Bestseller by Naturopathic Doctor Puts Women’s Health in the SpotlightAnn Ruebottom, B.A., R.M.T. November 1, 2006
The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Women’s Health By Dr. Sat Dharam Kaur, ND, Dr. Mary Danylak-Arhanic, MD. Dr. Carolyn Dean, ND, MD. Toronto, Robert Rose, 2005. 476 pages. $29.95
In 1987, I was treated for grade 3 stage 3 ovarian cancer, and against most odds, survived. A year or two after surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, a standard blood test showed that my level of the ovarian tumour marker, Ca 125, had risen to 400. The normal value is less than 10 and my oncologist had nothing to recommend. Looking for alternatives, I consulted naturopath Dr. Sat Dharam Kaur, then based in Toronto.
After an extensive consultation, she recommended a therapeutic regime, which I followed faithfully for a year, ending in about 1995. When my blood was tested after 12 months of the mostly vegetarian diet plus vitamins (a multi-vitamin plus A, B, C, E), supplements, Chinese herbs, pills and potions, the same blood test read only 4. This was truly a dramatic drop in the ovarian tumour marker. It is now 2006 and I am still well.
As a healthcare professional, Sat Dharam Kaur specializes in women’s health and the prevention and treatment of breast cancer. She lectures in breast health at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine and has written three books, including The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Breast Cancer. She has practised naturopathic medicine since 1989, the last nine years in Owen Sound, Ontario. Her most recent book, The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Women’s Health brings the knowledge I benefited from as a patient to a wide readership. And her co-author colleagues bring the perspective of conventional Western medicine to the natural medicine traditions.
Dr. Kaur aims “to meet a need in women’s health literature for a comprehensive natural medicine approach to integrating many natural healing practices and traditions rather than focusing on one or two therapies to the exclusion of others.” In the book, four basic steps for prevention and healing are outlined: improve nutrition; restore balance; detoxify and rejuvenate; integrate body, mind and spirit.
Readers of The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Women’s Health will find brief introductions to natural medicine traditions from Native American practices to environmental medicine. They will discover general advice on dietary strategies and specific lists. The following items, for example, are listed as “super” foods: flax (seeds and oil), turmeric, garlic, raw nuts and seeds, seaweeds, organic soy, raw brassicas (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kale), shiitake mushrooms, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, cooked tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, legumes, rosemary, coriander and organic green tea.
One section is devoted to the traditional Chinese medicine regime for cleansing the body and rejuvenating the spirit throughout the “five” seasons of the year – fall, winter, spring, summer and late summer. In this paradigm the five elements are linked – metal, water, wood, fire and earth.
In the fall, associated organs are the lungs and large intestine. Women are urged to include Brazil nuts, pumpkin seeds, almond butter, sprouts, Swiss chard, bananas, figs, mung beans in their diet.
Organs associated with winter cleansing are the kidneys, adrenal glands, bladder. In this season recommended foods include herbal teas, lettuce, watercress, celery, asparagus, cinnamon, garlic, roasted root vegetables, walnuts, leeks, garlic, cranberry juice, spinach. In the spring, liver and gallbladder are the emphasized organs; recommended foods include Brussels sprouts, beets, red peppers, almonds, lemon juice, leeks, mint, apple cider vinegar.
Summer organs are heart and small intestine, the element is fire and the best foods include tofu, lentils, parsley, cucumber, sardines, peppermint, radish, cashews, avocado, juices, sweet potato. Late summer is associated with stomach, spleen, pancreas, the element earth, and we are advised to eat carrot juice, parsnip, rice, winter squash, pumpkin, black beans, ginger, nutmeg, walnuts.
