Category: Food and Nutrition

6 Strategies to Stay Healthy During the Holiday Season

By Esther Sears, FNP, AOCNP

We all know the temptations that come with holiday meals.  Who even wants to turn down the many tempting foods?  Maybe you have already blown it with Thanksgiving or indulged in your kids’ Halloween candy.  Then the self-defeating talk begins.  “I just won’t worry about it, I will get back to my healthy lifestyle plan after the holidays”.  And you let loose.  Everything is open game now.  Before you know it, the sugar addiction and feeling of being out of control returns, and so do the pounds!  That is why so many people make New Year’s resolutions!  I would like to challenge you to make a resolution now instead.  All is not lost.  You can survive the holidays with your appetite in check.  Here are 6 strategies to help you accomplish this.

6 Strategies to Help You Stay on Track Through the Holidays

  1. Change your mindset. All is not lost just because you had a meal or two that did not perfectly align with your lifestyle! Commit to getting back on track now. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you will “just go with it” and worry about it after the holidays.  This thinking is self-defeating and sets the stage for complete catastrophe.
  2. When at meals with family or friends, start with veggies. If there is a veggie tray, snack away before the meal.  This will help you feel full so you eat less of the other foods.  If you don’t expect to see a veggie tray, bring one!
  3. Plan ahead. Think about what your plate will look like in advance, and how much of certain foods will be on it. Commit to filling it only once.  Plan on 2/3 to 3/4 of your plate to be veggies and 1/4 to 1/3 protein.
  4. If you want dessert, plan for it in advance. Do you need a whole piece or would half suffice?  Do you need the ice cream or whipping cream on top or can you go without?  Make your choices before you go and commit to stick with them.
  5. Whatever you do decide to eat this holiday season, commit to thoroughly enjoying it. Focus on your food, enjoying the tastes and textures and take time to chew well and eat slowly.  This simple step will result in eating less!
  6. Plan your day after meals in advance and commit to staying on your lifestyle plan.

Whatever you do, don’t beat yourself up.  We all struggle through the holiday season, myself included.  But we don’t have to give in and go crazy.  We can survive with our “jeans” intact!

If you do need help in getting back on track after the holiday season, I would love to help you set goals and address any health related issues you may be having in the new year.  Happy Holidays!

The Core Four: Foundational Daily Supplements

By Emily Dickerson, ND

It is pretty easy for our supplement regimens to fill our entire medicine cabinet, and for some of us, an entire laundry basket. Without knowing exactly what we should be taking on a daily basis, it is difficult to determine what to spend money on, and it is easy to waste money on multitude of supplements with big promises. This is an explanation of the Core Four daily supplements that benefit everyone, regardless of age.

The Core Four are the supplements that most people need on a daily basis. These supplements help us to create a strong foundation for healthy bodies and minds. This simple supplement routine alone can help to improve specific health concerns as well as our overall health. This is the foundation upon which we build additional treatment recommendations, much like the foundation upon which a house is built. Any treatments that I recommend are in addition to the Core Four because they address root causes of illness and treatment plans work better if first the basal health is addressed.


Eating a whole foods diet high in vegetables is the foundation of your nutrition. However, when your diet falls short, your multivitamin can be helpful to cover your essential micronutrient needs.

A multivitamin is an essential component of your daily supplementation. Multivitamins contain important vitamins and minerals required for daily function of the body. Each vitamin plays an important role in normal bodily processes, maintaining health, and supporting cell and tissues structure and function. They play big roles in processes such as making neurotransmitters, which collectively is your brain chemistry.

I recommend the Thorne Brand of multivitamins. These multivitamins contain methylated B vitamins, which are very important for supporting methylation defects we are seeing on a regular basis. There are different multivitamins for every stage of life. For children, I recommend the Thorne Children’s multivitamin. For women of childbearing age, I recommend the Thorne Prenatal, regardless if they are trying to conceive or not. We can help you find the multivitamin that is ideal for your age and health status. Remember to take your multivitamin with food, as taken on an empty stomach or too little food may cause nausea.

