Understanding Perimenopause

Information about Perimenpause

Perimenopause is the window of time before menopause, which can be as long as a decade or more of changes prior to having a last period. The symptoms of perimenopause are often totally unrecognized by the general medical community, even though it is a time when women are seeking the most medical care. The hormonal fluctuations during this time influence change in our physical, mental, and emotional health that can significantly alter a woman’s sense of well-being as well as her relationships.

Many women are quite familiar with the symptoms of perimenopause: changes in her menstrual cycle: either heavier/lighter flow or more irregular than they have been, hot flashes or “warm rushes”, brain fog, difficulty losing weight, night sweats, joint pain, tendonitis, vaginal discomfort during intercourse, anxiety, depression, fatigue, palpitations, emotional lability, loss of libido, and a whole lot more.

One of the more challenging issues of perimenopause is that our brain can become like a “sieve” where words and tasks are easily lost, making multi-tasking a really difficult course of the day, at one of the busiest times of our lives.

Stress plays a significant role in the early onset and rapid progression of perimenopause. It is common that women will have hormone imbalance due to chronic stress while entering perimenopause, possibly worsening the symptoms and adding momentum to the process, which can have a negative impact on our fertility, and overall health.

Along with the overt symptoms, there are risks to the decline in hormones: bone thinning and osteoporosis, alzheimer’s disease, insulin resistance/diabetes, high blood pressure, and arthritis. This is an important window of time to examine a personalized “risk reduction” approach to hormone fluctuations such as family history or existing conditions so that the transition toward menopause does not have a cost on the decades of health ahead.

While some women are just moderately inconvenienced by these symptoms, they can be quite severe for other women. Often times the medical messaging is to just “live with it”, but this is pretty dated, and frankly… not sufficient. There are many treatment options that integrative medicine and naturopathic doctors offer to effectively balance hormone fluctuations and minimize symptoms while not interrupting the natural process of perimenopause.

Women have been finding their own medicines to balance their health since the beginning of time, but sometimes we need help when our own approach is not quite enough, or uncertain. After a detailed medical interview, if necessary, one of our doctors can help to test your hormones levels, along with thyroid and adrenal hormone levels, or any additional tests that may be important for you. We can then formulate a treatment course that will be personalized to your symptoms, hormone balance, and overall wellness.

Perimenopause and hormone health can be a smooth, safe, and even enjoyable experience with the support of nutrition, herbal medicine, bioidentical hormone therapy, self-care, acupuncture, and an experienced doctor to help find the right course for you. Contact us at 707-861-7300 to reach out to the office staff.

Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine for Cancer Care

Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine for Cancer Care

Acupuncture is a beneficial and very important part of cancer care in all its stages. Chinese medicine, alone or when integrated with conventional care, can amplify the desired benefits of current treatments, prevent recurrence and metastasis of early tumors, promotes foundational health, improves quality of life, and may prolong life even in advanced stages.

Some of the successful alternative cancer care methods in Sonoma County such as acupuncture and other ChineseAcupuncture and Chinese Medicine for Cancer Care -Hill Park Medical Center medicine methods can further optimize conventional treatment outcomes by limiting side effects of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, enhance immune function and extend one’s life. Jennifer’s experience in preventing and lessening side effects such as nausea, vomiting, fatigue, alopecia, anxiety, depression, insomnia, mouth ulcers, cystitis, skin rash, diarrhea, cardiac toxicity, hepatic toxicity, immune suppression have brought numerous patients much relief and support along their path toward healing.

Fu Zheng Therapy

Chinese Medicine has been used for the treatment of tumors for over 3,000 years. In regards to cancer care: Fu Zheng therapy is specifically applied in cancer care, which translates as “to strengthen what is correct and to secure the root”. This results in enhancing immune fortitude and preserving the function of the internal organs. This also counters chemotherapy-induced immune suppression or the decrease in red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets.

