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Thyroid Issues

A Sluggish Thyroid Can Be Sneaky

Hypothyroidism, or the slowing of function in the thyroid gland, is an extremely common condition across the population. It happens more frequently as people age and is typically seen in women more than men. But many forward thinking medical providers believe it is even more pervasive than we currently believe. Why? Because a sluggish thyroid can be sneaky and conventional lab tests often overlook important indicators of thyroid issues. So it is up to an individual and their thorough practitioner to pinpoint subtle symptoms as well as examine blood work thoroughly. Treatment plans for hypothyroid conditions should always address nutrition and lifestyle in addition to any discussion of thyroid replacement options, if appropriate. A thyroid lab test and exam should be a routine part of an annual physical.

Even with regular screening, a sluggish thyroid is still a sneaky condition. To understand this, it helps to understand the job of this hard-working little gland. The thyroid is responsible for regulating the body’s metabolism and use of energy on a cellular level. It is in constant communication with the endocrine (hormone) system. But the thyroid only works properly with direct orders from the brain.

The hypothalamus in the brain sends these orders to the pituitary gland which then sends orders to the thyroid by releasing TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone). With this signal, the thyroid releases T4. T4 is an “inactive” thyroid hormone, it circulates in the blood waiting to be used. The body converts T4 to T3 in areas it is needed most to use more energy. T3 is the “active” thyroid hormone that actually gains entrance into cells to aid with energy production. This complex signaling system is amazing and efficient and unfortunately vulnerable to malfunction.

Typically, when a medical provider checks your “thyroid level” they are looking at the TSH level. The lower the TSH, the more active the thyroid is. The higher the TSH, the more sluggish the thyroid is. The latter would be a failure of communication between the pituitary and the thyroid, resulting in hypothyroidism. There is some debate about the level of TSH that indicates hypothyroidism.

Classically, a TSH of 5 or over indicates hypothyroidism, but many clinicians intervene when a TSH is 3 or over. To truly diagnose a sluggish thyroid, it is important to fill in more of the picture. By measuring free T3 and free T4 levels, it is possible to deduce whether hormonal messaging is breaking down before of after the thyroid in the chain of command.  When the thyroid is putting out adequate T4 levels but T3 levels are low, then there is an issue with thyroid conversion. This detail can change what kind of thyroid replacement is ordered.

Stress, lifestyle, and nutrition play major roles in maintaining a healthy thyroid. The body uses essential nutrients such as iodine, zinc, and selenium in the signaling and conversion processes. Chronic stress can drain the body of cortisol, a hormone that is vital for thyroid functioning. Insulin resistance and hypothyroidism are often found together because they create a feedback loop of fatigue, weight gain, and poor health; as seen with diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and obesity.

There are whole books written on the various ways the thyroid system works to keep body systems functioning at their healthiest levels and the ways people suffer when this system goes awry. (See the end of this article for two of my favorites). It is best to catch these system glitches early so they don’t turn into failures. Many times the problem can be remedied by supplements, alterations in diet, and lifestyle modifications. Beyond that, thyroid replacement may be required.

Symptoms of hypothyroidism are not always obvious. They can appear slowly over a long period of time or just manifest in subtle ways. Some people have opposite symptoms to what is most commonly experienced with hypothyroidism. It is best to just pay a visit to your medical provider if you have any new symptoms you are worried about.

Symptoms of Thyroid Issues:

  • Sluggishness in the morning
  • Poor concentration/memory
  • Low-grade depression
  • Dry skin
  • Hoarse voice
  • Thinning hair and eyebrows
  • Coarse hair
  • Low body temperature
  • Muscle pain
  • Muscle weakness/cramps
  • Decreased libido
  • Puffiness around face and eyes
  • High cholesterol
  • Low blood pressure


To learn more about thyroid issues and treatments, make an appointment with me today. APIM’s holistic health services are designed to offer thorough testing and treatments using a natural approach that promotes long-term health and well-being. For more in-depth reading on thyroid issues from a functional perspective, I recommend the following books:

  1. The Thyroid Connection by Amy Myers, MD.
  2. Why do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? By Dr. Datis Kharrazian, DHSc, DC, MS.

For more information on holistic health services at Austin Preferred, or to schedule a consultation with our holistic medical provider Nicole Griffis, please call (512) 442-2727.

By: Nicole Griffis, HNP, APRN-BC

Vitamin Supplements

Are Vitamin Supplements Necessary for Good Health?

