In June, I continued my hands-on naturopathic video series with a discussion on onion poultices. (I must have been so excited that I actually forgot to post this earlier in June.) If you are struggling with earaches, coughs and/or chest congestion, consider trying the humble onion poultice.
You might have noticed that I don't have very long hours for seeing my clients each week. In fact, I accommodate about 24 visit slots in a week. Some doctors see more than 24 patients in a single day! You might be wondering--what does she do with all that extra time?
The first major difference between my consults and regular medical consults is that my visits are longer than the average 15 minutes spent with your medical doctor. Each visit slot lasts for 45 minutes, and new patients are seen over a 90 minute period. This allows me to really listen and put several pieces of the puzzle together instead of seeing you for just one concern.
The second major difference is that I spend about 90 minutes every day researching cases and preparing for visits to come. Sometimes an individual case can take over an hour to prepare. (This can be why I charge a late cancellation fee; I promise it's not to be mean.) I see a wide variety of conditions and evidence-based practices are ever-changing. Because I don't usually see clients for only one concern, it's important I review all the details since our last visit and try to put the whole puzzle together. (I'm quite introverted, so it's easier for me to think and assimilate information when I'm alone, which is another reason I prepare ahead of time).
I recently made several schedule changes at my practice. While I'm still transitioning between the old schedule and the new schedule, I'd like to share what a typical week looks like for me, just in case you want to know what I do when I'm not seeing clients.
Over the weekend, I organize and prepare for the week ahead. I'll get started on case preparation and get records ready for scanning. I might also use this time to work on larger projects or do some continuing education.
On a typical day, I rise with a refreshing or warming drink, prayers, and/or meditation. My dog Gilley dutifully follows me in my home office as I start my workday at 6:30 a.m. preparing cases, unless I have to drive into Springfield early. I travel to Springfield 3-4 days a week, which is a 45 minute commute. Those days are filled with client visits and ownership tasks (i.e. meeting with my business advisor or 2BWell group, supporting the people who work for my business, making major business decisions that guide the direction of my practice, and complying with regulations). Rhonda, my nurse, works with me on Fridays, and I have a lot of support I get from the 2BWell front desk. They are a tremendous help to me in supporting the effectiveness of my practice. To accommodate the diverse schedules of my clients, I try to offer visits as early as 8:30 a.m. and as late as 6 p.m. depending on the day in Springfield. I also try to make sure I take time to eat lunch and move my body (preferably as a walk in the park or in a restorative yoga class).
For 2-3 days a week, I work at my home office in Seymour. I'm super excited to begin offering naturopathic retreats at my home office and farm this spring. Clients can also come for their regular consult on these days, particularly if this location is closer for them. For patients that don't want to make the trip to Seymour, this time can also be spent doing phone or e-consults. Wednesday mornings are spent doing accounting, payroll, and taxes, and I catch up with my charting on Wednesday afternoons (alas, a necessary but not very fun task). I've set aside time to work on educational materials (i.e. videos, workshop handouts, writing) or continuing education each month in Seymour, too.
Something new that I'm trying with this schedule is to set aside 4-5 p.m. every workday to return all my quick messages. (Messages requiring more time and research will need to be scheduled as a consult.) If there are more messages than I can respond to in one day, I will do my best to triage concerns based on who called first and the urgency of the message.
Most days, I can prepare dinner at home, play with my dogs, and/or soak in an Epsom salt bath. I like to end the day wrapped up in a good book or naturopathic article. This time is inspiring for me and brings fresh new ideas into my practice and life, along with sweet little inspirations to dream about.
One day and one afternoon a month, I take off to spend the day in nature and enjoying the benefits of some old-fashioned Nature Cure for myself. I love wading in the Ozark creeks or perched at a table doing some Zentangles. With any luck, I'll end the day cocooned in a wet sheet wrap or with my toes wiggling between the herbs in my foot bath.
I'm thrilled to present my first video! This video describes how to apply a carrot poultice to help a sore throat. I hope you enjoy.
Recently, I took off on a whim to enjoy a warm afternoon near a stream in the Ozarks. My mood and body unwinded as I traveled over the hills. Once there, I settled in a chair with a good book and took in the warmth. The best part was wading through the cold stream for a few minutes at time. As a storm rolled in, I pulled some thick wool socks over my feet and traveled home. My feet felt incredibly warm and good. I realized that I had not only treated myself to an afternoon in nature, but to an old hydrotherapy treatment.
