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Vitamin D, what it is, how do I get it & what does it do?

Monday, December 12th, 2016

According to a 2012 study, nearly 50% of the worldwide population is deficient in “Vitamin D” ( 25-hydroxy-Vitamin D or calcidiol), which is technically not a vitamin at all, but is a “pre-hormone”, a biologically inactive glandular secretory product, having little or no biologic activity, that is converted to an active hormone.

Vitamin D is produced in the skin through direct UV light from the sun. Through complex enzymatic processes, it is converted into its usable form.

So why are so many people deficient in it? The authors of that 2012 study attributed deficiency to lifestyle -ie reduced outdoor activities- and environmental effects that reduce exposure to sunlight (like air pollution). Access is another limiting factor, those living north of the latitude of Boston,MA (~40 N) don’t get enough UV light exposure from the sun for vitamin D synthesis through the months of November to early March.

So how else can you get Vitamin D? It can also be consumed in the diet, although very few foods naturally contain vitamin D- fatty fish (mackerel, salmon, sardines), fish liver oils, and eggs from hens that have been fed vitamin D or milk that has been fortified with it. Or, you can supplement with it.

Once consumed or synthesized, vitamin D enters the circulation and is transported to the liver where it is converted to form 25-hydroxyvitamin D (calcidiol; 25-hydroxyvitamin D). This is the major circulating form of vitamin D and a useful indicator of vitamin D nutritional status. This is the form of Vitamin D that is tested in blood tests.

Once active Vitamin D is in our systems, it plays many valuable roles (see Clinical Benefits below) and deficiency can result in a host of symptoms, including muscle weakness and pain, fatigue, painful menses, bone malformation, osteoporosis, chronic illness, diabetes, hypertension, autoimmune diseases and cancer.

To find out if you have adequate Vitamin D levels, make an appointment to come in today. Too often the vague symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency go ignored.

From Nair & Maseeh’s 2012 article in the Journal of Pharmacology & Pharmacotherapeutics

Clinical Benefits of Vitamin D:

Cancer: Vitamin D decreases cell proliferation and increases cell differentiation, stops the growth of new blood vessels, and has significant anti-inflammatory effects. While it may be too soon to say Vitamin D alone is a cancer fighter, we do know it has a role in preventing cell changes that too often contribute to cancer development.

Heart disease & Type 2 diabetes: there is growing evidence that the protective effect of vitamin D on the heart could be via the renin–angiotensin hormone system, through the suppression of inflammation, or directly on the cells of the heart and blood-vessel walls, playing a role in preventing heart disease, hypertension and blood pressure & insulin regulation.

Obesity Low concentrations of circulating vitamin D are common with obesity and may represent a potential mechanism explaining the elevated risk of certain cancers and cardiovascular outcomes.

Depression A Norwegian trial of overweight subjects showed that those receiving a high dose of vitamin D had a significant improvement in depressive symptom scale scores after 1 year versus those receiving placebo.

Cognitive impairment Low levels of 25(OH)D may be especially harmful to executive functions. In an Italian population-based study, low levels of vitamin D were associated with substantial cognitive decline in the elderly population studied during a 6-year period.

Parkinson’s disease Parkinson’s disease is a major cause of disability in the elderly population. Unfortunately, risk factors for this disease are relatively unknown. Recently, it has been suggested that chronically inadequate vitamin D intake may play a significant role in the pathogenesis of Parkinson’s disease.

Fractures and falls Vitamin D is known to help the body absorb calcium, and many studies have shown an association between low vitamin D concentrations and an increased risk of fractures and falls in older adults.Supplementation with about 800 IU of vitamin D per day reduced hip and nonspinal fractures by about 20%. USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University have examined the best trials of vitamin D versus placebo for falls. Their conclusion is that “fall risk reduction begins at 700 IU and increases progressively with higher doses”

Autoimmune diseases deficiency can contribute to autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS), type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and autoimmune thyroid disease.

Influenza  in the winter months vitamin D deficiency may be the seasonal stimulus that triggers influenza outbreaks in the winter

Pelvic floor disorders The frequency of Pelvic floor disorders, including urinary and fecal incontinence, is increasing with age. Pelvic floor disorders have been linked to osteoporosis and low BMD and remain one of the most common reasons for gynaecologic surgery, with a failure rate of 30%. Subnormal levels of 25(OH)D are common among women, and lower levels are associated with a higher likelihood of pelvic floor disorders.

Age-related macular regeneration High vitamin D blood levels appear to be associated with a decreased risk for the development of early age-related macular degeneration (AMD) among women younger than 75 years

Schedule Today to have your Vitamin D levels checked today:



Nair, R., Maseeh,A. “Vitamin D: The “sunshine” vitamin”. J Pharmacol Pharmacother. 2012 Apr-Jun; 3(2): 118–126.

