December 2017 News

Greetings. We hope this message finds you well at the start of this holiday season.

End of year medicinary sale:

All medicinary items will be 20% off starting 12/4 and up until our last day in the office before Christmas, 12/21.  Cookbooks will be 50% off.

We also have gift certificates available if you are interested in treating a loved one to a craniosacral session this year.

Updated handouts on resources page:

We have updated and made a few tweaks to our Basic Treatment Guidelines and Basic Dietary Guidelines.  Visit our resources page and scroll down to “commonly used patient handouts” to see the changes and re-visit some of those important concepts that are an integral part of your treatment plan here.

A wonderful new resource in Bellingham:

We have recently been introduced to Laura McWilliams of Healthy Sparkle Home Cooking Services here in Bellingham.  Laura is a natural foods chef who is establishing her own business making healthy and affordable meals for people.  We thought we’d spread the word about her services as it seems like such a wonderful idea for patients who might be too busy to prepare their own meals every day, or for patients undergoing dietary changes who need some ideas and inspiration regarding what to eat.  Laura will come to you, and cook meals for you right in your own kitchen, either with groceries that you buy, or she can even shop for you.  Her services are very reasonably priced.  For more information, you can call Laura at 360-223-0884, visit her website here, or ask Dr. Van Dusen/Kim for a flier.

Winter vacation dates:

We will be out of the office 12/22-1/1, 1/15, and 2/16-25 for the holidays and some winter ski trips.  Please plan accordingly if you need a visit, prescription or medicinary refills. Thank you.

See you soon.  Happy holidays!

June 2017 News

Greetings and happy summer!  Subjects in this newsletter include new craniosacral package deals, schedule changes for Dr. Van Dusen and Kim, summer vacation dates and reviews/testimonials.

Craniosacral packages:

We are now offering package discounts for craniosacral sessions: patients can now purchase 4 60 minute sessions up front for $275 or 4 90 minute sessions up front for $375.  This reflects a 15% discount from our usual rate.  The visits must be used within 1 calendar year from the date of purchase.

Upcoming schedule changes:

Starting 7/17 we will revert back to our old schedule of M, W 9-12 and 1-3, and T, TH 1-6. Essentially this is just swapping our Wednesday and Thursday hours.

Kim’s hours will reduce slightly for the summer.  She will now be in from 1 hour after the start of until the end of appointment hours, instead of during all appointment hours.  Her hours will be 10-12 and 1-3 on our early days (M, TH for now, and M, W after 7/17) and 2-6 on our late days (T, W now and T, TH after 7/17).

Summer vacation dates:

We will be out of the office for 3 weeks during August/September in celebration of Dr. Van Dusen’s wedding.  We will be out from 8/11 through 9/3.  Please plan accordingly if you will be needing medicinary refills or a visit.


We are hoping to update the testimonials page on our website with some fresh ones, and always love having current Google and Yelp reviews; it’s amazing how many patients find us this way and choose us because of this!  If you are moved to write a testimonial for the website, you can always email it to Kim or Dr. Van Dusen and we will post it.  If you are moved to write an on-line review you can search for Jessica Van Dusen, ND on Google Maps and write a review there, and likewise on Yelp.

Thanks and have a great summer!

December 2016 News

Important News at Vital Source Natural Medicine

Happy Holidays!  We hope this letter finds you all well!

End of year medicinary sale:

All medicinary items will be 20% off up until our last day in the office before Christmas, 12/21.  Teas and cookbooks, or any items within 3 months of expiration will be 50% off. Come stock up!

New virtual medicinary sites:

We are excited to offer 2 new virtual medicinary sites that will replace our old Emerson Ecologics site.  The new sites are NP Script, and Wellevate.  Both sites offer 15% off retail and low cost shipping options for our patients.  The sites can be accessed from the sidebar on our website, and the access code is there for your reference as well. Between the two sites, nearly all of the brands we carry in our office are available.  You can also search for other professional grade supplements as well.  This is a wonderful option for patients who live out of town, or for when our office is closed for vacations.

Important news regarding insurance billing:

As of 4/1/17, we will no longer accept insurance at our clinic.  Dr. Van Dusen will maintain all current insurance contracts through 3/31/17, so there will be no changes until 4/1 if you are currently using your insurance for your visits.

After 4/1, we will offer our reasonable time of service rate to all of our patients.  Dr. Van Dusen will be considered an “out of network” provider with all insurance plans.  Many insurance plans offer good benefits outside their network of providers.  We will offer special receipts that patients can submit to their insurance to seek reimbursement after each visit.  If you have any questions about how this works, please ask and we are happy to help! We do have a list of questions regarding out of network benefits that you can use to call your insurance company.  You can download this from our “patients” page. If you are an Aetna, Cigna, or United patient, your coverage here will be exactly the same as it has been as we are already “out of network” with these companies. The difference will be that you will need to pay us up-front, then seek reimbursement directly from your insurance company after your visit.  You may actually end up paying less as you will also receive our time of service rate.

This has been a difficult decision and we would like to take the time to explain why we have decided to make this transition.  As many of you probably already know, working with insurance is not easy.  We have provided this service up until now because we do understand that it helps our patients to afford our services.  However, the other side of this is that it takes an enormous amount of administrative time and insurance companies also make a strong effort to influence the way that doctors practice.  Over time, this has become more and more restrictive.  At the same time, many patients are paying higher premiums for less comprehensive coverage.

It has always been Dr. Van Dusen’s priority to offer the best care that she can for her patients.  As things have become busier and busier in her practice, the need to focus her time more on patient care and less on administration has come to the fore.  Migrating to a cash based practice will allow Dr. Van Dusen to focus her time and energy on caring for her patients, and to spend extra time on research and professional development; the things that every doctor should be able to prioritize!

