Genetics, Patty Shipley, RN, Naturopath

Guts, Genes and Gray Matter

Connecting the Dots between GI Health, Brain Function and Genetic Expression

A few weekends ago, I spent a day learning from Dr. Andrew Rostenberg, author of the website  Dr. Rostenberg has been using genetics to help his patients for several years, and his blog is a great resource for anyone wanting to more deeply understand and apply their genetic test results.

After a conference, I like to take some time to summarize what I’ve learned, which helps me retain more of the material, and allows me to archive it for later access, but the best part is that I get to share the information with all of you!

Why is an MTHFR mutation so impactful across so many body systems? 

Because it’s responsible for folate metabolism, which can influence the final form of ANY growing tissue due to its participation in nucleic acid synthesis and regulation of DNA and protein methylation.

Cleft palate, scoliosis and neural tube defects are all signs of improper methylation.

B vitamins are required all throughout the methylation pathways, as well as in the mitochondria of the cell, fueling energy metabolism.  The flip side of this is that bacteria and yeast also have a methylation cycle, so they also benefit from B-vitamins. Poor tolerance of added B vitamins can indicate a bacterial or yeast overgrowth in the gut. 

Bacteria in our gut manufactures many of our B vitamins, in part because they are also dependent on B vitamins. This is good to keep in mind when we see an elevation in folic acid on serum testing—it’s possible that bacterial production is the cause for elevation.  (I would also suspect it could come from processed foods, which are often enriched with folic acid—which BTW, doesn’t occur anywhere in nature—folic acid is a synthetic version of folate….folate occurs in foliage, aka dark, leafy greens/plants, which is what it’s named after.)

In humans, folate and other B vitamins are important for recycling of BH4 (tetrahydrobiopterin), an essential precursor to brain neurotransmitters.  Sufficient amino acids and balanced blood sugar are also critical in neurotransmitter production. Some patients experience increased anxiety with B vitamins because increasing intake can result in too many excitatory neurotransmitters being produced—this class of neurotransmitters are easier to make than serotonin (which is calming) and are harder to degrade and remove from our systems, thus the anxiety.

Why are Depression and Anxiety so Common?
  • Depression and anxiety risk increases with every antibiotic exposure because the 3 most important amino acids involved in neurotransmitter production are made by our gut flora (tyrosine, tryptophan and phenylalanine used to make catecholamines (aka “cats”) and serotonin). A healthy supply of these is needed for brain and mood balance. (To learn more about the balance between the “cats” and serotonin, check out my neurotransmitter notes from this lecture (scroll down a bit).
  • Pesticide and herbicide exposure shows a positive association with depression because our gut flora are metabolically similar to weeds and pests, so chemicals that target them will also have a negative impact on our gut flora. These chemicals are effective because they deprive their targets of manganese. Manganese is important for the production of energy (in our metabolism as well as the metabolism of gut flora), the production of SOD (the most important antioxidant inside cells), and to maintain healthy ligaments (just for us, not our flora).
  • MTHFR genetic errors increase the risk for depression by 400-500% because methylation is responsible for production and recycling of BH4, an enzyme that makes serotonin, dopamine and thyroid hormones (a deficiency in any of these can cause or contribute to depression and/or anxiety).
Stress Hormones and their Link to GI Issues

Stress produces catecholamines (adrenalin, noradrenalin and cortisol), which in turn uncouples iron from its binding proteins (lactoferrin and transferrin), allowing bacteria to hijack the body’s iron and use it for its own energy purposes, often resulting in chronic anemia.

The mammalian gut is extensively innervated with noradrenaline- and dopamine-containing sympathetic nerve terminals, which are distributed throughout the enteric (intestinal) nervous system. Half of all norepinephrine (aka noradrenaline, one of several catecholamines) releases into the GI tract, and catecholamines can cause RAPID pathogen growth…10,000% or more! This is why stress can cause digestive upset and even diarrhea.

Yet another reason stress has a negative impact on the gut is that adrenalin increases biofilm formation.  Biofilms are defensive slime layers microbes build around themselves to evade the immune system, one reason GI infections can often be difficult to resolve (dental plaque is a biofilm created by the bacteria in our mouths).

Episodes of low blood sugar are also very detrimental to digestion and health in general.  The body responds with an outpouring of adrenalin when blood sugar is low, which helps mobilize glucose out of storage (this is the same physiological response seen in a fight-flight stress response w all the same implications for digestion). The storage form of sugar that is used in this reaction is glucagon, and when glucagon is elevated, stomach acid secretion is inhibited, which also inhibits digestion and opens the door for microbes to survive digestion, since stomach acid should sterilize the food coming in.

The stress of running a marathon (or similar exhaustive exercise) raises glucagon to 4- or 5-fold normal concentrations.  Not only does this decrease stomach acid secretion with all the same implications as low blood sugar or fight-flight response, it also deprives the gut of circulation (think oxygenation and nutrition), sometimes resulting in “runner’s gut” which can also be seen in distance biking and other extended forms of exercise. The result can be extreme, such as severe diarrhea, or milder, producing ongoing GI issues.

Another function of stress impacting the GI tract is its inhibiting effect on secretory IgA, a type of antibody that protects against infection in the mucosal surfaces of the mouth, airways and digestive tract.  SIgA antibodies make up a majority of your immune system, and are important in protecting against, yeast, bacterial, viral and parasitic infections as well as cancer, and can help to lower inflammation.  As the immune response gets over-run, leaky gut results, which allows entry of undigested food and pathogens from the intestines into the bloodstream.  This can cause and contribute to autoimmunity and seasonal/environmental/food allergies and sensitivities.

Because stress causes vessel constriction, it reduces blood flow to the skin and organs, including the digestive tract.

Connecting the Dots in Digestive Health

A healthy stomach has a pH of about 3.0.  To put that in perspective, vinegar has a pH of 5.0, which is 100 times less acidic than a pH of 3.0. Acid in the stomach acts to increase the pressure on the lower esophageal sphincter, which keeps the stomach acid in place, rather than allowing it to reflux up the throat.  Some people need to first address a hiatal hernia before restoring acidity to their GI tract.

A-fib is 21 times more common in patients with a hiatal hernia, because the hiatal hernia can have a direct mechanical effect of pressing against the heart.  Rarely does hiatal hernia truly require surgery. Many bodyworkers and chiropractors do manual manipulations that pull down the hiatal hernia and help restore function.

Data now shows the gut microbiota communicates with the central nervous system (CNS) through neural, endocrine and immune pathways, influencing brain function and behavior.  Supporting the right balance of flora with probiotics, fermented foods and restriction of refined carbohydrates and sugars are a critical part of addressing mood disorders, pain and impaired cognition.

A healthy microbiome has also been found to be critical for proper myelination of neurons (nerve cells) in the prefrontal cortex (think depression, MS, schizophrenia and autism).

Remember that stress lowers digestive secretion of acid, which is crucial for the next steps in digestion: pancreatic enzyme and bile secretion. Chronic deficiency of these digestive factors can lead to small intestine bacteria overgrowth (SIBO).  Other contributing factors are motility disorders, painkillers and ongoing alcohol consumption.

Bile acids emulsify cholesterol, dietary fat and fat-soluble vitamins, enabling their absorption. They also facilitate intestinal calcium absorption and modulate pancreatic enzyme secretion and cholecystokinin release, in addition to being potent antimicrobial agents that prevent bacterial overgrowth in the small bowel.

