We are grateful to have Dr. Lisa Pomerantz, ND as a colleague at the Mountain-River Naturopathic Clinic. She brings fresh vibrancy to our mountain community, along with an incredible mind-body-spirit focus in her practice. Having made it through her first winter and full year in Frisco, she says she has begun to feel rooted here.
I got a chance to sit down and ask her to share a few reflections that might help people in the community get to know her better.
Dr. Justin Pollack: What makes you unique as a naturopathic doctor?
Dr. Lisa: I have a heavy emphasis on the mental-emotional component of health. I really like to dive deep in there, and understand the mind-body connection that is influencing a person's physical disease state. So often people neglect just how much stress and trauma affects their physical body and can be a root cause of their disease. I like to have conversations about how stress is appearing in someone's life and early childhood things that happened to them that may have conditioned their nervous systems to respond in certain ways. I do a lot of things similar to how other naturopathic doctors do, with calming herbs and nutritional support to help the nervous system function more optimally, but I'm also incorporating some additional things. What sets me apart from other naturopaths is my emphasis on the mind and emotions. This isn’t every naturopath’s cup of tea, but I love this work. I find that the emotions are often the cause of disease that gets pushed to the sidelines. When we address the emotions, incredible things happen in the body.
One of the things I have is auricular chromotherapy, and this is a treatment where you shine light on a person's ear, which is an area that is associated with the limbic system of the brain. The different colored lights help to regulate the nervous system so the person isn't so attached to past traumatic events. It can also be used for intense emotional states that have consumed a person. I am studying what other therapies along that line will be the most beneficial for my patients. Some things that are on the horizon are neurofeedback, having a computer system sent the brain certain signals that the brain can then adopt to help it calm down. It is a beautiful experience to come out of that and realize you're more able to be the observer and not as emotionally attached. NAET is another therapy where we help to release emotions from the body.
In your personal and professional life, what are you most passionate about?
Dr. Lisa: Well the first thing I am most passionate about is living up here in nature. I grew up near a city, and moving up here in the mountains has been a complete re-balancing for my nervous system. Now when I go down to cities, I have to tap into another part of me from my younger years which feels much less grounded, and much more guarded in order to hold my own in a city.
I'm passionate about exploring different things in the mountains, new activities. I'm getting into rock climbing, I've tried mountain biking, and I will be snow-boarding in the winter. I'm passionate about making connections in the community. I started a Facebook group called the Summit County Women's Connection. It's a place where we host women's events, like a fall wreath crafting event that I did, we did a happy hour, and we do a lot of moon gatherings. I'm in the process of deepening my spirituality, and as I grow in this its something I will bring to my practice. The moon gatherings are a wonderful time with these ladies to set intentions, with the full moon is a time for releasing and the new moon for setting intentions for moving forward. As I am able to deepen that in my life, I am getting in touch with parts of me that have been repressed, like the defense mechanisms in cities. We all put up these walls and boundaries, so this more spiritually guided work is able to help me release these stories and truly show up as my highest self for my patients, and then guide my patients to connect to their highest self.
Another thing that is on the horizon is embodiment work. Helping people to get in touch with their deeper emotions and karmic things and stories that are stuck in the body that might be repressed. By tuning into different sensations in the body instead of running from emotions, but really allowing them to move through us we can come to deeper states of healing than we can imagine. I'm passionate about that in my personal life, and I want to bring that to my patients as well.
What would you like the community to know about you?
Dr. Lisa: I guess I should talk about how I complement all that energetic and ethereal stuff with grounded science. I'm doing things like studying organic acids testing, and doing a deeper dive into autoimmune dysfunction. I'm so fascinated by biochemistry. It is so flipping cool!
One of my other clinical passions is knowing the specific pathways in the human body that might be malfunctioning, and how we can go in there and target them specifically so we can have them function optimally. Instead of just saying, “take this multi-vitamin,” we find out what this is actually doing for us. Vitamin B3 is a co-factor for so many enzymes, more than any of the other B's. So my practice is coming up from the ground with that solid, researched, physiology-based healing; from the top down with that energy-healing, emotional component; and it meets in the center.
Who are your mentors?
