Inflammation is a huge factor in the disease processes of cystic fibrosis. Some studies have shown that faulty CFTR mutations may directly result in inadequate quenching of radical oxygen species (ROS) or excessive release of other inflammatory compounds like cytokines [1,2]. In addition, our burden of chronic infection and gastrointestinal complications contribute secondary sources of inflammation. Chronic inflammation can lead to both localized and systemic issues. Localized inflammation in the lungs can lead to deficient and/or over-reactive immune responses, bronchitis, scarification and airway remodeling, allergies/asthma/hyper-reactive airway diseases, hemoptysis, pleurisy (inflammation of the pleura), and worsened infection. Localized inflammation in the gut can lead to reflux/GERD, esophagitis, gastritis, pancreatitis, gallbladder issues, liver issues, food sensitivities, malabsorption, autoimmune issues of the intestines, gut infections, general indigestion, and excessive mucus production in both the guts and the lungs (by vagal reflex). Systemic inflammation can cause insulin resistance, body pain, arthritis, achey joints and muscles, fever, fatigue, increased risk for autoimmunity, and increased risk for cardiovascular disease.
Hi friends. I recently taught a class on using herbs in acute and chronic respiratory infections. Here is the class description:
Prepare for winter by enhancing your understanding of how respiratory infections develop and how herbal, nutritional, and lifestyle interventions can make a big difference regarding prevention and recovery. In this class we will discuss how to use herbs to address a wide variety of respiratory complaints including colds and flus, acute and chronic lung infections (bacterial, fungal, and viral), bronchitis, as well as chronic sinus irritation and infection. Our focus will be on moderate to severe respiratory illnesses. Students will gain deeper knowledge of how to use natural means to combat infections in order to minimize the need for use of antibiotics, steroids, and other pharmaceuticals.
Below is the lecture, which is split in two parts. I've also added a slide show of my power point slides. Enjoy! Let me know if you have any questions or would like to share your own experiences.
Okay so it's been more than a month since I posted my last herb of the month... sorry! Summer is a super busy season here in Vermont because the growing season is so short, but I hope to post more regularly now (please bug me if I don't!).
Anyway, I wanted to talk about elecampane this month because it is a staple of herbal respiratory care in the Western (Euro-American) herbal tradition and one of the more important herbs for people with chronic respiratory diseases to know about! It is one of the first herbs I recommend to people who have lingering lung infections that won't clear. In regular doses this can be very helpful for people with functionally normal lungs to help clear bronchitis or aid in recovery from respiratory viruses. It's especially helpful when you want to make sure a cold doesn't settle in the chest and turn into a lung infection. In higher doses this may be helpful for people with CF, in combination with other herbs and therapies, who are battling lung infections. It is antimicrobial in the respiratory tract and digestive tract, and is also an expectorant, helping us to thin mucus and clear it out more easily through coughing. Here is a more detailed monograph from my Materia Medica on this helpful herb...
So I'm the kind of person who loves short cuts, when they make sense. Granola is something I like, but it often involves baking, and I am loathe to turn on the oven and waste energy when I don't have to. The Paleo granolas that you can buy at health food stores are usually super expensive and are baked, causing oxidation of the fats in the nuts. So I figured out that I can make a really tasty, cheap granola substitute with minimal prep time, and that's definitely healthier than traditional granola. Win win!
Here's the simple recipe:
DONE. Sweet and crunchy just like regular granola, but much less carbs, no grains, more fiber, and more omega-3's from the walnuts. Plus the nuts are not heated at all, which means their fats are not oxidized nor rancidified like they would be with baked granola. You can also add in whatever other nuts/seeds you fancy, like raw almonds, cashews, ground flax, etc. or other tasty things like raisins or dried cranberries. As always, take bitters beforehand for maximum absorption of the fats.
It's pretty much guaranteed that we CFers have to go into the hospital once in a while to get a "tune up": a few weeks of IV antibiotics, extra chest physical therapy and inhaled meds, and rest. I've had my fair share of tune ups since I was a kid, and I currently feel best when I get one every 3 to 4 months. I wanted to share a few pieces of advice to other adults with CF out there who want to maximize the effectiveness of their stays, and also reduce the risk of developing possible side effects. Being a kid in the hospital is a little bit different, but some of the same tips may be helpful for the smaller humans, too.
Hey there friends! I have been meaning to do some more in-depth monographs on some of my favorite herbs, particularly ones that are beneficial for most people with CF. I mention a few helpful herbs in the section called Herbs for CF, but there are several herbs that are so helpful that they deserve a more lengthy discussion.
