Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Gathering of Dragonflies

By Jacob Schor, ND, FABNO

A group of crows is called a ‘murder.’ A group of lions is called a ‘pride.’  Is there a word used to describe a gathering of dragonflies?

On our morning walk Poppy and I observed a cluster of several hundred dragonflies flying about in a cluster 20 to 30 feet above the ground.

I have never noticed this phenomenon before and certainly would not expect to see such an occurrence in urban Park Hill; perhaps in some swampy wetland, not on the corner of Montview and Ash Streets.  Chalk it off to one peculiar season.

This has been the most peculiar of seasons. Winter faded away halfway through February and Denver had none of our expected March snow.  The radio announced a few weeks back that our mountains had only 2% of the 30-year average snowpack.  Our Catalpa tree that typically flowers for the Summer Equinox had shed all it’s flowers by Memorial Day.  We have already baked 4 cherry pies from a tree that typically does not bare fruit until July fourth.   To say it is an unusual year is an understatement of the first degree. Already, before the summer fire season officially arrived, we’ve watched the third largest fire in Colorado history burn out of control for days west of Fort Collins.

Our seasons it seems have lost their rhythm, their inner timing.

In the current issue of Science News, Nancy Ross-Flannagan reports that the American pika, those small little fur-ballish animals that sound their high pitched whistles as you approach high alpine rock fields, are in serious trouble.  For years they have gradually moved to higher altitudes to escape the gradually increasing summer temperatures of their habitats.   They have run out of space; they cannot move any higher and as Ross-Flannagan writes: “….. in the arid, mountainous region known as the Great Basin, pikas have disappeared altogether from 40 percent of the locales where they were found in the first half of the 20th century. Apparently already at the upper limits of their ranges, they’ve run out of places to run to.”
Our climate is changing rapidly yet it seems we hardly talk about it anymore.  Is it that our lives are so far divorced from the natural world that we no longer notice when crops ripen months off the norm?  Or winter fades to spring a month early?  Or bark beetles that never could live through a Rocky Mountain winter now survive and destroy our forests? It seems that subject of global warming has been dragged from the realm of science and become political in nature, the debate becoming taboo. Last year the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) declared more disasters than in any other year in US history.  More tornadoes, more floods, more storms, just as climate change and global warming models have predicted.  One might think this would garner more attention.

In the June 15th issue of New Scientist, Hannah Krakauer reported that the North Carolina legislature has taken a most unusual approach to dealing with the problems brought about by global warming.  North Carolina’s astute leaders have simply passed a law to make it go away.  Apparently,  “When a state-appointed commission announced that North Carolinians could expect 39 inches of sea-level rise by 2100, the Senate responded with a bill that legally prevents the Division of Coastal Management from using the climate model that forecasts fast-rising sea levels….”

That is an approach I would not have thought possible in educated society.  But then again we must remember that the United States has the lowest trust in scientific knowledge than any other developed country.  Actually, my recollection is that we tie with Turkey for last place.

For a while the sudden rise in the number of national disaster FEMA responded to last year was also thought to be associated with changing weather patterns.  I have not heard mention of this in the last few months.  Perhaps Congress has outlawed talk of this.

I will stick to wondering about those dragonflies.  There really must be a word…..

