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Natural Medicine is the Best Medicine: April 2011

Monday, April 18, 2011

My story...

I have had several requests to speak a little about myself and how I came to Bastyr and the ND program.  I would love to share with you my journey to naturopathic medicine...

I was born and raised in a Swedish-American family in the Pacific Northwest.  My relationship with nature grew at an early age, and thanks to the encouragement of my parents much of my childhood took place outdoors.  I spent my summers picking blueberries and wild strawberries in Sweden, swimming and playing in Lake Washington and hiking to alpine lakes in the Cascade mountain range.  Winters were dominated by my love of snow, with plenty of adventures by skiing, snowshoeing and sledding.  These activities laid the foundation for my appreciation of nature, and eventually led to my decision to become a naturopathic physician.

As a right-brained child, I gravitated to various art and music classes.  At age 6 I joined an internationally touring children’s choir, and at age 8 I began learning classical piano.  I took drawing, painting and ceramics classes throughout my youth to feed my desire for creativity. 
Music and art became my therapy during adolescence, a healing power that I still value.

As a teenager I retained my love of the arts but also discovered the pleasure of solving puzzles, especially in math and science.  I followed both of these passions throughout my undergraduate education at Gonzaga University where I finished my bachelor’s degree with a double major in visual arts and biology.  Originally I planned to become a medical illustrator but soon realized that a career in an isolated cadaver lab was not for me. I realized that I love people and that I thrive in an environment where I can develop relationships with others.  Because my biology degree closely mirrored the premedical curriculum, I started thinking about attending medical school to pursue a field where I could help and heal others.  Taking some time off of school, I moved to Nashville after graduation to participate in an AmeriCorps program in a low-income health clinic.

In 2005 my family and I had our lives dramatically changed when my father had a major stroke.  After weeks of hospitalization and months of physical therapy, his insurance stopped paying for rehabilitation.  At this point my parents turned to several alternative therapies, including acupuncture, warm-water physical therapy and Feldenkrais.  On one weekend home I had the opportunity to take my father to his acupuncture appointment with Dr. Yuanming Lu, who also happened to be a professor at Bastyr University.  My parents, wanting me to move back home to Seattle, encouraged me to check out the naturopathic medicine program at Bastyr.  In 2006 I visited Bastyr and immediately fell in love with the campus, the community, and the philosophy of naturopathic medicine.  My eyes were opened to a completely new type of medicine - a natural, holistic and truly patient-centered model of practice. 

At the same time it was becoming apparent that I had my own health issues that were getting progressively worse.  After multiple rounds of imaging and medication trials to find the cause of my stomach pain, I was finally diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and was told by my medical doctor that there was nothing more I could do.  Being a motivated patient, I searched for answers on my own, and learned of the link between food sensitivities and IBS.  After my doctor refused to do the testing, I called the Bastyr Center for Natural Health, and the year before I began the ND program I had my first experience as a naturopathic patient.  I learned that I had multiple food sensitivities, including gluten, soy and dairy.  Eliminating these foods from my diet, in addition to other naturopathic therapies, changed my health and changed my life.  I am happy to report that I am now 99% symptom-free, and my health continues to improve year after year. 

In 2007 I began my education at Bastyr University in their Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine program. The journey continues to amaze me, and every day that I am in school I fall more deeply in love with this incredible medicine.  I am excited to become a Physician, a Counselor and a Healer, and I am honored to be a part of the lives of patients as they are transformed.

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Friday, April 15, 2011

“A restricted diet should be part of standard of care for all children with ADHD”

Whaaaaaat?  This was my response as I read this summary article in BlackBag, a free medical app that has dozens of medical news articles delivered daily to your smartphone or ipod.  The title of the summary article was exactly as I typed it above, and the author’s conclusions were based on a study recently published in the Lancet, an excellent randomized controlled trial now known as the INCA trial (“The Impact of Nutrition on Children with ADHD”). 

For years naturopathic physicians have been huge proponents of the allergy (or, more accurately, the “intolerance”) elimination diet.  In fact, elimination diets have become such a mainstay in naturopathic medicine that it has become a bit of a running joke in school - when in doubt, the answer to a test question is always “eliminate gluten” (worth 1/2 credit, at the very least). 

ND’s have used the elimination diet to treat everything from IBS to hypertension, often with astounding results.  In pediatric practices elimination diets are routinely prescribed for recurrent otitis media, constipation and a variety of behavioral problems, including ADHD.  I’ve heard my professors tell stories of children who had dramatic changes on restricted diets to the point where the children were nearly unrecognizable - bouncing off the walls and breaking furniture on one occasion, and playing quietly the next. 

This summary was published just as I was finishing my preceptorship with a pediatrician in Seattle, an MD with an excellent reputation and known for being alternatively minded.  I learned a great deal about the medical management of children in that preceptorship, and I am very thankful for that opportunity.  It was striking to me, however, to see the large number of children on stimulant medications for ADHD.  These medications carry significant risks, from anorexia and weight loss to addiction, abuse and diversion, not to mention the black-box warning for increased likelihood of sudden cardiac death.  I give credit to the pediatrician - he never took this lightly, and always made the prescription only after a lengthy discussion of risks and benefits with the parents. 

I sent the original article to him; I sincerely hope that medical doctors like him see the scientific validity of elimination diets and the huge benefit this intervention could have in terms of risk reduction. 

And, for my medical doctor readers out there who have no idea how to counsel their patients through an elimination diet: please feel free to contact a naturopathic physician near you.  The American Association of Naturopathic Physicians has an excellent website:, click on the link that says “Find a Doctor,” and search for an ND in your area. 

Pelsser LM, Frankena K, Toorman J, et al. Effects of a restricted elimination diet on the behaviour of children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (INCA study): a randomised controlled trial. Lancet 2011; 377: 494-503

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