Archive by Author

3…2…1…Count down!

17 Oct

October often means we have our first snow, and it reminds us of the holiday season, which is just around the corner. It is also a good time to stop and reflect over the first ten months of this year, as well as plan for the last couple of them. Have you enjoyed this past year as much as you wanted to? Remember those New Year’s resolutions you made last year?  Have you done and accomplished all that you wanted to? Come up with some fun ideas you can do in the next two months and make them happen! If your goals for the year were around your health, look into it, set some short term goals like getting outside daily, going to the gym or making that dentist appointment. If your goals were about becoming more social or getting in touch with old friends, start looking: online social networks such as can be easy ways to link with both new and old friends.

Often times we focus only on what’s hard or upsetting; we complain, criticize or even correct others in their ways. Not only is this upsetting to both parties involved, it also harms our relationships in the long run. Perhaps make it a point to be kind or thankful each day: post a thought of gratitude on your fridge, in your or someone else’s coat pocket or lunch box, or even in your Facebook status. Let everyone know what matters to you! Gratitude has been shown to improve relationships, as well as health, for each time we express gratitude, we get a boost, the other person gets a boost, then we in turn tend to get another boost as our gratitude is appreciated by the other person. By taking time to meditate, pray or writing a special letter, we rewire our brains, improve our health, and have a better attitude about the future and our life.

If you’re having an especially rough time, either starting to experience the winter time blues or have been having some other type of stress or loss, distract yourself by thinking of others: spend time with someone you enjoy, volunteer, donate or get involved. When we’re down, we feel like we have nothing to give and often choose to isolate, so getting out and giving of ourselves to others can be a magical cure to our low energy mode. Be kind and generous to yourself: go for a walk, get a massage, and give yourself a compliment or a quick reminder as to how you matter. If nothing else, start making your holiday plans and shopping already, that alone will set you up to have an a lot more enjoyable December!

By Anca Niculae, MA  Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

Normal Therapy?

29 Sep

As sole guitarist in the current musical production of Next to Normal at the Midtown Arts Center in Fort Collins (running through Nov 12th), I have the unique privilege of seeing wellness and the arts share the stage.  In this story, we witness a struggling mother and her family coping with a wide range of issues common to so many families: grief, bipolar disorder, stress, conflict, suicide, recreational and prescription drugs.

As a counselor and musician, I believe in the powerful connection between music and wellness, and during performances, I find myself comparing standard and alternative styles of  treating mental health.  I can’t help but wonder, wouldn’t this mother’s journey have a happier ending if she were experiencing an integrated treatment plan that combined individual and family therapy, nutrition, acupuncture, and biofeedback instead of only anti-psychotic medication and electro-convulsive therapy and hypnosis? I believe it would. Thank goodness that we now have so many more options to present to our patients. I am very grateful to be licensed clinical social worker at the Wholeness Center where we work collaboratively in creating a treatment plan that is right for you!!

posting by Michael Davis, LCSW



September is National Yoga Month

12 Sep

Yoga is a 5,000 year old mind body practice originating from India.  Yoga comes from the Sanskirt word yuj, which means “yoke or union” describing the connection (the union) between the mind and the body.   Yoga classes incorporate physical postures, breathing techniques and meditation or relaxation to balance the mind, body, and spirit.

Yoga has even become prevalent in the medical community   Elite physicians, including Dr. Dean Ornish, have began recommending yoga to their patients for the amazing health benefits.  According to the National Institute of Health, studies have shown yoga to:

  • Improve mood
  • Counteract stress
  • Reduce heart rate and blood pressure
  • Increase lung capacity
  • Improve muscle relaxation
  • Help with conditions such as anxiety,
    depression, and insomnia
  • Improve overall physical fitness, strength, and
  • Positively affect levels of certain brain or
    blood chemicals

In 2008, researchers in Indiapublished a study in the journal Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice that found that after 3 months of practicing yoga, participants lost more weight and lowered their blood pressure, triglycerides and blood sugar levels more than those who received standard care, such as medication, for their symptoms.

