We all feel it.  We try to combat it.  We wish we could avoid it.  But, stress is ever present in most of our lives.  And while we know it is affecting us negatively, we may not realize just how profound those effects can be.  

Chronic stress has been associated with negative outcomes in cancer, higher incidences of cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and type II diabetes, as well as common disorders such as insomnia, immune dysfunction and inflammatory disease.  Stress does this through a number of hormone cascades that occur in the brain and affect the adrenal glands which then produce various hormones, such as cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. Chronic stress also inhibits the release of hormones such as dopamine, which is calming.

Ok. So, short of winning the lottery and buying a small island in the South Pacific, how are we to deal with all of this stress???


Start with the basics to get back to your own homeostasis:

  • Healthy habits – eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and veggies and lean protein, decreasing caffeine and other stimulants, eliminating tobacco 
  • Ritual – making time for things that are important to you and give you a sense of control and calm
  • Rhythm – regaining your circadian cycles by going to sleep at the same time each night, waking at the same time each morning, and eating meals regularly
  • Positive affect – encouraging your creativity, remaining optimistic in difficult situations
  • Congruent behavior – do what you say you will do and “walk your talk”


What else could you do?

Meditation: multiple studies have indicated that meditation reduces risk factors and can slow or reverse the progression of changes underlying cardiovascular disease.

Exercise: Exercise oxygenates our tissues and increases our energy and wellbeing.  It increases the secretion of those “feel good” endorphins.


  • L-theanine (a component of green tea that increases the output of GABA, a calming neurotransmitter), increases dopamine and serotonin production resulting in reduced blood pressure and anxiety (causing a relaxed yet alert state).  Try a dose of 100 mg two to three times per day. (L-theanine Monograph. Altern Med Rev. 2005 Jun;10(2):136-8.)
  • Probiotics (beneficial bacteria for the intestinal tract) have numerous positive effects for many systems of the body. In this context, they have been shown to significantly reduce distress; specifically reducing depression, irritability, anxiety, and increasing coping ability in response to stress. (Messaoudi M, et al. Assessment of psychotropic-like properties of a probiotic formulation (Lactobacillus helveticus R0052 and Bifidobacterium longum R0175) in rats and human subjects. Br J Nutr. 2011;105(5):755-64.)
  • Curcumin (the active component of Turmeric) reduces cortisol levels in chronically stressed animals and humans.  This has been shown in multiple studies.  It also happens to be an excellent anti-inflammatory as well as protective of the liver in it’s detoxification function.  Try a dose of 1/2 Tbsp. twice daily of the raw herb, or 750 mg twice daily of the standardized, encapsulated form.  (Xu Y, et al. Curcumin reverses the effects of chronic stress on behavior, the HPA axis, BDNF expression and phosphorylation of CREB. Brain Res. 2006;1122 (1):56-64. Epub 2006 Oct 3. and Enyeart JA et al. Curcumin inhibits ACTH- and angiotensin II-stimulated cortisol secretion and Ca(v)3.2 current. J Nat Prod. 2009;72(8):1533-7.)
  • Lavender essential oil has a significant beneficial influence on quality and duration of sleep and improved general mental and physical health without causing any unwanted sedative or other drug specific effects. Put a sachet of lavender in your pillow at night, or spritz your bedroom with a mix of lavender oil in water.  Rub a small amount on your wrist or temples during the day.

If you have further questions or concerns about your own level of stress and how to work to reduce it in your life, just call us.  We at Naturopathic Family Medicine are happy to help.  

Just as soon as we win the lottery…

-Tamara Cullen, ND



If you are anything like me, you were probably dreading (even if just a teeny bit) putting on your bathing suit this past sunny weekend, despite the warm weather. Well, okay, it wasn’t that warm. But nevertheless, we are all thinking it…. Bikini weather is coming and there is nothing we can do to stop it!

Ladies, do not despair! There are some simple tricks and tips to help make the transition to skimpy clothing less scary. And no, it does not involve lemon juice diets or eating only raw carrot sticks until you turn orange.

Bob Harper, trainer from TV’s The Biggest Loser, chef and recent author of The Skinny Rules lays out some simple “nonnegotiable rules” for staying trim and healthy. These rules will not turn our bodies into Victoria Secret model figures, but then again, that is not really our goal. Our goal as a healthy, STRONG woman is to feel our best in any outfit; to feel vibrant, sexy, and happy in the bodies we live in; these same beautiful bodies that carry our children, love our partners and allow us to be play and travel.

So, with that in mind, these 20 simple “rules” (strong suggestions, really) can help you feel bikini ready, all the while keeping in mind that you are beautiful just the way you are.

