<![CDATA[Madrona Natural Medicine - Blog]]>Sat, 12 Oct 2019 01:30:28 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[Making herbal teas - Different methods for different herbs]]>Thu, 05 Sep 2019 17:05:30 GMThttp://madronanaturalmedicine.com/blog/making-herbal-teas-different-methods-for-different-herbs
Herbal teas can be a wonderful way to hydrate and get the medicinal benefits of herbs. For most herbs, making a cup of tea using a simple steeping method of pouring boiling water over your herbs will result in a potent cup of tea packed with beneficial medicinal compounds. However, certain herbs do require slightly different methods of tea making to get the most medicinal benefit.  In this article, we will discuss 3 methods of water extraction for medicinal herbs.

We recommend using l
oose leaf herbs since they are typically much more cost efficient way of buying quality herbs when compared to herbs that are already bagged. With loose leaf tea you also have the option of customizing your blend of herbs to suit your needs whether that be for enjoyment or a specific therapeutic benefit. 

Hot Infusions

A hot infusion is the method most people are familiar with and involves pouring boiling water over your herbs and allowing them to sit a certain period of time. This method is best used for the delicate “aerial” parts of plants such as flowers and leaves.     


  1. Place your herb(s) into a small strainer and then into your cup. Roughly 1 tablespoon (0.5 ounces) of herb should be used for each cup of water. 
  2. Bring your water to a boil, then pour water over the herbs in your cup.
  3. Cover the cup with a small plate. This is important for keeping the medicinal compounds that are more volatile from dissipating into the air.
  4. Depending on the desired taste or properties, steep anywhere from 3-30 minutes. 3-10 minutes is more appropriate if the herb is finely chopped or you don’t want your tea to be bitter. 20-30 minutes is best in most cases if you are wanting to get the most of the plants medicinal properties. However, steeping times of this length can make certain blends less tasty. It’s better to find a balance you are comfortable with. You won’t be getting any of the medicinal properties of teas if you can’t stomach the tea after a long steep. 
  5. When removing your strainer with the used herbs from the cup of newly infused tea, make sure you press the remaining liquid out of the herb by using the back of a spoon. Certain bulky herbs, like chamomile flowers for instance, retain a lot of liquid extract that will be lost if not pressed out. 

Cold infusions

This method uses cold water overnight to extract the compounds desired from the herb. With some herbs, hot water will not extract the desired constituents, extract undesired constituents, or could destroy the medicinal properties of the plant. There are no common properties of herbs from appearance alone that would allow you to determine if hot or cold infusion is best. A naturopath or herbalist should be able to tell you if a cold infusion works best for a certain plant. Some of the more common herbs where cold infusions work well or are necessary are listed below:

  • Wild cherry bark
  • Burdock root
  • Nettle root or whole herb
  • Uva Ursi
  • Cleavers
  • Slippery elm bark and Marshmallow root: These will result in a mucilaginous/slimey liquid which is the desired outcome. These herbs are often used in this way for digestive complaints. 

  1. Put your herb into water (that has not been heated). You will want about 0.5 ounces for every 1 cup of water. Leave the mixture overnight at room temperature.
  2. Because this infusion takes a full night to prepare, it can be helpful to prepare up to 2 days of cold infusion at one time (stored in the refrigerator following infusion overnight). You can adjust the amount of herb and water to equal 2 days of tea. If the strainer you normally use for small cups doesn’t work for a large volume, you can place your herb in some cheesecloth that you tie shut.
  3. Strain the mixture after a night of steeping, making sure to press the excess liquid from the herbs contained in your cheesecloth bundle.


Similar to the hot infusion, a decoction method uses hot water. However, decoctions involve placing the herb initially in cold water and slowly heating the mixture. This method of water extraction is particularly important for roots and barks where the application of boiling water without sufficient warm up will impair extraction. If you are a baker, you may be familiar with the need to temper eggs to prevent a scrambled egg mixture. Roots and barks of herbs are similar. Too much heat, too quickly can cause a coagulation or clumping  of proteins that results in blocking the medicinal properties from extracting. 

  1. Put your herb in a kettle or saucepan. 0.5 ounces of herb per 1 cup of water.
  2. Pour cold water into the heating container. Glass, porcelain, or glazed cookware are preferred as they won’t react with the herbs. Cover and slowly heat the water and herb to a boil. 
  3. Decrease heat to a simmer and let simmer for 10 to 15 minutes while covered.
  4. Strain the mixture, and press additional water from the herb.