Vitamin D3

Vitamin D3 is an important nutrient for immune health, mental health, and bone health. It prevents cell proliferation, which means it plays an important role in the prevention of cancer. Vitamin D is considered a hormone moreso than a vitamin because of its myriad of roles within the body.

Our bodies make Vitamin D3 in our skin via ultraviolet rays from the sun, and we often get it through fortified foods in our diet. In Idaho, even though we have lots of sun here, most of us have a Vitamin D deficiency. This is due to a few factors, including wearing sunscreen and our great distance from the equator.

It is important to get Vitamin D tested on a regular (6-12 month) basis to ensure that you are getting enough Vitamin D and not too much. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that has potential to build up within the body. It is best absorbed when taken when eating a fat-containing food, such as avocado, nuts, seeds, fish, olive oil, or butter.

Recommended Dosing:

  • Adults: 1000 to 4000 iu per day
  • Children: 500 to 1000 iu per day


Probiotics are identified strains of beneficial bacteria that are part of a healthy primary immune system within the gut, and are involved with immune function and mental health. Probiotics promote healthy digestion by directly participating in the digestive process and promoting healthy tissues within the gastrointestinal tract. They are involved with healthy brain chemistry because they are one of the ways that our body makes the feel-good brain chemical serotonin. Probiotics promote a healthy balance of microflora within the GI tract by keeping the populations of other gastrointestinal microorganisms, such as Candida, in check. A high diversity in gut flora is associated with fewer autoimmune diseases, less diabetes and cardiovascular disease, decreased obesity, and less frequent infections.

Recommended Dosing:

  • Adults: 5+ different probiotic strains, 5 billion organisms
  • Children: 1/2 – 1 of the adult dose, depending on size and medical conditions

Fish Oil/Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Fish oil is anti-inflammatory, supports cardiovascular health, and provides healthy fats from which our cell walls can be created. It contains eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahenaenoic acid (DHA), which are considered essential fatty acids because the body needs them and is unable to make them. It is essential that we get these fats via our food or via supplementation. Fish and fish oil are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids. I generally recommend fish oil/krill oil/cod liver oil over flax seed oil or other omega 3-6-9 combinations because we eat enough foods that are high in omega-6 and omega-9 on a daily basis. We generally get insufficient amounts of omega-3 fatty acids in our diet. In high doses, omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory, whereas high doses of omega-6 and omega-9 are pro-inflammatory. In addition to this, omega-3 fatty acids compete with omega-6 and omega-9 for absorption, so it generally is not a good idea to supplement with a combination. Fish oil is best taken with food.

Recommended Dosing:

  • Adults 1000 – 2000 mg per day
  • Children 300 – 600 mg for every 40 lbs of body weight

The Core Four is part of most initial office visits with Dr. Dickerson. Addressing the root cause of health concerns is innate to the care that she provides. To schedule an office visit with Dr. Dickerson to discuss your foundational health, please call Boise Natural Health Clinic at (208)338-0405.


Food Versus Nourishment:  What’s the Difference?

By Esther Sears NP

It’s the weekend.  You have a lengthy list of tasks to complete and among them, the dreaded grocery shopping!  You rush through the store picking things that can be easily prepared, a frozen pizza, a loaf of French bread, peanut butter, canned tuna, some “healthy” frozen dinners, a few items for a salad, frozen peas, spaghetti and sauce and you are on your way.  Thank goodness that chore is done!

While it is true, you did buy food, the content may be far from nourishing.  You may, in fact, be sabotaging your efforts to be healthy and maintain a healthy body weight.  There is an enormous difference between “food” and “nourishment”.  Our bodies are screaming for adequate amounts of vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber and water so they can perform the cellular and physiological process that are necessary for us to live and enjoy good health.  When these needs are not met, our bodies will compensate for a period, but eventually we begin to see the signs of “malnourishment”.  These include osteoporosis, obesity (yes, you read that right), weakness and fatigue, muscle wasting, irritability, dry and flaking skin, brittle nails, depression, feeling cold, poor wound healing, and the list goes on!  This is why people in their fifties and 60’s often “hit the wall”. They have been eating a standard American diet most of their lives and after decades of small nutritional deficits, their bodies lose their ability to compensate.

