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Parenting is hard work. Kids needs are 24/7 and then there’s coordinating the life of a family that can sometimes seem like an impossible puzzle. Without the support of a village modern families face significant challenges to create a peaceful, harmonious start in life for their children.

Our mainstream healthcare systems acknowledge 2 ways to help pediatric mental health. Psychotherapy and medication. Pyschotherapy sessions can involve numerous ways to gain self-awareness and cultivate the self we wish to become. The greatest success is typically seen with a 12 week commitment as a minimum. Working with a therapist is an amazing way to express ourselves in a safe and contained manner. It supports people of all ages to build confidence, develop insight and overcome challenges.

Medication in our western medicine definition includes only pharmaceuticals. SSRI’s, anxiolytics and sedative drugs all have potential for serious complications and side effects. In addition, they interrupt the normal development of the brain that can result in lifelong changes, especially to young people. They can be extremely useful in severe cases but they come with a substantial cost to long-term health.

There is an incredible wealth of knowledge that can be found in traditional systems of healing as well as modern research of natural medicine tools. As a Naturopathic doctor, my training is first and foremost to utilize the simplest substances to promote positive, natural development of the body. From there, we observe the changes to the system and then work to either promote or suppress the imbalances.

Acupuncture is a powerful tool to shift the nervous system from our anxious, fight or flight mode into our calm and relaxed rest and digest mode. Our overall health depends significantly upon the amount of time we spend in the “rest and digest” or parasympathetic state of being. Acupuncture also enhances function of different organs of the body, prescribed in each session based upon the overall balance and imbalance of the individual. While needles are often used, pediatric tools can vary in their impact from tuning forks, simple acupressure, shonishin Japanese acupressure tools and more.

Bodywork tools include a variety of forms of touch that allow the individual to experience comfort and relaxation as well as improved physiology. Comfortable and consentual physical contact with another human being in and of itself shifts our brain activity to be more receptive and promotes a peaceful state of being. Children need touch even more than adults to develop a healthy nervous system.

Herbal medicine and nutritional therapies are intended to be utilized on an every day basis as a way to improve our challenges on a physical, mental and emotional level. There are countless herbs classified as “nervine” herbs which are known to reduce nervous tension in the body. Knowing which foods work well for us and in what combinations is an invaluable part of every day life. Using plants as medicine is fundamental to every traditional culture on our planet. Every species of animal varies their consumption of plant matter to help naturally support their overall health. As human beings, we can benefit greatly from customized herbal and dietary formulas that we use routinely.

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When addressing anxiety and depression symptoms, there is a significant benefit to utilizing thorough neurotransmitter testing prior to treatment with any herbs, supplements and especially drugs. Neurotransmitters are the brains chemical messengers that establish the state of the brains ability to respond to stimuli in a “normal” or typical manner. For example, when we participate in a group activity that is oriented around a cause we care about, serotonin naturally enhances and provides us with a lingering sense of well-being and happiness. But this is just one of the many neurotransmitters orchestrating the mind and mood balance. Knowing which way the balance is tipped when we are not well is the key to knowing how to regain the balance we need.

It is a very unfortunate situation when a person is prescribed a drug that works against the problem they are already having, and then creates a new problem by establishing another imbalance from the drugs side effects. For children, these changes can be permanent. Instead, when we test first, assess the bodies obstacles and support the system naturally we can ensure health will increase with time. Pharmaceuticals may still be helpful, especially when done in a specific individualized manner in conjunction with the tools to help improve the body’s development.

Please visit your local resource at Stillwater Clinic & Apothecary for herbs, vitamins and individual practitioner services to support the healthy balance in your life and your family today. This holiday season, come experience acupuncture/acupressure in our Japanese foot spa for a relaxing experience for all ages.

