the healing power of community

Eli Camp NDI was recently at a medical conference and a quote from the late Dr. Bill Mitchell was shared with the group – the gist of it was that docs forget to prescribe people and community (communion) as a healing modality. I spent some time reflecting on this and what it means for my patients and myself. How often do I prescribe or self-prescribe communion? Is this really a treatment that can be given out like one prescribes Ibuprofen, Ignatia, Vitamin C or hot chicken soup? How about in place of Nexium, Lisinopril or Lipitor? Could it induce more powerful healing than acupuncture, meditation or 30 minutes at the gym? The research indicates that it very well could be just as powerful, if not more, for some people than other kinds of medicine and therapies.

What can it do for you? Well, it can help boost and regulate immune function, lower stress hormones that are abnormally elevated, increase feelings of peace and well being which in turn lead to better functioning in the body overall, improve the health of your GI tract, help your body get rid of cancer cells, help you sleep better, help you absorb nutrients better and the list goes on. The field of Psychoneuroimmunology has a vast amount of research and evidence that shows us people who regularly commune with supportive and loving members of their family and social group live longer, healthier and happier lives.

Some of my favorite communing activities: a weekend cookout with friends, and some mellow music, a hike along the beach with my grandchildren, a girl’s get together at our local sushi restaurant, sipping hot tea with my best friend as the sun is setting over my pond, watching Star Trek with my husband at night, Sunday morning breakfast where the whole family is helping to prepare something for the meal, a stroll with my puppy Asia, lunch with my students and of course, communing with myself in a long hot bath on Sunday afternoon.

I regularly prescribe this for my patients and while it may be hard at first for some of them, it quickly becomes in integral part of their healing journey. Consider this “therapy” for yourself and build in regular times in your day and week where you are simply interacting with people.

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a perspective on self-enlightenment

Eli Camp NDWell, I was talking with my sister the other day about a journey we are both on, self-improvement, and we had the best discussion. It created such a cascade of thoughts for myself, healing thoughts, that I thought I would share.

Over the years I have read hundreds of books and writings about how and why to change one’s perspective. A favorite site of mine, containing many of my favorite authors, is www.hayhouse.com. I had come to understand that my perspective, how I think about the things which come to be part of my awareness, could shape my health, my future, my now. What has just recently dawned on me is how to integrate this information, how to use it in my healing journey in a more powerful way.

So predawning of this awareness I would read something and if it resonated with my spirit I would attempt to integrate it into how I viewed, thought about and processed current and new experiences. I would almost, at times, attempt to leave the old thinking behind and go forward with this new idea. Of course, one cannot abandon old thought patterns necessarily, and often new information is simply assimilated and then available for use. But, it was not an active and conscious practice of mine to simply add to my existing repertoire. It was more like changing a piece of clothing instead of adding a layer.

I have come to view this quest of self-improvement in a different way and am using the information and realizations in a new way, an active way. First, I have simply started to add to what I already know and allow the new information to meld with and transform my way of seeing the world. I no longer think of it as self-improvement, but rather, now I see it as self-expansion. Next, instead of devouring new concepts and ideas as quickly as I can, I am studying, integrating and re-evaluating what what has happened, what is happening and the unlimited potential of what is to come. I sort of review my life experiences over and over, not dwelling on things, just relooking at them to see if they hold a different meaning. I find, as I do this, my perspective of the now is often dramatically different. In contrast, I previously used the information only in the processing of current and future experiences. Now, with my new method, it is the difference between night and day and it has altered some key beliefs I had previously held about myself and my role in the world.

Here is one concrete example – For years I have read about the concept – a person will find exactly what they are looking for. We have all heard that one, it is simple, straight forward and easy to apply. But what does it really mean to the whole of who a person is? What does it mean to what has happened, what is happening at this moment and to what will happen? For me, it meant I had to relook at why I have done many things in my life. What was I looking for or what did I see at any given moment as I experienced life, the earth and people around me? Of course the answer to that shifts, like blowing sand, as I tour the years of my life. As I reflected I could understand clearly why I had chosen certain actions, or why I had chosen to think in certain ways. I could see how and why, I had found what I was looking for in each experience.

