Author: Nicole Maxwell, NMD

Navigating the Sodium-Potassium Debate: A Layperson’s Guide to Lowering Blood Pressure summarized by Dr. Nicole Maxwell, NMD

This overview encapsulates the insights from Christopher Labos, MD CM, MSc’s January 29th, 2024 commentary entitled “Sodium vs Potassium for Lowering Blood Pressure.”

When it comes to maintaining healthy blood pressure levels, there’s often a tug-of-war between sodium and its lesser-discussed counterpart, potassium. Should we be slashing our sodium intake or upping our potassium consumption? It’s a complex question that delves into the depths of renal physiology, but fear not, we’re here to break it down for you. 

The Case for Sodium Restriction

Dr. Stephen Juraschek, along with many others, advocates for the reduction of sodium in our diets. Countless studies have highlighted the correlation between high sodium intake and elevated blood pressure. From the famous DASH diet to extensive intervention trials, evidence overwhelmingly suggests that cutting back on sodium can lead to significant reductions in blood pressure.

However, not all studies align perfectly. The PURE study raised eyebrows when it hinted that extreme sodium restriction might increase cardiovascular mortality. But upon closer examination, methodological issues emerged, casting doubt on its findings. Regardless, the consensus remains: excess sodium isn’t doing our hearts any favors.

The Case for Potassium Supplementation

Dr. Swapnil Hiremath presents a compelling argument for potassium supplementation. While the evidence may not be as robust as that for sodium restriction, studies suggest that increasing potassium intake can play a vital role in blood pressure regulation. Potassium works hand in hand with sodium in the kidneys, influencing how our bodies manage fluid and electrolyte balance.

The DASH diet, celebrated for its blood pressure-lowering effects, emphasizes potassium-rich fruits and vegetables. Similarly, studies like the SSaSS trial have explored the benefits of salt substitutes containing potassium. The challenge lies in finding practical ways to integrate these dietary changes into our daily lives.

Realistic Diets and Taste Issues

Encouraging a diet rich in fruits and vegetables seems like a no-brainer, but economic barriers and taste preferences often stand in the way. Potassium supplements might sound like an easy fix, but some folks worry about issues like too much potassium in the blood (hyperkalemia) and the not-so-great taste. Similarly, salt substitutes that contain potassium seem like a good idea, but they might not catch on everywhere because people have different tastes and cooking habits.

You can naturally increase your potassium levels by adding certain foods to your diet. Foods like potatoes, sweet potatoes, spinach, avocados, and oranges are excellent sources of potassium. Incorporating these tasty options into your meals can help you get the potassium your body needs without any concerns about supplements or substitutes.

Remember, continuing to reduce sodium intake is essential for managing blood pressure effectively. By combining a potassium-rich diet with reduced sodium consumption, you can take proactive steps towards better cardiovascular health.

Looking Ahead

At Boise Natural Health, I and the other practitioners can assist you in achieving blood pressure balance. Both Dr. Juraschek and Dr. Hiremath converge on the need for practical interventions, and our team is dedicated to providing holistic support tailored to your individual needs. While policy changes like the recent proposal by the US Food and Drug Administration to label salt substitutes as salt are steps in the right direction, our personalized approach ensures that you receive comprehensive care to optimize your cardiovascular health.

Contact Dr. Nicole Maxwell at Boise Natural Health Clinic for a complimentary 15-minute consultation, or schedule an appointment to receive the assistance you need promptly. We’re here to support you on your journey to better health and well-being.

Unveiling the Surprising Side Effects of Cardiovascular Disease

When we think of cardiovascular disease (CVD), we often picture heart attacks and strokes. But did you know there are hidden consequences that can quietly impact your life in unexpected ways? Let’s dive into these lesser-known effects that go beyond the heart and explore how a holistic approach, including a visit to a naturopathic physician, might be beneficial.

