How I Got A Patient Pregnant

I know what you are thinking, and that´s not what I mean…

Let´s take this story back a few years.  I was working at the Functional Medicine Center, housed in an 19th century building in Oslo. Rustic and an emblem of Norwegian history, here, I often found myself reflecting on new versus old practices of medicine. It was a regular day at work, and as I enjoyed my first coffee of the morning, the first patients of the day walked into the reception.

As you may know, being a family medicine practitioner, one is confronted with a wide range of scenarios on a daily basis. Some challenges can be tackled easily, such as a minor infection, but some require more work, such as the one I was confronted with that morning.

I found myself sitting with female couple in their late 30s –  One of the women, let´s call her Else, wanted to get pregnant. I am not a gynecologist, and therefore this enquiry was rather new to me. They had seen gynecologists extensively, and Else had completed several IVF attempts. After trying what they thought was everything, they had all but given up hope, until someone had recommended that they consider a more holistic approach and see me for a consultation.

After making sure that all the essential investigations were undertaken, such as fertility control and general bloodwork, as well as an analysis of their working-sleep-stress conditions and eating patterns, we set out on a route that took two years to complete.

Below is the plan I set for Else:

 

  • Chill out. As many women making a career for themselves, it could be very stressful. Stress and anxiety block the fertility producing hormones. If you think about it from a biological viewpoint, in times of stress, this sends signals to the body that it is not “ready” to have a kid. Being more calm, soothes the stress hormones, leaving a natural surge in the fertility hormones.
  • Detoxify. I believe that having too many toxins in the body can stress the body, and make it harder to have a natural production of fertility hormones. With Else, we discovered both a mercury intoxication and a gut flora dysbiosis, causing too many toxins to circulate in the body. These toxins produce free radicals, that promote inflammation. We focused first on balancing the gut flora through diet and supplements such as probiotics and olive leaf extract. Getting rid of too much mercury in the body is rather time consuming and laborious, which includes chelators such as chlorella, DMSA and DMPS. Only after a few years of therapy did these heavy metals leave the body., making the body more in balance, and less riddled with inflammation.
  • Boost your fertility hormones by natural supplements. Here are some of the hormones I used to boost Else’s fertility:
    • GLA (Gamma linolenic acid).
    • Zinc
    • Vitamin B6 and B9 (Folate)
    • Maca
    • Ashwaghanda
  • Acupuncture. What has acupuncture got to do with fertility, you may ask. Well, there are many good studies that prove that women being given regular acupuncture therapy could boost their fertility.
  • Try, and try again. Else had countless IVF attempts, without success. But, she did not give up. Sometimes it is all about giving enough time, and eventually you reap the benefits of sticking to the program.

After two years I got a surprise visit. By this time I had even moved offices and joined Balderkliniken, Oslo´s most prestigious FM clinic and the largest in the world. When I opened my door, I was greeted by a beaming, happy woman, who handed me a beautiful bouquet of flowers. She exclaimed: You changed my life. To which I replied, No, you changed your own life.

These are some of the best moments in one´s practice. To empower people to live healthy and sustinable lives, to provide some perspective into the healing power of natural remedies, and to keep learning.

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The Art Of Peace – Clear The Shackles Constricting Us From Our True Potential

I am currently sitting in my cabin contemplating life. Wow, such a heavy topic, you may be thinking. Well, as a doctor I am confronted with this reality every day.

Why are we here? What is the purpose of all of this? Is this just a playground where one can do as they please, or should one follow certain rules, and follow the norms of society?

Across the globe we are separated by our ethnicity, race and religion, even though we are truly almost similar when looking strictly at our physiology and genetics. We are being influenced and taught how to coexist in the society we grow up through norms and rules, and our justice system make sure that we follow these. But how do we know how to live and coexist in harmony with our surroundings, when so much despair and injustice is going on in the world?

