Archive for the ‘Chronic Illness’ Category

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Thyroid Dysfunction

Wednesday, December 28th, 2016

As an integrated medical clinic, the approach our providers take to thyroid dysfunction is multifaceted and varied, just like the individuals who we see.

Thyroid dysfunction can present in many forms. Hypothyroidism, having too little thyroid function, and hyperthyroidism, too much thyroid function, are two firms if well known thyroid disease.

While we at Nature Cures Clinic utilize standard evaluation techniques in caring for patients with thyroid dysfunction, we also evaluate for diet & stress, both of which can have startling influence on thyroid function.

The thyroid, a butterfly shaped gland that sits slightly below the Adam’s apple is a delicate powerhouse that produces hormones that influence nearly every organ, tissue, and cell in the human body. Subsequently, when problems arise with the thyroid, many other body systems suffer.

Triggers for thyroid dysfunction may include adrenal stress and oxidative stress, natural aging, and pregnancy. Adrenal stress and oxidative stress are signs of your body’s decreased ability to respond appropriately to stress.

Nutrition also plays an important role in the care and management of thyroid function. Several nutrients are involved in managing thyroid health, specifically iodine, iodide selenium, iron, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin C, magnesium and zinc.

Iodine is essential for thyroid function. Iodine is actively absorbed into the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormones. Too much or too little iodine can have dramatic effect on thyroid function / dysfunction.  Iodine rich foods include: sea vegetables, scallops, yogurt, and eggs.

Selenium is another important component of a healthy thyroid. It is a cofactor for the production of thyroid hormones. A micronutrient, selenium contributes to antioxidant functions in the body. Selenium is found in tuna, shrimp, barley, tofu, and other food sources.

If you or someone you know has thyroid dysfunction, give Nature Cures Clinic a call at 503-287-4970



  • Mahan K, Escott-Stump S, Raymond J. Krause’s Food and the Nutrition Care Process. Missouri: Elsevier Inc; 2012.
  • The George Mateljan Foundation. Iodine. The World’s Healthiest Foods website. 2014. Available at: Accessed  August 20, 2014.


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Metabolic Syndrome, Syndrome X, Insulin Resistance Syndrome

Monday, December 5th, 2016

About: Metabolic syndrome, also called “syndrome X” or “insulin resistance syndrome”, is the name for a group of risk factors- habits, conditions, or genetic influences, that act together to raise your risk for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

Symptoms: Because Metabolic syndrome is a group of risk factors, rather than a disease, it can often be silent within the system, affecting the body slowly over time. When symptoms are present, they are due to the diseases these risk factors cause.

Risk Factors: obesity- large waistline; inactive lifestyle; high blood pressure; high cholesterol; low HDL cholesterol; high blood sugar; high triglyceride; diet high in processed and refined foods; constant low-grade inflammation throughout the body; clotting conditions; PCOS; Family history of diabetes, heart disease, stroke.

Symptoms of Risk Factors: a large waistline or “apple shape”; thirst; increased urination, especially at night; fatigue (tiredness); blurred vision, dull headaches; dizzy spells; nosebleeds

Conventional treatment: Reducing risk factors that can be controlled (obesity, diet, and physical activity) is the general first step with prescription medication to respond to disease states as indicated.

Our Approach: We begin by treating you as a whole person, recognizing that lifestyle changes are difficult and must be sustainable.

We recommend a physical exam and routine blood work to check cholesterol & fasting blood sugar values to get a clear picture of your unique health status.

We then work with you to develop individualized strategies to respond to your present health, your risks and your ongoing needs through:

  • sustainable & supported weight loss through personalized home exercise programs
  • individualized programs to address insulin sensitivity;
  • dietary and nutritional counseling with emphasis on education and real steps to understand healthy food choices;
  • stress reduction & techniques to respond to stress;
  • support understanding on how carbohydrate, sugar, processed & refined foods impact health
  • Acupuncture
  • Evidence based complimentary medicine
  • medication as indicated

If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with Metabolic Syndrome, High Blood Pressure, Diabetes, or High Cholesterol Please give us a call today to see how we can support you : 503-287-4970

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What is IV Chelation?

Saturday, June 4th, 2016

As an integrated medical clinic we are often asked about IV Chelation in support of elimination of heavy metals (lead, cadmium, mercury, arsenic).

What it is:

Chelation is a chemical process in which a substance is used to bind molecules, such as metals or minerals, and hold them tightly so that they can be removed from a system, such as the body. In medicine, chelation has been scientifically proven to rid the body of excess or toxic metals.

For example, a person who has lead poisoning may be given chelation therapy in order to bind and remove lead from the body before it can cause damage.

How does it work?

In the case of EDTA chelation therapy, the substance that binds and removes metals and minerals are the salts of EDTA (ethylene diamine tetra-acetic acid), a synthetic, or man-made, amino acid that is delivered intravenously (through the veins).

