Osteoarthritis- Preventing Progression

Osteoarthritis (OA) is considered the outcome of cumulative wear and tear on our joints.  Generally speaking, it is a non-inflammatory degeneration of cartilage with symptoms such as pain and stiffness in joints, most commonly hands, feet, spine and large weight bearing joints.  It is associated with aging and injury; however many people live long lives unaffected by OA.

Some degree of aging and degeneration is to be expected.  Balance this with the perspective that there are no absolutes; we don’t know everything.  However, the better we understand things and work together with nature, the more we can defy self limiting expectations of our healing potential.

This article is aimed at those who are looking to prevent osteoarthritis or further progression early on.  There are many contributing factors, but in-depth analyses of disease progression, risk factors and complex treatment options will not be covered here.  Some basic synovial joint physiology will be highlighted, in order to convey one simple message: move and stretch often.

The synovial joint basically consists of bone junctions, buffered by cartilage, and surrounded by a synovial membrane that produces fluid to lubricate, nourish and cushion the joint.  The specifics vary according to each joint; and surrounding connective tissue such as tendons, ligaments and muscles, contribute to the joints dynamics.  Joints are notoriously slow metabolizers, mostly due to the fact that they have minimal blood supply and rely a lot on mechanical forces and diffusion for their nutrient/waste exchange.  Cartilage in fact has no blood supply throughout it’s structure.  The biological makeup of cartilage allows it to function much like an elastic sponge- designed to hold water, reduce friction, be pliable and absorb shock.

Degeneration is a process whereby damage exceeds the ability to repair.  Keeping in mind that blood supply is critical to repair: bringing in repair resources and eliminating damaging waste products.  Think of your joints like a fish tank, the more wastes accumulate the poorer the fish do, and the less oxygen and nutrient available to the fish, the less they thrive.  So now it’s important to understand just how joints exchange wastes and nutrients to thrive, and optimize their repair.  Mechanical compression is the simple answer.  The synovial fluid is the conduit for bringing nutrients from the blood to the cartilage and carrying wastes back out to the blood vessels within the synovial membrane.  Diffusion is where nutrients slowly go from high concentration to low concentration through fluid, and this is aided by compression and release or movement of the joint acting to pump and mix the fluids.  The cartilage, imagining a sponge, needs compression and release in order to draw the nutrient rich fluid in, and flush the toxic fluid out.  The only way the full surface of that spongy cartilage can be compressed is if the joint is free to move in it’s full range of motion.

Regular movement as we know helps keep things pumping.  The more regular you are with activity, the more your body adapts blood supply, tissues and repair mechanisms to combat damage; while it also maintains regular pumping and nutrient/waste exchange.  Equally important is the power of stretching to keep the joint moving in it’s full range of motion.   Allowing all surfaces of the cartilage to be compressed and nourished, and minimizing chronic tension across the joint.  Talk to your health care provider to get guidance on common restriction patterns or stretching protocols best for you.  Keep in mind that for those with osteoarthritis, some contraindications apply for exercise and stretching, particularly in the spine or where osteophytes (bony projections) have developed.





Food Intolerances: The 5-Step Survival Manual


Food Intolerances are here to stay, whether you like it or not.  There are many theories as to why so many more people are suffering from food intolerances than in the past.  Genetic modification of food (GMOs), overuse of antibiotics and improper development of the body’s defenses (immune system) are a few of the most common theories.  This article isn’t written to give credence to or condemn any of those ideas.  This is a survival manual written because you feel crummy and you want to do something about it.


Allergy vs Intolerance

Food intolerances are not “allergies”.  Unfortunately, the terms “intolerance” and “allergy” have mistakenly been used interchangeably.  True “allergies” to food are caused by IgE antibodies and are often very serious or even life threatening.  “Food intolerance” or “sensitivity” refers to all the other ways that food can make us (and those around us) uncomfortable.  This article is a guide to food intolerances.


1. Don’t eat problem foods

It sounds obvious, but in the beginning, strictly avoiding your food sensitivities is the single most important key to success.  Removing a source of chronic irritation allows your body time to relax and repair.  The ideal goal is to be able to eat this food in moderation once a week or once a month and tolerate it.  It can take months or years of food avoidance and treatment for some people to get to this point.  I’ve seen months of hard work undone when people overindulge in problem foods for the entire holiday season.  Also, much of the criticism around food intolerances stems from eliminating a food and replacing it with one of the many processed foods now available that are safe for certain food intolerances.  You’re presented with the opportunity to expand your food palette and improve your health.  Embrace it!


