Awakening Your Inner Pharmacy – Oxytocin

Hello there dear ones, this is the first in a new series by Dr. Porter on “Awakening Your Inner Pharmacy.” This new series will help empower you to understand the strength of your innate ability to heal by awakening your inner healer through your inner pharmacy.

What is Oxytocin

This month’s topic is going to be Oxytocin, also known as the hormone of love, happiness or the cuddle hormone.  For you techies, it is released in the Hypothalamus in a diurnal rhythm peaking around noon with receptors found in most organs however especially high in the brain, heart, endometrium and fat cells (adipocytes).  The effects of oxytocin are far reaching in the body: For example, in fat cells it can decrease the risk of diabetes, obesity and osteopenia.

Oxytocin has an effect on the HPA (Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis and the GBA (Gut Brain) axis via the vagal nerve with a strong ability to decrease the effects of stress on the body.  Via estrogen it acts synergistically improving your mood therefore happiness.  80 percent of the oxytocin neurons in the pituitary gland express estrogen B receptors which means you have a decreased risk of cancer.

OK, so is this sounding like the miracle hormone to have?  Yes, and there are so many more at work in your body that we will discuss in future articles.  However, there is one problem…  we have not found a way to make it that is affordable, stable and as effective as we would like.  Now, when we produce it in our own body, it is free, stable and available on demand.  HHhmmmm, and why are we not seeing commercials on TV about this?

Research Shows Benefits of Oxytocin

What I would like to share is what the research shows — what you can do to increase this hormone in yourself.

So, there is the obvious, make love not war.  Post intercourse there is a surge in oxytocin and a bonding effect with the person you are with.  A second major way to increase oxytocin in your body is to give and receive hugs.  A 20 second hug has been shown to decrease effects of stress, lower BP, and improve immune function.  This includes your dog or cat whom receive the same benefit.   We wonder why Amma the hugging saint is helping so many people; she is oxytocin manifested in a human form spreading healing to anyone open to receiving.

Other activities that increase oxytocin include exercise and expressing gratitude.  Vitamin C appears to help as well.  Some other benefits seen in people with healthy levels of oxytocin include increasing trust, empathy and the desire to be in social groups.  People with optimal levels have less anxiety, stress, addictions, obesity and/or PTSD (Post traumatic stress disorder).  Oxytocin increases charitable donations, happiness, bonding, love and decreases the effects of stress via the HPA axis.  I am officially writing a prescription for each and every one of you to hug as many people as possible each day.  In fact, give mother earth a big hug as well for putting up with us humans and our crazy ways.

Two polar bears hugging - example of oxytocin

Posted in Hormones, Oxytocin Tagged with: , , ,

Gut Microbiome and Mental Health

3d render Bacteria blue closeup (depth of field. From Human Microbiome Project,

Dr. Porter presented the Keynote Address – Awakening your Inner Pharmacy: Changing Mental Health Naturally – to the Maryland Psychological Association Integrative Health Conference June 9, 2017.

Below is a summary of Dr. Porter’s keynote and links to her full article and slides.

Effects of the Gut Microbiome on Mental Health

There is a growing body of evidence to support epigenetics and the effect our environment, food choices, nutrient deficiencies and thoughts have on our health and well being. It is well established that the Gut-Brain Axis (GBA) and Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) have an affect on mental health. We will explore the pathways and their role in Anxiety, Depression and ADHD. Once we know these influences, we will explore the effects of diet, lifestyle, nutrients and botanical medicines on the above mentioned mental health issues.

Healthier Gut Means Better Mood

The keynote is designed to help you:

  • Understand the importance of a healthy gastrointestinal system and the role bacteria plays in our sense of well-being;
  • Review and understand the effects of stress on mental health and how our inner pharmacy can help;
  • Learn naturopathic insights and tools to balance the GBA and HPA axis in relation to mental health.
Read Dr. Porter’s article on the Gut Microbiome and Mental Health HERE

Check out the latest research and programs NIH is doing on the microbiome and its effect on health – LINK

Posted in Mental Health, Microbiome Tagged with: , ,

New Program for Weight Management

Weight Management image

Individualized Treatment Plans for Weight Management

Weight management is hard and finding a way to be healthy and  be on the plan that is right for you is challenging for many. Are you having trouble losing weight? Trouble maintaining a healthy weight? Overwhelmed by the newest fad diet plan?

