Alaska Wellness Magazine



Naturopathic Medicine

Understanding Naturopathic Medicine

Nutrition for the Whole Family

What to do about the Winter Bug?



Understanding Naturopathic Medicine
by David Newirth
Naturopathic medicine is a unique and comprehensive healthcare
system that addresses people individually and on physical, mental,
emotional, and spiritual levels.

Naturopathic medicine is a system of healthcare that focuses on restoring an individual to his or her optimal state of health and well-being by supporting and strengthening the body’s natural healing capabilities. At the heart of naturopathic medicine are six basic principles that guide the naturopathic primary care physician in addressing a patient’s healthcare concerns:

bulletThe Healing Power of Nature
bulletIdentify and Treat the Cause
bulletFirst Do No Harm
bulletTreat the Whole Person
bulletThe Physician as Teacher

The Healing Power of Nature
At the heart of naturopathic medicine is the belief that the human body has been created with the inherent ability to maintain and restore itself. It is the role of the naturopathic physician to aid the body in regaining a healthy balance. By removing obstacles to healing and providing the body the nourishment, stimulation, and support it needs, the body can regain health.

Identify and Treat the Cause
Critical to healing is identifying the cause of illness without focusing solely on symptoms. Alleviating symptoms are important for patient comfort, but the goal is to address the deeper root of the health problem to prevent its recurrence.

First Do No Harm
Symptoms are considered part of the healing process as they alert the patient to an imbalance that has arisen in their body. It is the intention of the naturopathic physician to address an illness without unnecessarily disturbing the body’s natural healing process. Preventing the natural healing process disrupts the body’s inner rhythm and defense mechanisms.

Treat the Whole Person
To function optimally, the human body in all its complexity, must utilize mind, body, and spirit to maintain the delicate balance of health. Too often, illness is looked upon as merely a physical disturbance, yet it is well-documented that psycho-social stress alone can cause immune suppression, resulting in lowered immune defenses. An individual’s spiritual well-being also influences overall health. It is one’s spiritual connection and faith that allows one to cope with stress, believe in healing, and complete the circuit between the mind and body.

In naturopathic medicine, especially in cases of chronic illness, patients will be counseled to pursue their health goals through physical, mental, and spiritual avenues.

The Physician as Teacher
Since the human body doesn’t come with an operator’s manual, it is the role of the physician to educate patients about maintaining optimal health and correcting imbalances that arise. It is through education that patients of naturopathic medicine become aware of ways to aid the natural processes of maintaining and restoring health. This is the essential component of the patient taking an active role in their own health and well-being, with the guidance and support of the physician.

Building a strong foundation of health is a philosophical cornerstone of naturopathic medicine. Like building a solid and secure home, it is the primary focus of naturopathy to promote and support prevention through healthy dietary and lifestyle choices. Being proactive, rather than reactive, allows for one to better ensure an optimally healthy and longer life. Additionally, individual risk factors and genetic predisposition are addressed to better design a personalized health and treatment plan.

Scope of Practice
Naturopathic physicians are trained and licensed as primary care physicians. During the four-year medical school curriculum, students complete two years of basic sciences and two years of clinical sciences. In order to be a licensed naturopathic physician, one must pass both the national basic sciences and clinical sciences board examinations. Naturopathic physicians use standard laboratory and diagnostic tests in addition to more progressive functional medicine tests to treat a vast array of diseases and disorders.

Laboratory and Diagnostic Tests
A licensed naturopath can perform routine annual physical exams and order all conventional laboratory and diagnostic test such as x-rays, MRI, and CT imaging. Naturopaths also utilize functional medical tests such as ELIZA allergy testing, comprehensive digestive and stool analysis, adrenal stress index, metabolic typing, and more.

Clinical Nutrition
Food is the most natural and best medicine. The use of whole foods and nutritional supplements allow the body to regain a healthful balance. Nutritional analysis and counseling is at the core of the naturopathic approach to health and prevention.

Botanical Medicine
Commonly referred to as herbal medicine, the use of plant-derived substances can be powerful tools for addressing health concerns. Drawing on thousands of years’ use and knowledge of botanical medicine, naturopaths can use these medicines in a standardized form, as a whole herb, or in combination.

Physical Medicine
Naturopathic physicians are trained in a wide variety of physical medicine techniques including therapeutic manipulation of the spine and joints, ultrasound, diathermy, microcurrent, muscle stimulation, massage, heat and cold therapy, traction, and many other modalities.

Psychological Medicine
Naturopathic physicians are also trained to use a multitude of techniques to assist their patients in gaining perspective and to balance their mental health, thus affecting overall health. Techniques frequently used include counseling, stress management, biofeedback, neurofeedback, hypnotherapy, EFT, and flower essences.

Homeopathy is a 200-year-old system of medicine, practiced throughout the world. It is based upon the principle of like cures like, called the Law of Similars. This means that a substance that is capable of producing symptoms in a healthy person, when specially prepared in high dilution, can bring relief to a person who is ill and suffers from similar symptoms. Homeopathy is used effectively to treat both acute and chronic problems, and is designed to positively affect the body¹s vital force.

