Category Archives: alternative medicine

Willowbend Weight Loss: An Introduction

I want a weight loss program that works and that is sustainable. I want the choices to be healthy…the weight loss to be healthy…the products we are told to take or eat to be healthy.

But alas, in order for that to happen I had to make it myself. I have tried without success to follow other templates. Or I have looked into diet plans and just not been able to follow them myself or recommend for patients because I didn’t really think they were healthy.

 

Being overweight is an enormous problem (no pun intended) for many people. Those of us who have weight issues are more likely to suffer from myriad illness. Not to mention self-esteem issues. And we don’t want to be heavy. One of my family members has been very critical of my weight – like I just one day decided to spend 8 years gaining 20 pounds/year by choice. (I do not mean that I don’t take ownership of my choices and issues, but many overweight people do not know how to make the changes necessary, or what to count on that will really work.)

There are hundreds of opinions on the best way. This is just mine. And from being a naturopathic doctor for over 10 years, and having lost weight on this program that I have kept off (and helped others to do so as well), I believe that this is an ideal weight loss program.

 

I hope you are willing to take the plunge and make some changes! Your health awaits!

 

 

The cornerstones of this program are:

  • Eat healthy foods
  • Track daily food intake (there’s an app for that :’)
  • No grains
  • No sugar
  • High healthy proteins
  • Lots of vegetables
  • Fruit is allowed but limited
  • Supplements that increase health, metabolism and replace a meal
    • Intensely good Multivitamin
    • Fish Oil
    • RAW protein powder
    • Probiotic
    • Fiber
    • Daily exercise
    • Adequate sleep every night
    • Weekly check in meetings for support and accountability

     

We are putting finishing touches on the guidebook and pricing for the 12-week weight loss program. Stay tuned!

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Sunscreen: Healthy or Toxic?

It’s not an easy question. Most of us know that there is a relationship between sun exposure and skin cancer. But how many know about the problems inherent in many of the lotions that are on the market – there to supposedly limit damage to our skin?

What if the products you were buying and lathering on your face and the skin of your family contained chemicals that when exposed to sunlight actually broke down into compounds that can cause cancer? What if they contained chemicals that could disrupt normal hormonal function? But the government is there to help keep us safe, isn’t it? Unfortunately, the FDA has not made a final ruling on standards for sunscreens for the past 32 years. Proposed standards would require manufacturers to provide proof of their safety, UVA and UVB protection, and waterproof stability if those claims were made.

Research found on the website of the Environmental Working Group shows that 60% of sunscreens in the US contain oxybenzone as the active ingredient, to prevent burning and sun damage to skin. What the purveyors of these products do not tell you is that oxybenzone, which may be easier to apply to the skin than mineral sunscreens – like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide – is absorbed into the skin in large amounts, potentially causing allergic reactions and hormone disruption. Researchers now recommend that oxybenzone not be used on children.

Vitamin A is a wonderful antioxidant and has been shown to beneficially reduce free radical damage when taken internally or applied to the skin in night creams. But using Vitamin A in sunscreen has potentially carcinogenic effects. So rather than preventing skin cancer, it actually may be contributing to it. Look for “retinol palmitate” as it is sometimes called on labels.

Much safer products are on the market now. But you have to be willing to do some research and read some labels. The biggest issue with the labels is that most of them have many ingredients. And most of the ingredients are unknown and unpronounceable by the general public.

But here is a good point. We know that our skin is a great delivery vehicle for medications, right? Why else would there be patches for quitting smoking, birth control and other medications? We do absorb substances readily through our skin. And yet we assume that the skin care industry, which is largely unregulated, has our best health at heart. I hate to be the one to break it to you, but it’s not true. We live in a great capitalistic society, and they want to make money. Many of the chemicals and fragrances that are added to make them appealing are very unhealthy.

I don’t expect you to go out and get a degree in chemistry to understand all of this. Here are a few hints to help:

  • More is not better. Aim for labels with fewer ingredients – not so many that you are weary to read all of them.
  • Familiar is good! If it sounds like a strange chemical that you can’t even pronounce, you might want to think twice about it.
  • “Baby” in the name does NOT mean it is safe for kids!
  • Don’t assumethat there is someone knowledgeable at your health food store who prevents the unhealthy ones from being put on the shelves.
  • Mineral sunscreens – zinc oxide or titanium dioxide – provide physical barriers to the sun yet are not absorbed into the skin.
  • Check www.ewg.org to see if your sunscreen is safe, or to find one that is (as well as read more in-depth research on sunscreen ingredients).
  • Use other protective barriers against the sun, such as clothing, hats, and umbrellas. And avoid being in the noonday sun when the UV rays are potentially most damaging.
pink wildflowers

Pink wildflowers

We all love this surge in warm weather and ability to spend some time outside. Spring and summer are a wonderful time for enjoying nature. Soak up your summer rays safely.

