Happy Acupuncture Week 2019!

I love talking about how acupuncture has been part of my life for 16 years, even before @jp.boisvert brought it full circle to our clinic and home

We have used acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, tui na, gua sha, and cupping for years to treat fevers, stave off colds, deal with whiplash and sticky shoulders, vanquish back pain and migraines, and generally manage our health for a long time

It’s true that we also take care to move our bodies and sleep, but I definitely credit acupuncture and Chinese medicine with our family’s pretty rocking health. And I credit @jp.boisvert for being our family doctor

He has some awesome stories about how acupuncture has flipped the switch for debilitating anxiety in teens, how a Chinese herbal formula worked like a charm in families trying to get pregnant, moxabustion and turning babies at the ends of pregnancy, and more!

More than just pain management, people are looking at acupuncture as a way to manage mood, anxiety, and to work alongside our other therapies like medications or nutrients that we use to adjust our chemistry.

Stay tuned this week for Acu Adventures!

#acupuncture #chinesemedicine #cuppingtherapy #guasha #tuina #ilivewithaneedler

Cleaning House: Are Chemicals Impacting Your Kids’ Health?

Over a week ago I posted on Instagram about cleaning chemicals and that they can negatively impact our kids’ microbiome.

The way that the microbiome was being assessed and studied was through the lens of childhood obesity.  Ultimately, kiddos who were exposed to more of the conventional cleaning chemicals (even a few times a week), had microbiome changes that seemed to also result in more obesity in those same kiddos.

Bacteria-on-Hands-Square_cropped-600x567Additionally, it seemed like kids who grew up in households with ‘greener’ cleaning products had less of these issues: fewer microbiome changes and lower incidences of obesity.

Some of the questions I still have and didn’t get into with that IG post are:

  • Is obesity really our biggest worry for our kiddos?
  • What does it mean to us that our kiddos are ‘obese’?
  • What does it mean that cleaning chemicals are ‘better’?
  • What other factors could be at play?

As much as I LOVE and appreciate microbiome knowledge-bombs, I admit that I have a knee-jerk reaction to the information- and even my own post.  One of the things that I have been challenged by through my entire clinical life is to present information and offer informed choice without fear.

As an integrative family medicine provider, I witness quite a bit of parenting fear.  Mostly it’s the usual fears of keeping kids alive, safe, and healthy.  But I also hear many fears of doing everything ‘right,’ being a perfect parent or having the perfect birth, not putting ‘toxic’ things into their bodies, or feeding kids a ‘healthy’ diet.

While these fears are also normal and common, they contain elements of elitism and also judgement.   In order to be perfect, right, healthy, or non-toxic, we have to identify what all of those things even mean.  And possibly denigrate or reject things that don’t fit the bill.  To be ‘perfect-right-healthy’ is somewhat grounded in privilege and access.

I can take a great example, sheepishly, from my own parenting.  Some years ago we drove by the McDonald’s near our house that has a giant Play Place.  My son asked to go for the millionth time.  I said “Nope, that ball pit is nasty” and made some reference to the food being poison. It was an off-hand, distinctly thoughtless comment made while driving, but definitely belied some judgement, right?

Months later some good friends came over and brought McDonald’s.  Their son wasn’t really up for what we were making for dinner, and they pre-empted the discomfort and brought something that they knew he would eat.  After they left, my son asked me in a quiet and worried-sounding voice, “Mama, why did they feed him that?  Why did they give him poison?”

Well, if that doesn’t guarantee me #1 Doctor-Mom Of The Year, I don’t know what does.  mom-of-the-year-image

While I appreciate all of the insight that we can gain into the mighty microbiome and into childhood metabolic disruptions (of which obesity could be a manifestation), what else isn’t being said?

Families who are prioritizing green cleaning chemicals may also be making different choices about dietary inputs, physical activity, and/or sleep.  They may have the privilege and access to make these choices.  And all of these choices can also affect the health of our microbiome, and could also be correlated with obesity or the lack thereof.

While it might be tempting to make the leap that green cleaning = less obesity, keep in mind that there are so many dimensions to health.  Let’s be careful and thoughtful about our goals, the meanings we make, the level of ‘perfect-right-healthy’ we think we have acheived or not, and whether they are proper companions in our walkabout to well-being.


#wellbeingwalkabout #childhoodobesity #socialdimensionsofhealth #perfect #right #healthy #mightymicrobiome #parenting

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Flossing…not just a dance move

You have probably been reprimanded, just as I have, by your hygienist and dentist to floss more.  The reasoning that we are often given is that it helps agitate and dislodge the tartar and plaque buildup, reduces the resulting and/or ongoing inflammation in your gums, and reduces the chances of gum disease.  All seems pretty true to me.  If you leave crusty crap bumping up against soft tissue, the tissue is going to get angry.