Most people are aware that the body needs a diverse set of vitamins and minerals to function properly. Our bodies run via a symphony of chemical processes rapidly occurring every minute to keep everything running smoothly. These constant cellular transactions give us an efficient supply of cellular energy, removal of damaging particles and toxins, regeneration of blood cells and tissue repair, arming of the immune system to ward off disease, and the maintenance of biological cycles that affect sleep & concentration. This simplified list is a small fraction of what various chemical conversions provide the body. Most of these processes require vitamins or minerals in some form. If these nutrients are in small supply, the body makes due at the cost of other “less vital” functions, which can lead to adverse ramifications over time. Vitamin supplements can help make up for deficiencies in these areas.

In an ideal world, we would all receive the vitamins and minerals our bodies need through our diets. Intake of nutrient-dense foods is the best way to supply your body with vitamins and minerals. The importance of a healthy diet with an array whole foods cannot be overstated. Nonetheless, even with a healthy diet, most people could benefit from vitamin supplements.

So much of our food supply is grown in sterile, controlled environments that leach the soil of much needed minerals. Greenhouse produce is often deficient in antioxidants and vitamins compared to their counterparts grown outside in the sun, wind, and weather. Age, stress, alcohol and sugar intake, and exposure to environmental toxins can all decrease absorption of nutrients while at the same time increasing the body’s needs for such nutrients. Several long term studies confirm that most Americans are deficient in at least one basic vitamin and that the Standard American Diet (SAD) is lacking in several vital nutrients.

So chances are, you could benefit from a good multivitamin at the very least. Furthermore, many functional medicine practitioners recommend several additional vitamin supplements. Dr. Mark Hyman has wonderful information about nutrition and supplements on his excellent website. Here is a basic list of supplements I routinely recommend based on the needs of the average American adult:

  1. Multivitamin – a combination of essential vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin C
  2. Vitamin D3 – necessary for bone health, most adults are deficient
  3. Magnesium – helpful with calming nerves and muscles
  4. Omega 3 Fatty Acids – with EPA and DHA, important for heart health
  5. Complex of B Vitamins – energizing, vital for cellular health throughout the body

Before starting any regular regimen of vitamin supplements, it is best to start by seeing a trusted clinician for basic blood work to find out where your specific needs lie. A functional medicine or holistic practitioner, such as myself, can help you compose a personalized supplement plan based on your needs and concerns. You may want to add some herbs such as turmeric for its anti-inflammatory products, cinnamon for to help stabilize blood sugar, or ashwagandha for anxiety. Once you determine what supplements are best for you, the next step is considering which to buy and how to take them.

Because the supplement industry is loosely regulated compared to the pharmaceutical industry, it is important to ensure you are purchasing a quality product that contains what it is claiming to rather than fillers and additives. With herbal products, there is a risk for the presence of heavy metals and toxins that are not routinely tested for with some companies. Therefore, it is good to set high standards when purchasing supplement products.

One good measure of quality is the appearance of “GMP” on the label. This stands for “Good Manufacturing Practices” and should be the minimum standard for the products you choose. Make sure to look at all the ingredients listed; inactive ingredients should be listed as well. There are a number of organizations that test supplement products for purity and quality, look for their stamp of approval on labels or go directly to their websites to access ratings for particular brands and products:

Vitamin Supplements:

  1. Consumer Labs
  2. Natural Products Association
  3. U.S. Pharmacopeia
  4. Informed Choice
  5. Banned Substance Group
  6. NSF International

There are quality vitamin products available at health food stores and even drug stores, especially when they contain a commonly manufactured ingredient, like Vitamin C. However, if you are looking for a formulation that combines ingredients (so you can take less pills) and offers better absorption, you may consider ordering from a pharmaceutical grade specialty company such as Metagenics or NeuroBiologix. These are two companies that Austin Preferred works with to offer patients high quality supplements formulated using evidence-based practices to maximize their benefits in the body. Additionally, they are available for purchase through our website.

For some people, taking multiple pills and capsules everyday is a chore, and one they are unlikely to adhere to. Some products come in powders or liquids that can be mixed with juice or added to smoothies which are more appealing options to certain folks. Moreover, there are even some formulations that come in the form of a topical cream. It is important to find a regimen that works for you and that you are likely to continue.

Schedule a Consultation!

