Grain Integrative Health Blog
Written by Jeff Grimm, NP-C
Choline is a vitamin critical for cell membrane and neurological health. Recent studies have shown that mothers who consumed choline during pregnancy conferred multiple beneficial effects to their babies. Women eating a vegan diet may also be at higher risk of deficiency as egg yolks are one of the primary sources of choline. However, broccoli is an alternate good source of this vitamin if eggs are not an option.
Choline is needed by the body for many vital functions, including detoxification support, liver health, brain health, cardiovascular health, and skin health. Animal models of choline supplementation show that increased levels correlate to improved cognitive function, memory and learning.
In recent studies, choline supplementation resulted in decreased levels of infant cortisol levels. Dr. Caudill at Cornell University just published a study linking choline with children’s health. Here is an excerpt from the Cornell Chronicle:
In a 12-week study led by Marie Caudill, associate professor of nutritional sciences, and graduate student Xinyin Jiang, a group of third-trimester pregnant women consumed approximately double (930 mg) the recommended 450 mg daily intake of choline.
Subsequently, the babies had 33 percent lower concentrations of cortisol, a stress hormone, compared with a control group of pregnant mothers who consumed 480 mg of choline. Recall that cortisol, if chronically elevated, leads to weight gain, neuroendocrine imbalance, and metabolic dysfunction. Researchers further suspect that maintaining a healthier level of cortisol could help to prevent stress-related diseases such as hypertension and diabetes.
Significantly, most prenatal vitamins contain little or no choline. Contact your medical provider at Grain Integrative Health for more information about safe and effective supplementation.
There is a lot of overlap (and confusion!) between three similar female conditions: Vaginismus, Vulvar Vestibulitis Syndrome, and Vulvodynia.
This understandable confusion comes from more than just the similarity between their names; these conditions are often found together, and sometimes the terms are used interchangeably. In fact, many University-level gynecological textbooks devote no more than a line or two to describing these individual gynecological disorders. That’s why having a specialist who knows the distinctions is so important.
Vaginismus: A tightening of the vagina, ranging from tightness with minor burning sensation to total closure, making penetration impossible.
Vulvodynia: Chronic pain around the vulva, characterized as burning, stinging, or irritating. This can occur even during everyday activities.
Vulvar Vestibulitis Syndrome: Chronic pain caused by touch or pressure in the vestibule (entrance) of the vagina.
Vaginismus, then, is the closing of the vagina, while the latter two conditions deal with sensations of pain that are not caused by infection or skin disease. They can both can cause vaginismus, which contributes to the interchangeability-problem.
These conditions can be caused by a combination of physical and emotional factors: from physical trauma to emotional trauma, from physical abuse to sexual abuse, from autoimmune disorders to medications, the specific causes can vary from woman to woman. Prevalence has been estimated at 6% of the population in countries as different as Morocco and Sweden.
A common diagnosis technique for vulvodynia is the cotton swab test; women with this condition, or with vulvar vestibulitis syndrome, will experience severe pain and discomfort if a cotton swab is introduced into the vestibular area.
Some women have symptoms of abnormal tightness before the onset of puberty (called primary vaginismus) and others develop them later in life (secondary vaginismus).
Primary vaginismus has the added complication of removing the introduction of positive sexual experience to the woman’s life. Nobody is born with perfect sexual sensations; they are developed over time through healthy interactions. With a lifelong inability to have intercourse, women with primary vaginismus may fear the sexual situation so much that negative anticipation creates an immediate tightening sensation, contributing to the problem.
Women sometimes develop secondary vaginismus after childbirth, or after traumatic (physical or sexual) abuse. This makes emotional therapy just as important as physical therapy.
The good news is, vaginismus and its cousins are considered some of the most successfully treatable female sexual disorders. Treatment may include lifestyle and dietary changes, botanical and homeopathic treatment for the pelvis and the nervous system, and structural work to retrain the involuntary muscle reactions that are contributing to the problems. There is no uniform treatment that works for everyone; this makes a specialized approach even more important to the individual seeking treatment.
There are a few general guidelines to follow:
- Wear cotton underwear, instead of synthetic material
- Avoid irritating shampoos, perfumes, douches, and laundry detergents
- Gently rinse and pat dry after urination
- Sit on a pad to alleviate pressure
- Eat a diet low in oxalates (black pepper, parsley, spinach, cocoa, chard, and tea)
For women who need a personalized treatment program to overcome these curable symptoms, the naturopathic doctors at Grain are here to help.