SNP (“snip”) Specifics

SNPs, or single nucleotide polymorphisms, are an amino acid substitution at a specific location on a gene. Genes are like recipes that tell the body what shape to make a protein.  Just like substituting an ingredient in a recipe will result in a different outcome, an amino acid substitution on a gene results in a protein that is shaped a little differently than it otherwise would be.  Everyone has SNPs, or genetic variants, and understanding your specific SNPs can help you be preventative, and even help you find your way back to health.  Dr. Rostenberg discussed some specific SNPs:

FUT2 gene errors can impair gut amino acid synthesis, and have been found to be strongly linked to difficulty absorbing B12 and other nutrients, as well as a decrease in the production of prebiotics (food for probiotics). Lysine and carnitine deficiency are commonly seen with those who have these SNPs. Lysine is needed for production of B6, so this is an additional commonality, and lysine deficiency can make one more prone to viral infections, since lysine inhibits viral replication.

Candida albicans release aldehydes and ethanol (ethanol is also found in drinking alcohols) as normal cellular byproducts.  These two compounds deplete B3, cofactors for ALDH, ADH and ALR genes and shut off methionine synthase (MTR), all of which are involved in the methylation pathways.

Oxalates are a plant self-defense mechanism that act as anti-nutrients when consumed by herbivores (plant-eaters). They do this by forming an insoluble calcium oxalate salt that can lead to kidney stones and calcium deficiency. Oxalates also inhibit SULT, UGT, MTHFR and NAT genes, and impair sulfation in phase II liver detox pathways.  Increasing calcium intake while eating oxalate-rich foods can prevent hyperoxaluria (high oxalates).  Those with fatty acid malabsorption (gallbladder removal or impaired digestion) may have an increased issue with oxalates, since fatty acids bind to calcium, leaving the oxalates to be absorbed in the colon.  High dose B6 (250-500 mg daily) has been shown to decrease the frequency of oxalate stone formation.  Dr. Rostenberg typically uses 5mg/kg/day of pyridoxine B6 for patients with high oxalates upon testing.

Further, pathogenic bacteria in the gut induce or aggravate metabolic stone disease, particularly the calcium oxalate type.  Therefore, it shouldn’t be surprising that antibiotics are seen to increase oxalate levels, while probiotics decrease oxalates, particularly B. Infantis, L. Plantarum and L. Brevis.

Be aware that stopping dietary oxalates too quickly can cause oxalate dumping symptoms: urination, night sweats, nausea, kidney pain.  If this occurs, increase fluids, calcium citrate and increase oxalates in the diet, then more slowly lower them once symptoms subside.

Neurotransmitter Notes:

Catecholamine neurotransmitters are considered “excitatory” brain messengers and are responsible for helping us feel focused, alert and energetic.  These are also the neurotransmitters involved in fight-flight responses.

Symptoms of low catecholamines: food cravings, addictions, substance abuse, anger, impulsivity, high risk behaviors and excessive sleepiness.

Symptoms of high catecholamines: schizophrenia, aggression/violence, delirium, anxiety/panic/worry, tachycardia, high blood pressure, insomnia, paranoia, chronic pain.

Serotonin is an “inhibitory” or calming and uplifting brain messenger.

Symptoms of low serotonin: violence, aggression, depression, apathy, lack of pleasure, suicide, high risk behaviors, chronic fatigue, anorexia/cravings, low libido and interrupted sleep.

Symptoms of high serotonin: mania, agitation, hyperreflexia, excess sweating, fever, shaking, diarrhea.

Dopamine deficiency symptoms can occur with normal dopamine and high serotonin. Serotonin deficiency symptoms can occur w/low serotonin or high dopamine.

High serotonin is only seen in 1% of individuals tested.

Histamine and serotonin are both released in type 1 basophil and mast cell responses.

Dopamine has no built-in braking system like serotonin does and it’s harder to clear from the system once it’s made.  Those with COMT errors will clear dopamine even more slowly, and SNPs on this gene are associated with poor memory and learning. Every antipsychotic drug works on dopamine.

Glyphosates (found in Roundup) not only kill off our friendly flora, they bind minerals needed to make the 3 aromatic amino acids (tyrosine, tryptophan and phylalanine) needed to make catecholamines and serotonin.

Insulin’s Impact on Neurotransmission:

High levels of insulin push higher amounts of tryptophan and tyrosine into the brain, competing with access by branched chain amino acids’.  (High insulin is common in type 2 diabetes, and also results from eating too many quickly releasing carbohydrates.)

Low levels of insulin and insulin-resistance increase glucagon, which inhibits tyrosine and tryptophan from entering the brain.

Taking branched chain amino acids lowers brain tryptophan uptake and serotonin synthesis, as well as tyrosine uptake and dopamine synthesis, so athletes with mood disorders should beware.

Supplementation of tyrosine lowers serotonin, and supplementation of tryptophan lowers dopamine.

Tryptophan has functions in the body other than the production of serotonin, and it’s becoming increasingly scarce in our food supply.  Additionally, B3 is needed to make tryptophan, so yeast overgrowth, which depletes B3 to clear the aldehyde byproducts they produce, can result in low serotonin.

MAO-A enzymes have a much higher affinity for breaking down serotonin when the body is inflamed.

The following compounds compete for clearance from the body: adrenaline, dopamine, histamine, estrogens, acetaldehyde and aldehyde.

To stabilize mast cells: SPM Active given 2 TID for 1 bottle, then 2 BID for 1 bottle then 2 QD thereafter

Key products for oxalates: bone builder vegetarian 1 tab 5 min before meals/snacks containing oxalates

Trancor 2 TID or Lipo-gen 2 TID

Sulfuroclear 2 tabs BID
UF Intensive care 2 tabs QD

Metagest 1-7 tabs after meals

Low catecholamines:

vessel care 2 tabs BID for cranky and high homocysteine

Blisphora 1 tab BID for low or normal homocysteine

Glycogenics 2 tabs BID for sarcopenia

Serosyn 1 tab TID

SJW w/folate and B12 1-4 tabs QD

Ultra Meal advanced protein, 2 scoops BID

High catecholamines:

Trancor, 2 tabs TID if anxious

Glutaclear, 2 tabs BID

Serosyn 1 tab TID

Benesom, 1-4 tabs QD, 10 min before bed

After gut is improved, look at mitochondrial support, detox and vitamins (don’t use before or you feed bad gut bacteria too)

Mitovive 1 scoop QD

Nutragems COQ10 300 1 cap QD

MetaLipoate 300 1 cap BID

Ceralin forte 3 tabs QD


Glutaclear 2 tabs BID

Sulfuroclear 2 tabs BID

Silymarin 1 tab TID

Advacearl 1 tab TID


Patty Shipley, Naturopath, RN, Herbalist

Meet Patty Shipley

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Success with CBD Oil

We’ve been using CBD oil now for about 4 months, and I can honestly say I wish we’d had access to this years ago! Because I’m so excited about the success we’re having, I put together this quick update for you – including testimonials from patients as well as a quick rundown of the dosage ranges for the conditions we’re seeing benefit most.

If you’re just tuning in, be sure to check out The ABCs of CBD – an earlier post introducing the basics of CBD oil.

(Update, August 2019 – check out our most updated CBD post here, and read about how to balance your endocannabinoid system without CBD here.)

Conditions and Dosage

Even though dosing is very specific to each person (not to the condition treated), we’re starting to get a feel for timing of the doses, and which products to use, depending on the goal of treatment.