If you wish to start a supplement regimen or just streamline your current one, consider coming in for a visit! I will analyze your blood work and physical symptoms from a holistic perspective. If it is appropriate, we also offer genetic testing that provides more information on how your body processes and uses nutrients. This information can be very useful in creating tailored supplement formulations. Feel free to bring in any products you are already taking so I can check them out.

There a plenty of store bought brands that I trust and can recommend. We can work to create an easy, affordable regimen that gives you energy and offers long-term health benefits. Call (512) 442-2727 to schedule an evaluation at our South Austin practice.

By: Nicole Griffis, HNP, APRN-BC

Wellness Goals

Self-Compassion & Accomplishing Wellness Goals

The start of a new year is the most popular time for people to set personal well goals for self-improvement. Whether you are inherently a goal-setter or not, it is hard not to look at the start of a new year as an opportunity for a fresh start to pursue your inner wish list. Some people set concrete, obtainable goals with measurable outcomes and deadlines. Others set vague goals like “to be active,” rather than, “I’ll work out for twenty minutes five times a week.”

Whatever your goal-setting style, there is the unavoidable wall we all hit when trying to challenge ourselves and we start to fall short or lose motivation. This is when the self-critic steps in and often times engages is self-punishment or abandoning our goals altogether.  It is easy to think that harsh self-talk, deprivation, or comparison with others will be the motivating push we need, but quite the opposite is true. Making self-compassion a top priority will help you find long term success in meeting your goals.

Essentially, practicing self-compassion means treating yourself as you would treat someone you really love. If you had a loved one constantly beating themselves up for not losing weight fast enough because they don’t like they way they look, you would (hopefully) let them know there are many ways they are attractive to others. You would tell them to be patient and focus on losing weight in a healthy way that makes them feel energized and creates meaningful change.

You would perhaps tell them they are human, and they are going to make mistakes, but these mistakes do not take away their value or the fact that they are worth starting again. If compassion for others comes easily for you, then using that well of compassion for yourself can be highly beneficial.

The leading expert on self-compassion as a psychosocial concept is Dr. Kristin Neff, an associate professor of psychology at UT Austin. She has done extensive research on the impact of self-compassion on various measures of psychological and physical health, has written a book on the topic, and teaches workshops and seminars on developing self-compassion as a skill.

She has published research linking the active use of self-compassion to improved body image among women, greater self-control, higher self-esteem, reduced symptoms of PTSD, enhanced coping skills, lower stress, greater sense of contentment, and a better sense of well-being over all. The benefits of self-compassion practice strongly resemble the goals set by many of us each year for a reason; we are all human and we all want to be happy. Learning to love ourselves and finding connection with others, faults and all, can help us reach this ultimate goal.

When some people hear the term “self-compassion,” they envision a self-centered egomaniac using every excuse possible to avoid discomfort. But this is not the case at all. Having self-compassion, means connecting with the ways we all suffer and using love and forgiveness to help overcome obstacles. Dr. Neff is very clear in outlining what self-compassion is not:

Self-Compassion is Not:

  1. Self-Pity: Self-pity means believing that your problems are worse than everyone else’s and that your situation is unique. Self-compassion means recognizing that everyone has problems, some worse than yours, and using this perspective when dealing with  your suffering.
  2. Self-Indulgence: Self-indulgence means ignoring your weaknesses and the consequences of an action by partaking in what is harmful. With self-compassion, for example, you are aware that you lack self-control when it comes to ice cream so you don’t buy a quart of it at the grocery store after a bad day. You may buy a single scoop while out and about as a small treat knowing that you are focused on the big picture of your health. And because you love yourself, you want to prevent the horrible feeling of eating a whole quart alone at home.
  3. Self-Esteem: Maintaining a high self-esteem often means comparing yourself to others and constantly having to feel “special” or above average. While self-esteem is important, placing too great an importance on feeling exceptional can inflate the ego in harmful ways. Self-compassion means loving yourself no matter what, with all faults and shortcomings, and feeling a connection to others based on our shared human condition rather than who is the best or worst.