Get naturopathic support for achieving and maintaining a healthy weight with a new Bodhi Clinic program. In the program, Dr. Elise Benczkowski treats each patient individually, looks at and addresses underneath causes and then sets up a plan to make the changes. This support includes a healthy diet and lifestyle program as well as natural, safe and effective options to promote permanent and sustainable weight loss.

Read more about Dr. Elise Benczkowski’s new naturopathic guided program HERE

and checkout this flyer with all the options

Posted in Weight Loss Tagged with: ,

Personalize Your Detoxification

detoxificationDetoxification is a broad term that encompasses many different ways of cleansing the body’s internal systems and organs and most people commonly associate detoxification or cleansing with laxative use. I have encountered many patients doing a countless number of different types of cleanses, anything from a text-message cleanse, a condiment-cleanse, to a grapefruit-cleanse or a juice fast.

Detoxification is not necessarily the same thing as fasting, which is abstaining from food for a period of time, however fasting can be cleansing. Fasting is not for everyone. Your ability to fast depends on age, activity level and lifestyle and your disease-state; I recommend discussing fasting with a naturopathic doctor before starting. Fasting can be therapeutic but can be harmful if not done intelligently. Detoxification, on the other hand, does not involve abstaining from food or liquids, but instead, choosing differently what you put in and around you.

Detoxification from the inside-out is essential for health and in fact, we have organs that accomplish this daily – sweating through our skin, the work of our liver, breathing out carbon dioxide and of course, urine and stool. The idea of supporting those systems for a period of time each year or more is helpful in reducing overall toxic burden and helps those pathways from becoming overloaded. However, we also want to think about detoxification from the outside-in. What chemicals/toxins are we regularly exposing ourselves to that we can work to reduce or eliminate? I like the Detox Me app from the Silent Spring Institute to help me accomplish this. It is informative and educational, allows you to set goals to reduce your exposures and toxic burden and will direct you to resources to help (e.g. connecting you with green dry cleaners in your area). It is surprising how toxic and harmful our world has become but it is also inspiring to know that our choices can make a difference.

Toxic exposure and burden affect us all and we seem to manifest those changes in unique ways. Some of us have skin concerns, for others it could be in their digestive system, or headaches, lowered energy and lethargy, pain, sleep disturbances or emotional burnout.

The list here could be endless. One-size-fits-all detoxification is less effective at supporting those individual symptoms as well as addressing what pathways need support.

The Bodhi Clinic holds a 3-week guided naturopathic detoxification workshop twice each year, hosted by either myself, Dr. Benczkowski, or Dr. Porter. The workshop is both educational and therapeutic. I encourage everyone to attend one of these, whether you are doing this for the first or tenth time. One of the significant benefits of doing a guided naturopathic detoxification is that you learn about how your toxic load is affecting you individually and how you can work to reduce it year-round. Patients also report: more energy, better sleep, resetting your metabolism and taste buds, and decreased pain and mental fog. When done appropriately, the benefits extend beyond the physical to include a mental-emotional opening. This can be a very powerful catalyst for change.

by Dr. Elise Benczkowski 

Posted in Detoxification Tagged with:

Zinc’s Health Benefits

zinc's health include helping the immune system function well

Zinc’s pathways

Zinc (Zn) is a trace mineral that’s essential to a multitude of body functions, including both the immune and digestive system, wound healing, skin health and reducing stress levels. Zinc’s health benefits are numerous and one of the leading ones are its ability to activate several hundred enzymatic reactions in the body.

We can store zinc in our skeletal muscles and bones, but it is also found in organs like the kidneys, pancreas and skin and even in our blood cells. Zinc deficiency is uncommon in America; however, it could present as hair loss, frequent diarrhea or issues with taste and smell and can be assessed with an in-office test.

Zinc-rich foods include seafood, nuts and beans, leafy greens, beef, and some seeds like pumpkin and flax. Like any mineral, we need to have adequate stomach acid to properly digest and absorb it. Zinc absorption is also tied to copper levels as these two minerals are antagonists; when zinc is low, copper will be high, and vice versa.