Hydro or water therapy is one of the basic tenets of naturopathic medicine, and has been recorded in history as early as 100 AD by the Romans. Hydrotherapy can be as simple as a warm bath or as complex as a naturopathic constitutional hydrotherapy treatment. Using water in its three states – ice, liquid, and vapor or steam – has proven beneficial through its support of the immune system, digestive system, and circulatory system, increasing energy, vitality and detoxification.


In summary, naturopathic medicine is a unique and comprehensive healthcare system that addresses people individually and on physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual levels. This approach also empowers patients to take control of their own health through a proactive approach grounded in prevention, education, and self-awareness. The role of the naturopathic physician is that of an educator and facilitator in guiding the patient to regaining optimal health and well-being.

Dr. David Newirth, a naturopathic physician, is trained and licensed as a primary care provider with the Alaska Family Wellness Center. He can be reached at 561-9444 or



Nutrition for the Whole Family
by Kaycie Rosen
With a little focused effort and knowledge, everyone in a family can have his or her nutritional needs met.

What takes place at your family’s dinner table each night? Is it pleasant or hectic? Is the food take out, frozen or home made? Does dinner as a family even happen at all?

We all inherently understand that we need food to live, and the quality of what we put into our bodies ultimately influences our health.  From a medical perspective, there can be serious consequences to eating poorly, the most obvious being diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Though in the past it has been primarily seen in older people, children as young as 4 years old are now being diagnosed with Type II Diabetes! It’s vital to understand that proper nutrition affects every aspect of a child’s (and an adult’s) life, and can influence school and athletic performance, mood, physical development, oral health, immunity, and overall energy.  

In Naturopathic Medicine, we base our practice on what in Latin is called the Vis Medicatrix Naturae, which means the Healing Force of Nature.  This principle states that when free of obstacles and given proper nutrition, each living thing will naturally move into a state of balance.  Said another way, it means that if your body does not get what it needs nutritionally, you will not feel your best. 

However, preparing food and eating in a way that is appropriate for each family member can be a struggle.  One member of the family may be growing, one may need to gain weight, and another trying to lose weight.  One person may have food allergies or a medical condition that necessitates avoidance of certain types of foods.  Compound this with hectic schedules, variable food preferences, and a cultural overabundance of low-quality and over-processed foods, and the prospect of preparing a meal each night that is delicious, satisfying, and meets each individual’s nutritional needs can seem next to impossible.

It is possible, though. With a little focused effort and knowledge, everyone in a family can have his or her nutritional needs met. If you want to make a change for your family’s health, begin by keeping the following simple guidelines in mind.

Eat Frequently

Many people suffer from fatigue and poor blood sugar control simply because they are not eating frequently enough.  Blood sugar levels are regulated by how quickly the liver puts sugar from the food we eat into the blood. Then, insulin is secreted to put that sugar into the cells for energy.  When we don’t eat frequently enough (and this is particularly true for bodies that are growing and/or active), the cells are starved and we feel fatigued. We can’t concentrate or perform well physically. 

Although it may not seem to be true, eating infrequently can also cause weight gain. Why? The body will be more likely to store calories as fat rather than using them because it is used to being low on immediate fuel.  For these reasons, eating three meals a day is important for everyone, and snacking in between meals can be appropriate for many.

Remember the basics.

When considering food choices, remember those basic building blocks of nutrition:  carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins, minerals, fiber and water.  Every meal should have some of each of these.  Although it is possible to go into infinite complexity in working out the finer details of what is ideal for each individual, start with the basics.  When choosing foods for yourself or your family, the number one goal is nutrient density.  This simply means that if a food has been refined or processed in a way that either has removed some of its nutritional value (for example, white flour which has had the fiber, oils, vitamins and minerals removed) or has added non-food ingredients (for example, artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives), it will be less nutritionally dense. 

As a rule, go towards foods that look closest to how they looked when they were growing.  Also, stick to the periphery of the store:  those foods that require refrigeration (produce and whole meat and dairy products) are usually the most nutritious.

Prepare your own food.

When you make your own food, you know exactly what goes into it.  Although this can seem daunting to some, there are many ways to prepare simple, wholesome, delicious foods.  For example, an easy and nutritious breakfast can be prepared ahead by mixing several cups of whole, rolled grains with nuts, seeds, and dried fruit, and kept in the refrigerator.  Each morning, eat ½ cup of the mixture with a little milk or yogurt.  Similarly, make meals on the weekend that are large enough to accommodate lunches throughout the busy work week.  Focus on buying high-quality ingredients that are less processed so you know that what you are eating is good for you.

Sit down for mealtimes.

When we eat on the go, standing up, while working, or during times of stress, our sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system is in control, thus making our bodies less able to properly digest our food. In order to digest more effectively, our parasympathetic (rest and rejuvenate) nervous system must be working.  This system coordinates the movements of our stomach and intestines and the production of digestive enzymes and bile that are necessary to absorb the high-quality food you’re putting in your mouth. Also, keep in mind that mealtimes are a wonderful opportunity to share and enjoy life with your family.

Get educated!

