Is Sitting Bad For My Back?

 A major manufacturer of workstations reports that 86% of work computer users have to sit all day, and when they do rise from sitting, more than half (56%) use food as the excuse to get up and move. In addition to sitting at work, for meals, and commuting to/from work, 36% sit another one to two hours watching TV, 10% sit one to two hours for gaming, 25% sit one to two hours for reading/lounging, and 29% use their home computer for one to two hours. In summary, the average American sits for thirteen hours a day and sleep for eight hours. That’s a total of 21 hours a day off their feet!


The manufacturer’s survey also notes 93% of work computer users don’t know what “Sitting Disease” is but 74% believe that sitting too much can lead to an early death. “Sitting Disease” represents the ill-effects of an overly sedentary lifestyle and includes conditions like “metabolic syndrome” (obesity and diabetes), which is rapidly becoming more prevalent, especially in the young – even in adolescence and teenagers! Recently, the American Medical Association (AMA) adopted a policy encouraging employers, employees, and others to sit less citing the many risks associated with sitting including (but not limited to): diabetes, cancer, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. Standing is SO MUCH BETTER as it burns more calories than sitting, tones muscles, improves posture, increases blood flow, reduces blood sugar, and improves metabolism. Standing is frequently overlooked as “an exercise” and it’s both simple and easy to do!


So, what about the low back and sitting? You guessed it – sitting is hard on the back! The pressure inside of our disks, those “shock absorbers” that lie between each vertebra in our spine (22 disks in total) is higher when we sit compared with simply standing or lying down. It’s estimated that when we lay down, the pressure on our disks is the lowest at 25mm. When lying on one side, it increases to 75mm, standing increases disk pressure to 100mm, and bending over from standing pushes disk pressure to 220mm. When we sit with good posture, our disk pressure may reach 140mm but that can increase to 190mm with poor posture. To help relieve the pressure on our disks, experts recommend:
  1. Getting up periodically and standing
  2. Sitting back in your chair and avoiding slouched positions
  3. Placing a lumbar roll (about the size of your forearm) behind the low back and chair/car seat
  4. Changing your position frequently when sitting.


Because certain low back conditions “favor” one position over another, these suggestions may need modification. For example, most herniated disk patients prefer low back extension while bending over or slouching hurts. In those with lumbar sprain/strains, bending forwards usually feels good and extension hurts. Modifying your position to the one that is most comfortable is perhaps the best advice.  And of course, sit less and move more whenever possible!


Stefan Herold, DC, DACNB


Stay cool as a cucumber in the heat — with cooling foods!

Temperatures are creeping up, and if you’re in the Northwest like me, you’ve probably been working hard to stay cool.  Did you know that foods and herbs greatly impact your body temperature?  Chinese Medicine has relied on the energetic properties of foods for thousands of years – food is the most basic form of herbal medicine!

Understanding the temperature properties of foods can help you stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter.  Cooling foods can also help you manage hot disorders, such as anxiety, constipation, irritability, reflux, and headaches; while warming foods can alleviate cold symptoms, like loose stool, fatigue, low libido, swelling and bloating.  Check the food list below to see if you tend to eat more “hot” or “cold” foods.

It’s important to keep in mind that the properties of foods stay true regardless of whether they are served hot or cold.  Thus, hot green tea is still cooling to our bodies, while an iced coffee ultimately adds heat to our systems.  Similarly, braised spinach is cooler than chocolate ice cream!

Peruse the food list below, check the weather forecast before your next grocery run, and see what you notice when you start applying the energetics of food.  For more help managing your temperature or treating temperature related issues, come get some Chinese herbs on board!