This immediately translated to my life at this moment – each day, as the world unfolds around me, I can actively find exactly what I look for – love, peace, happiness, understanding, joy, sorrow, pain, suffering, kindness, selfishness – It takes less than a second to find something I had not seen before, simply because I never looked. And yes, it takes effort because it is so easy to be on autopilot. But it is also powerful and rewarding to see and understand what “is” in a deeper and more connected way. And, the future, what is yet to come, explodes with potential and excitement, not that it was not those things before, but not to this degree. Every moment now becomes an opportunity for something new. What else is there? I keep looking, in a way I never looked before, at what else, a glimmer of a new thought, new feeling, new understanding. The point is, I am looking now and clearly finding what I am looking for.

I have added to my daily journaling the question: What did I look for today and did I find it? How powerful to be able to experience exactly what I choose.

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grandchildren, soul medicine

Eli Camp NDHealing can take many forms – I had some sad news this past week from a patient, her mother passed away. It seems as if it was something that could have been prevented. The care that was given through hospice was questionable and has left behind some pain and heavy hearts. I have been reflecting all week on how this person was over medicated and how her daughter was excluded from participating in health decisions that may have made a difference. It is hard to come to terms with “close mindedness” and I feel her frustration in knowing something may have been done.  For me, this week, the best medicine has been my grandchildren.

Yesterday was All Hallowed Eve and we celebrated this ancient holiday with our family. We started our holiday celebration several days earlier with a trip to the PTA pumpkin patch in Brandon, FL. We arrived late in the day and strolled through the pumpkins on display. Brian and Sophia made a beeline to the giant squashes and promptly started picking them up and moving them around. We managed to get 2 selected and then headed over to the hay bales for a photo opportunity. It is quite a feat to get a 2+ and 1+ year old situated so that a photo can be snapped, but we managed and to our delight caught them both on film. Then they were off to all the other delightful displays of goblins and ghosts!

   

We gathered Sunday afternoon at our house to carve pumpkins just before dinner and trick-or-treating. Standing around our kitchen island, both children on chairs – the carving began. Sophia managed to knock one of the pumpkins on the floor, and just like humpty dumpty, there was a great crack down the side…but it made for an original looking carving. Brian peered into the big pumpkin and said, for the first time, oooeeee! He was not really interested in touching the insides of the pumpkin, although grandpa finally got him to do it one time. The guts were wiped on the front of his shirt! So we got him a spoon and he helped scoop out guts. It was a wonderful and joyful time, everyone standing around chatting and enjoying the fascination of the kids. There is something so profound and refreshing about joy and laughter.

   

After dinner we set ourselves up at the end of the driveway – we had the pumpkins, our chairs and basket of treats, some little lanterns and our two costumed bundles of energy. Brian was Woody and Sophia was a little flower-girl princess. Mom and Dad had practiced saying trick-or-treat all week, and off they went amidst all the other costumed ghoulies. As I sat there and watched them go around our loop I listened to the happy chatter of all the little ones – my heart lightened and I felt grateful for the world around me and for the amazing joy my granchildren bring into my life. Simple, pure and powerful healing.

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not all that is low sugar is healthy…

Eli Camp NDJust a quick note on the Belly-fat Cure diet. I have been visiting with a number of patients and friends and some of their questions about the food choices in this book made me realize I should say a bit more. Not all the foods listed in this program are “healthy” even thought they are low sugar. I still promote and advocate for a whole-foods diet that is balanced, high in plant oils and low in animal fats. So, I would not say meals of butter and bacon are “healthy” but they are low in sugar. Read my post about my Mom making all our meals from scratch. This outlines the basics of a healthy diet very succinctly. And if it enters your mind that something could not possibly be healthy, then it probably is not 🙂

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10.10.10

Venezia - what a beautiful city.

Happy Birthday Brian!

Today we celebrate my husband’s birthday – what a cool date – 10.10.10. He is 59 years young and still my bestfriend. We will have his favorite dinner, Lasagne, made the old fashioned way so the digestive enzymes will be a side dish at the table 🙂 Because soemtimes you just have to indulge in your favorite food, especially on your birthday. A wonderful day with family and grandchildren – could life be any better!