  1. Mind and Memory Matters
    It turns out that your heart health can affect your brain. Cardiovascular disease may increase the risk of memory problems and conditions like Alzheimer’s. If you find yourself forgetting things more often or feeling mentally foggy, it could be related to your heart.
  2. Emotional Rollercoaster
    Heart issues can bring more than just physical challenges; they can take a toll on your mood. Stress, anxiety, and even depression can become unwelcome companions on your health journey. Don’t ignore your emotional well-being—addressing it is as crucial as taking care of your heart.
  3. Sleep Snags
    Ever noticed that heart problems can disrupt your sleep? Conditions like heart failure might cause shortness of breath at night, affecting your rest. Poor sleep can then worsen your heart health, creating a loop. If you’re struggling with sleep, your heart might be trying to tell you something.
  4. Intimacy Interruptions
    Surprisingly, heart conditions can impact your love life. Reduced blood flow can lead to sexual difficulties, and medications may add to the challenges. It’s an aspect often overlooked but important to address for a full picture of your well-being.
  5. Tired All the Time
    If you’re feeling persistently tired, it might not just be a lack of sleep. Heart problems can lead to chronic fatigue, leaving you drained both physically and mentally. Don’t ignore this symptom—your heart could be working harder than it should.
  6. Kidney Connections
    Your heart and kidneys are team players, and when one isn’t doing well, the other can suffer. Heart issues can harm your kidneys, and kidney problems can worsen heart conditions. It’s a tandem act that emphasizes the need for a comprehensive approach to your health.
  7. Painful Legs
    Cardiovascular disease isn’t just about the heart—it can affect your limbs too. Peripheral Artery Disease can cause pain and cramping in your legs, impacting your ability to move comfortably. It’s another way your body signals that something might be off with your heart.
  8. The Cost of Health
    Lastly, the impact of heart issues goes beyond you—it affects economies too. Treating heart problems, coupled with lost productivity due to illness, puts a financial strain on healthcare systems and societies.

Considering these hidden consequences, it’s essential to approach heart health holistically. A naturopathic physician can be a valuable partner in your journey, offering natural and comprehensive approaches to complement traditional treatments. From dietary adjustments to stress management, they focus on your overall well-being.

In essence, don’t just listen to your heart; pay attention to how it’s affecting the rest of you. Taking a holistic approach, with the guidance of a naturopathic physician like Dr. Nicole Maxwell, can make a significant difference in managing the lesser-known consequences of cardiovascular disease and promoting your overall health and happiness.

We can add links to other articles like the cardio labs one

Unlocking the Power of Pregnenolone for a Better Life

Are you feeling tired, stressed, and overwhelmed by the challenges of life? You might be experiencing the effects of adrenal fatigue and hormone imbalances. But don’t worry; there is a natural solution that can help you feel smarter, happier, and more energetic – pregnenolone.

Pregnenolone, the hormone precursor you may not have heard of, is like the conductor of an orchestra, orchestrating the harmonious performance of your body’s hormones. Let’s dive into the world of pregnenolone, its incredible benefits, and how it might just be the key to rejuvenating your quality of life.

Pregnenolone: The Unsung Hero

Pregnenolone, much like its sibling hormone DHEA, is a steroidal hormone produced within your body. It’s synthesized from cholesterol and primarily produced in the adrenal glands, but you can also find it in the liver, skin, brain, testicles, ovaries, and even in the retinas of your eyes.

Now, you may have heard the word “steroid” and associated it with bodybuilding or athletes, but steroids are a large family of biochemicals that play vital roles in determining your sex, managing inflammation, and regulating growth. In this family of hormones, pregnenolone is the grand precursor from which most other steroids are derived, including DHEA, progesterone, testosterone, estrogens, and cortisol. Remarkably, pregnenolone comes with little to no significant side effects, making it a safe choice.

A Memory Boosting Miracle

If you thought pregnenolone was only about hormones, think again. This incredible hormone is like a secret weapon for your brain. In fact, in laboratory mice, pregnenolone has been found to be a whopping 100 times more effective at enhancing memory than other steroid or steroid-precursors. It’s like a memory enhancer on steroids (pun intended).