After the recent nuclear accident in Japan, many people began searching for clear guidelines about how to protect ourselves from radiation. The risk of airborne radiation reaching the United States has been declared “low” by the National Cancer Institute; all the same, it never hurts to know the best preventative measures.
The most common medical recommendation is taking iodine. If there are proper levels of iodide in the body, this leaves no room for radioactive iodine to be absorbed.
Iodine is excreted and recycled through the body in 1 to 2 days so it is most important that you have good iodine stores during exposure.
The biggest risk of radioactive iodine is thyroid cancer; taking iodine has been proven to prevent thyroid cancers caused by radiation exposure but it will not reduce your risk of all cancers and all side effects of radiation exposure.
Additional preventative measures include:
We believe in using the least invasive and most natural therapies first. Taking iodine supplementation alone will actually cause a disturbance in thyroid functioning for about 15% of the population; eating FOODS with iodine will not do this.
Incorporate seaweed into your diet- kelp, nori, bladderwrack, wakame and other sea vegetables. Nori, specifically, is available in seasoned sheets for easy snacking and are even in certain varieties of crackers.
The U.S. Atomic Energy Commission recommends that adults (150lbs) consume two to three ounces (wet weight) of sea vegetables per week, or two tablespoons daily, to protect from radiation toxicity.
This should be increased fourfold during or after direct exposure to radiation. Recommendations should be adjusted appropriately for weight in treating children.
Seaweed extract and iodine supplements
Make an appointment for a physician to see if low dose supplementation is appropriate for you. High doses are unsafe for thyroid health under normal conditions, but in the event of an accident, they may be used to treat severe radiation exposure.
Other natural remedies:
Rosemary: the oils and anti-oxidant properties of rosemary have been shown to reduce the ill effects that radiation has on our cells. This can easily be added into your diet as an herb or can safely be taken in tincture extract. Contact your physician for dosing guidelines.
Caffeic acid: found in apples, citrus fruits and cruciferous vegetables. Also found to mediate ill effects of radiation. This is another reason to eat your fresh fruits and vegetables!
Epsom salt baths: another way to keep your body balanced after general radiation exposure. Dissolve 1 pound of sea salt or rock salt and 1 pound of baking soda in a hot bath — as hot as can be tolerated — and soak into the water until the bath becomes cool. This usually takes about 20-25 minutes. Adding bentonite clay or baking soda to the bath adds to the radiation detoxification effect.
Americans are chronically sleep deprived, and our population has a serious weight problem.
Want to know the connection?
If we do not fast at night for 12 hours, then a crucial hormone that regulates our lean body mass gets depleted: human growth hormone.
Your body has a natural rhythm that can help you perform at optimum efficiency, if you are in concert with that rhythm. You are programmed to eat in the day and to sleep at night. Both melatonin and human growth hormone depend on this cycle.
There are two important hormones that help regulate the appetite, ghrelin and leptin. The production of these hormones are disrupted by a lack of sleep, making you hungry at times when you don’t actually need food.
“Many things that we take for granted are affected by sleep,” said Dr. Raymonde Jean, the director of sleep medicine at St Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York. “If you sleep better, you can certainly live better. It’s pretty clear.”
Sleeping erratically leads not only to reduced stomach acids and increased stress, but an increase in abdominal fat. Extra weight around your middle can be the most difficult to lose, and the most detrimental to your health.
The body goes into a state of stress when it is deprived of adequate sleep. This puts the body’s functions on high alert, increasing your blood pressure, and increasing production of stress hormones.
In a 2010 study, C-reactive protein (associated with high heart attack risk) was found higher in people who slept six or fewer hours per night.
The increase of stress hormones raises the level of inflammation in your body, also creating more risk for cancer and diabetes.
Researchers believe the high risk for breast and colon cancer in people who work the late shift is caused by the body’s confusion with melatonin levels, which is reduced by exposure to light. Working at night, in a well-lit area, represses the production of the ‘sleepy hormone,’ which is also thought to protect against cancer.
To generate an adequate supply of melatonin, keep your bedroom dark and sleep 7-9 hours to help your body produce the hormones you need.
- Do not snack after dinner – leave a 12 hour span between dinner and breakfast.
- Sleep in a dark bedroom 7-9 hours every night.
- Ask your physician if melatonin supplementation is appropriate for you.