Developing a self-compassion practice is easy and simple. Journaling is a great way to identify areas where you are being critical of yourself, but you can just start to pay attention to the way you talk to yourself when you are struggling. Then ask yourself how you would respond to a loved one struggling with the same issues. Take a look around you and see how others are struggling too. Most importantly, make your goals realistic and try to make them in the spirit of self-compassion rather than pure self-improvement. Here are some examples of goals rooted in self-compassion:

Wellness Goals & Self-Compassion:

  • “I will do my best to exercise three times a week this year to be more fit and healthy.”
  • “I’ll stop rewarding myself with sweets because I deserve to treat myself better this year, and I’ll find a reward that makes me feel good, instead of shameful.”
  • I will stop mindlessly surfing the internet when I’m bored, because there are more productive things I can do with my time.”


Try to incorporate self-compassion into your goal setting and your daily routines wherever you can. It can only make you stronger and happier, even if you don’t lose all the weight you wanted to or if other obstacles get in the way of your goals. Being able to accept yourself in all your humanness everyday, is the ultimate achievement anyway. For more and Dr. Neff and self-compassion, visit her website.

The above information offers a glimpse at Nicole Griffis’ approach to helping patients achieve their wellness goals. To schedule an evaluation with Nicole, call (512) 442-2727.

Detoxify and Cleanse

Detoxify and Cleanse

Most of us take the time to clear clutter from our personal spaces on a regular basis. It is so satisfying to have a clean and ordered the garage, closet, refrigerator, or even an office drawer. It gives us a chance to start fresh, think more clearly, and hopefully be more productive. But how often do we give our bodies the same opportunity to clear the clutter and start fresh? We don’t think of our bodies as being cluttered, but that’s exactly what toxic buildup is: a backlog of toxins waiting to be dismantled and eliminated. As this accumulation grows the body’s defenses become more strained. This strain can manifest in subtle or extreme ways and vary between individuals. A health program designed to detoxify and cleanse can help ease this strain by decreasing the workload of the hard-working detoxifying organs.

If you stop to imagine the amount of toxins your body works to neutralize and clear everyday, the need for a detox becomes obvious. Our livers, kidneys, lungs, and skin are constantly breaking down the toxins that we breathe, eat, inhale, and absorb so they can be excreted and disposed of. The liver is the true star of the detoxifying process, by using highly specialized metabolic means to disarm toxins and send them on their way. But as toxins accumulate, the liver cannot always complete the process and toxins start to build up.

Sometimes partly-metabolized toxins are even more toxic than their original state. They are stored in the body’s tissues to be addressed later, but we all know what that kind of procrastination can lead to when you are already overworked! The poor liver falls behind deadlines and can never catch up. Meanwhile, the free radicals, or oxidizing particles, that are the byproduct of removing toxins, also continue to build up and can have direct damaging consequences to the cells and tissues of the body.

Scientists are exploring many theories regarding the consequences of the body’s toxic load. Among them is a growing school of thought suggesting that accumulation of hormones and pesticides within the body’s soft tissue is contributing to the obesity epidemic. Many experts believe the growing preponderance of thyroid disorders, hormonal imbalances, and autoimmune diseases are correlated with increasingly toxic environmental exposures due to a disruption of the body’s complex metabolic pathways.

A core practice of functional medicine is to address a range of common symptoms with a dietary and lifestyle detoxification. These symptoms include brain fog, fatigue, indigestion, skin rashes, acne, abdominal bloating, joint pain, and insomnia. It is interesting to compare this list of common symptoms with a list of the most purchased prescription and over-the-counter medications such as antacids, sleep-aids, antidepressants, and anti-inflammatories.

Where do these mounting toxins come from? Well, there are the obvious culprits: air pollution, pesticides and hormones found in foods, plastic packaging, medications, food additives, and heavy metals in the water supply, to name a few. Then there are those we are less likely to qualify as toxic: alcohol, fried foods, food with dyes or preservatives, constant exposure to screens and cell phones, frequent stress, and negative thinking.

Modern comforts and conveniences come at a price and we cannot eliminate many of these toxic sources from our lives. Nonetheless, we can minimize much of our toxic exposures by altering what we consume and how we consume it. Below are some recommendations to lower your toxic load and give your body the support it needs to stay healthy:

  1. Try to eat organic, pesticide-free produce whenever possible.
  2. Try to eat hormone-free, grass-fed meat and dairy products whenever possible.
  3. Use BPA-free plastic containers for food and beverages. Look for BPA-free canned foods.
  4. Avoid foods with preservatives and dyes.
  5. Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables to stock up on antioxidants.
  6. Stop using nonstick and coated cookware, this leaves toxic residue in your food.
  7. Drink filtered water, and plenty of it.
  8. Limit alcohol intake.
  9. Take breaks from your computer, TV, and phone.
  10. Take time for deep belly breaths and stress relieving activities.
  11. Make time to get eight hours of sleep per night.
  12. Get sweaty from exercise, hot baths or saunas.