Many of us have been brainwashed into the erroneous thinking that we can focus on “low fat diets” or “counting calories” with little regard to the quality of the food eaten.  Well the good news is that by eating the right foods and replenishing the micronutrients that have been missing for so long, we can ensure that our bodies are getting their nutritional needs met and we can get on the path to better health.

If you are suffering from any of the signs of malnourishment, consider scheduling an appointment with me to implement a plan to regain or improve your health!

Correcting Your Iron Deficiency

By Joan Haynes, ND

Symptoms of Iron Deficiency

  • Fatigue
  • Poor attention, memory, and work productivity
  • Sore tongue
  • Poor condition of skin, nails, or hair including hair loss
  • Cracks or sores at the corners of mouth
  • Wounds heal slowly
  • Shortness of breath
  • Paleness
  • Restless leg syndrome

Reasons for an Iron Deficiency

  1. Blood loss – through heavy menstrual cycles, intestinal bleeding, etc.
  2. Low intake of iron rich foods (see attached list)
  3. Gastrointestinal problems:
    • Low hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes
    • Celiac disease
    • Intestinal parasite infections
    • Intestinal bleeding (which the patient may not notice)
  4. Supplements and Medications that interfere with iron absorption
    • Calcium – in dairy foods and calcium supplements
    • Antacids such as Rolaids and Tums and acid-blocking medications such as Pepcid and Prilosec
  5. Health Issues
    • Chronic diseases such as hypothyroidism, cancer, and blood abnormalities.

Ways to Increase Iron Absorption

  1. Increase acid in the digestive tract
    • Vitamin C – 250-2000 mg can be taken at the same time as your iron
    • Vinegar – 1 ounce of apple cider vinegar with your iron or on your iron rich foods
    • Hydrochloric acid – if too low will inhibit mineral absorption. Read my article: Reflux: Could you have LOW Stomach Acid.  Caution: do not take hydrochloric acid unless you start very slowly and read the contraindications.
  2. Meat sources of iron are more easily absorbed than plant sources
  3. Combine plant and animal sources in the same meal to enhance the absorption of iron from plants
  4. Cast Iron cookware releases iron into food

Ways to Decrease Iron Absorption

– Try to not ingest the following with your iron supplement or iron rich meals, especially if you are having trouble getting your iron levels to rise.  Avoid them 1 hour before and 2 hours after iron ingestion.

  1. Oxalates – found in many foods, even iron rich foods like spinach and kale which prevent the iron from being released. But, if you cook those veggies it will help with availability.  Other high oxalate foods include beets, nuts, chocolate, tea, wheat bran, rhubarb, strawberries, oregano, basil and parsley.
  2. Phytates – this compound is found in whole grain, fiber supplements, walnuts, almonds, sesame, dried beans, lentils, peas and soy protein.
  3. Polyphenols – another plant compound found in coffee, tea, chocolate, walnuts, apples, blackberries, raspberries and blueberries.
  4. Calcium – cow’s milk products (cheese, yogurt, milk) and calcium supplements
  5. Antacids such as Rolaids and Tums and acid-blocking medications such as Pepcid and Prilosec

Testing for Iron Deficiency

  1. The most commonly ordered test is part of a Complete Blood Count which shows hemoglobin and hematocrit levels. However, these markers are unreliable and miss many people’s iron deficiency.
  2. It is much more useful to run a Serum Ferritin which will measure your iron stores and can reveal low iron levels much earlier than a CBC. We like levels above 90.

Taking an Iron Supplement

  1. There are different forms of supplemental iron, some of which are more easily absorbed. The commonly recommended form ferrous sulfate often cases gastrointestinal issues.  Amino-acid chelates are usually tolerated better such as iron bis-glycinate.
  2. Iron is best absorbed on an empty stomach. But if you experience stomach cramps, nausea or diarrhea, you can take with a small amount of food.
  3. If you need to take your iron with food, avoid taking it with the list above under Ways to Decrease Iron Absorption.
  4. For medications and supplements, wait at least 1 hour before and 2 hours after calcium, antacids, tetracycline, penicillin, ciprofloxacin, and drugs used for Parkinson disease and seizures. Check any other medication you are taking for iron contraindications.
  5. Black stools are normal when taking iron tablets.
  6. Liquid iron supplements can stain your teeth. Use a straw.
  7. If your iron is causing constipation, diarrhea, nausea which doesn’t go away by taking with food, contact the clinic and we can recommend another form of iron. There are forms of iron that are easier on the digestive tract.
  8. An iron deficiency may be a sign of other nutritional deficiencies as well. Be sure to take a multivitamin which includes a full spectrum of minerals too.
  9. Don’t give up – it takes time for iron stores to correct. Get tested regularly so you know your therapy is working.  If your ferritin levels are not increasing, make sure you follow up with your provider to investigate the reason.

