Cultivating Superior Sleep – Part 2 – Light Cycles and Brain Waves

For those of you residing in and around the DC metro area, it’s been feeling like a pressure cooker the past few weeks! We’ve been hanging in waiting for more space and ease. There is no time like the present to recommit to a health strategy for resilience; getting quality restorative sleep is so important for improving resilience and longevity. In working with new clients, I always begin by creating a good foundation for health, highlighting that healthy sleep is just as important as a healthy gut (there’s a great immune support recipe below that supports this!)

There is no shortcut or replacement for sleep – after all, we are mammals subject to a circadian rhythm.  We need sleep to repair the daily wear and tear in our cellular machinery, to replenish energy supplies, and to remove wastes effectively. We also require it for a process called ‘synaptic pruning’ – whereby we let go of accumulated information stored up during the day.  It’s a cleaning house of sorts.

Our sleep mechanism – directly dependent upon natural light – demonstrates just how intimately we are connected to the rhythms of nature.  Sleep results from an interplay of a couple of processes:  sleep homeostasis or sleep pressure – which increases with the length that one is awake (and as light diminishes during the day) – until a threshold is reached. The second is the circadian alerting signal which is a daily rhythm under the influence of the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) within the hypothalamus.  
The SCN is sensitive to light and dark cycles.  It rhythmically signals organs and glands of the peripheral nervous system, each of which have their own slightly different clock.  Many of them produce their own chemicals: hormones, metabolites, and immune molecules on a 24-hour rhythm. 

As you can imagine, this is a very intricate balance. Remember how last week we discussed how missing out on sleep impacts so many vital systems in our bodies?  It happens as a result of these chemicals and markers getting out of balance. You may have heard how sleep occurs in cycles during the night.  Each sleep cycle is marked by 4 stages – each with its own brain wave activity** (see below).  A cycle lasts on average 90-minutes and we need 4-5 cycles per night for quality sleep.

STAGE 1 is an introduction to sleep and it involves a slowing down of muscle activity and brain waves transition from beta and gamma to alpha and theta, it’s very easy to be awakened in the stage.

STAGE 2 also lasts about 15-minutes and it is a light and dreamless state represented by theta waves – it is the beginning of true sleep.

STAGE 3 is a deep non-REM sleep comes45-minutes after onset, brain and muscle activity is limited, and it is in the stage that the brain is cleaning house (also where sleepwalking, night terrors, sleep talking and bedwetting occurs during the transition from deep sleep to REM).

STAGE 4 is a deep sleep to slow wave sleep where brain and muscle activity is limited, also known as parasomnia.

Deep sleep is the phase that is compromised in Alzheimer’s and is most compromised by alcohol.

REM sleep occurs between stage 4 and a new cycle. It’s where dreaming occurs, the brain, heart, and lungs are active but muscles become paralyzed.  At the end of REM there may be a slight waking before a new sleep cycle begins. The very end of the night we experience our longest REM right before we wake up.

**Brain waves are measured by frequency (cycles per second), or hertz (Hz), and they range from very slow to very fast: 
Delta– deepest state of dreamless sleep (the slowest brain wave).
Theta – When you’re sleeping more lightly or when you’re extremely relaxed, your brain may produce more theta waves.
Alpha – The brain wave most active in a meditative state, it is associated with calm and relaxation and it is smack dab in the middle of the brain wave spectrum. 
Beta – With these kinds of brain waves, you’re wide awake, alert, and focused. You’re going about your activities of daily living and making decisions. This is when your brain produces higher-speed beta waves.
Gamma – The speediest of brain waves, the gamma waves, when you’re actively involved in processing information and learning.

Lastly, I think it’s important to touch on melatonin – as it is the master of regulating the circadian rhythm.  It gets secreted in the largest quantities in the middle of the night and completely shuts down the wakefulness response associated with light.In practice, I find melatonin works best for those who are actually deficient in it, and for those who aren’t deficient, it can leave them feeling hungover in the morning. 

So, it’s not typically my go to for improving sleep quality, I prefer to begin with a gentler approach.  In addition to last week’s suggestions, I love cortisol manager (which promotes relaxation by supporting healthy cortisol levels). This product was critical for me when I was dealing with my own sleep issues, and I take it periodically, and it’s also part of my travel kit (whenever we start traveling again!)  

Lately I’ve become obsessed with skullcap, a trophorestorative to the nervous system – meaning it restores nutrition uptake to the nerves. 2 squirts of a glycerite tincture soothes my mind and eases tension almost instantly.If you find you aren’t where you want to be with your sleep quality, please don’t give up! There are so many options out there to help restore this process.

