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Jun 23, 2017

Naturopathic Medicine and Mental Health

Stress, anxiety, ADD, ADHD, autism, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and depression are some of the most common reasons people go to their physicians today. According to the National Institute of Mental Health 9.5% of the population in any one year period or about 20.9 million American adults suffer from a mood disorder.  By the year 2030, the World Health Organization states, depression will be second only to HIV in terms of disability caused worldwide.  A concern for safety of antidepressants is driving many patients to naturopathic medical care.  For naturopathic physicians, the best approach to mental health is getting to the cause of the issue.  There are many reasons a person has anxiety, depression, stress issues and ADHD.  The typical approach is to take an antidepressant which can have many side effects such as anxiety, irritability, low libido and even suicide.
A better approach is to assess the cause of the problem.  For instance, stress can be related to the body producing too much or too little cortisol.  Cortisol issues can cause anxiety, hypoglycemia, inflammation and memory problems. Cortisol should be assessed and treated accordingly.
A person can have a hormone imbalance such as thyroid, excess testosterone, estrogen and progesterone imbalances that can cause all kinds of mood disorders.  Iron deficiency is a common problem which is rarely identified which can cause fatigue and depression.  Anemia is commonly present with poor diets and in menstruating woman. 
Nutritional deficiencies are a common issue with mood disorders.  These can include vitamin deficiencies, methylation issues which is related to B vitamins, especially if anxiety is present.  Antioxidants have been shown to prevent neuronal damage and vascular disease thus can be effective in treating depression.
Diet can play a big role with our mood.  Food allergies, alcohol, sugar, dyes, preservatives and artificial ingredients can all effect our mood causing ADD, ADHD, bipolar disorder, autism and depression.
Omega fatty acid deficiency is very common and can also cause mood problems and depression.
Many medications can cause vitamin deficiencies. These can include oral contraceptions, proton pump inhibitors, diuretics, metformin etc. which can affect our mood.
Many people are low in neurotransmitters such as serotonin, GABA and dopamine so testing for these deficiencies and giving the correct neurotransmitter will help get to the problem.
As you can see mental health issues are complicated.  Mental health issues can be due to psychological issues such as divorce, loss of a job or a death in the family or physical problems such as vitamin, hormone, nutritional deficiencies, neurotransmitter imbalances and dietary factors.   It is always best to get to the cause of the issue and get a complete assessment before starting a drug with side effects.
Mental Health America has launched a web site “Live Your Life Well” promoting mental health thru ten steps which are 1) Connecting with others this can make a person happier and live longer, 2) Staying positive 3) Exercise can prevent depression and insomnia 4) Helping others these individuals have less depression and pains 5) Getting enough sleep, not sleeping effects weight issues, memory, mood, stress and heart disease. 6) Create joy and satisfaction in your life.  Positive emotions can help a person bounce back from stress. 7) Eating healthy - make sure you’re getting protein with each meal and 5-12 veggies a day 8) Take care of your spirit. People who are spiritual are healthier and live longer. 9) Deal with hard times. People who tackle problems and get support live longer 10) Get professional help when needed.  Assessing mental health issues can be very complicated.  These are simple steps to start with that can produce an awarding life.
I assess the whole individual when addressing mental health such as hormone deficiencies, nutritional and vitamin deficiencies, medications and neurotransmitters.  You can live your life to the fullest with the correct therapies.

Dr. Deborah Wiancek is a naturopathic physician at the Riverwalk Natural Health Clinic in Edwards, CO.  She is an author, educator and practitioner.  She has been in the medical field for forty years.  She can be reached at or 970-926-7606.   

Jun 16, 2017

GMO Crops to Avoid

Look for USDA Organic or Non-GMO Project Verified versions of these foods as well as indirect sources of GMOs such as meat, milk, and eggs from animals that are fed these foods.