EDTA was first used in the 1950s for the treatment of heavy metal poisoning. Calcium disodium EDTA chelation removes heavy metals and minerals from the blood, such as lead, iron, copper, and calcium, and is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in treating lead poisoning and toxicity from other heavy metals.

If you or someone you know may benefit from IV Chelation, please call to schedule an appointment 503-287-4970

If you are currently under the care of a medical provider and think IV Chelation may be of benefit, we accept referrals. Please contact Nature Cures Clinic for more information.


National Institute of Health:

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Portland Lead Crisis: Lead in our children’s water, what now?

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

With the revelations about Portland Public Schools lead contamination, we are fielding fevered calls from parents concerned about what they do now that their children have been exposed to lead.

In brief these are the steps we take for lead exposure in children, as recommended by the CDC:

  • Find and eliminate the source of lead.
  • Find a healthcare provider knowledgeable about lead exposure. The diagnosis and treatment of acute and chronic lead exposure is a focus of providers who specialize in chelation therapies. These providers are often integrated health care providers, ACAM providers, naturopathic providers, medical care providers with expertise in toxicology. However, often toxicologists focus on extremely high levels of blood lead, but have less experience with lower levels, which may still have adverse health effects.
  • Have blood testing to assess for levels of lead in you or your child. This should not be done with a finger prick, but rather with a true venous blood draw.
  • Evaluate blood lead levels, if there has been a known chronic or long-term exposure without correspondingly high blood levels, the Mayo Clinic recommendation is urine testing pre and post chelation to see if lead has been stored in the bones. Rarely, radiographic imagining is also used to assess for this.
  • Depending on the blood lead levels, initiate therapy to eliminate the body’s lead burden. This should ONLY be undertaken with a skilled medical care provider trained in chelation therapy. At Nature Cures Clinic, our providers have fifteen years training and experience with both oral and IV chelation.
  • Begin dietary & nutritional support to aid with recovery. This should be under the direct supervision of a medical care provider who understands the chelation process, ideally the provider overseeing chelation will formulate a long-term recovery plan with you.

As parents in the Portland Public School district, all of the providers at Nature Cures Clinic understand and share the deep concern about the lead exposure to our communities children.

Please check out our more in depth article on lead exposure here.

In response to this crisis, please contact us at Nature Cures Clinic 503-287-4970 for more information or set up a complimentary visit to meet with our providers and see how we can assist you and your family.

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Lead in our drinking water: what are the risks and what do I do now?

Wednesday, June 1st, 2016

Lead in our drinking water is all over the news; from Flint, Michigan to Portland,OR Public Schools!

It can be easily overwhelming worrying about the risks of lead exposure, knowing where to find “good” information on recognizing the symptoms and- perhaps most important of all- knowing what to do about the exposure you are at risk for.

As an integrative medical clinic, we are familiar with the treatment of elevated blood lead levels and are dedicated to providing patients the latest standard medical, naturopathic and chinese medicine available. Our providers understand the importance of environmental medicine and recently returned from an international conference devoted to heavy metal (lead, cadmium, mercury, arsenic) exposure.

Given the recent concerns of our community over chronic heavy metal exposures, we are offering this overview of the risks of lead exposure, symptoms, testing and treatment options. If you have not been lead (or heavy metal) tested, have further questions, or would like to be seen, please contact us at 503-287-4970.


There are many studies linking adverse health findings with even the lowest levels of lead exposure. The most common adverse effects are in children (or adults) who have had long-term (not necessarily high levels of) lead exposure. These effects include changes in intellectual function, associated drop of IQ points, increased risk of attentional deficit and hyperactivity disorder (2012- PMID: 23008274), hearing loss (2012- PMID: 22851306) and balance issues (2012- PMID: 22214670). Even low level environmental lead exposure has been associated with subclinical decreases in neurocognitive function in young children, as well as elevated blood pressure in adults.


Symptoms of lead exposure can be difficult to identify, and are often initially missed (as lead exposure) due to their vague and frequently seen nature. These can include abdominal pain, constipation, nausea, vomiting, decreased growth in height (children), delayed sexual maturation (children), increased dental cavities(children), and impaired neurologic development -behavioral changes, mental impairment, seizures, coma (Lead poisoning in Children. American Family Physician. 2010). Some reported acute symptoms of lead exposure have included headaches, abdominal pain, nausea, severe itching, weight loss, fatigue, irritability, poor cognition, ‘brain fuzziness’ or feeling ‘mentally clouded’, as well as weakness.

A 2015 study of lead poisoning in South Africa (2015-PMID: 2618425) showed individuals exposed to lead with persistant headaches, fatigue, arthralgia and myalgias, abdominal pains and mood swings two years after primary exposure.