The 3 water extractions above are the most common ways to prepare a medicinal tea.
  • Hot infusions lend themselves really well to daily use due to the ease of preparation and short steeping times when compared to a cold infusion and decoction. However, you might not be getting the full benefits or the benefits you desire from your tea.
  • Try using a decoction instead for teas heavy in roots and barks.
  • Cold infusions are best for specific herbs we listed: marshmallow root and slippery elm in particular.
  • Most importantly, remember that enjoying your tea will greatly improve your ability to stick with it, so experiment with steeping times until you find the right blend of tasty (or tolerable taste!) and maximal extraction.
<![CDATA[Improving Circulation through Skin Brushing]]>Wed, 07 Aug 2019 19:57:45 GMThttp://madronanaturalmedicine.com/blog/improving-circulation-skin-brushing-technique
Skin brushing, sometimes referred to as dry brushing, can be an invigorating practice that has multiple benefits arising from the application of a stiff bristle brush over the skin. Since the skin is the largest organ of our bodies, skin brushing can have profound effects on cardiovascular system, lymphatic flow, and the removal of metabolic waste.

Benefits of skin brushing:

  • Exfoliate dry skin
    • Conditions like keratosis pilaris (“chicken skin”) may benefit from dry skin brushing due to the exfoliative effect, but caution should be taken initially to not aggravate the condition.
  • Improve capillary function & removal of metabolic waste
    • The skin is home to a large network of capillaries responsible for transporting nutrients and removing waste from cells. The mechanical action of skin brushing stimulates muscle contraction which is one of the important mechanisms by which the venous system transports blood.
  • Improve lymph flow
    • The lymphatic system is another important system for metabolic waste removal. The lymphatic system has small, superficial lymph vessels just below the outer layer of skin that feed into the deeper, and larger, lymph vessels. When you perform skin brushing, you stimulate these smaller superficial vessels. By applying your brush strokes in the direction of lymph flow you can improve the function of the entire lymphatic system. The handout at the end of this article will provide you with instructions on the correct direction to perform skin brushing.​

Skin brushing technique:

  • You will want a stiff natural bristle brush, preferably with a handle so you can reach areas of your back.
  • Skin brushing should be performed on dry skin to get all of the benefits mentioned above. 
  • The best timing for skin brushing is just before your shower so that any dry skin that is exfoliating during the process can be washed off and a moisturizer applied following the shower.
  • Skin brushing should not be performed over open lesions.
  • When performing the brushing, care should be taken to brush in the direction of lymph flow. You can download the handout below for details on performing skin brushing technique.

Sensitive skin

Individuals with sensitive skin may need to be cautious initially when performing skin brushing. A brush with bristles that are less stiff can be used if you are particularly sensitive. Less pressure can also be applied while performing skin brushing to reduce irritation. 

Even for individuals without sensitive skin, skin brushing can take some time to get used to. You do want your brush to be stiff since the circulatory and lymphatic flow benefits arise from the mechanical effect of applying pressure to the skin. 
Experiment with short sessions initially while learning the technique and becoming familiar with how skin brushing effects your skin and body.
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<![CDATA[Making Medicine: Topical Salves]]>Tue, 23 Jul 2019 15:43:40 GMThttp://madronanaturalmedicine.com/blog/making-medicine-topical-salvesSalves or ointments can be a nice addition to your first aid cabinet for minor cuts or irritation. They can even be helpful for chronic conditions like eczema or dry skin in general. Depending on the herbs used to make your salve, the medicinal properties can be altered to suit your needs. While there are a few good herbal salves available commercially for purchase, making your own salve or ointment is an option that often goes untapped by many individuals. One of the main benefits, particularly for people with sensitive skin, is the control over the ingredients allowing for decreased additives and irritants in the final product. You may even find the process enjoyable, much like baking or cooking! 

Salves: the basics

Let's start by going over a few basics of salves and then I'll have a recipe for a very basic, but highly medicinal, wound healing salve.
Salves are semi-solid fat based herbal mixtures. Oils such as olive oil, almond oil, or coconut oil are used as a base for the salve and infused with medical herbs to impart particular medicinal properties to the final product. Beeswax is used to stabilize the product and give it the semi-solid state. Salves are best stored in a cool, dark place in order to maintain the correct consistency and preserve the medicinal properties of the salve.