I want to close with a go-to fall breakfast.  I find that starting the day properly by supporting balanced blood sugar sets the tone for a better nervous system and adrenal balance throughout the day, which in turn assists in proper sleep quality.  
IMMUNE SUPPORT BREAKFASTThis healthy breakfast supports the health of the body’s digestive system and enhances optimal elimination.  Over 80% of our body’s immune molecules originate in the gut, so healthy gut function supports optimal immunity.Suggestion: Use this recipe for 2-4x/week over the course of 2 months to notice a change in gut and immune health.
INGREDIENTS– 2 cups rolled oats (gluten-free)
– 1 cup fruit (I like frozen berry blend)
– 1/2 cup ground flaxseed
– 1/2 cup chia seeds
– 1 cup ground sunflower seeds
– 1 cup nuts (walnuts, cashews, almonds, etc. – no peanuts)

INSTRUCTIONS1) Place in a bowl & cover with 4-5 cups of almond, rice, hazelnut, or hemp milk. 
2) Sprinkle with spices like cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, & add 3-4 Tbsp of Dr. Marie’s Elderberry Syrup
3) Mix & refrigerate overnight.
I still have homemade Elderberry Syrup for sale – it is infused with an immune blend of: astragalus, licorice, ginger, cinnamon and orange peel. It works great as a syrup,
a warm tea or even in a soda water spritzer! 
Buy Now
Quick Update on ND Licensure in VirginiaWe’re setting the groundwork for a virtual legislative session December 2020 – March 2021.  We find ourselves striking a balance between educating, mobilizing our grassroots network, and fundraising while at the same time countering lies and a disinformation campaigns against us. While I never in a hundred years thought I would find myself involved in the political realm, this cause is obviously near and dear to my heart, and there’s a force motivating me to step up. 

My mantra is ‘natural medicine is from the earth and for the people.’It can be heavy and exhausting work as we’re actively dissolving an out of date structure in Virginia, and let’s face it – not only is our health care model flat out broken, it’s a corrupt and profit driven system.  The current crisis has certainly highlighted this, natural medicine is actively being suppressed on ALL channels while selective biased reporting and fear mongering abounds. We won’t give up!

Getting naturopathic doctors licensed in every state in the country is an answer to balancing our system. ND’s are experts in prevention, our medicine has the potential to save millions on the sale of prescriptions.  This is why they’re trying to keep us quiet.

Do you support health care reform with wider access to naturopathic medicine? Do you you want to ensure patient choice when it comes to health care? Want to protect public safety and promote transparency?

Please consider supporting our movement and sharing with others!

To your health~

Naturopathic Doctor
Energy Healer
Future Herbalist

Cultivating Superior Sleep – Part 1

This weekend was the first Mid Atlantic Naturopathic CE conference, and I had the pleasure of both attending and curating the event. It was a success with funds raised to support ND associations in four states (VA, MD, DC, and PA). Both Virginia and Pennsylvania have currently active ND legislative efforts for ND licensure. 

This weekend we were flooded with a plethora of information on a wide variety of topics under the title ‘Clinical Pearls in Endocrinology, Immunology and Neurology’. I found myself reflecting on how much the field of natural medicine has grown and changed since I completed my studies back in 2002! 

NDs have access to highly sophisticated laboratory tests, revolutionary technology to track various biomarkers, and not to mention a plethora of advanced nutritional supplements. I watched the conference with a friend and fellow colleague Dr. Daemon Jones, and commented, Jeez, everything is going so high-tech nowadays, that I don’t feel like I’m really an ND anymore.” She said, ‘Marie, you ARE indeed an ND. You’re an old-school ND – closer to our roots.”   It was a great re-frame because it reflected my belief that simplifying and getting reconnected to nature is the solution to so many of our problems on a small or large scale.

One of my favorite lectures was on the importance of quality sleep by  Dr. Anderson Ross. Sleep is foundational, and when it’s off, even the most elegant therapies and advanced natural interventions will fall short.Sleep is also a topic that is near and dear to my heart. I dealt with chronic insomnia for many years (more on that to come), so I know firsthand how chronic sleep deprivation can wreak havoc on one’s quality of life. I’m now grateful to be sleeping well; however sleep has become my barometer, and when it’s off, it’s the first sign that my body gives me when I’m starting to get
out of balance.

Let’s Shift into Some Sleep Statistics:    
•  33% of the US population suffers from chronic insomnia
    •    28-44% sleep less than 7 hours per night
    •    48% report snoring
    •    38% unintentionally nod off during the day

Sleep has become such a problem, that the CDC recognizes insufficient sleep as a public health epidemic. We need good quality sleep for: immune resilience, optimal blood sugar regulation, hormonal balance, mood, and energy.

So, why has something so basic as sleep become so elusive? It has to do with our busy lives and being a little ‘too plugged in.” So why has something so basic as sleep become so elusive? 

Industrialization and the creation of the light bulb (which created a 24/7 workforce) began a shift towards the patterns we’re seeing today. In 1949, people slept an average of 7.9 hours, and today that average is 6.5. As a society, we are more plugged in than ever which challenges our human design to flow with a circadian rhythm like all mammals.  There is also a stigma that needs for sleep is a sign of weakness or laziness. I think we need to get over that one real fast!

I’ll dive more into this fascinating and extremely important topic further, but wanted to close with some suggestions to help you make your sleep more restful.

Set a routine sleep and wake time, and stick to it. Did you know that we make twice as much melatonin before midnight, so every hour of sleep before midnight is worth twice as much?!

Dim the lights at home to better mimic the light outside. Avoid overly stimulating activities – exercise, getting into heated political discussions (avoid watching the debates if you can manage!), and tackling new projects – anything that may wind you up.

Install a blue light filter on your computer. F.lux has an app that you can schedule to come on as the sun sets.