Part 2: Managing Stress

We all know the feeling, unable to sit still, can’t find the right words, inadvertently scanning for the exit and trying to find the escape. Maybe not even from something we realize but nonetheless the eminent feeling of threat that prevents one from being calm and enjoying a carefree life. In a child or young adult, this un-easiness can be hard to describe. Especially when it may be more normal, everyday experience.

There are countless contributors to anxiety, some very reasonable and some completely obscure. For someone who is living in a threatening relationship getting professional and often legal help is necessary.   If you feel you are in an unsafe situation, there are resources to help you out. One example is the National Domestic Violence Network and can be reached anytime at 1-800-799-7233.

Often, we are not in immediate danger yet there are life circumstances that contribute to our stress levels that allow them to exist at higher levels than we can adequatly deal with. In order for the body to have overall health, it is necessary for stress levels to reduce frequently in order to allow the parasympathetic, or rest and digest aspect of our nervous system to take over. When we live in constant high stress states, our bodies growth and regenerative capacity becomes compromised. We can exist that way for awhile, but it soon catches up and health begins to deteriorate.

Other common contributors to anxiety include stressors that we don’t even seem to notice, yet aggravate our nervous system. For example, constant low level noise is for some people extremely stress producing. Receiving information that we cannot immediately do something about is a significant contributor to modern stress. Hearing the news and not having an action to help mitigate the negativity around it creates an internal stress burden that can be hard to overcome.

Substances we consume, inhale or otherwise absorb can also contribute significantly to stress and a feeling of internal discomfort. This is especially important to identify prior to considering the use of any mind-altering drug to address anxiety issues. If there are internal stressors causing a feeling of uneasiness and anxiety and rather than removing it we alter the brains chemistry to feel good despite it’s irritation, there is no doubt that that irritant will continue to create problems internally and likely contribute to more serious health issues over time.

Given all these contributors to stress, how do we then create a life that doesn’t provoke anxiety? First and foremost for a child, having a safe, quiet and comfortable home to return to is the most important. Having loving relationships to support the trials and tribulations of day to day life help enormously.   Here are other useful tools to consider:

  • Try to avoid excess noise during non-active times
  • Avoid sharing news of the world with children unless there is an immediate action they can take to address it
  • Reduce toxins that can contribute to a stress response in the body
    • Use only natural personal care products; soap, deodorant, laundering
    • Avoid foods with chemical ingredients, especially colors, preservatives and non-food based additives
    • Filter drinking water when in an urban area, and with well water have it tested routinely to ensure it is clean
    • Avoid chemical exposure, especially solvents, combining household chemicals and applications of herbicides, pesticides, paints, stains, etc…
    • Seek out organic produced foods and products for the home
    • Rely on natural medicine to strengthen the body and limit the use of pharmaceutical baesd medicine
  • Ensure a peaceful environment around mealtimes and bed times especially
  • Provide an environment of clear expectation and routine as much as possible
  • Experiment with an anti-inflammatory diet; sugar free, gluten free, dairy free whole foods is an excellent place to start

In a world where natural disasters are an every season reality and horrific news comes across our minds daily, we all need stress management tools to be routine. Children especially need to be taught how to not just endure these times but grow strong enough to change them.

For kids, outdoor imaginative play is one of the most curative things they can do. Given a field of grass, some rocks and logs and most children will restore their native state of bliss. Allowing plenty of unstructured time in their daily routine cannot be compromised. Complaints of boredom are generally a good sign that they’re transitioning from being in the sympathetic (aka fight or flight) mode of being where they follow instructions contstantly to parasympathetic (rest & digest) where they learn to rely on internal motivation and cues to identify what they want.

Teaching children to recognize anxiety or other feelings of stress is an important first step to making change. From there, specific tools such as breathwork and yoga in the moment can make a lifetime of difference. Other times simply taking a hot bath at the end of a stressful day will help the body down regulate stress hormones enough to have the next day be a fresh start.

