Is Immune Health on your Mind? When it comes to contracting respiratory viruses, it’s certain that avoidance and good hygiene are the most essential tools for prevention, and nothing can replace that. It’s also almost universally accepted that both the pathogen virulence and the health of the individual influence susceptibility to illness and disease severity. […]
If you’re into natural medicines, you might already be familiar with glutathione, or it’s more famous precursor, N-acetyl-cysteine. Or maybe you’ve never heard either of these strange words. Either way, now would be a good time to tune in.
What is glutathione?
Glutathione is produced in organs throughout your body, like the lungs, liver and kidneys. It is best known for its role as the “master antioxidant.”
Here’s a short guide to the Short Wrap!
The Short Wrap is a hydrotherapy technique for increasing blood circulation to the central organs. It is calming to the parasympathetic nervous system and can enhance digestive function and detoxification. Although it involves wrapping a cold, wet towel around your torso, it is so relaxing.
Autumn is the season of wind and dryness. For those in Sonoma County and other fire-prone areas, you have probably been experiencing this first hand. The climate change wake-up calls are increasing, and we’ve got a lot of work to do collectively. But meanwhile, it’s time to recharge: to slow down, soothe, ground, moisten and nourish. After being hit with wildfire smoke and all the associated upheaval this past week, we need to get our self-care groove on. We all need it, in every part of us. This time of year, our nervous systems and respiratory tracts are especially vulnerable and will benefit from the extra support.
Here’s some of my top tools for nourishing with food, herbs and other self-care strategies.
Shopping & Harvest List
For Healthy Detoxification &
Minimizing Harm from Smoke-related Pollutants
1. Broccoli sprouts– contain some of THE most detoxification-stimulating and anti-carcinogenic compounds
2. Rosemary– a high power antioxidant
3. Turmeric– strongly anti-inflammatory and cancer preventing
4. Artichokes, more artichokes, and then more artichokes- an all around detoxifier
5. Pomegranate, berries, red/purple grapes, peels from unwaxed citrus– for the antioxidants
Anyone who knew me before I became a naturopathic doctor would immediately know why I’m passionate about treating allergies and other histamine related issues—I had a big problem with environmental allergies. When I was flared, I would sneeze hundreds of times a day, for days on end. Because I refused allergy medications, I lived in a state of chronic inflammation. I came to palpably understand the intense systemic effects of inflammatory molecules like histamine- symptoms like chronic congestion, fatigue, brain fog, irritability, headaches, body pain, sensitive skin, and inflamed gums. I didn’t realize how all of these things were connected until I started to get to the root of my allergies. I spent years trying to find the right combination of anti-inflammatory herbs and supplements to address allergies, but it usually didn’t yield significant improvement or lasting effects, until I started treating the big picture.
While an anti-inflammatory approach can help, most of the time it is not enough and it is more of a band-aid solution. In order to really treat allergies, the terrain in which allergies develop needs to be addressed. While allergies are considered an issue with the immune system, one’s propensity for this type of reactivity depends greatly on the health of the digestive system, where 70% of the immune system resides, as well as the health of the liver and the adrenal glands. When these systems are out of balance, histamine can wreak havoc on the body. In my journey with treating allergies, I have found that lowering overall histamine levels (and getting to the root of why they are elevated) has made the biggest difference in calming immune hyper-reactivity.
So let’s talk about histamine…
There are a number of symptoms that prompt me to recommend hormone testing—such as chronic fatigue, mood changes, stress intolerance, sleep disturbance, fertility challenges, weight gain, acne, hair loss, and menstrual problems like heavy periods or irregular bleeding. Hormone testing can be the key to unlocking some of these problematic issues. Depending on the type of testing used, we can get a good window into the hormonal picture, which can help refine treatment recommendations to be more precise and aimed toward the origins of the imbalance.
There are three main methods of hormone testing: serum, urine and saliva.
Serum hormone testing can be a good first assessment of estrogen, progesterone, DHEA and testosterone to look for overt imbalances. This is the type of testing typically used in conventional medicine offices. Serum testing is well validated, and I use it when I think it will be helpful, often as a ‘first-look’ at hormonal status and when looking for frank imbalances.