The roots of naturopathic medicine go back to the European Water Cure movement (or hydrotherapy). In my naturopathic education, hydrotherapy was the first modality we were taught. This movement is very unlike the spa experience that we think of today in the United States with hot tubs and warm baths. Instead, cold water was used to warm up the body and restore health.
Say what--cold water?! Yes, cold water. When you sit in hot water, your blood vessels vasodilate and take blood closer to the surface of the body. However when you expose the body to cold water, blood vessels vasoconstrict bringing blood back to your core or to where the body is cold. The doctors from this movement strongly believed that stagnant blood was a precursor to illness. The cold water helps promote healthy circulation to restore health.
One hydrotherapy technique used in the Water Cure movement was called "water treading." This is where you walk in cold water up to your knees. It is extremely important that you are warm before you begin, (and that you are careful not to slip and fall.) Water treading can be a great technique to improve circulation and blood flow to the feet, as I experienced.
As the weather warms, treat yourself to a day out among nature and perhaps to some old fashioned hydrotherapy. It can do wonders for your spirit and may also help your health.
On Valentine's Day, I took a little excursion in the hardware store past the seeds and onion sets. I think my heart was longing to grow flowers and start something in the garden that is late-winter hardy.
One unusually warm afternoon in February I went to turn over the soil in last year's raised bed and amend it with my bunny's droppings. As I did this, I started contemplating all the hard and tough stories I have heard this winter. Some people have had some really "King Manure" times and have ended up in my office because of the effect on their health. On the farm, we have had our own losses and challenges this winter. Manure, at that moment in the garden, became an analogy and a healing reminder for me.
Yes, there are a lot of tough, manure moments that can happen. But, manure has the potential to do good, too. Carefully folded into soil and if properly aged, it can sprout new life and growth. I've seen this in life where a devastating illness brings gifts to people they never imagined. There have been the cancer patients who find remission and the best health they have ever had in their adult life.
Manure, too, has the ability to burn up life in the garden if it is the wrong type or not properly aged. I see this sometimes, too, in life. The manure moments are so hot and painful that people never really get past them.
That afternoon, I pulled out the odd bits of old grass and roots and folded in my bunny manure. My heart lightened a little that afternoon as I remembered that these manure moments can have potential...no guarantees, but they have potential. I nestled my onion starts into the soil and tucked them to bed with straw.
My hands used to become painfully chapped during the winters. The situation became worse when I entered healthcare and found myself washing my hands all the time. Then one day, a kindly, well-seasoned nurse advised me to simply dry my hands really well after washing them. It made a profound difference. My hands were no longer chapped.
Wet hands exposed to cold, dry air can quickly dry out the skin. Completely drying your hands can be very helpful, but here are a couple of other winter skin tips...
Our skin and mucous membranes are our first barriers against infection. Keep yourself safe and healthy this winter by giving some extra love and attention to your skin.
For many people, this past season has been full of celebrations, vacations, and excesses. Usually, January hits and people are ready to focus on their health again, perhaps lose the extra pounds that came on during the holidays, and commit to new goals and a new routine. December 31st is upon us and it is a time of setting new goals for the year to come.
Here's something you may not know about me--I love setting goals for myself. I have set goals ever since I was a little girl. I even recall checking out The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and taking it to heart when I was in middle school. I am all too familiar with the process of setting high goals and routines for myself, exhausting myself, allowing my life to fall back to "the way it was", and repeating the process all over again. People often see me as "super organized," but truthfully I ebb and flow between "sometimes organized" and "sometimes wallowing in chaos."
I know I am not alone. I see all too many people who set resolutions for improvement, only to see them later fall away. Many resolutions will be set for tomorrow; most of those resolutions will not survive until February. Does it mean that it is pointless to make resolutions? No, absolutely not. From my own personal experience and from what I have observed in others, I feel it is more about how we make the resolution that matters.
First and foremost, begin with compassion for yourself when you are trying to make change in your life. As you set goals for yourself, also think about where you are now and the process involved in getting to your desired end point. For example, if you do not exercise at all now and your goal is to exercise for an hour at the gym every day, please don't expect to be exercising an hour on January 1st. You can try it, but if you are like most people you may get hurt/sore/exhausted, experience set back, and give up. Instead, break it up into smaller steps and feed on the successes. For example, you could do a 5-10 minute walk in your neighborhood, park or back pasture once a day to start with. Maybe you think this is puny, but I daresay it is not, because you are doing the major step of starting a consistent routine. (Also, I find it helps if you make the first step free; that way if you change your mind you are not out a lot of money.)