So, whether you’d like to reduce stress, improve flexibility, tone up, find relaxation and inner peace – yoga may be just what you’ve been looking for.   Wholeness  Center will now be offering yoga classes.  The first series is “Yoga for Stress Relief” and will be held Tuesdays 5:00 – 6:00 p.m. – September 12, 20, 27 and October 4, 11, 18 — only $45 for the series of 6.  Call Wholeness  Center at 970-221-1106 to register.

All Hail Kale!

6 Sep

Backyard gardens abound, farmer’s markets are in full force.  I wanted to share some ideas for my all-time favorite vegetable – Kale!  Some people may be most familiar with kale as the green decoration on salad bars, but kale is actually one of the very most nutritious veggies out there and it tastes so good!

My favorite way to prepare kale is super easy and fast– simply wash and  remove the leaves from the thick stems– tear into bite size pieces.  Saute with olive oil or ghee and garlic and Voilà – yummy kale!

You can also add kale to your morning smoothie to get your day started off right.

Or, maybe even kale chips (which by the way are super expensive in the grocery store, but cheap to make at home).   Here is a recipe from

Kale ChipsPreheat oven to 350 degrees.
Remove kale leaves (1 bunch) from thick stems and tear into bite size pieces. Wash and dry thoroughly.
Drizzle kale with 1 T. of olive oil and sprinkle with 1 tsp sea salt.
Bake until the edges brown but are not burnt, 10 – 15 minutes.

The possibilites are endless with KALE!

Stress Less Relax More

1 Sep

Stress can take a toll on our lives – mentally, physically and emotionally.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that 90% of doctor office visits in this country may be triggered by stress related illness.  Stress may cause or exacerbate conditions like headaches/migraines, anxiety, colds/flu, high blood pressure, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, heart disease and arthritis – just to name a few.

Luckily our body’s stress response is something we can learn to control thus avoiding  these unpleasant issues.  By reducing our stress response and increasing our relaxation response, we become more healthy and happy!

There are lots of different ways to relax.  The easiest and most effective in triggering the relaxation response is abdominal breathing.  Breathing is the basis for all other relaxation methods and is available to us all day – every day.  There are many different techniques you can use to relax including:  progressive muscle relaxation, visualization/imagery, autogenics training, meditation, yoga, and many more.  Finding the technique that works best for you is important.  Find your favorite and then, schedule relaxation into your day or it just won’t happen.

We can all learn to relax! I’ll leave you with this inspirational thought:

“Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.” 

— Chinese Proverb

To learn more about how to add more relaxation into your life and experience less stress, check out the Stress Less Relax More 5 week series at Wholeness Center.  Sept 6, 13, 27, Oct 4, 11.

Biofeedback: Use Your Mind to Improve Your Health

3 Aug


Have you ever wished you could simply will your symptoms to disappear? With biofeedback you may be able to do just that by using the power of your mind to reduce stress and help improve your health.

What is Biofeedback? Biofeedback is a type of mind-body therapy that enables you — in mind-over-matter approach — to use your thoughts and mind to control and influence your body. Biofeedback is based on the scientifically confirmed idea that individuals have the ability to regulate several body processes that were previously thought to be purely automatic in the body.

How does biofeedback work?  During a session, a biofeedback therapist uses instruments to record, measure, and display a patient’s physiological information.  This data may include heart rate, muscle tension, blood pressure, blood flow, finger temperature, respiration rate, sweat gland activity, and other critical body functions.  The “feeding back” of this real-time information gives the patient body awareness, enabling them to gain conscious control over their physiology by implementing skills acquired in training.

Biofeedback makes individuals aware of their various body systems so they can learn to control them, relieving stress and improving health.  With the “feedback”, an individual knows when their body is in the desired state and ultimately learns to obtain this state on their own –with no feedback.

In addition to the biofeedback, patients learn self-regulation and relaxation skills like body scanning, progressive relaxation, diaphragmatic breathing, autogenic training, and visualization.  These techniques are critical in learning to control one’s body and as with any new skill, require practice.

What conditions can biofeedback help?  

  • Anxiety
  • Headaches
  • Migraines
  • Chronic Pain
  • TMJ/Jaw Pain
  • Insomnia
  • Hypertension
  • IBS
  • Stress
  • Other Stress Related Conditions

How can I learn more about biofeedback?