Keep iron supplements out of the reach of children.

If your child swallows an iron pill, contact a poison control center right away.

Iron Rich Foods (from

The amount of iron you need depends on your age and iron status.  The recommended daily allowance varies from 0.27 mg/day for an infant to 27 mg/day for a pregnant woman.  An anemic person will need more until their condition is stabilized.

Animal Sources Containing Heme Iron which is more easily absorbed

  • Clams – 23.8 mg per 3 oz
  • Oysters – 7.8 mg per 3 oz
  • Liver per 3 oz
    • Chicken – 8 mg
    • Beef – 5.8 mg
  • Mussels – 5.7 mg per 3 oz
  • Sardines – 2.4 mg per 3 oz
  • Turkey – 1.6 mg per 3 oz
  • Beef per 3 oz
    • Extra lean ground – 2.5 mg
    • Prime rib – 2.1 mg
    • Short rib – 2 mg
    • Rib eye – 1.7 mg
    • Sirloin – 1.6 mg
  • Lamb chop – 2.1 mg per 3 oz
  • Egg – 1.2 mg per 2 large eggs

Plant Sources Containing Non-Heme Iron

  • Pumpkin seeds – 8.6 mg per 1/4 cup
  • Firm Tofu – 8 mg per 3/4 cup
  • Beans per 3/4 cup cooked
    • White beans – 5.8 mg
    • Red kidney beans – 3.9 mg
    • Soybeans: 3.4 mg
  • Lentils – 4.9 mg per 3/4 cup cooked
  • Some whole-grain breakfast cereals (per cup)
    • Total – 18 mg
    • Raisin Bran – 10.8 mg
    • Cheerios – 8.9 mg
    • Special K – 8.7 mg
    • All-Bran – 5.5 mg
  • Baked potato with skin – 2.7 mg
  • Chickpeas – 2.4 mg per 3/4 cup cooked
  • Blackstrap Molasses – 3.6 mg per Tbsp
  • Prune juice – 3.2 mg per cup
  • Dried fruits per 1/2 cup
    • Peaches – 1.6 mg
    • Raisins – 1.4 mg
    • Plums – 1.3 mg
    • Apricots – 1.2 mg
  • Nuts per 1/4 cup:
    • Cashew: 1.7 mg
    • Almonds: 1.4 mg
    • Pistachio: 1.2 mg
    • Walnuts: 0.9 mg
    • Pecan: 0.7 mg

What Basic Nutrients are Needed to Thrive?


By Emily Richmond, ABT, Certified NAET Practitioner

I have been growing veggie starts in my green house and when they started drooping I had to figure out what nutrients they needed. I was pleasantly reminded that plants need what we all need: probiotics, prebiotics to feed the probiotics, trace minerals, vitamins, healthy water and sun. Not too much sun, not too little. They can’t be overly hydrated nor under hydrated. Neither plants nor humans can live to our full potential when there are no nutrients left in our soil, which subsequently impacts the food that grows in our soil. Both plants and humans become less resistant to pathogens like viruses, fungus, and bacteria when we don’t give our structure what it needs to thrive.

No single food contains all the vitamins and minerals we need and, therefore, a balanced and varied diet is necessary for an adequate intake. The more depleted our soils become the more we need to supplement. We can supplement the soil in our own gardens, our plant starts, as well as supplement our bodies.