Jun 8, 2017

Vegan Strawberry & Coconut Whipped Cream Cups

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil (melted)
  • 6 ounces dark chocolate (chopped into small pieces)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Aleppo chile or chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound strawberries (thinly sliced)
  • ¼ cup fresh orange juice (about 1 orange)
  • 4 (13- to 14-ounce) cans full-fat coconut milk or cream (TRY: Thai Kitchen Organic), refrigerated overnight
  • 1 tablespoon agave syrup
  • Zest of 2 navel organic oranges
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract


  • Melt coconut oil in microwave or over stovetop; then place it in the freezer for 3 minutes to bring the temperature down.
  • In a small bowl, toss chocolate chunks, 1 tablespoon chili powder, cooled coconut oil and salt; set aside. In a medium bowl, toss sliced strawberries with orange juice; set aside.
  • Open the cans of coconut cream, and carefully scoop the waxy, solid layer of coconut cream from the top of the cans and into a mixing bowl. Be sure to scoop as little of the coconut water beneath as possible. Or see tip above.
  • Using a mixer or hand beaters, whip coconut cream on high for 2–3 minutes, until it becomes fluffy and soft peaks form. Add agave syrup, orange zest and vanilla; whip to combine.
  • In small parfait glasses or other glasses, layer 2 heaping tablespoons coconut whipped cream, 2 heaping tablespoons strawberries and 1 tablespoon chocolate mixture; repeat layers. Finish each parfait with 1 tablespoon coconut whipped cream on top, and dust each with a pinch of remaining chili powder. Alternately, instead of layers, scoop the separate components into glasses and garnish with orange peel and a dash of chili powder on top.
*Here’s a helpful trick: Turn the cans of coconut milk upside down, and open the cans from the bottom. That way you can simply pour the coconut water out of the can, saving the solids you need for this recipe. Use the coconut water in smoothies or to cook rice or oatmeal. Coconut whipped cream is best served immediately. It may be stored in an airtight container for  5 days, but it will likely harden and need to be whipped again before serving.

Ancho Chili Chocolate Bark


  • 2/3 cup raw, unsalted pepitas
  • 12 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into pieces
  • 1 teaspoon ancho chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground clove
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ceylon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 cup toasted pistachios, chopped and divided 
  • 1/3 cup candied ginger, finely chopped
  • In a skillet over medium heat, toast pepitas for 4 to 5 minutes, until fragrant and just beginning to pop. Transfer to plate and let cool. 
  • In a small saucepan over very low heat, melt chocolate, stirring often to avoid burning. Once melted, fold in ancho chili powder, clove, cinnamon, cayenne, 1/2 cup pistachios and 1/2 cup toasted pepitas.
  • Pour chocolate mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and spread into an even layer. Sprinkle remaining pepitas, pistachios and candied ginger on top. Lightly press into the chocolate, then refrigerate for 45 minutes to 1 hour or freeze for 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Once cool, break into pieces and enjoy immediately or refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Foods That Lift the Mood

 1. Carbohydrates – When we eat breads, rice, and pasta our bodies convert these foods to glucose (sugar) which is what our brains need to help us think clearly and feel our best. Consuming whole grain carbohydrates (brown or wild rice, bulgur, and oats) will provide your brain with a longer lasting source of glucose making you feel happier, longer!

2. Omega-3 fatty acids – Salmon, mackerel, and trout are good sources of these healthy fats. Not only do these fats help protect the heart, but they may protect some of the neurological connections in our brains as well. Add fish to your weekly menu… your brain will thank you for it!

3. Vitamin D – This important vitamin increases serotonin levels in the brain which may prevent feelings of depression. Mushrooms, whole milk, and fish contain vitamin D. Exposing skin to sunlight (without sunscreen) also triggers our bodies to make vitamin D naturally! If you are fair skinned check with your dermatologist before using this method.

4. Beans and legumes – High in folate, which is most often associated with maintaining gut health, we often forget that folate has also been associated with fewer depressive symptoms particularly in the elderly.

5. Nuts and seeds – A favorite mid-afternoon pick-me-up snack, nuts and seeds are good sources of an important mineral, selenium. There is some evidence that selenium helps reduce symptoms of depression and improve mood.

6. Probiotics – when consumed regularly, those that take probiotic supplements reported having lower perceived levels of stress and anxiety when compared to those that don’t take these supplements. It is possible that these good bacteria not only help with digestion, but may decrease the amount of inflammation throughout the body, and improve mood! We need more research to know whether this mechanism truly exists, but the research so far appears very promising.