Here are the conditions we’ve seen the most consistent benefit for, plus tips on when, what and how to dose:

Anxiety / Social Anxiety
  • When to dose: Daytime dose as well as evening/bedtime dosing seems to work best.
  • How and what to dose: We typically have patients start with the 3 mg spray and feel their way with how much and how often to dose (see more tips on timing of doses below).  For severe anxiety or hyper-vigilance, some patients need to add in a gold product.
  • When to dose: Most patients do best when dosing in the evening, starting around 4-5 pm.
  • How and what to dose: 2-3 doses. We recommend starting with the 3 mg green product and adding a gold product if needed
  • When to dose: If anxiety, depression, pain and/or insomnia are also present, use the dosing guidelines for those symptoms; otherwise, experiment.
  • How and what to dose: Start with a 1-3 mg green product and aim for 2-3 doses per day
  • When to dose: Start around 4-5 pm and aim for 2-3 doses, with the last one at bedtime. This will help with a transition from a faster-paced work day and get ahead of the “second wind” most insomnia patients experience leading up to bedtime.
  • How and what to dose: Green products seem to work best for sleep. Most patients do best with the 3 mg spray, though some who require 6-8 sprays prefer the 10 mg capsule, 1-2 capsules 30 minutes before bed.
  • When to dose: Twice daily (am/pm) for gold gels. Green product should be dosed based on any symptoms from above, or experiment if none are present.
  • How and what to dose: For severe pain, such as rheumatoid arthritis, we typically start patients on a 15 mg gold gel cap 1-2 times daily, taken alongside the 1 mg green spray. Liquid gold products are also available, and these would be titrated up based on response. Gold balm can be quickly effective in most cases applied topically.
Smoking Cessation
  • When to dose: We recommend switching to American Spirit cigarettes to withdraw first from the added chemicals in conventional cigarettes, then advance to nicotine vape and step down the nicotine dose gradually as cravings become more manageable.
  • How and what to dose: Liquid CBD designed for vaping works best. Start with a low dose and increase slowly; experiment with the ratio of CBD to nicotine based on your symptoms and cravings. Vaping CBD will also help with the other symptoms listed above and it works more quickly than other methods.

Additional Tips for Dosing

Everyone has to find their own best dose. Simply start low and go slow…advancing the dose every 1-3 days, while observing for improvement with your symptoms. As a general rule, I recommend starting with 1-2 sprays 1-2 times daily.

If you tend to be a very sensitive person, you should start w/the lowest dose you feel comfortable with, and advance as slowly as you need to until you feel significantly better (with whatever symptoms you’re targeting).

Some people report feeling agitated if they dose too high, while others report feeling very sleepy. Your response will help you determine what time of day is best to dose yourself, and what dose will work best. The best dose will feel noticeably calming, and if taken near bedtime, will make you feel sleepy.

Because the green products contain the whole plant, while the gold products only contain a few of the plant components, we encourage the use of at least the 1 mg green product alongside any gold product for synergistic effect. Whenever you isolate out components of a plant, you leave behind other compounds that can amplify the action.

When taking CBD orally, be sure to hold it in your mouth for 30 seconds before swallowing.

Peppermint and unflavored options are available. Some people find peppermint to be stimulating (though I love the peppermint in evening for insomnia), and do better with the unflavored for anxiety or insomnia. The unflavored oil tastes earthy and sweet.

Feel free to contact us if you have any questions about the type and/or dose of product for your specific situation and goals. Consults are $25 for 15 minutes.


Check out what these patients had to say about their experience with CBD oil.

“I have rheumatoid arthritis and was prescribed 3 oral medications and Humira injections, the combination of which helped about 80%. My rheumatologist wanted to add another medication, but I decided to seek help from Patty Shipley at Leaves of Life. She suggested I do a detox and eat a gluten free diet along with specific supplements (for deficiencies discovered with testing), and CBD. It seemed far fetched to me, but I can honestly say that after just one week of this combined approach, I was completely pain free and am now weaning off my medications.”

– Brenda F., Leaves of Life patient

“I knew I needed to give up sugar but I ‘d been dreading it. It just seemed too big a hurdle. When I started taking CBD oil, my initial reason was for helping with sleep (which it did) but the big bonus came after I had only been taking CBD for about a week and I gave up sugar like it was no big deal. Patty says it helped to balance my brain so that I could get past the sugar addiction. Even though I only take a “hummingbird dose” (1mg per day), that was apparently all I needed.”

– Karen Riggs, Office Manager at Leaves of Life

“4 years ago I injured my back and ended up on pain pills that I became addicted to. After taking suboxone to get off the pain pills, I then had to get off the suboxone, which helps you emotionally, so stopping it can be difficult. Prior to starting CBD, I changed my diet and was taking supportive nutrients to balance my brain, which had helped me come off multiple addictions: junk food, cigarettes (switched to vape), caffeine, sugar and gluten. I started using CBD oil for pain, but I tried the capsules, the gel caps, the liquid, and even the balm without success. Then Patty had me try the CBD vape oil, and minutes after vaping it the first time, I could feel pain relief. It took some experimenting to figure out the best dose for me which is a little bit in the morning, afternoon and evening. Too much definitely makes me sleepy. After about 2 weeks, I noticed feeling more emotionally balanced, and that i needed less nicotine. I’m now working my way down on the amount of nicotine I vape and how often. CBD has literally been life-changing for me!”

– Levi H., Leaves of Life patient

“I’m a 43-year-old mother of 2, and have been dealing with chronic joint and body pain for several years. I would often get shooting pains up my leg, and my feet and elbow joints were sometimes unbearably painful. The pain interfered with sleep and definitely affected my quality of life. When Patty recommended CBD, I was concerned it would get me high, but after doing some research I decided to try it. I am now pain-free for the first time in years and sleeping through the night!”

– Audrey D., Leaves of Life Patient

Want to read more posts about CBD? Click here.

Patty Shipley, Naturopath, RN, Herbalist

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Laboratory Testing: What Every Patient Should Know

This time of year, my inbox is flooded with requests for my recommendations on laboratory testing, so it seemed like a good time to write up a quick blog that I could direct people to.

If you’re looking to optimize your health and prevent future illness, one of the best things you can do is establish a regular testing regimen. Oftentimes I can spot a potential problem in a patient’s labs from values that are inside the reference range, but are trending up or down, or they’re just inside the top or bottom of the range.

I often tell patients:

“When an imbalance is harder to find (normal, but barely inside the top or bottom of the reference range), it’s easier to treat.

Once it’s easier to find (clearly outside the reference range), it’s harder to treat.”

It’s worth mentioning that laboratory reference ranges are arrived at from testing a large number of people, averaging their results, then adding a standard deviation to the top and bottom of that average. For MOST lab values, the optimal range is somewhere in the center of the reference range. Unfortunately, patients are often told they’re “normal” even when their lab values fall slightly outside the reference range.

Testing I Recommend for All Patients

  • GI Map for chronic GI symptoms, mood disorders, hormone imbalances, fatigue or any type of chronic inflammation or ongoing immune imbalance. Honestly, everyone should do a stool test, whether or not they have GI symptoms.
  • Spectracell Micronutrient Test (every 6 months until all values are optimal, then every 9-12 months, or anytime diet changes). For most patients, I recommend doing this test once GI infections and imbalances have been resolved.  For those who are experiencing severe symptoms, or who wish to speed their recovery, I recommend testing early in the course of treatment so nutritional deficiencies can be identified and corrected earlier in the treatment process.
  • CBC (complete blood count of red and white blood cells) yearly
  • CMP (comprehensive metabolic panel: liver and kidney markers, electrolytes, minerals, cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose) yearly
  • Ferritin (the storage form of iron) yearly

If there are imbalances discovered, or something in the patient’s health picture changes, some or all of these may need to be done more frequently, or additional tests that aren’t included here may be necessary.