Cooling Foods:

Green leafy veggies, Green tea, Kelp, Kiwi, Lemon, Lettuces, Loquat, Millet, Mung Beans, Mushrooms, Papaya, Pears, Peppermint, Persimmon, Radishes, Rhubarb, Salt, Seaweed, Sesame Oil, Soy Bean, Soy Milk, Spinach, Spirulina, Sprouts, Strawberry, Summer Squash, Swiss Chard, Tangerine, Tempeh, Tofu, Tomato, Water chestnut, Watercress, Watermelon, Wheat, White pepper, Yogurt

Neutral Foods:

Adzuki bean, Cabbage, Carrot, Cashew, Corn, Cow milk, Duck, Eggs, Figs, Fish, Goji Berries, Grapes, Honey, Kidney Beans, Lemon, Oats, Olives, Oyster, Peas, Plum, Pork, Potatoes, Rye, Saffron, Scallops, Shiitake mushrooms, String bean, Sunflower seeds, Sweet potato, Turnip

Warming Foods

Alcohol, Almonds, Basil, Beef, Black beans, Black pepper, Brown sugar, Butter, Cayenne, Cherry, Chestnut, Chicken, Chili pepper, Chives, Chocolate, Cinnamon, Clove, Cocoa, Coconut, Coffee, Coriander, Cumin, Dates, Dill, Dill seed, Eel, Fennel, Garlic, Ginger, Ginseng, Goat milk, Guava, Ham, Horseradish, Lamb, Leeks, Lentils, Lobster, Mussels, Mustard greens, Mustard seed, Nutmeg, Onions, Parsnips, Peach, Peanuts, Peppers, Pine nut, Pistachios, Pomegranate, Pumpkin, Quinoa, Raspberry, Rice, Rosemary, Shrimp, Spearmint, Spelt, Star of anise, Sugar, Tobacco, Turkey, Venison, Vinegar, Walnut, Wine

Guiding Concepts for Naturopathic Medicine – Hering’s Law of Cure

By Dr. Stephen Levy

Greetings readers! I am Dr. Stephen Levy, ND, LAc, LMT and I want to welcome you all back to the Portland Natural Health Blog. Today, I want to talk to you about Hering’s Law of Cure. I like to refer to this law as a map of the direction toward health; it helps guide me as I work with my patients so I know that the treatments I use are working. I’m blogging about this law to you readers so that you, too, can better understand your path towards health.

Hering’s Law of Cure states:

“From above downwards.
From within outwards.
From a more important organ to a less important one.
In the reverse order of their coming.”

Constantine Hering was a Homeopathic doctor who practiced in the mid 1800’s, and he is credited with this law of cure. (However, it should be noted that Hering was a student of Samuel Hahnemann who is the founder of Homeopathy, and Hahnemann himself introduced these concepts in his teachings.) These physicians observed from their practices this order to the healing process and passed this wisdom on to future generations so we too could understand the direction towards health and conversely the order of disease progression. While this law originates from the practice of Homeopathy it applies to all curative natural healing practices. As I explain its wisdom, we will see why this law is such an important concept for us to recognize.
“From above downwards.” This statement explains that we will see a progression of cure move in the direction from the top of the body downward toward the bottom of the body, or from the head to the feet. Symptoms that are being expressed in the upper aspects of the body will resolve first before symptoms in the lower aspects of the body resolve. Thus, for example, for a child with eczema on their face, torso, buttocks and legs, when the rash goes away it will clear from the face first, then the torso, then the buttocks and finally from the legs.
“ From within outwards.” Here Hering is telling us that the disease will leave the body from the most internal parts of the body before leaving the most external parts of the body. Conversely, when diseases progress, they do so from external organs to more internal organs. Let’s again use the above example of the child with eczema. If the child’s eczema is not treated at all or if it is improperly treated the disease will likely progress deeper into the body. We know that children with eczema commonly develop asthma later in childhood or adolescence. These very same children are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease as adults. The progression of disease has moved from the outer most organ; the skin, to a deeper organ; the lungs, to a still deeper organ; the heart and blood vessels. When this patient is treated properly with curative medicine we will see their cardiovascular issues resolve first, their asthma second and thirdly the eczema will resolve.
“From a more important organ to a less important one.” The most vital organs of will be cured before the less vital organs. This makes a lot of sense for it is only natural for healing to progress this way as a means for preserving life. I often think of symptoms of disease as messages which are alerting us to improper health. If the first message is ignored or inadequately addressed the following messages will become increasingly loud and dire. In our example of the child with eczema, the first message of disharmony acted on the skin, the second message of asthma acted on the lungs, and the third message acted on the heart and blood vessels. Relatively speaking, the skin is the least vital of these organs and the heart is the most vital of the three. When medicines are applied that are curative we should expect to the expression of cure move from the heart to the lungs to the skin.
“In the reverse order of their coming.” The symptoms which appear last are the first to go away when we heal and the symptoms that appear first are the last to go away. The disease process exits the body in the manner in which it entered it. Our working example of the child with eczema who became the teenager with asthma and the adult with heart disease will be cured in the reverse order. It is not uncommon that long forgotten symptoms from earlier in a patient’s life will return temporarily. This is a good sign. This means that we are moving in the right direction. This is the direction towards health.
I explained in my previous blog entry about The Principles of Naturopathy. Hering’s Law of Cure is a perfect example of the first principle; the healing power of nature. Here we see the order of direction of the natural healing process and we can follow it’s progress. Natural healing occurs in the reverse order of the disease, from the more vital organs to the least vital ones, from the most inward aspects to the most outward aspects and from the top down. Personally, I am in complete awe of the healing power of nature and humbled by its’ presence. It is ordered, simple, elegant, and observable. I invite you all to follow your healing path’s direction. Perhaps you too will see Hering’s Law of Cure embodied through your journey.