Dr. Lisa: Well, first of all, you and Kim! Huge mentors for me, welcoming me into this family and sharing your knowledge from nearly 20 years of practice. You guys are clinical mentors, business mentors, mountain mentors. Every time I have questions about patients, you guys are always so excited to share your knowledge and I don't feel like I'm reinventing the wheel because I have you guys so willing and ready to be such amazing mentors. It means a lot!
I think one of the reasons we mesh in here so well is that love of the core of the medicine. The root-cause medicine. The heal thyself. The healing power of nature. The other mentors that I have gravitated toward in the past have been the old-timey doctors who have been in practice for 30-40 years. They have seen the medicine change so much, and the rise of the naturopathic doctor who has come to rely on conventional standards of care and lose faith in the healing power of nature. These old-timey doctors are really passing down the torch to those of us who want to listen. The body is so powerful to heal itself and we need drugs to treat much less often than the new age of naturopaths is being taught. Dr. Jim Sensenig, Dr. Jared Zeff, Dr. Leticia Dick who has the wonderful lineage of her father Dr. Dick and before him OG Caroll. They are probably the biggest names when it comes to the history of the profession.
Dr. Justin Pollack: Thank you for sharing all that, and we are so fortunate to have you serving our community with traditional, rooted, vitalistic natural medicine! Dr. Nearpass and I are honored to serve as some of your mentors in the clinical setting, and we encourage that work-life balance play in the mountains and rivers as much as possible.
While "physician" is title protected for use only by MD and DO doctors in Colorado, the following is an amazing overview and summary of naturopathic medicine written by our national organization, which uses the term physician. "The Institute for Natural Medicine and the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians recently announced its joint publication of a white paper designed to raise awareness of the principles of naturopathic medicine and reaffirm the profession’s commitment to a collaborative model of clinical care.
The paper, Naturopathic Physicians as Whole Health Specialists, The Future is Whole Person Health Care, provides supporting evidence for the profession’s significant contributions to preventive, whole-person care while citing effective models of integrative practice that have called on the expertise of naturopathic physicians in both primary and specialty care environments.
This paper comes at a time where policy makers are scrambling to expand the healthcare workforce, improve patient outcomes, and lower health costs. It aims to provide the framework for how naturopathic medicine has the research behind it for cost effectiveness and patient outcomes and reveals a clear roadmap for how collaboration among naturopathic doctors and other healthcare providers can be maximized in clinical, hospital, and academic settings."
Dr. Justin Pollack, ND
We all owe a debt of gratitude to the scientists, study volunteers, and millions of individuals who have stepped up to be vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2. Because of this unprecedented collaboration and rapid response, our world is opening up to commerce and normalcy. That said, there is solid evidence emerging to back the view that vaccination is not the only answer. As a doctor and professor of science, as an individual who is up-to-date on many vaccinations for international travel and medical volunteering, I am also a strong proponent of medical choice when it comes to any person's health care decision, including the COVID-19 vaccine. Here is a small sample of peer-reviewed science to discourage vaccine mandates.
1. There are many avenues to immunity.
Established science gives us many avenues to immunity. Our immune systems have innate non-specific immunity, such as mounting a fever to cook and inactivate viruses inside our cells and accelerate our immune system's response to infection. We are being told that vaccination is the only way to end the COVID-19 pandemic, but our bodies can acquire adaptive immunity to SARS-CoV-2 passively or actively from vaccination or the antibodies produced through natural exposure. 1
2. Vaccinated individuals can infect others.
It is becoming clear that vaccinated people can contract new variants of COVID, harbor the virus and transmit it to others.2,3,4 Countries such as Iceland with the highest vaccination rates (80-90% vaccination) are still experiencing crippling epidemic waves with their highest morbidity since the onset of the pandemic.5 While the message continues to spread that “this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated”6, the truth remains that unvaccinated individuals do not cause the pandemic to continue. Peer-reviewed science is consistently emerging that vaccinated people are contracting and spreading SARS-CoV-2.
3. COVID-19 vaccines do not protect people as well as originally reported. Effectiveness of mRNA vaccines against infection from variations of SARS-CoV-2 virus is dropping fast. The New England Journal of Medicine published a peer-reviewed study in September that showed a drop to 65% vaccine effectiveness against the Delta variant.7 We still need to respect and protect the most vulnerable individuals in our population, because the risk of COVID-19 infection is often lethal for those who have grown too old to have robust immune response, or who have underlying conditions that can be exploited by the virus. mRNA vaccines have shown that they are effective at reducing hospitalizations and death, especially among the elderly.8 That is a good reason encourage vaccines, but no reason to mandate them, especially among healthy populations and those with the lowest risk of death from COVID.
