Stress – Why is it Important and How can I Calm it Down?

Tensions are high in our country right now. Across the board I am seeing higher stress levels. So, I want to talk about stress. What is it? How can it effect your body? Why does it need to be addressed? How can it be mitigated?

When a stressful event occurs our bodies pump out three main hormones. Epinephrine and Norephinephrine (aka adrenaline and noradrenaline), and cortisol. Our epinephrine and norephinephrine are sent out immediately, within seconds, so that if we are truly in danger, we can get our bodies moving fast to get out of the situation. Cue racing heart, increased respiration, heightened senses, and a shut down of nonessential functions (digestion, immunity, sex hormone production). Then cortisol elevates over the next few minutes to allow for a sustained response. Great! You were able to get yourself out of a dangerous situation. . . but not so great if the external stress that caused these hormones to rise is ever present. Bills to pay, a high-pressure job, endless tasks at home, taking care of kids, or fear of an uncertain political and social climate.

When these hormones remain elevated, there is a disruption in the body’s balance between sympathetic (fight or flight) and parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous systems. This leads to insomnia, digestive issues (IBS etc), anxiety, depression, headaches, difficulty concentrating, musculoskeletal tension/pain, and irritability. Long term activation of the sympathetic nervous system then leads to chronic health conditions as the body is not able to properly repair. One of the first things I work with patients on is to help manage stress and support their stress response system.

This could mean nervine herbs (herbs that help calm the nervous system), adaptogenic herbs (herbs that help the body adapt to stress), or it could mean vitamins or minerals that target the stress response system and help relax the body. This could also mean meditation, deep breathing, exercise, or diet changes (including slowing down how quickly we eat). No matter the individual protocol, calming down a person’s stress response system, or building it back up if they are exhausted, is step number one in restoring balance to their body. This in turn allows the body to start healing from health crises, from headaches to digestive issues, from diabetes to chronic pain. This does not mean that a chronic condition doesn’t have other factors contributing. We often still need to co-treat for pain, digestion, diabetes, anxiety, or depression. It simply means that uncontrolled stress can lead to chronic health conditions.

You can help decrease your stress today. Start by looking at the stress in your life. Some of it is unavoidable, but there are steps that can be taken to mitigate stress. Say no to that gathering you don’t really want to go to. Go to bed an hour earlier instead of watching that show. Turn off the news. Let your laundry pile up to give yourself some free time. Smile more. Laugh more. Dance more. Do anything that makes you happy more. Start a meditation practice. Express gratitude.

Decreasing stress starts with taking a look at your daily habits. Think about where you can make a small change to lighten your load and give to yourself.

Columbia River Natural Medicine will Reopen for In-Office Appointments on Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Making the right decision on when to reopen is difficult. With Governor Brown’s lift on non-urgent procedures, and our ability to effectively provide a healthy office and workspace, we feel it will be most beneficial to our patients to again offer in-person appointments. We will open again for in-office appointments starting May 5, 2020. We are so excited to start seeing some of our patients in person again! Our main focus, however, is to protect your health. We have measures in place to minimize risk as much as possible, with additional sanitizing practices, and screening questions.

Please DO NOT come to the office if you have, or have had any of the following symptoms in the last two weeks: cough, shortness of breath, fever, sore throat, loss of smell or taste, chills, repeated chills with shaking, headache, or muscle pain. Of course, if some of these symptoms (like headaches/muscle pain) are chronic conditions we have been working on, these symptoms may be fine, but we will need to discuss this prior to your appointment. This requirement is to protect the health of our staff and patients. If you have had any of the symptoms listed above, we will still be available for video appointments.

When you come to the office, please wear your own mask, in whatever form you have been using when in public, via the CDC recommendation for face covering. You will also be required to use the provided hand sanitizer when you enter the office. Then we ask that you check your temperature with a provided thermometer. If your temperature is 100 degrees or higher, we will ask that you reschedule your appointment for a later date, or choose a video appointment. Additionally, we will ask that when you arrive in our parking lot, you call our office prior to entering. If there are no other patients in the office, you may enter at that time. If there is another patient inside, we will call you back when the office is empty again to appropriately socially distance.

As always, please call our office (503-410-3134) with any questions, especially regarding the new policies.

Clinic Coronavirus Update

As Oregon’s schools prepare to close early for spring break to try to dampen the spread of the pandemic covid-19, I want to share what we are doing at our clinic to stay safe and prepared.

Currently, I am still open, but am screening all patients for possible symptoms of coronavirus. Please stay home if you have a cough, shortness of breath, or a fever. Please also stay home if you are in close contact with someone who has these symptoms.

There will be NO CANCELLATION FEES for canceling your appointment late due to illness. Please stay home and keep yourself and your families healthy.

