Thursday, December 10, 2009

Medical Care is a human right

For this year's Human Rights Day I want to draw people's attention to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The declaration clearly guarantees the right to health and medical care. The same article also declares the right of mothers and children to special care and assistance.

Article 25.

  • (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
  • (2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.
(You can read the declaration online at
Some countries do a wonderful job of providing these rights, others do not. In the US we barely meet these obligations. People are entitled to life-saving medical treatments, but not with care to promote and maintain health. Mothers and children do get some special care through SCHIP, and other state programs, but this assistance is very meager and many families suffer.

The US needs to provide health care (not just emergency disease care) to everyone. Why are we having a debate about this issue? It is our obligation to the citizens of the world to work to insure that human rights are met. The right to health care was clearly articulated over 60 years ago.

I urge you to spread this information to everyone you know. Have discussions with people about what you think this right guarantees. Attend demonstrations, blog, write letters!

Find out candidates opinions on health care. Talk to your elected officials about health care. Check their voting records! Do they support the meager legislation that we have, or have they repeatedly rejected renewing SCHIP? What about maternity leave? If their actions don't match their words, don't re-elect them!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

It will never happen to me

It will never happen to me. I'm straight, and so is my partner. We don't do IV drugs and we're monogamous.

We were together for 5 years. We tried having a baby and then things fell apart. Now I've met someone new. My partner wants me to get an HIV test before we have sex. What's the point? I know that I'm not infected...

It's been a while since I've done the whole condom thing. I went to buy condoms and discovered that the lambskin ones don't protect against sexually transmitted infections. Who knew?! What's the point of a condom that doesn't stop the spread of HIV?

Today I am Facing AIDS for World AIDS Day. Today I remember all who are infected without knowing they are at risk. The above stories highlight many of the ways people unknowingly put themselves at risk. There are so many people who assume that heterosexual serial monogamy will protect them. Others use lambskin condoms, assuming that all condoms prevent the spread of HIV.

In most cities, the only non-latex condoms that grocery stores sell are lambskin. People with latex allergies have very little choice. Luckily, public health departments and internet retailers can provide fairly easy access to non-latex condoms that do prevent the spread of HIV and other STIs.

How many people go without HIV testing between relationships? Serial monogamy does not prevent HIV transmission. Everyone should have an HIV test at the end and beginning of every relationship. I don't care if you're 12, or 92. Do it for your partner.

To find an HIV test site, text your ZIP to “KNOWIT" (566948), or visit On this World AIDS Day join me in facing AIDS for yourself, your partner, and your community. Together we can fight AIDS.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Take Local Action- Support a Farmer's Market!

Today I'm urging you to take local action to support your health. The action I would like you to focus on is supporting local farmer's markets. In most areas this is the off season for markets, but its a great time to prepare for their return in the spring/summer.
Is there a farmer's market in your area? In La Grande we have a market that runs June through October. I recommend that you search around and see if there's one you can attend. If there isn't one, consider trying to get one started (post a comment and I'll connect you to resources to do so).
There are multiple ways to support your local market. The easiest is as a consumer. At the farmer's market you can have access to fresh healthy produce. You are able to talk to the producer and find out how they produce the food. Is it organic? Organically grown, but not certified? Do they use chemicals? How is it harvested? Many of these producers harvest the food themselves, often the morning of the market!
By buying locally produced foods directly from the growers you are able to provide your neighbors with income, that is a living wage. Local foods are fresher and less resources are used to move the foods from the point of production to consumption. A lot less oil is needed to transport grapes from a vineyard that's 10 miles away, than from one in Argentina.
On a budget? The prices at farmer's markets are often comparable to stores and the food is a lot fresher! Most farmer's markets are now accepting food stamps. Go to the information booth and ask! If your local market doesn't accept food stamps, now is a great time to start talking to the manager to get them to take food stamps.
Many smaller markets will welcome occasional sellers. If you have a bumper crop, consider getting a booth at your local market and selling your excess! There are many people who live in apartments, and other situations with limited space to grow food, who will appreciate your extras.
Already a market vendor? Does your market have an agreement with a local food pantry to distribute extra food? If not, start planning it now! Talk to everyone you meet about the benefits of them shopping locally. The public needs to know that they are making a huge difference by purchasing your products.
Farmers markets benefit the health of individuals and society.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Cell Phone Radiation- What phones emit, bodies absorb

I recently came across a wonderful blog post about cell phone radiation. I wanted to share this post with you. You can find the original at: I personally try to avoid cell phone usage. I prefer to use a land line or Skype.

Cell Phone Radiation Series - Part 4: What phones emit, bodies absorb
By Amy Rosenthal
November 19, 2009
Research is not yet settled on exactly how dangerous cell phone radiation is to your health. But we at Environmental Working Group have seen enough studies with enough troubling results that we think it's worth your while to reduce your exposure to cell phone radiation.
When we talked a few weeks ago about insufficient government cell phone regulations, we discussed "SAR" values and the legal limits the government has set for the amount of radiation a phone can emit. But SAR values aren't always easy to pin down - so today we're going to look closely at what they are and how they can vary by phone.
What does SAR mean, anyway? "SAR" stands for "specific absorption rate" - it's a measure of how much radiation is absorbed by your body, given in Watts per kilogram (W/kg). Scientists test for SAR values using models of the human body filled with viscous fluid designed to mimic human tissue. The phone is placed next to the mold, and while the phone transmits a signal, a probe inside the human model measures the absorbed energy levels. The phone's SAR value is designated as the highest amount of radiation detected during these tests. What determines a phone's emission level?A phone's SAR value is largely determined by the design of its inner hardware and antenna. But, since the SAR measures how much radiation is absorbed by your body (heartening, huh?), the value is determined by both a) the amount of radiation emitted by the phone, and b) what body part is doing the absorbing (yes, some absorb radiation more than others).
SAR values for an individual phone can vary, based on several factors:
Network & frequencyMost phones sold today can operate on several networks (e.g. 2G v. 3G) and at different frequencies (which band of the network the phone is using to send and receive signals). The same phone can emit different levels of radiation depending on which network and which frequency it's being used on at any given time.
Where you're using itPhones emit radiation when they're transmitting signals from your handset to a base station (cell tower), so the harder a phone has to work to send a signal, the more radiation it will emit. As a result, when you're using your phone far from a base station (say, in a rural area) or if there are physical obstacles in the way, the SAR value would be higher.
How you're using itA phone also uses more power to transmit a voice signal, so texting emits less radiation than talking.
Where you're holding itOriginally, SAR measurements focused primarily on values when held at the head. But over time, cell phone use has changed - now we're carrying phones in our pockets and often leaving them there while talking on a headset or not using them.
This means less radiation to the brain (that's good) but more to the lower torso. SAR values vary based on the type of body tissue absorbing the radiation, and research has shown that skin and muscles absorb more radiation than fat and bones. This raises concern about exposures at the waist, particularly to reproductive organs that don't have a protective layer of bone (like a skull provides the brain) shielding them from cell phone radiationAlso, as you'd instinctively assume, the farther away the phone is from you, the less radiation you'll absorb from it. Holding the phone 10 inches away can reduce radiation exposure by a factor of 400. (Another reason texting and a headset are good ideas - you'd be yelling to get heard while holding the phone that far away.)
SAR testing not perfectScientists acknowledge that SAR testing has significant precision problems, and current research is lacking in many ways. For instance, we don't know much about SAR values when phones are in "data mode" (you know you love those iphone apps), when they're held at various orientations (say, flipped around in your pocket) or how SAR values change for people of different ages and body types.
Children may be especially at risk, because their tissue conducts more (it has more ions than that of adults). Also, their thinner skulls don't provide as much of a radiation shield - one recent study showed that a child's head could absorb twice the amount of radiation as an adult's. As a result, kids using high-emitting, perfectly legal cell phones could be exposed to radiation over the legal limit.
You can make it better More research is needed, but the U.S. currently lags behind Europe when it comes to knowing what's going on with cell phones (surprise!). Tell the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to update their cell phone regulations (which they haven't done since their introduction in the mid-1990's) by sending them an email using EWG's easy form.
And in the meantime, since SAR values vary so much, you can make choices to reduce your exposure. Use EWG's 8 tips to reduce your cell phone radiation exposure - they'll make good sense now that you understand the "why" behind them all.
Stay tuned for more on cell phone radiation in coming weeks -- including finding a phone that has low SAR values to start with.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Balancing the H1N1 Risk with Vaccination

