digestion, GI health, healing, hood river naturopath

A German Writer Translates a Puzzling Illness Into a Best-Selling Book

MANNHEIM, Germany — IF Giulia Enders had not contracted a mysterious illness as a teenager that left her covered with sores, she, like most of us, might never have thought much about her digestive tract, except when it was out of whack. She might never have enrolled in medical school, either, and she almost certainly would not have written a best-selling book about digestion last year that has captivated Germany, a nation viewed, fairly or not, as exceedingly anal-retentive.

Back in 2007, after a series of mostly ineffective treatments prescribed by doctors, Ms. Enders, then 17, decided to take matters into her own hands. Convinced that the illness was somehow associated with her intestines, she pored over gastroenterological research, consumed probiotic bacterial cultures meant to aid digestion and tried out mineral supplements.

The experiments worked (although she is not sure which one did the trick), leaving her with healthy skin and a newfound interest in her intestines. “I experienced with my own body that knowledge is power,” she writes of the episode in “Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ,” which was published in North America last month after its surprising success in Germany, where it has sold almost 1.5 million copies since its release in March 2014.

Inspired by her successful self-experimentation, Ms. Enders enrolled in medical school in 2009 at Goethe University Frankfurt and is now working toward a doctoral degree in microbiology there.

DURING a recent interview in a cafe here next to the Neckar River, not far from her childhood home, Ms. Enders, now 25, sipped chamomile tea and described with characteristic enthusiasm the first stomach operation she saw in person. “The whole body moves like this or like that, but the intestines move in entirely a different way,” she said. “It’s incredibly harmonious!”

Ms. Enders’s wonder at the strange ways of the gut is matched only by her incredulity at the limited public knowledge on the subject. “I’m almost shocked,” she recalled thinking during her first years in medical school as she learned, for example, that it is easier to burp lying on your left side than your right because of the position at which the esophagus connects to the stomach. “Why doesn’t everybody know this?”

In 2012, she began taking it upon herself to fill people in. She had heard about a student event space in Freiburg that was hosting a “science slam,” an open-mike event where young researchers give presentations, and decided to prepare a short lecture on digestion.

Onstage, Ms. Enders was bouncy and jocular, as a video of the event shows. She speaks rapidly, hardly able to contain her excitement, describing the components of the digestive system and lamenting its poor reputation.

“It’s really too bad, because the intestines are totally charming,” she says, citing as evidence the sophisticated communication between our inner and outer sphincter muscles and the some hundred trillion bacteria in our guts that facilitate digestion.

The crowd was smitten. Ms. Enders won the competition and went on to participate in two more science slams in Karlsruhe and Berlin. Soon, videos of her presentations were attracting attention online, and a literary agent contacted her about writing a book.

FANS have praised Ms. Enders for translating abstruse gastroenterological research into breezy, entertaining prose. On a talk show here last April, she described the large intestine as the “chiller” of the two because it processes nutrients at a leisurely pace of about 16 hours on average, compared with the two to five hours that the small intestine needs.

In her book, she catalogs the myriad elaborate operations that our guts dutifully perform every day, like the cleaning mechanism that kicks in a few hours after we eat and keeps the small intestine — all 20 or so feet of it — remarkably tidy. This “little housekeeper,” as Ms. Enders calls it, turns out to be the real source of the grumbling that most attribute to the stomach and mistake as a sign of hunger.

Then there is the growing body of research indicating that our intestines may have a far greater influence on our feelings, decisions and behavior than previously realized. The primary evidence for this, Ms. Enders writes, is the vast network of nerves attached to our guts that monitors our deepest internal experiences and sends information to the brain, including to those regions responsible for self-awareness, memory and even morality.

Just how much your lunch will affect ethical decision making remains unclear; we still know very little about this “gut brain,” as Ms. Enders refers to it. But this byzantine neural architecture suggests that our intestines may play a large part in determining who we are and what we do.

These essential but little-known features of our guts — our identities at their most raw and visceral, Ms. Enders suggests — have riveted Germans. The surprising popularity of Ms. Enders’s book has itself become a topic for discussion, with some commentators invoking Freud to explain Germans’ apparent fascination with their bowels. Profanity here tends to skew to the scatological, and Germans are, according to stereotypes, obsessed with order and neatness.

Ms. Enders dismisses such talk, noting that the book has also topped best-seller lists in Finland, the Netherlands and elsewhere. She suggests that its appeal lies in its frank treatment of topics usually left undiscussed. “Shame always disappears when you really understand something,” she said.

MS. ENDERS grew up on the outskirts of Mannheim, a sleepy city of almost 300,000 residents that was largely flattened by Allied bombs in World War II and filled back in with prim, modern buildings. Her parents split up when she was young, and her father was an irregular presence during her childhood. “You can only say Lebenskünstler,” she said to describe him — a term that means “life artist” and connotes a bohemian disregard for societal conventions.