Unplug and unwind for an hour before bed. Watching TV doesn’t count! Consider lower body stretches, Epsom salt baths (neutral temp – too hot of a bath can be stimulating before bed). Enjoy chamomile or passionflower tea.

For those who wake after sleeping for 30-60 min, it could be a sign of adrenal weakness, so consider a small portion of food complex carbs with protein before bed to keep blood sugar stable. A few slices of apple with almond butter would be a good example.
 Full Moon Healing Journey
Thurs, Oct 1st @ 7:30pm EST
Tonight I’m leading one of my last three Full Moon Healing Meditations of the year, and it’s a full hour of pure relaxation. Some of the best healings I’ve ever had came from one thing and one thing only: energy work. Not green juice or fasting (though very nice compliments!) We are 90% energy, and when it flows properly – it’s a huge support to our physical and emotional health.I offer a guided full moon healing journey each month to help you clear negative energy, transform your belief in what’s possible, reclaim lost energy. I often incorporate the sound of a rattle, so we can enter a meditative alpha brain wave state. We set our intentions as a group and I guide us into sacred space. Some people go into a deep rest and others receive guidance through images or experience physical sensations associated with healing. 

All are welcome.
Zoom link below, and here is a link for donations.
Zoom Link: ID: 437 353 1342Password: peacecalm
Find your local number:
To your health~

Naturopathic Doctor
Energy Healer
Future Herbalist

The Best Healer

Where do you go when all the world is awry and there’s very little room for clarity? I turn to nature. She’s the best healer. Humans, by design, are meant to shift and flow with the cycles of the Earth. When we reconnect with intention, it can have a powerful healing effect by aligning us with what is real. 

We all descend from ancestors who lived without material needs, for they were deeply resourced by nature. We too, have this capacity. I believe that we can come into better balance and harmony by remembering and rebuilding this connection.

Tuesday marked the equinox and a shift into the season of Autumn. It is a good time to pause and take a few moments to shift into the season by connecting to nature with intention. One of my favorite self-healing rituals is a simple and powerful reset – check it out below:
Equinox Ritual Reset 
Lie on your belly (preferably on the Earth) and imagine you’re a sponge
that can soak up nourishing energy. Breathe and feel grateful. Lie there for 3-5 minutes. Flip onto your back and inhale the sunlight in deeply – warming your skin all the way to your core. As you exhale, imagine any heaviness or unease being released out of the pores of your back body and into the earth. Lie there
for 3-5 minutes or more. Repeat as many times as you wish.

Full Moon Healing Journey
Thurs, Oct 1st @ 7:30pm EST

Next Thursday, I’m leading one of my last three Full Moon Healing Meditations of the year, and it’s a full hour of pure relaxation. Some of the best healings I’ve ever had came from one thing and one thing only: energy work. Not green juice or fasting (though very nice complements!) 
We are 90% energy, and when it flows properly – it’s a huge support to our physical and emotional health.I offer a guided full moon healing journey each month to help you clear negative energy, transform your belief in what’s possible, reclaim lost energy. I often incorporate the sound of a rattle, so we can enter a meditative alpha brain wave state. We set our intentions as a group and I guide us into sacred space. Some people go into a deep rest and others receive guidance through images or experience physical sensations associated with healing. All are welcome.Zoom link below, and here is a link for donations.Zoom Link: ID: 437 353 1342Password: peacecalmFind your local number:

Shining The Light On Our Immune System: Part 6 – Immune Memory And Self-Care For The Seasonal Shift!

We’re heading into my favorite season. The crisp mornings, the colors of the leaves changing, and all the pumpkin-flavored offerings are just some of what I love about Autumn.  Fall is more tolerable temperature-wise and it invites us to prepare for the colder shorter days of the introverted season of winter. 

If we were to take our cues from nature, we may slow down naturally as she does. 

After all, it’s quite the change for trees to drop their energy from their leaves into their roots, so why wouldn’t this also have a huge impact on us? We can’t underestimate how our bodies are designed to be in tune with the seasonal shifts. Ancient traditional practices are designed around this tenet. 

As much as I love Autumn, it is a transition that can challenge my body. I start to notice some lack of grounding, fogginess (some of which can be Fall allergies), and a need to eat less and more simply. I notice that I’m more sensitive and need to slow down a bit, adding in self-care – more yoga, plus a seasonal transition treatment with acupuncture or craniosacral therapy. 

Take some time to tune into how your body feels during this transition:
Honor your craving for some extra rest (Yes, it’s totally OK to declutter that closet next week or even the week after!), 
Enjoy some warm tea (I’ve formulated a delicious chai tasting immune formula below), and make time for that Epsom salt bath. 

These are all also great supports for optimal immune health 🙂  

Now shifting back to our immune system overview. Last time, we learned about the B and T lymphocytes – the primary cells that control the adaptive immune response. This response is extremely complex and it goes on and on and on. It keeps us from getting infections! 

