Posts in pain
Naturopathic care for Postpartum Mood Issues

Naturopathic doctors are trained to look for the root problem causing someone's symptoms, rather than just making the symptoms go away.  If we address the underlying cause, we can allow the symptoms to recede for good.  This is no different for postpartum women, and there are a number of reasons WHY women develop postpartum mood disorders.  Naturopathic doctors, especially those trained in the art of midwifery or who have had special training in pregnancy and birth, are very well-equipped to figure out how to best help each woman on an individual basis. Dr. Adriana Azacarate-Ferbel is a Portland area Naturopath who has studied Postpartum depression extensively.  I met with her last fall when I began researching this topic more myself.   She outlined the most common underlying reasons for development of Postpartum depression:

  • Fatigue and Sleep Deprivation
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Hyperthyroidsim
  • Immune system dysregulation
  • Pain
  • Low Cholesterol levels
  • Hormone imbalance
  • Neurotransmitter
  • Insulin resistance

Sometimes, it may be a combination of one or more of these that can cause postpartum mood disorders to develop.  Because this is true for many women, the Naturopathic approach is multifactorial as well.  The earlier we can recognize the symptoms and determine what's actually going on, the better.  In my office, a primary work-up to determine the underlying cause may include:

  • Thyroid testing, followed by nutritional supplementation and/or medicine to balance the thyroid gland (if needed)
  • Combination Hormone and Adrenal Saliva testing, followed by treatment with herbs and nutrients known to balance female hormones, DHEA, and/or cortisol (and are safe for breastfeeding).
  • Lipid panel, to look at cholesterol levels, followed by nutritional counseling to ensure adequate levels.
  • Comp. metabolic screen, Iron panel, and Complete blood count, to assess for blood sugar issues, anemia, and immune system problems
  • Musculoskeletal assessment to determine sources of pain that may be adding to increased stress and fatigue, followed by massage, acupuncture, or other forms of physiotherapy
  • In some cases, neurotransmitter testing will be done first.  This is especially true if someone has a marked history of depression, anxiety, or psychosis.

I could write pages and pages on this topic.  This is just a jumping-off point.  There is still a lot to learn about this realm of women's health, but we have a very good grasp on how to make the transition to motherhood a happy and healthy time.

Be strong.  Live healthy!images

Vitamin D and you!

Winter in the Pacific NW generally means very little opportunity for sun exposure.  When you're talking about a nutrient that is made in the body when skin gets exposed to UV light, the lack of rays can be a problemo grande. I've been checking my patients' Vitamin D levels this winter with surprising results.  I have yet to get a normal result back.  The normal range isn't even all that high.  People still have symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency at the "normal" level.  Symptoms like: lethargy, decreased mood, body aches, soreness, headaches, decreased libido.  Any of this sound familiar?

When I was in medical school, a family member called me with what sounded like a classic case of fibromyalgia.  She was having difficulty sleeping, had lots of pain in her body, and was tired all the time.  One of my mentors at the time suggested Vitamin D.  She got her levels checked and they were extremely LOW.  She started taking 1000 IU/day.  Her levels have been in the optimum range now for years AND she doesn't feel like she has fibromyalgia.

Aside from feeling good in the winter, Vitamin D is important for long-term health issues.  Check out this article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.  It talks about how Vitamin D appears to delay aging and diseases of aging by slowing the turnover rate of white blood cells.

Taking a high quality Vitamin D supplement daily is a good idea if you live somewhere gray.  It's also a good idea to get your nutrients from food sources whenever possible.  The best sources of Vitamin D are:

  • Herring, 85 g (3 ounces (oz)) provides 1383 IU
  • Catfish, 85 g (3 oz) provides 425 IU
  • Salmon, cooked, 100 g (3.5 oz]) provides 360 IU
  • Mackerel, cooked, 100 g (3.5 oz]), 345 IU
  • Sardines, canned in oil, drained, 50 g (1.75 oz), 250 IU
  • Tuna, canned in oil, 85 g (3 oz), 200 IU
  • Eel, cooked, 100 g (3.5 oz), 200 IU
  • One whole egg, provides 20 IU

images*amounts provided by Wikipedia.*

Women of childbearing age and children should not eat mackerel  or more than 6oz of tuna per week due to mercury content.

