Ballard Naturopathic Blog | Balance

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Stone Turtle Health Blog

Gratitude Posts

October 8, 2015

Gratitude and acknowledgement. I'm seeing an uptick in these types of posts on social media and it's not because I'm following more hippy-dippy accounts, either. As community members, people are reaching out to help one another and are getting recognized. Maybe the actual helping hasn't increased but having a forum to sing someone's praises certainly makes it seem that way. My feeds are filled with friends, neighbors, and family members showing gratitude for gestures, gifts and for simple pleasures in daily life. It's a trend I wholeheartedly support, not just because it's "nice" or "sweet" to acknowledge someone for their work, but also because it's good for US to do so. Connections with an extended support network have been shown to improve mental health and illness outcomes in study after stduy. Community makes us healthier and recognizing other people's contributions to our community makes the ties that bind that much tighter. 

Tomorrow, my son turns one year old. Last year, at this time, we went through a terrifying journey and I want to express my gratitude for everyone who wa a part of it. First, my family, who helps in many, many ways from stocking his closet and sending home toys, covering some of my childcare needs to allow me to keep the clinic running and just holding him for me so I can get a hot meal or a drama-free trip to the bathroom. My long-time and new friends who've shared laughs and tears as we went from the NICU to home and I tried to figure out how to juggle everything. My patients and office mates who have been so understanding of my mommy brain and have welcomed CJ into the clinic family with open arms and occasional smiles of commiseration aimed in my direction. The doctors who covered for me while I wrestled with the heavy fog of early motherhood, shuttling back and forth to the NICU for 70 days, not wanting to get out of bed until it was time to go and see him. My colleagues who helped me figure out how to balance (-ish) life with a baby and a clinic. Our community in general, via Faccebook, that has shown me how deeply the need to connect lives in each of us. Women I never knew drove me back and forth to the NICU to see CJ for the first few weeks. Families hand down clothes and toys and we, in turn, pass them on to new babies that come along. Ballard is NOT the big city, it's a small town full of folks who are maybe trying out this "neighbor" thing for the first time, or they want things to be like when they were a kid and they realize the importance of connection in reaching that goal. 

His sitters. Oh, bless the young women and their moms who have covered my ass so many times and whose families have absorbed him into their midst, so he can have a mini-vacation from me, complete with older brothers and sisters. The initial fear of handing over my son to someone who looked barely big enough to lift him has been far outstripped by their impressive growth as caregivers and young women. It's a privilege to be a part of their lives and to watch them gain competence and enthusiasm, and to see CJ bond and build relationships with them. 

Thank you, everyone, for making this the BEST year of my life.

Another reason to stay active

April 8, 2015

According to the U.S. census, over 25% of our population will be over 65 by 2030. There are many reasons for adults to stay active throughout their life, and the NY Times has another: staying active protects brain cells from dying, preventing brain shrinkage. And a common outcome of brain shrinkage is a chronic subdural hematoma (SDH), or bruise in the space surrounding the brain, which puts pressure on the brain and interferes with its function. The Times' article discusses the increasing incidence of chronic SDH in older populations, even without a head injury or fall, and how it mimics other neurological conditions. Symptoms such as sudden and severe headache, weakness on one side of the body, personality or cognition changes, and confusion or difficulty speaking are a sign of immediate need for medical care to rule out SDH or other serious concerns, such as TIA, stroke, dementia, Parkinson's disease, migraine, epilepsy or psychiatric condition. In many cases, chronic SDH can resolve on its own or with medication but about 1/3 of patients require surgery.

So, in addition to cardiovascular and respiratory health and prevention of weight-gain related diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes, staying active works to protect brain function and cognition and to prevent chronic SDH. Don't know where to start? Try adding an after-dinner stroll to your daily routine, check out some yoga or dance classes at your neighborhood community or senior center, or visit one of Seattle's beautiful parks for a walk along the beach or a forest path. Wear proper footwear to support your ankles and prevent injuries. Now is the season to get out and enjoy the fresh air. Your brain will thank you for it later!

Alternatives to Antibiotics?

March 29, 2015

The White House has just released a 63-page report that sets 1-, 3-, and 5-year goals for adderssing antibiotic resistance and overuse. The report focuses on slowing resistance, having a single point of integration for multiple health information networks, to accelerate research, testing, and treatments for current bacterial infections to stay a step ahead of the resistant bugs. By 2020, the report goals include a 50% reduction in inappropriate antibiotic use in outpatient settings, including family practices like ours. 