OSU. Linus Pauling Institute. Micronutrient Center: Vitamin D



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Omega 3 Fatty Acids: Why so Essential?

Monday, October 19th, 2015

As integrated medical care providers, we are often asked by patients how to optimize their health through what we like to call “food as medicine”. One of the most common questions we get is “What are essential fatty acids and why are they so important for optimal health? “

Essential fatty acids are also know as healthy fats, and they are necessary components for our health. We need healthy fats in our diet to support proper cell function, reduce inflammation, increase heart health, help to control insulin and blood glucose levels, support positive mood and behavior, and more.

Popular culture, fad diets and modern media have turned “fat” into the enemy, proclaiming it is the reason obesity is on the rise in the US, and blaming heart disease (almost entirely) on it.

Oddly enough, we now know that  intake of “good fat” not only does NOT cause obesity (as compared to processed sugar and carbohydrate intake), it is key to helping heart heath!

“Good fat” or “healthy fat” are essential fats like omega-3 fatty acid and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA).  There is great evidence to support omega-3 fatty acids help lower triglycerides, inflammation, reduced risk of sudden heart failure, decrease the risk of heart disease, lower blood pressure, AND improve joint stiffness and immune system function in people with rheumatoid arthritis. Healthy fats may also improve insulin resistance, and further research is showing potential anti-cancer properties.

Why does fat have such a bad reputation?

It is important to note that not all fats are created equally. Two of the most valuable types of fat for the human body are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, like omega-3 fatty acid and CLA. Other types of fats, such as saturated and trans fats, are less valuable for health and should be eaten more sparingly or eliminated. These fats are linked to diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

Which foods contain healthy fats?

Many of the healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acid and CLA cannot be made in the body, hence why we call them essential fatty acids and why we must eat adequate amounts in our diet to meet our daily needs.

These are some of the most nutrient dense healthy fat sources:

  • Monounsaturated fats- hazelnuts, avocado, olive oil, peanuts
  • CLA- grass-fed beef, grass-fed milks, grass-fed cheese
  • Omega-3 fatty acid- salmon, tuna, walnuts, flaxseed

Eating a diet rich in these healthy fats can be extremely beneficial to your health. Do not forget though that an excess of any food (and most other things in life too!) can be detrimental to the body’s natural equilibrium, so make sure you are eating a balanced diet rich in all food groups.

For more information on how and how much ‘good fat’ to integrate into your diet from our Integrated medical team, schedule a visit today at 503-287-4970


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Supplement use in Healthcare

Monday, October 5th, 2015

It is widely accepted- and true- that there can be health benefits with dietary additions, vitamin & mineral supplements and nutraceuticals. Yet, if you get online you’ll find there is no shortage of claims and advertisements on them as ‘miracle’ cures

Often times, people feel like they have to navigate this information all by themselves because they don’t have anyone on their health team that is knowledgeable (or has the time) to offer insight, support or recommendations specific to their needs.

While it can be easy to try things bought online or at natural food stores with a “see what happens” approach, doing so can actually be challenging (and occasionally dangerous) to your health. This is because what’s right for you & your health situation might be much different from what might be right for someone else. Alternatively, what the product might do in some situations and physical environments, may be very different from what it does in yours.

Simply knowing about the reported health benefits of a product, supplement, vitamin or nutraceutical isn’t enough to know if it will be beneficial (or harmful) to you.  As an example, supplemental iron can be lifesaving for someone with iron-deficiency anemia. For someone else, supplemental iron can be toxic (and even lethal). Another example is melatonin. Many people use it as a sleeping aid, but did you know that for many people the effective dosages of melatonin differ and that too much can have side effects?

That’s why it really is important to have someone on your health team that understands supplements AND your health.

As an integrated clinic, ALL the providers at Nature Cures Clinic are educated on standard and alternative therapies, including common supplements. We make the time to discuss your diet, review your supplements (including vitamins, minerals and nutraceuticals), suggest supplementation when appropriate and support you in learning more about what you are taking, why you are taking it, and how what you are taking impacts your health, including your long-term health goals.

Check out our article “Five Tips to using supplements” 

If you are looking for a truly integrated approach to health care, with providers knowledgeable about supplements and willing to spend time assisting you in navigating them, give us a call today:  503-287-4970. Most major insurances accepted.

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Five Tips to using supplements

Monday, September 28th, 2015

As Integrative health care providers, we are well versed in both standard and natural medicine and recognize the value (and dangers) of self-treatment with supplements.

Frequently, our patients ask us to share insight on how to navigate the confusing world of supplements. In answer to these requests, here are our top 5 things for consumers to consider when using supplements.