For help navigating the stressors that are inevitable in life as well as for specific guidance with making changes toward non-toxic living please visit Stillwater Clinic & Apothecary today. If you’re interested in individual testing to determine if there is something in your environment that is aggravating you or a loved one, or in treating anxiety or depression with integrative medicine please schedule an appointment with Dr. Hart today. And for those of you who’ve read this entire article, please come in to Stillwater Clinic & Apothecary for a free relaxation session in our Japanese Foot Spa!

Part 1: Finding the Balance

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With daily topics like global warming, political strife and natural disasters it takes a serious effort for anyone to find peace and inner quiet today. For young people who have grown up in the era of media and technology infiltrating many aspects of their lives, anxiety is commonly an everyday feeling.

Historically, I worked with teens and young adults for issues like acne, headaches, growing pains, hormone balance and eating disorders. Today, every single teen and young adult I know complains of anxiety as a primary challenge. Often with this comes the classic swing of the pendulum of struggling with depression as well.   According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 25% of teens have diagnosable anxiety disorders. This is a significant increase from previous generations and does not include low grade anxiety or social anxiety, which are even more common.

What ever happened to carefree childhoods and wanting to stay forever young? Nowadays it seems the urgency to grow up to better cope with the apocalyptic dilemma’s that circulate everyday life robs our youth of the freedom to explore their hearts desire and contributes to an all too common emotional instability.

It is not all external factors either. The more we learn about brain development and neurological balance, the more we recognize increasing challenges with the pathways in our brain that reduce neurological stimulation. There are numerous substances we consume or are exposed to that provoke brain excitability that can cause an anxious feeling to linger a lot longer than it should. Some people being far more vulnerable to these than others.

Now more than ever, we all need help finding ways to access our peaceful, joyous selves. We need something that will bring us out of the flurry of worries, fears and anticipations and into a calm present moment. Tools we can use for momentary stressful events that provoke anxiety as well as routines we can establish in our lives to cultivate our happiness.

Integrative medicine provides a unique lens to address mental health concerns. Utilizing tools from standard, allopathic healthcare in addition to traditional systems from around the world offering a diverse approach to balance health. The first goal of understanding the symptom is to identify the cause. This is the key to providing immediate relief and long term changes. Both physical exam diagnostic tools and lab testing can help reveal which organs of the body may be experiencing distress to contribute to feelings of uneasiness. For young people this is especially important so that interventions are supporting the long term health as the body grows.

Stay tuned as this 4 part series addresses youth anxiety and is intended to provide a resource for the community to discover new ways to find a peaceful center while moving through the chaos of the modern world.

If you or someone you love are struggling with anxiety and/or depression, get help today with integrative medicine. At Stillwater, we encourage the combination of psychotherapy and natural medicine tools as well as collaboration with western medical providers for pharmaceutical support as needed. Our goal is to make use of the best of all systems of healing to get patients the balanced care they need for today, as well as for a healthier future.

 

Why Do I Need to Detoxify?

Detoxification is commonly thought of as a tool for drug addicts and alcoholics.  The nausea, pain and discomfort of acute detox is incredibly intense and can be a medical emergency, yet the essence of detoxifying reaches far beyond this picture.  In fact, it’s happening in your belly right now.  You’re detoxifying substances from everything you have eaten, drank, absorbed and inhaled from the recent past.

To detoxify is simply the process that occurs in the liver constantly, when substances are broken down and built-up in order to be eliminated from the body.  It is an essential part of our health in every moment.

Toxins in Our World

Bis-phenol A, heroine, phthalates, sodium laurel sulfate, alcohol, benzene, high fructose corn syrup and more are all routinely consumed toxins in any random American’s experience.  Recently, in Mayflower, Arkansas a pipeline carrying tar sands oil ruptured and spilled into the waterways.  This unintentionally exposed the town’s population of 2,000 people to at least 7 known toxins.

Meanwhile, many people are consciously ingesting illegal substances into their bodies routinely.  Plus those ingesting legal intoxicants, smoke-breaks, happy hours, drive-thru’s and much more.  Toxic exposure is happening to all of us, everyday whether consciously, or unconsciously.  This can create problems for the body on every level.