The following article was written by Dr. Heather Zwickey, National College of Natural Medicine Dean of Research and Director of the Helfgott Research Institute. Dr Zwickey was my immunology professor. I highly respect her opinions and wanted to share her work with you. This article can be downloaded at

Balancing the H1N1 Risk with Vaccination
By Dr. Heather Zwickey,
NCNM Dean of Research
Director, Helfgott Research Institute

The H1N1 influenza outbreak has people nervous all over the world. The media has overwhelmed people with information. As a result, many people are afraid of getting the flu this year. In order to prevent the flu, people are turning to the H1N1 flu vaccine. However, some people question the safety of the flu vaccine and are reluctant to be vaccinated. At NCNM, we’re getting questions like:
"If I’m a healthy adult, should I get vaccinated? What if I’m pregnant? What if I’m breastfeeding? "
"Should I vaccinate my kids? What if they have asthma? What if they under 3 years old?"
"I’m on medication for Multiple Sclerosis. Should I be vaccinated?"

While flu vaccines are relatively safe, there are still a number of things to consider before you receive a flu vaccine. We’ve tried to include the most recent data as we weigh-in with rationale opinions on the H1N1 vaccine. As always, we consider the risk of getting the disease with the risk of the vaccine. We also consider individual risk and alternatives to vaccination.

Healthy Adults
Most years, between 5-10% of healthy Americans between the ages of 18-50 experience the flu. A larger number of healthy adults (30-50%) are infected with the flu but don’t experience any noticeable symptoms. If you have a healthy immune system, you should be able to fight off the flu. Your immune system protects you from dozens of viral and bacterial infections each year. Therefore, the most important thing you can do to protect yourself from flu is to keep your immune system healthy by eating nutritious food, exercising, and engaging good hygiene skills like regularly washing your hands.

If you are a healthy adult, you may still want to be vaccinated if you are taking care of people who fall into a high-risk category. Healthy adults can infect others 24 hours before they develop symptoms and up to five–seven days after becoming sick. It is also possible to be infectious and never develop symptoms. Thus, if you are a health-care worker, you can spread the flu to others. Since patients are often fall into high-risk categories, health care workers should strongly consider being vaccinated. Also consider being vaccinated if you are taking care of an elderly person or an infant who is less than 6 months old. Finally, if you are healthy, but you also smoke (cigarettes or marijuana), are an alcoholic, or you are obese, you may be more susceptible to getting pneumonia with flu infection, so you may want to be vaccinated. The vaccine is 80-96% effective in healthy adults under 65 years of age. (Science Daily, Sept. 13, 2009)

You should NOT be vaccinated against the H1N1 flu if you have had severe reaction to a past flu vaccine. If you are allergic to eggs, you should also avoid
the flu vaccine. You should NOT be vaccinated if you have an illness with a fever. Some people should not be vaccinated without first consulting a physician.
Often the decision to be vaccinated is more economic than health related. Can you afford to miss one–seven days of work if you should get the flu? Do you have a partner to help with the kids if you are sick in bed? If these are situations that would threaten your personal economic stability, you should consider being vaccinated.

Pregnant Women
There are several reported cases of pregnant women who have developed severe complications from the H1N1 flu. Even though H1N1 flu seems to be mild in healthy adults, some pregnant women have lost their pregnancies, and have been hospitalized as a result of flu.

The H1N1 vaccine has not yet been tested in pregnant women. The National Institutes of Health will be testing the vaccine in pregnant women in October 2009. Previous flu vaccines have been safe in pregnant women. If you are pregnant and choose to be vaccinated, your biggest consideration will be the characteristics of the flu vaccine you receive. The vaccines are made in multi-dose vials that contain mercury or pre-filled syringes that do not contain mercury. If you are pregnant, request the pre-filled syringe. All of the vaccine manufacturers make a version of the vaccine that is mercury (Thimerosal) free—however you must request it. While there is not sufficient evidence to suggest that Thimerosal has negative effects on a fetus, the Environmental Protection Agency reminds pregnant women that a fetus is very sensitive to mercury. Therefore, to be safe, get a Thimerosal-free vaccine. Also avoid the intra-nasal influenza vaccine. The intra-nasal vaccine (called LAIV) is a live attenuated vaccine and is not considered safe for pregnant women.

Regardless of whether or not you are vaccinated, if you’re pregnant, you should try to stay away from people with the flu. If you have an appointment with a physician or other health care professional (acupuncturist, chiropractor, massage therapist, etc), you should ask the doctor’s office to keep you separated from other patients or clients who may have the flu. You may also consider wearing a respiratory mask if you have a doctor’s appointment.

Breast-feeding Women
If you’re a woman with a newborn, your breast milk is protective for your infant. Therefore, if you are vaccinated, your immunity will be passed along to your child for as long as you breast feed. If you get the flu, your breast milk will still be protective for your child. However, be careful of exposing your baby to the flu. Some pediatricians recommend expressing your breast milk and having someone else feed the infant while you are sick.

Children under five tend to be at higher risk for developing flu symptoms. An average of 20% of kids under five develop flu each year. Initial reports suggest that a higher percentage of kids are developing flu symptoms from H1N1. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that people between the ages of six months and 24 years are vaccinated. The vaccines are not approved for children under six months of age.

The H1N1 vaccine is being tested in three groups of kids: 10-17 year olds, 3-9 year-olds, and 6-35 months-olds. While testing is still in preliminary phase, so far the vaccine appears most effective in 10-17 year old kids. 76% of 10-17 year olds were protected with a single 15 microgram dose of vaccine. In children under nine years of age, only 36% of the kids were protected by the vaccine. And 25% of kids aged 6-35 months were protected with a single dose of vaccine. (Science Daily, Oct. 5, 2009)

Are these vaccines risky for kids? Perhaps the biggest risk is the illusion of protection. Because the vaccine doesn’t appear to be very effective for kids, the likelihood of it protecting your kids is low. Herd immunity will also be low. Some parents are concerned about mercury (Thimerosal) in vaccines. All four manufacturers who make flu vaccines have a mercury-free version. If you do choose to vaccinate your kids, make sure you ask for the pre-filled syringe as this the type that does not contain mercury.