Wound Healing Salve Recipe

  • Dried herbs: Comfrey leaf (Symphytum officinale​), Gotu kola (Centella asiatica), Calendula flowers (Calendula officinalis), and Chickweed (Stellaria media)*
  • Beeswax
  • Coconut oil
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Rosemary essential oil (optional)
  • Vitamin E oil (optional)
*Please source your dried herbs from a reputable vendor. Mountain Rose Herbs is a online retailer of high quality bulk herbs.
This is an example of a calendula flower salve. Depending on the herbs and oils used, the color of the salve will vary. The wound healing salve produces a green colored salve.
Making this at home:
You can use this recipe below to make your own wound healing salve. Adjust the amount of oil you use in this recipe to equal roughly the amount of salve you would like to have at the end of the process. We use a blend of equal parts comfrey, gotu kola, calendula, and chickweed in our salve. These herbs have wound healing properties and can help with itchy skin.
Tools you will need:
  • Coffee grinder for herb grinding or pre-ground herbs
  • Double broiler
  • Fine mesh strainer
  • Cheesecloth
  • Potato press
  • Kitchen scale
  1. Grind dried herbs into a powder (don't use fresh plants) using a coffee grinder or purchase pre-ground herbs. (Dried herbs that have not been ground can be used to infuse oil, but this process takes days versus.)
  2. Add ground herbs to a bowl or glass measuring cup. You will want to use 1-2 oz of dried herb total per 1 cup of base oil. Some of the oil will be absorbed by the herbs.
  3. Heat this mixture over a low gentler heat in a double broiler.
  4. Keep on low heat and let the herbs infuse in the oil for at least 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  5. Once the oil is infused, remove it from the heat. Wipe off the water from the outside of the bowl and strain the mixture. I like to use a few layers of cheesecloth overlying a fine mesh strainer to separate the powdered herbs from the mixture.
  6. Next, bundle the dried herbs in the cheesecloth and press the remaining oil out with a potato press. Throw out/compost the pressed herbs.
  7. Add the herb infused oil to a glass measuring cup and place back on the double broiler at a low heat.
  8. Put a spoon in the freezer at this time. You will need a cold spoon to check for the desired consistency of the end product.
  9. Add beeswax to the herb infused oil on the double broiler. You will need approximately 1 oz of beeswax per 1 cup of oil.
  10. Let the beeswax dissolve. Check for desired consistency with the frozen spoon by dipping the cold spoon into the mixture. The mixture on the spoon will be close to the consistency of the product once it has cooled. If the salve on the spoon is too soft, add more beeswax and check again.
  11. Repeat this process with a frozen until the desired consistency is attained. If you plan on adding vitamin E oil to the final product, you'll want to make the salve slightly harder at this stage than you want your final product to be.
  12. Remove from heat, pour into final container.

  • Before the salve completely cools, add a few drops of your favorite essential oil to create a scented salve.
  • You can also add a few drops of vitamin E oil for its wound healing properties. If you don't want to buy a bottle of vitamin E oil, you can use vitamin E capsules instead. Simply puncture the capsule and use the oil from inside, discarding the capsule.
Cleaning tip:
Beeswax can be difficult to clean and remove from the surfaces of containers or appliances used during this process. Make sure you wipe down the measuring cup and spoon while the salve is still warm. Don't let the beeswax harden on your cookware. 
How to use:
Apply topically as needed to skin for relief of dryness, minor irritation, itchiness, and to improve healing of minor cuts and abrasions. This salve should not be used on open wounds that are deeper then around 2 mm.
<![CDATA[Hydrotherapy: An Introduction]]>Mon, 08 Jul 2019 17:23:57 GMThttp://madronanaturalmedicine.com/blog/hydrotherapy-an-introduction
Hydrotherapy is a type of treatment that uses water applications to promote healing within the body. While water on its own does not have healing properties in these particular external applications we will discuss, using water to cause change in our systems can stimulate healing based on how we apply the water, and how we control the temperature, duration, and location of the water application. Depending on what we are treating, we can adjust the water applications to create different effects on our systems - promoting lymph flow, circulation of blood in a particular direction, and stimulation of the immune system.

​Certain hydrotherapy applications are perfect for acute complaints like a cold, cough, or congestion. Other hydrotherapy applications can be very beneficial when used regularly for improving our overall constitution and energy levels on a daily basis

Hot and cold water applications

One hydrotherapy technique that can be used for promotion of healing in the area it is applied is called contrast hydrotherapy. With this technique, application of a cold water compress is alternated with an application of a hot water compress to improve circulation to the area it is applied. It is important to understand that the duration of each application is equally important as the temperature of the water applied. 
​A cold compress, when applied for a short period of time (less than 1 minute) has a stimulating effect. Initially, and very briefly, vasoconstriction of the vessels occurs, followed by a vasodilating effect. If applied for too long (greater than 1 minute) the effect will turn into a depressive, vasoconstricting effect. 
With hot applications, the duration similarly impacts the outcomes of treatment. For short applications of heat (less than 5 minutes) we see a  stimulating, vasodilating effect on the vessels. When this application extends past the 5 minutes, the vessels return to a state of stasis or lack of movement. 

​Since the goal of contrast hydrotherapy is to promote circulation of blood and lymph, water should be applied in the following fashion:
3 minutes of hot compress, followed by 30 seconds of cold compress. Repeat this cycle 3 times, always ending on the cold compress.
Two basins can be filled with hot and cold water, and washcloths that are wrung out after placing in the water are used to apply the water to the desired location. The hot water should be as hot as tolerated, being careful not to burn yourself. The cold water should also be as cold as tolerated.
Contrast hydrotherapy is one of many hydrotherapy techniques that can promote certain healing goals such as decreasing healing times and reduction of pain in an area. If you would like to learn more about how natural medicine techniques like hydrotherapy can benefit you, our clinicians can provide you with a personalized treatment and therapy goals. 


