An Evolving Natural Healing Journey

Herbs for Gallbladder and Digestion

Like many people, I have battled with digestive issues, and that is what ultimately led me to become a dietitian. Years ago, I experienced symptoms which were caused by food sensitivities and nutritional imbalances. With the help of a dietitian, we discovered I was reacting to cow’s milk and gluten. After an elimination diet and reworking my diet, my symptoms disappeared. This healing process inspired me to return to school and study nutrition so I could share this type of vital, often elusive, nutrition information to help heal others.

After years of being symptom-free, I began to experience digestive issues once again. As in my original journey which I discuss in my books, A Nutrition Revolution and A Nutrition Evolution, I saw many practitioners both conventional and natural and was tested for food sensitivities and allergies, among other things. Tests found no true allergies, but results showed I was having trouble digesting many foods including bananas, cucumbers, onions, garlic, avocadoes, gluten, eggs, beef, lamb, and codfish. Wow! So, once again I did an elimination diet and took enzyme and probiotic supplements to help aid digestion. Unfortunately, unlike the first time around, neither the elimination diet nor the supplements seemed to help.

Elimination diets can be great tools as discoveries are made and health issues can improve when problem foods are found and removed from the diet. However, as I said, this time my symptoms remained. This meant that the root cause of my digestive issues might not be food-related.

As many people know, finding and dealing with root causes of health issues, especially digestive ones, can be a difficult and frustrating process; one that we must often go through alone. Luckily for me, I found knowledgeable and affordable natural healers in both instances. This included my original nutritionist and more recently an acupuncturist/herbalist/nutritionist/kinesiologist to help me through it. But, make no mistake; I was lucky to find them and I had to lead the process.

During a major bout of heartburn, an advice nurse suggested I go to the hospital since heart attack symptoms can mimic those of heartburn. The doctor on shift at the time suggested a gallbladder ultrasound, as well as other tests. Later, I had the ultrasound done and yes, it turned out there was a large gallstone stuck in the neck of my gallbladder which likely caused many, or all, of my digestive issues. The medical staff could not believe I had not experienced more discomfort, and that I hardly knew it was there. As I said, I was experiencing and investigating digestive issues but they were nothing like what most people would experience with a gallstone that size. In fact, the attack happened after eating a turkey “Panini” at a local health food restaurant while researching recipes for a client project I was working on. Although I had smaller bouts of heartburn previously, I was managing them, mostly with alkaline foods. I simply was not used to eating these larger portions of meat, cheese, or white flour and it sent my gallbladder into a tailspin.

Gallstones and fibroids are common in people with high estrogen, according to my naturopathic practitioner. I have also had large fibroids, so high estrogen is possibly the reason for both of these issues.

I am still eating healthfully (and avoiding large doses of those Panini ingredients) and consuming a gallstone appropriate diet; which means smaller meals, continuing with a mostly plant-based diet, and taking herbs. All of this has dramatically improved my symptoms. With the help of a wonderful naturopathic practitioner, I am trying to shrink the gallstone in hopes it will eventually be small enough to pass through with minimal discomfort. This could take time, maybe even a year or more.

I have so far put the surgeon off which is great because I would like to keep my gallbladder and return to optimal digestive health, naturally.

As was the case in my original healing, finding the root cause in our current medical system took time and basically miracles to figure out. Without luck, determination, and knowledge about the power of natural healing, I would not have gotten this far and I do not want this to be the case for anyone, including me.

Natural healing is at times frustrating but also empowering; because figuring out what our bodies are trying to tell us as they behave in a certain way is something we can do and is powerful. Hopefully one day the Healthcare system will evolve into one that includes all practitioners working together to heal root causes so we can all heal naturally and effectively. Healing sources of problems is far superior to unquestioningly taking uber-potent, man-made medicines to treat symptoms, continuing to suffer, and eventually removing body parts.

In the meantime, we must take these healing processes one step at a time, do our best, try to minimize frustration, and be patient. It is also important to be realistic and prepare for difficult moments. During my first elimination diet years ago, I remember staring into the cupboard in tears, hungry, frustrated, and thinking, “I can’t eat anything!” But I carried on, eventually found foods I could eat, and the process was ultimately successful. These experiences led me to this field of work of educating and helping others heal naturally. They have also helped me to help others on their healing journeys; as I have been there too.

So, let us all keep plugging away, asking questions, and seeking enlightenment until we all achieve optimum health!

Beth Kahn offers personalized nutrition counseling in person and via voice or video chat. For more information Contact Us and check out her books “A Nutrition Revolution: Uncover the Mysteries of Nutrition,” and “A Nutrition Evolution: The Revolution Continues.” 