There is a nasal version of the H1N1 flu vaccine. The nasal spray vaccine is called LAIV for live-attenuated influenza vaccine. Rather than inactivated (dead) virus, LAIV contains a live version of the H1N1 virus that has been mutated to be less dangerous. Parents often like the idea of a nasal spray vaccine because it means that kids don’t have to get a shot. However, this vaccine should not be administered to children with asthma, or children under 2 years of age. Because the vaccine is alive, LAIV should also not be given to anyone with a compromised immune system (like a pregnant woman, or someone with HIV.)

If you decide not to vaccinate your kids, there are things you can do to help protect them. Make certain they are eating a good diet with lots of vegetables. Vitamin D is helpful—so get your kids outside to play, or make sure they’re taking their vitamins. Ensure they are washing their hands often. Teach them how to sneeze and cough into their shoulder and bent elbow. And teach them how to breathe into their shirt if someone sneezes around them.

Flu often causes upper-respiratory symptoms including a dry cough, sore throat, and runny or stuffy nose in addition to a high fever, headache, and muscle aches. The flu vaccine may cause milder versions of these same symptoms. Because people with asthma already have breathing issues, it is not yet clear whether it is safe for people with asthma to be vaccinated with H1N1 vaccine. A study to evaluate the safety is under way. In the meantime, the safest way to address flu prevention is asthma is to promote a healthy immune system.

Other Illness
Lung diseases like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and emphysema make people especially susceptible to influenza. If you have respiratory problems from being overweight or obese, you may also be at higher risk for influenza. In these cases, vaccination with H1N1 vaccine may prevent hospitalization if you are exposed to the flu.

There are several other illnesses that make people prone to hospitalization if they get the flu. These include:
Cardiovascular disease (but not high blood pressure)
Liver problems
Kidney problems
Blood disorders and sickle-cell disease
Neuromuscular disorders
Neurologic disorders
Diabetes and metabolic disorders
Immune suppression, including HIV and immuno-suppressive medications

There are a number of instances when someone would be taking immuno-suppressive medications. If you have received a transplant or if you have an autoimmune disease such as lupus, MS, rheumatoid arthritis, or insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, you may also be taking immuno-suppressive drugs. In these cases, the flu shot is safer than getting the flu.

Residency in a nursing home or other chronic-care facility is also a high risk for developing complications from H1N1 flu. Thus, if you live in a nursing home or a chronic-care facility, you may want to strongly consider being vaccinated.

Flu Symptoms
Flu can cause a variety of symptoms and may differ in how it presents in different people. People are sick for different lengths of time. Symptoms of seasonal flu include:

  • fever (often high)
  • headache
  • extreme tiredness
  • dry cough
  • sore throat
  • runny or stuffy nose
  • muscle aches
  • Stomach symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, also can occur but are more common in children than adults. Some people who have been infected with the new H1N1 flu virus have reported diarrhea and vomiting.

Side Effects of Flu Vaccine
The side effects of the H1N1 Flu Vaccine are a milder form of the symptoms caused by the flu. Approximately 45% of people are expected to have side effects. Side effects usually only last one-two days, if they occur at all.

The H1N1 flu shot side effects include soreness, redness, or swelling in the muscle where the shot was given. In addition, a low-grade fever and muscle aches and headaches could occur.

The H1N1 nasal spray side effects include runny nose, wheezing, headaches, vomiting, and fever. In adults, the nasal spray may also cause a sore throat and cough.

About Dr. Zwickey:
Dr. Heather Zwickey is the dean of Research and director of the Helfgott Research Institute at NCNM, where she is an associate professor of Immunology. She also has an adjunct appointment in the Department of Neurology at Portland’s Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), where she collaborates with researchers and physicians. Dr. Zwickey trained at the world-renowned National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver and received a PhD. in Immunology and Microbiology at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. Dr. Zwickey completed a post-doctoral fellowship at Yale University.

Dr. Zwickey’s research in Colorado examined innovative vaccine methods for tuberculosis (TB). In this context, she travelled in several developing countries where TB is endemic and thousands of people die each year from vaccine preventable diseases. The need for safe and effective vaccines was readily apparent in her travels. As NCNM’s dean of Research, Dr. Zwickey learned of the large population of people in the US opposed to vaccination, who questioned whether vaccines were harming their children. Having witnessed both sides of the debate, Dr. Zwickey began her own research on how developmental biology, public health, capitalism, and individualized medicine collide within the vaccine field. Thus, Dr. Zwickey brings a unique outlook to the vaccine debate because she has examined the issues surrounding vaccination from multiple perspectives.

Maintaining her passion for global health, Dr. Zwickey serves on the Board of Directors of Natural Doctors International. She collaborates with researchers and physicians in Brazil, Nicaragua, and Tanzania. She is currently writing a book about vaccines.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

More Influenza Fear Mongering

I'm starting to get tired of the various conspiracy theories that are floating around on the internet. People take half truths and use them to fuel their own beliefs. The newest theories I'm seeing are that the US bought a stockpile of antivirals that need to be used up, so the CDC is padding flu case numbers. Of course, anti-virals can be used to treat other viral illnesses besides H1N1 and seasonal influenza viruses. Do people not realize that the government buys a stockpile of anti-virals every year as a precaution?

People on both sides of the influenza debate are using scare tactics to try to make their points. Why can't people simply use honesty and logic?

Dr Mercola's newest fear-based H1N1 post ( contains an out-right lie 2 minutes into the recording. It also claims "CBS has been trying to obtain state-by-state numbers for Swine Flu cases compiled, by the CDC, BEFORE the testing was stopped. The CDC has refused to come across with those numbers. It's been stonewalling CBS for the last three months." These numbers are easily found on the CDC website at

A few minutes into the audio, Barbara Loe Fisher, states that "[The CDC] stopped confirming the cases of hospitalization and deaths that were H1N1 related and this information is on the CDC website." Really? When I look on the CDC website I find provider guidance urging testing in cases involving hospitalization and deaths for H1N1 (

The change that has been made is in what the weekly flu report is tracking. You can read more about the CDC FluView and surveillance changes at and Basically, it comes down to the number of cases that meet the criteria for H1N1 testing, is far less than the number of cases of influenza-like illness (ILI) that's in our communities. The cost, time, and availability of H1N1 diagnostic testing make it ridiculous to test every case. To help get a more accurate picture of the true breadth of illness in the nation, the report of flu activity includes all people that physicians have diagnosed with ILI. The World Health Organization had declared H1N1 a pandemic almost 2 months before the CDC changed the surveillance system.

The fatalities are off between the current chart, and what's being reported for the year because the numbers were reset on Aug 30, when the reporting system was changed. You have to add the old numbers to the current ones to get the total. The CDC is being honest with the facts. They were being completely honest and reset the case counts when the surveillance system became inclusive of ILI.

President Obama declared the emergency in order to allow hospitals to deal with possible mass flu outbreaks. If this was originally authorized in July, or October, does it matter? Why are we upset that President Obama is trying to allow hospitals to be able to handle mass influxes of patients? If the American people are being lied to about the severity of H1N1 outbreak, what harm does allowing hospitals to see more patients do?

Monday, October 19, 2009

Response to "Do NOT Let Your Child Get Flu Vaccine -- 9 Reasons Why"

I keep seeing "Do NOT Let Your Child Get Flu Vaccine -- 9 Reasons Why" as interpreted by Dr Mercola get posted. The problem with this list is most of the reasons are misleading or wrong. Please make sure that your facts are straight! The original post is from Bill Sardi and is a longer list that can be found at It at least has some research to support the assertions, but it was theoretically-based and is now outdated.

