Ginger, MTHFR, Weight & Hormones
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Summer 2015 Health News


Michelle Crowder, ND - Licensed Naturopathic Physician

Hello! I am happy to be in touch with another newsletter. 

I have been busier in clinic and sadly have not had as much time to write. In my practice, I continue to see a lot of thyroid, adrenal, and other hormone imbalances, digestive disorders, and autoimmune disease. It is a joy to work at both Dr. Kennedy's and Beaumont. I learn so much from Dr. Kennedy's clinical expertise. At Beaumont, I also have the opportunity to participate in resident and medical student education, which I love. Both locations are accepting new patients!

My state association is very actively seeking licensure for naturopathic doctors and we could use your support. See below for a more detailed update, and please consider signing up for our email list.

I am leading a detox program this fall at Dr. Kennedy's office. See below for more information. I call these programs detoxes, but they are simply a chance to prioritize your health, learn about ways to support your body, "reset" or turn over a new leaf in some way, and do so with help from peers and doctor. Everyone is welcome!

Previous newsletter from Spring 2015.
Archive of past newsletters. 
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En salud,

Dr. Colleen Kennedy Family Practice
75 Barclay Circle, Suite 225
Rochester Hills MI 48307

Beaumont Integrative Medicine
Beaumont Vein Center, First Floor
87 Kercheval, Grosse Pointe Farms MI 48236 

E V E N T S  &  U P D A T E S . . .


Join me for a 21-Day Fall Detox program at Dr Kennedy's office in Rochester Hills!
Meeting 6:30-7:30 pm on the following dates:
  • Monday 9/14 
  • Monday 9/21
  • Wednesday 10/7
Cost for the program is $250 and includes detox products and guidance from naturopathic doctor. 
To register: Deposit of $150 is required by 9/4/15 to hold your spot. Please include your name, email address, phone number, and list any allergies/sensitivities you have in your correspondence. Make check payable to "Michelle Crowder" and drop off or send to Dr Kennedy's office, Attn: Dr Crowder, 75 Barclay Circle, Suite 225, Rochester Hills MI 48307.

Questions: Please respond to this email, or email me at
The Michigan Association of Naturopathic Physicians (MANP) has been very busy in recent months.
  • In April, Representative Lisa Lyons Introduced House Bill 4531 into the Health Policy Committee. This bill would allow for Doctors of Naturopathic Medicine from accredited schools to be licensed in the State of Michigan. We have hired a lobbyist and had several meetings in Lansing. We are waiting for a hearing date. To keep up to date with our licensing efforts, please sign up for the MANP Email List.
  • In May, we won a $10,000 grant from Emerson Ecologics to support our licensure efforts.
  • In June, we held the first annual Michigan Integrative Medicine Conference in Novi, MI. This was a professional Continuing Medical Education conference with 12 speakers (including myself!) and over 50 attendees. The conference raised close to $14,000 for MANP.  
The generous support we have received from community members and corporations is allowing us to pay our lobbyist and continue to work towards becoming licensed. However, we will need continued support in order to keep this positive momentum going. Learn how you can help by visiting the MANP's licensing page. And don't forget to sign up for our Email List!

Yes, We Are Still Moving, but...

...The moving date continues to be delayed due to work that needs to be done on the new property. Our current estimate is that we will be in the new office late 2015 or early 2016. But please stay tuned to my website, or call 248-299-1892 for current location.  
FYI, the new office will be located at:
This is 3 miles from our current location.
We will have our own building, more treatment rooms, and more space.
Zingiber officinale

G I N G E R 

Ginger is a long-time favorite of mine. I love the spicy, pungent flavor. I often drink it as a strong tea prepared from freshly grated root, and I use it in cooking whenever I can. Ginger was first cultivated in Asia and has been used medicinally for at least 2,000 years for a variety of ailments, especially digestive complaints. It is one of the most-studied natural medicines. The availability of ginger and its wide variety of applications make it an easy, useful plant to have on hand.

Botanical Notes: Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is a perennial thought to be native to India and China; it is also commonly found in tropical areas such as the Caribbean. The rarely-seen flowers are similar in appearance to orchids. The root-like rhizome (an underground stem) contains many aromatic compounds and is the part used in cooking and medicine. The major constituents of ginger are the aromatic phenols gingerol and shogaol, although there are many other important active compounds in ginger. Gingerol is the primary constituent in fresh root; when the root is dried, the more pungent shogaol constituent increases, causing dried preparations to have a more spicy flavor. Both of these are related to capsaicin and piperine, the compounds found in chili pepper and black pepper, respectively, that give these plants their spiciness. (Side note: We do have a native ginger in the US, called Wild ginger (Asarum canadense). It is not related to Zingiber, but it does have an aromatic rhizome and has been used traditionally in a manner similar to Zingiber. However, Asarum should not be used long-term because it contains the carcinogen aristolochic acid.)    