1) Quality:

Not all supplements are created equally. With the financial incentives of selling supplements online and in many grocery, specialty and health food stores, lesser quality products are in wide distribution and there are few safety regulations ensuring that what is advertised is actually in the bottle at the dosages listed. Add to that the frequent presence of fillers (those ingredients listed as “other”) that too often contain hidden items like coloring agents, flow agents, and run the risk of heavy metal contaminants. Knowing which are high-quality brands is essential, but finding out which brands fit this description can be challenging. Reputable producers of supplements have had 3rd party assay’s to verify their contents, but often even this information is challenging to find. Remember, if you are getting your supplements from anyone but your health care provider, be a smart consumer and “Buyer Beware”.

2) Safety:

The perception that “natural” equals “safe” fails to recognize that there are many natural things that are quite safe for some, while dangerous for others. Some supplements interact with pharmaceutical medications, some interact with other supplements and some interact with both! When you are looking for a supplement, review all the ingredients and ensure your familiarity with & safety of what you are taking. If you don’t know, don’t recognize or are unsure about an ingredient in your supplement or nutraceutical don’t continue taking it until you’ve discussed it with a knowledgeable health care professional.

3) Dosage:

Often supplements contain a ‘laundry list’ of the most popular or most talked about items of the day. This can quickly result in a long list of ingredients, too often at less than effective dosages. When taking a supplement, the point is to be getting an effective dose. This means the amount in the supplement and the body’s ability to absorb enough of it, need to be at a dosage recognized as effective to create the desired outcome.  If you don’t know what the ideal dosages for you are, or you are unsure what the absorbed dosage of your supplement is, you should discuss it with a knowledgeable health care professional.

4) Quantity:

In our culture, often the perception is that if a small amount is good a large amount is better. This is absolutely not the case in medicine. Taking more than the recommended dosage of a supplement is not better, and in fact, could be quite dangerous. Like other forms of medication, (yes, we view supplements as medications!) some supplements are toxic at higher dosages. For example, Vitamin B6 (which helps form hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in your blood) at elevated dosages can cause weakness, numbness and pain to your hands and feet.

5) Over-supplementation:

Taking too many supplements, vitamins, minerals and/or nutraceuticals can cause a variety of problems. Frequently, people begin taking a supplement (or several) that they’ve heard or read about being beneficial for a specific concern.  Over time, they add to those supplements ones that they have heard worked for other people. A few days or weeks/months pass and someone may suggest adding in yet something else. Before you even realize it, you are taking a handful (or more) of supplements a day. The risks associated with doing so are varied, but they are real. Taking too many supplements can ‘muddy the water’ of your health. Side effects can be caused by interactions between supplements. They can mask underlying health issues, create real health issues, including causing lab abnormalities and strange symptoms. How many supplements are “too many”? The answer varies by patient, provider, and the types of supplementation. But generally speaking, if you are taking more than 6-8 supplements (including vitamins, minerals, nutraceuticals) daily, you are likely taking too many. Consult with a knowledgeable health care provider about your unique concerns.

For more information about supplements, vitamins, minerals and nutraceuticals, consult with one of our integrated medical providers: 503-287-4970.

Most major insurance accepted.