Where do antibiotics fit into naturopathic medicine and how does this plan affect naturopathic doctors? Any treatment, including antibiotics, vaccines, and surgery can be done "naturopathically" if it is utilized within our Hierarchy of Interventions (lowest to highest, as appropriate) and if it is performed in accordance with the tenets of our profession. These pillars, discussed in earlier posts, include "treating the cause" (something antibiotics do well) and "prevention" (vaccines, check!) as well as "first, do no harm", "treating the whole person", "doctor as teacher", "wellness" and the "healing power of nature". Naturopathic medicine is not a proscribed set of herbs or nature therapies to the exclusion of advances in medicine, it is a philosophy that takes these tenets into account when treating each patient as an individual. Sometimes, antibiotics are the right choice. Sometimes, an herbal remedy with antimicrobial properties would be a better, lower-level intervention for a less serious bacterial illness. NDs (naturopathic doctors) work to support the patient's own immune system in addition to appropriate interventions to address the cause of the illness, whether it is lifestyle-related, genetic, bacterial, viral, fungal, or environmental.

As a parent, it is difficult to take a sick child into the doctor and NOT come out with something tangible, like a prescription for antibiotics. Many doctors feel pressured to "do something" by the parents, aside from recommending rest and hydration. However, antibiotics do not address causes that are not bacterial, such as viruses, and should not be given unless there is a strong indication for need. In addition, there are a number of antimicrobial or antibacterial herbs that can be used in place of antibiotics in milder illnesses. Many viral illnesses are self-limiting and sometimes the best thing we can do is to support the immune system with natural antivirals (like elderberry and licorice) and help to relieve symptoms that are the body's way of attacking the virus (cough suppressants like cherry bark for example). Common hygiene practices, such as proper hand-washing technique, can slow or stop the spread of viruses and bacteria in many cases. Naturopathic medicine has multiple treatment choices that can help minimize our reliance on antibiotics, allowing them to be reserved for more serious bacterial infections and slowing the progression of antibiotic resistance. It is my hope that some of that research money will be used to replicate earlier studies on antimicrobial herbs as an alternative to antibiotics for resistant bugs. 

Happy New Year!

January 5, 2015

Wow! It's been SUCH a long time since I last posted and there is a reason for that. In October, I gave birth to my son, abput 3 months ahead of time. The intervening months have been a scramble of daily hospital visits, bringing on two doctors to cover for my mandated absence. and runnnig things behind the scenes. I have been incredibly fortunate to have Dr. Christine Cirovic and Dr. Madison Fandel caring for my patients while I was gone. Dr. Cirovic is remaining in the office, starting her own practice, in January and Dr. Fandel will hopefully continue to cover on occasion. Both very impressive new doctors that I look forward to watching grow and thrive in their own practices. 

First of all, the amount of gratitude that I have towards the staff at Ballard Swedish and Swedish First Hill knows no bounds. The Ballard folks took a very scary situation and made everything come out in the best possible way. At First Hill, the NICU and later the Intermediate Care Unit and Pediatric Special Care Unit folks were very compassionate and understanding. My son was there for exactly 10 weeks and I spent most of my time with him. The staff helped answer my questions, soothe my fears, and get me set up for a successful transition home before Christmas. A lot of their work, especiallly the paarent outreach program, is supported by the March of Dimes, which works to end polio, birth defects, and premature births worldwide. 

Secondly, my family, friends, neighbors and patients who took the time to visit, send food, give rides, or just check in with me deserve a big hug and many thanks. Without a strong support system, being a single parent is difficult enough, but being a single parent whose child is in the hospital is just the worst! Thank you to all of you for keeping me sane and not letting me stay in bed all day (most days). 

Finally, I'd like to remind everyone that, as this is the start of a new year, this is also the beginning of a new leg of our journey together towards health. Resolutions are not so easily sustained but slow, steady improvement can lead to a lifetime of difference.  As we ease into 2015, our office will be implementing electronic medical records, which we hope will be more of a blessing than a curse. On occasion, my son may be in the office, as childcare schedules never go the way they're planned, and I consider it my own good luck to be able to bring him in when needed. From my perspective, anything other than another hospital stay is a good thing. I ask for understanding and patience in both of these areas from my patients, whose own families I love to see often. We would love to see you in the office in the coming year and I hope to continue to provide care for my friends and neighbors for a long tmie to come!

Happy New Year 2015!

