November 16, 2009

Baby Steps

Making changes can be overwhelming.  I know this from personal experience, and I talk with patients about it all the time, because so much of getting healthy is about changing habits.

In my own life, I find myself looking at my ultimate goal and thinking that it's all too much and I don't even know where to start.  Take cleaning the house, for example.  I really don't like housework, so it's a struggle to stay on top of two busy adults and three even busier kids.  I can clean a room and it will be like the aftermath of a tornado within half an hour.  Every few weeks, my husband and I spend a weekend in a cleaning frenzy, trying to get things in some semblance of order.

Patients often tell me how overwhelmed they feel too.  As they learn about one healthy change, and then another, the information starts to snowball.  At first they may be simply trying to eat real food, and then they learn about hidden ingredients, and that leads them to organic food, which then encourages them to learn more about harmful chemicals like bisphenol-A (BPA) and mercury contaminating food.  It can be enough to make a person go hide under the bed!

So what's the trick to getting where you want to go?

I think there are four big steps: 

  1. Decide you want to change.  It won't work if you're doing it for someone else.
  2. Start small.  Baby steps work because they are easier than giant ones. 
  3. Focus on the change for one month.  It takes time for your mind and body to ingrain new information.  
  4. Give yourself a break!  We don't always get things right the first time. 
So here's how I'm trying to put it into action at home.  I decided that we really do need help managing the housework.  I'm ready for change!  I found a great site,, that has an excellent "Beginner BabySteps" program and I started today with shining my kitchen sink.  (I didn't use bleach, by the way.  The baking soda worked just fine.)  I will try to implement each of the changes for a month, and take a new step each day.  And I'll try to relax when I forget one day or am too tired, and will jump back in the next day.

When you're ready, you can make a small change too.  And know I'm working on it right alongside you.  :)

March 30, 2009

Why Regulating NDs Is Good For Colorado

More Colorado consumers are turning to naturopathic medicine and naturopathic doctors every day for help with their health concerns, but NDs are currently unregulated in the state of Colorado.  House Bill 1175, now before the legislature, attempts to address this.

HB 1175 is a very specific bill with two very specific purposes:

  1. to set up a 3 year task force, run by the Dept. of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) and consisting of NDs and MDs (with input from any other person they feel necessary to give information about the issues) to study ND regulation in Colorado and present their findings to the legislature. 
  2. to register eligible NDs in Colorado (those with a 4 year degree from an accredited, in-residence - vs online or distance - naturopathic medical school) and set up a scope of practice and other rules and regulations.  The bill "sunsets" (ends) automatically in 2014, by which time the task force must make recommendations about regulation.

There is clear, concise language in the bill which states that it does not apply to any other person.  Those affected by the bill will be:

  1. those eligible to be registered as naturopathic doctors in Colorado and
  2. anyone else calling themselves a naturopathic doctor or practicing naturopathic medicine (which, by definition in the bill must include diagnosis and treatment). 

There are those with non-accredited, distance learning, online degrees who currently call themselves naturopathic doctors.  They would not be allowed to portray themselves as such, but would still be allowed to use the term "naturopath". 

In fact, these people are already in violation of the Colorado Consumer Protection Act, which reserves the title "doctor" for those who have received a doctorate through an accredited program.  HB 1175 simply reinforces this title protection and allows for regulation by the medical board.

This bill would have no effect on homeopaths, herbal practitioners, massage therapists, reiki practitioners, health coaches, dieticians, cooking schools, natural food/vitamin stores or anybody else, except as defined above.  In fact, Vitamin Cottage supports the bill and has sent people to testify FOR it.

I support this bill for many reasons, but the three most important are

  1. it would allow me to practice legally in Colorado, albeit with a very limited scope compared to my training
  2. it would protect the public from potential harm by both registered NDs and those falsely calling themselves such, and
  3. it creates a group to study this specific issue in depth and present their findings to the legislature, who has little time for a real understanding of every issue.

I understand the desire to keep the government out of our business.  I support free enterprise and I believe that people should be able to offer and receive services of their choosing.  I don't think the government has any place in medical decision making. 

In my opinion, however, one of the functions of even a very limited government is ensuring public safety.  There are those who will say, "I can research my own health care practitioner, I don't need the government to do it for me."  To that, I have a couple of thoughts: 

First, there are those out there right now whose only drive is to make money.  They put fake diplomas on their walls and websites, list fake degrees and fake association memberships.  And, in fact, some of them hurt people.  At best, they are defrauding the public.  At worst, they are killing people.  And even if you are a person who will look beyond the fancy-looking diplomas (and I would offer that many people are not), it can be difficult to get to the bottom of who they really are.  Will you call the school they list to see if they are actually a graduate?  Will you find out if the "board" that supposedly "licenses" them is even real?  Will you find out if they actually belong to the professional association they claim to belong to, or if it is a real association?