But it doesn’t stop there. Pregnenolone isn’t just about memory; it’s about making you smarter and happier. It enhances your ability to perform at your best, whether at work or in daily life, while boosting your overall sense of well-being. Plus, it’s a stress-buster. When high stress-induced fatigue is getting the best of you, pregnenolone steps in to save the day.

The Age-Defying Hormone

As we age, our bodies undergo various changes, and one significant shift is the decline in hormone levels, including pregnenolone. By the time you reach the age of 75, your body produces a staggering 60% less pregnenolone than in your mid-thirties. This decline makes pregnenolone a key biomarker of aging – it’s like counting the rings of a tree, but for your body.

But pregnenolone isn’t alone in this hormonal decline. Other essential hormones, such as DHEA, estrogens, testosterone, progesterone, and growth hormone, also experience a similar decrease with age. This hormonal decline is often accompanied by a decline in your quality of life. You may notice a decrease in energy, memory issues, changes in your vision and hearing, joint problems, heart issues, and even a decrease in your libido.

However, there’s hope. By supplementing small amounts of hormones like pregnenolone, you can slow down these age-related processes, effectively rejuvenating your body’s functions and improving your overall quality of life.

The History of Pregnenolone

The fascinating history of pregnenolone dates back to the 1930s, with research and usage becoming more prevalent over the years. In the 1940s, human studies were conducted on factory workers, testing the effects of pregnenolone on anti-fatigue and autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis. The results were remarkable – improvements were observed, and safety was confirmed.

However, pregnenolone’s journey took a different turn when a pharmaceutical agent named cortisone, introduced by Merck in 1949, was touted as a cure-all for rheumatoid arthritis. Soon after, more potent synthetic steroids like dexamethasone and prednisone were developed, overshadowing pregnenolone.

Despite the initial successes of pregnenolone, research came to a halt in the 1950s due to the popularity of these synthetic alternatives. These steroids, while fast-acting, brought about serious downsides, including compromising the immune system and inducing conditions like osteoporosis.

Where Pregnenolone Resides

It’s fascinating to note that pregnenolone is much more abundant in nervous tissue than in the bloodstream. In animal studies, it was found in the brain in concentrations ten times larger than other stress-related hormones, including DHEA.

The Promise of Pregnenolone

In a world where we’re all seeking ways to improve our quality of life and combat the challenges of aging, pregnenolone emerges as a potent ally. It’s a safe and natural way to enhance memory, reduce stress, and potentially balance other hormones in your body. Its fascinating history, incredible benefits, and untapped potential make it an exciting avenue for further exploration.

If you’re seeking a brighter, healthier future and a more vibrant you, discover the hidden power of pregnenolone. It could be the key to revitalizing your life. For personalized insights into your hormone levels and the potential benefits of supplementation, schedule a consultation with Dr. Nicole Maxwell at Boise Natural Health Clinic. Your journey to enhanced well-being begins here.

Managing Seasonal Affective Disorder During Menopause: Herbal and Hormonal Treatments


Menopause is a natural biological process that marks the end of a woman’s reproductive years, typically occurring in her late 40s or early 50s. However, for many women, this transition is not just about physical changes but also emotional ones. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or seasonal depression can compound the emotional challenges faced during menopause.

Understanding SAD and Menopause

SAD is a subtype of depression that occurs at specific times of the year, usually during the fall and winter months when there is less natural sunlight. Its symptoms include low energy, moodiness, and difficulty concentrating. Menopause, on the other hand, brings about hormonal fluctuations that can affect mood and emotional well-being. Combining the two can be particularly challenging, as hormonal changes can exacerbate SAD symptoms.

Herbal Remedies for SAD and Menopause

1. St. John’s Wort: This herbal supplement is commonly used to alleviate symptoms of mild to moderate depression, including those associated with SAD. It may help regulate mood and improve overall emotional well-being, including feeling physically attractive. It may take 8 weeks to notice effect. It may also help with hot flash frequency.