  1. Boyle W, Saine Andŕe. Lectures in Naturopathic Hydrotherapy. East Palestine, OH: Buckeye Naturopathic Press; 1988.
<![CDATA[What is Naturopathic Medicine? Our Philosophy of Care]]>Tue, 18 Jun 2019 17:27:38 GMThttp://madronanaturalmedicine.com/blog/what-is-naturopathic-medicine-our-philosophy-of-care
Are you tired of not feeling like yourself? Maybe symptoms have cropped up over time, and you can't really explain why. You have tried taking different medicines that have been prescribed to you, and they help some. You are ready to leave these symptoms behind. You are ready to start feeling like yourself again. You are ready to live your life the way you want to live it.

Naturopathic philosophy of care is at the center of how we practice medicine. We want you to not only feel better, but also develop the tools to prevent future disease.  We want you to understand the root causes for your symptoms so that we not only reduce symptoms, but also treat the underlying causes.  

Philosophy of Care

First do no harm: With each patient, we aim to to use the least force intervention necessary to successfully treat the individual. Depending on the current disease state, treatment will be tailored to use the least force possible, with the goal of minimizing harmful side effects that often accompany higher levels of intervention. This could mean your treatment plan might contain only a low force intervention like lifestyle changes, or it could mean a high force intervention such as a prescriptive medication is necessary. 

Identify and treat the cause: In order to achieve healing, we must address the root cause of your condition. Unwanted health symptoms are a signal from your body that something is off. Maybe you don’t sleep enough, are over-stressed, or have a poor diet. Whatever it may be, there is something that is creating an environment for disease to develop. We have little to no control over some of these root causes of disease (genetics or the air we breath for instance), but there are many causes of disease we do have control over and can modify to promote a state that leads to health. 

Doctor as teacher: Our goal is to empower you with knowledge. During your visit, we strive to educate you about the disease process and in what ways the treatment plan works to get you feeling better.

Treat the whole person: You are not your symptoms. Your health results from a connection between the physical, mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, social, and spiritual aspects of your being. We do our best to view each individual as a whole instead of reducing you down to one anatomical system, a list of symptoms, or a specific pathology. 

Prevention: Prevention is often times the best medicine. We assess risk factors and emphasize wellness education to prevent illness. 

The body’s innate ability to heal: Your body has a great capacity for healing. If you get a minor scratch, it should heal itself in a few days. A lot of our work with you will involve identifying and removing obstacles blocking the healing process. 
If you still have questions feel free to comment below. If you would like to know more about what Naturopathic medicine can do for you, give us a call at 253-277-9130 to schedule a free 15 minute consultation with one of our doctors. 
<![CDATA[Food Intolerances]]>Tue, 04 Jun 2019 17:19:27 GMThttp://madronanaturalmedicine.com/blog/food-intolerancesWhat we eat plays a huge role in our overall health. Dr. Cheatum went into detail on a well rounded diet in the Foundations of Health: Diet series. This is a good general guideline to follow. However, for some people, simply eating a well-rounded healthy diet isn’t enough to keep symptoms under control. Our body may be responding to seemingly healthy foods in unexpected ways, causing unwanted symptoms. It’s with these types of cases that we have to do a little more digging to figure out potential triggers. Luckily, there are a whole host of dietary recommendations and therapeutic diets for various complaints and conditions that can be used as a starting point for pinpointing your trigger foods.
Some examples of particularly well studied conditions with dietary triggers include heartburn and  IBS. However, even symptoms that are not related to digestion can be triggered by what we eat. Things like headaches, joint pain, skin conditions, autoimmune conditions, and more could all be due in part to a dietary trigger.

The reason why certain foods cause symptoms for individuals is varied. It could be that you don’t produce the enzyme to break down a component of that food (such as in lactose intolerance). Maybe you react more strongly than most to a certain compound in the food (such as a headache sufferers reacting to amines). In some cases, immune reactions can occur to certain foods.

Allergy vs Intolerance

The terminology for food sensitivities can get a little mixed up at times. Food allergies are an immediate (minutes to hours) immune response to a food and can be life threatening. This shouldn’t be confused with a food intolerance. Food intolerances can have an immune component, but not always. The types of antibodies produced in response to food intolerances are not the same as with a food allergy. Immune reactions due to a food intolerance can be delayed, unlike a true food allergy, and do not pose an immediate threat of potentially being fatal when ingested.

Can we test for food intolerances?

It would be really nice if there was just one test that could tell you what you should and should not eat. Unfortunately, it isn’t this easy. Most food intolerance testing is looking at your immune response to foods. The problem is not all food intolerances have an immune response. This is one reason food intolerance testing may not be the best option for your case.