The direction that our healthcare system is moving is concerning.  It has come to the point where we feel the need to step out of this system to a degree as it inhibits the quality of care that we strive to provide for our patients.  If it were a system that we believe truly serves the interest of our patients, that aims to support doctors to practice good quality medicine, we’d certainly feel differently.  We hope that some day this will be the case!

Cranosacral fee changes:

One hour craniosacral session rates will go up to $80 (from $75) on 4/1/17.  Yes, a small change, but we always like to let patients know!

Thanks for taking the time to read this newsletter, and we hope you have a wonderful holiday season!

Summer 2014 Newsletter

Greetings.  We hope the onset of summer finds you all well.  Topics in this newsletter: new discounted pricing on lab work, a summer reading recommendation, summer clinic closure dates, and…we are on Facebook!

Great deals on lab work:

We have recently negotiated “physician pricing” with Quest Labs in order to give our patients the opportunity to have lab work done at a deeply discounted rate.  We are very excited to be able to offer this new service for our patients who either have high insurance deductibles, or who must pay out of pocket for lab work.  Are you due to have some routine blood work done such as cholesterol and blood sugar, but have not been able to afford to?  Well, now’s your time!  To give an example, a cholesterol panel costs $8.50 and a blood count costs $6 through our deal with Quest.  This is a huge discount compared to a more typical rate of $40 for a cholesterol panel and $25 for a blood count. We have also negotiated great prices for some of the more expensive tests such as thyroid and vitamin D testing.  Call us with questions or ask at your next appointment.

Summer reading recommendation:

This summer, we have a great book on diet to recommend.  This could be a great way to balance whatever fiction you might plan on reading this summer.  “The Abascal Way”, by Kathy Abascal outlines the “TQI” or “To Quiet Inflammation” diet.  The book is jam-packed with easy to understand, scientifically based, sound nutritional advice.  It teaches one how to understand the effects that various types of food have on the physiology of the body, both positive and negative.  It provides a basic structural outline for eating to reduce inflammation, encourage weight loss, ease pain, and prevent or curb many of the common conditions that run rampant in our culture such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes.  We have seen great success utilizing this dietary approach with many of our patients.  Patients across the board report that they learn a ton from reading this book.  You may find copies for sale at our office, at Village Books, or online.


We are finally on Facebook!  Well…admittedly we’ve had a page since 2011, but haven’t really used it.  We are now going to start posting useful health tips, nutritional advice, clinic news, and links to current information on health topics.  Visit our page and “like us” to spread the word HERE.

Summer clinic closure dates:

We will be on vacation the following dates: 7/18-25, 8/22-9/1.  Please plan accordingly for appointments and medicinary refill requests.  Thank you.

Have a great summer!

Fall 2013 Newsletter

Greetings. It has been some time since we’ve sent out a newsletter, we hope this finds you all well!  Topics in this newsletter include the transition to Fall, CranioSacral and Core Synchronism therapy, and updated reception hours at Vital Source.

The Transition to Fall:

Fall seems to have arrived in the Pacific Northwest.  Fall is a particularly significant season when it comes to health and healing; a worthy topic for a brief discussion.  Summer is an energetic, fun, and busy season for most of us.  Many people, particularly in the Northwest,  notice that they feel better in the summer.  Who wouldn’t when it’s beautiful and sunny almost every day, and light until 10 pm!

When fall arrives, it’s often the tendency to turn more inward and pay closer attention to aspects of our lives that have been set aside over the summer months.  At Vital Source, we frequently see patients come in this time of year with the desire to transition to fall with a detoxification program, to address certain health issues they’ve put on the back burner for the summer, or to return to regular self-care habits and routine.

Fall is a wonderful time to reflect on and prioritize your health.  It’s a great time to set goals and create space for self-care.  Here are some ideas to consider to spark that motivation:

– Consider a 1 month dietary challenge to help promote healthy eating habits.  We often recommend “The Whole 30”, which is a program that can be found online.

– Explore and identify the possibility that food sensitivities may be impacting your health.  We recommend either food sensitivity testing through our clinic or the “28 Day Elimination and Detoxification Diet” in The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook, written by local nutrition experts in Bellingham.

– Re-visit your basic treatment and dietary guidelines.  Re-incorporate any aspects that may have been lost along the way.  Remember that packet you were handed at your first visit to Vital Source?  It’s full of great ideas on daily self-care routine, home remedies to assist in daily detoxification, and guidelines for healthy eating.  If you have lost your packet, you can download these handouts from the resources page of our website under “commonly used patient handouts”.

– Incorporate a new exercise routine if you don’t already have one.  Fall is a great time to join a gym, yoga studio, or establish a regular outdoor exercise schedule either by yourself or with a friend (such as walking, running, biking, hiking, etc).

– Treat yourself to some bodywork such as massage, acupuncture, rolfing, or CranioSacral therapy.

– If it’s been a while since you’ve been in for a visit and you’re not feeling your greatest, come on in.  We can be sure to address your concerns and help you get back on track.

CranioSacral and Core Synchronism Therapy:

Many Vital Source patients are not aware that in addition to naturopathic medicine, Dr. Van Dusen also practices Core Synchronism and CranioSacral therapy.  These therapies fall under the umbrella term “cranial work”.  They are wonderful as stand-alone treatments for some patients, and can enhance naturopathic therapies when used in conjunction.  Dr. Van Dusen finds it very important in the practice of medicine to address the physical body and structure directly.  While both naturopathic and cranial work therapies address the energetic body, most naturopathic therapies emphasize restoring proper physiology and function, and place less emphasis on physical structure and alignment.