Written by Jeff Grimm, NP-C
Number 1. Quit smoking. Smoking increases oxidative stress on the vascular membranes, contributes to high blood pressure, causes decreased arterial flexibility and is overwhelmingly linked to increased incidence of heart disease, stroke, and cancer.
Number 2. Normalize Blood Pressure. People with normal blood pressure are much less likely to die of either heart disease or stroke. The best ways to improve BP (blood pressure) include maintaining or arriving at healthy weight, eating 6-10 servings of fresh fruit/vegetables per day, exercise, not smoking, and reducing oxidative stress at a cellular level. Decreasing oxidative stress means decreasing exposure to environmental toxicity, i.e. heavy metals, pesticides, plasticides, smoke, xenotoxins, and industrial byproducts. Supplements that help with high blood pressure include hawthorne berry, rauwolfia, vitamins A, D, B5, B6, B12, magnesium, biotin, quercetin, coenzyme Q10, green tea and r-alpha lipoic acid.
Number 3. Normalize Lipid Profile. Lowering LDL (bad cholesterol), normalizing triglycerides, and increasing HDL (good cholesterol). This is generally achieved through diet and exercise. In terms of diet, the most therapeutic agents include fresh fruit/vegetables, and omega 3 oils. Some people will need additional nutraceutical support. This may include pantethene, niacin, delta tocotrienols (a type of Vitamin E), high dose omega 3′s, green tea, and menaquinone 7 (a type of vitamin K derived from the annato bean).
Number 4. Arrive at an Ideal Body Weight. Persons who are overweight or obese are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke as well as cancer and diabetes. This is most easily achieved by increasing one’s intake of fresh fruit and vegetables while maintaining a diet low in high-glycemic index foods, a diet low in processed foods and trans-fats, and exercise (mixed cardio and weight training).
Number 5. Blood Sugar Levels. People with pre-diabetes, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome are at increased risk for heart disease and stroke. High sugar levels, usually caused by diet and a sedentary lifestyle, create lots of oxidative damage and inflammation among other ill effects which contribute to various disease states. This is most efficiently improved by a diet which is low on the glycemic index scale (less than 50), increasing one’s intake of fresh vegetables, and increasing exercise. Exercise works by helping to drive sugar in the blood into muscle cells. Other things that can help include testosterone (if warranted), and herbs and supplements like cinnamon, gymnema, essential fatty acids (EFA’s), and chromium.
Read more about Jeff Grimm, NP-C
By Alissa Bagan, M.S.
With the onset of short days, less sunlight, and the anticipation of a long time until summer, many people find themselves feeling apathetic, sluggish, and unmotivated. This is especially true for people who already have a tendency toward depressive symptoms. Consider this scenario: “I should get off the couch and do something. I feel exhausted. I feel lethargic and I don’t feel like doing anything. Forget it!” If this sounds like you, no need to worry. You’re not alone! It’s a common struggle even if not much talked about.
There are things you can do to help yourself. The good news is that we can use our minds to change our brains, and therefore, our feelings. In other words, we can direct our attention (mind) which changes our physiology (brain and body) which changes our subjective experience (feelings of motivation). For people who are depressed, waiting until you feel motivated is not a useful strategy. Indeed, it’s almost always after a person has gotten up and moving that they then feel motivation. This makes sense from a neuroscientific standpoint, as we know that physical movement in and of itself increases the brain chemicals responsible for feelings of well-being and motivation, serotonoin and norepinephrine. The rule of thumb, as Dr. David Burns has said, is, “motivation follows action.”
2 Suggestions to put this information into practice:
1. You find yourself thinking, “I need to get up and get some work done” but you’re acutely aware of physical feelings of heaviness and fatigue. Therefore, you conclude that you can’t get up. Instead of making this conclusion, first, set aside the goal of getting work done and instead use your mind to direct your attention to giving your body some energy. With your goal waiting for you, take the next 1 – 2 minutes to stand up and do some simple stretching exercises like stretching your arms to the sky and touching your toes. You could also take yourself for a walk down the block or around your house. After these few minutes you will likely find that you have more motivation to go about your day.
2. Enlist the help of a trusted and compassionate friend or family member. Educate them about the brain’s need for movement in order to create feelings of motivation. Then, let them know something like this: “I’m having a hard time getting up and getting going. I’d like you to help me by encouraging me, compassionately reminding me of my brain’s physical needs, and that my feelings will change after I move for a couple of minutes. Will you call me in the mornings for 2 weeks?”