Testing for Specific Patients:

  • SpectraCell CardioMetabolic for patients with a personal or family history of cardiovascular disease, diabetes or inflammation
  • OmegaChek (omega 3 and omega 6 totals and ratios) for patients with inflammation, poor diet or a diet low in omega 3 containing foods
  • SpectraCell Thyroid-Adrenal Panel (TSH, T4, Free T3, Thyroglobulin, TPO and TG antibodies, Thyroxine-binding globulin, Cortisol, DHEA and optional add-on Reverse T3) for patients with significant fatigue, difficulty losing weight, hair loss, hypercholesterolemia that isn’t explained by diet, or personal or family history of thyroid or adrenal issues
  • PSA (prostate specific antigen) for men yearly
  • ZRT Saliva Hormone Testing for symptoms of imbalanced hormones
  • Genetic Testing for patients who don’t respond to the typical treatments for their conditions. Knowing how a patient is unique can be extremely helpful.

This is just a list of the most common labs I recommend for specific patients.  We offer many other tests as the need arises, such as heavy metals, Lyme and co-infections, organic acid testing, inflammatory markers and Oncoblot cancer screening.

Knowing Your Cardiovascular Risks

While I think a CBC, CMP (and specialized lipid panel for most) should be done at least yearly, many doctors ONLY order these tests and if the patient is told these are “normal” they assume they’re in good health since the testing includes cholesterol, liver, kidneys and a snapshot of their immune system. However, not only are there often many clues of imbalance even with “normal” values, there are often additional tests that should be ordered to determine true health risks. For instance:

Elevated cholesterol is not the best predictor of cardiac risk.

Half the people who have a cardiovascular event

have normal or even LOW cholesterol

AND half the people who have HIGH cholesterol

NEVER have a cardiovascular event.

What IS more predictive of cardiovascular risk is cholesterol particle size. My favorite test panel for investigating cardiac risk is the CardioMetabolic test done at SpectraCell Labs, with the addition of ferritin (ferritin is available through all conventional labs). The CardioMetabolic test can also identify an elevated risk for diabetes, often present even when fasting glucose levels are normal.

More Food for Thought

RBC, hemoglobin and hematocrit in the high or low end of the reference range can indicate iron deficiency or overload.

An elevated or even high/normal RDW can indicate folate or B12 deficiency.

Low or low/normal WBC can indicate nutrient deficiencies or chronic infection.

A low or low/normal chloride can point to hydrochloric acid insufficiency.

Elevated or high/normal platelets points to some type of inflammation or acute phase reactant.  Commonly, mycotoxins from mold or other bio-toxins factor in.

The Bottom Line

Get tested regularly, and watch for any trending in your lab values. Don’t wait until a value is outside the reference range to take action.

Ultimately, the best approach is to develop a relationship with an integrative health practitioner and visit them 1-2 times yearly to review your labs and address any developing imbalances.

Patty Shipley, Naturopath, RN, Herbalist

Meet Patty Shipley

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The ABCs of CBD

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a compound derived from hemp for use as a dietary supplement.  Though hemp is a type of cannabis, unlike marijuana, it contains only trace amounts of THC, so it has no psychoactive effects, nor is it likely to show up in drug screening unless significantly high doses are used (high dosing would simply require specialized drug testing).  Current legislation prevents CBD from being grown or harvested in the US at this time, so it must be imported.

How CBD works

CBD activates receptors in the endocannabinoid system (ECS). All vertebrates make their own endogenous cannabinoids, and receptors are found throughout the brain/nervous system, organs, connective tissues, glands, and immune cells. The ECS performs different tasks in each area of the body, but the goal is always the same: maintaining homeostasis, a stable, steady state in the body’s internal environment despite fluctuations in the external environment. These compounds act as a bridge between body and mind. Understanding how this system operates helps to explain how states of consciousness can contribute to health or disease.

The three key components of the ECS are found within almost every major system of the body and include:

  • Cannabinoid receptors are found on the surface of cells…they appear to “listen” to extracellular conditions and trigger the appropriate intracellular response
  • Endocannabinoids are molecules made within the body that activate cannabinoid receptors
  • Metabolic enzymes break down endocannabinoids after they are used by the body

How Could CBD Help You?

As a science-based practitioner, I’m always extremely skeptical of any type of medication or supplement that is marketed as a cure-all.  However, given the unique nature of the body’s own endocannabinoid system, it’s no wonder that a compound that activates these receptors can help to normalize or improve such a wide diversity of conditions and symptoms. The following list of conditions that are known to respond well to CBD is provided by Project CBD. Click any condition in the list to see links to all the research compiled by Project CBD for that topic:

Because CBD hasn’t been widely marketed until recently, we’re still learning about the many different ways it can be used, and even how to determine the correct dosing for each patient or condition.  Because the ECS is spread throughout so many different systems and tissues in the body, and each person has their own unique imbalances, dosing and response times will vary.

Potential Drug Interaction

Also, since CBD is metabolized down the P450 pathway in the liver, the same metabolic pathway that processes over 60% of pharmaceuticals on the market, there is some potential for drug interaction.  In one study, it was determined that CBD was a slightly more potent inhibitor of these liver enzymes than Bergapten, a P450 inhibiting compound found in grapefruit. However, in most research settings, CBD is used as an isolate, not as part of the whole plant with all the other plant constituents, which increases the likelihood of side effects, and the doses ranged from 25-40 mg daily, which is significantly higher than most patients require to regain homeostasis in the ECS.

Choosing the Right Product and Dosage

When CBD first caught my attention a few months ago, I spent weeks researching different companies and learning as much as I could about CBD.  I finally settled on CV Sciences because their products are non-GMO, gluten-free, made from raw CO2-extracted hemp, free or artificial ingredients, and are EU certified organic.

In the CV Science product line, “green” products contain 100% of plant constituents and are my preferred starting place. “Gold” products are high CBD, but not whole plant, so if I recommend a gold product (pain, hyper-stress states), I think it is best layered in with a green product to get the benefit of the whole plant and all the synergistic compounds, with lower risk of side effects.

My recommendation is to start with a “green” or whole plant product that delivers 1-3 mgs per dose, and use it 1-2 times daily, holding the oil in your mouth for 30 seconds to allow for the CBD to be absorbed sublingually.  If you tend to be sensitive, you can start with an even smaller dose, and just slowly increase until you start to see the desired effects. If you’re seeking pain relief, or are extremely anxious, you may need to add in a “gold” product that delivers a more concentrated amount of CBD—always start with the lowest available dose and increase per your response.  I would recommend continuing the “green” or whole plant product alongside it to provide the synergism of all the plant constituents.  As you get started, simply pay attention to how you feel and increase or decrease your dose accordingly.  For most patients, it takes around two weeks to establish your best dosing range, and the goal is always to find the smallest effective dose.  Over time, as the ECS becomes balanced, you should be able to slowly lower your dose and discontinue.  This may take several weeks to several months, or longer if symptoms are long-standing or severe, or if stress levels remain high.

Most patients require once or twice a day dosing.

If any of you are already using CBD oil, please feel free to comment below.  This is how we learn how to advise other users.

Edit from spring 2017: We’ve had major success with CBD oil! Check out our CBD Success post for more info on specific dosage guidelines and testimonials.

Patty Shipley, Naturopath, RN, Herbalist

Meet Patty Shipley

Leaves of Life Practitioners, Patty Shipley, RN, Naturopath

Lyme Disease Conference with Dr. Horowitz

Little bug… big disease

In January this year I attended a Lyme Disease conference (thankfully, it was in Florida!). The conference speaker was Lyme Disease expert Dr. Richard Horowitz.

The following are my impressions and notes from his lectures. Super important info on a big disease caused by a tiny bug!

