How have I not posted this before? This is my most reliable, natural treatment for colds and flus. Having spent the last 36 hours in bed, I am here to remind you that everyone gets sick. It is good to get sick. Immune challenges make us stronger.
That said, I am a strong advocate of supporting the immune system's response to colds and flus. I never take medications. What did I reach for this weekend? Elderberry syrup, water, herbal teas, and warming socks.
Hydrotherapy is one of the greatest tools you can use in your own home for nearly any illness. "Warming Sock Treatment" is an easy, cost-effective way of stimulating your body's immune system and bringing about relaxation as you drift to sleep. It works for all congestion such as in sinuses, ears, nose, and lungs, and it is great for inflammation anywhere in the body. Great for fevers! Applying a cool compress to the feet stimulates blood and lymph circulation and enhances immunity. White Blood Cells flood the infection more effectively and you are able to kick the bug much faster. AND you will find yourself falling asleep and staying asleep more peacefully.
Use warming socks at first sign of illness or during migraine. They can be used at any time, even if you just need an immune boost.
This form of hydrotherapy is wonderful to use with your children. Their vitality is much stronger than adults' and they respond quickly. I know quite a few babies and toddlers that look forward to their warming socks...and even ask for them!
The Flu Vaccine
Welcome to “Flu Shot Season.” It’s inevitable- nearly everyone at one point or another will be told that they need to get the flu vaccine whether it’s their medical doctor, pharmacist, or even employer. But you have a choice.
I’m not here to bad-mouth vaccines. I’m a huge advocate for some, at certain times, for certain people.
What is the flu vaccine?
The vaccine can be administered by a shot or as a nasal spray. The viruses in the shot are killed/inactivated, so you will not get “the flu” from the flu shot, but you may experience flu-like symptoms. Physicians suggest the nasal spray vaccine to children over 2 years old who do not have asthma. The viruses in the nasal spray are living, though weakened, and should not cause severe symptoms like the flu.
The flu vaccine is formulated each year to address 3 or 4 different strains of the influenza (type A or type B) virus that are suspected to be predominant that particular year. The flu can be due to one of hundreds of viruses you are exposed to each year. But only 1 in 5 cases of the flu are actually due to type A or type B influenza, and there’s a good chance that it is not due to one of the 3-4 strains actually used in the vaccine.
The Center of Disease Control (CDC) states- “During years when the flu vaccine is not well matched to circulating viruses, it’s possible that no benefit from flu vaccination may be observed.”
Flu viruses are constantly changing from season to season and even within the course of one flu season. The CDC recognizes that it is not possible to predict with certainty which flu viruses will predominate during a given season.
This is important information for those of you who are faced with the decision to get the flu shot or not. I highly recommend gathering as much information as you can as to make an educated decision for your health, just as you would for anything else.
Fever, chills, body aches, fatigue, sore throat, cough, headache, stuffy nose.
Flu vaccine shot:
Fever, body aches, soreness/redness/swelling over shot site
Flu vaccine nasal spray:
Children- Runny nose, headache, wheezing, vomiting, muscle aches, and fever
Adults- runny nose, headache, sore throat, cough
Know that the flu shot is insufficiently studied, lacking long-term side effect evaluation.
Allergic reactions: greater risk for those who have had a reaction to the flu shot in the past or who are allergic or sensitive to eggs.
Mercury (thimerosol): used as a preservative in the vaccine. Mercury is a neurotoxin. The CDC says that no convincing evidence that low doses of thimerosol in the vaccines can cause harm. Yet the FDA has been taking working with vaccine manufacturers to reduce and eliminate the use of thimerosol in vaccines because of its obvious dangers to the nervous system.
Guillain-Barre Syndome: this is a life-threatening illness which causes paralysis (weakness and numbness) in arms, legs, upper body and face. This can occur after an infection of the flu or after receiving a vaccine.
Who should get the flu shot?
During a regular flu season, about 90% of influenza-caused deaths occur in people 65 years and older. The CDC recommends the flu shot for everyone over the age of 6 months.
Those at greatest risk of having more severe reaction to the flu: young children, people over 65 years old, pregnant women, and those with certain health conditions such as heart, lung or kidney disease. The vaccine can be useful in preventing pneumonia, hospitalization, and death in elderly, especially those in nursing homes.
I generally recommend the flu shot to individuals with weakened immune systems, where the classic symptoms may be more than the body can handle.