B-cells are responsible for antibody driven immunity while the T cells are involved with cell mediated immunity. T cells are experts at recognizing antigens (carbohydrate or protein residues on bacteria, viruses, and worm surfaces) and then expressing them by a very complex process called antigen presentation. This allows the appropriate immune cells to provide the type of defense that’s needed:

Cytotoxic T cells – directly kill the virus with cytotoxic proteins
Macrophages – engulf and destroy damaged infected cells
Dendritic cells – send cells to the lymphatic system
B cells – make antibodies against the microbes

The B cells and T Cells are like 2 branches of the immune response, and both have a part in long term immunity. We typically think of being immune to a type of illness when we have the ‘antibodies’ for it. This is true, but it’s only part of the story. We also have T memory cells that carry an imprint of a pathogen. They recognize specific antigens on invaders and mount a faster and stronger immune response after encountering that same antigen again. This is how vaccines work to protect us against infection.

The T memory cell, primed for a repeat appearance, not only tells the B cells to make the necessary antibodies, it also unleashes a cascade of players, including cytotoxic or killer T cells, which are capable of directly destroying viruses with cytotoxic proteins.

The reason why I bring this up is that there is a widespread idea that if you don’t have the antibodies to COVID19, then you aren’t immune to it. I have a problem with this because this does not take into consideration the T cell side of the immune response which we just mentioned above. The podcast goes into this nicely.

We’re learning as we go with the pandemic, and it’s important to look at the whole picture.  The fact that there is no blood test for the  T memory cell makes things tricky. But that doesn’t mean we should ignore an established part of immune function, and jump to the belief that no antibodies means no lifelong immunity.

Since we will be in this for a long haul, I think it’s important to not let this limited thought get rooted in our minds. After all, our bodies follow what our minds believe. 

Immune-I-Tea I’ve been brewing up my Immune-I-Tea which turns out to have a delicious spicy chai flavor when you boil the herbs vs steeping. Add almond milk and a bit of honey and you have a delicious chai tea.

Immune-I-Tea Recipe 
I came up with this formula as a gift for our Immune Resilience workshop
last Sunday. It’s a balanced blend that tastes like a delicious spicy chai
without caffeine!

Ingredients: (I measure intuitively)Astragalus – a significant longevity herb in Chinese medicine that acts as an immune ‘shield’Cinnamon – extremely rich in antioxidants, reduces blood sugarGinger – anti-inflammatory/antioxidant (among other vast benefits!)Licorice – supports respiratory IgA (neutralizing antibodies)Orange Peel – rich in vitamin C, strengthens the immune systemMethod:Boil 2 TBSP of tea in 4 cups of water with the lid on.Then once at a rolling boil, turn to simmer for 45-60 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool with the lid on for 10 mins. Add your favorite non-dairy milk: almond/oat/cashew, etc and some raw honey and enjoy.
I still have some bags of Chai Immune-I-Tea left if you’re interested, message me!I also have 8 oz bottles of Elderberry Syrup that I’ve handcrafted if you’d like. This tea will support your grounding through the seasonal transition 🙂
Order Here

Shining the Light on the Immune System: Part 5 – Meet Your Adaptive Immunity

Thank you for the positive feedback on this immunity series! I’ve gotten comments like ‘thanks so much for filling in the void of what we’re NOT hearing’ and ‘I love how you walk the line in your approach.’ As safe as natural healing approaches are, shouldn’t they be a mainstay of our health care prevention?

Hygiene and distancing are one part of the equation for our current times. Supporting immune resilience through natural methods is JUST as important. So WHY are we hearing NOTHING about this?!

Well, unfortunately, the FDA widely censors information about natural healing methods that aren’t ‘FDA approved’ in order to protect consumers from those making ‘false claims.’ As you know, the sheer cost of the FDA approval process is prohibitive. We’re living in a time when naturopathic doctors and other holistic health practitioners are under a watchful eye – it’s not uncommon for us to be asked to remove articles from our websites chock full of helpful information. In truth, we’re not making false claims. Just offering suggestions that support longer term prevention.If preventative health information was widespread or even on the news, imagine how many lives could be supported or even saved? 

If you’re interested in taking action on this, scroll to the bottom.Here’s a link to parts 1-3 of the immunity series if you missed a part or want to refresh. Here’s a webinar that the NDs of VA created at the beginning of the pandemic to support immune resilience. It’s loaded with a plethora of on point information about prevention. (Check out our licensure movement! Note: If you contribute, I’m personally giving away thank you gifts. More on that in the P.S.)

OK, so now, let’s approach the arena of our adaptive immune response. Adaptive immunity is the most specialized and complex aspect of the immune system, so we’ll take a few posts to break it down into pieces you can digest, and start with an overview. As I highlighted before, the adaptive immune response is set to come online when pathogens have crossed the barrier and then have also gone onto defy the innate defense. 
The barriers and innate responses have still done their job to slow down microbial growth while allowing time for the adaptive response to strengthen. The innate response had also been working behind the scenes the entire time, sending messages to prepare the adaptive system for the microbial invasion. 

Our lymphocytes (white blood cells) are by and large the reason why the adaptive immune response is so astonishingly specific. First, a little background – there are two types of lymphocytes: T cells and B cells, both derived from the same stem cells that give rise to red blood cells and platelets. T cells and B cells are named after the organs in which they develop -T cells develop in the thymus, while B cells develop in the bone marrow.

These types of adaptive immune cells – B and T lymphocytes have receptors on their surfaces that recognize antigens – the particles associated with microbes. The adaptive immune response to these antigens is so versatile that it can develop as many as 100 trillion different receptors to recognize and respond to every conceivable pathogen, even COVID19.