It is possible that even when incorporating all of the above suggestions into your family dietary schedule, there will still be individual dietary needs that are not addressed.  Take time to explore options that work for each person.  Involve kids in the grocery shopping or food preparation so they feel their preferences are considered.  Also, find out if the foods you are preparing most often are tolerated well by each person. Chronic skin problems, allergy, digestive problems and asthma can be signs of food intolerance. 

Above all, take time to discover how delicious and satisfying eating well can be for the entire family. Good luck and happy eating!

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Kaycie Rosen , ND , is a family practice doctor specializing in infectious disease.  She works at Avante Medical Center , and can be reached at 770-6700.



What to Do About the Winter Bug

By Jennifer Lush and Corey Harmon


strengthening the immune system through natural supplements is a beneficial means of shortening symptoms and recovering rapidly

As we celebrate the next several months of our majestic Alaskan winter, many of us will feel a little under the weather due to the “winter bug.” Do you have a runny nosy?  Sore throat?  Feeling a little fatigued?  If so, chances are you are coming down with the common cold.  More severe symptoms such as fevers, muscle aches, nausea and vomiting, are most likely signs of the flu.


Why do we all get sick during the winter?  Some believe that the increased levels of colds and flues are due to more time spent indoors (and around each other), which naturally exposes us to more viruses and bacteria. Additionally, the dryness of the cold weather weakens the immune system, allowing viruses and bacteria to invade the body.  Regardless of the cause of the cold or flu, strengthening the immune system through natural supplements is a beneficial means of shortening symptoms and recovering rapidly.


One excellent way to treat the initial symptoms of the flu is through a homeopathic remedy. Homeopathy is a system of medicine widely used in Europe and Australia . It is based on using small amounts of substances to allow the body to correct the imbalance that is occurring. The remedy Oscillococcinum, which can be found at most natural food stores, is very effective in decreasing flu symptoms if taken at the onset of those symptoms. Homeopathy has very low side effects, thus making it an ideal type of medicine to utilize if you are using other medications or have a compromised immune system due to illness such as HIV or cancer. It is also very effective in children and easy to administer.


Herbal medicine also has strong clinical evidence supporting its powerful effects on strengthening the immune system. One herb that is widely used for colds and flues is Echinacea. The typical recommended amount of Echinacea is a 3 to 5 ml. tincture of the herb or root, or 300 mg. of dried root powder, three times per day. Elderberry extract has also been widely used and studied as a treatment for the influenza virus. One human trial demonstrated that individuals receiving an elderberry extract (four tablespoons per day for adults; two tablespoons per day for children) appeared to recover faster than did those receiving a placebo (or non-treatment).


Both Asian Ginseng and Eleutherococcus (Siberian Ginseng) have immune-enhancing properties, which may play a role in preventing infection with the influenza virus. Other herbal remedies that have been shown to effectively treat the flu virus are Boneset, Wild Indigo, Goldenseal, Myhrr, and Thuja. There are many types of medicinal mushrooms which also demonstrate anti-viral and immune enhancing properties.


Vitamins—especially the antioxidants such as A, D, E, and Calso have immune-stimulating properties. Vitamin C has been found to increase the production of white blood cells, which is one way our bodies fight viral infections. The research behind vitamin C is ample. In a review of 21 controlled trials using 1 to 8 grams of vitamin C per day, it was found that "in each of the twenty-one studies, vitamin C reduced the duration of episodes and the severity of the symptoms of the common cold by an average of 23%." The correct amount of vitamin C to take for flu and cold treatments remains in debate, but may be as high as 1 to 3 grams per day—considerably more than the 120 to 200 mg per day that has been suggested as optimal intake for healthy adults. The mineral zinc may also help fight off and relieve the symptoms of a cold due to its ability to stop viruses from entering the cells of our body.


Finally, there are other preventative measures that we can take to avoid contracting the common cold or flu before symptoms arise. The simple act of making sure we have good hygiene, especially if we are in contact with children at schools and daycares, can do wonders in keeping the immune system strong. The immature immune systems of children make them carriers of bacteria and viruses, which they pass to each other and their families as well. Keeping water intake high (as much as 64 ounces per day for a 160-pound adult) will keep our cells hydrated and strong and better prepared to fight off bacteria and viruses.


Our bodies build their immune boosting cells, such as the white blood cells, while we are sleeping and resting. Getting consistent, uninterrupted sleep each night allows us to function well and keep immunity strong during our waking hours. Eating a diet high in nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants provides natural immune support. Foods such as green leafy vegetables, whole grains, fruits, and organic (or non-hormone fed) proteins are ideal for providing these nutrients. Refined sugars, as found in baked goods, breads, candy, and soda, have been found to decrease the immune system. Keeping sugars low or eliminating them altogether is a very effective way to keep our bodies healthy as well.


As you enjoy the snow and wide array of winter activities this year, remember to do all that you can to keep your immune system healthy and ready to ward off unwanted bacteria and viral infections.


Jennifer Lush, N.D., practices general family medicine with a focus on nutrition and botanical medicine at Avante Medical Center . Corey Harmon is the Director of Communications at Avante. Call (907) 770-6700 or email for more information.