What might not be part of the discussion is that flossing is also preventive for some downstream effects that we might not associate with it.  For example, blood sugar irregularities, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.  Again, it all seems pretty true to me.  If you leave angry tissue captured in your body, and especially in the entry point to your entire digestive tube (think: end to end), it’s going rogue, right?

Check out this article for more details: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/flossing-inflammation-blood-sugar-balance

And really, just floss

PS- Yes, I am a total cornball.  Consequences of being a mom to a 7 yo ūüôā

What’s D got to do with me?

Vitamin D: why do we talk about it so much and what does it have to do with your winter time health?

The way that our bodies make Vitamin D endogenously (on our own & without supplements) is through sun or UV exposure. If you can get outside for 15-60 minutes a day for some fresh air and sunshine, your body can start to make its own.

However at the latitude of the PNW, we get next to nothing in the way of UV exposure in our winter months. And if you happen to be darker skinned and/or advanced in your years, your body is even less efficient in grabbing what it needs from the sun. As a result, many of us do rely on supplementation to get the biologically active form of Vitamin D.

When most of us talk about Vitamin D supplementation, we are discussing the form Vitamin D3 or cholecalciferol. This is important to know as not all prescription versions, supplements, or fortified foods contain this version. This is the biologically active version that our body needs for many of the tasks that Vitamin D is involved in.

And what exactly is Vitamin D3 up to in our bodies that affects our growing families?

– Calcium absorption in the intestines:

Calcium is an important nutrient for our bone development, but also for our muscles. The importance of Vitamin D applies to pregnant moms growing a baby’s bones & muscles in her body, a breastfeeding mother growing her baby’s bones & muscles outside of her body, growing children and teens, and keeping our bones & muscles strong as we age. Maintaining adequate Vitamin D levels has been linked to a 20% reduction in hip & non-spinal fractures.

– Immune modulation and reduction of inflammation:

This involves a series of signals and receptors such TLR and VDR, and the engagement of bacterialcidal or anti-bacterial activity. Vitamin D plays an important role in our body’s innate response to bacteria. As part of this process, many of our immune cells that fight off infections and decrease inflammation are also switched on.

This process is critical to preventing illnesses like colds and flu, autoimmune conditions such as Type 1 Diabetes, and even some cancers (including breast and prostate cancers)

This article (with its references at the end) is a great snapshot of what Vitamin D can do for your immune system this winter:


Be well! Sunita

Pineapple doctor says…

On the heels of my cold and flu remedy ideas, I thought I would also share some of my favorite cough remedies. When I get sick, it goes right to my lungs. And I don’t really get the opportunity to slow down or take sick days, so having remedies that keep me from coughing all over everyone is essential in my life.

I do try to avoid the over-the-counter syrups as they are mostly corn syrup and dye, and the ‘nighttime’ ones leave me feeling unfit for much of anything. Keep in mind, I am sharing adult doses and that kid doses are going to vary based on age and severity of symptoms.

– Catnip tea: Catnip is a household favorite for many of us who have cats. Luckily if you are allergic to your cats (as I probably was for 11 years), you can use their medicine as your own. Take about 2 tsp of the loose herb per cup, steep, strain, and drink 4 cups per day. Catnip is in a class of herbs that we call ‘nervines’ that help relax the nervous system as well as decrease spasmodic activity like chronic coughs. I also use Sleepy Time or Well Rested teas alongside the Catnip at bedtime to help decrease my cough for the night. And of course, I put delicious honey provided by some local bees via one of my favorite local doulas.

– Honey Loquat Syrup: This is a traditional Chinese formulation of several herbs including loquat, fritillary, licorice, coltsfoot, schisandra, menthol, and many others. The effect is soothing, anti-inflammatory, anti-tussive (meaning anti-cough), and tasty. Just take 1 Tbsp, add to warm water, and drink 4-5 times per day.

– Acupuncture and cupping: Acupuncture is pretty much my go-to medicine for everything and has been for nearly 10 years. I do credit my semi-regular tune ups with staying fairly healthy over the years despite the constant barrage of critters in my air space. Within the realm of Chinese Medicine, acupuncture is really only one branch. There are other techniques like Tui Na, Gua Sha, and cupping that are needle-less and incredibly powerful for moving things along in the body. I find these techniques to be the most effective when the cough lodges itself in my upper chest or lungs, as well as preventing the process altogether.

– Water and fresh air: at the risk of repeating myself…I will. This time of year we tend to be indoors more, drinking less water because it is not as warm and sunny, and blowing dusty, hot, and dry air into our lungs. It is a recipe for crunchy, crackly lung tissue. And how lucky are all of us that we live in a cool, damp climate to counteract the hot, dry indoors? I admit that I have to remind myself to drink water and get outside everyday, and now I am reminding you too.

