Tree of Health Integrative Medicine, PLLC

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Colorectal Cancer Awareness

By Dr. Elizabeth Orth

March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, so it is the perfect time to address this very important topic. Colorectal Cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in both men and women. The good news is that the number of colorectal cancer related deaths is declining. This decline may be due to screening, since the earlier this cancer is found, the better the survival rate. So, while there is still more to be done to combat this cancer, making sure to get a screening test is a good first step.

What is the general screening recommendation?

It is recommended for the average risk person to screen for colorectal cancer starting at 50 years old.

What are the screening options?

Colonoscopy (every 10 years): This is the most highly recommended option since it screens for both polyps, which can become cancerous, and cancer. If polyps are found, they can be removed during the colonoscopy. This test requires bowel prep, is more invasive, and has to be done at a doctor’s office (most of the time it is done by a gastroenterologist), so it is not an attractive option for everyone.

FIT (Fecal Immunochemical Test, every year): This test mainly screens for cancer but it is a home collection test (the sample is collected at home and then mailed to the lab), which can be convenient.

Cologuard Stool DNA Test (every 3 years): This is the newest colorectal screening test. While some pre-cancerous conditions can be found, it mainly is used for cancer screening. This is also a home collection test.

Flexible sigmoidoscopy (every 5 years):  It is a procedure, which evaluates the lower part of your colon.  Done in combination with fecal occult blood testing every 3 years.

What other things may help prevent colorectal cancer?

Some factors that may help prevent colorectal cancer include:

  • Diet high in fruits and vegetables.
  • Exercise
  • Avoiding tobacco and too much alcohol.
  • Vitamin D3 (especially if your Vitamin D level is low).



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Spring Forward

By Dr. Eleonora Naydis

How do we actually “Spring Forward” (as opposed to dragging our feet) with daylight saving time?  Not only do we lose an hour of precious sleep, moving time forward also affects our internal clock.  Additional sleep loss resulting from daylight saving time-change was found to be associated with an increased risk of stroke, heart attacks, and traffic accidents.  Lack of sleep can also affect our mood, memory, and concentration.

So how do we make this transition easier?  – Get the right amount of light at the right time.

Get plenty of light first thing in the morning.  Try to spend as much time outside as possible in the first part of the day.  Light is a primary cue that synchronizes our internal circadian rhythm to the outside environment.  Light suppresses production of melatonin, a natural hormone that helps us sleep, so that we are awake and active during the day.

Keep your room dark during the night.   Before bedtime, don’t use any TV or electronic devices for a few hours to get your body ready for sleep.  Electronic devices emit blue light, which suppresses production of melatonin (remember, we need melatonin to feel sleepy).  Also watching TV/news can increase the levels of cortisol (stress hormone), and can affect your sleep in a negative way.

And here are additional reminders for better sleep:

  1. Develop a routine: go to bed and wake up at the same time.
  2. Avoid caffeine, spicy heavy meals before meals, and nicotine in the second part of the day.
  3. Eat a protein snack a few hours prior to bed.
  4. Avoid alcohol. While it can help falling asleep, it prevents you from getting good quality sleep.
  5. If you are having trouble with sleep, go to bed when tired and get up if you can’t sleep after 20 minutes. Don’t take naps during the day.
  6. Develop sleep rituals – take a bath, listen to relaxing music, meditate before bed. Make your bedroom a relaxing place.
  7. Exercise is important, but some people need to exercise earlier during the day for better night sleep.

Happy spring and easy transitions to you all!



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Separating Yourself From SAD

By Dr. Elizabeth Orth

Rain, showers and/or snow… With these weather predictions, it is apparent that it is wintertime in Washington. In Northern states such as Washington, it can be beneficial during this time of the year to know what SAD is, what the symptoms of are, and what can be done to help with SAD.

What is SAD?

Seasonal Affective Disorder, referred to as SAD, is a type of recurrent depression that is influenced by the seasons. Symptoms are present during the same season(s), typically Fall and Winter, and absent for the remainder of the year for a least 2 years. The decrease in light, which is associated with the Fall and Winter months, is thought to affect circadian rhythm, melatonin level, serotonin level, and Vitamin D level. One or more of these changes in the body may lead to the symptoms of SAD.

What does SAD feel like?

SAD can present with a variety of symptoms. Symptoms can include: sad feelings/ low mood, fatigue, anxiety, sleep problems (trouble waking-up or falling asleep), irritability, appetite changes (such as sweet cravings), etc.

What can be done to help with SAD?