Guiding Qi through its channels, acupuncture aims to achieve continuous balance and harmony. Over the course of time, various treatment protocols have been developed to:

  • Reduce tumor size, pain, swelling and inflammation
  • Prevent the initiation, formation and development of cancer
  • Increase the function and activity of the immune system
  • Enhance the regulating function of the endocrine system
  • Enhance and protect the structure and function of the organs
  • Strengthen digestion and absorption of nutrients
  • Improve metabolism
  • Protect bone marrow and generation of new blood cells
  • Increase effectiveness of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy and hormonal therapy
IV Therapy Support

Acupuncture can greatly augment the benefits of IV therapy, especially High Dose Vitamin C treatment. Acupuncture works synergistically with IV therapy in the overall desired effect, as well as allows each individual to relax and fully receive the benefits. Jennifer Monin provides a unique service at Hill Park Medical Center in supporting patients with nurturing and strengthening acupuncture treatments in conjunction with their IV therapy for cancer care.

Pre and Post Surgical Support

Therapeutic and reconstructive surgery often introduce a variety of unwelcome conditions including pain, anesthesia-induced nausea, bruising, anxiety, fatigue, constipation, and scarring that can be relieved with Chinese Medicine. Treatments can increase peripheral blood circulation to increase nutrient supplies, hasten wound healing, assist nerve regeneration, minimize scarring, enhance immunity, and prevent lymphedema.

Hormonal Therapy Support

Chinese medicine can support the side effects of early menopause and night sweats, decreased libido, vaginal dryness, osteoporosis, cardiovascular health.

Individualized Treatment Plans

Treatments are targeted to be effective regardless of the stage a patient is in: immediately upon diagnosis, before or after surgery, in conjunction with chemotherapy and radiation or in the following years as a supportive preventive therapy. Dietary and lifestyle suggestions are provided to promote better general health and improve long-term optimal health.

Jennifer MoninLAc has been practicing acupuncture for the past 20 years. She has extensive experience supporting individuals with cancer – including work at the National Institute of Oncology and Radiology in Havana, Cuba and as a long-time volunteer at Charlotte Maxwell Complementary Clinic in Oakland, CA. She is honored to support patients in all stages of cancer at Hill Park and is also available for treatments pre and post IV therapy.

Small Intestine Bowel Overgrowth

By Dr. Michaela Falkner, ND

Small Intestine Bowel Overgrowth is a common and often overlooked cause to chronic digestive health concerns.

Small Intestine Bowel Overgrowth (referred to as SIBO) is an accumulation of normally occurring bacteria in the small intestine, not necessarily in high numbers, but in a region that they don’t belong. Often mistaken for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), SIBO is the cause of 60% of incorrectly diagnosed cases of IBS. It is generally less responsive to changes in stress and mood than traditional IBS, so while many patients report pretty good results from stress reduction techniques, they still have persistent symptoms.

The research on SIBO is still new, but we know that SIBO tends to result from a few different factors including stagnant bowels and lack of proper movement, lack of sufficient stomach acid, and a few more structural issues. SIBO can also be an indicator or accompany many underlying conditions such as autoimmune diseases, adhesions from surgery, post infections, and many others.

The small intestine is supposed to have relatively few bacteria in it, but due to the above causes, bacteria will set up shop and start digesting our food for us in the small intestine as opposed to the large intestine. This causes an abundance of gas that becomes trappped temporarily in the small intestine until it can move onto the large intestine. This is where many of the symptoms of SIBO originate.

So what does SIBO look like? Common symptoms are bloating (especially after eating healthy foods that are high in fiber and prebiotics), reflux, gas, fatigue, diarrhea, constipation, or combination diarrhea-constipation. This bloating is further exacerbated by carbohydrates and sugar. A keynote symptom I often see in patients is that the “healthier” they eat (salads, veggies, etc), the worse the gas and bloating.

Does this sound like you? Have you tried pro-biotics and your gut issues worsened? Have you attempted to eat a better diet only to feel much worse? Do you commonly go to bed looking a few months pregnant, but wake up with a flat stomach in the morning and feel great fasted? SIBO even interferes with your absorption of vitamins and minerals, leading to hair loss, fatigue, depression, and low iron stores.