4. Among healthy populations, SARS-CoV-2 infection confers robust immunity, and is rarely fatal.
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) data is revealing that this is less a pandemic of the unvaccinated, and more a pandemic of the vulnerable. “There were co-morbidities or other conditions listed on the death certificate for as many as 95% of all COVID-19 deaths.”9 In Summit County, there was only one death attributable to COVID-19 in 2020 according to the Coroner's report,10 at a time when the pandemic was at its height and no vaccines were available to the general public. In a place like Summit County, where we have one of the lowest death rates per capita at 0.00026%11 people could continue to rely on naturally acquired adaptive immunity, non-vaccine prevention and treatment.
5. Natural immunity is the most durable and lasting.
In previous influenza epidemics, it was shown that naturally acquired antibody immunity was more protective than immunity by other means12,13 and that the flu shot was capable of lowering immunity against other viral infectons.14 With the SARS-CoV-2 virus, immunity conferred by natural exposure protects against more possible variations to the spike protein on the viral capsid.15 It has come to light that the decay of immunity from our new mRNA vaccines is fairly rapid.16 That means vaccianted individuals will need boosters to their immunity on a regular basis, while the vast majority of people who have had a mild to moderate COVID-19 infection will develop lasting immunity that will protect them for a long time from many different variants of corona virus.17
“The moment we have scientific dogma is the moment science dies.” Zach Bush, MD
We must remember, even in the midst of a global pandemic, that science is an ongoing process of questions, hypotheses, and searching for answers. A vaccine-fits-all approach to a novel corona virus goes against the very foundations of what we already know about immunity and what current studies demonstrate. Despite the imperfect nature of VAERS (the Vaccine Adverse Effects Reporting system), including low reporting by hospitals and medical clinics, COVID vaccines have injured or killed more people than all other vaccines on the market combined.18 Mandates for this vaccine could be considered unethical until we have more long-term safety data. For whatever reason, many evidence-based and effective treatments for COVID-19 are being ignored, or actively suppressed. As I write this, molnupiravir (Merck), several other anti-viral medications and monoclonal antibody treatments are being reviewed for emergency-use-authorization, which could effectively end the pandemic for all of us.
1. Seeley's Anatomy and Physiology, 12th Edition. McGraw Hill. ISBN: 9781264229505 (shared with permission from McGraw-Hill publishers)
2. Walensky, R. Director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Fully Vaccinated People Who Get A COVID-19 Breakthrough Infection Can Transmit The Virus. CNN reporting, August 6, 2021. www.cnn.com/2021/08/05/health/us-coronavirus-thursday/index.html
3. Ioannou P, Karakonstantis S, Astrinaki E, Saplamidou S, Vitsaxaki E, Hamilos G, Sourvinos G, Kofteridis DP. Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 variant B.1.1.7 among vaccinated health care workers. Infect Dis (Lond). 2021 Nov;53(11):876-879. doi: 10.1080/23744235.2021.1945139. Epub 2021 Jun 26. PMID: 34176397.
4. Kasen K. Riemersma, Brittany E. Grogan, Amanda Kita-Yarbro, Peter J. Halfmann, Hannah E. Segaloff, Anna Kocharian, Kelsey R. Florek, Ryan Westergaard, Allen Bateman, Gunnar E. Jeppson, Yoshihiro Kawaoka, David H. O’Connor, Thomas C. Friedrich, Katarina M. Grande. Shedding of Infectious SARS-CoV-2 Despite Vaccination. medRxiv 2021.07.31.21261387; doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/2021.07.31.21261387
5. Our World in Data. https://ourworldindata.org/covid-cases
6. “This remains a pandemic of the unvaccinated and that threatens our freedom - your freedom to receive routine or lifesaving medical care like cancer treatment. Until more unvaccinated people do the right thing to protect themselves and our economy - Coloradans should wear masks, get the booster, and get tested if you have symptoms.” Colorado Governor Jared Polis update September 28, 2021.