Dr. Katie Baker

Dance moves

May 24, 2013

 

Music, for one reason or another, has always been an integral part of my daily life. I meet people who can have music in the background at dinner or a barbecue, but how can you focus on anything without reveling in the songs, the lyrics and melodies changing you into whoever you were, wherever you heard that song for the first time?

Odd, this, but every few months or so, I'll just cling to some music, one particular artist or one song covered by many, as I use it to process whatever is happening in my life. Last spring, I was drawn to Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah". Life was not good. Love was not good. Love ended in brokenness.  Suffice to say, I survived and that song (although on repeat for a few, wallowing months) stopped being so personal. I was bright and shiny and life was beautiful again. Showtunes, old school R&B, anything that was sunshine and hope and the rush from dancing at home on my lunch break or after work, became preferred again.

What I've been feeling lately is spring and summer and hip-shaking solo dance parties. I've been moving through the world, walking for miles on my lunch break. The only trouble is trying to keep from dancing in the streets to the beats in my ears.  Right now, I'm grooving to "Fugees Radio" on Pandora, which I've filled with my own personal blend of 80's & 90's rap & hip-hop (memories from middle school through college) and today's new discoveries. For a few songs, I'm no longer staring 40 (well, ok, 36) in its exhausted eyes, I'm back in middle school, before the self consciousness, before any aches and pains, when we all danced in tight circles in the gym, trying to pick up new moves.

Which brings me to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis's "The Heist", only the second album I've purchased on my iPhone (the other being Johnny Cash's "Unchained", if you must get all the details of my "diverse" music tastes). There's that resonance again. I will warn you that there's cursing, so it's not something to spring on your kids without listening first. But, as an adult, I would definitely recommend you give it a listen. Listen to the words...

"My, Oh, My" makes me tear up at the loss of Dave Niehaus a few years back, remembering how I couldn't get my mom to get out of the car and come in for dinner until the M's game she'd been listening to all the way home from work was over. "Can't Hold Us" had me freak out,  dancing with a classmate in my improv class, "Thrift Shop" has its own dance routine worked out at home (with or without my vacuum cleaner),  "Victory Lap" and "Ten Thousand Hours", about the journeyman process to getting good at what you are passionate about rings true for me every day I step in my clinic, especially those times when I wonder what the heck I'm doing and when I should know enough to give up and let it crumble versus buckling down and riding out the rough spots. "Same Love" is thrilling to me now that marriage equality is a reality in our state, in so many other states and countries. How principled, how upright to stand up for this belief in equality in a genre that routinely diminishes and demonizes those who love people of the same gender, especially before it was the law to allow everyone the freedom to marry. I am so happy that all my friends, gay or straight, can choose to live the way they want to live with the partners that they love. 

But, oh, the heartbreak on "Starting Over", his follow up to "Otherside" makes me cry every time. I want to punch a hole in something when I think about addiction and the people I love that struggle with it. I hate that these are the stories that pretty much everyone has, that there's a saboteur in so many brains.. that this disease called addiction waits patiently for so many people to have a moment of weakness. The closing line is exactly what I want to hear: "If I can be an example of getting sober, then I can be an example of starting over..."

Macklemore's willingness to share his own struggles, his openness about what he's gone through and about his beliefs, and his positive attitude as reflected in his work are all inspiring to me. I became a doctor to make a difference in someone's life, to provide caring and healing for the people in my community who need it, to help build a stronger Seattle, a stronger and better world. He's made such a name for himself as an independent artist- that, too, I admire. The hard work and heartbreak, the two steps forward, one step back process of getting recognition, especially without the backing of a large corporation. If I could say anything to him, it would be "Well done. Keep making a positive change. Share your message with as many people as possible. You are a force for good. You matter and you have a chance to change so much. Keep moving. " I realize as I write this, these are the words we should say to everyone.

So, I guess this post is just a mash note to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, but it's also for everyone I see making a choice every day to make a positive difference in the world, to reach out and connect with people around them, to stand up for the changes they want to see happen. Yeah, "The Heist" hits me. It's beautiful. You should listen to it. And you should dance.