Anxiety and Natural Healing

By Elizabeth Kahn, Dietitian

It is estimated that ten to twenty percent of the population will have a panic attack at least once during their lifetimes. Anxiety can either be chronic or acute. A panic attack is acute anxiety. Panic attacks are a nervous system response also referred to as the “Fight or Flight” response. The fight or flight response is the body’s reaction to a stressful situation, in which hormones including adrenaline are released. In a panic attack this response occurs at an inappropriate time. In the face of a wild animal this response can save you, in an inappropriate situation this can produce unnecessary stress. Anxiety can be uncomfortable and also takes a toll on the body.

During a panic attack there can be feelings of impending doom, shortness of breath, a smothering or claustrophobic feeling, heart palpitations, chest pain, dizziness, hot flashes and/or chills, sweating, trembling, numbness, tingling sensations in the extremities, a feeling of not being in reality and a distorted perception of time passing.

Long term anxiety can cause muscle soreness, twitching and tightening as well as fatigue, depression, insomnia, nightmares, decreased libido and an inability to relax.

Chronic anxiety is more mild and generalized than acute. Sufferers often feel a vague sense of anxiety much of the time. These individuals may also suffer an anxiety attack but generally the feelings are less intense. They may experience headaches, chronic fatigue and startle easily and often have a persistent feeling of uneasiness, especially around other people.

Diet

Nutrition can reduce the number and intensity of panic attacks and overall anxiety. Following a natural plan can either end the need for medication or make it possible to reduce drug dosage.

Nutritional deficiencies including low selenium, iron and chromium levels can cause anxiety. Food allergies can also trigger these disorders.

Food that are helpful for anxiety are apricots, asparagus, avocados, bananas, broccoli, blackstrap molasses, brewer’s yeast, brown rice, dried fruits, dulse, figs, fish (especially salmon), garlic, green leafy vegetables, legumes, raw nuts and seeds, soy products, whole grains and yogurt.

Eat small frequent meals rather than fewer larger meals, i.e. five meals rather than three. Limit intake of animal protein and eat more complex carbohydrates and plant proteins. Avoid foods that have refined sugars or other simple carbohydrates. For maximum nutritional benefits avoid all simple sugars, carbonated soft drinks, alcohol and tobacco.

Caffeine can trigger anxiety. Determine if caffeine is affecting you by keeping a food log of your intake while noting your anxiety levels, or simply limit or avoid the substance altogether. Coffee, black tea, chocolate and many cola’s contain caffeine.

Herbal Treatment

Kava kava is an herb that can treat anxiety. Kava or most any herb should not be taken for more than two weeks at a time. Catnip, chamomile, cramp bark, hops, linden flower, motherwort, passion flower and skullcap can also aid in preventing panic attacks and promote relaxation.

Fennel, lemon balm and willow bark reduce gastrointestinal upsets caused by anxiety. Feverfew and meadowsweet can relieve anxiety related headaches. Meadowsweet can be taken as a tea or extract. Check with your local health food store for more information on availability and ideal ways to take individual herbs, as staff in these locales are often very knowledgeable.

If you are taking medication consult your doctor or pharmacist before taking any herb to check for possible drug interactions.

Other Causes

Recreational drug use such as marijuana use can cause anxiety attacks.

More Natural Treatments

Meditation and exercise are effective tools to alleviate anxiety. Call a trusted friend to talk as this can also diffuse anxiety. Positive thinking can be very helpful for this and just about any other mental or physical issue.

According to famed author and motivational speaker Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, “whenever a negative thought concerning your personal powers comes to mind, deliberately voice a positive thought to cancel it out”. This and other tools for positive thinking can reduce the feelings of stress or anxiety dramatically. Stress is, after all, in the eye of the perceiver.

As I often do, I recommend a naturopathic doctor to analyze an individual’s needs and develop a customized treatment plan for those suffering from anxiety disorders. Look for one of these practitioners in the phone book or on the Internet, and contact them one by one until you find a good fit for your situation. These practitioners can often refer you to the appropriate provider if they are not the best match for you, as many naturopaths have specific areas of expertise. Some natural practitioners accept insurance and some insurance plans will help cover naturopathic treatment. However, if you have to (and can) pay out of your own pocket for natural medicine, solving the underlying problem will be well worth the expense.

Sources

Balch, P. A. (2006). Prescription for nutritional healing (4th ed.). New York: Avery Publishing.

Peale, N. V. (1992). The power of positive thinking. New York: Simon & Schuster. Retrieved October 30, 2011, from http://self-improvement-ebooks.com/books/tpopt.php.