In office, my patients will be required to use a hand sanitizer with over 60% alcohol and/or wash their hands for 20 seconds prior to and after visits. I will be doing the same. I am also making sure to increase how frequently we sanitize objects touched frequently, such as door knobs.

I am currently taking steps to move toward telemedicine appointments as needed as the cases of coronavirus continue to climb in Oregon.

Please stay safe and healthy. There are no known medicines to prevent or treat coronavirus at this time. The best medicine in this case is prevention through proper hand washing and social isolation.

Methods to help your immune system function optimally should include eating healthy foods, avoiding excess sugar and alcohol, getting proper sleep, and managing stress. I know it is difficult right now to effectively manage stress with all of the fear associated with this outbreak. Take precautions as calmly as possible, but please do take precautions. Please consider sanitizing objects you touch frequently, including your cell phone. Additional immune support can include zinc, vitamin C, elderberry, and echinacea. If you have further questions about how to properly support your immune system, please call to set up an appointment.

If you have further questions about how to stay safe during the outbreak, visit the CDC website.

Blood Sugar Management

As Halloween approaches, are those sugar cravings sneaking up to haunt you?

How can we get through these sweet-filled days without completely ruining our blood sugar management? When you eat something sweet, your blood sugar increases (hyperglycemia). This is made worse if the sugar isn’t packaged with lots of fiber (aka it is a fruit). The more sugar you eat, the higher your blood sugar can go (cue the candy bar). The body pumps out insulin to tell the organs to uptake that sugar. Then comes the sugar crash (rebound hypoglycemia), where the body over-corrects and your blood sugar swings low. Here come the tantrums and fits, and I don’t means just from children! Ever heard of being hangry? This is what low blood sugar can do. People often have major symptoms, including anxiety, anger, depressive episodes, irritability, and dizziness from high or low blood sugar. If your blood sugar is out of balance on a regular basis, this leads to type II diabetes. So . . .

The goal is to KEEP YOUR BLOOD SUGAR STABLE! And how do you do that?

  • Eat something fatty! Often sugar cravings pop up because our blood sugar is oscillating from high to low and back again all day long. This happens in direct response to eating quick sugar foods. Try instead eating a scoop of almond butter, some salami, turkey slices, olives, an avocado, or some veggies with guacamole. These fats can help stabilize blood sugar.
  • Eat berries! They can help stabilize your blood sugar. Plus, if you freeze your berries and eat them as an after dinner snack, it can feel more like a treat. I also offer up frozen grapes as an option for my patients, as they are a little sweeter, so if the sugar craving is strong, sometimes they provide more satisfaction.
  • Fiber – picking fruits (or better yet, veggies!) over candies and other sugary treats helps to stabilize blood sugar because of their fiber content. Fruits are also packed with antioxidants and nutrients to fuel your body. JUICE DOES NOT COUNT! Juice is the sugar of the fruits without all the fiber to slow down digestion and stabilize blood sugar.
  • Eat regularly throughout the day. Eat healthy balanced meals throughout the day to keep your blood sugar stable. That way you are not reaching for a treat as a pick me up during your day.
  • Stay hydrated. It is easy to think you are hungry when, in fact, you are thirsty. Before reaching for a treat, drink a glass of water!

If the above ideas don’t help curb your sugar monster, there are other ways to help. You could try limiting yourself to one treat or space out how often you eat sweets. Other factors effecting blood sugar include amount of sleep and stress management. So of course, if you need extra support with blood sugar management, call your naturopathic doctor, herbalist, or acupuncturist.

Everyone needs a treat once in a while, but if we eat them all the time, our blood sugar becomes so out of balance that our hanger comes out! Don’t let the Halloween sugar monster get you!

Wild Feminine Book Club

Wild Feminine – Finding Power, Spirit, and Joy in the Female Body – by Tami Kent

Wow! What a powerful message in this time when the female body seems to be under attack. Wild Feminine teaches about where the female body meets the energetic world. The body has an amazing ability to heal and transform a multitude of symptoms, from pelvic pain to decreased libido to trauma recovery. This book helps us tap into the healing power of our bodies! This book club series will provide a safe space to tap into your core feminine essence. We will work together to shift core patterns, boundaries, and transform the way we receive energy and give birth to our creations.

I am Dr. Heather Sorber, a Naturopathic Doctor, practitioner of Holistic Pelvic Care, and facilitator of this book club. I am primarily interested in gathering with other women to learn how to express our full feminine and creative range.

Wild Feminine provides the roadmap for beautifully transformative work that takes time to process, so it will be held in 7 sessions, over 7 months. Sessions will be at 10 am for about 2 hours, with tea and goodies provided. Location: Columbia River Natural Medicine office. 1510 St. Helens Street, Saint Helens OR 97051

Gather with me to learn more about the creative energy flow of the female body.

