|A Season - and Year - For Gratitude
As the year comes to a close and I write this letter, for some reason I usually feel pressure to "wish" people something...better health, greater prosperity, true and deep love, happy holidays...there seem to be many "wishes" to choose from. But everyone seems to want or need different things...some people want more work right now while others want more free time from work. How do you get the wishing thing right? One year I decided to take a novel approach and wish people, "whatever they wish for themselves" and sent along a blank card and asked people to draw a picture of whatever it might be. People seemed happy to have an excuse to take their crayons out of a dusty drawer and get creative with that one...
This year Mother Nature seems to be guiding us to reconsider the many gifts we already receive each day. After several bouts of extreme weather here in Connecticut this year, people were left stranded in homes that had no electricity, heat or even running water. We all need reminders to be grateful at times. Often one of my suggestions for patients to help them feel better is to keep a "gratitude journal", to jot down 5 items that make them glad each day. Especially when life seems to not be going their way, this can help to start turning a situation around by changing their relationship with it.
As much as I support my patients in adopting a positive outlook, I find that hearing my patients' stories makes me more grateful in return. One woman in particular I remember after many years. I was working in a hospital when this woman came onto the unit. She was loud and demanding - both patients and staff did their best to stay out of her way. At lunch she joined a bunch of us chit-chatting about random topics - from politics to Hollywood gossip. Frankly, I didn't think that much of it. At the end of the shift, I asked everyone in our group to share one thing that they were thankful for that day. When it was that woman's turn she said, "today was the first day in many years that I laughed without being high." It was anything but an ordinary day for her. In an instant I became very aware of the many things I take for granted - it was her gift to me.
Perhaps 2012 isn't the year to wish for bigger, better things but to simply appreciate the good we already have.
With gratitude for being a part of your lives - be well and happy holidays.
Funda M. Gulmen, N.D., M.S. - Naturopathic Physician
2505 Main Street, Suite 209B
Stratford, CT 06615
Integrating both traditional (nutritional counseling, herbal medicine, homeopathy) and modern therapies (pharmaceuticals, radiological imaging, minor surgery), Dr. Funda M. Gulmen is a licensed naturopathic physician who offers care for the whole family - children, seniors, men and women - through her private practice in Stratford, CT.
Additional services include: stress management, mind-body medicine, therapeutic movement, lifestyle counseling, cleansing programs, food allergy/lab testing, supplement reviews, annual physical exams, yoga/meditation instruction, Reiki and integrative medicine seminars/publications.
- Accepting Anthem Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Aetna, CIGNA and ConnectiCare health plans -
Recently a woman in her 70’s came to the office complaining of gout in her feet. Due to the incredible pain she was unable to walk on her own and so was using a wheelchair. Gout is considered to be a type of arthritis (a group of diseases that cause pain and swelling in joints). Gout occurs because there is an excess of uric acid in the body. With an excess of uric acid it can precipitate out of the blood and form crystals that become embedded in the joint space which cause inflammation. To say it was like she was walking on shards of glass really isn’t too far from the truth. Gout can happen for several reasons. People tend to “flare-up” (i.e. develop pain and swelling) if they eat quite a bit of meat or drink alcohol. Some people who have kidney disease develop gout because these organs can not filter out the uric acid from the blood sufficiently. Gout formation is more likely to happen if the person tends to be dehydrated – this allows the uric acid to form crystals because uric acid is simply too concentrated in the blood. That seems to have been true for this lady who had recently been put on a strong diuretic to control her blood pressure. Gout forms “tophi” – hard, swollen, red nodules that are filled with uric acid crystals. These tophi usually develop on toes, fingers, ears…places on the body that have less circulation and tend to be cooler – perfect conditions for creating crystals. If the tophi become large enough they can burst open and weep fluid that has built up under the skin because of inflammation.
Reversing Gouty Arthritis with Natural Medicine
With this woman we used a combination of natural approaches to address her situation. First, by looking at her diet we needed to balance the purine-containing foods (mostly meat) by adding in more vegetables and increase her water intake so that the concentration of uric acid in the blood decreased. Several herbs were given to her, some to decrease the uric acid levels and others to address the pain. She was asked to perform 15 minutes of contrast hydrotherapy (see additional article in this newsletter) twice a day to increase her circulation and decrease the pain. This was also done because she had a cardiovascular condition and we wanted to increase circulation in her feet without putting more burden on heart.