Friday, June 22, 2012

Keynote Presentations at AANP Convention

By Jacob Schor, ND, FABNO
Chair, AANP Conference Speaker Committee

Something unique is about to occur at this year’s AANP convention in Bellevue, Washington.  A number of the keynote speakers have presentations that revolve around and attempt to inform a common theme, the question of how our medicine works.  To my knowledge this has never been attempted at our conferences before. 
Actually William Mitchell, ND, spoke at length about the vis medicatrix naturae but this is going to be different because we are trying to understand and explain our medicine in the context of modern science. I have been asked to write briefly about these presentations and how they will tie together, so that’s what I will attempt here.
Valter Longo, PhD, from the University of Southern California, is going to review his research on fasting and cancer chemotherapy.  Fasting triggers an adaptive response that reduces the damage chemotherapy causes in healthy cells while increasing the cytotoxic impact it has on cancer cells.  While Longo’s results are of great interest to those of us who work with cancer patients, the concept of adaptive response is of interest to all of us.  This same adaptive response triggered by fasting underlies many of the traditional nature cures our profession has long endorsed. 
Robert Rountree, MD, is going to lecture on hormesis and how this applies to the action of many of the modern phytochemicals we use in practice.  Hormesis is the idea that small amounts of seemingly toxic substances can have the opposite effect, triggering an adaptive response that benefits the organism rather than harming it. 
Dana Ullman is going to take this idea of hormesis a step further and apply it to homeopathy.  Could homeopathy be another example of hormetic action used to elicit an adaptive response, just using smaller and weaker triggers?   Dana tells me he is ready to try. 
These three presentations focus on triggering an adaptive response by either stressing the organism or pretending to stress it in order to elicit a healing response.  There is another approach we employ in our practices that is the opposite.
More and more what we try to do is to remove stress and the resulting absence of stress allows restoration of health.  We have two presentations that examine this approach.  David Katz, MD, of the Yale School of Public Health will focus on basic lifestyle modifications.  Getting a patient to stop smoking or lose weight reduces the physical stress on their body.  Our own Lise Alschuler, ND, will speak on the effects of emotional stress and its impact on health and, in particular, on cancer.
We have two additional keynote speakers scheduled.  Dave Macallan, ND, is what I would describe as a serious “talker.”  A one time BBC correspondent, Dr. Macallan will help us define naturopathy to the public. 
Our last speaker is Clemont Bezold who is a part of a unique profession. He is a Futurist and will describe the potential future of naturopathic medicine.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Waging Peace

By Michael Cronin, ND, AANP President
I love the idea that what we are doing in our professional activities is “waging peace.”  This has always been how I have approached my organizing work in the naturopathic profession.  I feel this even stronger since my visit to India. While there, I learned that Mahatma Gandhi is India’s “Father of Naturopathy” and that he imported it from us.
Naturopathic physicians are an essential component in creating a better future. We are forwarding practical solutions that make our communities and our world a better, healthier place. We do this by promoting health and wellness and by treating disease with natural medicine to improve a person’s well-being. We pursue and promote a healthy lifestyle, organic eating, sustainable agriculture, healthy medicines and a sustainable healthcare system accessible to all.
We each have much to offer and we are learning to coordinate our efforts for greater effectiveness. This coordination continues to increase public awareness about naturopathic medicine. A recent article by John Weeks, former AANP Executive Director,  in the Huffington Post highlights naturopathic research  and how it is proving the value of integrative medicine. There are more books being written by NDs now than ever before; some of these texts are getting astronomical circulation. NDs are presenting in several professional arenas. For example, May 16, 2012, a group of NDs presented a systematic review of naturopathic care at the International Research Congress on Integrated Medicine and Health in Portland, OR. In October, there will be two naturopathic workshops at the American Medical Student Association’s pre-medical and pre-health professions national conference: Guiding Your Passion For Medicine.
To continue our coordination of efforts and increase our effectiveness, I invite you to attend the AANP conference August 15 – 18, 2012, in Bellevue, WA. For those who wish to engage with the AANP more intimately, I invite you to attend our pre-conference leadership day on Tuesday, August 14. There you will have the chance to meet, greet and engage with our new CEO, Jud Richland. We have created this day to establish improved communication and unification with AANP members and the leadership of the AANP. I hope to see you there.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


By Lise Alschuler, ND, FABNO
AANP Past-President (2008-2009)
I had a meeting on my schedule today for a brainstorming session.  As I walked to the meeting, for some reason, the word, ‘brainstorm’ hovered in my thoughts. What an odd word, really. Especially considering that the meeting was a pleasant conversation of ideas being exchanged. We certainly were not raging or sending thunderous ideas that hit one another at lightning speed. Actually, it was more like we were eddying – our ideas entering into a swirling pattern of thoughts and plans ultimately creating a current of action. Unfortunately, an eddy session just doesn’t sound right. Perhaps, brainstorm is, after all, more appropriate.