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Vitamin D

Monday, November 10th, 2014

Vitamin D Debacle
We have heard a lot of questions this week concerning the recently released Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) ‘new and improved’ recommendations for vitamin D and calcium intake.  While the Institute’s recommendations about calcium seem to be agreed upon by most, the recommendations released for vitamin D have caused quite a stir in groups of health care providers across the country.
To begin with, let’s review what Vitamin D does for us.  Whether through dietary intake or good old sunshine, once active Vitamin D has gotten into our systems, it plays a very valuable role.  Our immune system is greatly influenced by D, to the tune of increased and enhanced immune cell function. Vitamin D also assists with the very intricate regulation of calcium in the body— so without it, calcium cannot be absorbed nor integrated into our bones, therefore decreasing the integrity of our skeletal system (which, as it turns out, is actually pretty important to us).   The uncontrolled dividing of cells (AKA: rapid proliferation) and lack of cellular differentiation, which leads to the formation of cancers in the body, can be halted by the active form of Vitamin D.  It also plays a role in blood pressure regulation and insulin secretion as well as a host of other functions.  (To find out more, read a little here:
The actual IOM report is quite a tome, weighing in at total of 990 pages long.  (If you have a free weekend, take a gander for yourself:  To be honest, I did NOT comb through all 1000 of the research articles that the IOM used in its decision making process.  Here are the basics: They have raised the suggested daily intake from 400 to 600 IUs of Vitamin D.
The other half of the research is focused on the suggested calcium supplement intakes (Not taking into account food-based calcium, how you prepare that food and what types of foods….).  At the end of it all, the researchers are saying that the recommended intake is 600 IUs (800 in the elderly, 400 in wee ones), but the upper tolerable limit, where “the risk of harm increases,” is 4,000 IU per day.  I feel that the intake recommendations are overly conservative, and quite limiting in light of the potential benefits that Vitamin D can offer.
The IOM is also recommending that threshold for Vitamin D testing be at the 20 ng/ml level. We generally like to see the levels around 80 ng/mls, but most people in the Northwest clock in around 20-30 on an initial screen.  Many of the studies quoted and used to formulate the new recommendations are based in toxicity studies.   It looks like the toxicity studies that they used for adults all included doses of Vit D of 100,000 to 150,000 IUs of Vitamin D a day for anywhere from 3-4 weeks to several years years….increasing the blood levels up anywhere from 150 to the 1000’s.  This is way too high! Other studies used are based off of cases of accidental over-fortification, which is very different than the supplemental Vitamin D that our patients have come to know and love.   Overall, not the most convincing body of evidence to base new lab levels on.
The best rebuttal to the statements made in the research came from the Vitamin D Council.  Here is that link:
It is fairly humorous and mildly thick with disgust for claimed data mis-interpretation and deletion that is in the IOM statement.  Here are the salient response jabs:
–“After 13 year of silence, the quasi governmental agency, the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) Food and Nutrition Board (FNB), today recommended that a three-pound premature infant take virtually the same amount of Vitamin D as a 300 pound pregnant woman.”
–“As a single, 30 minute dose of summer sunshine gives adults more than 10,000 IU (250 micrograms), the FNB is apparently also warning that natural Vitamin D input — as occurred from the sun before the widespread use of sunscreen — is dangerous. That is, the FNB is implying that God does not know what she is doing.”
–“Today, the FNB has failed millions of pregnant women whose as yet unborn babies will pay the price. Let us hope the FNB will comply with the spirit of “transparency” by quickly responding to our Freedom of Information requests.”
Another great article was on the Huffington Post by Dr. David Katz, whose work I generally enjoy and his articles seem to have a good enough natural-based-bent to them.–andcalcium-shouldwe–becautious_b_789842.html
His summary is as follows:
“Calcium and vitamin D are important nutrients. As with all nutrients, enough is good — too little or too much is bad. The IOM invokes the precautionary principle to offer recommendations that are reasonable, and willfully conservative. But a relative absence of evidence means that guidance is as much about judgment as science.”
I think at the end of it all, what I am falling back on is that checking patients’ blood levels, like any therapy we initiate, is key.  Yes, 5,000 to 10,000 IUs of Vitamin D for YEARS and YEARS might be too much (again, not enough data to support or negate).
But keeping people on 1000 to 4000 daily as a maintenance dose (and, of course, using higher doses when clinically needed) while keeping blood levels in check, is JUST FINE.
Especially in Portland, where our 2 months of partial sun in 2010 has us all a little cranky and seasonally affected.

We often hear questions concerning the ‘new and improved’ recommendations for Vitamin D and Calcium intake (from the Institute of Medicine) .  While the Institute’s recommendations about Calcium seem to be agreed upon by most, the recommendations released for Vitamin D have caused quite a stir in groups of health care providers across the country.


The actual IOM report is quite dense and a total of 990 pages long.  (If you have a free weekend, take a gander for yourself.)  To be honest, I did NOT comb through all 100 of the research articles that the IOM used to make its recommendations.  But here are the basic recommendations:

Raise the suggested daily intake from 400 to 600 IUs of Vitamin D. The other half of the research is focused on the suggested Calcium supplement intakes (Not taking into account food-based Calcium, how you prepare that food and what types of foods…).  At the end of it all, the researchers are saying that the recommended intake is 600 IUs (800 in the elderly, 400 in wee ones), but the upper tolerable limit, where “the risk of harm increases,” is 4,000 IU per day.  I feel that the intake recommendations are overly conservative, and quite limiting in light of the potential benefits that Vitamin D can offer.

The IOM is also recommending that threshold for Vitamin D testing be at the 20 ng/ml level. We generally like to see the levels around 80 ng/mls, but most people in the Northwest clock in around 20-30 on an initial screen.

Many of the studies quoted and used to formulate the new recommendations are based in toxicity studies.   It looks like the toxicity studies that they used for adults all included doses of Vit D of 100,000 to 150,000 IUs of Vitamin D a day for anywhere from 3-4 weeks to several years… increasing the blood levels to anywhere from 150 to the 1000’s.  This is way too high and clearly excessive supplementation!

Other studies used are based off of cases of accidental over-fortification, which is very different than the supplemental Vitamin D that our patients have come to know and love.

Another interesting article on the topic came from a Huffington Post contributor, from Dr. David Katz, whose work I generally enjoy and whose articles seem to have a natural-based-bent to them.