Many patients commonly take zinc for their immune system, for example, when trying to fight off a common cold. However, it is often taken in too high a dose, for too long. To help support a healthy immune system, zinc is most effectively used acutely, for only a few weeks and then discontinued. Long term supplementation with this mineral, especially with high doses, can deplete copper.

There are also different forms of this mineral available (e.g. zinc citrate, zinc gluconate, zinc picolinate, etc.) and depending on the usage, different forms will be recommended. Your naturopathic doctor may recommend zinc as part of a wound-healing protocol, for taste and smell support, immune-boosting, or for eye or GI-system support.

by Dr. Elise Benczkowski 

Read more about zinc protecting you from colds – here

Posted in Immune System Tagged with: , ,

Ashwagandha – Herb to Fight Many Disorders, Including Cancer

Ashwagandha is an herb from the Solanaceae family that is used for many conditions including arthritis, anxiety, insomnia and respiratory conditions (emphysema, asthma). It is also used for conditions associated with immune-compromised diseases, like cancer, AIDS and neurological diseases.


Effective Against Cancer

Ashwagandha as an adaptogenic formula is very effective for patients with cancer, during and after chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. Its immune-modulating properties are well documented in the research.

  1. Research shows that ashwagandha can help increase white blood cells and platelets and raise antibody responses and red blood cells in animals as well as help guard against immune suppression resulting from chemotherapy and radiation.

(Agarwal R, Diwanay S, Patki P, Patwardhan B, 1999, Studies on immuno-modulatory activity of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) extracts in experimental immune inflammation, J Ethnopharmacol Oct;67(1):27-35)

Ziauddin M, Phansalkar N, Patki P, Diwanay S, Patwardhan B, 1996, Studies on the immuno-modulatory effects of Ashwagandha, J Ethnopharmacol Feb;50(2):69-76

Davis L, Kuttan G, 2000, Effect of Withania somnifera on cyclophosphamide-induced urotoxicity, Cancer Lett Jan 1;148(1):9-17

  1. Other research using animal models shows the anti-tumor and radiation-sensitizing properties of Ashwagandha through the alcoholic extract of the dried roots of the plant and its antioxidant and detoxifying properties. This helps prevent systemic toxicity from radiation and chemotherapy agents.

Prakash J, Gupta SK, Kochupillai V, Singh N, Gupta YK, Joshi S., 2001, Chemopreventive activity of Withania somnifera in experimentally induced fibrosarcoma tumors in Swiss albino mice, Phytother Res May;15(3):240-4  

 Devi PU, Sharada AC, Solomon FE, Kamath MS, 1992, In vivo growth inhibitory effect of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) on a transplantable mouse tumor, Sarcoma 180. Indian J Exp Biol Mar;30(3):169-72

 Devi PU, 1996, Withania somnifera Dunal (Ashwagandha): potential plant source of a promising drug for cancer chemotherapy and radiosensitization, Indian J Exp Biol Oct;34(10):927-32

 Khuttan G, 1996, Use of Withania somnifera Dunal as an adjuvant during radiation therapy, Indian J Exp Biol Sep;34(9):854-6

  1. Research also shows that Withaferin-A – bioactive compound from Ashwagandha offers anti-tumor properties and is effective in inhibiting breast cancer, prostate and colon cancer cells and some brain cancers (glioblastoma)

Lahat G, Zhu QS, Huang KL, Wang S, Bolshakov S, Liu J, Torres K, Langley RR, Lazar AJ, Hung MC, Lev D. Vimentin is a novel anti-cancer therapeutic target; insights from in vitro and in vivo mice xenograft studies, PLoS One. 2010 Apr 16;5(4):e10105.

 Hahm ER, Moura MB, Kelley EE, Van Houten B, Shiva S, Singh SV. Withaferin A-induced apoptosis in human breast cancer cells is mediated by reactive oxygen species. PLoS One. 2011;6(8):e23354. Epub 2011 Aug 10.

(Source: Donald Yance’s research summary of Ashwagandha root (Withania somnifera))




Posted in Cancer, Herbal medicine Tagged with:

Dr. Stephany Porter Completes Wilderness Medicine Field Course

Dr. Stephany Porter attends Wilderness Medicine Field Course

Dr. Stephany Porter attends Wilderness Medicine Field Course

Dr. Porter just completed WMFC (Wilderness Medicine Field Course) with Dr. Ellen Smith, MD, FACEP.