My Philosophy of the Flu
Getting sick a few times per year is GOOD for us! The immune system needs challenges. If a patient tells me he/she never gets sick, I am very concerned about immune suppression. Many of these patients are individuals who have a lot of stress in their lives. Stress releases a “fight or flight” hormone called Cortisol, which is an immune suppressant. The reason why the body
suppresses the immune system during stress is because when we are running from the bear, we do not have time or energy to get sick. This works wonderfully for those of us studying for finals or preparing for a big event, only to crash with a cold or flu when it is finally over.
But this is only beneficial in the short term. I encourage patients to focus on stress management to truly support their immune systems. Chronic immune suppression may lead to cancer. I have had many patients with cancer who have said “I never got sick. I thought I was so healthy. Then I got cancer.” Thus, I am a big advocate for allowing your body to be sick and to support its natural processes. And yes, take off of work for a day or two. Let your body heal. You will find you will be healthier overall when you trust in your body’s inherent abilities.
For more information on supporting the Immune System: Check out my blog on Fevers and Immune Support.
Fevers are Great!
Vis Medicatrix Naturae: The Healing Power of Nature
A fever is the body's natural, powerful defense mechanism to a bacteria or virus. The immune system's first line of protection is to increase heat as to destroy the organism, then enhance removal to the major elimination processing centers like the liver, spleen and lymph nodes. Generally speaking, you should not suppress a fever with medications. Not only is this naturopathic philosophy, but scientific studies show that fevers enhance immune response.
An optimal fever is thought to be 102'-104' F (by mouth). This temperature has the most efficient anti-microbial and immune stimulating effects. It is not until fevers of over 105' F do we need to be concerned, and this is primarily in children as they have a bigger risk for febrile seizures. Children tend to spike higher fevers quicker than adults because their vitality and core temperatures are slightly higher.
How do we support a fever?
By encouraging the fever's natural course, of coarse!
1. Rest- stay at home. If you do not let the body put the energy it needs into fighting bugs, you may be setting yourself (and others) up for a longer course of symptoms.
2. Fluids- drink water more than you usually do (which is half your weight in ounces). Electrolytes- in addition to drinking water, add broths to your consumption of liquids for electrolytes. Add garlic and onions to enhance antimicrobial activity.
3. Fast- dont eat if you are not hungry. Let the digestive organs rest.
4. Get warm and sweat it out. A hot bath with hot tea is a great way to encourage an efficient fever.
5. Warming Socks!
What if the fever gets uncomfortably high?
Call your doctor if the temperature is above 104 and not responding to fever-lowering techniques, if your child has a stiff neck or seems seriously ill. (Warning signs: labored breathing, unresponsiveness, stiff neck, headache, or fever in a newborn.)
* A Lukewarm/tepid bath (not cold): Gentle sponge baths work really well, especially for children when a fever raises above 104'F. Keep the child (or adult) wrapped in warm blankets and expose one limb at a time to moisten skin with a cooling sponge. then return to warmth with a blanket and move onto the next limb. Keep repeating this procedure until the fever lowers to a more comfortable level. This can be done for hours. Also be sure to consume lots of water.
Caution with Tylenol (acetaminophen) or aspirin!
Suppressing a fever with medications also suppresses the body's natural defense mechanisms. Aspirin reduces the body's immune modulators which then turn down the heat. It can cause nausea and vomiting, trigger an attack for asthmatics, and even turn UP the heat with overdose. Aspirin can also lead to a dangerous condition called Reye's Syndrome when used in viral conditions (cold sores, chicken pox, the flu, etc). This complication affects many of the body's organs including the liver and brain. If you must, use acetominophen but only with 1-2 doses if necessary.
For more immune supportive treatments or have questions about treating a fever, please contact Dr. Birr to make an appointment.
Castor Oil Packs
What's my most prescribed treatment? My patients already know that Castor Oil Packs (COPs) are mandatory for nearly everyone that seeks my care.
Many of you may be familiar with the use of castor oil internally as a remedy for constipation or late-term pregnancy. For the record, I do not recommend the use of castor oil internally. But used topically, castor oil is a great detoxifying agent for the lymphatics and digestive system!
When applied to the skin, castor oil is easily absorbed (remember, the skin acts as a super-sponge). It works by increasing circulation and recruiting White Blood Cells (the immune system's army) to the area. Elimination is stimulated and thus tissue and healing occurs.