Cranial work addresses this structural element (i.e. bones, joints, muscles, etc), and at the same time, encourages proper energy flow and distribution in the body.  This is helpful to some degree for just about any health concern, but Dr. Van Dusen finds it particularly helpful for patients that experience pain, nervous system or stress related complaints such as insomnia, tension, or anxiety.  It is also helpful for conditions that may be exacerbated by restrictions in the body structure such as lymph congestion, headaches, sinus issues, and digestive issues.

To quote our description of these therapies from our FAQ page: “Core Synchronism is a very gentle energetic body work.  CranioSacral is a very similar therapy taught through a different school.  They are rooted in the practices of osteopathy and polarity therapy.  The therapist uses very light touch to palpate the flow of cerebrospinal fluid as it moves through the cranium and spine.  The rhythm of the CSF can be felt as it reverberates through the extremities and the rest of the body as well.  The practitioner senses and gently releases any restrictions felt while working on the patient.  This results in deep relaxation, reduction in pain, improvement in structural alignment, as well as increased blood and oxygen flow to the organs and tissues.  Another way of looking at this is that there is increased “qi” or energy flow through the body as a result of the treatment.”

Dr. Van Dusen is very thankful to have such a gentle yet powerful therapy available to share with her patients.  She finds that it greatly enhances the therapeutic relationship with her naturopathic patients, and allows for a deepening of the healing process.  She also enjoys utilizing cranial work as a stand alone therapy for patients that are specifically seeking this type of treatment.  If you have any questions regarding cranial work, or wonder if it’s appropriate for you or someone you know, feel free to ask!

 New Reception Hours:

Well, they’re not really new, but it’s been a while since we’ve sent out a newsletter!  If you haven’t met her yet, Jennifer the receptionist is in the office from 1-5 Monday through Thursday.  This is the best time to call our office, or to stop by if you need to pick up medicine.  She’s happy to help!

Summer Clinic News

Happy Summer!  Below is just some brief news about dates that the clinic will be closed this Summer and a new online source for ordering high quality medicines.

Emerson Ecologics: A New Online Source for Ordering Medicines.

You may now purchase medicinary prescribed to you (or other natural medicines and supplements) through Emerson Ecologics via a link from the Vital Source website.  Emerson Ecologics is a wholesaler for healthcare professional line products.  They have a program called “E link” where patients can purchase medicines recommended by their practitioners.  A link on the Vital Source website (upper right corner of most pages) will take you to a screen that will prompt you for an access code (please contact the clinic for the code).  You will then be able to create an account for yourself.  You will be taken to a screen where you can view all of the medicines recommended by me (they have most, not all, of what I carry).  You can choose from this list, or search via a search box if there’s something else you’re looking for; say a specific multi-vitamin or something of the sort.  Everything on the site will be available to you at 10% off retail price, and they guarantee 3 day shipping directly to you.

My hope is that this will be convenient for many of you, save you trips to the supplement store or to my office, and will provide you for a way to re-stock on things that you may need when I’m out of town.  Please let me know if you have any questions.  Check out the link here.

Summer/Fall Clinic Closure Dates:

The clinic will be closed the following dates this Summer/Fall.  Please consider this if you need to schedule an appointment, etc.

– 7/19 and 7/20
– 7/30-8/3
– 8/23-9/10

Bellingham Natural Family Medicine provides coverage for urgent needs while I am away.  They can be reached at 738-7654.

February 2012 Newsletter

Greetings.  I hope this finds you all well.  The main topic of this newsletter is the philosophical approach of naturopathic medicine.  My goal in writing this is that it will help you to better understand what I do, and how it may be different from other forms of medicine.  I have also included some clinic announcements, and some great blog links for healthy recipes.

The Naturopathic Approach:

Just a few days ago, I was describing my approach to diagnosis and treatment with a new patient.  Mid-way through my description she said, “that makes so much sense”!  Looking back on it, this was my exact impression after my first visit to a naturopathic physician many years ago.  It was this aspect, combined with the wonderful results I experienced, that motivated me to become a naturopathic physician.

What is the aspect that “makes so much sense” about naturopathy?  In my opinion, it boils down to the philosophy that guides the naturopathic approach.  This is what sets naturopathic medicine apart.  Most trained physicians can easily learn how to use a nutrient or an herb to make a symptom feel better.  This however is not the goal of naturopathic treatment.  Our goal is to help our patients achieve true healing and to reach a high level of wellness; this is very different.

The primary goal for the naturopathic physician is to identify and treat the “root cause of illness”.  Our goal is always to ask “why”?  Inevitably patients come to us because they have a symptom.  Let’s use the example of eczema, a common skin rash.  One option to address this symptom is to put a cortisone cream on the rash, which in many cases will take care of the rash.  This seems like a good solution until one considers that in many cases the rash will come back, either because the patient stops using the cream, or the cream is no longer strong enough to suppress the rash.  If the cream actually initiated true healing, the rash would not recur, so what’s wrong here?  The issue is that the cream merely suppresses a symptom, and does not address its cause.

In a case like this, a naturopath will make every effort to figure out why this rash started in the first place.  We consider how our patient’s various organ systems are functioning, and how the many aspects of the patient’s environment (internal and external) are impacting their health.  This is how we discover what’s truly causing the skin rash.  Perhaps it’s actually a digestive issue or a liver issue for example.  We then treat from this place to stimulate healing and to normalize proper physiologic function in the body.  This process often takes a little longer, but has a much better chance of creating lasting healing in the long run.