A toxin may be a normal product of cellular metabolism, a intermediary step in a pathway of something non-toxic being processed in the body, or something overtly damaging to the body from start to finish.  Whatever the method of origin, a toxin in the body disrupts normal organ function and causes cellular damage.  Fortunately, our bodies are well equipped for this process, when we are in an optimal state of health and when our exposure is reasonable.

However, our modern world is filled with substances that require nearly constant work to address.  Many are difficult for the body to process and are known as bio-accumulative, staying with us our entire lives.  Driving down the road, drinking tap water, cleaning house, cooking a meal: all of these simple daily activities can overwhelm our system with toxic substances over time, depending on our choices.

Toxicity and Our Health

The outcome of toxic exposures in the body are many.  Cellular damage leads to poor organ function which can lead to poor metabolism, fatigue, body aches, mind-fog, obesity, hormonal disturbances, auto-immunity, cancer, and the myriad of unexplained symptomatic patterns.  Toxic accumulation can play a role in every type of disease.  Generally, the symptoms develop slowly, over time and may be considered normal aging at first.

Enhancing normal detoxification in the body is something that can be achieved through numerous simple, daily life activities.  Based on the personal experience and individual imbalance, a formulation of specific tools can make a world of difference.  In general, detoxification practices should involve taking fewer substances into the body and encouraging normal elimination through the bowels, breath, skin and urine.

Adapting a toxin free lifestyle is an important step.  This may be unreasonable for some, especially when addiction stands in the way.  In today’s world with our current stress-level, global challenges and chemical exposures, it is important to fit tools into your daily routine that support detoxification.

Traditional Detox Tools Include:

–       Dry Skin Brushing: from Ayurvedic medicine,  brushing the skin with a course bristle brush from the tips of the extremities toward the heart daily supports longevity.  Aiding lymphatic circulation, toxins are circulated in order to be better eliminated.

–       Castor Oil Packs: popularized by Edgar Cayce, this routine abdominal self-massage is a fantastic way to aid digestion and liver health.

–       Contrast Hydrotherapy: many of the early European Eclectic Physicians devoted their careers to exploring the benefits of hot & cold therapies on the skin surface.  As an everyday tonic, alternating the heat of the shower with a brief burst of cold invirgorates vitality.

–       Sauna Therapy: inducing a high-temperature fever like state in the body through sauna’s is a tradition from cultures around the globe.  Ideal use includes the contrasting cold of a shower, cold-plunge or roll in the snow to draw the vital heat back into the body.

–       Fasting: reducing and altering dietary intake is a common thread through many traditions of medicine.  In addition to the rest it allows the body for spiritual pursuit, it also gives the body a great opportunity to detoxify.

At Stillwater, we offer tools for supporting longevity through detoxification.  Whether you’re facing addiction or illness we are here for you.  Our infrared sauna is the most efficient and most gentle tool for aiding the bodies release.  Addiction expert and therapist James Hart counsels people on making change.  Our Natural Living Store carries all the tools you need and as a Naturopathic Doctor, I have worked in both in-patient and out-patient detox programs and supported people on the journey to optimal health for over 10 years.

For optimal health, join us seasonally for a thorough approach to dietary cleansing and detoxification with professional support.  3-day, 7-day or 3-week options available!  For more information visit www. http://stillwaterhealingarts.com/seasonal-cleanse/.  Programs are based upon your unique needs, body-burdens, vitality and schedule.  Schedule your pre-cleanse consult today!

Spring Cleaning

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Daffodils and crocus flowers mean more than just the addition of color to our landscape.  They’re here to alert us that spring has arrived!  Despite the cool breezes and chilly weather, our days have lengthened enough to give the plant life of our region the signal that all systems are GO!