Biofeedback is a very empowering therapy that helps individuals gain more control of their body’s response to stress – instead of having it control them.  The Wholeness Center now  offers biofeedback therapy in addition to neurofeedback.

To learn more about biofeedback and to see a demonstration, join us at Wholeness Center Thursday, August 18th 6:00 – 7:00 p.m. for a FREE class – “What is Biofeedback?”.  Call the office at 970-221-1106 to RSVP.


Fibromyalgia and Gut Health

2 Jun

Fibromyalgia and Gut Health

By: Dr. Mary Rondeau

Fibromyalgia is a syndrome that is characterized by widespread pain, tenderness, sleep disturbances, fatigue and commonly problems of memory or thinking.  Currently there are no lab tests available for the diagnosis of fibromyalgia.  Diagnosis is made by finding 11 of 18 tender points in the absence of any other disease to explain the pain.  The prevalence of fibromyalgia is estimated at 2%-4% worldwide with women being more affected than men (9:1 ratio).

Many theories of what causes fibromyalgia have been explored, but neither the etiology nor pathophysiologic mechanisms are known.  Some theories include genetic/familial factors, sleep disturbance, neuroendocrine dysfunction, abnormal pain processing and decreased pain inhibition. Likely it is a combination of several of these categories.

In 2004, a study published in Annuals of the Rheumatic Diseases reported that inappropriate colonization of small bowel with colonic bacteria has been reported in patients with fibromyalgia.  This study also demonstrated that the severity of colonization of the small bowel correlated to the intensity of pain felt in fibromyalgia patients suggesting a pathophysiological role in the disease process.

In 2008, a study published in Rheumatology demonstrated higher rates of intestinal permeability in patients with fibromyalgia compared to healthy volunteers.  This finding in addition to the study mentioned above may indicate that fibromyalgia could be associated with leaky gut syndrome. Dr. Goebel et al. measured permeability in both the gastroduodenal and small bowel in males and females with fibromyalgia.  Out of the 40 fibromyalgia patients tested, 13 had gastroduodenal permeability and 15 had small bowel permeability.  As compared to the healthy volunteer group where 1 person was found to have increased intestinal permeability. This is significantly higher than healthy control volunteers. The study also noted that fibromyalgia patients had reduced mRNA expression for anti-inflammatory cytokines which could be contributing to the increased inflammation seen in these patients. In addition, many patients report that their symptoms began after an intestinal infection. This study demonstrated that of the 40 fibromyalgia patients tested 11 tested positive for antibodies to Helicobacter pylori and 9 had antibodies for Campylobacter jejuni or Yersina enterocolitica. These are all pathogenic organisms which can lead to the formation of ulcers and food poisoning respectively. These finding suggest that these infections could be contributing to the intestinal permeability. These findings suggest restoration of normal intestinal permeability may improve fibromyalgia in certain individuals.

In our intestines, our cells are held together by tight junction.  These tight junctions maintain a barrier between what should be absorbed in our intestines and what should not be absorbed.  Increased intestinal permeability means that these tight junctions have become relaxed and do not function properly allowing larger molecules and molecules that would have not otherwise been able to cross the intestinal lining to cross.  The passage of these larger molecules is seen as invaders by the immune system and can trigger an immune reaction with the formation of antibodies to these otherwise harmless molecules.  When this happens, a person can become hypersensitive to environmental factors or develop foods allergies or sensitivities to which they previously were not sensitive.   Interestingly, some of these particles can even cross the blood brain barrier which can lead numerous mental/ neurological symptoms.  Intestinal permeability can be triggered by many factors including infections (current or previous), improper diet, exposure to chemicals/toxins, emotional trauma, and medications.

These studies further validate that the health of our intestines is crucial to maintaining and restoring health to the whole body. Fibromyalgia is a condition that has many contributing factors, improving intestinal health may be an avenue to help reduce pain in these individuals. Improving intestinal health will also help with absorption of critical nutrients to restore the body back to health.
Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases 2004;63:450-452
Rheumatology 2008; Altered intestinal permeability in patients with primary fibromyalgia and in patients with complex regional pain syndrome. A. Goebel et. al.