Some Background on Lyme Disease

  • Lyme Disease (LD) is the #1 spreading vector-borne epidemic in the US and Europe. Ticks that transmit Lyme Disease are now found in half of US counties, and tick-borne co-infections are also rapidly rising.
  • Additionally, LD is now found to be transmitted by blood transfusions (4/1000 transfusions), maternal-fetal transmission and possibly sexual encounters via semen and vaginal secretions. Scientists say because of the changing global ecosystems, we can expect 5 new emerging pandemic diseases each year into the future (identified thus far: Ebola, West Nile, Dengue, Borrelia, Ehrlichia, Anaplasma, Bartonella, Tularemia, Babesia, Protomyxoa Rheumatica, Filiariasis, TBE, Powassan, Heartland, Bourbon viruses, Yersinia pestis, Schistosomiasis, Malaria, Chikungunya, Lyme). Read more about this on the National Science Foundation site.
  • LD can present as either acute or chronic illness:
    • Acute: flu-like symptoms of fever, fatigue, swollen lymph glands, sore throat, nausea and vomiting, headaches, stiff neck, light sensitivity OR sudden onset of neurological symptoms such as Bell’s palsy OR erythema migrans rash (may or may not be a bull’s eye pattern).
    • Chronic LD: often referred to as the great imitator and can be associated with >38 different symptoms (often associated with co-infections) including chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, MS, Alzheimer’s, headaches/migraines, neuralgias and neuropathies (ex: trigeminal neuralgia), cranial nerve palsies (ex: Bell’s palsy), interstitial cystitis, IBS/IBD, depression/psychosis/OCD/anxiety, low growth hormone, pain that is resistant to standard treatments, and more. A complete list of symptoms can be accessed at A score of >46 confers a high probability for LD.
  • There are potentially multiple problems with diagnostic testing:
    • Intra- and inter-laboratory testing variations: 3 different commercial ELISA tests showed discrepant sensitivity for the same known infected blood sample (36.8%-70.5%)
    • There are now 15 documented species of Borrelia, and not all species are tested
    • 2-tiered testing is the standard of care in conventional medicine (only if ELISA testing is positive is an immunoblot done), which misses up to 55% of positive LD cases. According to Dr. Horowitz, there are problems with the sensitivity of the ELISA. He recommends using the C6 ELISA instead, as well as considering labs that expand the number of strains of borrelia on the Western Blot, and add specific strains based on the local strains seen.

Dealing with Lyme Disease

  • Important components of successful treatment include:
    • Lower inflammation: block NFKappa-B (LDN) and activate Nrf2 (curcumin, green tea, resveratrol/pterosilbene, sulfurophanes and other phytochemicals)
    • Block activation of glial cells in the brain (LDN)
    • Shift immune response from TH2 to TH1 (LDN)
    • Anti-inflammatory diet: ^omega 3/omega 6 (Mediteranean diet), reduce arachidonic acid, avoid allergic/sensitive foods, reduce simple sugars, red meat, eggs, dairy, gluten, possibly high histamine foods
    • Replace minerals per need, especially zinc, copper, magnesium
    • Get proper sleep and exercise (insomnia increases inflammatory cytokine IL-6)
  • Detoxify!
    • Remove chemicals and inflammatory cytokines that trigger or worsen inflammation and use natural support for lowering inflammation (IV/oral glutathione, magnesium, NAC, glycine, ALA, DIM, sulfurophane, increased protein in diet, cruciferous veggies)
    • Minimize toxic exposure (air and water purifiers, clean up personal care and cleaning products, minimize exposure to lawn and other chemicals, clean diet)
    • Optimize mitochondrial function to assist the body’s own detox processes (NT factor, COQ10, NADH)
    • Assist and balance biotransformation/liver detoxification pathways (NAC, glycine, B vits, minerals, herbs)
    • Increase antioxidant reserve to protect against damage caused by toxicity (ALA, resveratrol, sulfurophane, green tea, diet)
    • Ensure hydration to assist with excretion through the kidneys, bowels, respiratory tract and skin
    • Optimize bowel health/microbiome (fiber, colon cleanses, probiotics, enemas, colonics)
    • Encourage elimination through the skin (FIR sauna, hot baths, sweating)
    • If positive for mold exposure, glutathione, NAC, ALA, N-butyrate to support excretion and charcoal, clay and cholestyramine to bind
  • Balance hormones (thyroid, adrenal, sex hormones)
  • Repair mitochondrial damage from free radicals and oxidative stress
  • Heal damage to mind/emotions: meditation, love, compassion
  • Rule out mold, other toxins if resistant to treatment (Real Time Labs for mold, Doctor’s Data for heavy metals, Pac Tox for pesticides–all available at LOL)
  • Treat the infections causing inflammation and immune dysfunction (antibiotics and natural remedies).
  • LD can shift forms, so it’s important to treat all 3 forms as well as target biofilms (a biofilm is a slime layer produced by microbes that interferes with an effective immune response):
    • Cell wall forms: amoxicillin, augmentin, ceftin, cedax, omnicef, suprax, IM bicillin, IV rocephin, IV claforan, IV vancomycin, IV primaxin
    • Cystic forms: plaquenil, grapefruit seed extract, flagyl, tindamax
    • Intracellular forms: tetracyclines (doxy, mino, tetracycline HCL), macrolides (azithro, clarithro, roxithromycin), quinolones (Cipro, Levaquin, avelox, factive), rifampin, dapson
    • BioFilms: serrapeptase, nattokinase, stevia, lauricidin, herbal extracts
  • Some of the different treatment approaches being used with success:
    • Buhner protocol (Samento, andrographis)
    • Schart protocol (Diflucan, Penicillin)
    • Zhang protocol (Chinese herbs)
    • Homeopathy (ledum, syphilitic, malarial nosodes)
    • Salt and vitamin C protocol
    • Rife machines, coil machines, bionic 880, heat treatment
    • Byron White protocol (herbal blends)
    • Cowden protocol (Samento, Banderol, cumunda)
    • Beyond Balance (herbal tinctures)
    • Others: biocidin, essential oils, liposomal Vitamin C

Protect Yourself & Be Proactive Against Lyme Disease!

  • When hiking or spending time outdoors, particularly in high weeds or woods, tuck pants into socks or shoes, wear light clothing so ticks can be easily spotted, and have someone help you check for ticks when you return.  Tea tree oil is acts as an effective tick repellant, so spritzing on before you head outdoors can add another layer of protection.
  • If you discover a tick that is attached, remove it by grasping with tweezers at its mouth parts. Never squeeze the tick’s body or burn it. Approximately 25% of ticks transmit Lyme’s or infections other than LD, so save the tick and send it for testing.Igenex Labs will test the tick for the most common tick-borne infections: Babesia, Bartonella, Rickettsia (Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever) and Ehrlichia.
  • The incubation period for LD is several days to several weeks. If there are immediate symptoms following a tick bite, the cause is likely a different tick-borne infection.
  • Remember that less than 40% of those infected with LD actually develop a bull’s eye rash.
  • Being proactive is the key! A complete recovery is highly likely when treated early!

Want more? Watch Dr. Horowitz describe his experience with Lyme Disease on YouTube.

How to Have a Healthy Vacation, How We Recharge, Patty Shipley, RN, Naturopath

Sanctuary in Sedona

Recharging in Sedona

Last year Francie and I started blogging about how to have a healthy vacation—eating clean, being active and recharging. We felt it was important to share this with clients since it seems like an American tradition to “live it up” on vacation – eat what you want, drink more than you normally do, and laze around, letting go of fitness routines.

This type of vacation mentality can make it particularly difficult to help patients to effect significant, lasting change, particularly if they travel often. Just when things are getting balanced and stable, they head off on vacation or a business trip, and we’re often starting over upon their return.

