LiveWell®

Wellness and prevention information from the experts at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing


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Are you getting enough vitamin D?

From October through April, it's tough to get enough vitamin D from the Minnesota sun.

From October through April, it’s tough to get enough vitamin D from the Minnesota sun.

Sunshine on your bare skin helps your body make vitamin D – an essential vitamin that builds strong bones, supports the immune system and reduces inflammation. But if you’re like most adults, you probably aren’t getting enough vitamin D, especially during a Minnesota winter.

WCCO-TV’s Heather Brown invited integrative medicine physician Debra Bell, MD, to discuss the sunshine vitamin during a recent segment of Good Question. “It’s hard to know that you’re vitamin D deficient. The symptoms are really very subtle,” said Bell. “The best way to know whether or not you have a vitamin D deficiency is to get a blood test.”

Watch the entire segment here. Good Question: Can you get enough vitamin D from the sun?

Debra Bell, MD, sees patients at the Penny George Institute – Abbott Northwestern in Minneapolis. For appointments, call 612-863-3333.


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A talk on managing menopause with Dr. Debra Bell and Nutritionist Sue Moores

Debra Bell, MD, will talk about holistic approaches to managing menopause with Nutritionist Sue Moores at an October event in Minneapolis.

Debra Bell, MD, will talk about holistic approaches to managing menopause with Nutritionist Sue Moores at an October event in Minneapolis.

In last week’s LiveWell blog entry, Busting Menopause Myths, we dispelled some menopause misconceptions. We also offered a few holistic tips for managing symptoms like hot flashes, mood changes and sleeplessness.

Later this month, Debra Bell, MD, of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing, and Sue Moores, a nutritionist with Kowalki’s Market, will team up to tackle this topic in person at An Integrative Approach to Managing Menopause. Attend to learn how to deal with symptoms through diet and integrative wellness strategies. Discover which foods trigger symptoms and which can help boost metabolism. Come with questions, and walk away with tips for being well.

The Kowalski’s event will be held Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014, from 6:30-8 p.m. in Minneapolis at Mt. Zion Lutheran Church, which is across from Kowalski’s Parkview Market.

Learn more or register here.

 


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Busting menopause myths

WomensHealth

Healthy living – exercise, sleep, good nutrition, and avoiding excessive alcohol and caffeine – is the first step in managing the symptoms of menopause, according to Debra Bell, MD, of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing.

This article will run in the upcoming issue of the LiveWell® Newsletter of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing

Contrary to popular belief, menopause isn’t just about estrogen.

In reality, there are many hormones involved, including several types of estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA and pregnenolone. Aging can affect other hormones as well, such as those that control metabolism and other body functions.

Another misperception about menopause is that it reflects a hormone imbalance. “Menopause is not a state of imbalance, and it is not a disease. It is a state of change,” said Debra Bell, MD, an integrative medicine doctor at Penny George Institute for Health and Healing.

Adding to this complexity, fluctuations in hormone levels affect women differently. In fact, the severity of menopause symptoms is not directly related to an individual’s hormone levels. That’s why Bell does not routinely check hormone levels when a woman is experiencing symptoms.

But this does not mean women have to simply endure menopause.

Bell said her goal is to help women go through this change with the least amount of symptoms. “What we do depends on what else they are doing in their lifestyle and what their symptoms are.”

While hormone replacement may have a role in helping some women, “I think it’s important to not just focus on hormone replacement,” said Bell. She recommends that women take a more holistic approach.

“Healthy living is the first step: exercise, sleep, good nutrition, avoiding excessive alcohol and caffeine. For many women, this is enough to keep their symptoms in check. For others for whom that’s not enough, there are many treatments that can help,” said Bell.

That includes dietary supplements, herbal preparations, acupuncture, mind-body techniques and more. For example, Bell often prescribes black cohosh and vitex to treat hot flashes, anxiety and other symptoms. “Herbals often work together synergistically, so we put different herbs together to address different symptoms,” she said. Before considering herbs or supplements, it is best to check with a health care practitioner.

Bell encourages women to view menopause as a new stage of life and to be open to adapting to it. “This is more about a process than a quick fix. We should be thinking about what we can do to be healthy at different stages of our lives.”

Going through menopause? Help yourself with these tips:

• Eat wholesome foods.
• Avoid sweets, alcohol and caffeine.
• Get regular exercise. Aim for at least 30 minutes a day.
• Try yoga, meditation and other relaxation techniques.
• Try acupuncture.

If you do not have other medical problems and are not taking prescription medicines, consider supplements or herbal remedies that are formulated to address menopause symptoms. These should be purchased from a reputable natural foods store.

Consult with an integrative medicine provider if:
• Your symptoms are very disruptive and make you uncomfortable.
• Your symptoms are affecting your sleep, your work life or your relationships.
• You have tried addressing the symptoms on your own without success.
• You are not sure if your symptoms are related to menopause or to something else.

Debra Bell, MD, sees patients at the Penny George Institute – Abbott Northwestern in Minneapolis. For appointments, call 612-863-3333. See her profile at wellness.allinahealth.org/bell.


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Make your summer count: A seasonal approach to boosting health and wellness

SummerHealthPhoto

While we’re eager to return to higher levels of activity as summer begins, Debra Bell, MD, advises caution. “Don’t make that first bike ride a 30-mile trip. Be mindful to stretch and pace yourself,” she said.

This article will run in the summer issue of the LiveWell® Newsletter of the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing

According to Debra Bell, MD, an integrative medicine doctor at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing, taking note of seasonal changes and adjusting your habits accordingly is a powerful and practical way to rejuvenate the body, mind and spirit.