These recommendations are general guidelines for leading a life with less toxic exposure. Consider joining Austin Preferred’s Detox 360 program if you’re interested in a more in-depth detoxification regimen. You can participate as a group or individual. The program includes meal plans, guidelines, informative articles, and gentle, plant-based supplements to aid your body’s natural detoxification pathways.

Nicole Griffis will personally meet with participants for five weekly sessions over a four-week period for support and education. You can participate individually or as part of a group. There is no fasting as part of this deep cleanse, so participants can keep up their normal lifestyles. If you would like to learn more, call (512) 442-2727 or visit our South Austin location today!

Allergy Testing and Immunotherapy

Allergy Testing & Immunotherapy

Millions of Americans struggle with allergy symptoms daily, and Austin, Texas is considered a hotbed for many seasonal allergens. Allergies cause dozens of annoying symptoms that can make even the most routine activities uncomfortable. The matter is further complicated by the fact that every individual experiences different symptoms and reacts differently to treatment. Austin Preferred Integrative Medicine strives to improve patients’ wellness to an optimal degree, which is why we now offer Allergy Testing and custom Immunotherapy treatment.

Allergy Testing Protocol:

Austin Preferred’s custom allergy treatment will begin with a consultation between the patient and medical provider. A technician will then create the custom Immunotherapy treatment plan and will schedule followup appointments. The patient will visit the provider for the first three rounds of treatment while learning to self-administer the Immunotherapy solution. Treatment will continue from home and patients will come in for occasional followup appointments. If symptoms are no longer present, the patient and medical provider will discuss continuation of Immunotherapy.

Allergy Testing and Immunotherapy treatment is covered by most health insurance plans. Call (512) 442-2727 to schedule a consultation, which will determine your candidacy. Furthermore, you can visit our Services page for information on additional treatment options at our South Austin location.

Healthy Holidays

Healthy Holidays

The Holidays are upon us along with all the joys of the season. Joys such as seeing family and friends, watching silly movies, giving and receiving gifts, and partaking in all sorts of scrumptious foods and beverages. Sharing homemade treats and sipping spirits with loved ones is a warm way of bonding which holds a dear place in the heart of our culture. Heading into the holidays with a plan of deprivation and restriction is highly unlikely for most of us. So, why not approach the healthy holidays with a spirit of moderation and, above all, mindful enjoyment?

The following are some tips to keep in mind while the parties, family meals, edible gifts, and travel plans mount up over the next few weeks:


Sweets and Treats

  • If you have a very favorite dessert or treat during the holidays, then absolutely partake in it. BUT, serve yourself a small portion and take the time to taste and savor every bite. Use your other senses as well: the sound of family laughter, the beautiful holiday lights, the warmth of a fire or candles. Make your consumption a full sensory experience, then continue to enjoy your surroundings without reaching for seconds.
  • Do not feel guilty for eating your favorite treat. Instead feel grateful to enjoy healthy holidays.
  • Do not eat sweet treats that you don’t like. Sometimes we feel the need to partake to be polite to someone who made a treat. If this is the case, take as few bites as possible with a big smile!
  • Do not make dessert your breakfast. Leftover pie or cookies are easy to reach for in the morning but are an unhealthy way to start your day and will lead to a blood sugar crash well before lunch.


Parties and Gatherings

  • Bring a dish that is flavorful and healthy, or finger foods to add to the feast.
  • Fill 75% of your plate with protein and veggies, fill 25% with carbs.
  • Eat slowly, chew your food, enjoy the conversation.
  • Wait until after you eat to have an alcoholic beverage.
  • Choose lower calorie alcoholic beverages: dry champagne, vodka sodas, red wine.
  • Fill your glass with water between alcoholic beverages.
  • Bring a bag of your own favorite herbal tea to have toward the end of the night.
  • Use a ride share service or a cab to get home if you’ve had more than one drink.