“Calcium and vitamin D are important nutrients. As with all nutrients, enough is good — too little or too much is bad. The IOM invokes the precautionary principle to offer recommendations that are reasonable, and willfully conservative. But a relative absence of evidence means that guidance is as much about judgment as science.”

I think at the end of it all, what I am falling back on is that checking patients’ blood levels, like any therapy we initiate, is key.

Clearly, 5,000 to 10,000 IUs of Vitamin D for extended periods of time (YEARS and YEARS) or in the presence of naturally high blood levels is likely too much (although, the data to support or negate has yet to be generated sufficiently).

However, across the upper latitudes (Oregon, Washington, Canada, Norway, Sweden, etc..) providers have found 1000 to 4000 IU daily as a maintenance dose (and, of course, using higher/lower doses when clinically indicated) does not result in unusually elevated blood levels.

The key, then is making sure that you are supplementing under the care of a provider who evaluates your Vitamin D blood levels as indicated and supports you in making informed decisions to optimize your health.

Getting your Vitamin D levels checked should be part of every person’s winter health regimen. If you haven’t been tested this year, call the clinic today at (503) 287-4970, or email for an appointment.

Image courtesy: SeanMcGrath

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Health Savings Account: Use it or Lose it

Friday, November 7th, 2014

     Well it’s that time of year again.  We are in the final countdown to years end (I can’t believe we are in November already!)  with all kinds of healthcare changes.  Perhaps you’ve met your deductible, your out of pocket max or you have a flex spending or health savings account that doesn’t roll over.  Now is the time to take care of your health (and use those dollars you have put aside for yourself).

     We are heading into the dark months and the holidays, now is the time to get ahead of the game.  Come in and get your health evaluated, get a plan to keep the holiday weight off, get established on an exercise plan, get your blood work evaluated, you get the picture, come in!

As I’m sure you’ve read, we have welcomed Sarieah Macdonald, CNM into our practice.  I am really excited to be offering truly integrative care.  I’ve always talked about patient centered care, were east meets west, we’ve got it all under one roof here at Nature Cures!

With the holidays approaching the office will be closed on Thanksgiving and the day after, additionally we will be closed Wednesday December 25th through Tuesday January 2nd.  We have a lot in store for you in this next year, why not get started now.  Come in and use it or lose it, deductibles renew next year, get that work done now.

Come in for a complimentary consult and discuss what your health concerns or goals are and let’s see if what we do may be helpful for you and your health concern!



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“Where did this egg come from?” How to source eggs 101

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

The other day one of our patients here at the clinic said to me “how do I know what is actually good for me to be eating – I mean, what’s the difference between a pastured egg and a cage-free one? And, is organic really important….and is an organic chicken better than a free-range one? And, how can I understand grain-finishing on my beef…I’M SO CONFUSED!”

Fair enough.  Some Portlanders might scoff and say “duh” to some of these questions – but they’re valid questions for so many who are awakening to the understanding that it really does matter where your food comes from and what it’s been eating before you eat it – including your vegetables!  (Pesticides and fertilizers become part of what you’re ingesting just as much corn becomes part of the cow.)

So – in response to her request – here is a brief overview of how to source eggs and understand the difference when shopping.

I think that eggs should be kept in the meat department as they are not a dairy product!  I suppose because they’re sold next to the milk and yogurt they’ve become related in some way – but they truly are not the same category.

When buying eggs – the fresher the better. (That goes for almost anything really – except perhaps wine…). A nutritious egg will have a good tough shell around it, will stand up tall when you break it out of it’s shell and will have a deeply yellowish orange yolk.

Pastured vs. cage free: Choose eggs that are from pastured hens.  The difference between a “pastured” hen and a “cage-free” hen comes down to a matter of choice.  Cage-free hens are allowed outside for a certain amount of time each day – I’ve heard as small amount of time as five minutes per day is considered cage-free by USDA standards.

A pastured hen is one that exercises free will in it’s coming and going.  It’s allowed to run around the farm doing it’s thing of eating bugs, picking things out of manure piles, pulling worms out of the ground and ingesting all the good things that make their eggs so nutrient dense.

Commercial operations are normally not the setting for this roaming activity as they are highly regulated, production oriented facilities.  The poly-cultural farm setting is ideal – buying from a local farm that you know and trust.  However, we live in a great area and there are several egg producers that are raising hens in a pastured setting while creating economic strength for their industry.  A local operation that does a good job is Champoeg Farm where you can read all about how their birds are raised and housed on their informative website.


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Snacks or Treats? Heading Back to the After School Dilemma

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

School is just about to start up again and one of the questions I hear often is “what’s a good and easy after school snack I can feed my children?”

Good question.

First off, let’s define what a “snack” is…. words it as;

a small portion of food or drink or a light meal, especially one eaten between regular meals.