In Health and Healing…..


Nurturing the Environment

The Principles of Naturopathic Medicine

Dr. Stephen Levy, ND, LAc, LMT

Hello again! This is Dr. Stephen P. Levy here with you.

I want to tell you about what makes Naturopathic Doctors unique practitioners amongst all the other healing arts professions.  Commonly I am asked questions like “Am I like a ‘regul

ar’ doctor who can be a Primary Care Practitioner?”, “Can I write prescriptions?”, “Can I order lab tests?”, “Do I work with nutrition?” and many more similar questions.  The answer to these questions is Yes; I am a Primary Care Practitioner, I can write prescriptions for medications, herbs and supplements, I can order lab tests, I can do manipulations, I can perform minor surgical procedures, I use Homeopathy, and I work with nutrition.  All of these skills however do not make me unique when compared to other practitioners, for other professions can perform a variety of these skills as well.  What distinguishes Naturopaths from other healing arts professionals are the 6 Principles of Naturopathic Medicine.  These principles guide Naturopaths in ALL of our actions as we care for others and there is no other medical profession that I am aware of that has a guiding set of principles with which to work.  Let’s take a few moments to explore these 6 principles and understand their vital role in


1. The Healing Power of Nature – vis medicatrix naturae

Each of us has the ability to establish, maintain and restore health.  This is natural and it is achieved through the response of our individual life force.  As Naturopaths, it is our job to help aid this process as best as possible, remove any obstacles to the restoration of health, and support our patients in creating a healthy environment in which they can thrive.  There are many ways to achieve this through the multitude of skills we possess, and if we support our patients’ natural healing ability they will get better.

2. Identify and Treat the Cause – tolle causam

As physicians it is imperative to identify and treat the cause of dis-ease.  Often, symptoms are an expression of an attempt to heal but they are not the cause of the illness so treating symptoms is not curative.  The underlying root cause may be in the physical, mental-emotional or spiritual realms of a person’s being and we must locate this in order to affect a cure.  If we treat the cause of an illness, the symptoms will naturally resolve.  If a patient comes to me complaining of headaches and asks what I can give him for the headache, I will explain that first we must discover why they are getting headaches and then we can treat that cause and the headaches will resolve.

3. First Do No Harm – primum no nocere

All of our actions as physicians should be guided to help support and complement the natural healing life force of each individual.  We should not antagonize or suppress the healing life force because this will harm the patient.  Thus, for example, if we suppress a person’s symptoms without removing the cause of the illness we will damage a person’s vitality and drive the illness deeper into the body where it can do even more damage.  Obviously we must avoid harming our patients in all ways possible.

4. Treat the Whole Person – in perturbato animo sicut in corpore sanitas esse non potest

We are all complex multi-faceted individuals and all treatments should be directed to address the whole person.  This means that we cannot just treat the physical and ignore the mental, emotional, or spiritual aspects of individuals.  We must consider all of these aspects and address them equally if we expect to have a lasting curative effect.  Additionally we are all unique individuals and each of us deserves and requires individual treatment.  “Cookie-cutter” or “One size fits all” treatments are a dis-service to our patients potentially can do harm, and ignore the principle of treating the whole person and should therefore be avoided.