Most common uses are over the entire abdomen with a focus over the liver (right upper quadrant of abdomen, just over last few ribs and above the belly button). I prescribe COPs to patients with hormonal or cholesterol imbalances, any digestive complaints, fatigue, poor elimination, or a toxic lifestyle. Other uses would be for headaches, most skin conditions, inflammation anywhere in the body, or over joints for arthritis or injuries (to name a few).
1. Buy a bottle of castor oil ($3-6)
2. Wear an old t-shirt (it stains)
3. Sit down and relax.
4. Grab a piece of flannel fabric and work a tablespoon of castor oil into it.
5. Cover your entire abdomen with the soaked flannel (from hip bones up to where ribs meet at breastbone). Alternatively, you can massage a teaspoon of oil directly over your abdomen.
6. You can then cover the oil or fabric with seran wrap decrease mess, or just let down your old t-shirt.
7. Apply a heat source (hot water bottle, heating pad) over abdomen for at least 20-30 min.
8. Wipe off or leave on overnight!
9. Repeat every day. If you can't get to it every day, try for at least 3 days in a row.
Be well! Please contact Dr. Birr at Origins Natural Medicine if you have any questions!
Coffee as a Drug?
“I’ll do anything… just don’t take away my coffee!”
This is not an uncommon plea from patients hoping to overcome chronic symptoms such as fatigue. I realize this is a touchy subject for most people, but the pendulum is swinging toward more chronic disease, and my goal as a physician is to help patients eliminate obstacles to cure. Caffeine’s popularity comes as no surprise- it increases short-term energy, lifts moods, and can encourage digestive movement. Current research has focused primarily on the benefits of coffee. Yet we have come to neglect its harmful effects on health. The risks are clear but our addictive personalities have come to overlook these risks. Possible negative effects from caffeine use and abuse (>1 serving per day) include the following:
Caffeine and decaffeinated coffee stimulate acid secretion in the stomach. Therefore, it is important that individuals with ulcers or gastritis do not drink any coffee or other caffeinated beverages. Even people with heartburn or reflux should not drink caffeine. Diarrhea can also occur with the overuse of caffeine.
ABSORPTION OF VITAMINS & MINERALS
Since the pH (acidity) of the digestive tract is changed with coffee consumption, the body is unable to optimally absorb vital nutrients. Caffeine reduces absorption of iron and increases excretion of calcium. These minerals are extremely important for women. Osteoporosis and anemia may be more common with regular caffeine use.
HEART & BLOOD VESSELS
Caffeine briefly raises the blood pressure which is harmful to the vasculature over time. Heart rhythm disturbances and arrhythmias, though usually of a mild type, sometimes occur as a function of caffeine. Coffee that is boiled increases blood cholesterol levels. Therefore, if you choose to drink coffee, use an unbleached paper filter when preparing coffee.
Caffeine has also been found to affect glucose tolerance (blood sugars). Therefore, most naturopathic physicians recommend that patients with glucose intolerance avoid caffeine containing beverages.
Because caffeine increases urinary calcium loss, it may increase the risk of kidney stones. Our kidneys are made for filtering the fluids in the body- caffeine is a major stressor to these vital
Caffeine has a number of metabolic effects as a central nervous system stimulant. Common side effects of caffeine use include nervousness, irritability, insomnia, and subsequent fatigue. Psychological symptoms of anxiety or panic attacks may also occur. Headaches commonly occur with caffeine withdrawal, showing that caffeine is a drug.
Many people become reliant on the stimulating effects of caffeine to maintain their energy level. But they also know that a caffeine “high” is often followed by a caffeine “crash” leading to adrenal fatigue. Over time this repetitive stress on the body can lead to adrenal burnout.
Eliminating caffeine and similar compounds from the diet has shown up to 97% improvement for women in clinical trials.
MOODS & PMS
There is considerable evidence that caffeine consumption is strongly related to the presence and severity of PMS. The effect of caffeine is particularly significant in the psychological symptoms associated with PMS (anxiety, irritability, insomnia, and depression). Depression has been
clinically linked to the combination of caffeine and refined sugar which is worse than either alone.
In conclusion, if you are a caffeine drinker, try to keep your intake to less than 1 cup per day of coffee or tea. Opt for espresso rather than drip coffee due to its lower caffeine content.