The adaptive response is as thorough as it is robust. Think of it as occurring in stages – a primary response builds a memory which leads to an effective secondary response. A primary adaptive response happens when you get exposed to a pathogen for the very first time. It is this first infection that is more severe as it takes time for the initial adaptive response to create the necessary antibodies. 

Then, when we’re re-exposed to the same pathogen, a secondary adaptive immune response gets created, which is much stronger and faster than the primary response. In fact, this response often eliminates a pathogen completely before it’s able to cause significant tissue damage, or even symptoms. When this is happening, the individual is not even aware of the infection. Just think how many times we’re successfully fighting something and don’t even know it?

It’s this very secondary response that is the basis of immunological memory, which protects us from getting diseases repeatedly from the same pathogen.

I want to close with a very important feature of our adaptive immune response that could be a course in and of itself. ‘Tolerance’ is  the ability to tell the difference between ‘self-antigens’ and foreign antigens (and of those foreign antigens, those that might be infectious vs harmless tree pollen). 

As T and B cells mature, tolerance develops – these include the mechanisms that prevent the lymphocytes from inflicting an immune response against the body. Allergies and auto-immunity result when tolerance isn’t effective. It’s also this very reason that I prefer to use the term ‘immune support’ or resilience versus immune ‘boost’ as auto-immunity and allergies result from an overpowered immune response.

As you can see, the adaptive immune system is powerful and dynamic. It operates like a finely tuned orchestra, so what we’re aiming to support is optimal function. There is a balance of factors that come into play, and I notice in my body that when I over-treat a cold/flu that I can tend to swing in the direction of allergies afterwards. I see a big trend towards ‘bio-hacking’ and loading up the body with vitamins in an attempt to stave off infection, but we need to consider the whole picture and allow our bodies to do the job they are naturally designed to. This is a more vitalistic approach, a gentler less invasive approach that honors our body’s inherent healing capacity.

In a way, it’s getting back to the basics where technology and science have driven us further away from. To tune inwards versus outwards and trust what our gut is saying – this is after all where 80% of our immune cells reside!
Support Access to Natural Health ApproachesMovement to License ND’s in Virginia

For 15-years, I’ve had the opportunity to help get naturopathic doctors licensed in Virginia. They’re currently licensed in 22 states and 3 jurisdictions in the US, with active licensure movements in several states—Pennsylvania and North Carolina are so close to victory. In Virginia, we’re making connections, growing our support base, while chipping away at an extremely old and outdated structure (the Med Society of Virginia has its hands DEEP in the regulation of EVERY health profession in the state).   It’s taken time and persistence, and I now understand the adage: ‘never give up.’ Our bill is already pre-filed for 2021, our bill sponsors are Senator Chap Petersen and Delegate Rasoul – both of whom championed us last year. We have a lot of work to do, but we feel optimistic from all the support we’ve gained.  A license will finally allow NDs in Virginia (who currently practice as health consultants) to:   touch our patients, order labs, order diagnostic imaging, legally ‘diagnose’ and ‘treat,’ and provide the codes necessary for insurance reimbursement. We’ve seen our support grow immensely in the past few years and we hope to gain your support too! (I’m personally giving gifts to those who participate.) Check out our website to sign up for action alerts and a GoFundMe campaign to stay informed and become part of the solution..

Action Alerts to Protect Access to Natural HealthThe ANH is the largest organization in the US and abroad working to protect our rights to utilize effective, safe, and low-cost healing therapies, based on high-tech testing, diet, supplements, and lifestyle changes.   Take a look,  – they are doing some serious health care reform work.

Shining the Light on the Immune System – Part 4: The Microbiome and How Clean is too Clean?

We’ve been learning about our complex immune system, and we’re all set to dive into the adaptive immune response this week. But I often like to take a step back, take a breath, and look at the larger picture (like I do with my paintings). So let’s dial back for a moment before leaning into the microscopic lens to see the adaptive immune response. I felt like doing this today, because something has been stirring in the back of my mind. 

With all of the emphasis on sanitizing to prevent infection, I’ve been wondering about the long term impact that this could have on our beneficial bacteria, and even our microbiome. 

As I mentioned, maintaining whole body wellness supports a resilient immune system. Our microbiome is very important here as well.

The microbiome is made up of trillions of microbes that we pick up from the world. They’re mostly concentrated in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, but they also live in the lungs, mouth, and other parts of the body.

The microbiome has even been called a supportive ‘organ,’ because it plays so many key roles in promoting the smooth daily operations of the human body. It stimulates the immune response, supports vitamin production in the large intestine, affects our levels of inflammation in the body, and yes, even our weight.

Recent studies show the effect that the microbiome can have on long term health. People in developing countries who live in less sterile environments, and eat mostly whole foods while spending more time around people and animals have a wider variety of microbes in their GI than those living in more developed countries.They also have lower rates of allergies and autoimmune conditions than Europe, US, and Australia. These findings support the “hygiene hypothesis” – the idea that childhood infections acquired through unhygienic contact bolster the immune system against diseases later in life.

SO, with that said, are we being too clean now?? 

We ARE in the midst of a pandemic … but should we sanitize everything with harsh alcohol-based products on the daily (or multiple times daily?) to prevent infection – especially if this goes well into 2022? 