5. The Doctor as Teacher – docere

The Latin word docere means “to teach” and this is the root of the word doctor.   As Naturopathic Doctors, it is our responsibility to educate our patients about how to take responsibility and care for their own health.  We must empower, motivate and inform our patients to create health for themselves.  After all, we cannot be with our patients every hour of every day and ultimately the responsibility of each person’s health lies within them when they leave our office.  If we educate our patients about how to live more healthfully they will likely live in better health.  We as physicians can also teach through example and inspire our patients in this manner.  For this reason, we doctors must also make a concerted commitment to our own personal healthcare.  In doing so we build trust with our patients.

6. Prevention as Medicine – principiis obsta: sero medicina curatur

As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  Nothing could be truer and ultimately this is the goal of Naturopathic Medicine; to prevent dis-ease and illness.  Education and the promotion of healthy lifestyles are imperative to preventing illness.  If we focus our efforts on building health then we will have less need to fight dis-ease.  This approach can be extended from working with the individual patient to their families, the community, the nation and the planet.  Prevention as medicine can have a world-wide impact.

Every patient encounter I have as a Naturopath I am guided by these principles.  When I am uncertain of the correct course of action for a patient’s care I can rest assured that the answer lies within them.  The support I receive from these 6 principles is enormous.  The true gift, however, is the way these principles affect the patients who seek Naturopathic care.  The healing that follows from adhering to these Principles of Naturopathic Medicine is profound and life changing and this is the reason I became a Naturopathic doctor; to help others to heal.

Stay tuned for my next blog entry when I discuss the way in which we heal.


In Health and Healing,


Dr. Levy


21 Easy Steps to Great Posture

Source: American Chiropractic Association

We often hear that good posture is essential for good health. We recognize poor posture when we see it formed as a result of bad habits carried out over years and evident in many adults. But only few people have a real grasp of the importance and necessity of good posture.

Why is good posture important?

Good posture helps us stand, walk, sit, and lie in positions that place the least strain on supporting muscles and ligaments during movement and weight-bearing activities. Correct posture:

• Helps us keep bones and joints in correct alignment so that our muscles are used correctly, decreasing the abnormal wearing of joint surfaces that could result in degenerative arthritis and joint pain.
• Reduces the stress on the ligaments holding the spinal joints together, minimizing the likelihood of injury.
• Allows muscles to work more efficiently, allowing the body to use less energy and, therefore, preventing muscle fatigue.
• Helps prevent muscle strain, overuse disorders, and even back and muscular pain.

Several factors contribute to poor posture-most commonly, stress, obesity, pregnancy, weak postural muscles, abnormally tight muscles, and high-heeled shoes. In addition, decreased flexibility, a poor work environment, incorrect working posture, and unhealthy sitting and standing habits can also contribute to poor body positioning.


How do I sit properly?

• Keep your feet on the floor or on a footrest, if they don’t reach the floor.
• Don’t cross your legs. Your ankles should be in front of your knees.
• Keep a small gap between the back of your knees and the front of your seat.
• Your knees should be at or below the level of your hips.
• Adjust the backrest of your chair to support your low- and mid-back or use a back support.
• Relax your shoulders and keep your forearms parallel to the ground.
• Avoid sitting in the same position for long periods of time.


How do I stand properly?

• Bear your weight primarily on the balls of your feet.
• Keep your knees slightly bent.
• Keep your feet about shoulder-width apart.
• Let your arms hang naturally down the sides of the body.
• Stand straight and tall with your shoulders pulled backward.
• Tuck your stomach in.
• Keep your head level-your earlobes should be in line with your shoulders. Do not push your head forward, backward, or to the side.
• Shift your weight from your toes to your heels, or one foot to the other, if you have to stand for a long time.


What is the proper lying position?

• Find the mattress that is right for you. While a firm mattress is generally recommended, some people find that softer mattresses reduce their back pain. Your comfort is important.
• Sleep with a pillow. Special pillows are available to help with postural problems resulting from a poor sleeping position.
• Avoid sleeping on your stomach.
• Sleeping on your side or back is more often helpful for back pain.
• If you sleep on your side, place a pillow between your legs.
• If you sleep on your back, keep a pillow under your knees.