  1. The number of flu related deaths for this time of year is increased over normal years.
  2. Neither seasonal nor H1N1 vaccine require 2 doses, except in children 9 and under, who need the repeated stimulation to mount a full immune response.
  3. In the US no adjuvants are being used.
  4. The vaccines that were tested this summer are the ones that are being given to the public.
  5. Vets have issues with booster doses not initial dosing.
  6. There are many things that could be causing an increase in autism rates. High fructose corn syrup has recently been implicated as another possible contributor as it contains mercury. Flu Mist does not contain thimerosal, but the injectable form does.
  7. Anti-virals are better at preventing flu than actually treating it, any pharmacist will tell you this. Not sure how this relates to vaccination, except not vaccinating may lead to more people becoming sick and being given antivirals which could lead to resistance. (See my previous post on this topic
  8. This is really the same as #7. Basically, not vaccinated has a higher possibility of breeding resistant strains than vaccinating.
  9. More should be done to teach about prevention. However, most people in public health are nurses who are not allowed to give this type of advice without orders from a doctor. This is really a reason to fix our healthcare system, rather than not vaccinate. I totally agree that preventative measures besides vaccination should be taught to the public. Presently, it looks like this teaching needs to come from primary care physicians, rather than public health.

I ask that people do their research before buying into scare tactics. I don't care if the scare tactics are to get you not to vaccinate, or to vaccinate. You are responsible for your own health! Do the responsible thing and do research into things that frighten, or confuse you.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Climate Change

Today is Blog Action Day '09 with a focus on climate change. Today I urge you to visit Once there, you can ask President Obama to take actions to limit climate change. Climate change is a threat to our way of living. As any agriculturist will tell you, a small change in precipitation levels can be disastrous for crops. Low yields will cause increased food shortages and hunger.

Even if you don't believe that climate change is being impacted by human activity, you should still support efforts to try to limit our impact on the environment. After all, what harm will come from it? Most efforts to reduce climate changing impacts, also reduce the amount of illness causing pollutants in our environment and stimulate the economy.

You should also take actions to stem climate change in your daily life. Buy locally produced foods (this stimulates the local economy and gives your neighbors jobs too!), turn off power to things when not in use (saves you money on your power bill), and use (give away or find free items). These simple actions can curb climate change, and if you don't believe in human influenced climate change they will still have a positive impact on your wallet!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Flu: To vaccinate or not to vaccinate?

I am not an automatic nay-sayer on all vaccines. I think that there are people who are good candidates for vaccination, but others who are not. The decision to vaccinate is up to each person, with the guidance of their care provider.

This flu season I have an interesting dilemma. Should I be vaccinated? Should my daughter? These are separate, yet related questions.

Let's start with me. I'm a healthy woman in my 20s who has never had a flu shot. I'm not currently involved in patient care, but do work in a clinic, and in public venues where I can easily be exposed. So far, not very convincing that I need either shot, but there is a small concern.

The trick is entering my child into the equation. I'm a single mother. If either myself, or my child get sick, there will be missed work. If I get sick, who will watch my active preschooler? Now I'm starting to waiver, after all keeping my daughter healthy is very important to me. Hmmm...let's switch to thinking about my daughter now and see if there's more clarity.

My daughter is a highly active preschooler, who goes to daycare full time and is exposed to children of all age ranges. This puts her at an extremely high risk for contracting and spreading all sorts of illnesses. Some of the children there are under 6 months old and cannot be vaccinated. Their parents are relying on the other children to be immunized to protect their little ones. For the good of society it appears that my child should be vaccinated.

Here comes the problem, my child is immune compromised. She's at a high risk of catching respiratory and GI illnesses. You're thinking duh you should definitely do it. Problem being, immune compromised individuals should not receive flu mist because it contains live virus.

I prefer the live attenuated forms of vaccines. Flu mist provides exposure to the antigens, where the body would normally encounter them. It also provides a wider variety of antigens than the shot usually does, which makes it better able to protect people during antigenic drift. Since the virus is live, many of the questionable vaccine additives aren't used as they would inactivate the virus. Of course, live virus poses a very remote risk of reversion to the wild type, or infection with the weakened form (like has been seen with Polio.) I should avoid using the live form myself, to limit my chance of passing on the attenuated form of the virus to my daughter.

So my daughter could be vaccinated with both flu shots. She is 3 and has never had a flu shot, so she will require 2 shots for seasonal, and 2 shots for H1N1, flu coverage. See where this one is going? The shots contain a lot of the things that could possibly be dangerous. For instance, most of the flu shots are from multi-dose bottles. Since they are drawn from multiple times, they contain thimerosal as a preservative. So my child could be receiving 4 doses of thimerosal in less than 2 months time. After reading the research, I'm still not convinced whether thimerosal is safe, or harmful. To be prudent, I would rather avoid it.

There will be some single dose H1N1 shots available, which will be thimerosal free. When they will be available, and if they will be available in my county, is an unknown at this point. The other issue is that flu shots contain antibiotics. I avoid the use of antibiotics, and don't particularly want myself, or my daughter, to be exposed to them unless necessary.

I'm still facing my quandary. My daughter is the one who needs the most protection. She's the one who has the highest risk of exposure, and the greatest chance of infection. If I get vaccinated, she'll still have a major exposure at daycare, but I will hopefully stay healthy and able to care for her. Of course, its likely that I will remain healthy without vaccination.

I want to choose the option with the least harm. At this point, I'm favoring vaccinating my daughter, but waiting for thimerosal-free shots to be available. As for me, maybe I should just look into a back-up provider, like a family member, who can care for her if I get sick. After all, the flu isn't the only bug out there! I'll continue to keep us in the best of health by following basic wellness guidelines, no matter what my decision.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Using Anti-Viral Pharmaceuticals to Treat the Flu

Anti-viral pharmaceuticals will not miraculously cure the flu. They are decent at prophylaxis (prevention,) but not in treating. Most people who become sick with influenza will recover at home without the need for pharmaceuticals.

An analysis published in the Lancet (Jefferson T et al 2006: 367: 303-313) showed that Amantedine prevented 61% of influenza A cases and 25% of cases of influenza-like illness in non-vaccinted individuals. Treatment trials of Amantadine and Rimantadine showed fever duration decreased by 1 day. There were no effects on viral shedding, so people were contagious for the same amount of time.

A meta-analysis by NJ Cooper et al (BMJ. 2003 Jun 7; 326 (7401): 1235-42) focused on Zanamivir and Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) use in households where a case of flu was confirmed. Symptomatic influenza cases had a relative reduction of 80-91%. Thus Zanamivir and Oseltamivir appear to be better at preventing flu than Amantedine. Treatment with Zanamivir and Oseltamivir reduces time of symptoms by 0.4-1.5 days, once again not a very dramatic change. Their use did decrease the amount of antibiotics used to treat secondary bacterial infections.

What does this tell us? We need to work hard to prevent catching and transmitting the flu. We do not need to use pharmaceuticals to treat most cases of the flu. Everyone should continue basichabits that promote good health- drinking plenty of clean water, eating lots of fruits and vegetables, sleeping 8 hours a day, exercising, frequent hand washing, and using stress reduction techniques (yoga, meditation, exercise, prayer, etc).