Second, imagine, even for a moment, that all doctors were unregulated.  Would they have your best interests at heart?  Are you prepared to research where they went to school or if they actually did?  Will you put your health or life on the line to see a doctor?  There are good reasons for regulating doctors.  There is a higher standard for those holding themselves out as experts in their field.  I believe it is wishful thinking to assume that just because someone claims to be a healer or doctor, that they are honorable.

What it boils down to in my mind is this:  "Buyer beware" is not an appropriate standard for doctors.  You are not just putting your money on the line when you seek professional health care.  You are putting your health and potentially your life on the line.  It is an incredible honor and responsibility to be a doctor.  It takes real training and clinical experience.  If a person is going to call themselves a doctor, then I believe that the public has a right to know that they are, in fact, getting a doctor. 

This is where a well-informed government has an appropriate role, and this is what HB 1175 will provide - a means to not only regulate naturopathic doctors and provide for the public safety, but also to actually educate our legislators about this complex issue.

If you would like to read the most current version of the bill (including amendments), it can be found here.

I did my training in Oregon, a state which has licensed NDs since the 1920s.  I am trained as a primary care physician.  I completed over 4,000 hours of didactic and clinical work to acheive my 4 year ND degree.  In my years at school I worked together with many different practitioners to provide quality care to patients.  There is no shortage in Oregon of other alternative health care providers.  Regulation of NDs doesn't preclude the practice of any other profession.  What there IS is a wealth of licensed NDs who can legally offer their kind of care to whoever wants it.  (And many insurance providers will even cover it.  Imagine that.)

I appreciate you taking the time to understand this issue fully.  I know many of you will be inundated with emails from those who oppose this bill and I'm glad to be able to present the facts as I see them.  If anyone has questions about the bill, about what I do, or anything else, I welcome your emails. 

March 12, 2009

5 Ways to Stretch Your Organic Dollar

I've written before about the importance of eating organic foods.  Organic foods are richer in vitamins and minerals than conventional foods.  Eating organically minimizes your exposure to chemical fertilizers, pesticides, hormones and antibiotics.  And organic farming practices are healthier for our environment.

Organic foods usually cost more, though, and in hard economic times it can be especially difficult to justify the extra expense.  Fortunately, there are several ways to get the most "bang for your buck" when it comes to making this healthy choice.

1. Be flexible and shop the sales:  Shop for an entire week in a single trip.  Going shopping once a week decreases the amount of driving you have to do, saving you time and money.  And whether you are at a "conventional" grocery store or a "natural" one, you can plan your weekly meals around the foods that are on sale.  Shopping the sales will allow you to buy more organic food.

2. Use coupons:  Stores and organic food manufacturers offer coupons in flyers, newspapers and online.  Some stores will also double coupons, increasing your savings.

3. Buy in bulk:  Many foods such as grains, beans, nuts and dried fruits are significantly less expensive if you purchase them in bulk rather than buying them prepackaged.  Natural food stores generally have a wide selection of bulk foods, but conventional stores are beginning to add bulk departments as well.

4. Buy the store brand:  Some stores carry their own organic lines.  Whole Foods and Safeway are two stores that come to mind.  Store brand products usually cost less than other brands.

5. Use the Environmental Working Group's Shopper's Guide to help you choose the most important fruits and vegetables to buy organically, or if you cannot afford organic produce, which fruits and vegetables you should emphasize in your diet instead.  From the EWG website: 

"An EWG simulation of thousands of consumers eating high and low pesticide diets shows that people can lower their pesticide exposure by almost 80 percent by avoiding the top twelve most contaminated fruits and vegetables and eating the least contaminated instead."

As we increase our awareness of the benefits of organic food, demand will increase and the cost of organically grown food will go down.  Until then, a little flexiblity, planning and smart shopping will help you eat well with less of a pinch on your wallet.

November 03, 2008

Go Vote!

Tomorrow is Election Day - and thank goodness for that!  Our phone, mailbox and TV have been overwhelmed with it all.  And we have been too!  But as much as I'm glad it's almost over, I am also proud to be part of the process.  I spent a couple of hours the other day "doing my homework" on the candidates and issues and filling out my ballot.

I am encouraging everyone else to get out there and do the same.  Exercise your right as a citizen of the United States!  Be counted!  Make your voice heard!

Voting allows us all to be part of our community, a synergistic and important part of the whole.  (How naturopathic!)  Just do it - it'll make you feel good.