7. Keehner J, Horton LE, Binkin NJ, Laurent LC, Pride D, Longhurst CA, Abeles SR, Torriani FJ. Resurgence of SARS-CoV-2 Infection in a Highly Vaccinated Health System Workforce. N Engl J Med. 2021 Sep 1. doi: 10.1056/NEJMc2112981. PMID: 34469645. “Vaccine effectiveness exceeded 90% from March through June but fell to 65.5% in July.”
8. Moghadas SM, Vilches TN, Zhang K, Wells CR, Shoukat A, Singer BH, Meyers LA, Neuzil KM, Langley JM, Fitzpatrick MC, Galvani AP. The impact of vaccination on COVID-19 outbreaks in the United States. medRxiv [Preprint]. 2021 Jan 2:2020.11.27.20240051. doi: 10.1101/2020.11.27.20240051. Update in: Clin Infect Dis. 2021 Jan 30;: PMID: 33269359 “Vaccination markedly reduced adverse outcomes especially among individuals aged 65 and older, with non-ICU hospitalizations, ICU hospitalizations, and deaths decreasing by 63.5%."
9. National Center for Health Statistics. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There were co-morbidities or other conditions listed on the death certificate for as many as 95% of all COVID-19 deaths. Data as of 9-5-2021. www.cdc.gov/nchs/covid19/mortality-overview.htm
10. Wood R. Coroner, Summit County Colorado. 1 death from COVID-19, among a total of 78 deaths in Summit County in 2020. www.summitcountyco.gov/DocumentCenter/View/32583/Summit-County-Coroner-2020-Annual-Report-pdf
11. Summit Daily News, June 2, 2021
12. Kreijtz JH, Bodewes R, van Amerongen G, Kuiken T, Fouchier RA, Osterhaus AD, Rimmelzwaan GF. Primary influenza A virus infection induces cross-protective immunity against a lethal infection with a heterosubtypic virus strain in mice. Vaccine. 2007 Jan 8;25(4):612-20. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2006.08.036. Epub 2006 Sep 7. PMID: 17005299.
13. Laurie KL, Carolan LA, Middleton D, Lowther S, Kelso A, Barr IG. Multiple infections with seasonal influenza A virus induce cross-protective immunity against A(H1N1) pandemic influenza virus in a ferret model. J Infect Dis. 2010 Oct 1;202(7):1011-20. doi: 10.1086/656188. PMID: 20715930.
14. Rogier Bodewes, et al. Annual Vaccination against Influenza Virus Hampers Development of Virus-Specific CD8+ T Cell Immunity in Children. J. Virol. November 2011 vol. 85 no. 22 11995-12000
15. William N. Voss, Yixuan J. Hou, Nicole V. Johnson, George Delidakis, Jin Eyun Kim, Kamyab Javanmardi, Andrew P. Horton, Foteini Bartzoka, Chelsea J. Paresi, Yuri Tanno, Chia-Wei Chou, Shawn A. Abbasi, Whitney Pickens, Katia George, Daniel R. Boutz, Dalton M. Towers, Jonathan R. McDaniel, Daniel Billick, Jule Goike, Lori Rowe, Dhwani Batra, Jan Pohl, Justin Lee, Shivaprakash Gangappa, Suryaprakash Sambhara, Michelle Gadush, Nianshuang Wang, Maria D. Person, Brent L. Iverson, Jimmy D. Gollihar, John Dye, Andrew Herbert, Ilya J. Finkelstein, Ralph S. Baric, Jason S. McLellan, George Georgiou, Jason J. Lavinder, Gregory C. Ippolito. Prevalent, protective, and convergent IgG recognition of SARS-CoV-2 non-RBD spike epitopes. Science, 2021. “Blood plasma samples from four people who recovered from SARS-CoV-2 infections, the researchers found that most of the antibodies circulating in the blood -- on average, about 84% -- target areas of the viral spike protein outside the RBD (receptor binding domain).”
16. Israel A, Shenhar Y, Green I, Merzon E, Golan-Cohen A, Schäffer AA, Ruppin E, Vinker S, Magen E. Large-scale study of antibody titer decay following BNT162b2 mRNA vaccine or SARS-CoV-2 infection. medRxiv [Preprint]. 2021 Aug 21:2021.08.19.21262111. doi: 10.1101/2021.08.19.21262111. PMID: 34462761 “Initial levels of antibody are much higher in vaccinated patients, but decrease faster (than in people with naturally acquired immunity).”