Here are a few evidence-based medical applications of Ginger:

Other notable effect of Ginger:

  • Anti-microbial: Ginger possesses anti-bacterial and anti-fungal effects, including against the yeast Candida albicans (1, 2, 3). It augments the anti-fungal activity of honey against Candida. It has also been shown to be effective against intestinal worms in animal studies (1, 2).  
  • Lipids: Ginger may have cholesterol-lowering effects. In one study, ginger was associated with reduction in total and LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and increased HDL.
  • Anti-oxidant and anti-cancer: Ginger has been shown to possess a range of antioxidant effects in animal studies (1, 2, 3). It is active against several cancer cell lines including breast, prostate, and leukemia

Cautions and Contraindications: Ginger is generally regarded as safe and has a long history of safe use both orally and topically. However, several cautions are important to mention. 

  • Most experts consider a daily dose of 1-4 g to be safe.
  • The most common side effect of oral ginger at common doses is mild, transient heartburn. 
  • Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, ginger can reduce platelet aggregation and therefore thin the blood. It should be used with caution and under physician guidance in people with bleeding disorders, and in people who are taking anti-coagulant and anti-platelet medications like Plavix, Lovenox, and Warfarin. A major interaction has been documented with the antihypertensive calcium channel blocker Nifedipine, in which ginger had an additive anti-platelet effect. 
  • Ginger may lower blood sugar and therefore should be used with caution in people who are taking hypoglycemic medications.
  • Ginger is generally considered to be safe during pregnancy, when used at common doses. However, this is somewhat controversial. There is insufficient information available on its use during lactation.

How To:

  • Use ginger fresh or dried in cooking and baking. Its flavor blends well with garlic, onion, lemon, cayenne, curries, and Asian dishes. Some of my favorite ginger recipes: Healing Ginger Chicken Soup, Ginger-Citrus Salad with Carrot Avocado and EdamameGinger Beer, Cranberry Chocolate Gingerbread.
  • Ginger tea can be prepared from dried root (teabags are widely available), or use fresh. Grate 1-3 teaspoons per cup of hot water, steep covered for 5-15 minutes, then strain. Or, slice a 2" piece of root thinly and combine with about 4 cups of water; simmer for 15-30+ minutes. Add lemon or honey. Or try adding mint, cinnamon, cayenne, or turmeric for variety. 
  • Chew a 1/4" piece of fresh root to help stimulate digestion, reduce nausea, and keep breath fresh.
  • Capsules and tablets are widely available, and most contain 250-500 mg each.

More on MTHFR

I receive a lot of inquiries about my experience with MTHFR and related health concerns. I have completed workshops with Dr Ben Lynch, an ND who has done extensive research on the biochemistry and clinical applications of these genetic variants. I continue to study on my own and through continuing education. A large portion of my practice is comprised of people who have found me through Because I receive so many inquiries, I thought it might be helpful to write a bit here on MTHFR and my clinical approach to this topic.  

I have written before on MTHFR, which stands for Methylene-Tetra-Hydro-Folate-Reductase.  It is an enzyme present in many tissues throughout the body that converts folate (Vitamin B9) into its "active" form, 5-methyltetrahydrofolate.  It is the rate-limiting step of the methylation cycle (pictured below in a very simplified form) that also involves the amino acids homocysteine, methionine and s-andenosyl methionine (SAM-e), as well as Vitamin B12, Zinc, Magnesium, and others.  Variations in the gene that codes for this enzyme can slow down the methylation cycle, making it harder for the body to "activate" vitamins such as folate and B12 so that they can be used in other reactions. These variations can also reduce the ability of the body to produce methyl groups (-CH3), which I like to think of as a type of "currency" used in the body; they are used to turn on and turn off various reactions in the body. If your body is lacking methyl groups, many reactions will be affected and certain pathways will likely not function as well as they would otherwise.
The methylation cycle
Awareness is growing on the importance of this enzyme and its role in various health concerns.  One of the most well-known is the association between MTHFR and elevated homocysteine levels. Homocysteine is an amino acid found in many healthy foods and is not problematic as long as it is processed and eliminated by the body properly. If it accumulates, as can happen with certain MTHFR variants, homocysteine is thought to be irritating to blood vessels and is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease including heart attack, stroke, and blood clots. (It is important to note that we are still not entirely sure what role homocysteine plays in these conditions, and whether it is in fact causative, or merely associated).  Looking beyond cardiovascular concerns, there is also a growing body of literature linking MTHFR and related methylation defects to a range of health concerns, including anxiety, depression, insomnia, autism,  mental health concerns, miscarriage, fibromyalgia, and cancer.