Instead, it was her mother, a former documentary filmmaker, and grandmother who raised Ms. Enders and her older sister, now a graphic designer based in Karlsruhe who contributed illustrations to the book. Her grandmother, an interpreter by training, proved particularly influential. “She showed us very early on that intellectuality doesn’t have to be so serious,” said Ms. Enders, who recalled free-form games of chess with her grandmother in which they ignored half of the rules.

But Ms. Enders’s interest in science is relatively new. She was, by her own assessment, a mediocre student in elementary school, owing mostly to self-described boredom with the rote exercises in primary education. While her grades improved in high school, her fascination with medicine began outside the classroom, with the unexplained sores she had as a teenager.

By her own account, Ms. Enders’s sudden fame has not changed her life very much. She still shares the same apartment in Frankfurt with five friends. She recently completed a state medical exam and will soon begin a yearlong residency at a hospital.

She does not have any immediate plans to write another book. “If I have that feeling again,” she said, referring to her surprise at how little most people knew about digestion, “then I’d do it. But only then. And if that feeling doesn’t come, then hopefully I’ll just be a good doctor.”

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childbirth, labor, oxytocin, pregnancy

Pitocin Is Not Oxytocin

Pitocin-Is-Not-Oxytocin
The role of hormones in our body are so vast and dynamic!  Here is a quick article looking at only one of the hormones that help regulate us.

BY KELLY BROGAN MD

“The Love Hormone”.  Sounds important, no? Turns out that we know very little about the hormone oxytocin, beyond that it is incredibly relevant to multiple metabolic, behavioral, and endocrine functions. In a compelling review entitled Beyond Labor: The Role of Natural and Synthetic Oxytocin in the Transition to Motherhood, Bell et al explore the literature suggesting that, once again, we cannot outsmart, outdo, or circumvent nature with pharmaceutical products.

What is Oxytocin?

One of the known roles of oxytocin is in the complex physiology of labor and birth. Perceived by the obstetrical establishment to be a “contraction chemical”, oxytocin’s effects are bodywide, and most notably, brain-based. During pregnancy, oxytocin receptors increase in areas of the maternal brain related to mood, stress, and attachment behavior. Specifically, its activity has been studied in the hypothalamus, lateral septal nucleus, periaqueductal grey, Broca’s area, nucleus basalis of Meynert, locus coeruleus, vagus, solitary tract, trigeminal nerve, and lateral reticular formation. It is secreted continuously in the brain and in a pulsatile manner to the body through the posterior pituitary. Despite efforts, the brain-blood ratio has not been well-elucidated leaving major gaps in our understanding. When it comes to hormones, the production and release of the hormone is critical, but so is the receptor activity – the action of the baseball in the catchers mitt, and receptor sensitivity varies from person to person based on genetics and adaptation to experience.

What is Pitocin?

So, when we manufacture a synthetic version of this hormone and commandeer a woman’s labor physiology, it should come as no surprise that there are unintended and poorly understood consequences. Pitocin®  or “Pit” as it’s called on the floors, is the obstetrician’s whip. They snap this whip when your baby is not conforming to their non-evidenced-based schedules. When your due date is wrong, when you’re forced to birth in highly artificial circumstances, or when your physiology has been hijacked by an epidural.

Bell et al discuss a number of concerns related to the administration of synthetic oxytocin:

  • Because of its hydrophilic (fat-loving) nature and molecular size,Pitocin®  is unlikely to cross the blood brain barrier. But maternal oxytocin is very active in the brain, inducing secretion of other hormones including endorphins (buffering fear and pain). It is also active in the fetalbrain, protecting receptors such as GABA, from potential hypoxia of birth.
  • If, in fact, synthetic oxytocin does reach the maternal brain (because of barrier permeability or active transport of some kind), the authors state:

    “Whether the maternal brain will reliably respond to exogenous oxytocin by decreasing or increasing the synthesis or release of endogenous oxytocin is unknown.”

What about after labor is over?

Women are struggling to breastfeed in proportions likely never seen in human history. Bell et al reference a powerful study that implicates Pitocin in this phenomenon.

“Compared to all other study groups, women exposed to Pitocin® in labor combined with an epidural demonstrated significantly lower oxytocin levels during breastfeeding. Overall, the total quantity of synthetic oxytocin administered during parturition was negatively correlated to levels of oxytocin in plasma two days following birth.”

This may be related to the effects of a pharmaceutical-grade agonist stimulating the oxytocin receptor and causing modeling changes at the membrane level. When receptors are overstimulated, they are internalized and downregulated through changes in gene transcription. Bell et al reference a study demonstrating that:

Participants with oxytocin-induced labor had a 300-fold down-regulation of the OTR gene in uterine muscle, when compared to receptor availability in spontaneous labor.

The role of oxytocin in the HPA axis (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) may explain why:

“Lactating women show increased vagal tone, decreased blood pressure and decreased heart rate when compared to non-lactating women, especially in response to a stressor.”

Data analyzing the role of oxytocin in response to postpartum stress suggests that it is a buffer to the negative effects of the experience. When this buffering effect is inadequate, we may see the emergence of postpartum depressive symptoms. One study found that bottle feeding women had lower levels of oxytocin, higher heart rates, and higher cortisol, but that breastfeeding depressed women shared this profile, implicating low oxytocin levels in depression.