Many people will continue to wash, spray, and sanitize away. I won’t. Why? Because alcohol-based sanitizers kill the beneficial bacteria on our skin – an important part of our body’s microbiome, which is designed to help us thrive – and they also break down the important epithelial barrier on the skin. We learned all about our barrier protection in part 1.

What’s a good balance then? That depends on your bio-individuality. For those with diagnosed immune compromise; it makes sense to minimize exposure through more vigilant hygiene while taking extra special care in supporting your immunity in other ways – whole food nutrition, exercise, and nutritional supplementation. 

Children build their immune systems through exposure to germs, and since they’re mostly learning from home nowadays, I’d stick to hand washing instead of the harsh alcohol sanitizers. If they have a very busy day in contact with a variety of people and someone just so happened to have a runny nose, then you may consider a sanitizer, or good wash up at home.

It makes sense to regularly clean common areas of exposure and transmission (bathroom and kitchen) and pay special attention to frequently touched surfaces – keyboards, phones, remotes, and door knobs – especially if someone at home is sick. But if your family is well, frequently spraying lysol or alcohol-based products at home could be more harmful than helpful in the longer term.

You may consider a couple of alternatives that I like:
:: A natural cleaning spray for your home using thyme essential oil.
I found a great recipe here: In a 16 oz spray bottle, add 1/3 cup hydrogen peroxide, 12-36 drops thyme essential oil, and 13 oz distilled water. Shake it up and spray on a surface. Let it sit for 10 minutes before wiping off. 

:: Take a look at HOCl (hypochlorous acid) – a game changer for disinfecting. HOCl is made naturally by the white blood cells in response to a pathogen and until recently; this molecule wasn’t stable enough for use outside the body. It’s highly effective as a surface disinfectant without the harsh side effects. (The only downside is that it isn’t as cost effective as the DIY solution). 

Since we’ll be at this for awhile, I think it’s a good idea to take a look at the big picture and consider how our everyday activities, like sanitizing, will have a long range effect. When we come out of distancing, we may have done a great job of preventing exposure, but will we have created other issues? Given we build immunity through exposure and human contact, will we have depleted ourselves? Will we be less resilient and less able to defend effectively? It’s entirely possible, and I do think it’s a good idea to consider a balanced approach with some healthier disinfecting alternatives for prevention’s sake.
Flow into Immune Resilience
Want to get Fall-ready? Meet us outside for the Flow into Immune Resilience Workshop September 13th. Enjoy gentle yoga, a lively discussion on immunity, and a deeply restorative meditation. It’s almost full (there’s only space for 16 of us)! Learn more, sign up, and prepare to boost your immunity. You’ll receive a bag of handmade ‘Immun-I-Tea’ for coming. 
Support Access to Naturopathic Medicine
Did you know that naturopathic doctors are not yet licensed in every state? I personally think SO much can be done preventatively at this time, and it’s frustrating to see how natural solutions are being glossed over . Wouldn’t you also like to see a more widespread preventative approach to healthcare?  make sense for everyone to have access to the health care of their choice? If you answered yes to any of the above, you may be in alignment with the movement to support licensure for NDs in Virginia.

Shining the Light on Our Immune System – Part 3 – Chemical Attraction

Before we dive into part three, I have an important update on the movement to license medically-trained NDs in Virginia – if you’re following, it’s been a 15-year labor of love! Scroll down to the bottom for more information.

Knowledge is truly empowering. As I’ve dug deeper into the ins and outs of our adaptable and robust immune response, I’m becoming more confident in my body’s ability to defend itself. We’re in the long haul right now, and when the body is in constant fear, it works against our resilience. Today I want to highlight some of the stealth signaling molecules behind the scenes who are responsible for keeping you well.

Some are alive and  ready—part of a built in communication system. While others are created in real time when you need backup. You may be hearing about ‘cytokines’ from the ‘cytokine storm’ that happens in those who get the severest form of Covid. A cytokine storm is a rare event that happens with an uncontrolled immune response (imagine having your foot glued to the gas). It happens in people with chronic disease, who have multiple sick organs, or those who have severe inflammation. Normally, cytokines enable cells to communicate with each other over short distances. They’re very important signaling agents that get released into the space between cells. They trigger the inflammatory response and mobilize key players of immune function.

Chemokines are also always at the ready and are able to attract white blood cells to an area to fight infection.

Our innate response also induces classes of molecules on an as needed basis:
interferons are made by cells infected with viruses. These brilliant molecules then travel to other cells telling them to make antiviral proteins.

C reactive protein is made in the liver and it binds to the bacterial cell walls in a type of ‘tagging’ – known by the fancy term ‘opsonization.’ 

Macrophages (remember Pac Man?) have receptors for these very proteins, so they easily ‘see’ the bacteria, and are able to devour them. 

Lastly, let’s briefly mention the 30 proteins or so which make up the complement system – an entire complex system that involves three different pathways, enhancing (complements) the ability of both the innate response and the adaptive response – which we’ll talk about next time! This system is usually maintained in check by inhibitor proteins, it has a variety of triggers that cause its irreversible activation. The result of this activation is bacterial destruction, phagocytosis, and inflammation.