I do not view MTHFR or other genetic variants as a disease. They are simply a variation on a code of DNA.  In naturopathic medicine, it is often said that we "treat the person, and not the disease." Similarly, I would say I treat the person, and not the gene.  Two people could come to me with identical genetic reports; one could be very ill, while the other could be completely healthy.  Genetics create a predisposition to certain health concerns, but they by no means guarantee that the health concern will ever become significant for a given person. There are so many factors, most especially environment - lifestyle, eating habits, etc. - that contribute to whether a person will develop certain disease characteristics, given a set of genes. Some doctors like to use the analogy, "genes load the gun, but environment pulls the trigger." I would prefer to use different imagery, but the analogy is illustrative.  

So, in many ways, my approach to people with known indicatedtions is identical to my general approach: take a thorough history, review records, use lab testing as indictated to gather more information; all of this will help to give me a sense of the various factors that have contributed to imbalance in the individual. My therapies are directed at these root causes and are intended to promote health of the whole person. For any condition, there are specifics to consider; for example, with MTHFR I want to be sure that we are supporting all aspects of the methylation pathway. I may give trace minerals, magnesium, and individual B vitamins before introducing any methyl donors like methylfolate or methylcobalamin. I always stress the importance of lifestyle - whole foods eating style, hydration, stress management, sleep, relationships, physical activity, time outdoors, etc. The people who are able to put the lifestyle pieces into place are the ones that I consistently see doing well long-term.

Hormones and Weight Management

Weight loss is one of the most common health goals I see in my practice. I do not specialize in weight loss, and I do not consider myself to be an expert on the topic. I do believe in the concept of "health at every size," which promotes the notion that, medically speaking, "overweight" does not necessarily equal "unhealthy." While it is true that being overweight is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and others, it is possible to have a high BMI and never develop any of these diseases. Many people who are considered overweight have perfect blood pressure, cholesterol levels, blood sugar, etc.

So while I do not believe that "normal" BMI is necessary for health, I also want to help people reach their health goals; for many, this includes weight loss. My general view is that attaining a healthy weight should be a positive consequence of optimizing overall health - as we promote health of the digestive, endocrine, and other systems, normalize the inflammatory response, address psychosocial factors, and give the body the raw materials it needs, a healthy weight should be attained naturally. This is easier said than done, of course.

Identifying the various factors that contribute to unhealthy weight gain can be a challenging endeavor.  Hormones are just one piece of the puzzle, albeit an important one. Here are two of the most important hormones involved in weight management:

Insulin: This hormone is released by the pancreas in response to the rise in blood glucose caused by carbohydrate consumption. It acts like a key at the cellular level, allowing glucose from the blood to enter cells where it can be used for energy. Without insulin, blood glucose would stay high, and cells would be starved of energy. Insulin tells the liver to convert glucose into its storage form, glycogen. When glycogen stores are maxed out, insulin stimulates the conversion of glucose into fat building blocks in the liver and adipose (fat) tissue. The net result is that energy is stored as fat.  So, the more often you stimulate your body to release insulin by consuming a high carbohydrate meal, the more you are telling your body to store the energy as fat.  On the other hand, insulin is required for the conversion of thyroid hormone into its more active T3 form. Because thyroid hormones are important for maintaining healthy metabolism, ultra-low-carbohydrate diets can actually lead to lower thyroid hormone levels and lower overall body metabolism. Insulin also seems to act in the brain to help decrease appetite and food intake; however, this feedback mechanism may not be intact in the setting of insulin resistance.
Take home message: Avoid repeated blood glucose spikes: Emphasize nutrient-rich whole foods, especially lean protein, healthy fat, and colorful, leafy vegetables. Minimize refined sugars and other refined carbohydrates. Engage in regular physical activity; short bursts of exercise before meals may be especially effective when insulin resistance is present. (Other ways to balance blood  sugar.)