Additionally, even if the reaction you are having to a certain food is an immune response, our bodies produce different types of antibodies. With lab testing, you may be testing IgG antibodies, but maybe the reaction you are having is actually an IgA reaction. There are labs that test for both IgG and IgA antibodies, but that doesn’t completely solve the problem. Each laboratory that runs food intolerance testing uses their own standards for testing that are not universal and are not all created equal. It can be difficult to validate this means of testing when there isn’t a standard for this testing. There absolutely are labs that perform quality food intolerance testing with both IgA and IgG antibodies, but this can get costly and there is never a guarantee all food intolerances will show up given the scientific community’s lack of fully understanding the role of this type of testing in determining food intolerances. For all of these reasons, the gold standard for determining food intolerances is an elimination and re-challenge diet.

Elimination/Re-challenge diets

Change can be difficult, especially when the habit is very pervasive in our lives and not avoidable - like eating food throughout the day. Changing what you eat can seem like an insurmountable task, but our goal at this point is to simply understand how food is impacting you. View an elimination/re-challenge diet as an experiment. You can gain the knowledge of how certain foods are impacting your health and take action to prevent this type of reaction in some cases. At the very least, with the knowledge you gain from a well carried out elimination/re-challenge diet, you can make informed decisions with your eating habits.

Determining what to eliminate for this experiment is a difficult task. Since we can’t eliminate all food, determining the most likely triggers for your case is an important first step. A dietary diary is a helpful tool if you don't have any idea where to start. After writing down all the foods you eat and timing of your symptoms you may start to notice a pattern with certain foods. Here's a sample diet diary that you can use to track this information:
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If a diet diary isn't illuminating for you, I recommend seeking the help of a professional who can help guide you through the process. Most Naturopathic physicians have training in nutrition and have knowledge on which therapeutic diets are best for certain conditions along with knowledge of which foods are the biggest culprits when it comes to food intolerances.    

***If you know you have a true allergy to a food (an anaphylactic reaction), do not attempt to reintroduce this food.***
<![CDATA[When should I take this supplement?]]>Tue, 07 May 2019 21:40:29 GMThttp://madronanaturalmedicine.com/blog/when-should-i-take-this-supplement
Dosing recommendations can vary an incredible amount. The best time to take a supplement will often depend on the goals of treatment and the way the supplement is absorbed into our systems. These are my general timing guidelines for certain supplement types.


Traditionally, fermented foods were the main source of beneficial live cultures of microorganisms known as probiotics. The stomach is a harsh environment for these microorganisms, so taking with meals is typically a good idea since the acidity of the stomach is reduced with the addition of food (1). Eating probiotics with a meal also mimics the traditional dietary intake of these microorganisms through fermented foods. The study of probiotics and the health benefits viable (alive) and non-viable (dead) organisms have on our systems is an evolving field. Initially, many of the benefits of supplemental probiotics were predicated on the microorganisms still being alive when they reach the intestinal tract. However, there is some evidence that even non-viable probiotics provide a benefit to the gut through their impact on immune function (2). I still recommend taking probiotics with meals to increase survivability of these microorganisms since there isn’t evidence to suggest that non-viable organism offer more benefits than viable organisms. Here's a brief recap for probiotic recommendations:
  • ​Take with food
  • When taking in conjunction with an antibiotic, take your probiotic 2 hours before and/or 2 hours after your antibiotic dose

Vitamins & Minerals

Depending on the type of vitamins and minerals in the supplement, ideal timing for taking this category of supplements can vary significantly:
  • Fat soluble vitamins (Such as Vitamin D, A, E, and K): These should be taken with a meal, ideally one that contains some fat in it. Some of these vitamins will already come emulsified in fat to help with absorption. Due to the connection between vitamin D and melatonin, vitamin D supplementation at nighttime can negatively impact some individuals sleep, so try taking this in the morning.
  • Water soluble vitamins (Such as Vitamin C and B vitamins): These vitamins do not require fat for absorption, but the body doesn’t store them like fat soluble vitamins. There is a lower chance for toxicity with these vitamins since your body will eliminate what isn’t needed, and will only be able to utilize a limited amount at any given time. When higher doses are needed (which is dependent on the therapy prescribed), splitting the dose throughout the day will help with absorption.
  • Minerals (Such as Iron, Zinc, Calcium, and Magnesium): In general, minerals are better absorb when taken by themselves, on an empty stomach. The reason being is they tend to bind to certain foods or other minerals, preventing absorption, and certain minerals compete with one another for absorption. However, some people with sensitive stomachs will notice they get nauseous if taking certain minerals on an empty stomach. If this is the case, take them with a meal. Vitamin C can help with the absorption of Iron in particular. 
  • Multi-vitamins typically have a combination of vitamins (water soluble and fat soluble) and minerals. The simplicity of taking a single multivitamin often outweighs the benefits of trying to separate out all of the vitamins and minerals into separate dosing schedules for better absorption. However, if you are trying to correct a deficiency of a certain vitamin or mineral, higher dosing than is available through a multivitamin is often necessary and the guidelines given above can be used to help with absorption.

