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what’s new? everything!

December 31, 2009

What’s new for 2010 at Celilo Natural Health Center? Everything!

On Jan. 4, our clinic doors will open in the colorful and quintessentially Portland Alberta Arts District.

And our new website is live at! Please visit us there for more information about the clinic, events and our new newsletter.

May the new year and the new decade bring you joy, health and many blessings!

—Dr. O


six great reasons to start gardening

December 20, 2009
wide purple basil

Purple basil.

My favorite seed catalog came in today’s mail.

What’s new for 2010: organic Floriani red flint corn, green meat radish, Bolivian rainbow pepper, purple pac choy, ruby streaks mustard.

This is why I started gardening – I was awed by the incredible diversity of life I could sustain on my little corner of earth. Read more…

the cleanest canned foods are made by you

December 16, 2009

summer in a jar

The media has propelled estrogen-mimicking chemical bisphenol A (BPA) to the forefront of health news. It’s ubiquitous, and it’s likely in your body.

The chemical, developed as an estrogen replacement, is commonly used to harden plastics such, most commonly polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. It’s been linked to various cancers, diabetes, heart disease and digestive problems. The polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins are often used in plastic helmets and goggles, computers, kitchen appliances, medical devices, adult toys, and the packaging for some foods and drinks—including soda cans, water bottles and baby bottles. This month Consumer Reports and the watchdogs at the Milwaukee, Wisc., Journal Sentinel found BPA leaching into commercially canned foods (it’s in the lining).

And last week Linda Birnbaum, director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Toxicology Program, told the Journal Sentinel that consumers should be concerned. Here’s a roundup that many products containing BPA, along with links to safer alternatives.

To learn more about BPA, read “Chasing Molecules: Poisonous Products, Human Health, and the Promise of Green Chemistry” by Elizabeth Grossman.

So what’s a health-conscious person to do? Eat more fresh food, of course. Or preserve your own in good old-fashioned glass jar. Here are some books that will teach you to safely and easily preserve the summer’s bounty from your garden, farmer’s market or local store.

Stocking Up, 3rd Edition, by Carol Hupping is one of the most recommended books on safe canning and includes great recipes.
Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods, by Sandor Katz focuses on fermentation as a preservation method.
Complete Guide to Home Canning and Preserving, the US Department of Agriculture’s classic.

Canning is fun for the whole family, and the results can make thoughtful, thrifty holiday and hostess gifts. It’s also clearly the healthiest choice.

NB: A version of this story also appears on

holiday in blue

November 25, 2009

Photo by Nihan Aydin.

It’s the “most wonderful time of the year” — and depression is rampant. Between the darkness (if you live in the northern hemisphere), family drama, financial stresses… it’s a time when many people find their mood going in an unhappy direction. Here are some tangible tips for feeling better.

1. Exercise.
Depression by definition diminishes most motivation. But getting off the couch can make a remarkable difference in your emotional resilience. Exercise literally changes not only the chemicals being made in your brain, but also how well those chemicals work. It doesn’t have to be intense and it doesn’t have to be very much. Just starting will help those clouds lift.

2. Get some sun.
The winter’s lack of light makes lots of people low. The effect isn’t new — it’s been described since the 1800s. These days there’s a name for it, complete with cute acronym: seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.

Adding light can help. Outdoor, natural daylight is best, especially in the morning. But many companies also sell light boxes that researchers find really do help — even for summertime depression.

Photo by Nathalie Dulex.

3. You are how you eat.
Author Michael Pollan said it best: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

Scientific research all over the map supports this. An October 2009 study in the Archives of General Psychiatry reported that a Mediterranean-style diet reduced depression in addition to its well-known heart and anti-cancer benefits. They found that fruits, nuts, beans and fat from fish and olive oil all helped beat the blues.

Filling up with fresh fruits and veggies also has another happy side effect: reducing your exposure to mood-busting sugar and processed foods.

4. Up the fish oils.
The long dark winters in Iceland don’t translate into high levels of depression there, and scientists think the reason is in the high-omega-3 fish the locals consume.

For people who are depressed, researchers have found significant improvements in mood after just two weeks of therapy with fish oil.

How does it work? The omega-3 oils reduce depression-causing inflammatory chemicals and improved cellular function, all of which make a happier brain.

5. Feed your microflora, too.
The first-line prescription therapy for depression is a drugs that increases serotonin availability in the brain. Looking at the body as a whole, most serotonin is found in the gut, where it helps signal the movements needed to promote digestion.