What Humans Need

  1. Macronutrients – Protein, carbohydrates and fats. Provide us with energy. They are needed in larger quantities than micronutrients and can be received from the calories we consume in our diet.
  2. Micronutrients – Composed of vitamins and minerals.  Processes in your body can only function correctly with the proper balance of minerals.
    1. Vitamins – Required in minute quantities, compared to the macronutrients, they are as vital to health and need to be considered when determining nutrition status.
      1. Each of the 13 vitamins known today have specific functions in the body: vitamin A, provitamin A (Beta‐carotene), vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, biotin, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, folic acid, vitamin K, niacin and pantothenic acid.
    2. Minerals – Inorganic nutrients that also play a key role in ensuring health, well‐being and proper functioning of your body. There are both macrominerals and microminerals (trace minerals) needed in smaller amounts. Some examples of macrominerals are: iron for your blood, sulfur for your muscles, calcium for your bones. Trace minerals are mostly co-factors and are necessary for the function of enzymes in the body. Trace mineral examples are copper, cobalt, chromium, manganese, selenium and zinc.
  3. Hydration – Find out if you are drinking enough water.

Useful Supplements Offered at Boise Natural Health Clinic

  1. Multivitamin– Capsules NOT tablets. More than one a day – Thorne has great multivitamins for all ages. Multivitamins support the immune system to do its job and provide the co-factors needed to support detoxification pathways among many other functions.
  2. Fish Oil DHA/EPA – Carlson’s, Nordic Naturals, Pro Omega Junior for kids. Fish oil provides omega-3 fatty acids to help with inflammation, brain function.
  3. Probiotics– Multi-strain, at least 5 plus strains of good bacteria, with 5 billion or more organisms, and is refrigerated. HMF powder and BioDoph 7 Plus are offered at our office. Probiotics are “friendly” bacteria that normally live in our digestive system and throughout the body and can help us break down food, absorb nutrients, boost the immune system and create a more balanced microbiome in the digestive tract read more.
  4. Prebiotics – Promote the growth of beneficial microorganisms in the gastrointestinal tract. Prebiotics are often high-fiber foods such as these.

Calcium . . . Friend or Foe?  A Fresh Look at Bone Health and Osteoporosis

by Joan Haynes, ND

Still think 1200 mg of calcium daily will build good bone?  Think again.  That much calcium might only not help, but actually harm.  Excessive calcium might compromise cardiac and kidney health.  Here’s a fresh look at osteoporosis and the host of minerals, cofactors, diet and lifestyle recommendations that are necessary for good bone health.

Careful with Calcium

Health professionals are beginning to question the recommendations on calcium supplementation.  A study published in the British Medical Journal in 2008 showed a positive correlation between calcium supplementation and an increased risk of myocardial infarction (heart attack) in older women through calcification of coronary arteries.  Other studies showed too much calcium leads to deposits in the kidneys leading to kidney stones.

Not All Calcium is the Same

The type of calcium is always important to consider.  At BNH we recommend calcium citrate or calcium citrate-malate.  These are highly absorbable forms of calcium and we recommend that women stay under 500 mg a day.  The popular and inexpensive calcium carbonate form is what chalk and Tums are made from.  Calcium carbonate actually blocks its own absorption through buffering stomach acid.

Low Stomach Acid

You might be getting plenty of calcium and other minerals in your diet, but if you don’t have enough stomach acid to break them down, you can’t absorb them.  Symptoms of low stomach acid might be acid reflux, heartburn, burping, gas, bloating, and nausea.  Low stomach acid is associated with an inability to digest meat well and often people’s stomach feels heavy or overly full after meals, despite eating a normal amount.  Sometimes, even if there are no gastrointestinal symptoms, it is useful to screen patients for low HCL if they have poor mineralization health conditions, such as those with anemia, osteoporosis, thinning hair, thin nails, and nervous system problems like insomnia, anxiety, and restless leg syndrome. READ MORE about low stomach acid in an article on our web page.

Bones are MUCH More than Calcium

To build and maintain bone we must also have optimal amounts of vitamin D, vitamin K, magnesium, potassium and essential trace minerals such as boron.  Adequate protein is also needed as well as omega-3 oils.

