Category Archives: Ask the Doc

April is IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) Awareness Month

Put-Your-Gut-on-a-Healthy-Diet-722x406.jpgIrritable bowel syndrome or IBS is one of the most common health conditions in the US affecting at least 10% of the US population.  It is often classified as a chronic condition because it often recurs after it is treated, but this doesn’t have to be the case.

The symptoms of IBS include one or more of the following: abdominal pain, cramping, flatulence, bloating, diarrhea and/or constipation.

It is often possible to minimize the symptoms of IBS by cutting out high FODMAP foods.  While this is helpful in enabling the person to carry on a normal life, it is not a good long-term solution.  High fiber foods are food for the good bacteria in our large intestines. Limiting high fiber foods, such as while on a low FODMAP diet, for an extended period of time, decreases the total quantity of bacteria in the gut. A decrease in good gut bacteria leaves room for pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria to colonize, should we happen to ingest some of them. This puts us at increased risk of an infection.

The Food Co-op carries peppermint oil and peppermint tea, both of which can be helpful for the cramping pain that may occur before and during treatment of IBS.

In one study of people with IBS symptoms, 80% of them tested positive for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).  This is a condition in which there is a greater than normal amount of non-pathogenic (non-disease-causing) bacteria in the small intestine.  It is associated with the same symptoms as those associated with IBS.  While there has not been a cause and effect relationship established between IBS and SIBO, the IBS symptoms usually resolve when the SIBO is treated.  Natural medicine involves treating the cause of IBS so that it won’t recur.

For more information, contact Dr Joan Waters at Practical Health Solutions, LLC at 970-482-2010.


March is Colon Cancer Awareness Month

fiber-foodsMost of us know to eat plenty of fiber to keep our guts healthy and to maintain gut motility. Staying well hydrated is also important, especially in dry climates.  You should be having at least one bowel movement each day. Eat real food.  Many packaged foods contain non-food ingredients that we don’t know enough about to know how they will react within the body.

There was a study done on rats in which one group was fed a grain meal containing only 30% GMO grains and 70% organic grains.  The control group was fed only organic grains.  The rats that ate the GMO food had significantly greater risk of intestinal tumors than the control group.  There isn’t much research on humans regarding the effect of GMOs on the body, but
it makes sense to me that we would be our healthiest if we only ate real food.

The Fort Collins food coop carries a wide variety of organic and local foods, as well as nutritional supplements. Consider getting yourself tested for the MTHFR gene SNP.  Sixty percent of the population has at least one ‘defective’ copy.  This mutation makes it difficult for the body to activate B12 and folate, and correlates with a significant increase in the risk of colon cancer in those who have two ‘defective’ copies of the MTHFR gene.  The good news is that with proper diet and supplementation, you can significantly decrease your health risk.  You may ask your doctor to test you for MTHFR or do a saliva test through ($199).  You may obtain a plan to minimize your risk from a doctor who is trained in nutrigenomics.  This plan will likely include dietary suggestions, lifestyle modifications and sometimes nutrient supplementation.

By Joan D Waters, ND Practical Health Solutions, LLC Fort Collins


Vitamin D: The Sunshine Vitamin

vitamin-d-sunlight1What we call vitamin D is actually a steroid hormone that is essential for numerous processes in the body. It is important for utilizing calcium to build and maintain strong bones, for fight infection, enhancing the self-destruction of mutated cells, slowing the production and spread of cancer cells, and improving seizure control in epileptics. Having adequate vitamin D levels reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes, preterm births, the risk of respiratory and vaginal infections and gingivitis. There are vitamin D receptors on most, if not all cells so it is likely that vitamin D is necessary for more processes than we are aware of.

Most people who don’t supplement with vitamin D are deficient in it, even those who live in sunny places like Florida and Arizona. The rule of thumb to obtain Vitamin D from the sun is to expose your face and arms to the sun for 20 minutes per day, during a time when you are taller than your shadow. It is important to have your serum vitamin D level checked at least once per year. It appears that the optimal serum vitamin D level is between 50 and 60 ng/ml. A vitamin D level above 60ng/ml may increase the risk of certain cancers.