Sara Thyr, ND

Willowbend Natural Medicine

www.DrThyr.com

PCBs Found in Fish Oil

A study was released this week that shows that many of the popular brands of fish oils have high amounts of polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) compounds. PCB’s, once widely used in the electricity industry, are very toxic and have been banned from use since 1979. But because they do not break down easily, they persist in our environment. They have been shown to cause cancer and reproductive toxicity.

I have long been educating my patients about fish oils – both the benefits of them as well as the risks of not buying good quality.

Some of the health benefits include helping hormonal issues, heart protection, improving blood pressure, skin problems, arthritis, ADD, depression, and Alzheimer’s. Omega-3 fatty acids, which are very high in fish oils, are a very good anti-inflammatory. It’s one of my favorite supplements, for treating specific conditions, as well as prevention. As a midwife, all of my clients were taking fish oils throughout their pregnancy for the health benefits to the baby, particularly in neurological development.

But I always caution people. There are some supplements that you can get the cheapest thing you can find and it doesn’t matter. Fish oil is not one of them. I have worked closely with several companies so that I can be assured that they are doing all they can to make sure people are not getting harmful substances, such as PCBs, along with their beneficial omega-3 fatty acids.

Since the fish in our oceans are heavily contaminated with mercury, it is also important to make sure that you are taking a fish oil that doesn’t have that as well. And since omega-3 fatty acids are very fragile, and degrade quickly when exposed to heat or light, it is critical that they not have any products of rancidity. Taking a rancid fish oil would do more harm to the body than any positive health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids.

So how could you possibly know if your fish oil is safe? The results of the ten brands that were checked for PCBs can be found at www.fishoilsafety.com. But there are hundreds of brands of fish oils. And none of the ones that I most commonly recommend were in the study. But you can still arm yourself with information to make sure that you are not putting yourself at risk. The very best companies send their product to an outside lab for confirmation of its potency and purity. What they get back from this lab is called a “certificate of analysis.” Not all companies will provide this, and none of them actually have to. But the ones who have been conscious from the beginning about selling a high quality product have had it done all along. It is obviously more costly to have this level of testing in place. So you might pay more for their product. But it is absolutely worth it.

Top producers of fish oil capsules also do their own in-house testing of the crude product. A few years ago I had a conversation with one of the quality manufacturers about this, and he mentioned that they have refused large quantities before. He is certain that the fish oil that they refused didn’t just get thrown away. It was sold to a company with lower standards, who likely sells their product for less.

The two brands I trust the most are Nordic Naturals and Vital Nutrients, a professional supplement line. Due to California’s Proposition 65, it sounds like the testing for toxins in products will continue to expand, and I hope that we can all be assured that as we try to improve our health, we are not exposed to further environmental toxins.

Divine Digestion

I feel that there are a few disorders that are nagging. And a few that make us absolutely miserable. Then there are things like diabetes and heart disease, which while causing great health problems and costing our country billions, don’t usually present with physical symptoms.

The more miserable, the more likely people are to make prescribed changes.

This is why I love helping people who suffer from digestive disorders. I find that people who have discomfort on a daily basis will often head my advice.

Digestive problems are also a good thing for naturopathic medicine, as many of the therapies work better and are safer than what we see offered in conventional medicine. One of the governing philosophies of naturopathic medicine is to find and treat the underlying cause of illness. Leaning heavily on this ideal, I find that patients tend to improve quickly once we do a little deeper investigation. Naturopathic doctors also have a large range of treatment options, that can be used to facilitate cure or just act as a bandaid while we search for the true cause of illness. From diet changes and stress management, to nutrional supplements, to botanical medicine and homeopathy, the treatment options are nourishing and beneficial.

Starting at the top of “the tube” we can look at problems in the mouth as harbingers of health throughout the body. There is an association in people with gum disease to heart disease. This may be general inflammation or possibly nutrient deficiency. Cold sores are a virus and are often eliminated with natural antivirals, while also fortifying the immune system of the individual.

Moving on down, even when a patient does not complain of sore throat, I always like to take a look at the posterior pharynx. Swelling of the tonsils in the absence of any frank infection, is a sign that the immune system is keyed up and fighting something – usually chronic. (Often food allergies.). These people may have post nasal drip, a tickling cough, or sleep disruption from snoring.

One of the most common digestive complaints in the US is GERD (gastro esophageal reflux disease). Now being diagnosed even in infants, and being treated with a variety of prescriptions which may have long-term consequences. One study showed that people who enter the hospital on these medications are more likely to get pneumonia while they are in the hospital. This is likely because the drug eliminates the natural stomach acid, and this is one of our first lines of defense against pathogens. If that were the only way to deal with the intense discomfort of reflux, I could be more accepting of the treatment. Therapies I find successful include finding underlying food allergies and improving overall digestion. This may include prescribing digestive enzymes or helping people with nutrition choices. An effective and safe “bandaid treatment” is chewable deglycyrrhinated licorice.