High Calcium Foods are High Mineral Foods

We all know that dairy foods are high in calcium, but many of our patients avoid dairy.  The best food sources of calcium, other than dairy, include whole grains, beans, almonds and other nuts, dark green leafy vegetables like kale, bok choy and turnip greens, also salmon and sardines. It is interesting to note that individuals who avoid dairy due to lactose intolerance do not experience a corresponding increase in osteoporosis.

A Word about Strontium

In my patients that have demonstrated bone loss with a DEXA scan, I recommend the mineral strontium citrate.  This mineral has been shown to increase bone density.  Caution: calcium will inhibit the absorption of strontium if taken together so they must be ingested at different meals.

Alkaline Diet

A diet high in animal protein, grains, and sugar and low in vegetables and fruit can cause an increase in urinary excretion of calcium, leading to bone loss.  These foods acidify your system, causing a leaching of calcium from the bone to keep your body’s pH normal.  A whole-foods, plant-based diet create a more alkaline environment.


Always at the top of the list to build and maintain healthy bones is exercise.  Both weight bearing and cardio together have been shown to be the most effective.

Don’t Wait to Take Bone Health Seriously

About one in two women over the age of 50 will develop osteoporosis but what is often overlooked is one in four men over the age of 50 will also develop the disease.  Be proactive with your bone health.

At Boise Natural Health, we can help you design an effective bone health program that includes individualized supplementation and overall health optimization.  Call today to make an appointment 208-338-0405. 

Tips for a Healthy and Happy Holiday Season

By Emily Dickerson, ND

The holidays don’t have to ruin your healthy lifestyle, nor your waistline. Tis the season to maintain your anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle through the holidays. Don’t let this season’s festivities be the cause for “falling off the wagon”. Allow the holidays to fit into your healthy lifestyle with these helpful tips and tricks:


To help you through the stress of the holidays, use adaptogenic herbs daily. Adaptogenic herbs improve our energy and help us to manage stress better. For this time of year, I like the combination of ashwagandha and schizandra, because they are calming rather than stimulating. Not only are their names fun to say, but they also make great stocking stuffers in tincture form!


Tis the season to visit your local yoga studio or hot yoga studio to help you stay in balance. This is a perfect excuse to grab some healthy “me time” in the midst of a busy schedule. I like fitting in a hot yoga class when it is cold outside and before starting a busy day.


Exercise helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels, which is extremely important with all the eating we do during the holidays. I recommend going for a walk after a big meal to help your blood sugar levels stay healthy. Exercise is also the best stress management tool that we know of, as it is the only thing that can immediately lower elevated cortisol levels.


Our bodies heal while we sleep, so it is very important that we get enough of it. Sufficient sleep also help us think clearly, improves our mood, and also helps us to handle stress better. Shoot for at least 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. If you are having difficulty falling or staying asleep, try one of our nutritional or herbal sleep aids to help you through the night.


I am a huge advocate for the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. But is it possible to stick to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet while enjoying the nostalgic tastes of the holidays? Absolutely doable. Here are some simple rules to follow to help you succeed.

  • Your plate should be 75% vegetables in bulk. If you are trying to lose weight or just be healthier, this is your biggest helper. Focus on nutrient-dense colorful vegetables and avoid those that are high in starch (aka carbohydrates), such as potatoes and corn. Some of my favorite nutrient-dense vegetables are leafy greens and anything in the brassica family, such as kale, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower.
  • Meat should be used as a condiment rather than as the main course, meaning that it is added to the meal, not the focus of it. The human body needs no more than 4 ounces (for a woman) or 6 oz (for a man) of meat in a meal. This is the content that the body can process after a meal. When the body cannot utilize what is taken in, the excess protein from meat is stored as fat.
  • At holiday gathering and pot lucks, load up on vegetable dishes and take smaller portions of calorie dense foods, such as heavy casseroles.
  • Try to continue avoiding food sensitivities. Eating your food sensitivity foods promotes unnecessary inflammation in the body and rarely is it worth feeling badly. Instead, try making classic holiday dishes with non-allergen recipes utilizing the following cookbooks that are allergen free:
    • Whole Life Nutrition by Malterre and Segersten
    • Nourishing Meals by Malterre and Segersten

Most importantly, enjoy your holiday season and relax. Laughter is incredible for your health, so indulge in lots of it. I am looking forward to what the New Year holds and hope to see you in it!