If you supplement, consider using Vitamin D3 and in an emulsified form, as this makes it more readily usable by the body. The Fort Collins Food Coop carries several forms of Vitamin D, including an emulsified vitamin D. If you need to take more than 2000 IU per day, consider taking it in divided doses, as taking greater than 2000IU at one time has been known to cause acid reflux in some people.

By Joan D Waters, ND Practical Health Solutions, LLC Fort Collins

Staying Healthy over the Holidays

During the holidays, we are more susceptible to infections due to increased stress and the fact that most of us attend more social functions at this time of year, increasing our contact with viruses and bacteria.

Naturopathically, we speak of optimizing our ‘terrain’, or our inner environment, so that we can be around pathogens and not get sick.  Since 70 to 80% of our probiotic foods resides in our gut, maintaining healthy gut flora is the key to maintaining our health. We do this by eating a mostly whole-food diet, eating probiotic foods or taking a probiotic supplement and by managing our stress effectively.

We can further support our immune system by finding out what we are allergic or sensitive to and by avoiding those substances. This frees up our immune system to fight infection.

Sugar and refined carbohydrates are inflammatory, and are taxing to the immune system. In one study, it was shown that the immune system was suppressed by up to 50% for 7 hours after subjects ingested 2 sugary soft drinks. Cutting down on ‘artificial food’ is always the best, but if you choose to indulge and you are around sick people, consider using a neti-pot before you go to bed to cut down on the immune system’s workload.   Also, get plenty of sleep most nights, so you don’t stress your body excessively when you stay up late for a holiday party.

If relational stresses come up, consider performing ‘bilateral cross-crawl’ activities such as walking while swinging your arms, while focusing your thoughts on the distressing situation. Using bilateral cross-crawl movements connects the right and left sides of your brain, making it easier to process through difficult emotions. After dealing with the difficult situation, focus on what you are grateful for.

By Joan Waters, ND

For more article’s like these visit Joan’s website and blog.


Protecting your Thyroid Gland

Blog_PictureYour thyroid gland regulates the metabolism of every cell in your body. Since the thyroid affects every organ in the body, it can cause you to gain weight, lose weight, and have dry skin, to be anxious or depressed. It can cause heart palpitations, constipation or diarrhea.

I would like to share a few ideas that you may like to try to protect your thyroid gland. First, your thyroid gland requires a small amount of iodine in order to make thyroid hormone. It doesn’t require a lot, because the body recycles it. Some foods that contain significant amounts of iodine include asparagus, seafood, garlic, kelp, lobster, salmon, sea salt, seaweed, spinach, and sunflower seeds. Iodized salt contains a small amount of iodine, but I recommend the use of Himalayan salt or Celtic sea [both can be found at the Fort Collins Food Cooperative] salt because of their broader mineral content.

Your thyroid needs to be protected from fluoride, chloride and bromide, since they act similarly to iodine and may displace it in the thyroid. Avoid drinking fluoridated water as it has little, if any, strengthening effect on the teeth. A person takes in more chlorine from showering in chlorinated water than they do from swimming in a chlorinated pool, so you may want to install a chlorine filter on your showerhead.  Bromine is often found in hot tubs, so you may want to run a fan to blow the fumes away from you while hot tubbing. Some commercial flours and Mountain Dew contain bromine, so avoid them.

Since many thyroid conditions have an auto-immune component, it is important to keep your immune system healthy by avoiding inflammatory foods and by promptly addressing infections.