Brian’s humor and light heartedness has often been a light for me as I wander along my path. He supports, believes in and simply, profoundly, loves me. If I could choose any gift or blessing it would always be him. Would that everyone could experience in their life this kind of love. Happy Birthday Darling and thank you for being you.

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mom made all our meals from scratch……

Eli Camp NDIn my journey as both doctor and patient I have come to realize that many people, including myself, want to make changes to live in ways that promote health but may not know what that healthier lifestyle looks like. Unless taught by parents, extended family, siblings, grandparents and teachers what a healthy lifestyle is, a person often has to start the “healthy” journey by learning some fundamentals.

I certainly had to unlearn and relearn many things. I have had to learn how to create a healthy diet, what, how and how much to eat, how much and what kind of exercise I need, why it’s important and how to create and stay in a healthy mind space. I had to learn how to sleep, breathe, stretch, and communicate all in ways to promote health. We simply live our lives from a very young age in the ways we are taught and can observe in our environment (family, friends, school, tv, movies). But that doesn’t mean that what we have learned is what is best for our body and for our health. In fact, many of us have to make a concentrated effort to learn these very basic things as adults.

I am starting this series of conversations with food and diet. So, I always believed that the food I ate in my childhood was very healthy. We had vegetables and salad at every meal, some type of meat, fish or other protein and a carbohydrate or two. Dessert was a rare treat and snacks were often left-overs from the previous day’s evening meal instead of store-bought sugary snacks. We rarely went out to eat, less than one time per year, as my mother cooked everything from scratch. We drank water and sun-tea and so, overall, it sounds pretty healthy, right?

Well, now I can look back and know that other than salad (iceberg), we rarely had raw or fresh fruits. Vegetables were always cooked (boiled or baked) until very soft. The carbohydrates we had were simple (white bread, white potatoes, pasta), not usually complex (whole grains), there was a considerable amount of dairy and fried foods were frequently served. And thanks to my mother’s Italian heritage, there was always ALOT of food, as much as we wanted. It was all so delicious, my Mom was a great cook and filled every meal time with tasty dishes. She loved to cook and everything she put on the table was infused both with her love of cooking and her love for her family. She believed that she was feeding us a very healthy diet.

When I compare my diet of yesteryear to other people I knew, especially in America, my childhood diet was certainly 100 times better than most. Common in America, in the years of my childhood, were meals like Kraft Macaroni and Cheese for lunch and dinner, or KFC three times a week, McDonald’s and Wendy’s on the nights when there was no KFC. Snacks in their household were pop tarts and Captain Crunch – soda and juice were the normal drinks and salad was a once month side dish. So, by comparison, I ate super healthy but on the full spectrum of eating healthy, I had a long way to go.

So, the basics of healthy eating are pretty simple. First, whenever possible, whole fresh foods are the best choice. This means food that has not been processed, cooked, cut, added to (or taken away from) that was living a very short time before being bought and consumed. Why? Because it has barely started to break down, it is still living and it offers the best nutrition for the body.

Here are some examples of food I now choose: a tomato that was growing and picked the same day or just days before instead of a can of diced tomatoes, an apple that was growing and picked just days before instead of a jar of applesauce. Rice with the bran that I cook versus a packet of precooked rice that is reheated  in the microwave, local eggs harvested from freely running chickens, local free-range meats, etc.

I follow the Environmental Working Group’s guidelines on what to buy organic so as to cut down on chemicals and toxins and I always wash my fruits and veggies with a spray designed to dissolve away waxes, chemicals and pesticides on the skin.

What else? Well, I steam, bake or lightly saute in glass, ceramic, cast iron or stainless steel. Sometimes we grill on a gas grill. I do not cook on teflon or aluminum, try to avoid the microwave and always refrain from over cooking foods. I eat at least 50% of each meal in the form of raw foods – veggies mostly. I eat balanced meals of 40% complex carbs (whole grains, sweet potato, etc), 30% lean proteins (egg, fish, poultry, bison, beans) and 30% healthy fats (olive oil, flax, avocado). I try to cook just enough for that meal so that the next meal is fresh – and we buy small amounts frequently for the same reason.