Amazingly, some of oxytocin’s effects may actually be mediated by gut bacteria (is there anything the microbiome doesn’t manage?) as was demonstrated in this study showing a lactic acid bacteria accelerated (doubled) wound healing in rodents by increasing oxytocin levels. In psychiatry, there is sparse literature supporting the use of intranasal oxytocin in autism, schizophrenia, OCD, social phobia, depression/postpartum depression, and anorexia but notable theoretical underpinnings for consideration in these cases and minimal risk.

While we attempt to understand the variables contributing to altered oxytocin response in the body, deliberately interfering with this feedback system through the use of synthetic hormone should be exposed for what it really is: a dangerous fix for the problems of a medicalized birth.

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alternative medicine, columbia gorge, homeopathy, hood river midwife, hood river naturopath

FDA Ponders Putting Homeopathy To A Tougher Test

Katherine Streeter for NPR

Katherine Streeter for NPR

It’s another busy morning at Dr. Anthony Aurigemma’s homeopathy practice in Bethesda, Md.

Wendy Resnick, 58, is here because she’s suffering from a nasty bout of laryngitis. “I don’t feel great,” she says. “I don’t feel myself.”

Resnick, who lives in Millersville, Md., has been seeing Aurigemma for years for a variety of health problems, including ankle and knee injuries and back problems. “I don’t know what I would do without him,” she says. “The traditional treatments just weren’t helping me at all.”

Aurigemma listens to Resnick’s lungs, checks her throat and then asks detailed questions about her symptoms and other things as well, such as whether she’s been having any unusual cravings for food.

Aurigemma went to medical school and practiced as a regular doctor before switching to homeopathy more than 30 years ago. He says he got disillusioned by mainstream medicine because of the side effects caused by many drugs. “I don’t reject conventional medicine. I use it when I have to,” Aurigemma says.

Throughout his career, homeopathy has been regulated differently from mainstream medicine.

In 1988, the Food and Drug Administration decided not to require homeopathic remedies to go through the same drug-approval process as standard medical treatments. Now the FDA is revisiting that decision. It will hold two days of hearings this week to decide whether homeopathic remedies should have to be proven safe and effective.

“So this will be the first dose,” he says. “Then I’ll give you a daily dose, to try to get underneath into your immune system to try to help you strengthen your energy, basically.”

Homeopathic medicine has long been controversial. It’s based on an idea known as “like cures like,” which means if you give somebody a dose of a substance — such as a plant or a mineral — that can cause the symptoms of their illness, it can, in theory, cure that illness if the substance has been diluted so much that it’s essentially no longer in the dose.

“We believe that there is a memory left in the solution. You might call it a memory. You might call it energy,” Aurigemma says. “Each substance in nature has a certain set of characteristics. And when a patient comes who matches the physical, mental and emotional symptoms that a remedy produces — that medicine may heal the person’s problem.”

Critics say those ideas are nonsense, and that study after study has failed to find any evidence that homeopathy works.

“Homeopathy is an excellent example of the purest form of pseudoscience,” says Steven Novella, a neurologist at Yale and executive editor of the website Science-Based Medicine. “These are principles that are not based upon science.”

Novella thinks consumers are wasting their money on homeopathic remedies. The cost of such treatments vary, with some over-the-counter products costing less than $10.

Some of the costs, such as visits to doctors and the therapies they prescribe, may be covered by insurance. But Novella says with so many people using homeopathic remedies, the costs add up.

There’s also some concern that homeopathic remedies could be dangerous if they’re contaminated or not completely diluted, or even if they simply don’t work.

Somebody who’s having an acute asthma attack, for example, who takes a homeopathic asthma remedy, “may very well die of their acute asthma attack because they were relying on a completely inert and ineffective treatment,” Novella says.

For years, critics like Novella have been asking the FDA to regulate homeopathy more aggressively. The FDA’s decision to revisit the issue now was motivated by several factors, including the growing popularity of homeopathic remedies and the length of time that has passed since the agency last considered the issue.

The FDA is also concerned about the quality of remedies, according to Cynthia Schnedar, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research Office of Compliance. The agency has issued a series of warnings about individual homeopathic products in recent years, including one that involved tablets being sold to alleviate teething pain in babies.

“So we thought it was time to take another look at our policy,” Schnedar says.

The FDA’s decision to examine the issue is making homeopathic practitioners like Aurigemma and their patients nervous. “It would be a terrible loss to this country if they were to do something drastic,” he says.

He also disputes claims that homeopathy doesn’t work and is unsafe.

“There’s no question that it helps patients. I have too many files on too many patients that have shown improvements,” Aurigemma says, although he acknowledges some homeopathic products sold over the counter make misleading claims.

Companies that make homeopathic remedies defend their products as well.

“Homeopathic medicines have a very long history of safety,” says Mark Land, vice president of operations and regulatory affairs for Boiron USA, which makes homeopathic products. “One of the hallmarks of homeopathic medicines is safety,” says Land, who is also president of the American Association of Homeopathic Pharmacists.