We’re designed to make a lot of serotonin ourselves, with the help of foods and the healthy flora in our guts. Supporting that flora with probiotics —found in foods such as sauerkraut, kimchee, live yoghurt and miso — can help make more serotonin available to the whole body, including the brain.

Like fish oils, probiotics also reduce inflammation and oxidative stress that influence depression.

6. Give flower essences a try.
Having flower essences on hand can offer a quick pick-me-up, or support long-term healing. Take four drops as needed, or four times daily in a little water over the longer term. They don’t interact with any other medications, and the only possible concern is a tiny amount of alcohol.

Try Star of Bethlehem for dealing with grief and trauma. Sweet chestnut helps deep, dark despair and hopelessness. Pine relieves guilt. And willow helps when you feel resentful or sorry for yourself. For some sunshine in a bottle, try the Solstice Sun environmental essence from wild Alaska.

7. Learn more.
While there’s no substitute for talking with friends or professional counselors, these books can help you understand what’s going on and offer suggestions for helping yourself.

This psychologist-recommended website links to articles about natural health and a variety of mental health issues.

8. If you need help, get help.
Sometimes the blues are transient, and simple home fixes like these are all you need. But if the darkness persists, remember that you are not alone. Naturopaths and psychologists are an important part of getting better.

If you’re battling the blues this holiday season, be sure to take some moments out to take care of you!

the decision to stop complaining

November 10, 2009

Note: My brilliant college friend Cianna Stewart wrote this moving personal essay for her friends, posting it to her website (link is in the title). How could following her advice improve your life? — Dr. O

The decision to stop complaining

By Cianna Stewart

Sometime in January or February of 2006 I gave myself a serious challenge: I decided to stop complaining.

It had been about seven months since my One And Only Forever had dumped me unceremoniously and without warning, taking with him all my plans for the future and a good deal of my finances. I found myself feeling lost, needy, and perpetually teary. My family gave me as much support as they could within their own strained circumstances. I had moved away from all my friends and felt deeply alone. I left the country for a while. I drifted.

Then the universe beckoned me back to San Francisco. I found a job, stayed at friends’ houses, and prepared to start over. Everyone was so kind to me. They all knew my story and wanted to help me heal.

My life was once again on track. I was reconnecting with people I cared about who cared about me. I was back in the Bay Area, my home. My job was actually an opportunity – a chance to be mentored by an icon in my chosen field. I was having fun.

…and still I had a heavy heart that couldn’t believe that anyone wanted to spend any time with me.

One day I was driving on the freeway, moving through the tail end of the morning commute. I had just left the home of friends who had invited me to stay with them indefinitely as part of their family. I was on the way to work with a brilliant man on a fantastic project. The sun was out and I could see San Francisco and the Bay, glistening in the crisp light of a clear winter morning. All of a sudden I was exhausted by myself. I heard my own voice telling and retelling the story of my breakup. I could hear every “but” that intruded on my tales of fun times with friends or the interesting work that I was doing. I heard repetitive, circular conversations play out where all the characters changed but one: me. My mind painted a self-portrait that I hated: I was weepy, dependent, weak, and – worst of all – negative.

I realized that I was the one perpetuating this image. Each time I complained about my past, I was reinforcing the feeling of being stuck there. No matter how much I was enjoying what I was doing, I was reminding myself and others of the pain as if I had no interest in forgetting it – even though I said that I did. Those awful times in my past were continuing to wreak havoc on my beautiful present, and I was the one inviting them in. I felt like a kid whose parents have given her super fun toys and thrown her a great party with all of her friends where she laughed all day and ate too much cake and as she goes to bed that night she only says, “Yeah, but what I really wanted was a pony.”

I imagined being her parent and hated how that made me feel.

I decided to stop complaining.

Now, lest you think that I’m all unicorns and rainbows, let me be clear: I was naturally drawn to sarcastic humor and sardonic wit. My instinct to snark was my ticket into inner circles of East Coasters, British ex-pats, drag queens and just about every group I was part of. I was straining against so much of myself and my world when I decided to let this go.

Yes, it was difficult, but I’d made a decision and I stayed with it. It’s been almost four years since then. I can tell you without reservation that it’s one of the best presents I’ve ever given myself. I’ve learned some incredible things, things that I never expected.

I learned first that it’s really really hard to stop complaining. I noticed how often I would have to stop myself. I would start and then abruptly cut myself off, often explaining, “I was about to start complaining but I’ve promised myself that I wouldn’t complain any more.” Unexpectedly, this often led into a conversation about my decision, ending up with others offering to help me keep my resolution.