Digestive Enzymes & Bitters

Digestive enzymes and bitters are meant to aid in digestion by either providing the body with the digestive enzymes and acid necessary to properly digest, or by stimulating the body’s own production of the enzymes and acid. Ideally, bitters should be taken around 15 minutes prior to a meal to help stimulate your appetite and give your body some time to switch on the digestive process.  

Botanical herbs

Botanical medicines can come in many forms such as teas, tinctures (alcohol extractions), glycerites, capsules, and whole-food form. Depending on the plant, the extraction process can be is very important for gaining the medical properties needed for a therapeutic effect. Also, depending on the goal of the therapy and action you hope to achieve, timing can vary greatly for herbal medicines. Because of the multiple factors at play, a single recommendation for timing of herbal medicine is difficult to make. However, for most situations, taking herbal medicines before a meal is often a good start. For individuals with sensitive digestive symptoms, this may cause nausea. If you experience this, switch to taking the herbal medicine after your meals.

Amino Acids

Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. Some examples of amino acids that are more commonly supplemented are glycine, lysine, and glutamine. When you eat protein rich foods, the digestive tract breaks down the protein into easily absorbable amino acids or small peptides (multiple amino acids). In order to absorb these nutrients into the body, the intestinal cells use certain transport mechanisms. Some amino acids share these transport mechanisms, meaning they compete for absorption with one another. (3, 4)  So, taking amino acids between meals can ensure you are absorbing the amino acid you want.
If the timing you were given for a specific supplement prescription differs from the recommendations given in this article, please consult with your healthcare practitioner before changing the timing of your dose.


  1. Kovacs, B (2012). Probiotics. http://www.medicinenet.com/probiotics/page4.htm Accessed 27 May 2010
  2. Mottet, C., & Michetti, P. (2005). Probiotics: wanted dead or alive. Digestive and Liver Disease, 37.
  3. Matthews, D. (1972). Intestinal absorption of amino acids and peptides. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 31(2), 171-177. doi:10.1079/PNS19720033
  4. Guoyao Wu; Intestinal Mucosal Amino Acid Catabolism, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 128, Issue 8, 1 August 1998, Pages 1249–1252, https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/128.8.1249
<![CDATA[Foundations of Health: Diet Part 2]]>Thu, 02 May 2019 18:55:36 GMThttp://madronanaturalmedicine.com/blog/foundations-of-health-diet-part-2​In the first part of the Foundations of Health: Diet blog series, I discussed general healthy recommendations for what to eat, click here to read Part 1. Equally important and often not discussed is how to eat. For today’s post I will discuss some considerations about how to eat to optimize digestion. 


I’d like to begin with the physiology of digestion. Digestion is supported by the parasympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system is often called the “rest and digest” nervous system and it works in opposition to the sympathetic or “flight or fight” nervous system. Stress throws digestion out of whack by stimulating the sympathetic nervous system which reduces your ability to digest. This happens through a couple of mechanisms including inhibition of salivary production, movement of blood away from the digestive organs, and inhibition of the stomach and upper intestine function. In order to activate the the parasympathetic nervous system to optimize digestion we need to be relaxed and engage with food.

Your digestive system activates the minute you start thinking about food, see food, or smell food. Before food makes it to your mouth, your salivary glands increase production and secrete enzymes in preparation to begin digestion.  If you aren’t focusing on your food because you are doing something else while eating you may not be stimulating the start of digestion optimally. This not only makes breakdown of foods more difficult for the body, but also increases the risk of overeating.

Distracted Eating

In this day and age it is common to eat food while doing something else. Whether that’s watching a show, driving, or being on your smartphone/computer, all are distracting at mealtime. One study found that distractions at meal time can lead to overeating (1). Being distracted at meals not only increased how much was eaten at that time, it also impaired the memory of what was consumed which made it more likely for participants of the study to eat more later. 
Another factor that can impact overeating is the rate at which food is eaten. 
Meals eaten quickly, in 5-8 minutes, are over so fast that you're done eating before the body can signal that it is full. It takes eating over a period of 20-30 minutes to feel mid-meal satiety which signals your brain that you are getting full (2). The solution is to slow down and stretch your meal over a period of at least 20 minutes. Ways to slow the rate of eating down include chewing each bite thoroughly, putting your fork down in between bites, consciously trying to slow down, setting a timer, and practicing mindful eating.

Mindfulness and Food

Mindfulness is a concept of being attentive and present in the moment without judgement. It can be applied to many areas of our lives including eating. Mindfulness about food can help slow the rate of eating down, engage the digestive system by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, and help get you more in touch with your hunger and satiety cues. You can read up more on ways to implement mindful eating in this article from Psychology Today.