“The potential risk [of greater FDA regulation] to consumers is if any change in regulation were to limit access to these products,” says Land.

That’s what worries Resnick. She says homeopathic remedies have helped alleviate a long list of health problems she’s experienced over the years. “Why would they want to take that away from us?” she says. “Let us have the freedom to decide what works the best for us.”

The FDA says this week’s hearing is just a chance to start gathering information to decide what — if anything — the agency should do about homeopathy.

For full story see: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2015/04/20/398806514/fda-ponders-whether-homeopathy-is-medicine

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add/adhd, adhd, hood river midwife, hood river naturopath, mental health, pediatrics

ADHD Not a Real Disease, Says Leading Neuroscientist

adhd

What do you think?

Alex Pietrowski, Waking Times One of the world’s leading pediatric neuroscientists, Dr. Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D, recently stated publicly that Attention Deficit/Hyper-Activity Disorder (ADHD) is not ‘a real disease,’ and warned of the dangers of giving psycho-stimulant medications to children.Speaking to the Observer, Dr. Perry noted that the disorder known as ADHD should be considered a description of a wide range of symptoms that many children and adults exhibit, most of which are factors that everyone of us displays at some point during our lives.

“It is best thought of as a description. If you look at how you end up with that label, it is remarkable because any one of us at any given time would fit at least a couple of those criteria,” he said.

Dr. Perry is a senior fellow of the ChildTrauma Academy in Houston, Texas, a highly respected member of the pediatric community, and author of several books on child psychology including, The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog: And Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook–What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us About Loss, Love, and HealingandBorn for Love: Why Empathy Is Essential–and Endangered.

His comments are quite refreshing at a time when diagnoses for ADHD in the UK and the US are sky-rocketing and prescriptions of stimulant medications to children are also rising rapidly, with many parents and concerned activists growing suspicious of the pharmaceutical industry’s motivations in promoting drugs to children. Ritalin, Adderall, Vyvanse and other mind-altering stimulant medications are increasingly prescribed to children between the ages of 4 and 17.

Dr. Perry noted that the use of medications like these may be dangerous to the overall physical and mental development of the child, remarking on studies where these medications were given to animals and were proven detrimental to health.

“If you give psychostimulants to animals when they are young, their rewards systems change. They require much more stimulation to get the same level of pleasure.

“So on a very concrete level they need to eat more food to get the same sensation of satiation. They need to do more high-risk things to get that little buzz from doing something. It is not a benign phenomenon.

“Taking a medication influences systems in ways we don’t always understand. I tend to be pretty cautious about this stuff, particularly when the research shows you that other interventions are equally effective and over time more effective and have none of the adverse effects. For me it’s a no-brainer.”

Given that the problem of ADHD is complex and the term is more of a blanket term used to describe a wide range of behavioral symptoms, it is important to consider what the root causes of many of the symptoms may be before pharmaceutical intervention should be considered. Citing potential remedies, Dr. Perry suggested an approach that focuses attention on the parents and the child’s environment, while also recommending natural remedies like Yoga, and improved diet.

“There are number of non-pharmacological therapies which have been pretty effective. A lot of them involve helping the adults that are around children,” he said.

“Part of what happens is if you have an anxious, overwhelmed parent, that is contagious. When a child is struggling, the adults around them are easily disregulated too. This negative feedback process between the frustrated teacher or parent and dis-regulated child can escalate out of control.

“You can teach the adults how to regulate themselves, how to have realistic expectations of the children, how to give them opportunities that are achievable and have success and coach them through the process of helping children who are struggling.

“There are a lot of therapeutic approaches. Some would use somato-sensory therapies like yoga, some use motor activity like drumming.

“All have some efficacy. If you can put together a package of those things: keep the adults more mannered, give the children achievable goals, give them opportunities to regulate themselves, then you are going to minimise a huge percentage of the problems I have seen with children who have the problem labelled as ADHD.”

Many people may disagree with the assertion that ADD/ADHD should not be considered a disease, however, the fact remains that the myriad symptoms that are associated with these increasingly common ‘disorders’ can often be addressed and relieved without creating an addiction and dependency on pharmaceutical medications, which disrupt the mind and body in ways that are not fully understood or even researched.

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add/adhd, mental health, pediatrics

Can Attention Deficit Drugs ‘Normalize’ a Child’s Brain?

Recent research that says that A.D.H.D. pills like Adderall, above, can “normalize” a child’s brain over time has drawn criticism.

By KATHERINE ELLISON Credit Elizabeth D. Herman for The New York Times

Recent research says that A.D.H.D. pills like Adderall, can “normalize” a child’s brain over time has drawn criticism. What are your opinions and what has worked for you?  As a naturopathic physician, I believe by balancing neurotransmitters, and discovering the root, initial insult that led to any developmental imbalance is key to finding health.   Where can energies be channeled, how can brain’s truly be ‘normalized’?  Consult your local naturopath or learn more at http://www.gorgenaturalmedicine.com

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The Pleasantville, N.Y., developmental pediatrician won’t allow drug marketers in his office, and says he doesn’t always prescribe medication for children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Yet Dr. Bertin has recently changed the way he talks about medication, offering parents a powerful argument. Recent research, he says, suggests the pills may “normalize” the child’s brain over time, rewiring neural connections so that a child would feel more focused and in control, long after the last pill was taken.