In my clinic I aim to unleash each patients’ true potential. Some individuals are confronted with a grim reality where they feel stuck, and virtually unable to come out of this situation. The reasons may be that they feel weighed down by financial, marital or work issues. If then someone from the outside, such as a physician, who truly take time to listen to their story, may be able to come up with alternate solutions to their problems. Interestingly enough, I often find that when figuring out how to boost the patients’ energy, such as by correcting their nutritional status or general physiology, they often are more capable of dealing with, and resolving their inner conflicts. I think the main aspects here is to truly listen when speaking with someone, so that they feel heard. To speak out to someone else and try to formulate what’s in their heart can be very liberating for many. It often touches my heart, when I hear them say “Thank you for truly listening to me”

I think we can learn a lot from the Chinese traditional medicine, and the role the doctors played in their community. Commonly, the doctors were payed, not when the people got sick, but when he managed to keep them healthy. This meant that he had to make sure that the people in the community stayed healthy and thriving. Therefore, one important aspect in doing so, was that the doctor would make home visits to the inhabitants. Aspects such as hygiene, cleanliness, nutrition and general wellbeing was usually addressed. The people were also taught how to take care of their own health, and how to use herbal remedies for their benefit.

In the early 20th Century a Zen Buddhist called Morihei Ueshiba created what he called Aikido. This directly translates as “The Art of Peace”. Morihei is one of my heroes, as he truly shows how to divert someone’s attack, and using that force on themselves.

I think we can all strive to be the best version of ourselves. One good approach to start off with is to have an “inner smile”. Instead of just smiling with your lips and eyes, truly feel that you are smiling with your whole being. This is a good way to become happier and more content. Remember that we always have to start with ourselves, before being able to affect others in a positive way. When we are in a good state with ourselves, influencing others will be easier.

We need peace to calm our mental chattering, commonly called “Monkey Mind”. This is of greater importance in our age, where we are surrounded by endless distractions. To turn on “flight mode” on certain occasions, only check your e-mail and messages at given times and turn of the constant notifications from your mobile I think is a good way to start. Finding a place of peace and calm I think is essential for our mental, and consequently physical health. Also, have the bedroom as our sacred place where we rejuvenate. Important here for a good nights’ rest is that the room gets dark, cold and quiet enough for us to sleep soundly.

Great thinkers and writers of our time such as Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce were wanderers. They used to walk for long stretches, mostly because they felt their mind clear, and therefore easier to get inspiration. As is often being illustrated in ancient Chinese texts, a cup that is full can not be filled anymore. You must empty the cup to be able to fill it more. The same applies with your mind. To more easily be inspired and learn new things you have to clear your erratic mind first.

Being out in nature and listening to sounds like a trickling stream or birds chirping/singing calms the mind. Somehow this is ingrained in our biology, and is subconsciously being interpreted as “being out of danger”.

Meditation, directly translated as “Being Still”. This does not mean that one has to sit still. Being mindful of all one’s actions, and being more present in the moment is also a form of meditation. The image of being in the center of a tornado, where the storm is whooshing around you, but still being still, that is true meditation.

Prayers are a good way to aid someone in difficult times. For example, many doctors in the university hospital in Tromsø used to pray with their patients, to ease their pain and suffering. The power of prayers is something not truly understood, but nonetheless, have a great healing effect.

I feel that one topic is often overlooked when addressing someone’s wellbeing, and that is sexual freedom. Sex is so bound to a lot of taboo, and we are supposed not to even talk about it. Even in my clinic my patients would struggle to talk about their issues concerning this. What is important to understand is that sex is some of the most natural things in our existence. We wouldn’t have been here if it hadn’t been for sex. Therefore, rejoice and enjoy this part of human life.

Now, why are we here? I believe we are here to reinvent ourselves over and over, until we gradually become the better person. By this I mean free of the shackles of how we are supposed to be, and rather strive to reach our true potential. We have so much potential, which is just waiting for us to seize.

