What About Swine Flu?

What is swine flu?

Novel H1N1 is a new influenza virus causing illness in people.  Early testing found genes in this virus that were similar to flu viruses found in pigs, which led to the name "swine flu".  We now know that it actually has genes like those in flu viruses found in pigs, birds, and humans.

This new virus is found in the United States and it is contagious.  There have been 55 people hospitalized with confirmed novel H1N1 in Colorado in the last four months, one in Weld county and none in Larimer county.  It spreads in the same ways as seasonal influenza – through coughing, sneezing, and touching.  It does not spread by preparing or eating pork, or through drinking water.

What are the signs and symptoms?

The symptoms of novel H1N1 flu virus include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue.  Some people also have had diarrhea and vomiting.  Severe illness and death has occurred, although most people have recovered without needing treatment.  Diagnosis requires a lab test.

Who is most at risk?

About 36,000 people die from seasonal flu-related complications in the US each year and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized.  Of those hospitalized, 10% are children younger than 5 years old.  Over 90% of deaths and about 60% of hospitalization occur in people over 65.

About 70 percent of people who have been hospitalized with the novel H1N1 virus are members of high risk groups for seasonal influenza.  This includes pregnant women, those with suppressed immune systems, and people with chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma and kidney disease.  In contrast to seasonal influenza, however, novel H1N1 seems to predominantly affect people ages 5-29. 

When should you seek medical care?

Children should get urgent medical attention if they:

  • have fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • have bluish or gray skin color
  • are not drinking enough fluid
  • are not waking up or not interacting
  • have severe or persistent vomiting
  • are so irritable that the they don’t want to be held
  • have flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and a worse cough
  • have fever with a rash
  • have fever and then have a seizure or sudden mental or behavioral change.

Adults should seek urgent medical attention if they:

  • have trouble breathing or shortness of breath
  • have pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
  • have sudden dizziness or confusion
  • have severe or persistent vomiting
  • have flu-like symptoms that improve, but then come back with worsening fever or cough.

How can you keep from catching this virus?

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.  Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 15 seconds, especially after you cough or sneeze.  Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities.  (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)

What does conventional medicine have to offer?

Your MD or DO may prescribe oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or zanamivir (Relenza) for treatment and/or prevention. These are antiviral drugs, which are prescription medicines that fight against the flu by keeping the viruses from reproducing in your body.

Clinical trials of a vaccine for novel H1N1 are underway.  Production and distribution may happen as soon as September 2009.  It is not yet clear which version of the vaccine will be used, or what else may be in the vaccine.  So far, getting this vaccine will be voluntaryImportant to note:  just as with the seasonal flu vaccine, the novel H1N1 vaccine is grown on chicken eggs, so those with egg allergy should talk with their doctor about whether it is safe for them.

Once a vaccine is available, priority will be given to immunizing pregnant women, people who live with or care for children younger than 6 months, health care and emergency medical services personnel, people between the ages of 6 months and 24 years old, and people ages 25 through 64 years of age who are at higher risk for novel H1N1 because of chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems.  

What does naturopathic medicine have to  offer?

Your ND, first and foremost, will work with you before you are ill to optimize your diet and lifestyle (things like stress management, exercise, and quitting smoking) so that you have a strong immune system.  That way, if you do catch the flu your body will be better able to fight it.

If your naturopathic doctor practices classical homeopathy, you might also receive a homeopathic remedy, either before the fact or when you are ill, or both.  Taking a remedy to prevent an illness is called homeoprophylaxis and can be quite useful in an epidemic because local homeopathic practitioners communicate with each other about the remedy or remedies which seem to best fit the symptoms of the patients they’ve been seeing (called the genus epidemicus).

Homeopathic remedies have historically been shown to work very well during epidemics of influenza and other infectious diseases, surpassing conventional treatment in many cases.  For an enlightening article about this topic, please read "Swine Flu and the Great Flu Pandemic of 1918-19 – the Similarities and What History Can Teach Us," by Dr. Molly Punzo, M.D.

Naturopathic doctors are also highly trained in the use of nutritional and herbal supplements and can recommend those which may help you fight the flu, support your lungs and immune system, or ease symptoms if you get sick.  Vitamins A and D and herbs like echinacea, oregon grape, and elderberry are just a few of your ND’s "tools".