7. Unprocessed grains – full of B-vitamins which, if missing from the diet, may lead to feelings of irritability and depression. This is because B-vitamins are needed to help our bodies create serotonin, a good-feeling hormone. Preventing B-vitamin deficiencies can be relatively simple by incorporating whole, unprocessed grains into your diet!

8. Cobalamin (Vitamin B-12) – this is one of the B-vitamins mentioned above, but B-12 is unique when compared to its B-vitamin cousins. Its most active form is only found in  animal products like lean animal products, such as fish, poultry and eggs. Low levels of B-12 has been linked with symptoms of depression.

9. Chocolate – chocolate help elevate mood, but before we get too ahead of ourselves, let’s remember that 1 oz. of dark chocolate would likely do that trick… one whole chocolate bar isn’t necessary! Artificial trans fats can also be found in some forms of chocolate which may lead to an increased risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Moderation is key!


Roasted Carrot Lentil Salad with Tahini Dressing

  • 1 cup dried green lentils
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 small yellow onion, cut into quarters
  • 2 cloves of garlic, smashed, divided
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 bunches of rainbow carrots (8-10 medium carrots), scrubbed well and trimmed (leafy stem tops cleaned well and reserved for garnish)
  • 7-8 red radishes, stems trimmed and scrubbed well, divided
  • 5-6 garlic cloves, skin-on
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 of a red onion, very thinly sliced

Tahini Dressing:
  • 1/4 cup tahini paste
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 - 4 tablespoons warm water (depending on thickness of tahini paste)
  • Soak and cook the lentils: Place the dried lentils in a medium saucepan. Cover with cold water and allow the lentils to soak for one hour. Drain the lentils and  return to the same saucepan. Add 3 cups of water, the quartered onion, smashed garlic, bay leaf, and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Bring the lentils to a boil, reduce the heat to  simmer, and cook the lentils for 25 to 30 minutes, or until tender. Drain in a fine-meshed sieve and discard the onion, garlic, and bay leaf. Place in a large serving bowl to cool. Toss with a tablespoon of olive oil.
  • Roast the vegetables: Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Slice the carrots into 1/2-inch rounds (the skinny ends of the carrots can be left in larger chunks, try to keep the carrots as consistently sized as possible) and cut the radishes into quarters (reserving one radish for garnishing. Place the carrots and radishes on a large sheet pan, along with the garlic cloves (leave the skin on), and toss with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.
  • Roast for 20-30 minutes, tossing the vegetables every 10 minutes or so, or until the carrots and radishes are caramelized and tender. Remove the roasted garlic cloves from their skin (discard the skin, but keep the cloves) and allow the vegetables to cool to room temperature. Add the roasted vegetables and garlic to the cooked lentils, along with the sliced red onion, and toss gently to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Prepare the dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the tahini paste, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. It should be thick. Add 3 to 4 tablespoons of hot water (depending on your brand of tahini paste, you might need more or less to achieve the right consistency) and whisk gently until smooth. The dressing should be the consistency of a thick salad dressing, but should still easily drizzle from a spoon.
  • Cut the remaining radish into very thin slices. Roughly chop some of the reserved leafy stem tops of the carrots (roughly 1/4 cup or so). Garnish the salad with the sliced radish and chopped carrot stem tops. Drizzle the salad with the tahini dressing and serve at room temperature (this salad makes great leftovers and can be served cold from the fridge).

Pomegranate Quinoa, Almond and Avocado Salad


  • 4 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 4 chopped scallions
  • 1 cup chopped Italian parsley
  • ½ cup toasted sliced almonds
  • ½ lime - zest and juice
  • ½ orange- zest and juice
  • ⅓ cup olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt, more to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon cracked pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon allspice
  • 1-2 chopped avocados

  • Place cooked quinoa, pomegranate seeds, scallions, parsley and almonds in a medium bowl.
  • Toss with olive oil, orange juice and zest, salt and spices.
  • Taste and adjust salt.
  • Gently fold in the avocado right before serving ( or serve the avocado on the side, if wanting to keep leftovers)