Posts in books
In your garden. In your city.

At my home, we are perpetually in the garden. Saturdays and Sundays are spent loving it, weeding it, planting, and harvesting (and then sometimes wondering what else we can do!) We came back from a wonderful camping trip to the Oregon coast this weekend, and within 10 minutes, we were out in the garden, checking on our little plant-lettes. We've grown plants from starts and seeds, and even potatoes and onions that were starting to sprout in the cupboard! There is something to be said about growing your own food, especially in these times of rising fuel and food prices. I find that there is almost nothing more satisfying than fresh veggies straight from the yard and right on my breakfast or dinner plate. The taste is the most satisfying aspect, but a close second is knowing that I'm giving energy back to the earth, and not depleting resources.

At my office, we also have a garden filled with spinach, chard, tomatoes, rhubarb, corn, squash, lettuce, peas, you name it. It's a teaching garden, and it's in a totally urban environment. You see, naturopathic medicine roots itself in sustainablilty-- Meaning the things we prescribe and teach for our patients are often things our patients can incorporate into their lives gradually, seamlessly, and for good.

Sustainability. I know it's becoming quite the buzzword, but there is a whole lot to it. There is a brand new magazine called Intentionally Urban (in-ur, for short). They just launched their first issue this month. It is a fabulous magazine that covers all aspects of urban sustainability, including urban gardening and urban chicken-raising. You can read the entire magazine online, and I encourage you to check it out.

Stay tuned to this blog for photos of our office garden. You can watch it grow with us, and maybe if you stop by for a visit, you can sample some of our tasty treats. The garden is health and life. We put love into it, and tend it with care. You can taste the difference.

Evidence-based medicine?

I went to a naturopathic medicine conference this past weekend.  One of the keynote speakers was John Abramson, MD.  Dr. Abramson took a sabbatical from his busy Massachusetts practice to write a book on the medical research community, trends in U.S. healthcare, and how big drug companies are paying for the evidence to get skewed in their favor.  He scoured drug research, and he also poured through research on diet, exercise, and lifestyle modifications and their effectiveness against heart disease, weight management, and mood disorders.  Guess what he found?  Changing diet, nutrition, and exercise was more effective than taking medication in almost all cases.  We're not even talking just a little bit more effective.  In most cases, taking prescription meds was less than half as effective compared to making lifestyle changes.  We as a nation spend twice as much as any other nation on healthcare and yet we are the second sickest nation in the industrialized world when it comes to preventable disease. It's easy to place the blame on MD's and say that they should be reading the research and limiting the amount of drugs they prescribe.  However, there were a number of MD's at this conference who explained that they had been indoctrinated into the world of pharmaceuticals as soon as they began medical school.  Some even explained that their professors had been paid to discuss certain drugs during lectures.  The MD's rely very heavily on the research to guide their prescribing.  This in itself is not a problem.  The problem lies in the fact that large drug companies are paying to have certain research published and other research pushed to the back burner.  It all comes down to money, and very little of it has to do with patient care.

Dr. Abramson's book Overdosed America covers these statistics and others.  This week there was an article in the Willamette Week about the same topic.  It seems that MD's are getting fed up with prescribing drugs that aren't necessarily warranted and aren't making their patients better.  As a naturopathic physician, I feel fortunate in knowing that the treatments I use really work and really help people become healthy individuals.  I have a newfound gratitude for being able to use whatever medicines I want to use in my practice, not the ones I have been paid to promote.  I commend the MD's who are starting to question big pharmacy.  It's time to bring the balance back to patient care.

Where is happiness?

I'm going to stray just a bit from the straight up health tips today and talk about a book I just finished: The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner.  Mr. Weiner begins by accessing the World Database of Happiness (yes, such a thing does exist---in Denmark).  He learns which countries are the happiest in the world and sets out to discover exactly what makes us happy. One of the facts Mr. Weiner uncovers is the Swiss eat a higher than average amount of Chocolate, and Switzerland is one of the happiest countries in the world.  It turns out that according to the CHUMP study (Chocolate Happiness Undergoing More Pleasantness) you don't even have to eat 72% cacao nibs to get the happy buzz from chocolate.  People reported increased happiness from both dark and milk chocolate.  The study was considered a failure because it set out to prove that only dark chocolate would have mood-enhancing effects.  The only people who didn't get happy in the study were the ones who didn't get any chocolate!

All this being said, dark chocolate does have additional health benefits beyond happiness---so it's still your best bet when the choice is yours.

Happiness is responsible for maintaining our sense of well-being.  I feel that a good sense of well-being, no matter how sick someone is, can be one of the most important factors in determining their healing process.

This study shows the very likely correlation between increased happiness and lowered blood pressure.  In fact, if you visit PubMed, an online medical journal database, and type in "happiness" you'll find that there have been 2820 studies recently on the subject. Lower blood pressure, lower overall inflammation, better detoxification and digestion are some of the examples of the direct benefits of finding happiness.

The Geography of Bliss suggests that it may not be found where we're looking (well, maybe some of us were looking at chocolate).   The book shows the happiest places and some of the least happy places and cross- references the experiences to divulge the patterns of what makes people happy.  You don't have to travel to these places to understand the lesson, but if you do, I'd recommend Thailand...and take some chocolate.