  • Whether flying or driving, drink lots of water.
  • Avoid alcohol and extra caffeine.
  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • When waiting at an airport, walk around, don’t sit. Walk from one end of the airport to the other at a brisk pace if you have the time.
  • On the plane, be sure to stand up every thirty minutes. Do some simple stretching in the aisle.
  • Do gentle neck and shoulder rolls while seated every ten to fifteen minutes.
  • Bring your own healthy snacks: nuts, fruit, veggie sticks, etc.
  • If driving, use rest stops to stretch and do small bursts of exercise.


Enjoy your healthy holidays and stay tuned for future posts on detoxifying, as well as more health advice in the New Year! Call (512) 442-2727 to schedule an evaluation with the Medical Practitioner at our South Austin, Texas location.


Get Your Fill of Pumpkin

Who doesn’t love a piping hot pumpkin pie after a big Thanksgiving meal? Even better is a cold slice for breakfast the next morning (if there is any left over, that is). I wish I could tell you that this desert is incredibly nutritious and that you can eat it as much as you want, but that buttery crust full of refined sugars is never going to be a healthy choice. However, that comforting, delicious filling is a wonderful source of nutrients and fiber! And isn’t that the best part of the pie anyway?

Whether you roast your own little sweet pumpkin or reach for unsweetened canned version, the filling is a surprisingly healthy and tasty addition to your diet during the holidays and all year. The flesh of this festive squash supports your body by supplying many vital nutrients:

  1. Vitamin A: pumpkins are supercharged with this essential vitamin that keeps your eyesight sharp and your immune system on point
  2. Beta-Carotene: this orange anti-oxidant helps fight aging and possibly cancer
  3. Potassium: pumpkins have more potassium than bananas, which is good news for tired muscles
  4. Plant Sterols & High Fiber: natural cholesterol lowering compounds and a high fiber content with few calories can help aid weight loss and blood sugar regulation
  5. Vitamin C: immune support right in the middle of flu season

Spice up your pumpkin for even more flavor and health benefits. Traditional pumpkin spice is a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, and cloves. For more information on the health benefits of cinnamon and ginger, see my previous post on spices. For this Thanksgiving and beyond, dress up your spiced pumpkin puree in new ways to get all the benefits without wrapping it in a package of empty calories. Here are some tasty ideas for incorporating pumpkin into your diet:

  1. Pumpkin Ice Cream: Combine 4 to 6 frozen ripe bananas with ½ cup puree in a blender. Add pumpkin spice. Add natural sweetener like honey or maple syrup to taste. Eat immediately or freeze for later.
  2. Pumpkin Cookies: check out this easy-peasy recipe from Plaid and Paleo: Protein-Rich, No-Bake Cookies
  3. Pumpkin Smoothie: add puree and pumpkin spice to your favorite smoothie ingredients (i.e. banana, almond butter, flax seeds, coconut milk, etc.)
  4. Pumpkin Oatmeal: just fold some puree and spices into your morning oatmeal for a delicious boost to an already healthy breakfast
  5. P-Spice Latte: adding puree and spices to coffee along with a milk of your choice (whole fat milk or unsweetened nondairy is best) and a small amount of natural sweetener like maple syrup or honey

And don’t forget about the seeds! Pumpkin seeds are also nutrient dense treats to add to salads, cereals, smoothies, or just on their own. They are quite versatile and can be consumed in different ways. If you are roasting your own little pumpkin for the flesh to make a puree, don’t throw those seeds away. Roast them and save them. If you are stocking up on the unsweetened canned variety, then stop by the bulk food section and get some roasted pumpkin seeds. Since the seeds are packed with fiber and protein, they can help make you feel full and satisfied on very few calories. And adding these little dietary powerhouses to your diet is a simple, savory way of adding these nutrients:

  1. Vitamin K
  2. Phosphorus
  3. Manganese
  4. Magnesium
  5. Zinc
  6. Copper
  7. Iron
  8. Omega 3 Fatty Acids
  9. Antioxidants
  10. Potassium
  11. Vitamin B2
  12. Folate

So, let’s give thanks for the mighty pumpkin and all it offers. Have fun searching for healthy recipes — the internet is brimming with them this time of year and the possibilities are endless. Pumpkin chili, curry and butter; have it for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. Just watch the intake of refined sugars and white flours to get the best of what this seasonal fruit has to offer. Enjoy!

This information and more is available to patients in the Functional Nutrition Program overseen by Austin Preferred’s Holistic Medical Provider. Contact us at (512) 442-2727 if you’re interested in scheduling a consultation at our South Austin, Texas location.