2. Saffron: Saffron is a spice known for its mood-enhancing properties. Studies have shown that saffron supplements may reduce SAD symptoms and improve mood during menopause while also reducing hot flashes.

3. Black Cohosh: Often used to manage menopausal symptoms, black cohosh may also help alleviate mild depression and anxiety. It’s believed to have a calming effect on the nervous system. There is an even more powerful effect when combined with St. John’s Wort.

Hormonal and Other Treatments for SAD and Menopause

1. Exercise: Multiple studies have shown that physical activity alleviates SAD symptoms and improves mood! 

2. Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): HRT involves replacing the needed hormones (thyroid, estrogen, progesterone and sometimes testosterone) that decline during menopause. Some women find that HRT can help stabilize mood swings and reduce the emotional impact of menopause, which can indirectly alleviate SAD symptoms.   Read more about hormones here.

3. Light Therapy: When natural sunlight isn’t available, light therapy is a simple, non-invasive treatment for SAD. Intentional exposure to bright, artificial light can help regulate circadian rhythms and reduce SAD symptoms.  During the day use bright Daylight bulbs for working.  Then at night use warmer Soft White for a more relaxing experience.  You can also use more directed light for 20 – 30 minutes using a light box – look for one with 10,000 lux of light that produces as little UV light as possible.

4. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs): These are prescription antidepressants that can be effective in treating SAD. SSRIs work by increasing the levels of serotonin in the brain, which can improve mood and reduce depressive symptoms. SSRIs can help with hot flashes too. 

Combining Approaches

It’s important to note that treatment effectiveness can vary from person to person. Some individuals may find relief through herbal remedies, while others may require hormonal treatments or a combination of therapies. Always consult a healthcare provider, like myself, before starting any treatment regimen, especially if you have underlying health conditions or are taking other medications.


Menopause can be a challenging phase in a woman’s life, and when combined with Seasonal Affective Disorder, it can lead to emotional upheaval. Fortunately, there are various treatment options available, including herbal remedies and hormonal therapies, that can help alleviate the symptoms of both conditions. Finding the right treatment plan may require some trial and error, so it’s essential to work closely with a healthcare provider to develop a personalized approach that suits your unique needs and preferences. With the right support, women can navigate menopause and SAD with greater ease and improved emotional well-being.

PPIs and Dementia Risk

Proton pump inhibitors, or PPIs, are a common heartburn relief medicine.  Some examples are Omeprazole (Prilosec), Famotidine (Pepcid) and Pantoprazole (Protonix). While they can be helpful in the short-term, long-term use can throw a wrench in the digestive process. PPIs don’t correct the original problem but mask it while the underlying destructive processes continues.

New Link with Dementia

And now, a new study[1] found that people who used proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) for more than 4.4 cumulative years were at a 33% higher risk of developing dementia than those reporting no use.

Previous studies showed mixed results in regards to PPIs and dementia but didn’t study cumulative use. This study used 5,712 dementia-free participants (58% were women) and the median follow up was 5.5 years and studied cumulative use. There were no significant associations for shorter times of PPI use.

While we need more studies to understand what the relationship is between dementia and cumulative PPI use, it is important to heal your gut now and help prevent this occurring to you or a loved one that may be on chronic PPI use.

What are Some Causes of Heartburn?

Naturopathic medicine shines at correcting underlying issues and can help you address the cause of your symptoms.

Eating an improper diet, having a hiatal hernia which allows acid to be where it’s not meant to be, stress, lack of optimal GI health (lack of enzymes, acid, chewing food, etc.), etc.

Read More

Here is another article on our web page from with helpful information:

Heartburn -Get relief with naturopathic medicine on our web page.

Feel free to contact Boise Natural Health for a free 15 min consult or to set up your appointment with Dr. Nicole Maxwell.   

[1] Northuis C, Bell E, Lutsey P, George KM, Gottesman RF, Mosley TH, Whitsel EA, Lakshminarayan K. Cumulative Use of Proton Pump Inhibitors and Risk of Dementia: The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study. Neurology. 2023 Aug 9:10.1212/WNL.0000000000207747. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000207747. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 37558503.

