Secale cereal (rye)
-Triticum Spelta (spelt)

The following terms most likely contain wheat:
-Wheat/hydrolyzed protein
-Wheat starch
-Wheat/white/unbleached/whole grain flour
-Wheat germ oil or extract
-Hydrolyzed vegetable protein
-Modified food starch
-Natural flavorings
-Caramel Coloring
-Artificial flavoring
-Dextrin and maltodextrin
-Seasonings and flavorings

Most obvious foods to avoid:
-Breads and Baked Goods
-Crackers
-Croutons
-Stuffing
-Pastas
-Anything with bread crumbs or crumble topping

Less obvious foods to avoid:
-Beers
-Brown rice syrup
-Artificial syrups
-Marinades
-Gravies, Sauces, and Soups
-Licorice
-Soy sauce
-Couscous
-Farina
-Seitan
-Malt (vinegar, beverages, candies)
-Imitation meats (crab, bacon, etc.)
-Toothpaste

Topical products that may contain gluten:
-Lip stick
-Lotions and Moisturizers
-Shampoo, Conditioners, and Hair Products
-Soaps and Body Wash
-Cosmetics
-Deodorants
-Laundry Products
-Sunscreen

Good online resources:
www.Livingwithout.com, www.GlutenFreeLiving.com, www.GlutenFreeChecklist.com, www.gfreelife.com, www.celiaccentral.org, www.triumphdining.com, www.Glutenfree-lifestyle.com