17. Kojima N, Shrestha NK, Klausner JD. A Systematic Review of the Protective Effect of Prior SARS-CoV-2 Infection on Repeat Infection. Eval Health Prof. 2021 Sep 30:1632787211047932. doi: 10.1177/01632787211047932. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34592838.
AANP (American Association of Naturopathic Doctors) on COVID-19 Vaccinations and the Role of Licenced NDs in the Pandemic.
The American Association of Naturopathic Doctors (AANP) is the national professional association representing licensed and licenseable naturopathic doctors (NDs) in the US.
Licensed naturopathic doctors are trained as primary care providers, who emphasize patient-centered, preventive healthcare and are strong proponents of the principles of shared decision making.
NDs and the COVID-19 Vaccines
With broader eligibility and availability of the vaccine and increased distribution channels, the AANP strongly advocates that naturopathic doctors have access to, and be able to administer, the COVID-19 vaccine where it is within their scope of practice. Fundamental to AANP’s strategic plan is to advocate for NDs to be licensed and recognized to practice to the fullest extent of their education and training throughout the US. Naturopathic Doctors are educated on standards of care for immunization, and vaccines are one of many tools used by naturopathic doctors to protect against infectious diseases as reflected in the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges Core Competencies on Immunization Education.
The Role of Licensed Naturopathic Doctors in the Pandemic
Public health guidelines such as social distancing, hand washing, and mask wearing have been prioritized in the last year as the nation has struggled to understand the nature of this disease. Despite these measures, morbidity and mortality from COVID-19 continues to be alarmingly high. Certain populations, including individuals with pre-existing chronic disease, those without sufficient access to comprehensive healthcare service, and people of color are disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
Even with the new vaccines, there are currently still important unknowns, including whether the vaccine prevents asymptomatic transmission, how long vaccine protection will last, what the impact of the vaccine will be on untested populations such as much older adults, pregnant women and children, and the extent of risk of allergic reaction and adverse events.
Because of these unknowns, and the simple fact that there are also populations that are vaccine hesitant or for whom the vaccine is currently not recommended by the CDC, it is of utmost importance to pursue additional pathways to further decrease the spread and the negative consequences of COVID-19. These additional pathways should include:
1. Adding naturopathic doctors to plans to combat COVID-19. Licensed NDs work collaboratively within all medical settings, and in regulated states, NDs are integrated into health systems in both primary and specialty settings. The World Naturopathic Federation outlines how naturopathic doctors can help change the trajectory of this public health crisis. There is an increasing body of research on naturopathic practice, including how care by licensed naturopathic doctors can lead to better outcomes in the conditions that predispose individuals to severe cases of COVID-19, including those patients with diabetes,,,,,,,,, cardiovascular disease,,,,, obesity, and more.
2. Engaging naturopathic doctors to provide education about risk vs. benefit with vaccine-hesitant, vaccine-resistant individuals, as well as with other individuals who may not tolerate the current vaccines, or for whom the vaccine is not currently recommended by the CDC due to age or other reasons. These populations often seek care from naturopathic doctors and integrative medicine providers, who can help educate about vaccine safety and provide information related to vaccine ingredients, potential allergens, symptoms that may be representative of a healthy immune response, and potential adverse events.
Policy Changes That Need to Happen
In summary, licensed naturopathic doctors play a valuable role as front-line, primary healthcare providers but are limited by lack of licensure in all 50 states. Their patient-centered communication, comprehensive training in prevention-oriented primary care, and unique expertise in evidence-based integrative and natural health, provides effective treatment of chronic diseases and supports immune health in a manner that may be able to lessen the burden of COVID-19 morbidity.
Based on research data and 40 collective years of clinical practice, the following briefly summarizes our recommendations for optimizing immune function and avoiding viral illness.