РPineapple juice: I found out this week that the nickname a family has for me is Pineapple Doctor (which I love!). You can probably guess that it has to do with Bromelain and having used it in their care in the past. And it so happens that I came across this article this week and thought I would share it: http://www.naturalcuresnotmedicine.com/pineapple-juice-is-…/.

I do want to emphasize that not all juices are alike. Freshly prepared pineapple juice or eating the fruit is very different in its medicinal content than many of the processed versions you will get on the shelf (which often contain added sugars and corn byproducts).
Try these out, let me know what you think, and please share your tried-and-true remedies!

Be well, Pineapple Doctor

Felled by the Fall?

Over the past few weeks cold and flu season has kicked into full gear, as it generally does. Between the darkness, kids back to school, being indoors more and getting less fresh air, and sugar-filled holiday season, our immune systems have a tough time warding off illness. Even though it is inconvenient and uncomfortable, getting sick is part of our immune systems’ strength training process. Adult and kids alike need to keep our immune systems exposed, educated, and resilient without getting knocked down too hard.

As a family, we use supplements like probiotics and Vitamin D pretty regularly, but we do like to get our immune boosters through food if we can. There are a couple tricks that our family uses to keep (relatively) healthy through this time of year:

– Hydration: It seems like such a simple thing, but it is imperative at this time of year. We are inside more, subject to the drying forces of forced air, radiated, or wood-stove heat. That dry heat, which combats the dampness outside, also dries out our mucous membranes. And these mucous membranes are our primary defense when someone sneezes, coughs, or generously wipes critters all over you. In order to keep our mucociliary elevator running smooth, it requires lubrication from clear fluids. This can be clean water, herbal tea or broths. Keep in mind that sugar and caffeine de-hydrate, so for every cup of juice, coffee, tea, or soda, please add in one extra cup of water.

– Spicy Tea: This changes every year but it is common occurrence in our house to have a pot simmering on the stove on most days that includes household spices and seasonings that stimulate our immune system, create ‘heat’ to combat the colds, and improve digestion (which often get dampened by the sugar and rich food of holidays). My brew this year has included: fresh ginger, fresh garlic, black peppercorns, cinnamon, licorice root, and cloves. I am pretty imprecise when it comes to this tea and just throw in a few teaspoons of each. Simmer, strain, and drink!

– Mushrooms: There are so many wonderful things we can say about mushrooms. They can contain Vitamin D (!!), they grow readily in our environment (which can give some sense of their purpose in this climate), they contain a multitude of immune modulating chemicals, and they taste great with butter. I use mushrooms often this time in of year in my soups, as a side dish, and in tea form. The medicine in mushrooms is best released in hot water extracts, so even if you don’t like the taste or consistency of mushrooms, you can simmer, strain, and drink. My favorites for immune modulation are: Reishi, Lion’s Mane, Cordyceps, and Shitake. There are several sources for dried mushrooms locally and online, and great mushroom farms locally like Sno-Valley Mushrooms. You can add these to your Spicy Tea or make this part of your hydration plan.

– Elderberry: My n=8 from last year was pretty clear on this one. Yes, it is a small sample size, but it was interesting nonetheless. My son and I were the only ones taking pure Elderberry extract daily (1/4 tsp for him and 1/2 for me) last year. And we were the only ones that did not get the flu-like symptoms of fever, chills, sweats, cough, and body aches that the rest of the extended family did over the holidays despite the fact that we were the two most exposed. And that has been true every year we have used it. It’s not enough to use Elderberry or Sambuccus preparations over the counter, it has to be the ‘good stuff’. We like the Wise Woman or Heron Botanicals brands (no affiliation) because they are high quality and potent.

– Essential oils: we now have a diffuser going in the house and two in the clinic because essential oils help keep the air ‘sanitized’. Our favorites are eucalyptus, clove, tea tree and lavender at home.

– Sleep: It’s dark for a reason. Enough said.

There are so many more ways we can support our bodies and families during this time. Try these out and let me know what you think. And please share your favorite tips as well!

Be well! Sunita

My top 5 ‘get well’ tricks…

Many people ask me what I do with my own family, whether it comes to vaccinations, diet and nutrition, or managing illnesses. ¬†I will confess that we have stayed incredibly healthy for the last 7 years, until now….these last two months have knocked us down and dragged us out.