Bob’s 20 Nonnegotiable Rules from The Skinny Rules


1) Water- lots and lots, with every meal

2) A real breakfast such as oatmeal, eggs, or plain Greek yogurt with nuts and berries

3) Berries and apples every day

4) Fiber rich fruits and veggies

5) Protein at every meal


The obvious bad guys~

1) Added sweeteners in drinks and foods

2) Refined flours and grains; white potatoes; white rice

3) Fast foods & fried foods

4) High salt foods

Important Components: 

1) Read labels to determine portions and scout out hidden bad guys

2) Have a meatless day each week

3) Strive to make at least 10 meals per week at home

4) Cut off eating 3 hours before bed

5) Sleep right

6) Allow a splurge meal once per week

Extra Tips: 

1) Eat carb heavier in the mornings, and less throughout the day

2) Add in extra fiber and protein in the afternoons

3) Eat lean and green for dinner

4) Plan meals and prepare portion sizes on a Sunday evening for the week

5) Place certain smart snack foods, such as hard-boiled eggs, blueberries, cucumbers, etc. at eye-level in the fridge

Other tips and tricks (by Dr. Deegan)

1) Always take the stairs

2) Park the furthest away from the store entrance in any parking lot

3) Walk, run, bike, skip, jump to work

4) 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week (or 150 minutes per week) of moderate exercise is the minimum amount of exercise required by our bodies

5) Do yoga or stretch twice a week

6) Start slow~ You don’t want to pull a hamstring and be on crutches in that bikini!!

And as always, come see us if you feel like you could use some more help, need more motivation or guidance, or just feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to start. We are here to help you feel your best. So, come on in, and start feeling better.

Avocado Salad with Peaches Recipe at Epicurious.com

Epicurious.com © Condé Nast Digital, Inc. All rights reserved.

Avocado Salad With Peaches 

Bon Appétit | August 2011

by Greg Baker

The Refinery

Yield: Makes 4 to 6 servings


1/2 red bell pepper, cored and seeded

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 almost-ripe avocados

8 cups arugula or sorrel

2 peaches, diced and peeled


Roast bell pepper. Peel and chop pepper; purée with red wine

vinegar, vanilla, and sugar in a blender until smooth.

With machine running, gradually add olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Halve and pit avocados and season with salt and pepper. Drizzle with olive oil and place cut side down on a

medium-hot grill until nicely charred, about 5 minutes. Peel and thickly slice.

Toss with arugula or sorrel and peaches. Drizzle dressing over.


Per serving: 220.7 calories, 175.3 calories from fat, 19.5 g fat, 2.8 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 12.3 g

carbohydrates, 12.3 g dietary fiber, 5.6 g total sugars, 6.5 g net carbohydrates, 2.6 g protein, 12.2 mg sodium

Nutritional analysis provided by Bon Appétit


May 9, 2012

Seasonal allergies getting you down?

Me too, actually.

And I am not a typical allergy sufferer.


Here is what I learned and some tips for helping to minimize those sneezes and itchy, watery eyes:

1) Spring cleaning has a purpose: when the sunlight was finally shining through my (dirty) windows this past weekend, I realized all the nooks and crannies dust can land over the winter. A deep spring cleaning was called for. Be sure to clean the hidden places, such as heater vents, floor boards, the top of the fridge, window screens- and keep the windows open to help air out the dust you may stir up during cleaning.


2) Netti pots are amazing: most of us do this, but it is easy to fall out of the habit of cleaning out our sinuses in the shower. Get back to it!


3) Homeopathic Euphrasia officinalis: try a daily dose of 30C, especially if your allergies are not responding to Zyrtec or Claritin, or if you do not want to take those OTC medications.


4) Try NAET: Our new lovely physician to join NFM, Dr. Tamara Dickson, is specialized in an allergy removal technique called NAET. Dr. Dickson can explain this technique further;, but essentially, it involves a system of muscle testing to identify allergens, and then uses a system of acupressure (based on Chinese medicine) to help the body clear these allergens. This is a great technique for kids with multiple allergies as well. For more specific information, contact Dr. Dickson at DrDickson@naturopathicmedicine.com


5) Identify the source of your allergies: There are many ways to try to do this. For example, blood and skin tests can be helpful. Also, eliminating or limiting exposure to suspected allergens and then “challenging” them via a re-introduction  is another useful method.


As always, if your allergies are limiting your daily activities, making you sick, or impairing your ability to function, schedule a visit with your provider for personalized advice. 

15 minutes a day….

