Archive for the ‘Mental Health’ Category


Holistic Care for Mental Health: Key Nutrients you may be missing

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015

As an integrated, holistic medical clinic, our approach to mental health issues takes many shapes.

One of the areas we focus on in the care & support of mental health issues, commonly overlooked in more traditional clinics, is the role of nutrition & diet.

The role of nutrients, key elements our body needs and gets from food, are important in how our brain functions. Increasing research is affirming what we know about this relationship, suggesting that nutritional interventions may help reduce the risk (or stop the progression) of certain mental health illnesses.

As the medical world is researching and studying these issues more and more, increasing amounts of clinical evidence is showing the relationship between the following nutrients and brain health.

We at Nature Cures Clinic support a “Food as Medicine” approach, with our preference for individuals to incorporate a whole food diet over supplementation. As always, before you add or modify supplements please contact a knowledgeable medical provider for evaluation and support. Your health situation is unique and you deserve to have a trained medical provider working with you that you know, who knows you, and who is familiar with holistic health.

Key Nutrients you may be missing

1.Omega-3 fatty acids.

These polyunsaturated fats have many functions throughout the body. You must consume these as your body can’t make them. They are critical elements in the body’s response to inflammation, ongoing heart health, & brain structure & function.

Omega 3 fatty acids are found in fish (anchovies, bluefish, salmon, sardines, carp, sea bas, lake trout, herring, halibut) and krill. Larger predatory fish such as mackerel & white/albacore tuna may contain higher mercury. Eat in moderation.Vegetarian forms of Omega 3 fatty acids are found in algae (algal oil), flaxseed oil, walnuts, walnut oil, soybean oil & chia seed oil. Chia and flax seeds themselves have much less omega 3.

2.Complete B Vitamins (specifically B12 and B9)

There are 8 B vitamins that make up the ”Complete B” vitamins group. B vitamins must be consumed (through food or supplements), as your body is unable to make them. They are essential for many functions, including the production of brain chemicals. Subtle B12 deficiency, even without anemia, is associated with dementia and low cognitive function. In depressed individuals and those that don’t respond well to antidepressants, Folate (B9) deficiency may be a contributing factor.

B vitamins are found in eggs, dairy, unprocessed meats, whole grains & nuts.

Folate is found in leafy green vegetables, legumes, whole grains, brewer’s yeast and nuts. Taken together as a “Complete B” is an optimal way to ensure support of the synergistic effect of all 8 B vitamins.

3.Amino acids

Proteins, are made from ˜building blocks” called amino acids. Amino acids are essential for brain function, the making of brain chemicals (like tryptophan which is needed to make serotonin) and cysteine that can be converted to glutathione (the body’s most powerful antioxidant). Amino Acids are found in protein from animal sources (meat,eggs, dairy), seafood, nuts and legumes.

4.  Zinc

Zinc is an essential trace element. It plays a role in the metabolic activity of many proteins, is a key supporter of immune function & is involved in the function of brain chemistry. It is found in lean meats, oysters, whole grains, pumpkin seeds & nuts.


Magnesium plays many roles in the system including brain chemistry reactions & neuromuscular function. According to some clinical research magnesium deficiency has been linked to depression and anxiety symptoms. Magnesium can be found in nuts, legumes, whole grains, leafy greens and soy.

6. Iron

Iron has important roles in neurological function. Too much or too little iron can impact neurological activities including oxygen transport to the brain. Iron is found in unprocessed meats, grains, leafy greens & nuts.

7. Vitamin D

Vitamin D research is changing what we know about the many functional roles it plays so fast it can feel hard to keep up. However, we know it is essential for brain development, bone health, & immune support. Vitamin D is made within us when we have exposure to certain types of the sun’s rays. That can be difficult (and/or it may not be safe for you- consult a health care provider) depending on how far north you live. Vitamin D can be found in fortified milk, oily fish and UVB-exposed mushrooms.

8. Antioxidants: Vitamin A, C , E

The antioxidant vitamins include total vitamin A, consisting of preformed vitamin A (retinol) and the carotenoids such as β-carotene, as well as vitamins C and E. Diets high in antioxidants are associated with a reduced risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease. Increased oxidative stress and damage has been implicated in many mental health disorders. Clinical studies suggest antioxidants may “mop up” free radicals to reduce oxidative stress. The body’s antioxidant system is delicate and complex. Ideally antioxidants, which are abundant in fruits and vegetables, should be obtained from food sources. Sources: blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and goji berries; grapes; mangoes and mangosteen; onions; garlic; kale; as well as green and black tea; various herbal teas; and coffee.

Incorporating these nutrients isn’t intended to function as a “cure” for mental illness, but it can be a starting point for improved physical and mental health.

In our goal of supporting whole people in their unique health journey, we recommend a discussion about diet and nutrition as the starting point in conversations about mental health, just as it is for physical health.