Decaffeinated coffee still has caffeine, thus it has physiological effects even if they are not felt. Energy drinks are often loaded with harmful sugars, additives and preservatives so avoid completely. Remember that beverages with caffeine do not count as your intake for fluids each day and that you must replace the amount you drink with water. If you are a person of habit, switch to herbal teas, hot water with lemon, or herbal coffee replacements for a hot wake-up call. Your body will thank you.
For support with caffeine cessation, call Dr. Birr at Origins Natural Medicine.
Dirty hands, Healthy bodies
Do you use anti-bacterial soap? How about hand sanitizer? This blog may leave you wanting to loosen up a bit. Most of us groove with the idea that playing in the dirt isn't all that harmful for children. In fact, many families value the importance of connecting with the earth through gardening and outdoor activities. Previous human studies have shown that early exposure to microbes (germs) supports healthy immune system development, which is also known as the hygiene hypothesis. Microbe exposure in the first years of life has been seen to prevent allergy and autoimmune diseases such as hay fever, asthma and inflammatory bowel disease.
Researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) have conducted a study that provides evidence supporting the hygiene hypothesis. The researchers assessed immune systems of "germ-free mice" compared to mice living in normal environments with microbes. Findings show that germ-free mice had more inflammation of lungs and colon. When the germ-free mice were exposed to microbes during their first weeks of life, immune systems were strengthened over an entire lifetime.
Just as it takes training to build muscle, the immune system needs training as well. The more we are exposed to, the stronger our immunity grows. Colds, flus, worms and bugs stimulate the immune system so that later in life they are able to identify and fight off these pathogens more effectively.
Not only is exposure to dirt shown to improve the immune system, but it also supports a healthy mind. Dirt is said to be as effective as anti-depressant medications. Researchers suspect that microbes affect the brain indirectly by causing cytokine resease from the immune system, activating certain nerves that stimulates serotonin release. Serotonin is often called the "happy" neurotransmitter and is usually deficient in depressive states. (Prozac encourages moreserotonin)
Society has become so germ-phobic that we are causing even more health issues than before. Pasteurization and irradiation is thought to make food more safe, but it also kills beneficial bacteria needed for digestive and immune health. Household antimicrobial sanitizing products do exactly what they say, but while they kill germs, they also kill healthy microbes that protect our immunity. Eventually our immune systems get "out of shape" and are unable to identify beneficial versus pathogenic bacteria.
One should not be afraid if microbes, for even the most dangerous bacteria live on/in the body normally. The key determinant to maintaining a healthy state is BALANCE. We need bacteria of all kinds to ensure a healthy microflora. Antibiotics oftentimes cause more illness due to the fact that they wipe out all bacteria, "bad" and "good." Using antibacterial soap works similarly, wiping out normal, healthy flora and may encourage overgrowth of antibiotic-resistant, disease-causing bacteria. Plain soap and water is sufficient for encouraging healthy bacteria populations.
Don't fret about getting your hands dirty. Kids (and adults) can go barefoot, play in the dirt, and not wash their hands before eating. Have some pets. Letting go can actually be the best way to prevent asthma, allergies, and digestive disorders! Want to encourage healthy bacterial exposure? Support the immune system with daily probiotic supplement and eat plenty of fermented foods like sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir and pickles. If you eat dairy, go for raw milk and cheeses. Eat diverse, colorful plates of organic, local vegetables every day. Connect with the earth and get dirty. Your immune system will thank you.
The Calcium Controversy
Calcium is a vital mineral to the entire body, make no bones about it (er...). The musculoskeletal and nervous systems require calcium for basic functioning as do the vasculature and endocrine system for proper hormone and enzyme release. Blood calcium levels are tightly regulated by releasing calcium from the bones in order to maintain a constant concentration. Bone is constantly remodeling itself giving up calcium and redepositing it to form new bone. As we grow older, the balance of bone deposition shifts. Postmenopausal women often experience this shift more dramatically as estrogen levels decrease; bone breakdown exceeds formation resulting in bone loss, increasing the risk of osteoporosis.
Often when one thinks of bone health, calcium supplementation is suggested. This recommendation has received a lot of flak over the years due to its incomplete approach to bone health and possible risks. Indeed calcium makes up a large part of the bone matrix, but so do other minerals including potassium, boron, silica, phosphorus, and many others. Bone formation requires not only calcium but also Vitamins D and K as well as proper hormone balance. We’ve known for many years that calcium supplementation, when given alone, has been linked to an increase in the risk of heart attack.[i]
A recent study[ii] in Germany took the research even further by comparing dietary calcium and supplementation. Results suggest that dietary calcium reduces risk for heart attack by 31% while
supplementation of the mineral actually increases the risk by 86%. Taken in supplement form, calcium increases rapidly in the blood, likely causing calcification (hard deposits) of the arteries which leads to cardiovascular events like heart attack.