An important point about symptoms (as alluded to above), is that they are rarely actually the true “problem”.    A symptom is the end point of a process that often starts in the body long before the symptom shows up.  Our bodies are incredibly efficient at maintaining proper physiology.  If the body senses that something is wrong, it will adapt to maintain proper function and survive.  This is called “adaptive physiology”.  This subtle shifting can go on for quite some time before a symptom occurs.  Viewed from this perspective, it makes sense that re-balancing these subtle physiologic shifts (much like peeling the layers off an onion) to get back to a point of true balance may take some time.  Often times, even after a symptom goes away or a lab value is normalized, there is still more healing work to be done in order to prevent that symptom or lab value from creeping back.  This is an important point that is often misunderstood.  We need to target those underlying layers, and eventually the core of the onion, to prevent recurrence or deeper pathology.

The next obvious question is “how do we attempt to heal the body”?  By far the most important point is that we figure out the cause; that is step one.  Without that, we are either merely treating the symptom, or (hopefully not) treating the wrong thing.  The next step is to support the body to heal itself, which the body can do (it is designed to do this)!  We do this by removing barriers to healing, nourishing the body, and sending subtle messages to the body to stimulate healing.  We work with the body, not against it; by supporting a process, not trying to stop one.  Obstacles or barriers to healing may include internal toxicity or stagnation due to inefficient elimination, external stressors such as poor sleep patterns, dietary factors, work or home stress, etc.  Working on removing these “obstacles” helps establish a “clean slate” to lay the groundwork for healing.  Nourishment in the form of healthy diet, self-care routine, and sometimes nutritional supplements, helps “build the body up” to create the energy required for healing and to stimulates healthy metabolism and organ physiology.  Natural remedies (such as homeopathy, herbal medicine, energy work, and  flower essences) are used to send subtle messages that stimulate the body to correct patterns of imbalance and restore proper functioning.  These remedies may be changed over time as we work through layers of imbalance while moving toward our goal of addressing the root cause.

Over time, this process “unpeels the onion”.  This is a partnership between the patient and physician.  While the patient works hard at creating a lifestyle that is nourishing and healthy for them, the physician guides the body to heal.  The end result that all naturopaths hope for is not only the absence of symptoms, but the prevention of future symptoms or disease, and the eventual attainment of optimal health where the patient feels better than they had even before they got “sick”.  This may sound like just your cup of tea, or to some it may sound overwhelming.  As a physician I understand this and always strive to meet my patients where they are at and help them figure out their health goals.  We can then work toward those goals at whatever pace and to whatever degree they are ready.  There’s always some benefit to be had for any effort made.  Obviously the more one puts into it, the more they are going to get out of it, but not everyone has the same endpoint in mind.

One final important point to mention here is the concept of “suppression”.  When a symptom is suppressed with a drug or other treatment that does not address its underlying imbalance, that imbalance does not simply go away.  The body will continue to attempt to adapt, and the imbalance will find another way to express itself.  Over time this can result in deeper pathology (more serious illness).  A common example of this is childhood eczema progressing first to allergies,  and then asthma.  This is yet another reason to address the cause, not the end result (the symptom).  There are times when it is important to treat symptoms in the beginning (if they are causing a high degree of discomfort or risk further harm to the body as in the case of pain and bleeding respectively) .  Whenever possible however, we do this temporarily and work toward addressing the cause at the same time.  We also use the least invasive, least suppressive medicine indicated in each case.

Hopefully this has helped to create a better understanding of what I do.  I aim to discover the root cause of illness, remove barriers to cure, help my patients to create a healthy nourished state in their body, and support the body’s ability to heal with natural remedies.  I love my job as a naturopathic physician.  It is fun for me to solve the puzzles that walk through my door each day, to learn about each individual patient and all the various aspects that impact their health.  It is even more fun to start unwinding that puzzle and watch the body heal, step by step.  It gives me great satisfaction to picture the future for a patient who may have been heading toward or had already developed chronic disease, eventually free of symptoms and leading a healthy life with great energy and a high sense of wellness.

Great Online Resources for Healthy Recipes:

Are you looking for fresh ideas on cooking healthy, low-allergen, whole foods meals?  Here are some great resources:

Clinic News:

Class Offering:

Daily Detox Strategies for Optimal Health
I will be giving a talk on daily detox strategies at the Downtown Community Food Co-op in Bellingham on March 12th from 6:30-8 pm.  I will present information on how our bodies naturally eliminate toxins and metabolic by-products, why these processes are vital to our health, and specific self-care therapies to help optimize them.  The class is $5 for members and $6 for non-members.  Advanced registration is encouraged.  Visit the Co-op website for more information or call or email me with specific questions.

Upcoming Clinic Closure Dates:

I will be on vacation from March 4th through March 11th.  Bellingham Natural Family Medicine will be covering for me.  They can be reached at 738-7654.

A Call for Reviews:

If you’ve had a good experience at Vital Source Natural Medicine and would like to place a review online for prospective patients to read, it would be much appreciated!  Click on any of the following links to place a review:

I also accept testimonials in writing.  I place these on the testimonials page of this website or written marketing materials.  If you’d rather do this, you may email me or send me your testimonial through the mail.  Thanks in advance!

September 2011 Newsletter

Greetings! Topics in this Newsletter: stocking up the medicine cabinet (a few favorite herb recommendations), medicine bottle recycling, and an upcoming class offering.

Stocking up the Medicine Cabinet (with a few fantastic herbs):

Have you ever wondered what’s in your doctor’s medicine cabinet?  While preparing for the home remedies class that I’ll be teaching (see below), it occurred to me that it would be great to make a few recommendations on good herbs for home use.  Here’s a brief overview of some of my favorites.  As always, if you are pregnant, have a medical condition, or are taking any medications, please consult a doctor before using any herb.