One definition of brainstorm is, “a sudden, violent disturbance of the mind”, i.e. having an idea. What if an idea is, in fact, a gargantuan coordinated feat of electrons and neurotransmitters? What if every idea generated did rage through our neuronal circuitry like a gale, whipping the final result into the tightly constrained containers we call words?  That would mean that each word we utter conceals intensely packed vitality and that ideas are indeed a storm of effort unleashed.  And with that, it would seem that ideas certainly merit our full attention.
Regardless of their content, the mere energy of ideas demands notice. In fact, this gives new meaning to the phrase, “ideas matter”. Matter is condensed energy and, going along with my flow here, ideas are condensed energy, hence ideas both do and are matter!  And lest I slip completely off the edge of reasonable dialogue, let me just suggest that this diatribe boils down to one thing. People’s ideas matter, they are worthy of our attention. When we really listen to one another, we create the potential to unleash the power of our vital mind and, with that, create what would otherwise seem unimaginable. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Why is Homeopathy Dead?

By Shiva Barton, ND, LAc
2011 AANP Physician of the Year

Despite what they may have heard about me, I have quite a few naturopathic students and young doctors that visit my office. My most recent visitor was Dr. Laura Chan, a recent graduate of Bastyr U, a smart, dedicated and enthusiastic new practitioner. She is excited, dedicated and enthusiastic about almost all the aspects of being a practitioner as she embarks on her new career. One of the things she was most notably not enthusiastic or excited about was homeopathy. Dr. Chan was interested in homeopathy when she first arrived at Bastyr. However, her training in homeopathy led her to believe that homeopathy was too complicated to use as a treatment modality in a general naturopathic practice. Now, I would like to think that Dr. Chan's experience was an anomaly, but it is not. Almost all of the students that I have been a preceptor for,  no matter the college, have had an experience like Dr. Chan. So my question is, “What's up with the way the ND schools are teaching homeopathy?”

Classical or Bust?
Is this the idea, then, that the only way you can do homeopathy is to do classical prescribing? Homeopathy, evidently, is a very serious endeavor. It seems like the version that is taught in the ND medical colleges is something similar to the following:
1.    You have to take a 1.5  - 2 hour intake and get every minute detail to be effective.
2.     Homeopathy doesn't mix well. You can only prescribe a homeopathic remedy. You can't mix it with other treatments because:
a.    The other stuff messes up the homeo.
b.    You can't tell what is working if you give homeo with something else.
3.    You have to wait a month to see if it works (this alone is a good strategy for unemployment and/or starvation of the practitioner).
4.    You can really do incredible, irreparable harm to a person's vital force if you pick the wrong remedy. I mean, we are not just talking about vital force, for gosh sakes. We are talking about VITAL FORCE here. You don't want to screw with someone's VITAL FORCE, do you?

So, the combo platter of taking too long, waiting too long, too much danger, too little income and too many rules scares people from using homeopathy in their practice.

Homeo, Homeo, Where Art Thou Homeo?
I hate to break it to you, but homeo (okay, it has a nick name now. How serious can something be with a nick name like Homeo?) is a valuable tool for the general ND practice. I encourage all of you newbies to throw out the homeo philosophy books (really!) and stick to the basics: match the remedy to the person with the symptoms.  Corresponding to the point numbered above you will find:
1.    You can use homeo in the context of a regular 1 hour new patient office exam or shorter follow up. Just take a minute to change your thinking towards a homeopathic remedy. That's really all it takes.
2.    You can use it – no, you SHOULD use it – with any other modality.
a.    The other stuff doesn't interfere with the homeo effect (by the way, neither does coffee, nor usually does mint).
b.    Homeopathy creates an “Aha” reaction, much different from the slower slope of improvement with botanicals or nutrition.
3.    Homeo works very quickly – acutely within hours and chronically within a day or two. Nothing else generally works this fast. If you don't see a change this quick, recommend another remedy.
4.    You can have side effects from any naturopathic intervention. The side effects from homeo are generally fewer and less intense than from other treatments.

Use It or Lose It
So, you new grads/new docs: give it a shot. The current rules are dogma. Let your karma eat your dogma. You can use combination remedies. You can use one remedy at a time. You can use two at a time (I double dare you!). Your patients can use mint. They can use coffee. They can take homeo right before they eat. They can take it right after they eat. They can even take it WHILE THEY ARE EATING. Just use it. You will find your groove. Mostly, you will find a very valuable tool to help people get well, which is why we took this job, isn't it? Maybe the ND schools will catch on sooner or later.