One of the concerning issues with lead (and other heavy metals), is that while medicine has identified levels of ‘concern’ found in blood (linked to long-term effects), the known exposure threshold for the effects of lead has not yet been identified (National Research Council, 1993).

What we do know is the CDC, in 1991, established 10 ug/dL as a blood lead level concentration of ‘concern’ for children. While this value gives us a starting place, medicine & environmental science remain unclear as to what threshold of exposure is linked to negative effects. Per the American Family Physician March, 2010 article on lead poisoning in children, “Even blood lead levels lower than 10 μg per dL can affect cognitive development.”

The truth is ,none of us in medicine fully know what the ‘safe’ exposure level (if any) is. We can not give guidance on outcome or risk of effect if it is below 10 ug/dL, although it is generally agreed upon that blood levels above 10ug/dL, require intervention and that childhood and/or chronic lead exposure poses the greatest risk.

Getting Tested:

For Recent or ongoing lead exposure: Lead testing –both screening and diagnostic- should be done through blood (serum) testing for lead. This is done via standard blood draw and processed through standard labs and your insurance plan (all plans vary, contact yours to determine cost). We do these tests at our clinic, but they are also available any location that has a CLIA certified blood-draw center.

For high or chronic past exposure: For individuals with high or chronic past exposure, blood lead levels often under-represent the total body burden because most lead is stored in the bone. This may make it appear as if the individual has “normal” levels in the blood. One exception to this are patients with a high body burden who are also under physiological stressful circumstances. In these cases blood lead levels may be elevated from the release of lead stored in bones.

24hr Urine Lead testing: Blood lead is the best clinical correlate of toxicity, however as indicated above, lead stored in bone is difficult to detect. This method of testing is recommended for individuals who have had either A) high blood lead levels and are seeking chelation treatment or B) individuals who have had high or chronic past exposure. Per Mayo Clinic, “Measurement of urine lead excretion rate before AND after chelation therapy has been used as an indicator of lead exposure”

(Mayo Clinic: Mayo Medical Laboritories 2016). This test requires collection of 24 hr urine. It often requires processing at speciality labs which may or may not be covered by insurance.

Tests not recommended:

Finger-stick/capillary testing are easily contaminated. If you or your child has had a finger stick lead screening, elevated blood lead results should be considered presumptive and must be confirmed using venous blood –as in a standard blood draw (see above). (CDC, Preventing Lead Poisoning in Young Children, 1991., CDC: Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry, Environmental Health and Medicine Education: Lead Toxicity, what tests can Assist with diagnosis of lead toxicity?, 2012).

Not recommended as screening in children: Erythrocyte protoporphyrin (EP), commonly assayed as zinc protoporphyrin (ZPP), was previously considered the best test for screening for asymptomatic children. However, it is not sufficiently sensitive at lower blood lead levels and is not as useful a screening test for lead exposure as previously thought (CDC: Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry, Environmental Health and Medicine Education: Lead Toxicity, what tests can Assist with diagnosis of lead toxicity?, 2012).

Treatment of lead exposure:

The CDC recommended initial treatment for blood lead levels less than 14ul/dL is identification and removal of the lead source, accompanied by dietary and environmental support. While this is based off of the CDC’s level of 10ul/dL as the threshold after which increased health concerns are prevelant, there is little evidence to support this arbitrary value as the ‘starting place’ of concern and the American Family Physician in March 15, 2010 issue entitled Lead Poisoning in Children states:

“For children with a blood lead level of less than 10 μg/dL, providing basic    nutritional and environmental education to parents may be of benefit,       although the true effectiveness is unknown. Identifying and treating iron      deficiency are important in decreasing a child’s vulnerability to lead. The     ultimate goal is to maintain the child’s blood lead level as low as possible       because of evidence that levels of less than 10 μg/dL still pose a risk of    damage to the child’s neurologic development.”

Once blood lead levels (or urine levels) have been identified, Chelation therapy is the treatment recommended by the CDC. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Managing Elevated Blood Lead Levels Among Young Children: Recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention. Atlanta, Ga.: CDC; March 2002).

At Nature Cures Clinic, we have experienced providers who are trained and certified to perform both IV and oral chelation therapy, having 15 years experience and longtime membership to a premier organization of integrated medical providers: ACAM (American College for Advancement in Medicine).

Getting Started:

Prior to initiation of chelation, base blood lead levels (or other heavy metal testing), a complete blood count; reticulocyte count; urinalysis; and testing of electrolytes, blood urea nitrogen, creatinine, and liver function is performed along with a complete physical exam. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Managing Elevated Blood Lead Levels Among Young Children: Recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention. Atlanta, Ga.: CDC; March 2002).

Close monitoring during and after the chelation process is essential with follow up serial blood (or urine) testing.