Heart Health – Inflammation Increases Risk

Ask for an hs-CRP when you test for cholesterol.

Inflammation is part of the normal healing process. It causes the redness, warmth, swelling, and pain you feel when you get a splinter, for example.

But when inflammation sticks around for a while, it can become chronic. Chronic inflammation is linked to many health problems, including heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, cancer and more.

Inflammation in blood vessels happens when plaque builds up inside the walls of arteries. Sometimes the plaque breaks open, causing the body to send out white blood cells to attack this harmful material and seal it off with a clot of blood. If the blood clot is large, it can block blood flow and cause a heart attack or stroke.[1]

Ask your doctor to order a hs-CRP when you get your cholesterol checked

Elevated hs-CRP means there is inflammation in your body related to the cardiovascular system. People who are otherwise healthy but with elevated hs-CRP values are up to 4x as likely to have coronary heart disease (CHD). Reduction in hs-CRP and LDL are associated with a reduction in atherosclerotic progression.

How to lower inflammation

  1. Find out the cause – food sensitivities, a chronic low level infection, an inflamed gut, toxins, a problem tooth, and more. 
  2. Aside from eating a vegetable rich, low carb, whole foods diet and moderate exercise,
  3. Take an absorbable turmeric (curcumin) supplement[2].  We carry Turiva at BNHC and you can find Theracurmin on our on-line ordering system Fullscript. The dose is 2 caps a day. I take my 2 caps at bedtime to support my heart and to help overall inflammation and better sleep. Turmeric has also been shown to help with fatigue and depression. 

Other lab tests to consider asking for

Read Dr. Maxwell’s about article about the other labs available for a comprehensive cardiovascular screening.  Particularly important for people with a strong family history. 

For an in-depth cardiovascular consult, schedule an appointment by calling us at 208-388-0405.


[2] Gorabi AM, Abbasifard M, Imani D, Aslani S, Razi B, Alizadeh S, Bagheri-Hosseinabadi Z, Sathyapalan T, Sahebkar A. Effect of curcumin on C-reactive protein as a biomarker of systemic inflammation: An updated meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Phytother Res. 2022 Jan;36(1):85-97. doi: 10.1002/ptr.7284. Epub 2021 Sep 29. PMID: 34586711.

Feeling Run Down? Consider Cellular Membrane Repair

Cellular membranes become damaged in every acute & chronic illness, environmental toxic exposure, and with aging.  I credit membrane lipid replacement with helping me recover energy that I didn’t know was missing.

Cellular membrane lipids (fats in the cell membrane) are essential to life and vital to cellular health.

  • They provide the barrier for our cells by separating the inside of the cell from the
  • outside environment
  • They assist chemical and enzymatic reactions
  • They are part of receptor signaling and cellular recognition
  • They store energy

Supplemental MLR has been shown to restore cellular functions:

  • restore cellular and mitochondrial function (think energy)
  • Reduce symptoms such as fatigue, pain, vision issues, sleep disturbances, gastrointestinal
  • issues, chemical sensitivities
  • Increases absorption and transport of nutrients
  • Restore age-associated loss of function
  • Improve cardiovascular blood markers
  • Remove toxic chemicals and other substances
  • Be safe, inexpensive, effective, and convenient

Supplementation can supply enough membrane lipids to repair damaged lipids and return cellular membranes to normal function. They are quickly and efficiently absorbed. After a large meal, over 90% of glycerophospholipids are absorbed and transported into the blood within 6 hours.

The dose is 2-6 grams per day and higher doses (6g) if dealing with toxic chemicals, like the chemical exposure experienced by Gulf War Veterans. MLR is safe over long periods of time in high amounts without toxic or adverse side effects.

We carry BioPC Pro by Orthomolecular which provides approximately 6g per serving of glycerophospholipids. I credit this product with helping me recover energy that I didn’t know was missing! 