Dr. Dickerson

Dr. Dickerson is currently seeing patients both in office and via telemedicine. To schedule an appointment, please call Boise Natural Health at (208)338-0405.

Spooky Sugar: Our Daily Hidden Toxin

By Emily Dickerson, ND

Halloween is on the horizon, and before you dress up as ghastly ghouls and fill pillowcases full of candy, let’s talk sugar.

If I were to make one health recommendation for a change that you could make today to improve your health and vitality immensely, what would it be? Eliminate sugar.

Sugar is hidden throughout our daily life, most notably in packaged foods. Sugar is an extremely simple carbohydrate, meaning that it is broken down quickly, creating a quick spike in blood sugar and putting stress on your insulin (blood sugar response hormone) system. This impact on blood sugar is what defines sugar as a very high glycemic index food. Packaged foods often contain hidden added sugars. Read the label on any of your packaged foods. In general, the sweeter the food tastes, the higher the sugar it contains, and the higher the carbohydrate content will be.

Sugar Addiction:

Sugar feeds into our “Reward Center” in our brain, meaning that it follows the same pathway that many of our recreational drugs do. It stimulates secretion of the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine makes us feel good, and when it is gone, we want more. And more. Every time we eat sugar we fuel this reward pathway and feed our addiction. When we are tired we crave sugar because the body wants instant energy. When we are stressed we crave sugar because the body craves the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine, and also because stress causes elevated cortisol levels which impact our blood glucose regulation.

Sugar Health Risks:

Diseases that eating sugar puts you at risk for include obesity, Diabetes (Type II), cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Excess sugar triggers inflammatory cascades within the body, meaning that it causes the body to release inflammatory and pain signaling chemicals throughout the body. The body does this because it sees excess sugar as a physiologic stress on the body.

Sugar Detox:

The best way to quit sugar? Cold turkey. When eliminating sugar, many people report symptoms of withdrawal, such as cravings, headaches, irritability, and fatigue. You may experience strong symptoms for the first 3-5 days, but it will get easier the longer you are away from sugar. If you don’t quit sugar altogether, you may continue to have sugar cravings. Processed foods contain lots of hidden sugars, not to mention added preservatives. Eliminating processed foods and focusing on eating “real foods” is a great way to cut your sugar intake.

In my Athlete Health and Nutrition course I talk about how we can use sugar (carbohydrates) to fuel our workouts. However, if excess sugar is taken in and not utilized as a fuel source, it negatively impacts the body in many ways, including getting stored as fat.

Additional Resources:

There are many good books available regarding this topic.The Case Against Sugar by Gary Taubes is a new book on exactly this topic. It is mentioned in Dr. Mercola’s informative, and sometimes scary, article.

Tired? You Might Have Low Iron

By Joan Haynes, ND

Fatigue can have many causes, but a fairly easy cause to figure out and treat involves iron. Iron deficiency is an under-recognized cause of fatigue and can be missed on standard lab work.

Symptoms which may be linked to iron depletion are:

  • Fatigue
  • Poor work productivity
  • Poor attention and memory
  • Sore tongue
  • Poor condition of skin or nails
  • Hair loss
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Cracks on the corners of mouth
  • Pica – cravings for non-foods such as ice or even dirt

Iron does some important things in the body:

  • Carries oxygen to tissues
  • Needed in the mitochondria which makes energy
  • Helps synthesis of thyroid hormone
  • Converts tyrosine to dopamine (one of our feel good neurotransmitters)
  • Important in immune function


Most clinics order a CBC (Complete Blood Count) which will pick up the advanced form of iron deficiency anemia with a low hematocrit and/or hemoglobin (the color and volume of your red blood cells). But an earlier form of low iron levels can be detected with a serum ferritin test. The “normal” range for serum ferritin is broad, from 8 – 250 ng/mL, but hair loss, fatigue and other symptoms can occur when the number gets below 90.

Uncover the Cause of the Low Iron

Besides just identifying the problem, we need to discover and address the causes of the iron deficiency. It could be the patient just doesn’t eat enough iron-rich foods, but it could be something more serious. For example: heavy menstrual bleeding, low stomach acid, celiac disease, low B-12 and folate levels, hidden bleeding in the colon (a potential sign of colon cancer), small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), chronic disease, inflammation, high lead levels and more.