Session 1, August 24, 2019: Beginning your Journey

Explore the landscape of the female pelvis physically, energetically, and spiritually

Session 2, September 21, 2019: Exploring Your Feminine Ground

Establish new body patterns and open the path to healing to create the life you want.

Session 3, October 19, 2019: Embodying Your Womanhood

Restoring our sacred center and learning to honor the female body

Session 4, November 16, 2019: Expressing Your Wild Feminine

How can we tend our creative fires?

Session 5, January 11, 2020: Returning to the Mother Place

Honor the ebb and flow of our cycles and give life to heartfelt creations

Session 6, February 1, 2020: Transforming Your Inheritance

Emotional patters, boundaries, agreements, and patterns handed down through lineage

Session 7, February 22, 2020: Discover Your Full Feminine Range

Acknowledge our sacred identity and identify and manifest desires.

Email us to sign up:

Please include your NAME, PHONE NUMBER, and EMAIL ADDRESS

Spring Cleaning and Liver function

Happy Spring everyone!

Most people do some form of Spring Cleaning, but I want to take a deeper look at what spring cleaning might mean for our bodies. Spring is the time when leafy greens start growing – when we would traditionally be eating salads and cleansing herbs. In Chinese medicine, springtime is related to the element of wood, which is associated with the liver and gallbladder. Our livers are one of our most important organs, and are often described as a filter for toxins. The liver is SO much more than a filter though! It processes proteins/fats/carbs and hormones. It is an organ of elimination and is where many substances are processed through phase I and phase II detoxification. Phase I and Phase II detox require b vitamins, antioxidants (vitamin C, vitamin E, glutathione), amino acids, and sulphur compounds (found in cruciferous vegetables and onions/garlic) to turn toxins into water soluble compounds that can be eliminated from our bodies. Good nutrition is key to healthy liver functioning and spring cleaning the body!

Additionally, the liver is the emotional seat of anger and frustration. If you notice these emotions coming up often, you may need a cleanse. They also come up when we need more time to process our emotions, as the liver is the organ of processing. Focusing some time in the spring on releasing emotions, meditating, or just taking some quiet time to yourself can drastically improve feelings of liver qi stagnation. Feelings of anger, frustration, and stagnation that are often caused by STRESS.  So don’t forget that REST is an important part of letting the body process, detox, and heal.

Speaking of rest . . . in Chinese medicine, Gallbladder time is from 11am-1am and Liver time is from 1am-3 am. I often see people with liver processing issues who wake up around 2-3 am. It is important to notice these changes in our bodies so we can do something to address them.

Having a happy liver is more and more difficult in this world, but do the best you can to help your body process the toxins you come in contact with. Get the sleep you need. Meditate. Rest. Eat leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, kale, brussel sprouts, cabbage, arugula, etc.), onions, and garlic. Drink adequate water for your body size. And, perhaps most importantly, pay attention to emotions of frustration and anger – they may point to imbalances that need addressed.

Self Love for Valentines Day

Make loving yourself a priority this Valentine’s Day!

We are bogged down in the world we live by all the ways we are imperfect, by all the things we should do and be. We cannot do and be everything. All we can be is ourselves. If everyone felt free enough to act like their own unique self, maybe we would be more understanding, appreciative, and accepting of differences. We don’t have to be the same, or be perfect, or be something we are not. That is why I am making it a priority to love myself for exactly who I am this Valentine’s Day. I am going to do some self care, and encourage you to do the same! Take a bath, get a massage, meditate, write, read, dance . . . do anything that feels good to you and makes your body, mind, and spirit feel happy!

Loving yourself for all that you are is the number one way you can start to improve your health!

A Fresh Take on Chronic Pain

I attended a conference on chronic pain last weekend which gave me a fresh perspective on the topic. It left me thinking about the prevalence of chronic pain, with 100 million Americans affected each year (about 1/3 of the population!) (Reuben et al., 2012). It also left me thinking about pain as relates to addiction and fear.

The first presenter of the day was a nurse who shared her personal experience with drug and alcohol addiction. She went through rehab twice and has been off of prescription pain medications for 13 years. What sticks with me most about her presentation is how she refers to herself as a person who has the disease of addiction and alcoholism, not as an alcoholic or an addict. She is a person first, as are other people who have the disease of addiction. Also, this distinction highlights the fact that addiction is a disease. There are neurological and genetic components to addiction as well as psychological, social, and spiritual aspects. People need help and this can come in the form of correct treatment, but also in the form of compassion.