“There might be quite a profound neurological benefit,” he said in an interview.

A growing number of doctors who treat the estimated 6.4 million American children diagnosed with A.D.H.D. are hearing that stimulant medications not only help treat the disorder but may actually be good for their patients’ brains. In an interview last spring with Psych Congress Network, an Internet news site for mental health professionals, Dr. Timothy Wilens, chief of child and adolescent psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital, said “we have enough data to say they’re actually neuroprotective.” The pills, he said, help “normalize” the function and structure of brains in children with A.D.H.D., so that, “over years, they turn out to look more like non-A.D.H.D. kids.”

Medication is already by far the most common treatment for A.D.H.D., with roughly 4 million American children taking the pills — mostly stimulants, such as amphetamines and methylphenidate. Yet the decision can be anguishing for parents who worry about both short-term and long-term side effects. If the pills can truly produce long-lasting benefits, more parents might be encouraged to start their children on these medications early and continue them for longer.

Leading A.D.H.D. experts, however, warn the jury is still out.

“Sometimes wishful thinking gives us hope that the impressive short-term relative benefits of medication over other treatments will persist beyond childhood, but I haven’t seen it,” said James Swanson, director of the Child Development Center at the University of California at Irvine. Dr. Swanson, a co-author of a landmark federally funded study, the Multimodal Treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, said that follow-up research found overall improvement but no greater long-term benefits after three years for children who were treated with medication compared to those who weren’t. One possible reason, as the report noted, was that many children refuse to continue taking medication after a year or so, something most parentsof such children well know.

Research has shown that the brains of people with A.D.H.D. on average look and function differently than those who don’t have the disorder, particularly when it comes to processing two important neurotransmitters: dopamine and norepinephrine. For most people with A.D.H.D., stimulants can temporarily boost focus, motivation and self-control by increasing the availability of these chemical messengers. The question is whether these effects can last once the drugs have left the bloodstream.

In arguing for “normalization,” Dr. Wilens cited a major review in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry in late 2013, which looked at 29 brain-scan studies. Although the studies had different methods and goals, the authors said that, together, they suggested that stimulants “are associated with attenuation of abnormalities in brain structure, function, and biochemistry in subjects with A.D.H.D.”

But other A.D.H.D. experts challenge this conclusion. Dr. F. Xavier Castellanos, director of research at the New York University Child Study Center, called assertions that stimulants are neuroprotective “exaggerated,” adding: “The best inference is that there is no evidence of harm from medications – normalization is a possibility, but far from demonstrated.”

A.D.H.D. is an exceptionally controversial diagnosis, with particular controversy zeroing in on researchers, including Dr. Wilens himself and some of the authors of the 2013 report he cited who have received financial support from pharmaceutical firms. In an email, Dr. Wilens said he had not received “any personal income” from the pharmaceutical industry since 2009.

As several experts noted, a major impediment to determining the long-term impacts of A.D.H.D. medication is that a “gold-standard” study would require researchers to assign children randomly to groups that either received medication or didn’t. Such a practice has been deemed unethical due to the widespread belief that the medication can help struggling children, at least in the short-term.

And other research has raised new concerns. One peer-reviewed 2013 study co-authored by Dr. Swanson suggested that the stimulants may change the brain over time so as to undermine the long-term response to the medication and even exacerbate symptoms when people aren’t taking them.

Dr. Peter Jensen, the former associate director of child and adolescent research at the National Institute of Mental Health, cautioned that parents should not try to force children with A.D.H.D. to take medication when they don’t want to, adding that “most kids don’t want to.”

Dr. Jensen, who now heads the REACH Institute, a national nonprofit organization concerned with children’s mental health, once surveyed 100 parents of sons and daughters in their 20s who had been diagnosed with A.D.H.D., asking what made the most difference.

“Eighty percent of them said ‘Love your child. Help him or her advocate for themselves, and find a doc who’ll work with you through thick or thin whether you medicate or not,” Dr. Jensen said. “Only a minority of these parents mentioned medication.”

Katherine Ellison is a Pulitzer Prize-winning former foreign correspondent and author and co-author of seven books, including the forthcoming “What Everyone Needs to Know about A.D.H.D.” (Oxford University Press), co-authored with Stephen Hinshaw, Vice-Chair for Psychology, Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco.

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autoimmune, nutrition, paleo

Is the Autoimmune Paleo Diet Legit?

