LiveWell®

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


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How good and bad gut bacteria can affect your health

Greg Plotnikoff, MD, MTS, FACP

Greg Plotnikoff, MD, MTS, FACP

The Star Tribune this summer explored the topic of intestinal bacteria and its relationship to health. The newspaper ran an article featuring Greg Plotnikoff, MD, a physician at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing and author of “Trust Your Gut,” a book about how to deal with digestive problems.

Plotnikoff explained that our stomach bacteria can help or hurt us, depending on how we treat them. “The gut is much more of a garden than a gutter,” he said. “Our mission is to be good gardeners.”

Read the full Star Tribune article, “Scientists discover more about the battle in your belly.”

Gregory A. Plotnikoff, MD, MTS, FACP, is a board certified internist and pediatrician at the Penny George Institute. He is co-author of the book “Trust Your Gut,” which focuses on the science of gut-brain interactions.


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Responding to health headlines on the value of multivitamins and supplements

Vitamins.162362665An editorial in the Annals of Internal Medicine last month suggested that multivitamins and supplements are a “waste of money.” The editorial bases its opinion on the results from three recent studies on the effects of these supplements.

The editorial was quickly picked up by national news organizations with headlines varying from “Studies say multivitamins don’t prevent disease” to “Research shows multivitamins provide some benefits.” Practitioners from the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing regularly recommend supplements to their patients and wanted to weigh in on the issue.

Two practitioners offered their opinions:

Bell_Debra_2013Debra Bell, MD, offers an integrative medicine, or holistic approach, to women’s health, fibromyalgia, fatigue, allergies, chronic disease and nutrition.

Bell questioned whether the original editorial really reflected the studies. Each study report cautioned against broad conclusions, while the editorial ended by stating the case was closed and that multivitamins should not be used for chronic disease prevention.

Bell says: “I believe it is the summary of the editorial that generated the media buzz. This final sentence is a reflection of an important issue – the frustration of the medical community with the multi-billion dollar dietary supplement industry.  The large majority of supplements are poorly manufactured with the primary intent of generating revenue.  This irresponsible behavior undermines the dedicated work of professionals researching and developing good quality supplements.”

She added, “The various articles ignore that there is a respected group of professionals in Integrative Medicine who apply the large database of evidence demonstrating the efficacy of many natural supplements and vitamins.  Most Integrative Medicine specialists would agree that the best way to obtain nutrients is from diet, but sometimes multivitamins or supplements are necessary or helpful.”

Blair_JenniferJennifer Blair, LAc, MaOM, is an integrative, holistic provider with clinical specialties in acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, dietary therapy and integrative health coaching. She is a licensed acupuncturist with a master’s degree in Oriental Medicine.

Blair agrees with Bell that the presence of poor quality supplements in the marketplace degrades a valuable asset to the health and well-being of patients.  “Appropriate nutritional supplementation, individualized to a patient’s unique needs and provided by companies who focus on quality, safety, efficacy and optimal absorption can benefit health and address nutritional deficiencies that contribute to diseased states and inhibit the body’s natural regenerative abilities. We miss the whole picture when we allow media sound bites to guide our beliefs and decisions.”

Additionally, Blair points out that multiple factors contribute to sub-optimal nutrition that may lead to the need for quality supplements.  These may include some industrialized agriculture practices, poor soil quality and over-processed foods. “Combine these factors with inhibited digestive function due to inflammation or an imbalance of intestinal flora, and it can be difficult to absorb the proper nutrition from food alone,” she said.

Debra Bell, MD, and Jennifer Blair, LAc, MaOM, see patients at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing – Abbott Northwestern outpatient clinic.


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Getting to know gluten – what’s up with this new food issue?

Gluten is a hot topic. If you’ve been wondering what all the buzz is about, consider attending “Getting to Know Gluten – What’s Up with this New Food Issue” at Kowalski’s Woodbury Market from 6:30-8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013.

This class will feature Greg Plotnikoff, MD, integrative medicine physician with the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing, and Sue Moores, Kowalski’s Nutritionist. They will discuss celiac disease versus non-celiac gluten sensitivity, the pros and cons of testing and elimination diets, and ideas for delicious gluten-free eating.