Talk to your healthcare provider about other options to prevent the flu. There are many natural substances that may help, as well as the vaccine. You are unique and deserve to have expert advice on what is best for you!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Group B strep poses risk for newborns

Published Friday July 10, 2009
The Observer, La Grande, OR

Focus on Health
Tristin Mock, N.D.

Group B strep poses risk for newborns

Group B streptococcus (GBS) is a bacterium that can cause serious illness and death in newborns.

Approximately one quarter of women in the U.S. are carriers of the bacteria. These women often do not have symptoms, but can pass the infection on to their children during the birth process.

Group B strep is the most common life-threatening infection in newborns. It can be avoided, but there is no vaccine to prevent infection. GBS is more common than rubella, congenital syphilis, and spina bifida, yet many people have never heard of it. In 2001, around 1,700 newborns were infected.

Group B strep can infect and be carried by anyone. GBS is not the same infection as strep throat. It’s usually found in the gastrointestinal tract (guts) and can then spread to the vagina and rectum. GBS is not a sexually transmitted infection.

Most women are screened for group B strep during the 35th to 37th week of pregnancy. Infected women generally have no symptoms, although some may have a bladder infection. If the mother tests positive for GBS she will need IV antibiotics during labor to prevent passing the infection on to her child. The bacteria regrow rapidly, so antibiotics before labor are ineffective. According to the CDC, “a C-section should not be used to prevent early-onset group B strep infection in infants.”

Group B strep can be contracted at times other than birth, although the birth process is the most common time for transmission. Pre-natal transmission often leads to stillbirth. Late-onset cases can occur in children more than one week old. GBS can cause babies to catch pneumonia, get meningitis (inflammation of the brain), suffer sepsis (blood infection), have lifelong handicaps or die.

If you’re pregnant, please talk to your healthcare provider about testing for group B strep. Not all babies born to infected mother’s contract group B strep, but it is devastating for those who do.

For more information about group B strep please visit or

Tristin Mock, N.D., is an Americorps VISTA volunteer with the Center for Human Development in La Grande.
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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Increasing Health Literacy: Two VISTAs in Rural Oregon

Viewfinder July 2009: Volume II, No. 4

Increasing Health Literacy: Two VISTAs in Rural Oregon

In newspapers and magazines across the country, articles covering the future of health care in America are prevalent. You can find articles like these in the Observer, the major newspaper for rural Union County in Oregon. But you will also discover another type of health care story. These stories focus on increasing health literacy for at-risk communities. Two VISTAs, Billie Jo Craigsmile and Dr. Tristin Mock, are behind this effort (read one of Billie Jo’s articles in the Observer), as well as many other activities to help the local population increase health awareness.

The task of informing the community about these issues is not an easy one. Billie Jo is in her second year of VISTA service, and much of her first year was researching the specific health needs within the community and the readiness of the community members for learning, developing, and implementing prevention programming. From this research, Billie Jo and Tristin are working on six social marketing projects: substance abuse, teens at risk for mental illness, household smoking, general communicable diseases, family planning, and immunization.

The research also shows that the readiness level of Union County is very low for many of these issues, to the point that many community members are in denial that problems even exist. The county has the lowest immunization rate in the state, and while teen pregnancy rates have been going down statewide, Union County’s rate has been increasing.

To take on these issues, Billie Jo and Tristin are using a six phase approach (problem description, market research, market strategy, interventions, evaluation, and implementation) for their social marketing projects. As part of this, they are reaching out to the community through multiple avenues. They are meeting with community groups, such as the Rotary and Kiwanis Club. They are holding presentations for teens, parents, coaches, and teachers. They are even reaching out to school bus drivers, as they recognize the positive connections many have to the students.

In addition, these VISTAs are also using opportunities and resources available to them. As word of the H1N1 (commonly referred to as the swine flu) made its way through the major media outlets, Tristin used this opportunity to talk with local leaders about general communicable diseases, as many were more willing to listen as concerns increased. Instead of creating a new social marketing campaign regarding family planning, she is adapting the efforts of a state-wide campaign for her needs in Union County.

In her second month, Tristin recognizes that her biggest hurdle is “Trying to figure out where you are going and how to get there is the hardest…looking, listening, and finding out what’s going on is very helpful.” Having already served in an AmeriCorps State/National program that included direct service of health care to an underserved community, she has a good understanding of how to approach these issues and build relationships with the population she is serving.

Billie Jo, having a VISTA year under her belt, is setting a goal of having her efforts complete by the end of year two so that in year three, continued implementation of the program will be in effect. To a point, she recognizes she is “territorial” about her project, and is really nervous about handing them over to her replacement next April (a mother of four, her protectionist nature has found its way into her VISTA project!).

Knowing their VISTA service will end before all of the goals for the social marketing projects are achieved, Tristin and Billie Jo are laying the foundation for their projects to be sustainable for years to come. They are creating user-friendly manuals and developing databases that contain the social marketing materials. Additionally, they have been engaged in agency education about their programs and are thinking about who they can train and hand the program over to in order to continue their success.

The Observer may soon be in need of something else to write about.

Friday, June 26, 2009

National HIV Testing Day

June 27th is National HIV Testing Day. Since its on a Saturday, many places are doing tests a day early. Today in La Grande, CHD is offering HIV tests for a $5 donation! The tests are available during their normal walk-in hours, 9-11:30 am and 1-3 pm. Annual testing is recommended for everyone who is sexually active that is not in a long-term monogamous relationship.

Of the estimated 1 million people infected with HIV in the US, 25% don't know they are infected! Take control. Take the test.

Monday, June 15, 2009

National Men's Health Week

June 15-21 is National Men's Health Week. This is a good time for men to remember to schedule their annual physicals. Annual screening can catch illness early while its still easily treated. Not a male? Give the gift of health! Include a gift certificate for a check-up in your Father's Day cards.

There is a silent health crisis facing men in the US. On average, men die almost 6 years earlier than women. Men are more likely to be uninsured, and less likely to see a physician, than women.

Men can take other preventative measures, besides going to a doctor. Younger men need to do monthly testicular self exams. Men should check their mouths from any funny looking spots that could indicate cancer. Breast exams are not just for women, men can get breast cancer as well!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Take precautions against mosquitoes

Published 11 June 2009 The Observer, La Grande, OR

Focus on Health
Tristin Mock, ND

Take precautions against mosquitoes
Tristin Mock, ND
AmeriCorps VISTA

As we enter the warm days of late spring, mosquito season is starting. Now is the time to start taking precautions to protect yourself from bites. Not only are mosquitoes annoying, they also can transmit West Nile Virus.

West Nile Virus can be transmitted by mosquitoes to humans, horses, and birds. In humans symptoms can vary widely. Some people may have a mild fever, or flu-like illness. In others the disease can progress to encephalitis (brain inflammation) and possibly death.

Killing mosquitoes should not be your goal. They provide food for animals including fish, frogs, birds, and bats. Mosquitoes can even pollinate flowers! Instead, focus on preventing mosquito bites and eliminating mosquito breeding sites around your home.