Then why are so many people suffering in the world, starving from famine, or scared for their life due to wars? It is now easy to follow life across the globe through media coverage. Quite often the focus is how bad things are going. People may indeed be wired up due to all the devastating occurrences in the world. This is not a healthy way to approach this. Remember, first be in a good state with yourself, before you can influence others in a positive way. There are no easy ways to heal the world of destruction. I think sending silent prayers to people who are suffering and envisioning ways to make their life better is a good way to start. Instead of focusing on the destructive powers, rather focus on the opportunities and potentials. Even small acts in your own community can cause ripple effects down the line.

 

 

 

 

How To Lose Those Extra Kilos

After having had a merry Christmas holiday I am sure there are plenty of us who ponder how we can lose those extra kilos we gained after stuffing ourselves with lots of delicious savoury foods. Here is a list of the most important points in this regard:

  • Eat less sugar. Excess refined sugar is probably the main reason why people struggle to lose weight. Also, know that alcohol is considered a refined sugar and should be moderated. Eating more wholesome sugars from fruits and berries is much better. A small amount of wholesome sugars such as honey, raw cane sugar is much better than the refined beet sugar. Remember, less is more.
  • Fat is not the enemy: There is a crisp new study from the University of Bergen that show the beneficial effect of consuming more saturated fats, and how this may indeed lower one’s weight. Mind you, this is a small study, but still contradicts the theory that eating less fat makes one loose fat. Eating saturated fats such as butter in moderation may be better than eating those hydrogenated oils in margarine. Here I would advise to focus on the quality of fats. I also believe eating good quality oils such as extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil is generally good for one’s health.
  • Eat less refined starches such as that bowl of potato chips or floury foods that is so easy to eat too much of. Remember, the more wholesome the food is, the better it is for you.
  • Also, avoid refined starches such as Pepsi max or the equivalent. Many studies have shown how these artificial sugars will ”fool” the body into believing that sugar will arrive, and thereby increasing insulin production. The surge in insulin without being saturated by glucose cause the body to store more fat due to the insulin effect.
  • Regular workout: Physical exercise have a range of benefits, from boosting blood circulation (and hence oxygen transport and excretion of waste particles), improving mood and energy from an elevation of endorphins, balancing the lipoproteins in the blood circulation. Regular physical exercise, both endurance and strength workouts, will be beneficial to balance ones weight.
  • Stress down: Too much stress leaves excess cortisol levels in the body.and may consequently cause one to gain more weight. One of the best ways to stress down is to sleep better. Also, deep belly breathing and intervals of calming activities are very beneficial.
  • Lower inflammation: An increase in certain inflammatory markers called cytokines have been linked especially to abdominal adiposity.
  • Treat your gut flora: There are now coming out various studies on how the gut flora influence one’s weight. The balance between the two gut flora families Bacteroidetes and Fibricutes are of huge importance as to how one digests starches. Fibricutes bacteria’s cleave carbohydrates at a much greater extent than Bacterioidetes. We tend to see more of an overweight of Fibricutes to Bacteroidetes in the west in contrast to more ”primitive” cultures. Most probably this relates to the diet. An excess of Fibricutes in relation to Bacterioidetes is linked to overweight. Consuming more fibrous foods from vegetables and fermented foods may, as well as eating less refined starches, be a good way to balance these bacteria’s.
  • Check your thyroid: Oftentimes, when people see an abnormal increase in weight (For example, beyond eating several Christmas-style feasts for days), then it may be necessary to check your thyroid status with your doctor, as a thyroid imbalance may be the culprit!
  • There are some supplements that may have a good effect at lowering one’s weight. An Indian study show great improvement by consuming an Ajurvedic herb called Ashwaghanda.

Have a Happy New Year!