Within two weeks a family member reported that they could see the tophi visibly decreasing in size. Four weeks later, the tophi had shrunk to about half their original size and she was complaining less about the pain and she was using a walker instead of a wheelchair. I decided to add in supplements to support her heart and vessels so that better circulation could help dissolve the crystals. By her third appointment 8 weeks after the original appointment only one of the original six tophi was still visible with a little bit of pink left on the skin. I suggested she drink a couple of teas to help with her blood pressure but in a way that would not make her so dehydrated that she might develop gout again. She continues to do well and has been able to enjoy daily activities once again.
Natural Medicine in the News
The State of Connecticut recently passed a new tax law on nutraceutical products and yoga classes. As much good as these items do to help people stay healthy, it is unfortunate that such barriers are being created to access. Be sure to contact your State Representatives if you feel that these moves are working against the greater public good.
When joints flare up, contrast hydrotherapy can be an effective way of decreasing the pain. For instance with someone who has inflammed joints of the hand or foot, dipping it in warm water for ten minutes then in cool water for five minutes can be very helpful. The contrast between the temperatures creates a pumping action in the tissue that brings fresh nutrition and oxygen in while drawing toxins and inflammatory molecules out. Be careful of severe temps either high or low especially if you have decreased temperature sensitivity and avoid if you have open wounds or infections.
Contrast Hydrotherapy for Joint Pain
The beauty of natural medicine is that sometimes it comes in simple ways. The herb turmeric, which is used often in different types of Asian cooking, is something that brings relief to many people dealing with arthritic pain. It also is helpful in cleansing the body and there is growing evidence that it helps prevent metastasis of cancer. There is a lot of medicine in your kitchen cabinets without even realizing it.
Turmeric: Herbal Relief for Joint Pain
Recent Speaking Events
In order to increase people's awareness of how they can take better care of themselves and achieve better health, Dr. Gulmen recently gave a public lecture on “Natural Medicine Approaches to Lyme Disease”
at Nature’s Way Health Food Store in Stratford, CT.
Other recent presentations she has given include:
- Speaking to the Eli Whitney Elementary School PTA
about how to change children’s nutrition to improve their behavior.
- Talking to kids at Stratford High School
who are interested in healthcare professions about naturopathic medicine as a career.
- Discussing natural medicine approaches to staying fit with employees of the Greater Bridgeport Transit Authority
and students at Housatonic Community College
If you know of a group or organization that could benefit from knowing more about natural medicine, Dr. Gulmen would be happy to create a seminar to address their particular needs and concerns. For a list of previous seminars, please visit: www.naturesourcecare.com
Photo: F. Gulmen
Dr. Gulmen has been invited to take part in community projects that serve the greater good:
- Students from Stratford High School organized a health fair onjuvenile diabetes in collaboration withStratford Public Library. Together we presented educational information to the public to develop awareness about this issue.
- Students from various high schools in Bridgeport came together through the organization BuildOn and the NEST Arts Factory to paint banners that will be installed around the town green.
- NYCares is one of the biggest volunteer events in New York where 111 schools in the area were given some much needed attention. Several of us worked together to give the Ethical Community Charter School in Brooklyn a fresh coat of paint for the administrative office and also the playground.
Over the the last few months, I was involved with a number of successful writing projects. I’ve been getting calls about how much the articles have been helping people to improve their lives.