Mary Rondeau ND, RH(AHG)
Dr. Rondeau is a naturopathic doctor and registered herbalist at Wholeness Center in Fort Collins, CO.  Wholeness Center is a new medical model which combines the best of western medicine with complementary or natural medicine to provide the best most comprehensive care for patients of all ages.  Dr. Rondeau’s passion is to teach families how to maintain health and prevent disease.  She maintains an open, family practice focused on preventative medicine and overcoming chronic illness. She has a special interest in environmental and food allergies, asthma, mental health, women’s health, digestive disorders, pre-pregnancy health, hormonal problems, and autoimmune disorders. For more information on the Wholeness Center or Dr. Rondeau visit or call 970.221.1106.

Sunlight and Vitamin D

23 May

Sunlight and Vitamin D

by Carolyn Williams-Orlando Ph.D.

Glass blocks ultraviolet B (UVB) light, preventing Vitamin D synthesis. Thank goodness this time of year we can get out from behind our glass boxes, for even if we are out in the sun during the cold Colorado winter, we do not make adequate Vitamin D, and it is a good idea to supplement.

How much vitamin D do we need? Opinions vary, however, we know that breastfeeding women need blood levels of 40-50 ng/ml vitamin D in order for baby to recieve adequate vitamin D in breast milk. And vitamin D deficiency in newborns has been associated with increased risk for respiratory syncitial virus (RSV) lower respiratory tract infections in the first year of life. Low vitamin D levels have also been correlated with increased upper respiratory tract infections in adults.

Sunlight has been found to reduce your risk of colon cancer, breast cancer, and prostate cancer. Vitamin D promotes normal cell death, prevents cells from becoming cancerous and prevents metastasis. Supplementation with high doses of vitamin D have also been shown to prevent relapses in MS. Adequate levels are important to mood and cognitive function. So, Vitamin D does much more than aid in calcium absorption, vitamin D helps keep a healthy psychoneuroimmunology.

Vitamin D has been called the sunshine vitamin since we make it from the sun. When UVB light strikes our skin, our skin synthesizes vitamin D. Season, time of day, cloud cover, skin melanin content, and sunscreen are all factors that effect vitamin D synthesis. In general, try to get at least 20-30 minutes/day of sun on your arms and legs. Sunshine cannot be patented by drug companies-some of the best things in life are free.

To calculate how much sunshine you need to make adequate vitamin D for your body:

Integrative Medicine and Psychiatry-An Overview and Update

23 May

Integrative Medicine and Psychiatry-An Overview and Update

by Dr. Scott Shannon

The last twenty years has witnessed the emergence of Integrative Medicine, a new specialty in health care. Originally called Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), this field exploded with the 1993 NEJM article by David Eisenberg, MD of Harvard that documented the level of interest and utilization of CAM in the US.  For example, most people were shocked to discover that Americans had more visits (in 1991) to CAM providers than to primary care physicians with that number growing in disparity each year.

In 1994 Andrew Weil, MD initiated a post-graduate fellowship program in CAM at the University of Arizona and called it Integrative Medicine (IM). The philosophy centers on the integration of safe and effective treatment modalities from all traditions. Typically, it includes a focus on evidenced based treatments from areas such as nutrition, lifestyle change, mind-body medicine, herbal medicine and traditional practices (such as acupuncture). The goal is to bring the scrutiny of western medicine to the exploration and integration of other practices that may have much to offer. The push for IM is being driven by rising consumer demand and interest.

Now, 46 medical schools have academic programs in Integrative Medicine with the number growing every year. These universities, including University of Colorado, have formed an organization called CAHCIM (Consortium of Academic Health Centers in Integrative Medicine). CACHIM sponsored an International Conference on IM Research that drew over 700 physicians from around the globe last year. Lisa Corbin, MD, an internist, leads our clinical program at CU. Children’s Hospital in Denver has also begun development of an Integrative Pediatrics program under the leadership of Rachel Workman, MD.