In light of recent happenings in the Portland metro area, lead (& heavy metal toxicity) is a real concern with tangible risks. We have been told there is lead in our children’s water; our air & backyard moss is tainted with arsenic, cadmium, and lead; we have high levels of diesel exhaust linked to negative health consequences…it’s enough to overwhelm anyone. Nature Cures Clinic is here to offer you tangible information, hope and optimism that even with the exposures our community has suffered through, there is hope for treatment.

Give us a call today: 503-287-4970



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The Many Faces of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Friday, November 21st, 2014

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) carries a huge complexity of factors, each of which complicates the healing process.  There is of course the impact, the moment of trauma, causing significant damage to the brain and oftentimes other body structures.  This is the primary concern as the patient is rushed to the emergency room for life-saving procedures.  For everyone involved in a tragedy of this sort, it soon becomes apparent that TBI generates aftershocks that extend way beyond the central nervous system of the individual involved; the aftershocks go on for years to come.

As a naturopathic physician and acupuncturist, I have treated patients with TBI in a primary care setting.  As a student I wrote my thesis on the naturopathic treatment of TBI.  I thought I understood the complexities of this condition.  In fact, I was preparing the outline of a book highlighting my understanding of TBI and the treatment of chronic syndromes that continue for years following injury.  A year ago, however, I was exposed to an entirely new understanding of TBI when one of my patients hit a tree at a projected speed of 120 mph.  She was a passenger in a car and received the full brunt of the impact.  What I would learn is that the impact extended much further, as family and friends, healthcare providers, and many others gathered to support each other and the patient in the healing process.

People mobilized from around the country and gathered in the waiting room of the ICU.  Two could visit at a time, and the rest patiently awaited and prayed for good news.   It was there, in the waiting room, that I saw many angles of the experience transpire.  My first day I met the driver of the car, and the remorse was evident in the downward gaze and the pale expression of worry.  Soon I would meet the driver’s family, the patient’s family, and the school friends, all of whom supported each other and maintained hope for the best possible outcome.

An undeniable presence in a trauma of this magnitude is the attorneys, the media, the insurance companies, the doctors and nurses, the priests, and the bankers; all present on the scene to “help” navigate these treacherous waters.  Some provide support while others make the challenge much more difficult.   Mixing all these ingredients together with the volatility of emotions of sheer joy and utter sadness and grief, the experience mirrors that of a human pressure cooker.

There were many details to organize, like who was taking care of the dogs at home while the family lived in the hospital?  How often would one leave the hospital to shower? There was the horrendous hospital cafeteria food that all were subject to, and the sleep deprivation from consecutive nights in upright chairs.  At one point, a family member awoke with a homeless man sleeping next to her.  Emotions were on overload, as people blindly traversed each moment awaiting updates from medical staff.  Shock and tragedy have a way of catapulting you into the present moment, where nothing else matters.  There’s no more room in the inn.  All emotional sensors are activated.  There were already family rifts present from a previous divorce and a history of abuse with a family member.  Now all were in one room together, forced to get along because this moment was not about them.  Past and future seemed far away.

The media was sneaking into the ICU to get interviews with the family.  Lawyers for the insurance companies were calling to deny charges.  Soon the banks would start sending liens on the family’s home.

I will not get into the details of this experience for the sake of protecting patient confidentiality.  I bring this story to light only as an example of the complexity of TBI.  This story repeats itself over and over again, every time someone experiences a severe head trauma.  The CDC reports that each year, an estimated 1.7 million people sustain a TBI.  Of these, 1.3 million report to the ER.  275,000 will require hospitalization, and 52,000 will die.

The experience of TBI extends way beyond the patient.  As a clinician I focus on helping patients navigate trauma and heal the nervous system.  This involves nutrients, herbs, nutrition, acupuncture, and the movement arts.  Complete healing must also include the families and friends involved, as they too are attempting to release the memory of trauma and accept the ongoing challenge of supporting a loved one dealing with the chronic effects of post-TBI syndrome.  Healing this requires a community.

Written by Andy Swanson, ND, LAc practicing at Nature Cures Clinic in Portland, OR

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What Happens After the Coma?

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

Many people who have acquired a brain injury tell a similar story.  They gradually awaken from a coma.  They have to relearn aspects of life that were once simple tasks, like balance, walking, speaking, socializing, and tempering emotions.  Weeks pass, exhausted from math and reading classes, speech and physical therapy.  The process challenges the very deepest aspects of the individual, often instigating feelings of frustration, hopelessness, and depression.  After a period of rehab, they leave the hospital with limited options with regard to therapy, relationships, housing, financing and work.