Your doctor of chiropractic can assist you with proper posture, including recommending exercises to strengthen your core postural muscles. He or she can also assist you with choosing proper postures during your activities, helping reduce your risk of injury. Both of the chiropractors at Portland Natural Health —  Athena Paradise, DC, and Stefan Herold, DC, DANCB, would be happy to help you with your posture! Call the front desk at 503-445-7767 if you’d like to schedule an appointment.


Why Would Dietitians Recommend Mini-Cans of Soda as a Good Choice for a Snack?

AKA, Be Aware of your Sources of Information


Dr. Stefan Herold, DC, DACNB

Board Certified Chiropractic Neurologist

First, what is a Registered Dietician?  The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ website says they are “the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals.  The Academy is committed to improving the nation’s health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education, and advocacy.”
According to their website, “Registered dietitian nutritionists – RDNs – are the food and nutrition experts who can translate the science of nutrition into practical solutions for healthy living.  RDNs use their nutrition expertise to help individuals make unique, positive lifestyle changes.  They work throughout the community in hospitals, schools, public health clinics, nursing homes, fitness centers, food management, food industry, universities, research and private practice.  RDNs are advocates for advancing the nutritional status of Americans and people around the world.” 
In other words, Registered Dietitians are serious nutrition experts.  So, why would some registered dietitians suggest a mini-can of cola as a snack?  In fact, according to an article in the Star Tribune“In February, several… experts wrote online posts for American Heart Month, with each including a mini-can of Coke or soda as a snack idea.  The pieces – which appeared on nutrition blogs and other sites including those of major newspapers – offer a window into the many ways food companies work behind the scenes to cast their products in a positive light, often with the help of third parties who are seen as trusted authorities.” 
The answer to this puzzling question can be found in a statement given to the Star Tribune by a Coca-Cola spokesperson, “We have a network of dietitians we work with… Every big brand works with bloggers or has paid talent.” 
The article also states, “Other companies including Kellogg and General Mills have used strategies like providing continuing education classes for dietitians, funding studies that burnish the nutritional images of their products, and offering newsletters for health experts.  PepsiCo Inc. has also worked with dietitians who mention its Frito-Lay and Tostito chips in local TV segments on healthy eating.  Others use nutrition experts in sponsored content; the American Pistachio Growers has quoted a dietitian for the New England Patriots in a piece on healthy snacks and recipes, and Nestle has quoted its own executive in a post about infant nutrition.” 
In other words, it seems like these dieticians are getting paid to endorse a product that may not necessarily benefit the health of the people in their audience.  Everyone knows celebrities and athletes get paid a tremendous amount of money to endorse all kinds of things, including junk food.  Many times top athletes are paid more in endorsement deals than they make playing their sport, but is it really appropriate for certified nutrition experts to get paid to write about nutritional advice that may benefit their sponsors more than their readers?
Food for thought.  (Or in this case, maybe edible product masquerading as food for thought would be more appropriate.)

Acupuncture and the Lesson of Impermanence

By Anne Carruth, Acupuncturist and Chinese Medicine Practitioner

As an acupuncturist,

I am regularly asked how I got into Chinese medicine.  I think people assume that I had an awe-inspiring acupuncture treatment that jump-started me onto this path.  Or perhaps a longtime fascination with Chinese culture that evolved into a study of Chinese medicine.  Truth be told, I leapt into acupuncture almost by default, and wound up learning how to both wield needles, and embrace the ebb and flow of life.

Back in the day, I was searching for a complete and holistic style of healthcare.  One that emphasized preventative medicine and physical touch, and focused just as much on a patient’s emotional stress, lifestyle, and diet, as it did on their physical symptoms.  When I wasn’t finding this in traditional western medicine, I visited a rolfing institute, toured a Buddhist liberal arts campus, researched nutrition programs, and personal trainer certifications.  I pin-balled from one option to the next, but it wasn’t until I stumbled upon the Colorado School for Traditional Chinese Medicine that I found a path I truly resonated with.  The program encompassed everything Iwas looking for in healthcare, so I decided to trust the universe and jump in.