To schedule a visit with one of our providers, please contact us at 503-287-4970



Omega-3 fatty acids in psychiatry. Mischoulon D., Freeman, M. Psychiatr Clin North Am. 2013 Mar;36(1):15-23. doi: 10.1016/j.psc.2012.12.002.,

Nutritional medicine as mainstream in psychiatry. Jerome Sarris, PHD. Lancet. 2015. Mar:2(3), p271–274. DOI:

Broad-spectrum micronutrient formulas for the treatment of psychiatric symptoms: a systematic review. Rucklidge, JJ, Kaplan BJ. Expert Rev Neurother. 2013 Jan;13(1):49-73. doi: 10.1586/ern.12.143.

The Seven Nutrients Important for Mental Health. Jerome Sarris, PhD. MPR. October 15, 2015. 

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Depression: Treatments that go beyond medication

Monday, October 17th, 2011

A number of imbalances in the body or brain could be the cause of depression. At Nature Cures Clinic, we seek to find and change those causes.

October is National Depression Awareness Month. This is a good opportunity to reflect on the treatment for depression that our “health care industry” almost universally utilizes.

Sales of anti-depressant medications brings in around $12 billion in profits annually for the pharmaceutical industry. Approximately 30 million people are currently taking anti-depressant medication in the US alone. But, that is not the only treatment for depression- and  not the right one for everyone.

Naturopathic treatment approaches to depression shed light on causes instead of masking symptoms with meds.

We support a more holistic approach to treating and supporting you through depression that includes looking into the cause, while finding the best solution for your specific needs.

Through longer patient visits, collaboration amongst our providers, we look at the “whole you” to formulate a plan of support.

And that includes our belief that diet and nutrition play a profound role in health generally and in the regulation of mood in particular. Dietary excesses of some foods deplete serotonin and dopamine, the brain chemicals associated with feeling good. Likewise, lack of specific nutrients can have profound effects on the body’s ability to maintain optimal function of the nervous system. Simply correcting these issues can lead to dramatic improvements in symptoms.

A much larger issue is the way in which our society has turned circumstantial feelings of sadness, grief, isolation or hopelessness into a diagnosis that requires medication to manage. When individuals experience profound loss, or feel trapped in relationships or jobs, or are unable to resolve past traumas, medications to mask those valid emotions are not addressing the cause of the depression.

Our approach to depression utilizes a comprehensive understanding of the history and circumstances that contribute to the depression. It can involve lab testing to determine metabolic imbalances. It will virtually always involve a close look at nutrition and the ways in which eating habits might be contributing to the ongoing symptoms. It can include recommendations for regular exercise, because that is a therapy that has been consistently found to relieve depression as well as medications. And yes, it can include a standard pharmaceutical Rx, if that is appropriate for you.

There are many reasons that any given person might experience depression. Treating depression can only be done if the underlying cause is understood as clearly as possible, and therapies are used to re-establish balance in an individual’s life.

During National Depression Awareness Month, those who feel they may have depression should seek out a naturopathic physician. The most important thing to know about depression is that it is not simply a chemical imbalance in the brain that requires medication to correct. Depression is a dynamic relationship between an individual, their lifestyle, their circumstances and their way of thinking about their life. In the context of a naturopathic treatment plan, all of these factors are addressed to optimize an individual’s full capacity for optimum wellness.




Image courtesy:  TheAlieness GiselaGiardino

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Breaking the Stress Habit

Friday, July 15th, 2011

Well, summer is finally here. That means everyone is feeling healthy, happy and very relaxed, right? The sun is certainly nice to see.

However, if you’re like most people you still have your stressful life happening, there’s just no rain to blame for your state of mind. In fact, stress isn’t just a sideline health issue.

Estimates vary, but stress-related absenteeism from work costs employers billions of dollars annually. And while the societal cost is enormous, the toll it takes on each individual is, in many ways, beyond measure.Stress degrades our physical health, our emotional wellbeing, our relationships, and our ability to concentrate and recall information.

The typical approach to combating stress is through various kinds of stress management. This can include activities that range from vigorous exercise to quietly working in the garden. And such activities can certainly work to provide islands of relaxation in an otherwise tense life.

The problem with these approaches is not that they can’t reduce stress. The problem is that they acknowledge the reality of stress in the first place. Stress is an internal state, not an external one. There is no stress “out there” in the world. Rather, stress is in our *thoughts about* the world out there.

Thus, if we ever hope to actually reduce our experience of
stress in a lasting way, it can only be by changing how we think about our world. Stress management is thought management, and stress is a decision we make each moment we continue to feel it. It’s the decision – either conscious or unconscious – to continue the thought that’s causing stress in that moment. This is an uncomfortable truth, and in fact many people simply can’t accept it. “…but my job *is* stressful,” “…but my finances *make* me worry,” and on and on the list goes.

As long as we believe that stress is something that happens *to* us, rather than something caused *by* us, we’ve relinquished control over it. Changing how we think about our world is a much more daunting task than, say, going to the gym.

Changing how we think is not a decision we can make first thing in the morning: “Today I’m not going to let myself get angry at my boss.” Such a one-time vow is guaranteed to be broken, and is sure to leave you feeling even worse about yourself at the end of the day for having failed at your goal.