The Bottom Line

Maintain good hygiene practices like using tissues and washing your hands often.  See your naturopathic doctor about ways to strengthen your body and increase your resistance.  Consider whether the vaccine, when it is available, is right for you.  If you get sick, call your naturopathic doctor for help with easing symptoms and getting well.  If you get very sick, seek urgent medical care.  And don’t panic!  Remember, most people who have gotten this flu have recovered without needing treatment.  

For more information about naturopathic medicine, see my website, the Colorado Association of Naturopathic Doctors website, or the American Association of Naturopathic Physician’s website.

For more information about homeopathy and swine flu, see the National Center for Homeopathy’s website.

For more information about the novel H1N1 virus, the status of the disease in the US, and vaccination, see the CDC’s page.

Posted in In the News | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Open House

This August marks the three-year anniversary of my Fort Collins naturopathic practice!  As a way of saying "thank you" to all my wonderful patients, I am having an Open House at my office on Saturday, August 15th, from 11 am to 2 pm.

Current patients, prospective patients, family and friends are all welcome. There will be light refreshments and a door prize each hour. 

Don’t miss it – I’m looking forward to seeing you!

Posted in Events | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

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. 

Posted in Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Thoughts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Happy New Year Treat

Happy 2009 everybody!

It’s New Year’s Resolution time again and many of us have made ourselves promises to become healthier in 2009.  In that spirit, here’s a vegan, dairy-free, grain-free, sugar-free treat that everyone is sure to love.  Orange Julius shakes were a childhood favorite of mine, and this recipe really comes close!

"Orange Juli-esque"

  • 2 frozen bananas
  • 1-1 1/2 cups of homemade almond milk*
  • 1/4 cup frozen orange juice concentrate
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Mix all ingredients together in a blender, adjusting the amount of almond milk depending on the consistency desired.  For a non-vegetarian protein boost, blend in an organic raw egg.  Serves 2.

*For about 3 cups of homemade almond milk, blend 1 1/2 cups raw almonds with 3 cups water and strain through a colander lined with cheesecloth.  Optionally, you can add 1 tablespoon of honey and/or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract.

Posted in Healthy and Delicious | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gingerbread Cookies

All right, it seems like I’ve been doing nothing but talking about food lately, but ’tis the season…

My kids and I made some delicious gingerbread bears today.  We were going to make men, but that cookie cutter is hiding somewhere.  These cookies came out crunchy and sweet with just a hint of spice.  There’s nothing like cinnamon, ginger, and cloves to warm you up on a cold winter day!

I adapted this recipe to fit the ingredients I had on hand.  It’s gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free and egg-free:

Gingerbread Bears

  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • 1 cup tapioca flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger (I think 2 tsp would have been fine)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar (may contain corn starch)
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar
  • 5 tablespoons non-hydrogenated margarine (I used Whole Foods’ brand), softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • extra rice flour for dusting when rolling and cutting out cookies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Lightly grease 2 large baking sheets.

Cream margarine, sugars, agave, and vanilla.  Add dry ingredients.  Dough will be stiff.

Roll out dough on waxed paper or parchment paper dusted with rice flour until dough is 1/8 inch thick.  Dip cookie cutter in flour and cut out cookies.  Use a flour-dusted spatula to transfer cookies to baking sheet.

Bake for 10 minutes in a preheated oven, or until cookies are firm to the touch.

Cool and decorate if desired.  We couldn’t wait and gobbled them up "naked"!

Posted in Healthy and Delicious | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The Breast Art Show Ever!

Coming up this weekend!

This effort was inspired by a group in Oregon who made prints of their breasts on canvas, sold the paintings, and donated the money to a breast cancer organization. (http://www.joyfulbosom.com/

Many of you know Heather Janssen because she is the editor and founder of the magazine ‘get born’ (www.getbornmag.com)  She gets to choose where to donate the proceeds from the sale because she’s fighting and winning her own battle with breast cancer.

I hope to see you there!


What:     Unique artwork created by the talented ta-ta’s of

    Heather Janssen and friends.

When:    Saturday, December 6, 2008  6 – 9 pm

Where:   Sage Moon Originals

   116 E. 4th Street

   Downtown Loveland


  • Hors d’oeuvres and refreshments
  • Additional art and prizes to be given


Sale of the "Breast Artwork Ever" will further the fight against breast cancer in Heather Janssen’s name.

Posted in Events | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Healthy Thanksgiving Treats – Day Five

Gravy, mmmmmm gravy…..  It’s like the magic that brings the Thanksgiving meal together!  Here are two gravy recipes sure to delight – and they’re dairy-free and gluten-free!