The American Family Physician Guidelines recommends [one or a combination of] the following:

  1. Light Therapy (LT): For many individuals with more mild symptoms, this is a good first option. From around 12-18 inches away, shine a 10,000 LUX fluorescent white light (no UV) on yourself for at least 30 minutes daily in the early morning. I also recommend starting the light treatment before you normally start getting symptoms. Possible side effects can include eye strain, headache or skin irritation but if you are at the proper distance away from the light, use a filter and do not look directly at the light for an extended period of time, the risk of side effects goes down.

  2. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): A type of counseling that focuses on how thoughts, feelings and behaviors affect each other.

  3. Antidepressant Medication: If symptoms are severe, taking a SSRI medication may be beneficial short or long term depending on the individual. If this is an option you are considering, talk with a Healthcare Professional regarding the pros and cons of being on this type of medication.

Other options that can help with SAD include:

  1. Dawn Simulation: In this treatment, the light starts increasing while you are asleep and gradually increases until it gets to full brightness and it is time to wake-up. Some research showed it more effective or similar in effectiveness to Light Therapy.

  2. Exercise: Both exercising 1 hour daily as well as 1 hour twice a week has been found helpful. One article showed significantly greater benefit when exercising in bright light than exercising alone. 

  3. St. John’s Wort: This herbal treatment can be helpful for mild to moderate depression. You do have to be aware that this herb may interact with other medications, so it is not an option for everyone. Do not take this herb if you are pregnant. Possible side effects can include skin reaction, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or rapid heart beat. 


Kurlansik S and Ibay A. Seasonal Affective Disorder. American Family Physician 2012;86(11):1037-1041.

Avery D, Elder D, Bolte M, Hellekson C, Dunner D, Michael V and Prinz P. Dawn Simulation and Bright Light in the Treatment of SAD: A Controlled Study. Biological Psychiatry 2001;50:205-216.

Terman M and Terman J. Controlled Trial of Naturalistic Dawn Simulation and Negative Air Ionization for Seasonal Affective Disorder. American Journal of Psychiatry 2006;163:2126-2133.

Pinchasov B, Shurgaja A, Grischin O and Putilov A. Mood and energy regulation in seasonal and non-seasonal depression before and after midday treatment with physical exercise or bright light. Psychiatry Research 2000;94:29-42.

Leppamaki S, Partonen T and Lonnqvist J. Bright-light exposure combined with physical exercise elevated mood. Journal of Affective Disorders 2002;72:139-144.

Sarris J and Kavanagh D. Kava and St. John’s Wort: Current Evidence for Use in Mood and Anxiety Disorders. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 2009;15(8):827-236.


Flu-Less in Seattle

By Dr. Eleonora Naydis

Flu is taking full advantage of its season:  it has been officially upgraded to an epidemic level.  How much should you worry?   Most people, while feeling quite sick for a short while, get over the flu just fine.

Let’s talk about prevention and treatment, preceded by a little disclaimer that this is not a substitute for a medical advice.  This is the information that I give to my patients, but also based on the condition of their health, I may ask them to call me in 3 days if their symptoms are very severe and/or they are not improving or are getting worse.   If you are pregnant or nursing, taking any prescription medication or other supplements, have any serious allergies, do not self-medicate, please, check in with your doctor.

Prevention first:

  1. Wash your hands, wash your hands, and wash your hands.
  2. Avoid touching your face.  My son brought a new rule from school today.  (“Every time we touch our faces, we need to go and wash our hands.”)  Love their teacher.  Thank you, Tara!
  3. Build yourself a good foundation:  this should be your lifestyle!
    1. Exercise and enjoy your exercise so that you stick to it.
    2. Healthy diet with plenty of vegetables and whole grains and lean sources of protein.    Great immune builders:  miso soup with shitake mushrooms, garlic, onions, thyme, ginger spices
    3. Decrease your sugar intake.  Sugar decreases the ability of the white blood cells to fight infection.
    4. Drink plenty of water
    5. Get enough sleep.  Lack of sleep suppresses your immune system.
    6. Manage your stress:  while we cannot sometimes change the stress around us, we can change our attitude around it.  Take a break when you feel you need it.  Your projects will not go anywhere if you take a little time for yourselves.
    7. Get regular physicals and blood work.  Some deficiencies affect your immune system, e.g. iron-deficiency anemia.
    8. If you are immune-compromised (e.g. during chemotherapy, radiation, or just on immune-suppressive therapy for any reason), avoid over-crowded places for a little while, until the flu season settles down a bit.
    9. Vaccinations:  Can you get sick this year after you had a flu vaccine?  Flu vaccines are about 50-70% effective, and the preliminary study from CDC released today shows that this year’s flu vaccine is 62% effective.[i]   Some immune-compromised people or people with chronic conditions that put them more at risk for complications may still want to vaccinate.  There are other viruses that can make you sick, so don’t just rely on the vaccine to stay healthy this season.
    10. Hydrotherapy.  Consider taking contrast showers: 3 minutes hot, 30 seconds cold, repeat 3 times, finish on cold.  You may feel more energy afterwards.
    11. Supplements:  consider immune modulating mushrooms, such as Coriolus, Reishi, Maitake.  Fungi Perfecti and Mushroom Science put out good quality supplements.