Now, let’s look at what a “treat” is….

entertainment, food, drink, etc., given by way of compliment or as an expression of friendly regard.

The reason I’m looking at the distinction between these terms is that we’ve gotten caught up in serving “treats” as “snacks” these days and believe it or not – too  much of a good thing is no longer a good thing!  Even if we’re talking grain-free, nut flour based, date sweetened, raw, organic, dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free, corn-free, etc., etc., etc….  Getting our kids hooked on these paleo-blessed treats will land them in a similar space as eating any snack foods.  Under nourished and full of cravings.

A good after school snack should consist of the same healthy ingredients a proper meal would deliver – good fat, protein and carbohydrate from vegetables or fruit.  Sourcing is just as important here so always buy fresh, organic, grass-fed and whole foods.  One of the best ways to avoid bad snacking is to just not keep bad snacks in the house!  Fresh fruit, pre-prepared veggies, lunch meats, nuts & seeds, and the occasional grain-free muffin are essentials for a kid’s grab-and-go lifestyle!  The following are some examples of tasty and nutritious snacks:

Sliced apple with nut butter
Celery stalks with nut butter and dried fruit (the old “ants on a log” idea)
Avocado with a spoon!
Salmon Jerky
Roasted veggies – beets, carrots, butternut squash cubes make wonderful sweet snacks
Dried fruit
Plain yogurt with berries and a squeeze of raw honey or maple syrup
Kefir “milkshakes” – blended with frozen berries
Hummus and cucumber slices


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Why Urban Gardening?

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

Many people are shocked when they learn that most food travels an average of 1,500 miles in order to get to our table.  In the case of fruits and veggies, many are ripening en-route, on the back of an eighteen wheeler.

When raising chickens, goats, or growing fruits and veggies, you know where your food is coming from, that it is free from commercial processing and dangerous chemicals, and is packed with nutrients having been harvested only moments ago.

While an urban garden may seem too laborious, remember you can start simple. Try planting some herbs in your kitchen window.  Once you have proven to yourself that it is easier than you thought, try taking a few extra steps out your door and into your yard — find the sun, grab a shovel, and dig.  If you fall in love with urban farming, begin composting and keeping chickens, and you will soon find that the garden becomes rather self-sustaining.

There are many great resources for anyone ready to embark on growing your own food, because really, urban gardening has become downright sexy. It is awesome because people are opening their minds about food quality and flavor, their health, the health of the earth – all of which collide right in their backyard.

Until then, remember your local farmers market, CSA, and hey, maybe even your neighbor.

With spring upon us, I am inspired to get my own hands dirty; to dip into the cool soil, pull some weeds – so satisfying when the earth is wet and loose from spring rain – and wake with a familiar stiffness that comes with a big day in the garden. Lola and I have been discussing what we are going to plant this year, considering what will be extra “tasty”.  While recounting last season’s bounty, she recently proclaimed, licking her chops and rolling her big brown eyes, “Oh those raspberries, the cucumbers, the beets, and what about the juicy tomatoes!”

Resources to get you started:
Guerrilla Gardening” by David Tracey
Garden Anywhere” by Alys Fowler
“The Edible Garden” by Alys Fowler…/chickens.php

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“15-minute doctor visits take a toll on patient-physician relationships”

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

So is the title of a recent PBS News Hour article underwritten by Kaiser Health News .

And it  couldn’t be more true.

“By all accounts, short visits take a toll on the doctor-patient relationship, which is considered a key ingredient of good care, and may represent a missed opportunity for getting patients more actively involved in their own health. There is less of a dialogue between patient and doctor, studies show, increasing the odds patients will leave the office frustrated.”

As more and more people are beginning to realize, modern medicine’s current model of 15 minute visits (which became wide-spread in the early 1990’s) simply does not serve anyone.  Not patients. Not providers. Nobody.

crazy-mom-300x211Particularly telling are the studies mentioned in the article,  of family physician practices finding that doctors let patients speak for only 12- 23 seconds before redirecting them, with only one in four patients finishing their statement.

How can anyone possibly truly help you if there isn’t time or space to listen to what’s wrong?

Hearing about studies like this, I am deeply saddened by the state of healthcare, but I’m not surprised.

As this PBS article goes on to say, “Medical schools drill students in the art of taking a careful medical history, but studies have found doctors often fall short in the listening department. It turns out they have a bad habit of interrupting.”

And interrupting someone when the issue or topic itself is sensitive or emotionally charged, carries with it a weight that can be hard to overcome.

So what is being done about it?

At Nature Cures Clinic, we ARE doing something about it.  Our dedication to helping you 5525048817_c71637e08d_zoptimize your health means we make time to get to know you, talk with you, and perhaps most importantly- listen to you in appointment times that average between 30-45 minutes.