 

Food Revolution Day 2013

May 9, 2013

You all should know by now how much I love Jamie Oliver and his Food Revolution, promoting healthy foods in schools and communities. May 17th is the date for his Second Annual Food Revolution Day, a worldwide grassroots effort to provide fun and education experiences around food to local communities. I love what he is doing for so many reasons: healthy kids are better learners, healthy families can work together to make changes in their communities, and healthy communities can provide better support for those who need it most. I strongly encourage my readers to attentd or even host a Food Revolution Day activity in their neighborhood, even if it's as simple as hosting a vegetarian potluck or barbecue for their friends and neighbors. Check out a book about food from the library and read it to your children. Reach out to the local food bank and donate or volunteer to provide more healthy food to their customers. Visit your children's school to see what their school lunch program offers. Try a healthy new dish from a cuisine you aren't familiar with. There are TONS of ways we can improve our diets and our family's lifestyle, from meatless Fridays to making sure we "eat a rainbow" every day. We have the tools within our reach to fight the epidemics of obesity, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses that are distinctly related to our lifestyles. This is one thing that we can do something about. Viva La Revolution!

 

Winter Comfort Foods- Lightened Up!

January 21, 2013

This great post on HuffPo shows you ways to lighten up those lovely, tasty, heavy winter comfort foods. 

Some other great ways to make your favorite foods healthier:

1. For breads, like banana bread or pumpkin bread, try adding apple sauce or smashed banana in place of oil.

2. Use this list for sugar substitutes in baking: zylitol, honey, agave nectar, succanat/rapadura, barley malt, brown rice syrup, corn syrup (NOT HFCS), sorghum, blackstrap molasses, stevia. For many of these, you can find conversion charts online as they don't always translate directly to an equal amount of granulated (white) sugar. With liquid sweeteners, you may need to compensate by lowering the amount of liquid or increasing the total amount of solids in a recipe.

3. To thicken soups or sauce, add cooked, pureed califlower, potato, or zucchini

4. Lots of dairy in the fridge from the holidays or parties? Add it to soups for more flavor and to minimize the amount you'll get in each serving. I did that last weekend and came up with Baked Potato Soup, Split Pea & Bacon Soup, and Broccoli Cheese Soup. While butter, bacon, heavy cream and cream cheese don't need to be in your diet on a daily basis, this is a great way to use them up if you already have them and don't want to waste money by throwing them al out. Plus, adding a small amount of fat can increase satiety, making you more full from eating less.

5. Avoid dairy (if you don't have the problem in #4) by using stocks and broths for liquids instead of milk or cream. 

6: For richness in vegetarian dishes without adding meat, use 1 tsp of miso paste instead. It contains glutamate, which triggers the "umami" tastebuds that tell us when something tastes rich or full (which usually requires meat or butter).

Dream a Little Dream

January 11, 2013

My friend and inspiration, the comedian & musician Greg Behrendt (@gregbehrendt on Twitter) has always been someone I admired. I used to skip Chemistry class as an undergrad in order to watch his stand up specials on Comedy Central (don't worry, I passed and took 2 more years of Chem). Beyond his original voice and his incredibly spot-on sense of humor which I enjoyed a great deal, he seemed very relatable. very much a guy next door finding humor in everyday life. This was in the mid 90's and I had free cable and my own room for the first time in my life. Both were exhilarating!

Fast forward a few years: Greg goes to work on the set of "Sex and the City" and co-writes a book that a few people seem to enjoy called "He's Just Not That Into You", which gets made into a movie. He goes on Oprah, gets a talk show, and slowly stops doing what he loves. He fell off my radar for awhile, what with school and starting my first job, going back to school, and starting my career as a doctor.

Then, one day, I was listening to a local podcast, The Marty Riemer Show, that was broadcasting interviews from Bumbershoot. Marty & Jodi Brothers were talking to comedians. I'm a comedy nerd. I listened every day and heard Greg, Marc Maron, Jimmy Pardo, and others, all with their own podcasts. Greg was as charming as ever and talked about a little podcast project he was working on with his best friend, Dave Anthony, called Walking The Room. A warning: this podcast is both charming and vile. Definitely not safe for work and definitely full of gems that have actually made me fall down when listening to it on my lunchtime walks. Greg enjoys a short pant, a cardigan, and designing clothes. Somewhere in there, he began taking guitar lessons from a friend, Mike Eisenstein (formerly of Letters To Cleo, on Twitter as @USAMike). They formed a band.

Because of the podcast, I eventually got the opportunity to see Greg perform live and to meet him. As awesome as it was to do that, it was even cooler to find out that he was even more excited to meet me! We've hung out together at various podcast-related events and correspond on occasion. And he is the most encouraging person I know, bar none. As busy as he is, he always takes time to support his friends who are just starting out, or trying a new side-project. He's just good people.