I have learned not to overeat. Your stomach, before being stretched by the food you eat, is about the size of your palm-side up hand. It does not need to stretch very much before it sends a signal to your brain that you no longer need to feel “hungry”. It also does not need to stretch very much to start releasing chemicals to break-down the food, a process also controlled by what you have eaten (fat, protein, carb). So, I like to eat several (5-6) small meals during the day as this keeps my blood sugar stable and does not cause my stomach to be over full. It also allows me to completely digest my food before putting more food into my system. I make sure I am hungry before I eat, but I usually am as the amounts I eat at one time are small, slightly more than the palm of my hand. I find if I am still a little hungry after eating, a full glass of water finishes off the sensation.

There are some docs and nutritionists that recommend 3 meals a day, no snacks, and this works for some people. For me, and many others, it is not enough to keep blood sugar stable. I could take Vanadium, Chromium or any number of herbs to “stabilize” my blood sugar, but I have found I can manage by eating in a certain way – and I do not like to take pills or things any more than the next person.

Some other guidelines I follow:

Create a time and space to eat, relaxed, full of joy and thankful for the nourishment I am giving my body.

Make conscious decisions about what I put into my body, choosing foods that are nutritive and healing.

Chew my food well, savore the taste of what I am eating.

Eat slowly and then rest for 20-30 minutes after completing the meal, especially before any vigorous exercise or mental activity.

After I have “rested” post- meal, I take a short walk, do some consciuos breathing and visualize the nourishment I have just given my body spreading to where it is needed.

I do not eat before I go to sleep and I always eat within 15 minutes of waking in the morning.

I drink water with lemon and usually drink before and after my meal, not during.

Buy local fruits, vegetables, eggs, meats, etc, as often as possible.

I try to eat foods in season.

I store left-overs in glass not in plastic.

I minimize the amount of sugar I take in, as you can read in my other posts. I thought I was doing this but it was not enough. So now, it is less than 30 grams per day, and often much lower.

I got tested for food allergens and avoided those for 6 months completely. Now I eat them sparingly.

I limit the overall amount of dairy (cow), gluten and meat that I consume. I use many other other grains and dairy substitutes, although I really like Haagen-Dazs Butter Pecan ice-cream and will have that once in awhile. I also like cheese and will sometimes have a slice of Dubliner or Blue-cheese.

One of the most successful strategies I found was to make a meal plan, figure out the recipes and ingredients needed, make a shopping list and then that is all I buy. It is not a set-in-stone, day-by-day menu. I can swap out meals depending on what I am hungry for, but everything I need is handy and I am prepared by knowing how I am going to cook it. Now that I have been doing this for some time I have a binder full of meals and recipes that I can choose from.

Above all I am forgiving of myself. It is my choice what I eat, how much I eat and if I make the choice once in a great while to eat something that may not have been the best thing for my body, but that I truly enjoy, then I simply eat it and enjoy. And I enjoy a full tummy on Thanksgiving, a oh no don’t touch me now or I will explode state! But that is a once a year celebration and well worth all the yumminess 🙂 Old habits can be hard to break and what helped me was to realize that I can simply make new habits, ones that make me feel really good at the end of the day. For me, I have to be able to achieve my goals to keep encouraged – I have made my habits easy to follow.

Does this sound like a lot of work? It was. I did it slowly over time, making one change here, one change there. It took me a couple of years to get it all worked out – the foods, the meals, how and where I shop, how to stay in budget, the cookware, the glassware, etc…but I am done and simply enjoy the fruits of my labor every day – knowing that I eat healthy and that I am nourishing my body in so many wonderful ways!