Nausea has to be one of the  most uncomfortable and debilitating of digestive issues. It is critical to find and treat underlying causes, such as identifying ulcers, pregnancy, lactose intolerance, medication reactions or food allergies. Once we have properly diagnosed “gastritis” down to the actual cause, we can find many natural and effective treatments. Even nausea and vomiting of pregnancy can be greatly improved with safe natural therapies.

Lower gastrointestinal problems may include diarrhea, constipation, gas, bloating, diverticulitis, and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome). Similar strategies as above apply in terms of digging deeper to find and treat underlying cause of symptoms. Testing may include looking for overgrowth of bacteria, fungi, and parasites, as well as ruling out food allergies and digestive enzyme insufficiency.

If you are not already eating a whole foods diet, free of coffee and excess sugar and refined carbohydrates, that is a good place to begin.

Regardless of the problem, there are many effective naturopathic strategies for improving digestive function, eliminating pain and discomfort, and finding true health.

Natural First Aid

My talk last week at Sky Hill Institute was a huge success. To keep the love going, I will blog this week on the contents of my home first aid kit.

The two things I use the most are undoubtedly homeopathic Arnica and All-Purpose Salve.

Arnica I carry with me everywhere. There is one in the tennis bag, my bike pack, my purse, and both of our cars. I don’t know if I am just a clutz, or if I’m just a huge believer. Giving Arnica immediately after any injury (or surgery) will dramatically spead healing.

There are other homeopathics for after particular injuries. But taking Arnica “no matter what” as quickly as possible is never a bad idea.

Keynotes for Arnica are:

  • any trauma
  • bruised feeling
  • the bed feels too hard
  • person injured says “I’m okay.”

One of my patients who recently feel directly on their tailbone was resistant to taking any homeopathic just after the fall. When she had been suffering for a while, she came in and I gave her one that is more specific to the falling directly on the coccyx. I truly believe that she would not have suffered as long if she’d taken Arnica immediately.

All Purpose Salve is a blend of herbs that is perfect for healing skin rashes and wounds. It seems as though we are forever dealing with some little cut, scrape or rash. The All Purpose Salve (made by Wise Woman herbals) combines herbs that not only reduce the itching and inflammation, but help to heal the skin. No antibiotic/petrochemical OTC ointment can claim that. (And I personally feel that putting antibiotic ointments, as well as using antibiotic soaps, just contributes to antibiotic resistance. You have an immune system! Don’t put that crap on little cuts and wounds!)

Some people have the idea that when you are hurt you need something more powerful than what nature has to offer. Quite the contrary – what nature has to offer is the most effective, as well as naturally safe.

Natural Allergy Relief

It’s still windy here in Petaluma. I keep thinking it is going to ease up. I know that many people are still really suffering from allergies. I want to give you a couple more ideas of how to help.

Vitamin C – good ol’ vitamin C helps allergies because it is a mast cell stabilizer. Mast cells are the ones that release the  histamines that are causing all of the symptoms…watery eyes, stuffed up sinuses, difficulty breathing, etc. Vitamin C is safe for most people. Get 500 mg 3-6 times/day. Just watch out for loose stools – that’s how you’ll know you’ve gotten too much.

Quercetin is another great mast cell stabilizer. It is a bioflavonoid, found in fruits and vegetables. In higher concentrations, like you will find in supplement form, can help decrease symtpoms. 250 mg three to four times/day should be good. Obviously, eating more fruits and vegetables will help as well.

The neti pot – nasal saline rinse – is also fantastic for decreasing congestion. I have seen the little sprays too – and if that helps you then great. I like the neti pot because it will get the saline deeper into your sinuses.

If you have chronic allergies, you may want to come in for a constitutional homeopathic remedy, or figure out if there is anything else underlying that is kicking up your immune system.

Vitamin C – My Allergy Saver

It seems so simple, but it’s true.  Good ol’ vitamin C, which most of us have in our medicine cabinets, helps relieve allergy symptoms.

Vitamin C is an excellent mast cell stabilizer. The mast cells are the ones who release the histamines when in the presence of allergens. So when those cells are a little less reactive, as they are with vitamin C, one experiences fewer allergy symptoms.

I like the little effervescent packages called “EmergenC” (available at most health food stores) because they have some b vitamins in them as well, and since you mix it in water, it helps increase your fluid consumption at the same time – never a bad thing.

I also keep a bottle of esterified C on my desk at work – this is a little less acidic and less likely to cause bowel problems.

Which brings me to dosage. Taking 2-4 grams of C daily is no problem for most people. Ideally, you want to spread that out in divided doses, like 500-1000 mg at a time. The most common side effect of excess vitamin C is lose stools. So find the balance between symptomatic relief and digestive disturbance. And keep in mind that the low acid or esterified C’s are less likely to cause a problem, if you happen to be sensitive. Too much vitamin C also causes mouth sores (canker sores) in some individuals.

Using local, unpasturized honey along with the vitamin C may give you even better relief. They would not have negative interactions.