Personally, this type of vacation used to leave me feeling disgusted with myself, not to mention sluggish and ill, so several years ago, I made the choice to create my own “health retreat” type of vacation. Not only do I feel better while on vacation, I feel fantastic when I return because my body rested and rejuvenated rather than suffering a week or more of abuse, only to return to a backlog of work.

Healthy Options All Over Sedona

Before I left, I planned to blog about how to make healthy choices in the area for clients who vacation there, but when I got there and realized how supportive the area is to this, it didn’t seem like there was a real need. Sedona boasts a Whole Foods and a Natural Grocers, and oodles of restaurants offering gluten free, organic options and a great selection of fresh vegetables on the menu. Aside from a brief reminder to always be thinking “outside the menu” (not being afraid to ask for substitutions) or even trying the game I play at restaurants – trying to see how many colors of veggies I can get on my plate when ordering – there isn’t much else to say here that is particularly unique for navigating healthy eating in Sedona.

Positive energy everywhere!

However, since this area is known for its spiritual energy, it felt appropriate to focus on another important aspect of a healthy vacation: finding a way to shift gears mentally and emotionally to allow for complete and total relaxation at a deep psychic level. This can be accomplished in numerous ways, but here are the techniques I rely on to shift those mental gears:

Start With a Massage

My first day of vacation I usually arrange to have a 90 minute massage to send my brain and body the message to “let go”. It just so happens that this trip I had one of the best massages I’ve ever had with Rosemary Anderson at Body Dialog Massage.  If you’d like to experience a massage with her, I would recommend booking it a few weeks in advance.

Leave Work Behind

For me to truly relax on vacation, it’s important I don’t do any significant work…after all, work is the main thing I’m taking a break from. There are usually a few writing projects I’m working on that I’ll tackle on the flight out since I’m not a plane sleeper, but once I’ve landed, I put all work away.

I’ve also found that putting a vacation message on my email dramatically improves my ability to take a step back, allowing me to focus on rejuvenating so I come back refreshed and ready to take on new challenges.

Stay Present

Staying present seems like common sense…I mean, who goes on vacation just to drag along the same cares and worries you were shouldering at home? To really enjoy any moment, one must let go of regrets about the past and quit borrowing trouble by worrying about things that may or may not ever come to pass. This is also a good skill to bring home and practice every day.

Stay present… don’t miss the beauty all around you!

I find the most effective way to stay present is to use all 5 senses to notice what’s going on around me. Are there birds singing? Is there a breeze blowing? Look at the scenery. Is that a blooming flower I smell? How about the food I’m eating…what spices did they use in this dish and can I duplicate it at home?

Have An Attitude of Gratitude

There are lots of people in the world who can’t afford to go on vacation…and many more who are less fortunate than you in even more profound ways. Focus on the things in your life that are working rather than focusing on the areas where things could improve. We’re all a work in progress, and our struggles are learning and growth opportunities.

Get Grounded!

When you’re physically and mentally relaxed, staying present, and focusing on all the things you’re grateful for, this can set the stage for the last thing I like to focus on when on vacation: getting re-grounded in my body and listening to its messages.

When we’re focused on the daily grind, and dealing with all of the crises that are an inherent part of life, it’s easy to tune out the messages our body is sending us: I’m hungry… I’m thirsty…I’m tired…there is pain associated with this behavior/activity…this situation doesn’t feel good…I can’t do this alone…I need to say “no”….these and many more are common examples of messages many of us tune out on a daily basis.

I’ve always found it ironic that when our bodies are most in need of TLC is when we’re least likely to provide it. Trust me, this is one of the most important concepts to grasp if you want to regain/gain or maintain optimal health.

Pain and discomfort are not random, and for most of us, our bodies know the answers if we only slow down and listen hard enough to hear.

A vacation is the perfect time to start establishing new, more positive behavior patterns!

Education and Newsletters, Patty Shipley, RN, Naturopath

Sports Nutrition Conference

Part 1 of a 2-part series on sports nutrition

Everyone Is An Athlete


A few weekends ago, I attended a lecture presented by Scott Bergman, a chiropractor practicing in the San Francisco Bay area.

In his practice, Dr. Bergman approaches patient care with the idea that all of his patients are athletes. I liked his definition of an athlete as someone who:

  • Is driven to improve
  • Is goal-oriented
  • Wants performance based outcomes
  • Wants to train right, eat right, sleep right and recover right

In short, being athletic is a lifestyle, and the ultimate goal doesn’t have to be a marathon… it can be to garden without pain, keep up with grandkids, or hike a challenging trail. Everyone is a potential athlete!

Is there something physical you’d like to be able to do that you can’t now? Working toward that goal involves eating, training, sleeping and recovering right. True health is the ability to experience life with optimal performance.

The Benefits of Exercise

Aside from attaining specific goals, regular exercise has many important benefits:

  • Controls weight
  • Reduces risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer
  • Strengthens bones and muscles
  • Improves mental health and mood
  • Improves ability to do daily activities
  • Prevents falls and injuries

Regular exercise (as defined by the American College of Sports Medicine) is a minimum of 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise, best divided into 30 minute sessions at least 5 days weekly, with a focus on training each major muscle group 2-3 times weekly.

Dr. Bergman feels the proper focus for beginning a new fitness regimen is in this order:

  1. Flexibility (yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi)
  2. Stability (strengthen core, enhance speed of muscle engagement, improve proprioception)
  3. Strength (weights/resistance)
  4. Endurance (biking, running, swimming, etc)

Important Considerations For Those Who Exercise Regularly

Our metabolism utilizes macro and micronutrients 24 hours a day, and energy expenditure with exercise increases utilization of nutrients, creating a higher nutrient need in those who exercise regularly. I see evidence of this all the time when we do nutrient testing in the office. Personal trainers and competitive athletes are very often among the most depleted in a variety of nutrients, particularly glutathione, the body’s master antioxidant.

Organs are the main storage site for the body’s nutrient stores, so when nutrient deficiencies occur, nutrients are pulled from these storage sites/organs, and organ function suffers. It’s also good to note that when we consume meat, we are choosing the least nutrient-dense portion of the animal to consume.

Specific nutrients are more highly associated with particular organs:

  • Potassium: brain
  • Iodine and selenium: thyroid
  • Magnesium: muscles
  • Calcium: bone
  • Copper, iron and zinc: colon
  • B Vitamins: adrenals, liver
  • Vitamins A, D, E: liver
  • Vitamin C: gut associated lymphatic tissue (GALT)
  • Electrolyte minerals calcium, potassium, magnesium, sodium, chloride, phosphorous: buffer pH

In short, get out there and move, but make sure you’re taking in plenty of nutrient-dense foods… in other words, eat plenty of plants in a rainbow of colors. And consider nutrient testing to make sure you’re covering all the bases. If the body has insufficient supplies of any particular nutrient, the functions that nutrient participates in cannot take place, setting the body up for disease and rapid aging.

Coming up!

Have you heard of runner’s gut? In the next installment of this 2-part series on sports nutrition, I’ll share what I learned about it from Dr.  Bergman. Interesting stuff!

Copyright Patty Shipley. All rights reserved.

Breast Health, Cancer Prevention & Treatment, Education and Newsletters, Patty Shipley, RN, Naturopath, Practitioners We Trust

Supporting Breast Health Through Thermography

In whatever part of the body excess of heat or cold is felt, disease is there to be discovered.

– Hippocrates, 480 B.C.

My Take on Thermography

Many clients have asked for my opinion on mammograms and whether or not thermograms are a safer option. Unfortunately, there is no one answer I can give to everyone since family history, breast health history, age , and other risk factors (smoking, hormone use, environmental exposure, diet, lifestyle, etc) are all uniquely contributing factors.