Let me explain: a "monograph" is a lengthy description of a particular herb (there are also drug monographs, but I will not concern myself with those) that usually includes Latin name and botanical family, common name(s), parts used, how to identify them and grow them, where/how to source or buy them, their energetic profile (according to organoleptic analysis and traditional healing practices), physiological actions, clinical uses, key constituents, relevant scientific literature, safety concerns, preparation methods, and dose. A "Materia Medica" is a compendium of medicinal herbal monographs. There are many materia medicas from different herbal and traditional medical modalities, such as Ayurveda, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Eclectic Medicine, Tibetan Medicine, Modern Western Herbalism, and so on. I will not post my entire collected materia medica (mine is over 300 pages long so far and growing), but I will post a few herbs that I think everyone with CF (and many other people, too) will benefit from knowing.
For many people with significant gut issues, or for those who need to help their microbiomes recover from a period of antibiotic use, taking probiotic supplements is often a good idea. But not all probiotics are created equal. In fact, many probiotics sold on the market are totally worthless. Probiotics are now such a household term that many low-quality supplement manufacturers are jumping on the bandwagon and producing products labeled "probiotic" that may not be probiotic at all. There is essentially no regulation in the US for the probiotic industry, so it is the responsibility of the consumer (that's us) to determine what's a high-quality versus low-quality probiotic. Throughout my research I've come across some great tips from clinicians and microbiologists on how to choose the right probiotic. I've come up with a list of requirements for choosing a good probiotic, and I've also provided examples of a good brand versus a bad brand:
A friend of mine with CF who lives in South Africa has a history of severe gastroparesis (delayed gastric emptying) and low stomach acid, which (alongside her Crohn's, CFRD, and removal of her terminal ileum, ascending colon, and gallbladder years ago) has caused her significant digestive distress and inability to digest anything other than her extremely regimented liquid diet. For years Paula's gastroparesis has been so bad that if she doesn't eat precisely the right thing in precise quantities at precisely the right time of day, her stomach will not empty, which puts pressure on her diaphragm and lungs and can cause significant respiratory distress and vomiting. She is a great researcher and has tried many, many things to help this situation, but nothing had yet made a significant dent on these distressing symptoms (including multiple motility drugs). I've tried to strategize with Paula to figure out what was causing or had caused the issue, and secondly what do we do about it now. After a lot of trial and error, it seems we've found two things that have made a big difference in her life: lecithin and artichoke leaf (Cynara scolymus).
This recipe may be my biggest hit yet. Somehow this recipe creates brownies that are cakey and moist and outrageously chocolatey. Anyone who tastes these are blown away. When I tell them they're paleo, they're like "what's paleo"? They truly can't tell. They're just damn good. End of story. The batter can also be poured into a cupcake tin and spread with chocolate frosting on top (recipe below). Enjoy!
1 ripe banana
1/2 large sweet potato (boiled or baked)
3 duck eggs or 4 chicken eggs
5 dates (roughly chopped)
2 heaping table spoons of honey
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup nut butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1) Blend the banana, eggs, boiled sweet potato (peel on), and dates in a vitamix or good blender until completely smooth.
2) In a mixing bowl the above to nut butter and mix well.
3) Add vanilla extract, salt, and baking powder. Stir in then add honey and stir more.
4) Add coca powder slowly (so as not to make a mess) and mix in. Mix in the chocolate chips last.
5) Heat oven 325 degrees F. Grease a 9x9” pan with coconut oil. Pour the batter in.
6) Bake for 45 min or until it passes the toothpick/chopstick test.
Paleo Chocolate Frosting
1 cup unmelted coconut oil
1 cup honey
1 cup cocoa powder
2 tbsp coconut milk
Makes enough for at least 10 cupcakes
1) Blend all in the vitamix, add the additional coconut milk if needed to improve texture.
2) Chill/cool cupcakes or brownies before adding frosting
3) Keep frosting refrigerated until use.
Sinus disease is a common part of cystic fibrosis. Many of us need to have the chronic infection in our sinuses cleaned out and the polyps removed at some point in our lives. I personally have had 4 or 5 sinus surgeries in my life (I've lost count honestly). This type of sinus infection clean-out and polypectomy is called a FESS (functional endoscopic sinus surgery). I recently had a FESS done in December, plus a septoplasty. I needed a septoplasty because my septum had deviated to the point where it was occluding parts of my right sinus. Interestingly, the bone of the upper septum had ballooned out so that it looked quite deformed on CT-scan (but didn't aesthetically look unusual from the outside). When the surgeon went in to scrape it down, he remarked to me that the bone in there was like spongy mush; very unusual. I wonder if it is a sign of osteopenia. I don't know why else this would have happened. Maybe the infection/inflammation had effected the bone? I don't know.
Mica is a clinical herbalist specializing in cystic fibrosis, severe respiratory diseases, nutrition and digestion, diabetes and blood sugar disregulation, and immune disregulation. Through their own personal experiences with chronic illness, they are passionate about empowering people to take charge of their own health with natural, holistic, and integrative approaches. Please ask questions or share what's worked for you!
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