Register here.


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Top breast cancer fighting foods

Plotnikoff_Greg_webGregory Plotnikoff, MD, MTS, FACP, talked about top breast cancer fighting foods and how our diet contributes to estrogen metabolism, an important risk factor for breast cancer on KARE 11 news @4  on Wednesday. Watch the KARE 11 news segment to learn more.

Plotnikoff also will be a featured speaker at the Minnesota-based Breast Cancer Awareness Association’s 12th Annual Education Conference on Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013 at the Minneapolis Convention Center. The purpose of the event is to help anyone affected by breast cancer with treatment, survivorship and support.

Plotnikoff is a board-certified internist who has received numerous national and international honors for his work in integrative medicine. He practices at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing.


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Mindful eating for the real world

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Molly Ellefson (right) offers one-on-one integrative health and wellness coaching sessions.

By Molly Ellefson, MS, CHWC

Mindful eating, a concept based on Buddhist traditions, is a process of putting all your focus on the food you are eating. You eat slowly with no distractions, while noticing all the nuances of each bite: temperature, texture, flavors, and sensations in your body.

While this can be a powerful experience, most of us aren’t able to eat like this all of the time. Then, how do we eat mindfully in the real world?

In her book, “Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat,” Dr. Michelle May defines mindful eating as “eating with intention and attention.” When you eat with intention, there is a purpose for eating – to satisfy hunger, fuel your body and for enjoyment. When you eat with attention, you tune in to the sensations and flavors of what you are eating. You also pay attention to your body’s internal cues about satisfaction and fullness.

Here are six ways to build mindfulness into your meals:
1. Before you eat, take a minute to think about why you want to eat. Are you physically hungry, bored or are you eating by the clock?
2. Remember that true hunger is a physical sensation. Physical hunger can feel like an empty or shrinking feeling in your stomach. You may also feel the effects of low blood sugar, such as: irritability, trouble concentrating, light headed, nauseated, or have a headache.
3. When planning what to eat, think about what foods make you feel good physically. The goal of mindful eating is to feel better when you’re finished eating, not worse.
4. Consider balance when choosing what to eat. What does your body need and what have you already eaten? Do you need vegetables, fruit, protein, carbs or fat?
5. Think about what foods make you feel satisfied and allow yourself to have them. Remember that satisfaction is both mental and physical. Deprivation of our favorite foods rarely works. How many times have you said to yourself, “I’m never having ice cream again,” only to find eating a pint of Häagen-Daaz two weeks later.
6. While eating, pause periodically. Put your fork down, take a couple of deep breaths and check in with your body and your taste-buds. Notice if you feel any sensations in your stomach or if the food is starting to lose its luster. If we pay attention, even when eating our favorite foods, we may notice that things become too salty, sweet, creamy, etc.

Try one or two of these tips at your next meal. You may notice that you feel much more satisfied when you eat when truly hungry and eat the foods that make you feel satisfied. If you balance eating for nutrition with eating for pleasure, you are eating mindfully. Eating is one of life’s great pleasures – just make sure it isn’t the only one!

Molly Ellefson, MS, CHWC, is an Integrative health and wellness coach with the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing’s LiveWell Fitness Center. She will be teaching the eight-session “Am I hungry?® Mindful Eating Workshop,” based on May’s book, starting Sept. 25. Learn more about the class.


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Learning to forgive

I had an amazing opportunity this morning to meet with another healer, Mary Hayes Grieco, who specializes in helping people learn to forgive.

Many of you appreciate how the mind, body and spirit work together to affect our health. Perhaps you also know that science has proven that certain emotions can change the neurotransmitters our brain produces to influence which hormones and chemicals our body produces. It’s amazing to me to see how resentment, anger, frustration and regret can lead to disease.

The Penny George Institute for Health and Healing’s own Greg Plotnikoff, MD, recently wrote, “Trust Your Gut.” The book explains how our mental well-being can influence the flora our gut produces and whether we experience irritable bowel syndrome.

As a cardiologist, I have seen numerous patients who manifest their frustrations at home and work as chest pain.