What I can do is offer my perspective, provide some basic information. and point you to a list of things you can do to improve breast health and lower risk.

Ultimately, any screening decisions should be made with the help of your physician, but you can be a more proactive participant in this discussion with some education.

Mammography Has Its Place

Mammogram of a healthy breast

Mammography is currently the gold standard for breast cancer screening. Unfortunately, it also exposes the breasts to harmful radiation and has limited efficacy in women who are on hormone replacement therapy, or who have enhanced, large, dense or fibrocystic breasts. In most cases it also cannot show areas near the chest wall.

These lifestyle and risk differences do not detract from the accuracy of thermography, so thermography may offer an advantage when combined with other screening methods to improve surveillance. Personally I have chosen to utilize mammography less often and do yearly thermograms because I have fibrocystic breasts.


The biggest criticism of mammograms is the radiation exposure. After all, radiation does cause cancer, so how does it make sense to irradiate breast tissue, as well as surrounding tissues (heart, coronary arteries, lungs, etc)? To put it into perspective, the amount of radiation exposure from a mammogram is approximately what you’d receive on a jet flight across the country. Still, there are genetic and other individual risk factors that can make this a very significant exposure, especially since the radiation exposure is concentrated in specific areas.

Another criticism is the number of cancers detected by mammogram that may have resolved on their own without costly treatments that carry their own risks.  We all make cancer cells every day.  Since most of us have never been diagnosed with cancer, this means our immune systems “cure” cancer every day.

Lastly, there is the controversy over the last several years as to how often and at what age mammograms should be done.

All of these are good talking points to include in a discussion with your healthcare provider as you make the individual decision of when and how often mammograms make sense for you.

What Is A Thermogram?

At a simple level, thermography has a wide application. It is performed using a highly sensitive infrared camera to detect subtle heat differentials. Think about the paranormal TV shows you may have seen when the camera crew is looking for a creature in the woods using a “heat sensor.” Or maybe an inspection you may have had before weather proofing your home. This is basic thermography at work.

An everyday example of thermography

The Argument for an Alternative

When it comes to breast health, the heat differentials detected by a thermograph allows us to pinpoint areas of increased blood circulation and metabolic activity. So why is that important?

Inflamm Cancer
Breast thermography at work

Because cancerous tumors are known to promote the growth of new vessels to “feed” themselves (angiogenesis),  they are associated with an ever-increasing pattern of rising local temperature. Digital infrared imaging (thermography) is extremely sensitive to these temperature variations and can therefore be a valuable tool in early cancer detection.

Adjunct to Mammography

Most thermography proponents consider it to be an adjunct to mammography and other forms of breast cancer detection, NOT a competitor. This complementary view arises from the basic differences in the technologies: structural imaging tools (mammography, ultrasound, MRI) capture anatomical images, and thermography captures metabolic images. Each of these types of detection tools have their advantages with different types of cancers and in different populations. For instance, not all tumors are visible on a mammogram, and not all tumors are associated with a high level of blood vessel activity.

Because tumors can take 8-10 years to grow to a size detectable by mammogram, thermograms may alert you to a need for preventive intervention.  It can be argued that regular thermography is one of the best ways to assess risk and maintain a proactive awareness of your level of breast health.

For more breast health recommendations, see our post on maintaining or regaining breast health.

Next Steps

As I said in my introduction to this post, all of your diagnostic decisions should be made together with a doctor you trust. If you decide that a thermogram is right for you, it’s important to establish a baseline thermogram to start. An initial thermogram should then be followed up with another in 3-6 months to determine if heat patterns are stable, or if there is a progressive increase in blood flow/heat to a particular area, suggestive of a growing tumor.

A Local, Trusted Practitioner

We are fortunate to have a trusted, experienced thermogram provider here in the Columbus area – Dena E. Johnston RN, MSN, CCT of Ohio Infrared Health, Breast & Body Thermography.

For more information on the services Dena provides, see descriptions, pricing, and FAQs on her website.

If you have concerns about paying for this imaging, Dena suggests checking out the assistance offered by The United Breast Cancer Foundation (UBCF). For a $5 application fee, the UBCF will assist with up to $150 of the cost of your imaging, depending on their current available funding.

 Bonus Time! Some Thermo-History

400 B.C. compared to present day

The FDA approved thermography as an adjunctive diagnostic breast cancer screening procedure in 1982. Interestingly enough, there’s a more natural history to this diagnostic tool. The first recorded use of thermobiological diagnostics can be found in the writings of Hippocrates around 480 BC. A mud slurry spread over the patient was observed for areas that would dry first and was thought to indicate underlying organ or tissue pathology.

Resources Mentioned in this Post

This was quite a bit of information to digest, so just to make sure that the valuable links and points of contact don’t get lost in the shuffle, here they are in one short list:

Education and Newsletters, Patty Shipley, RN, Naturopath

Tips for Cold & Flu Season

flueFleeing the Flu: A Natural Approach to the Season We Dread

It’s that time of year again – the holidays have come and gone and people are counting down the days until spring. So, during these days when a friend’s sneeze will send you diving for the hand sanitizer, we want to help you cut through some of the hype and stay healthy.

This post gives you a quick run down on our favorite cold and flu tips. From home remedies and supplements to sweat baths – we have you covered!

Planning Your Flu Offensive

The best defense is a good offense, and the quicker you get started, the quicker you’ll restore health. If you start feeling suddenly tired for no reason, this is often the first sign that your body is under attack. If you’re feeling flu-ish, get back on the road to health with these tips:

  • Listen to your body and rest if you feel the need. Lack of sleep depletes your energy reserves, so be sure you are in bed by a decent hour. Also, the immune system works better in a warm environment, so bundle up.
  • Traditional Medicinals has several different medicinal teas available to help ward off illness. I love Gypsy Cold Care and Cold Care PM. And for sore throats, you can’t beat Throat Coat or Throat Comfort. The best way to make a tea that’s truly therapeutic is to use 3 tea bags per cup and allow it to steep covered (to preserve essential oils that would otherwise evaporate) for 10 minutes before sipping slowly and inhaling the vapors.
  • Sitting in a hot sweat bath for 20-25 minutes has been proven to boost white blood cell production (the fighter cells). After you climb limply from the tub, dry off completely and bundle up in bed for best results. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water or tea before and during the bath to avoid dehydration.
  • Avoid sugar and other processed, refined foods, since they rob the body of vital nutrients and energy that are needed to sustain you through your illness. Eat plenty of whole foods, fruits and veggies and drink plenty of water-warm foods are best. Again, listen to your body and eat only if you’re hungry.
  • Most important of all: lighten up! Laughter boosts immunity, so watch a funny movie or TV show or spend some time with a kooky friend. Avoid stress and take some time off from work if you can. Slow down and allow your body to focus on the war within and you’ll be back to work in no time!