Parts Used: Flowers

Medicinal Uses: Calendula is antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and vulnerary (stimulates healing of tissues).  Use topically to stimulate wound healing and to prevent infection.  Best used as a “succus”, which is a type of tincture.


Parts Used: Flowers

Medicinal Uses: Chamomile is both soothing to the digestive tract and the nervous system.  Use to calm tummy upset, relieve gas and bloating, to calm nervous tension, or to help with insomnia.


Parts Used: Whole plant

Medicinal Uses: Dandelion is a bitter herb, “blood cleanser”, and diuretic.  The bitter quality helps to stimulate proper digestion by enhancing stomach acid and pancreatic enzyme secretion.  It’s “blood cleansing”, as it helps the liver to clear toxins from the body.  This is helpful for many ailments (including allergies, skin issues such as acne, and hormonal issues) as well as to enhance health in general.


Parts Used: Root

Medicinal Uses: Echinacea is a wonderful herb for the immune system.  It is best known for its usefulness in upper respiratory infections (colds), but can be used in any type of infection.  Echinacea should be started at the first onset of symptoms, when it can exert its strongest anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and immune stimulating effects.


Parts Used: Berries

Medicinal Uses: Elderberry is another immune herb.  Elderberry syrup is very tasty and therefore a great herb for children (and adults of course)!  It enhances immune function and has even been shown to be effective against the H1N1 flu virus.


Parts Used: Cloves

Medicinal Uses: Garlic has multiple medicinal effects in the body.  It is well known as a cardiovascular protector: it can lower bad cholesterol, raise good cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and reduce blood clotting.  It’s also anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-parasitic.  Therefore, garlic is helpful for infections of varying types.  It has a “warming” quality to it as well which is helpful for infections, as well as enhancing circulation and digestion.

Green Tea

Parts Used: Leaves

Medicinal Uses: Green tea is a fantastic coffee substitute.  It has a small amount of caffeine, which can help with coffee withdrawal symptoms and cravings.  In addition, it’s a potent antioxidant, which means that it can provide protection against cancer, as well as many other chronic conditions.


Parts Used: Flowers

Medicinal Uses: Lavender is calming to the nervous system.  It’s great in teas or inhaled as an essential oil for stress, insomnia, nervous tension, or anxiousness.  It is also anti-microbial as an essential oil, often combined with tea tree and other essential oils in topical anti-fungal formulas.


Parts Used: Aerial Tops

Medicinal Uses: Nettles are a classic “blood cleanser”.  They are particularly helpful for allergies.  They come up early in the spring, just as allergy season is starting.  The tops can be picked (with gloves!) and used in cooking.  They are very flavorful and lose their stingers after a few seconds of blanching.  They make a great pesto.  Nettles are also very high in minerals so are a good “building” herb for people with poor nutrient status.


Parts Used: Leaf

Medicinal Uses: Peppermint is pain relieving, anti-spasmodic, and carminative (relieves gas and bloating).  Peppermint is famous for calming digestive discomfort, thus the origin of  the “after dinner mint”.  It is also anti-spasmodic to the urinary tract, and for menstrual cramps.  Tea is a great way to take peppermint.

Slippery Elm

Parts Used: Inner Bark

Medicinal Uses: Slippery Elm is anti-inflammatory and soothing to tissues.  It is known as a “demulcent”; meaning it coats what it comes in contact with.  In this sense it is wonderful for healing an irritated throat, digestive tract, or bladder.  It is best taken as a tea, or mixed up as a “gruel” or slurry with warm water.  It can also be applied topically to soothe irritated skin.

Forms of herbs:

  • Herbs can be used in cooking.
  • Tincture: an alcohol extract of the herb
  • Tea (dried herb)
  • Capsules

Where to find medicinal herbs:

  • Quite possibly….your garden!  Often, culinary or ornamental herbs are also medicinal.
  • Herb shops: in Bellingham we have two great herb shops, Living Earth Herbs and Wonderland Tea and Spice.
  • Health-food stores
  • Supplement stores

Bottle Returns Reminder:

Sustainability at Vital Source is a high priority.  Re-usable materials versus plastic or paper are used whenever possible, patients are encouraged to bicycle to their visits instead of driving, many of the office systems are paperless, etc.  One area that seems a bit of an environmental burden at times is the quantity of bottles that leave here with patients each day.  If you are a current patient and either haven’t heard or have forgotten….we take back all glass medicine and tincture bottles, sterilize them, and re-use them.  There have been far fewer bottles coming back lately….perhaps you’re finding a great use for them!  Otherwise, feel free to bring what you’ve got lying around back at your next visit.  Thanks!

Upcoming Home Remedies Class:

I will be teaching a fun class on home remedies at the Downtown Community Food Co-op on Wednesday, September 28th, at 6:30 pm.  Come and learn how to prepare and utilize fabulous naturopathic home remedies to treat a wide range of common ailments.  We’ll go head to toe; examples of conditions include headaches, earaches, sore throats, digestive upset, skin conditions, bites and stings, and injuries.  A variety of treatments will be covered: homeopathy, hydrotherapy, herbal medicine, and “nature cure”.  This is a great opportunity to become more informed about ways to utilize what nature has provided us for healing versus reaching for something over the counter the next time you’re not feeling well.  The cost of the class is $5 for Co-op members and $6 for non-members.  Advanced sign-up is encouraged to secure a spot….you can do so in person at either Co-op service desk or by calling 360-734-8158.