In health, Dr. Kim Nearpass & Dr. Justin Pollack
Practice basic safety during a pandemic
Dr. Justin Pollack, ND
Viruses cause cold and flu, in fact what we call the 'Flu' is short for influenza virus. Over 200 different viruses can initiate a cold, including rhinoviruses, RSV, adenoviruses, and even several inocuous coronaviruses. Many biologists don't consider viruses to be alive, since they require a living cell's 'machinery' to make copies of themselves. They can persist in fluids, like respiratory droplets for varying amounts of time. That said, viruses are fragile and die with simple soap and water when on your hands or exposed surfaces. Antibacterial soaps are overkill. Antibiotics are useless against them, since viruses slip into, and are hidden inside our own cells. If used against a virus, antibiotics can weaken the immune system by damaging digestive flora balance and leaving a person at greater risk for infection. One of the most effective ways our body has to kill virus, is to create a fever of over 101°Fahrenheit to 'cook them out.'
Since 2002, there have been three new beta corona viruses that have attached to receptors deep in human lungs / respiratory tracts, triggering inflammatory immune responses. For some, this creates a deadly ARDS (Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome) response.
Can you get it twice? Probably not, but we won't know for a couple years as scientists and epidemiologists track the effects of COVID-19. Immunity developed to an influenza virus is lifelong. That said, influenza is a sloppy replicator, and every year there are many new "mutations" to influenza virus that could cause a person to get a new flu. Weak “cold-causing” coronavirus immunity lasts about a year. Immunity developed to SARS and MERS lasted several years on average.
Dr. Justin Pollack, ND
However many times a day you eat, you have an opportunity to focus on what you are eating, and put aside the “troubles of mind” that follow us wherever we go. In doing so, you make a profound shift in your physiology. A rare and beautiful parasympathetic “rest and digest” shift happens to your nervous system. This parasympathetic shift only occurs when we sleep, or when we truly relax and find gratitude for the gifts set before us.
Every food set on your plate, or in your bowl, represents a relationship that was formed between the Sun and the Earth, when chloroplasts that came to live symbiotically inside many plants, learned to capture the electromagnetic energy of the sun. That energy is used to transform gas (carbon dioxide) and water into starches/sugars, amino acids/proteins, and lipids/fats that the rest of us can enjoy. It is a gift. If we are eating the flesh of another animal that once ate those leaves, fruits, grains, seeds, nuts, roots and vegetables, it is even more of a gift. In whatever spiritual tradition you find yourself, even if it is none, there is a way to give thanks for that gift, and by setting your mind on that course, you have set the parasympathetic wheels of digestion in motion.
A good goal in any part of your life is to find thankfulness for what you have. When you are thankful, you see things more as they are, instead of in a positive or negative light. If you cannot find something to be grateful for, start with a tree. Remember that the trees, grasses, even the smallest phytoplankton and “pond scum” are recycling our CO2 into the oxygen that we need to live. Each tree is giving us life. Each time we look at a tree, we can be thankful.
Thich Nhat Hahn says, “Eating a meal in mindfulness is an important practice. We turn off the TV, put down our newspaper, and work together setting the table. After breathing we smile. Then, we look at each person as we breathe in and out in order to be in touch with ourselves and everyone at the table. After breathing and smiling, we look down at the food in a way that allows the food to become real. This food reveals our connection with the Earth. Each bite contains the life of the Sun and the Earth. We can see and taste the whole Universe in a piece of bread! …When I hold a bowl of rice or a piece of bread, I know that I am fortunate, and I feel compassion for all those who have no food to eat and are without friends or family.”
Encountering the present moment.
“There are so many exercises we can do to help us breathe consciously. We can recite four lines silently as we breathe in and out: Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in this present moment, I know this is a wonderful moment. Just breathing and smiling can make us very happy, because when we breathe consciously, we recover ourselves completely and encounter life in the present moment.” - Thich Nhat Hahn
When we eat mindfully, taking time with our food, and the friends or family gathered with us, it is easier to notice if there is a distasteful morsel headed toward our mouth. Rotten bite of apple, anyone? It is easier to make choices about how nutritiously we want to eat, perhaps setting down things that we grew up with, which are not so nutritious for us. French fries with “goop”, anyone?
Take a look at the “Bastyr Healthy Plate”. Be mindful and choose your food wisely. While there is no sugar, no bacon, no ice cream, no beer or wine on that plate, there is always a little room for Michael Pollen’s quote: “Treat treats as treats.” Thank goodness for treats… and nutritious food, of course.