These are not permanent solutions and are not substitutes for the regular exercise our bodies and brains need, but they are often the boost of motivation needed to help your brain get the chemicals it needs to get you out the door. It’s also important to remember that if you still find yourself suffering with depression to not be hard on yourself. Often times there are good reasons that our bodies present symptoms of depression. Sometimes depression is the only way a person knows how to rest, or it’s the default mode after many years of buried pain. Teasing out these issues with a therapist can be very useful and liberating if you’re like millions of other people who suffer alone with depression.
By Natalie Weintraub, LMT
Let’s start with the obvious question: Why is massage different for cancer patients and survivors?
A simple question, but a tricky answer. There isn’t a specific type of massage that’s used only for the oncology population. In fact, any technique I use with my cancer clients I can (and do) use with my other clients. The unique part about cancer massage is an increased awareness about the client, his or her medical treatment, and, most importantly, the side effects of this treatment.
Side effects from cancer treatment can include pain, scars from surgery, or fragile skin from chemotherapy, and they all require adjustments to the massage session. This isn’t a new idea; many conditions, cancer related or not, require the therapist to tailor the session appropriately. The difference here is that many of these conditions occur simultaneously, so there are simply more adjustments to make. Lets say a client recently had a mastectomy, had lymph nodes removed in her right underarm, and presently has numbness in her lower legs. That’s three major adjustments all at once. Massage can be therapeutic and relaxing, but it might take some extra preparation and creativity.
The way we view cancer has changed over time, but our view of massage during cancer treatment has been slow to catch up. The biggest fear is that massage will increase the chance of metastasis, that is, the likelihood of the initial tumor breaking off and traveling to another area. Conceptually, this makes sense – added pressure makes things move around inside the body. But not in this case. Cancer doesn’t spread because of high pressure or increased circulation. Rather, it spreads due to genetic alterations, chronic inflammation, and other factors such as carcinogens, bacteria, and viruses.
Think about it: Increased circulation from massage mimics any other cardiovascular activity. If massage was a risk for spreading cancer, so would walking the dog, riding a bike, or working out at the gym. In that case, doctors would tell cancer patients not to do any of these things, and just stay at home in bed watching television. In fact, doctors almost always urge their patients to stay active. And while they might not say it explicitly, staying active should include getting regular massages.
Now that medical science has advanced so much in finding and treating cancer, it’s often viewed as a chronic condition – something to live with and manage. In 2006, nearly 11.4 million Americans were living with, or had recovered from, invasive cancer [source]. Because of this, massage therapists have be able to adapt their massages for clients with a history of cancer.
In the next 3 posts, I’ll be discussing the benefits of caring touch for people with cancer, the potential adjustments involved in massaging these clients, and the use of massage for both patients and caregivers in a hospice setting. My hope is that these posts can bring some insight into an important topic that few people think about but many should consider.
By Dr. Alisun Bonville
Most women know that visiting your doctor yearly is crucial for early detection of female-related illnesses. The annual exam can help identify cancerous changes on the cervix, breast, uterus and ovaries, and typically includes a PAP smear, breast exam, and pelvic exam. In addition, the doctor will also assess your heart, blood pressure, and general health.
The PAP smear, a sample of cells taken from a woman’s cervix, is the standard method for detecting changes to the cervix associated with cervical disease and cancer. Often the PAP test is coupled with a DNA test for the Human Papilloma virus which is known to cause cervical cancer. Both tests together are the best way to detect cervical disease and are 99% sure to detect changes in cervical health.
Human Papilloma virus, or HPV, is a sexually transmitted virus that can infect the cells of the cervix, leading to cellular changes that predispose a woman to cervical cancer. There are different types of the virus, some more harmful than others. In most women, a healthy and strong immune system can overcome the virus with no future cancer development. 90% of all HPV infections resolve on their own within 2 years, especially with naturopathic treatment. Cancerous changes, or dysplasia, are more likely in women who cannot effectively fight a more harmful strain of the virus. Immune support, a healthy diet and lifestyle, and healthy sexual habits help support cervical health. Ask you naturopathic doctor for details.
Women over 21 or those who are sexually active should begin receiving annual exams, with a PAP done every 1-3 years depending on sexual history and health history. Women over the age of 30 require both the PAP and DNA test for the best screening measures.