Second, know that life happens. Trauma and/or loss might happen from time to time. A big project might be due and you'll experience crunch time. There will be vacations, birthdays, holidays, travel, disruptions to your routine. Life happens. Some events you will be able to plan for and you can pack your routine with you. Other events come by surprise. Again, have compassion for yourself during these periods. Allow yourself the time you need, but also set a time to get back on the proverbial horse.
Third, I find it helps if I can see my progress. Here's another something you may not know about me--I literally keep a calendar and get stickers for each health goal that I meet each day. Those stickers represent dollars I get to spend on natural healthcare: my supplements, functional testing, acupuncture, massage, yoga classes, consults with other providers, etc. This gives me something visual to see progress and it rewards my progress. I know most people don't find stickers appealing, but find someway to track your progress. There are hi-tech apps, spreadsheets you can create, calendars, quarters in a jar, or simply create a thermometer picture you can color in as you get closer to your goal.
The reward can sometimes be difficult to choose. Many people like to reward themselves with sweets, but it ends up being a counterproductive reward. Try to find something that feeds into your longer goals--maybe a vacation, an adventure, a relaxing massage, or even just a good time at the theater.
Fourth, think about how you can change your environmental cues. When you are trying to break a bad habit, you are strongly triggered by cues in your environment. For example, John is a smoker but he cannot smoke at work. Every day when he gets in his car to go home, he immediately lights up. Getting into his car after work becomes an environmental cue. To change the habit, John has to find something that disrupts that cue. He could lock his pack of cigarettes in a safe in the trunk of his car. Now, the cue is disrupted. Instead of walking to his car, jumping in and lighting up, he now has a whole brand new step of opening the trunk, unlocking the safe, and bringing the cigarettes into the car with him. That disruption in routine/environment cue allows John to become more conscious of the choice he is making in the moment, instead of mindlessly lighting up and forgetting his goal to stop smoking.
Finally, I would recommend social support. Find someone who can help to hold you accountable. Many of my clients set goals with me and they keep me up to date on their progress so they have accountability. I, too, have a health care provider helps keep me accountable to my goals. You can also make goals a team effort--set the same goal with a friend or group of people and do the goal together. For example, many people find having a walking buddy helps keep them active and on track.
By the way, I still like setting goals. I have achieved, lived and experienced so much in life because of the goals I have set. I certainly don't reach them all, and I expect that. However, I get ever so much more done than if I had never set a goal at all.
If you would like to read more about making lifelong changes to your health, I would highly recommend a book by my naturopathic colleague Dr. Judith Boice--But My Doctor Never Told Me That!: Secrets for Creating Lifelong Health (http://www.amazon.com/But-Doctor-Never-Told-That/dp/0967045312/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1451589173&sr=1-1-catcorr&keywords=Dr.+Judith+Boice). If you feel like your resolutions are always falling through, I think this book might be a great read for you.
I am impressed with the complexities of sleep. It affects so many aspects of our health--our immune system, our mood, our weight, our ability to heal, just to name a few. When sleep goes awry and insomnia comes knocking at the door, it can be challenging to figure out what each person needs to restore restful sleep...because of all the complexities involved! All of this to say, the appropriate remedies for sleep are highly individual. Today I am sharing my favorite three sleep remedies that work for me, but you may need something different if you are experiencing insomnia.
If you suffer with insomnia and are looking for natural sleep support, you are warmly invited to attend our Relax & Renew Restorative Sleep workshop on Wednesday evening, December 9th from 6-8 p.m. at 2BWell in Springfield (click here to register).
When I was a child, I would lay awake in bed spontaneously exploding with laughter. My mind raced round and round with all sorts of hilarious ideas, and I sometimes found it difficult to go to sleep. As an adult, my mind still occasionally races with thoughts at night making it difficult to go to sleep (albeit the thoughts are usually not as funny these days). My favorite natural sleep remedy for this situation is White Chestnut flower essence. I put two drops in a small amount of water and within minutes, I find it is easier to slow the thoughts and allow my mind to rest. What I love about this remedy is that it does not make me groggy. I can take it in the middle of the day without any risk of tiredness. It just calms my mind so I can sleep.
I also find good, old-fashioned chamomile to be calming. I am not as fond of the tea so much as the fresh tincture that I make fresh from my garden. I usually start my calendula plants indoors around December. They are slow growing! I love growing chamomile through the spring and summer and harvesting the blossoms into a jar of vodka. I collect the blossoms in this jar throughout the season, adding more vodka to cover as necessary. Later in the summer, I strain the tincture through a coffee filter. It is a truly delightful natural medicine with a fresh taste unique from tea or tincture made from dried blossoms. I then bottle this up to use throughout the year. I use about a dropperful in water before bedtime to calm my mind. It tastes sweet and mixes very well with my third favorite sleep remedy--inositol.
