by Emily A. Kane, N.D., L.Ac. A clear, informative, 192-page guide detailing a natural approach to managing menopause. Preview the book inside > Order from Amazon > To obtain a signed copy with your own personal message, whether for yourself, or as a gift for someone else who is coming of age, you may purchase a personalized copy from Dr. Kane below: $18.95 or send check to: Dr. Emily Kane 418 Harris St. #329 Juneau, AK 99801

Most of us have experienced some degree of winter blues, and as many as 10 million Americans suffer a more severe form of the seasonal depression now known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). The predominant theory as to the cause of SAD is absence of sunlight during the winter months, which causes hormonal imbalances, in particular an excess of the pineal secretion, melatonin. Although there is no definitive test for SAD, most SAD patients have high levels of melatonin in their blood. About 75% of SAD sufferers are women, which confirms a link to hormonal fluctuations. There also appears to be a genetic component, with entire families being prone to deep winter melancholia, particularly those living far enough north to experience lengthy periods of darkness for many months of the year. Artificial indoor light is not a protective or therapeutic measure to combat SAD, although high-intensity fluorescent light therapy may be curative. Light treatment has been shown to improve SAD in children also diagnosed with ADHD to the extent of allowing the kids to get off Ritalin (J Am Acad...

Acne is a very common disease of the tiny fat glands at the base of hair follicles. The purpose of these follicular glands, most prevalent on the face, is to keep the skin moisturized. Common bacteria can irritate the hair follicles, which ultimately causes the fat gland to rupture and impact the pore. This can lead to blackheads, whiteheads, or the more serious “zits” which are inflamed and pus-filled pores. Deep acne can create permanent scars. While stress and genetics are certainly contributing factors in acne, diet plays a major role. Another key factor is excess androgen (testosterone) production which increases the size and activity of the fat glands in the hair follicles. Concentrated minerals and vitamins can help improve your biochemistry and promote clear, healthy skin.

Vertigo is a feeling of spinning even though you are on solid ground. Sometimes the sensation is strong enough to cause nausea and loss of balance. It’s different from dizziness, which is more like feeling you’re going to faint. Vertigo may last for a few minutes, or hours, or even days. The first consideration with vertigo is dehydration, although, ironically, vertigo can also be caused by fluid retention in the inner ear. Make sure you have been drinking adequate amounts of fluids, preferably water, especially if you’re working out or in a warm climate. Vertigo is a side-effect of some prescription drugs, notably steroids. If symptoms such as headaches, slurred speech, double vision or weakness in an arm or leg are also present, this is more serious and could mean multiple sclerosis, a mini-stroke or a brain tumor and you should see a neurologist (nerve doctor).

High-intensity ‘cool’ (blue) laser is being used increasingly to kill superficial bacterial infections. A company called Lumenis has a division of ‘aesthetic’ products including a high-intensity blue laser called “ClearLight” which dermatologists are using to kill the propionic and cornybacterium which are the primary cause of acne. The company claims there are no side effects to the treatments, which generally last about 15 minutes and are painless.

A Reuter’s news item appeared mid April this year in time for some tax-season levity: Lizard saliva may save your brain! No kidding. Apparently, a New-York-based biotechnology company has decided that ingesting the drool of the scary-looking southwest desert Gila monster may free the mind from the grip of Alzheimer’s disease (proceedings from the 7th International Geneva/Springfield Symposium on Advances in Alzheimer’s Therapy, Switzerland, April 8, 2002). Stay tuned! Meanwhile, other natural nootropic substances, with research behind them, hold promise for keeping mental functions sharp. (For more tips on how to enhance your memory, see the Brain-Booster Checklist below.)

Diverticula are pouch-like projections from the inner wall of the large intestine. They are caused by slow-moving stools which increase pressure within the colon, requiring more vigorous muscular contraction (peristalsis) to expel fecal matter. Approximately 40% of people over age 40 have them, 60% over age 60 and 90% over age 90. They are more common in men than in women. Often, they aren’t a problem at all. But they are also the cause of one of the most common bowel disorders, called Diverticulosis. This disease occurs when fecal matter becomes lodged in the diverticula, making them subject to inflammation, ulceration, bleeding, or more seriously, fistulas. A fistula is an abnormal tunnel, in this case through the intestine wall, which can release fecal matter into the abdominal cavity. This causes peritonitis, which, like appendicitis, requires urgent medical attention. The most common symptoms of diverticular disease are pain in the left lower part of the abdomen, blood in the stools, and irregular bowel habits mimicking irritable bowel syndrome, which presents as mostly constipation alternating with bouts of diarrhea. Pain can also...

Tinnitus is not a disease, and is very rarely a symptom of a serious medical problem. But it can drive people crazy. Michelangelo wrote in his memoirs that he was “plagued by the incessant chirping of crickets.” It may also sound to the sufferer like buzzing, humming or even roaring — but no-one else can hear it. Tinnitus is surprisingly common. A British national study of hearing found that 10% of adults had prolonged spontaneous tinnitus — that is, tinnitus “usually lasting for longer than 5 minutes”; 1% had experienced severe annoyance due to tinnitus; and 0.5% had experienced a severely reduced ability to lead a normal life. Theories about the origins of this internal noise abound; treatments are scarcer. Many doctors will focus “therapy” on reassuring the patient that the problem is not life-threatening. Hopefully this reassurance comes after a thorough medical intake and exam. With a few exceptions, surgery specifically aimed at eliminating tinnitus is obsolete. Before exploring possible treatment strategies, let us consider the two broad categories of tinnitus, and the important “rule-outs” as to the cause...

Clinical depression affects 15 million Americans yearly, and countless more suffer from milder versions of this illness. Antidepressants are among the most commonly prescribed drugs. By the end of 1995, 12 million people around the world (half in the U.S.) were taking Prozac, despite the high side-effect profile of this, and most other, antidepressant drugs, notably headaches, drowsiness, dry mouth, sexual dysfunctions and insomnia. Like most other disease, depression can be largely relieved by lifestyle and nutrition changes. Addiction and depression interface to a large extent. Many people claim that they smoke, drink alcohol, or take drugs because it calms them down. In reality, the “high” is very short term; these addictions ultimately add more stress to the system because of obsession with the next “fix.” (Please read Lifestyle Factors In Reducing Depression at the bottom of this post, for a list of changes you can make in your lifestyle that will have a direct impact on alleviating depression).

Despite its prevalence, constipation is often not understood, nor mentioned to doctors and thus may go untreated for years. While perhaps not the most scintillating topic for polite conversation with new friends, I personally, as a naturopathic physician and mom, am fascinated with digestive health and, well, poop. Constipation means all or any of the following: difficulty passing stool, incomplete passage of stool, or infrequent bowel movements. Ideally people would poop shortly after each meal, just like cats. The two main reasons few Americans have 3 easy-to-pass, formed, darkish brown, half-floating/half-sinking poops daily (the ideal) is because of chronic dehydration and a low-fiber, high refined-food diet. “Sinkers” mean the fecal matter has been in there too long and has become compacted, dense and heavy. The optimal “transit time” is 18 to 24 hours. Beets or corn are useful foods for evaluating how long it takes to go the several dozen feet from your mouth to your anus.