What a thorough and robust system we have!I

I wanted to end with a brief share of one of my absolute favorite immune herbs- black elderberriesBlack elderberries are a go-to for preventing viral infection for so many reasons, one in particular is its ability to support cytokine function. As we read earlier, cytokines are important signaling agents that turn on the immune response. This plant got a really bad rap earlier on in the pandemic with a misinterpretation of a 19-year old study done on elderberry using test tubes, not people. Someone started the false claim that the herb could induce a cytokine storm. Not true. Read this article which refutes the idea. Black elderberries are safe, effective, and well-tolerated, it is my go-to for the Fall transition. In fact, I make my own big batch every year. Let me know if you’re interested! 
Want to get Fall-ready?  Meet us under the tent outside for the Flow into Immune Resilience Workshop September 13th at Ease Yoga and Cafe. Enjoy gentle yoga, a lively discussion on immunity, and a deeply restorative meditation It’s almost full (there’s only space for 16 people)! Learn more, sign up, and prepare to boost your immunity. You’ll receive a bag of handmade ‘Immun-I-Tea’ for coming. 🙂

Shining the Light on our Immune System – Part 2: Beyond the Barrier

In my 18 years of clinical practice, I’ve witnessed a serious decline in peoples’ faith about their body’s own self-healing ability. 

Unfortunately, I’ve also noticed an increase of germophobia. Based on our busier lifestyles, and being more connected to technology and less to the earth, we’ve forgotten how resilient our bodies really are. Top it off with fearful media messages and most of us would go down the dark rabbithole, too. . 

Now more than ever, it’s critical to revisit ancient wisdom for guidance and remember that our bodies are indeed designed to self-heal.

One of the primary tenets of naturopathic medicine is the ‘vis medicatrix nature’ or the healing power of nature’ – which we possess as an inherent part of our being. Back in the times of Hippocrates, it was noted that if an injured or wounded individual was left alone, healing would often happen on its own over time without intervention. Our bodies do know how to heal.

Our sophisticated immune response is certainly testament to this. Last week we learned a lot about all the wonderful barriers our bodies have at our defense 24/7, and this week I wanted to begin to shine the light on the cells of our innate immune system.

Our innate immune system is a response that is robust and unspecific, and it involves a host of players whose names you might recognize from your lab results. The innate response is critical when controlling the early stages of infection. While the barrier defense is physical, this defense is part of our physiological immunity – the other component being the adaptive immunity – which we will discuss later.

We have a robust array of fighters involved in our innate immune response: macrophages, neutrophils, and monocytes are all ‘phagocytes.’ These guys are like Pac-Men (if you aren’t too young to remember the video game!) and they surround and engulf particles and cells, clearing away debris, old cells, and destroying bacteria. These phagocytes are the body’s fast acting, first line of defense against organisms that have breached the barrier defenses and have entered the more vulnerable tissues of the body.

Chomping Pac Man GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Macrophages: the true first line of defense found in connective tissue and lymph nodes. They’re called different names, depending on where they reside in the body: Kupffer cells in the liver, microglial cells in the brain, alveolar macrophages in the lungs, dendritic cells in the skin, macrophages in lymphoid tissue and mammary macrophages.

Neutrophils: spherical cells contain a variety of mediators such as histamine, they act as a reinforcement to the macrophages.

Monocytes: mobilize rapidly to areas of infection by signal molecules of inflammation. Monocytes then differentiate into either a macrophage or dendritic cells (cells that display proteins to other immune players).

Lastly, natural killer (NK) cells are also a part of this innate immune response. They’re a white blood cell capable of killing cells that are infected with bacteria and viruses. NK cells have the ability to recognize these cells by their surface receptors.

Aren’t you impressed by all of the ‘fighters’ we have that work in concert to keep us safe? We haven’t even gotten to the adaptive branch of the immune system. And beyond all of the above, we also have a built in system of chemical warfare to boot. We will go more into that next week.

Since our innate immunity is part of our body’s own self healing response, steps we take to support our own wellness include: a diet rich in plant nutrients, stress reduction and restorative sleep, will go a long way to support this branch of immunity. 

You might also consider taking Vitamin D and the herb astragalus to support your immunity. Because vitamin D receptors are widely found in monocytes, macrophages, and natural killer cells, supplementing with D or getting regular sunlight exposure will assist in the regulation and expression of these very important immune cells.

Astragalus is a Traditional Chinese Medicine herb. It’s been included in formulas for hundreds of years to strengthen the Wei Qi – an energetic “shield” that serves as a primary defense against immune threats. Studies show how astragalus is effective at enhancing macrophage effectiveness.

The beauty of having such a powerful and complex immune response is that our options for supporting immune resilience are abundant.

P.S. What if you knew that you were doing the right thing at the right time to boost your immunity and not get sick? Flow into Immune Resilience Workshop is coming September 13th … and it’s almost full! Join us here. You’ll receive a bag of handmade ‘Immun-I-Tea’ for coming. 🙂

P.P.S. For my ND friends, the Virtual Mid-Atlantic ND Conference is coming up September 25th – 27th … and you’ll receive continuing education credits! Join us here. Please share. <3 

Shining the Light on Our Immune System – A Series

Priming Our Natural First Line of Defense

Did you know that our bodies are naturally equipped with both physical and physiological defenses against infection? If you’re following the media closely during this time, you may be led to believe that a pathogen can just merely enter the body. Nothing is farther from the truth! Our skin barrier is constantly working on our behalf to prevent microbes and pathogens from entering. 