2. Food Hygiene

Food hygiene refers to your mealtime routine.  The following suggestions allow you to get the most nutrition and enjoyment from your food.

a. Chew your food thoroughly.  Your teeth physically break up food while saliva chemically breaks up food.  Chewing also signals all of the other necessary digestive juices that finish digestion. Putting large chunks of unchewed food in your stomach is stressful on your digestion and increases the likelihood of continuing the food intolerance cycle.  Many people have a “1-2-swallow” routine for eating, which is great for overstuffing yourself on a 15 minute break but not good for promoting health.

b. Avoid drinking large amounts of water and beverages during meals.   Using beverages to “wash” food down in place of chewing is a common pitfall.  The increased fluid may further decrease your ability to digest food by diluting your digestive juices.

c. Eat at least one meal a day with friends and family.  Meals are best eaten in a low stress environment which leads to the “rest and digest” response.  Food is a celebration.  Relax and enjoy the opportunity to catch up with your company.


3. Specific Enzymes for your food intolerance

Times arise when you decide to enjoy your food intolerance in moderation or you are surprised to find, for example, that all of the meat and vegetables in the dish were dredged in wheat flour to make them brown better.  Taking enzymes specific to your food intolerance can be helpful to aid the food break down.   Specific enzymes are available for the most common problematic foods such as gluten and lactose.  This is not a solution to food sensitivities, but a stopgap measure to help control symptoms.


4. Repair your gut

In conjunction with removing food intolerances and improving food hygiene, your body needs to repair the digestive system.  There are many supplements and herbs available that can assist this function. The following are common supplements and herbs:

HCl (or stomach acid) can help break down food better therefore decreasing food sensitivity reactions.  HCl should be used under the supervision of a healthcare professional as it can worsen some digestive complaints.

Probiotics can rebalance the bacteria that aid digestion in your gut.

L-glutamine, marshmallow root and licorice root all soothe and and rebuild the damaged gut wall.

Fish oil and omega-3 fatty acids decrease inflammation that worsens the food intolerance cycle and delays repair.


Simply taking everything that might be of benefit is what I refer to as “the kitchen sink” method.  This is not the best approach because its unfocused, difficult to maintain the routine of taking many supplements and can be unnecessarily expensive.


5. Change your Attitude

If you’re going to grunt and groan through every meal for the rest of your life then you’re in for a long road and you risk alienating the people around you.  Stop using the word “can’t”.  You always have a choice and by changing your frame of reference you positively alter your relationship with healthy food.  You “choose” to eat foods that are more nourishing for your body because you’re not willing to put up with foggy thinking, intractable pain, diarrhea, acne and joint pain.


Final Thoughts

Some reasons that you should contact your health professional for re-evaluation of food intolerances are:

-symptoms continue to get worse

-list of “can’t” foods keeps getting larger instead of smaller

-unintentional weight-loss and inability to maintain healthy weight


It’s normal to need help along the way.  The people that achieve optimal success have a combination of support from their family, friends and a health professional experienced in treating food intolerances.


To Our Cherished Patients,

We opened Root Natural Health in March 2011 for the purpose of providing holistic primary care to the Flagstaff community.  Since that time our business has thrived and our success has exemplified the need for excellent primary care in Flagstaff.

As most of you know Dr. Norris grew up on a blueberry farm in Roseburg, Oregon.  That farm is also doing well and is in need of the next generation of farmers in the Norris family to begin working it year-round.

It is therefore with mixed emotions that we are announcing our departure from Root Natural Health and Flagstaff to move back to Roseburg in order to work on the farm and start another practice.

The good news is we have excellent options for you to continue receiving holistic health care here in Flagstaff.

We will be passing the practice over to Dr. Stephanie Beynon, a Naturopathic Physician who has just moved to Flagstaff from Toronto, Canada.  Dr. Beynon is an outstanding physician and an incredibly warm and kind person.

She will also be joined by our personal friend Dr. Michael Knapp, a naturopathic physician who was a colleague of ours during our studies and residency at the National College of Natural Medicine.

We have the utmost confidence in both of these doctors. We trust that your future experiences with them will be as rewarding as they were with us.  See their enclosed biographies for more details.

All contact information for the clinic will remain the same.  Phone numbers, online scheduling, Dakota, supplements, and the other details you have become familiar with will remain in place following the transition.

We will be entrusting your chart to the new physicians unless you indicate otherwise.  If you prefer for your chart not to remain with Root Natural Health following the transition please contact us within the next 30 days to discuss other arrangements. You can contact us at (928) 637-6795 or info@rootnaturalhealth.com.