What if you are sick?

  1. Stay home and rest.  Do not run around.  Most of the things CAN wait.
  2. Depending on your health and symptoms, you may want to call your doctor.
  3. Fevers are not your enemy; they are actually good for you and increase your immune system ability to fight of infections[ii]  Manage your fever, stay hydrated and drink electrolytes.
  4. Get plenty of sleep and take all the necessary steps so that you can.
  5. You may want to run a humidifier with few drops of eucalyptus and thyme essential oil in it for anti-microbial effects and to ease breathing.
  6. Supplements to consider:
    1. Yin Qiao is a Chinese herbal remedy for wind heat (sore throat, heat)
    2. Elderberry extract (Sambucol) – actually showed to shorten the duration of the flu.
    3. Oscillococcinum – great and safe over-the-counter homeopathic remedy.

Stay healthy this season!

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GM Who? GMO’s: Genetically Modified Organisms …And What It Means for You as a Consumer

By Dr. Eleonora Naydis

In 1994 genetically modified delayed ripening tomatoes hit the markets for the first time, opening the doors to the commercial sale of genetically modified foods.  What does it mean for us?  It means that our food supply has been rapidly infused by GMO’s, but most of us are unaware of that.  For example, if you are buying non-organic corn or soy products, you are very likely buying GMO products because most of the soybean and corn sold in the United States have been genetically modified.  Same goes for vegetable oils.

What exactly are GMO’s and how are they different from normal development of plants or animal species?

First we need to understand that genetic material is a program that enables things to become what they are.  For example, corn genes allow corn to grow into corn and not into a cow; human genes contain information for development of a human and not a cat, etc. (you get the idea).   There are many genes in the organisms: each gene has specific purpose, for example, there are genes that make your eyes blue or your hair red.

Scientists now know which genes are responsible for which function.  They can even isolate the genes and move them from organism to organism, e.g. from cow to pig, and from human to corn.  When the genes are transplanted in such manner from one organism to another, genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) are created.

Are GMO’s safe for us and the environment?   Latest research says maybe not…

A recent study published in 2012 looked at the genetically modified corn that has been manipulated to produce special Bt toxin.[i]  When insects eat this corn, the toxin splits bugs’ stomachs open.  When this toxin was tested on human cells, it also damaged the human cells!  This study was done almost 20 years AFTER this genetically modified corn has been introduced to the consumers.  This corn may possibly damage the lining of our intestines, creating inflammation in our gut (also known informally as “leaky gut” problem). How do we know if this toxin is making way to our bodies?  Another study published in 2011 showed that Bt toxin from GMO’s was found in 93% of pregnant women and in 80% of their fetuses.[ii]

And how do GMO’s impact our environment?  Let’s take a look at herbicide-resistant crops.  Roundup (glyphosade) is a common pesticide to kill weeds.  Monsanto created a corn seed that was genetically modified so that Roundup would kill weeds but would not affect the corn crop, i.e. Roundup-resistant corn.  Sounds like a good idea, but the problem is that this Roundup resistance can transfer from corn to weeds, creating herbicide-resistant super weeds!  That leads to introduction of more toxic herbicides use.   How did mice that ate this Roundup-resistant corn do?  Well, the study results published in September of 2012 found out the following: mice that ate this type of GMO corn developed more tumors and died more than the mice that ate regular corn.[iii]  The tumors occurred at 4 and 7 months of feeding, which means that standard 90-day trials that test for safety of newly created GMO’s are inadequate.

Genetically modified foods have been implicated in allergies, infertility, inflammatory bowel disease, autism, birth defects, decreased nutrient absorption, and antibiotic resistance.  More studies need to be conducted before this food becomes available to general public.  Unfortunately, FDA is very lax in terms of regulation of GMO’s.  The United States do not require GMO labeling.   The latest proposition to label GMO’s in California did not pass, in part because most people are unaware of GMO’s and their implications.