Another section of Dr. Kaur’s text deals with nature’s rhythms and their relationship to health. She states, “Our biological clocks have been working in precision since mammals appeared on the planet 200 million years ago, set by daily, monthly and seasonal light/dark cycles.” The 24-hour cycle known as circadian rhythms are based on the natural alternation from day to night and night to day. The pineal gland located in the centre of the brain produces melatonin, which helps regulate the rhythms of blood pressure, sleep and wakefulness among other activities. “Did you know…If we are exposed to light between 1:00am and 3:00 am, our melatonin levels decrease and our biorhythms are thrown off balance. Saliva testing done on many breast cancer patients demonstrates a nightly melatonin deficiency.”
Do you know the signs and symptoms of biorhythmic imbalance? Consider the author’s partial list: excessive sighing and yawning, fatigue; wandering mind, with an inability to concentrate; excessive fantasizing; procrastination; muscle tension and fatigue; hunger pains or thirst, emotional eating; addictive cravings – sugar, coffee, cigarettes, alcohol.
The book also discusses the role of soil, water, and air in the development of disease. Did you know that when we deplete the minerals in the soil, we destroy its fertility? The author believes that as the earth loses its fertility, so do we. Deficiencies of zinc, selenium, iodine, magnesium, and boron, along with pesticide exposure, can contribute to infertility in women and to falling sperm counts in men.
(Ed: Thus the need for greens and supplements to keep blood levels of minerals at optimal amounts.)
One of Dr. Kaur’s areas of expertise is the use of the sauna. Speaking with this writer she states, “With 90 hours of sauna detoxification we can eliminate up to 90% of the lifetime body burden of toxic chemicals stored in our fat cells.” However, she cautions, “But it must be done carefully with proper support of vitamins (including high doses of Vitamin C), minerals, alkaline powder, homeopathic drainage remedies, supplements that support the liver such as curcumin, NAC, and alpha lipoic acid. We also need psyllium seed powder to cleanse the bowel.”
Complete instructions are given in the text and a naturopathic consultation is recommended for safety, since people can make themselves sick by doing sauna detoxification improperly without supplementing for nutrients lost in sweat and without supporting the organs of elimination at the same time.
ENCYCLOPEDIC COVERAGE OF WOMEN’S HEALTH ISSUES
The book contains detailed descriptions of more than 50 health conditions specific to women.
The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to Women’s Health is intended as a reference book rather than something to be read at a few sittings – giving “tools for a lifetime of good health”, as the preface states. Nevertheless it is user-friendly. Layout is varied. For instance, “Did-you-know” sidebars are scattered throughout for quick fixes of information; charts summarize detailed systems of health knowledge; checklists and worksheets are offered to engage the reader; tables outline causes and solutions to problems. Recipes are offered.
Dr. Kaur’s book is indexed and contains the latest reliable medical and naturopathic research available. A resource list contains contact information for supplement and Chinese herbal suppliers, clinical laboratories and associations. Selected references are listed and the offer is made of a complete list by email.
The great strengths of this book include its up-to-date comprehensiveness. It integrates conventional and alternative approaches to health and disease. It embraces general concepts, as well as specific detail. It encompasses women’s health from before conception to the later years.
The book even integrates emotional and spiritual elements into the approach to physical disease. With references and resources, it can lead a dedicated reader to pursue subjects more thoroughly.
The book is user friendly for a wide range of people. An uncommitted reader can choose to dip into the text lightly and yet still benefit. Someone thirstier for knowledge can have her curiosity satisfied in greater depth. The book is densely factual, in fact, encyclopedic. Nevertheless it is interesting, occasionally fascinating and always ready to cover a huge and important topic. It’s the result of a massive amount of work, a book to last.
What is unique about this book is the intergenerational link and its integration of our planet’s elements (metal, water, wood, fire, earth) and the seasons. The text is deep and complex. The author offers no shortcuts or facile promises. It is this writer’s experience with Dr. Kaur’s books that five or 10 years from now, the information is likely to appear in daily newspapers.
Let us finish with the author’s words. “Trouble in the earth is mirrored in illness in women. We have to clean up the environment. I wanted to encourage women rather than scare them. Health is a continuum going both forward and back for generations. It requires a lifetime commitment.”