This spring has been a bad one for colds and sore throats that don't seem to want to go away. Why is it that everyone seems to get sick in the springtime?
There are a lot of physiological changes going on in our bodies as the weather outside begins to warm up. Our bodies need to maintain a core temperature around 98 degrees Fahrenheit so during the winter a significant amount of our calories from food go towards maintaining this body temp. That's also why we tend to be more hungry in the winter and crave more high calorie foods. Our bodies use the excess calories to increase the number of fat cells to serve as insulation. Fat cells are also convenient storage sites for excess amounts of fat-soluble chemicals that come in from our food and our environment including pesticides. As the weather warms up we no longer need the extra insulation or the excess calories for heat production. So fat cells undergo apoptosis (programmed cell death) which may also release the fat-soluble chemicals back into the lymph fluid and bloodstream. The liver then continues it's detoxification efforts to convert these chemicals into a form that can be removed via the lungs, bile, or urinary tract.
If you are sensitive to your body signals you will notice that your appetite diminishes in the spring. This is an important mechanism that allows our bodies to remove the cellular waste and essentially do some “spring cleaning” internally. If we ignore our body signals however and continue to eat the same amount of food as we did during colder times it will put more strain on our detoxification systems. Your body starts to get mixed signals trying to burn off the fat and create fat for storage of excess calories at the same time. When temperatures fluctuate wildly from one week to the next this process can be all the more complicated. You may notice your liver go into overdrive resulting in hot flashes or flushes of heat, pain under the ribcage on your right side, and waking up between 1 and 3 am, which is known as “liver time”.
With excess waste material in the blood and lymph, the immune system is employed to help in the form of those wonderful white blood cells that clean our system by eating their way through the waste. With the increase in temperatures there is also an increase in microbial activity. We are exposed to more bacteria in the air we breathe and everything that we touch. As the active immune system and environmental microbes collide we may develop the typical “spring cold” symptoms. The length of time and severity of the symptoms is directly proportional to the amount of bacteria and waste the body needs to eliminate. Mucus flows from our sinuses and our lungs cough up this viscous material that is loaded with the debris of battle. As unpleasant as it all might be to have our daily routines interrupted, it is biologically important.
We would do well to listen to the wisdom of religious and spiritual customs that encouraged periods of fasting during this time. These customs were not only a way to promote moderation during the lean times of food availability but also a way to ensure the health of the community. The remedy for spring diseases is to eat less! Support your body's cleansing efforts by drinking more water and alternate periods of rest with moderate levels of exercise. Above all eat cleanly and do not put more chemicals in to your body at this time. Avoid alcohol and cigarettes. Food should be whole and free of pesticide residues. Prepare your meals at home with fresh ingredients when possible to avoid excess amounts of additives and preservatives used to lengthen the shelf-life of processed foods. Make good use of the early spring greens such as dandelion leaves to add to your salads to support liver function but even more important than going through liver cleansing protocols is to be sure and give your liver a break by putting less burden on it. Reduce meal portion sizes by at least one third, eat when you are hungry and do not eat when you are not hungry. If you listen well to your body you will transition easily into warmer weather without the sniffles and coughs of spring.
To Your Health!
One of my interns, Katie, wanted to share this recipe using dried soapwort root as an All-Purpose cleanser. Soapwort (Saponaria officianalis) has been used historically as a gentle cleanser due to its high content of saponins. This all-purpose cleanser can be used as a body wash, facial cleanser, shampoo or even a laundry detergent and is great for those with multiple chemical sensitization, eczema, psoriasis, and other skin sensitivities.
Basic Soapwort All-Purpose Cleanser
2 cups distilled water
1 1/2 tablespoons soapwort (dried and chopped)
2 teaspoons lemon verbena or fresh herb of choice (optional)
A few drops of lavender or essential oil of choice (optional)
Bring the water to a boil. Stir in the soapwort root, cover and simmer over medium low heat for 20 minutes.
Remove from heat and add fresh herb if using and steep for an additional 10 minutes.
Let cool. Strain with cheesecloth and add essential oil if using.
Pour into a squeeze bottle.
Store in a dark cool place for up to 10 days. Makes enough for 6-7 uses.
Tip: You can strengthen the solution by adding more root or weaken it by adding more water.
To Your Health!
Last year as part of my continuing education I attended a series of classes on the Liver Detox Pathways. A significant portion of the class was dedicated to statin drug and their effects on the body based on a book written by James and Hannah Yoseph called How Statin Drugs Really Lower Cholesterol: and Kill You One Cell at a Time. Here's a sample of what I've learned.
In order for a cell to thrive, grow and replicate itself it requires food. Cellular food is in the form of a protein called “reductase”. Reductase activates something called the mevalonate pathway that produces cholesterol and other molecules called isoprenoids to cause the cell to grow large, replicate its DNA and then divide into two daughter cells. This is the cellular cycle and the basis for all life. Without the cholesterol and isoprenoids, cells will age and die without being replaced.