I am an avid supporter of the paleo approach; and I’ve seen amazing success with it, not only in myself but also my patients.  Nutritional research is continuously proving the benefits of high protein, healthy fat diets with plentiful  fruits and vegetables.  What do you think of the paleo diet?  What food plans have you tried to optimize health?

cuts-of-meat-beefBy 

Most people think of the paleo diet as the meat lover’s way to lose weight. But some people with autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, are turning to a refined paleo version to improve life-disrupting symptoms such as pain and fatigue. While medical experts not affiliated with the plan offer mixed feedback, patients willing to make the effort say the autoimmune paleo diet improves their quality of life.

Cutting Food Groups

Many people who follow the autoimmune protocol, which encompasses lifestyle as well as dietary changes, learned of it through the work of Sarah Ballantyne, who has an extensive background in medical research and whose most recent book is “The Paleo Approach: Reverse Autoimmune Disease and Heal Your Body.” She makes the connection between autoimmune disease and diet on The Paleo Mom website.

The standard paleo diet starts with a strict elimination phase. That means “no grains, no legumes, no dairy, no refined sugars, no modern vegetable oils, no processed food chemicals.” According to the plan, gluten should be “banned for life,” and at least initially, dairy of any kind should be avoided. For people with autoimmune disease, there’s more. They “should completely avoid” foods including eggs (especially whites), nuts, seeds (including cocoa, coffee and seed-based spices), nightshades, alcohol and artificial sweeteners. Because people with autoimmune conditions are at risk for vitamin, mineral and omega-3 fatty acid deficiencies, there’s an added diet emphasis on nutrient-dense foods.

Embracing Meat

Meat – with a focus on incorporating more organ meat and offal – is a paleo mainstay. The plan also encourages shellfish; a large variety of vegetables; some fruit; fats including fatty fish and coconut oil; probiotic foods; and glycine-rich foods like bone broth.

Hillary Jenkins, 29, a personal assistant in El Cerrito, California, often starts the day with breakfast sausage patties, which she makes by mixing ground meat with ground kidney and heart. “I go to a local butcher that gets 100 percent grass-fed cows and sheep,” she says.

Not long ago, she would have bypassed the butcher. But at 27, she developed psoriasis, an autoimmune skin condition. Until then she’d always had clear skin, but the condition, which started with a small patch of red spots, quickly spread across her body. A dermatologist prescribed lotions, and eventually, a short course of oral steroids. But as soon as Jenkins stopped taking them, the spots reappeared.

Jenkins wanted other options. Last June, she learned about the autoimmune paleo diet and read up on its potential benefits. “I just went full-on autoimmune protocol right away,” she says.

Nightshades and Carbs

When Kristin Kirkpatrick, manager of wellness nutrition services at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, sees patients with autoimmune conditions, she starts them on a standard (non-paleo) elimination diet. “When you look at foods that have the most likeliness of having some sort of inflammatory reaction, you’re looking at things like wheat, soy, dairy, eggs, processed food [and] sugar,” she says.

Nightshade vegetables, which include potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and sweet and hot peppers, are taboo on the paleo autoimmune plan. Kirkpatrick says these, and some spices like paprika, contain alkaloids, which aggravate inflammation. Cutting nightshades may help “calm” inflammation for susceptible patients.

Cutting legumes and starches can help patients by reducing excessive blood sugar fluctuations. “Bad bacteria in your gut thrives and eats off of sugar,” Kirkpatrick says. Overgrowth of bacteria, especially yeast, can stimulate inflammation in susceptible people.

Tackling ‘Leaky Gut’

Kirkpatrick explains the principle of treating leaky gut syndrome – believed to be a factor in autoimmune disorders – through diet. While you won’t find the term in medical textbooks, she says, “the syndrome is being looked at as a cause to many chronic health conditions, and involves our intestinal permeability and ability to keep toxic and harmful bacteria from going outside our gut.”

Ideally, she says, “When you digest something, everything should be digested 100 percent. You should be able to absorb nutrients, but this may not happen when the permeability in your gut allows leakage,” she explains. So instead of absorbing all the protein, vitamins and minerals, “you can actually have some of those things leak into the bloodstream and out of the gut, leading to inflammation and malabsorption.” Of course, it’s not that simple. “It’s a whole, complex definition of things that could be going on in the digestive system,” she says, and it may be based on autoimmune factors, genetic components and diet.

Social Eating

Angeles Rios, 36, a Pilates, yoga and meditation coach in San Francisco, has ankylosing spondylitis, a type of arthritis centered on the spine. She started on the Paleo autoimmune protocol last spring.

Early on, “making time for daily cooking and grocery shopping was the hardest part,” she says. Cooking in batches helps, and preparing dishes from scratch offsets the costs of eating organic foods and grass-fed meats. And she shares.

“Cooking with friends, especially if they know how to cook without something from a box, keeps the process social and interesting to me,” says Rios, who coordinates a variety of events featuring paleo-friendly food, from potlucks to support groups.

Jenkins agrees that supportive friends are important, as is being willing to cook for yourself. “I don’t trust restaurants,” she says. She’s wary of cross-contamination and of servers who don’t always know which ingredients dishes contain, like prohibited seed-based spices.