This study confirms Hippocrates’ recommendation suggested by most NDs to “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
FOOD SOURCES OF CALCIUM
Food Source of Calcium Milligrams (mg) per serving
Sardines with bones (3oz) 370
Collard greens (1c) 360
Wakame seaweed (25g) 325
Goat milk (1c) 315
Whole milk (1c) 290
Salmon (4oz) 285
Mollasses (2 Tbsp) 280
Swiss cheese (1oz) 260
Bok choy (1c) 250
Spinach (1c, cook lightly) 230
Kale (1c) 210
Broccoli (1 stalk) 160
Tofu (4oz) 150
Garbanzo beans (1c) 95
Oysters (3oz) 90
Occasionally, however, dietary measures are just not enough. Oftentimes this is a result of suboptimal absorption of calcium in the intestines. Ideally, calcium should be delivered in a product along with other synergistic nutrients including magnesium, vitamin K and vitamin D as it is found in nature. Without magnesium, calcium may be deposited into the soft tissues and joints rather than bone. Vitamin D (calcitriol) is absolutely necessary to supplement with calcium as it signals intestinal absorption. Calcium should also be in the bioavailable form of calcium citrate or malate, preferably in a whole foods supplement for optimal absorption, and it should be spread out in smaller doses throughout the day (as it wouid be attained naturally in food).
I prefer to supplement calcium to my patients in the form of a cell salt, which falls under homeopathy. Since homeopathics are prepared as very small amounts of a substance, this route of administration is very safe and prevents risk to the blood vessels. Cell salts are an effective modality as they stimulate the body to improve upon its own inherent wisdom, encouraging optimal absorption and utilization of the calcium through gentle stimulation.
· Eat whole foods, avoiding processed foods. Excess sodium leaches calcium from bone
· Eat foods rich in Vitamin C (broccoli, citrus fruits) as it encourages calcium absorption
· Manage stress more effectively: cortisol encourages calcium excretion and bone breakdown
· Avoid coffee, soda and alcohol for they interfere with calcium absorption
· Spend 30 min outside every day to enhance Vitamin D production in the skin. Food sources include cod liver oil, wild salmon, egg yolks and mushrooms.
· Weight-bearing exercise every day (walking, running, weight lifting, stairs, pushups) encourages calcium storage and bone deposition
· Lightly steam/cook foods high in oxalic acid (greens like spinach and parsley) as these compounds can bind calcium
Like many things in medicine, the topic of calcium supplementation will likely continue to be controversial until all medical providers and researchers can agree on one safe and effective decision for patients. But even then, further research may dispute another common understanding of a once-thought safe treatment. As far as naturopathic doctors can suggest, treatment is simple. Stick to food, optimize digestion for efficient absorption, and treat the cause.
Rest and Digest
More and more Americans today experience digestive symptoms such as constipation, diarrhea, heartburn, hiccups, and bad breath. Some go on so chronically that it leads to more obscure symptoms like numbness and tingling in hands or feet, headaches, dizziness, irritability, or fatigue. These are all signs of improper digestion and malabsorption of nutrients. The reason for an increase in prevalence is that we as a society are becoming more and more rushed and "on-the-go" that our bodies are not able to function as they are designed. We often blame many physical issues on stress, which is a valid reason, but it is our responsibility to do something about it. One way of combating stress, and improving digestion is to balance the nervous system. This is accomplished by eating your food in a parasympathetic state. We also refer to this as a time to "rest & digest." Typically, in today's hustle and bustle, we find ourselves stuck in a chronic sympathetic state, or "fight or flight." It is important to always take the time to be mindful of your food, because it really does play a large role in your overall health. By using all of your senses and paying attention to your food, you too, can take control of your digestion.
SYMPATHETIC STATE, "FIGHT OR FLIGHT"
When we are in a sympathetic nervous system state, we are in our instinctually human nature of preparing to defend ourselves or run away from danger (ie the bear, or now stress of work, home, relationships, etc). We put ourselves in this state when we are driving, arguing, stressed out, reading, watching TV, or walking. The sympathetic nervous state puts us on alert: eyes dilate, heart rate and respiration increases, blood vessels constrict, we perspire, goosebumps rise, and blood pressure increases. Moreover, gut motility and urinary output are put on HOLD. So when you are not paying attention to your food, you are not digesting! That leaves food to be improperly digested, enzyme release becomes dysfunctional, and nutrients are not absorbed efficiently. Thus, in time, we create a chronic picture of nutrient deficiency which eventually leads to physical symptoms.