A must do for any outdoors enthusiast. You will learn how to handle medical emergencies in the field and what to carry that could save you or another’s life.  It is intense and worth every minute.  

For more information, go to the WMFC website here

Posted in Wilderness Medicine Tagged with: ,

Why is My Liver Waking Me Up?

Is your liver upset?

Is your liver upset?

Have you been waking up in the middle of the night with sweats and restlessness and unable to go back to sleep for an hour or more? If so, it may be your liver talking to you.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, a Chinese “meridian clock” shows what time of a day each organ is most active.

1 am – 3 am – Liver

11pm – 1 am – Gallbladder

Your liver and gallbladder cover half the night.

If your liver is waking you up at night, there may be physical and emotional reasons.

From the emotional side, the liver represents anger, frustration and resentment. If stress and emotional turmoil is a constant presence for you, then your liver may be trying to help you workout these feelings and be doing it on liver time – the middle of the night.

From the physical side, you could be suffering from a fatty liver or Nonalcoholic fatty liver (NAFL), especially if you’re eating a lot of processed food that has loads of sugar and trans fat. The liver is supposed to have some fat but if it exceeds 10 percent of your liver’s weight than it is a problem. And sugar shoots up your insulin levels, which make your liver work harder at eliminating the excess amount of chemicals the sugar overload produces.

Too much alcohol can also lead to a fatty liver.

If you’re not eating well and are stressed, your liver will become toxic and will work overtime to find homeostasis. There are ways to specifically detox the liver

For information on detoxing your liver with Dr. Porter, check out this post on detoxing your body and mind 

In the meantime, we can’t control much of life’s outside stresses but we can try to arm our bodies with good food, good spirit and some helpful supplements.

If you’re waking up, try these tips to see if any of them relieve your insomnia and improve your sleep.

Helpful Tips:

  • Ashwaganda – an herb that modulates emotions, promotes relaxation and helps the body dissipate stress.
  • NAC – N-acetyl cysteine is a potent precursor to glutathione, a powerful antioxidant. It is given to patients who overdose.
  • Milk Thistle – Silymarin is a natural detoxifier for the liver and biliary tract. Add dandelion for more of an effect. – detoxifies liver and promote glutathione production. Glutathione is the precursor to many antioxidants.
  • Soak feet/ankles in hot water. Put some Epsom salt and lavender oil to make it more relaxing.
  • Exercise – find a routine you can stick to, whether it is joining a club or meeting with friends or doing a DVD workout. Anything that gets you moving improves circulation, which helps the body detoxify.
  • Eat whole, natural foods. This helps support the liver especially the cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, cabbage, kale and cauliflower.




Posted in Detoxification, Liver, Sleep Tagged with: ,

Mushrooms – Will They Make the Super-Food List?


There has been a new focus and attention placed on mushrooms in many arenas lately. They have a fascinating history and have proven to tantalize us with their multitude of faces, abilities, toxicities and healing qualities.   If you forage for mushrooms, picking the wrong one could lead to your death, some are quite toxic.

Mushrooms have been used traditionally in most societies including China, Japan, Russia and Central America. They tend to like dark damp places and are a fungi that reproduce with spores. There are edible, toxic, medicinal and psychoactive mushrooms. On your table eaten as food they provide minerals, fiber and vitamins. In the fermented form they are full of probiotics. Antibiotic medications like penicillin and streptomycin are derived from fungal extracts. In the spirit world, they have been used by Shamans as sacrament in rituals aimed at mental and physical healing and to facilitate visionary states. In the cancer world, they are being researched for their immune modulation abilities and are becoming a common part of many cancer treatments.

For the anti-cancer effect, the most common mushrooms being used and researched include Reishi, Turkey tail, Cordiceps, agaricus and oyster. The active constituents identified to date seem to come from the polysaccharides, polysaccharide peptides, and proteins. PSK found in Turkey tail (Trametes versicolor formerly Coriolus versicolor) has been shown to have anti-cancer effects in breast, colon and gastric caner cell lines.   Beta-glucans, a polysaccharide found in Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) and Agaracus (Agaricus blazei), have been shown to modulate and improve the immune system. The various cytokine patterns they affect slow tumor growth, regulate tumor genes, boost chemotherapeutic efficacy and protect against bone marrow suppression.