Iron Supplements

Many people complain about gastrointestinal symptoms when taking supplemental iron, usually the ferrous sulfate form. But there are easier forms to absorb. At Boise Natural Health Clinic we use iron bis-glycinate with Vitamin C, between meals. It can take months for iron levels to come back up.

Iron absorption is inhibited by:

Low stomach acid, acid blocking medication, H. pylori infection, coffee, tea, soy products, wheat bran, wheat gluten, oat, nuts, casein, egg white, whey protein, some herbal teas.

Iron absorption is enhanced by:

Hydrochloric acid and vitamin C

Caution is advised with iron supplementation can be toxic, it is the leading cause of poisoning in children. In general, men and non-menstruating women should not take iron supplements or even a multi with iron in it unless they test low.

If you are suffering with any of the above symptoms, come in for a visit with and we’ll do a thorough health history and run labs to discover if iron deficiency, or something else, could be contributing to you not feeling well.


Electrolytes – Combat the Summer Heat with Electrolyte Replacement

By Emily Dickerson, ND

What are Electrolytes?

Electrolytes are molecules that dissolve into ions with (+) or (-) charges. Important electrolytes for humans are sodium (Na+), potassium (K+), calcium (Ca2+), magnesium (Mg2+), chloride (Cl), hydrogen phosphate (HPO42−), and hydrogen carbonate (HCO3). These charged molecules play essential roles in many bodily processes, such as the balance of bodily fluids, neurological function, bone building and strength, digestion, muscle function, and blood pressure control.

Electrolyte Imbalance

Electrolyte imbalance occurs with prolonged diarrhea, vomiting, excessive sweating, and excessive hydration without electrolyte supplementation. When it is HOT outside, like Idaho gets in the summer, it is important to utilize electrolyte replacement supplements to prevent electrolyte imbalances.

Symptoms of electrolyte imbalance include but are not limited to: fatigue (and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome); weakness; muscle aches, cramps, and spasm; irregular heartbeat or palpitations; insomnia; headaches; dizziness; numbness; anxiety; trouble concentrating; and joint pain.

If you simply haven’t felt well with the increase in temperature, it may be helpful to supplement with a good electrolyte replacement.

Exercise and Heat

When it’s hot out, it is important to make sure that you are getting proper hydration and electrolytes, especially if you are exercising. When exercising in the summer, make sure to bring along sufficient water with electrolyte replacement. Try to exercise in the morning, before it gets too warm.

Proper hydration is also important during the heat of the summer, but if we drink too much water without supplementing with electrolytes, it bathes the cells in water, but water cannot enter the cells without electrolytes. Glucose (sugar) and sodium (salt, Na+) act as co-transporters (both must be present) to enter cells, and water follows, bringing hydration from the outside to the inside of cells. Moral of the story, we need water, electrolytes, and a little sugar to properly hydrate the cells of our body.

Electrolyte Replacements that I Like:

1) Klean Electrolytes by Klean Athlete (capsules) – I like this supplement because the ingredients are simple and it has no unnecessary additives.  Because it doesn’t have any sugar, consider taking it with a piece of fresh or dried fruit.

2) Pure Encapsulations Electrolyte/Energy Formula (effervescent powder) – This supplement is great because it has a little sugar in it, which helps to deliver hydration on a cellular level.  We carry this product at Boise Natural Health.

3) NUUN tablets (tablets) – Tablets that dissolve in water. I like these because they taste good, are easy to keep in your purse or backpack, and can be found at many stores, such as Fred Meyers, Whole Foods, Natural Grocers, etc.

4) Recharge (liquid) – Natural Version of Gatorade. Does not contain all of the artificial coloring and additives that Gatorade does. Can be found at Whole Foods, Boise Co-op, Natural Grocers, etc.

5) Homemade Electrolyte Formula – See Dr. Haynes’ recent article Do You Drink Enough Water for the recipe!

Remember to keep your electrolytes balanced, stay hydrated, and enjoy the rest of your summer!