We have prioritized longer patient visits because we believe you need the time to ask your questions and have time to explore the answers, to truly optimize your health and healing.

It is true that in medicine today there exists a very real financial burden on providers to cut time to maximize visits (and costs), but at Nature Cures Clinic we are motivated by more than ‘the bottom line’.

We hope to inspire, listen,  support, and encourage you in optimizing your health.

Nature Cures Clinic, where patients know providers, and providers know your name.

Call today to schedule: 503-287-4970


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Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Will Insurance Cover My Visit?

Several practitioners at Nature Cures Clinic are covered under many insurance policies including: Blue Cross/Blue Shield;  Moda/ODS; Cigna; Pacific Source, First Choice, Aetna.

As an integrated clinic, we have providers whose services are considered ‘standard’ as well as those considered ‘alternative’. As such, we have learned that different plans provide different degrees of coverage and co-pays.

Therefore, we encourage you to check your benefits to determine if the provider you would like to see is ‘In-Network’ or ‘Out-of-Network’ with your insurance provider (check out this article about Understanding Insurance benefits); what your visit(s) co-pay will be; and if any pre-authorization will be needed.

Benefits for coverage may not always be detailed correctly online or in an insurance handbook. Therefore, we ask that patients use our form to call their insurance company so that they receive the most accurate information possible.

To assist you in finding out exactly which of our services your insurance plan may cover and what your financial responsibility would be, please use the following forms when you contact your insurance company:

Using insurance to see: Sarieah Macdonald, NMNP,CNM use this form

Using insurance to see: Greg Eckel, ND, LAc  use this form


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Insurance coverage!

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

Health Insurance.Geesh.

I tell you what, no health care training prepares one for the crazy-making that is insurance companies!

That said, I’m pleased to announce that I am fully IN network with Blue Cross/ Blue Shield; Moda/ODS; Cigna; Pacific Source; Aetna and soon to be with United Health Care!

In the meantime, I have learned that there are certain insurance plans offered by these companies, where they will pay up to 70% for out of network benefits!  Wowzers!

What does that mean for you?

Well, if you have one of these insurances, it means that you can see me just as you would see any other primary care provider.

For those with OUT of network benefits,  it means that you quite likely may have a significant portion of your visit with me covered!

I realize it can be a tough financial decision to choose a provider that you have to pay a little bit more to see, but I also know the cost savings of seeing someone you don’t know, who doesn’t listen to you, or who you don’t feel comfortable with- is rarely worth it.

Nonetheless,  we are doing everything we can to get in network with all the many different insurance companies, to try to remove any barrier impeding your access to the healthcare you deserve.


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Resolutions Need a Boost? Choose Integrative Health Care at Nature Cures Clinic!

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014


2646438199_b309cffd65Isn’t it crazy how fast time seems to pass?  Summer is here then gone – fall and winter blend together and before you know it there are buds coming out on the trees and spring is here!  We think we have all the time in the world because we have 6 months stretched out before us, and then – poof! – it’s gone.  It’s something to think about when you have a summer event coming up that you want to look and feel your best for…say a family reunion? Or a wedding?  Your good health and vibrancy is often a progressive endeavor and to do it right requires desire, discipline and most importantly – time.   The most common cause of stress for people is toxicity in the body.  Environmental pollutants, food allergies, pharmaceutical meds and even too many unnecessary supplements can create significant imbalance in the body resulting in hormone imbalance, brain fog, fatigue, irritability and overall lack of feeling good.  Most of us have experienced these symptoms and have had the thought “I should feel better than this” or commonly “I’m way too young to feel this way.”

You’re right!  And we can help!  But you have to decide to start….

How to start? We recommend that everyone do a supervised liver detoxification at least twice a year. Incorporating Infrared Sauna therapy is a fabulous addition to any detox as a way to remove heavy metals from the body – one of the most effective and pleasant ways to do this!  Further, If you haven’t taken the time to find out what potential food allergies you have then we recommend that as a vital part of any comprehensive detox and weight loss program.  Food intolerance is a major source of imbalance and consequent weight gain – this information is so important!

Finally – and very importantly – you need to know where your opportunities are at the beginning.  Having a thorough health exam by a primary care practitioner should be your number one priority!  We offer a truly integrative health care service by having our own Certified Nurse Midwife in the clinic, Sarieah Macdonald, who will provide you with the foundation of knowledge you need in order to take charge of your health.  If you haven’t been in for awhile or haven’t had blood work, now is the time to schedule in with your provider, we’d love to see you and continue to ensure you are maintaining at optimal wellness.