By Joan D Waters, ND Practical Health Solutions, LLC

Providing you with the tools to live healthfully in this increasingly challenging world.PractticalHealthSolutions

Ask the Doc: The effects of breastfeeding on the intestinal flora of infants

The effects of breastfeeding on the intestinal flora of infants

At birth, the gut of an infant it filled with sterile amniotic fluid. If the baby is born vaginally, they acquire flora from their mom. The baby also acquires some from the air, nursing staff, equipment and from other babies, as well as through breast milk. The gut flora of breastfed newborns are more stable and more uniformed than that of formula-fed babies (Bezirtzoglou et al.,2011). Introducing formula or solid food to breastfed infant causes their flora to become more like that of a formula-fed baby.

Breastfed infants have a lower incidence of diarrhea, infant necrotizing enterocolitis, allergies (but not asthma) and autoimmune diseases in childhood than formula-fed infants. Adults who were breastfed as infants have a reduced risk of inflammatory bowel disease, cardiovascular disease, obesity and type 2 diabetes. For those moms who don’t breastfeed, adding probiotics and prebiotics (the food for the micro flora) to their baby’s formula causes their flora to become more like that of a breast-fed infant.

As babies grow, they go through growth spurts, causing them to need to suckle for long periods of time. Conscientious moms often discontinue breastfeeding when this occurs, thinking that something must be wrong and that their baby will starve if they continue. The action of the baby suckling stimulates the production of more milk. If the mother is drinking plenty of water, isn’t under excessive stress and has the time to allow the baby suckle as needed, her milk supply will increase and then the baby won’t need to nurse as often (until the next growth spurt). Many new moms find it helpful to attend La Leche league meetings, hire a lactation consultant or see a naturopathic doctor (see

Submitted by Joan D Waters, ND


Maintaining Gut Health while Traveling Abroad

When traveling abroad, your immune system encounters exotic pathogens for which it is unprepared, increasing your risk of infection.

When our immune system recognizes a new pathogen (potentially harmful microorganism), it makes memory B cells so that the next time we encounter that organism, the body rapidly makes antibodies to it. As we grow, we develop memory B cells for all the pathogens that we have been exposed to, allowing our body to react rapidly to them, often without us knowing it is occurring. When abroad, we don’t have this protection because we are encountering some pathogens for the first time. For this reason, we need to be more careful about what we eat and drink and the water we swim in while we are abroad.

Stomach acid kills most pathogens that we ingest. If you are taking a proton pump inhibitor or other acid-blocking agent, you are more susceptible to infection. You may want to consider suggesting to your doctor that you begin taking it between meals instead of before you eat. Taking an apple cider vinegar tablet (available at Fort Collins Food Coop) before each meal has been shown to stimulate the production of stomach acid, which, in turn, stimulates the secretion of digestive enzymes. The body needs to be in a relaxed state to enable the stomach to produce enough acid to kill pathogens and digest food. Prayer, deep breathing or meditation may help you relax.

Taking a probiotic (available at Fort Collins Food Coop) will help prevent colonization of a pathogen in the intestines. The probiotic bacteria will fill the spaces vacated by bacteria that die, crowding out pathogens, preventing their attachment, and allowing them to pass right through you.

By Joan D Waters, naturopathic doctor


Ask the Doc: June is Men’s Health Month


Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common concern for men that is not limited to the elderly. The Massachusetts Male Aging study revealed that 52% of men experience ED, including 40% of 40-year old men. ED is sometimes an early warning sign of diabetes, atherosclerosis, hypertension or hormonal imbalance. This article will focus on strategies you can take to prevent ED and possibly overcome it without the use of drugs.

Substances that may cause or contribute to ED include certain prescription drugs, excessive consumption of alcohol, cigarette smoking, amphetamines, cocaine, marijuana and BPA. Prolonged pressure on the perineum from long bike rides may contribute as well. Unresolved anger, anxiety, stress and depression can also contribute to ED. Stress management techniques and/or psychotherapy, with or without your partner, may help in these situations.

Dietary considerations for ED: Eat a diet of whole foods, avoiding all refined sugars, and refined foods in general. Consider a Mediterranean diet. Eat a small amount of protein with each meal and snack to minimize blood sugar peaks and troughs.

