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Genetics and Mental Health

“What would you say if I told you your son’s mood and behavior problems were due to his genetics?”  - therapist of one of my patients “Mental health can be affected by diet and stressful life events, but the dominant factor is often genetic or epigenetic differences in brain chemistry.” – William J. Walsh, PhD What does it mean to have a mood, behavior, or learning problem due to genetics? I have talked and written before about how the building blocks for our neurotransmitters are amino acids and other nutrients. Possibly more important though is the number and activity of transporter proteins that allow (or don’t) optimal neurotransmitter activity at synapses. Genetic expression, or production, of transporter proteins affects the activity of neurotransmitters. The most commonly talked about example of this has to do with methylation (commonly tested for with genetic testing companies such as 23&Me). Methylation of genetic material called chromatin inhibits production of some neurotransmitter transporters. Undermethylators tend [...]

Muscle As Medicine?

As a naturopathic doctor, I have been intentional about the way I live. I eat well and regularly get enough sleep. I have always maintained an active lifestyle, beginning with competitive gymnastics as a child, backpacking, marathon running, bike commuting, trail running, yoga, and I am the mother of 2 children. Yet, at 45 years old I had suffered 3 ankle breaks in 3 years and chronic to sometimes acute back pain that stopped me in my tracks for days to weeks, stealing my fitness away. I wondered how someone who works so hard at health and well-being could be suffering this way. Was I really just getting old? What is aging? What is aging, other than the passage of time? In 2013, researchers characterized aging as a progressive loss of physiological integrity, leading to impaired function and increased vulnerability to death, and even identified 9 hallmarks of aging. Among these hallmarks are a variety of genetic and epigenetic effects [...]

CBD: Hype or Helpful?

We all know the stoner stereotypes: an unmotivated dude living in mom and dad’s basement, content passing time on video games and munching Cheetos, a free-loader. Given that classic perception, have you begun to wonder what is behind the current CBD craze? It seems to be touted almost as a silver bullet – good for whatever ails you. Maybe you have been curious but might be intimidated to go into a pot shop. Or maybe you have visited a pot shop but found yourself overwhelmed and confused by all the options and have reservations about the advice given by the folks selling the product. Maybe you brought home a hemp product from the grocery store yet are unsure how to take it. You wonder if it really is beneficial or even if it’s safe. This post briefly sheds some light on the history of marijuana and its medicinal uses, research and current understandings, and then examines CBD as a treatment. [...]

Hormone Health Now…for a more graceful transition later

Hormone Health in the Reproductive Years Hormonal health during reproductive years might play the most significant role in a woman gracefully moving through the different phases in her life, yet many doctors suppress women’s reproductive hormone production often as a matter of course, in some cases as soon as a young woman begins cycling. While the use of synthetic hormones is indicated in many cases, in just as many or more cases, practitioners prescribe it as an easy, quick, and short-sighted “fix” with long-term ramifications. Many cases of difficult conception, as well as severely symptomatic perimenopausal years, could be prevented, or at least moderated, by focusing on hormonal health earlier in development. Rather than “controlling” menstrual irregularities, it would be of greater benefit to try to understand and address the underlying cause. A Naturopathic Approach to Hormonal Health A naturopathic approach looks to optimize biological functions. The human body exists not as a set of separate systems in isolation; its [...]

The Gut-Brain Connection: The Everyday Implications of a Mental Health Superhighway

We have all thought it, and we have all done it. A thought makes you “sick to your stomach”. Faced with a tough choice or situation, you go with your “gut-instinct”. These phrases have been in our vernacular for a long time, and yet, we have forgotten their literal meaning. In fact, these familiar idioms happen to be true. We have a bi-directional highway of information and instruction between our gut and our brain. Treating The Mind And The Body Naturopathically in Boulder, CO Many people suffering from mental health issues also have gastrointestinal symptoms but never correlate them. Meanwhile, a naturopathic approach to gut health has been beneficial for people dealing with mental health issues, even when no gastrointestinal symptoms are reported. A variety of pharmaceutical medications exist for gastrointestinal symptoms. Unsurprisingly, and not unlike the pharmaceutical approach to mental health, these medicines treat just one aspect of a person’s experience. A naturopathic approach treats the whole person — [...]

Holistic Approach to Mental Health vs. Pharmaceutical Chemical Assist

A staggering one out of every ten Americans take an antidepressant. That means even here in sunny Boulder, CO, we have a lot of folks getting a chemical assist. A Naturopathic Approach Compared To Western Medicine All medication comes with unintended side effects. For some, unpleasant side effects are significantly disruptive - they may feel like completely different people on medication. Undoubtedly, medication has its place and is a useful tool, yet it only treats one aspect of a person. A naturopathic approach seeks to discover the root biological factors of disturbed mental health, and treats the person holistically, in an attempt to normalize brain biochemistry and function, rather than override it. If you are suffering from anxiety or depression, consider working with a naturopathic doctor. Functional, Integrative Medicine in Boulder, CO In my naturopathic practice, I have a functional, integrative approach. I collaborate with psychotherapists, psychiatrists, as well as primary care providers. While a psychotherapist’s main focus is often [...]

Weathering the Cold and Flu Season

On the first Monday of the new school year I found myself taking two calls from two different schools telling me that both my kiddos were feeling crummy and needed a ride home. Yes, already. Before long, everyone in our house felt under-the-weather. While no one wants to be sick or see their children get sick either, becoming ill from time to time is actually important. Catching a cold is an educational exercise for our immune systems. The ability to mount an appropriate healing response is a sign of good health. While getting sick all the time is problematic, getting sick occasionally is reassuring and an opportunity to slow down, reflect, and reassess. As a naturopathic doctor with two kids and a partner that works in the public school system as well, my family has ample opportunity to contract illness. Given that, I still aim for prevention. Healthy lifestyle habits go a long way to minimize risk, and decrease the [...]

Is That Smoke…Again?

Boulder’s air quality has been all over the map this summer. Hazy, smokey days, even when the fires are not homegrown, are not as rare as they once were. As fires become more prevalent throughout the country, winds may bring smoke from just about anywhere; therefore, it is a good idea to know how to best support optimal respiratory health. If you can see it in the air, you are breathing it. It may be causing symptoms such as a stuffy nose and a frequent need to clear your throat. Accordingly, recent air quality reports suggest children stay inside - this, just as school is starting up, and just when they really need to be outdoors to blow off some steam. It can be a real real bummer! Here are some commonsense things you can do to increase the quality of air in your home during these times, as well as some herbal and nutritional safeguards you might want to [...]

Back to School Means Back to Packing Snacks and Lunches

The never-ending school-year task Even the best-intentioned parents can get burned out on this never-ending school-year task. And with all of the allergies in the classrooms, you might have a challenge getting your child a yummy snack they will eat, not to mention something appropriately balanced to meet their nutritional needs, healthy, and also, safe for their peers. Fortunately, this article should help. We know a healthy diet is critical to optimal learning and getting things done, yet it also helps with other executive functions like organization and decision making. What should your child be eating? First tip, only offer foods that you really want your kids to be eating. If you don’t want them eating something, don’t buy it and keep it in the house. While in our house we are omnivores, I do not stock much in the way of “snacky” foods: crackers, chips, puffed things, pretzels - these foods, when they are in our home - disappear [...]

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