Mindfulness can be applied to when we eat as well. ​Before your next meal, check in with yourself. "Am I really hungry?" Notice how hunger presents in the body. Sometimes when we are stressed, procrastinating, or upset it is common to turn to food as a comfort or distraction. Pausing to check in with yourself can help you determine if you are really hungry or not. 
Stress can both increase the desire to eat and decrease hunger cues. Ever get so entrenched with what you are doing you realize you are well past time to eat?  One explanation for this is the suppression of appetite resulting from stress. It's important to eat at regular intervals to promote healthy blood sugar. Eating at irregular times promotes insulin resistance (3). Reducing stress and practicing mindfulness around food can help increase recognition of hunger and satiety as well as engage the parasympathetic nervous system to improve digestion. 

Recommendations recap

  • Engage with your food and enjoy every bite!
  • Avoid distractions and working during mealtimes
  • Eat a meal over a 20-30 minute period
  • Reduce stress
  • Eat at frequent intervals throughout the day

If you have a specific condition or concern, please seek the advise of a medical professional. Feel free to share your thoughts below! 
  1. Robinson, E., Aveyard, P., Daley, A., Jolly, K., Lewis, A., Lycett, D., and S. Higgs (2013). Eating attentively: a systematic review and meta-analysis of the effect of food intake memory and awareness on eating. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 97(4): 728-742
  2. Privitera, G.J., Cooper, K.C., and A.R. Cosco (2012). The influence of eating rate on satiety and intake among participants exhibiting high dietary restraint. Food Ntru Res 56:10.3402/fnr.v56i0.10202 
  3. Farshchi, H.R, Taylor, M.A., and I.A. Macdonald (2004). Regular meal frequency creates more appropriate insulin sensitivity and lipid profiles compared with irregular meal frequency in healthy lean women. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition 58: 1071-1077
<![CDATA[Seasonal Allergies - Natural Care Treatments]]>Tue, 02 Apr 2019 18:08:08 GMThttp://madronanaturalmedicine.com/blog/seasonal-allergies-natural-care-treatmentsSpring is here and with the wonderful warm weather comes blossoming plants that produce pollen. If you are experiencing watery/itchy eyes, sneezing, runny nose, trouble breathing, etc, you could have seasonal allergies. This article discusses some at home and natural treatment options for allergies. 


Treatment of seasonal allergies starts with reducing the exposure to the environmental trigger - pollen and other airborne particulates from plants.
  • Keep windows closed to prevent pollen from entering your home
  • Wash your hands and face when you come indoors
  • Washing your hair nightly and at the very least changing your pillowcase nightly can also be helpful so that you are not sleeping the whole night exposing yourself to pollen
  • Make vacuuming your home a weekly occurrence at minimum. Using a vacuum with a HEPA filter will help as well.

Neti Pot

Using a saline rinse in a neti pot can help clear out mucus in your sinuses and nose. You don’t want to overdo it, typically most people won’t benefit from doing a neti pot more than 2 times a day. It is very important to use distilled water and create the saline solution fresh, each time you intend on using your neti pot. This recipe for a saline rinse should help clear out mucus without irritating the mucosal tissue. (1)
  • 1 cup body temperature distilled water
  • 1 teaspoon non-iodized salt
  • A pinch of baking soda

Natural Remedies for Seasonal Allergies

For natural treatment of seasonal allergies, it’s best to start a protocol in the month leading up to when you start experiencing your symptoms typically. These treatments are often best done in combination and should help relieve symptoms of hay fever. 
  • Quercetin is a type of flavonoid that results in reduction of pro-inflammatory pathways. (2) It also helps seasonal allergies by blocks the action of mast cells which are the cells largely responsible for producing hayfever symptoms due to their production of histamine. (3)
  • The mast cell stabilizing effect of stinging nettle leaf can help reduce histamine production in the body. Studies suggest that most of the allergy relieving properties of nettles comes from the fresh plant, so make sure you buy “freeze-dried” nettle capsules for the best effect.  (4)
  • Vitamin C has antihistamine effects in the body when taken in larger doses. For this effect a good general recommendation is 2 grams daily. (5)
  • NAC (N-acetyl cysteine) is beneficial for reducing the thickness of mucus which can allow the sinuses to drain more easily and reduce congestion. (6)

Additional Allergy Relief

If you don’t find much relief from the remedies mentioned, there are still more options. An in-office procedure that can provide symptomatic relief for congestion is Nasosympatico. This procedure requires physician skill and should not be attempted by anyone untrained in the procedure. The procedure utilizes essential oils in a carrier oil applied deep in the nasal passages to help open up the nasal passages and allow for drainage of sinuses.