Some resources for you:

Photo credits:

  Patrick Hajzler

 Hilde Vanstraelen, www.biewoef.be

 Michaela Kobyakov

 http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1305627

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Katie Couric – The Supplement Controversy

We, the sisters — the doctor and the patient — were watching the CBS News with Katie Couric in which she reported on a government study of supplements, some of which were found to contain toxic substances.  For the casual listener of such a trusted information source as this, one might not even think twice about the message being received — buyer beware your supplements may not be safe.  So we hunted down the original study, now let’s really talk about this:

  1. The first claim was that supplements contain toxic elements like mercury and arsenic. This can seem scary at first. However, the amounts found were below the threshold set by the FDA and are considered safe. Steve Mister, president of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, said “it was not surprising that herbal supplements contained trace amounts of heavy metals, because these are routinely found in soil and plants (The New York Times).” In fact, “Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, principal deputy commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said in an interview that he was not concerned about the safety of the supplements tested by the G.A.O. (The New York Times).”
  2. The second claim was that supplements contain traces of pesticides and industrial chemicals. Sadly, this is also the case in many of our fruits, vegetables and meats not grown organically, which is why Naturopathic Doctors stress the importance of an organic diet. The fact is we should be coming down hard on industrial food producers for using pesticides and other chemicals which then enter our food supply whether in the form of supplements or other items, not necessarily coming down hard on supplement companies that are much farther down on the food production chain.
  3. The third claim was that 37 out of 40 supplements tested positive for contaminants. Again, this seems like data that is very succinct and convincing. Numbers can be persuasive. Yet, this would hardly qualify as being a rigorous scientific study. The first inherent problem is that the sample size is too low to be representative of all supplements, the supplements tested were not chosen in a truly random fashion — again, making them not representative. Only one lab tested these products. A better study would have had at least two independent labs test the samples for quality control.

So, did this CBS report do the American public any good? It seems on deeper reflection, it was questionable journalism at best. Even the final conclusion in which Dr. Jennifer Ashton says that the safest way to use supplements is to talk to your MD seems almost controversial and here’s why:

  • The US Medical Professions Comparison Report in 2001 stated that traditional medical schools such as John Hopkins, Yale and Standford offer no curriculum hours for Naturopathic Therapeutics or Therapeutic Nutrition. Even if there are some courses on herbal supplements, no continuing education requirements exist to make sure MDs stay current on natural supplements.
  • There exists no paradigm for evaluating supplements in traditional MD offices, not unless patients specifically request it.
  • And finally, traditional MDs do not generally have the relationships built with nutraceutical companies. Without this, it can be difficult to know who is producing the high quality products on the market.
  • In comparison, a Naturopathic Doctor has over 1,000 curriculum hours in Naturopathic Therapeutics; they have a paradigm of evaluating supplements with every new patient — not only for quantity of doses but quality of ingredients; and have established relationships with industry leading nutraceutical companies.


 
It’s good advice to visit with your MD about your supplements. But, it can be hit and miss depending on your MD’s previous experience. It seems much better advice to have your supplements evaluated by a professional who has experience evaluating supplements — like Naturopathic Doctors.

The most important final thought is this: no one is saying all supplements are created equal. In fact, Naturopathic Doctors have known for years that there is a very big difference in the quality of supplements on the market. That is why they are such staunch advocates for evaluating supplements. Quality is an issue. It’s important to know which brands to choose. But what is even more important, a topic not covered by the CBS report, is that it takes very specialized training to use supplements therapeutically.  Let’s take Cancer Treatment Centers of America. They have dedicated specialists, NDs, that make sure a regiment of supplements enhance traditional cancer therapies, support patient systems, and have positive and synergistic drug interactions. This take years of training and experience. So, instead of creating a scare around supplement therapy, it seems much more empowering to encourage people to contact trained Naturopathic Doctors who can sort out the cloud of confusing information.

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doctor as patient

Eli Camp NDI do not go to the Doctor’s office very often for myself. I probably should go more often, at least once a year to have my blood work done, get a basic physical. But, like most physicians, I am busy taking care of everyone else and it is only when something goes wrong, something that I can’t fix myself, that I hunt around for someone’s caring hands, someone’s mind and thought processes to be turned to my own personal health. Were I in a place abundant with Naturopathic Physicians I would of course go and see one of my colleagues. But here in Florida there are only about 15 for the whole state…and without a license for NDs here, they could not order my blood work or actually do any sort of exam or therapy, so I, like so many others, had to hunt down the most promising of would be care-takers for myself.