June 2011 Newsletter

It’s June, and summer is “officially” and seemingly “almost” here!  This newsletter includes two topics: news from Vital Source, and a few important points regarding digestive health.  While you’re out running around and having fun this summer, don’t forget about your dietary choices and digestion….they’re key to your health from a naturopathic perspective!

What’s New at Vital Source

Tasty Medicinal Teas

We are now carrying a new line of delicious medicinal teas from Wildroot Botanicals, a small family-owned company located just up the street in Bellingham.  Their herbs are either grown here in Bellingham at their urban farm or out in the county at their larger farm.  All of their herbs are either organically grown or ethically wildcrafted (picked).  Their tea blends are well-blended for medicinal effect and flavor.  They also come in re-useable tins!  Check out their website:

Stress Management Article

Check out Dr. Van Dusen’s article on stress management and natural treatments for stress in the Northwest Business Monthly!  You can view it online HERE.

Digestive Health: A Few Important Points

The health of the digestive tract is something that most naturopaths address to some degree with just about every patient that walks through the door, even if they don’t have particular complaints in that area.  Why is this?  From a naturopathic perspective, the GI (gastrointestinal) tract is central to good health for everyone.  It would take writing a whole book to explain all the reasons why, but below is a brief summary of three important topics (digestion, elimination, and healthy bowel flora) and suggestions for enhancing each of these areas.

The importance of proper digestion:

“You are what you eat”; a simple age-old phrase that bears a lot of truth.  This may seem like a simple concept, but we are built from food.  We digest (break down) the food we eat, absorb its nutrients, and then our bodies build cells and tissues from the fuel and building blocks these nutrients provide.  One caveat before going any further….the first step is actually eating nutritious food (we can’t skip this one, or we’re out of luck)!  However, if digestion is inefficient, even a highly nutritious diet will only go so far in providing the body with the sustenance that it needs to function properly.

What are some signs of poor digestion?  Some are obvious, others maybe not so apparent.  The following are general examples, which may have other causes as well, but for a general idea:

  • Gas and bloating after meals
  • Undigested food in stool
  • Smelly stool
  • Heartburn
  • Anemia
  • Dry skin and hair
  • Food allergies
  • Many more

Some ideas for enhancing digestion (and nutrient absorption):

  • Eat in a relaxed environment.  Your body needs to be relaxed in order for your digestive enzymes and stomach acid to be secreted.  The muscles that move food in your digestive tract will only work when you are relaxed as well.  The reason for this is that when the body is stressed or busy, it shunts energy toward vital organs such as the heart, and away from “less vital” processes such as digestion that can wait until later.  When we eat in a “stressful environment” (i.e. working while eating, driving while eating, arguing while eating, etc), we don’t digest as well.  Pay attention, and you’ll notice.  To support ideal digestion, try to “just eat”, meaning sit down and have a meal without distractions (other than good company).  Avoid multi-tasking while eating.  Try taking several deep breaths before each meal; this helps the body to relax.
  • Chew your food well.  Our teeth have a great “mechanical” advantage.  They do a w0nderful job of breaking down food so that there’s a lot less work for the stomach, pancreas, and intestines to do.  You’ve got them, so use them!
  • Cook your food.  The digestive process actually begins when we see or smell food.  The brain sends a message to the digestive tract that it’s time to eat, and in turn the stomach starts to secrete acid and the pancreas secretes digestive enzymes.  When we pick up take-out and eat it right away, we skip this step.
  • Avoid beverages while eating (for roughly 15 minutes before or after).  Beverages dilute our digestive secretions (acid and enzymes), making them less potent and thus less effective.  If you find that you need to drink a lot while you eat, it’s likely one of two causes.  First, you may not be chewing your food well enough and need something to “wash it down” with.  Second, you may not be drinking enough during the day.  We are trained culturally to drink during meals.  Many of us forget to drink during the day and then realize that we’re thirsty during mealtimes.  We then play catch-up.  If you chew your food well enough, and drink enough throughout the day, you most likely won’t need to drink during meals.
  • Wait to eat until you’re hungry.  This may sound like a simple concept, but it’s really not.  Many people eat before they’re hungry because it’s a convenient mealtime, or just because they feel like it.  The body is designed to let us know when it needs more food by letting us feel hunger.  If we eat before then, we’re giving the body more than it can handle, and it won’t digest well.
  • Try adding 1 tsp of organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar to ~ 4 oz water 15 minutes before each meal.  This stimulates your stomach to begin secreting acid so that it’s ready even before food comes.
  • Reduce antacid use.  If you have heartburn, try some of these ideas above first!  Antacids do exactly what they say they do….reduce stomach acid.  It’s very hard for your stomach to digest proteins without adequate acid.  It’s also difficult to absorb certain vitamins such as iron and calcium without proper stomach acid.

The importance of proper elimination:

If you’re a patient at Vital Source, then you’ve likely heard a thing or two about detoxification. One of the best methods that our bodies have for detox is through regular, healthy bowel movements.  For this reason, it’s important to have at least one, if not 2 to 3 bowel movements per day.  This keeps unwanted wastes moving out of our system on a regular basis.  When stool sits in the colon for too long, it prolongs the time that any unhealthy waste products are in contact with the body, some of these may even be re-absorbed, increasing the body’s toxic burden.  It is also stressful mechanically for the colon to hold stool for a long period or to hold a large amount of stool at any one time.