Once I had a greater handle on what I was saying, I started to get really sensitive to what I was hearing. I realized that we have a culture of complaining, that it’s the backbone of many conversations and, therefore, many relationships. Standard conversation openers included complaints about traffic, parking, the weather. I realized how much time we all spent talking about unfixable situations that were bigger than we were (airports, corporations, society), were in the past and therefore unchangeable, or just situations where we felt stuck (jobs, relationships, our bodies). I started to notice how these conversations would make me exhausted, how I would lose energy or feel my body tense with frustration. Even a lot of comedy – something that I had seen as a way of relieving stress – was an elaborate and creative version of complaining and had started to make me anxious.

As a result of my decision, I found myself staying silent in many conversations or simply having to leave them. I was unable to spend much time around certain people because so much of everything they said was rooted in complaint. I also started to be repelled by the close cousins of complaint: cynicism and bitchiness.

After a while, I started to think about what we were trying to accomplish with all this complaining. It struck me that at times there was a kind of bonding that happened in complaining, a way of trying to establish that “we’re all in the same boat,” an equalizing through shared misery. Sometimes these complaints seemed to start as a way of showing that they understood someone else’s pain, but would often lead to a focus on self. Some people seemed to be bragging through complaining, talking about how hard something was as a way of giving examples of how they used their strength, creativity, or intelligence to respond. This was closely aligned with all the times I saw people complaining to establish that they were superior, where complaints centered on the theme, “I know better.”

Through all versions of complaining I heard one thing over and over: “Poor me.” There was a way in which complaints reinforced the sense of being a victim. People who complained a lot converted this sense into an identity. No matter what happened, they interpreted it in a way that telegraphed a picture of themselves as subject to the whims of others and the world. Even when good things happened, they either viewed them as insufficient or hung on to bad things from the past as if needing to live in a state of constant alert for their recurrence (which is what I had been doing).

In this state, it’s impossible to change your world to make it better. As long as you think and act like others are in control you render yourself powerless in your own life. I knew, without a doubt, that I didn’t believe that others were in control of everything in my life. I could point to so many times when I made decisions to get myself out of bad circumstances. I also thought about negative (sometimes devastating) things that I couldn’t change and how deciding not to let them overshadow my entire life improved everything in my world. I remembered how great it felt to go from feeling stuck in a bad situation to taking some control. I started to see the decision to stop complaining as simply an expression of my belief that I was in charge of my own life, my unwillingness to be a victim.

I encourage you to take on this challenge for yourself. It’s amazing. Without a doubt, I still catch myself saying negative things. But having made this decision, I’m now able to recognize what I’m doing and stand a little outside of myself so I can try to figure out what I’m really trying to accomplish. For instance, if I’m wanting to bond with someone, I try to find sources of common interest, to talk about something that excites us both. It’s way more fun than finding affinity by tearing ourselves down.

I’ve also started to sort out the differences between venting, problem-solving, and complaining. This way of looking at conversations I encounter every day has really helped me. The distinction comes in understanding someone’s intention behind what they’re saying.

Venting occurs when something happens that someone needs to purge. It’s like a release valve, an explanation for a current state of mind or mood which – once vented – allows them to get back to what they were doing or what they’d rather be thinking about.

Problem-solving is when someone is telling a story that sounds a lot like a complaint but their goal is to end the situation. They’re often elaborating on what happened as a way of getting the listener’s insight or as a way of providing background for figuring out a solution.

And then there’s complaining. Complaining is often circular, repetitive, and without resolution. The complainer is trying to accomplish all those things I had been noticing, like establish affinity through misery, demonstrate their superiority, or brag. There’s often nowhere to go after someone complains, no next step. If you don’t want to complain and don’t want to support someone else’s complaints, then it’s a conversation killer. One of the most annoying things I’ve noticed about complaints is that they’re likely to crop up again in another conversation, often sounding almost exactly the same.

In the end I found that the gift I gave to myself on that cold winter morning was the ability to take control of my life and to keep moving forward. Even more, I find that I’m so much more able to feel the joy that’s available to me if I don’t squash it with a complaint. I’ve also been able to find others who want to celebrate life, who operate from a place of curiosity, who genuinely have fun. Time that I spend with them gives me energy and makes my creativity spark like fireworks.

As a result of this one decision, I feel more alive. I want the same for you. Do you want it, too?