Salivary hormone testing is used in many functional medicine offices. For sex hormones, I almost never use salivary testing because it is not as precise as urine or blood testing. On the other hand, for adrenal testing, salivary cortisol is considered a reliable assessment of adrenal output. When performed correctly, it can indicate whether cortisol rises appropriately upon awakening and falls appropriately at night. However, if there is an imbalance in cortisol clearance (rather than cortisol production), salivary results can be misleading, veering someone toward to misdirected therapies.
For a more nuanced assessment of hormone levels, I generally prefer urine testing, which can detect individual hormone levels as well as hormone metabolites. Metabolites provide an indication of how quickly or slowly the body is moving hormones out of circulation. In the case of cortisol, it can identify the difference between a dysfunction in hormone production or issues with clearance. In the case of sex hormones, urine metabolites provide a window into hormone conversion and detoxification pathways. It can reveal whether hormones are preferentially transformed into either more protective or problematic metabolites in terms of potency and risk. When using hormone therapy, we can help identify whether someone is being over or under-treated, and whether steroid hormones are being safely metabolized.
In my experience, urine testing provides the most holistic and reliable assessment of hormonal status. While testing isn’t always essential to addressing hormone balance, I find it helps refine our understanding and provide quantitative data to track progress. This information it provides can help pinpoint therapeutics to address current health concerns and prevent future issues.
For a more technical look and information about the specific lab I use, read on.
As I wrote in my first blog on Fire Protection, the smoke that we’re experiencing in the Bay area is filled with the combusted contents of homes and businesses- things like plastic siding, wires and pipes, computers, flame retardants, carpeting with stain repellants like Teflon, lead paint from old houses, pressure treated lumber, and the list goes on. Even when the bulk of the particulate is from burning plant matter, there can be a substantial amount of mercury released into the environment from bioaccumulation. It’s easy to go into freak-out mode here.
I can also find the silver lining in the midst of the devastation, which is an opportunity to realign our priorities and get our houses in order on as many levels as we can. This is an opportunity for a paradigm shift — to make the changes we’ve each been debating for years, whether it means changing an unhealthy lifestyle pattern, assessing our consumption patterns particularly around the use of toxic materials, and helping to address some of the social and economic issues that are now more acute in our county.
How we take care of ourselves and each other now is one of the most determining factors of our overall health in the future.
You are probably feeling it- a scratchy throat, dry cough and irritated eyes or that whoozy, nauseous feeling from breathing something you shouldn’t be. It smells like a campfire out there, but with homes and businesses burning, we are exposed to so much more. On top of the wood particulate, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide, the air and the ash is littered with synthetic chemicals released from the combustion of building materials and the contents of buildings and yards. We’re dealing with a toxic load of exceptionally nasty stuff like dioxins, heavy metals, styrene, toluene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH’s), nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, acid gases, etc. This is serious business.
The first objective is to limit your exposure as much as possible, by staying indoors and sealing your house. Avoid drawing any air into your house from outside- limit the use of fans or dryers. Put towels around any drafty doorways or windows. Get that air purifier you’ve been contemplating – you need it now. If you must go outside, wear a respirator mask, such as an N95 or P100, preferrably the latter. Your lungs are better equipped to deal with the air born toxins than your oral mucosa and digestive tract. So breathe through your nose, not through your mouth, and avoid eating or drinking in any area that has compromised air quality. After being outside, rinse nasal passages and lubricate afterward with aloe-saline, or coconut or sesame oil.
Food sensitivity can contribute to gastrointestinal inflammation and systemic inflammatory burden. It can be an underlying cause of nagging symptoms like fatigue, brain fog, sinus congestion, chronic pain, headaches, and weight gain.
Determining whether you have food sensitivities and which foods you are sensitive to can be an arduous process. The best way to diagnose which foods are causing problems is by doing a trail of an elimination-challenge diet, where suspect foods are removed for a period of time and systematically re-introduced. While there are some common culprits like gluten, dairy, soy and eggs, it can be difficult to know which foods to eliminate beyond that, because one can be sensitive to less commonly antigenic foods, like carrots or zucchini- things you wouldn’t necessarily think to eliminate. Food sensitivity testing takes some of the guesswork out of this process. Seeing results on paper can be a real motivator for plunging into an elimination trial.