Addiction is often overlooked when addressing chronic pain, but fear is another overlooked component: Fear of getting worse or living with the current pain forever, fear of changing or decreasing medications, and fear of trying something new, especially when current pain levels are finally at a manageable level. Fear is real, just as pain is real, and is a component of pain management that needs addressed.

Chronic pain is pervasive in our society, and has been approached from one direction for years. Oral opioids. (Codeine, hydrocodone/vicodin, morphine, oxycodone/percocet, hydromorphone/dilaudid, fentanyl/duragesic) Opioid therapy has good evidence for short term use (4-8 weeks), but little evidence for long term use (Manchikanti, L et al, 2012). Despite this fact, opioids are most commonly used long term. Other options for pain management exist. Herbs, homeopathy, physical medicine, massage, movement, topical medications, topical herbs, etc. can be used to great benefit. No one deserves to suffer, and with so many options for addressing different types of pain, why get stuck with opioids as the only option? This is not to say that opioids do not have a place in health care, but they are highly addictive, and overdose with opioids (prescription and heroin) led to 28,000 deaths in 2014. At least half of these were from prescription drugs. Since 1999 the number of opioid prescriptions written and the number of opioid related overdose deaths has nearly quadrupled (

My goals for people with chronic pain are to decrease pain, moving toward a pain free life, and to address fears, addiction, and overprescribing by doing the following:

  • Determine and treat the underlying cause of pain
  • Address the neuroemotional, social, and psychological aspects of pain
  • Optimize overall health, and
  • Decrease or eliminate prescription drug use
1. Manchikanti L et al. (2012). American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians (ASIPP) guidelines for responsible opioid prescribing in chronic non-cancer pain: Part I –evidence assessment. Pain Physician, Jul;15(3Suppl):S1-65.
2. Reuben DB et al. (2015). National Institutes of Health Pathways to Prevention Workshop: the role of opioids in the treatment of chronic pain. Ann Intern Med, Feb 17;162(4):295-300.
Also see the following site for more information:

What is applied kinesiology?

Applied kinesiology is a technique based on Chinese medicine that correlates muscles in the body to organs, glands, and acupuncture meridians. By manually testing specific muscles, the practitioner can locate structural, chemical, and mental-emotional imbalances in the body. Muscle testing is also used to identify the proper means for correcting such imbalances. In applied kinesiology, the triad of health (structure, biochemistry, and emotions) are the three main factors that contribute to optimal well-being. An imbalance in any of these three factors can effect the other two. Applied kinesiology combines Chinese medicine, chiropractic, herbs, nutrition, and other treatment types (based on each practitioners’ specialty) to direct treatment to any aspect of the triad. This allows the practitioner to provide the most effective treatment for each individual patient.

For more information on applied kinesiology, visit the ICAK website here.

Vitamin D – Bring on the Sunshine!

As summer winds down, here is a brief overview of the sunshine vitamin. The very important hormone-like Vitamin D.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin with a similar structure to bodily hormones. Unlike other vitamins, vitamin D can be produced by the body, requiring exposure to sunlight. Like hormones, vitamin D regulates genetic expression. Vitamin D acts on the intestines, bones, and kidneys to maintain stable levels of calcium in the blood, and improves absorption and utilization of calcium and phosphorous. This provides benefits for bone health, regulation of blood pressure, maintenance of a stable nervous system, and normal heart action.

Overt vitamin D deficiency manifests as rickets (softening of bone and seizures) in children, and osteomalacia (demineralization of bone) in adults. Low levels of vitamin D can contribute to many other chronic diseases including hypertension, respiratory and cardiovascular problems, musculoskeletal disorders, inflammatory disorders including psoriasis and cancer, and decreased immune regulation, leading to autoimmune diseases and/or decreased resistance to infection.

The biologically active form of the vitamin, as made by the body is Vitamin D3. Vitamin D2 exists in foods like mushrooms, fatty fish, egg yolk, liver, and fortified foods. The amount in foods is insufficient, especially for people with impaired digestion from conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, cystic fibrosis, ulcerative colitis, or Crohn’s disease.

The best way to obtain vitamin D is through exposure to sunlight. The amount of vitamin D made depends on the time of year, time of day, the latitude, how much skin is exposed, and how dark the person’s skin is at the time of exposure. With sunscreen on, people’s ability to absorb vitamin D is decreased by about 90%. That said, it is still important to protect yourself from too much sun exposure to prevent risk of skin cancer and early aging.

Current daily recommendations of vitamin D are controversial, ranging from 200-600 IU, or more. Supplementation may be necessary if blood levels are low, especially in the winter months in northern latitudes where exposure to the sun is far too low for optimal vitamin D production. Check with your medical provider about testing your serum vitamin D levels, especially if you have any conditions that could be affected by low levels.

For more information and current research on vitamin D, visit