Dr. O’s advice for flu season

October 22, 2009

Natural advice for staying well this flu season
Originally published in Indian Country Today

By Terri Hansen
Environment, Science & Health Writer

Portland, Ore.—When naturopathic physician Dr. Orna Izakson looks at a plant she sees more than its stem, leaves or vibrant flower – she sees medicine. And naturally, she takes a natural approach to flu prevention and hastening a healthy recovery.

“Our bodies are trying to bring us toward health,” she says. “The responses we experience to outside stressors are our body’s intelligent response to that stressor. A fever is an intelligent response: It makes the body more responsive to invaders… and it makes us feel lousy so we slow down and go to bed so that our bodies can heal.”



So what can you do to stay well this flu season? “Keep things moving,” says Dr. O, as her patients call her. That means drinking clear fluids — especially water — and eating foods that are close to nature. You can get most of the pieces you need in your diet for good health from colorful vegetables, including fiber.

Avoid simple sugars they best as you can; they stun the immune system. “Each handful of berries you give your children is one less Twinkie, it’s a positive step.”

Cigarette smoking depletes vitamins and decreases natural immunity. “You need to cut back, smoke less and what you do smoke should be natural, or if packaged smoke American Spirits,” Dr. O says. “Make up for the extra cost by smoking less.”

Vitamin D, produced naturally in the skin by sun exposure, is critical to your immune system. Deficiencies are epidemic and darker-skinned people are more likely to have low levels. Depending on her patient’s lab assessments of their blood levels, she generally recommends 2,000 to 4,000 iu daily of D-3.

Probiotics support healthy gut bacteria, a barrier between you and the outside world. One 2009 study found regular use of probiotics reduced children’s cold and flu symptoms. Another found probiotics helped elders get more immunity from flu vaccines. Buy probiotics as supplements – acidophilus is one, and find them in traditionally fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchee and uncooked miso.

Herbal steams are an old and effective tradition for any respiratory infection: Mix herbs with boiling water in a bowl and cover for a minute with a towel. Drape the towel over your head and the bowl, close your eyes and breathe the steam through nose and mouth into your nasal passages, throat and lungs to loosen mucous, strengthens mucus membranes, and disinfects your passages. Repeat as needed.

“You can use thyme, pine needles, cedars, eucalyptus, and chaparral. Orange peels can be effective too, but wash them well before using,” Dr. O says. “Talk to the Elders, they often know what’s best to use in your location. It could be herbs from the place your grandparents called home, or you may have a grandma in your head; listen to whose voice is louder.”

Lomatium and osha root are best taken as tea, tincture or by chewing on the root directly. “When you take it internally, you’re taking in the volatile oils. They want to volatize, spread out. They go into the bloodstream, their aromatics bubble out into and through your lungs and mucus, disinfecting.” Think of the flu as leaving junk stuck in your lungs, a perfect spot for breeding bacteria. Herbs move it out, disinfecting from underneath.

Garlic helps to fight many bugs that can make you sick, making it one of Dr. O’s favorites. Raw is best if your stomach tolerates it. Add a chopped clove or two, if you can, to any hot or cold food.

If you get sick in spite of these positive steps call your medical provider.

Home remedies Dr. O suggests for her patients include mustard plasters; to make your own grind yellow (or any) mustard seed and mix with water. Place a brown paper bag on your chest as a barrier, then smooth the mustard plaster on top. Use the plaster two to three times a day. How long you keep it on depends on your comfort level, but check frequently; if the skin starts turning red it’s time to take it off.

The next treatment, like the mustard plaster, moves blood and helps immune cells get to where they’re needed most. Wet a pair of cotton socks with cold water; wring them out thoroughly. Put on well-warmed feet, cover with a pair of dry wool socks and get into a warm bed for the night. You can also do this with a cotton t-shirt and wool sweater.

Bottom line, Dr. O says, is it’s the simplest things that help the most: Eat simply. Exercise moderately. Get plenty of rest. Drink water. Cover your cough. Wash your hands. Get outside and breathe clean air. And find some way to cultivate joy in your life every day. “This is traditional medicine, the best memory of the traditional medicine. It’s practical, it empowers people.”

Orna speaking Newforest Institute on Sept. 8

August 25, 2009

Orna is spending the late summer of 2009 as writer-in-residence at Newforest Institute in Brooks, Maine. As part of her time there, she will be doing a community presentation about natural medicine on Tuesday, Sept. 8. Community dinner starts at 6 p.m. and the talk begins at 7 p.m. The event is free, with donation requested for dinner. More details coming soon!