Dr. Maxwell Attends Hormone Boot Camp

Recently I attended the Women’s Hormone/Menopause and Perimenopause Boot Camp held by Tori Hudson, ND.  She’s an author and leader in the field of natural medicine and women’s health.  This was the second time in five years that I had in five years of studying women’s health with the numerous speakers Dr. Hudson invites to her 3-day conferences.  I loved every minute of the weekend and am excited to share this knowledge with my patients! 

During the boot camp, we learned extensively about:

  • The latest scientific research on the benefit, safety and dosing of women’s hormones 
  • Updates in herbal support in women’s health (mental health, vasomotor symptoms, and more)
  • Nutrition and lifestyle interventions that support a woman through the menopause transition and prevent long term issues of aging. 

Not surprisingly, no two women’s menopause transition is alike. I appreciate the challenge of evaluating and managing each woman individually to achieve optimal results and peak health.

Many women begin to experience a variety of physical and mental-emotional symptoms long before they meet the definition of menopause. These changes that appear, usually from around age 40 to 51, are called perimenopause and can occur over as much as several years.

In menopause, as a doctor, we start to think about supporting cardiovascular health, bone health (osteopenia and osteoporosis), cognitive health (preventing mental decline) as well as sexual health and tissue support.

As your care provider, I am ready to help you through this challenging time, armed with the latest scientific updates to support you. 

Premature Pubarche: What Is It And Why Should We Care?

Has your child developed early pubic or underarm hair?  Premature pubarche (PP) is when girls under 8 and boys under 9 have premature development of pubic and/or axillary hair. It tends to happen more in girls.  It is different from “precocious puberty” because it does not include breast buds or testicular development and there usually isn’t increased linear growth (height). One thing to note, PP is a diagnosis of exclusion – meaning we have to rule out other possibilities first, and once that is done, PP is considered a normal variation of development.

What could it mean for the patient long term? PP has been associated with a higher risk of a variety of conditions including obesity, insulin resistance, PCOS, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular issues; and mental health issues (even during childhood).  

If one has PP then we can start helping that child to avoid these potential health issues with diet and lifestyle changes, reducing chemical exposures, appropriate supplementation, monitoring and providing education for the child and the family.

Taking care of kids is a passion of mine.  If you have concerns about your child’s development, please reach out for an appointment. 

Did you know you are a Super Organism?

Every day we carry around 10 times more microbial cells than our own.  As Dr. George Weinstock, professor of microbial genomics says, “You’re not just a human, you’re a kind of super organism because you’re a community of all these things that are with you your whole life”.

Our microbial partners carry out a number of metabolic reactions that are necessary for human health like:

  • harvest energy from foods
  • improve gut motility and function
  • reinforce our gut barrier
  • protect against pathogens
  • synthesize vitamins, hormones, and amino acids
  • influence our brain, liver, kidney, skin and vaginal tract function
  • and much more!

Due to innovations in testing, we can now identify the microbial communities, their genes, and use that information in helping people return to health.  At Boise Natural Health we can test for over 50 different microbes that inhabit your GI tract and review them with you.

Here are two easy ways you can start feeding your good gut bugs now and keep that super organism that is you functioning optimally!

1. Feed your bugs resistant starches.  Resistant starches increase our beneficial population and increases short chain fatty acids – food for the good gut bugs.

  • Oats. Oats are one of the most convenient ways to add resistant starch to your diet.
  • Cooked and cooled rice. Resistant starch amount increases over time.
  • Beans and legumes. Soaked and heated.
  • Raw potato starch. 1 tbsp a day in smoothie or overnight oats. Don’t heat.
  • Cooked and cooled potatoes. Don’t reheat – think salad.
  • Green bananas. Replaced with simple sugars as they ripen.

2. Eat a phytonutrient rich diet!  In other words, like mom said, eat your vegetables.  Go for a rainbow of colors at two of your meals. If you’re an omnivore, consider going vegan for two nights of the week or more.  Check out the recipe section on our website or these other websites: and

For more help keeping your super organism healthy, feel free to schedule a free 15-minute consult at Boise Natural Health Clinic.