Inositol is a B-vitamin, and it also tastes sweet. It, too, helps to calm the mind at night. So, you can see why white chestnut, chamomile and inositol may be a great sleep option for someone like myself who has a busy mind. I do a lot of thinking throughout the day, so these three supplements help calm my mind down so I can get some restful sleep at night. Like the other two supplements, inositol is generally well tolerated and doesn't leave me with a groggy feeling in the morning.
Do you suffer from insomnia? If so, can you identify what keeps you awake at night?
This morning, I went for a walk in the upper pasture with our dog Wilkie and our puppy Gilly. There is a pleasure in seeing how nature turns to autumn--dried poke berries, an old passion fruit left clinging to the vine, seeds dropping off a withered, brown stalk. The cool, moist morning air felt good in my lungs and on my face. It has been a busy week, and the walk in pasture gentled my heart and reminded me of the joy in simply being. To my dogs, it was better than Christmas morning.
As I walked through the pasture, I thought of how our different coughs can be like the weather. Some are cool and damp like this morning. Others are feverish, dry, and constricted like a sharp desert sand storm. In the past several years, I have come to appreciate how coughs differ and how individualizing herbal formulas for each cough yields success beyond what can be found in many over-the-counter formulas. What type of herbal cough syrup would a cough like today's weather need? Ginger and cinnamon chips could offer warmth. Maybe I would add some members of the mint family for their drying and warming properties--horehound and hyssop, but easy on the horehound as it can truly be bitter. Perhaps a gentle touch of elecampane for the same purpose. Like the puppy, add a little sweetness with fennel to make the formula more palatable.
Does it sound complicated? It's not really. The basics of syrup making can be easily learned and then knowledge of seven to nine herbs can get you far in this process. Not to mention, it is fun! Are you intrigued? Then, I warmly invite you to join us on Saturday, November 7th for a class on "Herbal Cough Syrups & Understanding Western Herbal Medicine." In this class you will have the opportunity to make and experience the difference in various cough syrup recipes. We will also discuss how to formulate your own cough syrup formulas and learn nine basic respiratory herbs. We'll look at the science of these herbs as well as the older herbal literature to understand how to individualize your formulas. At the end of the class, you will get to take home an extensive handout and your homemade herbal cough syrup. For more information on how to sign up, please visit my events page.
"Individualized care" is a cliche phrase in healthcare marketing today. What does it exactly mean? For many of my clients, it means that they don't want to be given the same standard care that everyone else gets. For other people, it means they want me to take the time to listen to them as a person instead of as a diagnosis. They want a healthcare plan that is just as unique as their situation.
This can be a tall order in conventional medicine because it is based on standardized care. It is a system that is designed to treat a statistically significant portion of the population presenting with x, y, or z diagnosis. Most medical delivery systems of today aim to treat the majority of people quickly and effectively. It's a fairly good idea if you are among the majority, but what if you are an outlier on the bell curve?
The beauty of what I get to do every day is that I get the gift of time to look beyond disease and diagnoses. My visits are 45-90 minutes completely of actual face-to-face time. I don't fill the entire day with visits. For me, it takes time, consideration, and study to provide individualized care.
The diagnosis is certainly important, but there is so much more to the story than that. Innovative healthcare providers that are challenging the system of "quick and high volume" to truly deliver this deeper level of individualized care.
Let me give two examples of what "looking beyond the diagnosis" looks like for me...
First, many people have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism. Typically, a prescription is written for a thyroid medication with follow up monitoring of blood work and evaluation of symptoms to adjust the prescription dose. But what is beyond the diagnosis is the why. Why did the hypothyroidism occur? What is the underlying cause? The answer to these questions can be highly individual, and it can take additional testing, a very through history to scout out these answers, and time to remove the underlying cause(s). In some, but not all cases, the hypothyroidism can resolve when the underlying causes are removed.
Second, let's say you have a cough secondary to a cold and I were to formulate an herbal cough syrup recipe for you. I would not simply grab a bunch of herbs that are good for coughs & colds in the recipe. I need to know your individualized expression of that cough. Is it a dry, barking cough? Are you suffocating from the mucus in your throat? What are your concomitant symptoms? Are you feeling flushed and hot or do you feel icy cold or both? When is the cough worse--morning, day, evening, night? Is it chronic or acute? These individualized pieces are all put together to form a recipe that works for your cough. Someone else with that same cold may need a completely different recipe because how the two of you express the disease is different even though it is the same disease.
This is what individualized care looks like for me.