Our Favorite Remedies

For prevention:

  • Nat-Stim: a 1-a-day formula particularly helpful for those prone to respiratory infections. ($26 for 45 caps)
  • ImmuCore: packs 1000 mg vitamin C per serving, along with zinc, selenium, and blended mushrooms. Take 3/day. ($34 for 90 tabs)

For treatment:

  • Essential Defense: should be taken 2 tabs every 30 minutes at the first sign of illness. Once symptoms resolve, set aside for the next battle. (30T $19)
  • Andrographis Plus: an aggressive formula that should be taken 2 tabs every 1-2 hours while symptoms are acute. I personally take alongside Essential Defense at the first sign of illness. (30T $21)
  • ALJ: helps clear up thin, excessive, watery mucous, encourages the entire respiratory tract to gently cleanse itself and helps soothe irritated tissues. For extra “punch”, take 4 capsules with your first dosing, then 2-4 for each subsequent dose (every 2-4 hours based on symptoms). (100 caps $15)
  • Fenugreek & Thyme: thins and expels thick, sticky, stuck mucus. Because it is an expectorant, it will increase mucus flow, but remember that you never want to work against your body’s desire to remove unwanted pathogens by suppressing mucus flow. These are common kitchen spices, so take as much as you need to achieve the desired effect. Dose as with ALJ.  (100 caps $15)
  • Emergen-C: can also be taken as a soothing, immune boosting beverage alongside the herbal formulas (3-5 packets per  day).  ($13 for 30 packets)

For flu:

  • Oscillococcinum: These homeopathic vials taste great and are easy to administer. Oscillo has been shown to shorten the duration and lessen the intensity of flu symptoms. Take every 6 hours. (6 doses $18)

Avoid These Immunity Lowering Mistakes

  • Drinking orange juice for the vitamin C. OJ is high in sugar, which lowers immunity by feeding organisms in the gut that compete with our friendly flora.
  • Using cough drops that are high in sugar. Try sipping on an immune-stimulating hot tea instead, like Throat Coat, Throat Soothe, or Gypsy Cold Care.
  • Overusing hand sanitizer. Antibacterial hand sanitizers kill off all the bacteria that live on your hands, including those that are beneficial. Save these types of products for situations where you can’t get to a sink to wash with soap.
  • Poor hand hygiene. Not washing hands often enough allows more germs to collect. Try to get in the habit of regularly washing hands. Many studies show those who do are sick less often.
  • Antibiotics as first line of defense. Resorting to antibiotics first before trying natural remedies that work with your immune system to strengthen it rather than doing the job for it. Though there are certainly times an antibiotic is necessary.
  • Skipping probiotics. Not taking probiotics with antibiotics means the good bacteria, which comprise 70% of our immune system, get wiped out, setting us up for repeat infections.
  • Skipping the coat and scarf. Not bundling up enough in cold weather can lower immunity. Pay special attention to the neck and throat areas.
Education and Newsletters, Multivitamins, Patty Shipley, RN, Naturopath

MultiVitamin – Next Steps

Part 3 of a 3-part multivitamin series

So you’re convinced you need to take a multivitamin… or maybe you’re already taking one.  With so many options to choose from, how do you know which one is best? And how do you know for sure you’re getting the most value out of multivitamin you’ve decided to add to your daily routine?

One a Day? No Way!

If you’re going to spend the time and money to get into this routine, avoid these common multivitamin mistakes:

  • Taking only one per day when the daily dose is more. Certain nutrients will not be present in the amount most commonly needed on a daily basis if you skimp on the portion.  For instance, folate, which is necessary for preventing neural tube defects in newborns is usually targeted at 400-800 mcg/day, but if you’re skimping on the dose, you’ll only get a fraction of the intended daily dose.
  • Taking “one-a-day” multivitamins.  There is simply no way absorbable, quality forms of vitamins and minerals can be crammed into one capsule or tablet in a sufficient amount (unless it’s a huge horse pill).  Choose instead at least a 3 or 4 per day multivitamin.
  • Vitamins create energy and are best taken at breakfast and lunch. Taking them with dinner may contribute to insomnia in some people. If breakfast and dinner are the only times you WILL take your multi, and this doesn’t interfere with sleep, go for it!
  • B vitamins and vitamin C are all water-soluble, so for best results, split between breakfast and lunch (or breakfast and dinner if this is tolerable).
  • Unless you are menstruating or have a proven need for iron, don’t take a multivitamin that contains iron. Excess iron causes oxidative stress and increases cardiovascular and other risks.
  • Buying a multivitamin based solely on price practically guarantees you will be taking the lowest quality versions of the vitamins and minerals it contains. You don’t choose the cheapest cuts of meat, the cheapest clothes, or the cheapest car you can find, so when it comes to your health, don’t choose the cheapest multivitamin. There’s a reason it’s cheap.
  • Choosing a multivitamin based on non-significant extras such as COQ10, enzymes, probiotics or similar ingredients. There is rarely a high enough dose of these to make any difference in overall health…remember you can only fit so much into those capsules/tablets.
  • Taking children’s chewables because you hate to swallow pills means you will only get a fraction of what an adult body requires, and likely some other additives you don’t want, such as sugars and food colorings.

What Else?

Aside from a multivitamin, most people should take the following:

  • Calcium is a MACRO-mineral (meaning we need large amounts) necessary for neurotransmitter signaling, muscle contraction, bone health and more.  Steer clear of calcium carbonate, which is essentially sidewalk chalk. This form of calcium is difficult to absorb, so it can end up in places you don’t want it (plaque, kidney stones, bone spurs). TUMS and the tasty, chocolate calcium chews that I’ve seen all contain carbonate (along with unnecessary sugars).  See tips in my last post for better forms of calcium to choose from.
  • Unless you regularly consume wild-caught, cold water fish and/or high omega-3 eggs, you should include fish oil in your daily regimen.  Nuts and seeds are sources of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), another important omega-3 that your body cannot make, but research shows most people don’t convert ALA into EPA and DHA (found in fish oil), so it’s best to include sources of both.  Generally speaking, fish oil blends that are higher in DHA support brain health, and blends higher in EPA are aimed more at anti-inflammatory and circulatory support. Word of caution: don’t be a bargain hunter when it comes to fish oil. You take more grams of fish oil than anything else in a foundation regimen, and cheaper sources are less likely to be filtered for heavy metals and PCBs, and are more likely to have been handled or stored improperly, causing rancidity. Taking in rancid oils is worse than taking none!
  • You most likely need vitamin D – unless you spend 20 minutes 3 times weekly in the sun during peak hours with arms and legs exposed (wearing NO sunscreen). This is particularly true if you live in Ohio. I have found most Ohioans need around 5000 (yes, thousand) IU daily to maintain optimal serum levels of 60-80 ng/mL. Current serum lab reference ranges don’t reflect the OPTIMAL range that studies indicate for vitamin D’s protective effects against cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, auto-immune disease, depression and bone health. The best form to take is D3 and it’s easily and inexpensively obtained over the counter.
  • Antioxidants are a must, particularly if you aren’t consistent with fruits and veggies. Opt for caps or powder if you have blood sugar imbalance or are attempting to lose weight since juices are loaded with sugar. Some of our favorites are turmeric, EGCG (green tea extract), resveratrol, ellagic acid and vitamins A, C and E.
  • Once or twice yearly (or more often based on specific needs) it’s good to go through a bottle of probiotics. This will keep the colonization of good flora in your gut varied and strong. Good gut flora are responsible for 50% of your vitamin K production, contribute to optimal levels of several of your B vitamins and constitute more than 70% of your immune response. Make sure you are taking at least 15 billion per day, and that there is an array of strains listed, including some lactobacillus (specific to the small intestine) and some bifidobacteria (specific to the large intestine).

And remember – testing is the best way to determine specific individual needs.

Test and Test Again!

As you may have heard us say, we recommend lab testing to establish a variety of baselines by which to measure your progress over time.

Once you have built a good foundational protocol, consider double-checking the specific products you’ve chosen after 3-4 months by doing micronutrient testing.

Personally, I was surprised to find that there were a handful of specific nutrients I wasn’t taking in a sufficient amount.  I noted several improvements in my general health and wellbeing when I tweaked my protocol to account for my individual nutrient needs.

Several doctors in the Columbus area now offer this testing, which is available through SpectraCell Laboratories, and is covered by most major insurances with a copay. Check out the Leaves of Life webite for our lab testing menu for more info on the options we offer and what practitioners we can put you in touch with.

Wishing you vibrant health!


Copyright Patty Shipley. All rights reserved.

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