Statin drugs block reductase and the mevalonate pathway in order to reduce the production of cholesterol in the body and pull cholesterol out of the blood. Every single cell in the human body is affected by statin drugs but since cellular renewal happens at various rates it takes a long time before we notice its effects.
Cells lining the gut renew themselves every 10 hours up to every 5 days.
Skin cells regenerate every two weeks.
Liver cells are replaced every 300-500 days.
Bone cells last a decade.
If you are trying to heal your body and improve your health but you are taking a statin drug you won't get very far. If cells cannot replicate, they will die.
There is nothing you can take as a supplement in order to reduce the effects of a statin drug on the mevalonate pathway. Taking CoQ10 is often recommended if you are on a statin drug because CoQ10 is an isoprenoid that is vital for cell energy and its production is also blocked by statin drugs. But taking CoQ10 will not keep your cells from dying. Even taking cholesterol would not keep your cells from dying. The only way to keep your cells from dying is to stop blocking the mevalonate pathway.
There are better ways to reduce your risk and prevent heart disease like:
Reduce alcohol consumption
Reduce coffee consumption
Remove processed foods from the diet
Avoid partially hydrogenated vegetable oils
Avoid vegetables oils that have been heated
Reduce refined carbohydrate consumption
Reduce or eliminate sugar consumption
Reduce your exposure to pesticides in your food and environment
Eat more fresh vegetables
Everything on this list will improve your health and help your body to heal while reducing your risk of all chronic diseases instead of contributing to death one cell at a time.
To Your Health!
There are two main schools of thought as to how a naturopath should practice. Some prefer a traditional approach as defined by those who first coined the term in the late 1800's and early 1900's.
“Naturopathy is a distinct school of healing, employing the beneficient agency of Nature's forces, of water, air, sunlight, earthpower, electricity, magnetism, exercise, rest, proper diet, various kinds of mechanical treatment, and mental and moral science. As none of these agents of rejuvenation can cure every disease, the Naturopath rightly employs the combination that is best adapted to each individual case.”
Quoted from the father of Naturopathy, Benedict Lust in the book Naturopathy for the 21st Century by Robert J. Thiel, Ph.D.
These traditional naturopaths (like myself) believe that poor health is a result of a departure from healthful living according to Nature's laws and prefer to focus on helping their clients to make dietary and lifestyle changes to get at the root cause of a person's illness.
Others practice naturopathy as an alternative to conventional medicine's use of pharmaceutical drugs and surgery. The public flocks to these naturopathic practitioners looking for something “more natural” than drugs with less side effects. And increasingly naturopaths try to fill that role by recommending isolated nutrient supplements, potent herbal extracts, essential oils and whatever else will provide the quick fix that clients demand. They may pour over blood tests and lab reports and read up on medical diagnoses hoping to fill in the blanks where medical doctors left off. Schools have since sprung up to fill the educational needs of these types of naturopaths by combining a pre-med degree with herbal and nutritional education and pushing for licensing and legislation to make their version the only legal way to practice naturopathy.
It's a fine line between these two types and I find myself swaying dangerously on occasion out of my original education and scope of practice in my efforts to keep my clients satisfied (and coming in the door!) It's time to sit back, take a deep breath and think about whether this model is really helping people. A quick fix may be what most people think they want but traditional naturopaths must be the parental voice that points out what people really need. We need nutritious food, fresh air, clean water, deep rest, meaningful relationships, and a spiritual connection. We need to relearn how to be human beings living on the planet Earth.
The problem is how do we keep our clients interested on self-improvement? How do we keep them focused on the long-term goal in a society of short attention spans? Is there still room for traditional naturopaths?
There is no doubt in my mind that a traditional form of naturopathy is the only form that will produce lasting health. “Prevention is the best medicine” as they say and teaching others how to live according to the laws of nature is needed more now in this present day and age than ever before.
Human beings (particularly in the United States) are working hard toward extinction. Increased rates of chronic degenerative diseases and cancer, increased rates of infertility and infant mortality, increases in cognitive and behavioral disorders, increases in pollution of our environment and decreases in the nutritional value of our food... we are in serious danger here.
I'm not advocating for turning back the clock and living like Amish people (though I really like and respect my “plain” friends) but we have changed so much in so short a time – our bodies can't keep up! We have more technology giving us more free time and more entertainment and yet we are more stressed and depressed than ever. Making drastic changes to our lives is very difficult and people need someone to guide them, encourage them, be a role model for them, and most importantly - keep them accountable. That is the role that I believe naturopaths are best suited for. That is how I want to teach, how I want to practice, and how I want to live. I hope you will join me.
To Your Health!
Kathryn Doran-Fisher is a Traditional Naturopath, Certified GAPS Practitioner and owner of Elder & Sage.