Local support groups are often great resources to steer people towards the help they need.  The Brain Injury Association of Oregon ( offers an excellent resource guide to help those with TBI navigate the assistance available.  Communities are coming together to enhance this network for those recovering from TBI.  Many people in the TBI community, however, are unaware of the options offered by complementary providers such as naturopathic doctors, acupuncturists, yoga therapists and nutritionists.  I’d like to share a brief overview of some of the treatments we provide at Nature Cures Clinic that may be of help in the recovery from TBI.

At Nature Cures Clinic we offer individualized health care focused on addressing not just symptoms, but also the underlying causes of imbalance.  For example, I treated a patient for a year and a half for Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis that started following brain injury.  The treatment plan focused on balancing the thyroid while simultaneously providing the central nervous system with the building blocks for healing.  A generalized TBI treatment would have missed the thyroid imbalance.  Even if it is clear that the majority of symptoms are related to TBI, it is absolutely necessary to consider other systems of the body that may be operating below optimal function.  At Nature Cures Clinic, we treat each person according to the needs of their body.  This is determined by a complete physical exam, a detailed history of illness, and any labs and imaging necessary to accurately assess ongoing internal imbalances.

A brief summary below introduces you to the three modules of the TBI program at Nature Cures Clinic.  There may be concepts here that you are unfamiliar with.  In the coming weeks, I will provide more information on how we use these therapies in the treatment of TBI.

IV Nutritional Therapy offers a unique way to offer the body nutrients to heal following injury.  We have a standard multivitamin formulation we use for many health conditions.  These nutrients help enhance mood, energy, and immune function.  Other formulations specifically target the brain, and these I find particularly useful to accelerate healing post-TBI.  These include nutrients such as alpha lipoic acid and glutathione.  I will discuss this further in future posts.

Nutrition matters.  What you eat directly impacts how you feel and how well your body heals following injury.  Even though food is a very sensitive area for many people and dietary changes are challenging, it can be the pivotal change that decides whether or not the nervous system heals.  I will discuss this further in future posts.

Chinese Medicine provides a fresh approach to working with many symptoms of TBI such as chronic pain, muscle spasms, forgetfulness, and mood disorders.  Through the lens of Chinese Medicine we often encounter underlying imbalances in the body that may have been overlooked by modern medicine.  Addressing these underlying imbalances removes potential obstacles to healing, and thus can speed up the recovery from TBI.  At Nature Cures Clinic, we incorporate three aspects of Chinese Medicine as part of the TBI program: Acupuncture, Herbal Medicine, and Qi Gong.  I will discuss each of these further in future posts.

The three modules above, IV Nutritional Therapy, Nutrition, and Chinese Medicine offer a thorough complementary approach to the treatment of traumatic brain injury.  The program is not intended to replace the current model of care, but rather to augment a medical model that falls short in providing options for continued outpatient care for post TBI syndrome.  It is my belief that the brain can always do better, regardless of how much time has passed since injury.  Please feel free to give us a call with any questions you have regarding supporting your ongoing healthcare.

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Obesity Now a Disease

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013


In June of this year the American Medical Association voted to classify obesity as a disease. This was done against the recommendation of the AMA’s own Council of Science and Public Health, which researches and offers its recommendations on these matters. Over 26% of American adults met the criteria of being obese in 2012, meaning a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 30. An additional 36% were officially overweight, with a BMI 25-30. Perhaps an even greater tragedy is that around 25% of children aged 2-5 are overweight or obese, as are a full 1/3  of school-aged children. The number of morbidly obese adults, those with a BMI over 40, is now up to 6%.

Obesity is a scourge, to be sure. It sits stubbornly at the confluence of some moderately influential genetic and hormonal factors, and an absolute deluge of social and environmental assaults. In any respectable court of law, an obese individual offering a defense of their weight could present a rock-solid case that they were framed, completely set up. Billions are spent every year to convince us to consume all manner of substances that masquerade as food. The least healthy of these are also the most easily accessible, whether that is measured by the  ubiquitous corner location of the fast food dispensaries, or the eye-level grocery shelves replete with artificially colored, ultra-refined and thoroughly preserved packaged foods.

The greatest mystery is not that so many people are obese, but that more aren’t. Among other reasons, fat accumulates on our bodies in a desperate attempt to encapsulate the persistent organic pollutants (POPs) that perfuse our foods, as well as our home and working environments (sourcesource). Both diabetic and obese patients frantic to lose their excess weight are often mystified that their most heroic dietary and exercise efforts have no effect.

What is not realized is that the fat stores chemicals that are better kept out of circulation. The POPs sit for years, even decades, quietly acting as endocrine disruptors in their gracious hosts. Accumulation of fat is, in this circumstance, a byproduct of simply living in the modern world. Obesity is the exhaust of an industrial engine that roars on. Evidence of these things can be seen on lab work, but only in hints, so it remains hidden to the eyes of doctors not trained to look for clues regarding environmental contributions to our maladies.