Ways To Improve Digestion

I consider the gastro-intestinal tract to be one of our most important organs. We could definitely not live without it, as it is here that digestion and assimilation of nutrients takes place. Therefore, to maintain a healthy gastro-intestinal tract is essential for proper digestion. Here are some general advice, that I consider sound:

  • Drink plenty of clean water throughout the day. The gastrointestinal tract is important in balancing hydration of the body, and excretion of waste particles. Consuming enough water will enable the gut to function optimally.
  • Start the day by drinking a lukewarm (tepid…under 42 degrees) glass of water, with juice from ½ a lemon. Alternatively you could use cold pressed apple cider vinegar in stead. This practice will hydrate the body (which is particularly useful after a good nights sleep) and get help prepare the gastrointestinal system for the day,
  • Cut back on coffee. Coffee contain caffeine, which overtly stimulates gastric emptying, and irritates the gut lining. Coffee works as a laxative, so people with obstipation might feel an improvement after consuming this. Even so, using coffee as a therapy for obstipation will just make issues worse over time. The key word here is moderation. Someone with very irritable intestines, with burning sensations, should probably evade drinking coffee alltoghether for a while. Mind you, caffeine is addictive, and cutting down on caffeine might lead to abstinence symptoms such as (forbigående) headache or fatigue. Some should also stay away from other caffeinated beverages for a while to alleviate symptoms.
  • Bitter herbs, including milk thistle, dandelion,  shisandra, burdock root are all herbs that are useful at helping the liver and gall bladder to function optimally. In my practice I often use tinctures of Bitterstern, as this will help cleanse the liver/gall bladder, and consequently allow for better digestion. Patients suffering from acid reflux may also benefit greatly upon taking this supplement.
  • Ingest lots of healthy, fresh vegetables, either in its raw form or as freshly squeezed juices. This contains lots of phytonutrients, nourishment that will leave cells more energized. The fibers and enzymes in vegetables are also very beneficial.
  • Stress down. This is particularly important for gastric acid secretion, and gut motility Calming down by deep breathing is a good way to increase the parasympathetic system, aka the relaxing part of the nervous system.
  • Active charcoal will mop up some of the toxins being unleashed in the gut. Toxins may come from excretion of waste particles from the liver, ingested pollutants, gut flora toxins and more. Better to take a small amount of this, over a longer period of time, to have the most benefit.
  • A good fiber mixed with water, taken on an empty stomach between meals is a good way to balance the motility in the intestines.
  • There is also the issue of possible gut flora imbalance. For more information  on this see my other post Our Little Helpers

 

 

Ways To Treat The Common Cold

We are in winter season, which also is the season for frequent colds. Here is a list of suggestions of how to treat the common cold:

  • Stay warm. This is key to recovering quickly.
  • Get enough sleep and rest. This is also as important. When the body has been attacked by a viral pathogen one important factor to get better is to adequate rest.
  • Nasal irrigation with lukewarm saline water. Often cold start with pathogens clogging up the nasal passages, which may then spread to the rest of the airways. Cleansing the nasal passages is a great way to heal yourself of infection, and is commonly adviced by ear-nose-throat specialists.
  • Vitamin D. This is what we call the sun vitamin. Unfortunately, when not being exposed to enough sunlight, this essential vitamin becomes depleted. Vitamin D is important for the immune system, and a lack of the vitamin increases the likelihood of getting sick. Hence, taking a vitamin D supplement in the darker periods of the year is a good preventative measure.
  • Vitamin C. Humans are one of the few animals (yes, we are animals 😉 ) that doesn’t produce vitamin C, and need a diet rich in this essential vitamin. When the diet is lacking in vitamin C it is also advisable to supplement with it. Foods particularly rich in vitamin C are herbs such as parsley and ginger, fresh vegetables, fruits and berries such as pomegranate, blueberries and acai-berries.
  • Zinc. Zinc is a mineral important for thousands of enzyme reactions in the body. It aids in detoxification processes and the immune system. It is particularly useful for treating viral infections.
  • Foods rich in glycoproteins. There is exciting research that has been done on the role of glycoproteins for the immune system. Foods rich in glycoproteins are mushrooms, and possibly a main reason for why many mushrooms are considered such great immune modulators. Mushrooms that contain large amounts of glycoproteins are reishi, shiitake, chaga and many more.Wild plants and berries also contain a rich amount of glycoproteins.
  • You could also try herbal supplements, including echinacea, sage, elderberries and many more.  In my practice i am fond of using the echinacea and sage throat spray by Vogel works wonders.
  • A good drink to boost the immune system is ginger tea: Drink ginger, lemon and honey. Take a piece of ginger, the size of your thumb, and juice it. Alternatively steep the ginger in hot water for 5-10 minutes, and then cool down. Add juice from ½ lemon and a teaspoon of raw honey. This drink gives you a boost of essential nutrients including antioxidants and vitamin C.Tropical smoothiepexels-photo-302810