Mixed Reactions

“I’d like to see the science behind this,” says Marion Nestle, a professor in the department of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University. “A lot of it doesn’t make much biological sense. But eating the foods on the OK list should be healthy, so the diet is unlikely to be harmful – other than being a pain to follow.”

Judith Volpe, a New York City physician, says “an anti-inflammatory diet that eliminates gluten and dairy is certainly good.” But, she adds, “I’m not so big on diets that are heavy in fat. My problem with the paleo diet, in spite of what they say about good fats … most people’s cholesterol shoots up 30 to 50 points when they’re on that diet.”

Working With Doctors – and Vice Versa

Jessica Flanigan is a clinical nutritionist who specializes in the autoimmune paleo diet. Her identical twin sister has Hashimoto’s disease, in which the body’s immune system attacks the thyroid gland, along with celiac disease. Flanigan and her sister both follow the diet. As clients go through diet phases, Flanigan monitors their symptoms, and working with their doctors, she tracks results of medical tests to detect inflammation. Of clients’ doctors, she says, about “25 percent are open and agreeable” to the diet, while the rest are resistant.

Kirkpatrick says among her own patients, eliminating some of the paleo-restricted foods can have “remarkable” results for some: They no longer have gas, bloating or arthritic joint pain, for example. “So there is power here that science needs to catch up with to figure out,” she says. “What do we know from a scientific perspective about these foods and overall health?”

The most important thing, Kirkpatrick says, whether people are trying the paleo method or some other type of elimination diet to calm their inflammation, is to work with their physician or dietitian.

When Persistence Pays Off

Flanigan says her sister, who has been on the diet for three years, is “totally symptom free.” Jenkins says while it’s not an easy diet, it’s worth the effort. “Whenever I felt a temptation, I would think, ‘OK, is this one or 10 bites of pleasure going to outweigh how I feel if I have a re-inflammation?” she recalls. “And the answer was always, ‘No, I would rather have clear skin than the doughnut or whatever the thing is.’”

For Rios, gradually tweaking her eating habits worked: “I no longer take a biologic drug,” she says. “I have developed a new community to support my new habits and have changed my view of using food for just serving my taste buds to a powerful medicine that can change my mind and body.”

Don’t forget to contact Dr. Katherine Walker or your local naturopath for assistance in exploring your options of achieve optimal health and energy.

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birth, hood river midwife, pregnancy

10 Things I Wish All Women Knew About Giving Birth

Love this article by Aviva Romm in Pathways Magazine.  She hits on many points that are so true about labor, but can also be linked to our everyday life.
art-of-birth-baby

When I was pregnant, I seemed to be a magnet for birth war stories—cords around the neck, emergency cesareans, and more.
It took a lot of inner conviction to believe in birth as a natural, beautiful event that my body was capable of, rather than a “disaster waiting to happen,” as one obstetrician warned me it was.

But inner conviction I decided to have, and my four children were born at home, peacefully, without drama or trauma. I made sure I was in awesome health throughout my pregnancies, eating an organic, plant-based diet. I did yoga daily, spent time in nature, and meditated on the type of birth I wanted to have.

And then I surrendered to the forces of nature. The power I experienced as a woman has given me confidence in so many areas of my life, and I so wish this for other women.

Sadly, however, natural birth is becoming endangered. About one in three women in the United States will have their babies by cesarean section. Maybe that sounds like no big deal—but actually, cesareans are major abdominal surgery that increases your risk of complications over natural birth.

Cesareans are grossly overdone in U.S. hospitals. And they often make recovery and breastfeeding much more challenging. They expose your baby to an antibiotic (all moms having a cesarean are given antibiotics at the time of surgery) before she or he is even born. And most of the ones that are performed turn out to be unnecessary.

Also, many more women will have their labor induced or experience some form of obstetric intervention. The downturn in natural birth is so significant that a group of researchers wanting to study the natural course of labor couldn’t find a large enough group of women birthing naturally in any one place to study them!

But we can’t let natural birth go extinct, because it’s way more than just a romantic ideal. Babies born vaginally (and without medication) have many health advantages. For example, just being exposed to mom’s flora on the way out of the birth canal decreases the lifetime likelihood of developing digestive problems, allergies, and even obesity.

While we can’t fully control what happens in our births, and of course, sometimes interventions are necessary (though often they aren’t!), you can embrace core beliefs that will increase your chances of having the birth experience that is healthiest for you and baby.

Here are the 10 most important philosophies that helped me have my babies naturally, which I’ve used to support thousands of women in their birthing experiences. My hope is that these can help you have an optimal birthing experience…maybe even the birth of your dreams!

Though a spiritual journey, birth is not all incense and candles. It asks us to call upon our primal instincts and sometimes even to get primal—making animal sounds, assuming poses that have us buck naked on our hands and knees, moving our hips in deep sultry belly-dancing undulations.

Planning to take a deep dive into your subconscious and intuition to let your primal self emerge can allow you to open and birth your baby with a raw strength and power you might not even realize lives within you.

1 Birth is a spiritual journey; it’s also primal.  Birth is, to say the least, a physically and emotionally demanding experience. Approaching the challenge as a spiritual journey can help you dig deep into your core for the resources to persevere, and to learn about yourself and your innate strength and power.