There are several simple steps you can take to protect yourself and your family from West Nile Virus. You should avoid mosquito bites by using repellant, covering up, and staying indoors at dusk and dawn. Classic synthesized repellants include DEET and picaridin. Repellants need not contain harsh chemicals. Some naturally derived mosquito repellants recommended by the CDC are oil of lemon eucalyptus, PMD (para-Menthane-3,8-diol), and IR3535 (3-[N-Butyl-N-acetyl]-aminopropionic acid, ethyl ester). No matter what type of repellant you use, be sure to read and follow the label directions before applying it!

You should also mosquito-proof your home. This includes installing or repairing screens, avoiding standing water, and cleaning up possible sources of standing water. Remember to clean your gutters so water doesn’t collect in them. Water sources, like bird baths and water troughs, should be cleaned at least once a week.

The last step in limiting the spread of West Nile Virus is to report dead birds. The virus can infect birds. If you find dead crows, ravens, jays, magpies, hawks, eagles, or red-breasted robins please report them to Union County Vector Control at 963-2974. These reports aid in tracking the spread of West Nile Virus in Union County.

Together we can prevent the spread of West Nile Virus. For more information on the virus, please visit the Center for Human Development, Inc website, or call 962-8801.
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Sunday, June 7, 2009

Formulary Modernization Act Passed!

Thank you everyone who contacted your legislators about this bill! The Oregon ND formulary modernization act, SB 327, unanimously passed the house on June 2. The bill is now waiting for the governor's signature to become law. It will go into effect on January 1, 2010.

All drugs used in the primary care setting will now be on the naturopathic formulary! This will allow us to provide the highest quality of care to our patients. This bill allows us not only to prescribe more drugs, but most importantly to be able to remove patients from them. We're only allowed to remove people from drugs that we can prescribe.

Once again, thank you everyone for your help in passing this landmark legislation!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Teen pregnancy prevention needs to be a priority

Below is a copy of an article I wrote that was published in the La Grande Observer on Friday May 29. They have not posted the article online yet.

Health Matters
Tristin Mock, ND

In the US, 3 out of every 10 girls will be pregnant as least once before the age of 20. According to the Oregon Department of Human Services, in 2004, at least 5,832 teenage girls became pregnant in Oregon. In comparison, in 2003, there were only 3,117 new cases of breast cancer, in all ages and sexes, in Oregon. Many people are ignoring this disturbing trend that allowed over 2% of teenage girls, including 106 girls under the age of 15, in our state to become pregnant.

DHS reports that around 30% of teen pregnancies end in legal abortion. Of those girls who underwent abortion procedures, 68.5% were not using contraception! Most teens wait 6-12 months after becoming sexually active to seek contraception. During this time they are at increased risk for pregnancy and contracting sexually transmitted infections.

There is hope in slowing this trend. Research has shown five things that result in teens using birth control regularly, or postponing sexual activity. These five simple things are easily provided by supportive parents, schools, and communities.

Teens that have adequately discussed sexuality, pregnancy and birth control with their parents have lower pregnancy rates. Some parents may want to avoid discussing sexual health with their teens, but it is important. As the state pregnancy rate shows, it’s never too early to start these discussions. Be open and honest with your child. Age appropriate information can be found from a variety of sources including at

Another protective factor is having had a comprehensive sexuality education course. These courses are available in schools and the general community, including at churches. These classes are important to reinforce the message parents are giving children, and to provide a venue where children can ask questions they may be embarrassed to ask their parents.

Having realistic life options are important. Recently, increasing amounts of teens have decided that it’s cool to have a child. Many of these children do not realize the true impact of their choice. Of the families started by unmarried teen moms, 2/3 are poor. Children of teen mothers are more likely to be born prematurely, suffer abuse and neglect, and end up in foster care compared to children of older parents.

Living in a supportive environment that contributes to an individual’s self-esteem can protect teens from pregnancy. High self-esteem can give teens the strength they need to resist sexual activity, or to assert their choices regarding safer sex practices. Being a community that offers varied activities for youth can help improve the self-esteem of teens.

Finally, sexually active teens are more likely to use contraception if there is guaranteed confidentiality and easy access to birth control. In Oregon, there are no laws limiting access to contraceptive services; family planning services are free for those who qualify through FPEP. Please call public health to see if you qualify and to schedule an appointment, 541-962-8801. Free condoms are available at public health for those who need them.

For more information about how to become involved in teen pregnancy prevention, or if you would like to participate as a member on the Union County Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coalition, contact Sandra Leavitt at the Mt. Emily Safe Center, 963-0602.

Tristin Mock, N.D., is an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer with the Public Health Team at Center for Human Development

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Free IUC (IUD) Insertion!

I plan on attending an intrauterine contraception training on Monday June 22 in Hillsboro. During this training I will have the chance to insert an IUC, either Paraguard or Mirena, for free!

If you are interested in several years worth of free birthcontrol, please let me know. For more information on IUDs click here. You must be available in Hillsboro on June 22 in the afternoon. Carpooling is a possibility. E-mail or call 541-663-6962.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Remembering our Food

My toddler is currently cuddled in my lap. She's recovering from the discovery that food comes from other living things. This is a hard lesson to face, but one we all should remember. Our world of industrial farming and supermarkets have distanced us from realizing that the dollar menu once lived in a feedlot, or grew in fields.

If we all take the time to remember the lives that were sacrificed, so that we could eat, the world would be a better place. Truly knowing the source of our food forces us to eat more humanely. Some of us forgo the violence of meat and choose to eat lower on the food chain, while others buy meat from local small farmers who humanely raise and slaughter their animals.

Maybe we all should go fishing and see the spirit of the fish as it fights the hook. We can do as my daughter, and notice that fish have eyes like people. Whatever your choice, remember the sacrifice of the plants and animals that feed us. The next time you buy food, find out its story. Learn where it came from and how it was raised, try growing your own, the meal will be more satisfying because you know what went into it.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Formulary Reform is Progressing!

It's time to email your Representative!

Thank you to all who contacted your Senators in support of OANP's bill to modernize the ND formulary to include all drugs used in a primary care setting.

The bill passed out of the Senate on a strong 22-7 vote, and has now moved on to the next step in this process. For those of you living in La Grande, Senator David Nelson did vote yes on this bill! The Oregon House of Representatives has now begun deliberating the bill.

Once again, we need you, your family, and friends to contact your REPRESENTATIVES this time to urge their support for SB 327.

Please click on the following link to send an email to your Representative.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Naturopathic Doctors Call For Real Health Care Reform

Today, over 100 naturopathic physicians and their supporters are gathering on Capitol Hill. They are asking that our healthcare system focus on health, rather than disease. H. CON. RES. 58 expresses "the sense of Congress that any effort to reengineer the healthcare system in the United States should incorporate sustainable wellness programs that address the underlying causal factors associated with chronic disease."

According to Karen Howard, Executive Director of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, “Today, our definition of ‘wellness’ is limited to drug screening, vaccinations, and other preventative strategies such as drug therapy, but we drastically undervalue how changing behavior can prevent disease. If the nation is to move past the current health care crisis, we must adopt a patient-centered health care model that will restore and maintain optimal health.”

Please join me in supporting healthcare by taking action. To learn more about naturopathic medicine please visit the AANP.

Monday, April 27, 2009

H1N1 (Swine) Flu

Prevention is always the best medicine!