The clinic will officially transfer over to Dr. Stephanie Beynon on October 14th, 2012.

The new doctors will be available to manage your current prescriptions and medical needs as established patients of Root Natural Health.

We will be hosting an open house at the clinic to welcome the new doctors on Friday October 5th from 4-7pm.  Say good-bye, say hello, eat snacks and enjoy.  More details to come.

We are grateful for the relationships we have developed with all of you over the last nineteen months.  We can only hope that our practice in Roseburg is as fulfilling as this one has been for us.

If you would like to contact us in the future you can reach Dr. Sweeney at drryansweeney@gmail.com or Dr. Norris at drcarrienorris@gmail.com.

In Love and Health,

Ryan and Carrie

Root Natural Health Welcomes New Physicians!

Stephanie Beynon, NMD

Steph ray of light

Naturopathic Doctor

Stephanie received a BSc in Biology from Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, studying organic chemistry, molecular biology and physiology.  She did further training in Nutrition, toward a certificate of Applied Human Nutrition from the same University.  There she began teaching nutrition and integrative health in the Kinesiology department for 2 years as a Teaching Assistant and an Instructor.  Her focus during this time was on community development where she organized a number of conferences and spoke as a nutrition educator, for community kitchens and youth sport camps.  She went on to study at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine with experience at Sherbourne Health Centre for HIV/AIDS, and a month long externship in Central Kenya providing mobile health service to remote villages.  She received her designation of ND in 2010.  Stephanie aims to build community where she practices, ensuring support in healing exists as a part of everyday life.  Stephanie’s treatment focus varies according to each individual, drawing on her strengths in nutrition, botanical medicine, acupuncture, hydrotherapy and counseling. She places the highest importance on listening and empowerment. As an eclectic practitioner, she is able to treat a host of chronic and acute    conditions in a primary care setting.

Michael Knapp, NMD

Naturopathic Medical Doctor

Dr. Michael Knapp completed his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine at the National College of Natural Medicine (NCNM) in Portland, Oregon.  After completing a competitive residency program at NCNM he opened his practice in Flagstaff, Arizona.  Dr. Knapp utilizes a balance of nutrition, botanical medicine, homeopathy, hydrotherapy and prescription medications to promote wellness and treat disease.

Dr. Knapp treats a wide variety of acute and chronic complaints such as: the common cold/cough/flu, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, headaches, depression, anxiety, ADHD, celiac disease, IBS, and digestive complaints.  He has an emphasis in helping children with behavior and attention problems and is committed to helping children grow to be healthy adults.

He has advanced training in homeopathic medicine, which addresses health on an individualized basis. Throughout his time as a student he repeatedly witnessed simple lifestyle changes yielding healthy results and found homeopathy to have a wonderful impact on the health of his friends and family, who underwent positive changes in mood, PMS, headaches, joint pains and other complaints.  He has integrated this approach into his practice with great results.  He takes the time to understand you and your health concerns and creates an environment for patients to achieve positive health results.  This is his passion because it is gentle, holistic and it works!

After receiving his BS in Biology from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, Michael worked as a nurse assistant on a surgical ward to continue preparation for medical school.  Dissatisfaction with the hospital setting and treatment philosophy led him to question his path to become a physician.  Couldn’t something have been done for patients before they needed surgery?  Is there a way for doctors to treat people and not simply mask their symptoms?  In expressing these concerns to his acupuncturist, he was introduced to the approach he’d been searching for, Naturopathic Medicine.  He declined his acceptance to a local medical school and pursued training as a doctor that embraces the future of medicine while cultivating roots in tradition.

Conditions Treated

·       ADHD and behavior problems

·       Migraines

·       Multiple sclerosis and Autoimmune diseases

·       Celiac, IBS and digestive complaints

·       Eczema, Psoriasis

·       Depression, Anxiety

Type 2 Diabetes

What is type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes (sometimes called type 2 “diabetes mellitus”) is a disorder that disrupts the way your body uses sugar.

All the cells in your body need sugar to work normally. Sugar gets into the cells with the help of a hormone called insulin. If there is not enough insulin, or if the body stops responding to insulin, sugar builds up in the blood. That is what happens to people with diabetes.

There are two different types of diabetes. In type 1 diabetes, the problem is that the body makes little or no insulin. In type 2 diabetes, the problem is that:

  • The body’s cells do not respond to insulin
  • The body does not make enough insulin
  • Or both

What are the symptoms of type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes usually causes no symptoms which makes it very dangerous. When symptoms do occur, they include:

  • Fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Blurry vision
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet
  • Frequent urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased appetite
  • Erection problems

How do I know if I have type 2 diabetes?