By: Nicole Griffis

Healthy Spices

Healthy Spices Add More Than Flavor

Following a meal plan of whole foods without processed ingredients makes shopping simpler, once you become accustomed to making healthy choices. You can skip most of the grocery aisles that are crammed with processed foods like snack bars, heavy sauces and boxed dinners. Just make sure you don’t skip the spice aisle on your next trip. As you expand your palate for cooking with whole foods, try different mixtures of herbs and spices in your recipes. If you roast chicken and vegetables on a weekly basis because it is easy and nutritious, you can make the dish taste completely different each week by changing your herb and spice selection. Many spices have beneficial properties for health and metabolism, without the additional calories and chemicals. Here are the top spices to use from a health perspective:

Healthy Spices:

  1. Turmeric: This spice is most often used in Indian curries and has a bold flavor and color. It is a powerful anti-inflammatory and has become famous as a medicinal ingredient. More on Turmeric below.
  2. Dulse: These red seaweed flakes are savory and salty. Seaweed contains iodine which is essential for thyroid function and this particular variety is believe to support kidney and hormone function.
  3. Ginger: Many people know that delicious ginger is soothing for an upset stomach and enhances digestion. It is also an anti-inflammatory and a natural detoxifier.
  4. Rosemary: This common herb contains iron and calcium. As an ingredient, it can decrease carcinogens of cooked beef. If that isn’t enough it may ease allergy symptoms, manage type 2 diabetes, and help relieve stress.
  5. Cayenne: Capsaicin is the active ingredient in this hot spice that is used externally for pain relief in arthritis. It has been associated with decreased appetite and increased metabolism when taken orally.
  6. Cinnamon: This fragrant spice also has anti-inflammatory properties and has shown to stabilize blood sugar levels in diabetics, enhance carbohydrate metabolism, and lower cholesterol and triglycerides.
  7. Sage: Along with parsley, this herb is also rich in Vitamin K, which is important for blood and bone health.
  8. Oregano: This herb is rich in Omega-3-Fatty-Acids that are good for your brain and heart.


This article provides a glimpse into the type of information available to patients into the Functional Nutrition Program at Austin Preferred, created by Holistic Nurse Practitioner Nicole Griffis. Furthermore, you can contact us today you are interested in scheduling a consultation to enroll in the program.


Is Turmeric Worthy of the Hype?

By: Nicole Griffis, HNP, APRN-BC

Turmeric is a beautiful, fragrant spice used in many Indian dishes. It has been used as a medicinal herb for thousands of years. Thanks to attention from modern researchers, it has been spicing up health headlines with increasing frequency over the last decade. But what is it about turmeric that is so beneficial, and should we believe all the hype?

Curcumin is the active compound in Turmeric that gives it its signature color and many health benefits. Science has singled Curcumin out as a promising substance for an array of conditions. Some of the evidence has been overstated in the press. There is a debate as to whether Curcumin is the miracle substance it has been made out to be. And yet, I recommend Curcumin supplementation for all my patients and take it myself because the cumulative evidence is encouraging. But before I lay out all the potential benefits of Curcumin for you, there are some points I’d like you to keep in mind as you consider adding this wonder spice to your supplement regimen:

Curcumin Facts:

  1. Curcumin is very poorly absorbed by the body, so you need to take a lot of it. Just using the Turmeric spice alone is not enough Curcumin for your body to utilize. Therefore, a Curcumin extract supplement is the most effective delivery system.
  2. Black Pepper, aka Piperine or Bioperine, increases the body’s absorption of Curcumin by an estimated 2000%. So, any Curcumin supplement you take should have Black Pepper (or Piperine or Bioperine) listed as an ingredient along with Curcumin extract. Or you can swallow some whole black peppercorns with your supplement.
  3. Curcumin is fat soluble. So, you may enhance absorption by taking it with a meal containing healthy fats.
  4. It has been established that Curcumin crosses the blood-brain barrier, so researchers are starting to examine its effects on the brain.
  5. Most research study participants were treated with at least 1 gram of Curcumin daily.
  6. Many research studies examining Curcumin benefits have a weak design or were sponsored by supplement companies, which brings their validity into question.
  7. Any claim that Curcumin cures and prevents a disease or a disease process is false.

