Monthly Archives: December 2014

Winter’s Storage: A Chinese Medicine Perspective

As many of you know I grew up in Colorado, where even on the coldest, snowiest winter days you can still expect some sunshine. Needless to say, the adjustment to Seattles winters always comes as a shock to me. Seattle, with its two hundred plus cloudy days yearly, can be a challenging environment especially in the winter, with our long nights and short rainy days. However, Seattle is also the perfect environment to embody the spirit of winter and nourish your body and spirit. 

            From a Chinese medicine perspective, the seasons are a beacon for directing our daily lives; they inform us what to eat and how to live throughout the year to maintain health. Humans and nature are intimately intertwined and this relationship directs us not only in maintaining our health and preventing illness, but also into cultivating our inner mindset and character. In Chinese medicine, winter is the season of the kidneys, which is the organ of our root essence and constitution. It directs who we are, how we think, our immune system, and ultimately how we age and develop. In many respects the kidneys are the principle organ we need to protect and nourish throughout our lives. To start nourishing your kidneys this winter, I have outlined some tips below:

  1. Rest: During winter, the cold drives our qi/energy deeper in order to conserve and store energy for the upcoming year. It is the time of year that we need to go to bed earlier and sleep in later. Seattle’s winters are perfect for this, as our lighting provides lots of natural cues for enabling plenty of sleep. Exhaustion at this time of year is more harmful than during any other season, and can impair the ability to fully function and be healthy the following summer. From a Chinese Medicine perspective, exhaustion at this time of year is a sign that you may have overdone it during the summer months, and now your body is having to work harder to recuperate the lost energy.
  2. Inner reflection: Winter is the time to reflect and deepen our sense of self. It is the time of the year that we look inward and start to reintegrate our experiences and learnings from the past year. Consider starting a journal or cultivating a meditation practice as ways to promote inner reflection, and avoid turning on the television.
  3. Pursue creative outlets: Find ways to prevent “cabin fever.” Read books and day dream, write poetry, paint, take dance lessons…the opportunities are endless in Seattle. As opposed to the summer when “yang” or the active energy in our lives peaks, winter is the peak time for “yin” energy, which is the imaginative and nursing aspect of our being. This is the time to let go of linear rigid ways of being and to invent or rediscover new possibilities.
  4. Exercise daily: While rest is essential in the winter, we also need to guard against lethargy and stagnate energy with daily exercise. Consider looking on or for deals on exercise classes.
  5. Diet: In the winter, cold air drives the body’s heat inward and food should be taken to support this. Spices likes cardamom, ginger, garlic, cumin, and cinnamon all help to support digestion and maintain body heat. On the other hand spicy foods, like curries and salsas, tend to be eaten in warmer climates to bring heat to the surface by inducing us to sweat and should be avoided. We also need to avoid cold foods (iced drinks, raw foods, salads, dairy, soy milk, juices), as they impair the digestive fires and create coldness in the body. A poor diet in winter creates extra work for the body by diverting energy to maintain the body’s warmth and ultimately can make us more susceptible to illness in the coming year. Think of thanksgiving dinner with its many warming foods (turkey, yams, stuffing, hot apple cider, etc); everything is cooked and spiced to help support the winter season. Also, consider salting food to taste and adding foods with higher mineral content to meals (seaweed, nettles), as salt is the flavor of winter and nourishes the adrenal glands.
  6. Dress warmly: Cover the back of your neck with a scarf, and wear a hat and warm socks.

By Dr. Chad Borys, ND, LAc

Naturopathic Doctors 101

“You’re a Na-tur-ro…what?”  This is not an uncommon phase to be heard by a Naturopathic Physician, even here in Seattle where there is a good concentration of Naturopathic Doctors (NDs). Even patients of NDs are often unaware of the plethora of therapies and services NDs are trained in.  Naturopathic Doctors attend one of 5 accredited universities in the United States, the two largest being Bastyr University in Seattle, WA and the National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, OR.  These doctorate level programs are a minimum of 4 years long with a competitive option for another 1-3 years of residency. Naturopathic medical school curriculum contains the same basic sciences of conventional medical school (anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pathology, pharmacology, etc…) as well as additional classes in naturopathic-specific therapies.  Examples of these Naturopathic-specific therapies include: nutritional therapies, counseling, botanical medicine, homeopathy, and physical medicine.  This education prepares graduates of accredited programs to enter the medical profession as primary care physicians after passing the Naturopathic licensing board exams (NPLEX).  