April 24, 2012

Is 15 the new magic number? Researchers are now saying that 15 minutes of recess is all it takes to kids to behave better, stay on task & focus longer, and learn efficiently. So, let’s implement a couple mandatory 15 minute recesses in the school-day, recesses that cannot be taken away for punishment reasons. Sounds too easy, right?

But with growing class sizes and curriculums, adding in extra recess time may seem implausible from a school administrator’s perspective. Furthermore, withholding recess as a punishment has been a long-standing tradition for many schools and teachers.

Personally, I think recess is incredibly important. And I don’t think it should be optional, used as a reward, or withheld for punishment. I think it should be part of any day’s schedule, like lunch; and not only for children, but for adults as well. Getting up from your desk, moving, getting outside, breathing fresh air, getting sunlight — it’s hard to see the downside here. And if 15 minutes of recess is all it takes for better behaved children who are more apt to learn and pay attention…well, this seems like a no-brainer to me.

Here is what Rae Pica thinks:

7 Reasons Why Kids Need Recess (Even the Kids Who Misbehave)

by Rae Pica

Four times in the past month, I’ve heard from parents or teachers who are upset by school policies that allow teachers or administrators to withhold recess as a form of punishment. The children’s infractions range from tardiness to failure to complete homework to acting out in class – which covers a wide range of behaviors and ensures any number of children will go without recess on any given day.

The research, however, is clear: Children need recess, the benefits of which range across developmental domains. Following are just seven reasons why, if we want children to achieve optimal intellectual, social/emotional, and physical success, they should not be denied recess.


  1. Everyone benefits from a break. As far back as 1885 and 1901 the research is quite clear on this: Both children and adults learn better and more quickly when their efforts are distributed (breaks are included) than when concentrated (work is conducted in longer periods). More recently, the novelty-arousal theory has suggested that people function better when they have a change of pace. Because young children don’t process most information as effectively as older children (due to the immaturity of their nervous systems and their lack of experience), they can especially benefit from breaks.
  2. Recess increases on-task time. Dr. Olga Jarrett and her colleagues approached an urban school district with a policy against recess. They received permission for two fourth-grade classes to have recess once a week so they could determine the impact on the children’s behavior on recess and non-recess days. The result was that the 43 children became more on-task and less fidgety on days when they had recess. Sixty percent of the children, including the five suffering from attention deficit disorder, worked more and/or fidgeted less on recess days. Dr. Jarrett’s research demonstrated that a 15-minute recess resulted in the children’s being 5 percent more on-task and 9 percent less fidgety, which translated into 20 minutes saved during the day.
  3. Children need outside light. The outside light stimulates the pineal gland, which is the part of the brain that helps regulate our biological clock, is vital to the immune system, and simply makes us feel better. Outside light triggers the synthesis of vitamin D. And a number of studies have demonstrated that it increases academic learning and productivity.
  4. Unstructured physical play reduces stress. The National Association for the Education of Young Children recommends unstructured physical play as a developmentally appropriate means of reducing stress in children’s lives – and studies show that stress has a negative impact on learning as well as on health. For many children, especially those who are hyperactive or potentially so, recess is an opportunity to blow off steam. Outdoors, children can engage in behaviors (loud, messy, and boisterous) considered unacceptable and annoying indoors. And because recess is a break from structure and expectations, children have an opportunity to take control of their world, which is a rarity in their lives.
  5. Children need to learn to be social creatures. Recess may be the only time during the day when children have an opportunity to experience socialization and real communication. Neighborhoods are not what they used to be, so once the school day ends, there may be little chance for social interaction. And, of course, while in school children are generally not allowed to interact during class, while lining up, or when moving from one area of the school to another. Some school policies even prevent children from talking to one another during lunch. How can children with so few opportunities to socialize and communicate be expected to live and work together in harmony as adults? When and where will they have learned how?
  6. Our children’s health is at risk. We’re all aware that many of our children are suffering from overweight and obesity, but even children who have no weight issues require physical activity to sustain optimal health. The outdoors is the best place for children to practice emerging physical skills, to experience the pure joy of movement, and to burn the most calories. Research has even shown that children who are physically active in school are more likely to be physically active at home. Moreover, children who don’t have the opportunity to be active during the school day don’t usually compensate during after-school hours.
  7. Physical activity feeds the brain. Thanks to advances in brain research, we now know that most of the brain is activated during physical activity – much more so than when doing seatwork. Movement increases the capacity of blood vessels (and possibly even their number), allowing for the delivery of oxygen, water, and glucose (“brain food”) to the brain. This optimizes the brain’s performance! Furthermore, numerous studies have shown that students who are physically active have improved academic performance, achieve higher test scores, and demonstrate a better attitude toward school.