PARASYMPATHETIC STATE, "REST & DIGEST"
Digestion works optimally when we are in a parasympathetic state. This is when we are completely present with our food. When we prepare and eat our food in this state, gastrin is released. Gastrin is a hormone that tonifies organ musculature, secretes HCl (acid needed in the stomach), and releases digestive enzymes from the stomach and pancreas. These are all essential steps to ensuring proper function of your digestive organs and getting the most nutrition out of your food.
HOW DO YOU STIMULATE GASTRIN?
1. Drink 1 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar in a bit of water 10 minutes before meals to stimulate acid and enzyme release for proper nutrient absorption.
2. Say a prayer. Give thanks for your food, to who picked or produced it, to whom made it possible that you are eating it (the farmers, the cooks, the Divine). This 30 seconds to 1 min allows your body to know to shift into a parasympathetic state.
3. Take 5-10 deep belly breaths before your first bite to calm the nervous system and prepare for digestion.
4. SMELL your food.
5. CHEW YOUR FOOD - each bite should be chewed 31 times until it is a nice, creamy paste.
6. Take time to SIT and eat your food. LOOK at your food. No TV, no reading, no distractions.
7. The easiest way to accomplish many of the above- Cook your own food!
Questions? Contact Dr. Birr at Origins Natural Medicine to discuss how to balance your nervous system and optimize digestion.
Managing Blood Pressure
Blood Pressure management is not limited to anti-hypertensive medications. You have options. When a patient has elevated blood pressure, I do not merely strive to treat the numbers. I also look to address the cause. Why does this person have high blood pressure?
Many factors are involved in blood pressure regulation including kidney, liver, and thyroid function, adrenals and stress management, heart health and circulation, and digestive wellness and diet. You have the ability to decrease your blood pressure and thus your risk of stroke and heart disease by making very simple yet significant changes in diet and lifestyle.
1. Food as Medicine: Eat a diet high in fiber and good fats, rich in vegetables, nuts and seeds. Research shows that eating 4 stalks of celery per day or 8 tsp of celery juice 3x per day can decrease blood pressure! Avoid all processed foods for they are high in salt. Load up on foods high in potassium including avocado, apricots, cantaloupe, papaya and figs. Protect your blood vessels with eating plenty of garlic, onions, turmeric, cayenne, berries and wild-caught fish. Nourish your kidneys by drinking plenty of water- half your weight in ounces each day!
2. Remove the obstacles: Quit smoking now! Naturopathic medicine offers many tools to help you through the process. Avoid caffeine for it puts great stress on your adrenals and kidneys. Alcohol only in moderation as to decrease taxation on the liver.
3. Exercise: You must move your body! Even walking 30 minutes a day can make significant improvements in cardiovascular health. Blood pressure is a sign of how hard your heart has to work to pump blood throughout your body. The heart is the most important muscle in the body, keep it in shape.
4. Stress Management: Emotional stress can aboslutely increase blood pressure. When we experience stress, the body goes into a state of sympathetic dominance, a "fight or flight" reaction. Chronic stress takes a physical toll on the adrenal glands which in turn affects the rest of the body, inluding the cardiovascular system. Address your stress by practicing deep breathing, talk therapy, journaling, yoga, etc. Some herbs that are helpful for stress response include: valerian, hops, avena (oat), passiflora, kava, and scutellaria.
5. Supplementation: Everyone can benefit from essential fatty acids found in nuts, seeds and fish. A quality fish oil supplement protects the heart and blood vessels, lowers cholesterol, and decreases inflammation. Other supplements to consider include CoQ10, Magnesium, a B complex, garlic and hawthorne berry. Speak with Dr. Birr about supplementation in regards to your blood pressure. Remember that hypertension is not a disease, but a symptom. Every individual's case is different, and it is important to treat the whole person, not just the symptoms.
Spring time is a wonderful time of year! Flowers blooming, grasses growing, and leaves back on the trees. These lovely signs of growth are a treat to many of us, but they may also be a nemesis to others. Seasonal allergies affect 10-40% of the population, causing a sense of illness and significant frustration.
