Trees

exercise. the best medicine. (podcast!)

Growing up, I was a kid who hid in the back corner during gym — because dodgeballs are hard and kids are mean. I never developed a sense of myself as athletic, and mostly didn’t miss it.

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Instead, I found my physicality by carrying my life essentials on my back for four days on a backpacking trail. It was life altering — but somewhat location dependent.

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Several years ago, I hit a personal low. I had tried pretty much all the things, but wasn’t feeling any better. After being strongly advised by a non-medical friend to consider pharmaceutical medications, a Facebook post from a doctor friend jumped out at me: Weight-bearing improves mood.

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So I tried it. And it made a huge difference.

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The research literature has long supported exercise as a treatment for depression and anxiety. The side effects of exercise, properly applied, are increased strength, improved blood sugar balance, better immune function and more.

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(Note that I don’t tout weight loss here. Not everyone loses weight, and not everyone needs to. Overall health should be the goal, with weight optimization a possible secondary side effect.)

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When it comes to depression, research shows that while medications may work faster, exercise is equally effective after 16 weeks and better than drugs after 10 months. And it doesn’t take much: Just 20 minutes three times a week of moderate-intensity exercise makes a significant difference. (PMID: 15361924.)

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The same pattern holds for anxiety. Even a single round of resistance exercise can lower anxiety significantly. (PMID: 25071694)

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My patients will attest to this experience. Many of them start exercising and find the stressors that would stop their lives cold no longer affect them nearly as strongly. It’s been a lifesaver for them, as it has been for me.

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I mention my story because it’s not unique: Many of us have traumas and resistance around athleticism, gyms and “exercise” in general. You don’t have to even want to be an athlete to get these benefits. You just need to do the things.

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I started going to the gym with the idea that it was something I had to do regardless of whether I found a strong community or even liked the activity. It was a prescription. In the end, it surprised me with both community and an activity I enjoy. I’m still no athlete, but having exercise as a tool in times of stress is a huge help.

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The podcast below is one I did two years ago with Michael Skogg, the owner of Skogg Gym in Portland. (If you’re not local, he’s got both videos and virtual memberships available.) In it I review the science behind exercise as a treatment for depression and anxiety.

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If you find it useful, I hope you’ll pass this post along.

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Dr. Orna Izakson | natural mental health | exercise with kettle bells

does summer make you SAD?

Working in the Pacific Northwest, I see a lot of patients who have issues with seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

 

 

Most people understand SAD as a depression response to the short, dark days of winter. And indeed, that is the most common form.

 

 

But summer SAD is also truly a thing: hot days, unrelenting brightness that makes you think you have to be cheery and energetic, wildfire smoke in certain parts of the country — all of these contribute to seasonal depression in the summer.

 

 

Seasonal affective disorder, whenever it hits, has some common characteristics: depression is key, but also over- or undersleeping, anxiety and others. And some of the herbal and, if necessary, pharmacological prescriptions can help both types.

 

 

One simple treatment that works well for most types of depression is especially suited to summer SAD: getting into cold water.

 

 

 

natural mental health | wild water | summer SAD | depression | Dr. Orna Izakson

Cold water helps beat depression.

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terrain

Filed under: chronic disease,healthy living,Uncategorized — Orna @ 8:50 am

Gardeners know that healthy plants have certain basic requirements: they need the right temperature, the right amount of sun, the right amount of water, and the right amount and kind of nutrients in the soil. Different plants have different needs, but one that has all these will be the most resilient, able to withstand pests, diseases and climate variations.

 

People are no different.

 

I was a gardener long before ever thinking about becoming a doctor. And I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the idea of feeding the soil is fundamental to naturopathic medical philosophy.

 

The profession even has a specific term for it: Terrain. (more…)

the sun is more than a vitamin

I talk about vitamin D a lot. It’s useful for healthy bones, healthy immunity, healthy levels of inflammation, healthy mood. In the past decade it’s gotten a lot of press.

 

But in the same way whole foods are a better source of nutrients than a multivitamin, there are things the sun can do that a supplement cannot. When it comes to health, Nature almost always does it better. And it turns out that sun is more than a vitamin.  (more…)

An easy way to eat more veggies

November 8, 2018

Wednesday is veggie box day at my house, and it’s been really helping me up my personal food game. I often recommend delivery services like this one from Full Circle to patients as a way to help keep fresh vegetables in the house — because eating veggies is a non-negotiable part of healthy living.