To find out if you have type 2 diabetes, your doctor can do a blood test to measure the amount of sugar (glucose) in your blood or an average of blood sugars through a hemoglobin A1c (HgA1c)

Fasting glucose (mg/dL) Random glucose (mg/dL)
Normal 70-99 70-125
Pre-diabetes 100-125 (varies)
Diabetes 126 200 *with symptoms

Can type 2 diabetes be prevented?

Yes, it can. To reduce your chances of getting type 2 diabetes, the most important thing you can do is control your weight, and modify the dietary and lifestyle habits that are contributing to elevated blood sugar levels and insulin dysregulation.

How is type 2 diabetes treated?

You can have a lot of control over your blood sugar levels with diet and lifestyle changes, but often the use of medications and/or supplements are needed to help lower it while you continue to address the underlying cause.  Type 2 diabetes is not a chronic disease that you need to have for life.  If the appropriate lifestyle and dietary changes are made, blood glucose levels can be stabilized. The following are important steps to take if you have high blood sugar:

  • Work with a knowledgeable physician to address the underlying cause of your high blood sugar / diabetes.  This may include taking appropriate medications and/or supplements as well as addressing appropriate lifestyle and dietary factors.
  • Lose weight (if you are overweight)
  • Choose a whole foods diet including lean proteins, healthy fats (nuts, seeds, fish oils) and rich in fruits and vegetables
  • Do something active for at least 30 minutes every day
  • Avoid smoking and second hand smoke
  • Cut down on alcohol (if you drink more than 2 alcoholic drinks per day)
  • Consider monitoring your blood glucose at home.  We highly recommend checking throughout the day to determine the types of foods, stressors, activities that positively or negatively effecting your blood sugar levels.

In Health,

Dr. Carrie Norris

Naturopathic Medical Doctor

What’s Up With Testosterone Replacement?

It’s no longer a secret that an adult man’s testosterone levels will decline with age.  This natural process, called male menopause or andropause, has gotten recent press with the advent of erectile dysfunction drugs like Viagra and Proscar.  The billions of dollars these drugs have generated for pharmaceutical companies demonstrates that men are clearly looking for a boost in their sexual prowess as they age.  But, as usual, these drugs are focused on treating the symptom and not the cause.

It is now widely accepted that bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) is beneficial for women in the prevention of many age-related conditions like osteoporosis and heart disease.  BHRT has also been demonstrated to improve several quality of life factors as women go through menopause and it preserves mental acuity into later life.  Men do not have the cessation of menses as a physical marker to signify a transition into declining hormone levels, but nonetheless, they are going through a very similar process with testosterone as the dwindling culprit.  It therefore stands to reason that in select cases, men will benefit from BHRT with testosterone the same as women have benefitted from estrogen and/or progesterone.

In fact, research has shown that to be just the case.  Recent studies have shown energy, muscle mass, mood, cholesterol profiles, weight, mental acuity, and heart disease have all improved with normalizing testosterone levels in men who have tested low.  That’s not even mentioning the positive effects it has on both sexual function and libido, the latter of which does not improve with Viagra, Cialis, or Proscar.


There are two major problems with the way many practitioners test for testosterone.  Either they are testing the wrong type, they are only taking a snapshot, or (most commonly) they are taking a snapshot of the wrong type.  97% of total testosterone circulating in the blood is bound to proteins.  Once bound it becomes totally inactive and can no longer influence the body.  The remaining 3% of circulating testosterone is unbound or free testosterone.  This is the only form of testosterone that is active in the body and is therefore the only type that should be tested when suspecting a deficiency.

The other major flaw in testing has been to only look at one reading throughout the day.   Testosterone readings vary dramatically depending on what time of day it is tested.  A normal testosterone cycle peaks at mid-morning then again in the late afternoon and again between 3-5am (when it is at its highest for the day).  It is therefore best to take multiple readings throughout the day with saliva samples or with a twenty-four hour urine collection to get an accurate portrayal of a man’s free hormone production.


Although natural testosterone has been proven far safer, cheaper, and more beneficial than synthetic attempts to resemble it, the pharmaceutical industry markets and influences many practitioners to use injectable products called testosterone esters (t. propionate, t. cypionate, etc.).  These injectable drugs mimic natural testosterone but have had their molecular structure altered so that they will last longer and (more importantly) so that they can be patented and lead to greater profits.