Birth should not be taken lying down.  Lying down simply doesn’t let gravity do the work of helping your baby come down and out! Walking, moving your hips like a belly dancer, and generally staying active facilitates a more physiologic process for your baby than lying on your back in a hospital bed, which increases your chances of a cesarean.

3 Contractions are amazing sensations that get your baby born. During my own births, I used my imagination and awareness to dive deep into the sensation of my muscles working to help my baby get born. This focused aware- ness transformed my perception of the pain of birth into the power of birth.

I even used the term “expansions,” rather than “contractions,” to help me think about the sensation in a new way. It did not make the experience less intense, but it made the sensation my ally rather than my enemy. As I welcomed each new wave of labor, I knew I was closer to bringing my baby into my arms.

4 Fear stops labor.
Mammalian mamas have powerful instincts that allow us to keep our babies safe from harm. For

example, mama giraffes on the tundra will spontaneously stop labor if they sense a predator in the area, rather than dropping a helpless newborn to the ground. We too, have hormones that can stimulate labor (oxytocin) and those can stop labor if pumped out early because of fear (adrenaline).

So learning to transform fear into power and confi- dence is essential for a smooth birth. How is this done? Make sure you feel safe where you are birthing, that you have good support in labor, and that you have talked with your birth provider about any fears you are harbor- ing or repressing about your health and safety, your baby’s health and safety, or the birthing process. Being educated and informed can help you to dispel fears.

5 Question authority! (Remember, nice girls can ask questions and say no.) Obstetrics practices are not always based on

the best science. The September 2011 issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the official publication of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), reported that only one-third of all obstetrics guide- lines in the U.S. are based on good scientific evidence. Another third are based on limited or inconsistent evidence, and the remaining third are based on expert opinion, which is “subject to bias, either implicit or subconscious.”

So just because a doctor (or midwife) tells you something is required (lying down in labor, having a vaginal exam, wearing an external fetal monitor for your entire labor, having an IV drip routinely), doesn’t mean you have do it unquestioningly—
or at all. As girls and young women, many of us learn not to question authority—we’re encouraged to just be a “good girl,” and not be the geek who asks questions. Many of the procedures done in hospitals are done “just because”—they are routine, but often not necessary.

So if something is recommended or expected that makes you uncomfortable or you’re not sure of the reason, ask! And if you’re not comfortable with the explanation, you can decline. Having an advocate there who can help you sort through decisions, especially when you are otherwise occupied doing the work of labor, is especially valuable.

6 Women should eat and drink during labor. Current scientific evidence has demonstrated that women who eat and drink in labor are not at significantly increased risk of food aspiration in the event of a cesarean, which has been the much-feared reason for keeping women on an ice-chips and fruit-pops-only regimen in labor for the past few decades.

In fact, keeping up your energy with light and nourishing fare has been found, by many midwives and mamas, to facilitate labor and reduce the likelihood of labor petering out, or needing Pitocin or a cesarean.

Your body is a marvelous, perfectly crafted force of nature.  Believing in yourself is powerful medicine!

Yet most of us go into labor believing our bodies might be lemons—the reject in the batch that just doesn’t work properly and needs to be sent back to the factory on a recall.

The reality is, nature is amazing at creating power- ful systems that work. Setting intentions and learning to have confidence in the birthing process—and your body—are among the most powerful tools you can use to go with the natural flow of labor and birth and gain some self-enlightenment in the process.

8.  Obstetrics is big business.
There is a whole system of medicine out there, called obstetrics, making a fortune off of your body! In fact, there is enormous financial incentive for obstetricians to do ultrasounds (in my community, a doctor’s office charges the insurance company $700 per ultrasound), offer endless tests, and perform cesareans rather than support natural, vaginal births.

Want to avoid unnecessary medical interventions? Then make your body your business by getting educated. Read about birth. Some good places to start: Ina May Gaskin’s Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth, Henci Goer’s The Thinking Woman’s Guide to a Better Birth, and my book, The Natural Pregnancy Book.

Birth is something you do, not something that is done to you.
Whether you dance, groan, or Hypnobirth your way through labor, it ain’t called labor for nothing. It takes work, focus, and sweat to get a baby out. Powerful muscles move a 6- to 8-pound being (on average) a short distance through a relatively small space. This means effort is required.

Just as with any hard task, being realistic about what’s involved, setting your mind and heart to it by getting psyched ahead of time, and then having strate- gies to call upon when your energy or determination wavers will get you to the other side of the finish line with power and pride.

10 Birth can be ecstatic.
While there might be some huffing and puffing, grunting and groaning, and even a holler or two if you need to vocalize the intense energy moving through you as you bring your baby out into the world, birth can be an ecstatic experience, particularly when you appreciate yourself for the accomplishment of a hard job done with determination and experience the ecstasy of holding your new baby in your arms.

As you get closer to your baby’s birth, and even in labor, here’s a simple mantra to tell yourself:
I’ve got this!

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