There are 17 states (and counting) that provide licensure for NDs currently in the United States.  Each of those states governs a different scope of practice for NDs practicing within their state lines.  For example, the state of Washington has a rather comprehensive scope of practice, NDs are licensed as primary care providers with prescribing rights for the majority of common pharmaceuticals and have coverage by most insurances in the state. 

So how does a Naturopathic Doctor practice?

Naturopathic doctors follow the same general model as Medical doctors, with extra assessments and therapies incorporated.  The process looks something like this:

  1. Obtain a detailed history of the patient’s current and past medical issues.
  2. Perform appropriate physical exam to aid in diagnosis
  3. Order any necessary labs or imaging
  4. Determine biomedical assessment and Naturopathic assessment
  5. Decide upon proper Naturopathic and conventional treatment options for the individual patient.
  6. Provide efficient follow up

Some special considerations that NDs add to medical assessment include:

  • General Lifestyle (diet, hydration, exercise, sleep)
  • Nutritional stress
  • Chemical and environmental stress
  • Elimination channels and detoxification processes
  • Hormonal stress
  • Mental, emotional, and spiritual health
  • Structural stress

What does this look like at Emerald City Clinic?

Emerald City Clinic is a shining example of a Naturopathic primary care practice.  Our services include:

  • Annual exams (both male and female)
  • Chronic disease management
  • Acute disease management (for established patients)
  • Minor surgical procedures (wart removal, skin tag removal, cervical dysplasia treatments)
  • Well child exams
  • Pediatric care
  • Prenatal care
  • Standard laboratory assessment
  • IV therapies (nutritional and rehydration)
  • Acupuncture
  • Manual therapies such as Naturopathic manipulations, craniosacral, and visceral manipulation
  • PIP claims (for established patients)
  • Biofeedback and counseling
  • Weight management
  • Stress management
  • Detoxification therapies and environmental medicine
  • Heavy metal toxicity assessment and management
  • Immune system assessment and autoimmune management
  • Digestive health assessment and management

While this provides a good idea of what our physicians can address, the best way to find out how we can help you specifically, is to come in for a visit. Also, be sure to keep us in mind when you’re making your New Year’s resolutions, here are some ideas for how our physicians can assist you in the New Year:

  • Support and direction in your weight management goals: why are those extra pounds sticking around for you, specifically?
  • Baseline health assessments: when was the last time you had routine bloodwork and a physical exam?
  • Nutritional counseling: how to eat healthy in the New Year and prepare for spring detox.
  • Elimination diet and anti-inflammatory diet guidance: what food sensitivities are causing inflammation in your body?
  • Manual therapy: Are aches and pains preventing you from starting on a regular exercise regime?

By Dr. Jenna Jorgensen, ND

Holiday Stress Relievers

Stress is neither good nor bad, it just is.   The stress we put on our bones allows them to remain strong.  Emotional stress allows us to learn adaptive strategies.  Often it is our attitudes and ability to “let go” that mitigate any resulting harmful effects.

When we are stressed it causes our cortisol or adrenaline to rise.  This in turns causes vasoconstriction of the peripheral blood system so that all the blood on the “outside” of our bodies goes to the deep places such as the survival part of the brain, the heart and lungs, and the quads and gluts so we can run from danger.  In turn the reduced blood flow to the periphery causes a myriad of symptoms including short term memory loss, alopecia or loss of hair, headaches, blurred vision, temperature regulation problems, and digestive problems; just to name a few.

Stress also causes insomnia as we are not supposed to sleep through danger.  Eventually we wear out and end up with depression, hypoglycemia, and lack of motivation.  So, how to minimize the effects of stress? Here are some “simple” things you can do:

Physically you must keep your sugar levels stable.  This means eat protein every 3-4 hours and have plenty of vegetables.   Stay hydrated so your blood vessels are relaxed.