So, this year, he had a bit of a mid-life crisis (which means he'll have to live to 100), had some emotional ups and downs. And he hasn't been shy about getting some help for this and talking about it. In fact, in speaking about it on his podcast, he's inspired a few of my friends around the world to seek therapy as well, which has been life- changing, even life-saving, for them. 

And what came of his therapy? This dream: to take his band, The Reigning Monarchs and, over the course of this year, create a second LP, promote the album, tour the U.S. and film it all for a documentary about "old men living their dreams". Funding is all that stands in the way. For awhile. 

The band started an IndieGoGo fundraising campaign and Greg put the word out to his fans and friends. The word spread. Their goal was $10,000 to record an album. Fans, friends, and family donated, tweeted about it, posted on Facebook and Google Plus. Everyone seemed invested in making someone else's dream come true. But, very specifically, the dream of a certain someone else who has supported them each individually with words of encouragement, enthusiasm, occasionally with connections to other folks who can help, and with an honest belief in them and their dreams, an honest concern for them and their lives.

Tonight, with 8 hours left in the fundraising, they have raised almost $26,000. They will use this money to create and produce the album, hire a publicist to promote it and book their tour, pay for tour travel expenses, and begin filming the documentary. And the day ain't over yet. 

 

Mindfulness

December 13, 2012

An absolutely great article in the Huffington Post about Mindfulness, written by Michael Broder, PhD.

Resolutions

January 5, 2012

Happy New Year! Every January, many people make New Year's resolutions but very few of them follow through. We've all purchased gym memberships, hoping to shed a few pounds, only to see them lapse after a few visits or dedicated ourselves to a new hobby, spending money on shiny new gear only to find that same gear in the back of the closet when we do our spring cleaning a few months from now. Why do we make resolutions in the first place and why don't they stick?

I believe that we make resolutions for a few reasons- 1) peer or family pressure, and 2) eternal optimism. With the former, external pressure to make changes might be an initial motivator but won't allow us to maintain those changes. It's a stick without a carrot. The latter is just the opposite, in my opinion, the undying hope that maybe this year will be different, that we have it within ourselves to be better people, that if we only try YET AGAIN to make changes, THIS is the time they'll be successful. Neither of these are bad reasons to make resolutions or life changes, but I don't believe that they are enough to make lasting changes. 

If you change for another person, no matter what the reason, you're not fully investing yourself in that change. It's not happening because you want the end result but because you know someone who does or who won't stay if you don't change. Better to consider their request as one factor in a list of pros and cons for making the change YOU want to make. List all the positive results AND all the negative consequences AS THEY WOULD HAPPEN TO YOU. If your spouse wants you to lose weight because they're worried about your health, list all the health benefits you would attain from losing weight and all the repercussions for staying at your current weight (including the possibility of adding more) and determine for yourself if the benefits outweigh the costs. Quitting smoking? Not just because your partner wants you to, but because you will reduce the risk of cardiovascular events, breathe more easily, and be able to live a longer, healthier life with more time for your family. 

Be realistic. I always tell my patients that if they have a drinking problem, I'm not going to tell them to quit cold-turkey, but I do want them to stop drinking before noon. Then, before 4. Then every other day. We sabotage ourselves by creating unrealistic goals and then being unable to stick to them because we don't change everything in our lives to make it more convenient for us to stick with the changes. Want to drink more water? Add an extra water bottle to your daily intake or make sure you drink a full glass of water before each meal. Want to exercise more? Start with stretching for 10 minutes every morning, a 20 minute walk on your lunch break or scrolling through the yoga video options on Netflix and adding some to your queue. By making realistic changes you are providing yourself with an opportunity for sustainable life changes that will lead you to your goals. Try working backwards when planning- where do you want to be in 12 months? What goals need to have been met in 6 months for you to be on track to meet that year-end goal? How about in 3 months? Next month? Next week? break it down to doing one or two simple steps every day that will allow you to reach your objective in a measured and attainable way.

Finally, create your own cheering squad. Tell a few friends and family members (those who you find supportive) what your goals are long-term and how you're meeting them this week. Make sure you tell SOMEONE; this will make you accountable in your mind and will make it less likely that you will quit. Offer unconditional support to them on their goals and provide them with a sounding board for their challenges. It is my hope that all my patients will make realistic, sustainable changes in their lives in 2012 and will find themselves at the end of the year healthier and happier than they began it. Happy New Year!