 

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the three keys to optimal health

At its root, health really isn’t that complicated. Getting and staying health comes down to three simple things — assimilation, elimination and managing inflammation. In this short(ish) video, Dr. Izakson breaks it down and gives you the key to the natural-health kingdom.

 

flower essence training with Dr. Izakson

It’s no secret I’m a plant lover. It’s why I went into medicine.

 

I love that plants reinforce our connection to nature, while helping us navigate the modern world. Nearly every patient I treat gets some kind of plant-based prescription, whether it’s a powdered herb, a tea or an herbal extract such as a tincture or a gemmo.

 

The plant medicines I use most in practice are flower essences. They’re safe and gentle, don’t interfere with any other prescriptions and reliably make big changes in my patients’ well being.

 

Here’s one patient’s testimonial: (more…)

come out and play!

Dr. Izakson has some speaking gigs coming up, and she’d love to meet you.

 

First up, Dr. Izakson is talking about vital living at the Inspiring Woman Leaders Fifth Annual Women’s Leadership Conference on March 5 at the McMenamin’s Kennedy School. The event is even near the office, for those of you who love the Alberta/Concordia neighborhood.

 

One week later, check out the Women in Balance Institute’s Women’s Health Day. Dr. Izakson will be talking about detoxification — with a twist.

 

Both promise to be fun events. We look forward to seeing you there!

 

Oxbow-Oregon-Lifestyle-Head-Shot-WEB-084A5559

 

 

new year’s resolutions: biotransformation in 2014

December 31, 2013

 

Wishing you joy, laughter, freedom and light in 2014.

‘Tis the season to make resolutions. A time to reevaluate our choices, to envision a hopeful future in which we move forward into more perfect lives.

 

Although it hasn’t always been this way, as the Atlantic magazine explains in a Dec. 31 article, many of us make resolutions around our health. If you follow any blogs, Facebook pages or tweets on the subject, this is the time of year when you’ll be overwhelmed with possibilities for a New Year’s cleanse or detox program. You’ll lose weight! You’ll have more energy! That brain fog? Gone!

 

My friend and colleague Dr. Mahalia Freed wrote about this phenomenon on Facebook this time last year. Paraphrased (she said it so much better than I): You are not dirty, you don’t need to cleanse.

 

To which I said — and say again — hallelujah.

 

Health is not about fitting into your high-school prom dress. It’s not about just not being sick. We all have our definitions, but mine, today, is this: Health is enjoying our minds and our bodies, connecting with individuals and community and place, and fully living a life animated with meaning and purpose. (more…)

sunshine vitamin brightens dark winter days

As some of you may know I recently got my first smart phone. and on it there’s now a fun little app called D-Minder, intended to help track your vitamin D exposure. The app looks at your skin tone, size, location, local weather and sun angle to determine how much vitamin D you can get at any given time, or when your next vitamin “D opportunity” is.

 

Today, Nov. 15, the app says “your next D opportunity is in 113 days.”

 

Sunny Arrowleaf Balsamroot (Balsamorhiza sagittata)

Sunny Arrowleaf balsamroot, to remind you of summer.

All of this is a great reminder that at northerly latitudes like Portland’s, the sun’s angle is just too low for natural Vitamin D production for a big chunk of the winter. The D-Minder folks created this video, which gives the clearest explanation I’ve seen of how this works.

 

Why do you care? Vitamin D improves immunity and healthy bone building, protects against cancer and diabetes, regulates blood pressure and balances inflammation that’s thought to be a primary underlying cause of many debilitating chronic diseases. (Oregon State University’s Linus Pauling Institute offers this monograph on Vitamin D.)

 

What to do through the winter? If you can’t get a break to the tropics or the southern hemisphere,  recommend a simple lab test to assess your individual need and then appropriate use of a high-quality Vitamin D3 supplement.

 

(How much Vitamin D is enough? My reading of the research, coupled with clinical experience of myself, my colleagues and my mentors, suggests the U.S.-recommended daily values are too low.  But seriously, testing is the best way to know what’s right for you.)

 

To find out more about Vitamin D, why you need it and whether supplementation is right for you, please call or email us to schedule a time to speak with Dr. O.

 

 

Want to read more on Vitamin D?

The Vitamin D Council website is filled with great information, including options for testing and the best ways to get the Vitamin D you need.  This site was created by one of the doctors who pioneered Vitamin D awareness wave in the U.S.

 

 

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