For more information, check out the following documentaries and books.

  1. Genetic Roulette (documentary)
  2. Harvest of Fear (documentary)
  3. Eat Your Genes:  How Genetically Modified Food is Entering Your Diet by Stephen Nottingham
  4. The Ecological Risks of Engineered Crops by Jane Rissler and Margaret Mellon

[i] Mesnage, R., Clair, E., Gress, S., Then, C., Szekacs, A., Seralini, G.E.  (2012) Cytotoxicity on human cells of Cry1Ab and Cry1Ac Bt insecticidal toxins alone or with a glyphosate-based herbicide.  J Appl Toxicol.

[ii] Aris A., Leblanc, S. (2011) Maternal and fetal exposure to pesticides associated to genetically modified foods in Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada.  Reprod Toxicol, 31(4): 528-33.

[iii] Seralini, G.-S., Clair, E., Mesnage, R., Gress, S., Defarge, N., Malatesta, M., Hennequin, D., Spiroux de Vendomois, J. (2012) Long term toxicity of Roundup herbicide and Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize.   Food and chemical toxicology. 

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Acupuncture: How It Works

By Dr. Eleonora Naydis

One of the most common questions I get from my patients when they come in for an acupuncture treatment is: “How does it work?”  Isn’t it amazing that the treatment that has been around for over 5,000 years still remains one of the most effective ways to address health problems?!

My fascination with acupuncture started when I was at Bastyr University, taking courses for my naturopathic medical degree.  I went in to receive acupuncture as a patient to address some back pain.  Not only it relieved my pain, but all the tension and stress melted away after the first treatment.   (Yes, medical students get these! 🙂 )

It so happens that acupuncture has a special effect on endorphin release.   Endorphins are substances made by our own bodies:  they produce feelings of pain relief and well-being.  If you have ever experienced “runner’s high” or just a feeling of complete relaxation after a meditation session, your body has been flooded by endorphins.  It has been found that by applying electric stimulation to the acupuncture points, one can even influence the types of endorphins released, providing a maximal therapeutic benefit. [i]

But all these are modern findings.  5,000 years ago no one has discussed endorphin release!  Traditional acupuncture practitioners were (and still are) using the concept of “Qi” (pronounced as “Chee”).  You have probably heard this term before.  Quantum physics have demonstrated that everything is made of and radiates energy.  That includes us!   Qi, or your vital energy, is known by many names among different cultures: think of prana, spirit, mana, or vital force.   “Qi is the root of a human being,” said Giovanni Maciocia, one of the world-renowned experts in Chinese medicine.

Here is the traditional explanation of how acupuncture works.  Qi flows through your body like river.  It runs through a system of “meridians.”  Meridians are pathways that connect to your body organs and glands; they are the rivers within us.  If the Qi flow, like a water flow, gets blocked, then the body will manifest different signs and symptoms of being unwell.  Acupuncture helps remove the blockages to flow.

Acupuncture points are carefully selected after the acupuncture practitioner speaks with the patients, reviewing the details of their case and conducting an examination of their body.  Traditional Chinese medicine exam involves pulse and tongue diagnosis, as well as palpation of acupuncture points and specific areas area of the body.  There are 26 different pulse quality variations!

Few more interesting facts:

  1. There are 361 traditional acupuncture points on 14 classical meridians.  There are actually hundreds more extra points located on ears, scalp, hands, and other areas of the body.
  2. Acupuncture points have higher electrical conductivity than the rest of the body.[ii]
  3. Earliest acupuncture needles were made of stone.  They were used to press on the points.
  4. Modern acupuncture needles are usually made of stainless steel. They are sterile and single use.  The diameter of usual acupuncture is needle around 0.18 mm, just a little wider than diameter of human hair.

World Health Organization and National Institute of Health state that acupuncture has been proven effective in many common problems, including pain, hormonal imbalances, headaches, digestive and respiratory diseases, anxiety, and addictions.  Acupuncture is effective in the supportive care of patients with cancer, having a positive effect on immune system and relaxation.[iii]

Pretty amazing for a system that was developed so many years ago, right?!

[i] Han Ji-Sheng.  Acupuncture and endorphins.  Neuroscience Letters 361 (2004) 258-261.

[ii] Shang, Charles.  Mechanism of acupuncture – beyond neurohumoral theory.  Medical Acupuncture, Fall 1999-Winter 2000,  Vol. 11(2)

[iii] Wang R.  Integration of Chinese medicine into supportive caner care: a modern role for an ancient tradition.  Cancer Treatment Review.  2001 Aug, 27 (4): 235-46.