Shed the heaviness of winter time by taking advantage of this early burst of nature’s energy with spring cleaning.  Eliminating the excess from our lives and cleaning out the nooks and crannies of the external, and internal environment is a great way to brighten up your life.

Initially, through house cleaning we may discover long lost treasures that are actually useful and prevent us from needing to purchase new items.  Perhaps they may even inspire some creativity, rearranging items to make something new again.  Secondly, donations to the local Goodwill can help keep things out of landfills and allow others to purchase perfectly functional items at a reduced cost.  And always, eliminating the excess from our homes can provide a refreshing feeling of accomplishment and renewal.

Now, it’s time to look inside our bodies and consider what may be accumulating there.  Arsenic, bisphenol A, perchlorate, flouride, lead, flame retardants, mercury, phthalates, and many other dirty words can adequately describe what we carry around with us in our daily travels.  These substances are all found to cause severe health effects; reproductive disorders, thyroid disorders, mental health imbalances, immune dysfunction, cancers and many other problems.  Unfortunately, most of these substances bio-accumulate, pass on to our children and are not easily eliminated by the body.  Additionally, their presence is vast, extending far into regions where the benefits of the industrialized world have not yet reached.  Please visit the Environmental Working Group (http://www.ewg.org/) for more information on toxicity in our world, homes and bodies and to learn about simple changes you can make to improve the health of future generations.

So what are we to do, living amongst the worlds richest in both resources and toxic plastic junk?  Perhaps looking to our ancestors can assist us in our present quandry.  For many northern latitude people, springtime was a lean time of year.  The food stock of the previous year has come to an end and the earth is not yet providing much nourishment.  Thus, an ideal time to fast or go without as the body engages in its own deep cleaning.  Springtime has been a time to fast for various religious purposes as well.  Refraining from consumption can connect us to the past, to acknowledge the sacrifices of those that came before us as well as provide a new appreciation for our abundance.

This spring, allow yourself time to clean house and consider utilizing cleansing methods for your internal health as well.  Cleanse programs are widely variable but in general, should work to increase your elimination and reduce your consumption.  Any product based cleanse system may just be adding more substances for the body to have to deal with.  However, ceasing consumption altogether, as in a water-only fast may be too extreme for some individuals.  Finding the right balance to support yourself through the daily life that will likely continue, while increasing elimination is the goal for a beneficial spring-cleaning program.

For more information and guidance through an individually designed spring cleanse, I am here to help!  I have been guiding individual and group cleanse programs for many seasons and greatly enjoy this opportunity to help people discover how routine changes can make a big impact in their health.

Spring Cleanse Program
Feeling trapped in a routine that doesn’t support your optimal health? Join us for our Spring Cleanse Program to reset your habits and create a fresh start!  Our 10-day group cleanse begins Tuesday April 4th.
All programs include medical support with the practitioners at Stillwater clinic, use of the infrared sauna and group classes. Dates don’t work for you? Individual cleanse programs are available at anytime. Visit our website for more information www.stillwaterhealingarts.com!

Keeping our bodies strong and able to adapt to the changing tides of viral mutation is ultimately the best we can do to prevent colds and flus in the winter.  Additionally, restoring oneself in the cold, dark season will prepare us for a healthier spring and summer to come.

Simple steps include:
-Maintaining optimal nutrition with a whole foods diet and vitamin supplementation.  Avoid cold and raw foods in the wintertime to maintain the body’s internal warmth.  Ginger tea can be especially helpful to keep digestion strong.
-Get regular exercise.  The best detoxification is warming the body through exercise.
-Rest whenever your body requires it.  Sleep extra hours whenever you’re starting to feel run down.  Indulge in napping to aid restoration.
-Explore home remedies for immune support.  Citrus fruits are high in vitamin C.  Lemon water daily can aid detoxification.  Ending showers with cold water helps preserve and restore energy, etc…
-Work with a Naturopath and/or Chinese Medicine practitioner to support your organ systems to ensure optimal function.