Unfortunately, no amount of statins, stents, or even transplants, takes away that pain, but forgiveness often does. In fact, there is a lot of research to show that the act of forgiving has countless health benefits. That sounds simple, but the real challenge lies in learning how to forgive.

How many of us harbor resentment towards someone or a situation that we feel wronged us? We may need to learn to forgive a person, a job, a situation, ourselves … who knows? It can be really difficult, and it helps to remember that forgiving doesn’t mean stating there wasn’t wrong doing. Instead, forgiving is letting go of the negativity that continues to ruminate within us and can lead to physical consequences.

When we let go of grudges and stop being bitter, we find room for compassion, kindness, peace and, most importantly, healing. Forgiveness has been shown to:

  • foster healthier relationships
  • increase spiritual and psychological well-being
  • decrease anxiety and stress
  • lower blood pressure
  • improve depression
  • lower the risk of alcohol and substance abuse.

I challenge you to try to let go of something today that has been holding you back! If you feel you want some more support to do that, I suggest checking out one of Mary’s books, “Unconditional Forgiveness: A Simple and Proven Method to Forgive Everyone and Everything,” and “Be A Light: Illumined Essays for Times Like These.”

Recently, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to hear the Dalai Lama speak at the “Change Your Mind, Change the World” conference in Madison, Wis.

I leave you with a famous quote from him. When asked what surprised him most about humanity, he said, “Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”

Here’s to the present, forgiveness, and letting go of the past.

Be well,
Dr. Baechler


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Can you trust your gut?

by Gregory A. Plotnikoff, MD, MTS, FACP

As an integrative medicine physician, I want to address something that may be deeply important to you or someone you care about. At least 40 million Americans suffer from this. It is the leading cause of missing work and missing life. Yet, very few want to talk about it. I’m talking about bloating, cramping, diarrhea, constipation and gas. Not the usual topics of polite conversation!

The millions who suffer with gut distress often feel shame, self-doubt, despair and even hopelessness. Where do they turn after they have been scoped, scanned and even medicated yet aren’t any better? Far too often I hear from patients, “you are my last hope.”

Thankfully, as a physician at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing Outpatient Clinic in Minneapolis, I have the opportunity to teach people how to master their mind-gut connection. While gut distress can disrupt life, its symptoms are the body’s form of intelligence. The question is, “Are we willing and able to listen?”

This was an important lesson from time I spent in Japan. The Japanese are constantly listening to their gut, to their hara, the center of one’s being or life. Today what we in the U.S. tend to do — or in many cases what we are told to do — is mask this intelligence. We medicate symptoms and hide the real issues.

We clinicians at the Penny George Institute believe in skills, not pills. We teach self-sufficiency, foster personal responsibility and affirm the power of accessing one’s inner healer. We as a team ask different questions. We take different approaches. And we witness great results.

Just ask Jennifer*, a young woman who had been disabled by gut distress. She had a complete medical workup at a world famous medical clinic which revealed that she was “fine.” The result left her drained of money and hope. She gave up on medicine, withdrew socially, feared eating, and spent way too many days curled up, in pain, under the sheets, in her bed.

When we met her, she was distressed, frustrated and had given up. We expressed our great joy that she came to our clinic and our sincere desire to be helpful.

For Jennifer, our approach included advanced testing that resulted in finding markedly abnormal gut biology and function. We customized an approach to rebalance and normalize her intestinal ecology. This was an important, but didn’t solve everything. Her gut remained quite sensitive. However, with additional mind-gut mastery skills, she reported recently, “my mind is in a much better place. I feel like I have much more control. … Instead of curling up in bed, I have the urge to go out and do things.”

At the Penny George Institute, we partner and draw upon many resources to make such inspirational stories possible. We create a customized action plan to help you once again experience life more fully and comfortably.

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*Jennifer’s real name has not been used to protect her privacy.
Gregory A. Plotnikoff, MD, MTS, FACP, is a board certified internist and pediatrician at the Penny George Institute. He is an editor of Global Advances in Health and Medicine and co-author of the book Trust Your Gut (Conari, 2013), which focuses on the latest science of gut-brain interactions. Appointments with him are available with a physician referral at 612-863-3333.