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Healthy Eating on the Road

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

It’s that time of year again – holidays at the airport, in the hotel, out of the car and the hardest place of all – in other people’s homes!  Well meaning to be sure – but it’s a common lament that “Aunt Harriet” just doesn’t understand gluten intolerance and is crushed that you won’t partake of her 30 year old recipe for Christmas morning sticky buns.  And neither will your children.  Oy.  Eating while traveling – especially for those who need or want to follow specific diets – can be a challenge.  Here are my top tips for staying on track, not offending others, and feeling satisfied while outside of your comfort zone.

Tip #1 – Prepare, prepare, prepare!  Make lists, check them twice – determine which foods are naughty or nice…. ok, I’ll stop there.  But the point is that if you don’t decide ahead of time what to take with you then you’ll be at the mercy of what’s available.  Believe me – I’ve been a victim of the gas station grab & go myself – should it be the Planter’s peanuts roasted in soybean oil? Or, the packaged popcorn made with canola?  Choosing the lesser of two evils is good – but may be unnecessary with the proper planning and packing.  Which leads us to our second tip.

Tip #2 – Choose foods that are appropriate for the type of  traveling you’re doing.  If you’re flying, don’t pack a yogurt that’s apt to get warm and explode in your bag once you reach the 30,000 foot cruising altitude.  However – if you’re not dairy intolerant 😉 –  it may be a good choice if you’re car traveling and have a cooler to keep it fresh.  My favorite airplane foods include raw nuts, dried fruit, olives, hard cheese, rice crackers, avocados and other low glycemic fruits.  I also love the convenience of the nut butters in blister packs that can be used to spread on a few apple slices or just simply eat right out of the package!

Tip #3 – Stick to whole foods when possible.  Our last tip gave some ideas on foods to take along and as you can see – besides the rice crackers – most of them are are natures grab & go’s. I remember a client mentioning to me how tired he was of having to read labels and when I suggested that he buy food without labels his astonished response was “do they make those?”  🙂  Nature does!

Tip #4 – Does it smell?  Be kind to those around you….being enclosed in an airplane when someone starts to peel a boiled egg is certain to cause heads to turn.  Some foods have a higher sulfur content and will definitely leave your seat mates unhappy when you open that snap ware – broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, garlic, onion, potato salad,  hard boiled or deviled eggs are some of the main culprits .  Don’t forget some cheeses like gruyere and swiss are pretty pungent.  And, tuna fish? Save it for home.  Better choices are carrots, celery, radishes, apples, pears, berries and dehydrated snacks.  Even oranges can be bothersome in a closed arena.

Tip #5 – Forgot to prepare?  Plans gone awry?  Relax.  Missing a meal now and again – or even having to make choices between the lesser of two evils will not kill you.  It takes at least 3 weeks for starvation to even begin – and hunger is a long way off from starving.  For those with serious health issues such as celiac disease or anaphylaxis toward certain foods – this blog is not for you.  Preparation is essential.  For the rest of us – remember that what we’re really trying to do is reduce chronic abuse on ourselves by eating on the fly.  A little forethought can make for a very merry, non-bloated holiday travel.  Oh – and don’t forget to drink plenty of good ol’ water!


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Gluten-Free Gravy using Kuzu Root

Thursday, November 14th, 2013

Kuzu root – or otherwise spelled “kudzu” here in the US – is a fast-growing medicinal root that has been used in Asian cooking and healing for centuries.  Well-known for it’s digestive health properties in calming down cramping, diarrhea and intestinal distress, kuzu is also great to use as a thickening agent for sauces, soups and gravies.  Some studies in China have shown that the properties of the flavonoids in kuzu may reduce high blood pressure, regulate blood sugar, help reduce migraine headache pain as well as acute neck and shoulder tension.  So, why not toss out the conventional corn starch or wheat flour to thicken your Thanksgiving gravy this year and add a new item to your culinary medicine chest?  Check out this simple recipe for making healthy, gluten-free gravy for your family.

Kuzu Root Gravy

  • 2 cups stock (if you’re turkey stock is not a full two cups then just add some extra organic stock to bring it to 2 cups.  If you’re vegan or vegetarian you may make this gravy quite easily using vegetable broth)
  • 1 Tablespoon coconut aminos
  • Sea Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 2 1/2 Tablespoons ground kuzu root (I use a mortar and pestle to crush the chunks)

Bring your stock to a boil over high heat then reduce your heat and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.  Dissolve the kuzu root in 3 Tablespoons of warm water.  Using a wire whisk or fork and stirring constantly, slowly pour the dissolved kudzu into the simmering stock, blending well to avoid creating lumps.  If your gravy is too thin simply add some more dissolved kuzu.  If too thick, then thin with extra stock.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Try serving your kuzu root gravy over Roasted Garlic and Cauliflower mash(try this recipe from paleomg – yummy!) as a delicious alternative to traditional mashed potatoes…  and, don’t forget the butter!

Happy, healthy Thanksgiving!



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