Breaking a stressful pattern of thinking is a decision that has to be made constantly, throughout the day, even several times *each minute*. We each have to interrupt that crazy fictional story that is playing in our head, stopping it over and over. Each time we interrupt it and bring our awareness back to what we’re actually doing in that moment (“I’m standing on the floor, I can hear people talking, I can feel the pen behind my ear, etc.), we create some emotional distance between ourselves and that stressful story.

Over time and after *hundreds* or even thousands of intentional interruptions of that story, we are able to see it as just a story. It seems like a lot of practice before seeing results, but what is your option? Going through life stressed by some internal story you can’t get to stop?

In doing this practice we also find that we’re spending much more of our time and awareness in the present moment of our lives as we’re living it, rather than spending it lost in that stressful story while our lives pass us by. Here is a simplified version of a practice that I have many patients do to help create that emotional distance from their anxious, depressing or stressful thoughts.

Thought control in 3 easy steps: 1) As often as you can remind yourself to do it, STOP what you’re thinking about. Literally, just stop. To assist you, set up a timer on your phone to “remind” you with a buzz every 20 minutes or so. As soon as it buzzes, interrupt whatever train of thought you were in at that moment. 2) CLASSIFY that thought, using very broad categories: “That was about me feeling incompetent.” “That was about me arguing with someone.” “That was about me thinking I’m stupid for some reason.” Etc. Whatever categories work for you.

The point of this step is to bring your awareness back to the present. Simply start narrating (to yourself, of course) what your immediate experience is, “I’m sitting at my desk, I can hear the cars outside, I feel a slight breeze on my arms, etc.” Keep the narration going as long as you can.

Remember, this moment is your reality, the life you’re actually living. If you are like everyone else, you’ll stick with that present-moment narration for maybe 20 seconds, then you’ll get lost in your stressful story again. That’s just fine. In 20 minutes, your buzzer will remind you to do it all over again. Repeat that exercise, every 20 minutes you are awake, for the rest of your life.  

Image courtesy Lululemonathletica

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The Naturopathic Approach to Adrenal Fatigue

Friday, December 5th, 2008

Listen to: Adrenal Fatigue Podcast

Dr. Eckel and Dr. Nigh discuss these small, but powerful glands in your body that are essential for life, health and vitality.  If you are experiencing adrenal fatigue, the doctors will explain the naturopathic approach they would take through things like lifestyle modifications that will reduce the amount of stress on your body, ultimately taking the burden off your adrenal gland and allowing it to heal.

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Naturopathic Approach to Seasonal Affective Disorder

Thursday, November 1st, 2007

Listen to Naturopathic Approach to Seasonal Affective Disorder

In this podcast, Portland naturopathic doctors, Dr. Greg Eckel and Dr. Greg Nigh talk about what the disorder is, but questioning whether the patient’s symptoms are really attributed to that or could it be something else?  From a naturopathic approach, they will explain to you what they will be looking at in a patient.  Symptoms can be a result of too much stress, nutritional deficiencies, or other factors that can be treated naturally.

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Naturopathic Views on Bi-polar Disorder

Thursday, October 4th, 2007

Listen to Naturopathic Views on Bi-polar Disorder

In this podcast, Portland naturopathic doctors, Dr. Greg Eckel and Dr. Greg Nigh discuss their views on a Bi-polar disorder diagnosis.  They’ll talk about how they think that many people are misdiagnosed because their symptoms have to be thrown into some diagnosis with a name by their physician.  The doctors discuss some naturopathic approaches that can be tried on patients who are presenting with the symptoms that are being thrown into the categories that fall under “Bi-polar disorder”.

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Training the Brain with Neurofeedback

Thursday, July 6th, 2006

In this podcast, Portland naturopathic doctors, Dr. Greg Eckel and colleagues discuss a therapy technique called Neurofeedback.  They explain to you what it is and how it works.  They’ll also go into detail about what types of disorders it has shown to effectively treat, such as ADD/ADHD, epilepsy, depression, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injuries.

Listen to Neurofeedback Podcast


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The Naturopathic Approach to Stress

Friday, January 6th, 2006

Listen to Stress Podcast

In this podcast, Nature Cures Clinic founder, Dr. Greg Eckel and colleagues discuss stress and the specific physiological damage that it can do to your body.  They’ll discuss why our body produces stress, as well as the difference between what can be good stress and what is bad stress.  They talk about stress triggers and what we can do to address these triggers and therefore minimize the stress in your life.

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Naturopathic Approach to Depression

Friday, October 28th, 2005

Listen to Depression Podcast

In this podcast, Nature Cures Clinic founder, Dr. Greg Eckel and colleagues discuss depression and the issues that are associated with it.  They’ll discuss the conventional way of treating depression, which is usually with a prescription, which may do more damage in the long run.  But is it a disease or is it a symptom of something else that may be going on?  They will then tell you what the naturopathic way of treating depression is, which includes a comprehensive plan, much of what the patient can implement on their own.

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