Because mushrooms are so efficient at absorbing minerals and nutrients out of the soil, it is important to eat organically grown mushrooms. Just as they concentrate minerals and other important metals they also concentrate toxic heavy metals.

So balance out your diet and improve your health by adding medicinal mushrooms to your meals on a regular basis. Shitake mushrooms make a wonderful gravy or addition to a stir-fry vegetable dish. Maitake mushrooms are a good source of dietary fiber, folate, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc making a nutritious addition to a soup. You can find mushrooms fresh or dried in your favorite grocery store. Pick a few up and try something new.


Posted in Cancer, Food, Healthy Habits Tagged with: ,

Endocrine Disruptors and Your Health


worst-endocrine-disruptors-fbThe average American is exposed to 250 chemicals before they walk out their door in the morning. How, you may ask?   Look at the ingredients in your toothpaste, shampoo, crème rinse, soap, cosmetics, shaving crème, body lotions, breakfast cereal, hand wash, and cleaning products to name a few. Remember, your skin is an organ of absorption and excretion and anything placed on it has the potential to be absorbed.   Certain pharmaceuticals and hormones are now prescribed topically for this reason. Alternatives to these chemical laden products include homemade products. Rosemary Gladstar (link to website) is an amazing herbalist with many books and website references on natural products. If time is of the essence, find your local health food store or food cooperative and see what they have on the shelves, the less ingredients the better. Jojoba oil is an excellent moisturizer for the skin and contains one ingredient. White vinegar is an excellent cleaner for the house and can handle most jobs based on changing the concentration and Citrosolve (made from oranges) can come to the rescue when grease is involved.

Chemicals and metals have been known to be dangerous to our health for centuries, so why then do companies keep putting them in our food, cosmetics, fertilizers, pesticides and pharmaceuticals. More importantly, why do WE keep buying and using them?

An endocrine disruptor is a chemical or metal that affects our body in many ways. Endocrine Disruptors may act like a hormone, alter our internal production of hormones (increasing or decreasing), turn one hormone into another, tell a cell to prematurely die, interfere with hormone signaling, bind to essential hormones and/or accumulates in organs. How is that for disruptive!!!

The top 12 Endocrine Disruptors, also know as the dirty dozen, are as follows: BPA (Bisphenol-A), Dioxin, Atrazine, Phthalate’s, perchlorate, polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDEs (Fire retardants), lead, mercury, arsenic, perfluorinated chemicals, organophosphate pesticides and glycol ethers. You can download a brochure from The Environmental Working Group – ( ) with more details on each one and how to avoid them. I highly recommend everyone spends more time on this website. EWG has been educating the public on the damaging effects of chemicals and offering solutions to avoid them since 1992. The detrimental effects of lead and mercury have been documented for centuries, however more recently they have been associated with endocrine disruption including infertility.

Many are familiar with BPA and phthalates for they are prolific in plastic containers and children’s toys and have been banned in many products and associated with increased risk of cancer. One trick you can do to decrease production of plastics is to carry a stainless steel mug to use for tea, coffee or water. You can store leftover food in glass containers rather than plastic. Another resource available to decrease the use of plastic in your home is BioBags, (, which are biodegradable and made from plants, vegetable oils and compostable polymers. They are available on line in the form of trash, compost, and doggy waste bags.

If you are still not convinced of the severity of this problem and the need to have all toxic chemicals banned from use, take a look at the World Health Organization (WHO) publication which was co-produced with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) called “State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals.” ( They reviewed the research and determined at least 800 chemicals are known or expected to affect the endocrine system and the increase in the occurrence of diseases over the past few decades is not due to genetic factors, therefore is due to our environment. The research shows these chemicals increase the risk for cancer (breast, thyroid, prostate), developmental effects on the nervous system/brain, attention deficit hyperactivity in children, non-descended testicles in young men, developmental effects on the nervous system in children, and infertility in humans and animals, to name a few.

So get to work and remove as many of these chemicals from your house and life as possible. You are the consumer and therefore if you stop purchasing products made from these endocrine disruptors, the companies will stop making them.


In Health,

Stephany Porter, ND, FABNO

The Bodhi Clinic

Posted in Endocrine, Toxicity Tagged with: ,