Viewpoints from a Naturopathic Physician
Here at Liberty HealthShare, we strive to create an environment in which our members are empowered to make informed decisions about the care they pursue for themselves and their families. For example, Liberty is proud to share in eligible expenses within the realm of certain naturopathic and alternative treatments. Dr. Kendra Pearsall, NMD, is a member of our Physician Advisory Board and she shares her expertise here as part of our physician post series. The following are a few medical questions our members pose with answers from Dr. Pearsall, based in a naturopathic approach to health.
Ask the Naturopathic Medical Doctor
by Dr. Kendra Pearsall, NMD
Q1: Do you recommend an annual physical?
A1: Research shows that the standard annual physical – in which healthy, asymptomatic people visit the doctor for a check-up – is largely a waste of time and money (accounting for 64 million office visits and $7 billion in the year 2000). I do recommend getting your blood pressure taken once a year (more often if you have high blood pressure). You can do this at your local pharmacy or purchase and use a home blood pressure kit. You may want to see a doctor if your blood pressure is over the ideal range of 120/80. This website is helpful for analyzing your results.
I also recommend lab tests at certain intervals to assess for heart disease, diabetes, cervical cancer etc., but if you have had labs run in the past 2-5 years and you are healthy, you can likely skip the annual physical until you or your doctor wants to run more screening tests. Your doctor can help you determine which screening tests you should have based on your age, sex, and family history.
What may be more valuable than an annual physical is to write down any symptoms you are experiencing along with your health goals and then seek the help of a health professional who is an expert in optimal lifestyle coaching. The majority of chronic diseases can be prevented and/or treated with lifestyle changes. For more information on this topic, this post from Science-Based Medicine and this one from Penn State’s Medical Minute are helpful.
Q2: How high does a fever need to be before you take a child to the doctor? Do you recommend Tylenol/Motrin for fever?
A2: Fevers are an indication that the immune system is acting against the microorganisms – when your body turns up the heat, the bacteria and viruses cannot reproduce, so they die off. Fever is actually your friend and not something to be feared. It can also be managed with home remedies. I do not recommend giving Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Motrin (ibuprofen) to a child. Both drugs can cause liver and kidney damage and reduce glutathione, which is needed to fight infection. These effects can lengthen the course of the infection, suppress antibody production, and prolong symptoms.
If the fever is 104° F or greater and your physician recommends using pharmaceuticals to bring it down, you can try a home remedy such as elder flower tea or tincture, which is very effective for reducing a fever. For a fever below 104° F, generally, it is best to do nothing. There are circumstances in which a fever is a cause for concern (such as in infants, when the fever exceeds 104°, or when there are certain symptoms). I recommend that every parent read a free short e-book by Dr. Sherri Tenpenny, entitled The Importance of Fever, to learn more about when to call the doctor and when to treat at home. You can also sign up for Dr. Tenpenny's newsletter on her website.
Q3: Is there any harm in taking antibiotics when someone in the family falls ill? Are there alternatives?
A3: There is great risk in taking antibiotics. Martin Blaser, the author of a report in the prestigious journal Nature writes, “Antibiotics kill the bacteria we do want, as well as those we don't. These long-term changes to the beneficial bacteria within people's bodies may even increase our susceptibility to infections and disease. Overuse of antibiotics could be fueling the dramatic increase in conditions such as obesity, type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, allergies, and asthma, which have more than doubled in many populations.” Reference this post on GreenMedinfo for further information on this topic.
I always encourage my patients to try treating infections using natural remedies first. I recommend they only resort to prescription antibiotics if the infection is known to be bacterial and natural remedies do not work. Keep in mind that antibiotics do not work on viruses, which are the main cause of most infections.
If you must use antibiotics, make sure you eat lacto-fermented foods that are high in probiotics, such as raw sauerkraut, kimchee, miso soup, yogurt, or kefir during the course of your antibiotic treatment. You can also take probiotic capsules 5 times a day instead of or in addition to consuming lacto-fermented foods. Make sure to take probiotics 2 hours after your antibiotic dose so they don't compete with one another. Following an antibiotic course, you should take probiotic capsules 1-3 times a day for the rest of your life.
Here is a list of natural remedies that may support the immune system during illness:
Apple Cider Vinegar: Pour 1/2 cup in bath water or use in cool compresses or in a wet sock treatment (see below). Take internally by adding 2 tsp. to a glass of water 2-3 times daily.
Ginger or peppermint tea
Hydration: For a baby, you may have to use a dropper bottle to squirt water into his mouth. Breastmilk is also crucial for boosting the immune system.
You can make an electrolyte drink using coconut water and 1/8 tsp. salt. Drinking bone broth can help with hydration as it is high in minerals. You can also buy a liquid mineral supplement at the health food store.
Fasting: If your child doesn't want food, don't insist they eat. They do need fluids but they do not need food. In fact, food is counterproductive because it can divert bodily resources from the immune system to digestion. This is why appetite is often reduced during illness.
Avoid sugar in all forms: White sugar, juice, honey, and artificial sweeteners can suppress the immune system
Wet Sock Treatment: This gets the circulation going and stimulates the immune system.
Essential Fatty Acids: Double dose of essential fatty acids such as cod liver oil, fish oil, or krill oil.
Probiotics: Sauerkraut, plain organic yogurt, organic miso soup, or capsules.
Supplements and tea: Goldenseal, echinacea, olive leaf extract, liposomal vitamin C (1 gram an hour for adults), vitamin D, and green tea.
Raw garlic: Put through a garlic press and wait 5 minutes, then mix with food to avoid irritation of the stomach.
Essential Oils: Use Thieves, cinnamon, thyme, oregano, tea tree, and lavender oil. Read this post from Dr. Josh Axe’s site for more information.
There are a variety of ways to approach health and wellness. No matter which methodology you prefer, we at Liberty encourage you to form a relationship with a primary care physician with whom you can work toward a goal of overall health, rather than simply engaging in “sick care." Exercising wise healthcare consumerism means you carefully steward not only your own health but also the financial resources necessary to pay for your care. As you learn to listen to your body and make healthy choices, the way in which you access healthcare will also change for the better.
This article is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional, nor should it be regarded as medical advice. Rather, it is meant to share a naturopathic perspective on health and healing.