 

The Health Benefits Of Sleeping

Do you remember last time you woke up feeling refreshed and fully awake. No? Well, don’t despair. You are in good company. Sleep deprivation is more common now than it has ever been before. This is the reason why many health experts, bloggers, journalist and many more are starting to write about the importance of sleep. Just look at the thrive movement generated by Arianna Huffington.

Now, why do we commonly lack proper sleep? One of the main reason is stress. While a normal amount of stress may be healthy, chronic sleep may cause a detrimental effect on the body. Too much stress (aka adrenaline) in the body makes it difficult for the mind to shut down for sleep, and may also stress the body even during sleep. Do you crave that pick me up coffee in the morning, so that you can function properly. Then this might be a sign that the body need more restful sleep.

You may ask, do we really need those eight hours of sleep every night. Well, while you might train the body to function with less sleep, it is my opinion that over a course of time, this is not advisable. Studies have linked higher risk of diseases such as cancer with the chronic lack of sleep. The reason for this is that less sleep over a course of time stress the body, and influence the various hormones and immune system, and may eventually lead to a range of ailments in down the line. The challenge is linking the lack of sleep with the development of disease.

In my clinic I have many patients suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome. Some sleep eight, nine, ten, or even twelve hours each day, but they don’t get fully rested, and wake up feeling more tired than when they went to bed. Here the reasons are multifocal. Investigation to reveal the true reasons for this, we have to reflect on many aspects of pathogenesis (development of disease). How is the nutrient value, as for instance a lack of vitamin B12, folate, iron, iodine to name a few will potentially lead to fatigue. Thyroid and adrenal issues are a common problem. As I have covered in previous articles, the gut flora may also play its part here.

In this years annual conference at Institute for Functional Medicine in the US the main theme was about sleep – how sleep deprivation affect our health, and what to do about it. Here is a list of general advice to have a more peaceful sleep:

  • No blue light one hour before bedtime. You may not realize it, but daylight contains a lot of blue color. This blocks our own melatonin production, leaving us more awake during the day. Normally, in the evening blue light fades away. Due to our modern technology, TV, computers, tablets, mobiles and so on usually have blue light. This has the effect to block our own healthy melatonin production, leaving us with less melatonin for that good nights sleep. What is interesting is that now many of the computers and mobiles have a function where blue light (aka night mode) can be turned on.
  • Do something relaxing before going to bed. Deep breathing is a very effective way to calm the body and mind. Meditation before bed is also a good way to calm that mental chatter, commonly called monkey mind. Doing some peaceful activity such as a nice walk in nature, intimate conversation, or drinking some sleep tea is also beneficial.
  • The bed is only for sleep (++). Don’t bring laptops, mobiles, TV, newspapers, books and so on into the bed before going to bed.
  • Go to bed before midnight. If you manage to go to bed at 10-11 pm on a regular basis, this will leave you with more energy in the long run.

Haukeland University Hospital have done a lot of research on sleep, and found that one effective way to aid sleep is by taking 1 mg of Melatonin 3-4 hours before going to bed. The theory behind this is that this small dosage does not interfere with our own melatonin production, while larger dosages might. I have used 1 mg Melatonin on many patients, and who have noticed a great improvement in sleep.

I truly believe that sleeping better will truly make one thrive, and enable one to live more to ones full potential.

Sleep well

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