– September 2011
“Words that Heal:
Communicating with Kids”
– August 2011
“The Healing Power of the Earth’s Tears: Therapeutic Salt Baths”
– June 2011
If there is a health topic that you believe more people need to hear about through articles like these, please send along suggestions for future writing projects to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yoga for the Mind
Gentle yoga can be useful for people who want to keep their joints healthy and flexible. Meditation, likewise, is helpful in keeping the mind healthy and flexible. For those of you who have always wanted to try meditation because of its known benefits, here are some pointers on how to get started:
How to Begin Meditating
Natural Nutmeg Magazine, Dec 2011
Usually people will start to identify physical causes for arthritis such as a previous injury. But it is also the case that emotional issues can cause arthritis over time. One patient of mine, for instance, had gone through a lot of stress after having immigrated to this country. She was away from friends, family and many other familiar things. This stress started to effect her digestion. Many people "hold stress" in their digestive system...in fact, the gut is where most serotonin is stored in the body, even though it is a neurotransmitter associated with depression. Stress can also cause issues such as ulcers. Once the digestive lining becomes inflammed and irritated, small food particles can cross that barrier and areas of the body. Homeopathic remedies are very effective at correcting both physical and emotional issues. Rhus-tox is a common remedy that is used for both arthritis but also long-standing grief, as this woman had experienced after leaving her homeland. It was helpful for her on both these levels of healing.
Homeopathy for Arthritis
As many people find, changing their diet can be key to improving their health. But doing so often entails finding new foods to replace familiar ones or reformulating favorite recipes so you can still enjoy them while keeping on track with your health. Here are some new foods to expand your diet and new ways to enjoy the standards.
Invite Some New Friends Over
Warm Amaranth Cereal
Amaranth is a seed that can be used like a grain that is gluten-free but packs more nutrition than many other gluten-free grains. It has a sweet nutty flavor.
1 cup amaranth
3 cups water
1/4 cup hazelnuts
1/2 cup water
2-3 sliced dried figs
1-2 dashes of cinnamon
Soak 1 cup of amaranth in three cups of water overnight. Boil on med-high heat until grain absorbs the liquid. Spoon half a cup of cereal in a bowl. Put hazelnuts in food processer with water and blend until milky then pour over cereal. Add sliced figs and cinnamon on top. You can replace hazelnuts with almonds or coconut, figs with dried apricots or golden raisins and cinnamon with cardamon or cloves.
Fall Lamb Stew
Fall harvest offers many wonderful root vegetables that provide nutrition and nourishment as the days get shorter and colder. Lamb is a meat that is not often used In American cooking but for many people tends to be less allergenic than other meats. Of course, this stew could be prepared with any meat of choice.
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-1pound lamb stew meat, cut into 1 inch pieces, trimmed of fat
-2 tablespoons organic flour
-1 large onion, peeled and chopped into large pieces
-4 medium Yukon gold potatoes, cubed
-4 large carrots, chopped large pieces
-5 small bay leaves
-2 teaspoons dried thyme
-2 cups canned beef broth (low sodium)
-2 cups of water
-1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
Add oil to a large pot over high heat. Season lamb with salt and pepper. Add lamb to pot and sauté until brown, about 5 minutes. Add flour and stir 2 minutes. Add onions, potatoes, carrots, bay leaves and thyme and stir 2 minutes. Add broth and water and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until lamb and vegetables are almost tender, about 1 hour. Uncover stew and simmer until gravy thickens and lamb and vegetables are very tender, about 15 minutes longer. Add parsley. Season stew to taste with salt and pepper.
Italian Brussel Sprouts
2-3 cloves garlic chopped
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 container of brussel sprouts, cut in half
1/2 cup of water
Saute garlic in oil over medium heat in a pan. Once the garlic is golden place brussel sprouts cut side down in pan. Once sprouts start to brown add water to steam the sprouts the rest of the way through.
One great brand of all purpose gluten-free flour is by Bob's Red Mill. It should always be used with xanthan gum which replaces the gluten in making baked goods fluffy.
2 1/4 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon xanthum gum
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil (walnut or sesame work well)
2/3 cup molasses
2/3 cup agave nectar
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons grated peeled fresh ginger
2/3 cup hot water
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan. Whisk together flour, xanthum gum, baking soda, spices, and salt in a bowl. Beat together oil, molasses, agave, eggs, and ginger in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until combined. Reduce speed to low and mix in flour mixture until smooth, then add hot water and mix until combined (batter may appear curdled). Pour batter into pan and bake until a wooden pick or skewer inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 30 to 40 minutes. Cool on a rack.