Dr. Eryn J. Scott, ND
Play is the work of the child. – Maria Montessori
Play is a cherished childhood activity and one with profound implications on childhood health and development persisting into adulthood. Play provides a strong foundation for young children to discover materials and properties of the natural world while simultaneously offering challenges and opportunities to explore the strength and resilience of the human body. It is through the act of play children engage all areas of development including social, emotional, physical (fine & gross motor), intellectual habits and cognitive skills. Naturopathic medicine is a comprehensive health care system viewing the physical body as an integral part of the whole, while simultaneously seeking to address the root cause of disease or imbalance.
In an age of busy schedules and evolving technology, children are presented with fewer opportunities for play and exploration compared to previous generations. Sedentary behavior is associated with an increase in obesity among children and adults, thus increasing the risk for developing heart disease, diabetes, metabolic disorders, allergic and respiratory ailments and mental health disorders. A growing body of literature within the medical and educational communities has begun to investigate the benefits of play, specifically outdoor free play on childhood development and health throughout the lifespan. The American Academy of Pediatrics now encourages pediatricians to advocate for increased levels outdoor free play in preschoolers as an essential part of healthy development. Older children and adults would likely benefit from similar recommendations.
What is free play? Unlike structured classroom or extracurricular activities, which are also beneficial to overall development, free play is child-driven thereby enabling children to move at their own pace, to take risks and practice decision-making skills. Free play provides children with opportunities for self-discovery, cooperation, teamwork and engagement in the passions they wish to pursue. Free play is open-ended and invites imagination. Recall a time when you were a child playing outside or to a time when you have witnessed other children playing in a natural environment. In this setting, the opportunities are endless and are driven by a sense of curiosity. A tree suddenly becomes a castle or a fort. A stick becomes a spoon, a fishing pole or a magic wand while the leaves and rocks become food ingredients or tools, thereby allowing play to evolve at the direction of the children involved.
Research demonstrates preschool children achieve the highest levels of physical activity through outdoor play. In doing so, they build active and healthy bodies by stimulating bone and muscle growth while also enhancing immunity through exposure to beneficial microorganisms, sunlight and fresh air. Most physical activity in young children is achieved through gross motor play, such as climbing trees and running. Children are also able to integrate a large quantity of sensory information through sight, sound and touch leading to accelerated brain development. Additionally, physically active children are more adept to classroom learning with fewer disruptions or behavioral challenges.
Among the social and emotional benefits of outdoor free play are the positive impacts on self-esteem, communication and happiness. Those with greater access to green space show better self-regulation and emotional intelligence. They are able to negotiate, take turns, listen and help one another which contributes to success later on in life.
The benefits of cognitive and intellectual development in outdoor free play are more difficult to recognize, but are essential nonetheless. Brain development has been shown to be astonishingly active, inquisitive and insightful from birth, which leads to a phenomenon of concept development and understanding. In this way, children engage in a trial and error or “let’s find out approach” guided by their curiosity and desire to understand themselves and the world around them.
Developing a connection to the natural world through play has profound implications on the health of the individual and the health of our environment. It is through this introduction to the natural world that children develop a love for nature and arguably a desire to conserve our planet for future generations to come.
Additional resources for parents: How to Raise a Wild Child. There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather. Home Grown. Balanced and Barefoot.
Life must be lived as play. – Plato
Dr. Eryn Scott is a registered naturopathic doctor specializing in pediatrics and family medicine and is currently practicing in Bozeman, MT. For more information please visit her website at www.doctoreryn.com.
Dr. Justin Pollack, ND
“Your brain is the command and control center of your body. If you want a better body, the first place to ALWAYS start is by having a better brain.” ~Daniel Amen, MD 1
Specific nutrients have profound effects on our overall emotional well-being, including our ability to focus, motivate to do things, sleep well or wake up energized. I am fascinated by what brings health and wellness to people. In my practice, learning and teaching, I have come across an abundance of research explaining how food can become neurotransmitters that directly affect our mind. For simplicity, I'm going to focus on three helpful neurotransmitters. Naturally, a full, balanced approach to mental health is much more complex than biochemistry, and should include any number of the therapies you'll find in this magazine. A short, incomplete list of things that help the brain besides the right foods, might include:
rewarding interactions in your community,
the listening ear of your loved ones and counseling,
time spent in the natural world, doing things that you love,
activities that bring you a sense of purpose, fulfillment and meaning,
moving your body in ways that feel good to you.
