Your Natural Health Questions, Answered by a Naturopath (Part II)

You all met my friend Dr. Bridget Dean a few weeks ago when she guest blogged for me! Dr. Dean is a friend from college who is a Naturopathic Physician in Tempe, Arizona.

I asked her a set of questions for the guest blog, and she had so much great information that I broke everything out into two posts. Without further ado, here’s part II of those questions and answers!


What’s the best way to get vitamin D if you live in a place that’s cloudy all winter?

To be fair, I practice in Phoenix, AZ, (arguably one of the sunniest cities in the US), and an astounding number of patients are low in Vitamin D. I feel a big reason is that we really just don’t go outside like we used to. I work in an office, for example, and the most actual sun I get during the workweek is when I walk to and from my car. So, regardless of climate, we’ve kind of fallen out of the habit of getting our sunshine vitamin the natural way. As a naturopathic physician, my goal is to educate and give people tools to utilize their body’s own natural mechanisms for achieving wellness… but unfortunately, Vitamin D is one of those things that I almost always end up needing to recommend supplementation.

Important to remember, however, is that while many people are deficient in vitamin D, not everyone is. I always check blood levels before recommending supplementation, and people should be advised to talk to their doctor before starting any supplement.

Beyond supplementation, though, there are a few foods that contain natural sources of vitamin D. The great thing is that they’re foods that are healthy for other reasons, too. Fatty fish such as salmon (also rich in protein and omega fatty acids) and egg yolks (good source of other fat-soluble vitamins A, E, and K) are good examples. Many other foods (such as diary products) are fortified with vitamin D.

If you have an unseasonably warm, sunny day, you can take advantage of it by spending time outside during peak hours (10am-3pm) in order to maximize vitamin D production. Of course, it’s always important to remember that too much sun exposure can be detrimental as well, so use common sense.

What are some health trends that you think are silly or don’t work? Or maybe that people are using incorrectly?

Hmm… the information available on the internet is far and wide, so there is a lot of bad information (and trends) out there. One in particular I’ve seen cause direct harm in patients is the use of essential oils internally. Essential oils are great for aromatherapy, and can be used topically in safe amounts to treat skin infections, but the high concentration of herb that is contained in the oil doesn’t allow much room for error or overdose. I’ve unfortunately seen people make themselves sick taking essential oils, and great results can be achieved in much lower (safer) doses of the same herb. I know I may catch some push-back for saying so because they’re so popular among naturally-minded people, but I just don’t see them as being all that safe.

I have heard of people doing ACV shots to aid the immune system during cold/flu season, but I can’t say I’ve seen great benefit with that clinically. I have recommended ACV to people for a variety of reasons (usually to aid in digestion). Typically, I’ll have people add herbs to the ACV (like the garlic/onion I mentioned in the other post to make a “fire cider”), and I see it helping better that way during cold/flu season.

Do you have any recommendations for a cleanse or detox that is actually healthy?

The best recommendation I can make to patients when trying to do a cleanse or detox is to avoid narrowing their focus. Rather than simply getting toxins to “move,” you have to support elimination as well. That can mean improving digestion with diet or the right kind of probiotics, making sure you’re drinking water and urinating adequately, and not over-burdening your elimination pathways (spinach, for example, is high in oxalate, which can lead to kidney stones in extreme amounts). Additionally, getting adequate nutrition supports the body’s natural detoxification pathways.

What are your thoughts on fad diets, like the Whole30 or Keto?

These are two examples of diets that serve a specific (and useful) purpose:
Whole30 is much like the elimination diets that I recommend for people who may have food sensitivities, and I’ve seen patients who have had amazing results with it.

Keto has been documented as being therapeutic for people with seizure disorders, which is really, really cool. I’ve also seen it helpful for people who have previously had a difficult time losing weight. Keto, however, takes a lot of research, care, and compliance to do properly. This is an example of a diet that I would especially make sure a patient is healthy enough to undertake.

What’s great about fad diets is that there is inevitably a huge amount of recipe options and social support. Keto, Whole30, Paleo, Mediterranean… these are all ones that I tend to like and recommend. If you go to the bookstore, check blogs, etc., you will find so much stuff that helps people stick to the diet. From my point of view, that’s awesome!

It’s also much easier for someone to connect to a well-defined diet plan than for me to simply tell them to “eat better” or “eat clean.” I also like to encourage people by telling them what they can eat vs. what they can’t eat. If a cookbook for the meal plan exists, it’s much easier to be on the same page. I’ve also seen many restaurants join the trend by marking their menus with which items are friendly to particular diets.

What I don’t like about fad diets is that their popularity waxes and wanes. What this means is that some people see “eating clean” as temporary, and they get discouraged when the weight comes back on or they start to feel poorly again. Individual people may respond better to a diet than others, so it’s easy to get discouraged.

I also don’t like crash diets. There are a few plans out there that call for extremely restricted calorie intake, or only give you an extremely limited list of (surprisingly unhealthy) things that you can eat. These are designed to be temporary, and the body does not thrive when it’s pushed to those extremes.

If you live in Arizona and are interested in seeing Dr. Dean, you can find her contact information here. She practices at Acacia Natural Health in Tempe. She also has a presence on Facebook and Instagram, and shares tips there!

The above does not constitute medical advice, and is for educational purposes only. Please see your physician for personalized care.