Ok, now that we have put some perspective around the buzz of Curcumin as a health supplement, let’s look at some of the possible benefits and reasons it has withstood the test of time as a traditional medicinal herb:

Curcumin Benefits:

  1. Curcumin has been observed to interfere with the molecular level inflammatory process in the laboratory. This could be encouraging news for the chronic inflammation that contributes to chronic disease if it is confirmed in human subjects.
  2. Curcumin shows anti-oxidant properties and could possibly enhance the body’s own anti-oxidant pathways. Oxidation is the main driver of the aging process. So, the anti-oxidant properties of Curcumin could help diminish some effects of oxidation and aging over time.
  3. Curcumin enhances certain protective factors found in the brain in the laboratory. If Curcumin has the same effect in the human body, it could protect the brain from the aging process. This is why it is often touted to help prevent Alzheimer’s disease, though this claim is far-fetched based on what we know so far.
  4. Curcumin may enhance endothelial function- this is the mechanism activated by the linings of arteries to regulate blood pressure, clotting, etc. If this is true, Curcumin could play a role in preventing heart disease.
  5. Curcumin has shown cancer fighting properties in the laboratory. There is a study that claims Curcumin prevents colon cancer. These studies were not conducted in humans and have many flaws. However, the results have caught the attention of cancer researchers and we should see more in this area over time.
  6. Curcumin appears to decrease pain in arthritis patients in several small, weakly designed studies.
  7. There is evidence from one small study that Curcumin may help decrease symptoms of depression, especially if used along with an antidepressant.


The bottom line is that much more research is needed for us to understand how Curcumin affects the body. And yet, we know that it is entirely safe when taken in recommended doses. With so many wonderful possibilities and virtually no harmful side effects, Curcumin is a valuable addition to any health supplementation regimen. As more research is conducted, we will hopefully find out how to enhance the many benefits seen in the lab within the confines of the human body. So, in the meantime, keep taking your Turmeric supplement with a healthy dose of optimism and perspective.

As a Holistic Nurse Practitioner, I am always looking for ways that my patients can enhance their health through simple, natural means. Modern medicine is effective at addressing acute injuries, chronic disease, and severe imbalances. Naturopathic medicine is effective at supporting the immune system, restoring balance, and creating harmony within and among body systems. My aim is to integrate these approaches to offer patients the best approach to not only prevent and treat disease, but to also enhance health and wellness. I will use this blog to promote methods everyone can use to optimize their health. To tackle any concerns specific to your body and lifestyle, make an appointment with me today!

Stress Relief

Five-Minute Stress Relievers

As you observe your own life’s stress and how it affects you, also observe what brings relief to you. What makes you feel lighter, looser, and more clear-minded? Exercise, fresh air, hugs from family or friends, and laughter are all accessible, healthy sources of joy and stress relief. Deep belly breathing is something we all have access to that has an immediate effect on our nervous systems and stress hormones. The beneficial effect of deep breathing meditation is dose dependent — the longer the meditation session, the more calming results seen in brain function according to multiple studies. However, five minutes of deep belly breathing is enough to initiate these changes, so take time to relieve yourself of the effects of stress. Here are a few other ideas for quick stress relievers:


  1. Deep Breathing: breathe into your belly for four seconds, hold for four, breathe out slowly for four seconds. Repeat for five minutes. Over time you may increase to five, six, or seven-second breaths. The benefits of this exercise cannot be overemphasized.
  2. Shake it off: get up and shake every part of yourself! Your head, arms, legs, fingers, toes, hips, and knees. Set a timer and go wild! End with a few stretches with your arms over head. Then simply stand and notice the difference in how you feel all over.
  3. Energy Burst: if you have the right footwear and are in good health, then exert yourself to the fullest for five full minutes. Run as fast as you can, jump as high as you can, whatever exercise you have access to. This exertion will burn up stress hormones quickly and efficiently.
  4. Visualization: lie down and go on vacation. Immerse yourself by imagining a peaceful place close to your heart, imagine it with all your senses. Try to stay still and breathe deeply and slowly to enhance the effect.
  5. Progressive Relaxation: lie down and start tensing your muscle groups one by one starting with your feet and moving up your body until you reach your face. Clench each area for about three seconds and then release them wholeheartedly. By the time you reach your head your whole body should be noticeably more relaxed.


This is merely a glimpse into the type of helpful information available to patients in Austin Preferred’s Functional Nutrition Program. If you’d like to schedule a consultation with the Nurse Practitioner, please don’t hesitate to contact us.