Just beyond our natural barrier response, we’re also well-equipped with innate and adaptive immunity. So we have not one, but two immune systems at the ready to fight infection. We’ll talk more about this later.

Let’s get back to our physical barriers. The skin, covered with a layer of cells that is too dry for bacteria to colonize, is also shedding these cells continuously – carrying bacteria and other pathogens with them. Also, sweat and other skin secretions lower pH, contain toxic lipids, and physically wash microbes away.

We also have many other protective mechanisms that are associated with any areas where pathogens may try to enter: 
~Saliva in the mouth is rich in the bacteria destroying lysozyme.
The acidic environment of the stomach is fatal to many pathogens.
~Mucus layer of the gastrointestinal tract, respiratory tract, reproductive tract, eyes, ears, and nose traps both microbes and debris, and facilitates their removal. 
~IgA is a natural surface antibody present on all of these mucous membranes (also present in tears, sweat, saliva, and colostrum) it neutralizes viruses and toxins, and inhibits microbial growth.
~Cilia of the upper respiratory system moves contaminated mucus upwards to the mouth, where it is then swallowed into the digestive tract, ending up in the harsh acidic environment of the stomach. 

As you can see, we have multiple barrier mechanisms that have evolved to work hand in hand to protect us from viruses. Before a microbe, virus, or other foreign invader can even gain entry, it must breach this variety of physical defenses.

Aren’t our bodies amazing? All of this protection, and we haven’t even gotten to the physiologic immune response yet! We’ll get into that in part two of the series.

Some simple ways to support our natural barriers:
~Optimal hydration to promote healthy mucous membranes – consider drinking spring water, structured water, or adding in trace minerals for absorption.
~Licorice is my favorite herb for bolstering this defense as it supports the integrity of the respiratory and GI mucous membranes
~Consider Propolis – quite fitting that the substance bees use to seal off their hives is also powerful for building the natural resistance of our barrier mechanisms. (Take caution if you’re sensitive to bees/bee products.)
~Dry skin brushing to support sloughing of dead skin cells and circulation of the lymph which is critical for optimal immune function.

Interested in this topic and want to learn more? I’ll be co-leading a
Flow into Immune Resilience Workshop at Ease Yoga & Cafe
on September 13th at 6:00pm. You’ll receive a bag of handmade
‘Immun-I-Tea’ as a participant. 🙂 Space is limited due to distancing requirements. Registration is through Ease Yoga and Cafe.


Our Adrenals and our Ancestors

You may be wondering about the connection with our adrenals and our ancestors. On different levels, these two aspects of our human experience – the adrenals on a physical level, and our ancestors on an energetic and spiritual level – both influence how we cope with stress.

Physiologically, our adrenals are responsible for producing cortisol and catecholamine hormones. Cortisol influences our waking response (are you someone who has the coffee maker programmed to have pot brewed with your alarm clock? If so, you probably have a poor waking response). Cortisol also maintains even blood sugar and blood pressure. Our catecholamines – norepinephrine and epinephrine – get recruited in times of higher stress – they are our fight or flight survival hormones.

Supporting healthy and balanced adrenal function is crucial for restorative sleep, better resilience and yes, even better immunity. Think of balancing your blood sugar throughout the day by avoiding ‘peaks’ with caffeine and ‘lows’ from withdrawal of processed carbs, sugar and alcohol. We all need our comfort during these challenging times, so consider adding in fiber or protein with foods/drinks that can have an adrenal stimulating effect that can lead to a crash later on.

Vitamin C and licorice root tincture are 2 of my favorite go-to’s for adrenal support right now. Vitamin C is adrenal nutrition and it stored in the highest quantities in these little glands that sit like hats on top of the kidneys. Licorice doubles the half life of cortisol so it unburdens the adrenals. And both of these remedies are helpful for COVID19 – licorice is anti-viral and boosts mucosal immunity and Vitamin C supports white blood cel response and is anti-inflammatory.

Now shifting gears to our ancestors. Their experiences influence our stress coping both biologically as well as energetically. First, we are all descendants of ancestors who experienced collective trauma – war, pandemics, famine, mass migrations and genocide. The science of epigenetics explains that ancestral experiences are transmitted biologically from generation to generation through gene expression.

Additionally, from the field of family constellations we are understood to be a part of a collective energy field or family soul. The ancestral energy field holds information of past experiences as an informational imprint – especially when an issue has gone unresolved. This collective energy field, of which we are a part, wants to move toward healing. To this end, unprocessed energy and unacknowledged energy can show up in future generations.

I can get sense of this influence with myself and in clients when unhelpful patterns – whether they be in relationships, physical matters or even thought patterns tend to repeat themselves – in spite of best intentions with therapy, naturopathic medicine, meditation, affirmations, tapping, etc.

Perhaps as we survive in this time of so much intense collective energy – grief and loss, fear, and viral infection we may re-visit those patterns of our ancestors that live within us at a very deep level and choose to do it in a constructive way that offers healing and empowerment backwards and forwards in time.

Join me for a guided healing meditation for grounding and healing ancestral ties tomorrow 7-8 pm.