Protect yourself and your community. There are simple (green) ways to prevent the spread of swine flu, and other communicable diseases.
  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Cover your mouth and nose during coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your arm
  • Avoid sick people
  • Stay home if you're ill
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Sleep!
  • Drink plenty of water and eat well
  • Exercise
  • Minimize stress
If you find yourself getting sick, please do not go to work! Call your doctor and discuss your condition. Some doctors are willing to do house calls, like Dr Drew at Golden Leaf Clinic in La Grande.

The CDC reports that the presently circulating H1N1 flu is susceptible to two antiviral medications. With only 40 confirmed cases in the US, we don't know how difficult to treat this virus will be. Luckily, naturopathic physicians have multiple treatment modalities to draw upon that are not limited to pharmaceuticals.

For more information on swine flu please visit the CDC website.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

World Autism Awareness Day

April 2, marks World Autism Awareness Day. This is one of only 3 days approved by the UN to recognize a medical condition. Autism impacts the lives of the entire global population. I think we all know someone who suffers from an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), or who has a family member that does. It is estimated that 1 out of every 150 people will be diagnosed with ASD. In most countries, ASD effects more people than pediatric cancers, diabetes, and AIDS combined!

There is hope! Early intervention can lead to drastic improvements in children. I have witnessed this myself. I've watched a child diagnosed at a young age who received treatment, go from the autism end of the spectrum to Aspergers. At this point, people who don't know his past just assume he has a learning disability.

If your child is slow in developing communication and social skills, please mention it to your healthcare provider! These are observations that can be hard for a physician to make, since many children are shy at doctors appointments.

For more information please visit the WAAD website.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Help me help you!

In response to the demands of its members over the years to modernize the naturopathic formulary, the Oregon Association of Naturopathic Physicians has been working with Senator Laurie Monnes-Anderson (D-Gresham) on a bill that would allow naturopathic physicians the authority to prescribe all pharmaceuticals that would typically be used in a primary care setting.

The bill would maintain the Oregon Board of Naturopathic Examiner's oversight of the formulary, but would allow the Formulary Council to consider adding synthetic pharmaceuticals to the formulary.

SB 327 is poised to be voted on in the Oregon State Senate, and we need your help to make sure that it receives a resounding majority of votes!

Please write your state senator here.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

World TB Day is March 24

Tuberculosis (TB) is still a devastating infection. In the US we tend to think of TB as a disease of the past. "Consumption" is something from the old west, or Moulin Rouge. However, tuberculosis is still a deadly threat to the world.
  • 1/3 of the world's population is infected with TB
  • TB is a worldwide leading killer of women
  • 1 person dies from TB every 20 seconds
  • TB is the leading killer of people infected with HIV
  • 90% of people who test positive for HIV will die within months of contracting TB, if not properly treated
  • the drug regimen for treating standard TB in the developing world is only $20 per patient!
Treating TB takes a long time. People need to be able to afford to continue treatment, so drug resistant strains are not created. It will take the global community working together to prevent the spread of TB.

Tuberculosis is often spread through the air. It can occur in many parts of the body, but classically occurs in the lungs. Symptoms include:
  • night sweats
  • chest pain
  • coughing up blood
  • fatigue
  • unexplained weight loss
  • loss of appetite
  • chills
  • fever
  • cough lasting longer than 3 weeks
If you have any of these symptoms, or have possibly been exposed to TB please get tested! Testing is a simple process that involves injecting a small amount of fluid into your skin. It is much less painful than a blood draw. Since TB can be easily spread, please get tested as soon as you suspect you may be infected. Early detection and treatment are key ways to preventing the spread of TB.

I urge you to learn more about TB by visiting and

Friday, March 13, 2009

Help a New Family

As a community, we should be supportive of breastfeeding mothers. Especially in the early days after a birth, providing food to the new family is a wonderful gift. However, always check with the family for food preferences.

Some common foods that many breastfeeding mothers avoid are cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc) and chocolate. These foods are often avoided because they may contribute to colic. I recently had someone tell me that this is an old wives tale; women have known this wisdom for centuries, and it is true. There are several journal articles that support these ties. You can read more about foods associated with colic in:
  • "Primary Care from Infancy to Adolescence" Pediatric Clinics of North America - Volume 54, Issue 6 (December 2007)
  • Lust K.D., Brown J.E., Thomas W.: "Maternal intake of cruciferous vegetables and other foods and colic symptoms in exclusively breast-fed infants." J Am Diet Assoc 96. 46-48.1996
  • Cambria S., et al: "Hyperexcitability syndrome in a newborn infant of chocoholic mother." Am J Perinatol 23. 421-422.2006
Please support new families. Preparing a simple meal, or doing a load of laundry, can be an amazing gift to a new family. Simple gifts have great value, and so does the knowledge of our foremothers.

If you have questions about breastfeeding please contact your local La Leche League. For those of you in La Grande, our chapter is currently inactive. However, I am currently in the process of becoming a LLL leader. Hopefully, our chapter will be active in the near future.

I am available to consult with breastfeeding mothers about any questions they may have. Please feel free to call Golden Leaf Clinic at 541-663-6962.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Beautiful Cervix

Its important for people to understand their own body. Everyone is unique, and doctors rely on people knowing when something is abnormal in themselves. Most people are familiar with their own body by virtue of living in it. However, their is one body part that most women know about, but have never seen.

A woman's cervix is often a familiar, yet mysterious part. Most women go through their lives without seeing what a cervix actually looks like. All of my patients are given the option to view their own cervix during a speculum exam. Its really amazing to watch the face of a woman as she sees her cervix for the time. There is a sense of connection and ownership, no longer is her cervix a mysterious part "down there."

I encourage women to ask their doctors about viewing their cervix. Until you have the opportunity to view your own, I've found the second best thing. A young woman has posted photos of her cervix on the web. I encourage you to visit and view the cervix pictures.

Get to know your own body. To schedule an appointment with me, to view your cervix or otherwise, call 541-963-6962.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Diets and Weight Loss

A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded that calorie restriction resulted in weight loss regardless of focus on carbohydrates, fats, or proteins. This idea is not new and supports the benefit of a healthy varied diet.

Diet should focus on receiving a variety of vitamins and nutrients, rather than restricting them. Carbohydrates, fats, and proteins are all needed to maintain health. The focus on fast food in the US has resulted in a high calorie nutrient poor diet. People should focus on eating a variety of foods, especially of plant origins. Plant based foods tend to provide the highest amount of nutrients for the fewest calories. They also are bulky, which means that your stomach fills up on less food, resulting in a lower caloric intake.

To schedule a nutritional consultation please contact me at 541-663-6962.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Colds in Young Children

Many parents turn to Vick's VapoRub when their children are sick, either as a rub or in a vaporizer. However, recent research has discovered that Vick's may be damaging to the respiratory health of young children. Vick's can cause an increase in mucus production, which may then cause airways to become overly narrow. This is a case where many people do not read the label. The Vick's VapoRub label states that it is not to be used in children under 2 years of age.

Simple treatments are best when treating young children. If your child begins struggling for breathe get them medical attention. Otherwise, rest and fluids are ideal. Neti pots and nasal suction are ideal for relieving sinus congestion. Hydrotherapy is a great way to treat general congestion. Golden Leaf Clinic offers classes on home treatments, sign-up for our newsletter to get information on our class schedule.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


For years, I have been telling my patients to make sure they get enough sleep. I recommend at least 8 hours of sleep every night. Many people rebel at this recommendation because they have "too much to do."