Ideas for improving bowel movement frequency:

  • Increase water intake.  It is important (for many other reasons as well) to drink at least 1/2 your body weight in ounces of water per day, or more if you’re active and sweating throughout the day, or if you drink a lot of diuretics (coffee, tea, alcohol, etc).  This provides adequate moisture to the stool.  Drinking a large glass of warm water upon rising in the morning can also help to bring on a bowel movement.
  • Increase physical activity.  Moving the body helps to initiate bowel movements.  It doesn’t have to be intense exercise, something like yoga or walking work well.
  • Increase fiber intake, especially soluble fibers such as psyllium, ground flax seed, veggie and fruit skins, and legumes.  Fiber provides bulk to the stool to help with quicker and easier passage.  The typical American eats less than 10-15 grams of fiber daily.  Ideally, everyone would eat 50 grams of fiber per day.  This may be hard to shoot for, but it’s generally easy to get far more than 10-15 grams per day.
  • Try belly massage.  Gently massage your belly in a large circle, clockwise, starting and ending below the belly button.  This simulates the natural movement of stool through the colon (known as peristalsis).
  • Reduce stress.  Easier said than done, but it bears mentioning.  Stress decreases peristalsis, the muscle contractions that move stool through your colon mentioned above.
  • All the tips mentioned above for enhancing digestion also help with elimination.  Try those too!

The importance of healthy colon bacteria:

Probiotics have been a hot topic in the health industry the past several years.  A lot of research has gone into these little organisms.  Through this research, we’ve learned a good deal about the function of our intestinal “flora” and about the benefit of probiotics.  Probiotics are strains of healthy bacteria that normally inhabit the intestine.  Researchers have actually discovered that there are more bacteria than there are cells in our bodies (primarily residing in the colon)!  These bacteria have many beneficial (if not vital) functions in the body.  They help to digest the food that we eat.  They enhance immune function by preventing unhealthy bacteria and other infections from taking hold in the body (they out-compete them for food and space).  They actually synthesize many important nutrients that the body utilizes including vitamin K, biotin, folic acid, and short chain fatty acids (food for your colon cells).  Healthy colon bacteria play many more complex roles in the health of the digestive tract and the body that are beyond the scope of this newsletter.  Simply put, they are very important.  A fun tidbit…it has been postulated that the appendix (an organ previously thought to have no purpose) is actually a storage area for healthy colon bacteria that are released after infection to replenish the intestine back to a healthy quantity.

Theoretically, we obtain these healthy bacteria from a young age, starting at birth when we are exposed to our mothers’ vaginal flora.  We then receive them through breast milk, and eventually through the foods that we eat.  Unfortunately, in this day and age, many children are born through c-section and many are not breast fed.  The foods that we eat are more “sterile” and less nutritious than they used to be due to modern intensive farming practices and food processing. We also vastly deplete our healthy bacteria any time we take antibiotics.

As a result, “dysbiosis” is a very common health problem.  Dysbiosis occurs when unhealthy or pathogenic bacteria outnumber healthy bacteria in the colon.  Dysbiosis can either cause or exacerbate a whole slew of symptoms and conditions ranging from digestive discomfort and irregular bowel movements to allergies, foggy-headedness, frequent infections, joint pains, and many others.

Ideas for encouraging a healthy intestinal “flora” balance:

  • Increase fiber intake and reduce sugars.  Healthy bacteria thrive on fiber.  Excess carbohydrates (sugars) can cause overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria and yeasts, which can lead to dysbiosis.  Fiber helps to decrease this response and is a great replacement for sweets.
  • Eat fermented foods.  Fermented foods contain healthy bacteria as a result of the way they are made.  Examples include sauerkraut, kim chi, kombucha, high quality yogurts, and tempeh.
  • Take a high-quality probiotic supplement.  These usually contain strains of acidophilus and bifidobacterium.  It is important to note that not all probiotic supplements are created equal.   Make sure to do your research or buy from a trusted source.  Make sure it’s a reputable company, and that the company has the product tested by a third party to guarantee potency at least periodically.  You can ask these types of questions at a health food or supplement store.  Since probiotics are live organisms, if the product is not manufactured or stored properly, they will die, and won’t do any good when taken.  High quality probiotic supplements often exceed their label claims, so there’s a big difference.
  • Try the treatments above for enhancing digestion and elimination.  Poorly digested food (especially proteins and carbohydrates) encourages growth of unhealthy bacteria and yeast.  This problem is worsened when food sits in the colon for long periods of time.  Proper digestion and elimination encourage a healthy flora balance.

In summary, hopefully some of these concepts related to the digestive health will be helpful for you.  It’s a big topic, and too much to cover in depth, but these general tips can be very helpful for many people.  It’s often the simple things (such as chewing), that are overlooked, and make the biggest difference.  Any change that you make to enhance your digestion, elimination, or flora balance should make a positive impact.  And don’t forget, “you are what you eat”, so remember to eat healthy!

April 2011 Newsletter

Greetings! Topics in this Newsletter: Allergies, upcoming community classes, and Dr. Van Dusen’s upcoming guided group spring cleanse.

Spring is in the Air…It’s Allergy Season:

It’s that time of year again, when an estimated 10-40% of the population starts to experience itchy eyes, an itchy, runny nose, sinus congestion, fatigue, and many other wonderful symptoms.  We’re starting to have such nice weather, and unfortunately for some, this means starting to feel poorly!

What are seasonal allergies anyway?

Seasonal allergies are an over-reaction by the immune system to foreign substances such as pollens, molds, grasses, and weeds.  Over time, as the body is continually exposed year after year to certain allergens, it begins to develop a “memory” for these substances.  There are actually immune cells that are simply hanging around in your nose, ready and waiting for that spec of pollen.  The immune response that ensues, mainly due to the release of a substance called histamine, is the body’s attempt to get rid of the offending agent, through increased mucus production, etc.  This is a natural response…the problem is that it’s over-active in some people.