The medical system’s interest in bringing obesity into the land of disease has to do primarily with economics, not health. We should not be appalled by this, even if we’re saddened. Modern medicine does reasonably well with acute illnesses. No one, though, has acute obesity; it is a chronic condition. In fact, as a percentage, those with acute illness are a trifling next to those with chronic illness.

Ironically, we have a medical system that does virtually nothing to reduce the burden of chronic illnesses, or even to alter their course beyond the superficial suppression of symptoms. The system manages, when it works, to poorly manage some of those chronic symptoms into perpetuity. The great majority of health care expense is racked up in the ongoing treatment of chronicity: diabetes, heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease, and now obesity officially joins this team.

Like smallpox, asthma and cancer, obesity is now a diagnostic island unto itself. No longer simply a confluence of circumstances, it stands alone,  and as such it is calling out for treatment as a billable medical condition. Sure, it was recognized as a problem before, but being billable makes all the difference. Advocates of the change have suggested, apparently with a straight face, that this disease classification will bring doctors to finally give it the attention it deserves.

“(Diagnosing obesity as a disease) acknowledges that obesity is a chronic health condition that has genetic as well as environmental causes that requires lifelong treatment using medical and psychological support,” said Connie Crawley, a University of Georgia Cooperative Extension nutrition and health specialist in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences. (source)

One can imagine an almost palpable wave of renewed compassion sweeping through the medical community as physicians, who once thought obesity to be a problem of self-control, now understand it as a disease that takes hold and, in its chronic way, doesn’t let go of its target.

Would that this were the case. In reality, the new classification means that instead of offering generic advice about exercise and eating healthier, physicians can prescribe medications to their frustrated but hopeful obese patients. What is treatment, after all? In a system of for-profit medicine, it’s hardly noteworthy that the diseas-ification of obesity comes less than a month after FDA approval of two new drugs to “treat” obesity. They each cost about $150/month.

Consuming pills, we should come to believe, will shrink our waistlines, tighten our thighs, and negate a lifetime of exposures and patterns of eating. Our medical system is expert at seeing a raging fire, and finding ways to make money off of the smoke. This is not conspiracy; it is a fact of daily business.

In the conventional model of health and disease, chronic illnesses don’t go away. Obesity is now officially granted a lifelong sanction, the medical seal now firmly in place, tens of millions of obese individuals – men, women and children – are a welcome new market. The commercials are not far behind, where the actor, heavy and moribund, convinces viewers that there is new hope in these pills to manage obesity.

Regardless of its new classification, obesity is still sitting, unchanged, at the tangled intersection of individual and social/environmental influences. Opening it up to management by prescription does little to address these underlying causes except in the most trivial way. But a new market has been created, and enormous amounts of money will be made from obesity’s medical management.

The culprits who have set us up for this disease – through cheap and degraded foods, through the chronic stress of financial and food insecurity, through the obfuscation of basic relevant health information, and through allowing an environment laden with the chemicals that push us toward accumulation – have no reason to fear they will be asked to account for their contributions to this epidemic. Like obesity itself, these circumstances are now permanent,  invisible aspects of this modern world.


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Building a Supportive Network for Those with Post-Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

Often I see patients suffering from post-concussive and post-TBI syndromes that have been told by their physicians that there’s nothing more they can do.  One or two years have passed, and their chronic condition is just something they should accept and learn to live with.

I’m offering a different message.  CONTINUE FOCUSSING ON THE HEALING!!  There are many ways to support your nervous system and improve brain function.  Some of my best results have come with patients that are two plus years post-injury.

The brain is constantly reorganizing and regenerating the terrain.  Think of a map where city lines are defined by activity, business, and the amount of people moving into the area.  If a city like Portland, Oregon is desirable, people move there and the city grows.  As a result it takes up more space on the map.  The brain works in a similar way.  What you focus on, your daily activities and repetitive movements and thoughts, all define your brain map.  If you are focussing on specific exercises that generate more balance, more cross-hemispheric integration, the brain will respond by appropriating more space for these functions.  As a result these skills improve.

There are other factors affecting this growth process.  Just like a growing city, the brain must have the building blocks necessary to create the infrastructure for growth.  That is why you must include NUTRITION as part of a brain-restorative program.  The combination of FOCUS and ATTENTION together with the right balance of NUTRIENTS results in the restoration of FUNCTION.

If you are not seeing restoration of function, then continue looking for guidance in your rehabilitation process.

Here at Nature Cures Clinic, in downtown Portland, we have an extensive Brain Recovery Program involving many modules of care, including nutrition, acupuncture, IV nutrient support and Qi Gong.  I’m seeing excellent results with patients immediately after injury as well as with chronic recalcitrant cases of post TBI and post concussive syndrome.  Acupuncture provides relief for pain, muscle spasticity, mood disorders, and insomnia.  Qi Gong offers movement exercises to generate better balance and cross-hemispheric integration.  IV nutrition allows us to bring therapeutic doses of antioxidants and metabolic support directly to the brain to assure it has the building blocks for growth and healing of neurons.