What an ordeal, and it is still ongoing…I will no longer be so nonchalant when giving my patients advice to “simply” go find a primary care doctor. I have seen two doctors who have spent less than 15 minutes with me, offered me pain pills and steroid shots BUT I did get the lab slip so I could get a bit of blood work done. With a little patience, I could have ordered it for myself in OK or NH…but since I do have insurance 🙂 I thought I would let them pay for a change. Plus, I am trying to relate to my patients and what their experience is in finding a primary care physician.

I just requested a copy of my chart from the last doc and will continue to shop around for someone…more like the kind of doctor I am? Yes, I know they exist, I am just having trouble finding one.

Update – September 2010

I have still not found a primary care physician who is willing to work WITH me on my health. I have no pressing issues at the moment as I am very healthy but what if? The issue driving me to find someone in April was easily resolved with the help of my trusty Chiropractor, a few massage sessions and some targeted exercises so the motivation to find someone today has dissipated.

I decided I would start interviewing doctors to fill this role for me – some in network some out. I am very willing to pay over and above my insurance coverage, even 100%, simply for that partner in health care. I have interviewed 4 doctors (2 DO’s, 2 MD’s) and 1 nurse practitioner. I have also made an appointment with an ND in another state to see how we might work long distance – me getting lab work done on my own and perhaps finding a local doctor that would simply do a physical exam if needed. I had hoped to also build a list of doctors I could refer people to. This is important if my patient/client has no doctor or a doctor not willing to work alonside me. As of now, there is one person on the list but she is on the East side of the state. Should it be this hard? Is not the ultimate goal to restore health? The Journey continues.

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tenacity

Eli Camp NDI left school after teaching a homeopathy class the other day and there was a wasp on the window of the door of my car. I was very careful not to disturb it as I opened the door and got in, I thought it would blow away as I started to drive.

I only drove about 15 mph down the little service road and it was clearly not fast enough as that little wasp continued to hang on. Soon, I was headed down the main road at 35 mph and still, my passenger was on board. I started to smile thinking about that little wasp hanging on in the face of what must have been tropical force winds to it’s little body.

I started to worry that it would wait to let go until I was driving 45 or 50 and then it would get smashed into a windshield behind me. So I started to open and close the window a bit to shake it loose, of course swerving all over the road because I was watching the wasp and not where I was going…and before I knew it, I was getting on the interstate.

55, 60 , 65, 70 still that little one hung on, for TWENTY minutes at 75 mph, that wasp hung on, now surely it was experiencing hurricane force winds, and then, finally, just as I was approaching my exit, it let go.

Tenacity – that’s what it was. And I started thinking about what it must take for folks really struggling with a chronic illness – changing diet, changing lifestyle, changing thoughts and patterns, learning to live in a new way – it takes that kind of tenacity…and I have a renewed respect and understanding for how difficult the journey must be.

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staying balanced

Eli Camp NDIf I knew how much fun having a blog was going to be I would have started one years ago. I have kept a journal for over 20 years and often go back and read through my entries as they help me remember how far I have come in my personal journey. I wonder if others read any of those entries if they would resonate with my struggles and triumphs and in the communion find strength when strength was needed.

So, I work a lot, all the time, and I really enjoy it. But I also enjoy spending time with my family, friends and of course my patients. – It seems that my behavior over the years may have been telling my family that they come second. It is sooo not true, but I guess everything and everyone cannot be the first priority and yet that is how I have always lived my life. So, one area that I personally needed to sort out was how to stay balnced. I have, as a result, made some significant changes in my life. It sounded simple to do – make some changes, prioritize, create free time for the people I love – but what an agonizing process it was. Especially since I thought everything should be assigned “the most important” priority.

I will share how I did this but right now there is a little four-legged creature, my puppy Asia, who has decided I have worked long enough for today. In keeping with my new plan, off I go to commune with her. Yes, yes, I am on my way to play frisbee….

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