Why do some people have allergies and not others?

We’re all exposed to the same stuff if we live on the same block.  The difference is that the “allergens” are not the cause of allergies.  The cause is individual susceptibility, which can be due to a number of different variables.  The most common variables are stressed and over-worked adrenal glands, a high level of inflammation in the body, and poor digestion.  There may certainly be genetics and many other factors at play unique to the individual as well.

What can be done to prevent and treat allergies naturally?

In order to really prevent and resolve allergies, it’s necessary to create balance in the body overall, which is completely individual.  However, addressing the most common variables mentioned above can be helpful for many people.

Ideas for prevention:

  • Support your adrenal glands.  The adrenals are weakened by overwork, lack of sleep, and consumption of stimulants like sugar and caffeine.  Healthy adrenals are necessary for proper (not overactive) immune function and for reducing inflammation in the body.  What do the adrenals like?  Routine!  They like a regular sleep schedule with a sufficient amount of sleep, they like rest, and they don’t like too much stress or over-stimulation.  In addition, a nice home remedy for the adrenals is to end your shower with a cool spray to the mid back for about 30 seconds.
  • Reduce Inflammation in your body.  Well, this is a huge topic.  The easiest way to reduce inflammation in the body is to reduce dietary triggers for inflammation.  See my Basic Dietary Guidelines for anti-inflammatory dietary recommendations.  Generally, it’s a good idea to avoid processed foods, fried foods, and have a whole-foods diet.  Next in line would be to eliminate inflammation-causing food sensitivities from your diet, which can be tested for through a Naturopathic Doctor.   An additional supportive measure for reducing inflammation  is to add omega 3 fatty acids to the diet, or to supplement with fish oil.
  • Take probiotics and eat fermented foods!  There are supposedly more healthy bacteria living in our gut than there are cells in our body!  These little guys play many roles in our health.  In regards to allergies, they help stabilize the immune system, and support proper digestion.  Probiotics can be supplemented or obtained through eating fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kim-chi, tempeh, yogurt and kefir, and kombucha.

Ideas for natural treatments:

  • Nasal lavage: use a neti pot with warm water and sea salt daily during allergy season to clear the nasal passages and heal the nasal mucous membranes.
  • Avoid dairy and citrus: these are mucous producing and cooling to the body.
  • Include foods high in quercetin, an anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine flavonoid.  There are high levels of quercitin in onions, apples, dark greens, red grapes, and green tea.  Green tea is also high in catechin, which has a similar effect.  Quercetin may also be supplemented, and is best started a month or two before allergy season hits.
  • Go nettle hunting!  Fresh nettles can work wonders for allergies.  Just make sure to wear gloves!  Once you get them home and blanch them, they won’t sting anymore.  Make nettle tea, add them to stir-fries, make nettle-pesto, be creative!
  • Other supplements:
    • NAC (N-Acetyl Cysteine): an amino acid that acts to break up mucous and is a potent anti-oxidant.
    • Vitamin C: enhances immune function, is a great anti-oxidant, and strengthens mucous membranes.
  • Clean up your environment to reduce exposure to allergens:
    • Wash your face or use a damp towel to get pollen out of your hair when you walk inside.
    • Use an air filter in your house.

For more information on current pollen counts and other environmental allergen info in your area visit the National Allergy Bureau’s pollen and mold count by location.

Join Dr. Van Dusen for a Guided Group Dietary Cleanse in May:

Feeling blah?  Would you like to feel lighter and more energetic heading into Summer?  A dietary cleanse is a great way to care for yourself, rejuvenate, and reduce the toxic load in your body.  Have a friend join you! This cleanse is open to current patients and the general public.

The Cleanse Program will include:

  • A nine-day dietary cleanse including 3 days of juice fasting.
  • A Craniosacral therapy session with Dr. Van Dusen to enhance your cleanse.
  • Detox supplements and home remedies to support you during the cleanse process.
  • Three evening educational sessions.

Other Offerings:

  • A 50% discount on an individual follow-up visit with Dr. Van Dusen after the cleanse for those interested (new or return patients).
  • Deepened cleanse options and support if desired.

Classes will be Held at Vital Source Natural Medicine, 1111 West Holly St. Suite E.

  • Monday, May 9th, 6:30-8 pm: Intro to detoxification and cleanse guidelines.
  • Wednesday, May 18th, 6:30-8 pm:  Food re-introduction, food sensitivities, cleanse support.
  • Wednesday, May 25th, 6:30-8 pm: Cleanse review, advice on reducing toxic exposures, and options for continuation of detoxification therapies.


Cleanse Schedule:

  • May 10th-16th: Prep week, begin detoxification therapies.
  • May 17th-24th: Cleanse, Craniosacral sessions available.


Current patients: $150, General public: $175
*includes educational classes, detox supplements, and Craniosacral session.

*Participants will need access to a juicer, or be willing to purchase high-quality fresh fruit and vegetable juices for a total of 3 days.

Advanced Registration is required.  Please sign up by Wednesday, May 4th.

For more information or to sign up contact Dr. Van Dusen at 360-306-8313,
or via email:

Upcoming Lectures:

Dr. Van Dusen will be giving a lecture on Daily Detox Strategies for Optimal Health this upcoming Monday, April 25th from 6:30-8 pm at the Butterfly Life Women’s Fitness Center.  She will present information on how our bodies naturally eliminate toxins and metabolic by-products, why these processes are vital to our health, and specific self-care therapies to help optimize them.  The event is free and open to the public.  Please sign up ahead of time at Butterfly Life: 2460 James St. in Bellingham, or call (360) 671-0669.

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