As the number of physicians working in this arena explodes, the field is making efforts to validate and certify training. The American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine (ABIHM) was founded in 1996 in an effort to develop validation and bring educational consistency to this field. Currently, over 1300 MDs and DOs have been board certified. The ABIHM ( offers a five-day board review course that is provides an excellent overview of this field. The grandfathering period for licensed physicians appears to drawing to a close for those who have not completed a formal training program in IM. As more and more IM training programs come on line the field moves in the direction of formal ABMS recognition.

Integrative Psychiatry (IP) functions as a subset of IM and is relatively new on the scene. The APA has had a caucus on IP for about 4 years lead by James Lake, MD, author of two textbooks in this new arena. The AACAP recently (2/10) announced the formation of a new committee on Integrative and Complementary Psychiatry and we will have our first formal meeting in New York in October. The University of Arizona hosted the first annual conference on Integrative Mental Health in Phoenix this past March. Daniel Siegel, MD and I represented Child Psychiatry on the program. As a sign of the intense interest in this new field, the conference sold out two months prior with over 700 professionals registered. Plans are underway for the second installment of this conference next year.

Closer to home, the child and adolescent psychiatry residency at CU/Children’s has been a national leader in integrative programming for years under the supportive leadership of Marianne Wamboldt, MD. Yoga classes there have been very successful for children with somatic and chronic pain issues. In that setting I have offered an elective in Integrative Child Psychiatry for four years. This year long elective highlights the application of evidenced based nutritional and herbal interventions in an outpatient setting. Three of the four residents that completed this elective have entered private practice with an integrative approach to patients. In Fort Collins, Mike Mullin, MD and I are expanding our practice and will open a large interdisciplinary Integrative Child Psychiatry clinic this fall called Wholeness Center.

As you can see this is a rapidly expanding field, still in its infancy that is driven by huge patient demand. The educational opportunities are manifold, given the fact that most psychiatrists encountered little formal training on these topics. Concomitantly, the research base is also exploding with an escalating number of studies being released each year. If you would like to learn more, following this article is a brief list of some useful resources.

Kaplan, Bonnie and Shannon, Scott   “Nutritional Aspects of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology” in Psychiatric Annals, 37:7, 519-528, 2007
Kemper, K and Shannon, Scott   “Complementary and Alternative Therapies in Pediatric Mood Disorders” in Pediatric Clinics of NA, 54, 901-926, 2007
Lake, James    Textbook of Integrative Mental Health   Thieme,  2008
Lake, James and Spiegel, David    Complementary and Alternative Treatments in Mental Health  APPI,  2007
Newmark, Sanford    ADHD Without Drugs  Brigham, 2010
Shannon, Scott   Handbook of Complementary and Alternative Therapies in Mental Health,  Academic Press, 2002

Mental Health in Children: Nutrition as a Common Sense Alternative to Medications and Labels

23 May

by Dr. Scott Shannon

The American medical profession has rejected and avoided the science of nutrition for over a century. This curious and unfortunate prejudice goes back in history to the mid-1800’s when allopathic physicians (MDs) were fighting for financial survival with homeopaths and eclectic physicians (forerunners of naturopaths). Both of these groups emphasized diet and naturals cures. The American Medical Association was formed to help the MDs fight off this threat. The AMA issued an edit that made it grounds for sanction if you worked with one of these heretical groups. The bias continues to this day.

Most American physicians ignore well-proven nutritional interventions in spite of solid science, low cost, good safety and exploding patient demand. Our doctors dismiss the value of nutrition without understanding or exploring the information. The pattern is set in medical school where minimal time is devoted to this topic. Sadly, nowhere is this anti-nutrition mindset more obvious than in the specialty of psychiatry.

The brain forms the obvious foundation for the importance of nutrition in mental health or illness. The process of brain growth transforms a few embryonic cells into the most complex system in the known universe. At one point in the first trimester over 250,000 neurons are being created per minute. This extraordinary process does not stop at birth: the human brain quadruples in weight after delivery. The child’s brain is much more complex than our adult brain with twice the number of neurons and much more rapid synaptic growth and interconnection.

This enormous neurological development has vast metabolic and nutritional demands. If the child’s diet does not supply the needed nutrients (omega-3 essential fatty acids, magnesium, b-vitamins, amino acids, folate, etc) than the child’s brain will be handicapped and prone to dysfunction and psychiatric symptoms.