By detecting changes in your cervix caused by Human Papilloma virus, these tests are the key for early detection of cancers. A breast and pelvic exam complete the preventative screening for cancer.
Special: In order to better serve the greater Portland community, Dr. Bonville is offering $85 comprehensive annual exams to cash paying patients. This includes the lab fee for the PAP smear and a full check up. To take advantage of this offer, please contact the clinic at 503-445-8114. Dr Bonville is covered by most insurance policies for annual exams and lab work.
Please Join Dr. Alisun Bonville for a Practical Wisdom Webinar, November 16th at 11:30am.
How to identify the signs and bring back balance and energy to your life.
Do you consistently struggle with “low energy” and feel less productive than you need to be? Women are often surprised to learn that such symptoms are related to their hormonal health. What if you could shift the balance of hormonal energy and give your business what it needs? Learn the top 7 symptoms of hormonal imbalance that could be affecting you regardless of your age.
Join Kathie Nelson as she interviews Dr. Alisun Bonville, to learn more about how thyroid, adrenal, and female hormone imbalances affect women in business and discover tips on how to balance your hormones yourself. Just think! With balance you’ll feel better, look healthier, and have more energy for your business and your life.
Click on the link to register: http://www.kathienelson.com/workshops/practical-wisdom-webinar/.
By Alissa Bagan, MS
Our brains are truly remarkable! The adult human brain has about 100 billion neurons that create about 2 million miles of neural highways in our brains (Badenoch, 2008). Neuroscience is finding more and more fascinating facets of the mind and of consciousness itself. For example, did you know that there are different types of memory? Most of the time, when we think about memory, we think about an active, conscious process like recalling an event, a number, or a name. This is what neurobiologists call explicit memory. But did you know that there is another type of memory? A kind of memory much deeper and in some ways much more powerful in our daily experience? This kind of memory is called implicit memory.
Implicit memory is different from explicit memory particularly because it doesn’t require our awareness to work. Indeed, implicit memories are the only type of memory available to us during our first 12 – 18 months (Badenoch, 2008). From birth (and maybe even earlier according to some neuroscience research), implicit memory encodes information for us, helping us to become more efficient. It takes complex interactions from the outside world and divides them into distinct categories such as “good” and “bad.” Implicit memories help us to develop generalized, nonverbal conclusions about the way life works.
The implicit system is comprised of elements of behavioral impulses, affective experience, perceptions, sensations, and images, all of which can occur far below the threshold of awareness. This is very different from a coherent narratives about the way the world works. When implicit memories are activated in our daily lives, they operate as if they do not have a time (i.e., past) associated with them. This means that we will interpret any impulse, sensation, image, or emotional surge as being caused by something that is occurring in the present moment of our experience, even if they are not at all related.
Let me leave you with an example to better illustrate how implicit memories work. Imagine that you are at work having lunch. As you eat, your mind is consciously thinking about an email you need to write. At the same time that your conscious mind is thinking about the email, a tall, brunette woman is walking toward you. Add to the mix that your very critical mother was tall and brunette. About a second or two later you might notice that you feel uneasy. What your conscious mind didn’t notice is that just before that second, your eyes moved down, your blood pressure began to increase, the muscles in your jaw and neck began to tense, and a flash of your mother’s face whizzed across your mind. Then, noticing your feelings of unease, the conscious part of your mind goes to work trying to find a present-day explanation for why you have this feeling. Was it the email? Finding an answer to this becomes further complicated as you now have to interact with the woman and begin to notice that you want to get away from her. Your conscious mind searches for what it is about her that is triggering you to feel uncomfortable, unaware that the roots of your responses lie not in this present experience, but in the past. Your implicit memory had generalized complex interactions from your past experience into the implicit, unconscious, nonverbal generalized conclusion that tall, brunette women are dangerous.
Take home message; The fact that there is so much going on inside our very minds and bodies that is occurring outside of our awareness, not to mention whether or not we want it to, provides us with an opportunity to stand back in humble wonder (although I wouldn’t blame you if at first it caused you some anxiety!). Indeed, so much of our experience, even our very thoughts and feelings, are often out of our conscious control! I propose then, that the goal is not to try to control them, but rather, with this knowledge, to learn a new kind of relationship with ourselves. A kinder, more curious, and non-judgmental one.
To learn more about Alissa Bagan, MS, visit http://grainintegrativehealth.com/the-practice/alissa-bagan-ms-lmfta.