The best way we can diagnose SIBO is through a breath test. A special diet and fast is followed, then a patient blows into a little bag to establish a baseline. The patient then drinks a lactulose solution and breaths into the bag multiple times over 2-3 hours. The samples are then sent in and analyzed for methane and hydrogen gas. By looking at how much those gases increase over the 2-3 hour timespan can help your doctor determine if you likely have SIBO or not.

If you have been diagnosed with SIBO, there are various things we at Hill Park Medical Center can do to support you. We can provide nutrient IVs to boost energy and immune function to support you while you are undergoing treatment. SIBO often causes difficulty in absorbing key nutrients like B12, iron, and magnesium, which can leave us feeling depleted, so a quick IV can help add those nutrients back into your body.

We have developed our own Hill Park Medical Center SIBO herbal compound that has been shown to be effective to eradicate the bacteria residing in your gut while supporting healthy movement of the bowels. Some of the herbs we commonly use are garlic, oregano, goldenseal, and caprylic acid. We then accompany these herbs with different factors that help “reteach” the bowels to move appropriately such as B6, 5HTP, ginger, and our bitters formula. There are also various diets to explore, including FODMAP, SCD, and elemental diets. This overall approach serves to correct the root cause of the concern and decrease chances of recurrence.

Our doctors have extensive firsthand experience with SIBO and know that there is no one way to correct it. Let us help you to find your solution to the discomforting symptoms, including embarrassing gas and bloating that you might be experiencing! Make an appointment to get started!

Introducing Dr. Michaela Falkner, ND

Dr. Michaela Falkner is an integrative general medicine doctor with a focus on complex cases and autoimmunity. After completing her Naturopathic Doctorate from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine (SCNM) in Tempe, Arizona, she was selected as one of five national candidates to complete a prestigious family medicine residency at SCNM. During both her degree program and residency, she focused much of her education on caring for complex cases and autoimmune diseases.

After completion of her residency, Dr. Falkner moved into the Bay Area to start practice and enjoy the beautiful abundance our region offers. Her practice continues to be focused on autoimmunity and chronic illness, though she also specializes in the treatment of hormone balance for thyroid, adrenal, and sex hormone dysfunction. She has a unique literacy in digestive health and uses a multifaceted approach in healing gastrointestinal disorders, normalizing the immune system, and symptom management.

Dr. Falkner appreciates that autoimmunity is becoming more widespread in the population due to the increase in chemicals in our environment and knows that naturopathic medicine fills a niche that has yet to be addressed well by conventional treatments. She believes the core of immunity begins in the gut and often approaches autoimmunity by addressing the digestive system, along with managing symptoms, protecting from future risks, and normalizing the immune system.

As an adjunct to her autoimmune treatment protocols, Dr. Falkner specializes in Neuro-Emotional Technique (NET). NET is a form of physical medicine that helps the body to reduce the impact of stress, as well as its consequent health concerns. She finds this modality is uniquely quick and effective in reducing stress, situational and general anxiety, and phobias, among several other concerns. She often combines NET with homeopathy, herbs, and lifestyle techniques proven to reduce stress for optimal outcomes. Dr. Falkner finds trigger point injections for pain associated with stress to be quite effective in extending treatment benefit and has even developed her own neural therapy technique to interrupt patterns that negatively affect health.

Dr. Falkner has extensive experience in nutritional medicine, intravenous and intramuscular vitamin infusions. She enjoys personalizing nutrient shots and IVs to the patient’s needs and you will probably see her in the IV room and helping out with the nutrient shot clinics. She is also passionate about herbal medicine and known for her thoughtful and comprehensive individualized care.

Dr. Falkner is excited and eager to get to know the patients of Hill Park Medical Center and offers complimentary 15 minute consults as an introduction to her practice. Please call 707-861-7300 to schedule a consult with her!

Eliminating Allergies Without Injections

Eliminating Allergies Without Injections

How is this allergy season going for you so far?

Does your nose get so congested and stuffy that it’s hard to breathe?