Turkey Gravy Recipe

  • 1 cup turkey drippings
  • 2 cups water, turkey stock, or chicken stock
  • tapioca flour
  • black pepper

With the turkey drippings still in the bottom of the roasting pan, place the pan over 2 stove burners and heat each burner to low-medium heat.  Add 1 cup water or stock and simmer 5 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.

Transfer mixture to a saucepan and add the second cup of water or stock.  Bring to a simmer, stirring often.

In a small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons tapioca flour with enough of the liquid to make a smooth paste.  Stir the paste into the simmering liquid a teaspoon at a time until the gravy is the desired thickness.

Add black pepper to taste.  The finished gravy is a dark brown color with a satiny consistency.


Mushroom Gravy Recipe

(From Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant, by the Moosewood Collective)

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons wheat-free tamari
  • pinch of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups hot potato water (from boiling mashed potatoes)
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch (or tapioca flour or arrowroot) dissolved in 1/2 cup water

Heat the oil in a skillet.  Stir in the mushrooms, tamari, and black pepper.  Saute, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are tender.  Add potato water and bring to a boil.  Slowly stir in the cornstarch mixture and cook at a low boil, continuing to stir, until the gravy is clear and thick.

Posted in Healthy and Delicious | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Healthy Thanksgiving Treats – Day Four

Here is a recipe for gluten-free and dairy-free mashed potatoes.  My kids like to make mashed potato volcanoes with gravy.  And speaking of gravy, tune in tomorrow for great gravy recipes!

Marvelous Mashed Potatoes

  • 6 large or 10-12 small russet, red, or gold potatoes
  • 3/4 – 1 cup unsweetened soy, rice, nut, or hemp milk OR water
  • 1/4 cup wheat-free tamari
  • 1/3 cup non-dairy, non-hydrogenated margarine
  • garlic powder
  • black pepper

Chunk potatoes and boil until just soft.  Drain and place in a large bowl.  Add margarine and mash together well.  Add tamari.  Add milk or water slowly until desired consistency is acheived.  (You may not use all the liquid.)  Add garlic powder and black pepper to taste.

For a vitamin boost, leave the skins on the potatoes.  For creamier mashed potatoes, peel the potatoes before cooking.

Posted in Healthy and Delicious | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Healthy Thanksgiving Treats – Day Three

Cranberry sauce has always been one of my favorite parts of our Thanksgiving feast.  Here are three recipes that leave out the refined sugar…and the can!


Cranberry Sauce #1

(From Nikki and David Goldbeck’s American Wholefoods Cuisine)

  • 2 cups cranberries
  • 1/2 cup apple juice (unfiltered is best)
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 teaspoon grated or minced orange rind

Combine cranberries, apple juice, and honey in a saucepan and simmer for 5 minutes until berries pop.  Remove from heat and stir in rind.  Cool to room temperature, then chill in a covered container.  Makes 1 1/2 cups.

For Crunchy Cranberry Relish, add up to 1/2 cup walnuts or pecans and/or 1/2 cup chopped celery to the mixture.


Cranberry Sauce #2

(From Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant, by The Moosewood Collective)

  • 12 ounces fresh cranberries (about 4 cups)
  • 1/2 – 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • grated rind and juice of one orange (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • dash of cinnamon

Wash and drain the cranberries.  Remove any soft or discolored cranberries and any leaves or stems.

Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan and cook on medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring, until the cranberries have popped and the sauce is thick.

Serve hot or cold.  Yields 2 cups.


Cranberry Sauce #3 – Cranberry Chutney

(From The Bread and Circus Whole Food Bible, by Christopher S. Kilham)

  • 1/3 cup molasses (or agave nectar or honey or maple syrup)
  • 1/3 cup barley malt syrup (or agave nectar or honey or maple syrup)
  • 1/3 cup white wine vinegar (or apple cider vinegar or balsamic vinegar)
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon EACH ground ginger, cloves, cinnamon, and allspice
  • 12 ounces fresh cranberries
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh pineapple, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 cup toasted* walnuts, coarsely chopped

Place the molasses, barley malt, vinegar and spices in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.

Add the cranberries, pineapple, raisins, and walnuts and simmer for 30 minutes or until the cranberries have burst and are tender.

Refrigerate the mixture for several hours before serving.  Makes about 4 cups.

*To toast the walnuts, bake in a preheated 350 degree F oven until lightly browned, 8 to 10 minutes.

Posted in Healthy and Delicious | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment