Sunday, October 1, 2023

Spice it Up

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Twenty years ago, Starbucks accidentally launched a phenomenon that was simply meant for a season. Long before hashtags helped a brand go viral, the Pumpkin Spice Latte aka #PSL became the unique underdog that now defines fall. I thought it may be fun to look at the ingredients and medicinal uses of the PSL recipe. Starbucks team leader, Peter Dukes, shared how a brainstorming event and many pumpkin pie tastings landed with these four powerhouse spices: cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg to create their show-stopping PSL recipe.

As many count on the annual arrival of #PSL, it is interesting to think how ancient explorers would react to its accessibility. Spices were one of the most historically coveted trades; wars were fought, and power was re-distributed over them. We take spices for granted in today’s society, but their rich history is one to be admired.

From a health perspective, Cinnamon has been shown to reduce blood sugar levels and promote insulin sensitivity. Rich in antioxidants, it may also lower blood pressure, and reduce inflammation. Not to mention, components of cinnamon are known to block the protein Tau which is opening an area of continued study relating Alzheimer’s to a Tau build-up. Ginger is well known for its anti-nausea effects, and it can boost one’s immune system and improve circulation. Clove compounds have been shown to decrease inflammation, improve liver function, and may play a role in preventing stomach ulcers. The volatile oils in nutmeg stimulate both serotonin and dopamine; hence producing antidepressant and antianxiety benefits. Nutmeg is also being studied for its neuroprotective and brain-boosting qualities and can also improve digestion.

There is no doubt that spices are a cost-effective way to boost one’s overall health and well-being. To take a closer look, there are some fascinating books on the history of the spice trade: Nathaniel’s Nutmeg by Giles Milton and Jack Turner’s Spice; The History of a Temptation. For our chefs, The Nutmeg Trail by Eleanor Ford takes you on a journey and includes 80 recipes.

Starbucks was certainly on to something; this quartet of spices combined with the beta carotene of pumpkin is a health boost; now if we could just remove all that sugar! While the PSL may not be the healthiest choice; it is an inspired one!

Friday, September 1, 2023


We all have met a few Bridezillas; to be fair, we all knew plenty of groomzillas too, but that term didn’t flow off the tongue with as much ease. If you are a parent of a recent high school graduate, this is for you. You are in the home stretch of your graduate gaining speed down the runway and ready for take-off - this transition period is fraught with tension. If you live in this orbit, you are most likely dealing with some very messy nests before these little birdzillas are ready to fly. So fasten your seatbelts; turbulence is expected.

Psychologists came up with a term for this life stage-  soiling the nest. When your “adult” child has graduated from high school, ready for their next adventure, they are confident you as parents have never held a map or stepped into the real world. No matter how many times you hear this is a normal process so it is easier for your little chickadee to take flight - it sounds miserable.

Your mantra is to not take their undesirable behavior personally. As a parent, you got that nest ready and have done your absolute best to cultivate it so your child could soar. Now that they are ready to fly, it may feel like all that hard work was unappreciated. Knowing something isn’t personal and feeling that way takes some discipline.

The best way to deal with an unruly histrionic teen is to remember this is your final teaching moment and you are being put to the test. Do not match their energy; understand you are the misplaced anger, and for every snarky comment react with calm detachment. Give your teen room to vent, but when the air gets too hot let them know they need to lower the temperature. It is a confusing time of excitement and dread, independence and uncertainty. They are trying to prove, to themselves, that they are not dependent upon you anymore. They have outgrown this safe cozy nest; so what better way to prove it than throw some sticks and stones? It’s a good idea to show your own vulnerability; express your apprehension or concerns so they know it is okay to respond in kind. Lastly, remind them no matter how messy they are making your nest right now; it will always be a safe space to come home to. Just a lot cleaner.


Saturday, July 1, 2023


 Could Ferris Bueller have his epic day off in this day in age? No; his “headache”, “sweaty palms'', and overall malaise trick would have gone viral. His face would have been Snapchatted, his parade serenades TikTok legendary, and within a few minutes, his parents’ phones would have been blowing up to his “day off”. As school begins, parents are often in the unenviable position of deciding whether it is a stomach ache or butterflies stirring up their little one’s tummy. Is that headache because of a pop quiz or a medical issue?

The answer may be less cut and dry than one would hope. It may be a little bit of both. Our vagus nerve is the main nerve of the parasympathetic nervous system. One fascinating aspect is that 80% of the time, the nerve takes messages from the organs ie: the digestive system and transports messages to the brain. Hypnotherapy, for example, has demonstrated very good results for those suffering from IBS. This technique helps to calm the enteric nervous system; thus minimizing intestinal distress signals to the brain. Nerva is an excellent app; developed by an MD that could be used to combat the added stress school may bring to an already sensitive stomach.

Another important component is that many viruses and even food can wreak havoc on what appear to be non-related symptom profiles. The sudden onset of OCD, tics, and emotional issues could be attributed to PANS - Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome. This was most often attributed to a Strep infection but may also include other infections or metabolic disorders including the flu, chickenpox, Lyme disease, and COVID-19. Post-COVID sequelae are not dependent on the severity of the initial infection or vaccine status. This is believed to be a misdirection of the body’s immune system that affects the brain.

Finally, food sensitivities are being more carefully examined with ADHD or other emotional irritations. The food irritant increases cytokines; and inflammatory markers and thus, inflammation may be the source of other cascading issues.

We often focus on the Mind-Body connection - but the road travels both ways. Parents know their children best; don’t disregard an abrupt change in behavior as them looking for a day at the ballpark. Life moves pretty fast as Ferris says; make sure you look around for a complete picture before you brush off that headache or stomach ache as a ploy to break a few rules. 

Thursday, June 1, 2023

Hello Summer!


I've lived in a few different states all on the West Coast; I love the rolling hills of Napa Valley and stunning Arizona sunsets, but there is something special about a Wisconsin summer. The Milwaukee area has a unique rhythm; bookended by Summerfest and State Fair. Leading up to the main events are Brewer’s games, backyard BBQs, road trips to our lakes, and if lucky a flight to a destination unknown. Whether you jam-pack your summer or spend it with a good book on a chaise lounge, don’t leave home without a homeopathic grab bag in your first aid kit. Don’t let an unexpected ailment deter your relaxing summer day.

I am a huge fan of homeopathic remedies, especially for acute scenarios. They are one of the oldest and safest medicines, based on Hahnemann’s law of similars: like cures like. The father of homeopathy stopped practicing medicine due to what he found were harmful treatments. Instead, he began translating medical texts, and Quinine poisoning caught his attention. He noticed that Quinine, the main treatment for malaria at the time, unexpectedly produced the same symptom profile as malaria itself when overdosed. With heightened curiosity, Hahneman began experimenting on anyone he could - including himself. Since many of the substances he was working with were toxic, he began the process of potentization: highly diluting and succussing the substances. Next, he created a detailed symptom profile that included physical, mental, and emotional symptoms. Eventually, the Homeopathic Materia Medica was born and has been used since 1796. Queen Elizabeth the 2nd was known to never leave home or castle without her box of remedies!

To learn more, Homeopathic Self-Care: The Quick and Easy Guide for the Whole Family by Robert Ullman, ND, and Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman, ND, MSW is one of my favorite book recommendations. Remember, when in doubt, go to your local urgent care or message your doctor; the best summers are the safe ones.

Homeopathic Self Care

Disclaimer: This is for educational purposes only.

Homeopathic Grab Bag


bruises and injuries


insect bites, allergic reactions with swelling


food poisoning, diarrhea, anxiety, fear of thunderstorms


burning pains from sunburn to sore throats and high fevers

Carbo Veg

fainting, excess heat, clamminess


fussy, inconsolable, irritation, aka most children after a long day


sunstroke, pounding headache, confusion

Nux Vomica

overindulgence, carnival rides, excess alcohol, vomiting, nausea


stomach ache after too many cream puffs, prone to tears

Rhus Tox

rashes, poison ivy, itching

Monday, May 1, 2023


Brought May Flowers

Picture this: you’re tapping your fingers impatiently as a service representative reads your confirmation code, “‘S’ as in Sam, not ‘F’ as in Frank.” This tedious but necessary clarification was the impetus to create an audible distress signal to replace “S.O.S.” As air travel between France and England increased, Frederick Stanley Mockford proposed “Mayday” from the French M’aidez - “Help Me”. Mayday quickly became an international sign of distress and part of pop-culture vernacular.

Our bodies have numerous ways of shouting mayday. In the spring for many, that means hello Histamine with an H - the distress call made too loudly, leading to the uncomfortable symptoms of hay fever. Both fascinating and infuriating, your body can behave like an overzealous sales rep, following you around the store, suffocating you. With a stuffy nose, lung congestion, and watery eyes, over-the-counter antihistamines often just don’t do the trick.

So, if spring allergies are getting you down, you have a few options. There is a solid consensus on useful natural antihistamines: quercetin, stinging nettle, vitamin C, butterbur, and bromelain. Often, products combine these ingredients with names like D-His - kind of a giveaway. However, these natural remedies may not elicit an immediate response amid an allergy flare. Much like getting ahead of pain, it is wise to begin a natural protocol a few weeks before your annual spring hay fever.

The severity and duration of your spring discomfort will help dictate your plan of attack. For instance, if your irritation is short-lived and easily managed with OTC meds, there’s no reason to call out for reinforcements. However, if you’re popping Claritin like M&M’s, you may want to incorporate the natural substances above. If the combination fails to offer relief, it is time to add other mitigating solutions and investigate ways to strengthen your overall constitution. Don’t wave the white flag, there are many other paths to be explored so you can enjoy the spring breeze. 

Please don’t let seasonal allergies be a forgone conclusion. The best medicine is often a phone call away. As it is Mother’s Day this month, I would like to thank my Mom who always answers my M’aidez call; j’taime. I am aware that these holidays for others can bring distress or grief. I am thinking of you and hope you don’t feel alone in your time of need. Often, we send out a distress signal and the most unexpected people answer. That is my wish for you. 


This article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. 

Saturday, April 1, 2023

April Showers

We’ve all grown up with the phrase “April showers bring May flowers.” Yet, these showers alone cannot guarantee a healthy spring bloom; just as rich soil is the foundation for a vibrant garden, we must nourish our intestinal microbiome to keep it diverse and strong. The gastrointestinal system represents the largest area of immune function in our bodies and with spring comes the perfect time to check in with your gut. Currently, there are specialty labs that will analyze one’s microbiome biodiversity, and this is an area I see developing into common practice in the future.

So where to begin? In the same way that you assess the soil prior to planting, a food diary can help you find a pattern between the foods you eat and your overall well-being without judgment. As a cactus thrives in the desert and lush hastas in the midwest, each individual has a unique digestive baseline. While those with underlying conditions may require a more specific approach, those in good overall health can introduce four basics to refresh the digestive tract and create a strong intestinal barrier: probiotics, prebiotics, glutamine, and colostrum.

Since there are several strains of probiotics, choosing the right product can be overwhelming. A great start is a basic multi-strain product and trial and error to find your specific needs. For a more precise overview of probiotics, is a great resource. While probiotics are microorganisms that replenish one’s microbiome, prebiotics are non-digestible fibers that feed the beneficial bacteria in one’s gut. You can purchase prebiotic supplements or consume them in foods such as flaxseed and oats. Glutamine is an essential amino acid contained in protein that provides an energy source for immune cells and reinforces the intestinal protective barrier. It has shown its vast power in healing and immunity through supplementation - especially in trauma patients. Many recognize colostrum as liquid gold for newborns; however, it is becoming a more mainstream supplementation based on its wide range of immune qualities and intestinal support.

As we learn more about the critical role our GI system plays in our well-being, I hope this will give a good starting point in your understanding of how you can tend to yourself to ensure you flourish this spring.

This article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

How will you enter March? In like a lion out like a lamb?

We’ve made it to March; the big tease before Spring fully blooms. While Thomas Fuller’s proverb can be traced back to 1732, it has stood the test of time in terms of both the weather and our health. Through the last few years, our nervous systems have been through the wringer. Is yours stuck in the lion mode? Or has this winter hibernation enabled you to find some lamb energy?

Made up of the Sympathetic (fight or flight) and Parasympathetic (rest and digest) systems, the nervous system strives for balance between the lion and the lamb. However, like the March weather, we may find ourselves in an extended period of lion mode; on edge and defensive, we find ourselves fighting or fleeing. As both our inner lion and lamb play vital roles in homeostasis, the key is using them to our advantage, not fighting against them.

To know where you are at, you can observe yourself without judgment. Do you snap in exacerbation at a simple question? Have your shoulders merged with your ears and your knuckles turned white on the steering wheel? Does your body crave the comfort of your bed as your mind spins with past, current, and future events all to be solved in the solace of the night? To balance the scales between these two necessary systems, we must recognize where we are living in the continuum.

Though the tools of technology can help, it can feel like you are being screamed at to calm down - find your inner lamb; but finding your inner quiet and elixir isn’t as simple as the wellness community wants you to believe. This is where individuality comes in place; what behaviors can you add that bring you a sense of peace? If you already know you love to garden, dance, sing loudly in the shower, or create a small nook in your home that allows you a meditative practice - start there. And remember laughter can diffuse your inner lion, making space for your inner lamb. Finding a balance in yourself starts with your first intentional breath.

The wonderful thing is that this can be done anywhere; anytime. If the Lion roars appropriately, applaud this fight or flight. Be gracious with yourself wherever you find yourself this March; and may April bloom with ease.

Friday, February 3, 2023


Last night while I was acknowledging my "sensations" I've recently learned a technique to not call them symptoms - symptoms lead to many questions. I've always been good at questions that lead to more questions. The issue is for the last nearly two decades I've been dealt hundreds of questions with no answers. Damn, the lady was right "symptom" is triggering. A symptom takes you down the path of how to fix this problem. The problem however often in my case and most with ME and now Long COVID rarely has a simple answer - if one at all. So I was trying to be present and acknowledge the unpleasant sensation. Fuck, I don't think you are supposed to use unpleasant. Right, avoid positive and negative words like good or bad. Even though it really feels bad. But bad plus symptom tells the brain to be high alert move this to the front of the line and let's solve this pronto. Then what if there is no solution? Where does that lead you...let me tell you it leaves you in a far worse place than if you follow the pain-in-the-ass calm lady's advice and say this sensation is pressure, and hot and blah blah.

Honestly, I just got tired of trying to find descriptive words (even though there is a list she has to print out) but that would mean I would have had to go to the printer or back to the computer and find the list to then send to the printer and as you can see this is all getting very complicated and just saying I feel like I have never-ending flu and my digestive system is like a garbage truck and this symptom is fucking awful and I want it to stop and I want to find an answer and I'm quite used to this brain firing on a thousand cylinders to come up with a logical answer but there never is an answer. 

So lord I was tired. Tired of trying to remember how to handle these sensations to put my brain out of flight or fight. Well, it must have worked because instead, I began thinking of my high school geometry class and the compass. I loved geometry; I was really good at it. I still remember our teacher's bold thick red crayon/pencil and seeing a 98 and a WELL DONE !!! Damn it was nice having a problem with a solution. 

I thought about my life and how it began as a small circle and it just kept expanding and those circles got larger and larger. Then there wasn't enough paper for them so they went outside the lines and began to overlap. And that is how the years went. More and more circles are bigger and bigger. Until now and that broke my heart. Suddenly, I really didn't care about the sensation anymore. I began thinking of my life on March 17 2020 when I didn't know that everything was going to change from some sort of plan to the abyss and my circles would get smaller and smaller. Too small to connect with others anymore. And here I am living inside this very tiny as close as the pencil can get to the center of the compass just swirling around in the same tiny orbit and it has broken me into a million pieces on the inside. I feel like a shell of my former self, and most days wake up wondering that is if I sleep because the nights have become a mini little war how the hell am I going to do this again? How will I maintain this routine? The what ifs...the when this...the how will...then things start spinning. 
Photos from

You see movies and tv shows of people that are ill; they live their lives large because time may be limited. That is the cruelty of this disease the larger you live the more you are punished. I'm trying. I am really really trying until I suspend trying and surrender. Then I try again. But how do you try to solve a problem with so many hypotheses and yet no one to help you? This is the ultimate geometric equation of this disease; yet I learn more from other patients on Instagram than I have ever from a doctor. My arms are tired. I have sensations that I don't have the energy to find the descriptors. 

This problem is being shelved for tonight. It has no solutions only more questions and the little pencil on my compass seems to have disappeared. The only thing I know for sure is I miss myself. And it is really hard to live an authentic life when you don't even recognize who you are anymore. Your life was a kaleidoscope of intersecting circles that you created and bounced off with others. Now it is as small I suppose as the spec of dust we are in this massive galaxy. Maybe I should switch to Physics.


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