There is one more reason why recess should not be withheld from children as punishment: It doesn’t work. Experimental studies and anecdotal evidence indicate that the same children tend to miss all or part of recess every day, which means that the threat of missing recess is ineffective. And, as Eric Jensen, author of several books on brain-based learning, tells us, “sitting for more than 10 minutes at a stretch reduces our awareness of physical and emotional sensations and increases fatigue,” the result of which is reduced concentration and discipline problems. The rationale for demanding children sit more, therefore, is counterintuitive both to what the research shows and to what we know about children.


Rae Pica is a children’s physical activity specialist and the author of 18 books for teachers and parents. Read more of what she has to say at her blog, The Pica Perspective, and hear her interviews with experts in the fields of  education, child development, the neurosciences, and more at www.bamradionetwork.com.

Where do you stand on the recess debate? Let us know your thoughts! 

10 Rules for a Healthy and Successful Detox Diet

1. See your Doctor! Your doctor, who knows your health history inside and out, is absolutely the best person to help you plan a safe and healthy detoxification protocol that is just as unique as you are.

2. Keep it simple. The simplest protocol will be the easiest one to remember and follow. No need for a high-tech, fancy detox to get the awesome benefits of a cleanse.

3. Timing is everything. Pick a time when you are not giving a huge presentation at work, or planning a family camping trip. An ideal time to detox is one where you will be at home, not under huge amounts of stress, and have a little wiggle-room in your schedule to relax and take your time.

4. Include water as a both a supplement as a tool. Water is amazing, use it. Drink a glass of water first thing in the morning, followed by a contrast shower (hydrotherapy) to kick off your mornings during your detox.

5. Get your beauty rest. You may initially feel more tired while detoxing. Listen to your body, and get some sleep.

6. Fiber! Fiber is essential during a cleanse to bind toxins, and move them out of your body (via the bowels.) Be sure to add lots of non-soluble fiber to your diet.

7. Sweat your heart out– err, those icky toxins out. Sweating is the best way to help mobilize toxins, and remove them from your body. Hit the sauna as often as you can during your cleanse.

8. Relax. Detoxing is also about detoxing the mind and the spirit; letting go of thoughts and emotions that are no longer serving you. Practice letting go of stress by taking your time, slowing down throughout your day, and practicing mindfulness.

9. Smile. Practice being happy, even during stressful times. Happiness is healthy for you! =)

10. Get a detox buddy. Find a friend or a partner to detox with. Studies show that when it comes to weight loss or exercise, buddies increase our chances of following through. Friends who detox together, live longer and healthier together!

NFM has a wide variety of detox protocols for you. Whether you are looking to lose weight, improve your skin, or just feel better, we can help. Schedule an appointment today to talk about the best detoxification cleanse for you this Spring. 

This blog is a hodgepodge of Valentine’s Day stuff:

Your last-minute local gift guide to stores I love, and also, other ways to show your love that don’t include a pricey fixed-menu and cheesy gifts. 

First, the scoop on the goods. 

Here are some of my favorite and local places to shop for your gal or guy:

1) Theo’s Chocolate Factory in Fremont

I recommend the Aphrodisiac Chocolate Gift Set 

2) Bellefleur Lingerie in Fremont

I recommend the Panty of Month pick, or signing your special girl up for a year’s worth of panties each month! 

3) Pharmaca, several locations including West Seattle and the Wallingford Center

One-stop shopping for scented candles, bath salts, chocolates, lotions, massage oil, and more! I recommend Good, Clean, Love’s Love Oils 

4) Wild at Heart in Ballard

This little shop offers a large selection of intimate designer apparel, animal print clothing and unique gifts, and home décor.

Not swapping presents this year? Here are some other ways to celebrate your love together: 

1) Cook an intimate dinner together. I like this recipe of Chicken and Wild Mushrooms, as it is easy (for chefs at all levels) and tasty. A quick search through the epicurious recipe files will help point you toward whatever your taste buds are craving. Pair this meal with a tasty beverage and candles, and voila! 

Epicurious also has it’s own Romantic Recipes section that is worth browsing! 

2) Share handmade cards and personally written poems

3) Treat Valentine’s Day like Thanksgiving– meaning, take the time to really share how your partner contributes to your life, and thank him or her for it. 

4) Plan a long-term goal that you can do together. Still thinking about starting that New Year’s Resolution- well, here is a link to 5 Running Workouts designed to be done with a partner that may just be the jump-start you need. This is the perfect way to work in not only exercise, but quality sharing time as well, as running often allows time for talking and sharing. 

Happy Valentine’s Day!