A referral to an allergist may be warranted to see if subcutaneous immunotherapy (SCIT/allergy injections) or sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT) is right for you.
  1. Home remedy for nasal stuffiness? ACAAI Public Website. https://acaai.org/resources/connect/ask-allergist/home-remedy-nasal-stuffiness. Published February 22, 2017. Accessed April 2, 2019.
  2. Formica J, Regelson W. Review of the biology of quercetin and related bioflavonoids. Food and Chemical Toxicology. 1995;33(12):1061-1080. doi:10.1016/0278-6915(95)00077-1.
  3. Weng Z, Zhang B, Asadi S, et al. Quercetin is more effective than cromolyn in blocking human mast cell cytokine release and inhibits contact dermatitis and photosensitivity in humans. PLoS One. 2012;7(3):e33805. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0033805
  4. Roschek B, Fink RC, Mcmichael M, Alberte RS. Nettle extract (Urtica dioica) affects key receptors and enzymes associated with allergic rhinitis. Phytotherapy Research. 2009;23(7):920-926. doi:10.1002/ptr.2763.
  5. Johnston C.S. (1996) The Antihistamine Action of Ascorbic Acid. In: Harris J.R. (eds) Subcellular Biochemistry. Subcellular Biochemistry (Ascorbic Acid: Biochemistry and Biochemical Cell Biology), vol 25. Springer, Boston, MA
  6. Tattersall AB, Bridgman KM, Huitson A. Acetylcysteine (Fabrol) in chronic bronchitis—a study in general practice. J Int Med Res 1983;11:279-84.
<![CDATA[Foundations of Health: Diet, Part 1]]>Mon, 18 Mar 2019 17:36:35 GMThttp://madronanaturalmedicine.com/blog/foundations-of-health-diet-part-1​Food is an essential part of life. The choices we make about what we eat can have lasting impacts on our health. Many chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity can be caused by unhealthy dietary habits (1). For many people, preventing these diseases can be as easy as engaging in healthy eating habits. These healthy eating habits include not just what food is eaten, but also when and how to eat. In this article, I will discuss very general healthy diet recommendations (what to eat). In part 2, I will discuss how and when to eat.  

What to Eat

​There is no perfect diet that can be applied to everyone. However, in general, the best thing is to focus on is the quality of food (2). High quality food includes are those that are closest to their whole forms found in nature. Foods like whole grains, whole fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and healthy proteins are all high quality foods. Low-quality foods are those that are highly processed such as white bread, white rice, fried food, processed meats, sugary beverages, refined sugar, and foods high in trans fats. These low-quality foods are minimized or eliminated in a healthy diet.  
Fruits and vegetables:

Vegetables and fruit usually contain high levels of minerals and vitamins that are important in disease prevention. In addition to disease prevention, the benefits of eating more fruits and vegetables include improving happiness, life-satisfaction, and overall sense of well being (3). Most people aren’t eating enough fruits and vegetables. For most individuals, I recommend getting 3-5 servings of vegetables and 1-4 serving of fruit in a day.

​If you have access to organic, local produce, and can afford it, eat organic and local whenever possible. If it's just not possible to go fully organic with your produce, refer to the EWG website for a list of the clean 15 and dirty dozen. The clean 15 refers to fruit and vegetables that are usually lower in pesticide exposure and are ok to buy non-organic. The dirty dozen are the fruits and vegetables that are important to buy as an organic option to lower your exposure to chemicals.
​Healthy fats:

​Healthy fats are needed for our bodies to absorb fat-soluble vitamins and for use as energy. Omega-3 fatty acids in particular can be helpful in preventing heart disease and reducing inflammation. It’s important to have a wild caught, fatty fish 1-2 servings a week as a dietary source of healthy omega-3 fats. The Monterey bay aquarium has a great seafood watch list to guide your seafood choices so that you can make the best environmentally friendly and sustainable choice. Nuts, seeds, avocado, and olive oil are other examples of foods that have healthy fats. To help absorb fat-soluble vitamins and increase your healthy fat intake, try a light drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar over a salad or cooking vegetables with grass fed butter or ghee. 

Protein breaks down into essential amino acids that your body uses as building blocks to make its own proteins. General recommendations for protein intake is 0.8 grams of protein per kg of body weight. Incorporating vegetarian protein sources such as beans, lentils, chickpeas, tofu, and nuts/seeds can be a great way to get additional protein in your diet. I recommend buying grass-fed, free range meat when possible. I also recommend limiting red meat and processed meat.
As a reminder, there is never a universal recommendation when it comes to diet. If you have a condition, please seek the advice of a medical practitioner prior to initiating any dietary changes.
  1. WHO (2004). Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health: Diet nutrition and the prevention of chronic disease Report of the joint WHO/FAO expert consultation. WHO Technical Report Series, No. 916 (TRS 916) Accessed: March 12th, 2019 <https://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/publications/trs916/summary/en/>
  2. Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health (2019). The Best Diet: Quality Counts. The Nutrition Source. Accessed March 13th, 2019 <https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-weight/best-diet-quality-counts/>
  3. ​Mujcic, R. and A.J. Oswald (2016). Evolution of Well-Being and Happiness After Increases in Consumption of Fruit and Vegetables. Am J Public Health  106(8): 1504-1510
  4. ​Wilde, P.J (2009). Eating for Life: Designing Foods for Appetite Control. J Diabetes Sci Technol. 3(2): 366-370