I understand that fitting in 8 hours of sleep can be difficult in some situations. To maintain your health you must prioritize sleep! Even throughout my years as a full-time student, and mother, I prioritized sleep and on average slept at least 8 hours every night. Being fully rested helped me to maintain not only my concentration, but also my health.

Think of how far you fall behind when you get sick. Many people try to continue their normal activity level when sick, but this is a bad idea. They simply stay sick longer and may spread the infection onto many other people.

A recent study found that people who slept under 7 hours every night were 3x as likely to catch a cold as those who slept longer. Other studies have recommended at least 7 hours of sleep to reduce the risk of heart disease. I think that sleeping at least 8 hours is a simple cheap way to maintain health. Why spend lots of money on drugs to treat illnesses that can be prevented by adequate sleep?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Our health care system desperately needs to be changed. We need universal health care!

As a physician I have seen patients who lost their employer-sponsored health care because of the recession. One patient was denied insurance coverage because they had not had their screening colonoscopy performed. This routine exam had already been schedule to occur in a month, but the patient couldn't afford the exam without insurance! They were caught in a situation of not being able to get insurance without the exam, but not being able to get the exam without insurance. This is an all too common and frustrating experience.

Many patients are unable to afford to be seen for routine preventative visits. They need universal health care! An inexpensive visit that covers diet may prevent someone from developing diabetes, and later having a toe amputated. Just think how much money society could save by providing preventative health care. Lives can be saved by providing universal health care.

Everyone deserves access to health care. Ongoing wellness care can help prevents illnesses, costing everyone less money. It is deplorable that a 20 year old type I diabetic could be denied access to life saving insulin because its too expensive. It is morally repugnant to send home widowed seniors hours after surgery for a fracture because they don't have insurance. The current health care system is leaving doctors with no time to see patients; and patients are receiving suboptimal care

Please join me in by participating in the National Call-in Day for HR 676
February 12, 2009: Call Congress, and the President Congressional switchboard: 202-224-3121 (ask for your representative's office)

If your member is a current co-sponsor, thank your rep. and ask him or her to stand firm for HR 676 and actively seek additional co-sponsors.

If your member was a co-sponsor in the last Congress, ask him or her to sign on immediately as a co-sponsor in this Congress.

If your member has yet to co-sponsor HR 676, ask him or her to please become a co-sponsor, select one or two talking points here.

In a letter to Col. William F. Elkins written November 21, 1864, Lincoln wrote: "I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. . . . corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed."

In celebration of Abraham Lincoln's birthday, remind your member of Congress to honor his words and heed his warning as we look to reform his precious nation's healthcare system. Urge your member to accept testimony from panelists to explore the serious flaws in the Massachusetts health plan and examine why it cannot serve as a national model for providing universal and comprehensive care, on Wednesday, February 25, 2009, 2:00pm-4:00pm, 2226 Rayburn House Office Building.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Hemorrhagic Fever in the US

The CDC recently released a retrospective study disclosing that a Colorado man had bee infected with Marburg. Marburg is a hemorrhagic fever that is around 80% fatal. We got lucky on this case. The man recovered from his illness, and apparently did not spread the infection. This is the stuff that horror movies are made of, think Outbreak.

This infection terrifies me since the man was not diagnosed for an entire year! The damage that could have happened in a months time is pretty serious. I do not know what symptoms he presented with, but I would think that someone presenting with signs of a hemorrhagic fever would be at the top of the CDCs priority list, especially someone with a history of recent travel to Africa. That's why I'm terrified that it took them a year to determine the diagnosis.

In this age of quick and easy international travel, we all need to take precautions. According to the CDC, people traveling internationally should
  • Avoid contact with bats and other wild animals. Travelers should not enter caves or mines where bats may live.
  • Go to a doctor right away if you have a fever AND you had contact with animals or sick people, or visited bat-infested caves in Africa during the past three weeks.
  • If you are bitten or scratched by an animal or if body fluid (such as saliva) from the animal gets into your eyes, nose, mouth, or a wound, take these steps:
    • Wash the area thoroughly with soap and water.
    • Go to a doctor or hospital right away.
  • Consider buying medical evacuation insurance if you are visiting a country where there may not be good access to medical care.
We all need to consider the risks of international travel. People are able to quickly travel and can be on a different continent before developing symptoms. We've seen this repeatedly, most notably with SARS and now Marburg. Before traveling please consider not only your own health, but that of your friends and family. Visit your doctor before departure for recommendations specific to the area you are traveling to. A naturopathic physician can help you with not only travel vaccines, but also trying to strengthen your immune system.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The fight against human obesity

Our society is being overrun by an obesity epidemic. There are many studies underway to fight it. One recent study suggests that arginine may prevent obesity. We need to be cautious in our use of arginine though.

Dietary arginine can exacerbate herpes outbreaks. By the age of 50, 90% of Americans may be infected with herpes. Herpes can present genitally and orally. Oral outbreaks are commonly called cold sores, or fever blisters.

People should focus on cheap, simple, and effective treatments. A healthy diet and excercise will treat and prevent obesity in many cases. We must put personal effort into our own health. There are very few magic pills out there. Most pills have possible negative side effects, including supplements.

People need to be aware that arginine may make their herpes worsen before starting to supplement arginine. Naturopaths are experts in supplements and can assist you in finding a treatment plan that is tailored to your individual needs. To schedule a consult with me please call 541-663-6962.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Lead Exposure

Many parents are becoming more aware of the presence of lead in various items. The Consumer Product Safety Commission sends out e-mails on various recalls on an almost daily basis, and most of the recalls are due to "lead hazard." I recommend that everyone subscribe to the CPSC e-mail recall announce list.

I assumed that most people realized that the biggest exposure to lead is home remodeling. After all, we used to use leaded paint. I guess this wasn't so obvious since a report was just released on it. My advice is to consider postponing remodeling if you have any children in your home under 3 years of age.

If you live in an older home, or have any other lead exposures, please consider getting your child's lead levels tested. I can assist you in evaluating risk hazards, testing your child, and provide treatment if needed. Please call 541-663-6962 to schedule an appointment.

Monday, January 5, 2009

What to do with your old stuff

Did you get a new items recently? Have you figured out what to do with your old belongings? You should try to give away your old treasures, they may no longer suit you, but may be someone else's dream. If you don't find a taker for your old electronics, don't throw them away, E-cycle them!

The La Grande Freecycle list allows people to offer items for free. If you are not in the LG area don't worry, there are freecycle groups worldwide. A quick web search should be able to put you in contact with one. There are several thrift stores in La Grande. The one by the recycling center is a no hassle drop-off site and sells items very cheaply. They accept a wide variety of items. Trying to get rid of old building supplies (lumber, nails, coat hooks, appliances, etc)? Contact the The Habitat for Humanity ReStore at 541-963-2414!

If you still haven't found a taker for your old electronic equipment, or its broken and unrepairable, E-cycle it! La Grande offers two E-cycle locations for computers, monitors, and TVs, The Habitat for Humanity ReStore and the City Garbage Service Transfer Station. Click here to find out more about E-cycling in Oregon. Effective January 1, 2010, all computers, monitors, and TVs will be banned from disposal in Oregon. Before E-cycling you can also try to do craft projects with the parts.

Remember the 3 R's. They are in a specific order for a reason!
  1. Reduce
  2. Reuse
  3. Recyle
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