Sadly, the American diet continues to deteriorate. Over two thirds of our kids fail to meet the dietary recommendations for one or more nutrient. Only 1% of Americans eat according the food pyramid guidelines. Fully 65% of our calories now come from sugar and fat. Our intake of magnesium has fallen dramatically in the last century. Also because of feedlots, fast foods and hydrogenated oils our ratio of omega-3 oils to omega-6 oils has deteriorated from 1:1 to 1:20 in the last 150 years. Most Americans are deficient is this key neurological building block. American breast milk has the lowest levels of DHA (an omega-3 EFA) in the developed world. Our children must have DHA and other omega-3 nutrients to build a functioning brain. A starving brain is a symptomatic brain.

We have witnessed an explosion of child psychiatric illness in the last 30 years. For example, a 2007 study found that the rate of diagnosis of pediatric bipolar disorder (one of the most severe and difficult to treat problems in childhood) increased by 40 FOLD in the last 10 years. Adult illness in the same study did not even double. I believe one reason for this epidemic is nutritional deficiency. There are obviously many different problems created by a wide variety of nutritional issues. Each child is different. Only recently with advanced genetic science have we come to realize how different and unique we are in our individual biochemistry. Scientist have long known that the need for vitamins and nutrients vary widely from person to person. The requirement for a single nutrient can range from 10 to 1 or even 100 to 1 from person to person.

Recently, the number of nutritional compounds found to be effective or helpful in psychiatric disorders has dramatically risen. Folate, B-6 and SAMe have proven value in treating major depression. Chromium has good evidence for improving atypical depression. A number of studies document the value of magnesium in mood disorders and its shows great similarity to the mineral lithium in its effects upon neurons. A 2006 study found that 7/10 children with major depression got better with omega-3 oils versus 0/10 with a placebo. Suddenly, we have scientific proof that nutrition helps to heal psychiatric disorders.

Psychiatric medications are the preferred tools in child psychiatry. Unfortunately, the evidence that this approach is safe or effective is clearly inadequate. Most parents have real caution about medicating their child’s growing brain. The vast majority of parents that I speak to across the US are ecstatic about safe and natural approaches for childhood mental health issues like attention, depression, anxiety and aggression.

My approach provides a foundation of healthy diet, lifestyle adjustments and proven supplements before we consider medications. I am not anti-medication; rather I believe that we must offer safer and more natural options for adjusting biochemistry before considering powerful pharmaceuticals. Beyond that, doesn’t it make more sense to correct biochemistry before we medicate the developing brain? Common sense tells me that the nutritional approach to psychiatric signs and symptoms in children makes the most sense as a first step.

As I mentioned, in recent years we have witnessed an explosion of children and teens labeled with bipolar disorder. These kids are aggressive, violent and out of control. Our current medications are not very effective. A growing number of psychiatrists around the country have been using a vitamin/mineral product to effectively treat this disorder. A well-known Harvard child psychiatrist, Charles Popper, MD in 2001, popularized this approach. He published a report in a psychiatric journal about his experience: he treated a 10 year old boy with severe bipolar with this natural product and the boy was completely symptom free within 5 days. Eleven other published studies on this product have followed (

This raises a profound question: If vitamins and minerals can completely eliminate the signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder in children, are these symptoms of an true illness or of a nutritional deficiency syndrome such as scurvy or pellagra?

It is my strong belief and my experience in thirty years of holistic care that diet, vitamins and minerals can clear much of what we call psychiatric illness. A wide range of resources exist for parents and other concerned adults. The first and most crucial step involves the improvement of the diet: reduce processed foods, reduce sugar, reduce additives, and increase fruits and vegetables. I typically find a high protein breakfast works wonders, especially for concentration and school performance issues. Soda has no role in any child’s diet, nor does caffeine. If you do these things your need for psychiatric care will be reduced. If this is not enough find a health care professional (NB-all ABIHM diplomates have had training in this arena and will usually work with vitamins, minerals and supplements). Additionally, I have a number of relevant articles on my website: The proper diet represents the best first step for mental health issues in children. It is safe, effective and just plain makes good sense.