My hope is that more people with traumatic brain injury (TBI) know about these options for recovery.

I’m currently building a network of practitioners in the Portland area dedicated to generating more awareness of rehabilitation options for patients with TBI.   Practitioners, please contact me to discuss a cross-referral network in the greater Portland area.

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Dance away Dementia

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

I recently heard an interesting tidbit:  Research shows that regular partner dancing is the most effective activity to ward of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Really!?  Above Sudoku!?!

I consulted my all-knowing friend Google, and found that indeed, the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York conducted a  study demonstrating this.  The study spanned 21 years and followed 469 senior citizens, measuring mental acuity and monitoring rates of dementia and Alzheimer’s.  They compared both cognitive and physical activities, including regular (3-4 times/week) swimming, cycling, walking, golfing, playing tennis, partner dancing,  doing housework, reading, writing, playing cards, and playing musical instruments.  The study showed that of all the activities – both cognitive and physical – regular dancing was the most effective for lowering the participants’ chances of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s.

This can be interpreted several ways.  Partner dancing involves concentration and memorization, decision making, coordination, balance, endurance, strength, and flexibility, for starters.  Multiple areas of the brain are simultaneously engaged, the cardiovascular system is challenged, etc.  Science can prove the cognitive and physiological benefits of dancing, but what I find so significant is that partner dancing requires a partner.  It involves human touch, communication, trust, and teamwork.   It’s like one-on-one play for adults.

Here’s my take on it:  Health can be managed via a barrage of tests, supplements, medications, devices, and procedures, but I truly believe that for humans to really thrive, we also need each other.  Our emotional selves need attention just as our cognitive and physical selves do.  We need relationships – touch, communication, trust, and humor.  Partner dancing is the perfect synthesis of mental, emotional, and physical therapy.

So, eat your greens, take your vitamins, laugh, play, and hold the hand of someone dear to you.  Toss in some music and a  little fancy footwork, and you’ll be wowing your great grandchildren with detailed accounts of 1988 decades from now.

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Needles in my ears!?

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Most of my patients know that I am a fan of auricular acupuncture – needling acupuncture points in the ear.  Many have squirmed when told that I’m heading for their ears next.  “My ears?!  But I don’t have any ear problems.”  Well rest assured, dear patients, there IS a method to my madness.  Auricular points are used for far more than treating ear problems.  Like the hand or foot in traditional reflexology, the ear is a microsystem representing your entire body.  There are points on your ears for everything, from your neck and back, to your liver and heart.  There are even a few points for your ears on your ears!

We in the needle poking biz view the ear as an upside down fetus.  The head is imaged on the earlobe, with the spine extending up the curve of the ear.  The number of auricular points and exact imaging varies slightly between acupuncture styles, but all in all, the inverted fetus reference is widely accepted.  Because the entire body is represented on the ear, ear points provide an effective way to treat areas that may be difficult to access, depending on a patient’s position or mobility.  They are also ideal when the area you’re targeting is too sensitive to needle directly, such as a surgery site or fracture.  In fact, there are practitioners who successfully treat their patients needling ONLY  ear points.  And here’s a fun fact:  The “eye point”, located in the center of the earlobe, happens to be the point traditionally pierced for earrings, and rumor has it, that is not a coincidence.  Pirates began piercing that point long ago to improve their vision when scanning the horizon for land or ships.  It seems that even the sea bandits were microsystem- savvy!

In addition to needling auricular points, applying ear seeds, or beads, to the points is another powerful way to treat the body.  The seeds vary in style from actual plant seeds to tiny metal beads, which are taped over specific points.  The tape provides enough pressure to maintain light acupressure on the selected points, and to enhance their effect, I teach patients how to squeeze the seeds for stronger stimulation when needed.  They can be left in for 1-2 weeks at a times, and allow for treatment to continue long after leaving the clinic.

I find auricular acupuncture to be as fascinating as it is effective.  Who’d have guessed that you can relieve hip pain by squeezing your ear!  So the next time I’m poking around in your ear, ask me what point I’m needling.  You may be surprised to find that you will feel changes in the related area of your body.





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Palliation vs Treatment in Cancer Care

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

No cancer patient wants to hear that their only option is palliative care. Palliative care means using therapies (usually limited to pain medications) that reduce discomfort and thus enhance quality of life. These therapies are explicitly not intended to control the growth and spread of cancer. Palliative care means the cancer patient has progressed beyond the point where there are any treatment options.