Use organic, non-GMO oils in a 2:1 ratio of omega-6 to 3 oils. For most of us, this means increasing our omega-3s and decreasing our omega-6 oils. Examples of healthy sources of omega-3 oils are flaxseed oil, walnut oil and fatty fish. Use only high smoke-point oils (grape seed, macadamia nut and sesame seed, etc) for stir-frying and other high-heat cooking. The Fort Collins Food Co-operative has a wide selection of these healthy oils.

Eating 100 grams of pistachio nuts per day for 3 weeks has been shown to improve ED ( Aldemir, etal. 2011). A great selection of bulk pistachios can also be found at the Food Co-operative as well.

The take-home message is that ED is often a symptom of a more serious condition, so a thorough work up is essential.

By Joan D Waters, ND

Ask the Doc: Why is Grass-fed important?

Why is Grass-fed important?

By: Joan D Waters, Naturopathic Doctor

More and more people are eating and talking about grass-fed meat and poultry…is it just a fad?

Grass-fed meat and poultry and the eggs from pastured chickens provide a natural source of Vitamin K2. The intestinal flora in animals converts chlorophyll, the green pigment in forage, to Vitamin K2. Vitamin K2, not to be confused with Vitamin K1, which is needed for clotting, removes calcium from soft tissues and deposits it into bones and teeth by activating osteocalcin, a protein found in those tissues. When activated by Vitamin K2, Osteocalcin binds to calcium and draws that calcium into the bones and teeth. Vitamins A and D are needed to cause the osteoblasts, or bone-building cells, to secrete osteocalcin. Some people believe that the increased prevalence of atherosclerosis may be associated with the buildup of calcium in soft tissues brought about by the practice of feeding cattle grain, rather than grass. More research is needed to determine whether this is true.

Vitamin K2 can be obtained naturally by eating grass fed meats and poultry, the eggs from pastured chickens, and milk, butter and cheeses from cows that are grass fed. Natto, a fermented Asian food, is also a potent source of vitamin K2. Those who can’t consume dairy may make ghee from butter made from the milk of pastured cows. It is the presence of Vitamin K2 in fatty foods that gives them their deep yellow or orange color. The Vitamin K2 content of grass-fed but grain-finished beef is much lower than in grass fed beef. When buying ‘grass-fed’ meat in a store, you may have to ask whether they were grain-finished.

We need to support our local farmers and CSAs who fill this important niche in our ecosystem – by providing meat, poultry and eggs that contain adequate amounts of Vitamin K2. Conventionally raised and processed meats cost less to produce. The government subsidizes farmers who grow certain grains so this brings the cost of grain feed down. Farmers and ranchers can raise cattle up to butchering age much more quickly if they feed them grain rather than grass, so are able to minimize the labor costs of raising each individual head of cattle. Conventionally raised cattle are often given low doses of antibiotics, which can cause antibiotic resistant bacteria to grow in these cattle. Poultry are sometimes sprayed with chlorine to kill bacteria on them. We can usually avoid these perils in our food supply when we purchase local meat, poultry and eggs from our local farmer. More on these subjects in later posts.

If you choose to supplement with Vitamin K2, 45 mg of menaquinone-4 (MK-4) three times daily or 120 mcgs of menaquinone 7 (MK-7) once daily are the recommended doses. MK-7 has a longer half-life so needs to be taken only once per day. More is not necessarily better. Since calcium is utilized for clotting and for muscle contractility, including cardiac contractility, we need to release it from the soft tissues very gradually to avoid causing other health problems. For the body to utilize Vitamin K2, we also need Vitamins A, D and E. These vitamins are all fat-soluble so they will be absorbed better when taken with food, especially with oils.

For more information on this subject, you may want to read the book entitled Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox by Kate Rheaume-Bleue.

By Joan D Waters, naturopathic doctor Practical Health Solutions 1304 S College Ave #4 Ft Collins, CO 80524