Do your eyes feel like they’re itching or watering all the time?

Is daytime drowsiness or fatigue slowing you down?

Does your asthma act up simply from going outside?

Are your allergies poorly controlled with your current medications and inhalers?

Does the thought of doing allergy injections sound painful or like a hassle?

We have a solution for you…

Allergies and asthma are the 5th leading cause of chronic disease in America. Nearly four million work and school days are missed each year due to seasonal ragweed allergies alone! Allergy concerns are on the rise in Sonoma County, with many people having their first allergic event within 3 years of living here. Northern California is a uniquely difficult allergy region because of our temperatures, microclimates, highway design, and air quality issues. The temperatures bring us our amazing landscapes, but also contribute to an unusually high pollen count and poor air quality.

A significant concern with allergies is preventing the progression to asthma or developing multiple additional allergies. There is an “atopic march” in which 16-40% patients with an allergic runny nose are likely to develop asthma later on in life. People with airborne allergies such as pollen, dust mites, or pet dander, are the most at risk to develop additional allergies as they get older.

An “allergen” is a typically benign protein that the body recognizes as a threat and then mounts an immune response to ‘wash away’ the allergen, resulting in our symptom experience of a runny nose, watery eyes, etc. Sublingual Immunotherapy (also referred to as SLIT) is a very effective treatment that “desensitizes” and eliminates the body’s response to an allergen. This form of immunotherapy is administered by placing drops underneath the tongue. The region under the tongue is especially responsive to this therapy as it allows the immune system to have exposure to the immunotherapy concentration of allergens without undesired effects. The treatment is non-invasive, does not involve needles, and eliminates the need for weekly travel to an allergy clinic receive injections. In 2009, the World Health Organization stated that SLIT represents a good alternative to more standard immunotherapy delivered by injections, commonly referred to as “allergy shots”. SLIT is widely used in Europe – as of 2011 about 40% of European allergists were using SLIT as a treatment.

Before starting SLIT, blood tests are performed to assess how allergic a person is to their suspected allergens: pollen, molds, grasses, pets, foods, etc.. The concentration of the body’s allergic responsivity determines the treatment dose of the allergen. The goal is to expose the body to the concentration of an allergen that is just below the concentration in which the immune system mounts an allergic response, thereby normalizing the presence of the allergen and desensitizing the body’s response to the allergen altogether. As treatment progresses, the concentration and dosage of the solution is adjusted over time as the immune system responds favorably. Improvement is usually seen within 2 to 4 months for pollens and 6 months to a year for dust mite allergy. The treatment can be started at any time of the year and “pre-season” treatments are extremely helpful for seasonal allergens such as grasses, weeds, and trees. The allergy response can be completely resolved and eliminated within 1-3 years.

There is strong evidence that supports an excellent safety profile of sublingual immunotherapy for people of all ages. This is a much more pleasant allergy treatment alternative for kids, their parents, and grownups alike. SLIT is very well tolerated, with the most common side effects being oral itching, swelling, nausea, vomiting, and stomach ache. These side effects, which are not common, are either mild and go away by themselves or are easily managed by a temporary reduction in dose of therapy.

In addition to using immunotherapy, it is important to decrease exposure to allergic triggers as much as possible. It is hard to avoid pollen when outdoors, especially when the weather is nice. Daily rinses using a neti pot to clear the nasal passages can also help quite a bit. One factor often overlooked when treating allergies is the benefit of avoiding foods that a person is allergic to. For example, if a person is allergic to mold, they should avoid foods that are moldy (e.g., some cheeses, mushrooms, vinegar, sour cream, dried fruit), which are more common than you might expect. Would you believe that even chocolate and fruit juices are moldy? Yeast in the gut also contributes to the level of mold in the body, so treating an overgrowth can be of great benefit.

To learn more about options for treating allergies using SLIT, allergen testing, yeast overgrowth, and taking a holistic look at your health, we welcome you to schedule an appointment with Richard Chen, MD. He is currently offering patients a 15 minute introductory visit or phone call at no charge.