It can begin with the earliest days of spring when you notice that it is still light out at 6 p.m. “More daylight often helps our mood, so we should take advantage of that,” said Bell. Increase your exposure to daylight by going for an evening walk or sleeping with the curtains partially open.

Warmer weather can serve as inspiration to spend less time in your car. Instead of automatically driving wherever you need to go, walk or ride your bike for errands or outings.

Outdoor chores like yard work and gardening can help you tune in to the season while keeping you active. “Summer is a time of new life and growth. Finding ways to be engaged in the natural world can be satisfying and can serve as a metaphor for one’s own sense of growth and development,” said Bell.

Another important part of Bell’s “summer wellness tool kit” is fresh, local produce. “We have much more to choose from in the summer, and the nutrients in foods like spring greens are great for the immune system, anti-aging and digestion.”

“Some people also like to think in terms of spring cleaning – focusing on a cleansing or purifying diet under the guidance of a professional,” said Bell. Similarly, integrative practices like acupuncture and qigong can provide a seasonal tune-up, helping the body shift from the dormancy of winter to a more active, energized state.

And while many of us are eager to return to higher levels of activity as summer begins, Bell advises caution. “It’s very easy to overdo it. Don’t make that first bike ride a 30-mile trip. Be mindful to stretch and pace yourself. The muscles you used all winter shoveling snow or running on the treadmill aren’t the same as when you garden or ride your bike.”

Bell also noted that seasonal changes in the natural world include cold viruses. “When the weather changes, the viruses that are circulating also change,” she said. She encourages her patients to take zinc and vitamin C at the first sign of a summer cold.

Debra Bell, MD, sees patients at the Penny George Institute – Abbott Northwestern. For appointments, call 612-863-3333. See her profile.


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Celebrating International Integrative Medicine Day

By Debra Bell, MD

Today, Jan. 23, is International Integrative Medicine Day. The mission of the day is to “inspire worldwide dialog, education, collaboration, research initiatives, and programming about medicine that is patient-centered, holistic, economically and environmentally sustainable, and open to a global palette of care options.”

Integrative medicine ― sometimes called holistic or complementary medicine ― has been evolving for many years and is now utilized by more than 50 percent of the general population. It is becoming more accepted by main stream medicine every day.

A good example of this is the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing, the largest integrative health center embedded in a health system in the country. The Penny George Institute is part of Allina Health.

At the Penny George Institute, we are engaged in the national and international forum of those committed to integrative medicine research, education and clinical services.

I have been involved in the field for 30 years, long before it was ever called integrative medicine. I am thrilled that there is now a designated day to recognize this valuable aspect of health and healing.

To honor this day, I invite you to take a moment today to pay attention to your health ― to the way you live, how you feel, and the choices you make. Reflect on what is contributing to your wellness and any changes you might make for better health.

Debra Bell, MD, sees patients at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing. She offers an integrative medicine, or holistic, approach, to women’s health, fibromyalgia, fatigue, allergies, chronic disease and nutrition.


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My path to the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing

Debra Bell, MD, hiking wth her husband, Daniel Wolpert.

Debra Bell, MD, hiking wth her husband.

By Debra Bell, MD

This fall marks the start of a new chapter for me in a more than 25-year journey as a family medicine and integrative medicine physician.

In September, I started offering integrative medicine consultations alongside two other physicians and a clinical nurse specialist at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing – Abbott Northwestern Outpatient Clinic. I am part of a team of integrative health practitioners, including acupuncturists, massage therapists, integrative nutritionists, and a psychologist.

As a new team member, I’ve been asked to introduce myself and my style of practice. Doing that requires giving you some history on how I got here.

I consider my work in health care a calling. I was exposed at an early age to medicine and drawn to the notion of helping people. As a pre-med student, I became interested in women’s studies and birthing practices. I found inspiration from my mother’s first edition books from the 1950s and 1960s about natural childbirth and breastfeeding and went on to study natural remedies used by midwives and ancient healers.

In medical school, I took a year off to concentrate on an independent study of natural medicine. I met my husband, and we spent 10 months traveling internationally visiting spiritual communities around the world. This led us to choose a simple life in which health and spiritual well-being are a priority.

We moved to Vermont, where we had a small, commercial, organic farm. I started an integrative medicine family practice and home birth private practice. Later we moved to California, where my husband attended graduate school, and I worked in a practice with other integrative medicine providers. I enjoyed having like-minded colleagues, and we learned a lot from each other.

From California, we moved to Crookston, Minn. People often ask how we ended up moving to northwest Minnesota. Divine intervention? I felt drawn to the area for a number of reasons. I found the open space and big sky breathtaking. In my practice, I could offer my services to a broader population, and the clinic at the local hospital was very supportive.

I was pleased by the number of community members who previously had never considered natural therapies but decided to come to see me because they wanted a holistic approach. Often, they did not want another prescription and did want to address more than physical symptoms. With an integrative medicine approach, we could address all aspects of well-being and healing ― work life, home life, exercise, diet, stress, coping skills, emotional well-being, and spirituality

Holistic medicine refers to focusing on the “body mind and spirit,” but often there is less emphasis on the “spirit.” I try to make sure I focus on all three.

In time, I created an integrative medicine center in partnership with the hospital. I worked with acupuncturists, massage therapists, spiritual directors and others as a team to provide holistic care.

After 13 years in Crookston, I am ready for this new chapter at the Penny George Institute. I’m looking forward to working with a remarkable team of practitioners and serving patients in Minneapolis and the greater Twin Cities area.

Debra Bell, MD, is now seeing patients. She offers an integrative medicine, or holistic, approach, to women’s health, fibromyalgia, fatigue, allergies, chronic disease and nutrition. Call 612-863-3333 to learn more or schedule an appointment.