Winter Immune Boost  Stew

Support yourself this winter with warm soups filled with immune boosting herbs and spices.

1 lb. cubed lamb meat
2 cups shitake mushrooms
2 cups barley or quinoa
1 cup chopped scallions
3 cloves chopped garlic
1-2 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
6 cups filtered water
Salt and pepper to taste.

Brown meat on a skillet.  Saute scallions and garlic.  Add all ingredients
together, boil, then simmer for 90 min.
Enjoy often!

I don’t remember how it started but several years ago my husband started a health kick and declared November as a sugar free month.  I love to support any ambition towards healthier routines and sugar is one substance we can all do without, or at least have a break from for a month at a time.

11 reasons to go sugar free (and I don’t mean changing to sugar replacements either!) –

  1. Break the addiction.  I once saw a bumper sticker that said, “Sugar, the Gateway Drug!”  I could not agree more.  It is our first experience with the dopamine surge that leaves us wondering how we felt that way and how can we get more.  Setting ourselves free from the habits that rule us is always a liberating experience.
  2. Lose weight.  Sugar consumption tends to increase compulsive eating and triggers a habitual response that result in people eating more and more.  Sugar is also incredibly calorie dense so we end up taking in far more energy than we’re able to use up.
  3. Stop the stinky gas!  Sugar feeds bacteria and yeast in the body that produce gases as they reproduce and grow in numbers in the gut.  What may be blamed on the dog can often be alleviated by cutting the sugar intake.
  4. Mood stabalization.  Not only does sugar affect our dopamine receptors, but it also triggers cortisol release in the body.  This results in an up and a down.  On top of that, blood sugar stability is very vulnerable to high concentrations of dietary sugars at once, particularly if they’re eaten on their own rather than with a big meal.  Sugar is then a triple whammy to the mood.
  5. Improve your energy.  The up and the down, the roller coaster ride of modern day life.  Depending upon stimulants to get through the day (sugar being a main culprit) results in a relative “over-ride” of your body’s natural energy system.  When a body has relied upon stimulants long term, it is likely that the adrenal system is no longer able to maintain a normal energy level without it.  Best way to prevent this is to keep stimulant us to a minimum, find routine, fun ways to reduce stress in your life and sleep when you’re tired rather than pushing through.
  6. Peace of mind.  Living free of habits, mood alteration, energy disruption and overgrown microflora results in a very pleasant peacefulness I highly recommend.
  7. Cancer prevention.  The first nutritional recommendation to cancer patients in integrative medicine is to cut out the sugar.  Sugar feeds cancer.  Cancer cells metabolize much faster than normal cells and require massive amounts of energy.  Sugar is their perfect medium.  Considering how long it often takes for a cancer to develop and be discovered, you can never begin prevention of cancer too early.  Start now, by not feeding it.
  8. Pain relief.  Sugar consumption increases the inflammatory response in the body.  The result of this in tissues that are already upset and painful is an increase in upsetness and pain.  In addition, many people have a sensitivity to sugar that will result in headaches, menstrual cramping or joint pain.
  9. Improve immune function.  In the same way that sugar feeds microbes in the digestive system, it is also going to feed the bacteria, virus and spirochetes that are involved in both acute and chronic infections.  In addition, sugar has a depressant effect on the white blood cell activity resulting in the body having a weaker immune response to illness.
  10. To set a good example.  It is clear that there are far more negatives than positives to sugar consumption.  Yet it is a huge part of most peoples daily lives.  So many of us have strong childhood associations to sugar.  Receiving sweets as a child was often the best reward.  By eliminating them from our diet, we can offer our children the opportunity to have a healthier start in life and hopefully not struggle with this one.
  11. To see what happens!  Give it a month.  You might even find you prefer it!

For a personalized nutritional assessment or if you’re challenged with blood sugar issues and experiencing severe cravings, I’m happy to help ease your struggle with natural medicine support.

~Dr. Hart