The reason that there is such a distinct line between treatment and palliation in conventional cancer care is that the therapies used to treat cancer almost universally make cancer patients feel worse. If there is little hope that a treatment will work, the thinking goes, then treatment is withheld so that the patient can feel more comfortable.

Conventional cancer care focuses almost exclusively on the killing of cancer cells. It is considered an unfortunate but necessary side effect that these therapies also kill healthy cells, which typically leave patients feeling extremely fatigued, depleted, in pain and devitalized.

The world of naturopathic cancer care is dramatically different. The therapies see killing of cancer cells as only one of multiple therapeutic goals. We also work to optimize digestion and overall nutrition; we work to activate anti-cancer immunity; we work to relieve psychological stress and depression that is so common with cancer patients; we work to optimize physical function and activity; and many other therapeutic goals.

In delivering the therapies that pursue these goals, cancer patients feel better, not worse, and sometimes dramatically so. Even patients with advanced cancers and multiple metastases can sometimes feel energetic and active while they are being aggressively treated with naturopathic therapies.

For example, a gentleman with advanced prostate cancer came to our clinic for treatment. Before starting treatment he was extremely fatigued, his activity level very limited. After an intensive series of IV (intravenous) nutrient drips, acupuncture and other therapies, he became energetic, alert, and active. He would commonly tell us that he felt better than he had in decades, and this was a gentleman with advanced metastatic cancer!

In the world of naturopathic cancer care, treatment and palliation go hand in hand. It is not a matter of choosing one or the other. If a medical treatment has enhanced an individual’s health they should feel better, not worse, as a result of that treatment, whether it is treatment of the flu, or indigestion, or cancer.

Any individuals facing a cancer diagnosis and interested in learning about naturopathic treatment options can call to schedule a free consultation. This is limited to 30 minutes and simply gives an overview of the naturopathic treatment process. If the desire is to get a full evaluation and an intensive cancer treatment plan developed, schedule a 90 minute new patient visit.

Whether used in conjunction with conventional therapies or as stand-alone treatment, naturopathic cancer care can enhance every individual’s potential for optimal health and a positive outcome.

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Naturopathic Epilepsy Treatment: Nature Cures HealthChat Podcast

Saturday, June 18th, 2011

Listen to the HealthChat Podcast on Epilepsy , as Dr. Greg Eckel discuss the naturopathic approach toward the seizure disorder and ways to slow down a patient’s seizure rate.

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Radiation Exposure: Nature Cures HealthChat Podcast

Friday, April 15th, 2011

Listen to: HealthChat on Radiation Exposure, when Dr. Greg Eckel discuss nuclear radiation, everyday radiation and ways to prevent and counteract both.

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Potassium Iodide and Radiation: A Primer

Friday, March 18th, 2011

This article was written in response to the possibility of radiation exposure following the March 2011 earthquake in Japan.

Many patients are contacting our clinic for information on how to best protect themselves and loved ones from radiation.  Many have read on the news of the long-term health risks related to the effects radiation can have on the Thyroid.  The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended potassium iodide as a means of protecting the thyroid gland.

It is extremely important to know that potassium iodide is, by no means, an innocuous substance.  There is significant risk of throwing your thyroid out of balance, creating what we call a thyroid storm, which is extremely unpleasant and potentially life-threatening.  Additional complications exist including potential allergic responses to the medication.  Potassium iodide is not to be used haphazardly.  All that said, radiation is extremely damaging to the thyroid and potassium iodide does offer some protection.

The richest source of iodide in nature is SEAWEED, and specifically dulse and kelp.  Adults can consume 3-5 grams/day which works out to a little less than 3/4 of a level teaspoon of powder.  Children under 12 years old should get no more than 1 gram/day of seaweed.

The WHO guidelines for protection from acute radiation exposure are as follows: the potassium iodide dose for adults is 130 mg/day for 3-4 days post radiation exposure.  It is not helpful to take prophylactically.  It should be initiated 12-24 hours before exposure and continued for 3-4 days after. Under age 12, the dose is 65 mg/day.

Again, watch for any symptoms of thyroid over-activity including rapid heart rate, high anxiety, bulging of the eyes, sweating, body heat, insomnia, and/or shortness of breath.

Also, watch for allergic responses including itchy skin, hives, skin rash, sneezing, runny nose and itchy eyes.

If allergic reactions and thyroid symptoms develop, potassium iodide should be discontinued immediately and one should seek medical assistance.

Please remember this is a very high dose to be used ONLY if radiation exposure is occurring. This is much too high for regular daily use.

We are providing this information for your knowledge, in no way are we suggesting that need for it currently. Be prepared and act out of love, not fear. Be safe out there and please send your prayers to those affected.

We will have more information coming out on this subject and will be making recommendations on what we will be doing personally in the upcoming days, so stay tuned.

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