Good Mood Makers
Serotonin is made in the intestines from 5-HTP, which is derived from L-Tryptophan. Serotonin is our daytime “feel-good” neurotransmitter, and people who are low in this report feeling “under a dark cloud”. It helps us feel full and content after a meal, making it useful for people who need to lose weight. SSRI and MAO-inhibiting antidepressant drugs act to keep serotonin around in the nerve synapse, and people who do well with these medications might otherwise feel negative, moody, obsessive, irritable or fearful. Serotonin is converted to melatonin by the pineal glad of the brain during dark winter months and at night, and this explains why many animals hibernate and many people experience a wintertime S.A.D. (seasonal affective disorder) or low mood through the winter season. Melatonin is our “sleep hormone” which sets our nocturnal rhythm and also acts as an antioxidant for regeneration of many tissues. Without enough melatonin, people don't fall asleep well, or are restless with light sleep.
GABA (Gamma-Amino-Butyric Acid) is made in the brain from L-Glutamine. GABA acts as the main calming neurotransmitter in the brain, which makes it important for regulating the stress response. People who are low in GABA report feeling overwhelmed, easily upset or frustrated, and shaky, especially after missed meals. L-Glutamine is a good precursor amino acid, because of its importance in gut health, brain health, and muscle recovery.
Dopamine & norepinephrine are both made from the amino acid L-Tyrosine. Dopamine is the first compound made from L-Tyrosine and is the neurotransmitter responsible for pleasure and satisfaction. It provides the feeling of “I want to do that again” derived from good food, balanced exercise or intimacy. Many addictive drugs raise dopamine levels above normal, then leave a person with a dopamine deficit afterward. Alcoholics and people addicted to other drugs are often deficient in dopamine, and susceptible to addiction from low levels of dopamine. Whan a person's brain doesn't produce enough dopamine, they may develop Parkinson's disease. We see similar tremors and shaking in people going through alcohol withdrawl due to the depletion of dopamine.
Dopamine is converted into norepinephrine, an excitatory neurotransmitter that is important in mental focus and energy. This is released when we need to be alert and can be stimulated by caffeine. Norepinephrine causes the release of epinephrine (also known as adrenaline), which carries us through stressful events with greater clarity and energy, with less pain or inflammation. L-Tyrosine is also the “T” in thyroid hormones T3 and T4, which are the major hormones involved in energy, temperature regulation and fat burning.
Note that all of the good mood neurotransmitters that are listed above come from protein. Turkey is famous for containing L-Tryptophan, but all of these (Tyrosine, Glutamine & Tryptophan) can be found in a complete protein source.
Omega-3, mono-unsaturated & saturated fats: Nerve cells have membranes that are made of a high percentage of omega-3 fats, especially DHA. The nerve cell membrane also contains abundant cholesterol and the arachidonic acid found in butter and other saturated fats. Solid research is linking deficiencies of omega-3 fatty acids with depression, anxiety and other mental health problems. All of the good mood neurotransmitters listed above are held inside bags made of fat. If the bags are flexible, they can withstand stressors and neurotransmitters inside are preserved better than if the bags are made of stiff trans-fats or saturated fat sources.
Probiotics: These are good bacteria that inhabit our digestive tracts, and are responsible for the fermentation of many traditional foods like sauerkraut, sourdough, miso and tamari. In the last decade, exciting worldwide research has revealed that these microbes outnumber the cells in our own body. The literature has shown probiotics are essential for the conversion of food into nutrients we can use, and even neurotransmitters like GABA and serotonin that have good effects on our mood and emotion.
At the Mountain-River Naturopathic Clinic, we can help you figure out dietary and targeted nutrient therapies to help conditions that range from low mood or insomnia, to anxiety or attention deficit. We work with all other health care providers to ensure there are no harmful interactions with existing therapies, and make sure you have therapeutic quality nutrients at non-toxic levels.
Mountain-River Naturopathic Clinic. www.mountainriverclinic.com (970) 668-1300. 507 Main St., Frisco, CO 80443
Dr. Justin Pollack, Dr. Kim Nearpass, Dr. Lisa Pomerantz.
Three naturopathic doctors, sharing our love of natural and holistic medicine. How can we help you?