Since we have a veritable natural pharmacy in our kitchen and many years of practical knowledge, it makes it easy for us to whip up remedies at the first sign of runny noses or congested sinuses. ¬†This isn’t always true or practical for every household. ¬†In light of this, I thought I would share my Top 5 ways that help our family clear illnesses faster (if we have to get them at all!) that are simple and accessible to most:

  • Bone Broth: Don’t worry if you are vegetarian, vegetable broth works too. ¬†When we simmer bones of animals or vegetables (and I recommend both in the crock pot), we reap all the benefits of the water-soluble minerals in their most naturally-occurring form. ¬†And if you use bones, you also get some protein and fat, which give you a little nourishment when your appetite is low. ¬†Not to mention that this addresses hydration; if you want the mucous to flow out, you need to keep it more fluid! ¬†For more info and recipes:¬†http://www.jadeinstitute.com/jade/bone-broth-health-building.php
  • Warming Herb Tea: toss some cinnamon, cloves, fresh ginger, black pepper, licorice root, a bit of fresh garlic, and a pinch of cayenne into a pot. ¬†Simmer, add honey, and drink it all day long. ¬†We call ’em colds for a reason, so your best strategy is to warm and stimulate your immune system to burn off the critters. ¬†Again, if you are drinking tea all day, you don’t have to worry about whether you are hydrated or not.
  • Steam inhalations: with or without essential oils, this is one of the best and easiest ways to treat your respiratory tract. ¬†Often times we get sick in the winter, but not because the bugs are more vicious this time of year. ¬†We sit inside, turn on our heaters, and blow hot, dry, dusty air into our lungs and sinuses. ¬†Our windows are not open and we get much less fresh air. ¬†Simply by re-hydrating our sinuses and lungs with steam, we can help our body freshen up and clean out.
  • Chinese medicine: I can’t say enough about how effective herbs and acupuncture have been in my life. ¬†In fact, I credit my regular acupuncture tune-ups with not having been sick in nearly 7 years until now. ¬†Not everyone is lucky enough to have in-house acupuncture treatments, but if there is one modality I lean on the most it is acupuncture and 5,000 years of Chinese herbal medicine.
  • Rest: Stay home. ¬†Keep your kids home. ¬†Don’t go to the store, the mall, the community center, playgroup, or work. ¬†Stay in bed, keep your critters to yourself, and give your (and everyone else’s) immune system a fighting chance.

It seems simple because it is. ¬†Preventing and recovering from illness really is basic. ¬†If we do not water, feed, and rest our bodies and tend their basic needs, our bodies won’t provide for us either.

Have a happy, healthy, and critter-free holiday and new year!  Dr. S

Another round of applause for Probiotics…

Did you know that nearly 60% of your immune system lives in your digestive tract? ¬†And that the more stockpiled and protected your digestive tract is by ‘good’ bacteria, the better your immune system can function? ¬†These are the reasons your doc may be asking you to take probiotics (supplements that contain strains of live, ‘good’ bacteria) for your colds, allergies, digestive ailments, or even pre- and post-immunization.

Check out this article to find out more about how it can reduce time and severity of your colds this season:


– Dr. Sunita

Bacteria are our worse enemies…or our best friends?

It’s not really news. ¬†In fact, many of you probably take a probiotic, eat some yogurt or kefir, or use fermented foods in your diet because you know that ‘good bacteria’ is great for the digestion and immune system. ¬†Maybe you have seen the benefits in your or your child’s own life and health or hope to.

Healthy microbes are an essential part of a healthy immune system, as much of our immune tissue resides in our digestive tract.  This is so that we can identify the things that may do us harm right when it enters our body and gut, before it makes it to the blood stream.  Which means that the more fortified our gut is, the healthier our immune system can be.  And these healthy microbes can be derived from many different sources other than or in addition to supplemental probiotics such as:

  • Fermented foods like kimchee, tempeh, miso, or sauerkraut
  • Dairy products with live cultures such as yogurt, raw milk, or kefir
  • Organic produce (when we don’t kill off all of the critters with chemicals, the good ones live too)
  • Dirt (really, you don’t have to be so afraid of it)
  • Fructo-oligosaccharides or ‘Prebiotic’ foods (garlic, onions, asparagus, burdock, dandelion, jicama)

The more common way of increasing the population of healthy microbes in our gut is with supplemental probiotics. ¬†However, these are not made equal. ¬†Many probiotic products on and at the market are not viable or are derived from sources that may worse some people’s food intolerances or digestive issues. ¬†If you are taking probiotics and are not noticing changes in the issues you are attempting to treat, it may not be that ‘probiotics don’t work’; it may just be the one you are using.

Healthy microbes are one particular arena where quality really matters. You need to take the right one, that is actually viable, and in addition to a ‘living’ diet. Otherwise it’s just expensive s*^t. ¬†And if you think this is just wacky naturopathic rhetoric, check out this article:¬†http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/story/2012-07-13/body-bugs-microbes/56255904/1