Injectable testosterone esters pose a few problems.  First, they do not follow the natural daily cycle as mentioned above.  Instead, they are injected once a week or every two weeks causing a huge spike one day and then a gradual decline until the man is deficient for the days leading up to his next injection.  This method greatly disturbs the other hormones in the body that respond to testosterone via feedback signaling.  Also predictably, it results in huge swings in mood, libido, etc.

As a better option for most men, natural testosterone is taken as a sublingual tablet or is applied as a cream or gel multiple times a day in an attempt to follow the normal daily cycle.  It is usually isolated from plants, either soy or Mexican yam.  Because it is an exact replica of the testosterone molecule naturally made by the body it is not patentable and is therefore cheaper.  The body is able to process it as if it was produced from within the body and it does not adversely affect other hormones.


To improve sexual function and the other diverse aspects of men’s health known to deteriorate with age, natural testosterone along with healthy diet, specific vitamins, herbs, and a healthy lifestyle are demonstrably more effective and safer than synthetic hormones and pharmaceutical drugs.  Used in doses to match levels present in a healthy man and on a schedule that closely follows the naturally occurring daily cycle, natural testosterone has been shown to improve sex drive, improve ability to achieve and sustain erections, protect against heart disease, increase energy, build stronger bones and muscles, relieve depression, improve cholesterol ratio’s, reduce weight, and prevent age-related losses in mental acuity.

Ryan Sweeney, NMD

Naturopathic Medical Doctor

Healthy Weight Loss – New Year’s Resolution 2012

Surely many of you have declared 2012 the year to make the change and drop some weight.  You will find no shortage of opinions and resources available to you claiming quick results with minimal effort on your behalf.  But what truly is the best way to lose weight?  Just like most issues in medicine, the best long term solution is to correct whatever caused the problem in the first place and then let the body do the rest.

There are several factors that can contribute to the body creating and depositing excess fat.  The most common clinical reasons we see keeping people from maintaining a healthy weight are glucose/insulin dysregulation, hormone imbalances, and a sedentary lifestyle.  Often many of these go together creating a weight gaining spiral.

Blood Sugar

Maintaining consistent blood glucose levels is critical for optimal health.  Simple carbohydrates like bread and pasta are broken down to glucose quickly by the body making energy instantly available.  That readily available sugar will feed your cells for a short period of time but will quickly become depleted, causing a drop in your blood sugar.  That cycle of spiking and plummeting blood sugar often leads to decreased insulin sensitivity and deposition of fat.

A diet that helps correct this problem includes a balance of healthy protein, fat, and complex carbohydrates with every meal.  Whole foods like vegetables, healthy meats, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits, and whole grains are broken down to glucose slowly by the body creating a steady supply of fuel for your cells that keeps insulin levels stable.

Eating smaller quantities more frequently throughout the day will also help keep glucose levels consistent.  A general rule to follow is to eat meals about the size of your fist (which approximates the size of your stomach) about five or six times a day.

Hormone Balance

Hypothyroidism including subclinical hypothyroidism is incredibly common and often overlooked as an underlying factor why many people have trouble losing weight.  Your thyroid gland controls the metabolism of your entire body.  You can eat like and bird and exercise all day long and never lose weight if your thyroid gland is not functioning optimally.  To learn more about subclinical hypothyroidism please see my previous article in the FBN.

The adrenal glands secrete a stress hormone called cortisol.  Cortisol works closely with insulin and thyroid hormone to regulate blood sugar and metabolism.  Chronic stress can lead to adrenal fatigue which can contribute to blood sugar problems and dysfunctional metabolism.  It is not uncommon for a patient with adrenal fatigue to report they feel like a new person when they receive adrenal support.

Daily Movement, Not Exercise!

Moving your body daily for a minimum of thirty minutes is really all you need to keep your metabolism running efficiently.  The benefits of daily movement are so well documented that it is hard to find any medical problem that will not benefit from it.

For my patients that are trying to lose weight I recommend starting with walking outside (if weather permits) fifteen minutes out and fifteen minutes back everyday.  That’s it!  As endurance builds I encourage longer walks or other activities that are enjoyable.  Daily movement should never be a stress but instead something you look forward to.


Diets that assure quick results will often lead to temporary weight loss, but usually end with gaining the weight back again.  Healthy weight loss happens gradually and naturally by addressing the reasons why the weight was gained in the first place.  A healthy diet, balanced hormones, and daily movement are the three steps needed to make that happen.

Dr. Ryan Sweeney

Naturopathic Medical Doctor

Root Natural Health