Cortisol: This hormone is release by the adrenal glands in response to stressful situations. Stress may be physical (infection, low blood sugar, sleep disturbance, etc.), or mental-emotional (related to work, relationships, etc.). We need cortisol to help us respond to changes in the environment, but it should not be chronically elevated. Cortisol triggers an increase in blood sugar, which will promote insulin release and the effects described above. Cortisol in particular causes fat to be stored around the abdomen (called "visceral adipose tissue" or VAT). VAT contains a higher concentration of an enzyme that makes cortisol, so it can become a cycle: cortisol causes VAT deposition, VAT makes more cortisol, cortisol causes further VAT deposition, etc. Furthermore, cortisol seems to disrupt the body's hunger and satiety signals - when cortisol is chronically elevated, the brain may not receive the signal that you are full, causing you to feel hungry and continue eating past your biological needs. In addition to its effects on blood sugar, cortisol increases inflammation, which is linked to a host of problems when chronic, including heart disease, diabetes, autoimmune disease, and depression. It also inhibits the conversion of the thyroid hormone T4 into the more active T3.    
Take home message: Manage stress: Laugh, spend time outdoors, cultivate positive personal relationships, use techniques like meditation or yoga. Reduce physical stress by prioritizing sleep, eating nutrient-rich, whole foods on a regular schedule, treating chronic infections, and avoiding prolonged, intense exercise routines. There are a number of botanical medicines and amino acids that can help balance cortisol levels in conjunction with lifestyle.

Shifts in hormones tend to occur on the order of months, and robust change can take time. Short-term solutions to weight loss are generally not sustainable. I encourage people to be patient and remember that we are addressing overall health in addition to weight. Other common hormones I look at include thyroid, estrogen, testosterone, DHEA, pregnenolone, and leptin. 

What is Naturopathic Medicine?

In short, Naturopathic Medicine combines the best of conventional and alternative medicine into an individualized, whole-person approach to primary health care. NDs are trained as primary care providers with an emphasis on natural and common sense approaches including clinical nutrition, lifestyle counseling, and botanical medicine.

What to Expect from Your Visit

I work with my clients to identify the root causes of disease, taking into account the various factors that influence health, including lifestyle, genetics, physiology, and mental-emotional state. First visits are 90 minutes and include a thorough health history, followed by discussion of my preliminary assessment and recommendations. I may order conventional or specialty lab work to aid in my understanding of your condition. We work together to devise a plan that will meet your health goals.

Follow-up visits generally last 30-45 minutes and are important so that I can better get to know your unique physiology, track your progress, and refine my recommendations. I can consult with your other health providers and make referrals as necessary.

Integrative Medicine

I am fortunate to work in an integrative primary care practice, alongside a D.O. (Doctor of Osteopathy), N.P. (Nurse Practitioner), and P.A. (Physician's Assistant).  We share patients and regularly consult with each other to coordinate care. 

I believe this approach benefits patients by offering them the best of both worlds - conventional and natural.  These two worlds are not mutually exclusive; in fact, many health concerns are best addressed by a multifaceted approach.  The power of Integrative Medicine is backed by research, especially for chronic conditions such as heart disease.
Gift Certificates are available at both Dr. Kennedy's office and Beaumont Integrative Medicine. Please call the relevant office to inquire.

FYI: Licensing and Regulation of Naturopathic Medicine

Licensed Naturopathic Physicians attend a 4-year post-graduate medical school accredited by the Council on Naturopathic Medical Education and recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. They must pass basic science and clinical licensing exams administered by the North American Board of Naturopathic Examiners. Currently, 16 states license Naturopathic doctors as primary care providers. National and state legislative efforts are organized by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians.  Because NDs are not currently licensed in Michigan, they function as complementary providers.

For more information about the active legislative efforts to license Naturopathic Medicine in Michigan, visit the Michigan Association of Naturopathic Physicians.


About Michelle Crowder, ND

Michelle Crowder, ND is a licensed Naturopathic Physician with a focus in holistic and preventative primary care.  She works with people of all ages to identify and treat the root causes of disease, empowering her clients with the tools they need to understand and take control of their own health. Areas of special interest include digestive health, hormone imbalance, and immune dysfunction, including thyroid disease.

National College of Natural Medicine, Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine, High honors
University of Vermont, Master of Science in Botany, Summa Cum Laude
University of Michigan, Bachelor of Science in Biology, Summa Cum Laude
Copyright © 2015 Michelle C Davila, ND, All rights reserved.
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