Allergies are categorized as seasonal or perennial. Seasonal allergies are associated with the arrival of trees, grass, and weeds in a typical pattern during the spring, summer, and fall. Perennial allergies affect certain individuals when exposed to dust, mold, dust mites, and animal dander but are present throughout the year.
Classic symptoms of allergies include:
• Runny nose
• Sneezing (uncommon with common cold)
• Watery eyes, and itchy nose, eyes & throat
• Sore throat - mostly due to mouth breathing
• Nasal voice
• Allergic salute - itch nose upward causing a crease above the bridge
• Itchy eyes, redness, puffiness
Treatment for patients with allergies is not very successful with over-the-counter anti-allergy/anti-histamines, especially long-term. The cause of one's allergies is not soley an overproduction of histamine, but an overactive immune response to a substance. The immune system is based primarily in the gut, thus treatment needs to focus on digestive-immune health. Many patients with seasonal allergies may also experience symptoms of eczema, urticaria, or asthma indicating that they are "atopic" individuals requiring a deeper need for immune support. Adrenal health may also be a major determinant in one's immune health. Stress induces cortisol release, a hormone that suppresses the immune system. But chronic stress may lead to adrenal burn-out, wreaking havoc on the immune system.
Natural Treatments for Seasonal Allergies:
Reduce food allergies/sensitivities and inflammation. Talk to your ND about following an Elimination Diet or Anti-inflammatory diet in order to find out what foods may be instigating a hyper-responsive immune system. Common inflammatory foods to avoid include dairy, gluten, citrus, and non-organic produce and meats. Lowering your exposures can help immensely.
• Vitamin C: an excellent antioxidant, prevents the secretion of histamine, supports the adrenals
• Quercetin: a bioflavonoid that decreases inflammation and improves immune response to allergens
• Essential Fatty Acids in fish oil, evening primrose oil, borage oil or black currant oil decrease inflammation and strengthen immunity
• Probiotics: Clinical reports have suggested that dietary consumption of fermented foods, such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut help to improve immunity by repopulating healthy bacteria in the gut. Physician-grade supplementation may be necessary for therapeutic results.
• Nettles: 1 oz of dry herbs infused in 1 QT of hot water for 20 minutes. Drink 3-5 cups a day. Best to start before allergy season but effective throughout.
• Elder flower - Sambucus nigra - high in flavonoids
• Green tea and coffee can help with the symptoms of allergies, but overuse can contribute to adrenal fatigue.
See previous post on how to support adrenal health.
Though exercise may seem less tempting when it is difficult to breathe, physical activity encourages lymph movement which leads to improvement in symptoms and overall well-being.
Even if your just allergic to pollen, you are likely hyper-sensitive to other particles in the air including dust and mold. Decrease other allergic triggers with the following:
• Air filters - use the type that electrostatically takes dust out of the air. These can be in line with the heating system. Clean heating ducts annually.
• Hepa vacuum cleaners
• Change pillow case daily and sheets every 2 days (to cut down on dust mites). Wash bedclothes and sheets in hot water.
• No wall hangings, no rugs
• Keeping ambient humidity, 50% decreases growth of dust mites and mold.
Nasal irrigation - Using a neti pot twice a day, upon waking and before bed, can help relieve nasal and sinus congestion. It is important to use an isotonic saline solution with filtered water and sea salt. First find a workable container (bulb syringe, a small flowerpot, a turkey baster, or just a teacup). Then fill the container with lukwarm salt water (1 tsp salt to 2 cups filtered water). Over the sink, tilt your head forward so that you are looking down at the sink. Insert the spout into your right nostril while breathing through your mouth. turn your head to the right and let water move into the right nostril and exit the left nostril. Normally, you will feel the water as it passes through your sinuses. It is fine if some of the water drains into the mouth. Simply spit it out and adjust the tilt of your head. Repeat the above procedure for the other nostril. To finish, expel any remaining water by quickly blowing air out both open nostrils 15 times over the sink. Avoid the temptation to block off one nostril, as doing so may force water into the eustachian tube.
Call Dr. Alicia today to discuss how to prevent and treat your allergies efficiently so that you may fully enjoy all of spring's blessings.
Dr. Alicia McCubbins is a naturopathic physician who strives to educate, motivate and inspire. Please feel free to share your thoughts or questions so that we may collectively grow through knowledge.