Walk it off whenever you start to feel overwhelmed; step away from the stress and go outside.   There are therapists that have couples wear pulse meters and when their heart rate gets over 100 beats per minute (bpm) in some upsetting situation they terminate the session and have people “walk it off.”  The reason for this is that when your heart rate is over 100 bpm, then your cerebral cortex, where we process logically, is NOT functioning and you are in your limbic system, which is all emotional survival.  Not a good place to think critically.  So it is important to “walk it off” and leave the stressful situation until you have calmed yourself. 

Aerobic exercise with concurrent sweating also helps metabolize stress hormones.  If you exercise regularly you have prepared your blood vessels to handle emotional stressors. An exercise routine is a good investment in managing stress in addition to all the other health benefits found in exercise.

Sleep helps with stress, but 65% of all Americans lose sleep over stress.  It is a viscous cycle because a lack of sleep raises stress hormones, which in turn raise blood pressure and blood sugar.  Some simple things to try are having a bedtime routine (good sleep hygiene), no TV or computer screens but instead dim lighting, soft music, reading.  The bedroom should be cool, dark, quiet and comfortable. If you have trouble sleeping for more than 3 nights in a row it is time to consult your Emerald City Clinic physician.

Do not add fuel to the stressful fire.  Unhealthy habits such as alcohol, sugar, caffeine, cigarettes and overeating add to the overall stress to the body.

Spend time with happy people as it really fills us with oxytocin, a hormone that relaxes us.   Laughter and hugs relax us and relax our blood vessels lowering blood pressure and stress hormones.

Make choices that do not feel like obligations and “should” but spend time with people that improve your feeling of self worth.    

Recently I spent time with my daughter, Brittany who is in her PhD program for Counseling, Psychology.  She and I were discussing that she prefers the wellness model for mental health; much like a Naturopathic perspective of focusing on optimal health.  With that in mind she had me take a test that focuses on your emotional strengths.  I would like to share that website.  It is and you can register for free, after you fill it in you can watch the YouTube piece on “strength of character” that explains your outcome.  I think during this holiday season we should focus on what we do well and share it. 

Wishing you all a peaceful, love-filled holiday season.

Dr. Molly Niedermeyer, ND

Getting Sick: A Step In The Right Direction

Why You Don’t Want To Suppress Your Next Cold or Flu

It’s likely that you’ll get a cold or flu this year at some point.  How you choose to deal with it may actually be more important for your long term health than you realize.  As a naturopath, I think about these acute illnesses a little differently than you’re used to and I find it’s helpful for my patients to understand my thought process.  Hopefully this will help you take a new perspective on this year’s cold or flu.

The body is smart.  This is the principle from which I operate.  When we get acutely ill, often this is the body’s attempt to get rid of something harmful.  The mucous produced in a respiratory infection helps to clear out infectious organisms (if we let it).  When we have food poisoning, diarrhea helps to clear out the organism.  When we sweat during a fever, we decrease our inflammation.

Getting an occasional acute illness and then clearing it in a short period of time tells us that the immune system is capable of responding and is doing its job.  When I have patients who do not get acutely ill at all for several years, I begin to be concerned that they may not be releasing things from their body and may be building up inflammatory toxins, which can lead to more chronic illness.  I also wonder if the immune system is working effectively in these patients, which you need it to do in order to prevent long term issues like cancer.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want my patients to be excessively ill or to be sick frequently or for long periods of time.  I just want to know that the body is getting rid of things every so often, responding appropriately, and recovering efficiently.  Ideally, my patients would have no more than 1 cold or flu/year and no less than 1 fever every 3 years.

Finally, it forces you to slow down.  Let’s face it; many of you will only pause when you’re sick.  Often getting sick is your body’s way of telling you that something needs to shift.  Maybe it’s just that you need a break for a few days or it may be that there is a larger pattern in life that needs to be changed.

Why Fevers Are Useful:

A Fever is the body’s way of stimulating the immune system.  Many parts of the immune system are temperature activated.  Immune activity tends to be greater at higher temperatures.  Conversely, many bacteria and viruses do not replicate as quickly at higher temperatures.  By creating a fever, the body is able to stimulate its own defenses and slow down the infectious organism  in order to fight the infection more effectively.  By allowing the fever to run its course, you actually allow your body to fight the infection faster!  Many of the aches and pains we feel during a fever are actually caused by our own immune activity, not the infectious organism itself.  When we suppress the fever with Tylenol, Advil, Motrin, or Aspirin, we’re actually interfering with our immune system’s ability to fight.  Fevers are uncomfortable it’s true, but they do have a purpose.