There are rare cases of people overdosing on Vitamin D.  You should always consult with your doctor before adding anything new to your daily intake of nutrients.  It is advisable to have your Vitamin D levels checked to assess the proper dosage for your body.

Bug Bites!

Here are some Bug Bite remedies straight from Granny's natural medicine chest:

  • Stick a half a lemon in the freezer and apply to bites as needed.
  • Make a paste with water and baby aspirin and apply to bites.
  • Apply icy-hot or other cream with Capsacin.
  • Dab with Lavendar essential oil.
  • make a paste with baking soda and apply to bites.
  • coat one side of a penny with vaseline and tape the penny, vaseline side down to bite.
  • warm some honey and dab onto the bites
  • cover with plain old mud, or if you are so inclined, a cosmetic mud mask for facials

In addition to these home remedies, there are other steps you can take to make sure those itchy bites get GONE faster.

  • Make sure you are taking your fish oils or other omega-3/omega-6 fatty acid supplement.  This will help with calming down inflammation.
  • Don't eat the things you know cause you digestive problems or skin rashes.  This only takes focus away from your body's ability to deal with the histamines from the bug bites.
  • Drink at least half your body weight in ounces each day to help your body's immune system function properly and work out the bites.

I work with several patients who have arthritis, and it seems like there is no one "right" way to treat this condition.  In fact, I'm finding that to be true about many conditions.  It would be nice if everyone who came to my office with joint pain could be given the same 3 treatment ideas and sent on their happy way. It just isn't usually the case.  Each of us has our very own story of how we got to where we are and why our symptoms manifest the way they do.  Since none of us arrive at the same destination for the same reason, why is it then assumed that two people with the same condition need the same intervention?    One patient may have arthritis because  they have played soccer for 30 years and the joint is shot.  Another patient may have arthritis because they have a constant level of inflammation in their body due to food sensitivities.  Through trial, time, and patience, the solutions become clear. The time spent learning the root cause of why someone develops arthritis pays off in achieving healing at a much deeper level.

I marvel at the individuality of each person.  Why are we all the same and all so different?  It makes my job a real challenge and a real joy.

Catastrophizing and the power of positive thought.

I went to a peer review in medical research the other day that really got me inspired.  The presenters were Dr. Beth Darnall and Dr. Heather Zwickey, and they presented research they had conducted on catastrophizing pain, and it's effect on the immune system.  Catastrophizing is a cognitive distortion where an individual tends to focus on the worst possible outcome in any given situation.  It turns out that thinking about our pain, particularly thinking about it getting worse actually DOES make it worse.   There are certain signaling compounds that get stimulated just by thinking about pain that feedback into pain cycles. A handful of my patients deal with ongoing pain issues, and although many health professionals now believe that there is a connection between what we think and how we feel, we're now seeing the proof of the fact that the connection exists.  Patients have been told for years that their symptoms are all in their head.  In a way, the doctors have been correct, but what we need to account for now is the reality of these thoughts producing real symptoms.

It seems that people are either prone to catastrophizing or they're not.   Women are more likely to catastrophize than men it seems.  In addition, women are more prone to pain and (lucky us!) have more pain receptors than men.  Also, as the amount of Estrogen decreases in the system (naturally during our menses and during menopause), the number of pain receptors actually increases.

The way that naturopathic medicine can be helpful in working with mind-body pain issues is via body work, lifestyle counseling, diet, and stress management, all helping the body to decrease inflammation .   Homeopathy and flower essence therapy can also be extremely beneficial to help reprogram our thoughts to focus on healing and positivity.  I urge anyone who has chronic pain to pay close attention to their thoughts around pain, health, and healing.  Your mind may be the key to achieving wellness!