That was ten years ago, and my work as an acupuncturist has proven to be immensely fulfilling.  Chinese medicine is an incredible field that has educated me on disease processes, herbal remedies, acupuncture points, meridian theory, nutrition, the management of stress, pain, emotions, and more.   But the most valuable lesson acupuncture has taught me, is that of impermanence.  I see it in both my patients and myself every day, and it has changed the way I view my life and my health.

Acupuncture ultimately boils down to movement.Our bodies and minds are constantlymoving, thinking, responding, adjusting, pumping blood, breathing air, taking in fueland excreting waste.  My role as an acupuncturist is to enhance wellbeing by balancing these movements in the body.  Stagnation of qi, blood, or fluidswithin us allows for pain and disease processes to set up.  Acupuncture prevents stagnation by promoting the smooth, even movement of these thingswithinour bodies.  In fact, the only time we are ever static is when we die.  Wellness = Movement = Impermanence.Thus, we are impermanent.  We are constantly changingand so is the world around us. And acknowledging that you are impermanent – thateverything isa balancing act, a cycle, a flow – is as liberating as it is motivating.


Impermanence means thateverythingyou are experiencing right now –in your mind, body, and environment -will change.  Negativethings will eventually shift, good can become great, and great cannot be taken for granted. It means that poor health can always be improved upon, and that good health needs continual support to remain good.Knowing that everything I am right now will evolve, motivates me to set positive intentions, and gives me solace when things aren’t going as planned.  Impermanence provides opportunities to improve all aspects of your life.

Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine have given me knowledge about healthcare in all the ways I was hoping for, but more importantly, they have taught me that we are truly impermanent, that we are constantly changing, and that life is supposed to work this way!

So, in my professional opinion, I recommend that you:

  • Embrace change!
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff…it’s not permanent.
  • Set intentions to move forward in all aspects of your life.  Don’t let anything get too stagnant.
  • Remember that it’s never too late to start.
  • Be present.  THIS moment only happens once.
  • And smile.  It just makes everything better  🙂



Welcome to the Portland Natural Health Blog

By Dr. Stephen Levy, LAc, ND, LMT

On behalf of the practitioners and staff at Portland Natural Health, 

I am pleased to welcome you to our new blog. My name is Dr. Stephen Levy and I am a Naturopath, an Acupuncturist and a Massage Therapist.  As a Primary Care Provider, the areas of focus in my practice include Family Medicine, Pediatrics, Men’s Health, Digestive Health and Mental-Emotional Wellness.  In case you are not familiar with the Portland Natural Health family, we are a collective of practitioners consisting of Chiropractors, Naturopaths, Acupuncturists, Osteopaths, Massage Therapists, Physical Therapists and Nutritionists.

We’ve initiated this blog as a forum to discuss pertinent health topics that are relevant to our patients and readers.  It is our hope that through these discussions we may help educate and inform you in a way that leads to your healthfulness.  Contributors to this blog will include a variety of diverse practitioners from our family and we will cover a wide array of topics from week to week.  In one installment we may discuss the latest developments in cancer treatment, in another we may describe what a “well balanced diet” means and in a third we may share recipes from our favorite meals.

I would like to invite you all to get to know us better through our Spring Lecture Series, happening this month at Portland Natural Health (1221 SE Madison Street).  In this series, several of practitioners will be speaking about a topic of special interest to them and their patients.  You are invited to come and listen and meet our practitioners on any or all of the lectures, and best of all…it’s free! Currently, we have lectures scheduled on Tuesday 5/19 from 6:30-8pm and Wednesday 5/27 from 12-1pm, with the possibility of more being added. Please come and enjoy this opportunity with us.

On a personal note, on Tuesday 5/19 from 6:30-8 I will be presenting a discussion about Detoxification.  Have you ever wanted to do a Spring Clean/Detox?  Are you uncertain on where to begin or what to do?  I will speak about why a spring detoxification is beneficial for your health.  Additionally I will describe what it means to do a detox and what this might involve for those who choose to participate in this revitalizing treatment.  Furthermore, I will share with you how to go about choosing a detox plan that works for you.  Come and listen or bring questions you have about doing a Spring Detoxification.  I hope to see you there.

Lastly, I want to thank you for reading this Blog.  Stay tuned for more entries to come and join us at Portland Natural Health in this journey towards health.

In Health and Healing,

Dr. Levy