As I explained earlier, mucous is part of your body’s way of protecting mucous membranes and getting irritants out of the body.  When you take an over the counter decongestant that dries up mucous, yes you can breathe more easily for a few hours, but you are interfering with your body’s attempt to do its job.  In a way, it is keeping the infectious agent or the allergen in the body.  Many over the counter decongestants are also stimulants.  While this makes you feel like you’re more energetic, it ends up causing many people to ignore their symptoms instead of resting.  This means your immune energy is diverted to other things and you can end up both more tired and sick for longer than you might have without the decongestant.


There is a time and a place for the use of antibiotics, but that time is much less often than most people realize.  In this country, even according to most conventional medical specialists, antibiotics are prescribed far too frequently.  Often they are prescribed when there is no specific evidence of a bacterial infection.  They do not work against viral infections.  The more we use them, the more resistant bacteria become and the less effective they are when they are really necessary to save lives.  They also kill the good bacteria that you need in your digestive tract to support normal digestion, production of essential nutrients, immune system function, and nervous system balance, among other things.  Killing the bacteria in the digestive tract can have far reaching health impacts for years to come and is associated with many chronic illnesses.

When You Get Sick

  1. Instead of suppressing a fever (as long as it isn’t too high), let it be.  If it needs to be lowered a bit so that you can be comfortable enough to sleep, try chamomile ginger tea, which will help you release some of the heat without suppressing the system overall.
  2. If you don’t have a fever at all, try the warming sock treatment, which can be found on our website.  This is used to increase body temperature and thereby stimulate immune response.  Do not use it when someone already has a fever, as it can raise the temperature higher than we would like.
  3. Avoid sugar, alcohol, and coffee, which can interfere with immune function.
  4. Hydrate well.  This is especially important if you have a fever and are sweating.
  5. Eat soup!  Home-made soups can be immune stimulating and can help to replace electrolytes lost during sweating with a fever.  A home electrolyte broth can be made by boiling equal parts carrots, celery, potato, and onion in water.  If you eat meat, a bone broth with those veggies in it is even better.
  6. Avoid dairy when congested.
  7. Rest!  Really.  Many people try and push through being sick.  This not only exposes others to your illness, but takes energy away from your immune system and makes it harder for it to do its job.  Your body doesn’t really care what you were supposed to do that day.  You still need rest.
  8. Specific herbs and vitamins can help to stimulate immune function, break up and move mucous to get it out, and kill infectious organisms without disrupting your good bacteria.  Homeopathy can also be very supportive.  Your naturopath can help you figure out which formulas are best suited for your individual health.

When To Call Your Doctor:

  1. You’ve been sick for more than 3 days and you’re not getting better.
  2. Adults with a fever over 101.5, children with a fever over 102 (this isn’t necessarily a problem, but it’s helpful to get the doctor involved before it becomes a problem).
  3. A cough or sore throat that is interfering with breathing and/or sleep.
  4. A fever with a rash and/or joint pain.
  5. You are lethargic.
  6. You are concerned or not improving and just need someone to provide more specific advice and make sure there is nothing else wrong.

Dr. Erin Westaway, ND

Dr. Paris Preston Joins Emerald City Clinic

Dr. Paris Preston is an experienced family naturopath who re-joins Dr. Molly Niedermeyer at Emerald City Clinic after practicing elsewhere in Seattle for the last 20 years. Dr. Paris is fully contracted with most large insurance companies. She will be working on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons until mid-December, when she will be joining Emerald City full time. Call today to schedule with her!

From Dr. Paris:

Let me introduce myself. I have been a practicing naturopathic physician since graduating from Bastyr University in 1992. I developed a deep love and respect for nature and its wisdom as a child growing up in rural New England where I was entranced by the beauty of the land around me.  I use a variety of therapies including diet and nutrition, herbal medicine, physical medicine, hydrotherapies and Plant Spirit Medicine to help people return to wellness. Using the guiding principles of nature to restore balance allows me to develop individualized care plans. I feel privileged and fortunate to be able to practice medicine that works to truly restore health physical, emotional and spiritual.   I love the work and continue to grow and learn with each passing year.  I look forward to meeting you.